Where Would We Be Without Hell?

I love this headline: Pope Francis reportedly denies the existence of hell. Vatican panics.

It made me think: Where would the world be without a hell?

I’m not sure. It’s hard to imagine. I doubt we’d kill each other in greater numbers. Or commit more atrocities. We do a bang-up job of that even while professing belief in the existence of a hell.

In fact, I doubt the world would be any different. But perhaps I’m wrong. There’s no way to be sure.

Of course, priests and other clergy would have to alter their message. Well, at least the ones who aren’t in the pope’s camp, of which there are many.

And, of course, there would be some disappointment among the people who are counting on a hell. Not for themselves. But for the people who deserve to be sent there. I can think of some people who have earned that right. I bet you have your list, too.

A word of caution though: there’s no way of knowing what the cutoff is, so it’s risky business cheering for hell. We might be surprised and fail to make the cut ourselves.


Our Naiveté Seems to Know No Bounds

The story hit the internet today that a bare majority of people no longer trust Facebook to obey laws protecting personal information.

Which causes me to wonder: What, if anything, does it take to erode the naiveté of people?

As a species, we tend to be trusting. Even in the face of compelling facts to the contrary. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, you can decide for yourself. What I do know is that there is never a dearth of people willing to take advantage of it.

Feudalism Is Back

Home ownership in the U.S. continues to remain out of reach for many people. The home ownership rate for American households now stands at only 62.9 percent, down from a high of 69.7 percent. The rate is the lowest it’s been since the Census Bureau started tracking it in 1965.

Meanwhile, about a third of millennials are still living with their parents.

Financial independence for a majority of our fellow citizens is more illusive than at any time in my lifetime. We are becoming a nation of haves and have-nots. That is truly disturbing for some of us.

(Attribution: The title of this post is attributed to Sven Henrich, who labeled his tweet of this chart as such.)

P.S. A couple other disturbing charts I ran across this morning.


America’s Healthiest Communities

U.S. News, in collaboration with Aetna, compiles a list of the 500 healthiest communities in the U.S. Here are the top 15. You can follow the link if you’re interested in seeing whether your community made the list. My current one did (# 7). Several other places I’ve lived made the list, too (Boulder and Larimer Counties, Colorado and Centre, Cumberland, and Chester Counties, Pennsylvania).

One thing I noticed is that Colorado is overrepresented. I’m not surprised. The state attracts health-conscious and active people, and the culture supports it.

Lists like this one are a reminder of a point I’ve frequently made: place matters. Frankly, it’s easier to live a healthy lifestyle when the climate and culture support healthy living. And where the economy supports infrastructure investments (e.g., trails, parks, etc.).

I didn’t check, but I suspect most if not all of these communities on the list of 500 are wealthy — relative to the average county, that is. Frankly, a healthy lifestyle can be seen as a luxury. There’s something about that that doesn’t seem right.

Students Use Your Money to Invest in Cryptocurrencies

I have issues with our federal student loan program. But this wasn’t one of them. Until now that is.

From Investopedia:

According to a study by The Student Loan Report, over one-fifth of current university students with student loan debt indicated that they used their student loan money to invest in digital currency such as bitcoin.

The student loan news and information website found that 21.2% of the 1,000 students they surveyed indicated that they used their borrowed cash to gamble on the highly volatile digital currency market. While school administrators may look down upon the practice of using borrowed funds for non-school expenses, Student Loan Report indicates that there are currently no rules against it. College students are able to use loans for “living expenses,” a flexible category that covers a wide range of potential necessities.

I wonder if any of these risk takers will be unable to complete their studies because of their investment losses. Probably, but we may never know.

All of these student loans are funded by money borrowed by your federal government. In other words, you, the taxpayers, are on the hook to repay those borrowed funds if the student-borrowers fail to repay their student-loans. Not surprisingly, student-loans have a high default rate, meaning the lender (the U.S. Government) has to absorb the losses. It appears those losses may be increasing due, in part, from the risky investments made by the students in cryptocurrencies.

It will be interesting what effect, if any, stories like this one have on the student loan program. The main beneficiary of the program is the colleges, who would be compelled, without the program, to run more efficient operations and keep tuition low. In other words, the student-loan program is an indirect subsidy of the colleges.

There are better ways to assist needy students with a college education. Yet, at this time, I haven’t seen any political support for pursuing any of them. So it looks like taxpayer money will continue to be used for dubious purposes.

Will the Day Come When the Second Amendment Is Repealed?

John Paul Stevens, a retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, argued, in a New York Times op-ed today, that Saturday’s demonstrators should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment. Whether he’s right from a strategic political perspective, I’m not so sure (actually, I suspect he’s not). But I am confident he’s right from a legal and constitutional perspective.

For reasons outlined in the former justice’s op-ed, the Second Amendment was never intended to afford the rights ascribed to it by the modern conservative court in the Heller case. It was a political not a constitutional decision — albeit hardly the first or the last. So if the framers’ intent was the issue, then a repeal of the amendment would bring us closer to the 1791 adoption of the Bill of Rights than the Heller decision. But, of course, it’s well established by now that conservatives care about original intent only when it serves their cause; they are quick to discard it at all other times.

I suspect the day will come when the Second Amendment is repealed. But it might be a long time in coming. I’m not sure I’ll see it happen.

In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Supreme Court permit greater regulation of weapons, for even rabid conservative jurists are uncomfortable with blood on their hands.

What Will We Have When Mr. Trump Is Done Breaking Eggs?

Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s new Director of the National Economic Council and long-time confident of Mr. Trump, was quoted last week as saying the president “loves to break eggs.” And, indeed, for better or for worse, Mr. Trump has been breaking a lot of eggs recently.

I’m sure people have different opinions on the matter. Some are terrified by some of Mr. Trump’s actions; others are heartened. My opinion on the matter isn’t very important (to anyone but me, of course). Of course, the media think opinions matter. They’re constantly polling the American people.

I’m not one who is fond of the media’s incessant polling. Whether the polls suggest support for or opposition to the egg breaking is of no consequence to me. The only poll that counts is the one taken on election day.

I remain troubled by the poll taken in November 2016, when the American people decided to hand over the keys to the Oval Office (and our nuclear arsenal) to a megalomaniac. But it was their decision. It is what it is.

Given that election, I’m not particularly bothered by Mr. Trump’s egg breaking, mainly because none of it is coming as a surprise. Mr. Trump was upfront about his intentions during the campaign. Everyone knew (or should have known) he was going to break the eggs he’s been breaking. Obviously, that’s what a lot of people wanted or they wouldn’t have voted for him.

Naturally, the question on some people’s minds these days is, what will the country look like once all the eggs have been cracked? Will it be a better place? Or a worse place? How will our future be impacted? Will our kids and grandchildren’s lives be better or worse?

Many people have their predictions, but no one can know for sure. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. And be prepared to reap the benefits or suffer the consequences, whatever they might be. Perhaps the results of all of this egg breaking will be better than some people fear. But, of course, the ramifications could be worse than anyone can imagine. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, people aren’t left to be mere spectators. They have other people whom they’ve elected to represent them — people to whom they can reach out to express either support or disgust for the president’s egg breaking. And they can prepare for the next election, too — to ensure the election of a Congress that either supports or rejects the egg breaking.

The decision the country made in November 2016 has consequences, like all decisions do. And the decisions we make today have consequences, too — whether we decide to do nothing, voice support, or voice opposition. Perhaps even more importantly, the decisions we make in November 2018 will have consequences.

It will be interesting to see what those decisions will be.

Will They Run Through the Finish Line, or Pull Up Short?

Standing before vast crowds from Washington to Los Angeles to Parkland, Fla., the speakers — nearly all of them students, some still in elementary school — delivered an anguished and defiant message: They are “done hiding” from gun violence, and will “stop at nothing” to get politicians to finally prevent it. – New York Times, 3/25/18

Many of America’s youth say they’ve had enough. Of the killing. The slaughter. The assault weapons turned against them. So they’ve organized. And marched. And given interviews. And done everything they can think of to turn the tide, away from the lunatic fringe that thinks it has the right to possess whatever instrument of killing they desire, to the innocent ones. The kids who simply want to live and grow up to enjoy a full life. The kids who want to attend school without fearing for their lives.

Some of these kids have been nothing short of remarkable. Their presence and poise belies their years. They are an inspiration to many of us. But it’s not yet clear whether they will be effective. Or whether this too shall pass.

You can be sure the NRA and others aren’t going to lie down and give them what they want. They could care less about their cause, other than to resist it, with everything they’ve got. In their minds, Never Again is merely the latest assault on one’s right to possess whatever gun he or she chooses. Other assaults have been repelled in the past. I’m sure the NRA intends to repel this one, too.

The NRA has the majority of elected officials in its pocket. It understands how the game is played. The role money and votes play. And the power of a committed minority. The NRA has had years to perfect its defenses. No upstart army of kids is likely to roll over this seasoned bunch.

But they could. For the kids, together with their allies, have something money can’t necessarily buy: votes.

Yet it’s a theoretical point only — at least for now. The vast majority of high school kids can’t vote, and young people don’t vote in large numbers. As someone who couldn’t wait to turn 18 so he could vote, I have trouble understanding this — this apathy, passivity, intentional uninvolvement in our public life. But it’s reality. Whether the young people will change that remains to be seen. Until it happens, I’ll remain skeptical.

If they do decide to engage — at the ballot box and for the long term — then all bets are off. The old equation will be tossed out and a new dynamic will be at work among policy makers. What was safe will become unsafe, and what was risky will become prudent. Put simply, the members of Congress and state legislators across the land will fall in line.

But for this to happen, there will have to be follow through. The movement can’t pull up short. That’s pretty much the way life is. Life is full of good intentions. Follow through is not nearly as abundant. Yet without the follow through, it’s merely a flash in the pan. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I suspect the lunatics won’t allow that to happen though. As sure as the sun will come up this morning, there will be another school massacre. More kids will die. More kids, parents and grandparents will have a reason to get and stay involved.

I have to think that, eventually, America will come to its senses and realize certain weapons have no place in our society. But it could take time. And lots of hard work.

We’ll see.


Why Check the DJIA When All You Have To Do Is Follow His Tweets?

This is hilarious.

When the Dow Jones average was inflating, our dear president, the Tweeter-In-Chief, was constantly taking credit for the stock market, boastfully tweeting away as if imbeciles were on the other end (true, there were some). But then the market topped and entered correction territory. All of a sudden it was as if there wasn’t such a thing as a stock market.