Thursday, August 29, 2013

Modern heroes do not fear gender conversion

The prototypes of heroic behaviour come from the twilight of legends. Best known to us are the Greek legends preserved in epos and drama. What did the ancient Greek tragic hero fear most? He did not fear torture and death, or successfully suppressed any fears of this sort. He cared little about his loved ones and not at all about his community. What he feared was showing fear, and he dressed his fear in very specific words: to "turn womanish". As Leonard Moss summarizes in his book The Excess of Heroism in Classic Drama, heroes of Greek tragedies fear "gender conversion" - and so do those of Shakespeare.

Many people believe that every difference between today and once upon a time is necessarily progress. If you subscribe to their opinion, you can cheer the huge progress we have made. Today's people who are regarded as heroes in the West resemble the ancient heroes only by their lack of concern for their nation. Indeed, they sabotage its security and do their best to empower its enemies. The prototype of these heroes is Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. However, a better example is a former US soldier who provided classified information to the WikiLeaks and who was born and known as Bradley Manning.

Unlike the old heroes, this former soldier did not fear looking womanish. Manning not only repented for what s/he had done but, immediately after being found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison, s/he released a statement that s/he "considered herself a woman, had taken the name Chelsea Manning, and would seek to undergo hormone replacement therapy". Here is a case where the stupid politically correct gender-neutral expressions "s/he", "she or he" or "xe" are quite appropriate!

While Manning had had documented gender confusion for years, I agree with those who think that by this statement, s/he hopes to draw leniency. Today, Westerners are so concerned not to look homophobic/transphobic that gender-confused offenders often get only a slap on the wrist in situations that would put a straight offender in very serious trouble.

I may be old-fashioned but when talking about heroes, I prefer those egocentric, brutal men of old whose highest priority was to remain very much men to the end. I should read more classic texts and less news :-).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

God punishes those who take medical advice from stupid pastors

Below, I am copy-pasting most of the Aug. 25 USA Today's report Texas measles outbreak linked to church, by Liz Strabo.

"Measles is making a worrisome resurgence across the USA, with at least 135 documented cases this year.

Measles, once a common childhood infection that killed up to 500 Americans a year, has been officially eradicated in the Western Hemisphere. For many years, the USA's few dozen measles diagnoses were "imported" cases in individuals who traveled from countries where the virus remains common. High vaccination rates largely halted the virus at the North American border. 

The country's safety net has become more porous in recent years. Although overall vaccination rates remain high, communities of like-minded parents who refuse immunizations for their children have been vulnerable to outbreaks.

The latest measles outbreak is in Texas, where the virus has sickened 25 people, most of whom are members or visitors of a church led by the daughter of televangelist Kenneth Copeland.

Fifteen of the measles cases are centered around Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, whose senior pastor, Terri Pearsons, has previously been critical of measles vaccinations.

The outbreak was started by a visitor to the church who had recently traveled to a country where measles remains common, according to Tarrant County Public Health spokesman Al Roy.

Those sickened by measles include nine children and six adults, ranging in age from 4 months old to 44 years old. At least 12 of those infected were not fully immunized against measles, Roy says. The other patients have no record of being vaccinated. The 4-month-old is too young to have been received the measles vaccine, which is typically given at 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a classic example of how measles is being reintroduced," said William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

The USA has had more than twice as many confirmed measles cases this year than all of last year, when there were just 55, according to the CDC. Flare-ups brought on by foreign travel have caused that number to spike as high as 220 measles cases in 2011.

New York City also has battled a measles epidemic this year, with at least 58 cases, mostly in close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities. City officials say the outbreak was started by someone who traveled to the United Kingdom which, along with Europe, has suffered large measles outbreaks in recent years. One of the New York children with measles developed pneumonia. Two pregnant women were hospitalized and one suffered a miscarriage, city health officials say...

Other vaccine-preventable diseases also have broken out in recent years, including whooping cough and mumps. Some whooping cough outbreaks have clustered around private schools with lax vaccination requirements, according to CDC studies.

Measles particularly alarms doctors because it spreads like lightning and kills one in every 1,000 people infected... The virus can infect people even two hours after a sick person has left the room...

At the Texas church, the visitor infected not only the congregation and staff, but the church's on-site day care center, according to an announcement on Eagle Mountain's website. Health officials notified the church of the measles outbreak Aug. 14, and the church sponsored a vaccination clinic Aug. 18. Eagle Mountain also scheduled a vaccination clinic Sunday.

All of the school-age children infected in the Eagle Mountain outbreak were home-schooled, health officials say. Texas requires children be vaccinated before attending school.

In an Aug. 15 statement, Eagle Mountain's pastor, Terri Pearsons, said she still has some reservations about vaccines. "The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time," she said.

Young children are actually among the most vulnerable to measles, Schaffner says. Their tiny airways can easily swell shut. "This is a sadly misinformed religious leader," Schaffner said.

In addition to getting a measles vaccine, Pearsons recommends that her congregants take vitamin D to fortify their immune systems. Schaffner said there's no evidence that vitamins offer any protection against measles.

"Our children and even adults of all ages need to be immunized now to stop the spread of measles and prevent those potential complications," Pearsons said. "The disease is only shut down when all are immunized.""

I find the report so good that it hardly needs any comments. However, let me add a word or two.

My title does not mean that I really believe in God, let alone God's punishment. However, people at the educational level of Rev. Pearsons and her congregants often use these terms to refer to laws of nature and other causal relationships. So the title expresses the idea (not new in any respect) that humans have evolved to survive and prosper by using their intelligence, and those who have too little of it or deliberately choose not to use it are likely to suffer, as those vaccination refusers did.

Many of these people are still able to learn from bitter experience, as we see from Rev. Pearsons' last words. The sad thing is that all the information that could spare them from the bitter experience was readily available, they just chose to ignore and deny it. Many cultures define stupidity as seeing (bad) things only when they happen and learning only through suffering.

Rev. Pearsons also clearly shows that once a person builds a stupid Weltanschauung, he is likely, even after correcting himself at one point, to continue stupid actions at other points. The stupid pastor who recommended non-vaccination until an outbreak happened now acknowledges vaccines (good) but recommends vitamin D to fortify the immune system (bad). In the 21st century, even the most stupid and ignorant people should know that vitamins do not treat anything except vitamin deficiency. A person with adequate nutrition will not fortify his immune system by guzzling additional vitamin D. Instead, he may harm himself because vitamin D is not readily excreted or degraded by the human body. So those who continue to take medical advice from stupid pastors are likely to suffer further punishments by God.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Bulgarian protesters better economists than Prime Minister Oresharski

(Bulgarian readers can read this post in Bulgarian.)

While anti-government protests in Bulgaria are continuing, yesterday the Prime Minister Oresharski talked to journalists informally (no cameras and voice recorders allowed). (source in Bulgarian) reports about the event:

""All countries in crisis, such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy are tightening the belts and this is leading to mass protests. In Bulgaria, we are relaxing the fiscal system, and the people are protesting. I do not understand this,"" commented Oresharski with surprise... He said also that his colleagues abroad cannot believe that in Bulgaria, at a time of relaxing the fiscal discipline and increasing the budget deficit in order to allow more social spending, people go out to mass protests."

Suprise, indeed! Protesters apparently have some economic background and do not want to roll down the slope to Hell paved with phrases like "relaxing the fiscal discipline", "increasing the budget deficit" and "more social spending". As good and enlightened citizens, they think long-term. While it may be true that in the long run we'll be all dead, these Bulgarians do not want to ruin their children's future in order to spend some extra cents today. And they cannot be bribed by social spending because they do not rely on government to feed them. In a word, they are better economists than Prime Minister Oresharski, who has a degree in economics. Eh well, I am exaggerating. I suppose that Oresharski is pretty aware what he is doing but has sold his soul to the devil.

While prospects for Bulgaria look grim, we can at least be proud that while we have a worse government than other countries, we have better protesters. (Turkey is our rival in both respects.) They do not want to live on the back of someone else (or of future generations) and do not believe in Keynesian pseudo-economic rubbish that austerity is bad. I keep wondering at our pro-government propaganda which has been repeating for almost 2 months, like a non-responding computer programme, that the present protesters (unlike the worthy proletarians in February) are working people with above-average income and education, residents of the big cities. This is an open admission that exactly the best, the nation's elite, are against you! But apparently today's rulers think the best part of society, and the only one with right to protest, are those unable to pay their utility bills and digital TV decoders and to support their children. This is because today's rulers imbibed too much Marxism in their young years.

Oresharski also said yesterday that he would "clear" some government agencies in order to cut expenditures from the inflated administration. This is the definition of arrogance, to say such a thing immediately after creating a new "Ministry of investment projecting" (yes, dear readers) which will have a building and personnel of nearly 900. Unfortunately, this new ministry is expected to do much more damages than its payroll and utility expenditures.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Too-actual quote by Ludwig von Mises

Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises (1944) is a remarkable book that I am proud to have translated to Bulgarian. Its Chapter V (you can read it here) contains a section titled The bureaucrat as a voter. I am citing it entirely, because I think it is too actual today and shows the cause of the dire political situation in Bulgaria (and likely also in Greece and other countries).

"The bureaucrat is not only a government employee. He is, under a democratic constitution, at the same time a voter and as such a part of the sovereign, his employer. He is in a peculiar position: he is both employer and employee. And his pecuniary interest as employee towers above his interest as employer, as he gets much more from the public funds than he contributes to them.

This double relationship becomes more important as the people on the government’s payroll increase. The bureaucrat as voter is more eager to get a raise than to keep the budget balanced. His main concern is to swell the payroll.

The political structure of Germany and France, in the last years preceding the fall of their democratic constitutions, was to a very great extent influenced by the fact that for a considerable part of the electorate the state was the source of income. There were not only the hosts of public employees, and those employed in the nationalized branches of business (e.g., railroad, post, telegraph, and telephone), there were the receivers of the unemployment dole and of social security benefits, as well as the farmers and some other groups which the government directly or indirectly subsidized. Their main concern was to get more out of the public funds. They did not care for “ideal” issues like liberty, justice, the supremacy of the law, and good government. They asked for more money, that was all. No candidate for parliament, provincial diets, or town councils could risk opposing the appetite of the public employees for a raise. The various political parties were eager to outdo one another in munificence. In the nineteenth century the parliaments were intent on restricting public expenditures as much as possible. But now thrift became despicable. Boundless spending was considered a wise policy. Both the party in power and the opposition strove for popularity by openhandedness. To create new offices with new employees was called a “positive” policy, and every attempt to prevent squandering public funds was disparaged as “negativism.”

Representative democracy cannot subsist if a great part of the voters are on the government payroll. If the members of parliament no longer consider themselves mandatories of the taxpayers but deputies of those receiving salaries, wages, subsidies, doles, and other benefits from the treasury, democracy is done for.

This is one of the antinomies inherent in present-day constitutional issues. It has made many people despair of the future of democracy. As they became convinced that the trend toward more government interference with business, toward more offices with more employees, toward more doles and subsidies is inevitable, they could not help losing confidence in government by the people."