A moon emerging from a moon

Here’s a nice picture of one of Saturn’s moons (Enceladus) emerging from behind another one (Dione) or perhaps it’s starting to disappear behind it. Anyway there’s some moons (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute):


The Good Samaritan

I’m not religious (being agnostic and all) but I went to Sunday School when I was a kid and so have heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan (go here for the passage):

25 Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;(Deuteronomy 6:5) and your neighbor as yourself.”(Leviticus 19:18)
28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31  By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32  In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33  But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, 34  came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ 36  Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
A bit of background: Samaritans and Jews came from the same religious background but had split and now didn’t like each other much. So if you replace the injured man with someone from your group and the Samaritan with someone from a group that you don’t get along with, you get the idea of what Jesus what saying. Martin Luther King Jr. looks at this here in a fairly famous way here (in his I’ve been to the mountaintop speech in Memphis):

One day a man came to Jesus and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base.  Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from midair and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho.  And he talked about a certain man who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side; they didn’t stop to help him. Finally, a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now, you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association.  That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho Road is a dangerous road.  I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho.  And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road.  It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road.  In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around.  Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking , and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” That’s the question before you tonight.

Now let’s see what Republicans are saying about Syrian refugees (from here, here, and here):

More than half the nation’s governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, although the final say on this contentious immigration issue will fall to the federal government.

States protesting the admission of refugees range from Alabama and Georgia, to Texas and Arizona, to Michigan and Illinois, to Maine and New Hampshire. Among these 31 states, all but one have Republican governors.

“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” (Speaker of the House) Ryan said Tuesday after meeting with House Republicans. “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

Most of the Republican presidential candidates have called for the program (a program to bring in refugees) to be suspended, though Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wants to make exceptions for Christians.

Breaking from the pack, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush shifted his approach Tuesday and said the U.S. should not do away with its “noble tradition” of helping refugees.

In a letter to Ryan, Ben Carson — the retired neurosurgeon and a Republican front-runner — called for Congress to block funding for any programs “that seek to resettle refugees and/or migrants from Syria into the United States, effective immediately.”

“Until we can sort out the bad guys we must not be foolish,” Carson said in a news conference in Nevada.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee similarly heaped pressure on Ryan, saying in a statement: “Speaker Ryan needs to make it clear that if the President won’t stand to protect America from wholesale open borders, then Republicans will.”

“If Ryan will not lead and reject the importation of those fleeing the Middle East without assurances that we can separate refugees from terrorists, then Speaker Ryan needs to step down today and let someone else lead,” Huckabee said.

In addition, Govs. John Kasich and Bobby Jindal of Ohio and Louisiana, respectively, said they would work to keep refugees out of their states.

All of these men claim to be Christians (hell, Huckabee is a minister), which means they all know about the Good Samaritan and what they are supposed to do if they want to go to heaven. It turns out they are all the Priest or Levite in the story (if you look at King’s interpretation you can see that’s exactly what they are) and, according to Jesus, not good neighbors.

Now, as I said above, I’m not a Christian and so I want the people to be screened before they’re accepted into the US, which is already being done–the process takes 18-24 months, but I want the US to help these people even if they end up in my neighborhood. I guess I’m just more of a Christian than all those Republicans.

US: refugees not welcome

This makes me very sad:

In the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has joined a group of nearly two dozen American governors who announced Monday they would not allow any Syrian refugees to move to their states.

First, it’s obviously all about politics since only the federal government has a say on who comes into the country. Second, it sends a terrible message to the world: the situation in Syria is one of the worst in the world in the last 20 plus years, but the US won’t help because there’s a slight possibility that there could be consequences–notice this:

He said the United States already has a strong screening procedure for Syrian refugees and refugees must wait up to two years before receiving a visa to resettle here.

but that’s just not good enough.

On the other hand, there were 33,169 deaths in the US in 2013 due to firearms but woe unto any politician that tries to even license them.

Je Suis Paris

I stand for love not hate. I stand with Paris and France.


Republicans and the minimum wage

At last night’s debate, some of the Republicans candidates were asked if they were in favor of raising the minimum wage:

TRUMP: I can’t be Neil. And the and the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.

But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.

CAVUTO: So do not raise the minimum wage?

TRUMP: I would not do it.

So, Mr Billionaire thinks people make too much money in the US.

CAVUTO: Dr. Carson, you have long bemoaned this lackluster recovery. And this Facebook map show Americans share your concern. The green represents how the jobs issue is resonating all across the nation, especially here in the state of Wisconsin.

You suggested one minimum wage does not fit all, and that perhaps we should offer a lower or starter wage for young people. Those protesters outside are looking for $15 and nothing less. Where are you?

CARSON: Well, first of all, delighted to be here. My family’s here, and my little granddaughter, who’s three years old, said she wanted to come to the debate. So this is very cool.

As far as the minimum wage is concerned, people need to be educated on the minimum wage. Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.

It’s particularly a problem in the black community. Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, who are looking for one. You know, that — and that’s because of those high wages. If you lower those wages, that comes down.

You know, I can remember, as a youngster — you know, my first job working in a laboratory as a lab assistant, and multiple other jobs. But I would not have gotten those jobs if someone had to pay me a large amount of money.

But what I did gain from those jobs is a tremendous amount of experience, and how to operate in the world and how to relate to different people, and how to become a responsible individual. And that’s what gave me what I needed to ascend the ladder of opportunity in this country.

That’s what we need to be thinking about. How do we allow people to ascend the ladder of opportunity, rather than how do we give them everything and keep them dependent?

CAVUTO: So, sir, just to be clear, you would not raise it?

CARSON: I would not raise it. I would not raise it, specifically because I’m interested in making sure that people are able to enter the job market and take advantage of opportunities.

Umm, Ben? Unless there was something weird going on at your first job, you made the minimum wage–there didn’t need to be a lower ‘starter’ wage for you to get that job. Oh, if you are working at a job, no one is ‘giving you everything’ you earn it and they will be less dependent if they are paid more–obviously.

RUBIO: Well, let me begin by answering both the first question and this one, because they’re related. As I’ve said many times before, my parents were never rich people. My father was a bartender. My mother was a maid. They worked for a living. But they were successful people, because, despite the fact that they weren’t well educated and had those jobs, they made enough money to buy a home in a safe and stable neighborhood, retire with dignity, leave all four of their children better off than themselves.

We call that the American dream, but in fact, it’s a universal dream of a better life that people have all over the world. It is a reminder that every country in the world has rich people.

What makes America special is that we have millions and millions of people that are not rich, that through hard work and perseverance are able to be successful.

The problem is that today people are not successful working as hard as ever because the economy is not providing jobs that pay enough. If I thought that raising the minimum wage was the best way to help people increase their pay, I would be all for it, but it isn’t. In the 20th century, it’s a disaster.

If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.

Here’s the best way to raise wages. Make America the best place in the world to start a business or expand an existing business, tax reform and regulatory reform, bring our debt under control, fully utilize our energy resources so we can reinvigorate manufacturing, repeal and replace Obamacare, and make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.

Hey Ben and Marco, here are a couple graphs (data here) that dispute your comments that increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment and has been a disaster:


Hmm, the minimum wage increased pretty steadily from 1948 until its peak in 1968 but I don’t see anything close to a steady increase in unemployment.


There doesn’t seem to be much association between the minimum wage and the increase in per capita GDP, but if you notice the regression line I added you might note that it tends to increase a bit more when there’s a higher minimum wage.

Oh and here’s a letter signed by more than 600 economists that says we should increase the minimum wage. Gallup hasn’t asked about this for a while but in 2013, 76% favored raising the minimum wage to $9.

To be fair, here’s the other person who commented on this:

KASICH: First of all, let me just say that, in the state of Ohio — and I’m the only acting executive on — on this stage today — we do have a moderate increase in the minimum wage.

The Mormon Church wants to be a cult

The Mormon Church has a new edict:

Children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the Mormon church until they turn 18 — and only if they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships, and receive approval from the church’s top leadership as part of a new policy adopted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is the type of thing cults do. A cult wants its disciples to disavow family and friends to make them dependent on the cult. I guess the Mormon Church wants the same thing.

Can people who believe in God be moral?

The LA Times looks at an interesting study:

Here’s a discovery that could make secular parents say hallelujah: Children who grow up in nonreligious homes are more generous and altruistic than children from observant families.

A series of experiments involving 1,170 kids from a variety of religious backgrounds found that the non-believers were more likely to share stickers with their classmates and less likely to endorse harsh punishments for people who pushed or bumped into others.

Looking at the actual study, I don’t think it really says all that much. Still it’s fun to tweak the religious, given that 40% of Americans say they would not vote for a candidate that was an atheist and given that some people don’t think atheists can be moral, oh such as this one:

What society loses when it discards Judeo-Christian faith and belief in God is something far more difficult to replace: the value system most likely to promote ethical behavior and sustain a decent society. That is because without God, the difference between good and evil becomes purely subjective. What makes murder inherently wrong is not that it feels wrong,but that a transcendent Creator to whom we are answerable commands: “Thou shalt not murder.” What makes kindness to others inherently right is not that human reason says so, but that God does: “Love thy neighbor as thyself; I am the Lord.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean that religious people are always good, or that religion itself cannot lead to cruelty. Nor does it mean that atheists cannot be beautiful, ethical human beings. Belief in God alone does not guarantee goodness. But belief tethered to clear ethical values — Judeo-Christian monotheism — is society’s best bet for restraining our worst moral impulses and encouraging our best ones.

The atheist alternative is a world in which right and wrong are ultimately matters of opinion, and in which we are finally accountable to no one but ourselves. That is anything but a tiding of comfort and joy.

It’s nice that he allows that atheists could be good people. Oh, and Jeff, it seems that evolution might have made morality innate in people.

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