Thursday, August 30, 2018

Evil Is Real

I was planning a different post for today, about belief in God, and good and evil. But a couple of stories have come to my attention that seem to be asking me to write about them. So I will be talking about evil, but except for the good of combating evil, I’ll have to save talking about the good for another day.

The first thing is a news story from here in Houston. Governor Greg Abbott had posted the story, which I had missed elsewhere in the Houston Chronicle. The headline is “69 suspects arrested on sex trade charges by the Houston Police Department Vice Division.” The suspects, according to the news story, were arrested between the first of June and the end of July, charged with either compelling prostitution or soliciting prostitution. The photos are shown, in an effort to both raise awareness and shame the suspects, perhaps making another perpetrator think before getting involved in such an act.

Among the suspects were a community college professor and a former Baptist church director.

There’s a link to an additional story from last Friday, from even closer to home: “12 charged in north Harris County prostitution sting.” Eleven were arrested and one was still at large but expected to be arrested, following a two-day sting, timed for the beginning of the school year, near area schools and the Willowbrook mall.

Again, the photos are included to both raise awareness and warn off any potential future criminals. The officer giving the press conference said it’s an honor to serve the community in this way, getting these criminals off the streets.

Besides these local stories, I saw a video interview between Tony Robbins and Tim Ballard. Ballard is the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children from human trafficking. He has a new book out, Slave Stealers, telling his story, and the story of the organization. I’ve written about him before. I’ve heard him speak in person. I know someone, a young man who was my daughter’s prom date about a decade ago, who has gone with Ballard on a rescue mission. Ballard’s work and his goodness are very real.

This video is about 36 minutes. But it’s worth it. It may be the most inspiring thing you see today.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a documentary about O.U.R. worth seeing. At the end of the first part (Operation Toussaint, about an hour and a half long) Tim Ballard will let you know what you can do to help. 

It’s hard for me to grasp that this evil could exist among us. Raising awareness is a small step toward wiping out this evil. I thank God that good people have the ability and feel the calling to fight this savage evil.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Tribalism vs. Truth

Last Friday, August 24th, the editorial board opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle said some things that I would normally just ignore, because I know the editorial board is biased in a way that doesn’t align with my beliefs. But sometimes it’s worth taking a look at how the other side thinks—and try to figure out why they think that way.

Here’s a section of the piece; I’ve highlighted a portion I want to talk about:

Yes, President Obama lied when he continued to say you could keep your health plan. He was wrong, but he did it to help millions of Americans get heath insurance.
But Trumps lies are wrong, the piece goes on to say, because they are for his own purposes. I don’t know if the editorial writer recognizes it, but he/she just said, “Lying is OK if your purpose aligns with what we on our side want. Lying is not OK if your purpose doesn’t align with what we on our side want.”

I would like to note that, while Trump’s lies are supposedly so plentiful, the editorial doesn’t list a single one in the entire piece. I’m sure there are some, especially if you’re someone who reads his every stylistic superlative as a literal lie, and yet the only actual lie listed is Obama’s, for comparison. And the lies the editorial writer is telling. Such as this one:

The presidential candidate who chanted “lock her up!” about an opponent who stored sensitive email on a home server has now been implicated in an actual crime.
In actual truth, Hillary Clinton committed a felony when she purposely put classified material on her private, unsecure server. The basic facts tell us that.[i] Those who have held security clearances all know this. Intent is not required, even though that is what Comey used as the excuse for not indicting her. And even though intent in this case was very likely provable.

But there is no indictment, or pending indictment, of President Trump for campaign fraud. Even if his former lawyer ends up facing charges, the incident is much less egregious than the John Edwards case, which ended in a hung jury. Not everything that tangentially could affect public opinion is necessarily part of a campaign. Nor is there any evidence of colluding with Russia to commit voter fraud, which was supposedly the reason for the special counsel investigation in the first place.

I don’t want to be put in the position of defending a person who is covering up for sex with a porn star so his wife doesn’t find out. Even though she probably knows. And even though the “billionaire playboy” image was well known to voters before the election. That behavior is disgusting and anathema to civilized men. Almost as savage as diddling an intern in the oval office, one might say—although actually doing it while president still strikes me as more egregious.

Further, a campaign finance violation committed by an employee is probably part and parcel of every major political campaign—because the laws are convoluted and unevenly applied. But when they are applied, the usual remedy is a fine, probably taken out of campaign funds, not removal from office. Unlike the usual remedy for leaving classified materials in unsecured locations: “Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”[ii]

So there seems to be a disconnect regarding truth and facts.

The Wednesday, August 22nd, opinion page of the Houston Chronicle featured a piece by Paul Krugman, who is also worthy of being dismissed, based on his past commentary. But I’ll use this one as a sample today. His piece is titled, “The Orwellification of the GOP didn’t start with Trump.” He’s referring to George Orwell’s book 1984. He does give some examples of Trump lies:

Donald Trump operates on the principle that truth—whether it involves inauguration crowd sizes, immigrant crime or economic performance—is what he says It is. And that truth can change at a moment’s notice.
Again, I don’t want to be put in the position of apologetic for Trump. But I do somewhat understand language and language style. Trump is not the person to go to for details, or data, or exact facts. He uses words for effect, and for big picture messaging. So some translating needs to be done. Like, crowd size. What other president would the news media go to for crowd size measures? But they claimed erroneously that the crowd was very small, not because it was particularly small, but because saying so would denigrate the president. And then other people showed the crowd on social media, revealing that the media had used a particular angle to hide the crowd.

So Trump was responding to a media lie, and, as he does because it’s his personality to do so, he made sure we all knew the crowd was big. Really big. He might have even thrown in a number for effect.

Trump wasn’t lying about the crowd size; the media outlets who tried to denigrate the president by claiming the crowd was less than it was did the lying.

Trump also hasn’t been lying about illegal immigrant crime; but leftist media have made erroneous and now refuted claims that illegals are more law-abiding than other immigrants or other Americans—and they’ve repeated that lie in the very moments following the revelation that Mollie Tibbetts was murdered by an illegal alien.

And the economy? Let’s just say, if you’re an American who lived through the Great Recession that lasted, coincidentally, all eight years of the Obama presidency, and you’re a young person, or a black person, or one of the other demographics now facing the lowest unemployment rates in decades, maybe you know the one not in touch with facts might be so-called economist Paul Krugman.

Krugman asks,

Why did the party’s belief in objective reality collapse so suddenly and completely?
Let me do some more language and style translation: he means, “No one in their right mind could possibly disagree with me, so the whole Republican party is demented.” And there’s no self-reflection, no inkling of recognition that he’s unaware of actual objective reality.

Since I’m a truth seeker, I’m also the kind of person who frequently asks, “Could I be wrong?” So I do the exploration for facts, which is why I can fairly clearly see both good things and bad things Trump has done. (I’m not the only one. Ben Shapiro often has a segment on his show called “Good Trump/Bad Trump,” where he shows evidence in both directions.)

But this particular president seems to bring out irrational hatred toward both Trump and anyone who disagrees with them—along with an absolute certainty of rightness. As Mark Twain put it, “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Jane Clark Scharl, in a piece for Intercollegiate Review, asks the question “How Dangerous Is Jordan Peterson?” She concludes that he and his ideas are indeed dangerous, but not at all in the way his detractors believe. He’s dangerous because he’s revealing the lies being inculcated by various interrelated political tribes. As Scharl puts it:

In universities, high schools, and increasingly as early as elementary and preschools, children and young people are being taught not to think critically about topics like gender, sex, race, privilege, culture, liberty, wealth and success, and religion; instead, they are being presented with a series of platitudes and told to accept them or be punished.
Having someone who can get people to question the platitudes is dangerous to the tribes.

Jordan Peterson
image from here
I think there’s at least a partial explanation for the sense of danger Jordan Peterson stirs up, in the introduction to his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. He spent many years looking into the atrocities of the past century, and asking how people could believe what they believed to such an extent:

I couldn’t understand how belief systems could be so important to people that they were willing to risk the destruction of the world to protect them. I came to realize that shared belief systems made people intelligible to one another—and that the systems weren’t just about belief.
People who live by the same code are rendered mutually predictable to one another. They act in keeping with each other’s expectations and desires. They can cooperate. They can even compete peacefully, because everyone knows what to expect from everyone else. A shared belief system, partly psychological, partly acted out, simplifies everyone—in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others. Shared beliefs simplify the world, as well, because people who know what to expect from one another can act together to tame the world. There is perhaps nothing more important than the maintenance of this organization—the simplification. If it’s threatened, the great ship of state rocks.
It isn’t precisely that people will fight for what they believe. They will fight, instead, to maintain the match between what they believe, what they expect, and what they desire. They will fight to maintain the match between what they expect and how everyone is acting. It is precisely the maintenance of that match that enables everyone to live together peacefully, predictably and productively. It reduces uncertainty and the chaotic mix of intolerable emotions that uncertainty inevitably produces [p. xxx].
So, people tribalize to fend off chaos. They have a vested interest in maintaining the tribe—along with its beliefs, values, and traditions—regardless of whether the beliefs are accurate or not. But disagreeing tribes clash.

That’s a problem. How do I know I’m the one who’s got the truth, when Krugman and the Chronicle editorial writer are so sure they’re the ones with the facts?

I have a number of clues. One is data from trusted sources, and probably multiple trusted sources. I would say the objective measures provided by nonpartisan government sources, at least for economic data, are probably accurate. And there are a few other sources I think have held up reliably well. Then it’s a matter of interpreting the data, to make sure you draw accurate conclusions. You need some tried and true principles for that.

Those of us on the conservative side—or, as we would put it in Spherical Model language, those of us in the northern hemisphere, where we find freedom, prosperity, and civilization—have an advantage over those in the southern hemisphere, who seize or cling to statist tyranny in order to fend off the tyranny of chaos. Up here, we encounter opposing viewpoints every day, from nearly any mainstream news source. So we question everything. If it doesn’t coincide with our experience and those around us, maybe there’s more to the story, so we start seeking it.

Those in a southern hemisphere bubble, those who admit to never encountering an actual conservative in their day-to-day lives, might not have a very clear or complete picture.

The Daily Wire did an interview with Brandon Straka, the guy who started the #WalkAway movement a few months ago. He talked about the bubble he used to be in. He would hang out with Ivy League educated smart people, who all saw things the same way. At first, when he thought what they said didn't make sense, he assumed he must be wrong, because they were so smart.

Brandon Straka
image from The Daily Wire
But then, when he started speaking up and voicing his questions, friends either abandoned or persecuted him for not staying on script. When he left that side, because they were, in his words, "intolerant, inflexible, illogical, hateful, misguided, ill-informed, un-American, hypocritical, menacing, callous, narrow-minded, and even blatantly fascistic," he still didn’t consider becoming a Republican. He told himself, "Well, I’m not a liberal, but I’m sure as hell not going to become a Republican because those people are crazy and racist, etc." Because that’s what he’d always been told to believe.

At first he didn’t really listen to the other side—our side. But after being abandoned by so many now hostile friends, he started really listening to Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin. Now he gladly calls himself a conservative and is a registered Republican.

There’s this interesting part of the interview:

DW: Do you see any of the behavior that you witnessed on the Left mirrored in the Republican Party? For example—the identity politics, the pitting of groups against one another, the tribalism, the cruel rhetoric or violence.
STRAKA: No, I’m not seeing or experiencing anything like that, which is why I think I’ve come to embrace the conservative philosophy as much as I have. It’s all about the individual, personal empowerment, encouraging people to try hard, and work hard. You can have the life you want if you’re willing to work for it, be a decent person, and contribute to society.
One thing that opened him up to new information was a personal change, from alcoholic drug addict. As he says,

My life was all about self-pity and what the world owed me. After I got sober, I really started to learn about accountability, taking responsibility for your actions, and making amends to people when you've made mistakes. I started seeing the rewards of that.
So what he saw as true, when he was in that downward spiral, wasn’t true at all. Once he got free of the brain fog of addiction, he also got free of some untrue beliefs and found some better-serving true beliefs.

There’s an interview with Jordan Peterson—and I’ve heard him say this in several interviews—about learning to tell the truth. It relates to Rule 10 in his book: “Be precise in your speech.” He tries to never say anything that makes him feel weak. The interviewer thought that was an odd thing to base something on, just whether he personally felt more powerful or not. But he didn’t say more powerful over others; he said less weak personally. It’s a signal. You can pay attention and feel it, and that’s a way to find truth.

I would word it differently, based on my religious understanding. But there is a feeling you can have associated with finding truth. It’s a still, small voice, but if you practice and pay attention, you can use it as a built-in truth detector.

I tend to be overly trusting, and assume others tell the truth, because I do. And sometimes that ends up kicking me where it hurts. But many times, an uneasiness, something confusing or unsettling, or physically weakening is what I feel around untruth. I don’t like that feeling. I feel a wholeness, and a wholesomeness, around truth, even unpleasant truth when it needs to be faced.

If you want truth, you have to ask for it. Question tribalism. Question pitting one group of people against another. Question your prejudices. And learn what truth looks like and feels like. Civilization depends upon each of us doing just that.

[i] 18 U.S. Code § 798 - Disclosure of classified information, . And 46 CFR 503.59 - Safeguarding classified information,
[ii] 18 U.S. Code § 798 - Disclosure of classified information (see link above).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

It's Been a Year

We’re having something of a commemoration this weekend. It has been a year since Houston and beyond was hit with Hurricane Harvey and 50+ inches of rain in about three days. We're still Houston Strong.

During this recovery year, we've learned a lot about goodness, and caring, and sacrifice under those difficult circumstances. As I said back then, there were stages. First, there’s saving lives, and then assessing the situation. Then comes mucking out, which had to be done fairly quickly. A week of standing water in a house can ruin not only everything the water touches, but anything the growing mold reaches. The mucking out includes removing all the flooring, drywall, and furniture out to the curb, and then power washing anything that needs it.

All this time, people are doing this while living without their belongings, in a shelter or a hotel, or with friends, or maybe in a rental if they can get one. And a lot of people going through this with their own homes also went to work to help their neighbors. And many many people who found themselves safe went to work to get the mucking out done for their neighbors.

The next stage was the debris pickup. Places were left looking kind of bleak and blank, with large dead patches on the lawn.

Then came the rebuilding. This is the long stage. Some things had to wait for insurance procedures. Some had to wait for government help. Some had to wait to save up resources. Some, even with ready resources, had to wait for available help. There are only so many remodelers, drywall experts, and cabinet builders in a city. And while we did have some workers move here for the temporary work, there was still a shortage.

The result is that a few people got back into their homes, finished or not, within a couple of months. Many—I’d say an average—took six months. Some longer. And of those moved back in, some are still living with bare walls and floors, waiting their turn for the workers.

A couple of months ago we ran into an older scout troop, age 14+, from several states away. They had come to Houston for their high adventure camp—and spent the week putting up drywall for people in need.

Earlier, during spring break season, a church where I play music one night a week had housed youth groups from several states, spending their week away from school coming to Houston to help with rebuilding.

So that has been quietly going on, during these many months since the media outside Houston stopped talking about our event.

I drove around today, in my neighborhood and nearby, to see the changes. I took a few photos in the same places I did last year, to make the comparison. Most places, on the outside, if you didn’t know about the flood, you wouldn’t know anything had happened. Most trees and plants survived. Grass has grown back.

The entrance to our neighborhood was flooded
for about a week.
The south side of our neighborhood got hit while on the
north we remained dry. This street corner was used
as a rescue boat launch. It's back to normal today.
Anyone who hadn't gotten out before the streets flooded
had to be rescued by boats or large military vehicles.
It was surreal then. It looks totally normal again, at least
on the outside of most houses.
The debris was out one week after the storm. After one month
much of the debris had been scooped up and hauled away.
Today it looks mostly normal. A few houses still have
markings left on them by rescuers.

Here and there you still see a large dumpster parked out front, clearly with work still going on inside. In my neighborhood there were only a couple of those that I saw. In one of the older and harder hit areas, Villages of Bear Creek, those dumpsters were more common. But still, probably 90% of the homes looked OK from the outside.

South end of Villages of Bear Creek,
one of the worst hit areas, looked a lot better today.

I drove through Bear Creek Park, which is essentially part of Addicks Reservoir that is used for picnics, camping, soccer, baseball, and other park amenities whenever there’s no flooding. But when the heavy rains come, the park is intended to fill up with water. We’re used to it. It happens for a portion of most years. This time it was closed for several months. Today it looks mostly unscathed.

Bear Creek Park, near the entrance from Eldridge Parkway,
looking toward the baseball diamonds

The bayou (drainage canal) just down the road from us, which is what overflowed during Harvey, has been undergoing dredging all summer. I think there’s a plan to do that to parts of the park and reservoir as well, since floods have brought in enough debris and silt to lower capacity. And while Harvey was something like a 1000-year flood (not likely to happen again for a millennia), there had been a 500-year flood—the Tax Day Flood—just a year and a few months earlier.

Horsepen Bayou, after dredging

There’s a bond election taking place this Saturday, with nothing on the ballot but the bond. It’s likely to pass. And I believe the county have been good stewards of our resources. They had presentations and took feedback from the community about 20 times over the summer in preparation to know how best to use the resources.

The best case scenario, according to County Commissioner “Cactus” Jack Cagle, would be for the state to use the Rainy Day Fund—and really, if that wasn’t a rainy day, when could we ever use that money?—to pay infrastructure, such as dam improvements and possibly a third reservoir; and then have the county handle the building, because the county is most aware of the needs and priorities; and then have the US Army Corps of Engineers to do maintenance. That way the full burden isn’t on the country, but is shared by the state and by the federal government in ways those entities can be useful.
So, a year out, Houston is still strong. But still in recovery.

One of our church buildings, in the Villages of Bear Creek area, got flooded, along with the post office across the street. The post office is back in business—as is the library, not far away. But that church is still being worked on. When I drove past today, it still had two large dumpsters out back. We have two congregations from that building that have been sharing space with us for a year. We’re told work should be completed this fall, but I haven’t heard word yet on when.

The Cairnway chapel. flooded photo by Melissa Willis
I took the updated photo today.

Meanwhile, the beautiful temple up in the Champions area of Spring, northwest of Houston, flooded and had to be closed for eight months. But we’re happy to be back in there.

The two right photos, from the flood were from media stories.
That's us on the right, late April 2018

My friend Elaine, whose apartment complex was flooded, trapping them upstairs for a week, said this a couple of days ago:

I walked into the lobby of my apartment complex, and we have *flooring*! We haven’t had flooring since Harvey. Then I checked the mail and this was the weekly Kroger circular. Now I’m all emotional. We made it, ya’ll.
Here’s the circular, picturing Kroger workers helping out after the flood.

There were so many who helped. I don’t know if the nation and world is aware of the treasure we have in a furniture salesman we call Mattress Mack, Jim McIngvale. He turned his store—new mattresses and all—into a shelter after the storm, and invited restaurants to bring in food. He was an inspiration to all.

A few months ago, he honored members of my church, the Mormon Helping Hands, for the many hours of service. We appreciate being recognized by someone who has been tireless in his service.

One friend of mine, Derrick Campos, was flooded out of his house until around May, and is still living among the incomplete rebuild. He does a video blog called The Better Way, and this week he did a one-year anniversary of the flood. I love the cheerful way he talks about it. What you don’t see is that this was their third flood—in this house they built several years after we built ours. It’s just north of Villages of Bear Creek, and it’s near a bend in Langham Creek on its way to the reservoir. But it’s a nice, newer neighborhood that wasn’t expected to flood. And what do you do now that it does? Hope you don’t have to face it—yet again—for another thousand years. Anyway, here’s Derrick’s video about having an attitude of gratitude:

One thing you don’t know about yourself until tragedy hits is how much you can handle. And when it happens, you learn what it feels like to be lifted up by other caring people, and by God, whom you can feel with you, keeping you from despair. All Houston appreciated the help and prayers from our neighbors around the country and around the world.

I have a friend, from high school English class, who makes his living as photographer G. Brad Lewis of He has spent decades documenting the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, which has been active and wiping out neighborhoods of his friends the past couple of months. This photo is from yesterday.
Kilauea Volcano eruption
G. Brad Lewis, August 22, 2018

Yesterday and this morning he sent out a couple of photos of Hurricane Lane, which is about to hit them: he took the photo of the wave; I’m assuming he did not “use his new drone” to get the satellite image.

Anyway, it looks like people continue to be in need of our prayers. But one thing we know, after this year, is that love is felt over distances, and prayers work—both to inspire good people to do caring things, but also just to lift heavy hearts.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Does a Majority Vote Make It Right?

image from here
Does making something democratic make it right or good?

If a majority votes to kill all the people of a particular minority group, does that make it right?

If a majority votes to enslave a minority group, does that make it right?

If a majority votes to confiscate all the belongings of some minority group, does that make it right?

How do you know those majority choices aren’t right? Because those things aren’t right in the first place.

Allowing the majority to do whatever it decides to do, no matter how evil, is what we call tyranny of the majority. That’s why our Founding Fathers made sure we didn’t get a democracy; we got a constitutional republic. That means the majority—and the government voted on by the majority—is limited in specific ways, and the rights of individuals are not to be infringed by any majority whim.

So, if murder is wrong for one person to do to another, it’s also wrong for the majority to do to any individual or minority group. If slavery is wrong for one person to do to another, it’s also wrong for the majority to do to a minority. And if theft is wrong for one person to do to another, it’s also wrong for the majority to do to a minority.

That means, if socialism is forcibly taking the fruits of labor of some people and giving them to others—theft—then it doesn’t make it right or better to call it democratic socialism, or tyranny-of-the-majority socialism.

Calling it democratic socialism doesn’t even make it different from that regular socialism that has failed everywhere it’s been tried, and has resulted in millions upon millions of deaths to the people living under those regimes. The Russian Social-Democrats (i.e., democratic socialists) were the party Lenin aligned with. And Hitler, of the National Socialist (NAZI) party in Germany, was elected to power by a majority of voters in his country.

This tagging on the word democratic in front of socialism isn’t even really putting lipstick on a pig, as intended; it’s just putting barnyard debris on the pig that’s already been wallowing.

Sometimes a parody site says things even more accurately than a news site. Here’s the Babylon Bee’s “handy explainer” to clear up any confusion about democratic socialism: 

What is Democratic Socialism?
Democratic Socialism is a growing movement in America promising every citizen the most basic human rights, including but not limited to free healthcare, a government-guaranteed job making at least $15 per hour, free college tuition, guaranteed housing, broadband internet access, and cage-free vegan lattes.
How would the government pay for all of that?
By rightfully appropriating money from terrible, evil, oppressive, hardworking, enterprising citizens who have earned wealth via the dreaded free market economy that has led to unprecedented human flourishing. Governments are known for being the most efficient spenders of money, and so surely would do an excellent job as stewards of your wealth—err, we mean, the public’s wealth.
Isn’t it immoral to take most of the money people earn?
No—actually, it’s the right thing to do. People with money only got that money because of inherent privilege, racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, and all kinds of other unfair power structures and phobias. You know what, we’re a little concerned with all the questions you’re asking here. It sounds like someone needs to spend a little more time in a democratic re-education loyalty center! KILL THE KULAKS!
How does Democratic Socialism differ from just “Socialism”?
It has the word “Democratic” in front of it, you see, which means it is achieved by promoting identity politics, stoking class warfare, and cranking that entitlement mentality up to 11, instead of literal violent overthrow of the government. Besides, voting for the government to seize people’s wealth is totally different from the government deciding to do so on their own, right? Err… uh… DID WE MENTION YOU GET FREE STUFF?? Say it with us: Socialism good, Democratic Socialism better!
It seems like if you try to run the numbers, there’s just no way Democratic Socialism is a fiscally feasible form of government.
“Run the numbers”? “Fiscally feasible”? Have you been paying attention, like, at all? Do you want free money, or are you part of the problem? YOU GET FREE MONEY, AND YOU GET FREE MONEY—ERRYBODY GETS FREE MONEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!
Is there an example of this form of government working out well in the world?
YES! Venezuela is a socialist paradise, having achieved an almost totally equal distribution of hunger and lack of basic necessities. With features like 46,000% inflation, mass starvation, empty grocery stores, and total economic collapse, it’s a great real-world example of a socialist utopia! THAT’S HOW YOU STICK IT TO THE CORPORATE OLIGARCHY, BABY! OWN THE CAPITALISTS WITH THIS ONE GREAT TRICK!
As you can see, the centralization of wealth and power to an elite few in government is perfectly in line with the ideas America was founded on. Now let’s get out there and democratically seize the means of production, comrades!
As I said in February 2016

No one should be allowed to vote for a socialist if they’re still so uninformed that they think it’s all about being social and about getting free stuff.
I don’t know how we’d ever enforce such a requirement, since we allow any registered voter to vote (and, if you’re a democrat, even unregistered voters and dead people). But in theory I’d be in favor of a pop quiz on the Constitution and free market before granting that voter registration card. Or maybe just a DGOTV (don’t get out the vote) campaign for those whose ignorance can harm the country.

Seriously, if you want freedom, prosperity, and civilization, socialism will not and cannot get you there. It takes away freedom of all sorts; it is a system based on coercion. It takes away incentive by taking away the fruits of your labor, along with many of your choices concerning how to spend whatever you have left after the government takings. It leads to an eventual outcome of savage tyranny, by design.

Here’s the track record of some of the bigger ones (so, not including Castro’s Cuba, Che Guevera’s Venezuela, Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, and others):

Span of years
Estimated deaths of own people (non-military deaths)
National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI)
14.2 million:[i]
                *   6 million Jews
                *   5.7 million non-Jewish Soviets
                *   2.5 million Polish, Serbs, others
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
62 million[ii]
Chinese Communists under Mao
76 million
Khmer Rouge (Cambodian socialists under Pol Pot, patterned on Mao)
2.2 million (1/3 population)[iii]

Not included, but worth mentioning, are market economies with socialized segments, such as Canada and the Scandinavian countries, which the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom lists are freer markets than the US at this point. Wealth comes from markets and gets used up by socialist segments, so markets are required to sustain government spending. So, in some ways, patterning on these nations would require less government control of our economy than we have now, not more, as the democratic socialist activists would have you believe. But I have discussed the high tax results of Sweden and Denmark.

Here’s a good discussion of the definition of democratic socialism, by Ben Shapiro, from the first portion of his speech at the 40th annual YAF Conference. Worth viewing.

[ii] Socialism Sucks Facebook post April 2013.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Self-Hatred Isn't Virtuous

Maybe you remember from junior high or high school, the girl (maybe it was you) who believed all kinds of negative things about herself: her thighs were fat; her tummy bulged, her hair was stringy (or too curly or frizzy); she had a gap between her teeth that she thought everyone was aware of; she wasn’t smart enough; her clothes never fit right, or looked cool enough. The list goes on. But you looked at her and wondered where this was coming from, because what you saw was a girl who was pretty enough, maybe even very pretty. And she was friendly and sweet and thoughtful of others. And you had to wonder where all that anti-self negativity was coming from.

It's not uncommon among early teens, girls especially. There may be attached to it an erroneous belief that it’s not right to like yourself; that means you’re conceited and narcissistic. So putting yourself down is only proper. But you, looking from the outside, can see she’s not only wrong; she’s harming herself and limiting the good she could do in the world, if only she stopped worrying about her flaws and started growing herself and sharing her potential with the world.

Even this cute girl (our daughter, Social Sphere)
had a few brief moments of not realizing
how beautiful she was, but we got her over
that using some reality.
The cure seems to be growing up, gaining confidence, and getting a clearer picture of self. And maybe cutting out the comparisons of only her personal flaws with only the admirable qualities of her peers.

In other words, she’s wrong, and she needs to come to learn that. Because tearing herself down is just making herself miserable with no good purpose.

If you’re any kind of friend, or even a decent person, you do what you can to get her to see herself more accurately and to stop tearing herself down.

So, how does this relate to the Spherical Model and what we talk about here?

Take a look at this quote of yesterday from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “We're not going to make America great again. It was never that great." 

And can we forget that former first lady Michelle Obama who, in 2008, said, “For the first time in my adult life, I’m proud of my country”? That was, of course, related to her husband’s election to fundamentally transform the most free and prosperous country in human history into—something else. 

It’s symptomatic of a rather large segment of our society that looks at the United States and doesn’t see what Reagan metaphorically called the “shining city on a hill.” Instead they see a dung heap. A garbage dump. A deteriorating ghetto. We should be more like Sweden. Or Finland. Or Denmark. Or almost anywhere else.

Are they right? I believe they’re like that middle school girl, thinking it’s virtuous somehow to denigrate their own country—seeing only bad here, while seeing good everywhere else but missing their bad. So, no, they’re not accurate. And they’re not more virtuous for being “open-minded” enough to “see” their country as flawed.

Of course there are flaws. But they aren’t the flaws these people claim. And their blindness to the astounding good in "this greatest nation on God’s green earth,” as Michael Medved says on his show every day, is so dense as to be willful.

In the spirit of teenage girl magazines, maybe it’s time for a self-assessment quiz, to determine whether you (or a friend or frenemy you’re assessing while reading this) are suffering from this self-disparagement syndrome.

1.       T of F: The Founding Fathers were a bunch of racist old slaveholders, so that means the country they founded is fatally flawed to begin with.
2.       T or F: The phrase in the Constitution about slaves being counted as 3/5ths of a person was to institutionalize and endorse racist slavery.
3.       T or F: The imperialist United States stole most of the Southwest from Mexico.
4.       T or F: The rights in the Constitution are granted by government, and they can be taken away by government if a majority decides they’re not good to have—like freedom of religion if it’s offensive, or freedom of speech if it’s offensive.
5.       T or F: Racism is every bit as bad today as it was during slavery or the Jim Crow eras.
6.       Which Superman slogan do you prefer?
a.  The original classic, from comic books, television series, and older movies: “truth, justice, and the American way.”
b. The updated version (from the movie Superman Returns): “truth, justice, and all that stuff.”
7.       Agree or Disagree: A country that doesn’t provide free health care and free education through college is out of step with the rest of the world and should step up.
8.       Agree or Disagree: America should never have gotten involved in the war in Iraq—or, for that matter, Vietnam, or any other war since WWII.
9.       Agree or Disagree: America should intervene with food supplies and anything else to rescue people in failing economies such as Venezuela.
10.   Agree or Disagree: America is unfair because it doesn’t just open its borders and let anyone in who wants to come in.
11.   Agree or Disagree: Businesses should be forced to pay their people enough to live on (housing, food, clothing, transportation) for even an entry-level job.
12.   Agree or Disagree: Inequality is the worst thing about America; money should be taken from the rich and redistributed to the poor.
13.   Agree or Disagree: People who don’t do as well as others are being oppressed.

The T or F questions are all False. So count one point for each T you answered. (See discussion of answers below.)

If you answered B on 6, count one point. For question 7-13, count one point for each statement you Agree with.

If you got 0-3 points, pretty good (but if you don’t have 0, you need to do some soul searching).

If you got 4-7 points, you’re probably suffering from some bad information in schools and media, and you need to get some better sources. (See suggestions below.)

If you got 8+ points, you’re an America hater for no good reason. In fact, your reasons aren’t just random opinions; you have chosen to buy in to the America hating rhetoric of false history teachings, much of it based on the history/propaganda of Howard Zinn that has made its way into our education system. You need to do some de-programming to get yourself in touch with reality before you harm yourself and others—and your country.

Discussion of Answers

Question 1: While there were slaveholders among the Founders, they all agreed it was an evil that needed to be done away—something that was a new idea in world history, since slavery was the norm throughout history up until the Founders started this nation based on an idea, rather than on a geography or tribalism. The idea: that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, related to life, liberty, and property.

Question 2: The purpose of the 3/5 phrase in the Constitution was to prevent the perpetuation of slavery. The slaveholding states wanted to count their slaves in order to boost their population and give them more representation, thus ensuring the continuation of slavery. But the Founders, including those from southern states who were representing their states’ interests but were also looking for ways to end the practice, used this compromise to reduce the power of slaveholding states. PragerU has a good discussion: “Why the 3/5ths Compromise Was Anti-Slavery.” 

Historian Carol Swain,
screenshot from this PragerU video

Question 3: The Tejanos who fought with the Texians (that is, the Hispanic people living in current Texas along with the Americans who immigrated to what was then part of Mexico) fought long and hard for independence from the tyrannical dictator who had taken over Mexico and deprived them of their rights. And further, the later war that led to New Mexico, Arizona, and California becoming parts of the United States—Mexico was the aggressor, lost, and in fact lost most of what is current Mexico today, but that was given back, unfortunately for them, because they’d have been better off joining America. Dinesh D’Souza has a good discussion of this in America: Imagine a World without Her, pp. 107-119.

Question 4: “Being endowed by their Creator” means being given by God, and “unalienable,” or “inalienable,” depending on who’s spelling it today, means that it can’t be taken. Government doesn’t grant those rights; government is tasked with protecting those rights. The Bill of Rights, which consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, weren’t originally included, because they were considered so obvious and so well understood, that they went without saying. But then several states worried that later generations might not find them so obvious, so they spelled them out and included them in the Constitution before it was ratified.

Question 5: Another PragerU video is helpful here: “Is America Racist?” 

The remaining questions are opinions, but there’s good information on these as well. I’ll offer just a few.

About foreign wars, there are a number of helpful PragerU videos:

·         Why America Invaded Iraq” and “How Iraq Was Won and Lost   
·         Why Did America Fight the Korean War” 
·         What Was the Cold War?” 
There are PragerU videos on a great many other topics as well, including some economic ones. For other sources with a more America loving presentation of reality, you might finish Dinesh D’Souza’s book America: Imagine a World without Her, and also Mark Steyn’s America Alone, Glenn Beck’s The Real America, and W. Cleon Skousen’s The Five Thousand Year Leap.

For education, try the free online Hillsdale College courses. Start with Constitution 101 and 201.
For daily information doses, try podcasts of Ben Shapiro and Andrew Klavan, and maybe even Michael Knowles.

For some economic truth, you might try anything by Thomas Sowell. Start with Basic Economics. Or, if you need to battle some of that social justice dogma, you might try Discrimination and Disparities or Wealth, Poverty and Politics.

At the very least be skeptical of self-hatred. What’s behind it? Do you really think it’s virtuous to be desperately ashamed of a nation with so many positives that people around the world want to become Americans? Or is it a dysfunctional delusion? 

Just like the 13-year-old girl who responds to your compliment with, “Really? But my shoes are awful, don’t you think?” maybe someone needs to stand her in front of a full-length mirror and let her see how beautiful she is. Take a look at America; she’s beautiful!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Why Spend So Much Time on the Social Sphere

The Social Sphere

In the Spherical Model, we talk about how the three spheres—political, economic, and social—interrelate. But we talk a lot about social issues. There’s a reason for that. Or maybe several reasons.

One: It’s the sphere in which the individual has the most ability to effect change for the better.

Two: Lack of civilization (savagery) leads to lack of freedom and prosperity. So the social sphere seems to be a larger contributor in the interrelated spheres.

Three: It’s essential to have enough individuals and families living civilized lives in order to make the self-governance necessary for freedom and prosperity possible. Alternatively, limited freedom and prosperity can hinder civilization, but they don’t necessarily lead to savagery. It’s harder for the basic unit of civilization—families—to live civilized lives when they live under tyranny and/or the poverty of a controlled economy. But within the family, it’s still possible.

Four: The social sphere is where the principles of civilization, as well as the principles leading to freedom and prosperity, get passed on from generation to generation.

I said it this way at the beginning of the Civilization section of the Spherical Model:

The Civilization Zone is more important than either the Free-Enterprise [economic sphere prosperity zone] or political Freedom Zones; it is essential for the others. A civilized people (people who choose to be honest and caring with one another) are essential in order for free enterprise to function. No amount of regulation and manipulation by law enforcement can compensate for people unlawfully and unethically taking advantage of one another or refusing to care for the less fortunate. And if regulation and manipulation are used to control the greed, then it’s not a free market anyway. Likewise, it takes a civilized people in order for a free society to work. No amount of government control can force out corruption among a people in power who choose to grant favors according to bribes and special interest pressures. The public behavior will mirror the private behavior of the people. But with a truly civilized society (people choosing to be moral), free enterprise and political freedom can and will thrive.
What does it mean to be civilized? What are the necessary elements of civilization? And how do they contribute to the other spheres?

By way of review, here are the main rules for civilization—the northern hemisphere of the social sphere:

1.       Not all religious societies are civilized, but every civilized society is a religious society. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.

2.       The family is the basic unit of civilized society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. So preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations in a civilized society.

These are big ideas—and not without their controversies in today’s world, so let’s take them piece by piece.

A Religious People

It is in the social sphere that we understand and honor the idea that life is precious, a divine gift from God. Races and types of people are not lesser humans; all human beings are created equally valuable, with equal standing before the law. So, without God, there is no concept that life is divine and worth protecting. And without God, there are no God-given rights. Nor do individuals feel obligated to live according to standards they either set for themselves or have imposed on them externally. Belief in facing God beyond this life obligates humans to live better lives than they would if goodness were meaningless.

Without a religious people—a critical mass of believers—who feel obligated to live their lives in the way God commands, you don’t get a people who are good enough to live freely, self-governing.
What does God command? Take a look at the Ten Commandments. The first four cover honoring God—and no other entity—as supreme, as the very definer of Good. Then we honor family: honor thy father and thy mother; and thou shalt not commit adultery. Then we honor life: thou shalt no murder. Then we honor truth: thou shalt not bear false witness (lie). Then we honor property rights: thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet.
The Ten Commandments
at the Texas State Capitol

So the religion required of a religious people needs to include, for the sake of civilization, believing in and honoring God, family, life, truth, and property rights.

Think about how honoring life affects the political sphere. If you want unalienable rights, they have to come from God. Otherwise, they’re just privileges granted or taken away by the ruling power. Without God, there are no God-given, or inherent, rights that you have by virtue of being human. Having them interfered with or taken away by government doesn’t mean you are not, as a human being, entitled to them; it just means that some tyrannical force is wrongly attempting to deprive you of them.

If you want freedom—to pursue your life and livelihood as you see fit, to be free from servitude—you need to value life. And you need to have others in society value life as well, or you might end up beaten, dead, or enslaved.

If you want justice, you need to have a system that both honors each individual equally before the law, and that values truth. Imagine trying to get justice when wrong is done to you, if there’s no respect for telling the truth.

Similarly, if society doesn’t value property rights, people lack incentive to care for things. And they can’t keep the things they value, or what they have earned. And if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labors, because someone else lays claim to them, then your life—the hours, days, or years you spent laboring—is really someone else’s belonging.

Every society improves by placing higher and higher value on those things we’re commanded by God to honor.

Strong Families

And what good would it do to have a civilized people who honored these things as commanded, if they didn’t pass them on to their posterity?

The Spherical Model family,
when we were young and cute
Family is the basic unit of civilized society. That’s not simply a platitude. A civilization—the society of people living together in peace and harmony and goodness—can be as small as a single family. The more families there are in a society who are living the principles necessary for civilization, the larger the civilization can be. It can grow to the size of a neighborhood, and a community, a town, a county, a state, and eventually a nation.

If a critical mass of people around the world were living the principles necessary for civilization, that’s how we would get world peace. Some problems are simple, just not easy.

Family is a particular thing. A family is a married couple and the children that come from their union. A certain number of single-parent households, resulting from a death or divorce, can be accommodated, but only if there is a critical mass of intact families.

That means marriage is a particular thing: the permanent covenant between a man and a woman, to be exclusive, and to care for their offspring. It is simply not, as redefined by fiat in the courts, “a temporary declaration of connection to a sexual partner.” That leaves out permanence, exclusivity, and the biological possibility of procreation.

People can make whatever social arrangements they like, but only families make the essential contribution to civilization.

All this means it isn’t really possible to be a “fiscal conservative” but a “social liberal,” meaning you believe in free-enterprise principles but you favor things like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” or any other sexual revolutionary idea. To make that claim simply means you do not understand the philosophical basis for believing what you do. Maybe you think, yes, it’s right that the person who earns the money should decide how to spend it, because you’ve seen how well that works, and it seems right. But you haven’t connected that to the religious values of life, liberty, and property.

But the spheres are interrelated. You can’t choose prosperity while also choosing savagery. Because if you choose savagery, you’ll also get tyranny and poverty. Maybe not immediately in your personal experience. But soon enough. Decay can be significant within a decade—or even one or two terms of a presidency. And catastrophic results are likely, or maybe inevitable, by a third generation.[i]

Trying to pass along the underlying philosophies that lead to freedom instead of tyranny in the political sphere, prosperity instead of poverty in the economic sphere, and civilization instead of savagery in the social sphere—that’s what we do here at the Spherical Model. And that’s why we spend a lot of time on the social sphere.

[i] The length of collapse from socialism is about 70 years (mentioned in this post). The social data provide by Daniel Unwin on societies that move away from strict monogamy show collapse by the third generation, which is probably 75-100 years (mentioned in this post). Reference: Joseph Daniel Unwin, Ph.D., “Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior,” address given to the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society. (Library of Congress No., HQ12.U52)