09 Apr 2016

I’m hardly a fan of poetry, but this short one is a swift, heavy punch.

05 Mar 2016

People sure are apoplectic about Donald Trump.

On the one hand, you have conservative Christians repulsed by Trump’s ever-present boasting which we’ve seen since he became famous in the 1980s. He’s an adulterer, an opportunist, a demagogue, a flip-flopper blown about by political winds. He’s a crony capitalist who has supported liberals over and over again. He’s coarse, childish, and vindictive. He claims to be a serious Christian while being uncertain of whether he’s ever asked forgiveness. Someone tell the man to read 1 John 1 and Romans 3! Even Bill Clinton faked it better than that. Trump is so tone-deaf to Christian understanding that it makes me wonder if he’s ever contemplated a Christian sermon or a verse of Scripture. Is he so insulated among the jet set that his only exposure to a church is the occasional funeral or wedding at one of those big cathedrals where they have a beautiful choir and Mr. Milquetoast giving the homily?

On the other hand, you have the enmity of the Republican Party ‘establishment’ who are panicked about their power base. These are the people who look down on ‘flyover country.’ They know Trump is a threat to their power and influence. Make no mistake, Trump’s support is strongest among people who are thumbing their nose at this very establishment and its sponsors.

People like Trump’s verbal smackdowns of those they think have been in need of one for a long time. Trump’s shotgun blasts do occasionally put shrapnel in a deserving target, although my favorite moment was more inadvertently witty. That came when Trump defended banning incoming Muslims by saying that secular saint Franklin Roosevelt interned the Japanese… and we all love Franklin, don’t we? Well, no Donald, we don’t, but it was still amusing.

In the end, Trump supporters are tired of the same old political games. He has been the most flamboyant middle finger candidate in a generation. He’s coarse, but Dr. Johnson once noted that he knew someone who always talked bawdy at the dinner table because it was a language all could comprehend. Trump seems to instinctively understand this. This is a guy who’s been around the media for a long time. He’s had a hit TV show. I’m not convinced there isn’t some schtick involved here, as I’ve heard his private persona is different than the public one. To voters, if all politicos are corrupt, at least this guy has his own money and he’s been an entrepreneur… so how could he be any worse?

Honestly, I don’t know that Trump really is much worse than the usual Republican general election candidate, which is more of a comment on them than on Trump’s positive qualities. The GOP nominated Mitt Romney four years ago. Romney, who accused Trump this week of being a “phony,” is not childish like the Donald, but Mitt’s an ambitious career wind vane who makes Bob Dole seem principled by comparison. (I think Lew Rockwell is correct that Romney’s real desire is to find a way into the race, perhaps at the convention. Talk about tone deaf. Didn’t the Mittster see what happened to Jeb Bush? In past cycles, Bush would have been a significant candidate. He was a popular two-term governor of a large swing state. This time most people said “no thanks.” Why would they want Romney instead?)

Can Trump win? It’s a good question. He has legions of detractors and his cronyism makes it tough to attack many of Clinton’s shortcomings, but I think he puts states in play that his primary opponents probably do not. He’ll draw lower-class democrats who admire his success and populism. His brash style appeals even to minorities and can cut through the usual “racism” nonsense used in place of an argument by progressives and establishment hacks. He might be a tough out for the Democrats.

To his credit, Trump is liked by many who’ve know him, including employees. That’s more than can be said for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, for example. He seems to know how to cut deals and get along with others to some degree.

Not only that, Trump is the only candidate on either side advising some foreign restraint. He has rightly asked why we are trying to take on Russia. He’s questioned why we are so eager to start wars. I for one do not understand why so many Christians think we need to “make the sand glow” in the Middle East. How about we give Muslims the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ instead? Most Christians would protest that they agree with that sentiment, but spurred on by Caesar’s courtiers they seem to think the Holy Spirit can’t overcome the Crescent as well as Caesar’s bombs and planes.

Donald Trump has been a successful entrepreneur. He’s industrious and he’s hired lots of people. Of course, he’s also used the “political means” (bribes, eminent domain, etc.), but there is legitimate industry there even if his whole “what jobs have you created?” criticism of other candidates is silly. He’s against the establishment and its sponsors on the main issue to his voters: unrestrained/illegal immigration. I have my doubts on whether he’s truly opposed, but he’s doing quite a job at playing it up.

In sum, I could never vote for Trump for the reasons noted at the top of the article as well as the fact that behind the carnival barker front he’s just more of the same, a promoter of a massive state. However, I understand the support for him. At times I’ve enjoyed watching him take on the establishment. I don’t think the Donald is worse than the typical establishment general election candidate in most ways, and in some ways he could be a marginal improvement. But… I’ll close with some things for Trump supporters to think about.

First, the egotistical allure of playing a tough-guy commander-in-chief in office could lead Trump into overseas adventures surpassing neocons like Bush, Rubio, and Kasich. In a time of unrest, such as after 911, Trump’s Mussolini-ish tendencies could be a little frightening.

Second, unbelievers have no rock to stand on and are blown about by changing winds (thankfully restrained by God- Proverbs 21:1). If Trump has enough popularity he’s like to turn on a dime and betray those who put him in office, especially since I think his real views more closely align to someone like Bill Clinton.

Third, will God bless such an unrepentant boaster?

Fourth, I think he will realign the establishment, with careers falling and others rising. But it seems like a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” situation. An old skyscraper will be torn down and a new one built in its place. Different people, different building, same result. In other words, Trump has long been a crony capitalist and a respecter of persons, so does anyone really think his movement will replace the old system with a more righteous rule? I don’t.

25 Feb 2016

When [Jesus] approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” -Luke 19:41-44

Hollywood has never taken on the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, one of the most amazing events in all of history. It seems tailor-made for a massive, historically inaccurate epic.

Christ’s prophetic discourse on Mount Olivet (Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13) sets the stage and predicts what is to come (by His hand!). The extra-Biblical histories of event itself are mind-boggling. The hostile Roman historian Tacitus, in book 5.13 of his history, said this:

Prodigies [extrodinary and prophetic events] had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing.

Josephus, 1st-century Jewish military leader and historian, perceived in the event a judgment on his people. Here is what his history says occurred in the years leading up to the destruction of the great city by the Romans:

  • A star resembling a sword hanging over the city
  • A comet visible for a year
  • During the feast of unleavened bread at night, a great light shining around the altar and holy house for a half hour, making it appear daylight
  • A sacrificial cow bringing forth a lamb in the midst of the temple
  • A massive brass gate secured with bolts in the floor that opened on its own
  • During Pentecost, a quaking in the inner court of the temple, with the sound of a great multitude saying “Let us remove hence.” (Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was the Jewish celebration of the harvest and the giving of the law to Moses, occurring 50 days after passover).
  • Before sunset, not long after Pentecost, chariots and soldiers running about in the clouds, surrounding cities.
  • A prophet named Jesus who cried woe on the city, to the annoyance of the populace, for 7 years prior to the event

Read it for yourself in Antiquities 5.3. And keep reading, because the chronicle of the temple’s destruction, the enraged bloodbath amid horrified shrieking, the Jews expecting their Messiah… it is something else.

Today, the garish Dome of the Rock sits atop the Temple Mount in the traditional location of the Herodian temple, a golden reminder that the time of the Gentiles has not ended, and also, as has been noted, an unwitting guardian of the new reality that the High Priest has assumed His office and the copy and shadow is no longer needed.

15 Feb 2016

Despite quibbles here and there, Justice Scalia was always one of those Catholics I admired from afar, much like Pat Buchanan. His serious intellect, integrity, vibrant and masculine wit, and familial and religious devotion was a potent lure. I admired his willingness to be a whipping boy and his funny dissents from moral squishes like Anthony Kennedy. Scalia was the most formidable mind on the Supreme Court in the last 50 years. He seemed a good man. May he RIP.

Anyone who needed a practical example of the doctrine of total depravity needed only to review Twitter after Scalia died. Many of the posts were vile, with “jokes” about “pissing on his grave” and wishes for him to rot in Hell. See folks, it turns out that something is lost when you no longer see men as made in God’s image.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the First Amendment statue stood almost sacrosanct and seemingly permanent in the temple of progressivism. Liberals celebrated their support of the Nazis of Skokie and even Larry Flynt in the name of free speech. Now, however, the statue looks increasingly wobbly. When you have no lasting foundation for a belief, the winds of cultural drift can erode its pillars over time.

The room in the progressive temple is now increasingly swallowed up by the idol Equality, great and terrible, still busily under construction. The wobbly old First Amendment statue may be torn down, all in the name of the love that dare not speak its name. Old temple guards like Alan Dershowitz are worried by the young intoleristas who bitterly revile the Scalia types who dare question their moral autonomy. The Christian apologist Michael Brown noted that “gay activists” used to tell him “you’re crazy, no one will take away your liberties.” Now that it’s happening, they’re saying “yeah, and you deserve it.”

For those of us who’ve witnessed the rapid facility with which gay marriage has attained majority belief in the last 15-20 years and the intolerance toward any dissent from the new civil religion– you can’t even refuse to make a cake!– it’s not hard to extrapolate forward and see Satan’s throne (Rev 2:13), with Caesar leading increasingly direct persecution.

May God strengthen us, our families, and our churches for what lies ahead. The One who walks among the lampstands (Rev 1:12-16, Rev 2:1) is with us.

07 Feb 2016

Conscription is a form of enslavement and I’m thankful that national opinion currently opposes a military draft. I’m also thankful there isn’t the type of mandatory “national service” to Caesar that is in place elsewhere. However, a national emergency is all it might take to change it.

At the Republican debate last night, a moderator asked Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio if women should have to register for Selective Service. All three said yes. Ted Cruz wasn’t asked, but he said afterward that he opposes it:

“I have to admit, as I was sitting there listening to that conversation, my reaction was, ‘Are you guys nuts?’ … Listen, we have had enough with political correctness, especially in the military. Political correctness is dangerous. And the idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close combat, I think is wrong, it is immoral, and if I am president, we ain’t doing it.” To applause, Cruz went on to note that he is a father to two daughters, and he wants them to follow their dreams. “But the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Good for Ted Cruz. It’s a measure of a nation adrift that would think of sending young women to fight in place of men. The feminist heresy marches on, pushing men to suppress their natural desire to protect the ‘weaker sex,’ even to the destruction of the women it purports to help.

When you see politicians like Bush, Christie, and Rubio supporting this kind of stuff, can’t you easily envision a “conservative” politician 10 or 20 years down the line blessing polyamory and incest, or at least saying “nothing to see here, move along” about them? (Jeb also provided a hint hint that an ‘absolutist’ position on abortion like Rubio claims was damaging to one’s “electability.” His dad George HW Bush was always gutsy like that, too, wet finger gauging the wind. Of course Jeb is a “staunch pro-lifer”).

23 Jan 2016

Count me in favor of study Bibles and commentaries. Often when reading a chapter I get stuck on a passage, and can’t get past it. What does it mean? When I check a comment on the passage, 90% of the time my reaction is “of course, didn’t think of that.” With my Olive Tree app, I’ve purchased a bunch of notes: Reformation Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, Reformation Heritage Study Bible, Matthew Henry Complete, New Testament Commentary (Hendriksen, Kistemaker). All of these are solid, conservative commentaries. I’ve also purchased the Ancient Christian Commentary series. More on that at the end.

For devotional value, Matthew Henry is unsurpassed. It’s beautifully written and wisdom drips from every page. Henry has a way of getting at the heart of a passage in the most helpful of ways. My only complaint is the formatting of the content. It would be good if someone would take the complete commentaries and make it easier to find the verses, maybe by bolding chapter headings/verses and making them sync properly with the Bible verse. It was never easy to find a verse comment in any of the print versions either. Still, the content is so wonderful that it’s worth the time.

One tip with Matthew Henry: do not bother with “concise” versions. There’s no chaff to remove and the effect is to chop up and destroy the beauty and flow. They are borderline criminal. Go Complete!

To learn the meaning of a passage, the Hendriksen / Kistemaker “New Testament Commentary” is the best. This commentary really gets into extended discussions of passages with solid, sensible, and mature Reformed insight. On controversial passages it explains different views and it’s often passionate in its own Dutch Reformed way. For some reason its voice reminds me of those G.I. Williamson books (quite good) on the Shorter Catechism and the Westminster Confessions. The NTC’s only problem is that it’s “Matthew Henry, Jr.” in the area of formatting. Well, it’s not quite as bad. There is bolded text in there and better formatting, but sometimes when you’re in chapter 2, verse 8 you end up at the top of chapter 2 and have to wade around a lot to find the verse. Excellent content, though. At $75 on sale for the entire collection, it’s great stuff. If I had to choose just one commentary on the NT, I’d take this one.

The Reformation Study Bible (2015 revision) and ESV Study Bible notes cover the OT and NT, and are similar in style and amount of content. The Reformation Study Bible has far more notes than the previous RSB version released in the 2000s. It’s a worthy upgrade although I’d like even more notes in it. I haven’t spent time jumping to controversial passages to compare the RSB and the ESV SB, but I’ve heard that the RSB is a bit more “reformed.” They give you a few sentences or a paragraph on a passage, where Kistemaker/Hendriksen sometimes gives you a few pararaphs or a page. As a tag team I’ve found that these two study Bibles do a good job of providing concise but helpful commentary. If I had to choose one I’d take the RSB, but I like them both.

The Reformation Heritage Study Bible (not to be confused with the RSB above) has solid notes, but they are abbreviated and skimpy compared the the RSB and ESV SB. I prefer those two. I haven’t formed an opinion on MacArthur’s Study Bible yet, but the notes have been sound and are roughly at the level of the RSB and ESV SB.

When you read a number of these conservative commentaries you really do notice a similarity in analysis that says something about the perspicuity of Scripture. If I took you to a verse and read from each version, you probably wouldn’t know which was which.

Finally, I tried the “Ancient Christian Commentary” on Scripture. I love the idea of this big set– what did the early church think about Scriptural passages? This set has many volumes and there are lots of notes. Sometimes a passage gets comments from multiple fathers. Unfortunately it includes heretical and heterodox ones, too — Pelagius, anyone? I’d rather see “ancient” commentary focused more on the patristics and ending in the 5th century, but the set is more back-loaded because the church was on the run in the first few centuries when letters and apologetics were common. There is much representation from fathers like Bede and Gregory the Great, who I consider medieval rather than ancient. There’s something about this series that feels disjointed. As someone who has read a lot of history, albeit not heavily in this space, something just doesn’t ‘feel’ quite right about this set. You wonder why certain passages were chosen. Some of the passages are a little odd, making me wonder if there is context missing. It’s a curiosity for sure, but it seems a bit like a church fathers K-Tel collection. It’s questionable if it’s worth the $150 (at 50% off) cost.

ADDENDUM 2/2/16: I added the 22-volume Calvin commentaries on Scripture for $20 on sale at Olive Tree. What a steal. Calvin does not mince words, a trait most refreshing in a day where evil is considered sacred. Non-Calvinists can profit by his words also.

15 Jan 2016

As I’m aging I’m finding it increasingly to read on paper books without getting a headache. For some reason I can read without problems on a computer or Kindle. Maybe it’s the light. I was using free apps on my phone, but after a few months it became frustrating switching between my commentary apps and my Bible. I don’t find web apps like Bible Gateway to be conducive to much more than quickly looking up a verse. So I thinks to meself, why not get a single software package that combines everything in one place?

Some online searching revealed three Bible apps that seemed to be the most popular– Olive Tree, Logos, and Accordance— so I tried all three on a trial basis. What follows is one dummy’s review of these products.

This is not a professional review. I went into this knowing nothing about these products. Those experienced with these packages may find my thoughts shockingly simplistic, but I figure there are other layman schlubs like me out there who are interested in a more powerful Bible application and who are a little intimidated by these products. This review is for people like you.

With Olive Tree, you download the free main app and sign up a free account with an ID and password. The freebie includes some free products like the ESV Bible, a KJV Bible, and a Concise (read: unnecessarily edited) Matthew Henry commentary. To add new products, you just go to the Olive Tree site online or in the app and buy them. Products have a 30-day trial period so it’s risk-free to try stuff out.

I bought the Reformation Study Bible notes (2015), Matthew Henry Complete Commentary, the ESV Study Bible notes, and the NASB with Strongs (the latter gives you word definitions by clicking on words in the text, which I find indispensable) for $60 total during their December sale. I’ve since added other materials, including the wonderful Hendriksen/Kistemaker New Testament Commentary series. Olive Tree has weekly sales and times where they will heavily discount titles; I’d wait for those to purchase stuff. You can share the same Olive Tree account on up to 5 machines or devices… for example, I have it on my iPhone, a PC, and an iPAD. Your notes/tags and highlights sync across the devices, so if you highlight something in the PC software it’ll show up on your iPhone app. You can download all of your products locally to each device so they run faster and don’t require a data connection. You purchase new items on the web site or in the app and you can download them immediately.

Logos has the highest cost of entry. The cheapest option is the Starter Kit and it runs about $300. You have a 30-day trial period and the license is a family license that works with unlimited devices. The Starter kit gives you a huge pile of products (you can see them on the Logos site), but I found most of it to be stuff I wouldn’t use. You can add additional products just like at Olive Tree. Nearly everything I bought at Olive Tree was not included in the Logos starter package. One thing I’ll say for Logos is that the default Greek lookup is much more thorough than Olive Tree’s Strong’s Bible, and it can show the Greek text in interlinear fashion. You can purchase additional products just like with Olive Tree, and I found that costs of these add-on products were pretty similar between Logos and Olive Tree (you can go to each of the sites and see what products are available on each one and what they cost).

Logos is probably the most popular power Bible software, it has a good support forum (which Olive Tree lacks), and easily has the most products available. The web site looked nice and clean. All of this biased me toward it initially, but the splash of cold water arrived after I started using Logos 6 on the PC and my iPhone. It is shockingly clunky. The UI design is terrible. Settings are in weird places. I’d find myself losing a screen and really struggling to figure out how to get back to it. You can’t set Scripture to read in in paragraph format. You can’t have different font sizes between the primary and split window. Just very unpleasant to use. My wife used it awhile and had the same experience. After a few days of frustration I bailed and got a refund.

I used the Accordance demo for a few hours. They sell a a starter kit just like Logos, but the Accordance package is far cheaper at $60. Like Logos, it provides mostly stuff I wouldn’t use, but $60 of unused stuff beats $300 of unused stuff. Accordance’s PC and iOS interfaces are a little lacking in “fit and finish,” but they are superior to the messiness of Logos. Accordance also seemed more powerful in some of its research capabilities than Olive Tree.

I tried Accordance last, after Logos had sapped my meager patience, and probably didn’t give it as fair of a shake as the others. Logos had more resources. Olive Tree had a little better interface and it was significantly cheaper to get started. Some of the add-on products I wanted like the ESV Study Bible were a lot more expensive in Accordance ($60) than they were in Olive Tree ($35 marked down to $20 when on sale).

So I went with Olive Tree. The Windows PC interface is imperfect and there are some bugs, but it’s clean, intuitive, nicely presented, and it’s hard to get too lost. The same goes for the (very nice) iPhone app, which easily bests the Logos and Accordance offerings from a usability standpoint. A few hours using the Logos app one evening was a maddening experience that had me thinking about breaking a few things.

Logos’s support desk will recommend various training videos, but I’m too impatient to use them, and it’s just the principle of the thing: it shouldn’t be hard to navigate software. The interface should be intuitive, especially to an IT guy who has been using software for 25 years. I’m sure Logos has powers Olive Tree lacks, but the “blocking and tackling” work I want to do is read a Bible and consult reference materials without a lot of hassle. A pastor may think it’s worth navigating Logos’s obnoxious interface for its greater depth of materials and capabilities, but I found it too aggravating. The higher price didn’t work in its favor either.

One nice thing about all these apps is that the various study Bibles are created for a certain Bible version in print but with these products you can mix and match. For example, you can have the NASB in the main window with the “ESV Study Bible” notes in the secondary window. All the products also allow you to have the secondary window “follow” the primary window. If you’re looking at John 1:18 in the main window, you’ll see commentary notes for that verse in the secondary window. If you switch the Bible to Romans 1, the commentary will “follow” you.

Olive Tree has been a big help with my study.

24 Dec 2015

The last, and only, good Star Wars film came out in 1977. Before George Lucas got cute, that film was simply called “Star Wars.”

It generated deserved excitement at the theater. It was audacious, it was original, and yet it had the familiar feel of an MGM swashbuckler like Captain Blood. It didn’t have a young and irrepressible Errol Flynn, but it had an erudite Alec Guinness and memorable characters. Like Blood, Star Wars started with the whip crack of a propulsive theme and title sequence which set off the adventure on an ebullient note that it rarely lost.

Many Christians discussed the theological, Zoroastrian errors of the Force, but I think that’s taking it too seriously. Most people just saw in the original film a vivid and noble adventure yarn. Heroism, good and evil, and dying for friends.

So what about the just-released and highly touted Star Wars: the Force Awakens? Well, Joe Sobran attended Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural speech and noted how the incoming president strained for grand effects he didn’t know how to achieve. So does Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The first half is derivative of the plot points and feel of the 1977 film, but without that flick’s boldness, creativity, and emotional power. It’s like they didn’t have the imagination to come up with anything so they settled on weakly reflecting the first film, as a piece of wax paper reflects the sun.

Everyone remembers the forlorn “Force Theme” during the Binary Sunset and Kenobi death scenes in the 1977 original. These were great little scenes that packed a wallop. Force Awakens tries – oh how it tries – to bring in that classic theme at various points to lend gravitas. It’s been a few hours since the movie ended and I honestly can’t remember what those scenes were.

The film goes downhill as it moves along. The semi-enjoyable nostalgia exercise of the first part of the film gives way to overlong action sequences in the second half. The action scenes in the original Star Wars were all watchable. They didn’t go on endlessly and the plot moved along. Force Awakens was more like the overrated series of Marvel action movies with their interminable CGI sequences. How many more movies do we need where a protagonist runs along and the ground blows up or collapses behind them? You’d think movie producers would realize that watching non-stop “harrowing” sequences becomes like watching a film loop or an assembly line. No matter how interesting it is, the repetition eventually renders it dull. (During the movie I was distracted by a 7 year old who kept standing up next to us– what is with adults talking and unattended kids at the theaters now? Given that I was checking my watch a lot that final hour, it would’ve been more enjoyable if that kid and I had gone out to the lobby to shoot the breeze.)

Force Awakens also features that most tiresome and ever-present cliche in modern films: the warrior chick. You can close your eyes and visualize feminist groups sitting at a large conference table with Disney executives and stressing the proper attitudes. It can’t be long until the franchise introduces its first homosexual. One wonders if in a decade the hero will be a cross-dresser.

All this would be even more annoying if the female protagonist was fleshed out. She was actually quite dull and underwritten, perhaps because she was so “empowered.”

As it turns out, the film’s most memorable character was a little red droid. Yes, a glorified machine stole the show. Or at least it would’ve if there was a show worth stealing.

22 Dec 2015

Here’s a quote from an interview yesterday with NPR where Barack Obama was asked about opposition:

If you are referring to… specific strains in the Republican party that… uh… suggest that somehow I’m different… I’m… Muslim… I’m disloyal to the country, etc…you know… Which, unfortunately, uhh, is pretty far out there and gets some traction, uh, in certain pockets of the Republican party, and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials. Uh, what I’d say there is that, uh, that’s probably pretty specific to, uh, me, and, uh, who I am and, uh, and my background, and that in some ways I may represent change that worries them.

We’ve heard this basic script many times before with the president. It’s interesting how thin-skinned he is. He talks in measured academic tones, with thoughtful uhhs, and there is an undercurrent of condescending offense that anyone could actually disagree with him. There is a touch of passive-aggressive ad hominem. He comforts himself that he’s dealing with simpletons harboring bad motives– most especially, racism.

Granted, anyone who reads news article comments on the internet will often see discussions conducted in bad faith, but that cuts all ways. It’s rare to see thoughtful, unapologetic, fair-minded arguments in lieu of the usual pointless brawls between “libtards” and “teabagger racists.” However, I think a less arrogant man than the president would disregard such chaff and act more charitably toward his opposition. Once you get past the insults, even some of the name-callers can articulate reasons for their disgust with his policies.

03 Dec 2015

I haven’t figured out who funds the Ad Council, which seems to have a lot of money and is fond of airbrushed progressive propaganda. It sounds like much of its money comes from government agencies. Another thing I wish we could defund.

The Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” ad runs incessantly. Two skeletons are shown kissing on a screen. The skeletons come around each side of the screen and… it’s two women. To smooth over the obvious social molding (It’s normal! Accept it!), we are shown more skeletons which are in turn revealed as a mixed-race couple and a special needs child.

It’s nauseating. It’s also ripe for someone with more guts than SNL to make fun of it. Maybe someone goes behind the screens and finds that there’s a zombie biting someone’s neck. Or maybe the outline of a goat back there. I mean, why not, maybe it’s predicting the future in our brave, new, sexually confused world.

By the way, why all this emphasis on monogamous same sex relationships? Why two?

04 Nov 2015

I was watching an interview on Fox News, trying to figure out why it was a big deal for a woman to access a woman’s locker room. After a few minutes I realized that they were actually discussing a cross-dressing guy who wants to be able to change in a woman’s locker room. My confusion stemmed from Fox consistently using the pronoun “she” to describe the cross-dresser. “Oh,” I finally realized, “so it’s a dude.” When you give up the language like that the battle is already lost.

Many conservatives see Fox as a great blessing that provides equal time to conservative thought. I see it more as a purveyor of establishment Republicanism– crusading Wilsonian foreign policy, tepid domestic restraint, and opposition to Democrat personalities with an interest to electing Republicans (there are endless ways to substantively oppose Democrats, but indulging that will point the finger at the Republicans too on most issues).

I sometimes watch “The Five,” and I’m always struck by how little the opinionated people on there deviate from what Tom Woods calls the “3×5 index card of allowable opinion.” I suspect someone upstairs is setting restrictive boundaries. On Fox you’ll hear from “safe” beltway “social libertarians” of the CATO stripe, but paleoconservatives and anarchocapitalists are nearly invisible. You’ll get Near Beer but no liquor.

Fox News is going to keep its troops safely away from the real battle lines on issues like “transgenderism.” You won’t hear someone bluntly say “look, I’m not calling a guy ‘she’.” They’ll fuss around the edges and give you a wink here and there that they get it. They’ll use the minimum level of PC terminology, but they’ll use it all the same, and by doing so confirm and act as a seal on the cultural drift. The boundaries of conservatism will then reset accordingly. Fox News is an example of Dabney’s comment:

Its history is that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at least in the innovation. It is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader.

04 Aug 2015

Couple of interesting stories on Republicans.

First, this article on how Jeb Bush was a director on a Michael Bloomberg “philanthropy” that provided tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood. Jeb’s grandfather Prescott was strongly affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Papa Bush (41) was known for his strong Planned Parenthood advocacy too, for which he was supposedly nicknamed “rubbers” until he suddenly became a, uh, staunch pro-lifer. Staunch pro-lifer George W Bush had another such conversion as I recall when he ran for president, just like staunch pro-lifer Mitt Romney (never mind that 1994 Senate race where he tried to out-liberal Ted Kennedy on the topic). It’s notable that Bush 41 and Bush 43 never managed to convince their wives to share their staunch pro-life views.

Second, this article by the always-principled Ron Paul. He notes that when he tried to stop federal funding of groups that promote or perform abortions while a congressman, “pro-life leaders” instead sought language prohibiting federal funds from being used for abortions. This trickery is how Plannned Parenthood could still be federally subsidized for hundreds of millions of dollars yearly despite a supposed ban on federal funding of abortion. It’s deception since earmarked funds that take care of one part of your budget mean that you can use more non-earmarked funds to fund your abortions. It’d be like funding the Klan… but only for their roadside cleanup activities.

04 Aug 2015

Poor Planned Parenthood. For all those years the media gatekeepers maintained mostly silence about abortion, except of course to attack those who hate it. However, these Center for Medical Progress videos exploded into public view thanks to the internet and social media. You can depend on most of the old guard media to maintain silence unless something negative comes out against the people who filmed it undercover. Then the silence will melt into a profusion of articles focusing on the “ethics” of what these people with the hidden cameras are doing, or whatever foible has been exposed. Thankfully these old-line gatekeepers are increasingly irrelevant, a welcome change from how it used to be.

It’s good to see the killers exposed and on the run. In my 25 years of observation this is easily the most fire Planned Parenthood has ever taken. Their name is getting dragged through the mud, exactly where it belongs. I think most people now realize that they aren’t just a condom dispensary (condoms being a loss leader that brings people back to their friendly Planned Parenthood doctor when the birth control fails and it’s time to discuss one’s “options”).

For years Life Decisions Int’l (LDI) put out the gold standard Planned Parenthood boycott list. However, they will not make their list public. Recently a site called the Daily Signal published list of around 40 corporate supporters that I believe they took from Planned Parenthood’s site. However, this list seemed incomplete and listed a few companies that I’d never known to be Planned Parenthood supporters.

Then a mutual fund published this list. I can’t vouch for everything, but I can say that most of the names ring a bell from LDI’s list (which I haven’t seen for a few years). The LDI list didn’t change as much as you’d think from year to year. There was comparatively little heat on these companies, and some of them (Levi’s and Johnson & Johnson come to mind) have been cutting checks to Planneed Parenthood for decades. J&J doesn’t want a baby’s tender eyes to be burned with shampoo, but scalding him to death is apparently another matter.

Anyway, now is the time to make these companies feel the heat via Facebook, email, and other means. This can change things.

03 Apr 2015

I haven’t followed the specifics of these religious freedom restoration laws in Arkansas and Indiana, but when the governor of Arkansas assured constituents the other day that his own son signed the petition to amend it, it was pretty clear that the jig was up. There is your typical politician, wet finger resolutely gauging the wind. When deep pockets (Walmart, Apple) demur and/or public opposition arises, politicians go “What, me principled?”

The “freedom of association” store was sadly given away 50 years ago. The principle that should be at work is this: voluntary buyer and voluntary seller. This type of common sense and respect for other people’s conscience (even if they make decisions we think are stupid or contemptible) is no longer there, nor does it matter that denying that principle may one day endanger my liberty to dissent from whatever the government and pop culture is pushing at the moment.

I’m waiting for some Christians to go to some gay businessman and request a cake saying “Marriage: One Man, One Woman” or “Jesus: the Only Way.” It’s a public accommodation! You have to do it! Of course, these would be probably termed “hate speech” in our increasingly arbitrary system, providing a convenient loophole. The principle of the thing no longer matters.

If a Jehovah’s Witness came to my shop and wanted a cake I’d sell it to him. If he wanted a cake saying “The Trinity is False” I would not do it. Nor would I in turn expect a Muslim to make me a cake that says “Pork: the other white meat.” If a Jew doesn’t want to cater for a Christian wedding, then find someone else to do it. What is so hard about this?

Why should a man be compelled to violate his own conscience? The answer of course is that this isn’t debate, it’s a drumbeat. The media and those bulldozing their opposition like Germany mowing through France in 1940 don’t really care about how these precedents could be used against them one day. It’s just another brick in the wall of molding others in the image of our societal tastemakers.

For people who have a fetish of finding “judgmentalism” in others, these folks sure are awfully confident in how others should be forced to act.

29 Mar 2015

It’s interesting how we have a peculiar interest in certain cultural figures. I think back sometimes on the men who were giants in 1970s and 1980s culture. A generation exists now that knows their names but little about them. In another generation or two even their names may be largely unknown.

When I was growing up, the talk show host Johnny Carson was possibly the biggest celebrity in the country. His lawyer, Henry Bushkin, recounts how Carson went to an A-list party in 1979 at the home of Henry Mancini. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, famous composers, directors, etc. were there, but Johnny Carson was the man these people anxiously awaited.

The exuberant Tonight Show theme and Ed McMahon’s booming voice would sound every weeknight at 11:30, the air full of possibility, the good life, a party. Carson had broad appeal. Old people liked his small-town charm. Young comics admired him and sought his approval. He had an urbane swinging feel and a mystery about him that appealed to middle aged men and even dumb kids like me. His interactions with regular folks and zoo animals were legendary, as was his repartee with Ed McMahon, Tommy Newsom, and Doc Severinson (much of it scripted, it turns out). Johnny was funny and self-deprecating. He always knew what to say. He was a guy you wished you knew, small town and L.A., a bon vivant living the dream.

In the American Masters biography of Carson, one of the commenters noted that Carson and Hugh Hefner were the forefathers of the sexual revolution. While overstated, I think there is somewhat of a tie. Carson was a more refined proponent of Hefner’s joie de vivre. Hefner was a legend in his own mind who gave the pretense of high culture amid the nudie pictures, but it was a layer of varnish and glitter over a seedy core. He wasn’t the kind of libertine you’d bring home to meet mom and dad.

Carson was more like the guys in the Rat Pack. The double entendres and flirtations were there but never alienated his audience. He could appeal to a Vegas crowd, a class reunion, students and teachers. Johnny dressed well. He made millions from his own suit line because men wanted to look (and be) like him. Like so many in the industry he had multiple (4) wives, trading in old models for new each go-round. The marital woes became a running joke and part of his image.

Johnny stayed atop the Hollywood heap for several decades, known and feted everywhere. Never an actor himself, he hosted the Academy Awards many times. He hosted the first Reagan inaugural at the behest of Frank Sinatra. Of course, sexual temptation is relentless for the famous, like a fat man presented with cake and candy at every table. Carson had flings and long-term girlfriends. He was a star attraction who did Vegas shows a few weeks yearly for many years. Craven casino owners created for him a playground of self-gratification: fancy suites, food, gambling, saunas, and of course women. After he finally tired of Vegas, there were yearly trips to Wimbledon and the south coast of France. He had huge mansions in Bel Air, then one in Malibu overseeing the Pacific. A private tennis court. A staff to cater to his needs.

As these things usually go, image and reality didn’t align: Bushkin thought Carson a generally unhappy soul (incidentally, Johnny started out as an illusionist). The allure of hobnobbing with the rich and famous wore off as he realized that so many of them were as dull as flat paint and had little of interest to say without a scriptwriter. Carson himself was often a loner, preferring home with his drum set or telescope, a private bar stool at Jilly’s, or playing alley cat to holding court at a party. The famous deal with similar problems: Who can you trust? What does this guy contacting me really want? Weirdo fans. Celebrity so often breeds a desperation to stay on top. Bushkin notes that if A-listers find themselves at a party with a bunch of nobodies, they get paranoid, thinking that someone is trying to “demote” them. Such are the stresses of status.

Carson finally called it quits from the Tonight Show in 1992. He never did specials after that so the mystique remained. As his life wound down, he became increasingly remote from others including his final wife. The last few years of his life were spent largely alone, staring out at the sea and sailing in his boat, until the longtime smoker contracted emphysema and died in 2005 at age 79. It is a sad and empty spectacle to ponder a longtime toast of the town dying nearly alone. Even the great Tonight Show theme can’t cover that.

I find these types of biographies profitable on occasion. The titans of the earth go naked to the grave like the rest of us, and what good is celebrity in front of the Lord? If you end up in hell, what profit lies in the self-gratification of decades past or some guy watching a Youtube clip of you 30 years hence? Even if, unlike Johnny Carson, you die among a crowd of adoring friends you can’t take them to act as character witnesses at the judgment seat.

Fame seems more curse than blessing, offering up great distractions from God’s reality and eternity itself.

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. (Matt. 7:26-7)

21 Feb 2015

Occasionally you run across a “wisdom of the wise” whopper so risible that only a college professor could come up with it. A few days ago, President Obama informed us that “here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”

Say what? Was the hit put out on the Barbary pirates part of this weave?

28 Oct 2014

In libertarian or internet circles, you sometimes hear people talk about the “false left-right paradigm.” The idea is that manipulators create divisive issues that get people riled up to expend their energies fighting one another, while nothing much changes behind the throne or curtain. Same bureaucracy. Same elites running the show. Same face, different mask.

I think there’s some truth in this.

Barack Obama is a terrible president, but when I hear someone bringing everything back to Obama this, Obama that, I check out. Not because it’s mean. Or dull (although it is really dull). No, mainly because it’s destructive.

For one, it obscures systemic issues. Obamacare is terrible, but it’s just another brick in the socialized medicine wall that’s been under construction for a half century. Yes, Obama is a state worshipper, but George W Bush was a great enemy of liberty too. The Republican party doesn’t want you poking into why federal spending has gone up every year since 1946. They’d rather keep you focused on why Obama went golfing again yesterday. Petty resentments must be a boon for contributions (back when I was a teen, “Ted Kennedy” was the magic word in fundraising appeals). If only we could get the latest jerk out of office, why then we’d have what… Mitt Romney, the pre-eminent Rockefeller Republican of his generation? Even after the Obama hand has been played, haven’t we been around long enough to know that there’ll be another joker dealt in the next round? Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, anyone? There’s always a long supply of rotten eggs seeking political power.

More importantly, this focus on the daily “How is Obama falling short today?” political grind yields a bias toward the now, toward winning the news cycle. Ebola has been all over the news recently, and thanks partly to Republican pressure Obama acted now and we got another (unconstitutional) czar. George W Bush acted now back in 2008 with his back against the wall, and we got TARP. Acting now never involves acting wisely. (I think back, with some amusement,to when oil was $4 a gallon a few years ago and conservative Republicans were lamenting the lack of a “national energy policy.” Why if only the Fuhrer would come up with a plan to drill more oil wells! Such is the state of modern conservatism.)

In his book on democracy, Hans Herman Hoppe noted that an absolute king will try to act in ways that further the long-term wealth of his realm (he’s like a private owner of the kingdom), whereas a president or legislator in a democracy owns only the current use of the treasury. As short-term caretakers and not owners, our “public servants,” as the government-lovers call them, lack the incentive to act wisely, to think long-term. Instead they act with an eye toward whipping up the most votes in the next election. They’ll empty the till as long as they can keep the party going until they’ve left office.

The party hacks and campaign consultants are cut from the same cloth as our “public servants.” They care about power. They care about this election cycle. They care about now. They want you to care about now too and help them win the next election. If I can’t convince you to disregard these ad men altogether, at least step back and be discerning. They’re good manipulators.

13 Oct 2014

Honestly, I thought Ernest Angely died years ago. But he’s still up in Akron, OH, with his toupee and faith-healing “ministry.” And now this.

Disgrace and heresy are ever-present in televangelism. Pedophilia, child abuse, sodomy… sadly nothing new there. Forced vasectomies, though? That’s a new one.

27 Apr 2014

I liked Jars of Clay’s first CD back in the 1990s, so hearing Dan Haseltine’s (at best) mealy-mouth words about gay marriage was disappointing. But it wasn’t surprising. I gave up on the Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) scene long ago… too treacly, too effeminate, too prophetically weak.

On its surface, I guess it’s better that people are listening to watered-down CCM praise music than Beyonce’s songs about sex acts, but when people take a deeper look into what their Christian artists believe, they’ll probably hear about the need to affirm sinful behavior, avoid “organized religion,” “deeds not creeds,” etc. When I listened to Christian Rock a generation ago, the bands I liked believed it then, and the culture is intensifying the propaganda against Biblical morality. People can sometimes discern the “wide road” appeal of the latest secular acts since their error is mixed with little truth, but Christian artists can hide potentially damning beliefs like the ones above behind a spiritual facade and carefully-tousled hair. “Inoffensive” is better for the bottom line while they’re popular, so you may have to mine a bit to find it, but once the popularity recedes a bit then you tend to find out what people really think. Or at least you hear how they’ve drifted downstream with the culture.

This guy thinks the Christian music industry has many homosexuals. I believe him because famous artists- actors, musicians, etc.- tend more than the general public to come from unstable backgrounds, discernment isn’t usually at the top of their list of gifts, and the life of a popular traveler is one of multiplied temptations. People tend to get addicted to fame.

The wise men in this age of triumphant mockery can laugh as they will, but for those with ears to hear, who know that the beyond the grave and the approving multitudes lies judgment, I think it is wise to be more discerning with “Christian” than non-Christian artists.

01 Mar 2014

A fitness article recently instructed readers to be careful because the fitness industry is largely unregulated. I reacted the way I often do when reading this common sentiment: Oh no! What are we going to do? I feel so unmoored and helpless!

Seriously folks, while you should exercise discernment with all of man’s wisdom, would introducing the government into the fitness industry really improve it? This unfounded belief in the goodness of regulation is why the government regulates in some fashion just about everything in our houses. It’s why the federal register is north of 70,000 pages. It’s a reason why the government spends half of the national GDP. I would love to do a study of an average business and see how much time and money is wasted complying with regulations. In my job, I see the distortions introduced by the tax code all the time.

Oh yes, people say, but if it were unregulated why our cars would be blowing up and our food would be poisoned! There are easy answers to this one. First, this stuff occurs despite the government. Approved drugs get recalled, government-inspected plants sell infected meat, etc. Second, in a free market a seller has something supremely valuable called a reputation. You don’t get a good reputation by poisoning and killing people. Buyers use private means such as watchdog articles and Amazon reviews. There are outside firms – UL comes to mind – that put their own stamp of approval on things. These could and should 100% replace the government.

The best argument against regulation is this: the government doesn’t do anything well. It lacks incentives. It lacks a price system to guide it.

Only dishonest politicians attach the words “smart” and “cost-effective” to government actions. We rarely hear of an industrious government worker. Instead the government is slow, corrupt, ham-handed, stupid. Its claim of independence is phony. Why would we want that entity regulating us?

09 Jan 2014

Almost every time someone comments that a certain Christian or Christian group isn’t being Christ-like, it’s when they actually are being Christ-like by calling sin – usually sodomy – “sin.” If those who make this glib comment actually understood the Scriptures, they would consider Jesus the least Christ-like person of all. Of course, this is because their understanding of Christ as a cosmic, “do as thou wilt” back-patter is a fiction.

28 Dec 2013

Reading A&E’s reasoning for reinstating Phil Robertson reminded me of an old Joe Sobran quote:

Liberalism wants us to ‘set aside our differences,’ as if our differences don’t really matter as much as the things on which we can all agree with liberalism itself. You can almost define a liberal as one who demands that others reach his conclusions from their premises.

The usual buzzwords of unity, tolerance, and acceptance are all present. These words all mean the same thing in liberal parlance: those who disagree can privately do so but must avoid saying anything that brings about conviction of sin or that calls cherished perversions “perversions.” We tolerate those who agree with us. We also tolerate those who mildly disagree, but if you disagree root and branch, or if you aren’t part of the narrow band of colors in our rainbow of diversity, you will see your careers threatened. If possible, we’ll get laws passed to force you to comply. And we’ll force our views on you (at your expense) via public schools and government agencies. We’re defining what kind of dissent is reasonable here, so get on board. Or else.

04 Nov 2013

I heard a radio host say that most people support a “right” to health care. However, support vanishes once people realize that coverage will go down and costs will go up. All true. But arguing from the vantage point of negative personal impact not only exposes you to the charge of selfishness, it fails to get at the root problem.

The real issue is the same twofold problem with all government spending. First, it involves the up-front of a commission of a crime. The government doesn’t have any money, so it takes money from people who would not voluntarily give it otherwise (i.e. it steals). Second, we live in a world of scarcity and limited resources. Unlike the free market, the government has no price system to guide it into sustainable behaviors. Instead, it thinks and acts politically. Politicians buy votes to maintain power. They do this by delivering booty: grants, subsidies, handouts, competition-stifling regulations, entitlements, etc. This rewards bad behavior in countless ways. The government is inefficient, it’s corrupt, and it wastes scarce resources.

That’s why the government should be out of the health care business.

And another thing: I’m tired of ignorant diatribes against profit. Profit is another word for sustainability. If you’re making a legitimate profit in your business, you’re not only serving customers who freely buy your products, you also have the means to sustain yourself so that the rest of us don’t have to. And you’re in a position to help others. From where do you think the government steals its money?

06 Oct 2013

I support the government shutdown, especially if they quit teasing me and make it permanent. Of course, only a small part of the government is shut down. And as has been said here many times, any politician who talks about cutting spending or “reining in the deficit” without proposing massive cuts in defense and entitlement spending is blowing smoke and unworthy of your attention.

But let’s focus on the government worker. They think that their jobs are what they are, and that they deserve to exist. But as with any job funded out of government tax receipts, the jobs only exist because of the threat of fines, jail time, or worse.

I’m amazed at how many people do not care about the burdens they impose on others. An outraged government worker is little different than a welfare recipients who believes that productive society isn’t giving them as much as they deserve. Both of these groups rely on the state to steal on their behalf. Imagine someone who makes unwanted crafts getting a law passed saying that everyone must buy his handiwork because this is his livelihood. His family is counting on him! How dare you starve his children!

I don’t wish job loss on others, but government workers at all levels need to lose their jobs permanently so that they are in sustainable work that doesn’t force others to carry them like slaves toting Pharaoh’s platform.

12 Sep 2013

Well, if I can issue a slight compliment to Barack Obama, the abortionist’s friend, he does seem a bit more reluctant than your average Republican to play bombs away in other countries. Of course, lots of killing continues in Afghanistan, and I do wonder how many innocents the Nobel-winning Dronemaster and his order-takers have destroyed via the joystick.

Sorrowfully, it seems as if some Christians do believe in some sort of jihad. Eh, if there is some collateral damage over there, what the heck, that’s what they get for having terrorists in their midst. They were probably secretly supportive. And they’re Muslims anyway. I think many people believe it thoughtlessly, from repetition on Fox News or conservative blogs.

Remember what Gandalf said to Frodo: “Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” While we await the day of the Lord when his enemies will be crushed, we should remember that vengeance is the Lord’s. He is just. He is the Creator. He knows the ends. The Turk may be the wrath of God and the servant of the raging devil, as Luther said, but still the Muslim is made in the image of God. There is no Biblical warrant for us to go off destroying those who have not attacked us.

Twenty years ago I joined the chorus of people calling Bill Clinton a draft dodger. Now I would refuse to fight. Why should I murder a man who has not attacked me for the red, white, and blue, or for a cold war, or for a politician? It’s unjust.

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