Archives for category: hard things

https://looker-dashboards.ok.gov/embed/dashboards/76

81% of deaths in Oklahoma asserted to involve COVID-19 are over 65. Adding from age 50 pushes the total to 96%. The disease is not dangerous to people less than 50 years old. It isn’t.

Oklahoma reports its first death asserted to involve COVID-19 was 18 March 2020, thus 260 days to 03 December 2020, for an average of 7 deaths per day. The fact that the average death rate has gradually increased throughout the period since would concern me if I had any confidence in the data. First, the case data is only misleading. It offers only obfuscation. Case numbers are demonstrably a linear function of testing numbers. (Check the mathematics for yourself.) Case numbers provide no useful information whatsoever. Death numbers are affected by the case numbers, and death numbers are corrupted by government influence due to politics and due to monetary compensation considerations. Further, panic and fear drive mistakes and bias. Finally, the unimaginable numbers in the quantity of testing and results and the ever-increasing involvement of more and more people results in inevitable honest mistakes that are not caught and corrected for many reasons, not the least of which is simply lack of time for checking and double checking. (Not to mention all the money being made by testers and laboratories.)

https://oklahoma.gov/coronavirus.html

As is obvious from the graphic from Oklahoma, deaths have been growing very slowly and steadily [no jumps, no causes for alarm], with hospitalizations growing only slightly faster, but steady, while cases increase at an ever-increasing pace. Rationality dictates that these data force us to conclude the case numbers are meaningless. Further, nearly all the cases are recovered. Obviously, the virus is not significantly lethal for anyone younger than 65.

Panic is unjustifiable. Fear is the only thing we have to fear. Fear that disables and isolates, causing long-term detriment to us all, especially our young and our poor. The least among us bear the brunt of the burden we impose with coercive restrictions and mandates pretending to protect them.

Toward the end of April when the official case count exceed 3000, the death rate was 6%. By early June, cases exceed 7000 with the death rate at 5%. Nationally, we had a bit of a bump early in the summer as the expected second wave hit. By the first week of August cases exceeded 40000, but the death rate was below 1.5%. Here at the beginning of December, the official case count is over 204-thousand, with the death rate having fallen below 1%. Obviously the case count provides no information, no useful predictive indication. Case numbers only provide confusion and fear. We need to stop it. We need to be testing only people who have the most significant symptoms at significant levels, and we need two tests of differing types so as to eliminate the false positives. Still, it is too late. There is no hope. The virus will have to fade into the background of its own accord, or perhaps because of vaccines, but our nonsensical fear and panic will continue to cause suffering for far longer than we will ever admit; suffering we caused ourselves. Regarding COVID-19, the least harmful action was no action; a possibility politicians refused to consider for fear of being accused of not trying.

“Inherent factors have predetermined the Covid-19 mortality:”


Primary fact found: the higher a grouping’s life expectancy, the higher the death rate due to COVID-19.


It is an extensive paper you won’t bother reading. Perhaps you could read the introductory paragraphs.


My summary is nothing governments did helped. Lockdowns didn’t help. Mandates and other restrictions didn’t help. Call it the luck of the draw, but that isn’t right. What mattered was where people lived and how dependent people were on government. The more the government mattered in the society, the worse things went regarding the virus.


Sadly, of course, what most people will conclude is they need more government involvement in their lives.


Another tidbit one can conclude from this study is that economics really does equal lives. That is, the better off the economy, the more lives are saved (and vice versa). And, frankly, the more decadent people get, the more susceptible they are to stresses, like a new infection. Which, of course, means good economics also tends to make us lazy, which kills us. I suppose, in the end, we all die regardless.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.604339/full

If you recall, Matthew related this incident similarly. John recounted it with significant differences. I like Mark’s account. Some interesting nuances.
Most of Jesus’ listeners would have been aware that Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy 15 in regulations for dealing with the poor and people who had suffered loss.
I think in our day, we need to extend the analogy to the sick, and to those who are feared for potentially being sick.


Mark 14:3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


Would have Jesus accepted the close and intimate offering if he’d known the offeror was infected with COVID-19? Wouldn’t the naysayers have reacted the same if the woman wasn’t wearing a mask?

I think we all understand Jesus wouldn’t have drawn back. The example took place in the house of a leper. Jesus never refused the sick. He never will. Of course, those who took offense would have been just as offended as those who, today, take offense at maskless passerbys.


If the virus runs unhindered, we humans will pull through stronger than ever. If fear and isolation continue to hold sway, well, I don’t think future generations will remember the alarmists as favorably as we remember this supplicant.

With nearly no exceptions, our leaders have betrayed us in 2020. Much of it was fueled by political divisiveness and power-lust “libido dominandi”, but superstition and fear have dominated, and dissenters have been decried as science-deniers or worse. It is sad. We have been taken advantage of. As a whole and individually, we have been abused.

Few officials have admitted any error or culpability. Few of us are willing to admit to our own gullibility.

We were naive. It hurts to admit it. It hurts to admit our own complicity. It reopens the wounds to acknowledge we were abused, but healing cannot begin while we are in denial.

Viruses have been with us always. Viruses will be with us beyond the life of any of us alive today, and we cannot fight them. Viruses will take too many of us. It is a sad fact. Mind your health and wash your hands. More is futile. Other efforts are worthless, self-aggrandizing virtue signaling, which merely afford us an illusion of control. We cannot control viruses. It is delusional to suppose otherwise. We are powerless before viruses, and we live in denial when we refuse to admit it.

We were abused. We should try to hold our leaders and the experts accountable.

We were abused. We should admit it and do our best to go back to a normal life attending our health wisely and without overwrought emotion and worry.

We must not tolerate coercion and house arrest. We must not tolerate edicts that do more harm than good. We must demand our normal, virtuous freedoms.

First, do no harm. That must be our touchstone and the foundation of any demand we dare make. Humility must rule our thinking.

The proven wisdom of a full century shows us plainly we erred in supposing we could control or fight a virus. We must not repeat the folly.

Greetings Brother and sister,

I know not if you will ever actually see this note yourself, but I must try.

I have written before asking you to oppose the war on drugs (oppose all war for that matter). I ask again.

I’m becoming aware of the truths expounded by René Girard. We cannot do unto others first. We must love our neighbor as ourselves.

This is the truth. We must learn to walk in love. We must turn the other cheek. Otherwise, we all die. Continuing to escalate violence is the only feasible way to extinct ourselves. Let’s not.

I trust you still hold your faith honestly, but if you will listen to the above hour, and you can still scapegoat our brethren and throw them in rape cages, I trust your heart will convict you, and you will repent in fasting and mourning until your heart changes.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/193536.Ren_Girard

Brother and sister, can you live the example of following Jesus in His victimhood? Can we end the violence in our own lives each time it invites us to escalate? Can we undo what the adversary is doing? https://www.biblehub.com/1_john/3-8.htm

Be God manifest on earth.

Can we forgive so thoroughly that we value the life of the condemned as our own?

Can we seek restoration rather than punishment? Can we lift people up rather than scapegoat them?

My son asked me about Romans 9. Here is what I came up with. I’ll appreciate any comments anyone cares to make.

1I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—Here, Paul is saying he is his speaking for himself. He is emphasizing the passion of his heart and his conviction in his assertion. He sometimes says he is speaking from the Lord, but here he emphasizes the personal nature of his words. 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. He is crushed that Israel doesn’t accept Jesus as Messiah. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,a my kinsmen according to the flesh. Again, Paul is expressing his grief and passion. He loves his nation and would give anything for them if it were possible and if it would help. We add too much if we suppose Paul wanted to add to the divine redemption. He was simply asserting his readiness to sacrifice all for his people. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Here Paul speaks as a true believer and legitimate nationalist for Israel. Not all theologians, not even all Jewish scholars, are willing to say all Paul says here. It is essentially true, but the passion and conviction could be argued to be overwrought.

6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. Here, he wants to take God’s promises to Israel as absolute, but he can’t because not all of Israel accepts. He justifies by looking at the heart. While certainly not literalist, nor inerrantist, Paul is correct. Being of God is a matter of heart, not birth; spirit, not flesh. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Hardness. These verses are simply a matter for one’s own heart. Paul rather blatantly decrees God sets fate. It is typical to invoke omniscience, transcendence, and God being eternal and timeless. God does see the end from the beginning, and there is no before, no after, only the eternal now. These points are biblical and orthodox. Of course, if one is fated, well, can one thwart fate? It isn’t like Jacob and Esau either one did rightly, earning honestly all that befell. Truly, too often, “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” It is the nature of nature. All things are unwinding, and much of it simply will not go according to plan, nor fairness, nor just deserts. Why the extreme of Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated? As the bible tells it, things worked well for Esau, too. Overall, the two brothers were good brothers through most of their lives. It seems as accurate an interpretation as one might hope to say God held agape, god-like charity and devotion, toward Jacob, but how does God hating Esau work? The word is ἐμίσησα, a form of miseo, which literally means to hate or detest. It would generally be used comparatively, subjectively, rather than as an absolute, but here there is no comparison except love versus hate. Pretty solid. It is clear and affords us little room for interpretation and nuance. We have Jesus saying, Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate (3404 /miséō) his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple”. Jesus obviously isn’t telling us to hate everything, including ourselves; He is comparing. He must hold an unrivaled position in our hearts, or we won’t be His. It is solid interpretation to apply this principle to Jacob and Esau, but one cannot simply dismiss the words. They are strong. Paul goes on to address that strength.

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Paul here simply invokes the deity. It is no different than saying whatever God decrees is the highest possible good and most honorable, but no normal person will accept blatant injustice as good simply on the assertion of the divine. We all know malice is evil, and God being malicious would be no less evil. Thus, we must understand that God cannot be malicious, and I deem that to be Paul’s point. Paul is saying God does what is right, even if we cannot tell it is right and just. In the end, we will see that it is. 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,bbut on God, who has mercy. Here, Paul essentially says that anything God does for us is mercy because we deserve harsh judgment. The mere fact of our existence must be admitted as God’s mercy. True enough. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Ouch! God raising up this man to power just to show His own power doesn’t seem right. We should not argue it is. Keep in mind that Pharaoh was still his own. His heart was his own, and someone would have been the leader with all the power. The point may very well be that this particular individual with his particular personality, his particular strengths and quirks of will, set it all in motion, a plan of God that Pharaoh just happened to suit, rather than him being tailored for it. Also, the assertion is hard to construe any other way than Paul asserting God as capricious. We’ll have to reach into much of the rest of the scriptures and much of Paul’s other writing to establish for ourselves that capriciousness isn’t what Paul meant. It is a notion we must reject. Simply, He that comes to God must believe that He is, and must believe He is a rewarder of all who seek Him. Mercy and Justice cry out. Both demand to be satisfied. Only a perfect, divine judge can do so, and He will. But, how do we deal with this statement of Pharaoh? It essentially says God set Pharaoh up just to knock him down. Honestly, we really don’t have to worry this one. We know within ourselves exactly what it means within ourselves. We know our own hearts. We know the pride. We know we must be humbled. We know we cannot effectively humble ourselves, even though that is our fundamental task. We must rely on divine enablement. Merely being lazy about our self-humility fails. Deliberately asserting ourselves as the center of our own universe cannot be looked upon differently from the statement of Pharaoh. Not actively working at humility results in actively hardening ourselves, and divine interest in us and our potential will work to cut us down. We can never be free if we hold ourselves as the center. Micah 6:8.

19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Again, Paul shows forth as an honest true believer. He asserts the divine, the transcendent, and rejects our ability to comprehend; our ability is too trivial to consider. Again, true enough, but normal people will not accept that fiat argument. If we are arguing the divine and transcendent, we cannot claim it as basis for itself. We must acknowledge our limitations, and we must hold forth that our finite cannot comprehend the infinite, our nature cannot grasp the supernature; yet, we still know that we do in some sense. We get it, but, as Paul say elsewhere, we see as through a fogged-glass, darkly. We honor the divine within each of us when we honor one another in true love, in simple honor of our individuality. We recognize each other as innately children of God. We cannot accept that we are merely a pot made for refuse when we inephably grasp our potential and its ultimate transcendence. We know we are more than a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, even though we know just as well it is an apt analogy. It is a hard thing, and years of study and contemplation are likely to only scratch the surface in understanding it. Again, Micah 6:8. It boils down to a matter of trust. It is a matter of trusting the Judge. I assert true free will. I hold that no meaning can exist without it. I acknowledge it all as dependent upon God, upon the divine transcendence, but it is real, and it is mine, or it all comes to nothing in the end. That is, without transcendence, without true meaning derived from actual freedom of choice with legitimate consequences resulting directly from the free choices, in 100 years, I will be as I was 100 years ago. Further, all will be, a trillion-trillion years hence as it was a trillion-trillion years before space-time came to be, and we cannot even know that it is, nor was. Free will is the reality and essence of reason or there is no reason at all. 25As indeed he says in Hosea,

Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israelc be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,

If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Paul is clearly pointing out God’s justice and mercy and the key and essential factor of the choices and deeds of the individuals. God is responding by rejecting those who reject Him and by loving those who love Him. Paul didn’t just make his own argument here; he used scripture.

Israel’s Unbelief

30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousnessd did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”


I’m not seeing need for explaining anything here. Paul is very straightforward with “by faith.” Faith is a matter of the heart that works itself out in actions and deeds. One must hold with James and show faith by deed, but works and rules lead only to bondage. Rules held wisely can be useful, and routine is freeing, but hypocrites typically hang by their own hallows, judged by their own rules.

I agree with the notion that for the most part, we simply take up our cross and follow Him. We aim for the good. We learn of Christ and emulate. We learn of truth, and we commit to it. We hold to what is right even if it means losing all because we know the arc of history bends slowly but it bends toward the truth, it bends toward freedom, it bends inexorably toward the higher realm. The more of us who do our actual best (or at least try), the closer we all get to the ultimate good, no matter what the ultimate is.

Scientists expect to be able to test everything. Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. There are things that might be real that might be untestable, unverifiable. Multiverse is untestable, yet many believe. It is equivalent to deifying infinity to the infinity power. Hawking recognized and devised maths to limit the possible number of universes to a finite set. Yet, the notion is still totally untestable. To me, the notion of the transcendent is required. Denying anything other than the quantum foam and the matter/energy of space-time, quite frankly, denies the possibility of knowing anything. It denies rationality and reason itself. I simply don’t find that reasonable. It is irrational. I suspect science will find reproducible ways to test for transcendence. I’m not sure the results will actually tell us anything useful. I suspect proving the existence of “a transcendent” will not make us wiser. It won’t answer the big questions. It won’t answer the ultimate “Why?”.

Philadelphia Dec. 23. 1791.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. — Thomas Jefferson

A friend posted on Facebook about the Oklahoma State Question 788 legalizing marijuana per doctor’s note. I had commented about the legal prohibition forcing me to be responsible for the harm caused by the law.

I was camping for a few days, so now I’m able to take time to write a bit. We Oklahomans vote on the matter tomorrow (26 June 2018).

To be blunt, I oppose all legal prohibitions of vices. If there is no victim, there can be no justification for laws criminalizing the action. (Rationalizations and mental gymnastics should be employed for liberty, not for coercion.)

I’m using the word vice to mean actions that are reasonably called bad, even harmful to oneself, and perhaps, by extension, hurtful to ones loved-ones. I mean actions that are done willingly, even if unwisely, with malice toward no one. That is, if I abuse a substance, I will likely harm myself, but I’m not doing it with malice. I don’t intend to harm anyone, even if the end result will hurt those who care about me. On the other hand, there are natural crimes where my actions intentionally, or at least directly, harm someone else. The most obvious is murder.

It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have. Will Munny (Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven.)

If I may use “natural crimes” to mean that which victimizes at least one other, and vices to mean that which harms no one directly except the doer, then perhaps I can be clear.

I first must set forth my consideration of law, any law, every law. When I consider whether a law is justifiable, I use this criterion: If someone was about to violate the law, and if I had a gun to the would-be criminal’s head, would I be willing to say, “Stop, or else!” If they persisted, would I be willing to pull the trigger?

If the law they are violating is life, if the perpetrator is about to commit murder (a natural crime), or inflict grave injury and harm, then, yes, I could suppose I’d be willing to pull the trigger, and I suppose I would be justified.

If the law they are violating is texting while driving, or smoking a joint, no. Don’t be absurd. Of course not. Yet, we have the laws.

Sure, driving while intoxicated or negligently distracted is dangerous, but it is not intentionally malicious. If someone is negligent along such lines, we have reasonable and justifiable liability laws. We hold them accountable.

Someone might object that a negligent driver may accidentally take a life as a result, and liability and reparations cannot bring back the dead nor satisfy the bereaved. Certainly, but let us consider the natural and often likely extreme; if law-enforcement attempts to apprehend the negligent driver (for citation or arrest), the driver may refuse to comply, and it doesn’t take much for someone to die in such circumstance. A high-speed chase is too often fatal. A “criminal” who objects to being criminalized for a vice often becomes belligerent, and, far too often, such situations end in someone dying.

In many instances, our protection is merely hypothetical. How can we justify proactively coercing someone to protect a life, when the coercion itself is an evil act and very well may result in loss of life. Life for life in the abstract is not justifiable. Life for life can only be justified when the threat of death is clear and imminent. Even in war, it is morally reprehensible for me to take the life of an enemy combatant who is clearly attempting to surrender.

Here is the point I hoped to make on Facebook regarding State Question 788 and the decriminalization of marijuana if a doctor signs off on it. The Law currently criminalizes the possessor or seller of a naturally grown plant. Said criminal is subject to all manner of force and coercion at the hands of law enforcement officials. I cannot justify sending our police to enforce such unjustifiable laws. Our police are armed, and they are trained to use force, even deadly force, to uphold the law. Whether the law is justifiable or not, I am literally responsible, given that is our system, and in it, I am the authority and basis of the government. The government rules by my consent. If I consent, I am responsible.

As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, I am much more willing to deal with the problems attendant to too much liberty. I do not have a clear conscience if I am responsible for too little liberty. I am responsible, in our society, here in the USA, here in Oklahoma, if our government is, in fact, tyrannical. I will act in legal, civil, and voluntary ways to increase liberty and to minimize tyranny. I must make a legitimate effort to repeal unjustifiable and unnecessary laws. I must support decriminalize of drug use, even if it is only halfway.

The same goes for immigration, but that is not the topic here. We must have constraints on immigration, but our laws are too restrictive, and worse, too complicated and hard to enforce. Many of our laws are based on fear. Many of our laws are based on favoring some at the expense of others. That is tyranny, and it is wrong.

I hope my point is clear. I oppose prohibitions on vices because I find the prohibitions more immoral than the vices prohibited. I oppose prohibitions on vices because such prohibitions require our police to enforce unjustifiable laws. Further, unjustifiable laws result in unfair enforcement and unfair judicial practice because mercy and justice cannot be consistently considered. Further still, excess laws, unjustifiable or simply unneeded, push our police beyond their warrant. Excessive laws force our police to overextend, increasing their risks unjustifiably.

Specifically, how many police have died because of a marijuana arrest? How many times have drug raids and drug enforcement deprived a more worthy use of police capabilities?

Again, all of this is my fault, our fault, collectively, because we vote for it. We don’t bend the ears of our legislators and peacefully persuade them to repeal the unjustifiable laws. We don’t vote them out and install representatives who will listen.

Prohibition of vices causes more harm than good. Prohibition of vices is more immoral than the vice.

We have the example of alcohol. Of course, it is different. Yet, it is simply a vice. Many people, good, bad, innocent, and otherwise, died trying to prohibit alcohol in our country. We have many problems associated with alcohol. Many people suffer, and many people die. Yet, we don’t cause it. We, collectively, are not responsible for suffering and death resultant from free choices of free people. Our responsibility ends with our innate obligation to love our neighbor as ourselves. I have a simple obligation to my neighbor, my relative, my friend, who has a problem with addiction, or whatever, in so far as I care about them and want the best for them, within my capabilities.

Passing a law and sending the police to enforce it is not the same; it is not a way to fulfill my obligation to love my neighbor. It is coercion, and coercion is evil.

Coercion, being evil, is only justifiable when the coercion enforced is obviously less evil than the harm prevented. By obvious, I mean a clear and imminent harm.

Again, I stand with Jefferson. No doubt, there are problems associated with decriminalizing drugs, but the problems of liberty are not immoral. The problems caused by coercion are immoral. Let us all choose to stand for liberty. Let us all honor every individual as self-sovereign. Let us all refuse to coerce.

 

 

 

Simplistic, but valid: From nothing comes nothing.
Either something exists, or nothing exists.

We can side with the likes of Stephen Hawking and assert eternal existence of gravity and quantum vacuum and, also, assign it practical [and mindless] divinity. Then we can reasonably speculate that myriad minuscule fluctuations in the quantum foam converged to burst forth from the singularity. Inflation, then space-time, which is running down, back down to the nothing.

Or, we can assume transcendence. That is, we can assume an eternal something that is truly beyond nature. Eternal is the key, and transcendence is required, or it is just natural, and we are back to nothing. There are some significant hurdles to deal with in assuming the divine, but an eternal transcendent actor can only be referred to as god. (Peterson says as much, often.)

If we hold to the first, methodological materialism, or naturalism, or atranscendence, then we are stuck with nothing and there simply is no such thing as agency. No choice is any more significant than any event. It takes two things to do anything: Time and Energy. States and systems exhibiting disequilibria will tend to equilibrate, taking time and using energy. Disequilibrated systems do anything that takes time and uses up energy, as long as it lessens the disequilibration. Often, order arises, emergent phenomena. A simple example is a dust devil in a dirt field. The ground heats unevenly under the sun, and the air warms slower, disequilibria. A warm thermal begins to rise, often beginning to spin, and up arises a dancing, self-organizing, dust devil, chasing the warmest spot near it. It is a dissipative system, more efficient at increasing entropy than simple convection. Assuming atranscendence, the dust devil is the same as any choice I make, any idea I conceive, any action I take. It all, only, tends to use up time and energy bringing the universe back to closer to the absolute and eternal nothing of its beginning.

Given my definitions above, the options are god or not-god.

That is, god is that which is eternal and transcendent.

Not-god is that which is yet eternal but nothing, that which momentarily and currently is subject to unwinding the initial winding of the singularity, and the unwinding is simply the using up of time and energy. (It makes no difference in this assumption whether the big bang is a single freak occurrence, or if it is quasicyclical, repeating randomly for all eternity.)

If we accept the god assumption, we are faced with eternity. We exist in time, but we will exist in eternity (and perhaps have always existed in some sense). The questions religion and philosophy address boil down to this: In eternity, with-god or without-god? One choice with two options. We will enter eternity having chosen god or refused god.

In that assertion, I’m assuming the god condition of eternal and transcendent reality. Given that assumption, the choice, the ultimate choice, true agency, is between with-god and without-god.

There either is choice, or there is nothing.

I admit I am defining nothing as meaninglessness.

I’m defining eternal and transcendent as meaning, reason, and rationality. It is my assertion, my premise. It is fundamental within me. (It is fundamental within the universe.)

Choice, agency, is the only thing that matters. If not-god is the reality, then there is no choice, no meaning, no rationality, no reason, nothing. If god is the reality, and there is no choice, no agency, regarding eternity with god or eternity without god, then we are back to nothing, back to no choice, no meaning, no rationality, no reason.

Given any reality approximating that, truth has no meaning in any case where choice, true agency, isn’t foundational and intrinsic. Individual agency must be real or there is not even anything that can be called truth, not in the abstract, not in the concrete, not in the ideal, not even in the notional. If I have no choice in the matter, no agency, nothing matters and nothing is the only true reality. If there is such a thing as reality, choice is real; agency is real.

Obviously, I cannot get away from the notion of truth, and one might argue such persistence makes it deeper, more real, than choice. No. First, we must not conflate Truth with Reality. That which is real is not the same as that which is true, not even in the ideal. It goes to meaning. If the not-god reality is real, then all that we seem to know is simply a random confluence of quantum fluctuations that happen to have congealed into a mass hallucination. If my mind is merely matter and energy and chemical processes running in patterns dictated by quantum fluctuations, I have no mind, and I have nothing on which to base any assumption. I can have no reason to assume any of it will continue. I have no real reason to base any of it on.

In that case, I have no reason. There would really be no reason and no such thing as reason, only matter, only energy, only a persistent, sequential running down and unwinding.

Frankly, I find it unreasonable to assume there is no such thing as reason.

I find it irrational to assume there is no such thing as rationality.

It seems as certain as anything else that there must be an eternal transcendent actor. Being confined to time and nature, we cannot hope to know this super-nature directly. We can only hope to systematically and rationally investigate it and aim at truth, as we do with all of nature. The nature of nature, our reality, seems to include something transcendent that we typically call mind. There isn’t a significant difference between “mind” as we use it, and “spirit” as we use it. There is no quantifiable reason to suppose mind is any less real than matter. Consciousness is really a thing, a thing we do not understand. Our religions may be so far from truth as to be laughable, but so may our sciences.

Again, without choice, there is no truth.

If I am not really a free agent capable of making real choices with meaningful consequences, then there is simply nothing, at least nothing that has any meaning, nothing that matters.

Only Matthew records the tale of the day-laborers in the vineyard.

http://biblehub.com/cev/matthew/20.htm

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The commentaries expound well, but they don’t dig deep. http://biblehub.com/matthew/20-13.htm http://biblehub.com/matthew/20-15.htm

I think it important to remember Jesus’ closing of it, “The last shall be first, and the first last.” We know, we experience so often, this truth. Mark tells us, and Matthew records two instances, where Jesus tells us that from he that hath not, even what he had will be taken away.

http://biblehub.com/matthew/13-12.htm

http://biblehub.com/matthew/25-29.htm

An obvious point is the fleeting nature of worldly goods.

Paul seems to have noticed, and he stated he was content regardless of what he had.

There is a lot in the parable, a lot for every era and time, but I think especially for our time. The day laborers, the notion of fairness, the uprightness of faithfulness even without generosity.

Wikipedia, of all places, has a nice note and interesting details, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Workers_in_the_Vineyard

Perhaps Jesus expected us to assume the owner of the vineyard remembered the command, “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.” http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/24-15.htm

This instruction seems a good thing to remember when considering migrant workers, even foreign workers. (That is a thorny and complex topic. I’d settle for few, limited, simple laws, consistently enforced, that considered each as an individual, not a labeled-group.)

The central point seems to be an individual responsibility to be content with agreements. If I agree to a price, or a wage, that is it. I have agreed. If other considerations make it seem unfair, my obligation is to remain faithful to the agreement. I’m responsible for what I agreed to and fulfilling my part of the agreement. Me, each of us, individually. I am responsible for my agreements and obligations. (Yes, I like redundancy.)

Jesus seems to be condemning the attitude of envy, and that seems consistent with all we know. Life rarely works out fair. Don’t begrudge the fortune of others, for no life is trouble-free. Wealth and influence generally make life less hard, but life, in general, is hard.

I note and emphasize that the owner asserted the right to do with his own as he pleased. That seems especially obvious when the use benefits others.

The owner had no obligation to explain or justify. He had a need, he hired workers to accomplish it. Each worker agreed to work for pay, and apparently only the first hired had established the set amount. (Note that the amount was the then current wage for a day’s work for a day laborer.) Those who went out for less than a full day likely expected a fair portion of the full-day rate. Those last hired were probably resigned to fasting for the day, so what little pay earned could go to feeding the family. Can you imagine the joy and relief each felt while accepting the full portion of pay?

Note that the money belonged to the owner. He, apparently, had earned it. He seems likely to have been a good and honest man. He chose to be generous with his worldly goods, and he chose to pay a full day for everyone that worked for him, even for only a twelfth of that day.

Changing tack, people who work for the government are in a different circumstance. People who work for the government are paid from taxes, money taken from others, for no reason other than the majority voted for it, at least in some roundabout way. Tax expenditures are governed by law, not generosity.

Again, tax expenditures, even if worthy wage paid for worthy work, are governed by law. Generosity is the sole domain of the individual. The government has no positive value. It makes no money of its own. It takes from citizens, and it uses the money according to law. While individuals run a mutually enriching system of agreements and exchange, the government’s system is zero sum. Whatever it gives to one, it took from another (and wasted some along the way). There are valid activities we want the government to do (but that doesn’t address governmental overreach), but when one group riles and rouses the majority and demands more, the fact remains, the favored are gaining at the loss of others.

This brings me back around to envy. It is an individual responsibility to avoid envy, especially that which begrudges and hates others.

Also, faithfulness. Fulfill your obligations, even if someone claims a higher calling. You can’t faithfully fulfill an obligation by abandoning another.

Finally, given the parable is about the kingdom of God, I take the lesson as showing us God treats all equally, and it often doesn’t seem fair.

Oklahoma is in crisis.

The unions are reporting increased parental support, but they’ve lied so much already I won’t accept anything they say.

I’m heart torn. I hurt. We homeschool. So, it doesn’t directly affect my family, but we’ve always supported our local schools and the teachers we know. The slogan is the walkout is for the kids, but the only fact establishable by empirical evidence is the teachers walked out on the children. It is abandonment, betrayal.

I don’t understand it. I know so many teachers, friends, family (including my daughter), younger, older, former, and current. I cannot doubt the heart of any one of them. I honor and respect everyone one of them. They each have accomplished so much, given so much. I trusted them, would have trusted them, but they did not remain faithful.

Again, I don’t understand. I know these teachers have the biggest, most giving, most loving hearts of any people I’ve known; yet, they walked out.

Not only did the teachers and their unions warn they would hold the children hostage and extort the parents, the parents (and legislators) believed them that their plight was dire (It was.), and the State paid the ransom. The legislators bit the bullet and raised taxes, a large tax increase. Sadly, the old adage held. Pay the ransom and embolden the extortionists.

It is interesting, even praiseworthy, how the teachers have acted, and, moreover, how many in our community have responded. Many private people and businesses have provided goods, services, and cash. It is with very mixed emotions that I watch it all. Despite being intimidated and threatened, we love our teachers and continue to work with them.

Of course, there is very little of anything good can be said of any politician in this whole mess. (Well, a small few, but that is not of concern here.) It is hard to condemn the politicians being under so much stress, intimidation, and disparagement. Some messed up, some just didn’t act right, and a few grandstanded and put on the show at every opportunity, never shying from any deriding or devise remark.

An oft-repeated chant aimed to deride the legislators was, “Do your job!” while teachers constantly thronged them and posted derogatory reports whenever the legislator was trying to attend business rather than offer a sympathetic ear. Teachers have boasted of overcrowding the legislators. Teachers complained when their disruption wouldn’t be tolerated. Teachers (and the grandstanding pols) pitched royal fits when the legislature adjourned early one day, and started slightly late the next. Lose-lose for all the legislators but the grandstanders.

As to doing their job, what is their job? The teachers seem to think it is to raise taxes and give the failing education system more money. Is it the job of the legislature to penalize the citizens of the state to appease the teachers unions?

No, the job of a legislative representative is to represent the people who elected him or her. Being in the district of the chief grandstander, it just might be that the majority in my district did so want more expensive failure in education, and the majority may very well have thought it right that grandstander-in-chief opposed all tax increases for being too small, until the strike was certain. (I wrote him often asking him to not raise my taxes and to not make such spectacle of himself.)

However, it is clear from recent history that most of the voters in most of the districts wanted their legislators to represent their interest in holding the line on tax increases. Maybe moods have changed, but it is simply disingenuous to assert the representatives were failing in their job. The legislators were, in fact, fulfilling their duties and obligations. Again, there is blame can be handed round all round, but on the whole, the legislators were doing their jobs, even while being railed against by the grandstanders and union activists.

Amongst the railing and intimidation and threats, the legislatures settled on a package of tax increases that drew compromise agreement of the required supermajority. A large, and likely painful, tax increase, and there were celebrations and dancing in the streets, even a high-five from the Governor as she rushed to sign the measure.

Yet, the strike was still on.

Come Monday, with new tax increases and new laws funding education confirmed and in the books, the strike came. The teachers walked out of their classrooms leaving students and their parents holding the bag. Betrayal of trust by any objective evaluation.

Yet, the parents bucked up and voiced support. I’ve heard no estimates of how many people had to take off work. The cost has to be over several millions of dollars, just for that first day of the walkout. In Oklahoma, it is illegal for teachers (unions) to strike against the school board (their actual employer). However, the school boards also believed the dire circumstances, and many authorized the walkout, keeping it legal.

Still, day two. Surely the teachers had made their point. Surely, with the extraordinary raise (16 to 18% per teacher, and more money for this and that) and tax burden tolerated, the teachers would be happy, but no. The unions had started the mantra Monday that it was never about the raise, never about “the money,” but about the classrooms, about education in the state as a whole. Oklahoma already spends half of its budget on education. One can argue particulars, but one cannot claim Oklahoma doesn’t care about education. That fact mattered not to the unions.

Now, we’ve muddled through the week. Some schools have called the teachers back to the classrooms. A few never walked out at all. (At least one small district sent a delegation of teachers to represent them while classes continued. Quite reasonable, I believe.)

Still, most, including all the larger districts, day by day canceled class for want of teachers. I know not what most of the school boards have done, but they face the very real possibility of having to fire, perhaps even prosecute, teachers if they (the board members) grow stubborn and insistent. There is no win, only harm, in that prospect. It is still possible. It may come to it in some instance.

I’ve waxed verbose, and I offer my appreciation for reading and sharing my pain. I aim to express my disappointment in the teachers, even in those who have vehemently supported them, but my primary aim is to end the betrayal. I hope the teachers will return to class. It is a sad fight. It is sad that it is a fight at all.

While the teachers say the government has failed, it cannot be said the education system is better. There are systemic problems of myriad sort in our education system, even more than our government system. Both are flawed from inception, with error compounded upon error over the decades. Our defects have grown for more than a century. No thorough fix is possible in even a few years.

But we can start, but not while teachers raise ruckus and disgraced politicians show no shame. The legislators cannot do their job while teachers hinder them.

While I sincerely hope the teachers will return to class Monday, we citizens of Oklahoma, all of us, must continue to call upon our legislature to address the flaws in our systems, all our state systems. They are badly broken. The problems are clear, but the causes are not. The remedies are even more elusive, but we must. We simply must find repairs, and we really must install workable systems before we make them all more expensive. We may find we need more taxes. We likely must revamp our taxing system overall.

No easy answers. We won’t find any if we get complacent. We will repeat this hurtful, tragic fiasco again in a few years if we don’t keep at honest effort for accountability and solutions.

 

But hatred is best combined with Fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful—horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears, the more he will hate. And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. To make a deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage.

Screwtape to Wormwood, per C.S. Lewis

Who Do Teachers Work For?

First, why, in public education, are teachers paid, pretty much, all the same? In life, everything sorts. Some are good at something, most are not. Those who are good sort further into adequate, competent, good, better, outstanding, etc. Shouldn’t the best be paid more than the mediocre? Can’t the mediocre acknowledge their lot and either be content or strive more diligently?

Think back. Didn’t you have a few poor teachers? Weren’t most of your teachers good? Perhaps you had one or two really great teachers, perhaps none, very unlikely more than two. Obviously, the compensation and recognition of the best should be more than the lesser. (Some won’t agree. They have their reasonings and rationalizations.)

Back to the question: For whom do teachers work?

If I hire a teacher to tutor my child, obviously the teacher works for me. Of course, government-organized schools add several complications, but let us consider this simple case.

If I hire a teacher, we two set the pay. We two set the conditions and guidelines for the education. For the most part, I can alter any pertinent consideration, and the teacher can agree or tender resignation. Where circumstances set such arrangements, they are typically mutually beneficial, and mutually satisfactory and fulfilling. This one-on-one arrangement cannot exist in the public school, in the government dictated school. It is the nature of authoritarianism. (Perhaps some of the downside can be mitigated, but that is another topic.)

Let us assume the teacher and I have agreed her duties also include full supervisory responsibilities during the workday, such that she is caregiver for my seven-year-old as well as teacher. Perchance, she recognizes that just down the road, she could earn at least 20% more than I pay her. If she decides she needs a raise (or she will seek her fortune down the road) she can ask for a raise or other consideration. Let us assume I simply am at my budget limits. I cannot pay more or provide any additional consideration that extracts from my budget elsewhere, or I will fall in arrears. Assume I am blacklisted and no one will lend to me. I have no ability to pay more. It is reasonable for said teacher to give notice. She has no future obligation past a reasonable notice. However, would not all agree that she treats me diabolically if she calls me at work the next morning and states she will abandon me and my child at this very moment if I agree not to an 18% raise. (She asserts she is compromising, meeting me part way. Of course, she is also insisting I hire a helper for her.)

Think it through. How is a teacher walkout here in Oklahoma any different in the general sense?

Certainly, there are differences in the details, but how is what the teacher’s unions propose any less extortion versus what I suppose of this fictitious nanny-teacher?

Am I exaggerating that the budget is set? Am I exaggerating that no money can be borrowed? Am I exaggerating the example of extortion with the child held hostage at threat of abandonment?

You may not like my candor, but you cannot call me a liar. These are the facts.

Teachers in the government-dictated public schools still, notionally, work for the parents, yes? Of course, yet there are many complications.

While the ideal is that the teacher is accountable to the parents of the children in her classroom, the fact is, most of those parents are hardly involved. Sadly, most of those who are involved draw the ire of the teachers and administration for being meddlesome. Involved parents may help in one area, but such parents hinder accomplishment of legislative dictates and administrative objectives. If you doubt my assertion here, I consider it probable you are not significantly involved in your children’s school.

The practical matter is the teacher answers not to the parents, but to the signer of her paycheck. She answers to the principal, to the school board, and to the bureaucracy. Let us not overlook the complicating factor that the bureaucracy includes that of the school, that of the state, and that of her union.

In the final analysis, she works for and answers to the principal and this complex of bureaucratic requirements and expectations. When the bureaucracy demands she abandons the children, holding them hostage and extorting the parents, what else can she do? While she probably worries that she will not be paid while on strike, she knows she will not be paid if she is pushed out by the bureaucrats. Our teachers are in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t conundrum.

While the ground truth is harsh, the right thing is clear. Teachers owe loyalty to the students and the parents. If teachers abandon and betray the students and parents…

No one respects a betrayal. Cowardice is the one failing that always hurts, always hurts in every way, always hurts everyone affected, everyone who remembers, everyone failed by the coward, especially the coward.

Hate has its pleasures. Hate is too often used to cover the pain of cowardice. Blame and shame casting, likewise.

The simple fact of the matter is teachers are betraying those they work for and those for whom they are responsible. There is no sin greater than betrayal.

Frankly, if you can’t hack it, get out. What is the adage? First, do no harm. Only harm comes from betrayal. Accept responsibility and acknowledge the truth and stand faithful. Lead by example, not coercion.

Again, remain faithful. Lead by example, not coercion.

Micah 6:8

While teachers and other state workers plan to hold me, the rest of Oklahoma tax payers, and our children hostage, our education leaders do things like extend the contract of the Tulsa Superintendent, paying her roughly a quarter-million per year (plus any official expenses, of course). http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/tulsa-school-board-strikes-three-year-contract-deal-with-next/article_cdd7589c-c7bb-5019-bba9-8a6347b35fd2.html

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/deborah-gist-s-contract-renewed-tulsa-public-schools-superintendent-remains/article_b183e73a-6023-57c2-af55-dbfca517b8f8.html

Apparently, new teachers should only get $31k, and generally not get raises for years (and experienced, proven teachers don’t end up making much more in many instances), but administrators pull in the big bucks, and news editors proclaim how much they deserve it. Hmm…

Still, apparently, the situation is my fault.

I mean, it must be. The teachers and other school officials (and state workers) all clamor that I’m not paying enough taxes. They say shaking me down is the only solution to their problems.

Well, obviously, I disagree.

If the Oklahoma City Superintendent, making only a little less than Tulsa’s, wouldn’t stick it out, I think the problem is not the money. I mean, who walks away from a $220k per year job because of a bad day at the office? It must have been a really bad day.

Sure, the Supers have to be paid something, and that quarter-million won’t cover much of the needs of the districts, but we keep pouring more money into education, and education keeps declining. It isn’t a money problem! The problems aren’t such that money will fix!

If teachers walk out of classrooms in Oklahoma, that says plainly that teachers don’t care about the students. Sorry, no other way to look at it. You can pretend the teachers have no recourse, but that is a lie. It is simply untrue.

In general, in most individual instances, we pay for perceived value. Sure, many things skew this or that, but for the most part, compensation is consistent with perceived value received.

I suspect most people will argue that teachers deliver more value than they are paid for. Well, true. Really, our teachers are delivering more value than they are being paid in compensation, but (you knew there’d be a but) Oklahomans are paying for an education system, not just teachers.

I, for one, think Oklahoma is taking more from me than is justifiable.

Oklahoma governments (including local) take from me in multiple taxes, and they take from me every year–in sales taxes, every day. They take from me with every utility bill, and they take from me every time I buy fuel.

Scott Inman, my representative (who has me blocked on his Facebook page), voted against raising taxes on me. I thank him for that, but he said he did so because the tax increase wasn’t large enough! Good heavens! He shouted that the proposed tax hiked taxes on the little guy, but not on the fat cats. I’m not sure who he meant, but he called them the Republican’s fat cats. Since Scott wanted more taxes on oil, I reject his argument.

Scott Inman and other Democratic representatives insisted on more cost imposition on oil companies. I suppose he thinks “the little guy” is too dumb to realize that the imposed cost is simply passed on in higher fuel prices, higher utility bills. I suppose Scott thinks “the little guy” will feel better about pretending “big oil” is paying a fair share, while each paycheck stretches tighter with increased cost of fuel for getting back and forth to work. I’ll simply remind that no business actually pays taxes. All businesses have costs, and taxes are simply costs. Prices charged must exceed all costs, or the business is bankrupt. Taxes on business, all taxes on business, are simply and only taxes on the little guy.

Overall, the governments of Oklahoma (and the USA) take more from me, by force, than can be justified by the services (including primary and secondary) rendered.

It is too much. Government is too much. The education establishment, with all its state employees, administration, and staff is too much!

We can pay teachers more without tax increases. We should pay teachers more, but it won’t help with the system. Education is broken, and no amount of money will fix it. (Just ask Aurora Lora.) Superintendents have some ability to fix things in their districts, but school board administrators must cooperate. Teachers unions have to get out of the way. Still, all that is only a small part of the problem. The first step is to end compulsion. While we coerce children and parents into State-sanctioned schools, the education cannot but worsen. The plight of teachers cannot but worsen.

Regarding unions in general, they exist to oppose the “boss,” yes?

Of course. Unions exist to collectivise the workers against the employer. The notion, which has sometimes been true, was employers exploited workers for greed.

Okay, but when have parents been greedy and knowingly exploitive of teachers?

Don’t teachers work for the parents?

I know unions disagree, but don’t we all say that teachers work for the parents, for the students? Isn’t that what we all assert?

Then the unions oppose the parents and students.

Yes, there is no way around it. Teachers unions exist to coerce and tyrannize parents, students, and taxpayers in general. That is who teachers work for. That is who unions oppose.

We err with teachers unions. Teachers err with unions.

Union coercion is part of the problem. Nobody likes to be coerced.

Coercion is evil.

 

 

 

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