December 18, 2014

Malala Maitreya

Back in 2005 I wrote a post called, "The Prophecy Game". If you go back and read that post you'll see quite clearly that I am very bad at prophecy. Despite this undeniable truth, sometimes I find the temptation to predict the future too compelling to resist!

The "Malala" in the title is, of course, Malala Yousafzai, who recently won a Nobel Peace Prize. Within hours of the announcement one branch of the Pakistani Taliban sent six fighters into a school for the children of Pakistani soldiers. The terrorists slaughtered 141 people, most of whom were children. The day after this massacre someone set off two bombs at a Pakistani girl's university in a city further south. This has been a bloody week for education in Pakistan. At least one writer believes this latest round of violence is intended as revenge for Malala's Nobel Prize. Malala herself has come out with a statement expressing heartbreak at the loss of so many young lives.

"Maitreya" is a term drawn from Buddhism that has surprisingly similar words in Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. "Maitreya" is the next Buddha; or more precisely, the next incarnation of the Buddha Mind. The Maitreya is a future Buddha who arrives in the midst of chaos to teach the world once again the lessons of peace, order, and love. Naturally the Maitreya has many similarities to future messianic personalities in other religions, including of course the deceptive compassion of the Christian Anti-Christ. The Maitreya, however, has one very distinct difference from all of the other messianic figures in the world: the Maitreya can be a woman!

Our world is in the midst of a very violent transition and Islamic terrorism is at the very heart of it. Modern Islamic terrorism is driven in large part by ancient collectivist dreams of a theocratic utopia that can only be realized by abandoning modern technology, sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of the common good, and giving up the widespread increase in personal luxury that has homeless people in many countries enjoying better lifestyles than royalty of a mere two centuries ago. There is a huge gap between the richest countries in the world, the poorest people in those countries, the richest people in poor countries, and the most impoverished of all who are still living on the brink of starvation. Fortunately, the percentage of our world living on the brink of starvation is lower now than it has been at any time in recorded history. Part of what drives radicalism of all stripes, and Islamic radicalism in particular, is that many poor people find themselves with food to eat and a place to live but not much else. Jealousy and guilt are both major factors leading young people in western countries to jump on airplanes and fly off to join groups like the Taliban or ISIS. (Jealousy over the disparity in quality of life experienced by the working poor in places like the Philippines versus places like the United States is often coupled with feelings of guilt over living in the richer place while your relatives live in a much poorer one. The combination of the two can be emotionally devastating.) Things are improving all over the world, but in many places the pace of improvement has left people with time on their hands and jealousy in their hearts. All of this is pretty standard fare of any transitional phase down through the pages of human history.

Which is why our world is ripe for a populist leader to come along who embodies compassion for the poor, the resources of the wealthy, and a genuine desire to eliminate poverty once and for all. This is the same promise made by communist revolutionaries a century ago, modern progressive politicians, and religious icons like Joel Osteen or the Dalai Lama. It is an extremely tantalizing promise, especially when offered up in the midst of a violent transitional period like the one we are currently experiencing. Malala Yousafzai was first given a voice by the BBC. In an effort to discredit the Pakistani Taliban they hosted a blog for her under an anonymous name where she regularly posted about the hardship of life under the Taliban for a young woman seeking an education. Unfortunately for Malala, her identity was revealed and the Taliban responded by attempting to assassinate her on the bus ride home from school. This propelled her onto the world stage in ways no one could have foreseen and now she has won a Nobel Prize. As if some giant puppet master is controlling our world, her first public statement after her acceptance speech is heartbreak over a terrorist strike on a school. She now has greater popularity than Princess Diana ever enjoyed and more political clout than Hilary Clinton could ever hope of gaining. Even better, the Dalai Lama recently announced that he hopes no one replaces him. This last bit is critical. The Dalai Lama is far more than a political leader. He is viewed by Buddhists around the world as the incarnation of the Buddha Mind. If he were to propose that his title become symbolic and be awarded to Malala Yousafzai, it would unite under one charismatic leader well over two-thirds of the world's population. After that, all it would take is for someone to recommend she be appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations and suddenly she would have both the clout and the resources to change the world.

As I said above, I am a terrible prophet. Still, it would not surprise me if by 2016 the President of the United States has become politically irrelevant. Barack Obama has destroyed so much of our global prestige that it would take very little for a group of powerful kingmakers to replace him with someone who would gladly had over the reins of power to a charismatic world leader. If Malala Yousafzai can be given a title to match her popularity and prestige then she would become the natural choice for a charismatic world leader able to unify much of the world under a hybridized religious/political hierarchy. Over the next eighteen months I expect to see much more of her in the daily news. If not 2016, then surely by 2020 (barring some miracle) American prestige on the global political stage will have declined enough to have people all over the world (even in America herself) clamoring for someone with demonstrated compassion and courage to take the reins of world power and lead us into a golden future. Do not be surprised if Malala Yousafzai is offered up as that leader. "Maitreya" would be the perfect title for someone being asked to hold the reins of power both politically and spiritually in a world filled with fear and uncertainty.

I can already see the headlines, "Malala Maitreya Proposes New World Order Based on Education, Peace, and Prosperity for All!"

December 02, 2014

Radicalism helps no one

I logged onto Facebook today for the first time in about 48 hours. High up in my newsfeed I found a photo that set my blood to an absolute boil. The depth of arrogance, the extreme delusional thinking, the total lack of ethical foundation infuriated me beyond even CNN reports on the Ferguson riots themselves. How could anyone honestly believe such complete nonsense?

So I did what I normally do when an internet photo makes my blood boil: I went looking for the source. Using Google image search took me awhile to learn, but now it has become as routine as getting out of bed in the morning. And like getting out of bed, sometimes it goes smoothly and sometimes it brings a boatload of aches and pains. Fortunately, this time it went smoothly and in the very first search I found the original post with the original photo:

Riverfront Times: Ferguson Protesters Get Kicked Out of Protest Sites

I was even more horrified than I had been originally. There is no justification for pillaging local businesses and burning them to the ground. None whatsoever. What happened during the riots in Ferguson is a disgrace to everyone on both sides of the Darren Wilson/Micheal Brown incident. I don't care what color your skin is or how oppressed you feel. Nothing justifies burning down the businesses your community depends on. However, it is just as unethical to then corrupt the agenda of peaceful protesters in order to prove a point about the violent ones. To desecrate a genuine protest sign in order to inflame racial divisions is just as unforgivable as giving a speech demanding violent protest in response to an event that feels oppressive. Whoever edited this photo in order to anger people like me into irrational outbursts that would only serve to inflame an already explosive situation is just as morally bankrupt as those who looted local businesses and then burned them to the ground. The only possible purpose of such an edit would be an attempt to create an equally violent response. The provocateur is the equal of the animals they unleash.

Here is the original sign. I honestly believe this protester has either refused to accept the reality of what happened when Micheal Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson or simply not been given enough facts to make an informed judgment. Micheal Brown's death was a tragedy, but it was neither unjustified nor inexcusable. It was simply the inevitable result of a thug choosing to react in violence to questioning by a police officer. If you pick a fight with a cop you might get beaten into a coma or you might wind up dead. Either way, it was not the cop who picked the fight so it is not the cop who holds the blame.

Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin both died because they failed to exercise common sense when confronted by someone questioning the motivation behind their behavior. Responding to a simple inquiry in anger and violence is a very good way to wind up dead. Don't get so angry at someone who questions you that you start throwing punches. If you do, they just might pull out a gun and shoot you. Respond with courtesy. If the situation escalates, defend yourself with whatever force is necessary to extricate yourself from the situation and no more. The secret to a long life in a violent world is to never throw the first punch while always being prepared to throw the last one.

The first law of victory is to avoid conflict completely. If conflict does not occur then no one dies. Honest negotiation and realistic compromise is the key to avoiding winding up dead or sending someone else to wind up dead in your place. You cannot lose a war that is never fought. The second law of victory is surprise. When negotiation fails, strike hard, strike fast, and use overwhelming force. This is never the first law because it contains huge risk. There is always the very real possibility you have underestimated the opposition's ability and willingness to exact extreme violence to achieve their agenda. This is where both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin failed. They believed negotiation was not an option and they responded with violence, but both men severely underestimated their opponent and they paid for that failure with their lives. The third law of victory is knowing when to make a full tactical retreat. If you strike and only after striking discover that you have misjudged the opposition then either surrender immediately or withdraw as quickly as possible with as little damage as is realistic. By successfully withdrawing you will live to fight another day. The fourth and final law of victory is don't make the same mistakes the next time around. Learn from your mistakes. Improve your intelligence gathering. Improve your negotiation skills. Improve your ability to respond. Finally, and most important of all, never engage an enemy when you know you will lose.

November 25, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

Let's suppose next spring I return to Ohio and while I am in Cleveland escorting my father to the VA Clinic I find myself in a confrontation with a black police officer. There are a couple of things I am not going to do. For starters, I'm not going to try to beat him up, not even if he is much smaller than I am and looks like an easy target. Nor will I pull out my concealed carry permit and demand to be treated like a colleague fighting for justice on the often violent streets of Cleveland's east side. Instead, I will inform the officer I have a CCW but I am not armed because while at the VA I am not allowed to be. I will cooperate with all of the officer's demands, no matter how ridiculous or humiliating. If required, I will allow myself to be handcuffed and arrested until the facts of our altercation can be made clear. I won't do these things or behave this way because I am afraid of blacks (I'm not), afraid of the police (laughable idea), or because I hate all forms of authority (even though I most certainly do). I will comply and not resist because that uniform and that badge represents a civic authority backed up by the voters of Cleveland and the taxes paid by hardworking Cleveland citizens. That cop represents the will and authority of the sovereign people of Cleveland City and beyond all else, I respect that sovereignty.

Forensic science and eyewitness testimony has now made it clear that Michael Brown did not respect the sovereign authority of the people of Ferguson, Missouri. He believed that Officer Darren Wilson had no right to accost him while he was walking down a sunny city street, no right to question his intent by walking in the middle of the road, and no right to order him on the ground and attempt to place him under arrest. Michael Brown believed his personal sovereignty outweighed the will of the people of Ferguson, so much so that he was not required to pay for merchandise in their shops, not required to obey their laws, and not required to respect the symbol of their sovereignty, namely, a uniformed law enforcement officer appointed to represent their will. Michael Brown's inability to respect the sovereign power of the people of Ferguson and his refusal to obey the requests and requirements of their appointed representative meant he was subject to arrest. Instead of allowing himself to be arrested, he chose to violently oppose Officer Darren Wilson. According to Officer Wilson's testimony, Michael Brown not only resisted arrest, he struck Officer Wilson repeatedly, then withdrew, then charged at him again.

So why in the name of all that is holy are the people of Ferguson, Missouri fighting in their streets and burning down their local shops? Seriously. I cannot grasp the immense depths of delusional thinking required to assume that a Grand Jury decision not to prosecute a police officer exercising the authority they gave him somehow justifies destroying the businesses they depend on as well as the livelihood of their neighbors. This violence makes no sense to me at all. I don't care how angry they are. It is their votes that put the mayor and the city council in office and it is their taxes that pay the police force. If they don't like the Grand Jury decision (a decision made by their neighbors after two weeks examining the evidence) then circulate a petition, make some speeches, write a letter to the editor of the paper, another letter to the mayor, one to the chief of police, and one to the local city council representative. Vote against all of them who appear on the ballot in the next election, or better yet, organize a political campaign and run against them. This is your town, your police force, and your city government. You voted for it. You pay the taxes that go to their salary. Why would you loot the store Michael Brown robbed? Why would you burn the local grocery store you depend on to feed your family? Why would you burn the inventory of a used car lot owned by your neighbor? How does simple anger justify destroying your own home?

The problem in Ferguson, in Cleveland, in Detroit, and in every other city where "race relations" are tense is not black versus white or vice versa. The problem is not oppression of poor blacks by rich whites. The problem is a community of ignorant people who do not understand the real power they wield with their votes and their taxes. How many of those protesters voted in the last election? If they didn't vote, then why do they believe they have any right at all to be angry with the city government and the local police force? If you refuse to participate in the process then you cannot complain the process ignores you! That is completely delusional!

This case, along with the Trayvon Martin case, completely baffles me. I don't understand the reaction of the black community. They vote people into office and then complain the person they voted for does not represent them, so they vote for the same person again! Vote for someone else! If there is no one else, then run for office yourself! Stop burning your own neighborhood, fighting with your police force, and calling in outsiders like Al Sharpton who have no vested interest in your community. It's your city. Take charge of your life, participate in local politics, and stop acting like spoiled children. You are not children anymore. Stand up, be counted, and abide by the requirements of fair play. Stop hiding behind your emotions and be realistic. Channel your anger into research, politics, and realistic expectations. Of course you feel like you're the center of the universe. So do I. So does everyone. That does not make it real. Stop burning down your city. Do your homework and vote for people who represent your interests. This burning, looting, and fighting with riot police is childish. I don't care what color your skin is. Yes, you deserve better, but you won't get anything better unless you learn how the world works and then work within the system to make things better.

If you are a taxpaying citizen who votes in every election then you have power far beyond anything you can achieve through violent street demonstrations. Real power comes through intelligent participation in the political process. Real power does not come from the barrel of a gun and it does not come from burning down the local grocery store. Real power comes when you walk into the office of your local city representative and with one look at your voting record he or she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that you put them in that office and you can take it away just as easily. That, people of Ferguson, is real power.

Politico: Congressional Black Caucus Denounces Ferguson Grand Jury
Time: Outrage and Calls for Calm on Twitter as Violence Escalates
LA Times: Ferguson Shop Owner Suffers a Second Round of Violent Protests
Washington Post: Darren Wilson's Testimony
Fox News: Nationwide Protests Following Ferguson Decision

November 12, 2014

Net Neutrality is a Lie

More government regulation is never the answer to any problem. In very rare cases some very limited government regulation might help keep access to a resource or a market fair and equitable, but those cases have already all been regulated and in many cases are badly over-regulated. Consider the internet, without any government control or oversight (except for policing of child pornography, consumer fraud, etc.) the internet has grown from a handful of academic databases to a global telecommunications network that touches every country on Earth. The foundation of this success is complete freedom from government oversight. The only reason love, hate, courage, cowardice, and all the other elements of the human experience are readily available here in cyberspace after a mere two decades of growth is because governments around the world have not been able to create some functional method for controlling it.

Do you understand this? Seriously. Do you truly understand the power of this? The success of the internet is the direct result of zero government control!

There is a lie that has begun circulating recently. This lie basically goes, "Big companies are limiting access to the internet so we need the government to step in and protect us from the big companies."

Think about it. If you don't like your internet provider and you don't live in some place like France or China, all it takes is one phone call to change your internet provider. Right here where I live I can choose between MCTV (my provider), Time-Warner, Century Link, Armstrong, Enterprise, or half a dozen other companies. I live in rural Wayne County, Ohio. My four acres is surrounded by corn fields. Even out here in the middle of nowhere I have around a dozen internet providers, three television providers, and about two dozen telephone providers to choose from. This does not even take into account mobile phone companies all of whom offer smart phones and tablets with internet access. Why in heaven's name would I want the government to step into this wonderful array, pick out the "reliable" companies and force the "unreliable" ones into bankruptcy? I am being very serious here! Why would I want the government deciding that MCTV is too small to provide me reasonable service and therefore I must use DirectTV with Century Link and Verizon?

Even worse. If President Obama's FCC package is implemented and the internet becomes regulated under the same provisions as electricity and gas, then suddenly the FCC is now in a position to arbitrarily shut down internet providers they don't like while charging usage fees on those internet companies they allow to exist. Take a look at your cable/satellite television bill. On that bill you will see USF fee or something similar. This is the tiniest tip of an iceberg of FCC fees that are paid every step of the way to bring you a television program. The networks pay FCC fees per kilowatt of broadcast power, per minute of broadcast time, and per channel of broadcast use. Mobile telephone providers pay all of those fees, plus tower placement fees, bandwidth usage fees, and bandwidth control fees. All of these FCC fees are determined arbitrarily by the FCC without Congressional oversight or Congressional approval. If the President orders the head of the FCC to double usage fees, then usage fees double. If the head of the FCC decides independently of the President's office that they need to double usage fees, he does so, and only afterward goes to the President to request approval. If President Obama's "Net Neutrality" is implemented then the FCC can charge up to 16.7% of collected revenue for bandwidth on top of what they already charge telephone and television providers for the very same bandwidth!

If the FCC is allowed to regulate the internet then they can arbitrarily determine any differences between household access, commercial access, mobile access, fixed access, access speeds, access bulk, and all the myriad of other variables involved when you open a Facebook app or Facebook in your browser. Not only does the government now have the final say in who accesses Facebook, they also have the freedom to charge Facebook for each person who accesses it and for the amount of bandwidth they use during that access. The government already charges the telephone company that owns the lines for bandwidth usage. If they gain control over the internet itself not only will they continue to charge the telephone company but now they can charge the internet provider along with each and every internet content provider! Each and every one! All of those added costs will be passed directly on to you, the user. Content and access providers will have no choice in this. They must maintain profit margins to make payroll, cover the cost of maintenance, cover the cost of innovation, and pay dividends to their stockholders. Facebook will be forced to charge a subscription fee just to cover the combination of FCC bandwidth charges they pay directly along with those they must pay to whoever controls the servers that make Facebook work. Facebook, Twitter, every search engine you depend on, Wikipedia, Blogspot (who carries this blog), and all of the other "free" internet sites you use everyday will be forced to charge you for access because suddenly they must pay the government for access to you!

There is nothing "neutral" about designating the internet a Title II utility. The only thing it does is destroy the freedom you and I now enjoy. It gives the government the right to deny access to content they arbitrarily determine is "damaging to social mores" and it gives them the right to charge for access to the content they allow. The FCC now becomes the final judge in whether you watch YouTube, NetFlix, Hulu, Roku, AppleTV, ABC, or CNN. Suppose you enjoy NetFlix, a flat monthly fee for all the access you desire to television and movies. That will end. Instead, NetFlix will now have to charge you per show, for the time you spend watching, and for the bandwidth you use watching. Those flat monthly fees will vanish and will become per episode fees that are dramatically higher. NetFlix will have no choice in this matter. They will now be paying huge fees to the FCC and in order to continue bringing you movies and television they will have to charge you the cost of those fees on top of their current operating costs plus whatever they need to keep their shareholders happy.

Online universities and high schools will have to either raise fees or start charging fees. YouTube, Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Vimeo, the list is endless. Everything you now enjoy doing for free will suddenly have fees they must pay and they must in turn pass on to you. Network television, cable television, satellite television, will all dramatically increase their costs and in turn, the fees they charge. You think internet advertising is now endemic? If President Obama and the FCC pass their "Net Neutrality" package internet advertising will become the majority of content you have access to and you will have to pass through endless advertisers just to check your Gmail or update your Snapchat feed. How is that an improvement over what we have now?

Wired Online: What everyone gets wrong about Net Neutrality
Forbes Online: FCC plans stealth internet tax
CNN Online: Will the FCC ruin the internet?
Consumer Affairs: Broadband and Net Neutrality
FCC: National Broadband Plan
FCC: Chairman Tom Wheeler's response to President Obama's statement
Brian's Meandering Mind (December 5, 2010): Some thoughts on Net Neutrality

November 05, 2014

The evil, racist, sexist Tea Party just made history

Tea Party Candidate Tim Scott Becomes First Elected Black Senator in the South
Tea Party Candidate Mia Love Becomes First Black Female Elected to Congress

Ever since the Tea Party Express first took to the road in the run up to the 2008 presidential election Democrats and progressive Republicans alike have labeled the Tea Party movement "racist", "sexist", and "bigoted old white men clinging to their guns and Bibles". Dozens of candidates supported by both the grassroots Tea Party and corporate-backed Tea Party Express won seats in yesterday's election. Many of the new Republican governors, new state legislators, and new representatives in Congress are the product of tens of thousands of manhours spent by members of local Tea Party groups pounding on doors and making phone calls. These are the very same groups Lois Lerner tried to use her position at the IRS to destroy by denying them 501(c)3 status. How ironic, then, that both Tim Scott and Mia Love have from the very first day they stepped on the public stage aligned themselves with both the Tea Party movement and Tea Party values.

If we assume that Tim Scott and Mia Love are genuine, independent, free-thinking adults and not the mere puppets of some hidden oligarchy, then we must also assume there is something in the Tea Party that draws all kinds of different Americans into their fold. So what is the Tea Party then? What does it stand for?

The Tea Party Express Mission Statement says,

"Tea Party Express is proud to stand for six simple principles:
No more bailouts
Reduce the size and intrusiveness of government
Stop raising our taxes
Repeal Obamacare
Cease out-of-control spending
Bring back American prosperity"

I could easily list websites for dozens of local, grassroots groups with no financial or intellectual connection to the original Tea Party Express. The Tea Party Express did not invent these groups, create these groups, nor does it fund these groups. What the Tea Party Express did do is provide a visible validation of something many Americans had realized but could not voice: the country had changed in ways that violated its traditions and founding principles.

The United States of America is not like the rest of the world. Our country was designed from the very beginning on two assumptions: people can rule themselves better than governments can, some government is needed to avoid complete anarchy. Right from the beginning the most powerful internal struggle in the United States has been finding the most practical definition of "some government". Where is the line drawn between total anarchy and complete freedom? The two are not compatible and never can be because anarchy inevitably descends into tyranny as the strongest grab control and use that control to exploit the weak. Complete freedom is not anarchy and anarchy is not complete freedom. The two are diametrically opposed. "The American Experiment" is a 238 year old science project designed from the beginning to locate that line and fix it firmly in place. The one lesson that we can take from this sweeping panorama of people, events, places, mistakes, and victories is that even though there are always some individuals who cannot survive when left to their own devices there are also others can only thrive when left to their own devices. The problem with both individualism and collectivism is that neither one can provide the perfect circumstances for everyone alive to reach their maximum potential. This is why there can be no utopian society. Some individuals thrive in circumstances that are devastating for others. There is no way these two completely different kinds of people can thrive together. When the collectivists thrive, the individualists are restricted and held back from achieving their potential. When the individualist thrives, the collectivist is left so far behind they feel oppressed regardless of whether or not their reality is oppressive.

Politics in America is an endless battleground between those who believe in individual meritocracy and those who believe in collective survival. The Tea Party's six principles place it firmly in the realm of those who thrive when individual meritocracy is allowed free reign. The Constitution of the United States places the entire country in that same realm. This is why Tea Party supporters and candidates consistently claim their primary goal is to "restore the Constitution". Individual meritocracy is the divine principle that drove somewhere around three percent of American colonists to throw out the British crown and declare the entire country free and independent. Unfortunately, that also meant 97% of the people either did not care at all or greatly preferred the comfort of living under a king. Unfortunately for the 97%, the key to the success of the American experiment and the reason that for two centuries we have led the world in economics and innovation is that when individual meritocracy defines society then innovators, dreamers, the greedy and the ambitious are allowed to aim as high as their imagination can take them.

On the domestic front the one genuine role of America's constitutional government is to prevent those who succeed from exploiting those who do not. That's it. Providing food, clothing, and housing to those who fail to succeed, those who have no desire to succeed, or those who are prevented from succeeding is not part of the American constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution establishes the role of the federal government as the guardian and protector of five very limited realms of life:

establish Justice
insure domestic Tranquility
provide for the common defense
promote the general Welfare
secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

The various parts of the federal government, the Bill of Rights and the other amendments, the carefully defined roles of the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches, are all designed to insure the federal government fulfills those five simple tasks while at the same time preventing it from interfering in the lifestyle choices of individual Americans. "Establish justice" does not mean creating laws that punish some people more strongly than others (hate crimes), force employers to hire and promote some people over others (affirmative action), or restrict American people from gathering peacefully to petition the government and express their discontent (free speech zones). Almost every federal law that goes beyond the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in some misguided effort to define those amendments in reality completely violates those amendments. Eliminating these kinds of obvious paradoxes in the regulatory structure of the federal government is the goal of the Tea Party movement and is the practical reality behind the six principles listed above.

With Tim Scott and Mia Love elected on the basis of Tea Party principles and with the backing of both local and national Tea Party groups, one would hope this silly accusation about the Tea Party being made up of "bigoted old white men clinging to the guns and Bibles" will finally come to an end. Clearly there is something greater moving across our nation than simple bigotry. The social and political movement that has been labeled "the Tea Party" holds the keys to preventing America from following down the path every historic society found itself in. If we are not to follow in the footsteps of the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the British Empire, and so many others, then restoration and reformation must become the mantra of both collectivists and individualists.

The first reform that must be carried out is the end of crony capitalism. The only way to end crony capitalism is to dismantle the obscenely complex federal regulatory structure and return control of consumer protections back down to the local level where it belongs. One major step down this path would be repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act and replacing it with a simpler regulation that does only two things: prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions and prevent states from blocking access to insurance companies in neighboring states. Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution grants the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce. The purpose of this section at the time was to prevent individual states from blocking access to their internal markets by the surrounding states. New York, for example, could no longer block Georgia cotton from entering the State and Georgia could no longer block handcrafts (especially furniture) made in New York from entering their state. This inability to block products from other states is why the early colonies settled into an interstate trade pattern that eventually resulted in a highly industrialized north and an intensively agricultural south. Allowing individual states to prevent out-of-state insurance companies from operating in their state reduces competition, increases prices, and results in people being unable to get proper medical treatment while they are on vacation or visiting relatives. Healthcare, telecommunications, energy production, even certain agriculture sectors have so many federal regulations governing them that newcomers cannot break into the industry, individual companies can easily set up protected zones free from competition, and consumers cannot choose to drop companies with poor service or excessive prices.

Grassroots discontent has given new life to the Tea Party movement. The election of Tim Scott and Mia Love confirms this grassroots appeal. Now is when things get really tricky. Can this new wave of conservatives reduce the size and cost of the federal government? Can Tea Party principles really work at the federal level? Is the nation ready to downsize the federal government, destroy crony capitalism, and allow those individuals who are capable of reaching great heights to actually achieve those heights?

Only time will tell.

October 11, 2014

Homosexuality, Christianity, and Me

It's funny how this topic reappears about once a year, or at least it has for the past three years. I have written on this topic three times before (other than the odd mention here and there), all in the past three years. Over the past few days it has popped up again on Twitter and Facebook with people either misunderstanding something I wrote, intentionally distorting something I wrote, or responding with burning self-righteous anger at something I wrote. Myself, I really don't see what all the fuss is about. To start with, let's take a look at those three posts I mentioned:

February 4, 2011: Genuine Tolerance

Believe it or not, it is not Christians who give me the most grief over my defense of any individual homosexual's right to their lifestyle. It is atheists and homosexual activists who condemn my blog posts, pour out profanity on my YouTube channel, and rail against me in Facebook discussions.
Then, as now, if someone drops into a discussion I have either stumbled onto or initiated it is inevitably the Christians who are most willing to respect the choices made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) individuals. Granted, there do exist groups like the Westboro Baptist Church with their propensity to picket the funerals of combat veterans who died defending the freedom to picket funerals. For better or for worse, I have met very few people online with that kind of deep-seated hatred of LGBT people and when I do, I instantly block them and go about my day. If I come across one in real life, I smile politely until they finish ranting and then never talk to them again. I have much better things to do with my time than argue with people whose reality is so distorted they cannot accept the humanity in people with a different lifestyle than their own. Bigotry is bigotry, whether it comes from Christians who claim every combat casualty is a result of God's judgement, lesbians who want to pretend their union can magically produce a child, or Muslims who believe homosexuals should be executed. I find this kind of extremism intolerable. And yes, that lack of tolerance extends to any school district that would rather call children "Purple Penguins" than risk offending sensitive souls who feel trapped in gender-specific social expectations. Boys are boys, girls are girls, and adolescents are young men and young women. We cannot pretend that biology does not exist simply because a few people are unhappy with their own reality.

February 10, 2012: Gay Marriage is not about Love

A "marriage" is a man and a woman who decide to start a family together. The piece of paper is nice, but that's not what a "marriage" is. That is why most states have a "common law marriage" definition. If gay marriage is the law, then two people of the same sex who live together fall under the same legal requirements for a common law marriage as would a man and woman living together.
The biggest problem I have with "gay marriage" is not happiness or love or Bible verses condemning homosexuality. The biggest problem I have with gay marriage is the horrible impact it will have on common law marriage, an impact that no one is talking about. I can easily imagine obsessed former roommates with stalker type personality disorders following around their ex-friends demanding compensation for the time they spent together. Court dockets in states that have passed gay marriage laws are already seeing cases combining common law marriage and gay marriage in legal suits against same-sex friends who parted on bad terms after sharing an apartment or a house long enough to fall into common law requirements for joint ownership of televisions, cars, furniture, luxury items, and pets. It is bad enough when genuine lovers part company and file for divorce from someone they never "officially" married to begin with. When ex-roommates start using the same laws to extort items they cherished or seek revenge against someone who wronged them then our entire legal system is reduced to a farce with all the merit and value of a circus sideshow. I'm sorry if this offends same-sex couples who are deeply in love and have successful relationships that last for decades, but marriage is about securing the providence of families and the protection of children. It is children that represent the future of humanity, not young people so in love they are drunk on their own endorphins.

March 28, 2013: A Gay Man who Opposes Gay Marriage

In our sometimes misguided efforts to expand our freedom, selfish adults have systematically dismantled that which is most precious to children as they grow and develop.
That quote is from the article linked to in my blog post. Doug Mainwaring spoke the truth far more clearly than I could ever hope to, and being homosexual himself, did so with an authority I could never earn and would never claim. In summary, his truth is quite similar to what I have stated, and comes together perfectly in this quote:
Children are being reduced to chattel-like sources of fulfillment. On one side, their family tree consists not of ancestors, but of a small army of anonymous surrogates, donors, and attorneys who pinch-hit for the absent gender in genderless marriages. Gays and lesbians demand that they have a “right” to have children to complete their sense of personal fulfillment, and in so doing, are trumping the right that children have to both a mother and a father—a right that same-sex marriage tramples over.
The objectification of children and the reducing of these future custodians of our planet to mere possessions whose only purpose is to bring happiness to their parents is the real reason behind my harsh response a few days ago to the case of a woman in a lesbian "marriage" suing a fertility clinic after she gave birth to a baby with a different skin tone from her own. Children are the future of both humanity and our entire world. If we do not raise our children to become compassionate, civilized adults then all the vaunted social progress that made homosexuality an acceptable dinner table conversation and a valid lifestyle choice will be destroyed in a single generation. If you truly want your children to have the freedom to fall in love with anyone they want, to define their social identity independent from their biology, to have the respect of their peers, and to enjoy the dignity that is the birthright of every living creature then you should oppose the institutionalization of gay marriage. It might even be worthwhile to oppose government involvement in marriage altogether. If we are going to learn to love one another then the very first thing we must do is prevent the government from defining "love" for us. If love is restricted to legal definitions and descriptions that are both protected by lawyers and overseen by armies of bureaucrats then tyranny will truly be complete and we will have reduced humanity to livestock that lives, dies, and breeds on the whims of the elite.

And now we come to the point where I take the stand that will no doubt have liberal progressives everywhere burning in self-righteous fury. The Bible contains an unequivocal condemnation of the homosexual lifestyle, and the transgender lifestyle is so deeply offensive to Biblical writers that it does not even bear mentioning. If there were any place where transgender topics would exist it would be in the New Testament because during the Roman Empire men living as women and women living as men (referred to as "hermaphrodites") were just as common as they are today. Such lifestyle choices were protected by law and even inheritance was divided according to how one lived rather than what genitalia one was born with. And yet, there is not a single mention of an hermaphrodite in the New Testament. There is quite a bit about homosexuality, showing a clear continuation of the Judaic viewpoint described in the Torah.

Leviticus 18:22
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 20:13
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Romans 1:26-27
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Timothy 1:8-11
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Clearly, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, homosexuality is a sin. Lesbian and transgender lifestyles are extensions of homosexuality, or perhaps homosexuality is an extension of the others. It does not matter. This kind of sexual behavior is completely detached from biological imperatives to produce children. Sex can either create an unbreakable bond between two people who already love one another or it can destroy what had been a strong, intimate relationship. In some people sex goes far beyond the simple urge to procreate and becomes a life-affirming pleasure that is addictive in the level of obsession it creates. Freud built much of his psychoanalytic practice on his ability to understand how sexuality affected individuals (The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud), so much so that his ideas created an entirely new branch of science. Sex and sexuality are so powerful that at least one Amazonian tribe (The Canela: Kinship, Ritual, and Sex in an Amazonian Tribe) uses it as one of their primary sources of social bonding and hierarchy. Even in the animal kingdom it is easy to find species where procreation (and by assumption, sexuality) becomes the basis of lifelong sexual relationships. One branch of the chimpanzee family, the Bonobos, even uses sex and sexuality to overcome conflict, establish hierarchy, and insure conformity (The Bonobos: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation). Regardless of whether someone believes in the Seven Days of Creation as described in the Bible (Genesis, chapters 1 through 4) or in evolution and the natural selection of species, almost no one would honestly describe sex and sexuality as something minor and inconsequential. Sex and sexuality are critical determinants in the most fundamental aspects of every individual's self-image and personality.

So then, the Bible is unequivocal in its condemnation of homosexuality, yet science clearly indicates that sexuality is fundamental to creating and maintaining satisfying, lifelong relationships. Others have pointed it out and been ridiculed for it, but I for one cannot deny that the Biblical passages condemning homosexuality are clearly directed at homosexual behavior. "Men who have sex with men" are clearly singled out as practicing sinful behavior that marks them for condemnation, which of course, also means an eternity in hell. It is what it is and there is no justification for trying to pretend otherwise. That does not mean I personally condemn homosexual behavior, nor does it justify the seething hatred of the Westboro Baptist Church. I should probably point out here that I personally cannot see any place in the Bible where it explicitly states "God hates homosexuals", therefore, I can only conclude that the Westboro Baptist Church is reading a different Bible than I am. My Bible takes exactly the opposite approach. My Bible emphasizes love, while condemning homosexual behavior and homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. There is nothing in the New Testatment (and only one verse in the Old Testament) calling for homosexuals to be stoned. Since Jesus did not allow the woman caught in adultery to be stoned, it is reasonable to assume he would also not allow homosexuals to be stoned. The New Testament is "new" because the sacrifice of Christ, verified by his resurrection, cleanses the believer of the punishment required from breaking Old Testament law. Many passages in the New Testament (including 1 Timothy 1:8-11 above) either explicitly state or directly imply that the real purpose of the Old Testament law is to teach people what sin is and how to recognize it. Under the New Testament, once sin is recognized, the condemnation and guilt it brings can be removed through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of his resurrection. Any Christian who runs around demanding people abide by Old Testament law or encouraging hatred based on violations of Old Testament law has not grasped the real meaning of Ephesians 2:8-9:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Even here though, there are limits. Anyone who has been cleansed of sin has also been cleansed of the impulse to sin. They can still be tempted, and they can still choose to sin, but the addictive power of sin has been broken. It can still be a daily struggle. No one is perfect, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). Everyone has something they must daily fight to avoid. We are each called to carry the Cross of Christ in our own way. Perhaps those who are inclined to homosexual behavior must bear that cross daily by reminding themselves that no matter how pleasant it is a homosexual relationship cannot produce children and children are the future of humanity. Perhaps the same holds for anyone who feels they are "born in the wrong body". There are many things in reality that bring us pain. There are many things in our hearts and minds that bring us even greater pain. If someone tells me they believe they were born in the wrong gender, I have no reference point to deny that internal reality. However, it would not be Biblical for me to encourage those feelings. I won't tell them they are "wrong" or "crazy" to feel that way, but neither will I affirm it is somehow "natural" or "normal".

However, despite all I have said to this point, if someone feels they are born in the wrong gender, if someone tells me they love someone of the same gender and want to spend their life with them, I will still treat them will all the respect and dignity I would accord to anyone else. They have every right to make their own choices. I will be happy to explain my own choices, and I will be happy to explain the Bible's position, but I will neither label them disparagingly nor treat them badly. Humans, regardless of any personal quirks or differences, are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect simply because they are human. And although the same is true of animals (or even aliens from distant planets if it comes to that), animals are not humans. I will not grant animals the same level of dignity as a human being. However, I do support current animal cruelty laws and will certainly report anyone who treats an animal badly. (As for how I would treat interstellar aliens, I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.)

LGBT lifestyle followers are human. I will not allow others to treat them as something less. If you make jokes at their expense I will neither laugh nor encourage you. If I find you beating someone up simply because they are LGBT and you perceive them to be deserving of a good beating, I will pull you off of them and give you the beating you were just giving them. If you harass them I will report you to the local authorities. If you vandalize their property I will help them get you arrested and sent off to prison. If they put gay marriage on the ballot I will vote against it. If it passes and they invite me to their wedding I will be happy to attend and I will even bring a gift. While I am there I will not launch into a sermon condemning their choice, not even if some fool tries to bait me into it. If one of my sons suddenly declares himself gay I will still love him and he will still be my son. If he chooses gender reassignment surgery I will try my very best to learn to think of her as a daughter. Last but not least, if through tragedy or divorce I wound up single again and not only found myself back in the pool of eligible bachelors but also found myself in a relationship with a post-transgender surgery woman I would treat her as a woman even though she was born a man. Respect and dignity are still respect and dignity. (I should probably add the caveat here that if I suddenly found myself single again I would not seek out a romantic relationship at all, therefore, it is extremely unlikely such a situation would ever arise in the first place. One lifelong love is enough and mine is one that I could never hope to replace.)

The short answer to how I feel about my relationship to Christ, the Bible, and the LGBT lifestyle is this:
People must be free to make their own choices. I will not play God. If they ask me what the Bible says about their choice I will tell them, but I won't pound it into them verbally or physically. It's their choice and their eternity. All I can do is report what I know and allow them to make their own choices.

October 08, 2014

Economic Magic

I'm getting a wee bit annoyed with Keynesian economists calling me "idiotic", "ignorant", or "illiterate". Seriously, folks, if you want to know what happened to "civil discourse" perhaps you should start by looking in the mirror.

We live in a global economy. Events on Wall Street affect the quality of life in a Nigerian slum while Islamic terrorists in Nigeria have a direct impact on Wall Street. That is a simple reality that most economists readily acknowledge regardless of which school they follow. Our world is completely interconnected. It does not matter if you or I or anyone else happens to like this simple fact, the fact itself does not change. Keynesian economics posits that by changing the tax rates, using debt to fund poverty relief, or some other economic witchery, a national government can magically gain control over this global monster. That is not science. That is simple old-school numerology. A numerologist believes that equations not only describe reality, they control reality, therefore by changing a number in the equation the numerologist can change reality. Well, I do apologize, but it just doesn't work that way. At least, not for very long.

Consider, for example, solar power. A Keynesian economist would have us believe that if the American government simply borrows enough money and pours it into solar power we can eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels. They ignore that fossil fuels have been the basis of multiple human societies for at least seven thousand years, and possibly longer. Evidence of coal burning has been uncovered in archaeology sites all over the world. Everywhere that coal can be found on or near the surface humans have used it to fuel their forges, heat their homes, and cook their food. No matter how hard we try to break away from coal it remains one of the most efficient, easy to use heat sources ever discovered. Those are simple facts that no amount of disgust with coal-based pollution can overcome. We can minimize coal burning by replacing it with cleaner burning natural gas in many circumstances but we cannot change the fact that as long as we can keep digging coal out of the ground people will keep finding reasons to burn it. The coal is there, it burns well, and it is easy to use and transport. Until we have exhausted it completely someone, somewhere is going to use it. Meanwhile, at last count nearly 50 Obama-backed Solar Companies were bankrupt or nearly bankrupt. Changing the equation does not change the reality.

"But what about the poor? Surely it is the duty of government to help the poor!"

A very long time ago the Earth's climate changed dramatically. A combination of changes in the sun, volcanic eruptions, the flooding of the Baltic Sea, and many other variables shifted the heat patterns of the world and the atmosphere began retaining a tiny bit more heat than it reflected. The polar ice caps melted. Tens of thousands of species went extinct. The planet began to warm. That warming trend continues right to this very day. And yes, there is considerable evidence that it might be gaining momentum, but that does not automatically mean humans burning fossil fuels is the cause. Volcanoes are still exploding, ocean tides are still shifting, the sun is still expanding, all of these things have a far more powerful impact on our climate than burning fossil fuels. The Centralia Mine Fire has been burning since it was ignited on the night of May 27, 1962. Environmentalists are quick to blame a team of Centralia firefighters who ignited some trash at the town landfill, however, no one has yet proven that the trash fire ignited the coal seam. More importantly, it does not matter if the trash fire is indeed to blame. The seam is burning and will continue to burn for another century, possibly for another two centuries. Every year the Centralia coal seam fire dumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other gases into the atmosphere. No one is quite sure how much, and the Centralia coal seam fire is only one of several known to be burning. These fires cannot be extinguished, so even if humanity completely eliminates industrial use of coal, millions of tons of carbon pollution will continue pouring into the atmosphere from these fires.

What does feeding the poor and providing them medical care have to do with global warming and unstoppable coal fires? Quite simply, everything. As the Earth began warming many of the species that went extinct were species humans depended on for food. Unable to produce enough food by hunting, many small groups began farming. Technology and techniques improved with practice and within a dozen or so generations humans were more dependent on some level of farming than they ever had been on hunting. The idea that until a few centuries ago most of the human race relied on hunting and gathering to eat is simply false. It's not based on fact. It is based on romantic notions about free-ranging ancestors and nomadic societies living at the very fringes of arable land. For at least twenty thousand years, the primary food source for humans in every corner of the globe with arable land has been farming. Dry-land grains or wet rice farming have been feeding us for nearly as long as we have been human. Grains were supplemented by meat either harvested, traded for, or raised, and that meat is vital to keeping our brains fully functional (clearly before we were hunting we were scavenging, and that is why our brain depends on a steady diet of meat). For at least 250,000 years we have depended on meat to keep our brains working and therein lies the problem.

No prehistoric human society existed that did not include consumption of meat. This simple fact has been verified through both archaeology and paleontology. For as long as we have been "human" we have needed meat. Control over meat determined social rank, leadership, problem-solving ability, creativity, tribute authority, trade wealth, and countless other facets of human society. Every "economy" humans have ever functioned under has involved some kind of meat, some kind of grains, and some kind of luxury items. Meat, grains, and luxury items are our human economy. Access to economic participation has always been determined by two things: resources and ambition. It is the combination of resources and ambition that makes some people succeed while others fail. Wealth is derived by transforming labor into one of two things: food or material goods. If a person has no food, they must either produce food or trade for food. In order to trade for food, a person must find or create something the person who has food is willing to trade for. Work and not money, is the basis of all real economic activity. Money is simply an easy way of trading my food for your material goods or vice versa. "Capital" is a concept that arose once we realized that "money" represented food, material goods, or labor. It simply abstracts an existing reality. Capital and the movement of capital is what economists describe. Regardless of how they label themselves or which school of economics they follow, the real-world subject of all their fancy equations is capital and "capital" is simply an abstract way of thinking about food, material goods, and labor.

And that is why I insist that Keynesian economics is not science. Keynesian economics ignores food, material goods, and labor. Keynesian economics only recognizes the abstraction, not the reality. That is why Keynesian economists are completely convinced that if they move a few numbers around they are changing reality. Well, they aren't changing reality, at least not for very long. The real world of food, material goods, and labor can be described mathematically. Economists of all schools are very good at describing the real world with numbers and equations. However, that does not give them any form of control over the food, material goods, and labor that are the real basis of human economic activity. It is possible to describe economic activity through mathematics, but it is not possible to control human economic activity through mathematics. There is one simple reason for this: numbers can't control people and people's choices are what create economic activity.