Restoration of Values
Some years ago, a debate took place about the sacraments of penance and marriage administered by priests in the filiation of the late Archbishop Lefebvre. As it was stated in a magazine and a blogdedicated to Catholic apologetics, both sacraments are valid when received from an Eastern Orthodox (E.O.) priest, but not from a priest of the Saint Pius X Society (SSPX), because although the latter possesses the sacramental authority coming from his ordination, he does not possess the juridical authority coming from the bishop as the chief judge of the diocese. Even a priest incardinated in a territorial diocese under the Vatican cannot confer these sacraments in another diocese without a special permit from the local bishop. In layman’s terms, this is equivalent to the license needed to practice a profession. The SSPX bishops are not diocesan bishops, the reasoning goes, “being thus an anomaly unheard of in Christian tradition,”“By contrast, an Orthodox priest is in communion with a bishop who has a diocese. That bishop, while in schism, . . has jurisdiction [which] he can share . . with priests that are subject to him. They have both orders and jurisdiction. Therefore, their absolution is valid.”
A rebuttal of the thesis of the above authors was presented by the SSPX bishops. The discussion here presents the perspective of the educated layman.
First, it is worthwhile to examine the argument that the bishops of the Saint Pius Society (or societies) are “bishops without no (sic) diocese.” That situation is not unprecedented. Thus, in 1948 when the Byzantine-rite Catholic (B.r.C.) church was outlawed in Romania and its bishops were sent to various prisons, Bishop Frenţiu (beatified on June 2, 2019) secretly consecrated as bishops a few of the younger priests imprisoned with him. None of them was assigned to a diocese; all were consecrated at-large.Some survived, were released,and functioned underground. Outside prison, the priests served secretly the faithful wherever they could, that is, also at-large. To have their faculty to hear confessions recorded in the books of a diocese was not necessary for the salvation of souls.
To take another example of a priest at-large, in 1939 the American priest Walter J. Ciszek was in Eastern Poland at the Soviet invasion. He spent 24 years in prison camps and in supervised residence in Siberian cities. In those places he created parishes, mostly among people forcibly moved there from Lithuania, Poland, or Ukraine, for whom he offered the Mass regularly. He celebrated marriages and baptisms, gave absolutions and extreme unctions, until the KGB got wind of it, closed the parish and carted him to another place, where, undaunted, he did the same thing. In camps, he heard confessions regularly. Where a women’s camp was adjacent to his, he went to walk for hours on his side of the barbed wire fence, in the dread of Siberian winter, while the penitents, one by one, walked on the other side and confessed. He had no “permit” to give absolution in those places, as he was for years believed dead, nor was there a bishop who could grant it.
One might argue that those bishops and priests lived in times of crisis. If someone says, however, that today Catholicism is not in crisis, he must be coming from another planet.
The recent case of the Chinese Catholic Bishops replaced by the Vatican with appointees of the Communist government,needs clarification. Have they lost their “licensing” powers and have the sacraments administered by their priests become invalid?
Anyway, the territorial dioceses did not originate with the apostles, but were created after Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire; the term “diocese” was taken from the imperial administrative units. St. Paul had no diocese.
The validity of sacraments conferred by non-Catholic churches follows from the concept of ecumenism defined at the Vatican II Council. Such churches are called not in full communion with the Catholic Church and sharing of sacraments with them is limited. The E.O. church, already mentioned, is an example. In most respects, the attitude of the Vatican toward the E.O. church(es) is remarkable. At the time of his visit to Romania, John Paul II accepted that the place of highest honor in the procession should be accorded to the E.O. patriarch. (The fact that the latter had been an agent of the communist party and security police, particularly of Ceauşescu, bestowed a sad irony on the situation.) Even worse, John Paul II refused to have an official meeting with the Byzantine-rite (B-r) catholic bishops, in order to placate his E.O. hosts. The E.O. hierarchy had worked hand-in-glove with the communists to outlaw the Byzantine-rite Catholic Church (B-rCC) in 1948 and even today denies the right of the latter to exist. After 1990, the Vatican never requested the return to the B-rCC of places of worship and other properties which the communists transferred to the Romanian E.O. church.
Likewise, overtures were made toward the Russian E.O., which has always been and is today pretty much controlled by the government, at a time of increased persecution of B-r Catholics in Crimea and occupied Eastern Ukraine. Many Ukrainian B-r Catholics, including their Patriarch, expressed dismay that “the Holy Father was apparently more interested in placating Moscow than defending the rights of their church.”
It is worth noting, however, that the Eastern Orthodox do not reciprocate. They proclaim that “being united with the pope means to be separated from Jesus Christ;” also that “in the history of human race, there were three falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope.”(b) The E.O. churches have even dropped the word catholic from the Nicene Creed, and use the formula: “in one, holy, conciliar, and apostolic church.”
Another case is that of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC). An agreement was reached, recognizing the validity of the sacraments of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) and allowing members of the Latin Church and Eastern Catholic Churches to receive in exceptional circumstances the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick from PNCC ministers.(a).Yet, PNCC rejects the doctrine of original sin and proclaims universal salvation with no special requirements.(b)(c) The joint communiqué, states, however, that there is “agreement on the seven sacraments . . . in spite of some differences in practice that do not touch upon our basic common faith.” What agreement can exist on absolution with a church proclaiming that everybody is saved, anyway?
Lately, the Vatican signaled that Luther’s heresy might also become acceptable. At its anniversary of 500 years, Pope Bergoglio participated in a meeting with Lutherans in Sweden and issued a joint communiqué stating, among other things, that “Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church.”(a) (italics mine). The statement must mean that there was an invisible unity, never touched. On the day itself, the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation issued a joint statement, giving thanks for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation (!).(b) The Vatican post office also issued a special stamp in honor of the event.(c)
The original debate was apparently mooted by the 2017 decision of the Vatican to recognize the two sacraments administered by SSPX priests. One wonders, however, what is the situation of those who received the sacraments before the decision? What is the disposition of a man married by an SSPX priest in 2013, who had a fatal car accident in 2014? Is a reassignment after death possible? It seems more logical to accept that all sacraments administered by a priest ordained validly by a validly consecrated bishop have been valid all along.
It is highly significant that the reversal of position on the sacraments from SSPX priests came about without any change in the status of their bishops, as non-diocesan bishops, “an anomaly unheard of in Christian tradition;” no mention of that status was even made. This indicates to me that the arguments[1,2] for the interdiction were constructed ad hoc.
Anyway, the SSPX bishops responded with statements expressing “gratitude to the Holy Father for his pastoral solicitude.” This suggests an error in judgment: it seems to validate the thesis that they were given something which they did not have before. Better if they had offered terse thanks for the good intention, pointing out that the sacraments offered by the priests of the Society had been valid all along. Best if they had ignored the Vatican pronouncement.
There was, however, another argument presented for the original interdiction: The SSPX recognized (as it continues to recognize) the annulments granted by the tribunals of the “mainstream” church. This recognition was explained by SSPX as an act of charity, but is puzzling, in light of the open scandal which the granting of annulments has been, particularly in the US. Thus, it was reasoned, the SSPX implicitly recognize Vatican’s right to determine the validity of a marriage, and the interdiction becomes a matter of discipline. On the other hand, the Eastern Orthodox do not recognize Vatican’s authority on any matter, therefore marriages performed by their priests are valid! It then follows that sacraments must also be valid if conferred by sedevacantist traditional Catholic priests. Admittedly, they reject only Vatican II, whereas the E.O. and PNC churches reject all the councils for the last one thousand years. The latter two also virulently reject papacy, whereas the sedevacantist Catholics accept and revere the papacy; they just maintain that Jorge Bergoglio is not there. (There is even an archbishop accepting Vat II, who considers Bishop Bergoglio an “usurper and heretic.”)
The broad acceptance of sacramental validity for non-Catholic churches stems from the thesis promulgated at Vatican II that any honest man can obtain the knowledge of religious truth by searching freely. We take note of this thesis here and we’ll discuss more about it later.
The matter of sacraments can be approached, however, only considering the meaning of religion. Religion is not about good fellowship and brotherhood, or building a better world to live in. It is about immortality and salvation of one’s soul. A man needs the church to provide him a path to eternal salvation; any other function is to be considered only inasmuch it furthers the basic purpose. This axiomatic truth is repeatedly emphasized in the Mass, from the prayer at the foot of the altar, when the congregation (through the acolyte or server) tells the priest: ”Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus et dimissis peccatis tuis perducat te ad vitam eternam,” to the moment when the priest tells each communicant: “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam eternam. Amen.” (Both these have been excised from the Novus Ordo.)
The path to salvation and eternal life is assured by the sacraments received from the church. The sacraments were instituted by Christ and implemented by the apostles (a-f) Any church which offers valid sacraments secures a path to Heaven. Parsing full communion, half-communion,quarter communion, is hogwash.
Among churches which common sense dictates cannot offer valid sacraments, we must count San Rocco, in Turin, Italy. Fredo Olivero, pastor (or rector) of that church announced during the midnight Mass for Christmas that he would not recite the Creed, because he does not believe it, so he sang a song from a movie. In this way, he proclaimed himself an apostate, as faith comes before baptism and is a prerequisite for it.(g) (The Creed has to be professed at baptism.) Instead of throwing him out on his ear, his archbishop just admonished him to say the Creed. He promised to do so, but did not keep the promise. He did not sing songs from movies, but recited a text written by himself, having nothing to do with the Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant) Creed.(b) He has continued to operate, undisturbed. In view of the press coverage of the event, the archbishop’s superiors at Vatican knew for sure what was going on, but did not intervene, being thus accomplices to the apostasy, fraud, and defilement of the church and sacraments. As it was reported, there are in the same province other priests and bishops like Fred Olivero.(b)
In his earnest search for a path to Heaven, a man in our time has only two possible logical alternatives: (A) the Vatican II Council (Vat II) is right and (B) Vat II is wrong.
(A) If we accept the conclusions of Vat II, we must agree with the council fathers that any honest man can obtain the knowledge of religious truth by searching freely. From what the Vatican teaches today, the search can carry us to options deviating as much from the Catholic doctrine and discipline as the churches which it accepts as giving valid sacraments (valid paths to salvation), like E.O.C. and PNCC. By all indications, it seems that it is now acceptable that someone’s free search may lead even to the Lutheran denomination. On the other hand, even Vat II did not contest that the One Catholic Church as it existed until 1962, when that council opened, offered a path to salvation; a full calendar of saints attests to this. An option which rigorously adheres to the doctrine and discipline of that time is a valid conclusion of the free search for religious truth.
It is also notable that the Vatican and USCCB have allowed the faithful to receive the sacraments from priests not under their jurisdiction under the provisions of Canon 844 of the (post Vat II) canon law,(a) which states that one can do so when it is “morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister.” The moral impossibility, logically, has to be determined individually, by the faithful.
(B) That Vat II could be wrong, may have occurred even to Joseph Ratzinger in later years, although he never said it plainly. That point is unimportant for the present analysis, which just finds that it as the only logical alternative to (A). If that is the case, one must join a church holding to the doctrine and practices of the Catholic Church before 1962. I found a perfect option at a traditionalist Catholic chapel, which had in its Sunday bulletin the note:
“We believe that as Catholics we have a right and a solemn duty to hold fast to the traditions as we have received them from the Church.
The rules for the reception of Holy Communion are as follows:
One must accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church. One must believe and abide by the traditional Catholic moral teaching, especially in regard to purity and marriage.”
.The Catholic Response. http://catholicresponsemagazine.org/
.(a) ASK FATHER: Valid absolution from Orthodox priest, but not from SSPX priest? Posted on 3 February 2014 http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/02/ask-father-valid-absolution-from-orthodox-priest-valid-but-not-from-sspx/; see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_844
.Eastern Orthodox churches are the multiple autocephalous, mostly national, churches resulting from the breakup of the Byzantine Patriarchate as it existed after the separation from Rome in 1054 AD.
.Bp Tissier de Mallerais, Supplied jurisdiction & traditional priests
.Fr A. Ratiu & Fr W. Virtue, Stolen Church. Martyrdom in Communist Romania, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1979, p.30.
.Walter J. Ciszek, SJ, With God in Russia, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1964.
. F. X. Rocca and E. Dou,. Pope Francis to Bow to China With Concession on Bishops, WSJ, Feb 2, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pope-francis-to-bow-to-china-with-concession-on-bishops-1517507751
. References to Vatican II presented in text are found in Vatican Council II. The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, A.Flannery, Editor, Costello Publ Co, Northport, 1980
.For a schematic presentation, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_communion#Catholic_Church
.Code of Canon Law, 1983, Canon 844, §2.
.(a) Alec Luhn,‘Finally!’pope and Russian patriarch meet for first time in 1,000 years, The Guardian, 13 Feb 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/12/pope-francis-russian-orthodox-patriarch-kirill-make-history-cubafirst-meeting-in-1000-years ; (b) SSPX, news & events: A Commentary on Eastern Orthodoxy, July 5, 2016, http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/commentary-orthodoxy.
.(a) Fabian Seiche, Greco-catolicii. uniţi cu papa dar desbinaţi cu Hristos, Agaton, Braşov, 2010. The book was sanctioned by the patriarch of the Romanian orthodox church. (b) Motto of the same book, cited there from someone recently canonized by the Romanian orthodox church.
. (a) USCCB, Declaration of Unity, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/polish-national-catholic/unit y.cfm ; (b) Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J, The Polish National Catholic Church, Homiletic and Pastoral Rev, 1956, 56 (7), 552-60, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Protestantism/Protestantism_051.htm ; (c) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_of_Scranton
.(a) Austin Ivereigh, Catholic and Lutheran Churches pledge to work for shared Eucharist, Crux, Oct 31, 2016, https://cruxnow.com/papal-visit/2016/10/31/catholic-lutheran-churches-pledge-work-shared-eucharist/ ;
(b) Vatican Radio: Catholics and Lutherans mark 500th anniversary of Reformation, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/10/31/catholics,_lutherans_mark_500th_anniversary_of_reformation/1346149
(c) Roberto de Mattei, Pope Francis and his “Lutheran turning point,” Nov 8, 2017, https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/11/de-mattei-pope-francis-and-his-lutheran.html
.(a) Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis According to which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful etc., https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150901_lettera-indulgenza-gi ubileo-misericordia.html ; (b) Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera of the Holy Father Francis, at the etc. https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20161120_misericor dia-et-misera.html ; (c) Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 27 March 2017, http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2017/04/04/0218/00485.html#ing
.For example, SSPX Statement about Holy See Letter Concerning Marriages, April 04, 2017, http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/sspx-statement-about-holy-see-letter-concerning-marriages-28843
. Telephone call to the office of the US district superior
.Sheila Rauch Kennedy, Shattered Faith: A Woman’s Struggle to Stop the Catholic Church from Annuling Her Marriage, Pantheon, 1997.
.Michael W. Chapman, Archbishop Jan Lenga: Pope Francis is ‘Usurper and Heretic,’ ‘Leading the World Astray’, Feb 28, 2020 , https://cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/archbishop-jan-lenga-pope-francis-usurper-and-heretic-leading-wor ld-astray
.As stated, the current text presents the observations and conclusions of an educated layman. The theological problems and the consequences of Vat II have been exposed in: Archbp Marcel Lefebvre, (a) Religious Liberty Questioned (1987), Angelus Perss, Kansas City, MO, 2002; (b) An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Angelus Press, Dickinson, TX, 1987.
.(a) Baptism: Matt 28, 19, Mark 16, 16; (b) Eucharist: Matt 26, 26-28, John 6, 48-58, 66-69, esp: 53-54; (c) Absolution: John 20, 22,23; (d) Holy Orders: Acts 1, 21-26, Acts 6, 6; (e)Anointing of the sick: Mark 6, 13, James 14, 15; (f) Confirmation, Acts, 8, 14-17; (g) Mark 16, 16;
.(a) https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2018/01/de-mattei-minimalism-present-day.html#more ; (b) https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/wayward-italian-priests
.Massimo Faggioli, Benedict’s Estrangement from Ratzinger. Theological Drift, Commonweal, Jan 23, 2020, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/theological-drift
.Weekly Bulletin of the St. Pius V Chapel, Oyster Bay, NY; https://stpiusvchapel.org/index.php/1-home
Previous generations knew of the legendary Swiss hero Wilhelm Tell. His story was read and plays about him were staged in high schools, particularly because in him one could find traits of the American character, as it used to be. To the people of today, he needs an introduction.
In 1300, what is now Switzerland was a land of the Austrian king of the Germans. As the chronicles tell it, the king appointed a particularly brutal man, Albrecht Gessler, as administrator. Gessler raised a pole in a market square, placed his hat atop it, and ordered all who came byto salute it. Wilhelm Tell, a famous crossbow sharpshooter, going somewhere with his son, did pass by, but refused to salute. Rather than execute him outright, Gessler gave Tell the choice of being executed together with his son, or be spared if he would shoot an apple off his son’s head. Tell split the apple with an arrow, but Gessler moved to put, or rather burry, him in a dungeon. Tell managed to escape and spearheaded a revolt which led to the overthrow of the Austrian rule and the birth of the Swiss Confederation.
The Wilhelm Tell story becomes relevant in the analysis of a contemporary social phenomenon, the sex change operations. In a previous article, I discussed the matter of sex change operations from the viewpoint of the cost and who has to cover it.(a) It was emphasized there that the manner in which the case is presented is scientifically incorrect. Whether evidenced by examination at birth or in the womb, the sex is determined at conception, together with all characteristics which define the individual as a unique human being. The determination is genetic and immutable. The surgical mutilation for creating a physical appearance at variance with the genetic makeup is meaningless. As long as the genetic makeup is not changed, there is no sex change.(a)
It is noteworthy that the preferred nomenclature has replaced sex by gender. Rigorously speaking, gender is a grammatical concept; in most languages it is unconnected to sex. Thus, in French love is masculine and hate is feminine. In Russian, war is feminine and peace is masculine. In Romanian, shoulder is masculine, hand is feminine, and elbow is of the third gender (mixed or ambigender). The German takes the cake, as the noun for brother is masculine, the one for sister is feminine, but the nouns for little brother and little sister are both neuter. The English language is peculiar, as it does not really have genders for nouns; nor does it really have flexion, so gender has become a synonym for sex, possibly with a fuzzier meaning.
Accordingly, one talks now of gender reassignment (GR), a phrase in a class with Lenin’s democratic centralism, that is, nonsense. (Who assigns gender in the first place, anyway?)
As we feared, the costs to society of these exercises have greatly increased. Thus, in the years since, Medicare began paying both for “reassignment” surgery (GRS) and hormonal treatment (HT) for transgender people. Costs were also foisted on taxpayers by courts: Iowa’s Supreme Court ordered the state to include GRS coverage in its medicaid program. Judges have continued to order that states provide GRS-HT to persons in penal custody. The societal burden is compounded by indirect costs, including the proliferation of advocacy organization, like the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center,, et al, which even in the unlikely case that they don’t have any access to public funds, consume the earth’s and society’s resources. At the international level, there is a World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). New occupations, like transgender-affirming therapist, have appeared, proving that enough money flows into that line of business to allow people to make careers out of it.
The condition which these interventions address is gender dysphoria (GD), where dysphoria is a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction with something. It is, therefore a mental (psychological or psychiatric) condition.
A report that there is a hard science explanation for gender dysphoria has been published.: Whereas most men bear XY chromosomes and most women carry XX chromosomes, some people have XXY chromosomes, and some have XX chromosomes in some cells and XY in others, rare, true hermaphrodites.
The claim that XXY chromosomes determine GD in men could be valid only if based on a genetic analysis of a sufficient number of GR subjects, comparing the incidence of the XXY chromosome with that in the general population. The article has no references, but a cursory literature search does not reveal GD being associated with XXY chromosomes. It is noted that XXY males can have a normal sex life, but may be infertile. Testosterone is administered to enhance virility. In the case of coexisting XX and XY, a determination may be made whether male or female characteristics predominate, then the unwanted body parts may be excised.(b)
All these cases are disorders of sex development (DSD)(a). Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, DSD is an abnormal condition. Its treatment has as goal to restore the natural condition of the organism. Gender dysphoria is not a DSD and the current approach to its treatment is to change the natural order of the organism. The attempt to conflate the two is unscientific.
GD is one of at least twenty four conditions which manifest dysphoria. It is the only one, however, for which the accepted treatment of the mental condition is the modification of the body and the alteration of social and legal norms to comply with a distorted mental perception.(a) Indeed, patients with multiple personality are not issued multiple drivers’ licenses, the substance withdrawal syndrome is not treated by hooking the patient back on drugs, a patient believing he is Napoleon is not provided with a mini army and generals, and social and legal norms are not altered to eliminate “the internal turmoil” of the sufferer of the antisocial personality disorder.
The strongest argument claimed for GRS is that the GD sufferers show a sizable suicidal tendency. Half of transgender youth think of suicide and up to 32% have attempted suicide. Accepting that there are finite health resources for an almost infinite number of health needs, the cost of a suicide is much higher than the cost of GRS-HT.
The argument has a profound deficiency of logic. The question is not whether the condition should or should not be treated, but whether GRS is the proper treatment. The factual data are also incorrect. Among the conditions manifesting dysphoria, suicidal tendencies are rather common: Suicidal thoughts is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of heroin, two thirds of girls suffering from antisocial personality disorder have considered suicide and one third attempted it, more than 70% of multiple personality sufferers have attempted suicide, and so on. Furthermore, it has been indicated that suicidal tendencies reappear within ten years following GRS.(a) Also, the authority cited as recommending “sex change” surgery, WPATH, seems an advocacy group for the procedure, rather than a scientific body.
The cost of health care as the allocation of finite resources to competing needs has been discussed before.(b) Along these lines, it must be noted that, historically, resource allocation for GRS-HT came together (one might argue it was correlated) with the reduction in screening tests (PSA) for prostate cancer, on the absurd argument that the test gives occasionally “false positive results,” creating anxiety in patients. More recently, the same advice (reduce the number of tests) with the same ridiculous rationalization (there are some false positive results) was offered concerning mammograms for women! Anyone who has conducted research and measurements knows that a good test should be calibrated in that manner if the consequence of a false negative result is significant. The patient’s anxiety dissipates when more elaborate tests prove he is healthy. (My urologist on Long Island, NY, was livid about these directives.) In the ten years since, there was an increase in the incidence in prostate cancer, which “chronologically followed new recommendations in the USPSTF guidelines for PSA-based prostate cancer screening.”(a) We may expect that in ten years or so, an increase in breast cancer cases will be observed. We should add that 0.005% to 0.014% of males exhibit GD(b) and only the fraction that attempt suicide was given. The absence of the number of those who succeed, suggests that the paper. is propaganda, rather than science. Considering next that all males, those that undergo GRS included, are subject to prostate cancer, it follows that spending on GRS-HT over the PSA tests has increased the number of deaths. These data should sober up all those who think the increase in government control on dispensing health care is a good idea. On the contrary, a move toward private distribution and personal decision on treatment and provider choice, and an approach to payment with a choice of direct payment or through insurance, should be sought.
As a further note, it has been reported that that among side effects of GRS-HT for both sexes is an increase in cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
What is unquestionable, is that the mental condition (having a perception of reality at variance with the reality itself) is not cured, not even addressed by GRS-HT. Would someone accept a surgeon with such a mental condition to operate on him? I wouldn’t. Likewise, allowing such a person in the military, where the soldier has the lives of others (in the army and in the country at large) literally in his hands, makes no sense. (Remember Private Manning?) Moreover, having the cost of the permanent treatment of such individuals competing with funds for buying bullets is wrong.
It was observed that the distorted perception of oneself is typically encountered in children, who often put themselves in fairy tales.(a) As they grow, from infancy, children are pretty much taught their identity. It may be shocking, but it is not surprising, therefore, that indoctrination into transgenderism has been applied to children, although the claimed rationale for it has been debunked. The approach has tragical effects. Thus, a divorced couple in Texas split custody of their little boy. The mother has decided he should be a girl, at the recommendation of a gender-transition therapist. (We can assume that the initial decision was the mother’s, otherwise the therapist could not come into the picture; once consulted, it is only natural that he tried to bring business to himself.) The child is thoroughly confused: when a therapist asked him to choose his name, he wrote down Luna, chosen by his mother, when he was with her, but James, when he was with his father. This finding in itself should eliminate from consideration dysphoria, which is “strong, persistent feelings of identification with another gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned gender and sex; in order to qualify for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, these feelings must cause significant distress or impairment.”(b) Instead, other people have seen that the child shows no sign of distress, but is balanced and satisfied when he is with his father and treated as a boy. The mother, though, has filed suit, asking the court to terminate the father’s parental rights and also require him to pay for the transgender medical alterations. Her motives can only be guessed, but a compulsion to hurt her former husband cannot be excluded. There have been parents who in that situation killed their children from such a compulsion.
Of the many other cases, three will be mentioned here. The first is that of a mother of triplet boys who desperately wanted a girl. She cross-dressed one of the boys for two years, insisting that it was his idea. As the boy was two years old when this started, the claim should be rejected outright. Anyway, she sued to deny consent and custody to the father.(a) In a second example, a well known actress stated that her son, age three, had told her: “I am not a boy,” From that moment, she raised the child as her second daughter.(b) Many a parent heard a child a that age stating that he is an eagle, a wizard, or who knows what. One just helps the child grow out of the fantasy. Instead, the actress thought it “cool” to destroy the biological identity of a human being; the fact that the child was adopted, might have helped. The third example comes from Britain; the methods used are the same as here: As revealed by a whistle-blower, seventeen pupils in a school are in the process of “changing gender.” Most of them are autistic, which means that vulnerable children are tricked and groomed into believing they are of the wrong sex. The parents are kept deliberately in the dark. It is noted that of the youngsters referred to the one and only gender identity clinic in UK (we can guess who runs and controls it) one third, that is, 150, showed moderate to severe autistic traits.
Willful mutilation of children has long been known. In past centuries, some children were prepared in this manner to be used as beggars. Also, boys with beautiful voices were castrated to earn money for their families as soprano singers. In our times, children are mutilated in such manner for political correctness, although in some cases mental derangement of parents also plays a role.
Also historically new is the power that people who make a living out of transgenderism, under the guise of “experts,” are allowed to wield. In this aspect, the current mutilation epidemic conforms with the historic experience: there is profit in the enterprise. The problem is that unlike physics, chemistry, and other hard sciences, psychology and related fields are soft sciences and can be distorted into pseudosciences. Before accepting the opinion of such “experts”, one should find out the fraction of the cases they intervened in, for which they recommended that the natural, genetic, definition be not altered. (I would guess, zero is the likely answer.) Besides, logically all those who profit from the process should be disqualified for conflict of interest. Instead, the structures of power are currently biased in the favor of transgenderists. Thus, when there is disagreement, the parent who wants to mutilate a child is too often given preference over the parent who wants to preserve the child’s identity, in which the appearance conforms with the genetic script, rather than a mental construct. When both parents want to preserve the child, too often the power of decision is given to interest-conflicted “experts,” the parents being kept in the dark or overridden by the power of state, a process in which judges often play a nefarious role.
The cavalier attitude toward mutilation of children can be contrasted with the premises of the (attempted) ethical justification for GRS, which starts from the assumption that “those seeking GRS are of legal adult age, competent, and seeking the treatment voluntarily.” There is a case in Germany, in which a court awarded damages for a sex assignment operation without consent. Unfortunately, recognition by law of the right to bodily integrity and physical autonomy seems to exist only in Malta, where non-consensual modification of sex is outlawed.
Lately, people marginally involved, or even spectators to the game of people pretending to be somebody or something else are forced to participate in it. Assertion of freedom of speech in dissent is not allowed. For example, a teacher in Indiana who taught orchestra at a high school called students by their last names. He had to resign, because the school policy was to call transgender students by their preferred first names. In a system which protects the rights of all, opposing opinions should be, at least, acceptable. As things are now, even noncommittal neutrality is punishable. More reports of teachers similarly fired have been published, in the U.S. and in the UK.
Harsher forms of persecution have been reported. Thus, a Canadian man, passed out leaflets revealing that a candidate for Parliament was in fact a man, who had “transitioned” to woman two years before. The provincial Human Rights Tribunal found him guilty of the crime of “misgendering.” The judge admitted that the accused’s religious freedom was infringed upon, but said he should hold his belief to himself(!) In other words, one’s right to actuate his fantasies overrides another’s religious freedom. The Canadians are just a step ahead of us.
In another development, transgenders (boys claiming to be girls) participate in girls’ sport competitions. Thus, two transgenders entered a scholastic track competition in Connecticut and won the first two places. Seventeen other states allow such mixed participation.(a) Moreover, the International Olympic Committee has published guidelines regulating the participation of transgenders in the Games. Notably, to participate as a woman a man needs not undergo GRS, only to declare female gender identity and maintain a testosterone level under a prescribed level for 12 months before, and throughout the competition. The declaration cannot be changed for sporting purposes (meaning that it can, for other purposes) for a minimum of four years. This type of rules invites abuses, especially considering the commercial nature of Olympics at present and the possible financial gain for successful participants. The rules are also punishing the honest, biologically female, competitors. The “principles” established in the Canadian case just mentioned, will even prevent them from knowing that the “gal” who beat them was a guy.
The same yearning for celebrity and income may push some boys who don’t hope to succeed in sport as males, to “transition” to women, with no dysphoria involved.
The imposition of such nonsense by the government seems to gather speed. Thus, a bill already tried without success in 2017, has been introduced in the US House of Representatives as H.R.5Equality Act. (It is customary to affix lofty names to measures imposing the dictatorship of the government.) Among many dreadful things, this would force men claiming to be women into women’s teams, locker rooms, and showers. It was sponsored by every Democrat and two Republicans.(a) At state level, absurdities of this kind have already been implemented.b)
In anticipation, a federal judge in Illinois (confirmed in 2014) told the plaintiffs complaining that their school had allowed a transgender (biological male) to use the girls’ locker rooms, restrooms, and showers, that there is no constitutional right to “visual bodily privacy.” The school had instituted the policy after being threatened by Obama Administration’s Education Department with loss of funding. The Trump administration rescinded the policy, but the school didn’t.
In another case, a female high school student from Pennsylvania entered the school girls’ locker room and found an individual in ladies’ underwear, through which the male complements appeared clearly. She ran out and later filed a formal complaint that her civil rights were violated. If the monstrosity labeled H.R.5. becomes law, girls like her will have no recourse. We must do everything to stop it. We are no longer dealing with dictatorial measures, but with the imposition of a totalitarian form of government.
It seems at first hard to rationalize this push to force people to accept that clear manifestations of psychological disorder are normal, and to adjust or hide their reason and common sense which say otherwise. The task become easier if we consider the analogy with the case of Wilhelm Tell.
Gessler’s goal in imposing the “obedience to the hat” was to break the resistance and moral fiber of the Swiss people. Saluting the hat was a sign of resignation to the state of serfdom. Today’s insistence that people accept nonsense and insanity as normalcy has the same ultimate goal. Will our contemporaries react like the Swiss in 1307, or swallow meekly whatever will be imposed on them? The matters being in an advanced state, people need to gather their courage and act now. We can all take heart from the dignity of Bill Whatcott, the Canadian man convicted of the crime of “misgendering” a politician, who went to the sentencing wearing a shirt with a bible passage, Genesis 5:2, the basis for his actions, or of Prof Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto, who fights for the freedom of speech against the gender police at his university and in the provincial legislature. One of the girls beaten on the track by the boys claiming to be girls in Connecticut has also protested.(b) The cases of the young ladies who sued were mentioned above. We must all join those in this fight.
The most urgent matter is to assure that the minimum ethical requirements for “gender reassignment” are fulfilled: the patients are of legal adult age, competent, and seeking the treatment voluntarily.
Next, the policy of secrecy should be replaced by full disclosure. If, for example, one pays to see a game between two women’s teams, the information about the genetic (i.e., true) sex of players should be disclosed. Ditto for choosing one’s physician, and so on.
At the same time, we should obtain that gender dysphoria be treated as a psychiatric condition, which it is, with the goal of curing the mental ailment, rather than mutilating a body and distorting the society’s fabric.
 (a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell ; (b) ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Gessler
 D. Fărcaşiu, Four Commentaries on Healthcare http://www.ForRestoration.com, 09/22/2012. (a) 4. Sex-Change Surgery and The Case For Personalized Medical Insurance; (b) 2. Health Care as a Problem of Allocation of Money.
 * ** Your destiny from day one, Nature, 2002, 418, 14 (07/04/2002)
 It seems that this word switch originated with John Money, the grandfather of “sex change” operations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Money
 National Center for Transgender Equality, Know Your Rights. Medicare https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/medicare
 G. Aviles, Iowa Supreme Court rules that Medicaid can cover sex reassignment surgery, AP. 03/08/2019,
 K. Phillips, A convicted killer became the first U.S. inmate to get state-funded gender-reassignment surgery, Washington Post 01/10/2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/10/a-transgender-inmate-became-first-to-get-state-funded-surgery-advocates-say-fight-is-far-from-over/?utm_term=.fb42f68d5ce2
 J. J. Go, Should Gender Reassignment Surgery be Publicly Funded? J. Bioethical Inquiry, 2018, 15 (4), 527; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11673-018-9881-6
 S. Pointer, Father Desperately Battling for Custody of 6-Year Old After Mother Claims Child Is Transgender, The Western Journal, 11/28/2018
 (a) Dysphoria: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysphoria ;
(b) Gender dysphoria: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/gender-dysphoria ;
 P. Ubel, Is Sex Reassignment Surgery a Basic Human Right? Forbes, 10/4/2012 https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2012/10/04/is-sex-reassignment-surgery-a-basic-human-right/#5c4a05872491
 For example: (a) *** Klinefelter syndrome, NIH, U.S. Natl Library of Medicine, https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/klinefelter-syndrome#statistics ; (b) Sex Chromosome Abnormalities, https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/abnormal/abnormal_5.htm ; (c) Mayo Clinic, Klinefelter syndrome, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/klinefelter-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353949 ; (d) https://www.medicinenet.com/klinefelter_syndrome/article.htm#language_development
 (a) S. Lehrman, When a Person Is Neither XX nor XY: A Q&A with Geneticist Eric Vilain, Scientific American, 05/30/2007; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/q-a-mixed-sex-biology/
(b) M. Z. Iqbal et al, True Hermaphrodite: A Case Report, APSP J Case Rep. 2011 May-Aug; 2(2), 16; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3418019/
 L. Sax, How Common is Intersex? Journal of Sex Research, Aug 1, 2002, https://www.leonardsax.com/how-common-is-intersex-a-response-to-anne-fausto-sterling/
 (a) K. Nenn, Kicking Heroin: Overcoming Suicidal Tendencies, Behavioral Health, Detox, Drug Abuse, Mental Health, 09/25/2015, https://www.rehabs.com/blog/kicking-heroin-overcoming-suicidal-tendencies/ ; (b) W.H.J. Martens, Suicidal Behavior as Essential Diagnostic Feature of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Psychopathology 2001, 34, 274–275, https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/49323 : (c) C.A. Ross, G.R. Norton, Suicide and parasuicide in multiple personality disorder, Psychiatry, 1989 52(3):365, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2772094
 (a) R. T. Anderson, Sex Reassignment Doesn’t Work. Here Is The Evidence, https://www.heritage.org/gender/commentary/sex-reassignment-doesnt-work-here-the-evidence (b) P. McHugh, Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution. A drastic physical change doesn’t address underlying psycho-social troubles, WSJ, 05/13/2016, and previous papers. http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120 ; c) L. Sax, Politicizing Pediatrics: How the AAP’s Transgender Guidelines Undermine Trust in Medical Authority, 03/13/2019, https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/03/50118/
 (a) Serban Negoita et al, Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, part II: Recent changes in prostate cancer trends and disease characteristics, Cancer, 124 (13), 05/22/2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cncr.31549 ; (b) Harvard Medical School, New mammography screening guidelines, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/new-mammography-screening-guideline
 (a) M. Satari, Breast Cancer in Male-to-Female Transgender Patients: A Case for caution, Clin. Breast Cancr, 2015, 15(1), e67 https://www.clinical-breast-cancer.com/article/S1526-8209(14)00194-3/pdf (b) Millicent Odunze, Sex Reassignment Surgery Questions and Answers. https://www.verywellhealth.com/sex-reassignment-surgery-2710288
 (a) Margot Cleveland, LGBT Activists Teaching Judges To Yank Kids From Parents Who Won’t Transgender Them, The Federalist, 02/12/2019, http://thefederalist.com/2019/02/12/lgbt-activists-teaching-judges-yank-kids-parents-wont-transgender/?fbclid=IwAR3wGY2BRrlG5mXi206HaP9QmPjRlwvh2XexlBfZQGQeayqYAG8qOIypLhg ;
 S. Manning, School has seventeen children changing gender as teacher says vulnerable pupils are being ‘tricked’ into believing they are the wrong sex, Daily Mail, 11/18/2019 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6401593/Whistleblower-teacher-makes-shocking-claim-autistic.html
 * ** Gender Warrior Wins Case Against Surgeon, https://www.dw.com/en/gender-warrior-wins-case-against-surgeon/a-3111505
 E. Rosenberg and M. Balingit, A teacher refused to use transgender students’ names. His resignation was just approved, Washington Post, 06/11/2018; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/06/11/a-teacher-refused-to-use-transgender-students-names-his-resignation-was-just-approved/?utm_term=.0251b72998d0
 (a) G. Moomaw, Virginia high school teacher fired for refusing to use transgender student’s new pronouns, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/7/2018 https://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/virginia-high-school-teacher-fired-for-refusing-to-usetransgender/ article_65be1826-50b2-5d38-be58-47d9b9480917.html
(b) M. Oppenheim, Teacher suspended for referring to a transgender pupil as a girl rather than a boy, The Independent, 11/14/2017 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/teacher-transgender-student-girl-accident-call-trans-wrong-gender-joshua-sutcliffe-a8054146.html
 P. D’Abrosca, Canadian Man Fined $55k for ‘Misgendering’ Transgender Female, 04/07/2019; https://bigleaguepolitics.com/canadian-man-fined-55k-for-misgendering-transgender-female/
 (a) Transgender high school athletes spark controversy, debate in Connecticut, AP, 02/25/2019,
(b) W. T. Huston, Female Athlete Speaks Out Against Transgender Equality Act, 04/21/2019, https://www.breitbart.com/sports/2019/04/21/female-athlete-speaks-out-against-transgender-equality-act/
C.Zeigler, Exclusive: Read the Olympics’ new transgender guidelines that will not mandate surgery, 01/21/2016, https://www.outsports.com/2016/1/21/10812404/transgender-ioc-policy-new-olympics
 (a) H.R.5. — 116th Congress (2019-2020), Equality Act , https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5/text
See also: https://dailycaller.com/2019/04/10/democrats-equality-act-transgender-girls-sports/
(b) B. Vannozzi, NJ poised to be among states with most comprehensive transgender civil rights, NJTVNews, 05/30/2018
 S. Warren, Judge Warns: No Right to ‘Visual Bodily Privacy’ for High School Girls, CBNNews, 04/08/2019
 J. Hamil, Student Claims Civil Rights Violation by Transgender Student in Locker Room, 3/14/2019, https://wnep.com/2019/03/14/student-claims-civil-rights-violation-by-transgender-student-in-locker-room/
 The Wilhelm Tell story as allegory of forced acquiescence to falsehood has been noted before.
 S. Ventureyra, Canada’s Boldest Professor Defies the Gender Police, Crisis Magazine 12/5/2016
A central element of quantum mechanics is the uncertainty principle. To formulate it in a crude, qualitative way, the principle expresses the limitation of the precision with which physical properties of particles can be determined. The physicist who formulated (discovered) it, Werner Heisenberg, noted that a particle can be described by its position and its momentum, the first revealing where the particle is, the second how it is (one of the factors of momentum is mass) and how it moves (the other factor is speed). The product of uncertainties of the two cannot be smaller than a certain limiting value. Then, if we strive toward limitless precision in describing the momentum, we lose all ability to determine the position.
Rationalized at first as limitation in measuring, because of inherent imprecision of the methods and instruments used, particularly because the operation of measuring disturbs the measured object, the uncertainty was found to be inherent to wavelike systems, in which, as quantum mechanics has shown, particles are included.
The idea was for some scientists hard to accept. Albert Einstein spent a sizeable effort trying to shoot it down. His proposals of experiments that would disprove the principle and their corresponding refutation by his colleagues are interesting not only from a scientific viewpoint. For example, to a medieval man, the idea that there are limitations to human knowledge seemed natural. To a man educated in the spirit of the “Enlightenment,” such limitations are hard to accept. Heisenberg did not have such problems. It is worth noting that he was a deeply religious man.
There are such correlated properties in other things or phenomena. For example, in sound waves, the pair is frequency and time: the longer a musical note is sustained, the more precisely is its frequency known. A clever use of this limitation, affecting radio waves, benefits many patients in MRI tests. In magnetic resonance experiments, atomic nuclei are irradiated and absorb energy at various frequencies depending upon molecular structure and environment. Accuracy in measuring those absorptions requires that enough time is spent on each of them, say one second per hertz scanned. If the signals are spread over several thousands of hertz, a scan would last for hours. Moreover, most of the time is spent scanning regions where is no signal. In this manner, the method is practically useless, especially because to achieve adequate intensity several scans have to be run and added up. To make it practical, the entire range has to be excited at once. For this purpose, a very strong sharp pulse is sent through the sample at a precise frequency in the center of the range of interest, for an extremely short time (microseconds). Because of the uncertainty principle, the radiation actually produced is tens of thousands hertz wide, thus covering the whole range. Then, instead of measuring the energy absorbed, the signals emitted by the excited nuclei when they relax, at the same frequencies as those absorbed, are recorded simultaneously. The recording process is conducted over a sufficiently long period (seconds), so the frequency of each signal is determined precisely. The processing of these signals may produce the image of a kidney, showing whether it contains a stone or a tumor.
Of interest for the present discussion is the application of the uncertainty principle to chemical reactions. To undergo a chemical transformation, a molecule absorbs energy, usually by collision with other molecules. Part of the energy is distributed among the atoms and bonds within the molecule. The process is reversible, as the excited molecule loses energy in other collisions. When the energy content reaches a certain value (“passes a barrier”), the molecule can undergo a chemical reaction and the deactivation through collisions gives the reaction product. At any moment there is a distribution of the energy content and of positions. In some rare, special cases, the variability in position of atoms in the starting compound may bring the atoms in the arrangement existing in the product, even though the energy is lower than the barrier. Deactivation through collisions leads then to the reaction product. It is said that the molecules “tunnel” through the barrier, instead of crossing over it.
An interesting parallel can be found between quantum mechanical tunneling and modern theology.
It has been well understood from apostolic times that salvation requires:
– Faith and baptism. (“The man who believes . . . and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe . . . will be condemned.”). The Fathers of the church summarized the elements of faith in the Creed. The Law of the Old Testament (The Ten Commandments) is an element of Faith as well.
– Reception of the Holy Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ, not some symbol of it. From the beginning. and to this day, this revelation has been a stumbling block for many. The manner in which this mystery is accomplished and the manner in which the power to effect it is transmitted have also been revealed, such as to assure Christ’s presence among His people to the end of time (“usque ad consummationem sæculi”).
The requirements received and transmitted by the Apostles are exclusionary. Those who do not fulfill them will not be saved. Also exclusionary (and detailed) are the commandments of purity.
This non systematic and summary enumeration is meant to reemphasize what Christ pointed out: the path to salvation is neither smooth nor easy.
A thesis opposite to the New Testaments and the Fathers of the Church has been put forward in the last century, essentially opening the Heaven for everybody. As an example, heard about ten years ago in a homily at a church on Long Island’s North Shore, Hindus recognize a supreme spirit and even consider the incarnation of that spirit; as we know that such characteristics describe only Christ, the Hindus, implicitly, are somehow Christian-like. The same theology is reflected in measures of the French episcopate of about thirty years ago. Before the Muslims reached a critical mass in France and became intolerant and violent, some dioceses and religious orders turned over to them churches to be transformed into mosques.
More recently, Jorge Bergoglio has promised salvation to atheists, constant adulterers, and men who lie with men. The development is natural coming from a bishop who espouses what I would call the theology of the belly, in which God’s plan for man is the satisfaction of man’s telluric needs and urges.
These positions remind us of quantum chemistry: one can acquire salvation either by climbing the (sometimes arduous) path of faith, sacraments, and actions, or “tunneling” under the barrier without those requirements.
Like in chemical reactions, the Church has always maintained that there are special cases in which someone might acquire salvation without formally belonging. I would think that those people did in some form fulfill the requirements laid down by Christ, undergoing at least a spiritual conversion, just we don’t know it.
Both for chemistry and eternal salvation, the “alternative” path is extremely rare. As a consequence, there is no reaction for which a chemical engineer would design a process and an installation based on tunneling. Likewise, telling someone that he can count on salvation foregoing faith, baptism, and sacraments, is cruelly misleading him. Christ’s commands cannot be altered by some sophist-cum-theologian, nor by some assembly of clerics.
Alternatively, if tunneling were a widely accessible pathway, no molecules would react by activation to cross a barrier and no one would run processes requiring high temperatures and pressures. Likewise, if people could tunnel wholesale into Heaven, the Vatican should close shop.
For if being a good Hindu or an upright Zoroastrian could assure inheritance in the kingdom of God, the incarnation of the Son of God would have been superfluous and His sacrifice on the cross — an absurdity.
Werner Heisenberg, Naturwissenschaftliche und religioese Wahrheit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Maerz 1973, pp. 7-8. (Speech before the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, on acceptance of the Guardini Prize, 23 March 1973); http://2012daily.com/?q=node/52
 Mk, 16, 16; also, Mt, 28, 19,20; Jn, 3, 5, 18, 36.
 Jn, 6, 48-58.
 Jn, 6, 66-69.
 1Cor, 6, 9: “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind . . . shall possess the kingdom of God “ (Taken from the Douay Rheims edition, checked with the two Romanian translations that I possess: (a) Bp. Ioan Bălan, Noul Testament, Lugoj, 1938; (b) Gala Galaction, Biblia, Bucureşti, 1939. The translation of the New American Bible, CCD, Washington, 1970, is imprecise.)
 Mt, 7, 13-14; Lk 13, 23-25.
 (a) https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/heartsick-boy-asks-atheist-dad-193340202.html; (b) Laura Rodriguez, Pope Francis suggests it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Christian, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26, 2018; (c) Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Abraham Skorka, On Heaven and Earth. Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century, 2013
 See, among many others:
 (a) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/20/pope-juan-carlos-cruz?CMP=share_btn_tw;
(b) Francis X. Rocca, The Catholic Church’s Looming Fight Over Same-Sex Blessings, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2018.
Earth’s energy budget consists of energy received from the sun and energy emitted by earth into space. Part of the latter occurs by reflection, part by absorption and re-emission. The re-emitted light being of lower frequency than the incident light, a fraction of it is absorbed by some of the atmospheric gasses transparent to the incident radiation, like water, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, etc., in proportion to their concentrations in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is called greenhouse effect. As a result of the whole process, the earth, including the atmosphere, is energetically at a steady state. The measured parameter used to characterize the state is temperature. If the concentration of any of the active (‘greenhouse”) gasses changes, a new steady state is achieved.
Because the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased since the beginning of industrial revolution, particularly since 1930, it was concluded that the earth must have warmed up as well (global warming) and that man-made CO2 must be responsible for it. (There are, however, scientists questioning whether the earth has warmed up outside the normal historic fluctuations.) This concentration increase being tied to the combustion of fossil fuels, it was concluded that the use of those fuels threatens the survival of civilization and even of mankind. A new criterion has been introduced, by which all human activity is to be judged: carbon footprint (CFp), measured as the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted in performing that activity. The index was assigned a moral value as well, whence the countries having a higher CFp are to be shamed and required to pay compensations to those with lower CFp and to international organizations. It is the contention of this paper that the analysis behind this conclusion is at least incomplete.
An examination of earth history over the last 650,000 years has shown that the surface temperature of the earth has fluctuated significantly, with ice ages alternating with inter-glacial periods. Life on earth has not perished in the extreme temperature intervals. During this time, the variations in concentration of atmospheric CO2 paralleled the temperature changes, so it was concluded that the latter are induced by the former. Studying the same data, however, other researchers reached different conclusions. Indeed, the long-range CO2 and temperature versus time diagram shows that each CO2 peak lags behind the corresponding temperature peak by centuries, so if there is a cause-effect relationship it is in reverse.
Analyzing the consequences of extreme temperatures on earth in our epoch, researchers have found that cold kills more people than heat. Still other scientists have found that the increase in the CO2 concentration had no deleterious effects upon global climate or temperature, but rather has increased the growth of plants, especially trees, as expected. Moreover, during the Paleocene-Eocene period, when the earth saw a sharp increase in carbon dioxide and temperature (not necessarily in that order), there was an increase in mammalian abundance and no reduction in terrestrial flora and fauna.
At the same time it has been found that some government agencies have over time altered the data to fit the man-made global warming narrative.
The natural factors altering the climate are many, for example tectonic activity, growth of the Himalayas, volcanic activity, and in longest range, millennial fluctuations of the earth’s orbit and the increase in solar’s output by 7% per billion years. On the other hand, some researchers have argued that alteration of the climate by man, making it warmer, started more than five thousand years ago, with agriculture, particularly rice growing (methane-forming). In modern times, improvement of cultivation methods has reduced agriculture as source of “greenhouse” gases and replaced it with burning of carbon-based fuels. Cosmically, the earth might have been in a period of cooling, so the man-made heating and the cosmic cooling balance each other, or in the short-term the man-made heating might prevail over the cosmic cooling and the ice age should manifest itself later, when all carbon fuels have been burned.
Irrespective of the scientific controversy and sometimes trying to stifle scientific skepticism by political means, the thesis that carbon dioxide generation by advanced economies is the cause of climate change, with catastrophic consequences for life on earth, continues to be a favored cause of politicians like Al Gore and Barack Obama, of the UN, of Vatican, and of many groups and organizations, some created ad-hoc. The reason can be pursuit of financial gain or of power, the quest for relevance, or in the case of the Vatican the desire to reclaim on incidental and temporal matters a moral authority that on matters fundamental and eternal it has squandered. The main solution proposed is the elimination of organic fuels, particularly coal. The criticism of the man-made global warming model has been attacked on grounds as preposterous as the notion that science works by majority vote, the credentials of the critical authors or the source of funds for their research, a fact which exposes the scientific illiteracy of their critics.
As the system is extremely complex and the data, when stripped of ideology, less than conclusive, a scientifically rigorous treatment has to consider each possibility and seek a solution or remediation..Moreover, efforts either to alter the climate or to preserve it must be considered together with the needs and resources of humans inhabiting the earth, beginning with the use and sources of energy, especially in light of a study which concluded that to achieve a goal of stabilizing the temperature through the reduction of greenhouse gases, the emission of the latter should be cut to zero, which would certainly finish off civilization.
As the first case, let’s assume that the earth temperature is rising. A graded, smart approach would be much better than just banning productive activities. For example, methane’s global warming potential is 34 or 86 times (depending upon the time frame used in evaluation) greater than that of carbon dioxide. Rice growing is an important source of methane. Rather than pay money to UN kleptocrats as penance for its successful economic system, the U.S. should subsidize research to develop rice varieties that grow on dry land, like other cereals. This improvement would also address the predicted world fresh water shortage that poses a significant danger to the world. We should also consider whether all swamps are important, or some of them might be replaced by cleaner bodies of water, with less fermentation to methane.
Technological improvements could also allow the capture of methane from processes which generate it as a side-product, thus allowing its use as a fuel. (Progress has been made in methane fuel production from municipal wastes.)
The natural causes of the earth’s warming must also be addressed. Thus, red algae blooming in the arctic snow play a crucial role in decreasing the latter’s reflectivity (albedo) and thus warm the planet. Research on suppressing those organisms is a task that scientists should undertake and governments support.
The possible temperature increase, whether due to human or solar activity, can be prevented by reducing the incoming solar energy through the placement of reflecting particles in the stratosphere, as originally proposed by the physicist Edward Teller, the originator of geoengineering. This approach is perfectly feasible in practice. Thus, from scientific viewpoint, the problem of catastrophic global warming has been solved. The approach has been criticized on grounds such as: there will be less sun for solar power; people will then be less amenable to control CO2 emissions or even to understand the moral imperative for it; it will conflict with present treaties; it might involve private, for profit, companies (!). Typically, the critics assume that the particle screens could be made only of sulfuric acid aerosols, like from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption.
It remains, therefore, only to address the other effects, on plants, animals, landscape, etc., of a slightly increased concentration of CO2 from the current 410 ppm. This need not be catastrophic for life on earth, considering that in the paleocene-eocene period (v. supra) it was higher than 760 ppm. Some of the carbonate rocks, however, will be probably dissolved, binding a part of the atmospheric CO2.
Various proposals of CO2 removal have been advanced, for instance trapping in underground reservoirs. This idea is dangerous, because sipping out is possible (especially during earthquakes). Release from a natural underground reservoir killed 2000 people in Cameroon in 1986. Chemical capture with sodium hydroxide (neutralization) was also proposed.(b), but it makes no sense, because the energy needed to manufacture sodium hydroxide has an equivalent of CO2 greater than that which can be captured.
The analyses of the effects of carbon combustion on environment and life on earth are usually flawed, however, because they disregard carbon cycling in nature:
O2 + carbon materials ⇒ [oxidation] ⇒ carbon dioxide (CO2) ⇒ [capture] ⇒ carbon materials + O2,
in which carbon materials (CM) are compounds containing carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds. As a matter of fact, what is called fossil carbon was once carbon dioxide. (The alternative origin, hydrolysis of metal carbides can be discounted.) It is noted that if the two steps are balanced in quantities, they are also thermally balanced, because the heat released in the first step is absorbed in the second. Paying attention only to the first step is wrong-headed. If the approach at correction is punitive, reduction of the atmospheric CO2 capture is to be penalized as well. Such penalties should hit Brazil for cutting the Amazonian forest (responsible for 20% of world’s CO2 capture) at a rate of 90 acres per hour, as well as sub-Saharan Africa for overgrazing which converts green lands to deserts.
Anyway, in a two-step process, one should try to improve the controlling (slower) step, in this case the second. Improving CO2 capture is also important because it would recycle the carbon currently in fossil fuels, which now are a once-through proposition. The best capture mechanism is photosynthesis in green plants. With that in mind, the earth areas covered by plants performing photosynthesis could be increased (one could even cover roofs in the cities with vegetation), but a breakthrough probably would come only from developing plants that have a better (faster) photosynthetic process. This is a task that should attract the plant biologists. Changes in plant properties have been achieved even when science was much less developed. For instance, wheat used to give less than five grains per ear in the 1600-s and it now gives 20-30.
If, on the other hand, the earth is naturally in a cooling period, the burning of carbon materials, especially fossil fuels, might need to be accelerated. Complications will arise if this remedy is insufficient or the new ice age lasts longer than the fossil carbon. Plants capable of growing at lower temperatures would have to be developed as sources of fuel, but that might not be enough. Evaluation of the effect of covering snowfields with soot might be interesting. Much research would be necessary, perhaps achieving, at last, controlled nuclear fusion.
Dan Fărcaşiu, July 2017
 Bjorn Lomborg, An Overheated Climate Alarm. WSJ, Apr. 6, 2016
 W. Soon, S. L. Baliunas, A. B. Robinson, Z. W. Robinson, Global Warming. A Guide to the Science ;
 (a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene%E2%80%93Eocene_Thermal_Maximum ; (b) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
 (a) R. Blaustein, William Ruddiman and the Rudddiman Hypothesis, Minding Nature, 2015, 8, 1;
http://www.humansandnature.org/william-ruddiman-and-the-ruddiman-hypothesis ; (b) A. Ganopolski, R.
Winkelmann, H. J. Shellnhuber, Nature, 2016, 529, 200
 https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change Obama Archive
 Encyclical letter Laudato Si,
 Carbon Ofsets To Alleviate Poverty, http://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/
 Larry Bell, Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype, Forbes, Nov. 3, 2013;
 John Hinderaker, The Smearing of Willie Soon, Feb. 24, 2015;
 David Bielo, Scientific American, Apr. 6, 2010;
 Stefanie Lutz, Alexandre M. Anesio, Rob Raiswell, Arwyn Edwards, Rob J. Newton, Fiona Gill & Liane G.
Benning, Nature Communications, 2016, 7, Article No. 11968. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms11968
 (a) Alan Robock, 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008, 64 (2)14; http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/20Reasons.pdf (b) Kirsten Jerch, inset in the same article
 Franco Cataldo,, Intl J Astrobiol, 2003, 2, (01), 51-63.
 Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, Vol. I, Harper & Row, N Y 1981, pp. 120-3
 Jeff Edwards, Estimating Wheat Grain Yield Potential. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, PSS-2149.
The flood of refugee claiming to originate from Syria, but most likely coming from a number of Muslim countries is sinking the European continent. Mr. Obama and other politicians clamor for this country to take its “fair share” of them
The United States has always taken refugees from many places and this attitude toward the world should be maintained. As a former refugee from Communism, I know, however, that t here are rules which were applied then and which should, with specific modifications, be applied in the current situation and in the future. Following is a five-point plan for dealing with refugees:
1. A camp for refugees should be set up in a location close to their point of origin. The legitimacy of their claim, as well as their history and character should be researched there. (Turkey is, logistically, the best place for the camp.) Refugees will set foot on the American continent, only after they are properly vetted. During the cold war, U.S. maintained two refugee camps in Europe, one in Austria, another in Italy. My sister and her family stayed in the latter for three months, a time shorter than the average, because it could be easily checked that neither she nor her husband was a member of the Communist Party or had positions of responsibility in Romania. Also, I had been in the U.S. for several years and on the path to citizenship, so the investigation that had been conducted on me gave also information about them.
2. The request of asylum should be based on a personal claim or legitimate fear of persecution for positions consonant with the ideas of freedom and democracy on which this country is based. A general statement “There is a dictatorship over there” without a demonstration that the dictatorship negatively affected the asylum seeker was not satisfactory then and should not be now. Thus, in Syria, ISIS and Assad’s forces are fighting each other, when not busy killing Christians and democracy advocates. Where Assad has the upper hand, ISIS criminals might feel endangered and seek refuge; where ISIS prevails, Assad’s thugs might ask for asylum. Neither class should ever enter this country. Nor is the existence of a war a sufficient reason. After all, civil wars have been raging in Congo, Sri-Lanka, Sudan, and other places and no one has thought that all people in those areas should be brought to the US. As for fleeing from poverty and hunger, there are more than three billion people on four continents who are described by the World Bank as desperately poor. The solution to world poverty and hunger is not emigration to the US.
3. After being checked and vetted, the able-bodied men younger than forty among the acceptable refugees should be directed to a military camp which will be set up in the same area. There, they will undergo rigorous training. Fully equipped and armed, they will be capable of fighting the dictatorship that has oppressed them. The American army will provide logistic support and full air cover (real air support, not the pretension of Barack Obama). After all, a condition of acceptance into the US is the readiness to bear arms for the defense of the country. If their claim is sincere, they should be ready to fight for their country of birth if given a chance to win.
4. Individuals adhering to and professing ideologies and allegiance to political systems incompatible with the US constitution must not be acceptable as refugees. This provision should apply to all would-be immigrants into the US, not only to refugees. Such unacceptable ideologies are, but are not limited to, Nazism and Sharia. The would-be refugee will sign a sworn statement to this effect, which will be binding for his lifetime and grounds for deportation if breached.
An objection that this provision discriminates against Moslems has no merit. First, the privilege of being admitted into any country is bestowed arbitrarily. The USA has rejected before Nazis and Communists, trying to immigrate, or even visit. Noteworthy, in their manifestation these ideologies and movements manifest all the characteristics of religions. Moreover, Moslems rejecting Sharia would be accepted. The situation is similar to that of Mormons who had to renounce polygamy to obtain statehood for Utah.
5. The refugees accepted into the US will have conditional entrant status for two years, during which they will have to prove good character and behavior, after which they can apply for permanent residence. After five years of permanent residence they will be eligible to apply for citizenship. This is the same path which my generation of refugees followed.
During these seven years the refugees will not be eligible for public assistance, except under exceptional circumstances. It can be expected that the traditional American generosity will spur private charitable organizations to assist the refugees in special cases. There are people ranging from Lindsey Graham on the right to Hillary Clinton on the left, who have shown concern for the plight of the refugees, so we are sure they will put their concern into action. Mrs. Clinton already has a charitable foundation and has shown great prowess in raising funds for it.
 Roy Beck, World Poverty, Immigration & Gumballs, https://www.youtube.com/embed/LPjzfGChGlE
 Items 1 and 5 also apply to all immigrants, but the background check can be done in their country of origin. It should also be noted that all immigrants were subjected to a medical examination before being accepted.
Whenever there is a debate between a pro-life individual and a pro-abortion one, the abortion champion is bound to offer as the final arguments, when all else fails, the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and the cases when the life of the mother is in danger. The first situation was analyzed before. The latter will be discussed here.
It is unquestionable that this is a special case. It was reported that this justification is claimed in fewer than 1% of all abortions (about the same as for pregnancies resulting from rape.) Debating this argument makes sense only if the ban on elective abortions is already agreed upon. This point needs to be made in any discussion.
Another important point is made by the very definition of the matter. We are talking here of saving the life of the mother. A woman cannot be mother to a blob of tissue, to a lump of cells. It is thus admitted that the thing inside her is a child.
It must, therefore, be stipulated that we are talking of two lives, in the limiting case in which only one of them can be saved, a situation encountered in many cases: when there are fewer vaccines than people, or the surgical teams cannot treat all the wounded on the battlefield, or when there are not enough lifeboats for all the passengers, like on the Titanic, etc. The dilemma is approached by a process named triage, which determines the priority of treatment when resources are insufficient. For instance, one could exclude from vaccination the individuals which have the best chance to survive the infection on their own, or postpone the treatment of the less seriously wounded and concentrate on those with more severe injuries. At the same one would leave out those so severely wounded that the surgeons conclude have no chance to survive anyway, and work on those assessed as treatable.
The same judgment should be applied in case of the pregnant woman and her unborn child. There, abortion definitely destroys one of two lives. It can, therefore, be considered only after a careful examination of the prognosis for the mother if the pregnancy continues to term and the child is delivered. One has to consider what is the increase in the probability of the woman’s death because of the pregnancy, either during that time or later. (There is a nonzero probability of death in any circumstances.) Her prognosis has to be considered together with the state of health and the prospects of the unborn child.
In the natural relationship, there is a community of interests between the mother and the child, so the solution which maximizes the chances of both can be expected. The society can intervene in helping the woman, or rather, under normal circumstances, the family, to find this optimum. When the community of interests is lacking, the concept of the threat to the life of the mother might be stretched and abused. Then, the state can impose the optimum approach:
“(P)ublic power . . . always represents the missing person . . . the child before its birth.”
When continuation of pregnancy will certainly result in the death of the mother, the prevailing opinion is that protection of actual, or self-sustaining, life has priority over protection of potential, or dependent, life.
A well-known champion of abortion has noted that “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.” From the time of that statement (1967), treatments have been developed for those fatal illnesses, and those treatments would usually kill or fundamentally damage the baby. Then, the principle of priority of actual life dictates that the power of decision rests with the woman.
The data show that the decision is usually determined by the emotional attitude of the woman toward the child. (Actually, the current legislation on abortion in general accepts that the right to life of an individual is determined by the attitude of another individual toward him. There are states in which killing a child in its mother’s womb is a crime if the mother wants that child, but legal if the mother doesn’t want it.)
For mothers showing a natural attitude toward their unborn children, it is not uncommon that they will take some risks for themselves to save the child. Thus, a report from Great Britain told of a woman, Victoria Webster, who postponed cancer treatment until after the birth of her daughter, at the risk that by then the illness will be too advanced for the treatment to be successful. Later, Mrs. Webster was to say: “Every time I looked at her, I’d think: What if I’d listened to the doctors? That made me feel sick.” A similar case was that of Vicky Roberts, of Dunstable, UK, who refused to terminate her pregnancy upon learning that she had Hodgkin’s disease and underwent chemotherapy after giving birth to a son. The treatment succeeded and later she had another child, her fourth.
Through the efforts of some scientists, like Dr. Frederic Amant of Belgium, who specialized in gynecological oncology to find treatments for cancer during pregnancy, drugs and protocols which increase the survival chance have been developed. These advances helped Jo Powell, of Nottingham, UK, who discovered that she was pregnant and, a week later, that she had breast cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes. She underwent two operations to remove tumor cells from breast and lymph nodes and at 20 weeks she started chemotherapy with agents that did not harm the baby. Six weeks before term, her boy was born and aggressive therapy was started. At the time of the report, the child was two-and-a-half and the mother was still in remission. Her risk-taking paid off. In thinking of her we must remember that she did not know it when she made up her mind.
There have been cases of mothers that chose the life of the child over their own even if their death was certain at the end of pregnancy and an abortion could have saved it. The best known is that of the Blessed Gianna Molla, but in our days other women have made the same choice, for instance Ashley Bridges of California, who decided: “I am not going to kill a healthy baby because I am sick,” and later counted her days: “I am really pushing for Paisley’s first birthday. This is what I do. I do October, OK, I just got to make it to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving comes around — OK, let’s just go to Christmas. Then Christmas comes and Braiden’s birthday is in March, so I’m going to make it to Braiden’s birthday. I’m just going to keep setting little goals for myself and we’ll see” . . . “I want my kids to know how much I love them and how much I fought for them.” The same sacrifice was made by Elizabeth Joice of New York, who refused cancer treatment in order to continue carrying her child and died six weeks after giving birth to a healthy baby, and by others. In all such cases, the decision rested with the mother.
 Rape and Abortion, http://www.ForRestoration.com, 5 Sept. 2012
 Louis de Bonald, On divorce (transl. by Nicholas Davidson) (first published in 1801), Transaction Publishers, 1992, p. 65.
 Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now, Diablo Press, Berkeley, CA, 1967, quoted in Ref. 
 Helen Carroll, The Daily Mail, 31 July 2013;
(a) Steve Weatherby, New cancer treatment during pregnancy can save both mother and baby; https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/new-cancer-treatment-during-pregnancy-can-save-both-mother-and-baby ;
(b) Bryan Tutt, Treating Cancer in Pregnant patients; http://www2.mdanderson.org/depts/oncolog/articles/11/10-oct/10-11-1.html
 Stephanie Elam, Traci Tamura, CNN, 17 Jan. 2015.
 Susan Berry, May 2014;
The future of Social Security, particularly how to tackle its impending insolvency, is a prominent subject in statements and interviews of candidates for the presidency in 2016.
The proposals of the Republican candidates can be summarized as follows:
(1) Raise the age of eligibility to 69 (Christie), 68 or 70 (Bush), or to an unstated age (Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio, Santorum).
The problem with this proposal comes from the unintended consequences of the law that abolished mandatory retirement in 1986, credited to the late Claude Pepper, congressman from Florida. To avoid noncompliance, companies are often terminating employees some years before the now non-mandatory retirement age. For this reason, many people begin drawing a reduced Social Security pension at 62. It is a paradoxical situation, because the companies have generally adopted a system by which salaries grow automatically with the length of employment and the paid vacations also get longer. There are not many cases in which the output of a highly paid experienced worker, also enjoying five weeks of paid vacations, cannot be matched by a younger employee who costs the company less. Theoretically, accepting a salary reduction in the last years of a career might be a solution to this quandary, but it might not be socially acceptable. Until a solution for workers not finding jobs in the years prior to the onset of benefits is found, increasing the Social Security eligibility age is unfair. As an aside, the class fully benefitting from the Pepper amendment are the tenured university professors who can continue in their departments until they cannot walk or until they get bored of sitting in an office.
(2) Reduce the benefits, for people with higher incomes. Mr. Christie proposes a gradual reduction for seniors with incomes above $80,000, and elimination at $200,000. Others (Graham, Rubio, Santorum), give no specifics; the typical justification is that “not everybody needs Social Security” (Santorum). This proposal exacerbates the structural unfairness of Social Security. A fact overlooked in most discussions, this program is, by design, first an instrument of wealth redistribution and only secondly a pension scheme. In the latter capacity, it is inferior to other existing alternatives.
To understand the redistribution feature, let’s consider two individuals, A and B, with average monthly wages throughout their careers (indexed to 2015 dollars) of $1000 and $9000, respectively. Both had contributed the same percentage of their salaries to FICA. The former’s pension represents 80% of his salary; the latter’s, 30%. In an equitable distribution of funds available for their pensions, each would receive 34.7% of his average salary. The way things are now, $452 is taken each month from B and given to A. This confiscation is in addition to all taxes that B pays, but it is not even recognized as such. Now, the candidates want to take even more from the pension of B, again without admitting it as a confiscation, to pay for the hole in the Social Security finances, which anyone honest and educated in mathematics could have predicted as inevitable from the get-go.
There is a tendency today to consider the forcible transfer of wealth from B to A as justified in the name of fairness. “Income inequality” is considered a social plague. Someone’s high income is postulated to come at the expense of those “less fortunate.” It is remarkable that the champions of income equalization are usually materialists, philosophically, but tend to explain success by luck. This is nonsense. For beginning workers, salary differentials are due first to differences in qualification, coming mostly from education. If nothing else, the worker has the moral right to a compensation for the time and expenditure that his education has required. The qualification is a predictor of ability, another factor that determines worker’s worth, that is, his salary. As the worker acquires experience, the ability, and hence pay, is determined by output. Of course, there are always cases of nepotism and even eccentric behavior. I knew a Parisian philosopher and writer, who also ran a printing business. As an experiment, for two years he hired new employees based on the horoscope! Retention was then determined by performance over the first year. At a societal level, however, such outliers are irrelevant. The success and pay over a career remain a function of qualification, ability, and performance. These qualities, however, may not be generally assessable by the uneducated. When these qualities are easy to understand, the pay distribution is not challenged. For instance, the ratio of salaries of the top NBA stars and of the players at the lowest rung of the developmental league is around 2,000, but there is little indignation on that account. Yet the ratio is the same as that of a $30 million per year CEO to a $7.50 per hour minimum wage worker. (The NBA stars also make millions in endorsements, in addition to their salaries.)
The income disparity between workers A and B is fair, because it is based on the level of their jobs and the value of their contribution there. Therefore, a fair computation of Social Security benefits should pay them the same percentage of their indexed average salaries. If society considers that A deserves help, it should give him the difference between the fair amount and the current percentage of 80% in the form of undisguised public assistance. The result would be the same, but it would be based on honest accounting.
The propaganda claim that low achievement stems from either bad luck or some kind of societal persecution is most damaging, because it fosters a feeling of helplessness instead of stimulating effort in those that need to exert themselves to advance in all areas, including income.
(3) Change the formula which correlates benefits increases with CPI (Cruz, Graham). Currently, the benefits grow faster than inflation. This would be a more equitable distribution of the reduction in benefits. The proposal to reduce initial benefits (Santorum) would have the same effects.
(4) Collect the payroll tax entirely from the employer, rather than 50:50 as it is now (Paul). This proposal makes little sense. The practical result will be that employers will offer salaries lower by the additional sum they are asked to pay.
None of these approaches, however, would save Social Security, but only postpone its demise by a few years. A structural reform is the only solution. Some timid proposals of introducing personal accounts for social Security have been proposed (Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio), but they are insufficient. A partial change was already proposed in 1998 by the senators Daniel P. Moynihan and Bob Kerrey, but a more drastic change is needed. A broader discussion of their proposal and of retirement funding in the US in general has recently been published.
As a block, the Democratic Party Candidates do not think there is any problem with the basic setup of Social Security. Some advisors of Mrs. Clinton have stated that income inequality is the cause of Social Security problems(!). She seems to lean toward endorsing the proposal of other declared or potential candidates (Sanders, O’Malley, Warren) to increase Social Security benefits, offered previously by the leftmost fringe of their party, on the argument that half of the people have less than $10,000 in savings (Sanders). Mr. Sanders does not realize that people don’t save if they expect to be taken care by somebody else. He proposes a personal tax on incomes higher than $250,000, to cover the cost and make the system solvent until 2065, that is, people now in high school should not expect benefits. Also, very rich people will be induced to vote with their feet. The number of Americans renouncing citizenship has increased steeply during the Obama presidency, from 118 per quarter in 2007 to 1335 per quarter in 2015. As the current immigration system favors people that take more from the government than they contribute in taxes, the bankruptcy can be expected to come sooner.
 As the candidates’ positions are a matter of public record, no references are necessary.
 Emily Yoffe, Please Take the Gold Watch. Please! The abolition of mandatory retirement, and how it changed America in unexpected ways, April 14, 2011 http://www.slate.com/articles/life/silver_lining/2011/04/please_take_the_gold_watch_please.2.html
 A Comparison of Retirement Schemes Existing in the U.S., Feb. 24, 2015 ; http://www.ForRestoration.com
 Keith Schlosser, Has the Maximum NBA D-League Player Salary Increased? Jan 9 2014 ;
 (a) Dylan Scott, Hillary Clinton’s Baby Steps on Social Security, National Journal, Aug 13, 2015; http://www.nationaljournal.com/2016-elections/hillary-clinton-s-baby-steps-on-social-security-20150813 ;
(b) Laura Meckler, Democrats Rethink Social Security Strategy, WSJ, 5 Apr 2015; http://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-rethink-social-security-strategy-1428270057
 Robert W. Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship, Forbes, May 8, 2015; http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2015/05/08/new-un-american-record-renouncing-u-s-citizenship/
I received once an appeal to sign a petition for a state grant for speed radar signs in our village. I declined, saying that a grant would be too costly for us, and offered the following explanation.
Transfer of wealth (goods or money) by the government to a person or political entity is an act of redistribution. Rigorously speaking, what’s redistributed is not wealth, but income. A person’s income is a fraction of what the person produces for others, ultimately for the society. Even those who live on interest or dividends contribute their capital which produces wealth for the society. Therefore, the increase in income parallels the increase in resources (wealth) of the society.
After summation of all acts of redistribution, the result is a transfer from a part of the people to the other part. If we plot the resources (income) of the members of the community (e.g., country), as a function of the effort spent to generate them, we obtain a distribution, illustrated here by line A in the figure. Redistribution results in a flatter curve, B, by transferring resources from entities on the right of point X, to those on the left. The total resources (wealth) stay constant: the areas between curves A and B on the right side and left side of X are equal.
Currently, wealth redistribution is the main activity of the government. Each program, law, regulation, or initiative has been designed with wealth transfer as an important goal. This is true for Social Security, Medicare, minimum wage, charges for utilities, and above all, the income tax, with all its features and ornaments (alternative minimum tax on the confiscation side, earned income credit on the receiving side, etc.)
There are many ways in which the government confiscates money. For instance, a myriad of overlapping, often mutually contradictory, laws and regulations make certain that an individual or business will transgress something in any action undertaken The government can then collect fines or compensations, usually unpredictably and arbitrarily, as proven by the treatment of banks by the current administration. Taxes, however, remain the main source of money for the government.
In the government-driven redistribution, the beneficiaries receive only a part of the wealth taken from the givers, because the transfer itself has a cost. This is shown in the figure by curve C. What the receivers get is represented by the area between curves C and A. The area between curves B and C (hatched) is the wealth used by the transfer itself. Among other things, it assures the livelihood of those that govern the transfer (politicians) and those who implement it (government employees).
The hatched area increases with the total value transferred (area between A and B). Also, the natural and healthy tendency of men to better themselves makes the politicians and the government employees strive to increase the hatched area. For that, the latter return part of their take to the former as kickbacks. (They form unions and finance election campaigns.) When a politician acts against the trend and works toward decreasing the hatched area, he can be called a statesman. As it always happens when someone else’s money is handled, the hatched area is increased by waste, inefficiency, and theft.
A straight line for the right side of line B (as shown) applies for a flat tax. Progressive taxation produces a curve with downward concavity. Thus, both the bottom of curve C and the top of curve B have very low slopes. For someone whose income is close to either end, an increase in effort results in little or no increase in the return, which creates a disincentive to work more. This point is generally understood. Less discussed is the fact that people in the middle are also affected: Those who are just to the right side of X find it advantageous to reduce their resources (work less) and convert from givers to receivers. The loss of income is fully compensated by the reduction in effort. All these features reduce the area under line A (total wealth acquired by the individuals).
Disincentives to produce also result from the fact that line B is not smooth but has sudden changes at some points, for instance where the alternative minimum tax (AMT) takes effect. People in that income range make decisions aimed at minimizing taxes, rather than maximizing output and income. Because the income people obtain for themselves is a part of the wealth they produce for the society, wealth redistribution from a part of a society to the other part, results in a decrease of the total wealth produced by the society.
Of course, not all the money collected by the government is redistributed. There are some expenditures made for the collective benefit of all, and cannot be apportioned to individuals. Such are the expenditures for national defense and law enforcement. Some people try to lump in there the payments for education and health care, but that is theoretically incorrect, because the beneficiaries of those services are distinct individuals, represented on the diagram. For maximum efficiency (reduction of the hatched area), those services should be paid directly by the beneficiaries, to the maximum extent practically possible.
Naturally, some communities are inhabited predominantly by individuals on the right of point X in the plot; others are inhabited mostly by individuals on the left. Thus, in the redistribution game some communities are losers, whereas others are gainers. Through the merits of others than myself, our community is among the former. That our petition will result in the creation of a spike on curve B just at our position is quite improbable. Because all the allocations are the result of negotiations and compromises involving those who control the process, a grant to such a community is obtained only after all the communities represented by points at its left (and some at its right) are rewarded as well. Considering the increase in the hatched area by that action, we should expect an added assessment, by an amount greater than the grant received. Rather than request a widget from the government, we should pay for it directly or, if we determine that we cannot, live without it. As a positive contribution to the country, of which we are a part, we should then try to convince other communities and the politicians (trying to reach especially those that are statesmen) to live likewise without the widgets.
To reduce waste (hatched area on the plot), all the allocations to individuals represented at the right hand of X should be rescinded and their taxes reduced by the appropriate amount of money (allocation plus redistribution costs). The same hold\s for the communities which are net losers in the redistribution process.
The most vivid remembrances of Holy Week, which come to my mind each year during that season, go back to my primary school years.
We lived in a town, small by comparison to those that I later lived in, which was, however, an episcopal See of the Byzantine-rite Catholic Church, to which we belonged. The cathedral was an imposing structure with two towers. It was placed in the center of the town, in a square, which was in fact a rectangle, with the East-West axis more than twice the North-South axis. The Western half was a French-style public garden, with no trees, but with flower beds bordered by low boxwood hedges, and alleys with benches. Between the cathedral and the garden there was a paved plaza.
Of the other churches in town, the one of the Roman rite did not have space around it. It was in the middle of a block on another central street. In its vicinity there was its school, with German nuns because the faithful belonged to the German minority. Farther from the center, there was the Orthodox church, which had only one tower.
Of the Holy Weeks that I lived there, the most memorable was when I was nine years old. I was a torch bearer at both Holy Friday and Resurrection processions: from the main entrance to the left, then through the streets around the church, continuing around the French garden, and back through the main entrance.
The Easter night procession ended in front of the closed church door and the celebrant knocked and called: “Open the gates of heaven for the King of Glory to enter!” The candles of the faithful were lighted from that of the celebrant, when he called: “Come and take light!” At the end, all walked home with the candles they had lighted in church, members of a family, sometimes two neighboring families, close together, so if the wind were to blow out a candle it could be re-lighted from another. Tradition required bringing the flame from the church home. By its light, the first red-dyed eggs were knocked. The person who hit said “Christ is risen,” the one who held answered “Truly he is risen!” (This was, in those days, also the greeting that people addressed to each other when they met on the street, until Ascension.) After that, the light in the room was turned on, we ate the eggs, and went to sleep to be ready for the great liturgy at ten in the morning.
The central figure was Bishop Bălan, who was the celebrant all throughout the Holy Week. There was something special about him: whenever he preached a sermon he had something to say directly to the children, and then his eyes were smiling. In fact, he had a sunny disposition, yet he was quite impressive. He was a tall man with a greyish-white beard. He wore glasses. My mother said that he had been operated on for some eye condition. Later, in prisons and camps, he went blind, but he was still comforting and cheering up the other inmates. He died there and, as for all other bishops, a death certificate was issued five years or more later, with the entry in the box for “occupation of the deceased,” “no occupation.”
There was only one other priest that I remember with a beard, Father Ploscaru, but his was brown. He was a young man with a pale complexion. Once, hearing in confession about a raid on the pantry to steal preserves from a jar, he uttered a correction in his scholarly voice: “This is not the sin of theft, but the sin of gluttony.” His frail appearance was, however, deceiving. He survived seventeen years of prison and camps and came out to be a bishop.
Anyway, those events were not to begin until about eighteen months in the future and few of the ordinary people would then have predicted that they would happen.
The Holy Thursday towers in my memory over all other days of that week. Just before the Easter vacation, I was told by the priest who taught us Catechism in school that I had been selected to have my feet washed by the bishop at the liturgy on that day. Because only the bishop could perform that ceremony, the cathedral was jammed. There were people that came to town from other places on that day.
Uncharacteristically for him, when he performed that ritual the bishop became very emotional. His hands had a very faint but unmistakable tremor and his eyes were misty. When he reached the last in line, a bright, articulate boy of twelve, who uttered the words of Peter, the voice of the bishop as he said the words of Christ was choked with tears.
After the liturgy, we went to the residence of the bishop for brunch. It took twenty minutes to reach it. In fact, he usually walked to the cathedral when the weather was good.
We were seated at a long table, with the bishop at the head, we on the two sides, and a young priest at the other end. We ate: dried fruit soup; boiled potatoes, tossed with chopped onion that had been sauteed in oil, then the whole thing put in the oven; finally, some pastry, like donuts with no hole. After eating, we each received a copy of the New Testament, which the bishop had translated into Romanian; he signed each on the title page. I still have that book. He had also completed most of a translation of the Old Testament, but he was arrested before completing it. I never heard of any of it being recovered; most likely the security police threw away or burned all the materials connected to it.
As I said already, only the bishops were conducting this ceremony. There were five dioceses for one million and a half faithful in the country. There was one seminary, at the Metropolitan See. There the twelve selected were seminarians. In the other dioceses, the subjects were boys who had received the first four Sacraments. After the Roman rite moved the Confirmation to a later age, the Eastern rites continued to administer it to infants, immediately after baptism (which in modern times turned out to have been a monumental mistake). Therefore, the subjects of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday were nine to twelve years old. These rules were strictly obeyed. I kept them in my mind, but I did not think much about them until, many years later, I needed to understand their reasons for myself.
As I figured it out, Christ’s action was not aimed at the poor or the downtrodden. He did not call the lepers, the lame, and the blind, like those whom He had touched and cured many times. He did not call the women who served and prepared the supper. The subjects of His action were His disciples, whom He had chosen before. After being taught for three years, they were commissioned, ordained, consecrated, at the Last Supper. The process involved two steps. In the first, the washing of the feet, they were commissioned to service. In the second, they were ordained to the Eucharist and were consecrated from disciples to priests and Apostles.
I concluded that the washing of the feet by bishops was meant to emphasize the founding of the Church by Christ through his Apostles, rather than just charity and compassion. Based on this understanding, the reason for the selection of seminarians for the ceremony was obvious. When the diocese had no seminary, subjects who could potentially follow the path of discipleship to the priesthood could be licitly chosen.
It then follows that selecting women as subjects for the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday is nonsensical; selecting heathens or Moslems is sacrilegious.
Ronald D. Bachman, ed. Romania: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1989: Religion; http://countrystudies.us/romania/48.htm
It has been found repeatedly that most of the government’s undertakings become (if they don’t start that way) politicized, wasteful, or devious, or all of the above, and that the logical solution is to take as much of the functions of the society as possible out of the sphere of government operations. The tax on transportation fuels is a good case to test this thesis.
Introduced first at state level (Oregon, 1919), then at federal level (1932), the taxes on gasoline were readily accepted by the public, because their purpose was well understood and acceptable, and also because they were hidden in the price paid at the pump.
In time, however, money from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) began to be spent on other purposes than roads and bridges. In 1982, Congress legislated that a part of the gas tax should pay for mass transit, proving again that wealth transfer, in this case from drivers on highways to train riders, is the main preoccupation of politicians. Logically, the cost of mass transportation should be covered by the price of tickets.
A study in 2011 has identified dozens of such outlets of misappropriation, such as magnetic levitation trains, preventing drunk driving, and anti-racial profiling programs.  The states also spend part of the fuel tax collected for transportation projects on things like Medicaid (Kansas), education (Texas), etc. The fraction of the HTF diverted to other uses was given as 25%.
At the same time, the government has repeatedly found that the highway fund is too low and must be replenished from other sources. It was reported that only 70% of the construction and maintenance costs of the Interstate Highways in the US have been paid through user fees, the balance coming from general fund receipts and other taxes. Other sources report a fraction even lower than 70%.
This shuffling of funds makes no sense economically, but serves two purposes for politicians: First, there is more money to be consumed as overhead, leading to more jobs available for bureaucrats. For the second, movement of the money from one application is not much discussed, whereas reallocation toward another is always presented to those benefitting from the respective application as a gift from the politicians. This technique is particularly effective when the transfer is achieved in the form of an earmark. Financing highway projects is thus a political exercise, rather than straightforward budgeting based on real costs. This feature was apparent in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or Stimulus), which allocated $27.5 billion for such projects, all to be determined. Notably, the success of the expenditures was not counted in miles of road, but in the number of jobs created. The latter is a rather fuzzy parameter, so there is no surprise that the results diverge, depending upon whether a politician or an independent checker does the counting, by factors in the case of ARRA from 2.5 to 6. Furthermore, a subsequent examination showed that the stimulus created government jobs and destroyed or forestalled a comparable number of private sector jobs. In reality, for the need of citizens to travel on roads and bridges, the number of jobs created is irrelevant.
The level of taxation of motor fuels and the more general matter of transportation infrastructure have occasionally been subjects of controversy. Recently, there have been strong calls to increase it (for instance, by 35 cents per gallon), on the account of the sharp decrease in oil prices, the depletion of the trust fund, and the poor state of the public transport infrastructure. Alternatively, it was argued that there is no need to increase fuel taxes, because the problem is not lack of revenue but the federal diversion of gas tax revenues, because gas taxes are one of the most regressive taxes, and also because “our highway infrastructure isn’t crumbling.” The latter claim does not fit my experience, driving on roads of Pennsylvania and New York. (It is noteworthy that these two states with roads in deplorable conditions have the highest fuel taxes in the country.) The arguments of both sides deserve, however, scrutiny.
Increasing the tax to take advantage of low oil prices is a bad idea, because prices fluctuate. Many predict that high prices will return within 1-2 years. Also, the number stated, 35c/gal, or any other for that matter, has no basis because the whole approach in financing is flawed. It never starts from the determination of how much is needed and on what specific projects. For instance, when ARRA was passed, all that the public was told by the president was that the money was to be spent on (unspecified) shovel-ready projects,[12[(a) only to hear from the same president, one year later, that there is no such thing as shovel ready projects.[12[(b) Shovel or no shovel, by now there should be an account of the individual tasks funded by ARRA executed and how much each of them cost. Any talk about funds needed should start from an examination of that account.
Undeterred by such uncertainties, senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the budget, calling for a $478 billion for infrastructure projects. Whereas the ARRA was paid by money fabricated by the Fed, to be taken from taxpayers later, Mr. Sanders proposed an array of new taxes on corporations. He is an admitted socialist, so is more straightforward that his colleagues who also voted for the ARRA and for many other bills reflecting the same philosophy.
It is a basic feature of socialism that you don’t pay when you use something, but you pay when you don’t. As a rule, the government controls both the payment and distribution steps, thus strengthening its control over the population. Thus, the set-up differs from transactions between individuals or private entities, such as installment and deferred payment sales, in which none of the parties has power over the other and both parties have freedom of choice. Besides roads, “things” used that cost money are education, medical care, and others. The socialist arrangement is costly, wasteful, corrupt, unjust, and oppressive.
At the same time, the argument that fuel taxes are regressive is flawed. It was also surprising to find this argument in a libertarian publication. The complaint should be that a user fee is being treated as a tax. Because the limousines of the rich and the jalopies of the poor use and wear the roads in equal measure, the level of payments for the infrastructure should be determined only by the extent of its use by the payer. In this respect, incorporating the fee into the gasoline price is not the proper approach, because of the different fuel economy of engines and existence of electric cars. Among the alternatives, toll roads were recommended, because they can be easier adjusted to the changing cost of road construction and maintenance. Toll gates, however, produce congestion and add to the investment for the construction of a road. Therefore, imposing a per-mile road fee seems better. A pilot program is set to be started in Oregon.
The question remains how to handle the case of the indigent, who cannot pay the fees for using the road. An answer was found some generations back. In a beautiful literary rendition of the history of this country in the time straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Rose Lane noted that in those days construction of the roads was citizens’ business, not government’s. People spent a few days every year working on roads. Those for whom time was more precious than money, were allowed to pay instead. Today, most people can pay, so it is the few who cannot who should be asked to contribute labor. For instance, single mothers on public assistance could take charge of landscaping the right-of-way, while a few of them would mind their children. This activity with visible results would foster the dignity and freedom of those women.
No matter what the manner of collection is, administration of the program by the government assures that politicians will always use it to bring home the”pork.” Other unrelated considerations, such as creating jobs even at a cost greater than the value of the work produced, or influencing consumer behavior, (a rather sinister government activity) will also enter any decision of funding and implementation.
Taking the management and financing of the transportation infrastructure from government administration will assure efficient operation and minimize waste. A national franchise or authority should be established, and the same pattern can be replicated at state level. A board made up of members nominated in equal numbers by each political party, could act as executive and hire the CEO or general manager. Budgeting should start from an infrastructure inventory and determination of costs for maintenance, repairs and renovation. Separately, projects for new objectives should be budgeted, also without interference from the Legislative or Executive branches. Based on the projected expenditures, number of registered cars, and distances driven in a year, the fee per mile traveled can be determined. The miles traveled are easily measured. The odometer readout has to be reported in the application for license renewal in some states. Tampering with an odometer should be made a criminal offense and odometer verification should be a part of the state annual car inspection. Any form of political intervention or non-economic preconditions (including preference to closed or union shops) in awarding contracts should be outlawed. All the workings of the board, administrators, and managers, and all contracts should be open to the public.
Basing the charges on the extent of road use is the most equitable approach. For total fairness, the buggies of the Amish and even the bicycles of cyclo-tourism afficionados should be charged for road use, perhaps by requiring users to buy an annual stamp.
 Fuel taxes in the United States; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States
 Joseph Thorndike, The Gas Tax Doesn’t Work Because Politicians Broke It, 10/24/2013; http://www.forbes.com/sites/taxanalysts/2013/10/24/the-gas-tax-doesnt-work-because-politicians-broke-it/
 C Robert Puentes and Ryan Prince, Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax, March 2003; http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/publications/gastax.pdf
 Veronique de Rugy, The Facts about Transportation Spending. Separating economic myths from economic truths, June 17, 2011; http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/17/the-facts-about-transportation
 Damian Paleta, States Siphon Gas Tax for Other Uses. Makes Them More Reliant on Federal Assistance for New Infrastructure. Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2014; http://www.wsj.com/articles/states-siphon-gas-tax-for-other-uses-1405558382
 Gabriel Roth, Federal Highway Funding, June 2010; http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/federal-highway-funding
 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009
 Janie Har, Politifact, March. 23, 2012
 Jeffrey D. Sachs, Why It’s Time to Raise the Federal Tax on Gasoline, Jan. 19, 2015; http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/why-its-time-to-raise-the-federal-tax-on-gasoline-114380.html#.VRawb_zF-3Q
 Randal O’Toole, Five Reasons Not to Raise the Gas Tax, July 3, 2014; http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/five-reasons-not-raise-gas-tax
(a) Brian Naylor, Feb. 09, 2009 Stimulus Bill Gives ‘Shovel-Ready’ Projects Priority; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100295436 (b) Stephanie Condon, Obama: “No Such Thing as Shovel-Ready Projects”, Oct. 13, 2010; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-no-such-thing-as-shovel-ready-projects/
 Eric Pianin, $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP; The Fiscal Times, 25 March 2015, http://finance.yahoo.com/news/478b-infrastructure-bill-blocked-senate-123000148.html
 Peter Samuel, The Role of Tolls in Financing 21st Century Highways; http://reason.org/files/7227d934ecfa04d5db576c126f0385a6.pdf
 Jim Hoft, Oregon Becomes First State to Impose Per-Mile Road Tax, March 9, 2015; http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/03/oregon-becomes-first-state-to-impose-per-mile-road-tax/#!
 Rose Wilder Lane, Old Home Town, (first printed in 1935), Bison Books, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1985,
 Shanjun Li, Joshua Linn, Erich Muehlegger, Gasoline Taxes and Consumer Behavior, March 2011; http://economics.stanford.edu/files/muehlegger3_15.pdf