Senator Warren and the Minimum Wage

May God protect us from politicians who are completely ignorant of economics. Here is video from Foxnews in which Senator Warren wonders why the increase in worker productivity since 1960 hasn’t translated to a corresponding increase in the  minimum wage to $22 per hour.

She actually has a point, however you have to consider that a lot of that increase in productivity has been the result of increasing automation. We simply do not require as many people, whether on a factory floor or in an office, to get a job done. This allows resources,  including human resources to be allocated more efficiently but it doesn’t necessarily mean that each person’s labor is worth more and thus deserving of a higher wage. The other point to consider is beyond the actual numerical amount of a person’s salary is what that salary can actually purchase. A person making minimum wage today is, in many ways, far more prosperous than a comparable person in 1960 if you consider the advances in technology, etc. Consider that the laptop that I am writing this on costs about $300, an amount that is affordable enough to anyone who is in the middle class and even many people considered poor. How much would a computer have cost in 1960? A computer in 1960 was a device that filled a room and cost thousands of dollars. What about televisions? Even someone making minimum wage probably has a color television. I don’t think they even make black and white televisions anymore. Yet, that was all they had in 1960. A television in 2013 is of better quality in almost any way conceivable and yet is cheaper in terms of cost measured by the work needed to earn the amount to buy it (I know there is an economic term for this but I forgot what it is.) compared to a television in 1960. I could go on and on but you get the point.

So, what would happen if we did raise the minimum wage to $22 per hour. To start with, it wouldn’t be only people on minimum wage who would be getting an increase in pay. Normally when the minimum wage is increased, it doesn’t have much of an affect, as the one man noted, simply because not that many people actually make minimum wage. Even so there is a sort of rippling effect on wage scales, especially in unionized labor, which is why unions generally support increasing the minimum wage, even though their members may earn far more than that wage. An increase to $22 per hour would set the minimum wage above that of most hourly workers and the effects of such an increase would be more obvious and profound.

What are the effects of raising the minimum wage? Any increase in wages, whether voluntary or not, is an increase in the cost of labor. the money to pay for that increase has to come from somewhere. Either employers must increase the price of their products, or they may choose to make do with fewer employees, either letting some workers go, or simply not hiring. Either way, the long term result is an increase in prices or unemployment, or both.

As I said, since not many people actually work for minimum wage, these effects may not be noticeable, except perhaps in long term trends. Still, the people most likely to be affected are unskilled laborers and young people just entering the job market. By making their labor more expensive and thus less attractive, any minimum wage tends to increase unemployment among precisely those people it is intended to help. An increase in the minimum wage to $22 per hour would probably increase unemployment to depression levels, and cause a temporary surge in inflation.

I hope that answers Senator Warren’s questions, not that she is ever likely to read this, or pay attention to anything I have to say, even if by chance she stumbles across this blog. I wonder if it would be possible to amend the constitution to require that every member of Congress be required to take Economics 101. But then, no Democrat could ever be elected to Congress.

War on Women

As everyone knows, anti-abortion or anti choice activists are only motivated by a hatred of women and a fanatic desire to prevent women from exercising their reproductive freedom. It should come as no surprise then to see a woman attacked outside an abortion clinic for daring to express her opinion.

It seems I was mistaken about some of the details about this incident. The woman attacked was a pro-life activist who was documenting the arrival of an ambulance at Planned Parenthood to take care of a victim of a botched abortion. Evidently a woman who is either an employee or a client of that esteemed organization took exception to this and decided to physically assault her. A compassionate tolerant liberal no doubt. I wonder who is really leading a war on women, and why Planned Parenthood should get a dime of taxpayer’s money.

Could He Be…Satan?

Since I don’t have cable I haven’t been able to watch the History Channel mini-series The Bible. I’ve read the book, so I already know how it ends. They’ve introduced Satan in a recent episode and viewers were struck by the actor’s uncanny resemblance to President Obama.

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I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for the resemblance.

If Barack Obama is, in fact, the Devil, that would explain a lot.

Saint Patrick

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. I am not of Irish descent (German and Scottish) but Saint Patrick’s Day is the day when everybody is Irish.  Too bad I forgot to wear anything green. I also will not be getting drinking green beer or trying to get the Ohio River dyed green. I suppose writing in green text is good enough.

Oddly enough, until fairly recently Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t a big deal over in Ireland. The Irish celebrated his feast day as the patron saint of Ireland, but it was a bigger affair among Irish in the United States and elsewhere than in the home country. I suppose that the Irish at home felt less need to celebrate their culture and heritage than Irish immigrants abroad. Recently, however, there has been more of an emphasis on Saint Patrick’s Day as a celebration of Irish Culture in Ireland.

As for Saint Patrick himself, I wrote about him last year and I couldn’t do worse by recopying what I wrote then.

Patrick, or Patricius was a Roman who lived in Britain. He may have been born around 387 and lived until 460 or possibly 493, so he lived during the twilight of the Roman Empire in the West. At the age of 16 he was captured by raiders and enslaved. He worked as a shepherd in Ireland for about six years. He managed to escape and return to his home, but then he became a priest and returned to the land where he was a slave and worked to convert the pagans to Christianity. He seems to have been very successful during his lifetime, though there were many other missionaries in Ireland. He helped to organize the Church in Ireland and is supposed to have traveled to Rome to seek the Pope’s assistance in this endeavor.

According to legend, Patrick died on March 17, so that date has become his feast day. He has never been officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He became known as a saint long before the modern procedure for canonization was developed. He is, obviously, the patron saint of Ireland, and also Nigeria, Montserrat, engineers, paralegals, and the dioceses of New York, Boston, and Melbourne.

There are many legends about St. Patrick. The most widely known is that he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, thus ruining the local ecology. Another is that he used the example of the three-leaved shamrock to illustrate the trinity.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish, and Irish at heart, out there!

 

Sick and Tired

I was sick yesterday and today. It’s strange but while I was a somewhat sickly child (school might have had something to do with that) for most of my adult life I have been healthy. The last really major health problem I had was a gall bladder which was removed some fifteen years ago. Yet, twice in the last three months, I have felt sick enough to have to lay down and do nothing all day, which I hate. I hope this isn’t the beginning of some sort of trend.

Meanwhile, it is snowing here in the Ohio River Valley. Two days ago it was almost warm enough to be summer, now we are in winter again. This sort of variable weather isn’t too unusual for this part of the country, but I do wish the weather would settle on a season.

 

 

 

Pi Day

English: Pi Pie, created at Delft University o...
English: Pi Pie, created at Delft University of Technology, applied physics, seismics and acoustics Deutsch: Pi Pie (π-Kuchen), hergestellt an der Technischen Universität Delft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For all of the nerds out there, including me, today is international Pi Day, the day when we celebrate our favorite mathematical constant. Pi Day is best celebrated by pi memorization contests, walking in circles, and, of course, eating pies, or it is pis. I think I will celebrate by writing a little about pi.

Pi or π is, as everyone should know, the ration between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Pi is an irrational number. By this, they do not mean that pi makes no sense but rather that pi is a constant that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers. Numbers like 2 or .445 or 1/2 can be expressed as a ratio of two integers and so are rational. Numbers like pi or the square root of any number that is not a perfect square, the square root of 2 for instance, are irrational. An irrational number expressed in decimal form never ends or repeats but continues to infinity. Thus, there can never be a last digit of pi.

The symbol π was first by the mathematician William Jones in 1706 and was popularized by another mathematician, Leonhard Euler. They chose π, the Greek equivalent of the Latin letter p, because it is the first letter of the word periphery. Π, by the way is not pronounce “pie” in Greek but “pee”, just like our p. I don’t think that international “pee” day would be nearly so appealing.

Although the symbol for pi is relatively recent, the concept is very old. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians knew about it. Pi is even mentioned in the Bible.

23 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits[o] to measure around it. 24 Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea. (1 Kings 7:23-24)

Properly speaking, the line around the “Sea” should have been 31.5 cubits but the ancient Hebrews were very knowledgeable about geometry and measuring techniques were crude.

There is no particular reason to calculate pi to so many digits. No
conceivable application of pi would possibly take more than 40 digits.
Still, the challenge of calculating pi to the farthest digit possible has been an irresistible one for mathematicians over the years.

Around 250 BC, Archimedes was the first mathematician to seriously try to calculate pi. He used a geometric method of drawing polygons inside and outside a circle and measuring their perimeters. By using polygons with more and more sides he was able to calculate pi with more precision and ended determining the value of pi as somewhere between 3.1408 and 3.1429. Archimedes’s method was used in the west for more than a eighteen hundred years. The Chinese and Indians used similar methods. The best result using the geometric method was the calculation of pi to 38 digits in 1630.

With the development of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1660’s it was possible to calculate pi using infinite series, or the sum of the terms of an infinite sequence. The best calculations with these methods were done by the mathematician Zacharias Daze who calculated pi to 200 places in 1844 and William Shanks who spent fifteen years to calculate pi to 707 digits. Unfortunately he made a mistake with the 528 digit. Meanwhile, in 1761 Johann Heinrich Lambert proved that pi is irrational.

Computers made the calculation of pi much faster so pi could be calculated to more digits. ENIAC calculated pi to 2037 places in 1949. This record didn’t last long. A million digits were reached 1970. As of  2011, pi has been calculated to 10,000,000,000,050 places.

Pi is not just used in geometry. There are a number of applications of pi in the fields of statistics, mechanics, thermodynamics, cosmology, and many others. Here is a list of just some of the formulae that use pi. It seems you can find pi everywhere.

With that in mind then, happy pi day! For your enjoyment here are the first thousand digits of pi.

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510
  58209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679
  82148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128
  48111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196
  44288109756659334461284756482337867831652712019091
  45648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273
  72458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436
  78925903600113305305488204665213841469519415116094
  33057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548
  07446237996274956735188575272489122793818301194912
  98336733624406566430860213949463952247371907021798
  60943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132
  00056812714526356082778577134275778960917363717872
  14684409012249534301465495853710507922796892589235
  42019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960
  51870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859
  50244594553469083026425223082533446850352619311881
  71010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303
  59825349042875546873115956286388235378759375195778
  18577805321712268066130019278766111959092164201989

 

Lack of Swordsmen

English: Saudi Arabia
They are progressing in Saudi Arabia. Soon they’ll join the eleventh century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes it is hard to find good people to do a difficult and demanding job. For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may have to resort to firing squads to execute murderers and sorcerers since there is starting to be a shortage of swordsmen to behead criminals.

Is this what progress looks like in Saudi Arabia? The kingdom is considering ending execution by beheading in favor of firing squads, reports the Egyptian English-language news website Ahram Online. A committee consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Health says there are shortages in government swordsmen and argue that a change to execution by firing squad would not violate Islamic law, the Saudi daily newspaper al-Youm writes. According to an official statement from the committee, “This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents.”

I have to wonder, how hard can the job be? It’s not like brain surgery where precision is needed, just a stroke at the neck. It can’t be a highly skilled job or one that demands much education. I imagine that it would be desirable to behead the victim with one stroke and that might take practice. You don’t want the person executed to be just lying there screaming as the executioner whacks away over and over.

I wonder if the Saudi government provides the sword, or would you have to use your own? Do they have regular inspections to make sure the swordsmen keep their sword properly sharpened? What about laundry bills from blood spatters? Maybe they get a special uniform. It might be interesting to be able to tell people at a gathering that you are a beheader, or is this the sort of job that makes people not want to have anything to do with you?

Kidding aside, I suppose this is progress, of a sort. Personally, I am less concerned about the death penalty than Saudi standards of jurisprudence.

Execution by beheading in Saudi Arabia has continually been condemned by human-rights groups. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 69 people were executed by beheading in 2012, while Amnesty International says 79 were killed under the death penalty in the same period. In 2012 HRW wrote, “Saudi Arabia has no penal code, so prosecutors and judges largely define criminal offenses at their discretion.” Rape, murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and even suspected “sorcery” are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s Islamic law.

The Saudi death penalty recently made headlines following the execution of Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan woman who was beheaded for the murder of her employers’ 4-month-old son. Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2005 at age 17 but spent the next seven years in Saudi jails after the baby died under her care, writes CNN. The family of the boy believed he had been strangled by Nafeek, while she claimed he had choked on his milk. The young Sri Lankan immigrant had no access to a lawyer during her pretrial interrogation during which she said she was forced to sign a confession, notes CNN. The execution of this young woman revealed how “woefully out of step they [the Saudi justice system] are with their international obligations regarding the use of the death penalty,” said Philip Luther from Amnesty International. It highlighted how Saudi law tends to treat children as adults in criminal cases even though international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18, writes HRW.

I don’t mind the idea of chopping people’s heads off so much, but I would like proof beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually are guilty of a crime.

Two Revolutions

Rand Paul gives his opinion on two recent populist movements, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. I read about his comments at the Washington Examiner.

Speaking yesterday at a National Review breakfast, Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. explained what he thought about the Tea Party movement vs. the Occupy Wall Street movement, as Jon Ward reports in the Huffington Post.
“The Tea Party, I always say, is more like the American Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street is more the French Revolution,” Paul said.

Paul explained that the Tea Party looked back to the rule of law.

“We hearken back to sort of rules,” Paul said, identifying with the Tea Party. “We weren’t unhappy with people just because they were rich; we weren’t happy with you if you were making money off of our taxes and we were bailing you out. If you were making $100 million, your bank goes bankrupt and all of a sudden we bail you out and you’re still making $100 million — that upset us.”

Occupy Wall Street, Paul suggested was more of an emotional protest.

“I think Occupy Wall Street was more of a generic sort of, ‘We just hate people who have any money, and why can’t they give it to us?’ kind of thing,” he said.

I agree, though I would identify the two movements in slightly different terms, orcs vs. hobbits.

 

Pope Francis I

English: Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio SJ, Archb...
The New Pope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, that didn’t take long. Somehow, I thought the process of choosing the new Pope would take longer than two days. The new Pope is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, Argentina and he has taken the name Francis I. Francis is the first Pope from the New World and the first Pope from outside Europe in many centuries.

The 76-year-old – now known as Pope Francis I — was the archbishop of Buenos Aries and was appointed by Pope John Paul II.

Bergoglio became the first pope from the Americas elected and the first from outside Europe in more than a millenium.

“I thank you for this greeting you give me,” Francis told thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“Let us pray always, not just for ourselves, but for others and everyone in the world because there is a great brotherhood among us,” Francis said.

CBS News papal consultant Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo said Bergoglio “did not want to be pope.”

“This man did not expect to be pope,” Figueiredo said, adding that Bergoglio’s selection is an “incredibly courageous choice.”

The new pope, who had a lung removed when he was a teenager due to a lung infection, reportedly got the second most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election to replace Pope John Paul II. Bergoglio is the first Jesuit to become pontiff.

CBS News reports that Bergoglio is not a favorite of the Vatican curia.

“This man now has a clear mandate from 115 cardinals to come in and clear out the curia,” Monsignor Figueiredo said.

Cardinals overcame deep divisions to select Pope Francis I – the 266th pontiff — in a remarkably fast conclave.

Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, many shouting “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a pope!” — as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.

Chants of `’Long live the pope!” rose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican appeared on the square, blaring music, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia. At least 50,000 people jammed into the square.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be Pope. It seems to be a lot of trouble to me, though maybe the job pays well. Anyway I wish the new Pope well and I hope he is successful.

By the way, why do they keep picking old men as Pope? Francis I is 76. Benedict XVI was 78 when he was made Pope. Why not a younger, more vigorous man. Maybe not as young as Benedict IX, was either 20 or 11 depending on the source, ( it was nepotism), but maybe someone in their fifties.

 

Iranian Christians On Trial

It isn’t easy to be a Christian in Iran, particularly if you are a convert from Islam. Here is an example of the difficulties Christians face in Iran brought to us by FoxNews.

Five Iranian Christian converts who were detained late last year will reportedly begin trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court this week, according to a human rights group following the case.

The five men were among seven arrested in October when security forces raided an underground house church in the city of Shiraz during a prayer session. They will be tried at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz’s Fars Province on charges of disturbing public order, evangelizing, threatening national security and engaging in Internet activity that threatens the government, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious persecution watchdog group.

“Judging from recent cases, it is likely that, at the very least, those detained may face lengthy prison sentences,” said CSW spokesperson Kiri Kankhwende.

According to Kankhwende, the crackdown against Christian converts and house churches parallels a general increase in repression against many, including journalists, religious and cultural minorities and others as the government is leading up to June’s presidential elections.

They have to worship in their houses because converts are not able to attend churches.

he underground church network has been rapidly growing in Iran as a place where converts from Islam to Christianity can pray as they are forbidden to attend services at formal churches.

Alongside the growing network of home churches has been the increase in violent crackdowns and raids on these communities and arrests made on Christian converts, among them the internationalized case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, held for almost three years on charges of apostasy and more recently American Pastor Saeed Abedini who is currently serving an eight-year sentence for evangelizing and threatening national security.

“House churches are growing because the converts have nowhere else to go,” said Tiffany Barrans, international legal director at the American Center for Law and Justice,

“When you’re a convert to Christianity in Iran, you can’t go worship at the church on the corner, because conversion is not acceptable. If they were allowed to go to an official place of worship, there wouldn’t be a house church movement,” Barrans said.

“Essentially they have created the house church problem and now use it to persecute its own people.”

For all the talk of the dire threat of Islamophobia and the stories of the persecution that Muslims suffer in the West, it should be noted that no where in the world is it unlawful to convert to Islam, nor do such converts fear being imprisoned. On the other hand, anyone who dares to convert from Islam, it doesn’t matter if the convert becomes a Christian, Buddhist, or atheist, they fear for their lives.

Under Shariah, or Islamic law, a Muslim who converts to Christianity is on a par with someone waging war against Islam. Death sentences for such individuals are prescribed by fatwas, or legal decrees, and reinforced by Iran’s Constitution, which allows judges to rely on fatwas for determining charges and sentencing on crimes not addressed in the Iranian penal code.

All religious minorities in Iran, including Bahais, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, have faced various forms of persecution and political and social marginalization throughout the regime’s 30-year reign. But the government saves its harshest retribution for those who have abandoned Islam.

It is interesting, and a little encouraging that Christianity seems to be growing in Iran, even under the harshest persecution.