19 Oct 2012

Here’s an excellent article by Gary North. He’s right that, far more than the Ron Paul movement, the one great and successful effort to “opt out of the state” is the homeschooling movement. Public schools are a colossal waste of money, time, and intellect. I mean that in the nicest possible way. OK, not really.

I’ve long believed that if we just made public schoolboys wear brown shirts, and the girls red scarves, it might underscore the social-shaping that goes on there.

One tenet of public school religion is recycling. I told a kid once that mandatory trash recycling programs are a waste of money. You’d think I’d shot him given the reaction. Such is life going against state propaganda, which is always parlayed as enlightened opinion by intellectuals who are themselves usually on the public dime in some way. (Mandatory trash recycling is a waste of money, which is why in areas with optional recycling it costs more per month to participate in recycling than it does to use the trash can. Someone has to waste gas driving around to pick the bins up and sort stuff, then they have to send it somewhere where they waste energy cleaning up the material. If it made economic sense, such as the recycling we all do with everything from plastic grocery bags to old socks, it wouldn’t have to be mandated.)

05 Sep 2012

Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough. -Noah Cross in Chinatown

During his presidency, Bill Clinton was seen largely as a punch line. He was the self-absorbed, knavish, shameless “Slick Willie” of Troopergate, Whitewater, FBI file thefts, and siccing the IRS on his opponents. He never made a memorable speech. His most famous utterances were this lie and his lawyerly dissembling on the meaning of the word “is,” a Diet Coke at his side. His handlers told us on talk show after talk show that oral sex wasn’t really sex. Anything to keep the guy in office.

He was impeached. He still stuck around. No way he was going anywhere. On his last day in office he stayed up all night and lingered to the very end. Within a few years after leaving office he was very wealthy, ground he no doubt prepared carefully while in office. He was forever accusing his enemies of “cynicism.” His paranoia about the deviousness of his opponents made him the embodiment of the old saying that a fox smells its own hole.

The Starr Report. Paula Jones. Kathleen Willey. Safe, legal, and rare. Joe Sobran summed Clinton up best with a collection of 1990s essays entitled Hustler. It’s trustworthy contemporary accounts like Sobran’s that tell you more than the history books (c.f. John Flynn on Franklin Roosevelt).

Now, however, Bill Clinton is seen as a lodestar of fiscal responsibility in contrast to the “big spender” Obama. Unlike Obama (my opinion of whom is unchanged), Clinton supposedly balanced the budget.

This narrative overlooks inconvenient facts which are also inconvenient for Congressional Republicans of the time. First, the Clinton era coincided with huge productivity growth thanks to the rise of the web, which was accompanied by a massive Fed-induced boom that finally popped at the end of Clinton’s second term. Second, there never was a balanced budget if you include off-budget costs like unfunded entitlement liabilities. The government was simply spending money that it was supposed to save, a practice that continues today. Clinton had plenty of grandiose schemes. Clintonian spending was restrained compared to the ensuing George W. Bush years because Clinton shot himself in the foot too many times to ever gather the momentum to accomplish anything (something we can be thankful for).

Conservatives trumpeting Responsible Bill vs. Irresponsible Barack are just doing it for the need of the moment. Clinton is not a candidate and not a threat. Obama is. Romney needs the undecided lunkheads, so whatever you have to say to appeal to them, say it. After all, as we hear every four years, “it’s the most important election of our lifetime.”

Perhaps the needs of the election cycle will be the last barrier to Clinton being taken seriously, which is something that eluded him throughout his presidency. Richard Nixon was remembered in later years as a statesman. It looks like William J. Clinton’s time for respectability has come.

22 Aug 2012

I am coming more and more to agree with Lew Rockwell that voting is a waste of time, but what about the argument that we should vote for the man who will do less damage? Why not vote for the man who will drive off the cliff at 40mph instead of the man who’ll drive off the cliff at 50mph?

In the church, the moderates do the real damage. Few believers listen to strident liberals. More influential is the reasonable-sounding man who tries to edge things toward peace at all all costs, or the woman who appeals to civility as she suggests a small step that just so happens to undermine Biblical authority (and there will always be another step after that). It’s the evangelical with the disarming smile who is just kinda sorta trying to move the church toward — and really in just the most limited way — ordaining women deacons. He supplies the credentials and the legitimacy. He seals the deal.

I think it’s basically the same in politics. The man doing the real damage is the one who fraudulently claims to present a real alternative when he is 98% the same as the other guy (and actually even worse on some issues like war and civil liberties). The Republicans had Congress and the presidency for years and they could not defund Planned Parenthood. There are powerful interests in the party who want it. It’s just an issue to run on in some districts. You vote on a meaningless measure that will never get through both houses of Congress, everyone gets the scores they want from the advocacy groups, and let’s go have drinks.

The guy who gets your vote doesn’t care if you’re holding your nose while pulling the lever for him. It’s a vote all the same.

But here’s the larger problem: pulling the lever for empty rhetoric and table scraps enervates a true opposition. It saps it. It doesn’t act to reverse the train heading off the cliff or even stop the train, it stabilizes the engine so it can steam toward destruction. The 19th-century theologian R.L. Dabney put it well:

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.

Moderates do the real damage.

05 Aug 2012

It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple… If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple. Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack.

That C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity came to mind with the recent Chick-fil-A flap. Reading all the pro-homosexual anger on Facebook and elsewhere, as well as the usual equivocators within the church who are always anxious to avoid being insufficiently progressive, you’d think there is this huge strand of self-righteousness throughout the church. So many hypocrisy-seeking progressives always like to talk about gray areas, but they view the believing churchman as a straw man, for no one can honestly and seriously oppose the homosexual gospel of tolerance. There is no charity to be given to one’s opponents.

Maybe I’ve been in the reformed ghetto too long with its emphasis on depravity and our remaining sin, but I’ve been around serious Christians of all denominations for a lot of years, and I can’t remember more than a few who I found overly self-righteous. At times everyone sees the speck in their brother’s eye rather than the log in their own, but in general my experience is that Christians are much more humble than unbelievers. An understanding and adoption of Scripture and its teachings is a moderating influence on one’s pride.

16 Jul 2012

There has been a lot of confusion in the media about the word “cult,” and I realized recently that it’s because people don’t know what Christians mean by the word. When people hear the word “cult,” they think about kooks leading around the mentally-unstable. Now,there are cults like that and they deserve the name. However, the common Christian understanding of a cult may not be in the dictionary. It refers to a false faith, especially one that claims to be Christian while denying fundamental tenets of Christianity as expressed in its creeds and confessions. A cult may deny the Trinity, it may deny Christ’s deity, it may deny salvation by grace through faith in Christ. However, it is not denying “side” issues like wine vs. grape juice, or sprinkling vs. immersion, but the ones that the church has always believed were dividing lines between belief and unbelief, salvation and damnation.

Mormonism is in the ring with this election. On one hand, you have liberals tittering “ooh, it’s a CULT and it’s weird.” On the other side, Republican hacks who hastily bring out the bigotry accusations against anyone who opposes Romney’s religion. This is their attempt to silence dissenters — it could depress turnout, you know — and get everyone in marching formation before the election.

Things are dividing along tiresome party lines, as if the only thing at stake is who wins the presidency. The Republicans, due to their candidate being the Mormon, are taking the more troublesome approach. Just remember that there is something at stake that is more important than the next election: souls. A Mormon needs Jesus Christ more than you need Mitt Romney.

06 Jul 2012

A good measure of a political pundit is how quickly and reliably they fall in lockstep with a current Republican or Democrat political campaign. A pundit not worth taking seriously is one whose discussion of a phony politician during an election year is pure boosterism, with criticism only starting up when it’s safe to do so, such as when the politician is a lame duck years later. Such criticism gives the pundit an air of credibility and distance, while conveniently clearing the way for the next set of party hacks bankrolled by its wealthy, connected sponsors.

Mitt Romney is a career wind vane who tilts Rockefeller when the breeze stops. And yet daily we hear conservatives- politicians, pundits- telling us that the first step to reclaiming our freedom is to elect Willard Romney.

Seriously? It’s one thing to push the lesser of two evils argument, but quite another to act as if the lesser of two evils isn’t really evil and actually offers a “positive vision” for the country. Yea, he is one of us. Folks, if you really pay attention, there really isn’t much difference between Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and, oh, I don’t know, Rick Santorum. Marco Rubio. I remember back when Jeb Bush was the “conservative” Bush.

I sometimes watch taped Fox shows while working out, and I’m trying to remember if I’ve heard Mitt Romney criticized by any of Fox’s pundits since he wrapped up the nomination (well, other than for some quibble about how he is running his campaign). I sometimes wonder if the pundits believe that their well-paid jobs are held at the party’s leisure. I wonder who is really pulling the strings.

Conservatives can easily see that MSNBC is a mouthpiece for the Obama administration. It’s kind of hard to miss. But let’s be honest, folks, Fox News is talking points for the Republican party establishment, with tendentious stories and commentary occasionally “counterbalanced” by the faithful opposition. I put that in quotes because I often find myself disagreeing with both sides of Fox debates. Often they are little more than exercises in triviality, like discussing the color of the wallpaper in a whorehouse. That’s entertainment.

Let’s take a sample topic: spending. Fox constantly offers up pundits and politicians criticizing (rightly so) Obama’s irresponsible spending. However, if you sat down and went through the budget with these people, what you think you’d hear? Social Security- keep it and slightly privatize it. Medicare- same. Defense and anti-terrorism- increase it! The Fed- only a Ron Paul freak cares about that. The federal bureaucracy- downsize it a little but only a crazy fool would question the legitimacy of it all. In other words, you’d find the difference between them and the Obama administration is nearly non-existent when it comes to the vast majority of federal spending.

I guess it pays the bills though.

03 Jun 2012

The words of Jesus… have a unique permanence. They don’t merely survive as aphoristic wisdom; they have an authority in our hearts, even when we try to deny them. They command. We can obey or rebel. That is why Jesus is still not only loved but hated– and why those who hate him feel they have to profess to love him. -Joseph Sobran, 1996 column

02 Apr 2012

A black kid dies violently. Outrage ensues before anyone has complete facts. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson head to the scene to fill the leadership vacuum. Later it turns out that the media has misled us. NBC edited its tapes. Treyvon Martin was not a little boy but a tall 17-year old kid with some history of trouble. There is the distinct air of political and media exploitation. The death of Treyvon Martin has followed a familiar trajectory.

Crimes are disproportionately committed by young blacks. We’re told that “profiling” is some form of unmitigated evil, but this isn’t true if it’s really just about being wise in certain situations. If you’re walking down an urban street at night and you see teenage black strangers in hoodies coming toward you, you can be as open-minded as you want. I’m crossing the street. Just a guess that the high-minded busybodies on TV would do the same thing.

On the other side, imagine you are a law-abiding black man. Wouldn’t you get tired of seeing your ‘brothers’ die? You know a little about your people’s history in America. You see people who look like you getting hassled and arrested by the police, sometimes without cause. You see the police more often as your oppressor rather than your protector (a view I think has merit). When you walk toward white people, they sometimes cross the street. Cabs don’t stop for you. That has to work on a man and create a sense of alienation. You’d probably start seeing slights too.

We don’t know what exactly what happened to Treyvon Martin yet, but it seems to me that charity– benevolent feelings, consideration, sympathy– is something both sides could use when thinking of the other. Maybe you put that away on a deserted street at midnight or with a gun pointed at you, but that’s not most of the time.

01 Feb 2012

When I hear kids talk about getting a tattoo, I like to tell them that they’ll fit right in in prison.

I don’t know if it encourages them to make a wiser decision, but it is amusing to poke fun at a dopey (and ugly) mutilation fad.

30 Dec 2011

Has anyone else noticed the latest drumbeat in the Republican presidential primary? All I’ve heard from the media for the last week or two is how it’s all over, Romney is sewing it up, Ron Paul can’t win the general election. What is obviously going on here is a Republican establishment that is alarmed at Ron Paul’s ongoing strength in Iowa. If they can’t head him off at the pass in Iowa, the drumbeat is aimed to create a headwind that will be extremely difficult to overcome in the ensuing states. The establishment want to stunt the momentum of a possible Ron Paul victory in Iowa. They are seeing to it that Romney will win.

I’m not saying that Ron Paul would otherwise win, as I think that is a long shot unless there is an economic collapse soon. It’s just an interesting case study in showing the power of the political establishment to change public opinion quickly. Even conservatives are falling in line behind Mitt “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose” Romney. They apparently prefer the U.S. empire and its endless wars.

I like Ron Paul and agree with nearly all of his positions. He’s the rare man of integrity in politics. However, he’s deficient as a communicator. I hope someone will come after him who will keep asking questions such as why the U.S. needs military bases in over 100 countries, why we as a country have killed way more foreigners in the last 10 years than any other country, why we are spending more on “defense” (“offense” is a more accurate term) than the rest of the world combined, etc.

10 Nov 2011

If these allegations against Jerry Sandusky are true — and we need to remember how those Duke lacrosse players were falsely convicted by public opinion and cretins like Al Sharpton years ago — it is truly one of the most absurd stories I have ever heard. A guy is caught on two separate occasions sodomizing boys in the shower a decade or so ago, and yet he still has building privileges until earlier this month. If this happened, it is one huge case of institutional “FAIL” (cf. the Catholic priesthood).

And if it’s all true, well, poor Jerry Sandusky. The guy is just living out his lifestyle choice and he gets pilloried for it. Haters! Who made you judge? How about a little tolerance?

Actually, folks, we should be thankful that people still feel like vomiting when they think about some old dude manipulating a little boy into becoming his sex doll. I’ve long thought that normalizing man-boy “relationships” (only “consenting” ones, of course) is the next exit down the perversion highway now that men having oral and anal sex with other men is established as a mainstream lifestyle that must be affirmed and never questioned (and don’t go calling it gross or disgusting either).

08 Nov 2011

This is one of those articles that makes you think.

19 Oct 2011

My wife and I enjoyed a fine anniversary weekend in New York City. Always interested in the reality of something versus how it’s reported in the media, I wandered down (wife in tow) to observe the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests.

The protesters weren’t at Wall St. Wall St. was partially closed off with steel barriers and a heavy dose of mounted police. The street is small and the buildings so large that they shield out the sun. There was a weird, sterile silence near the NYSE. It was like like being in a canyon. Perhaps it’s a metaphor.

Anyway, the protesters were actually occupying the smallish Zuccotti Park a few short blocks away from Wall St. What was Zuccotti Park like on Saturday? Zuccotti Park was a circus. There were steel barriers. And police. Lots of cops. The protesters looked like mostly college kids along with some more seasoned protesters. I walked through the middle of the park a few times. It didn’t smell at the park. It looked pretty clean overall, but in the middle of it where I wandered there was a lot of tarp and blankets and dirty-looking kids. Some looked like bums. I wouldn’t sleep there, we’ll put it that way. There were people holding signs of varying types in a phalanx next to the sidewalk on 6th Avenue. As the police fought to keep it clear, gawkers filed like sardines down it, snapping pictures, while protesters determinedly held their signs. Many of the signs were anti-war, many anti-Wall Street, some were calling for socialist revolution, and there were a few (not many) libertarian ones sprinkled in. The free market made an appearance in the form of opportunistic food trucks, an ever-present feature of New York street corners. Business seemed brisk.

I think there were more gawkers than protesters. This is life in the age of social media and iphones. Protesters snapping photos of themselves and gladly accepting the embrace of what Muggeridge called “that most ubiquitous of panders,” the camera lens. It struck me while watching all of this that many of these kids were pretty attention-starved. There was a guy doing a one-man play (there just cannot be a worse form of entertainment than the one-man play). There was a young girl in a garish outfit who seemed almost giddy at a gawker snapping her picture. My wife soon entered a store and went shopping while I wandered. She couldn’t take it any more. Her thought process: let’s not encourage them with more attention.

OWS struck me as silly. And shallow.

It makes you wonder a little about “history” itself. Fifty years from now, if the Lord hasn’t returned, perhaps we will look at OWS as a seminal moment for something or other and we will forget that a lot of it was people posing for pictures and satisfying their inner needs. It was people like me there to watch a reality show being filmed. “Are you not entertained?” There was a self-consciousness of “history” being made. We don’t like to think of history in this way, but maybe a lot of it is this way. I guess we can be happy that they didn’t have Droids in the Civil War, or tweets to commemorate the fall of Rome.

Later that day we saw a few hundred protesters marching up toward Times Square with their ever-present police escort. If you haven’t been to Times Square lately– I was at a trade show in NYC back in the mid 90s when it seemed like one big peep show– it’s now a series of huge electronic billboards. The ads light the night. There’s a lot of people, a lot of pricey delis, and a lot of places to shop. It’s touristy. The theaters overflow.

Well, the protesters decided that they were going to march in the middle of this zoo on its busiest night (the quest for attention again). We were in the area. One protester held a sign saying “Keep Shopping.” I don’t know if this was outrage or some type of Madame Defarge threat. Another held a sign saying to never, ever, ever vote for a Republican. The flip side said “Tax Hemp.” I wasn’t sure how to do the math on that one. So anyway, the police shut off part of Times Square for a time, and it turned the zoo into a mega-zoo of people being diverted from their theater or wherever they were going. It reminded me of an MTV-style, reality show re-enactment of that peaceful protest march scene from Dr. Zhivago, except less momentous. Instead of the cavalry leaving some dead bodies, there were some broken windows and arrests.

We didn’t see much of this action at Times Square, but you can’t win ‘em all when it comes to experiencing “history.” Maybe someone DVR’d it.

22 Aug 2011

Of all the themes espoused by conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, perhaps the most damaging is this idea of American “exceptionalism.” How can it possibly be squared with the Scripture? It can’t. When the Bible says that all men have fallen short of God’s glory, that includes Americans. And it certainly includes the American government that has, incidentally, safeguarded tens of millions of abortions.

Laurence Vance unfortunately has been affiliated with the Grace Evangelical Society, but on the topic of war he publishes thoughtful articles. Why have Christians been seduced by the warfare state and this foreign policy of endless meddling in other lands? Vance attributes it partly to American exceptionalism.

Many Christians are guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. They have bought into a variety of American nationalism that has been called the myth of American exceptionalism. This is the idea that the government of the United States is morally and politically superior to all other governments, that American leaders are exempt from the bad characteristics of the leaders of other countries, that the U.S. government should be trusted even as the governments of other countries should be distrusted, that the United States is the indispensable nation responsible for the peace and prosperity of the world, that the motives of the United States are always benevolent and paternalistic, that foreign governments should conform to the policies of the U.S. government, that most other nations are potential enemies that threaten U.S. safety and security, and that the United States is morally justified in imposing sanctions or launching military attacks against any country that refuses to conform to our dictates. These are the tenets of American exceptionalism.

The result of this American exceptionalism is a foreign policy that is aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling. This is why U.S. foreign policy results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United States. We would never tolerate another country engaging in an American-style foreign policy. How many countries are allowed to build military bases and station troops in the United States? It is the height of arrogance to insist that the United States alone has the right to garrison the planet with bases, station troops wherever it wants, intervene in the affairs of other countries, and be the world’s policeman, fireman, social worker, security guard, mediator, and babysitter.

Many Americans seem to think we can do no wrong when killing foreigners. It’s all in the name of protecting our freedom and the American way.

I think it’s time American Christians took off their blinders and repented for following bureaucrats and lawless politicians with their flag pins, and for cheering on mayhem. American exceptionalism is American arrogance. It’s deeply unbiblical.

06 Aug 2011

Does anyone else bristle at the idea of calling all PhD’s “doctors?” It reeks of pretentious puffery.

For me, a doctor is a medical doctor. I’ll call Ron Paul “Dr. Paul” because he is a an obstetrician. I can’t call RC Sproul “Dr. Sproul.” Plus, RC Sproul has a far more significant title than Doctor: Pastor.

27 Jul 2011

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently revealed that the government sends out 80 million checks a month. That’s a lotta dependency. Add in spouses and others who are also dependent on those checks, and you have a lot of slaves on the government’s plantation. Could a citizen 100 years ago have imagined such a monster?

This is why there aren’t going to be meaningful cuts to the government until there is some form of collapse. Mess with the checks going out and you’ll have a problem on your hands. Thus your conservative Congressman talks about a meaningless balanced budget amendment, as if Congress is going to pay any more attention to that than they do the rest of the Constitution. He proposes a 1% cut in year one (the only year that matters in the budget) when a 60% cut is needed (for starters). He supports a gimmicky non-solution. This is the path that wins elections in conservative districts. If you think most conservative voters support a small government in practice, just try to cut off their government checks.

As this article puts it:

The intellectual purpose of the entitlement state – conditioning people over generations toward dependency with vows to loot future taxpayers to maintain the system – has worked perfectly… The welfare state has won over all of society. It has succeeded in making the entire culture dependent on it. Middle class conservatives condemn welfarism even as they clamor for better public schools, apply for student loans for their kids, hold jealously onto their Medicare and Social Security benefits, accept unemployment checks when they’re expedient, and resist any talk about cutting back the government’s support for its police and soldiers. Liberals today say they are realists on welfare but never cease to agitate for more ways to put us all on the dole. As we find ourselves in the wake of fiscal catastrophe, we must recognize that only a tiny portion of government expenditures go to the easy targets – the earmarks, the welfare mothers, the roads to nowhere, the Woodstock museums, the funding to study bird migrations, even the salaries of bailed out CEOs. America is, despite the conservative and liberal propaganda to the contrary, essentially as much a welfare state as most other nations of the West, and the hugest chunk of the entitlement expenditures are going not to the easily scapegoated classes, but rather to the respectable masses.

24 May 2011

…is not so gay, says this incredible, searing article. (ht: Baylyblog)

03 May 2011

Last night was a festive atmosphere at the White House, as people celebrated Bin Laden’s death. I even saw girls standing on shoulders, falling into arms as a cheerleader would at a college football game. For some reason it reminded me not so much of the jingoism that accompanied the first gulf war on campuses, but instead those revelry scenes from Demille’s Ten Commandments. You know, the ones with bearded men swigging from huge goblets while women with splayed arms and heads to the heavens slink from one arm to another.

I don’t lament the passing of an evil man, but when George Tiller was murdered I didn’t think to dance in the streets. Today there were loads of “rot in hell” wishes for Bin Laden in newspaper headlines and Facebook posts.

It bears reminding that all men are image-bearers. We can thankful when others are spared by a wicked man’s passing, and yet remember Proverbs 24:17: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.”

I’ve been wondering lately how many innocent people the U.S. government has killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan over the past 10 years. No doubt many times more than those who died on 911. Some believe the deaths number well over 100,000. Who mourns these souls who are nameless to Americans? We rightly remember the dead of 911, but a more immediate question is this: what makes American lives more precious than others? Nothing, Biblically. Foreigners are image-bearers too.

Back in a 2008 debate, Ron Paul offended Republicans by stating something that is so obvious that it’s hard to believe anyone can deny it with a straight face. He said that our foreign policy– bombing, invading, meddling, aiding tyrants for our economic interests — creates blowback. It creates bitterness and hatred among the occupied. We wouldn’t like having Arabian troops in Indianapolis or Chinese troops in Georgia. Why would the Pakistanis want American troops in their country? Shelby Foote told an anecdote once of a confederate who was asked why he fought the North. His reply: “because you’re down here.”

Michael Scheuer long noted that Bin Laden didn’t “hate us for our freedoms.” Instead, he hated American interventionism and support for Arab police states. It doesn’t excuse the evildoer, but if you go down into the hood wearing a lot of bling, don’t be surprised if you’re mugged. Didn’t Jesus counsel his disciples to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves?

I’m surprised that more people, especially those given to “anti-government” views in economic matters, aren’t more skeptical of the military. It’s another government bureaucracy that wants to grow as bureaucracies do, and an especially dangerous one given that it’s armed to the teeth. The old conservatives were well aware of the danger to liberty posed by wars. Yet today the same conservatives who think of the post office, the EPA, and the IRS as hopelessly corrupt unflinchingly embrace the military and militarism. And few think of the innocent lives in foreign lands or the potential for blowback that Ron Paul has so wisely warned us about for many years.

10 Apr 2011

Although I think both parties are part of the abortion problem rather than the solution since they both support the entire entitlement state that undergirds it, this just takes the cake. Our evil emperor strikes again…

For more than an hour in an Oval Office meeting on April 7, House Speaker John Boehner had insisted that any compromise on the government’s budget include a prohibition on federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Obama already had reluctantly agreed to a provision banning the District of Columbia from spending funds on abortion services — and that was as far as he would go.

“Nope, zero,” he told Boehner, according to a senior Democratic aide. “John, this is it.” The room went silent.

And there there’s this. Listening to the balderdash the last few days, why you’d think that PP was all about breast exams (which shouldn’t be subsidized by the public either, by the way). They always run from what they are, amid clouds, misdirection, and euphemisms. Only 3% of our services involve abortion (never mind that we do 300,000+ a year). Serving women. Protecting women’s health. Blah blah blah.

09 Apr 2011

We have just witnessed the budget charade.

Not long ago, the Ryan plan was introduced with some fanfare. It promises lots of cuts… over decades. Few cuts of significance in the first year. When you hear someone say that they want to cut trillions over 10+ years, remember that budgets are redone every year. The shelf life is one year. The only part of the budget that matters is the first year. No one is basing the 2012 budget on what the 10-year outlook was in the 2003 budget.

One of the invariable parts of these plans is to oversee the slow privatization of retirement money by cutting benefits to those under a certain age. This is a good thing in that social security needs to be phased out.

The problem is how these things are sold. People are told that by privatizing they will get better returns at lower costs. True in the past. The problem is that the economy is headed down the tubes due to all the debt, and this promise will be empty (plus, 401K offerings usually provide little protection against inflationary forces since those are deemed “unsafe” investments by advisers living in the bubble past). So what’s going to happen when people see their “safe” bond funds getting killed and their money market funds losing purchasing power due to inflation? If it’s anything like I remember 2008, we’re going to hear a loud outcry. People believe that Wall Street is ripping them off (somewhat true, although the Fed is the far bigger culprit). People are going to want this corrected. It will be another outburst of what I call “stupid populism,” which asks good questions and proposes bad answers.

The gimmicks will fall apart from voter anger. Politicians will empathize but their inability to deliver the goodies will be more transparent. (If it were earlier in the Ponzi scheme, big government could ride to the rescue, but alas, the hour is late.)

I just finished Tom Wood’s book Rollback. Woods hammers away at historically false assumptions such as how the government saved us from sweatshops, or how the financial meltdown was caused by “deregulation.”

This questioning is what is needed with the Medicare and Social Security debate, too. The greatest assumption of all is that the government owes you a retirement. Instead of promising people increased returns through private/public gimmicks like subsidized 401Ks, the government should get out of the promise-making business altogether. The assumption that the government can protect our retirement “security” needs to be exploded. People need to be told that they are responsible for their own retirement. The entitlement mentality needs to be shamed. People need to buy their own insurance, work cooperatively with their churches or civic organizations, plan ahead, etc. There’s no free lunch.

It would help if the government would get out of the game of encouraging debt through low interest rates and backstopping loans, and spending massive amounts of money, but that is a topic for another post.

07 Mar 2011

Some random thoughts as we watch the battles play out between public unions and government officials…

  • Why do so many people look upon policemen, firemen, and public school teachers as sacrosanct? To use the latter example, public schools are an incredibly inefficient use of resources. If someone says “we can’t put a price on a good eduction,” to that I say yes, we can. We have to. We do it with everything in our lives because scarcity is a fact of life.
  • Teachers sometimes tell us that they have a masters degree, as if that’s a reason why they should be paid at above-market rates. From an economic standpoint, you are worth what someone is willing to pay you. In a free market, most teachers would be making less money. Why? Because there is always the option to learn at home, to form cooperative education groups with other parents, to use digital learning methods, etc. Teachers would have to compete like everyone else. That’s a world teachers want to avoid, thus the desire to maintain coercive collective bargaining laws.
  • In the end, the unions are going to lose (and it can’t come soon enough). Maybe not this year, but the fact is that state deficits are out of control. The pensions that past politicians agreed to (because promises of future payouts were easy to make way back when) are unaffordable. Unions can recall hard-headed governors, but states are still going to default on much of these debts. That’s economic reality.
  • Does anyone else find it annoying that public workers think that private workers owe them an above-average living? Many of us in the private sector have seen declining living standards over the past 10 years.
06 Feb 2011

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. -Gandalf to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings

I was at the doctor the other day, and as usual when the lady pulled up my sleeve to draw blood I braced. The nurse studied my arm for a minute, then I barely felt a prick (she should teach others how to draw blood correctly). I thought to myself: “That’s it?”

Recently I watched an atheist named Michael Shermer on John Stossel’s Fox Business show. Shermer had three reasons for being skeptical about God: 1. Where you happen to have been born tells you which God you happen to adhere to. 2. Why does God allow innocent children to suffer? 3. The moral problem. The creator of the universe couldn’t even get it right on slavery and how women should be treated, the OT is abominable in that regard, etc.

That’s it? Don’t get me wrong, there are unfathomable mysteries here, but… The essential similarity between all these issues is presumption and arrogance.

Is where you were born a good predictor of your beliefs? Of course. It always has been in Scripture. God called Abram, but not presumably thousands of others from that region. Israel was God’s chosen, but all that time people lived in Asia and America without a true knowledge of him. In 500AD, many in what is today Turkey knew the Lord; today most do not. Millions of Americans are Christian today; there were few 2,000 years ago. The examples are endless, but here’s the point: God is above nations and cultures. He works through them to accomplish His means, and His spirit goes where it will. It’s always been assumed that way in Scripture.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Technically they don’t, because none are righteous (Romans 3). So why does God allow children to suffer? For His glory. How exactly? We don’t know. We aren’t invited to God’s counsel. We don’t know eternity. We can’t see behind the curtain. Isn’t that a key point in the book of Job?

As for the moral reason, Who are you, o man, to think you have a greater capacity for love and morality than God? Why do you think your view of morality is righteous?

We are men. God is God. God is good. We are corrupt. God sees all and knows all. We see little. God it the alpha and the omega. We aren’t. God is holy. We are sinners.

There’s an apocryphal story that I’ve heard in multiple contexts, but it goes something like this. A lady is on a train with two rambunctious kids. A nearby passenger is annoyed with the rude behavior of the children, and the mother’s disinterest in controlling them. Murmuring under his breath, he finally says as calmly as possible that that they are rather loud. The mother sadly responds that her beloved husband and their beloved father has just died and, given the circumstances, she is letting them have a bit of fun. The passenger is humbled. It’s a parable of presumption.

We don’t know the whole story.

29 Jan 2011

What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative? -Joseph Sobran

A perceptive quote. For most, the answer is “in whatever society I can keep getting whatever I’m currently getting, and I don’t care or I don’t think about how it is extracted from others with threats.” For the true believers in the social gospel, it will occur when we reach an earthly Utopia. We have eternity in our hearts, but we want that eternity in the now. The spending cannot stop until every mouth is fed and everyone is cared for. Which, in reality, means that the spending can never stop, because it ain’t gonna happen.

And so the social security checks and the Medicare reimbursements and the wars will go on until we ram head-on into the wall at the end of the road. Then it’s going to get interesting.

The refusal to confront economic reality is evident in this discussion about raising the debt limit. Why, if we do this, there will be a default! Exactly. These people prefer the delusion (or deception) that there’s a way around this, when in reality adding more debt is just setting up a greater default, and more pain, down the road. Why not just get it over with? There is no way the government can legitimately “stimulate” the economy out of this problem. A bank makes a loan to a company with the idea that the company will be able to expand or grow production, and from that production pay back the loan. The government couldn’t produce its way out of a paper bag.

One more thing: I heard a guy say the other day that the government has a “fiduciary responsibility” to pay the pensions of public workers. Nonsense. If I contractually agree to pay someone $10 an hour, then I have an obligation to pay it. If politicians from 20 years ago passed a law saying that government workers get a massive pension, the law should be changed without scruple because politicians have no right to borrow and steal money from others to pay for it.

If you live by the government, you will die by the government.

19 Dec 2010

All my heart this night rejoices
As I hear / Far and near / Sweetest angel voices.
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing
Till the air / Everywhere / Now with joy is ringing.

I admit it, Christmas-time is my favorite time of the year. The wreaths are a closed loop, a reminder of eternity. Evergreens are lovely in the dead of winter. How can’t you love Christmas lights and their association with the Father of Lights and the light shining in darkness? Not that we attend church for its aesthetics, but last week we had morning communion and big snowflakes were falling outside, and I thought there it was one of the most wondrous moments in my life.

This year the time with family seemed extra special. When little, time with family compared weakly to presents. For teens, friends or a book seem paramount. You get a little older and the gifts end up in landfills and you’ve moved on to other friends, and you finally realize– perhaps after some of them have gone on to the next world– that your family was what mattered all along.

Enjoy the season. For the believer, these snippets of joy are a precursor to joy never-ending. Merry Christmas.

18 Nov 2010

I hate public education, but I love college football on fall Saturdays.

When I was at OSU, I think it’s fair to say that most of the bureaucrats aka. “educators” there hated the football program. “Here we are providing enlightenment to young minds and, alas, our public face is a most distasteful, crass game with young men smacking each other around.” Of course, a cash cow isn’t going anywhere with the brass.

I suspect that professors seethe about the football program to this day. If so, it’s a feather in the football program’s cap.

Still, while we all have to swim in the cesspool of an intrusive state that is hard to bypass, I wonder sometimes how many people would be outright hostile to universities if it weren’t for college football (and basketball). College sports advertise to conservatives almost as effectively as the military. Sean Hannity, who is on the radio when I drive home, rails about federal spending and then in the next breath is upset at how Obama is gutting the military (which isn’t true, but what kind of sense does that make anyway?).

If it weren’t for the military, the endless wars, the Pledge, etc., more people would be wholly alienated from the predatory Federal government.

If it weren’t for college football, wouldn’t the image of universities be much worse? The military, college football… these are the things that lend credibility and warm feelings to the state.

Even though I fully support the elimination of all public education, I still watch the games and love them. I’m trying to stop buying the merchandise, though. Little steps.

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