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October 24, 2014     Post-Gazette
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October 24, 2014

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Page 2 POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 24, 2014 Nostra A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry.., our lineage.., our roots. MITHRAS Mithras was the Persian counterpart to the Greek. god Helios and the Ro- man god Sol. He was the Persian deity of !ight, earthly wis- dom, chief of the good spirits, and ruler who conquered all the demons of darkness. After the death of Alexander the great, the worship of Mithras was mixed with customs that were common in Western Asia, and then it extended to all Oriental king- doms. Mithras is credited with killing the divine bull, from whose body sprang all " of the plants and animals that are benefi- cial to man. The Greeks of Asia Minor iden- tified Mithras with Helios and thereby con- tributed to the spread of his worship. The adoration of this Persian deity was introduced into Rome about 70 B.C. by Si- cilian pirates who were at that time mas- ters of the Mediterranean, and during the early Empire it spread rapidly throughout all of the provinces. His worship was favored by the Roman soldiers and remained na- tionally popular until the end of the fourth century. Striking parallels have been noted be- tween Mithraism and Christianity, espe- cially in humility, brotherly love, commun- ion, the use of holy water, the adoptions of Sundays and December 25 th as holy days, belief in the immortality of the soul, the Last Judgment and the Resurrection. Mithras is believed to have been born from the rocks, and therefore he is wor- shipped in caves, such as have existed in Mithras killing the bull. all parts of the Roman Empire. The use of a cave signi- fies the world into which the soul must enter in order to be purified by many tri- als before leaving it. Those who were initiated into the mysteries of Mithras were required to undergo a lengthy series of increas- ingly difficult tests. A display of a fear- less and unconquer- able spirit was re= quired to be main- tained in the face of fire, water, hunger, thirst, scouring, and solitude and all of this was only prepa- ratory to the real initiation, which is said to have been terrifying. Mithras is often represented as a young invincible hero, tabbing a bull or standing upon a bull that he has just thrown to the ground. The sacrifice of a bull and the puri- fication of his worshippers with bull's blood formed a part of the rites of Mithras. This ancient Roman ceremony was called "Taurobolium"--Tauro meaning bull, and bolium meaning to throw (no pun intended). In this ritual a bull was sacrificed while standing on a high wooden platform. The blood of the bull was caused to flow down through the cracks in the floor to shower old Romans who were standing below. The philosophy regarding the ceremony is noted in the Latin expression "Taurobolio in aeternum renatus." This translates into "Those who have been anointed with this blood will enjoy renewed sexual vitality and the stamina of a bull for the rest of their lives." Next Week: Luna and Aurora The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Invite you to attend the third public meeting on the CENTRAL ARTERY RAMP PARCEL STUDY Wednesday, October 29, 2014 6-8 PM at the BRA (Boston City Hall, 9 Floor, BRA Board Room) MassDOT is required to consider options for covering the open ramp portions of Central Artery/Tunnel Parcels 6, 12 and 18 along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, resulting from environmental commitments made as part of the Central Artery/runnel project. MassDOT and BRA officials are continuing to study options to define potential cover alternatives and are planning a follow up from the recently held second public meeting that took place on September 30th. At this next public meeting, staff from MassDOT and the BRA, along with their consultant team will invite the public to actively participate in a workshop to provide input and feedback to the Team on potential Ramp Parcel alternatives. We would like to invite interested parties to attend and participate in defining possible solutions. Visit our project website at If you have any specific questions, please contact: John Romano Lauren N. Shurtleff Legislative Liaison, MassDOT Senior Planner, BRA email: email: Tflis meeting space is accessible to people with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation (such as American Sign Language Interpreters, assistive listening devices, handouts in alternate formats, etc.) and/or language assistance to fully participate, please contact John Romano at MassDOT at 857-368-8905 or before October 20th. Such accommodations will be provided free of charge. Res PUblica by David "lYumbuU The Fraud of Free Trade Recently, a friend passed along an article, written by libertarian author Arthur E. Foulkes, illustrating "The Magic of Free Trade," as pre- dicted by 19 th century econ- omist's David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage. The illustrationwas simple and, on the face, compelling. He gave a classroom full of fifth graders randomly se- lected gifts of approximately equal value and told them they were free to trade gifts among themselves. Nearly all the kids made trades, so" what started as random gifts that gave some pleasure to each kid, ended with each child feeling he was better off, having traded until he got the gift he really wanted. Well, so far so good, but what happens when, as the author does, you try to transfer compara- tive advantage to interna- tional trade? The ideology breaks down when applied to the real world. Free trade comparative advantage theory assumes a world like that fifth grade classroom, where all actors operate under the same rules and approach the trad- ing system as roughly equal participants. That does not describe the real world, and that is why free trade, which is based on a good premise -- the free market -- fails to delivery mutual prosperity as promised. The premise of free trade is that individuals, acting in their own self-in- terest, will create a more prosperous economy with more opportunities for all once market-distorting gov- ernment regulations are removed. In Ricardo's time the tariff was one of the main ways governments distorted trade. Hence, liberal (as the term was used at the time, now we call them conser- vative or libertarian) theo- rists attacked the tariff. The situation today is quite different. Today all major trading countries impose many dis- tortions on international trade, with tariffs being just one of many, and frequently the most significant, barrier to free trade. However many free traders fail to take into account these trade dis- torting policies and scream "protectionism" whenever the U.S. tries to craft a remedy to offset some of our trading partners' trade dis- torting actions. Here are some ways in which world -trade, as practiced, differs from the comparative advan- tage theory's assumption of roughly equal players oper- ating under the same rules. Tax policy and interna- tional trading rules, Taxes, aside from the particular rate, can distort trad.e in many ways by favoring or dis- favoring certain industries. Even more important, in international trade, is the method of taxation. If you make widgets in the U.S. you pay all of your U.S. taxes and when you ship them to, say, Germany, you also pay Germany's 16% VAT. If you make the widgets in Ger- many you pay 16% VAT, which is rebated when you export, and if you export to the U.S. you pay no U.S. taxes. The result is the .U.S. producer shipping -to Ger- manypays full U.S. and-Ger- man tax, while the produce r in Germany who ships to the U.S. pays no tax. This is a trade distortion of consid- erably magnitude, but if you propose, as I do, to impose a U.S. tax to offset it (thus cre- ating the "roughly equal partners playing under- the same rules" world assumed by comparative advantage theory) I'll be branded a "protectionist" and lectured on the theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Social legislation. In the U.S., through our democratic process, we enact laws and regulations that distort trade by forcing employers to abide by certain standards regard- ing labor conditions, envi- ronmental protection, and consumer safety. These are constraints that a profit- maximizing firm might, absent government interfer- ence, eschew. Whatever one thinks of any particular regulation -- too lax or too rigid -- collectively they express what Americans believe is the minimum acceptable level of conduct and forbid trade in domestic goods or services violating those standards. However, under WTO rules, the U.S. is severely circumscribed as to imposing any limitations on imports from other coun- tries that have lower stan- dards. It is true that some of our free trade agreements contain labor, environmen- tal, and sanitary provisions, but even they are slight in many cases compared to U.S. rules. And such inter- national standards as there are denounced by "free trad- ers" as trade distorting poli- cies, rather than being rec- ognized for what they are, attempts to create at least somewhat similar rules for the different players, again, a basic assumption of, not a derogation from, "compara- tive advantage" theory. In theory one could calculate the advantage lax rules con- fer on a trader and impose a countervailing "social" tariff. To the extent that we believe that our laws implement minimum humane stan- dards, a good case could be made that we should do so. However, I admit that any such calculation of social tariff could be abused in a trade distorting way. Never- theless, the recognition that a nation, such as the U.S., which bans slavery, is highly censorable when it imports the products of forced labor ought to be something we can discuss. But alas, we cannot, or at least without being called a (Continued on Page 11)