8.31.2012

Let It Rest

With all due respect to the SEALs, their family members, and other veterans, I had a hard time reading this article and not thinking, "Are these people serious? Really?"

The story is about condolence letters sent out to the families of fallen service members over the president's signature. Some people are complaining that they are form letters (they are) and that it's an auto-pen - a mechanical pen programmed with the president's signature - though the White House is disputing this claim.

As the SEALs sometimes say amongst themselves, Bravo Foxtrot Delta.

Your son is dead, and you're worried about whether or not that's really the president's signature or an auto-pen? I can guarantee you that, had I been killed in action, my wife and children wouldn't have cared a fig about a form letter from the White House even if it really did have the president's signature. The president is just the president. He's not a god. He's not mourner-in-chief. We didn't know him on anything like a personal level.

A letter from my batallion commander, a note from some of the Marines I served with or from the RPs who worked for me - those would have mattered to my family, but the president?  It's the personal connection that matters and a signature does not, by itself, constitute a personal connection.

But they're hiring handwriting experts, making complaints, stirring up this tempest in a teapot for what? Nothing. If it's an auto-pen, it tells us nothing more about Obama than that he's a busy man, but we knew that already.  There are plenty of things to go after the president about.  This ain't one of them.

Eastwood Roasts Obama

A lot of people have commented on this bit by Clint Eastwood, some deploring it, some hailing it, but very few really understanding what he was doing.


To help those who are younger than I, or who may have forgotten, try this clip.


Mr. Eastwood wasn't trying to duplicate Foster Brooks, of course, but he was evoking him and the celebrity roast format - look at the way Eastwood has his hair, the chair to the side of the podium, the seemingly disjointed presentation that is in fact getting to an actual point, the way he engages the "president" - it's all reminiscent of the way these Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts were done back in the day.

Make Mitt Winger Proud!

So the Republican National Convention is over. 

There was a clear, consistent theme throughout - that in the United States of America, you can overcome the barriers of race, poverty, orphanhood, and everything else.  Maybe not in one generation, but in two or three, you can go from poor refugee to parents of a U.S. Senator (Marco Rubio), from immigrant with nothing to parents of a city mayor who's running for Congress (Mia Love), from the immigrant who has only a few dollars to parents of a governor (Nikki Haley), from oppressed victims of Jim Crow to parents of the Secretary of State of the United States (Rice), from bereaved widow to small business owner to mother of the vice-presidential nominee of the GOP (Paul Ryan).  Again and again and again that theme was driven home, even in Mitt Romney's own speech.

The other theme was that with hard work and sacrifice, we can overcome any challenge if government will get out of the way and let us see the profits of our own labor.  Thus the lower-taxes-and-balanced-budget talk of multiple governors (Christie, Martinez, Walker, Fortuna, Haley, etc.), all the references to hard work among those children and grandchildren of immigrants, and so on.

Thus the theme for the campaign.  We're in a pickle, but we can do this - we are, after all, Americans.  In a way, it is the speech from Stripes:

We’re all very different people; we’re not Watusi, we’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital “A”, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every out every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse....We’re mutants, there’s something wrong with us, there’s something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us. We’re soldiers!  But we're American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years, we’re 10 and 1. Now we don’t have to worry about whether or not we practiced. We don’t have to worry about whether [President Obama] wants to have us hung. All we have to do-oo is to be the great American fighting soldier that is inside each one of us. Now do what I do, and say what I say. And make me proud.
So go on out there and make Mitt Winger proud!
 
UPDATE: Added images

8.30.2012

CRC Office of Social Justice Dislikes Justice

The CRC's Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action! is at it again.  This time they're peddling their anti-Israel nonsense on the matter of Rachel Corrie via their "OSJ News" e-mail.  Rachel Corrie was a so-called "peace activist".  Israel was, at the time, engaged in bulldozing buildings, including apartments and homes, in an area of Gaza that served as a base for numerous attacks into Israel.  The area was closed off as an area of military combat operations.  Rachel Corrie snuck through or broke through the barriers and placed herself in front of a bulldozer.  There is some dispute as to whether or not the driver of the bulldozer saw her before he ran over her, but the bottom line is, she put herself in harm's way and was duly harmed - killed in fact. 

Her parents sued, and an Israeli court ruled that the IDF does not bear any responsibility for her death.  It is an entirely reasonable ruling.  If someone is about to shoot, and I jump in front of the gun, I really have no legitimate complaint to make when I get shot.  If somebody is driving a bulldozer towards a building, and I jump in front of it, it is not the bulldozer's fault that I get run over.

Corrie's mother said that her death "could have and should have been avoided."  Indeed, that's true.  Corrie could have stayed out of a combat zone or just not jumped in front of a bulldozer.

But our OSJ is out there peddling the idiotic claim that it's a terrible injustice when Israel tries to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists and suicide bombers.  It would be a whole lot easier to believe our OSJ was serious about justice if they could muster even a tenth of the outrage they reserve for Israeli actions in self defense when Palestinians lob rockets and mortars at Israeli schools, sneak into Israel to murder infants in their beds, or pack a kid full of explosives and shrapnel so he can "martyr" himself at a shopping mall or on a bus.  These attacks never figure in OSJ's calculations, however.  One can only conclude that they're not interested in justice - not for Jews or Israelis, anyway.  And, frankly, not for Palestinians, either.  One doesn't see anything coming from this office lamenting the way Palestinian leaders treat their own people, either, though it is often far worse than the worst the Israelis do.

The day OSJ is disbanded can't come too soon.

Great Line from a Very Good Speech

Paul Ryan's speech last night was a good one.  It was most particular on the question of freedom and, to my mind, his best line was this one:



"We shouldn't have to settle for the best this administration has to offer: a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next - a government planned life, a country where everything is free but us."

8.29.2012

Disciplined Grace, Grace-filled Discipline

An interesting article, well worth reading, and it gets at the question that all Christian churches must get at in one form or another.

The Belgic Confession says that there are three marks of the "True Church" - preaching the Bible, administering the sacraments, and discipline.

That last one is the ecclesiastical problem for our time.  How do we stand for truth in a way that leaves room for grace?  How do we practice grace without surrendering truth?  The old saying is to "love the sinner, but hate the sin" which is a fine enough principle as principles go, but how do we do that?

It seems that, practically, churches tend to go two routes.  One route is to pretend that nobody there really sins and as long as we can keep up the appearance, we're good to go.  Sometimes we have to let a little bit out - we keep it below the surface and don't really talk about it.  Maybe it'll go away or we can clean it up on the quiet.  This has the advantage of at least acknowledging that certain things are in fact sinful, but it is a recipe for pharisaism, legalism, and some pretty messy closets holding an awful lot of skeletons.  The other popular route is to simply redefine sin so that it only includes people who say there's such a thing as sin - those people being so terribly intolerant and unloving and all that.  Then as long as we're nice to one another and nobody is so gauche as to criticize someone else (unless it's the person who criticizes someone else - you know, the intolerant guy), then we all get to Heaven because, you know, love wins.

But here is somebody trying to honestly and openly practice disciplined grace and grace-filled discipline.  His five principles have merit.  What that means in the individual instance is harder to discern.  The one thing I notice that does not come up in his principles that, I think, should be added to them is that at every step he has consulted with the council of the Church so it is the Church that is doing this and not just the pastor.  That's important, too.

Anyway, go read the article.

8.28.2012

Inequality Ain't the Problem

One of the common complaints among the left is that there is such great inequality and so this cause is taken up by my denomination's erstwhile magazine, the Banner.

But I answer the charge with a resounding, "So what?"

There is great inequality in singing talent, but that doesn't seem to bother people so much.  Some people are far better cooks than others, too.  Same for writers, engineers, chemists, teachers, and any other skill or ability you can think of.  But this inequality doesn't seem to be too terrible.  True, you get somebody who is head and shoulders above everyone else in his field, like Lance Armstrong, and the effort to pull him down gets very intense.  There are always those who think the way to improve their own standing is simply to tear down others.  But nobody celebrates this as "justice" or "fairness".

But when it comes to wealth, we do.  Somehow there is a terrible injustice inflicted on us whenever somebody else has more than we do.  Thus we think it is right and just to "tax the rich" - which is, in essence, to use the power of the majority in a (more-or-less) democratic country to steal the wealth of others.  Although we claim to be using the confiscated weatlh to "help the less fortunate", we are really using it to help ourselves.  Just look at all the entitlements that go primarily to middle-class people, or the way "poverty" is defined at such a level as to apply to many who could easily provide the necessities of life for themselves.  To arrange for a group of threatening thugs to stomp and storm on the lawn of a wealthy AIG executive is perfectly acceptable - a model of righteous indignation and calls to justice - even though the money threatened out of him will go primarily to the organizers of those thugs or people very like them, none of whom are starving.

But inequality - even great inequality - is normal, for wealth just as it is for other things.  And fighting "inequality" is misdirecting one's efforts.  As I explain in the comments over at the Banner, say one person has $1 billion and I have a $100 million and somebody else has $100,000 and still another has a mere $1,000 (assuming the purchasing power of a dollar is constant - see the preceding post).  The first has $900 million more than I do - a great and tremendous inequality!  Why, I only have $199.9 million more than the third person.  As for the last two, there's only a $99,000 difference between them.  They're practically the same already - at least, relative to the difference between me and the billionaire that $99,000 is a drop in the bucket.  But none of the first three people in this scenario - the billionaire, the 100-millionaire, or the guy with $100,000 are suffering.  Only the guy with $1,000 is, and that guy's problem is poverty, not inequality.  Unless you can show that his poverty is caused by the billionaire's wealth - a very difficult thing to do - you are wasting your time railing against inequality.

What if doubling the billionaire's wealth would increase the poor man's wealth by a factor of 10?  the difference between $2 billion and $10,000 is far greater than the difference between $1 billion and $1,000 - would we deny the latter his improved state simply because it is the product of greater inequality?  What if we took everything away from the first three except $1,000 - they'd all be equal, right?  I don't think that would solve the problem, either.  It's like saying that because we don't all have a voice like Pavoratti, no one may sing.  Absurd.

But then, railing against inequality is absurd.

8.24.2012

Money Isn't Wealth

I've been making my way through Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics in my spare time and I'm into the section where he talks about money and the money supply.  In that section, he says something that I kind of know, but that I don't think I or very many other people really consider the full import of.  He said, "Wealth is not money."

I deal in communication - words, writing, speaking, that sort of thing.  Sowell's statement is the equivalent of saying, "Ideas are not words."  Words are a medium by which ideas are communicated or transferred from one to another.  If you don't understand English, for instance, then all these words are just squiggly lines on a paper, at best a rorschach blot on which you might be able to impose ideas of your own but having none in itself.  Words convey meaning with great flexibility and, when coupled with systems of punctuation, grammar, syntax, and capitalization, great precision.  But it's not the words that matter.  It's the idea - the message they convey - that's at stake.

Money is a tool for measuring relative value, thus providing a medium for exchanging wealth, but is not itself wealth. 

If I have an apple, I have some wealth - an apple.  If I have certain skills, such as an ability to manipulate words and grammar to convey ideas effectively, I have some wealth - a skill, knowledge, insight.  Whether I have money or not, I have these.  You also have certain skills, knowledge, insight, and tangible property.  Money facilitates the communication or transfer of value and thus is useful, but it's the property, the skills, the knowledge that are conveyed via money that is the real wealth.

Say I have an apple orchard, so I don't have just one apple, I have thousands.  I want a tractor.  Now, we could figure out how many apples that tractor is worth, but that would mean the dealer would have to accept apples - a few hundred bushel if not a few thousand.  But he doesn't need thousands of apples, either.  On the other hand, there's this guy in the next county who makes applesauce and he could use all those apples.  Trouble is, he doesn't have anything that either the tractor dealer or I want.  If all we have is the actual, tangible property or skill or knowledge, at this point the trade breaks down.

Enter "money".  I received so much money in exchange for my knowledge and skills.  This, then, is the measure of my wealth (the skill and knowledge) but is not the wealth itself.  I can take some of that money - a couple sentences worth - to go buy a jar of applesauce.  He doesn't want my money, though.  He wants apples.  Money is then traded to the apple grower for his apples, effectively establishing a measurement of value to the apples.  And the apple grower doesn't want money, either.  He wants the tractor.  So he now trades the money for the tractor.  This goes on throughout a society and indeed throughout the world.  But the money is important only to the extent it facilitates this kind of communication or transfer of skill, knowledge, or property over time.  Apart from that, it's just paper, as the Russians learned towards the end of the Soviet Union when the Ruble was more valuable as simply paper - even toilet paper - than it was as a medium of exchange.

So, wehn you have $1,000, what you have is the potential to obtain tangible property or certain services of someone else's skills and knowledge.  Your "wealth" isn't the money, but what you can get with it at a given point in time.  Thus, when my grandfather was my age in 1971 and had $1,000, he was wealthier than I am today with $1,000 - he could obtain higher quality and/or a greater quantity of tangible property or someone else's service. 

Giving you more money, if that money does not allow you to obtain more property or services, is not giving you anything.  If you store that money (say, in a bank account), and somebody acts to devalue it (like print more money), then my potential to obtain tangible property or services is decreasing and I'm getting poorer.  Conversely, if I'm not giving you more money, but the economy is changing so that you can get more with what you have, then you are getting richer, even if you have only the money you started with.  Of course, if you owe money, and that money's potential to obtain wealth has increased, then a greater share of your potential wealth is spent repaying the loan than might otherwise be the case. 

Let me give an example - back to apples.  If I can get a bushel of apples for $10, and I borrow $100 from you, then I only need to trade 10 bushels of apples to be able to pay you back.  But if the value of money becomes more valuable (deflation) and now my apples are sold for $5/bushel, then I need to trade 20 bushels to pay you back.  You don't get the same buying power back when you get your $100, either, but twice the buying power, even though it's still $100.  But if money becomes less valuable (inflation) and I now sell apples for $20/bushel, I only need to sell 5 bushels to pay you back, effectively cutting the loan in half in terms of real wealth - apples in this instance.  This is why creditors like a little deflation (not too much, or everyone just defaults as in the early days of the Depression) while borrowers like a little inflation (again, not too much, or nobody will lend them anything).

I'll let you ponder the implications of this for our current financial troubles and roads that might take us out..

8.22.2012

Boot's Belhar Blues

The Executive Director of Ministries of the CRCNA, Dr. Joel Boot, was apparently disappointed in this past year's Synod meeting and posted a note to that effect on the CRC's NETWORK site.

What I found most curious was this statement:
Speaking of the Belhar, I had feelings of deep pain over what happened the night we dealt with it at Synod, feelings that persist until this moment. The debate was almost entirely about whether or not the document constituted a confession, while little, if anything at all, was said about what the document actually confesses. And the matter of its confession-ality was debated enthusiastically and vigorously in the presence of several delegates and many observers and some fraternal delegates whose hurt was palpable but who were almost totally ignored during the process. Whether the Belhar ought to be a confession or not, those to whom it referred were wounded again during our consideration of that issue and our apparent indifference to them.
What's most odd is that second sentence complaining that the debate was about whether or not the document constituted a confession.  But the question before Synod - the decision they were asked to make - was whether or not the document should be a confession.  Why then does he find it problematic that this is what the debate was almost entirely about?  He then makes the claim that "little, if anything at all, was said about what the document actually confesses."  That is simply not true.  There were a couple dozen overtures to Synod that debated its substance.  The debate on the floor also referenced the content of the document in some detail, since the debate over its status hinged on clarity about "what the document actually confesses."

To be sure, the debate was not particularly swayed by the presence of advocates for the Belhar as a confession from the South African churches but that, too, isn't a bug.  It's a feature.  I'm sure those who think everybody should subscribe to the Belhar whole-heartedly are dismayed that others don't share their views.  I'm frequently dismayed that others don't share my views, too.  If more people agreed with me, the world would be a better place - or so we all think.  We try to have at least a smidgen of humility around here, however, and typically refrain from stating it so baldly.

General Demsey Gets It Backwards

Interesting.  Now that former - not current, but former - members of the military are blasting Obama for his administration's unconscionable leaks of classified information, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says “If someone uses the uniform, whatever uniform, for partisan politics, I am disappointed because I think it does erode that bond of trust we have with the American people."

Wonder why he didn't take a similar position when uniformed active duty service members participated in "Gay Pride" parades around the country (Gen. Dempsey became Chairman of the JCS in October, 2011).  Indeed, in June the military was actively encouraging its members to take a political position on that question.

The fact is, once you're not on the pay roll, you're free to say what you want.  There is no violation of any code of conduct, any law, or any other cultural norm when former military members comment on current politics.  The restriction to which Gen. Dempsey refers is on those who are presently in the military, and particularly those on active duty.  They have to remain politically neutral because they have to be trusted to obey the orders of whomever the American people elect as president.

Gen. Dempsey's got it backwards.  But then, he works for a president who also has it backwards and the General is, no doubt, making such a statement at the request of his boss.

8.21.2012

Protecting Felon and Illegal Votes, Attacking Military Votes

It seems the Commander-in-Chief doesn't believe those who must follow his orders should have their votes protected.  Whether it is this current stunt in Ohio, or other efforts to curtail the ability of military members to obtain absentee ballots in a timely manner - and have them counted when they are sent back - this president is reflecting the views of his party, which is that illegal aliens and felons should be allowed to vote but soldiers, not so much.

Scandalous.

Missouri GOP Senate Nominee Akin - Ignorant and Dangerous

I suppose I should toss my 2 cents in on GOP candidate Todd Akin over in Missouri.

There's a reason the McCaskill campaign tried to get him as the GOP nominee.  Now we all have the evidence to prove them right.  I'm sure the man is a fine, upstanding citizen, a parogon of virtue, and all the rest.  He's also apparently rather dumb.

As to the issue itself, I believe in a redeeming God.  I would like victims of such crimes to be able to perceive the pregnancy as a way God has of bringing life from death, as it were.  As a pastor, I would encourage victims to try to see it that way.  But I would have a very difficult time requiring them in law to see it that way.  So I am prepared to tolerate a law that bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the physical life of the mother.  I would also want to see severe penalties imposed for false accusations of rape made just to secure an abortion, as well as rather strict limitations of time - a woman, even victimized by a rapist, can make that decision in less than 8 weeks and certainly doesn't need 8 months to decide.

The thing is, rape can be a very private, personal crime, hinging as it does primarily upon the willingness of the woman (usually the victim is a woman) at the time.  That "willingness" can be induced by drugs that are quite legal and voluntary (alcohol), but it can also change after the fact on the basis of other considerations.  Thus the tendency in rape trials to put the victim before the court.  There were, for instance, the Duke LaCrosse team accusations that turned out to be entirely spurious and which ruined the reputations of several young men.  But then there are cases where men shouldn't have such reputations but the privacy of the assault makes prosecution almost impossible.  These difficulties are compounded for incest, particularly when it's father-on-daughter.  Devising a system of law where a young woman like the accuser of the Duke LaCrosse team is duly punished, but a similar young woman assaulted by her father or uncle or even a member of the LaCrosse team, has recourse to the law is painfully difficult and I don't have an answer for it.

But Akin didn't acknowledge any of that and his answer did not acknowledge the painful realities of rape in the least.  It was a cold, heartless answer.  If he continues as the candidate, this will be used to tar the entire GOP.  He should withdraw and go back to engineering.

Religion, Charity, and Wealth

Building a bit on what I posted the other day concerning the president and his brother, we find this account of a study that says "red states" (i.e., states with right-leaning majorities) give more to charities than do "blue states" (left-leaning majority states).

The study only considers those with adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or more.  Yahoo!, republishing the CNBC account of the story, chooses to focus on the fact that middle class people (AGI between $50K and $75K) tend to give a larger percentage of their income to charities than do the "wealthy" (AGI $100K and over).  Compared to those making $200,000 and over, these middle-class donors give over 2 1/2 times as much (as a percentage of their income - 7.6% vice 2.8%).

The key difference according to the FoxNews report seems to be the relative importance of religion in one's life.  I think that's true.  I think another factor, at least for those who are extremely rich, is the difficulty involved in giving.

The problem with government "charity", besides the fact that it is forced and depersonalized, is that it becomes extremely difficult to adjust the charity to the actual situation.  We simply say, "Everybody making less than X amount qualifies for food stamps (SNAP now)".  But we can't ask, then, why the individual is making less than X.  Someone may be living off of rather substantial assets, such as a recent lottery winner in Michigan who had millions in assets, but thousands in income.  Some may have just hit some hard times.  Some may be lazy.  We don't know, can't know, and can't even ask.  The case worker who is aware of the situation is likely overworked already and if there are to be adjustments that means an additional 5 reams of paperwork for him and the client.  That ain't happening.  Government assitance is depersonalized because it can't be otherwise, and it is therefore subject to perverse influences because what's at stake is not $10 or even $1,000, but billions.  Nothing brings out scam artists and con men like knowing there are billions to be given away.

We know this happens at a personal level, too.  A guy comes upon unexpected wealth and suddenly relatives he hasn't seen in decades show up for a piece of it, his ex-wife declares her undying love for him and professes it was all a misunderstanding, and some guy claiming to be his best buddy from high school is in his driveway with car problems.  This is why the very wealthy tend to set up "foundations" where they can hire a staff to weed through all the nonsense and help them try to discern who really needs it, and whether helping will actually, you know, help.  It's real easy to give money away if you don't or, in the case of government aid, can't care about the consequences.  It's very difficult to give it away if you try to do so responsibly in a way that at least doesn't make things worse.  Those who are just beginning to be rich don't have time to devote to that and can't afford a staff, and if they aren't closely connected to a church or synagogue of some sort can have a very hard time finding charities they trust.

Even so, it is a reality that those who are of middling-to-modest means and who are closely affiliated with religious groups tend to give significantly more than do the wealthy and the irreligious.  And that says something, too, about the Obama administration's attempts to force religious charities to adopt leftist social policies on homosexuality, abortion, and more.  It may make a few liberal politicians happy, but it will be fatal to those who are in need.

8.19.2012

Obama's Dehumanizing Charity

There are liberals out there who are generous to a fault (while not exactly tithing, Obama's personal charity donations have been significantly higher than many of his liberal predecessors).  And there are conservatives who are as parsimonious as you might imagine (I was disappointed to see in 2010 Ryan's donations to charity amounted to barely 1% of his income).

But as a whole, conservatives are far more likely to give, and give a lot, to personal and private charities.  Liberals are great at voting to have the government confiscate your wealth so that they can vote to have government give it to those liberals deem worthy, but they don't do it themselves.

So, Obama likes to claim that his policies of confiscatory taxation and redistribution are based on the biblical assertion that we are our brothers' keepers, but his actual brother is forced to go begging to another for assistance in his need.  In other words, he doesn't believe that he is his brother's keeper.  His sense of morality is met by being generous with your money via various programs that allow him to keep the actual victims of poverty at arm's length.

But that's not charity, and even if it does provide the necessities of life it does so in a way that necessarily dehumanizes the recipients.  It consigns them to forms and numbers and anonymity as wards of a state to whom they can never be anything more than statistics.  This is why charity through government has destroyed the Black family in America.  It saps their individual humanity, turning them into a personless mass - not Al Sharpton or Alan West but merely "Blacks" (or, these days, "African-Americans") as if their individuality is meaningless and nothing.

That's what this episode illustrates, and that's what needs to change if we are to truly care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the alien within our gates.

UPDATE: A bit more on the story.

8.17.2012

Advice from Bishop of Madison that CRC Should Heed

The Bishop of Madison has some worthwhile things to say here.  Would that the CRC's own Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action took such a stance and applied it.

I won't hold my breath, but I can hope.

Obama Campaign Manager Childishness on Display

This has got to be one of the most juvenile, idiotic stunts pulled by a national presidential campaign.  Seriously.  What does Messina think Obama is running for?  Student Council president?  Did he seriously think the people in the Romney campaign are that dumb?

Look, how about Obama releases all his college transcripts, eh?  How about he direct his Attorney General to comply with the House subpoena and come clean on Fast and Furious, eh?  Perhaps he could come clean on the way he locked out the non-union Delphi employees and stole their pensions, too.  What does he think is going to be accomplished by sending a note to Governor Romney saying, "If you release five years of tax returns, we promise not to demand more"?  He's falling into the same trap the birthers fell into on the right.  People aren't going to get all that worked up about the governor's tax returns and while Obama's campaign is getting wrapped around the axel on that one, Romney's campaign will be able to apply the rod on other, more substantive issues.  Didn't they learn anything from Axelrod?

I disagree with Obama on almost all substantive policy matters, but even if I agreed with him I'd find a stunt like this embarrassing.  Has he no class or sense of dignity at all?

8.16.2012

Michigan GOP Congressman Voter Fraud Uncovered

A worthy reminder that party is not a dividing line when it comes to electoral fraud.  Voter ID and tighter rein on checking petitions are needed across the board.

The point of voter ID is not to make sure Republicans get elected, but to protect the integrity of the electoral process for all participants.  McCotter's Democrat opponents have every right and reason to be outraged at this news.  Let's hope they can maintain that outrage all the way to supporting such measures as would prevent anyone, Republican or Democrat, from replicating this fraud.

Teachers' Unions Declining?

I found the article interesting, and this little factoid in it even more so: "The National Education Association (NEA)...has lost 150,000 members in the past year..."  Indeed, I find that rather encouraging.  Union dues for those in the typical state affiliate of the national union run, as near as I can find, around $1,000/year or more.  That's $150 million the union won't have to interfere with education reforms, balanced local budgets, and efforts at reducing or holding steady local taxes.

Here's hoping another 150,000 leave the union next year.

8.14.2012

Ethanol Subsidies - Starving the World's Poor

This article pretty much explains why I oppose the ethanol mandate and subsidy. 

There are other reasons besides the fact that it diverts food to gas tanks, chief among them is the fact that it's debatable it really does anything for the environment in the first place.  The energy required to make ethanol is about the same amount of energy one gets out of it.  Those who profit from the subsidy and mandate say it's a little lower while those who object to it say it's a little higher, but regardless it's in the same range.  If you have to burn 100 BTUs of coal to get 100 BTUs of ethanol, why not just burn the coal and have done?  What advantage is there to having those potential BTUs as ethanol instead of coal?

But we'll let prices skyrocket and people in other countries can starve so we can brag that our GMC Yukon is the "flex-fuel" version?  This is called being "green" and "environmentally friendly"?

I don't get that.  If you're going to drive a Yukon, fill it with gas and let someone else have the corn.

8.12.2012

Ryan and Rand - Not So Close As Charged

This seems to be the line of attack opening up on Paul Ryan - that he's a devotee of Ayn Rand's atheistic and immoral philosophy of "objectivism".  The LA Times, the Huffington Post, and numerous other leftist "news" sources are full of it this weekend.

There are two significant problems with this attack.  First is Ryan's own professed Catholicism.  Last I checked, Catholics were not atheists.  Second are Ryan's own actions both as a legislator and as an individual human being.

To be sure, Ryan finds some of Rand's moral arguments for capitalism and individualism as opposed to collectivism quite helpful and has said so.  He did say that he "tried to make my interns read [Atlas Shrugged]."  While I'm personally with the interns who did not read it (Rand is, in my opinion, largely unreadable, tendentious, boring, and worse), this is a far different thing than adopting wholesale Rand's objectivism.  As this Politico piece makes clear, even when he was doing that he was not endorsing objectivism or atheism but individualism and capitalism as morally defensible.

I've read some Plato, some Kant, some Aristotle, and other secular and/or pagan philosophers.  Some of the things they had to say are quite good and very useful.  That does not mean I endorse everything they all said or that I am myself a pagan.  The assertion that it does is silly.

But a lot of Republicans are Christians and Protestants.  If the left can destroy Ryan by tarring him as an atheist in the same way that they keep reminding us of Romney's Mormonism, then they can demotivate the GOP base.  This will help to preserve Obama, including his attacks on religious freedom, his raw assertions of executive power, his devastating economic policies, and all the rest.

Frankly, I wouldn't care if Ryan were an atheist.  Such irreligion would still be preferred to Obama's religious infatuation with government and the fiscal bankruptcy to which it is driving us.  None of the candidates for president and vice president share my religious beliefs.  There are two Catholics (both vice-presidential candidates), one Mormon, and one Black Liberation/Christo-Marxist (Obama).  Religiously, I think they're all wrong.

But Ryan and Romney are right on the economics, right on their appraisal of human nature, right on their understanding of how business and government work, right on the public morality they wish to uphold and defend, right on the limited nature of government and the U.S. Constitution....  I'm not voting for pope or pastor.  I'm not voting for God, either.  I'm voting for president and vice-president and nothing Ryan has said that I'm aware of dampens my enthusiasm for him in the least.

8.11.2012

Ryan for VP - Good Choice

Congressman Ryan as Vice-President of the United States is a good choice.  I think it would be better to have him continue his work in the House as head of the Budget Committee, but he will serve well as Vice-President and, Lord willing, as president himself some day.  He is certainly capable of it.

In addition to highlighting the GOP plan(s) for getting us out of the fiscal mess we're in and implicitly endorsing Ryan's basic blueprint, it points to a religiously, morally serious argument for free market capitalism and rejects the socialism that has so enthralled Christians over the last 150 years.  Both Romney and Ryan are serious about applying their religious beliefs to real life, not in a way that thwacks people over the head and demands we all believe what they believe, but in carefully living out their faith where ever they are called.  Ryan's argument for his budget is not merely fiscal (the numbers we've been playing with to date don't add up and we need to fix that) or political (we'll win more votes this way) but also religious (we'll do a better job of taking care of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed this way).

The same is true for Romney's affirmation of American history and the principles of the founding of this country - they are embedded in his faith.

Interestingly, Romney is a Mormon, a member of a heretical sect.  At times, his affirmation of the United States borders on what seems to me an idolatrous view of this country as a kind of new Israel makes me queasy.  But he's not asking me to share his religious beliefs.  He is trying to live out his religious beliefs as a businessman, governor, candidate, and hopefully as a president in a few months.  Ryan is Catholic.  As a Calvinist, though I acknowledge that the Catholic Church is Christian, I have serious differences with them on significant points of doctrine and life.  But Ryan, too, is not trying to make us all Catholic.  He is trying to be a Catholic Representative and will try to be a Catholic vice-president, too.  In so doing, both of them acknowledge that they are answerable to God for what they do and how they do it.  This has inspired both of them to a level of decency and compassion that is utterly foreign to the leadership of the party they oppose who claim a monopoly on both decency and compassion while practicing neither.

We have a choice, folks.  You can vote for people who believe in government as the source of all good things (Obama and Biden) or people who believe God is the source of all good things (Romney and Ryan) and that government is best when restricted to its divine mission and in submission to that divine authority.  I know where I tend and despite my religious disagreements with Ryan and Romney, I share their attitude very much.

8.10.2012

Politico Vows to Distort

I just love the way Politico reports this story.  Papa John's says that Obamacare will increase their costs.  This is really nothing more than stating the obvious.  It will increase the cost of doing business for eveybody.  But Politico has to throw in their report that the CEO of the franchise is a Mitt Romney supporter, as if that changes the veracity of his statement.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch and there ain't no such thing as free health care, either.  If government is going to levy additional billions in taxes, impose costly bureaucratic regulations on insurance companies and businesses who trade with them, and strictly regulate the way hospitals and medical care providers operate, the business - especially the medical business - is going to get a lot more expensive.  The idea that Obamacare makes anything cheaper is so laughably ludicrous that even Obama doesn't try to pretend otherwise any more.  He talks about increased coverage, not lower costs.

The CEO of Papa John's also said that the additional cost of doing business would be passed on to consumers via higher prices for pizza.  The way Politico reports it is, "[Obamacare] will result in higher costs for the company — which they vowed to pass onto consumers."  Don't you just love that word, "vowed"?  As if the CEO of Papa John's stood before the altar and said, "By God, the Holy Trinity, and all the saints, we will pass on these costs to customers!  We will make them pay!"

I've got news for you.  All of a company's costs are passed on to consumers.  If they don't get consumers to cover their costs, they don't make a profit.  If they don't make a profit, they don't employ people, make their product, provide their service, or whatever else that company does.  The CEO isn't making some punitive threat.  He's explaining how businesses operate.  They don't have some magical pool of money they can draw from and just absorb these additional expenses.

To be sure, not all those costs will be passed on to customers through higher prices.  Some of the cost will be covered through reduced hiring and thus longer wait times before you get your pizza.  There will be fewer stores, too, since higher costs will mean you buy fewer pizzas.  They may look to find cheaper ingredients - although that will be difficult since all their suppliers will also be hit with higher costs and need to pass those on to their customers (the pizza restaurants).

Whether Obama knows this or not is an open question.  That he doesn't really care about it seems certain.

8.08.2012

Obama Steals 20,000 Pensions...

Here's what happens when you get a government takeover of a business.  The business starts to be run not on the basis of market considerations - what will customers buy, who is our competition, how do we produce our product more cheaply and enhance our profits, etc. - but on the basis of political considerations such as who votes for whom and who contributes to whose campaigns.

In the case of GM, the government took it over and produces cars people don't want to buy, especially the infamous Chevy Volt.  GM doesn't care that people don't want to buy it because they have the taxpayers' money and don't need customers' money to stay in business.  The government, under the Obama administration, also took pains to max out the unions' pensions even as it stiffed non-union employees of GM and its subsidiaries.  Nearly 20,000 Delphi employees lost their retirement.  Not a single union employee of Delphi was among them.

Was this a business decision?  Nope.  Was this a matter of justice?  Nope.  Was this the norm in bankruptcies of businesses like GM?  Nope.  But unions vote Democrat and give millions to Democrat candidates.  Environmentalists also vote Democrat and give to Democrat candidates.  It's highly unlikely that 100% of those Delphi employees voted Republican, at least, before the Obama administration shafted them.

The idea that the Democrat Party is the party of "justice" and "the little guy" is a triumph of marketing over facts.  This bit with Delphi is but one small piece of evidence in that.

8.07.2012

President, Not God

So here's this ad - some guy lost his job and, when he lost his job, he lost his insurance.  His wife got cancer, they didn't get it diagnosed soon enough, and when they did figure it out, she died in about three weeks.

And it's all Mitt Romney's fault.

That's right.  Apparently Mitt Romney gave this guy's wife some kind of cancer and killed her.

Here's the deal.  Bain Capital bought this steel company that was in trouble.  They tried, but couldn't make it efficient enough to compete with other steel companies, so they had to break it up, close it, and get what they could out of it.  That happened in 2001.

Romney left Bain Capital in 1999.

Oh, yeah.  This guy's wife died in 2006 - five years after he lost his job at the steel plant.  Where was the union he'd belonged to that was supposedly going to take care of him?  In five years, he never applied for medicaid, never got another job that would allow him to buy insurance, never talked to friends or family about his need, never got connected to a church or synagogue that could help him out?  He's just some bump on a log, incapable of doing anything to take care of himself or his family for FIVE YEARS?!?

I lost a job in 2005 - good pay, good benefits.  I spent two years looking for a job.  I took a risk and bought HSA insurance but couldn't afford to put anything into the HSA account.  Two years later, I got a job here, in SD, at the church where I now serve.  I rolled up with a car, my household goods, and less than $5,000 to cover the five of us.  That was all that was left of my savings, the severance package I got when I was let go, and the proceeds of a house I'd sold in 2004.  I could've gotten cancer.  So could've my wife.  But that wouldn't be any politician's fault.  I could've had my cars wrecked, my house burn down, or any of a dozen other disasters that come upon us in this life.  None of them would be the fault of any politician.  And I wouldn't go begging to a politician for help if they had.  I have family members, a church, and friends who I am absolutely certain would have helped me.

We're electing a president, people, not a god.

8.03.2012

Too Good to Not Repeat

I saw this today, and I just had to repeat it:

“In my community, we say there are two kinds of rabbi: those who talk about ‘social justice’ and those who can read Hebrew.”

The sad thing is, I'm not very good at Hebrew (or Greek, for that matter), but I liked the quote just the same.

8.02.2012

Obama Administration to Church: "Keep It in Church, Only on Sunday"

Yesterday, 1 August 2012, the Obama Administration's attempt to eliminate religious freedom went into effect.  The Health and Human Services department mandates that all insurance providers, with the exception of actual houses of worship, provide coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs.

Your personal religious beliefs are irrelevant.  You may not apply them.  You must pay so others can have a morning after pill.  It makes no difference if your organization is an explicitly Catholic or other religious organization - hospitals, soup kitchens, orphanages, adoption agencies, and anything else run by the church are not exempt.  Only actual congregations or houses of worship.

In effect, this restricts the freedom to practice your religion to the building where you go to worship on a weekend.

I've preached, and most preachers have preached, about taking your religion out of the church and into society, so it's not just a Sunday thing, but a Monday-Saturday thing, too.  The Obama administration essentially is telling us, "No, it's got to be just a Sunday thing.  You can't be religious on Monday or Tuesday.  You can be religious at church, but not on the street, not at work."

The CRC Office of Social Justice sent out their August news e-mail yesterday.  It made no mention of this.  Too busy trying to make sure we go deeper into debt, I guess.

8.01.2012

More Evidence Church Folks Aren't That Good at Math

Sometimes I wonder if the folks at the CRC's Office of Social Justice are able to do math.

In a recent OSJ News e-mail, I'm alerted to a House bill proposing, apparently, some cuts in refugee spending.  OSJ simply links to an issue-advocacy group that is making this claim.  They don't link to the House legislation and neither do the advocates.  A quick search on the House of Representatives' web site also turned up nothing substantive.  I have been unable to verify their claims or those of the biased site they link to.  Bear in mind that in Washington, D.C., a "cut" is not typically an actual reduction in spending over the previous year but a reduction in the projected increase (baseline) for the coming year, so it may not be a cut at all.

Regardless, the CRC Office of Social Justice has protested almost every possible reduction in the federal budget except the Department of Defense.  DoD's budget in 2012 was around $708 billion.  That's a lot of money, I'll grant you, and I am not opposed to cutting it in principle.  But we could eliminate the entire Department of Defense budget and still be $800 billion deeper in debt just this year alone.  Since we can't eliminate the DoD, let's take the most draconian approach we can and cut it by 1/2.  We now need to find $1,150 billions elsewhere in the federal government that we can cut.

Total discretionary spending, which includes things like the president's much loved roads and bridges as well as the Department of Defense makes up $1,320 billion of the federal budget.  We've already cut (hypothetically) $354 billion of that, leaving us with a mere $966 billion in discretionary spending.  If we eliminated all of that - all the national endowments, the corporation for public broadcasting, national parks, roads, bridges, federal aviation, various regulatory agencies, TSA, the FBI, foreign aid (including the refugee programs) and all the rest - we would still be spending nearly $200 billion more than was collected.

The cold, hard fact is, we don't have the money.

But the CRC Office of Social Justice is blithely ignorant of that or, if they know, they ignore it.

Risking the Military's Political Neutrality

The Pentagon hosted a gay-pride conference and also issued orders allowing military members to march in a gay pride parade in uniform.  

Long standing military tradition and directives state that one ought not march or participate in political events in uniform.  If a military member were to attend or participate in an event celebrating traditional marriage over against homosexual "marriage", he would be disciplined, and rightly so.  The military is subordinate to the civilian authority - the Commander-in-Chief is the president, not a general or an admiral.  The loyalty of the military to that civilian authority, regardless of which political party or faction is in the ascendency at any given moment is vital to the security of the United States and the preservation of our liberties.  The Obama administration has ignored that line, seeking to radicalize the military just as they have the bureaucracy.

When these institutions can no longer be trusted to serve as neutral executors of the nation's laws and foreign policy, they cannot be trusted at all.  This moves us into 3rd world, banana republic territory and it is extremely - extremely - dangerous.

Texas GOP Moves Right, Senate 2012 a Close Call

Conservative Ted Cruz defeated Texas Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst in the GOP primary yesterday.  Dewhurst was the heavy favorite and had the bulk of the GOP machine behind him.  He also had a ton of money (quite a bit of it his own).  

Mr. Cruz had the Tea Party.  He won 57-43.

That's a rather stinging rebuke to the establishment GOP.  Now Mr. Cruz has to take on the Democrats.  I think he'll win that race, too.  The seat has been held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate, establishment Republican.  Cruz will hold it for the GOP but moves the party rightward.  He and Sen. Rubio of Florida will make a good team with Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

If you go here, you'll see a map and chart of the senate races this year.  Of 33 seats, twenty-four are held by Democrats.  Two of those will almost certainly switch to GOP (NE and ND) and it is looking like MT, MO, and VA could also very well go GOP.  Roll Call rates NV as a toss-up, but I suspect the Republican will hold that seat.  Massachusetts elected a Republican, Scott Brown, not long ago and that could easily swing back to the Democrat.  Roll Call has it likely to do so, but I think their "toss-up" category more likely.  I'd also put Florida and Ohio in the "toss-up" group along with NM.  All politics are local, but it's looking like a GOP year even if not as big as 2010 was.  The ME seat, currently held by a Republican, is likely going to end up Democrat ("Independent" in the same way that the socialist Bernard Sanders of VT is "Independent"), largely due to a feud between the retiring incumbent and her erstwhile successor.

In other words, one GOP seat likely to switch (ME) and one maybe (MA) to five Democrat seats likely to switch (ND, NE, MT, MO, and VA) and three maybe (FL, OH, NM).  Currently the Democrats have a 53-47 edge (Sanders and Murkowski are "Independent" but vote with the Democrats).  If all of those switch, it will be 53-47 for the GOP, though it's likely that the opportunistic Murkowski will go back to the Republicans in this scenario.  It's looking good for the GOP, but it's nowhere like a sure bet.