Defending the indefensible

The people who were defending the ex-CEO of Firefox and the Duck Dynasty character on freedom of speech grounds, and decrying their criticism as un-American censorship have been remarkably quiet in their defense of Donald Sterling.

Ted Cruz on Phil Robertson: “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job.”

Ted Cruz on Donald Sterling: “I agree with President Obama: Don Sterling’s comments are ignorant and offensive. Millions of Americans of all races love the NBA, and these racist sentiments have utterly no place in our society.”

So, I’m guessing that if Donald Sterling were a racist for *religious* reasons, then he’s an American Patriot expressing his religious freedom, just as the Founding Fathers intended. But if you’re a racist because you’re just a straight-up dumbass, then that’s unacceptable.

So you can be a racist or not a racist, a homophobe or not a homophobe, depending on where you think the voices in your head are coming from.

in Pope news…

Yesterday in the Vatican the Pope, the world’s most widely-beloved while simultaneously ignored religious leader, canonized two other Popes while a fourth Pope looked on from the wings. Then, with a cry of “ULTRAPOPE: ASSEMBLE!” the four Popes joined together to form a single giant mecha-Pope with the power to take credit for a single poorly-documented case of leukemia remission, while millions of other people worldwide continued stubbornly and blasphemously dying of malaria.

The UltraPope then schismed into 14 different SectPopes, each one with the infallible and unchallengeable authority to interpret religious texts in ways that differ substantially from the other 13.

Parallels

Since nobody asked me but I have a keyboard so suck it, here’s a couple of thoughts on “infinite parallel universe” theories.

Much has been said about the fact that if there are infinite universes, that anything that you can think of is reality in one of those universes. A universe in which Justin Bieber is a type of mollusk? Sure. A universe in which “Star Wars” is real history? Absolutely. A universe in which “Frozen” is NOT the best animated movie of all time? Definitely (spoiler alert: it’s this one. Sure, it’s a good movie, but c’mon…).

These are all theoretically possible in a reality with infinite universes that demonstrate infinite variety; but there are different types of infinity. Just because something has an infinite number of instances, doesn’t necessarily mean there is infinite variation between them.

Take the fraction 41/333, for example. It converts to 0.123123123123… with the ellipsis meaning that the “123” part repeats forever, an infinite number of times. Infinity embedded in a fraction. So does the fact that there are infinite instances of that “123” pattern mean that at some point there HAS to be a variation down the line where just one of the instances is actually “124”? Or does the concept of infinity somehow imply that several trillion instances down the fraction you’ll find the pattern “12zappos.com3”?

Of course not. There is a basic rule to that particular infinity, and that rule is that there are an infinite number of instances of that single pattern, but they will not vary. That rule will not be broken no matter how many times you repeat it. Infinity doesn’t work that way.

The same can be the case in the multi-verse: just because I can imagine it, doesn’t mean that there HAS to be a universe out there with that set of properties. For example, there wouldn’t be a universe in which the Earth as we know it today coalesced fully-formed out of the quark soup in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang, except all the people are golems made out of spoons and gravity reverses directional pull every Thursday and the Sun is made out of Chiclets yet still has all the other sun-like qualities like heat and nuclear fusion and requiring Bono to wear sunglasses everywhere, even indoors.

There could be an infinite number of universes, but a finite variation of instances. Maybe there are an infinite number of universes, but there are only 60 different types of them, each type with an infinite number of instances. Infinite “you”s with no variation, 60 different “me”s that only show slight changes in handsomeness and sex appeal.

And I’m stuck in this universe, where obviously something went horribly wrong.

But here’s the other thought: if there truly were an infinite number of universes and every possible thing that you could imagine happening is true in one of those universes, then one of those universes has a version of me that has discovered the ability to jump between universes. Not only that, but there HAS TO BE a universe in which a version of me has discovered the way to jump to THIS universe, and will post a followup comment to this post that will prove this fact.

The fact that he will not (or *she* will not: I accept an alternate universe in which I am a different gender, and I have a prehensile tail I use to type) is good enough for me to disprove the concept.

In fact, in the theoretical all-things-are-possible-in-one-of-the-multi-verses, there are actually an INFINITE number of “me”s who will now jump to this universe instance and post comments below, crashing WordPress.

The fact that you can read this post is proof that this has not happened.

We, the Extorted

There is a remarkably simplistic, captioned sepia-toned photo making the rounds on several of the social networks. I won’t post it in this entry, but the gist is that until 1913 Americans “kept all of their earnings”, and in spite of that fact we had schools and roads and railroads and an Army and unicorns pooped tax-free rainbows. Therefore people today are being “extorted”.

The implication is that prior to 1913, when the 16th Amendment was ratified (allowing Congress to levy income taxes without apportioning them among the states or basing them on the United States Census), we weren’t paying taxes on our earning, and we did just fine. Therefore taxes = extortion.

But this is a remarkably ignorant reading of history. Just because in 1913 Congress could levy taxes without apportioning them, doesn’t mean taxes didn’t exist before then. You can’t even claim to have read the Constitution and say that, since the 16th Amendment was just a modification of Congress’ ability to levy taxes as granted in Article I, Sections 2 and 8; not something brand new. Prior to 1913 there were direct and indirect taxes: excise taxes and tariffs, import taxes, property taxes, taxes on economic activities, personal income taxes (on and off since 1861), inheritance taxes, poll taxes, sales taxes, etc. Or does someone think the state and federal governments worked with zero budgets until 1913?

In addition, a lot of the income taxes imposed before 1913 used wars as their justification, so that helps explain the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Heck, one of the main reasons the Constitution came to be was because the nation was unable to pay its war debts, thanks to the lack of collection powers in the Articles of Confederation.  And prior to the establishment of public education, schools and colleges were available only to those who could afford to pay for them personally or within their community, so it wasn’t exactly an educational utopia for those who wanted the opportunity to better themselves but lacked the money.

But fundamentally we need to ask the question: does anyone think that 1912 was the high-water mark for American society and the welfare and happiness of its citizens, one that we should strive to recreate?

Sure, there is tax fraud and waste today, and we can work to eliminate that within the current tax context. But as my friend Ben Zvan said after April 15th this year, quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” To equate taxation with extortion or to claim that prior to 1913 no one paid taxes and everything was peachy because of it is ridiculous.