Sina-cism: For Pope Francis, something is lost in translation

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

In a world that often struggles with difficult and ambiguous moral issues, it is helpful to know that there are still a few places where standards do not change. But what if the very foundations we rely upon are subject to revision? What if words no longer mean what we thought they meant?

Such a possibility is arising today within the Roman Catholic Church, which for millions of Americans remains an institution where morality and language are supposed to be — like the Ten Commandments — written in stone.

I am not referring to the serial sexual abuse by priests scandal, an obvious break from everything that Scripture and Church teachings hold sacrosanct. Rather, what could be the effect of a linguistic change within Church liturgy itself?

Sina-cism: Undermining your rights in the name of gun safety

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

On Feb. 1, an unknown number of law-abiding citizens among us became criminals.

They didn’t break into a jewelry store, assault their neighbors, embezzle money, cheat on their taxes, or have too much to drink and get behind the wheel.

These new Massachusetts lawbreakers simply happen to possess a bump stock, a device that uses a weapon’s recoil to increase its rate of fire. Two of the devices, which retail for about $100, were found at the scene of last fall’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which 58 concert-goers were killed and more than 500 wounded.

Sina-cism: When MLK preached in Worcester

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

When you want to get to the heart of something, count on Worcester, a city whose diversity, politics and practicality mirror our nation. Case in point: The views of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Do Americans today still subscribe to King’s nonviolence, and his vision in which each of us is to be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character? Or has King’s vision been pushed aside by more militant forms of activism? Was King a liberal or a conservative? Would he endorse the views and methods of the Black Lives Matter movement?

There are no easy answers, but those seeking a clearer picture of King have another resource in the rediscovery of recordings of his March 12, 1961, address at Worcester’s Temple Emanuel.

Sina-cism: At a minimum, think about the economics of wages

Imagine that you are among the 2.7 percent of Americans who make exactly the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Would you like an increase in pay? Sure you would. Even minimum-wage workers in Massachusetts earning the state’s $11 per hour rate would likely answer the same way.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

More money, after all, can’t be bad.

Except when it is.

In economic terms, a minimum wage is a price floor. The difficulty is that some workers are neither skilled nor productive enough to justify employment even at the minimum. As the minimum rises, workers whose productivity falls below that level are likely to see their hours cut or their jobs eliminated.

As Henry Hazlitt pointed out in “Economics in One Lesson,” his magisterial 1946 primer on economics: “You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering.”

Sina-cism: Bitcoin may be as good as gold

Two weeks ago, I reassured you that net neutrality was not worth your worry. Markets and consumers will ensure your favorite shows continue to air and your web surfing habits remain unimpeded.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

But if you insist on having something tech-geeky to worry about, perhaps Bitcoin will do.

I’ve been mining information about Bitcoin for months, following its rapid rise and sudden falls. (What I have to say here about Bitcoin can be applied to any of the numerous other cryptocurrencies out there.)

If you’re like me, you were at first puzzled by Bitcoin. How did it work? How could it work? Once you read about blockchain technology, you became fascinated. Then, as Bitcoin rose from $970 to nearly $20,000 during 2017 (it’s now about $13,500 per coin), you worried you might be missing out on the next Apple or Microsoft.

Folks, it’s time to assume net neutrality posture and stop worrying.

Sina-cism: Adam Smith’s cure for Trump Derangement Syndrome

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

One cannot plunge directly into a new year. It takes a few days to dispose of half-consumed bottles of Riesling and to admit that the desiccated date cookies upon the platter of Santa Claus are no longer a holiday miracle, but suitable for the winter mulch pile.

Now, the wine is drained, the sweet cheats gone. The sound of the angry commuting horn is once again heard in the land.

What will 2018 bring? To hear many tell the tale, 2018 will be a race: Will the forces of good impeach an insane Donald Trump before he can ignite a global nuclear cataclysm?

I very much doubt that we will, a year hence, be remembering 2018 in such terms. Sure, anything can happen, but I think so many Americans lavished so much attention in 2017 on the admittedly petulant and puerile aspects of Donald Trump’s first year in office that they lost perspective on many matters of far more importance.

For starters, the Trump administration is demonstrably not the biggest threat to world peace today.

Sina-cism: Resolve to ignore the net neutrality debate

I don’t work in telecommunications. I don’t really know or care about things like ISPs, LANs and VPNs. Most importantly, I am not under 35 years old, and do not spend my every waking hour worrying over the fate of the internet.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

For these reasons, I am perfectly qualified to explain why the debate over net neutrality is nonsense.

Now spare me your irate emails blasting my ignorance. I understand the basics of the debate, as well as the overheated politics surrounding it. In this age of ubiquitous media, anyone of sound mind can grasp the basic facts about net neutrality in a few minutes.

Spend half an hour on it, and you’ll learn about things like throttling, BitTorrent and deep packet inspection, along with scores of other obscure technical aspects that are as relevant to your life as whether the U.S. Postal Service stops Saturday mail delivery.

Keep going and you’ll soon lose touch with reality. You’ll begin to believe that the end of net neutrality is akin to the loss of democratic freedoms, and restoring it is as important as the issuance of the Declaration of Independence or the ending of slavery.

Sorry, not even close.

Sina-cism: A new city rises to our east

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

When the last minutes of Sunday evening drain away and 2018 arrives, the town of Framingham will disappear, to be replaced by the city of Framingham.

Long known as the state’s most populous town, Framingham will immediately leap to 14th in population among the Bay State’s 43 cities, and second only to Worcester among those in Central Massachusetts and MetroWest.

Many urban residents won’t understand the fuss over a designation. What difference does it make what a community calls itself?

Well, here in New England it seems to matter a good deal.

Sina-cism: Lessons from a modern witch hunt

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

A few of my Putnam ancestors knew a thing or two about witchcraft, having played leading roles as accusers and prosecutors during the unfortunate events that unfolded in Danvers and Salem between 1692 and 1693. The emotionally disturbed Ann Putnam, the misguided judge Thomas Putnam, and a host of other early New Englanders with axes in need of grinding pulled off one of history’s most infamous and memorable mass delusions.

There were, of course, no witches in Salem in the 17th century, and one cannot help but lament the 20 executions, the losses felt by their survivors, and the incalculable damage to the lives and reputations of all the accused.

Still, I have a certain grudging respect for all involved.

For starters, they managed to kick up a complete bucket of nonsense for well over a year without the aid of the internet or any mass media. All they needed was one best-selling piece of fake news, Cotton Mather’s 1689 book, “Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,” too much Calvinism; some bitter squabbles over land; and a few impressionable young women.

Sina-cism: Remembering the Benchley brand of humor

At book club last week, a friend gave me a copy of Nathaniel Benchley’s 1955 biography of his father, comedian Robert Benchley, who remains — more than 70 years after his death — one of Worcester’s most famous funnymen.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The biography is a delight, recounting Benchley’s life with an unerring eye for a good story, deep affection, and as much objectivity as can be expected from a son writing about his father.

For those unfamiliar with the basic outline, Benchley was born Sept. 15, 1889, and attended Worcester schools, including South High, before heading to Phillips Exeter Academy to complete high school. At Harvard University, he acted and wrote for the Harvard Advocate and Harvard Lampoon. There followed a long and successful career as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and Hollywood actor, ending with his death from cirrhosis of the liver in 1945.

Three generations of the Benchley clan have made their mark in American letters and film.