Freedom

January 31, 2018   5:32 pm

My family is traveling, with our home base in Cincinnati, Ohio this week. Yesterday, we got the opportunity to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the riverfront here in Cincinnati. It was sobering, uncomfortable, and inspiring - all at the same time.

Our 20/20 hindsight makes it difficult to understand how slavery was defended. Politicians defended it as right and necessary (and we think that awful politicians are a new invention…). Businessmen claimed it fueled the economy; and, in large part, they were correct. Scientists claimed that people of African descent were inferior; while they were often stronger and more resilient, they drew the short straw when it came to intelligence. That’s why owning them is OK. (Beware of “settled science”…) Even Africans themselves would raid other villages and tribes, capture people to sell to the white man, for their own financial gain.

That being said - the most uncomfortable part of this was how the preachers provided supposedly biblically-based cover for all this. Sermons were preached about the inferiority of those with darker skin, and how they are ordained by God to be subservient to the white man. (This was throughout North, Central, and South America - this isn’t just a U-S-of-A sin.)

Why was that uncomfortable? It’s no secret that I’m a Christian, recently coming on staff with my church. We, as Christians, must be sure that we faithfully divide the Word of Truth so that our ancestors do not look back on us with the same shame I felt when I heard my ancestors. They got it wrong - from the bottom to the top, point-blank, wrong. We are all made in the image of God, not a one of us more or less valuable or worthwhile than another. This does not mean that we completely capitulate to the current cultural zeitgiest, deciding that abortion is A-OK or that the clear prohibition of homosexual behaviors were somehow misconstrued. It means that we, as people of the Word, must make sure that when we stand up and say “thus saith the Lord,” that we’re correct.

The most sobering part of the museum had to be the “modern day slavery” section. I knew that slavery still existed under different names, but the prevalence statistics were quite sobering. (I didn’t memorize them, so I can’t quote them; suffice it to say, unless you’ve looked into it, it’s higher than you think.) We must ensure that, while we’re looking for the best deal, or the least expensive way to get something, that we’re not enabling modern-day slavery. From unfair labor practices (a big reason I’m against illegal immigration, BTW), to excessively cheap textiles, to service staff, to prostitution and pornography - the market for these things are the current demands that run the engine of modern-day slavery.

Now, apart from the statistics I mentioned in the last paragraph (and some of the details of the “regulated” slave trade), none of what I’ve mentioned above was new to me; it was just sobering (and good) to be reminded of it. I was also impressed with the even-handed display explaining the 3/5 compromise. (For those unaware, it was Southerners who wanted slaves counted as whole people; Northerners didn’t want them counted at all, but agreed to 3/5 to placate the South. It was about apportionment of seats as it related to proportional representation, not an indication of one’s humanity.) As with anything, there were a few places where this language was inappropriately applied, but all in all, I was greatly enriched from our visit there.

Let freedom ring; let us Christians amplify the sound, whether others use that freedom to choose the way we hope they would - or not.

2018 = Twenty Eighteen

January 22, 2018   11:07 pm

…not “Two Thousand Eighteen”…

Think about the years past…

  • 1492 = “fourteen ninety-two”
  • 1776 = “seventeen seventy-six”
  • 1984 = “nineteen eighty-four”

Now, we are eight years hence from 20xx where xx was a number with two digits. “Two thousand six” (4 syllables) is the same as “twenty oh six” or “twenty aught six” or “twenty and six” (though see the note at the end about “and”). However, “two thousand eighteen” (5 syllables) is longer than “twenty eighteen” (4 syllables).

I know we got on the “two thousand” thing with the “year 2000”, but it’s time to get back to pronouncing our years they way they should be pronounced.

Note on “and”: No number has the word “and” in it. 117 = One hundred seventeen; 8,402 = eight thousand, four hundred two (or four-oh-two, or eighty-four oh-two); and 5,332,012 = five million, three hundred thirty-two thousand, twelve. (That last one is another reason 2012 is “twenty twelve”; it disambiguates years from numbers in other contexts.) Therefore, “two thousand and eighteen” is right out.

Random Thoughts on Current Events II

December 1, 2017   6:19 am

These thoughts all center around issues related to the recently deluge of revelations regarding sexual misconduct.

Men should always treat women with respect. Women should always treat men with respect. However, to deny that we live in a world where what “should” and what “are” will never be aligned.

The vast majority, if not the totality of the current misconduct allegations, are against men. The vast majority (I can think of two exceptions in the past year) of teacher sexual misconduct allegations are against women. I’m surprised there haven’t been studies on this disparity; absent those, though, this does point to power as an enabling factor in these cases.

The oversexualization of our society has been a net loss. Even natural expressions of non-sexual friendship and love, such as hugs among friends or a parent kissing a child, are viewed as scandalous. Even a literal pat on the back for a job well done can be misconstrued, and playfulness is simply too great a risk. I fail to see how this is a good thing.

Mike Pence took a lot of ridicule over his stances regarding meetings with women. In nearly every one of these recent revelations, had the men involved had the same stance, we wouldn’t even be talking about this. We certainly wouldn’t be talking about hundreds of victims, mostly female or underage.

Along similar lines - there is one worldview that acknowledges women’s inherent vulnerability in these areas, and provides protection for them prior to marriage and freedom to seek fulfilment within it. It also enjoins men to be repectful, treating women to whom they are not married as they would their own sister and mother. It’s a shame it’s fallen out of favor among so many, who don’t realize the freedom one experiences when one is prevented from even being put in the situation of having to make a potentially devastating choice.

Finally, of course there are people who claim the above worldview and use it (or use the claim of it) to their own nefarious advantage. This brings us back to the first thought above. The existence of people who misuse or fail to live up to the ideal doesn’t mean that the ideal is flawed; it’s the people who are flawed.

Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017   10:47 am

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please take time today to thank the Lord for the many blessings He has provided. Thank your family for all that they’ve done for you, and thank your friends for their friendship. Take time to reminisce over particularly good times in your life. Enjoy the people around you, or fondly remember those who are no longer around. If you have the ability, do something nice for someone else; you’ll make an even better memory for next Thanksgiving.

Finally, resist the urge to catalog failures and shortcomings, and by all means - leave politics in the dumpster inferno where it currently resides. Who wants a dumpster fire at the dinner table, anyway?

I wish each of you a happy, relaxing, and joyous Thanksgiving!

Hollywood Hypocrisy

October 19, 2017   6:43 pm

No, this isn’t about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it’s called “acting.”) When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-facted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I’m surrounded by these people and I don’t want to rock the boat.

Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.

Guns

On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don’t even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)

Well, Hollywood - you’ve shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.

The Environment

Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn’t simple envy; I’d live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn’t claim that I’m saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logisitics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.

Actions speak louder than words; you say it’s a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.

Speaking of lining one’s pockets…

Income Inequality

Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it’s just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there’s really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.

It’s not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it’s medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it’s the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.

Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I’m not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.

There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…

Sexual Morality

We’ll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let’s look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it’s just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn’t apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?

Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood’s interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they’re either just straight titillation, or they’re done by characters for whom we’re now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.

The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It’s a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I’m glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don’t want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman’s womb?

Conclusion

I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it’s already longer than I’d set out to write, so I’ll wrap this up here. I’m glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here’s how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.

9/11, 16 Years Later

September 12, 2017   9:15 am

Yesterday marked 16 years since the al-Qaeda sucker-punch known as “9/11” reached our shores. We are now far enough out that, if you were to survey high school seniors, very few of them would be able to speak of memories of that day. In a way, that’s a good thing - even adults have trouble processing evil of that magnitude. In a way, though, that means that they’ve grown up with an ever-present threat of terrorism within our homeland; we have always been at war in the Middle East, and getting on an airplane has always been a tedious process.

As we observe this particular anniversary, we are a few days past the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall; we are watching Texas’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey last month; and we are watching Hurricane Irma thrash through Florida up into Georgia, having devastated several islands in the Caribbean on her way up. Katrina was blamed for 1,833 deaths, while Harvey currently stands at 70, and Irma is at 26. Of course, these numbers are adjusted when emergency workers are able to fully assess the aftermath; but both Harvey and Irma will have U.S. death tolls less than 10% of Katrina, despite Harvey bringing (unexpectedly) more water and Irma bringing way more wind. These lower death tolls are not just dumb luck. We have poured lots of resources into identifying the threats these hurricanes pose to our mainland and territories, and we can give warnings far further in advance than we could 12 years ago. We evacuate people in harm’s way, and we provide a strong law enforcement presence to protect the homes of those who evacuated.

What does that have to do with terrorism? The goal is the same - preservation of the lives of our citizens. To do that, we rely on intelligence to give us as much advanced warning as possible. We warn our citizens of danger, and we do our best to mitigate its effects. Unlike weather, we do have the capability to eliminate this threat before it makes landfall; however, like weather, sometimes unexpected shifts occur. In these intervening 16 years, we have had occasional attacks that have been carried out, but we’ve had others that have been thwarted before they could be. As this post-9/11 effort continues, approaching the 20-year mark, let’s continue to pray for those who are defending us. Pray for their success, for their safety, and for them to complete this mission honorably.

There is one other way in which terrorism and the 2017 hurricane season are similar. I think I speak for all of us when I say “No way, José…”

Random Thoughts on Current Events

August 22, 2017   8:50 pm

These thoughts all center around issues of our current discussions on race relations, Confederate memorials, etc.

People who are not neo-Nazis or white supremacists all believe that they hold to morally reprehensible views. White people who miss an incident and do not immediately decry it should not be assumed to be “with them.” Their numbers are quite small, and while they are being more vocal as of late, we should be thankful they are few.

Lots of folks are opposed to the concepts of “white power,” “white supremacy,” or “white pride.” Lots of folks also find it nearly as reprehensible when you change “white” to any other term. Diversity is great, but our current iteration seems to be focused on our differences more than our similarities; it should rather be focused on a richer unity.

You can believe the Bible, or you can be racist - not both. What part of “every tribe and nation” is unclear?

You can be against white supremacists, and against Antifa. You can even believe that we’d all be better off if everyone just stayed home and did things in a way that wouldn’t so easily escalate to violence. And, you can be assured that if you felt the president’s initial remarks were a strong rebuke, you’re not alone.

It would be a lot easier for some of us to be more vocal if we didn’t have this false duality, where to be against one “side” aligns yourself with other. The left has proved themselves the biggest group of sore winners in the world, and any sort of firm, quick “win” in this area will just embolden them to mob-rule their way on top of whatever the next grievous ill they determine. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” - yes, that’s why the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it…)

I do not believe that race relations, nationwide, are nearly as bad as they’re made out to be whenver these flash points arrive. Regular people should not buy into the divisiveness an excessive focus on these issues can bring; rather, we should each make positive steps to be friendly, understanding, and helpful. Seek out similarities, don’t point out differences.

The same people who sneeringly chide that Antifa is the good guys, because “you’re supposed to be anti-fascist,” don’t see to see the irony of massing against an event called a “free speech rally.” Of course, the main issues are a) just because you’re prone to violence doesn’t mean you’re legally allowed to stamp out fascists; and b) who decides who is a fascist? Ditto for the Southern Poverty Law Center and “hate groups;” their lists have long ago outstretched the credulity of any fair-minded individual.

I wonder if, now that our country has recently seen how distasteful racism is, if people understand why Tea Party members were so bothered by that same (proved unfounded) allegation? I wonder if anyone feels that they owe them an apology?

Racism is hate borne out of a lack of knowledge - at least, that’s the generally-accepted source. These same people who want Confederate memorials gone have also vandalized statues of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Christopher Columbus. Apparently the lack of education cuts both ways.

 

(Some of you may recognize this format as one used by the highly-esteemed and, sadly, now-retired Thomas Sowell. The above is an homage to him and his pithy insights he would share from time to time. Do a search for “thomas sowell random thoughts” if you want to be enlightened.)

In Their Own Words

August 16, 2017   9:58 pm

These seem appropriate today.

Abraham Lincoln:

We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.

Robert E. Lee:

…I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Maybe if we could all stop shouting and each other, and really think about what these mean, we’d find ourselves living in a better place.

(And - smile at someone tomorrow; and if someone smiles at you, smile back.)

Jekyll

February 4, 2017   1:00 pm

If you’re still perusing this site every so often, you’ve likely noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lot of any new stuff for over a year. Some of that was technical, but much of it has simply been life. Of course, in the time, I would need to make sure the server stayed up, and that the software behind it stays updated, to keep up with security and such.

As I was working on another project, I had some experience with Jekyll, a package that generates plain old HTML files. This means that there doesn’t need to be any special server software or database backing the site; once it is generated, the files are just served statically. As there is no dynamic aspect, there are no lurking security holes or constant updates. There also, as of now, are no comments, either those from the old pages, or new ones that can be entered. There are different techniques for that, but with the advent of social media interactions, blog comments may not be worth the spam-fighting efforts it takes to support them, or the time it takes to moderate them.

The site is now being generated using Jekyll. I won’t say that it will help me be able to post more; while I have some ideas of things I’d like to write, static HTML files don’t add hours to my day. :) But, the site generates on my development machine in about 30 seconds, and the job that checks for updates runs every 5 minutes, so we’ll see. It even produces an RSS feed, so you’ll still get updates that way.

Popesplaining

September 26, 2015   10:44 am

Has anyone coined the term “Popesplaining” yet? If not, allow me. (If so - well, hey, my server, my rules. Why am I asking for permission, anyway?)

Popesplaining (n.)

  1. A politically conservative Roman Catholic justifying the public papal positions that disagree with their political positions and/or established church theology.
  2. A politically liberal person, typically allergic to anything religious entering the public square, justifying the papal message that coincide with their political views, while failing to recognize his message as a theological one.

(Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan of either one.)