Matthew Archbold: Keep trying

Article: “Atheism is the Uncoolest Choice Ever, and I Can Prove It

Setting aside for a moment that atheism is hardly a “choice” in the general sense of the word, I’ve typically always ended up rolling my eyes whenever a religious publication talks about atheism. Since they always seem to fuck up on so many levels.

And Matthew Archbold is no different. And I can prove it. Not to mention his article is childish — why the hell is an adult trying to describe something as “cool”? — and a striking example of a superiority complex.

8) Religious people live longer, happier lives, according to numerous scientific studies. I know you atheist types are all about the SCIENCE even though you pretty much get all your scientific information from Huffpo articles with clickbait headlines like “Watch Bill Nye completely own a Creationist!” or “How Rolling Your Eyes is the Greatest Debate Tactic Against Christians!” (Rule of thumb: if the article you’re reading contains exclamation points, it’s probably not a respected scientific publication.) But I guess because you’re an atheist who will live a shorter life maybe you don’t have time to read actual scientific journals. I mean, something’s gotta’ be cut out, right?

But on top of shorter lives, studies indicate you’ll be more miserable too. So while your life won’t be longer, it might just feel that way.

Two words: citation needed. And not Conservapedia. And I highly, highly doubt you’ve been reading science papers.

But granting the proposition for a moment, how is this relevant? At least in being a life-long atheist I haven’t been wasting my life believing something that is demonstrably false.

Here’s the thing about your belief: chances are you were indoctrinated into it when you were young, meaning you defend it through known psychological mechanisms, likely seeking out apologetics every time your belief is challenged as a means of reaffirming it. Shedding that belief is emotionally and psychologically painful. I’ve seen it a number of times. Even considering for a few moments that what you’ve believed all your life is wrong can be painful. Especially when you’re a devout and dedicated believer.

For more passive believers — the “weekend Christians”, if you will — the transition tends to be more benign.

So if Christians are truly happier, it’s for false reasons. Bliss due to ignorance.

On atheist “misery”, I’ll get to that a little later.

7) Michelangelo and Bach (look ’em up kids!) were indisputably awesome Christian artists. But hey, atheists have the kid who plays Harry Potter. Do you really don’t want to be a part of any group that includes the actor formerly known as Harry Potter. Or maybe you do because that’s how uncool you actually are.

Michelangelo was never photographed like that. Ever.

That’s because cameras didn’t exist back in Michaelangelo’s time. What was the content of your history classes at St Joseph’s, out of curiosity?

And Daniel Radcliffe is the best you can do? Okay I’ll raise you Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman — i.e. the Mythbusters. And Kari Byron for good measure. Among many others I could add.

Got any Christians from today you’d readily reference? I mean if the best you can come up with are Christians who lived centuries ago… Especially since most of today’s youth is unlikely to appreciate Johann Sebastian Bach, or George Frideric Handel (who wrote the famous Hallelujah chorus, so surprised you didn’t bring him up), or, to be realistic, any of the classic composers.

Except perhaps Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and that’s only because of his 1812 Overture, or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock version of The Nutcracker.

6) Typical Atheist gathering:

You’ve apparently never heard of the Reason Rally. Do a search on Google Images for the 2012 Reason Rally, which had upwards of 20,000 in attendance according to city officials. Unfortunately the 2016 Reason Rally wasn’t something to write home about, but there were still a few thousand in attendance. And other atheist gatherings have also drawn crowds a hell of a lot larger than what you’re attempting to represent as “typical”, such as the 2002 Godless March on Washington which also brought a couple thousand.

And several atheist speakers regularly command crowds. For example Seth Andrews, Matt Dillahunty, and AronRa went on a world tour as the Unholy Trinity. Christopher Hitchens routinely commanded large audiences as well. Indeed the crowds atheist speakers can bring has been used as a crutch for creationists to get more exposure. Such as the “debate” between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, which Ken Ham used to get more exposure (and money) to his organization Answers in Genesis.

5) Most of your big time mass killers of the 20th century were atheists. I’m talking Stalin, Mao, and Che among others. These guys had the kind of body counts that there weren’t enough body bags for so bulldozers needed to be employed. And nothing says uncool like being a mass killer of the innocent.

They were COMMUNISTS. Being atheists had nothing to do with it. Show me someone who committed mass atrocities because of their atheism. I highly doubt you’re going to find one.

Plus the history of Christianity is penned heavily in blood, so don’t act like Christianity is somehow immune to that kind of atrocity. Especially since Hitler was a Christian, and no amount of denial will change that.

4) This is an extreme Christian.

Let me introduce you to a few extreme Christians.

Paul Jennings Hill

That is Paul Jennings Hill. He is so far the only anti-abortion activist to be executed. He was executed by the State of Florida in 2003 for the assassination of an abortion provider and his body guard with a 12-gauge shotgun.

That is Scott Phillip Roeder. Hailed by anti-abortion activists for assassinating George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas. He was sentenced to a “hard 50” (possibility of parole after 50 years) at the age of 51, meaning he’ll never again see the outside of a prison unless he by some stroke of luck happens to become a centenarian.

That is Rachelle Ranae “Shelley” Shannon. She shot George Tiller in 1993, though it’s unclear if she intended to kill him as she shot him in his arms. She is currently in Federal custody for numerous other attacks on abortion clinics and due to be released in 2018.

Fred Phelps 10-29-2002

And this is, of course, Fred Phelps, the late patriarch of the Westboro Baptist Church, arguably the most extreme of the Christian denominations in the United States with regard to tenets.

Arguably the only denomination more extreme than them is the Army of God, since at least the Westboro Baptist Church is largely peaceful, if infuriating.

The Army of God, on the other hand, has been linked to a number of high-profile incidents, including kidnappings, attempted murders, and murders. And as such they are classified as a terrorist organization by the United States Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Shelley Shannon is connected to them, and Scott Roeder is believed to be connected.

But they’re not the only Christian terrorist group in the world or the United States.

And no list of “extreme Christians” would be complete without…

Hitler portrait crop

Or let me guess, “they’re not real Christians“?

And how nice that you found a picture of Richard Dawkins being a little bit irate… That must’ve been difficult. Surprised you didn’t screenshot him getting annoyed with Ted Haggard. But you’re presenting it as if that’s how he typically is. Talk about disingenuous. But then that’s the Christian and Catholic modus operandi when talking about atheists and atheism.

3) As a Christian, my wife looks at me like I’m a gift from God. Seriously, to her that’s what I am. Your atheist girlfriend (should you ever get one after you move out of your stepdad’s basement) will see you as a gel-haired accident in skinny jeans on a lonely rock orbiting a meaningless sun in a mistake of a universe. See the difference? It’s kind of a big one.

Hopefully your wife doesn’t still have the gift receipt…

And be realistic if you’re gonna generalize about atheists. Better yet, how about learning about who we are. I’ll fill you in on a few things.

Most atheist teenagers in the United States actually live in Christian households. Largely keeping a secret that they know would lead to animosity, if not outright shunning from friends and family. Basically they just go through the motions because they know that keeps the peace. One of the beauties of the Internet is these “closet” atheists can be honest behind a cloak of anonymity in online communities with little fear of being “outed”, so we’ve been able to find a few of them and guide them accordingly.

And even after moving out on their own, they likely still go through the motions and lie about their beliefs to, again, keep the peace with family and friends and avoid losing their livelihoods. Because despite a Federal ban on termination due to religious belief, I’ve read several stories by atheists of how their terminations came not long after they were “outed”, with bullshit narratives spun about the person as a means of skirting by the law. Not to mention the cut-off with the newly-outed atheist by their family and friends when they’re discovered.

You’d also likely be surprised by how many in the clergy are atheists. Keeping their secret until they’re in a better position to resign their ordinations without becoming impoverished as a result and without being defrocked beforehand. There’s even a non-profit organization dedicated to finding and helping atheists in the clergy looking for an out. It’s called the Clergy Project.

I’ve been loosely involved in atheist activism for the last decade, and I’ve read stories from teenagers as well as adults who are secret atheists who hope their family and friends do not find out. Some are spouses to devout Christians keeping that secret from their spouses.

By the way, in the above where you claim Christians are happier than atheists, I know this plays a role in atheists claiming to not be nearly as happy. Imagine living with a secret that, if discovered, will create a rift in your relationships with friends and family that’ll basically mean losing your livelihood as you know it.

Seriously you and a lot of other devout Christians and Catholics have no fucking clue who we really are. Atheists come from all walks of life. Employed and not. Working parents and stay-at-home parents. Married and divorced. In a relationship and single. Young and old. Rich and poor. We are all around you. Some likely even sit in your church every Sunday and holiday merely to keep up appearances. Keep the peace with the family and community.

You have no fucking clue. Because it wouldn’t surprise me if you’d rather shun us than understand us. And that has been the mistake many Christian families have made for decades. Not just with atheists, but also with homosexual and transgender family. It’s one of the reasons I will not out myself as an atheist to the rest of my wife’s family, and why I also don’t mention it at work.

To keep the peace.

At least in the United States I’m privileged in that openly declaring my atheism here at least isn’t, literally, a death sentence. There are atheists, as I write this, who are trying to escape the Middle East, reaching out to other atheist and secular organizations for whatever assistance they can. Because being an atheist in an Islamic country can get you killed.

My wife and I have been married for over 5-1/2 years as of when I write this. Divorce rates are lower among atheists. And our marriages are typically happier, again reflected in the much lower divorce rate. Atheists don’t see ourselves as having married biological accidents on some lonely rock floating around a meaningless sun in an accidental universe. Talk about taking every misconception about atheism and stringing it together in one sentence, along with misconstruing atheists as being basement-dwelling, immature rebels from broken homes.

I’m actually, genuinely surprised you were able to bend over that far to stick your head up your ass! I had no idea anyone was actually that flexible! Congratulations! Your god must be proud of the complete dishonesty you’ve shown, not only in the above-quoted paragraph, but throughout your entire article.

So now that you’ve opened your asshole with your head, how about pulling it back out so you can shove your fist up there and go fuck yourself.

And yes, I’m being deliberately, unapologetically abrasive simply because Archbold’s article isn’t the first time I’ve encountered what he’s said, the misrepresentations he’s made. And I doubt highly this is the first time he’s made such misrepresentations.

2) Many of your college professors agree with your atheist beliefs. How’s that for the uncoolest choice ever? Hey, look at you siding with all the gray-haired tweedy authoritarian types at your school. Note: If your best friend at college is the “Diversity Awareness Coordinator” you’re colleging wrong. And if you think your professors are cool, I think they call that being a brown-noser. And brown-nosers are even less cool than gender studies majors.

Y’know when the whole 60’s thing happened, young people would say not to trust anyone over 40. But now, you guys go off to college wanting nothing more than to adopt the beliefs of your old boring professors. What could be less cool than wanting to be like your teacher? (Except if your teacher is Tony Esolen. Then it’s ok.)

And what’s this got to do with anything? Yes a lot of academics are atheists. And there are plenty who are not.

And you obviously have no idea what a brown-noser actually is. A brown-noser is sucking up to someone else, in a rather obsequious and sycophantic manner, with the intent of seeking favors. Liking your instructors isn’t the same as kissing their ass.

At this point, you’re just reaching for anything you think will give you a one-up over atheists.

1) Atheists have less children and that probably means…well you probably know what that means since you’re all about SCIENCE! Once again, to sum up, you’ll be miserable, have a shorter life, and quite likely less sex than your religious counterparts. And you thought atheism was cool? Reconsider and repent ye’ fools. Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life. Left unsaid, is that He’s totally cooler than Richard Dawkins!

Wait, that’s your #1? Yikes…

First, the percentage of the population that is religiously unaffiliated or atheist is GROWING! It was about 1 in 10 about a decade ago, and now it’s under 1 in 5 to approaching 1 in 4 depending on the survey. So we don’t have to worry about birth rates among current atheists when we know more atheists will come through deconversions. Seriously if you honestly think you can just outlast us, you’d be fighting a losing battle.

Especially since the birth rate among atheist families is actually only slightly lower than among religious families in the United States. Yes, we’re all about SCIENCE, but you apparently didn’t do any READING to determine the validity of your claim before making it.

And I know The God Delusion still has a lot of Christian panties in one hell of a bind, and I know you love having all kinds of strawman misconceptions of atheists in your head, but at least understand that Richard Dawkins is not atheist Jesus. For one, Jesus never existed as he’s described in the Bible, whereas Richard Dawkins is a real man. And second, a lot of atheists actually don’t like Dawkins for various reasons. And if you actually knew anything about atheists and our community, you’d already know that.

So enough with the misconceptions. Again I’ve been at this for about a decade, and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard something that hasn’t been refuted a thousand times. And you’re no different, Mr Archbold.

Before you write any more articles on atheists, and this actually goes to all Christians, get to know a few of us as people first. I think you’ll be genuinely surprised as to who we really are compared to the strawmen you’ve built in your mind.

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Almost have it

I always welcome it when someone tries to learn or understand something new, especially if I’ve been a source of that inspiration. Previously I responded to another blogger when they “thought out loud” regarding how banking works, taking some inspiration from my article on fractional reserve banking. The author in question rewrote part of their original article, adding some details and correcting others. So how did he do?

Let’s just say some additional study is needed. And the place I’d ask him to start is with double-entry accounting. I think having a pretty good understanding of that will aid him quite well in better understanding how banking largely works.

For now, let’s get into his revisions, and poke at some other parts of the article I may have overlooked last time.

In normal banking I would have to use part of my income (payments on loans I had already made to other people) and put that back into my cash. In mortgage banking I could do something called “selling the loan.” Basically, the loan turns into a security (essentially a document that can be bought and sold) that I can sell to a company that buys those types of securities.

I should really have made this clear in my previous article: there is no such thing as “normal banking” and “mortgage banking”. There is just banking and lending. In actuality, there is just accounting, and what you do with the money in question and how it is accounted on the books.

The loan is an asset to the lender. Unless the agreement prevents such, the loan can be assigned to someone else by selling off the asset. Exceptions to this include payday lending and pawnbroking, but I’m not going to delve into that here.

[Central banks] regulate banks, and they buy debt (or make loans, however you want to look at it). The Central Banks deal mostly with the large commercial banks, which are all international corporations. Smaller local institutions deal mostly with the big banks.

The central bank deals with all banks that participate in the banking system. In the United States, that means all banks participate in the Federal Reserve System. It’s pretty much a basic requirement of being a competitive financial institution. Even the United States Treasury is a member, as are the individual State Departments of Revenue.

As I pointed out in my previous article, this also includes credit unions, as well as the small banks and the largest banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. But smaller banks don’t “deal mostly with the big bangs”. My bank doesn’t hold accounts with Wells Fargo, for example. They again deal directly with the Federal Reserve.

Before my recent studies, I hadn’t really heard about this practice of “selling debt.” But debt is a receivable on the bank’s books, so it is worth something. It never occurred to me that you could somehow sell that to another company to get more cash (stay liquid, as the financial people call it). But this is really just another way of saying that the bank borrowed some cash.

Not quite. As I mentioned previously, if a lender sells a loan to another party, they relinquish all right to it. With secured loans, such as mortgages, they relinquish the lien as well. In other words, they completely wash their hands of the loan and all their rights to it.

I’ve heard of companies borrowing to make payrolls, or buy new equipment. I’d just never heard of banks borrowing so they could make more loans.

Because that this happens is largely behind the scenes. But banks do this all the time. They sells securities, such as certificates of deposit, to get more cash on hand to cover their banking practices. Paying an agreed-upon interest rate to their creditors. Whether that is to shore up reserves or write more loans, so long as they don’t get over-extended.

Rich people buying CDs and having their own bank accounts is why banks have money to write mortgages. The whole business regarding “collateralized debt obligations” and “mortgage backed securities” also came about because of this.

The idea of “Central Banks” was pushed into place after it seemed that unregulated banks had an inclination to dig too deep into their cash.

Central banking isn’t about controlling “unregulated banks”, but more establishing a central means of regulating the monetary system. In the United States, banks are generally a member of the Federal Reserve System, so must agree to a certain degree of regulation as part of their membership.

Prior to central banking, and even for a time thereafter, banks issued their own bank notes. In the United States, State legislatures authorized chartered banks to issue bank notes in the State’s name. In 1863 the United States passed the National Banking Act, which authorized nationally chartered banks to issue a national currency, with oversight by the Comptroller of the Currency. This continued until the 1930s when the United States transferred issuing authority of the currency to the Federal Reserve, thereby centralizing the regulation and management of the currency of the United States. The Comptroller of the Currency still has oversight authority.

Paper money was initially backed by a bank’s reserves in gold or silver, be it bars or coins. In the United States and much of the world, this is no longer the case. Instead of being backed by physical assets, it’s backed by the full faith and credit of the controlling government.

The single most important role of a central bank is as “lender of last resort”.

Basically if there is a crisis in the banking system such that banks are no longer able to meet the demands of their customers, the banks can appeal to the central bank for liquidity. In the United States, the Federal Reserve is empowered to provide short-term loans to banks secured by allowable collateral as defined by the Federal Reserve Act. This along with the overnight lending market allows a bank to get through any higher-than-typical demand.

Additionally the Federal Reserve will periodically buy bonds from its member banks at the “prime rate”, allowing banks to obtain additional liquidity, whether for new loans, covering other expenses, or shoring up reserves.

There’s a lot involved here, but I’m not going to delve any deeper at this time.

No one likes “reserves” because they just sit there and don’t do anything.

Banks don’t like reserves sitting idle for the same reason businesses don’t like their employees sitting idle. Idle money, just like idle employees, means you’re not making money. So banks loan out the money to get it moving in the economy. The interest they charge on the loans is then used to cover expenses, and some of that interest is paid back to customers.

Early bankers realized that loaning out their deposits allowed the economy around them to prosper more than if the money sat idle. And a prosperous community, in turn, means a prosperous bank. At least that’s how it used to be.

Banks also didn’t just loan out the deposits. Sometimes they’d invest them in various securities exchanges as well, earning money for the bank and its customers.  Whatever got the money moving rather than just sitting idle. Though this largely won’t happen today unless you put the money into a “money market” account.

The bank has my $100. I thought this meant it could loan out $1000. That’s not exactly right. It is only allowed to loan, maybe, $90. Except, that loaned money is going to end up in another bank account, and then about $80 of that could be loaned back out. That whole cycle can be imagined to repeat maybe 5 or ten times. Now a lot more than my $100 has been loaned – deposited – and re-loaned. That’s what people call “creating money.” I discuss this more below.

Nice to see the author re-checked their information and corrected it accordingly. He’s right on how this works as well, but let’s show this visually, starting with an initial $100 deposit, a reserve requirement of 10%, and assume the bank loans out up to that reserve requirement.

Create a spreadsheet (Google Docs or Office Online will work) with two columns. In cell A1, put 100. In cell B1, put the formula =A1*.9. In cell A2 put the formula =B1. In cell B2, repeat the formula from cell B1. Then copy and paste the second row down to row 3 onward.

What you’ll notice is the amount that is loaned out gets steadily smaller. And if you were to continue the progression far enough, you’d find that the amount of money loaned out in total approaches $900 from the original $100 deposit. This means that original $100 deposit was able to “create” about $1,000 in deposits through fractional reserve banking.

It did not, however, create $900 in new liquidity that didn’t previously exist. What was created is an additional $900 in liabilities against the original $100 deposit. And the bank that took the original deposit has $100 in liabilities attached to $10 in reserves. This is what makes fractional reserve banking problematic, which is why it’s a delicate balancing act between the bank’s lending activities and the demands of the depositors for their money.

This possibly provides more opportunity to “fiddle” the system. If you have to provide a borrower with real currency to complete a loan, then if you run out of currency, you can’t make any more loans. If you only have to credit an account on a computer, then you don’t need the currency. So, who’s to stop you from just pumping out loans?

Much of the same could be said about the move away from hard money like gold and silver toward paper money. It’s a matter of convenience more than anything else. Paper is much easier to lug around than gold and silver. And a card linked to an electronic database is much easier than cash.

This doesn’t then mean that lenders can just “pump out loans”.

The author mentioned early in the article about “balancing the books”. What balances the books is the double-entry accounting that has been the governor of accounting practices for the last couple centuries. Double-entry accounting provides for a lot of checks and balances and instance audits of the system by requiring that every debit be balanced by one or more credits meeting the sum total, and every credit be balanced by one or more debits meeting the sum total, thereby keeping everything in “balance”.

Combine that with the accounting equation, and you largely have a pretty good check on everything out of the gate. It’s why I use double-entry accounting for my personal financial management.

Electronic systems remove a lot of the guesswork in managing the books, thereby also lowering significantly the chance of error, especially the chance of costly errors. Add on internal and external audits, and the chance of error is all but eliminated.

Look at interest rates on savings accounts, for instance. It used to be recognized that the depositor was actually making the bank a loan, and should earn interest on his unused balance. But depositors had no way to enforce that idea on bankers, so gradually interest payments on savings accounts have reduced to almost nothing.

Depositors have always had the way of enforcing that idea by moving their money to another bank. The reason interest rates on saving accounts are pitiful right now is due to the extremely low interest rates on loans. When the bank is charging only 4% interest on a 30-year mortgage, they’re not going to give their depositors much in the way of interest on their savings, especially in demand deposit accounts like a saving account.

The interest the bank pays you is a cost of banking. Their revenue comes from the interest on loans and fees on services. So if they’re not making much revenue from interest, they’re not going to offer good interest rates to depositors.

If you want interest rates on saving accounts to go up, the cost of borrowing — the interest rates on loans — also need to go up, and borrowers need to be borrowing at those higher rates.

The abandonment of the use of interest rates to control inflation in certain markets, and the subsequent increase in the supply of money in those markets, are bits of history not totally explained by the factors discussed above.

Regulating inflation is one of the roles of the Federal Reserve. And it does this through the “prime rate”, which is the rate at which the Federal Reserve lends money to its member banks. Since the prime rate plays heavily into the interest rates for lending by banks to customers, a low prime rate typically means low interest rates on loans.

Lower interest rates on loans also means more liquidity flowing through the system, and a higher chance of inflation. The Federal Reserve monitors this and will raise interest rates to curb inflation if they think it’ll escape what they feel is reasonable. Currently the Federal Reserve aims for an inflation rate of around 2%.

 

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And that is not banking

Article: “And That Is Banking

Recently this article came in as a trackback to my article on fractional reserve banking. Now the author classifies the article as “thinking out loud”. He gave me a credit as “to get an explanation of how banks account for the loans they make”. And he really should’ve read beyond that, given some of what he says contradicts what I demonstrated.

Not much of his article needs to be corrected or clarified, so I’ll only focus on those sections that do.

Now, say I’m a bank, and I loan someone some money. This decreases my Cash, or the asset pool I make loans from. How do I get more “cash” so I can make another loan? In normal banking I would have to take payments on loans I had already made to other people and put some of them back into my Cash. In mortgage banking I could do something called “selling the loan.” Basically, the loan turns into a security (essentially a document that can be bought and sold) that I can sell to a company that buys those types of securities.

As I demonstrated in my article on fractional reserve banking, lenders, be it a bank or not, get their money from investors. For banks this comes in the form of certificates of deposit, bonds, or other financial instruments. As I also demonstrated, banks loan out the money that is deposited by their customers.

Non-bank lenders, however, still need investors. They can either borrow the money from other lenders and loan out that money at a slightly higher interest rate to turn a profit, or they can sell stocks or bonds against the equity in their business.

And once a lender has written a loan, they can sell that loan to another lender to recuperate some of the loaned value — they’re unlikely likely to recuperate the entire loaned amount. And this is unlikely to occur unless the lender is in need of the cash and needs to sell off assets to get it, knowing they’re likely to also have to write off a loss in doing so. Which is why they’d be more likely to do this on loans that have already generated enough interest revenue to make it worthwhile.

Central Banks have also promoted the practice of fractional reserve banking. This means essentially that the pool of funds available for lending is larger than the bank’s cash on hand. This is possible accounting-wise because the bank can count the loaned money as an asset, as there is a promise to pay it back. They can then loan more money based on a combination of their actual cash and the promises to pay – up to a certain limit set by the Central Bank.

And this is where the author starts to misunderstand what I wrote.

The practice of fractional reserve banking predates central banks by centuries if not millennia. And fractional reserve banking is possible due to the fact customers rarely directly withdraw the funds they deposit with a bank. This is especially true today when liquidity is able to move through the system virtually instantly. Basically in however much time it takes for one bank register a transaction originating from another bank.

But they can’t loan more money “based on a combination of their actual cash and [receivables]”. They can only loan from their reserves, up to a predetermined reserve requirement.

For example, if the reserve requirement is 10% — the general standard in the United States, as far as I’m aware — the bank must maintain reserves equal to 10% of their total demand deposit liabilities. This means they need to have at least $1 on hand for every $9 loaned out. Few banks will loan out to that degree, though, simply because of the risk involved.

They can then juggle their real cash against their loaned amount by selling securities to get more cash or buying some other bank’s debt if that bank needs more cash.

This is a rather crude way of describing the overnight lending market.

You have $100. But you are allowed to loan out $1000.

The author describes this as his “original concept of how this scam works”. And if that’s the original concept, he still hasn’t corrected it. And it only gets worse. Before proceeding, recall from above how I said that banks must have at least $1 on hand for every $9 they loan out. This means that if a bank takes in $100, they can only loan out $90 from that original $100. Not $1000. Not anywhere near that. Since they don’t have the assets to cover it.

If you don’t have to fork over real cash to make these loans, then all you have to do is add $100 to the electronic accounts of the ten people you loaned it to. If they all pay you back, you have $1000. Did you make a $900 gross profit? That’s what it seems like to me.

No bank could do this and stay in business. They’d become insolvent in a heartbeat. Provided the regulators didn’t catch wind of this and shut them down before insolvency took then under.

To make a loan, the bank must first have the reserves to back it. If they don’t have the reserves, they can’t make the loan. Because the principal of the loan has to come from somewhere. If a bank only took in $1 million in deposits and turned around and wrote $10 million in loans, what is the bank to do when the borrowers attempted to withdraw the $10 million? This was the central question I used to support my arguments in the aforementioned article on fractional reserve banking.

The overnight lending market won’t help in that instance either. Since if all banks did that, there wouldn’t be enough liquidity in the system to cover all the outstanding liabilities. The entire banking system would basically collapse as a result.

Do you need to charge interest? No, you don’t! Interest is just the cream on the coffee. You made your profit using fractional reserve banking, not interest-based banking. And if that’s true, it’s something I never fully realized before.

Except it isn’t true since you start off on a very faulty premise.

Interest is how banks make money from their lending practices. That along with any fees they charge on safe deposit boxes and other services they offer. The principal of the loans actually belongs to their customers, since the banks are basically borrowing that money from their customers to make the loans.

Again fractional reserve banking means only that banks need not have $1 for every $1 on deposit with them. But it doesn’t mean they manufacture $10, or any amount, for every $1 on hand. And given some of what I’ve seen written about fractional reserve banking, this misunderstanding of how it works is not uncommon, and fueled likely by a significant ignorance of the accounting underneath the covers.

Fractional reserve banking means that, presuming a reserve requirement of 10%, a bank may loan out $9 of every $10 deposited with them. They can’t use that $10 to then write $100 in loans. Where would that money come from? Yet time and again I see the idea that banks “create money through loans”.

And, by the way, credit unions are no different from banks in how the accounting works. Credit unions still operate on fractional reserve banking principles. Keep that in mind when the author says:

Credit unions don’t have investors so don’t have to make a profit.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions by definition. They also have investors. Like banks, their primary investors are their customers, but they also sell other financial instruments such as certificates of deposit. Unlike banks, demand deposit account owners are granted an ownership stake in the credit union as a privilege of being a depositor. As such, like banks and other for-profit organizations, credit unions still operate on maximizing shareholder value.

And credit unions have dividend payouts as well, where they return some of their profit to their customers as deposits to their accounts.

In general, though, the not-for-profit focus of credit unions allows them to offer lower rates on loans and higher rates on deposits. Their general exemption from most taxation under the IRS code also allows this. Whereas banks are subject to general taxation on their net revenue, an expense they factor into their interest rates and fee schedules.

But they still operate through fractional reserve banking, and participate in the Federal Reserve System in the United States. This means they also participate in the overnight lending market, but also have a reserve requirement. The only difference between a bank and a credit union is who gets the banking profit.

And I’ve considered moving my finances to a credit union for that reason, as there are several credit union options in my area. Merely because I’d like to earn more than 15 to 20 cents per year on my deposit account. Plus we’re planning to buy a house within the next couple years, and credit unions tend to have more favorable rates on mortgages and other loans, but you generally need to be a member to take advantage. And given my credit score and income, they’d probably love to have me.

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After the election

Note: I originally wrote this back in November 2004 following the 2004 election, and I just decided to share it after finding it on a backup drive. It’s an opinion piece I initially wrote for the student newspaper in college, but withdrew when it was handed to a student editor in a journalism class and butchered.

* * * * *

In several States, this was a close election. Analysts agreed that it came down to Ohio. But, as numbers kept rolling in, it became clear to Kerry and his camp that they were not going to pull it out.

Watching the election progress, flipping through the many channels, I was pleased to see that the networks had learned the lessons the 2000 election taught. Better statistical models, plus their willingness to hold off on declaring winners was a good sign.

Prior to the election, there was a lot of talk about the Congressional campaigns, as it was the prediction of analysts that the Presidential election would end up tied in the Electoral College. If that were the case, the House of Representatives would elect the President by a simple majority with each State having one vote.1

The Republicans managed to increase their lead in both the Senate and House. Probably the most surprising of the Senate elections was Tom Daschle’s loss in South Dakota by a narrow margin of little more than 4,500 votes.

Michael Moore recently announced as well that he is making a sequel to his controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11“. Reuters quoted him as saying, “Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election), and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren’t told the truth.” The documentary is expected for release in two to three years.

Much of Moore’s film has already been refuted. Citizen’s United has put out a movie to refute the main points of “Fahrenheit 9/11” called “Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die“. It is available on DVD at http://www.celsius4111.com.

On his web site, in a message dated November 4, 2004, he listed the names of every fatality from the war in Iraq as his “first thoughts after the election”. “May they rest in peace,” he said. “And may they forgive us someday.”

Prior to the election, Moore was telling college students that if Bush were re-elected, the draft would be re-instated. There has already been a Congressional attempt to re-instate the draft: H.R. 163, introduced by New York Democrat Charles Rangel. It was struck down in October. The Department of Defense has stated that there is no need for a draft.

Surveys agree that this election came down to the war on terrorism. And one thing that I clearly noticed about the campaigns was this: Republicans were talking about preventing future attacks, Democrats were talking about reacting to future attacks. Proactive solutions versus reactive solutions.

Personally I would prefer to see future attacks prevented instead of just reacting to them. Reaction would cost much more time and money than prevention. We did enough reaction during the course of the Clinton administration and the first part of Bush’s administration in regard to September 11. To ensure the security of this country, we must do so proactively.

National security does not bow to the wills of the people, for without national security the will of the people no longer matters.

So in a clean election in the wake of dirty campaigns from both sides, the country has once again chosen its President. The Electoral College will make the decision official later this month, and everyone can look ahead to the future.

There was a lot of fire before the election, and there is still a lot of fire afterward. Hopefully that fire will dissipate as we move further into the new century. Four more years with Bush, and hopefully they will be four years free from attacks on the homeland.

To me, only one question remains: how long will it take Kerry to pay off that $800,000 mortgage he took out for his campaign earlier this year?

  1. Constitution of the United States at Article II, Section 1 []
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Crisis – another build for another friend

More like a response to a crisis, that being a friend for whom I’ve already told I’d build a new system. So let’s get into this, starting with the parts, a build configuration similar to White Lightning, only different chassis, so different cooling options.

  • CPU: AMD Athlon X4 860k with Cooler Master Hyper TX3
  • Mainboard: Gigabyte F2A88XM-D3HP
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3-1866 running at XMP
  • Graphics: ASUS GTX 1050 Ti
  • Chassis: Silverstone GD09
  • Storage: Seagate 500GB SSHD
  • Power supply: EVGA 650 G2

Many I’m sure will complain about the pairing of the 1050 Ti with the Athlon X4.

I originally considered the GTX 1050, but opted for the GTX 1050 Ti when I saw that card as an open box at Micro Center for slightly less than the GTX 1050. Plus it has 4GB compared to 2GB with the GTX 1050. I initially leaned on the GTX 1050 as it doesn’t need an additional power connector.

I wouldn’t consider putting a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 with this processor. I wouldn’t even consider it for any build into this chassis due to the limited space.

Since I used the EVGA 650 G2 in White Lightning, I considered it a good fit here as well. With its gold rating and quite fan profile, plus smaller overall size, it fits perfectly in the Silverstone GD09, and would be a great selection for any build. Plus it has a 10 year warranty.

If you’re building a budget system from the ground up, I’ve said numerous times in various venues that you should include in that budget a quality power supply before selecting other parts. A quality power supply will set you up well for the future. And at only around 100 USD with a 10 year warranty, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The Cooler Master Hyper TX3 does a pretty good job of keeping the X4 cool as well. It has a lower profile than the famous and popular Hyper 212 EVO, allowing it to fit into the Silverstone GD09 with a few millimeters to spare. And the fan is pretty silent as well, but still had no problem keeping up with the CPU, especially since it has a 120mm intake fan right next to it, and two 80mm exhaust fans behind it.

The GD09 chassis is a great option for building an HTPC or desktop system. Just be sure to select a power supply that allows you to have a 120mm fan on the power supply side of the chassis. And definitely stick with a microATX or miniITX board for this. Full ATX will fit, but it’ll be tight quarters. This is definitely not a chassis for high-end hardware, and there is no room for an AIO. You definitely need to get creative with cable management as well.

In building the system, I picked up a Kingwin KW-PCI2H25, a bracket for mounting 2.5″ drives (SSD or laptop drives) to an expansion slot. Initially I planned to use a 500GB 3.5″ drive as the storage in this system, but couldn’t figure out a way to mount it. In checking prices for 2.5″ drives at Micro Center, I discovered the SSHD for a very good price. But I still needed a way to adequately mount it.

I considered using a 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter tray and taping it to the top of the power supply. Then I happened to see the Kingwin bracket. So if you’re considering a small form-factor build, keep an eye out for that to see if it might work well for you.

Use case

This system is for light duty and mid-tier gaming. The client is a friend who plays World of Warcraft along with  few lighter-end titles. And her current system is on its last legs, not to mention painful when trying to play World of Warcraft.

Her current system is an AMD E-300 APU, using it’s integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics, I think 4GB RAM, and a 500GB HDD. It’s about identical to the system that White Lightning replaced, the laptop board that HP adapted to make cheap, low-power desktop systems powered by a laptop power brick and no room for expansion beyond swapping out the HDD for an SSD or adding memory.

Noise

Silence has been one of my main obsessions lately with building systems, especially with Mira and a quiet cabinet I have in progress, and this was no different. And I’m also glad to see that it’s been a target focus of much of the market for cooling solutions.

The only noticeable noise is on boot when one of the fans is noticeably loud — I want to say it’s the fan on the Hyper TX3. Beyond that there is barely any noise unless you hold your ear next to the chassis. Without the power light or staring at the fans to make sure they’re spinning, there’d be virtually no indicator the system was actually on.

Under load, things are a little different, and the system does start to become noticeable with the CPU fan. I don’t recall noticing any noise from the graphics card fan during stress testing and benchmarks.

Along with the stock 120mm fan that comes with the GD09 and the 92mm fan on the Hyper TX3, I added three (3) Enermax T.B. Silence 80mm fans (product no. UCTB8) and a Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm. The Spectre Pro is adjacent to the power supply blowing in. Two of the 80mm fans are behind the CPU, and the remaining is hanging above the expansion cards on an expansion slot fan bracket, all blowing out.

Benchmarks

Let’s get into some benchmarks to see how well this system performs. Scores for Mira are in [red]. During benchmarks on its stock cooler with its stock profiles, the graphics card boosted to over 1759 MHz on the core. The CPU boosted to 4.0 GHz.

  • Unigine Heaven (everything maxed, 1080p): 920 [2428]
  • Unigine Valley (Extreme HD preset, 1080p): 1643 [3909]

Since the GTX 1050 Ti is nowhere near as powerful as the GTX 1070 or 1080, these scores aren’t that surprising.

Heaven is usually pretty good about isolating the GPU. I’ve noted such when I upgraded my personal system, Mira, from an AMD FX-8350 to an Intel i7-5820k while keeping my GTX 770 SLI pair for the initial upgrade. In that upgrade the Heaven scores didn’t budge much — only a few percentage points higher. And a video I found on YouTube showing a Heaven benchmark for the GTX 1050 Ti paired with an i5-6400, the score comes in only about 30 points higher than this score with similar settings.

Valley is a little more CPU involved, as I’ve also noticed with Mira. Yet this score isn’t far off what others are producing with the GTX 1050 Ti and newer processors. One video I found which paired the GTX 1050 Ti with the Intel G4560 produced a score shy of 40 points better than this one. And that’s with the card appearing to be clocked better on core and memory as well. And another video with the i5-6400 paired with the GTX 1050 Ti also produced a score shy of 40 points better.

So at least with regard to Valley and Heaven benchmarks, there isn’t much of a problem pairing the GTX 1050 Ti with the Athlon X4 860k. But to get a better idea of whether this is a decent pairing or not, let’s turn to 3DMark.

  • 3DMark Time Spy: 2162 [6143] – Graphics: 2260 [6154], Combined : 1738
  • 3DMark Firestrike: 5650 [15780] – Graphics: 7667 [18942], Combined : 2216

To say this system struggled with these benchmarks would be an understatement. The graphics tests for Time Spy averaged at 15 FPS for the first test, shy of 13 FPS for the second. And the CPU test was shy of 6 FPS.

Fire Strike fared better, but there was still some noticeable stutter from the demo. Both graphics tests averaged above 30 FPS, with the first test averaging better than the second. The Physics test averaged at 14 FPS and the CPU test averaged at a little over 10 FPS.

  • 3DMark Sky Diver: 14402 [38362] – Graphics: 25176 [63835], CPU: 11252
  • 3DMark Cloud Gate: 11427 [33322] – Graphics: 50344 [121253], Physics: 3084

These benchmarks were much nicer to the system, and the system had no problem keeping up with either.

And in comparing these benchmarks with systems with comparable processors, from what I could find, the performance, as represented by benchmark numbers and frame rate comparisons, is very similar when comparing to an i5 or i3 processor.

As such it’s reasonable to pair a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti with an Athlon X4 860k. Regardless of what you use with the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti, you’re not getting stellar performance unless you turn down the settings. And pairing it with newer processors (Skylake, Kaby Lake, Haswell-E) doesn’t appear to provide significantly better performance unless it has a higher thread count.

Temperatures

During all of the benchmarks, the GPU never hit 70C, leveling out in the mid-60sC. In part because I took advantage of the horizontal expansion slot at the top of the chassis to mount a fan using an expansion slot mount bracket. It’s just an 80mm fan, but it helps clear hot air away from the graphics card. Additionally there is a 120mm fan adjacent to the power supply to bring air in for the GPU.

With the Hyper TX3 and the fans around it, the CPU never went into the 50sC. Even when running Prime95. So there’s clearly room for overclocking the CPU, but I’m not worrying on that. And this is in part due to the 120mm fan immediately near the CPU and the dual 80mm exhaust fans behind the CPU. The X4 was also boosting to 4.0GHz from its base clock of 3.7GHz during these tests.

So I will almost certainly be using the Hyper TX3 in future builds, where it’ll fit.

Conclusions

Compared to her existing system, this is a significant improvement. She’s getting a processor that supports dual-channel memory, has twice as many cores and a significantly higher clock speed. And the graphics performance is like night and day.

Crisis should be able to power anything she does without difficulty. Unless she opens a bazillion tabs in Firefox or Chrome. The GTX 1050 Ti goes well here, too, and it’ll provide very good performance for World of Warcraft.

This system could likely handle some modern titles as well with the settings turned well down, since even with higher-end processors the GTX 1050 Ti is still not able to perform nearly as well as even the GTX 1070. From what I could find it does outpace the RX 460 while comparing to the RX 470 on performance, but having much lesser power requirements. So I might trade the RX 470 in White Lightning for a GTX 1050 Ti. But since I’m planning to set up White Lightning as a Ryzen system later this year, that’ll likely wait.

 

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More dress code idiocy

Let’s get something straight about dress codes.

High school is when teenagers are supposed to learn what will be expected of them in the real world. And the kind of clothes they’ll be expected to wear on the job. And the fact that dress codes will be a part of your working life. Even in my office where the dress code is casual, some of what teenagers wear to school, allowable under the school’s dress code, would not be allowed. And dress codes are written to, as best as possible, remove subjectivity from the equation.

Yet it seems that teenage women across the country are clashing with dress codes, and labeling the dress codes sexist because they appear to be enforced against women more than men.

Here’s the thing. If teenage fashion, in particular teenage female fashion, is clashing with school dress codes, then fashion needs to change. Again dress codes will be a part of life, so teenagers, especially teenage women, need to learn to get used to it without complaining. In the real world, what you think “looks fine” might get you sent home from work. Without pay if you’re hourly. And repeated noncompliance with a dress code is grounds for termination.

The “distraction” excuse is really just that, and it’s something that administrators need to stop saying. Period. Justifying a dress code is no harder than merely saying “it’s what will be expected of you on the job”. Since you will be expected to comply with a dress code when working, with reprisal for noncompliance.

Perhaps we could completely remove any subjectivity and make public school uniforms universal.

Part of me, however, is actually worried about this trend. And it comes to the narrowing definitions of consent and harassment. I’m wondering if the young women today who are continually purporting the dress codes to be sexist and misogynist will be the working women of tomorrow calling it sexual harassment. Given the trends over the last couple years, I can’t help but wonder if that is the direction all of this is going.

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The decline of Christianity

Article: “Ten reasons millennials are backing away from God and Christianity

Just as the left is largely delusional with regard to Clinton’s loss — the constant screams that it’s because of racism and sexism, and Van Jones calling it a “whitelashing” — much of the religious right is very well deluded into why many of the latest generation are eschewing religion. Dr Alex McFarland’s latest article with Fox News is no different.

But millennials largely not wanting religion is one of the reasons churches have been doing more to reach out to them, by adapting their church services and offerings into entertainment-style programs that they feel will appeal more to today’s youth. My wife observed such when she attended a church service with her sister and brother-in-law in Columbus, Missouri. And Seth Andrews, of The Thinking Atheist, observed such as well in a presentation at FreeOK 2013:

Christianity in the West, the United States in particular, is on a steep decline, as Dr McFarland points out in the preamble to his article:

In fact, the Pew Research Center documents that millennials are the least outwardly religious American generation, where “one in four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29.”

And one of the reasons for this, as the Doctor also notes, is this judgmental attitude among a lot of religions and the people purporting to represent those religions. While he specifically notes the attitudes of Christian conservatives against homosexuality, it’s something that I and other atheist writers have noted with regard to any belief that deviates from Christianity. Indeed Christian hostility toward atheism is well documented.

But the Doctor’s attempts to explain why more people are leaving religion — not just the younger generation — is laughable at best. As someone who has been loosely involved in atheist activism over the last decade, I can tell you the reasons are a bit more involved than McFarland’s reductions. But let’s address his points specifically.

1. Mindset of “digital natives” is very much separate from other generations. Millennials are eclectic on all fronts—economically, spiritually, artistically. There is little or no “brand loyalty” in most areas of life.

This actually isn’t true. A lot of millennials do still have a lot of brand loyalty. Often annoyingly so. For example the proliferation of Apple products among millennials isn’t a stereotype without reasons.

While it might seem that millennials have eclectic tastes, thereby allowing the hypothesis they aren’t loyal to any brand, millennials are instead not firm in their loyalties and seem willing to switch their loyalties at the drop of a hat. This has led to many different adaptations within the market whereby companies have had to invent completely new ways to encourage customers to stay with their brand.

2. Breakdown of the family. It has long been recognized that experience with an earthly father deeply informs the perspective about the heavenly father. In “How the West Really Lost God, sociologist Mary Eberstadt correctly asserts, “The fortunes of religion rise or fall with the state of the family.”

This is demonstrably untrue. Indeed some of the peoples with the greatest family breakdown are actually the MOST religious. That being the black population in the United States, where 7 in 10 pregnancies are unintended and nearly half of those end in abortion. And most black children are raised without fathers. But most blacks are also very religious.

Pew Research Forum even demonstrates this. In a survey of over 24,000 individuals, 13% of those who identified as Christian also said they are black, matching approximate population demographics of blacks for the country. This is consistent an earlier 2007 survey that estimated 87% of blacks (as opposed to 83% of the general population) are religiously affiliated, with Baptist making up the plurality.

So religion is largely not connected with family status.

3. Militant secularism: Embraced by media and enforced in schools, secular education approaches learning through the lens of “methodological naturalism.” It is presupposed that all faith claims are merely expressions of subjective preference. The only “true” truths are claims that are divorced from any supernatural context and impose no moral obligations on human behavior. People today are subjected to an enforced secularism.

And now we get into blatant misrepresentation.

Methodological naturalism is, in short, the scientific method. It is a means of determining, to a great degree of objectivity, whether a claim is true. It is the bedrock of science, and as such is the reason for the advances of science. If a claim cannot be shown to be true, it must be rejected, or at least set aside or modified to reflect the evidence.

Eugenie Scott, PhD, of the National Center for Science Education gave a talk at the University of Michigan back in January 2006, not long after the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover “intelligent design” trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. In that talk, she specifically addresses the claim that science is anti-God or, as she put it, “science means God had nothing to do with it”:

As Dr Scott touches on basically every point that could be said on this, I’ll let her words stand on their own. But I will reiterate this point: whatever you want to believe about God and his alleged interaction on the world, you cannot use the scientific method to prove that.

The fact that we can repeatedly demonstrate many of the claims in science shows one of two things: either God exists and is not interacting with the world, letting us learn about the world he supposedly created such that he won’t screw up our attempts to do so, or he doesn’t exist at all.

Since the latter is the easier conclusion, along with science repeatedly showing the claims of the Bible to be completely wrong (such as Genesis creationism, regardless of flavor), many choose to accept that. It is why most scientists are atheist or agnostic.

This is especially the case given the utter dishonesty of many of those attempting to assert the Bible as factual — such as Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Kirk Cameron and Ray “Banana Man” Comfort. So instead of asserting “militant secularism”, perhaps you should instead look at those who are attempting to speak on the side of God and get them to clean up their act.

Quoting this notion oft-repeated by atheist activist, and candidate for the Texas State Senate, AronRa, you can either be honest, or you can be a creationist, but not both, because creationism is inherently dishonest, and requires acts of dishonesty, deceit, and outright fraud to purport and defend.

Some scientists are still Christian or Catholic, such as Kenneth Miller, PhD, of Brown University, author of the book Finding Darwin’s God. But Dr Miller and others like him are not creationists.

4. Lack of spiritual authenticity among adults. Many youth have had no — or very limited — exposure to adult role models who know what they believe, why they believe it, and are committed to consistently living it out.

This is in part because many adults largely stop looking to their religion with every thing they do.

5. The church’s cultural influence has diminished. The little neighborhood church is often assumed to be irrelevant, and there is no cultural guilt anymore for those who abandon involvement.

And this is a bad thing… how?

6. Pervasive cultural abandonment of morality. The idea of objective moral truth—ethical norms that really are binding on all people—is unknown to most and is rejected by the rest.

Not quite. Instead what’s different is the morals themselves.

You see, much of what Christianity claims is immoral has no foundation other than “God says so”. The six commandments of the Decalogue that actually apply to human behavior can be shown as immoral without difficulty. Killing, stealing, lying, infidelity. These are all things that most anyone, unless they’re a socio- or psychopath, will agree are wrong.

It comes down quite readily to the Golden Rule — which predates Christianity, by the way.

But if you look at the laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, how many of those are actually outlawing something that is demonstrably immoral? And more importantly, how many of those do you actually observe in your day to day?

7. Intellectual skepticism. College students are encouraged to accept platitudes like “life is about asking questions, not about dogmatic answers.” Is that the answer? That there are no answers? Claiming to have answers is viewed as “impolite.” On life’s ultimate questions, it is much more socially acceptable to “suspend judgment.”

And again with the misrepresentation. Intellectual skepticism means not being satisfied with an answer until it is demonstrated as true. Mere assertions are not enough. And since Christianity has only assertions and practically nothing in the way of actual evidence, more people are becoming more skeptical of the church and its claims and beliefs.

And the bedrock principle of intellectual skepticism is simply that no claim is sacred. It doesn’t mean we always suspend judgment or that there are “no answers”. It means only that when someone makes a claim, you ask for the evidence. It doesn’t matter what you believe, but why you believe it. In short, why should I believe what you claim?

8. The rise of a fad called “atheism.” Full of self-congratulatory swagger and blasphemous bravado, pop-level atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens (whom I interviewed twice) made it cool to be a non-believer. Many millennials, though mostly 20-something Caucasian males, are enamored by books and blogs run by God-hating “thinkers.”

If it’s a “fad”, it’s one hell of a successful one given how long it’s been around as a concept. For one, I’ve been an atheist pretty much all my life. It was only about 17 years ago when I first encountered the word “atheism”. And I’ve been loosely involved in online atheist activism for about 10 years.

And the likes of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens didn’t make it “cool to be a non-believer”. This is especially the case given how caustic both can be in their language and rhetoric. And I’ve read Hitchens beyond his infamous book God is Not Great. I have an anthology of essays called Love, Poverty, and War, and I intend to buy the book Mortality, which is another anthology of his essays. The man was a brilliant writer and speaker.

There is, however, a greater implication here with which I do agree. And to address it, I’ll need to skip to point 10 first.

10. The commonly defiant posture of young adulthood. As we leave adolescence and morph into adulthood, we all can be susceptible to an inflated sense of our own intelligence and giftedness. During the late teens and early 20s, many young people feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I did. The cultural trend toward rejection of God—and other loci of authority—resonates strongly with the desire for autonomy felt in young adulthood.

In attempting to establish their independence, young adults often get over confident. I can say I’ve been in that position before, and I’ve observed the same in others. Unfortunately this is now being coupled with a healthy sense of delusional thinking. As in childhood make-believe was never squelched when it should’ve been and has leeched into real life. The “non-binary” and “gender fluid” crowds are evidence of this.

Prior to the Internet, this could be largely contained and kept from getting well out of control. In part because the parents and family of the people exhibiting the behaviors we’re seeing would’ve done what they could to contain and correct that behavior.

We no longer have that containment. And it’ll likely be impossible to regain it.

Tumblr and the subculture that’s grown around that site is easily the greatest example of this:

I’m currently working another speculative article on the rise of social justice warriors in the West. And back in 2011, I wrote another article called “Trading one religion for another“, in which I observed the trend for many teens becoming atheists to also become hardcore progressives, and seemingly overnight.

The larger concern here, though, is what is coming with this. And it’s a phenomenon that’s largely developed just over the last five years: victimhood has become profitable. As I said, I’m working on another speculative article which will delve deeper into this, so I won’t elaborate here.

Instead back to Dr McFarland and his last point:

9.  Our new God: Tolerance be Thy name. “Tolerance” today essentially means, “Because my truth is, well, my truth, no one may ever question any behavior or belief I hold.” This “standard” has become so ingrained that it is now impossible to rationally critique any belief or behavior without a backlash of criticism.

This also goes into the previous points — I think his ordering of them could’ve been more logical. But then he’s probably still taking only an outsider’s perspective on much of that anyway. As I said earlier, I’ve been loosely involved in online atheism for about the last 10 years. Looking back I’ve seen how much of this grew out of that, starting when calling oneself “atheist” was the new rebellion. It’s one of the reasons many Christians called atheism merely a “phase”, similar to the Doctor calling it a “fad”.

The situation is only getting worse by the day. When the universal SCUBA symbol for “I’m OK” is now being purported to mean “white power”, we have a major problem on our hands.

The new “tolerance” attitude is merely indoctrination by a different name. As such, Dr McFarland is actually being quite reserved in how he mentions this, though to be fair his article wasn’t intended to be an in-depth discussion. It’s just a shame he had to misrepresent so much, as I have to be in-depth to correct where he went wrong.

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No reason to fear debt, unless you listen to Dave Ramsey

On a forum I frequent was posted a list of books that couples should read before they are married. One of them was Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. In response to the posting, and another member praising the book, I called Dave Ramsey a salesman, saying he is not a financial guru.

And a recent article on his blog shows this, called “6 Common Money Myths to Avoid“. And what’s top of the list? (Emphasis theirs).

1. Debt is a tool.

The Truth: Some tools help you fix things. Other tools help you break things. So, in that sense, debt is a tool . . . consider it a sledgehammer to your financial future. Another way of putting it: Debt is the enemy of your income. The monthly payments you send to MasterCard are monthly savings you could be putting toward your retirement, your kids’ college, and your down payment on a new house!

Dave Ramsey’s philosophy is to avoid debt at all costs. I really, really wonder how much of what he preaches that he actually practices. Does he also pay cash for everything, and actually keep physical cash in physical envelopes and use that for budgeting? Yeah, I doubt it.

And the reality with regard to debt isn’t so straightforward.

Debt is a tool. But it isn’t the “enemy of your income”, unless you let it become that. Which for most of Ramsey’s audience, that likely is the case. What Ramsey and his contributors continually overlook is “leveraging“. Click on that link and you’ll see where I’ve responded to him before and is continual treatment of the concept as if it’s nonexistent.

As I make clear in that article, how you use debt determines whether it’s an “enemy of your income”. Unfortunately his next point shows as well how much he’s willing to treat “leveraging” as if it’s a concept that does not apply to personal finances.

2. Car payments are a way of life.

The Truth: If you believe debt is a tool, you’re just as likely to believe car payments are a way of life. The average car payment these days is nearly $500 per month, according to Experian Automotive. That’s $6,000 per year you’re putting into something that decreases in value. Instead, save that $500 every month for a year and buy a nice, used, $6,000 car. The best cars are the ones without a payment.

Let’s go back to my article on leveraging and personal finance.

There are two types of assets related to personal finances, since most of us don’t track assets to the same degree of granularity as a lot of companies. So to us, most assets are either appreciable assets — things that will go up in value — or expense assets. The latter goes by another name if you’re referring to a business: inventory.

Most people buy things with the intent of getting utility from them. Food. Utensils. Appliances. Power tools. And even vehicles.

Vehicles are a utility asset, not an appreciable asset. As such, the question that you need to ask before taking on a payment plan is whether you will get more out of the asset than you’re paying each month against it. It’s certainly great to have a vehicle without a car payment. I’m glad to be in that boat myself.

And most who pay off their loans will keep their cars until they’re no longer serviceable. Since there’s hardly any point in paying for a $2,000 repair on a 10 year-old car, for example.

Which actually brings up another part of the equation: opportunity cost. In short, what opportunity are you giving up with a particular decision versus the opportunity you’re accepting? In choosing to make the $2,000 repair, that is $2,000 out of your pocket up front to get your car a little more down the line.

Now if you can afford to pay that $2,000 out of pocket, congratulations. Now you could instead make that $2,000 a down payment on a newer vehicle, perhaps one still under warranty. Sure you’re taking on a monthly payment, but the newer vehicle will have several advantages over the clunker you’re trading in or leaving behind. You have a vehicle you won’t have to worry might break down on you at any point — including the day after you make the $2,000 repair. And peace of mind is difficult to label with a price tag.

But even if you can’t afford the $2,000 repair, again taking on the monthly payment for a newer vehicle buys you some peace of mind. And the cost could be offset in other ways, such as lower insurance rates and better fuel economy (depending on how often you drive). Having a more reliable vehicle could also lead to better opportunities since you’re not so paranoid about your car.

See what potential opens up when you’re not being so short-sighted about having a car payment?

4. You can’t go to college without student loans.

The Truth: You can. You absolutely can. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be worth it? Totally. Whether it’s college-specific aids and grants, or federal and state aid (that’s grants and scholarships, not loans), going to college without debt is absolutely possible. And what about paying for college out of your own pocket—or making your upcoming college student do just that? Rachel Cruze talks about college planning all the time. There are plenty of alternatives to loans when it comes to funding college tuition.

Yes there are plenty of alternatives. Few will be able to fund them to the degree that you need to get a college degree in a reasonable amount of time.

I know a few people who came out of college without any debt. And I would’ve loved to be them. But I didn’t have much in loans myself, not compared to what was considered average back then.

But I also studied a major that is worthwhile. If you study a major that is worthwhile, then you should have little difficulty paying off your loans out of college. At the same time, though, be smart about where you go. Get an Associate’s degree first to keep initial costs low. I had only a small loan coming out of community college that was easy to pay off.

Do well in community college to set yourself up for scholarships when you transfer to a 4-year school. Study a decent major and do well and you’ll come out of school employable. Which will make paying off your debt easier.

At the same time, depending on what you study, you may be able to find sponsors who would be willing to pay your way through college in exchange for a few years of work. And there’s always the military and the benefits you get from serving for a few years.

And before even considering college, ask yourself whether you actually need to go, or whether your time would be better spent in a trade school.

 

Well that’s it for this iteration. Don’t have much to add to his other points, so I’ll just call it here.

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You want a result, not research

With the recent (forced) resignation of the Surgeon General of the United States, many have alluded to his gun control stance as one of the reasons the President pushed for his resignation ahead of the end of his term. So with Vice Admiral Murthy out, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams is the acting Surgeon General.

The Office of the Surgeon General has not been without controversy. When I was growing up, one such controversy arose during the short term of Jocelyn Elders, who publicly called for drug legalization and distributing contraceptives in schools. She also talked quite frankly about subjects such as masturbation, abortion, sexuality, and comprehensive sex education.

And even C. Everett Koop wasn’t able to escape controversy. Koop was personally anti-abortion. As such he was pressured by Reagan and other conservative politicians to position the Office of the Surgeon General as decisively anti-abortion. He openly resisted, even refusing to prepare a report declaring abortion to be psychologically harmful to women, citing a lack of evidence supporting the assertion.

Vivek Murthy’s controversy, however, was gun control. And his confirmation was opposed by gun rights groups due to his stance that the CDC needs to research gun violence. This stance is well-reflected in anti-gun circles with the continued calls for more research.

It’s also a flat-out lie. Gun control groups don’t want research. They want a pre-conceived result.

They want the research to reflect their views. Yet research has been ongoing by independent groups. So I guess they want the CDC doing the research because of the perceptive authority of the CDC. I guess that if their views are reflected in CDC research, it sounds more official.

Two problems with this, though: the facts don’t support gun control, and the entire United States Public Health Service, which includes the CDC, has a clear anti-gun bias.

And again the facts are not on the side of gun control. Never have been.

Even post-Heller DC has not seen an increase in homicides, contrary to all the predictions. This is reflected in articles published over the last several years. Sources include an article from the Washington Times in 2009, from Reason in 2012, the NRA-ILA in 2014, and most recently on from the Daily Caller on April 17, 2017.

For those not immediately recalling, Heller refers to the District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008), decision that upheld the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right in striking down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban. Heller didn’t change the homicide rate trend since it was already going down before Heller. But the fact the homicide rate continued to go down after Heller shows that DC’s handgun ban wasn’t helping things either when they did have it.

Something else was leading DC’s homicide rate decline despite the strict gun laws and the forced change by the Supreme Court.

The trend also contradicts the repeated assertions of anti-gun advocates who claimed with Heller the same thing they claimed with expanded concealed carry: “OK Corral”, “blood in the streets”, “road rage settled with guns”. That whole spiel.

And the single largest fallacy of gun control proponents is improper representation of the data.

Let’s start with this: the United States is federated republic of 50 sovereign, independent States, plus several Territories and the disparate Native American tribes and reservations. The fallacy with data representation comes in aggregating the data together.

I’ve said before, and the data demonstrate, that gun control laws largely don’t do much for homicide and crime rates. Neither do gun friendly laws. Because I’m largely convinced that regardless of the state of gun laws, those who seek to victimize others will take their chances. They will adapt. If gun laws loosen and more people are armed, then they’ll become more careful, but they won’t stop.

What concealed carry laws do, however, is change the odds. They make it so that fewer people need not take chances as well. It doesn’t mean they can be cavalier about their safety, and situational awareness will always be your friend. But it doesn’t mean they’re sitting ducks either. Instead those seeking to target the innocent have to be more calculating.

We have gun friendly States with high homicide and crime rates. Missouri comes to mind, but that is largely skewed by St Louis and Kansas City. And there are gun friendly States with low homicide rates. Vermont comes to mind.

And there are gun control States with high homicide rates, such as Illinois and California. But again the same must be pointed out: the rates are skewed by the bigger cities where crime is more rampant. And gun control States with lower homicide rates. Hawai’i comes to mind. But even if Hawai’i were to go constitutional carry tomorrow, I doubt it’d have much effect on their homicide rates due to their isolation from the mainland. It’s difficult to get guns to Hawai’i, especially with Federal laws regarding interstate transport of firearms for commerce, let alone get a gun in Hawai’i.

So stronger gun laws don’t really do jack for crime, and looser gun laws don’t do much either. Because crime exists independently of gun laws, and won’t change because of stronger or looser gun laws. That is the overarching reality many don’t want to accept.

Same with this reality: most crime and violence occurs where Democrats reign. The majority of homicide offenders, where race is known, are black. And the majority of homicide victims knew their killer. And there is little that legislation can do to address that since it can’t really address the desire to commit crime.

But again, gun control advocates don’t want research. They want a particular result. Make no mistake about it.

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An idea for Illinois (and other States)

While Illinois issues non-resident concealed carry permits, it will only entertain applications from residents of four other States. Interestingly one of them (as of the time I write this) is Texas. So for everyone else, we’re basically out of luck as far as being able to carry concealed in Illinois since they will only honor their concealed carry permits.

Absent national reciprocity, is there a viable alternative? Absolutely.

I’d like to make a simple proposition to Illinois: allow non-residents to go to Illinois to obtain an Illinois permit as if they are an Illinois resident. I’ll use myself as an example as I live in Kansas. If Illinois allowed this, I would make the necessary reservations for the concealed carry class at a licensed venue in Illinois. This would mean also making reservations at a hotel and seeking out nearby restaurants and businesses while staying there. So the immediate economic benefits to Illinois businesses are obvious.

And then there’s the benefit to the Illinois government. Along with sales and service taxes, non-residents would be paying the fees to file application for a concealed carry permit. So that’d be additional money for Illinois all around.

Beyond that, it has the potential to create new businesses, which leads to more jobs. Since the only way to meet the potential demand is with additional supply. And Illinois would likely also need to hire more law enforcement to handle a surge in permit applications.

It would also alleviate Illinois’ concern about non-residents and concealed carry.

And non-residents would have an avenue for being able to legally carry concealed in Illinois. Rather than just avoiding the State entirely.

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