Monday, October 31, 2016

Voting Words

Early voting has been going on for a week already. We’re a week away from the end of this most unpleasant of all presidential campaigns ever. News out this weekend makes it appear certain that both major party candidates  ought to be in prison, rather than anywhere near the White House. Nevertheless, one of these two is likely to be our next president. It’s too awful to dwell on.

Today I’m just sharing a few words from the quote file on voting. I was surprised to see how many times I’d collected economist Thomas Sowell’s words on this topic. But there are other contributors as well.

Thomas Sowell
image from here


Without a sense of responsible citizenship, voters can elect leaders who are not merely incompetent or corrupt, but even leaders with contempt for the Constitutional limitations on government power that preserve the people's freedom.—Thomas Sowell, “Is Democracy Viable,” 3-1-2011

Politicians can solve almost any problem -- usually by creating a bigger problem. But, so long as the voters are aware of the problem that the politicians have solved, and unaware of the bigger problems they have created, political "solutions" are a political success.—Thomas Sowell, “Random Thoughts,” 10-17-2011

If you’re not paying attention, it’s your patriotic duty not to vote.—John Stossel, 1-12-2012

The cult of youth politics in this country, generally speaking from the left, is that young people, simply because they are eager and they are passionate, they must also be right. That is not a democratic understanding of politics. That is not a civilized understanding of politics.  Barbarians are enthusiastic and excited. Civilized people in a free society who take their citizenship seriously—they may be passionate, but they don’t simply vote on their passion. Or, if they do vote on their passion, their passion is informed by reason.—Jonah Goldberg (interview around 8-3-2012)

Let's stop and think, if only for the novelty of it.
—Thomas Sowell, “Entitlement Reforms,” 8-28-2012

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”—Adlai Stevenson quoted in “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire” in Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog 11-7-2012

All the opportunity for self-government through the rule of the people depends upon one single factor. That is the ballot box…. The people of our country are sovereign. If they do not vote they abdicate that sovereignty, and they may be entirely sure that if they relinquish it other forces will seize it, and if they fail to govern themselves some other power will rise up to govern them. The choice is always before them, whether they will be slaves or whether they will be free. The only way to be free is to exercise actively and energetically the privileges, and discharge faithfully the duties which make freedom. It is not to be secured by passive resistance. It is the result of energy and action….

Persons who have the right to vote are trustees for the benefit of their country and their countrymen. They have no right to say they do not care. They must care! They have no right to say that whatever the result of the election they can get along. They must remember that their country and their countrymen cannot get along, cannot remain sound, cannot preserve its institutions, cannot protect its citizens, cannot maintain its place in the world, unless those who have the right to vote do sustain and do guide the course of public affairs by the thoughtful exercise of that right on election day.—Calvin Coolidge

If you don’t understand the issues, but want to do your patriotic duty, then stay home on election night, whether in the primaries or in the national election in November. Uninformed voters turn elections into a game of playing Russian roulette with the future of America.—Thomas Sowell, “Grow Up!” 2-1-2016 

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, October 6, 1774

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility and he betrays the interest of his country.—Noah Webster

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered. If we’re compassionate, we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.—Penn Jillette

Govern wisely, and as little as possible—Sam Houston

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”—Thomas Paine

A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.—C.S. Lewis

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gearing Up for the Legislative Session

During the past several legislative session, some friends from the local Tea Party and I have done some citizen lobbying at the local state representatives’ and senator’s offices. In Texas the legislature meets January to June every odd year, so there’s a session coming up. I’m in the process of gathering the ideas we’d like them to be thinking about. And since some of the bill numbers will start being assigned in about a month, I’m drafting a heads-up letter, to let them know what issues we hope they’ll support. This is only a draft so far; I’ll be asking for feedback from the Tea Party, to see if I’m missing anything crucial, or to see if the issues I include resonate with others. Anyway, here’s the communication:

Dear Legislator,

It’s time to start thinking about the upcoming Texas legislative session, and I know you’re already working on legislation.

During the past several sessions, those of us in the Cypress Texas Tea Party have been following bills, and letting you know what our interests are. I expect we’ll be visiting your local office during the session, as in the past, and talk with your staff. But this year we thought we would start early and let you know the issues important to us—even before there are bill numbers to attach to them.

Right now, this is my assessment and opinion, as the legislative liaison for our Tea Party. Some of our members may differ or have additional/other priorities, which we’ll share with you in our later visits.

Principles of Cypress Texas Tea Party

·         We support the US Constitution and conservative principles in the Texas Constitution.
·         We support low taxes and limited government spending and oppose ever having a state income tax.
·         We support handling each issue at the most local authority possible—with individual and family decisions as the default authority.
·         We support asserting 10th Amendment states’ rights against usurpation by federal government.
o   We particularly oppose allowing national health care to be imposed on the people of Texas.
·         We support parental rights in the education and upbringing of their children, including local control over spending and curriculum in public schools.
·         We do not as a group endorse candidates, but we provide a platform for sharing information so our members can make informed decisions; individual members may endorse, work for, or become candidates.

These have been our principles since we began in 2010. Issues and policies may change, but we expect to continue to encourage you to work toward freedom, prosperity, and civilization here in Texas.
I’ll present the specific issues we’re interested in under several categories.

State and Citizen Rights Preservation.

Our individual and state rights have been infringed upon by an intrusion and controlling federal government, in direct contrast to guarantees in the US Constitution. There should be several levels of effort toward returning to freedom. First is asserting the 9th and 10th Amendments. If a law or regulation oversteps the bounds of the enumerated powers of the federal government, it is up to the states to stand up against the unjust law. Texas is one of the few states large enough and powerful enough to take such a stand.
Among issues that fall into this category are:

·         The Affordable Care Act
·         Refusal to protect the border/Refusal to enforce immigration laws
·         Enforced acceptance of Middle Eastern refugees without adequate vetting
·         Anything related to education coming from the federal government
An additional effort toward freedom is a Convention of the States. We appreciate that Governor Abbott is leading in this multi-state effort with The Texas Plan. As Governor Abbott explains, “The Texas Plan is not so much a vision to alter the Constitution as it is a call to restore the rule of our current one.”

Within the plan, the Governor says, “The Constitution itself is not broken. What is broken is our nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution.” So the purpose of a Convention of the States is to adjust course back to the Constitution. We encourage you to help this idea make it through the legislature this session, so that Texas will be ready to lead other states in this effort.

The most drastic approach to federal tyranny is what we might call Texit—a withdrawal from the United States because the contract of the Constitution has been broken. As in a marriage, the United States are intended to be indivisible, but also as with a marriage there are terms to the covenant that must be kept.
When this issue came up in our senatorial district platform committee, I recommended that we modify the language with an if/then-type statement:

Texas Independence Again! – Should the federal government fail to abide by the 10th Amendment and the rest of the United States Constitution, Texas should hold a referendum asking the people of Texas to decide on whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.
It is the first time this proposal has appeared in the state GOP platform. And at the time we worked on it in the senatorial district, our Senator Ted Cruz was still a strong contender to be our presidential candidate. But the modified language did not remain in the state platform. While the presidential outcome is still unknown, it is highly likely that the Constitution will be ignored, the Supreme Court will fail to uphold the Constitution, and infringements against our freedoms will intensify during the next administration. It may be time to take this idea seriously, and allow the people of Texas to make such a crucial decision.

Immigration and Homeland Security

We appreciate legal immigration. Nevertheless, we still care about border security and illegal immigration, and we’re against sanctuary cities. As mentioned above, we’re concerned about being forced to accept refugees who haven’t been vetted—and we do not trust the federal government to do adequate vetting. We appreciate Governor Abbott’s strong stance on this issue.

One infrastructure concern we’d like you to address is hardening the electric grid. Texas has its own independent grid, so, regardless of the federal government’s lack of action on this vulnerability, Texas can protect its own grid. Costs are relatively low for reaching the minimum levels needed to protect the grid from an electromagnetic pulse (EMT) from either a solar flare or an atmospheric nuclear bomb detonation. Failure to prepare could lead to dire results. I wrote about this here: If you need more information to take on this issue with knowledge, there’s a short book by Frank Gaffney, published by the Center for Security Policy, called Guilty Knowledge: What the US Government Knows about the Vulnerability of the Electric Grid, But Refuses to Fix. For updates and more information, try their website

Marriage and Religion Protection

In this category, the federal government and the Supreme Court have far overstepped their powers by redefining what a marriage is—and enforcing that new definition on all the states. They have further attempted to infringe on our religious freedoms, and even to make that claim that asserting religious freedom rights as guaranteed in the First Amendment is simply a cover for bigotry. That false narrative must be resisted!

We have previously passed a Pastor Protection Act. We need similar protection for individual citizens and private organizations, so that Texans will not be coerced by a tyrannical government to act against their religious beliefs. We also need to reassert the state of Texas’s right to define marriage without federal interference.

An additional concern this legislative session will be protection against the administration’s attempts to force all public buildings and schools to allow biological males to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms. This misguided attempt to accommodate the extremely small demographic of transgenders creates an opportunity for sexual predators, and disallows women and girls from expressing their discomfort without accusations of bigotry. Texas needs to stand strong against this federal overreach.

Education/Parental Rights

We’re in favor, once again, of the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act. This is to protect fit parents from the risk of losing custody of their children. This often occurs when extended family, such as grandparents, sue for court-imposed visitation or custody, often because they disagree with the grandchildren being homeschooled or being raised in a religion the grandparents disapprove of. Again, these are fit parents, losing custody of their children, or being drained of their income—at times in excess of $1 million—to defend themselves in one case after another. Every time such a case has reached the Texas Supreme Court, the parents have won. But lower courts have continued to allow this injustice to continue.

It is a basic principle that parents have the right and responsibility to see to the care, education, and upbringing of their own children. Only when parents are unfit should this right be questioned.

We will also support, once again, UIL participation by homeschoolers and other private schoolers, referred to as the Tim Tebow Bill the past couple of sessions. UIL was originated in 1913, when most students in Texas were homeschooled or privately schooled. Six decades later the rules changed to deprive non-public school students from participating. We believe participation for all students should be restored.

There’s a new issue this year that we hope you will support: Educational Savings Accounts. This is a way of incorporating competition and free-market principles in education. Without spending additional money per student, more options open up, and competition may bring on more options and lower costs. Power is placed in the hands of the parents, to design the education that works best for their child, and money stays with the child, so unspent funds can be used the next year or eventually for college. This is already being done in Arizona and other states with surprising success. The Heritage Society and The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice have been studying this issue and recommending how best to implement this for the most students in Texas. I wrote about this issue here: 


The Courts have interfered, yet again, with Texas’s efforts to protect life of both mothers and the unborn, by preventing Texas from requiring clinics from meeting basic surgical center standards. That is unfortunate. But the part of HB2 that prohibited abortion after 20 weeks, when unborn babies are known to experience pain, was upheld.

We believe it would be beneficial to also prohibit abortions that dismember the fetus. Such abortions not only cause additional pain to the fetus, they also cause greater risk, from puncture, or from failure to fully extract all part of the fetus, leading to infection. Such laws have been enacted and upheld elsewhere, and are a logical next step for Texas.

Free and Fair Elections

The Courts have interfered with Texas’s Voter ID Law. It may be possible to retry this effort by addressing whatever failure the Courts claim the law had. We must be able to prevent voter fraud, and some form of photo ID is still a logical and fair step toward that end.

We are against efforts to implement online voting, or any other type of voting that may encourage voter fraud. We are in favor of better safeguards for elderly who vote by mail, to prevent operatives from voting for people who have no say in their vote, or who are coerced or unduly influenced.

We discourage efforts toward a return to paper ballots, which are much more easily compromised by fraud. We encourage requirements to purge voter rolls of those who have moved or died, or who are fraudulently registered.

We encourage efforts to improve security of the ballot, and training of poll workers and poll watchers, so that Texas may be exemplary in voter integrity.

Thank you so much for all the work you do. We look forward to meeting with you during the upcoming legislative session.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Truth Be Told

A week or so ago I spent part of a post talking about Obamacare. Since news on it came out this past week, it might be time to do that in a little more detail.

The challenge I’m looking at is a matter of parallel realities. There are those of us who love truth, and prefer to face the truth and deal with it, even when it’s not ideal, rather than pretend a problem isn’t there.

And then there are those we might call relativists. They don’t like the truth. And they philosophically convince themselves that truth isn’t really a thing; it’s relative. Your truth might not be my truth. We all have our own realities.

If someone wants to live in a fantasy world, that is their choice. The problem comes when they start imposing their fantasy world on the rest of us.

There are stories this week about Obamacare and its serious problems, which show a lot of data, and ring true, because so many of us have been affected, or know many people who have been affected.

And these contrast with other stories about how Obamacare has fulfilled its promises, and has made major steps toward solving everyone’s health care issues in the country—which are at odds with the facts, the data, and the anecdotal stories all of us have encountered.

Let’s start with some facts. Guy Benson comments on a USA Today piece, collecting a lot of the information. This first chart, provided by USA Today, shows the average percentages of rate hikes in the various states.

Image found here

The best off states (all big-government bastions) still have hikes. Which means that Obama was not telling the truth about everyone averaging a rate cut of $2500. That hasn’t happened in any year of Obamacare; rates have always risen. Some states are rising half again as much—just this year.
As Benson describes it,

Based on that chart, only a small handful of states will have the supposed 'good fortune' of experiencing single-digit hikes.  The vast majority will experience cost surges in the double-digits, with roughly half of all states getting slammed with increases of at least 20 percent.  Time magazine reviews the eight states where consumes will suffer the most next year, where regulators have imposed rate jumps of at least 30 percent.  The piece's opening sentence says it all: "The Affordable Care Act is getting a lot less affordable for many Americans."
The reason for the hikes isn’t, in these cases, because insurance companies are greedy; the reason is that the companies are required to stay solvent, because otherwise they shut down and all their customers lose service. Which happens to be a side-effect of Obamacare predicted by the reality-and-data side.

Benson continues,

Meanwhile, many Arizonans find themselves in Obamacare's crosshairs, getting rocked by the double-whammy of soaring costs and dwindling-to-nonexistent choices.
Millions of Americans lost their coverage in 2013, the year it was implemented, contrary to Obama’s pledge. The losses continue. This year an additional million lost their coverage.

If you start with the original premise, the Affordable Care Act was to make sure that some 30 million who, at that time, were estimated to be without insurance could get it. The idea was that those who had coverage could keep it. Costs would be lower. Choices would be greater. And policies would cover more.
People who do math pointed out the impossibility of those claims. People who read the Constitution pointed out the loss of freedom—if your government can force you to buy a product, at ever increasing prices, what can’t they force you to do?

So here we are with this growing mess. The “open enrollment” for this year begins November 1st, so word about the price hikes and loss of choices ought to be front and center in the news.

Instead, Obama gives a speech in which he glowingly reports on his signature “accomplishment,” with mainly lies—or fantasies, if you prefer to believe your nation’s leader is only delusional rather than purposely deceitful.

A fact-checking piece by Melissa Quinn, for The Daily Signal, listed several of the statements that are pretty easily refuted by fact. Quinn lines up each of these statements against the truth. But, as an example, let’s take a look at number 5: “Most people today can find a plan for less than $75 a month at the marketplace when you include the tax credits that the government is giving you.”

Here is Quinn’s response:

Earlier this month, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said that consumers who purchase plans on the exchange and receive a subsidy may see monthly premiums of less than $75. The president echoed Burwell’s statement Thursday.
However, of the 17.3 million people who purchase plans sold in the individual market in 2015, 7.3 million received subsidies that lowered the cost of their health insurance. Another 10 million consumers did not qualify for financial assistance.
Those consumers, experts say, are going to be hit the hardest by premium increases. In Missouri, for example, one Kansas City resident will see his monthly premiums rise to $716 each month.
It would be nice to be able to compare like to like. How many of the uninsured prior to Obamacare are now insured at rates they can afford? How many who had insurance they were satisfied with before the ACA have lost it? How many now remain without coverage—at risk of the serious fine, which is less a burden to them than the cost of the “affordable” care?

My guess is that the negatives—loss of coverage, loss of their choice of doctors, and skyrocketing costs—affect more than the original number of those the law purported to help.

It is an axiom that when government goes beyond its proper role, there will be negative unintended consequences, and they will likely be the exact opposite of the stated purpose. So, affordable care means less care, and less affordable.

Glenn Beck has been doing a 4-part audio series this week on socialized medicine, calling Obamacare the “Lie of the Year.” This lie that has been spreading across the world and failing for decades.

There is a difference between coverage and care. It was government interference in the first place that caused insurance to become more than coverage for extraordinary expenses, and covered more everyday expenses, separating customer from the cost, and thereby raising costs, until it appeared that only those with insurance could afford basic care.

More government is not the solution. More free market—that is where the solutions are. Free market, combined with philanthropy for those who are truly in need and unable to pay. A good, generous people, with the freedom to be giving because they are in control of spending their own accumulated wealth—that is the way to provide everyone with needed care. 

Limiting freedom, coercion, redistribution—those are all the old, failed solutions that always lead to tyranny, poverty, and savagery. Speaking falsehoods or fantasies does nothing to provide care in the real world.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Good Clean Fun

Sometimes life is about looking at the really good things, and tuning out some of the not so good or really bad.

I’ve learned that in eating. (Someday maybe I’ll do a food blog.) My limitations, because of food sensitivities, are extreme. Way beyond paleo. Social eating is troublesome; it usually consists of me doing some preventive eating beforehand (so I won’t starve), and then me standing around while others eat in front of me. Sometimes I get to eat a dry carrot stick or plain strawberry.

And yet, I find my food delicious, colorful, and usually satisfying. And I’ve been doing this long enough that my illness situation is what you’d call under control. I do a lot, mostly in private, to maintain my health. But because I do it, I am more free, and in many ways more healthy, than many people my age (upper 50s). I’m not overweight. My blood pressure hangs out around 110/70. And I’m mostly pain free. I was playing volleyball until three years ago (not especially well, but as a contributing player on the team). And I can get a lot done in the hours I’m awake and active.

There are additional restrictions in my life. We’re Mormon. We don’t drink alcohol, do drugs, smoke tobacco, or even drink coffee and tea. We don’t go to R-rated movies (provisos here; the movie rating system doesn’t determine our obedience, but that’s a guideline that describes our limitations relatively well). We don’t hang out at bars. We do a lot of family friendly stuff—even when the kids are not around.

The question used to come up a lot, with our teens and their friends, about this dichotomy between being good and having fun. And it was our goal to show them that being good is fun—more fun than being bad.

That’s the point of today’s post. Civilization isn’t a matter of restricting ourselves from a lot of normal behavior that we disapprove of. It is a matter of choosing—and making/keeping normal—a lot of behavior that fills our lives in better ways—giving us more happiness, more joy, even more fun.
A couple of examples showed up recently, in entertainment.

One is a new sitcom called Kevin Can Wait. It’s the story of Kevin Gable (played by Kevin James), who has just retired after 20 years on the police force—along with three of his buddies who also just retired. His attempts at enjoying retirement present comic situations—as do his interactions with his family.

I’m a long-time Kevin James fan. He’s funny, human, and generally clean, in an entertainment world that is typically otherwise. This show impressed me the first week. There’s something the college-age daughter wants to tell her father, and the mom advises her to wait until after church on Sunday, because then she’s got a few hours while her dad is trying really hard to be a better person.

It’s a casual mention—as though going to church on Sunday is a totally normal part of life. It is, for a majority of Americans, but these normal churchgoers are rarely portrayed in Hollywood entertainment, and even more rarely as normal people. So that was a plus.

The college-age daughter, Kendra, announces that she is engaged, and dropping out of school to support her future husband. The parents intervene and find a better solution. She can move back home, work part-time, and attend the local college. And the fiancĂ©, Chale (a British-accented sensitive type very unlike Kevin), is invited to live in the garage and pursue his goals as well. It’s a sacrifice for Kevin, who was going to use that garage apartment as a rental to supplement their income, and he ends up having to do some security work.

I wasn’t sure at first whether the engaged couple was moving into the garage, or just the fiancĂ©. But in a later episode, Kendra is complaining about sharing a room with her younger sister, and suggests that, because they’re engaged, it would make sense for her to move into the garage. Her dad says no. They’re engaged, not married. His house; his rules. And no one even thinks to argue further.

This is normal. More normal, more typical, than what is portrayed in most of our entertainment.

And the typical things that happen in the show are funny. In the second episode, Kevin has a shoulder pain that causes him to have to sleep on a different side, so that he’s facing his wife. She’s sleeping with her eyes partly open and only the white showing. She’s a very attractive wife (so maybe one detail not quite as realistic as the rest of us), but she looks pretty frightening that way. It was a funny moment in a show of one funny moment after another. It’s on Monday nights on CBS.

Another of my favorite shows is Studio C, which just started its seventh season. This is a comedy sketch show, similar to Saturday Night Live, with an ensemble cast. But absolutely clean. It’s available on BYUTV, if you get that in your TV lineup, or online at And their sketches are also available individually on their YouTube channel.

They started as an on-campus improv group. (Daughter Social Sphere knew one of them, when they were resident assistants the same year.) Then Matt Meese approached BYU Studios and pitched the idea of a sketch comedy show. And it turned out they could make a living doing this thing they did for fun.

Several of their sketches have gone viral online. One was soccer goalie Scott Sterling, whose face is what hits the ball—again and again. (That’s Matt Meese playing Scott Sterling.)


Another of their viral series was the three-part Hunger Games videos:

·         Peeta’s Song
·         Gale’s Song
·         Katniss’s Song

Can we all just admit, the Hunger Games world was very much in need of some comic relief?
In the comedy world, a couple of other options are BrianRegan, and Jim Gaffigan.

The question most often asked of comedians who do clean stuff is why? What makes them determined to do it that way? And they have to explain what ought to be obvious—there’s an awful lot of humor out there, in our normal lives, our family lives, among us human beings, that doesn’t require profanity, sexual innuendo (or explicitness), or anything degrading.

We can live in a civilized world and enjoy it. Who knew? Not only is it possible, it’s more probable to live happy, fun, joy-filled lives in the Civilization Zone than in the Savagery Zone.

And we don’t want to keep it a secret. As they say as a theme on BYUTV, let’s “share the good in the world.”

Monday, October 17, 2016


Saturday before last I was at the local Tea Party meeting. We hear from candidates and speakers at these meetings. And then, at the end, we just discuss whatever is on our minds. One of the things on everyone’s mind that weekend was the audio recording of Trump saying vile things about women, which most of us have heard too much of, and too much about. One man brought up the subject, and he was pretty disgusted, and concerned that such comments could reflect badly on any Republican man.

A woman who attends regularly spoke up. She said men talk like that. She’s been married to a cop for several decades, and she hears that kind of talk all the time. It’s just talk. Locker room talk. All men do it.

The first man said, “I hope you don’t think we all do.” And our president, a good Christian man, agreed with him; they don’t talk like that—ever. The first man said maybe some of them talked badly in junior high locker rooms, but they’d all left that behind at about age 12.

I appreciated his standing up for good men. And I’m puzzled by the woman who thought that kind of talk is acceptable.

It is uncivilized. You cannot expect someone to lead people toward civilization if they are mired in savagery.

I grew up in a relatively civilized time and place. I rarely heard profanity spoken around me. I was an adult before I heard the f-bomb spoken in my presence. It was a coworker at my summer job, who used it frequently. It shook me, because it was so against propriety, and he didn’t seem to care. Without my making any comment, our boss reminded him not to talk that way in my presence. He tried, off and on, to control himself, but it slipped out anyway.

I don’t remember anyone talking locker room talk around me while I was young. And I grew up with brothers, and their friends, who made very little effort to make me comfortable around them, or to convince me they were anything but typical bad boys. But they wouldn’t have said things like that in my hearing. Even teenage boys knew, back then, not to do and say certain things in the presence of children and women. Outside of entertainment and reading, I have still had almost no one use that kind of profanity around me.

Trump is half a generation older than I am, so he ought to be aware of propriety, but he seems to lack that sensitivity.

Some of the conversation the week that followed has been about the sanctimonious former supporters who claim this audio from eleven years ago was a bridge too far. Now that they see who this man really is, they withdraw their support.

And then others point out that, among these shocked people are multitudes of women who have read Fifty Shades of Gray. Which is supposed to mean they do not have the moral authority to condemn Trump for his filthy talk. Some people even argue that, in Trump’s case, it is only talk, not actual sexual assault, like Bill Clinton committed. And then accusations from women start appearing, some of them credible.

Maybe some instruction about civilization is needed—again.

I have not read Fifty Shades of Gray. But I am an avid reader, so of course I have looked into what it is about. No, it would never be something I would choose to read. Not a chance. Among the many reasons is that it is purported to be a book encouraging combining sadism and sex, with neither commitment nor love—and leading the woman (and women readers) to believe that somewhere in that savagery, there might be some sort of exciting version of true love, which they yearn for. In other words, it is a lie—a very ugly one. You don’t find civilization by wallowing in savagery.

It is an equally ugly lie that men get to view women as objects, and that they are entitled to more objectifying sex acts against women if they are rich or powerful. Both of the main presidential candidates apparently believe this, and live out the belief. Former President Bill Clinton is at least as vile in his behavior toward women, and Hillary has attacked the women who have attempted to stand up for themselves and call him out.

There is no civilization there.

Among the discussion has been a fallacy aimed at Christians, about avoiding judgment. After all, we’re all flawed human beings. This is probably worth devoting a number of Sunday sermons or lessons to. But I’ll try to be brief here.

Judging is about unrighteously condemning a person—assuming you have that power instead of God. You can’t know a person’s heart, their efforts toward or away from the good, because you don’t know the total background that has led them to where they are. Judging, in this sense, is discarding a person as irredeemable, refusing to allow the atonement to apply in their lives.

There’s a better term for what is happening with Trump (or either Clinton): discernment.
Discernment is perception, understanding, insight. It is accurately judging based on a broad and deep body of evidence.

From my old Websters New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition

Discernment is what we use when we decide who to date and marry. If you’re a teenage girl, it might be true that you don’t really know a person until you’ve spent time with them, but you still don’t get on a motorcycle behind a greasy, smelly stranger on the off chance he might turn out to be just the person you want to be father to your future children. (I once had this contrast put to me, when the answer to me seemed obvious, because I used discernment, but not to the foolish younger teen girl who took off with that guy.)

You use discernment to decide who to spend time with as friends, who to associate with in church and community.  

Discernment is how you decide who to hire. You collect the data—the resume, the portfolio, the recommendations. You interview. You don’t say, “Well, he talks about women as sex objects, he lies, he brags, and does other things I might consider unethical and would never do, but we’re all flawed and I don’t want to judge, so I’ll go ahead and hire him.” 

You don’t do that. You use all the information you can get, and then you use discernment to make a good hiring decision. An election is exactly that—a hiring decision.

Judging a person is between you and God—you’re telling God whether He should condemn a person, in this life and the next, based on your ideas of right and wrong. There are a lot of people about whom you can withhold judgment, people you can pull for to improve, to come to the side of light. But you still wouldn’t hire them, or invite them to date your daughter.

If you thought Trump was an ideal representative of the Republican Party, with its long-standing history of conserving liberty, prosperity, and civilization, until this audio leak—then you weren’t using discernment during the Primary process, or since.

If there’s one thing we need more of right now—at every level of the election, and in our news sources and entertainments—it is discernment.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Voting and Econ Lesson

One of the best pieces I’ve read recently is Mike Rowe, theDirty Jobs guy’s response to someone who encouraged him to use his platform to encourage voting—to Get Out the Vote.

Mike Rowe
image from here

I wrote a piece about whether to GOTV just before the 2012 election, which seems even more necessary this year. I’m in agreement with Mike Rowe. Here is part of his response:

Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. I also share your concern for our country, and agree wholeheartedly that every vote counts. However, I’m afraid I can’t encourage millions of people whom I’ve never met to just run out and cast a ballot, simply because they have the right to vote. That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms. I would need to know a few things about them before offering that kind of encouragement. For instance, do they know how to care for a weapon? Can they afford the cost of the weapon? Do they have a history of violence? Are they mentally stable? In short, are they responsible citizens?
And he continues:

Voting is a right, not a duty, and not a moral obligation. Like all rights, the right to vote comes with some responsibilities, but let’s face it—the bar is not set very high. If you believe aliens from another planet walk among us, you are welcome at the polls. If you believe the world is flat, and the moon landing was completely staged, you are invited to cast a ballot. Astrologists, racists, ghost-hunters, sexists, and people who rely upon a Magic 8 Ball to determine their daily wardrobe are all allowed to participate. In fact, and to your point, they’re encouraged.
The undeniable reality is this: our right to vote does not require any understanding of current events, or any awareness of how our government works. So, when a celebrity reminds the country that “everybody’s vote counts,” they are absolutely correct. But when they tell us that “everybody in the country should get out there and vote,” regardless of what they think or believe, I gotta wonder what they’re smoking.
What we need are better voters, so we don’t get the intolerable choices we got stuck with this election. He suggests:

I can’t personally encourage everyone in the country to run out and vote. I wouldn’t do it, even if I thought it would benefit my personal choice. Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process. So if you really want me to say something political, how about this—read more.
Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with Economics in One Lesson. Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.
He continues with a couple of paragraphs about the right and responsibility of informed voting. And then he concludes with this:

In the meantime, dig into Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. It sounds like a snooze but it really is a page turner, and you can download it for free.
So, thank you, Mike Rowe, for using your celebrity to share wisdom, yet again.

That’s two mentions, in one short piece of Economics in One Lesson, which I happened to start th anniversary edition from 1996. The original was written in 1946. It’s amazing that words written 70 years ago seem so current today.
reading a couple of days earlier. I’m only a few chapters into it yet, but he’s right that it is quite readable, and under 200 pages. It has been on my list of stuff to read for several years—and actually on my shelf, waiting to be read for a few months. I have a used paperback, 50

There’s a premise the book makes early on, explaining why so many economic efforts go awry. This is from page 1:

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.
In this lies the whole difference between good economics and bad. The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of a proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad economist sees only what the effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good economist inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups.
Here at the Spherical Model we have a similar saying about unintended consequences:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
I’m sure I’ll want to refer to Hazlitt’s book more as I read to the end, but I think this is going to be a main theme. And I want to quickly apply it to one example: Obamacare, or the inaptly named Affordable Care Act.

When the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments about whether the government had the power to compel citizens to buy a product or service, there was discussion about how healthy young people were getting away with lower costs, or going without insurance, which was unfair to older or chronically ill people. The only way to lower their costs was to bring in a lot of healthy people who would not need the coverage, to even out the risks, and the costs. There was an assumption that the government ought to have the power to even out life’s unfairness.

But, just as Hazlitt suggests, the group that needed lower cost insurance because they would make more use of it is only one group. If you focus only on the goal of solving their issue, you might end up doing harm to other—maybe every other—groups in society.

If there is a time for a person to choose to pay for health care out of pocket, it might be when that person is young and healthy. Such a person might still want catastrophic coverage, or might want to risk not having it. But if this young person is at the beginning of a career, and making only $15 an hour, he is probably not going to appreciate being forced to pay $1000 a month for coverage he doesn’t want or need, just because some older (and probably wealthier) person wants his coverage subsidized.

And, of course, as it turned out, you don’t get to keep your doctor; you don’t get to keep your coverage; and costs have skyrocketed—even for the group government was targeting to help in that SCOTUS conversation. (Michelle Malkin offer her personal experience in this piece.)

How did we get here? By electing leaders who get the attention of various factions by promising them things—and by voters who fall for it.

So, I’m with Mike Rowe: go vote, if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, stay away from the polls. If you want to get ready for future elections, read. Start with Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.