Archive for the ‘Notes to a Friend’ Category.

Teach a man to fish….

Handouts don’t work. By now, we have decades of data to show they don’t. The War on Poverty has created generational poverty on a level that wouldn’t likely exist without it. The family unit has been destroyed in impoverished communities, as policies tend to favor women with absentee co-parents. We know that handing even more money over doesn’t work.

So how did the Republican mayor of Albuquerque [Mayor Richard Berry] deal with the lowest of the low in his city? Simple. He found a way to give them their dignity back.

    Throughout his administration, as part of a push to connect the homeless population to services, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents told him they didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go.

    Seeing that sign gave Berry an idea. Instead of asking them, many of whom feel dispirited, to go out looking for work, the city could bring the work to them.

    Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city.

    In partnership with a local nonprofit that serves the homeless population, a van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed.

    In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.

. . .

There’s a beneficial exchange taking place. The city of Albuquerque gets litter picked up and some landscaping while those who are doing the work are given a wage.

In the process, it gives these people their dignity back.

Mayor Comes Up with Simple Way to Combat Homelessness, Panhandling in His City

Incentives matter.

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Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent pornography, and it would no doubt be thriving today even if he hadn’t founded Playboy magazine those many years ago. After all, man is fallen, and somebody would have filled that depraved niche in American life. Hefner, however, played his part, and the part he played was immensely destructive to our nation’s cultural, moral, and spiritual fabric. Hefner mainstreamed porn, he put it in millions of homes, and he even glamorized it — recasting one of America’s most pathetic industries as the playground of the sophisticated rich. He then grew to a ripe old age, consorting with women young enough to be his granddaughters. He was America’s most famous dirty old man.

And now he’s dead. May God have mercy on his soul.

. . .

To see men become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse. Their integrity and fidelity unwind before your eyes. They lie habitually to cover the extent of their habit, even when their wives are allegedly “open” and sexually liberated. After all, if she knew how much he watched or exactly what he looked at, even she would be shocked. The screen alone is never enough, the wife is never enough, and the addict so often seeks mistresses, prostitutes, or both.

Another family breaks. More lives fall into despair.

To see a man become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse. All this is known. Everyone has seen it happen in their churches, in their neighborhoods, and in their families.

Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair

Porn is part of the culture of death.

Hugh Hefner, America’s famous porn magnate, has died at the age of 91 at the Playboy Mansion. Throughout his life, he championed unfettered hedonism in every form: Abortion, the legalization of marijuana, the liberation of sex from love, and pornography were all causes he fought — with much success — to bring into the mainstream. Hefner himself was not single-handedly responsible for the massive social changes that rocked the Western world from the Sexual Revolution onwards, but he was easily the single most recognizable symbol of them all.

. . .

[T]he catastrophe of Hefner’s Sexual Revolution will be felt for generations: Fifty million pre-born children aborted, marriages smashed or abandoned, millions of children growing up in broken homes, rates of porn addiction that have crippled a generation of men, and a hypersexualized society that uses the bodies of girls and women to sell nearly every product on the market. The destruction and the carnage are nearly unfathomable.

Hugh Hefner has died, and we do not rejoice in his death. But as the old man breathed his last in the decaying Playboy Mansion where he lived his life of selfishness and greed, we can only mourn for the millions of broken lives and countless victims he leaves in his wake.

Hugh Hefner led many souls down the road to destruction

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Equifax and Your Credit Reports

Freeze your credit reports, register for your own account on Social Security, and keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements. And if your identity is stolen, file a report with your local police department, the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov, and the IRS so your tax refund can’t be stolen.

And think about using Two Factor Authorization (2FA). See Two Factor Auth (2FA).

For more, see:

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Sin and Sinners


Is It OK to Judge Someone?

We live in times in which there is a widespread notion that to correct sinners is to “judge” them. Never mind that it is sin that we judge, not the sinner. Never mind that in accusing us of judging, the worldly-minded are themselves doing the very judging they condemn. Never mind any of that; the point of the charge is to try to shame us into silence. Despite the fact that Scripture consistently directs us to correct the sinner, many Catholics have bought into the notion that correcting the sinner is “judging” him. In this, the devil, who orchestrates the “correcting is judging” campaign, rejoices; for if he can keep us from correcting one another, sin can and does flourish.

Today’s Gospel is an important reminder and explanation of our obligation, as well instruction on how we should correct the sinner and be open to correction ourselves. Let’s look at it in four steps.

. . .

Notice the brief but clear advice that when we see someone in sin, we ought to talk with him or her about it. Many, probably due to sloth, prefer to say that it’s none of their business what others do. Jesus clearly teaches otherwise.

In this teaching, Jesus is obviously speaking to the general situation; some distinctions are helpful and admissible in specific instances. For example, one generally has a greater obligation to correct people in grave matters than in less serious ones. One is more compelled to correct those who are younger than those who are older. One is more obligated to correct subordinates, less so, superiors. Parents are strongly duty-bound to correct their children, but children are seldom obligated to correct their parents. The general rule, however, remains: all other things being equal, there is an obligation to engage in Christian correction. Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and tell him.”

. . .

Sadly, today it is evident that our unity and the power of our prayer as a Church is greatly diminished by the disunity among us and the way in which many continue for too long without being corrected by the Church. We are not a force for change because we are divided on the very truth that is supposed to unite us. Much of our division is further rooted in our failure to teach with clarity and correct the sinner.

The Obligation of Clear, Compassionate Correction of the Sinner

The Catechism [of the Catholic Church] similarly teaches us that sin – and the sorrow arising, ultimately, from it – is not “a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure.” (#387) It is, rather, part of the morally compromised human condition, in which all of us share.

The Bad News about the Good News

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“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

In public policy debates, it’s often assumed that women freeze their eggs in order to put off childbearing during the prime time of their careers. According to new research, however, more and more educated and successful women are choosing to freeze their eggs because they cannot find a man they want to marry. Many men are “missing” from higher education, work, and church – and are just not marriageable.

As a single woman, I am interested in the causes of this “missing men” phenomenon. While I think the Church and society should focus on forming men to be more marriageable, I am also concerned for the Catholic women who are single and want to get married. What should Catholic women do in this situation?

It is easy to become disheartened – even to despair – about the apparent lack of marriageable men in our culture. I’ve met many beautiful and intelligent single women who are worried they will never get married or they will get married too late to have children. They are willing to leave their careers behind in order to be a wife and mother, yet they simply cannot find the right man.

This is something new to our generation. It never occurred to my mother and her friends that they would never find a spouse. Most of them were happily married by their mid-twenties.

I won’t argue here about why egg freezing is immoral (that’s for another article). I’ve pondered, however, what Catholic single women should do in this culture of “missing men.” Here are some alternatives that I have found to be helpful in my own singlehood.

“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

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The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

Even within Christianity, there can be an unhealthy, superstitious focus on searching for “signs.” On a train once from Edinburgh to London, I was cornered by a friendly lady who proceeded to ask me if I knew about the “blood moons” prophecy in the Bible. My heart sank; the journey from Edinburgh to London takes four hours and I could see I was in for a long harangue.

On another occasion, I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not repeat a certain prayer to Our Lady at a certain time every day, I would be cursed. A magical ritual had replaced faith in Christ.

I mention this as I have been dipping into Hitler’s Monsters: a Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander. It is extraordinary, though not surprising, that a western country as advanced in scientific understanding and progress as Germany was in the 20th century could also, between 1920-1945, have been so prey to irrational beliefs and intellectual lunacy.

A popular volume of parapsychology, Magic: History, Theory, Practice, by Ernst Schertel, was heavily underlined by Hitler himself. Significantly, his library at Berchtesgaden included almost no works on political theory or philosophy but numerous books on popular medicine, German mythology, magic symbols and the occult.

Belief in astrology was rife among the Nazis; Rudolf Hess consulted an astrologer before his ill-fated flight to Scotland in 1941 and towards the end of the war Himmler’s personal astrologer was by his side night and day.

Indeed, the Party, as Kurlander shows, leant heavily on occultism, pagan, New Age and Eastern religions. Pendulum dowsers, border science, “ariosophy” (the resurgence of a lost Aryan civilization), theosophy (begun by Helena Blavatsky), anthroposophy (started by Rudolf Steiner), World Ice Theory and a host of other pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo were the standard spiritual fare of the Nazi high command.

Kurlander quotes the German philosopher and sociologist, Theodor Adorno, who suggested that “the power of occultism was rooted, like fascism, in its appeal to ‘semi-erudite’ individuals driven by the narcissistic wish to prove superior to the plain people.”

It sounds like the ancient temptation to Gnosticism, i.e. superior and secret knowledge and also to the most fundamental temptation of all from which none of us is entirely immune: “You shall be as gods…”

If the Nazis had been a grubby little group of occultists, rather like the magician, Aleister Crowley, and his associates in the Golden Dawn, their evil influence would have been somewhat confined; but when one reads that Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and the second most important figure in the Third Reich, encouraged research regarding “Lucifer’s role as the harbinger of enlightenment and enemy of the Jewish God”, it is terrifying.

The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

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Alt-Right is Pro-Abortion

The founder of Planned Parenthood favored abortion as a tool for rooting out society’s ‘undesirables.’ Richard Spencer and his ilk do too.

. . .

[T]he alt-right tends to praise abortion for the same reasons that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, praised it: It helps to rid the country of “undesirables.”

Richard Spencer, the keynote speaker in Charlottesville and the central figure of the alt-right movement, finds abortion useful. He has explained that abortion will help to bring about his vision of an elite, white America: “The people who are having abortions are generally very often Black or Hispanic or from very poor circumstances.” The people whom Spencer wants to reproduce, he says, “are using abortion when you have a situation like Down Syndrome.” It is only “the unintelligent and blacks and Hispanics,” he claims, “who use abortion as birth control.”

On this understanding, abortion is a form of eugenics, helping to shape the population to produce more desirables and fewer undesirables. This is why Spencer supports the practice — not because he believes that it is a moral good or that women are owed the right to choose, but because he views it as a morally neutral tool that improves the American gene pool by making it whiter and richer.

The Alt-Right Carries on Margaret Sanger’s Pro-Abortion Legacy

The alt-right is part of the culture of death.

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Technology does not make us wiser

[T]here will never be technology to make us any wiser. We’ve tried drugs, and they don’t work; we already have innumerable devices to make us quicker about our tasks. We have invested electronic mountains of money in “leaving no child behind.” But nonsense remains nonsense at a hundred times the speed.

On “The Land of Lunatics”

Ozymandias

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Drugs, Employment, Change, and Community

The misuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl is, by now, painfully well known. The U.S. tops the world in drug deaths; in 2015, more people died from overdoses — with two thirds involving an opioid — than from car accidents or gun violence.

The epidemic is also having a devastating effect on companies — large and small — and their ability to stay competitive. Managers and owners across the country are at a loss in how to deal with addicted workers and potential workers, calling the issue one of the biggest problems they face. Applicants are increasingly unwilling or unable to pass drug tests; then there are those who pass only to show signs of addiction once employed. Even more confounding: how to respond to employees who have a legitimate prescription for opioids but whose performance slips. “That is really the battlefield for us right now,” said Markus Dietrich, global manager of employee assistance and worklife services at chemical giant DuPont, which employs 46,000 worldwide.

The issue is amplifying labor shortages in industries like trucking, which has had difficulty for the last six years finding qualified workers. It’s also pushing employers to broaden their job searches, recruiting people from greater distances when roles can’t be filled with local workers. At stake is not only safety and productivity within companies — but the need for humans altogether, with some manufacturers claiming opioids force them to automate work faster.

The opioid crisis is creating a fresh hell for America’s employers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Just a few miles from where President Trump will address his blue-collar base here Tuesday night, exactly the kind of middle-class factory jobs he has vowed to bring back from overseas are going begging.

It’s not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test.

The fallout is not limited to the workers or their immediate families. Each quarter, Columbiana Boiler, a local company, forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders for its galvanized containers and kettles because of the manpower shortage, it says, with foreign rivals picking up the slack.

“Our main competitor in Germany can get things done more quickly because they have a better labor pool,” said Michael J. Sherwin, chief executive of the 123-year-old manufacturer. “We are always looking for people and have standard ads at all times, but at least 25 percent fail the drug tests.”

The economic impact of drug use on the work force is being felt across the country, and perhaps nowhere more than in this region, which is struggling to overcome decades of deindustrialization.

Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll

[W]hen it’s suggested that our current set of arrangements won’t last forever people immediately imagine Mad Max, as if no other alternative exists. Things are going to change. They always have and they always will. The future will just be different. That’s absolutely not the same as saying the world is coming to an end. Clear eyed individuals who are paying attention can start to get a feel for who the new winners and losers are likely to be and place themselves in the best possible situation ahead of the curve. That’s a pragmatist’s view – not a doomer’s.

. . .

If small scale agriculture was made redundant by mechanization and industrial scale production, then industry itself was hammered by other equally powerful forces. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end.

. . .

The most recent iteration of the Zombie Apocalypse has already begun to unfold in some places. Suburbia was exactly the right thing for a particular period of time. But that era is winding down. The modest tract homes and strip malls built after World War II are not holding up well in an increasing number of marginal landscapes. I have been accused of cherry picking my photo ops, particularly by people who engage in their own cherry picking when discussing the enduring value of prosperous suburbs. But there’s too much decay in far too many places to ignore the larger trend. The best pockets of suburbia will carry on just fine. But the majority of fair-to-middling stuff on the periphery is going down hard.

. . .

The future drivers of change will be the same as the previous century – only in reverse. The great industrial cities of the early twentieth century as well as the massive suburban megaplexes that came after them were only possible because of an underlaying high tide of cheap abundant resources, easy financing, complex national infrastructure, and highly organized and cohesive organizational structures. Those are the elements of expansion.

But once the peak has been reached there’s a relentless contraction. The marginal return on investment goes negative as the cost of maintaining all the aging structures and wildly inefficient attenuated systems becomes overwhelming. The places that do best in a prolonged retreat from complexity are the ones with the greatest underlying local resource base and most cohesive social structures relative to their populations. The most complex places with the most critical dependencies will fail first as the tide recedes.

. . .

Over the long haul Main Street has a pretty good chance of coming back along with the family farm. But the shorter term in-between period of adjustment to contraction is going to be rough as existing institutions attempt to maintain themselves at all costs.

Postcards From the Zombie Apocalypse

A slew of reports finds a fresh reason for the chronic inability of American companies to fill skilled jobs: not a lack of skills, and hence a training-and-education crisis, but a surfeit of drug abuse, per the NYT’s Nelson Schwartz. Simply put, prime-working age Americans without a college diploma are often too drugged-out to get the best jobs. Opioids remain at high levels, but the surge in drug use is now heroin and the powerful contaminant fentanyl.

The reports suggest a circularity to the crisis in America’s rust and manufacturing belts: the loss of jobs and wage stagnation has led to widespread disaffection, alienation and drug abuse; and drug abuse has led to joblessness, hopelessness and disaffection.

But the numbers are all over the map. Some employers and economists say up to half of job applicants do not clear drug tests; others say it is 25%. In the chart above, Indeed economist Jed Kolko, using data from the U.S. Current Population Survey, found that 5.6% to 5.7% of working-age adults didn’t work last year because of illness or disability, an unknown percentage of which were because of drug use.

Many Americans are too drugged-out to work

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What if Christian organizations went on strike?

Many of the services Americans take for granted are provided by churches and Christian organizations. It is not hyperbolic to say that core areas of American life would languish or collapse without the contributions of Christian people and organizations. These enormous social contributions are frequently underappreciated, but would certainly be missed.

Perhaps the most important is health care. John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, wrote in an article titled “No Christianity, No Hospitals: Don’t Take Christian Contributions for Granted”:

One in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35-mile radius. This doesn’t even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.

Catholic hospitals are the largest single category within non-profit hospitals, which themselves account for about half of all hospitals.

. . .

At a lecture once in my college Catholic center, our priest said that if laws required Catholic agencies to place children in same-sex households, the church should suspend its adoption placements entirely. What about the children who won’t get placed in homes, I asked? Can the church sacrifice real people for its own survival? Of course it can, he explained; it is more important to preserve the integrity of the church for the future, because it is the church’s moral and spiritual integrity which inspires it to do social good in the first place. That argument may not be watertight, but it is one Christians must grapple with.

Orthodox Christians in America have gotten into the habit of bemoaning their inexorably shrinking political power and the rising hostility to religious freedom. But they actually possess enormous political power: the ability to grind to a halt the health care, educational, and social services infrastructure of the United States. Will they use it?

Jesus Shrugged: What if Christian organizations just went on strike?

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