Search This Blog

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Original meaning "merry" in Merry Christmas


Spent 4 days in Branson seeing 6 Christmas shows. The show part was great; the Christmas part was dismal.  No carols! It was an Irving Berlin/Aaron Copeland Christmas.  So help me if I ever hear about “having a merry little Christmas” for the rest of the year.  All the while the girls come out dancing in costumes like wrapped gifts, showing a lot of leg.  Finally a country group said they were going to sing about the real meaning of Christmas and I thought, ‘hot dog! Here comes.’  Doggone, it didn’t.  They sang a medley of gospel songs like “Amen” and even there, no meaningful lyrics.  But the steel guitar guy put on a terrific solo. 

            I never realized we have become so PC secular. Oh, I’m probably wrong on my details.  They do sing Silent Night but only the first verse which goes over most people’s theological heads.  Ditto the first verse of ‘What Child Is This?’ No second verse which tells the Christian story.  They make an exception once in awhile by singing the first verse of ‘O Holy Night’ which does contain strong meaning but the exception seems like it’s only to allow the Big Singer to show off the wonderful finale with her Great Voice. 

            So I propose that if you are surrounded by Agnosticland which only wants to glory in Winter Wonderland, here’s how to respond.  Say this.  Do you realize that the Old English word “merry” as in Merry Christmas originally meant “being at peace spiritually.”  The song ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ alludes to this,”God rest ye merry gentlemen…to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/ O tidings of comfort and joy!”  Merry Christmas meant being at peace with God, the Prince of Peace.”  Hence the Pilgrims, rather stern believers, didn’t believe in feasts and rabble rousing. They practiced fasting and meditation and repentance and watchfulness the 4 weeks before Christmas.  Advent (those weeks) were known as Little Lent.  So Divine Arrival means forgiveness and thus peace with God, “Merry Christmas.”

            It sure beats Silver Bells, though that’s a good song too.   And concerning that Berlin/Copeland Christmas, stripped of a chance to offend anyone, Christmas’ date was truly picked to do just that.  By picking the same week as the winter solstice and Roman orgies of Saturnalia, Christmas stood as a story of such a humiliating birth it would almost bring tears.  “Yet in that dark street shineth/ The Everlasting Light/ The hopes and fears of all the years/Are met in Thee tonight.”  Christmas upended everything, beginning with Roman macho triumphalism all the way to hopeless legalism by Jewish authorities. And it was nothing that man would have devised.  “God is Great!” the Muslims say, but here was God who could be as small as an embryo in Mary.  Heralded by a heaven full of angels, yet leaving shepherds with a very concrete verifiable sign—baby wrapped in rags, lying in a manger which could only be found in one of those manure-filled cave-outcrops that shepherds use in the rainy winter months.  Don’t believe the story?  Ask the shepherds who were still alive when the gospels were written. Ask Mary or other witnesses. God came to the poorest, most reviled, which shows a God who won’t let go of even the worst and most pitiful of us.   While the Broadway version of Christmas deals in the sacarine imaginary, God came among us in truth and fact and the only way possible to bring eternal forgiveness with no help on our part.  Peace with God. Thus, Christmas is Merry indeed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Global warming and the Wood experiment


1909 Johns Hopkins physicist, R.W. Wood did an experiment that disproved “The Greenhouse Effect” for greenhouses.  That is, greenhouses mainly heat by trapping convection (air exchange), not by trapping infrared (heat) re-radiated. In as sense, the effect is misnamed. This has ticked-off global warming enthusiasts for years.  In 1980, physicist Vaughan Pratt of Stanford tried to duplicate the experiment and pronounced it a failure. Global warming enthusiasts rejoiced.  The heck of it is, they only read the headlines.  I laugh because I have done the experiment many times and Wood was basically right but a greenhouse is not an atmosphere.  Pratt was correct too. Put on your thinking cap and realize that climate change is terrifically complex. 

            Wood's experiment tried to test the effect of a visible-light transmitting glazing that won’t transmit infrared (heat) and compare it to one that will.  Glass won’t transmit heat, rock salt will.  So he built two “greenhouses” of insultated cardboard, one with a glass cover and the other with a slab of rock salt.  Set both in the sunshine and they both heat to about 130 F. Pratt built similar vessels and emplaced a number of thermocouples at various heights within the interior and found some differences in various vertical temp measurements of the two.  More heat was trapped under glass. 

            Well, that’s what you’d expect.  The glass greenhouse not only traps convection but also infrared radiation.  But the difference is not large in the two final enclosures.  What this shows is that convection is the larger method of transfer.  And because of this, you can make a greenhouse out of acrylic or polycyanurate or a host of plastics (Ha! even visqueen plastic) that are often used today as a substitute for glass without regard to heat losses due to infrared radiation losses.  It explains why, when you sit next to a large window on a cold night you get a draft.  The room air convects over the surface of the window and descends as cold air.  Convection counts for 90% of the transfer!  And this also explains why you can spend a fortune on windows of low emissivity and it only changes the R-factor (heat transfer rate) from .61 to .68.  Add cellular shades and the R-factor goes up by 2.0 or 3.0. Open the window or the greenhouse door and all the heat goes out (convection). And so the windows and greenhouse industry has happily shrugged and used the Wood result. And Pratt noted the bigger importance of convection deep within his paper.

            Pratt’s right as well.  There is an infrared component and a difference in the Wood greenhouse's temps.  Moreover, the atmosphere is not a sheet of glazing.  The only way for the atmosphere to transmit energy to space is by radiation.  There is no convection.  So does atmospheric chemical composition make all the difference?  That’s where the na├»ve go wrong in supposition.  There are other trapping mechanisms and they apparently work in differing conditions giving surprising results.  Cloud cover is not constant but apparently increases with CO2 content predominantly in the tropical regions. This is Roy Spencer’s finding.  And the tops of clouds reflect about 98% of incoming radiation. (When we add CO2, the earth corrects somewhat) There may be other self-correcting traps.  Ocean currents affect only the upper 500 feet of the ocean.  Below that depth, very little temperature change is observed even though the oceans are almost uniformly14,000-18,000 feet deep. Several historic climate changes due to melting ice ages have shown that current changes have altered temperature in large amounts, over 10 times as much as CO2 compositon.  What’s going on? Is the lower temp of deep ocean water being tapped like a heat(cold) sink? This needs more study.  And what of overall solar radiation?  We now realize that the sun’s magnetic field must change but how and what does it do?  More study.  Mega-vulcanism?  More study.  Finally there’s the wobble of the earth, known as nutation that occurs every 100,000 years and correlates almost perfectly with the previous 26 ice ages.  Until we can understand at least all but the last effect, we should admit our ignorance of man’s effect on global warming.

            Oh, if you want to do the Wood experiment with your grandkids, you can use a flat plate of acrylic and a plate of clear glass to make your “greenhouse”. (Acrylics transmit part of the infrared spectrum)  Make sure you put the thermometers in the exact same location to equalize measurements.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The lesson of Luther's spiritual awakening


            Luther got faith and assurance circuitously but ultimately by listening to God, a lesson for anyone.  Let me explain the story of this, in case you aren’t familiar.  Young monk, top of his class, but tortured over not just his sin but his state of mind and his faith.  Catholicism had taught that salvation is a journey.  Once in faith, you start confessing and God changes you.  You get better and this makes you love God all the more. Not Marty.  He worried in confession that he wasn’t sincere, that his mind was devious and self-centered, fooling himself so then he’d have to confess that too.  He never thought he had confessed enough. Not love but fear worried Luther. What Luther feared was not punishment and hellfire but God himself and His judgment. That’s because the ultimate judgment was God’s. “A harsh judge on a rainbow.” Who could measure up?  Well the Church's version was that if you die before you reach perfect sainthood, you just go to purgatory for clean-up.  And thus people bought indulgences to get relatives or themselves out of purgatory. 

            The Monastery tried to fix Luther’s angst by sending him to Rome to enjoy the majesty of the church, but his disgust was akin to mine when I first went to Washington, DC.  Such decadence!  The pope should be humble.  (And the conservative in me said that the federal gov should reside in a Butler building while we the people live a better life.)  Then Luther’s mentor Johann Von Staupinz promoted Luther to be President of a new small college in Wittenberg AND parish priest there.  He thought Marty would desist the navel gazing if he was worked to death.  Staupinz was right for the wrong reason.  On a night in autumn, we think 1513 (but maybe 1514) Luther was working on lectures for Psalms in his tower study.  He ran across Ps. 31:1 (or 71:2) “Deliver me in Thy Righteousness” and he was stunned.  For a long time he’d struggled with Romans 1:17 “for in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’” But here was a psalm that described God’s Righteousness, not as harsh judgmental perfectionism but the reason for God’s salvation and deliverance.  Here was a God who loves us, saves us, comes after us, puts faith in us, forms a relationship with us.  Hallelujah! Luther, the guy who had all this scripture in his head, jumped for joy.  He wrote about how all of scripture suddenly seemed to open wide and the gates of heaven too.

            And it was all God’s doing for mankind who deserve only death.  “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8.  “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life.” Rom 6:23.  It all came through faith, Eph. 2:8-9, Luke 18:13-14. And all about Jesus. John 20:30-31.  Grace Alone. Faith Alone. Scripture alone. Luther began to teach and preach this by 1515 but few noticed him until he wrote the 95 Theses against Indulgence sales in 1517. Posted them as the usual habit for scholarly debate. Snitched by students who printed them. Luther was suddenly, reluctantly famous.

            If a guy has gone from death to life, you’ll never let go of the belief that was given you.  If you are leadership personality and phenomenally intelligent, found the answer simply by listening to God’s words in scripture, you’ll never shut up.  That was Luther.  Leadership personality is what many entrepreneurs have.  He’s the guy who comes into the room where everyone is glum over an insoluable problem, saying “I have the answer.”  Vision. He thinks outside the box. Then he persuades the others until they buy into his idea. Persuasive. But how will  this be accomplished? He’s already thought out a stepwise plan. Strategic thinker. And once everyone wants to do it, he starts assigning different personalities to handle the different steps and tasks. Delegator/Manager.  Only about 7% of a population have Leadership Personality, though some of it can be taught.  Luther’s dad was a peasant who ended life owning 7 mines and 2 smelters.  And the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

            He convinced Wittenberg’s faculty to a man of his Grace/Faith/Scripture alone.  Among them was Europe’s foremost Greek translator, Phillip Melancthon. And did they ever have things to say! The Gospel fills believers with comfort, good cheer, and gratitude, so that they are glad to love and obey God. ”I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Phil 3:8. We are all helplessly dead in faith. Romans 3.  Or think how Jesus told authorities "From these very stones I will raise up a people greater than these." (Whew! That's DEAD.) We are not ready for the Gospel until we give up all hope of justifying ourselves by works. Parable of the two sons, Matt. 21:28-32.  Parable of the Pharisee and tax collector. Luke18:9-14, and of the pearl of great value, Matt. 13:45-46. Yet even believers remain sinners—Simultaneously Saints and Sinners. Romans 7:24-25 says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Because all our righteousness comes by faith, all sin is unbelief.  Eph. 2:3.  Parable of the sheep and goats in Matt. 25.  Spiritual life is less like a journey, because Christ is a gift we receive rather than a road we travel. If sin is unbelief, we daily fall many times and require salvation, every time bestowed by a gracious God. It is like Kathy Troccoli’s song, “Traveled long, traveled hard, stumbled many times along the way.  I’ve I've bruised my knees a lot ,and turned my back on God, and seen His mercy.I've been quick to judge, and slow to learn, so many times I've gotten in the way.  I think I know so much, I've questioned God a lot,but still He loves me.” Or Luther’s favorite parable of the prodigal son, Lk. 15:11-32, shows we fall back, yet God runs to meet us with His gift of life. Faith alone re-makes us inwardly from the bottom of our hearts by changing our conscience, our awareness of how we stand before God. A Christian is perfectly free, lord of all, subject to none. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the spirit of Christ has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Rom. 8:1,10. “my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.” Rom 9:1

            And sacraments. In the O.T. God commanded sacrifices as a sacred act, which through faith, brings forgiveness and salvation.  Luther applied the principle to the 7 sacraments and found only 2 meet this test, baptism and communion.  He translated the Bible from Greek to German, a translation so much followed that it established the standard for German language to this very day.  When people clamored for German worship, he designed a singing service and began writing hymns which led to 25,000 German hymns composed in the following century.  His catechism, a help for parents to teach the faith to their children spawned universal education.  Sans medieval philosophy, mostly protestant mathematicians and engineers began to experiment and measure phenomena that began the scientific revolution which propelled the Western world to world dominance.  And when a Puritan, John Locke, “father of modern psychology” became a fan of Luther’s writings about conscience, he wrote a new theory of government where men would have Liberty, rights, and equality and it heavily influenced USA’s founding fathers. Quite a few things came from a guy who listened to what God said, and found salvation from God’s grace.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A letter on Luther


            I’ve been part of several interdenomination Christian ministries—Campus Crusade, Navigators, Promise Keepers.  In every case you meet those of other church traditions and I’ve studied many of them.  It seems every one of us struggles with the issue of whether we are true to our faith and we’re curious about the mechanism of just how one comes to faith.  I think the final answer is that this is God’s mystery, how He enters our life, but He also leave hints about the way it happens all over scripture.  Jesus in John 8, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Or in John 3: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Well then we all argue about what born again and truth consists of. 

            Yet, I submit that Luther’s vantage point on what God tries to tell us is closer to the reality than any other version of Christianity. For that reason alone, it’s worth keeping Lutheranism around and it is what keeps me Lutheran after all those years of other fellowships.  First Luther was brilliant.  I don’t know about you but I’m amazed that he could find 95 reasons not to buy indulgences.  I couldn’t find 95 reasons to do or not to do just about anything.  His students thought the 95 were so cute they translated them from Latin to German and handed them to a printer who printed thousands of copies and it became all the talk of Germany.  Luther attended Latin school at age 4.  He translated the New Testament from Greek in 6 months.  He got a bachelor’s degree in 1 year.  Smart guy (170 IQ?) meets scripture and just turns it every which way but loose.  Secondly he was as sincere in wanting his faith to grow as just about anybody.  He had 2 best friends in school who died suddenly of bubonic plague and he may had survivor’s guilt.  He vowed to become a monk after almost getting lightning struck.  He tried all the monastic rituals of self-deprivation in hope of getting assurance of his faith. He memorized nearly the entire bible. 

            And then in what is called the Tower Experience (autumn 1513 or 1514), he found a profound answer.  How we come to faith is still a mystery and we know that it is entirely a gift of God and comes by trust, i.e. faith.  And given that church councils and popes have often disagreed and squabbled, plus what scripture says about itself: “In the beginning was the Word”, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God abides forever.”, God’s Word alone is the absolute authority.  Hence Luther’s motto, Sola Gratia, Sola Fides, Sola Scriptura. God gives us not only salvation as a free gift but the ability to believe it. “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8,9. A friend and pastor who is a Greek scholar told me that the key word is “that”.  The Greek version of “that” is a form that connotes that all the things previously mentioned are the “that”, in other words, the saving and the faith.  Some translations therefore insert “even that” as a better translation.  And, of course what grace means is that it had nothing to do with ourselves. 

            But we humans don’t talk that way enough. We talk in first person. We talk about accepting, making a decision for Christ, experiencing Jesus, saying the sinner’s prayer, receiving, etc.  So Luther says talk all you want, just make sure you realize God gets all the credit.  He puts the faith inside you to not only acknowledge the Gospel’s promise, but believe it as true, and swear allegiance making Jesus your Lord.  And so I’ve heard Lutheran pastors tell parishioners who were making an evangelism call and worried about how to ask a person if they would like to receive faith, to go ahead and frame it any way comfortable, just give God all the glory. Technically, Luther would say that the moment you say you came to faith, God was already in your heart moving you to say the words.  So you should just ask the person you are witnessing to if they want to thank God for the wonderful free gift.   But that, of course, is not good worldly salesman talk.

            Well then, how does one know that one has faith?  Since we don’t create it, we just look for it and rejoice.  Say a prayer and feel close to God? Sing a song that puts your heart closer? Money turns up to pay the bills and you attribute it to God’s providence? Rejoice at God giving new life to a baby?  That’s the Holy Spirit working inside you!  So with us Lutherans, our assurance of faith is not some contractual affair about having a religious experience or some choice (though that might seem to happen)  How does Luther figure that?  First we are entirely bankrupt spiritually.  The entire world is guilty as Romans 3 says. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Eph. 2:1.  So Luther writes, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.” Dead; can’t make it unless God infuses “His breath” (Literal Old Testament Hebrew for “Holy Spirit”) in us to bring us to faith—which it says in vs. 5. And since we are naturally dead spiritually, we have only the ability to refuse the Gospel.  We can say NO.  But God moves us to say YES.  That’s different than Calvinists who insist that you get to choose (which leads to a quandary about God electing some people to hell.  Wait! Didn’t He say, “God would have all to be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth.”) Or you have Arminians who are waiting for a big experience that “moves their heart” from the monumental choice of faith by a free will. Luther says that it is God who sets our will free. Of our own, our will is in bondage to sin.

            Finally there’s the matter of the Christian who really doesn’t follow.  Romans 6-8 has good things to say about the person who yields their life to God and gets an abundant life despite the conflict of our two natures. This leads Luther to the conclusion that we are not motivated by drudgerous seeking of works, but through gratitude and the Holy Spirit using our conscience to nudge us to a better life. People who have no thanks or desire to know God sometimes claim forgiveness, but it is doubtful that they have it— Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it ‘cheap grace’.  “Faith without works is dead.” But realize when we quote that, the ultimate ‘good work’ is when God works faith in us.   

            This is bombshell stuff, but let’s not give up on our brothers in Christ from another background.  God imparts faith in a lot of different people and situations.  Maybe that’s why he multiplied denominations in the Reformation.  Hope you enjoy this.  We’ll talk later.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

How English conquered the world


So how did English get to be so important?  I’m no linguist but I take the following summary from The Mother Tongue by Bill Brigdon, and numerous conversations with our foreign exchange students and a couple of good linguists I’ve know.  English is advantaged because it has simple grammar.  For example, there is no gender or declination of nouns except pronouns.  (“Dog” doesn’t have 7 different endings depending on how it is used—or 40 in Finnish!)  Verb conjugations are simple compared with other languages.  Latin alphabet beats every other language from Egypt to Japan. 200,000 words in common usage, is twice most other languages.  That is because English welcomes new words from other languages.  Thus English is chock full of subtle meanings of words.  Few other languages even print a “thesaurus”.  Easy cases, flexible word ordering, allows a new user of English to break-in fast.  As Ta-Weit used to say, “You just give it a try and let ‘er rip.  Then smile a lot.  And somehow everyone catches on.” The perfect language for engineers with less verbal skills.  Concise meaning means less writing.  So how did English get that simple, that easy to add onto? 

Historical linguists say that it happened because of the quirks of history that relegated English to peasants in the middle ages while the nobles spoke Norman French, then Norman French became an object of derision by the rest of France, setting up the adoption of English in England as a simplified official tongue. 

Let’s start with the Anglo-Saxons.  Angles, Saxons, and Jutes emigrated to Britain beginning about 450 AD.  They didn’t really invade, just took advantage of the land where Celts were left defenseless by the Romans who had pulled out.  Celts were sophisticated and Roman, needing baths and police to survive.  The functionally illiterate Germans didn’t and they swamped the kingdom with a more or less common tongue.  Celtic Bretons retreated to Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.  A few Breton inclusions may have survived for centuries but the new talk was almost all in Anglo-Saxon “Old English”.  You can still find enclaves of Old English dialect in Angleland (German Danish border) and Frisian coast where they say you will be stunned by the dialect of German so close to English. Some local guy may come up to you and say in perfect Angle-Old English, “What the clock?”  Few of the early Anglo-Saxons could read or write—only a few priests and important people did.  But the spelling is radically different than our English.  On paper it looks utterly foreign.  But you understand the phonetic letters, the  words sound womewhat like English, but very archaic. This was the language of Bede and Alcuin in the 700s after the Anglo-Saxons had become Christianized, educated and writing became commoner.

Then came the invasions.  First the Danes conquered northern England on the east coast beginning about 850.  Then in 1066, 7000 Norman knights beat Saxon king Aethelred the Unready, and found themselves in possession of a nation of 1.5 million.  Old English was relegated to a second class language of peasants.  For over 300 years it remained so.  And with Danes in the North, some Celts in the South, the dialects arose all over the place.  In order to understand one another, they had to simplify into a kind of pidgin.  Thus the loss of cases, conjugations, etc.  Instead of remembering 11 different cases of an adjective, there arose just one. Gender was scrapped by the illiterate serfs.  And the nobles, of course could care less.  But that was critical.  Instead of a learned class who are the cause of complexity in language (to make stories more poetic, speak more precisely, and separate themselves from the masses by manner of talk) English grew common. 

Meanwhile Norman-French was held with some disdain by the Parisians and other French.  Norman French or “Frensh” as it was laughingly called was a dialect put out to disdain by the other French.  Worse, the English nobles started using some of the common English in daily life.  Consequently, by the 1400s, the English nobles began to abandon Frensh in favor of an English with about 10,000 Frensh terms included. Legal, government and church terms were borrowed from Frensh. Meanwhile about the era of Chaucer, English,evolved into its simplest form and spellings, were becoming modernized as the language became more and more written.  This was complete by Shakespeare and Elizabeth in the late 1500s. 

Then the Spanish Armada couldn’t win and Elizabeth did.  A few years later, Britain was building a national navy and conquering the world.  The language spread everywhere. By the 19th century English, French, German and Spanish were in a dead heat for the most international language.  France, the bounteous and populous country with all the science and engineering in the 19th century, was favored by 1900.  Then WW I killed the wide influence of Germans and French. But there were other ingredients to their linguistic demise.  French people hate changes to their tongue.  German was Europe-wide but not world-wide.  English was the easy-to-use.  And nobody was easier in usage than those Americans who became leaders after WW II.  Quite simply, the world adopted English.  Since 1945, English has gone from 3% of world usage to 14%.  Hence every foreign exchange kid lists as Goal #1 to learn English fluently.  Our Finnish exchange kid called me up to celebrate acing his university language exam. I guess he’d underlined my colloquialisms in my letters to him.  Used them in his exam and the profs were very impressed.  He laughed and said, “Dad Z, you have a colorful speech.”  So there it is.  Okies and other peasants conquer the language world. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reformation politics


As I watch today’s politics and read about the Reformation on its 500th anniversary, I am struck by the modern similarities.  The later day followers of Luther have sworn off politics. “Why did the Lutheran cross the road? To get to the middle.” --Garrison Keillor.  But Luther used politics to survive.  And he got lucky. 

Oct. 31, 1517 is the day he posted 95 Theses on Wittenberg’s church door for scholarly debate in Latin.  But students translated the list into German.  It lit the country afire.  And who were the students?  Luther often drew about 400 to his classes in Wittenberg.  Townspeople, travelers, visiting scholars, and students would come.  There was no required attendance, so students chose to hear a popular, dynamic lecturer. And they formed a huge following along with the faculty of Wittenberg College.  Theses attacked the sale of indulgences but it was a bigger issue.  The Medieval church was a money machine. Pope Leo was building St. Peters in Rome and needed funds. Not only did the church sell indulgences that promised time out of purgatory, but they owned half the land in Germany.  The Holy Roman Empire was Germany-Austria-Italy and lands left to the church became papal fiefs, baronies if you will, that Rome gave to newly named bishops—if the bishop could come up with the right price.  In fact some bishops never set foot in Germany, but once ordained, just collected taxes from their lands.  Then there were the priests, half of whom were married—but they couldn’t legally marry—so they paid a forgiveness price for their girlfriends.  And any kids born had to be redeemed out of bastard staus to be made legal. The priesthood was impoverished. It didn’t take a theologian to realize the Italy was raking it in and Germany was seeing the wealth of the nation depart.

Luther didn’t realize the hornet’s nest he had stirred.  He just thought he was making a point of true Christian belief.  But Dominicans, a rival order to the Augustinians which Luther belonged, published fake news, a forged document attributed to Luther with disgusting quotes. Dominicans were the chief beneficiaries of Indulgences.  And then the head papal theologian, Prierias, wrote a scathing attack. Luther had exposed their swamp of financial dealings.   Cardinal Cajetan, a traditionalist who advocated the papacy be considered infallible, demanded a questioning of Luther.  Luther agreed but played his politics carefully.  First, he was best friends with Spalatin, the most influencial advisor of Prince Frederick the Wise  whose territory Wittenberg was in. Spalatin, always with his ear to the ground, said don’t go until they guarantee safe passage.  The Wittenberg faculty wrote a lengthy letter supporting Luther.  Frederick realized the church needed reform and thought upon hearing Luther, he had the guy who could pull it off.  And then Johann von Staupinz, the leader of the Augustinian order, was a personal mentor for Luther. He proofread Luther’s reply to Cajetan expressing humility, offering to repent of his teaching if he could be proven wrong.  Cajetan was in over his head.  Luther was a brilliant mind and Cajetan could offer no response when Luther asked him for scripture passages as proof of the papal position. Worse, Cajetan said some questionable things that refuted salvation by grace, the prime tenet of Christianity, and expressed a disdain for faith.  Luther, stunned, knew hundreds of passages.  The Cardinal could only demand Luther recant, got frustrated and ordered him out of his presence. Luther left town, fortunately, because Catejan’s papal orders to arrest him were leaked. 

When Frederick got orders to hand over Luther, he formed an investigation, listened to Wittenberg’s faculty, local nobles, Staupinz and Spalatin, and then Miltitz, a nuncius (official speaker for the pope) sent from Rome.  Miltitz was a conniver and Frederick immediately saw his game.  The nuncius got nothing but a meeting with Luther and vague promises from Frederick.  Now understand that many officials of the Roman Curia weren’t very godly people.  Some bought their offices too.   Miltitz got quite drunk, started telling stories about Leo’s real motives (women, money) and advised Luther to just shut up for awhile.  In a modern sense, he was telling Luther to stop tweeting.  Luther’s friends agreed.  If ever a guy didn’t stop tweeting, it was Luther.  Realizing that he was as good as dead, he started claiming air time, that is, he began writing books.  In 36 months he wrote 30 books in two languages, eloquent Latin and German.  He simply outpublished the church. Prints and reprints spread like a mania.  In them he expounded on biblical humanism—as his Protestant ideas of the time were then called.  But he also wrote To the Christian Nobility Concerning the Reform of the Church.  In it, he recounted the abuses of the Roman Curia and said that just as they had sucked Italy dry, they had now come to Germany.  The fire in Germany grew to a forest fire from the North Sea to Bavaria.  Meanwhile the Emperor died.  Maxmillian had wanted his son Charles to inherit the throne, but 7 electors selected emperors.  One Elector was Frederick the Wise.  And the Pope didn’t want Charles.  So Frederick parlayed his alliance against Charles into a safe haven for Luther.

Instead of thinking about repeal and replace of their system, the Curia and especially the Dominicans, were seized with unreasonable hatred for Luther.  They arranged a debate and drew Luther into it in a sly way.  Eck, the Dominican debater, in some ways won the debate, but Luther won the crowd.  The Romanists wrote scandalous letters against Luther that were all too plain to the reader that their insane hatred was the motivator.  As a result, when Luther finally went to trial at the Diet that took place in Worms,  Frederick had made plans to kidnap or spirit Luther away when he was condemned.  Why didn’t the Emperor Charles seize Luther immediately and have him burned at the stake in Worms?  80,000 of Luther’s fans had invaded the small city and a rebellion would have resulted. 

In the end, the thing that the Roman hierarchy didn’t understand was that Luther spoke to his followers simply and they couldn’t be dissuaded—they had an agenda  Finally in 1530, with Turks ready to besiege Vienna, the Emperor  was in a fix.  He had ostracized half of Germany over religion, but needed help to fight the Turks.  To his disbelief, the Lutheran princes showed up, handed him The Augsburg Confession, a statement of what they believed, but swore allegiance to his cause against the Ottomans.  This good will delayed the Emperor’s vengeance for 17 years.  Then in 1547, after Luther, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France had died ( thus no international allies of the Lutheran princes remained) Charles began a successful campaign.  But killing the princes and occupying the land didn’t work.  The priests had all turned Lutheran and the people as well.  Rather than a triumph, the Peace of Augsburg ended in a whimper with each prince allowed to keep the religion of his choice throughout the land. Finally, in 1563 the Catholic Church had their own Reformation. 
 
You often see movements that won't die.  It is often because the perpetrators of an ugly system don't realize their own problem.         

Monday, July 3, 2017

They analyze Trump


So what are the opponents and Europeans alleging about Trump and the Republicans?  I sit here reading Economist, “A Divided Country” which is in full lament of Trump’s Presidency.  They’re worth studying.  Amid the cacophony of hyenas and apes from the MSM, Economist represents Europeans and learned elites.  Americans are riven by mutual  incomprehension. They’re talking R’s and D’s as well as city and rural, factory and universities. Donald Trump is not only a symptom of America’s division, but a cause of them, too.  Always the equivocation.  No, it didn’t start with Trump and he’s not the sole cause.  But then they never name anyone else nor detail other faults.  Thus, Trump is in effect the cause alone.  Mr. Trump has fueled the mistrustA political culture that is even more poisonous than when he took office…poor judgment, missed opportunities.  The federal government is already showing the strain. Gee, I didn’t know how he could have made it worse when the Dems wanted him impeached before he took office.

 I guess it must be my perspective.  I was rather hoping the federal government, which gave us Obamacare that only raised insurance rates, kicked people off policies, made docs quit, might show a bit of strain. And concerning the mistrust, that’s what happens when the left-leaning party adopted a platform of neo-fascism, a platform sans God. And, you see, some of rather like God, count our lives as lost without Him, and attribute all that is the experiment of Exception called America to Him. “Our Father’s God, to Thee/ Author of Liberty” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”  In myhumble perspective, there seems to have been an uprising of common people against the left.  Democrats lost 1200 seats over 6 years, the Congress, most governorships,Presidency, and now only control 4 state legislatures.  Quite a come-down for the majority party!  All this erosion came, not during Trump, but via Obama and friends. 

Disillusion only grows…because of his own incontinent ego. As harmful as what Mr. Trump does is the way he does it.   Now we get to the heart of the matter.  True, Trump has ego, but the true rarity among politicians is the one who doesn’t have a big ego.  The writer here is a journalist and makes a living with yap.  Trump has changed the rules of yap. He’s bombastic, rude and blunt, He punches back at a negative press.  Hence their conclusion is Trump Is Not One of Us by his manners and the way he talks. Secondly note the missing title.  It’s “Mr.” not “President”. Distaste for Trump has misled them to think he’s illegitimate as a President, even though elected by 30 states.  I learned a long time ago that in US politics we have to learn to live with the winner.  It doesn’t always suit me either, but I live under it.  And finally the parochialism of journalists is why they are in false-panic over Trump.  Republican Presidents are supposed to meekly sit silently as the press gets glee from running them down.  When someone does slam their analysis, they think it means government repression.  In other words, free speech is for them and their allies, but others must be mute.  They dish it out but they can’t take it. 

Political bias shows as well.  Reform plans show every sign of turning into a cut for the rich…Instead of reforming Obamacare, Repbulicans are in knots over a bill that would leave millions of Mr. Trumps’s own voters sicker and poorer. This is what I call the Thomas Frank effect.  His book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” was a hit with New York libs but left Kansans baffled and angry.  In it, he argues that Kansans don’t know what’s good for themselves.  They should crave socialism and entitlements.  Instead, the silly little people opt for Liberty.  To back it up, he cites examples in Kansas that don’t exist—an Emporia fallen into near ghost town status and Kansas City suburbs become unlivable. Here, the writer for Economist avows that Obamacare should be saved because surely only that will help Trump voters.  And when all else fails, criticize with class warfare. Oh! The evil rich! 

Nor can the Economist seem to find much wrong with Obama’s tenure. Well, they concede Pres. O had competing agencies spun too much red tape. Yet its [Trump’s] attempt to reform this ‘administrative state’ is wrecking the machinery the government needs to function. Contrarily, most of America seemed tense over wrecks government had caused the previous 8 years—Middle East policy, Obamacare, National Debt, illegal immigration and crime/terrorism.  The bottom line is that the Europeans have a lot of political/cultural bias towards the ever-necessary welfare state.  America is biased in letting people live freely.

The miasma of scandal and leaks surrounding Russia’s role in the campaign have made chances of cross-party co-operation even more remote…undermined the courts…lack of respect for expertise, such as the attacks on the CBO…Mr. Trump’s disregard for the truth. Hmm, well the leaks were all designed to support leftist narratives.  We know in one case, spread by a Bernie fanatic.  Russian collusion was made up by the media.  CBO said Obamacare would decrease expenses (and dozens of other embarrassing predictions).  Did I mention most conservatives love Trump’s court picks?  And concerning the Truth, Trump seems to forever stun his former naysayers in the R-party by raw, visceral tweets that actually turn out true and shrewd.  He really was surveilled by the Obama admin.  CNN really did have an agenda to get rid of him.  He really wasn’t under investigation by Comey.  Cripes!

The bottom line is that the Europeans and the Left don’t get it.  Their intellectual giants were Marx and Hugo, and they scoffed at C.S. Lewis.  They hate Trump’s talk and his social media method. He’s unwelcome at their table. They fear for their ease in the US markets and cost-free NATO protection.  They can’t understand conservatism, refuse to acknowledge Trump’s win and agenda, or observance of leftist activists throwing pussy marches to try to disrupt the inauguration. Leaks leave no concern, nor surveillance by US Intel on US citizens. [Odd.  They went bonkers of Merkel getting bugged.] They think “Gov is Good”.  Meanwhile, Americans fret over a jobs-smothered economy full of restrictions and high taxes. I suppose we don’t understand their fawning and drooling over that socialist Macaroon guy who won in France, either. Vive le difference, tout le monde.

And they advance no solutions except bipartisanism.  So, I note he’s signed 39 bills, many of which slap down the bureaucracy.  There’s his budget for cuts in the worst bureaucracies.  Illegal immigration is down 70% and we have barely started building the wall. The foreigners now say they are scared to come illegally because Trump is serious about the borders.  Stocks are up and optimism is sky high.  Health care has to be reformed and we are working to get 51 egos to sign on to a compromise bill.  Ditto tax reform.  And the opposition, instead of being loyal opposition with well-considered alternatives, is batshit crazy. The MSM is dying. Wouldn't it be really crazy if Trump confounded them? 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Solar activity


OH, my!  Things are getting interesting concerning climate change and solar activity.  First a little primer.  There have been 26 ice ages in the last 3 million years that we can observe in deep ice core samples from Greenland.  The first 24 exactly match the earth’s nutations, every 100,000 years.  A nutation is when the earth’s axis wobbles between 22 and 24 degrees.  Like a spinning top which is not perfect, a little wobble has to occur every once in awhile for conservation of angular momentum.  It is thus thought that these wobbles cause climate disruption at the poles.  Since the poles are landlocked (Arctic) and sea-locked (Antarctic) we have ice caps on both ‘these days’ (speaking geologically).  And a climate disruption may dump large amounts of snow on these caps causing them to grow and the increased albedo (reflectance) of all that white causes further cooling, further snow, further buildup until a new ice age occurs. 

            The last two ice ages don’t correspond to nutation and were weaker.  Maybe earth is getting out of the ice ages as more exchange of waters is occurring in the Arctic as Eurasia and N. America grow wider apart via plate tectonics.  (Just conjecture.  Antarctica’s poles keep piling up more ice) But what of the other climate factors—ocean currents, albedo of atmosphere (cloud cover), solar radiation and the much discussed chemical make-up of the atmosphere?  Of these 4, solar activity seems most important.  A one percent decrease of solar radiation energy would cause a near ice age all by itself.  In 1309, lasting until about 1850, the sun went mysteriously depleted of sun spots.  Earth mean temp decreased 5-10 degrees F and the era is known as “the little ice age”.  It likely caused many phenoms like the decline of grain production in Europe, the uninhabitability of Greenland by Scandinavians, decline of fish production in Chinese rivers, and emergence of scavengers including rats that multiplied and carried bubonic plague across Eurasia. 

            Increasing CO2 no doubt changes the atmosphere, but our experience is increase of .8 degrees C (1 degree F) since 1880.  But the last 25 years of observation of solar activity is getting to be a bigger story.  The solar cycle of sun spot activity maxes every eleven years—1969, 1980, 1991, 2002, 2013.  The ’69 radiation measurements were lower than those of 1980, 1991, and 2002.  But the 2013 energy flux is lower than even 1969.  We don’t know if solar energy fluctuates every few cycles or few hundred years, as climate eras seem to indicate.  But whatever the case, sun activity swamps CO2.  The last 18 years have been cool.  Secondly, there is research that indicates that when solar activity minimizes, more neutrons are shed.  These enter our atmosphere and cause more cloud cover.  Other research indicates that increased CO2 makes the tropical atmosphere cloudier and thus more reflective.  Both are occurring now.  Sunspots declined from 1500 to 1000 from the max cycles of 1991 to the one in 2013.  Measure of solar magnetic field shows a similar decline.  But realize, we have sun spot recordings going back to about the year 1000 (Chinese monks) but solar magnetic fields for only a quarter century.

            What does this mean?  Cooler era or new ice age?  Best guess is just cooler temps.  But realize that the 100,000 year ice ages had roughly 12000 years of warm-up between, and that is about what we have used up now.  What it probably means is that Al Gore is going to eat crow.  He points out that Greenland is shedding ice rapidly.  True, but once a warming begins, Greenland is a huge ice cube—10,000 feet thick and 500,000 sq. miles.  If you put an ice cube under a heat lamp, how long does it last?  If you cool down or heat up a bit, it won’t have much effect on the melting.  So the Greenland ice and about half the declining glaciers may well have been on this course long before modern manmade CO2.  A cool spell would also be either a respite from the warming (allowing the private sector to come up with solutions to increased CO2 emissions like it has done by reducing USA’s output by 18% since 2000.)or it could be a long term trend like the Little Ice Age or Younger-Dryas of 10,000 years ago.  We will just have to find out.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

About that growth


  4% growth may be difficult because of what Obama’s Fed has done.  A little history. 

In the 1900 to WW I era, there were 3 very hard recessions.  JP Morgan had to be called upon to be the lender of last resort.  That would be equivalent to the President calling Warren Buffet and saying , “Hey get some of your friends together and we need all your money right now!”  Without such a lender of last resort a major credit collapse would plunge the country into a long, dire recession.  Why the need for LOLR?  Well, you and few of your drilling buddies couldn’t pay their oil patch notes to a local bank in OKC.  Because of this, the OKC bank couldn’t pay a larger note they owed to a big Chicago bank.  The Chicago bank in turn couldn’t pay other mega banks in NYC and the country’s entire credit structure and ability to loan was brought down.  I’m telling the story of the failure of Penn Square Bank of OKC in 1984 that led to the failure of Continental Illinois. But CI was seized by FDIC which gave rise to the expression, “Too big to fail”.  And the Fed, our LOLR gives patch-up loans to that bank you couldn’t pay which went into default itself.  Otherwise, default/bankruptcy brings distrust and no one lends for years--Peru, Poland, Argentina give recent examples.

In the Panic of 1907, Morgan was barely able to be the LOLR.  Panic of 07 still ranks as nearly equal to the Great Depression.  In the wake of this near collapse of our economy for years, Congress established a Federal Reserve as LOLR.  It not only has the power to lend but to manipulate interest rates so that the little guy doesn’t face astronomical “payday loans” rates after a crash.  Recently, Ron Paul and a few others have politicized the issue of the Fed saying we don’t need it.  Auggh! Are you going to call Buffet? However, Trump’s notion of an audit of the Fed is good transparency idea.

The politicians of the 1930s were in the era of Progressivism’s bloom and wanted to do big gov’t things.  John Maynard Keynes, 1936 came along with reasoning that justified their power grab.  Keynes said economically shocked people were too tight, wouldn’t spend and that is why the market wouldn’t restart.  So Government should be the stimulator with big spending that would save us all.  Deficits don’t count.  Gleeful advocates of big gov’t said, “Just stimulate continuously and utopia will occur.”  It did not.  When gov’t piles up debt, it can pay it only with turn-on-the-printing-press money, worthless money, and inflation occurs.  Happened in Weimar Germany, Argentina, Brazil and everywhere else it was tried.  But the dream of jiggering some monetary measures and insuring eternal bliss, lives on among central bankers. 

The Fed has 3 tools to control short term rates—overnight bank loans, discount rates, and Fed Funds rates.  They can make the short term interest rise or fall.  If they make it go way, way down, the economy temporarily blooms as businesses can borrow easily.  But long term rates, like 30 year loans remain high and this yields or reflects inflation.  Plot this.   Plot bonds on a graph of “years to maturity” versus rate, you see short term bonds as low rates and long term loans at the other end of the graph as higher. (Lenders want more return if they lend for a long time versus a short duration when they can get their money back.) If the Fed upsets this normal curve by forcing short term rates way down, the economy booms with inflation but the easy money may go into some asset mania, followed by recession.  On the other hand, if the Fed raises short term rates, so they actually exceed long term rates,( “inverted yield curve”) then money is tight, borrowers can’t borrow and we usually get a recession or slowdown.  So central banks like the Fed, have always been held back from extreme behavior by reality of what investors and businesses see and how they react.  Alas, for the Keynesians, there’s No free lunch.  Inflation occurred during the seventies when the Fed tried to stimulate around the oil shock but then Carter wanted to decrease the value of the dollar to help US trade. The Fed complied.  Then came a bad recession.  Millions of investors (Wall Street) react  when they perceive that a credit crunch is coming if the Fed raises interest. 

In the recession of 2007, housing/real estate was the commodity that collapsed.  Since this is most of the nation’s wealth, it was a bad credit collapse.  Obama and the Keynesians wanted to stimulate colossally.  So they tried something new.  The Fed would buy bonds in the open market, in particular, long-term gov’t bonds. Those who held the bonds would have sudden cash and would have to spend it somewhere else.  Many bought stocks and the stock market soared.  By buying long-term bonds the Fed could now lower long-term interest as well as short.  And the yield curve could be held ‘normal’ by lowering short-term interest as well. For the first time, Fed could control interest entirely, thus the lowest interest rates in history have occurred.

No free lunch--it didn’t stimulate much.   And government debt doubled.  Many held their breath that hyperinflation would occur but it didn’t.  To explain this consider: if government (the Fed) owns a bunch of gov’t (its own) bonds, is it really a debt?   The Fed could just say, “Debt is forgiven. That was just money we owed ourselves.” True, but if this debt has no inflationary effect it won’t stimulate either. Result was pitiful growth.  Thus the economy grew at 1.6% for 8 years.  Now comes Trump who might get tax reform, will surely get regulatory reform, will likely get health care reform.  This will help the economy.  But will it last?  With a huge $4.5T gov’t bonds in the Fed’s account, these have to be either forgiven or sold back into the market. Selling bonds means higher interest implies economic slowdown. That may or may not happen. We don’t have much experience with this.  Often raising rates when rates are under 5% works out without a credit crunch. But not always.  Getting 3% long term growth may be hard for Trump and Fed as they try to undo the damage. 

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  And central bankers the world over have the foolish prejudice that they can create nirvana by jiggering a few indicators.  In Europe the latest rage is bonds that pay negative interest. Why would you invest in something that takes your money rather than putting the cash in a sock? Like the mortgages in 2006 which were “zero down, interest only” (borrowers didn’t create any equity,) unsustainable things can’t go on for long. The mortgage people just abandoned the houses when they lost jobs.  It was in effect a rental owned by the sucker banker. We enter unknown territory.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What intelligence research tells about social problems


I’ve been reading about intelligence, education and social behavior and some interesting things have been proven.  You probably suspected a lot of this.  All these stats are for white people only, no racial component.

Remember those plots that show if you have only a high school education you’ll likely make $30,000 a year, but if you have a bachelor’s you’ll make $50K and advanced degrees = $90K?  It turns out, while this is true, the distribution for each education level is extremely broad. There are Phds on welfare. There are CEOs who have 8th grade ed.   The correlation between education level and earnings is about .3 (1.0 or 100% correlation is perfect; zero is none whatsoever)  IQ correlates at about .6 so it is a better predictor of earnings. 

The people who study intelligence were highly persecuted in the 60s and 70s for their proofs that intelligence gives a lot of advantage and it is somewhat inherited.  That was the era when people believed that environment caused everything.  (Well, why try to breed smart sheepdogs? You could just make any old mutt a shepherd.) So the researchers went underground by the way they stopped talking about test scores and began talking about standard deviations away from the curve peaks.  Apparently it worked.  Media and many others couldn’t understand what they were talking about.  Then came the 90s demand for education accountability and testing.  Once again, intelligence measures became important.  A guy with 80 IQ doesn’t make a very good elementary particle physicist. 

The popular concept is that college education skyrocketed after WW II.  No, it actually began growing rapidly about 1920. 1920—2% of population had a bachelors; 1940—8%; 1960—16%;2016—35%.  That reflects the fact that in 1950 the traditional 55% of top quartile of SAT scorers went to college but by 1965 it was 80%.  And it was since about 1960 that the prestigious colleges began to compete for the top HS grads.  Why?  College costs quadrupled from 1950 to 1960, and a lot of middle class families could no longer afford it unless they had a smart kid who could get scholarships.

The result is that people of a certain intelligence and education often only associate with others of similar status, especially in urban areas where many technical people are employed.  The tech revolution has insulated many of the best and brightest from the rest of the people.  This explains why so many of our best politicians come, not from mega-metros but cities of 400,000 or smaller where everyone rubs elbows.  The tech skills are accountants, architects, engineers, professsors, dentists and physicians, mathematicians and scientists and the like.  These 8 jobs suck up 25% of the top 10% in IQ. And as the federal regulations have grown by a factor of six in the last 20 years, it takes a smart guy to start a successful business. Average Joe finds it hard.  Thus in 2014 for the first time in 400 years, America’s number of newly closed businesses exceeded the number of start-ups for the first time. 5-year running average) And interestingly the Supreme Court has forbidden employers from giving intelligence tests, yet these correlate better with successful job performance than anything else—reference checks, interviews, education, or age.  As kids are strongly encouraged to follow education as far as they can make it go, education is now strongly tied to intelligence.  The upper technical fields have seen a real salary increase of about 60% since 1963 while others are up only about 10% in constant dollars.  Hence the new success of Trump’s appeal to lower middle class.   And the nerds mate together just as they live close, thereby producing smart kids.  But it’s a loose correlation.  Ben Carson’s mom will surely object.

Let’s talk social difficulties.  Less intelligent women have most of the out-of-wedlock babies.  But of course there’s debate.  Some would say parent’s socioeconomic status (SES) is the cause.  It turns out that intelligence is more fundamental but SES plays a role too.  A graph of Americans below the poverty line is stunning.  Poverty decreased in a straight line from 1940 when 50% were “poor” to 1969 when the curve flat-lined in the 12-15% range it has had ever since.  The Great Society was supposed to reduce this!  Instead it halted the decline of poverty.  When a group goes from 50% to 15%, who is left behind?  Those who lack thrift, energy, determination and brains, it is likely. 

The statistics about unwed mothers are staggering.  Married women of lowest 2% of IQ are 18% likely to live in poverty.  Those in upper 2% are 1% likely.  But single moms of the lowest 2% IQ are 70% likely to live in poverty.  Upper 2% are still 15% likely. It is as if marriage makes you rich.   And the numbers cut across all reasons for single motherhood—widowed, divorced, and never-married.  This almost says, “If you want kids and means, get married and stay married.” Why are women so adversely affected?  I think it is because men are hard-pressed and measured by career while women who have children will often compromise a job if it adversely affects the children. Equal pay for equal work is the Law.

A HS education has become the norm. The dropout rate doesn’t correlate very well with SES but does correlate strongly with IQ.  It figures.  If you struggle with classes, you are more likely to drop out. The number of disabled and collecting Social Security has increased 50% during the Obama presidency, causing Bill O’Reilly to exclaim, “Has America gotten more hazardous?  That can’t be!”  No, but here’s what the stats tell us.  Low intelligence workers opportunistically claim far more disability.  There is a slightly better safety behavior among the intelligent workers, but the real story is that discouraged workers, finding it harder to keep and find a job, find it more socially acceptable to claim disability and get a sympathetic doc to approve it. And they won’t go crazy watching daytime TV and living leisurely.  Employment of teens who aren’t in school has gone from 85% in 1954 to 63% in 2009 to 51% today.  And when you study the SES of these workers, it suddenly gets interesting.  Unemployed teens drop in unemployment rate as they go to higher IQ.  But it’s the other way around for SES.  The ones who have wealthy parents are more long-term unemployed.  Living in the proverbial basement, I guess.