For Restoration…

Restoration of Values

Theology and Quantum Mechanics

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.[1]
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.”[2]). 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.[3] From the beginning[4]. 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.[5]
This non systematic and summary enumeration is meant to reemphasize what Christ pointed out: the path to salvation is neither smooth nor easy.[6]
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,[7] constant adulterers,[8] and men who lie with men.[9] 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.

[1]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);
[2] Mk, 16, 16; also, Mt, 28, 19,20; Jn, 3, 5, 18, 36.
[3] Jn, 6, 48-58.
[4] Jn, 6, 66-69.
[5] 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.)
[6] Mt, 7, 13-14; Lk 13, 23-25.
[7] (a); (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
[8] See, among many others:; ;
[9] (a);
(b) Francis X. Rocca, The Catholic Church’s Looming Fight Over Same-Sex Blessings, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2018.

Carbon Footprint and Carbon Cycle

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.[1] 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.[2] (There are, however, scientists questioning whether the earth has warmed up outside the normal historic fluctuations.[3]) 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[6][7]
Analyzing the consequences of extreme temperatures on earth in our epoch, researchers have found that cold kills more people than heat.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]
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.[11]
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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[13]
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[14] and Barack Obama,[15] of the UN,[16] of Vatican,[17] and of many groups and organizations, some created ad-hoc.[18] The reason can be pursuit of financial gain[19] 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.[18] 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,[20] 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.[21]
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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]
Technological improvements could also allow the capture of methane from processes which generate it as a side-product,[24] thus allowing its use as a fuel. (Progress has been made in methane fuel production from municipal wastes.)[25]
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.[26] 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.[21] 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.[27]
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[10]) it was higher than 760 ppm.[28] 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.[29] Chemical capture with sodium hydroxide (neutralization) was also proposed.[27](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[30] 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,[31] as well as sub-Saharan Africa for overgrazing which converts green lands to deserts.[32]
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[33] and it now gives 20-30.[34]
If, on the other hand, the earth is naturally in a cooling period,[13] 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

[8] Bjorn Lomborg, An Overheated Climate Alarm. WSJ, Apr. 6, 2016
[9] W. Soon, S. L. Baliunas, A. B. Robinson, Z. W. Robinson, Global Warming. A Guide to the Science ;
[10] (a) ; (b)

[13] (a) R. Blaustein, William Ruddiman and the Rudddiman Hypothesis, Minding Nature, 2015, 8, 1; ; (b) A. Ganopolski, R.
Winkelmann, H. J. Shellnhuber, Nature, 2016, 529, 200

[15] Obama Archive
[17] Encyclical letter Laudato Si,
[18] Carbon Ofsets To Alleviate Poverty,
[19] Larry Bell, Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype, Forbes, Nov. 3, 2013;

[20] John Hinderaker, The Smearing of Willie Soon, Feb. 24, 2015;

[21] David Bielo, Scientific American, Apr. 6, 2010;
[26] Stefanie Lutz, Alexandre M. Anesio, Rob Raiswell, Arwyn Edwards, Rob J. Newton, Fiona Gill & Liane G.
Benning, Nature Communications, 2016, 7, Article No. 11968.
[27] (a) Alan Robock, 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008, 64 (2)14; (b) Kirsten Jerch, inset in the same article
[30] Franco Cataldo,, Intl J Astrobiol, 2003, 2, (01), 51-63.
[33] Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, Vol. I, Harper & Row, N Y 1981, pp. 120-3
[34] Jeff Edwards, Estimating Wheat Grain Yield Potential. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, PSS-2149.

An Answer to The Syrian Refugee Crisis

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.

[1] Roy Beck, World Poverty, Immigration & Gumballs,
[2] 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.

The Life of The Mother

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.[1] 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.)[2] 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.[3] 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.”[4]
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.”[5] 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.”[6] 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.[6]
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.[7] 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.[6] 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,[8] 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.”[9] 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,[10] and by others. In all such cases, the decision rested with the mother.

[1] Rape and Abortion,, 5 Sept. 2012
[4] Louis de Bonald, On divorce (transl. by Nicholas Davidson) (first published in 1801), Transaction Publishers, 1992, p. 65.
[5] Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now, Diablo Press, Berkeley, CA, 1967, quoted in Ref. [2]
[6] Helen Carroll, The Daily Mail, 31 July 2013;
[7](a) Steve Weatherby, New cancer treatment during pregnancy can save both mother and baby; ;
(b) Bryan Tutt, Treating Cancer in Pregnant patients;
[9] Stephanie Elam, Traci Tamura, CNN, 17 Jan. 2015.
[10] Susan Berry, May 2014;

Ideas and Proposals of Presidential Candidates

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]
(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.[2] 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.[3]
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%.[4] 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[5] and of the players at the lowest rung of the developmental league[6] 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.[3]

As a block, the Democratic Party Candidates do not think there is any problem with the basic setup of Social Security.[7] 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.[8] 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.

[1] As the candidates’ positions are a matter of public record, no references are necessary.
[2] Emily Yoffe, Please Take the Gold Watch. Please! The abolition of mandatory retirement, and how it changed America in unexpected ways, April 14, 2011
[3] A Comparison of Retirement Schemes Existing in the U.S., Feb. 24, 2015 ;
[6] Keith Schlosser, Has the Maximum NBA D-League Player Salary Increased? Jan 9 2014 ;
[7] (a) Dylan Scott, Hillary Clinton’s Baby Steps on Social Security, National Journal, Aug 13, 2015; ;
(b) Laura Meckler, Democrats Rethink Social Security Strategy, WSJ, 5 Apr 2015;
[8] Robert W. Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship, Forbes, May 8, 2015;

On The Redistribution of Wealth (revised; first published on 8/15/2012)

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.

Recollections of Holy Thursday

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.[1] 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.

[1]Ronald D. Bachman, ed. Romania: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1989: Religion;

Is gasoline tax too low or too high? Is it needed?

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)[1], 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.[2]
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,[3] 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. [4] The states also spend part of the fuel tax collected for transportation projects on things like Medicaid (Kansas), education (Texas), etc.[5] The fraction of the HTF diverted to other uses was given as 25%.[4]
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.[6] Other sources report a fraction even lower than 70%.[3][4][7]
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.[8] 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.[9] Furthermore, a subsequent examination showed that the stimulus created government jobs and destroyed or forestalled a comparable number of private sector jobs.[8] 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.[10] 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.”[11] 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.[1]) 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.[11] The complaint should be that a user fee[3] 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.[11] Among the alternatives, toll roads were recommended, because they can be easier adjusted to the changing cost of road construction and maintenance.[14] 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.[15]
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.[16] 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.”[14] Other unrelated considerations, such as creating jobs even at a cost greater than the value of the work produced, or influencing consumer behavior,[17] (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.

[1] Fuel taxes in the United States;
[2] Joseph Thorndike, The Gas Tax Doesn’t Work Because Politicians Broke It, 10/24/2013;
[3] C Robert Puentes and Ryan Prince, Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax, March 2003;
[4] Veronique de Rugy, The Facts about Transportation Spending. Separating economic myths from economic truths, June 17, 2011;
[5] 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;
[7] Gabriel Roth, Federal Highway Funding, June 2010;
[8] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA);
[9] Janie Har, Politifact, March. 23, 2012
[10] Jeffrey D. Sachs, Why It’s Time to Raise the Federal Tax on Gasoline, Jan. 19, 2015;
[11] Randal O’Toole, Five Reasons Not to Raise the Gas Tax, July 3, 2014;
[12](a) Brian Naylor, Feb. 09, 2009 Stimulus Bill Gives ‘Shovel-Ready’ Projects Priority; (b) Stephanie Condon, Obama: “No Such Thing as Shovel-Ready Projects”, Oct. 13, 2010;
[13] Eric Pianin, $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP; The Fiscal Times, 25 March 2015,
[14] Peter Samuel, The Role of Tolls in Financing 21st Century Highways;
[15] Jim Hoft, Oregon Becomes First State to Impose Per-Mile Road Tax, March 9, 2015;!
[16] Rose Wilder Lane, Old Home Town, (first printed in 1935), Bison Books, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1985,
[17] Shanjun Li, Joshua Linn, Erich Muehlegger, Gasoline Taxes and Consumer Behavior, March 2011;

Comparison of Retirement Schemes Existing in the U.S.

In the tussle over the continuing budget resolution of October 2013, the Secretary of Treasury testified to Congress that the government shutdown and the failure to increase the national debt limit would jeopardize the payment of Social Security and Medicare benefits to the elderly. To clarify his warning, it was stated that these programs are partially self-funded but may be subject to administrative shutdowns and failures if the government fails to meet its financial obligations.[1] An examination of the current status and evolution of US national debt led, however, to the conclusion that, shutdown or no shutdown, the failure of the government to meet its obligations is unavoidable, because “the debt increase is caused by secular growth in government services, not temporary military expenditures or cyclical economic fluctuations.”[2] The debt as a share of GDP has risen steeply since 2008:[3] Moreover, various people have calculated that the debt cannot be paid and the fraction of GDP consumed for interest on national debt will reach not many years from now an unsustainable value.[4] At that point those dependent on Social Security will be left high and dry. This conclusion will surprise many, because the program was supposed to be a contributory pension scheme. In reality, as attested by the Supreme Court, the payments are entirely discretionary: the government can change (or terminate) them at any moment.[5]
Rigorously speaking, only public assistance old age benefits, like SSI, are non-contributed pensions. All pensions of people that work are contributed pensions. In the private sector, companies deposit a part of an employee’s salary into a fund from which his pension will be paid. Another part of the salary is paid to the Social Security Fund. (For some historic reason, the latter sum is divided in two: half appears on IRS Form W-2, the other half does not.)
In the Social Security and the traditional corporate pension schemes, the beneficiaries have no control over the money. The alternative is presented by IRA-s and the more recently offered corporate pensions in which the employees exert control upon the funds allocated for their retirement. Erroneously, only the latter are usually referred to as contributed pension plans.
Social Security has been touted as superior to the private options for two reasons. First, it is guaranteed by the government. Thus, the former Congressman Charles Rangel stated that one should not leave the nation’s retirement system at the mercy of the stock market. That view is rather ignorant, because the stock market is a reflection of the state of the economy and creation of value by the society, which is coincidentally what drive the government’s tax receipts. Therefore, government’s ability to pay is correlated with the stock market. Anyway, as mentioned above, the implication that the government’s retirement scheme is superior in safety is not valid. Indeed, the assurance offered by the strongest defenders of Social Security was that it is secure until 2036,[6]. which means that a worker born in 1968 should not expect to receive his pension in full.
The second argument is that Social Security is the best financial arrangement in terms of return on investment. It was even said that it is not really a contributed pension because the total received by an individual in retirement is significantly higher than the amount contributed during working years. Mr. Steve Liesman of CNBC put the benefits to contribution ratio at 3. To prove superiority, however, this ratio must be compared with the results of alternatives in which the contributions were privately invested. I made such a comparison in 2013. Having had a variegated career, I was able to base it on my own experience.
I worked for low pay for six years, for better salaries for 15, and again for less over the last 11. During all these years I paid into Social Security, but only during the middle period I deposited about the same percentage into an IRA and also participated in two company pension schemes.. (The number of years worked reflects the fact that I was more than thirty years old when I came to the U.S. as a political refugee. Because I came with $13 as all my wealth, my retirement income comes from my subsequent earnings.)
I started withdrawing from my IRA before the required age of 70. In seven years I took out in total more than 75% of my original deposit. The balance left in June 2013 was 4.6 times the deposits.
During the last three years of the middle period (higher salary), I deposited into a retirement scheme called TIAA-CREF. The university matched my contributions. At 65, I began drawing a pension from there. Compared to the alternatives (IRA and, especially, Social Security) this had the shortest time to grow. When I began receiving benefits, I selected an option in which the payments were initially smaller, but have increased 3.5-4% annually. Up to the middle of 2013, the monthly payments added up to three times the deposit. Based on the monthly payments at that time and the life expectancy for men that have reached the age of 65 (17.7 years), and also assuming there was no further increase, I would receive during the rest of my lifetime a sum 2.2 times my deposit, for a total factor of 5.2. (As it turned out, in 2014 the payments increased by 10%.)
From the first (and longer) part of my middle period, I receive benefits from the highly rated pension plan of a major corporation. The total amount received so far has been by 40% higher than the amount received from TIAA-CREF, but the two pensions converge (from a ratio of 1.8 in the first year to one of 1.2 in the twelfth year). The ratio of total salaries received from the company and from the university was greater than 2, whence the defined benefit[7] company plan is the less satisfactory.
The comparison shows that Social Security is worse for the level of payment than the IRA or TIAA-CREF (a defined contribution plan[7] with high quality management), but better than the defined benefit plan. Given a choice, I would not have put the money into Social Security.
I expressed my concerns in a statement made during a town meeting with our Congressman, Mr. Steve Israel, in the spring of 2013, and in a letter that I subsequently sent him. I proposed that Social Security be reformed. To avoid money being spent on something else, the deposits should not be taken by the government, nor should the deposits and disbursements be part of the national budget. Financial or insurance companies, or consortia thereof, should compete for this business. Some government-approved board can determine which companies are to be trusted with investing the money deposited by people. All those who enter the system from the time of adoption of the new arrangement should have their deposits placed in those funds. The current trust fund being projected to be depleted in 25 years, it ought to be able to cover most of the payments received by retirees during the transition period. Because the trust fund is actually a fiction, however, I wondered in the town meeting whether a special 1% tax with a firm termination deadline of 25 years might help cover the missing funds. People told me, however, that the Congress of 25 years later will find a way to keep this levy and use it for something else. Perhaps someone has a solution to that.
In his written reply, Mr. Israel stated that Social Security has not added to the national debt, it has provided a critical source of income for many, the funds are invested in instruments backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S.A., and, if invested privately, the funds “would have been devastated during the collapse of 2007 “ (the Rangel argument). The last point is less damning than it seems: both my IRA and the TIAA-CREF were affected by the 2007 “collapse” and by an earlier one in 2001-2, but have recovered afterwards each time. His other claim is also invalid: any scheme in which people contributed would provide them retirement income. As for the funds being invested, Mr. Israel’s assertion was false; the money not paid to existing retirees has been spent as it came in, producing only IOU’s. The two Social Security trust funds are the single biggest creditor of the government, holding 16.5% of the national debt.[3] He did not address, however, the point most vexing to me: why Social Security pays me less than two other alternatives?
It seems strange that most members of Congress so doggedly defend an inferior model like Social Security. There has been one proposal to adjust it slightly, made by senators D. P. Moynihan (D, NY) and J. B. Kerrey (D, NE). Their plan allowed one percentage point of the worker’s income, matched by the employer, to go into an IRA-like private investment fund (partial privatization). Mr. Moynihan calculated a substantial accumulation of capital up to retirement age, from which a pension could be drawn afterwards.[8] Even that minor change was too much for their colleagues to accept.
Two reasons may be discerned for this attitude. First, Social Security is by design an instrument of wealth redistribution and most of the corrections offered (some already implemented) to “save” it, exacerbate this feature. Privatization would remove this possibility.
The main reason, however, is the desire of the government to have control over the citizenry. The goal is to have people totally dependent of government for their livelihoods and ultimately their lives. The Social Security setup makes even people on the losing side of the redistribution curve dependent on government for their pension. Both major political parties are guilty of that. The Democrats openly press for redistribution and control, whereas the Republicans go along while protesting to the contrary. For example, the money withdrawn from paychecks for Social Security is called by politicians of both parties a payroll tax, rather than a payroll contribution, which suggests that it naturally goes into the general pocket of the government. The pension can then be presented as a benefit or entitlement, rather than a return on money invested by the worker. The Republicans have strengthened this perception, when they advocated cutting the payroll tax in order to combat a recession. They should realize that Social Security contribution should not be treated like a tax that can be cut. There are plenty of taxes to choose for cutting.
A reform giving workers control and responsibility over their Social Security pension will solve the financial problem and will have important social and moral benefits. Thus, it will help restore in the citizens the spirit and mentality of the free man, rather than that of the ward of the state as it is now. It will also eliminate a misconception which makes many younger people who work and contribute now to begrudge the old for not dying sooner, instead of living on the charity of the government. There is not much time left. The insolvency of the current arrangement is inevitable.
As another improvement, when the individual will control his federal pension fund, the transfer of money from those that paid larger sums during their active years to those who contributed less will also cease. This will result in a more honest reckoning of the national costs of public assistance. Those who need help can receive it undisguised.

[2] Bryan Taylor, GFD, Paying off government debt. Two Centuries of Global Experience</strong,
[3] Drew DeSilver, Pew Res. Ctr., 5 facts about the national debt: What you should know,
[4] Ronald Cooke, Will America Ever Pay Off Its Debt?,
[5] Flemming vs Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960),
[8] (a) Craig Copenland, Jack VanDerhei, Dallas L. Salisbury, Social Security Reform, Evaluating Current Proposals (June 1999), ; (b) Daniel Patrick Moynihan , “Building Wealth for Everyone,” New York Times, May 30, 2000

A Shattering Experience

On a Sunday in December 2014, my wife had a stomach virus attack and had to stay at home. Late in the morning her condition allowed me to leave, so I could go to a church that had a noontime Mass.
I sat at the far end of a back pew. Right in front of me there was a young lady flanked by a girl about six years on her left side and a boy, two years or so, at her right, but mostly on her knee or in her arms. The children were quiet and well behaved.
The Mass was offered by an old priest, who is a friend of mine. At Communion time, a young priest came and helped with distribution, at our side of the church.
Generally, I receive Communion at the Traditional Roman Mass (known as Tridentine), or the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Byzantine). Since I did not go up to receive at that Mass, I could see from my place how the lady in front of me went to take communion with the little boy in her left arm and the girl in tow. She took the Host in her right hand, turned, and walked to her place in the pew, where she seated herself and gave the Host to each child to touch, feel, and play with.
As the ceiling whirled over my head, I groaned:
“- In God’s name, Madam, what are you doing?! What are you doing with the Holy Communion?!”
I cannot report what she did then. I did not register.
At the end of the Mass, I went to the vestibule, where my friend priest was greeting people as they were leaving. When all were gone, I went with him into the sacristy and related the incident.
“ – Tragically,” –he replied – “that’s the risk when one allows communion in the hand. This is why I watch the communicants and if anyone steps away or turns around with the Host in his hand, I call him back.”
At that point, the young priest came in; I repeated to him my account of events. He became flustered and asked the older priest, haltingly, whether this is permissible.
As a first reaction, I charged him in my mind with unbelievable ignorance. Then I realized that his bewilderment was generated by the paralyzing fright that some new directive had legalized even that transgression.

I distributed the above lines to a number of friends and acquaintances. The correspondence generated was most interesting; I am copying it below.
– Karen Knoll (VA): Oh! How unnerving! A similar situation occurred at my parish here in VA several years ago. I was at a funeral and several pews behind a mother with two small children. I noticed that the little girl was given communion along with her mom. When they arrived back at their pew, the mom held her head in her hands while her daughter examined the host, tapping it on her seat. As I passed by their pew, I reached down slowly and took the host from the girl, saying, “That is Jesus. You must not do that with Him.” I proceeded up the aisle and just bowed to the priest as I had consumed the retrieved host a few moments before I passed him. Later, I explained to my pastor why I had not received communion from him that day.
– Debi Vinnedge (TN): I have seen the same thing happen in my own Church – twice! One time I was able to confront the woman and her child who she told me was preparing to make her First Holy Communion. I told her she already had. The woman tried to tell me that’s how they do it in her parish back north – the children get to taste the Eucharist before their First Holy Communion. I told her they used unconsecrated hosts! She didn’t have a clue… In the other incident, the woman took the Host, broke it in two pieces, gave it to her child and then walked out the door before I could catch her. (I told my pastor who was absolutely livid, by the way.) Very sad that so many are so uneducated about the Sacraments!
– James Likoudis (NY): Sad to say, I can perhaps top that one. Recently, I saw someone take the Host in the hand and walk out of the church with it. To view such abuses is simply an extra penance.
– Don Pranzo (NY, age 80): It seems absolutely outrageous to me, as well. However, be careful how to judge that young mother. She delivered the children; she brought them to church; she may well have been in the state of grace. We really don’t know what precipitated her actions. We can attempt to educate both the people (and the clergy), but we should be very careful to judge the young mother. I think Pope Francis said it best: “Who am I to judge?” Only God will make the final judgment.
My reply: Thank you for your message. The guilty parties are those who have destroyed the catechesis in the Church. Of course, the one who allowed communion in the hand bears a great guilt.
Don Pranzo: And who did allow the reception of Communion in the hand?
My reply: That I don’t know. I suppose it must have been Paul VI or John-Paul II.
– Elena N. Suciu (WA): See the attachment, Liturgical Abuse at Largest Papal Mass in History.
The little film captured a mob scene in which Hosts were frantically passed from hand to hand, above heads, some of the Hosts ending in the mud and trampled. In a commentary on the incident, Steve Kojec wrote: (F)aith alone is not a safeguard against error or sacrilege. Catechesis is. . . . Simply stated, the issue is this: the Church has created strict rubrics to protect the Most Holy Sacrament and to enhance our belief in it; any Catholic with true faith in the Real Presence will honor those rubrics, because the nature of the sacrament creates in those who understand it a sense of profound reverence and awe.”[1]
For his part, the Archbishop stated: ““Under normal circumstances, this should not have happened, but the situation in the Luneta was extraordinary, six million people.” He added: “On this occasion, it was necessary to help each other receive communion (italics are mine).”[1a]
In my opinion, this is the crux of the matter. The Archbishop thinks that receiving Holy Communion at the Mass celebrated by the Pope meant so much, that risking its desecration was warranted. Thus, a Host consecrated by the Pope is by implication special, or, conversely, a Host consecrated by a simple priest is somehow inferior. It is, however, a fallacy, also a heresy, to hold that clerical rank can add quality to the Body of Christ. The Pope, like and equal to the parish priest, prays at the altar: Suscipe Sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus fmulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis . . . (Accept, O Holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this immaculate Host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my true and living God, for my innumerable sins, and offenses, and negligences . . )
The proper way to organize a papal Mass was to have each parish in the country select one representative (or each diocese, two dozen) to receive Communion there. They would be seated all together, perhaps wear some sign, a pin for instance, which they would deposit in a basket before receiving Communion. All others could receive Communion in their parishes. All the faithful could listen to the sermon given by the Pope, which is the only personal thing that the celebrant brings to the Mass.
It was said, and rightfully so, that the sad spectacle in Philippines comes from deficient catechesis. But how can the faithful be educated when the Archbishop himself does not grasp the basic tenets of his (and our) faith?
About the same event, I also found a note:
06 Feb. 2015. If you could, please help us get the word out that we would be having a First Friday Traditional Latin Mass and Holy Hour as a Solemn Act of Reparation for the sacrilege that occurred during the Papal Visit here in the Philippines . . . [2]
(In the words of the French writer Maxence van der Meersch, we should not despair; there might still be enough good men to save us.[3])

[1] Steve Skojec, (a) Blessed Sacrament Profaned in Manila: Archbishop Villegas Responds, Jan 21, 2015, ; (b) personal communication.
[3] Maxence van der Meersch, Corps et Âmes, Paris,