Monday, July 29, 2019

Vote Counts, Part I

image found here

Should every vote count? Yes.


Should every vote be counted? Yes, in an ideal world.

Should the winner be the one who gets more votes than the other(s)? Not necessarily.

There’s a Tom Woods Show podcast, from November 18, 2016, just after President Trump was elected, in which Woods was talking about the Electoral College with Kevin Gutzman[i] and Brion McClanahan[ii]. Woods shares a baseball metaphor that might help here. Suppose you’ve got two teams in the baseball World Series. Team A wins three games 8-1, 8-1, 8-1, and Team B wins three games 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, and then in the final game Team B wins again 2-1. Team B wins the series.

image from here

If Team A starts complaining, “Hey, but we earned a bigger total number of absolute points: a total of 28 points. And those guys only earned a total of 11 points. We’re the real winners”—everybody rolls their eyes and calls them sore losers. Total points don’t matter. The thing that matters is games won.
The strategy would be completely different if a team were playing for most runs scored over several games. For example, as Kevin Gutzman adds,

If you think about the strategy involved in managing the World Series, your analogy is illuminating. For example, in game 1 the team that’s down 6-1 in the 8th inning isn’t going to put in it’s best relief pitcher, because it doesn’t care what the final margin is at that point. They know they’ve lost. They want to save their best pitchers for the remaining games, and so they don’t throw their number 1 guy out there in the 9th inning.

On the other hand, if it mattered what the margin was in game 1, if that had anything to do with who was eventually going to win the series, then you might see the ace closer come on in the 9th inning with the score 7-1, to try to ensure that there weren’t anymore runs scored….
So that’s like Trump not spending much time campaigning in California. There’s just no reason for him to go waste money and his own time, or Pence’s time, or some Trump offspring’s time, or anyone’s time trying to get more votes in California when they know they’ve lost. So, again, you get to the 9th inning of game 1, you’re down 6-1, you’re going to put the scrub middle reliever out there to get batted around a little bit, because you really don’t care. You just want to get the game over with, and let’s move on to game 2.

Strategy would change in a presidential campaign, because, similarly, total votes is not the way the American presidential vote is won.

Think about this. What is united in the United States? The states. We’re not the “United Individuals of America.” Our states are not provinces, or districts, or boroughs segmenting a singular larger entity, as is common in other nations. According to the online dictionary, a state is:

a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government
While we have democratic (rule by the majority of the people) aspects, we are not simply ruled by the changing whims of the majority of Americans. We safeguard against that kind of tyranny by having a republic—a representative form of government. We have representatives at the state level, and at the congressional district level. And within states we have similar levels down to very local.

The way the election of our president was set up, the states—which are independently governed entities—hold elections to decide on electors, who will represent that state’s choice for president.
Anyone who wins the presidency has to win not only a preponderance of states, but a wide variety of little societies that have their own interests and needs. Gulf states have different needs from Eastern Seaboard states. Southwestern states have different needs from Midwest states. Mountainous areas have different needs from coasts or deserts or plains. Big urban centers have different needs from smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

The rules of the game are to make belonging to the United States valuable to people in all these different littler societies. This is on purpose, and by design. It was never about getting the highest number of voters, any more than winning the World Series is about getting the most total points. In fact, the first several elections didn’t even record the total number of votes.

On that Woods podcast they point out that no one tries to determine the Senate majority by seeing which party got the highest vote total. The “game” isn’t played that way.

So the strategy is different.

The biggest difference is that we don’t have candidates simply go to the biggest urban centers, where they can accumulate the most votes, and ignore the rest of the country. Every location has at least some small strategic significance. And a candidate decides where to spend time and resources based on the effort to win the most electoral college votes.

That idea that the total votes is irrelevant is important. It’s especially something to look at as there’s greater pressure to do an end-run (switching sports metaphors) around the Constitution and its amendment process by states doing a National Popular Vote (NPV) compact, in which these participating states determine their respective electors based on—not their individual state’s voters, but on the national vote total.

There are plenty of reasons this is a bad idea. And you can tell they’re not serious if you picture what they will do if/when Trump or any other Republican wins the popular vote. Will they declare their electors for that Republican winner? Or will they demur and say, “Well, the courts haven’t decided on whether we can actually do this yet”? It’s a one-way strategy only. They’re not about fairness; they’re corrupt.

One of the main reasons this is a bad idea is that we can’t get an accurate vote total. In theory it ought to be possible, but in reality it isn’t.

In Part II we'll cover some of the details of why an accurate national vote count isn't even attainable.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary


son Political Sphere at NASA
November 1986
on our first visit to Houston
Saturday is a big, historic celebration day for all mankind. But we’re in Houston, and it’s especially meaningful here. Johnson Space Center, or NASA, is where out-of-town guests most want to visit. We went there frequently during our homeschooling years. We’re hoping to take a grandson this coming week.

I remember July 20, 1969. I had just turned 11. It was a Sunday. The afternoon meeting at church usually lasted an hour and a half, but that day it was abbreviated to about twenty minutes, at which point we were sent home to experience history with our families.

Our black and white TV was on the rest of the day. We watched the occasional simulation, but waited what seemed endlessly for the historic moment. After long hours, past summertime bedtime, we watched what looked sort of like a fuzzy white ghost moving down a ladder to step onto the moon—where no human had ever stepped before.


And Neil Armstrong spoke his historic words:

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
There’s a description in the Spherical Model of what a thriving civilization looks like. One part of that description is:

Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule.
Putting a human being on the moon was a remarkable human accomplishment. So many things went right—which included a supportive public in a free world where creativity and innovation could thrive. It was a close race with the competitive communist Soviets. But it seems to me symbolically fitting that we, the free people, actual won the space race.

I’ve been celebrating the 50th anniversary in little ways all month. Reading things in the newspaper and online, making plans to do another tour. But this week has been especially fun watching a documentary series presented by Bill Whittle, entitled Apollo 11: What We Saw. So far there have been three parts, which can be either viewed or listened to as a podcast. But I recommend watching. The fourth one will be shown on Saturday, the actual 50th anniversary day.

Each is about an hour long, and well worth the time. The first is here, below, followed by links to the next two. If you hunt for them on your own, you can find them on YouTube and on The Daily Wire (whose studio was used for the production), as well as The Daily Wire’s Facebook page.

Among the rich delight of details are a couple of observations. One is that, while it seems miraculous in the days of slide rules that we could send men to the moon, each step along the way was only the next increment beyond the previous accomplishment, which the whole population (Bill Whittle even more than most) were paying attention to. Another is that the astronauts were an extraordinary bunch, who really did have "the right stuff." Success beat out failure more than once because of Neil Armstrong's beyond-normal-human ability to think and act calmly while under more stress than most of us will ever face.

It's a story worth retelling, and forever remembering.

Apollo 11: What We Saw

Part 1





Part 2: Find it here.

Apollo 11 Lunar Module
screenshot from What We Saw Part II

Part 3: Find it here



Buzz Aldrin, in perhaps the most famous photo in world history
screenshot from What We Saw Part III

Monday, July 15, 2019

Economics on the Sphere


The Spherical Model gives us a way to look at government economic policies and know whether they’ll work or not—or even whether they should be tried.

The Economic Zone

There’s this basic principle:

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.
While this is a statement related to the Political Sphere, the principle is probably easiest to see on the economic sphere. For that, we’re going to review a couple of segments of the Spherical Model website on the Economic Sphere. If you’re not yet familiar with the Spherical Model concepts, you can get a quick refresher by reading “The Political World Is Round” or by watching the (very low-budget) video, here. Below, the indented parts are quoted from the website, interspersed with my comments today.

Just as with the political Freedom Zone, there’s a 45th parallel to stay above for optimum economic prosperity. In this zone, government is limited to its proper economic role: protect property rights, safeguard society from attack, and, if called upon, mint the monetary units while safeguarding the wealth. The US Constitution does limit the federal government. When government attempts to interfere, for whatever well-intentioned purpose, to stimulate the economy, manage unemployment, control interest rates, redistribute wealth, or tax for any purpose outside the proper role of government—it will always cause damage to the economy.
All that government needs to do is follow the Constitution, and we would have the most prosperous economy in world history in perpetuity. But following the Constitution has always been the challenge.
Davy Crockett
by William Henry Huddle, 1989
image from Wikipedia
There’s a Davy Crockett story[i] I’ve used at this point. You can re-read it on the website. It tells how Davy Crockett learned from a constituent that government had no business using tax money on charity. He was able to persuade Congress, but only on that one piece of legislation.

Let’s add to that a story of James Madison—the principal writer of the Constitution, who ought to know, who was against a 1792 Congressional appropriation of $15,000 for French refugees. Madison said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution, which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”[ii]

Here’s what happens:

It is a pattern of people in power to exert more power than they have been granted, ostensibly to do good, thus usurping power they had not been granted but setting precedence for future exertion of that power. The founders knew this, had seen it and experienced it, and read and studied so that they would word the Constitution in a way that would purposely restrict government from usurping this power. But it takes constant vigilance in order to prevent the usurpation. And after decades, even centuries now, of lawmakers overstepping “for the general welfare,” we are far distant from the Freedom Zone.
We know what the Free-Enterprise [Prosperity] Zone would look like: healthy, prosperous economy, with each worker benefiting from his own labors, and having the opportunities to meet his financial needs and build up wealth. There would be no guarantees of the success of every single person, but there would be better opportunities than in any other system in any country at any time in history.
We haven’t spent nearly enough time actually following the Constitution, and thereby staying in the Freedom Zone of the Political Sphere or the Prosperity Zone of the Economic Sphere.

We seriously lowered ourselves on the sphere shortly after the turn of the last century. Income taxes were instituted, and the Federal Reserve Bank was formed. Woodrow Wilson set the standard for Italian and German fascism in his efforts at government control. He interfered in the economy and encouraged his followers to do so. It was the interfering policies put in place early in the century that led to the Great Depression; these policies followed by Hoover and then Roosevelt lengthened and deepened the Depression.
Remember, any government act meant to do other than to protect the people’s wealth is economically unsound—it will cause harm, either in the short term or eventually.
We ought to know better. Out country has had enough experiences with extra-constitutional experimentation: Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Obama—for example. This piece, from the website, was written in 2010, when we’d suffered just about a year and a half of Obama interference, which malaise continued through his entire presidency:


Friedrich Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom and others of his writings, details why central planning (another term for government interference) in decision making wreaks havoc. He wrote in the 1940s, with the clarity of having been there and observing as things happened, how and why Wilson, Hoover, and Roosevelt policies failed—and continued to fail and will always fail.
There is such a stark difference between the failure of the controlled economy and free enterprise that even a relatively mild step from control toward freedom leads to remarkable increases in prosperity. The Ronald Reagan era is such an example. The years from Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter showed a continual rise in the misery index (unemployment rate added to the rate of inflation), until an average high of 20.27 during Carter’s administration. In relatively short time, Reagan was able to drop the rate down to 11.19—not low enough, but a huge improvement. He lowered taxes and deregulated previously controlled business sectors. Even without the liberal Congress lowering spending as much as Reagan had intended, there was marked improvement. The index continued to go down through George W. Bush’s presidency, and only headed back up when the liberal Congress (during Bush’s last two years) started imposing economic controls. Obama, during his first year, imposed more controls than any president since FDR, socializing industries, controlling banks, redistributing wealth, attempting to socialize the health care system—and the misery index responded, rising from an average 8.1% under Bush to 12.33% after a single year.
And note that the misery could be higher if unemployment were more accurately calculated; those unemployed more than six months, or those no longer seeking employment or who have taken low-pay temporary jobs, are not included. This means that, if unemployment is really closer to 17%, then Obama in a single year has “controlled” the economy into depression-feeling Carteresque misery. Right now the inflation rate is being held artificially low with far below market interest rates, which will at some point need correction. So by some objective measures, Obama’s economic errors have already exceeded Carter’s.
Reagan didn’t get us all the way up to the Free-Enterprise Zone; he got us generally above the equator with an upward direction—more remarkable because it was reached without the assistance of a like-minded legislature. And the result was huge. Unemployment and interest rates dropped, and GDP started a growth spurt lasting two decades.
We look now, a couple of years into the Trump presidency, and there’s been an effect on the economy very similar to Reagan’s improvement over Carter’s malaise. That ought to tell us something:

If we could make that much progress by going upward just above the equator on the Spherical Model, how much more prosperous would we be as a country if we followed the Constitution and moved up to the Free-Enterprise Zone [Prosperity Zone] and stayed there?
Here’s another really radical idea: If America could make that much upward, perpetual progress by abiding by the Constitution, wouldn’t that work for any other country that tried it? Yes. Yes, it would. They would have to adopt a constitution essentially like ours—one that protects life, liberty, and property while limiting government to just its essential role—like the list in the Preamble of our Constitution:

 in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity
And then, of course, people doing well would need to voluntarily fill the philanthropic role that is needed to help those who cannot help themselves. These countries could keep their culture: their language, their history, their clothing, their music, their art and architecture.

Would we worry if competing countries started doing as phenomenally well as we were doing? No need. Because we’d be plenty prosperous. It isn’t a zero-sum game. When more wealth is created, there’s more wealth to go around.

If only we could make use of our founders’ ideas, and then export those ideas.

But they can’t be imposed on an unwilling people; people have to choose freedom, prosperity, and civilization. Lack of choosing them is the trouble we mainly have here in America. We need people to come to appreciate what actually leads to the blessed outcomes that are our potential, and then choose those ultimate good outcomes.

I’m willing to give it a try. Who’s with me?



[i] I first heard this Davy Crockett story from Nina Hendee, who told Texas history stories to school groups at the family restaurant Taste of Texas. I later found the full story: “Not Yours to Give,” originally published in The Life of Colonel David Crockett, by Edward Sylvester Ellis, republished at http://juntosociety.com, © 2002 The Junto Society.
[ii] This incident and quote came to my attention in “Healthcare—If Government Doesn’t Do It, Who Will?” by Larry Elder, online column August 27, 2009, on Townhall.com.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Freedom of Religion Is a Founding Principle


The phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution. 

Danbury Baptist letter
from Thomas Jefferson
image found here
As I mention toward the end of the Civilization section of the Spherical Model, Jefferson wrote this phrase in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, 

to assure them that the “free exercise of religion” mentioned in the First Amendment was not a declaration that the right was granted by government, but that it was inalienable, and that there would not and could not be a religious sect favored by the US government to the exclusion of the others.
Unlike most other countries they were aware of, America would not have a state-sponsored, or favored, religion. That is what was meant by “establishment of religion” in the First Amendment. Rather than favor a particular sect—by taxing citizens to support it or favoring people who belong to it—the Founders wanted freedom of religion, and religious belief, to flourish. They did favor belief in God, and they favored people living religion-inspired lives.

Unfortunately, that idea has been twisted to practically the exact opposite of what the Founders envisioned. Somewhere along the line, government that would neither establish religion nor interfere with the free exercise thereof morphed into government that might override religious freedom whenever someone objected to something religious appearing in public view.

I’ve heard this called a couple of things: the dissenter’s veto, or offended observer status.

Let’s start today by clarifying what the Founders thought about religion in America.

A couple of weeks ago, in time for the 4th of July, Ben Shapiro had historian David Barton on his Sunday Special interview show. Shapiro has written a book on the impact of religious thought on the American founding, and that’s something of a specialty for Barton, so it was a fun hour-long conversation.

David Barton with Ben Shapiro
screenshot from here


Barton points out that the Founders had no problem with religion. In fact, in the Northwest Ordinance, signed by George Washington in 1789, which allowed new states to join the US,

That law specifically says, Article III, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and means of education shall forever be encouraged.” So, to this day, if you look in constitutions like the current North Carolina constitution; you look in Iowa, Kansas, etc.; it says, “Forever in the public schools of this state, religion and morality shall be taught, as well as knowledge.” So, they saw that as a mandate, that you can’t be a part of America if your schools don’t promote religion and morality.
Barton talked about the sources for many of the Founders ideas. Many of their phrases come from other writers: John Wise, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu—but more from the Bible. He recommended a book that actually tracked down the sources:

It’s called The Origins of American Constitutionalism. This is done by professors at the University of Houston, poli-sci professors; it’s published by LSU Press. And these guys said, you know, when you look at the American documents, we’re different from every other nation. We have ideas that other nations never implemented. Where’d our founders get those ideas? And they said, “We think that if we can go back and read what they wrote and see who they quoted, we’ll know where they got their ideas.”
So they collected 15,000 representative writings out of the founding era. They went through all 15,000. They found 3154 direct quotes. It took them ten years to document every quote back to its original source. At the end of ten years they said, “We now know where the founders got their ideas.”
So, the number one most cited individual—and when you’ve got 6,000 years of writings, and you’ve got tens of thousands of nations that have come and gone, you’ve got a lot of people you can choose from—they said the number one most cited individual was Charles Montesquieu. Bear in mind, Montesquieu out of France, The Spirit of the Law, 1750, 8.3%. That’s a lot for one guy, when you’ve got thousands to choose from.
Number two was William Blackstone, his four-volume Commentary on the Laws. That was number two at 7.9%. Number three was John Locke at 2.9%, particularly this book by Locke: Two Treatises of Government. Those were the top cited individuals.
But what they found that was really kind of shocking was, the single most cited source in the American founding was the Bible: 34%. That’s twelve times more than Locke, four times more than Montesquieu, four times more than Blackstone. The Bible.
And then they said, “Which Bible verse is recorded most often? And which books?” And Deuteronomy is the number one most quoted book—where Israel is building its nation. Moses is setting up the nation. And then Isaiah was next most quoted.
And so, even the secular academics have documented that the Bible was the primary source in the ideas that shaped the American founding. So it’s not like it’s in the atmosphere and it’s in the culture; these guys really did think according to specific Bible verses, and they applied them.
And so that, and between the Founders’ Bible, it’s pretty compelling that it was just not the atmosphere or the culture; it was the thinking that went behind it.
What were some of the ideas they got from these sources? Things like government needing the consent of the governed, and all men are created equal, and we’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke went to meet some immigrants and refugees in Tennessee and told would-be Americans that he’s ashamed because America was "founded on white supremacy." That’s what he said. It’s hard to be that wrong; he must work at it.

As Barton said, “If the government were at least not hostile, it would be helpful.” He talked about how Kentucky schools had a problem with a picture of the Ten Commandments being included among other art, such as George Washington and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, hanging in the school halls. The question went to court as to whether it was constitutional for a student to voluntarily read the Ten Commandments on a piece of art at school. In that case the court ruled no.

And to quote the Court, it said, “If a student were to see the Ten Commandments, they might be induced to read them. If they read them, they might venerate, respect, and obey them. And that would be unconstitutional.” Oh yeah, things like don’t steal and don’t kill and don’t perjure yourself. So legally we can’t even put in front of kids what is hanging in more than 50 locations in the Supreme Court. US Supreme Court has more than 50 depictions of the Ten Commandments in it. Some of are in stone.
Barton refers to this situation—the removal of religion from public places—as the dissenter’s veto:It’s a ridiculous situation we’ve put ourselves in—or we’ve allowed the legal system to do to us:

if somebody objects to everybody else sharing their faith, we’re going to make everybody else stop so this this guy won’t object. Nonsense. You don’t let one person veto everyone else.
Barton is hopeful that, with new justices—and I think he means the US Supreme Court as well as many new conservative, law-reading justices in lower courts as well—things are looking up.

We’re starting to win some things we haven’t won in 50, 60 years. We’re seeing a turn.
Courts are no substitute for the people learning their history and purposefully living good, religious lives. But at least the courts can prevent some official hostility toward religion.

He’s not the only one to think things are looking up. On July 10th, on The Blaze’s The News and Why It Matters,* one of the guests was Lathan Watts, Director of Communications, First Liberty Institute, with some good news. The story that he highlighted was from last week, a policy change issued by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, allowing the inclusion of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.

Lathan Watts, with First Liberty Institute,
on The News and Why It Matters, July 10, 2019
screenshot from here


Here’s the story behind it. In Manchester, New Hampshire, at a VA hospital, the Northeast POW/MIA Network (First Liberty’s client) had received permission to put up a POW/MIA remembrance table, as is done in many VA hospitals around the country:

Every item on a POW/MIA table is symbolic. There’s a yellow rose. There’s an empty chair for the POW. And one of those symbols is typically a Bible that symbolizes the strength gained through faith, of the POW and his family while they wait.
Well, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation—which is an Orwellian named group, because they hate religious freedom—[started by a guy name Mikey Weinstein]. And he sent a letter to the VA facility in Manchester saying that it was illegal to have this Bible, and that it was somehow an establishment clause violation, threatening to sue them. So we sent a letter to the VA explaining what the law actually is, and what the current VA policy was, that this is a private display and it’s perfectly acceptable to have it there. And that director made the right decision, and it’s going to stay.
In the process of defending against Weinstein’s attack, First Liberty sent a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, asking for a nationwide policy, to prevent this anti-religious group from attacking one VA facility after another, since the current policy was to leave such decisions to the facility directors, who may not be aware of their rights and could comply needlessly. And that led to the Secretary’s issuing the new policy.

There’s more good news attached:

And the great thing about their press release is, right at the end they say, “The US Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans, and it’s consistency with constitutional principles.” That’s a direct cite of the recent case that we just won about three weeks ago, the American Legion v. American Humanist Association. So it was great to see almost an immediate impact of that decision. And a new policy’s going to protect these types of displays all over the country.
We hadn’t spent much time on that case, but we did mention it, as a bit of good news, at the end of Monday’s post. In that case, the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial, a large cross that has been standing for close to a century, was found offensive by the American Humanist Association for “establishing” a religion—in other words, forcing nonbelievers to participate in an established government-approved religious sect—simply because they can view the memorial. Finally, we have a court that doesn’t buy that.

Watts comments,

The constitution protects your rights, not your feelings. It’s as simple as that. And that was one of the great things in the American Legion decision. Justice Gorsuch, in his concurrence that Justice Thomas joined… said now that we’re returning to the original text of the First Amendment in analyzing these cases, we should also completely do away with the offended observer status. And Thomas agreed with him and said these types of cases should be dismissed for lack of standing. Just because you’re offended by seeing an object should not provide you standing to go into court and have that object removed or torn down.
About that offended observer status—what David Barton referred to as the dissenter’s veto, the supposed loophole that gives a single individual the right to overrule everyone else’s religious freedom—he says he thinks such cases will be more easily dismissed. He adds that offended observer status is

only present in establishment clause cases. It’s the only place in the law where we recognize this right to go to court and have something torn down because you don’t like it. It’s only in establishment clause cases.
And so, hopefully this is the indication that it’s morning in America again.
Let’s hope so. Let the light dawn once again on those Founding ideas that made America exceptional in the first place.
________________________________________________
* This link may require a subscription. But the segment is available on Facebook here

Monday, July 8, 2019

Perceiving What Is Real


Sunday morning, while I was getting ready for church, I had BYU Radio playing, and there was a short clip of a 2014 talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I looked up the whole thing later, but here’s the transcript of the clip I heard[i]:

It was less than a century ago that most astronomers assumed that our Milky Way galaxy was the only galaxy in the universe.[ii] They supposed all that lay beyond our galaxy was an immense nothingness, an infinite void—empty, cold, and devoid of stars, light, and life.
screenshot from here

As telescopes became more sophisticated—including telescopes that could be launched into space—astronomers began to grasp a spectacular, almost incomprehensible truth: the universe is mind-bogglingly bigger than anyone had previously believed, and the heavens are filled with numberless galaxies, unimaginably far away from us, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.[iii]
In a very short period of time, our understanding of the universe changed forever.
Today we can see some of these distant galaxies.[iv]

screenshot from here
We know that they are there.
They have been there for a very long time.
But before mankind had instruments powerful enough to gather celestial light and bring these galaxies into visibility, we did not believe such a thing was possible.
The immensity of the universe didn’t suddenly change, but our ability to see and understand this truth changed dramatically. And with that greater light, mankind was introduced to glorious vistas we had never before imagined.
He then introduces the main question of his talk:

It seems to be a trait of humanity to assume that we are right even when we are wrong. And if that is the case, what hope is there for any of us? Are we destined to drift aimlessly on an ocean of conflicting information, stranded on a raft we have poorly pieced together from our own biases?
Is it possible to find truth?
He then uses the earlier telescope observation as a metaphor:

Scientists were struggling to understand the breadth of the universe until instruments became sophisticated enough to gather in greater light so they could understand a more complete truth.
The Apostle Paul taught a parallel principle regarding spiritual knowledge. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” he wrote to the Corinthians, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" [1 Cor. 2:14]
In other words, if you want to recognize spiritual truth, you have to use the right instruments. You can’t come to an understanding of spiritual truth with instruments that are unable to detect it.
That got me thinking. Because I am able to perceive spiritual things even when many in the world don’t—and further, claim that I don’t.

I was thinking of another analogy. We had some books when our children were young, called Magic Eye. There would be a picture of apparently chaotic color. But if you stared at it long enough, and relaxed your eyes a certain way, suddenly a three-dimensional image appeared.

It took some practice. For us,, in our family after we’d figured out how to see the image on one page, we’d get quicker at seeing it on the next.

Not everyone can manage to see the image. But it’s there, whether a person perceives it or not. As an aside, there’s a half-decade-old lecture by Jordan Peterson, called “Reality and the Sacred,” in which he discusses how miraculous it is that we can perceive anything. Sight, for example, is so far impossible for artificial intelligence; there’s too much complexity involved in perceiving and understanding what we see. 

Anyway, it’s hard to explain the process of seeing that extra-dimensional picture exactly. You stare. You relax your eyes a bit, let go. And it happens. That’s not very exact. And it’s not very helpful to those who are struggling to see and cannot.

Those of us who have spiritual experiences, who can see the metaphorical additional-dimension image, encourage the non-see-ers. There are methods and steps that work for many of us:

·        Suspend disbelief and be open to the possibility of something beyond your five senses.
·        Pray.
·        Read spiritual texts that have record others’ spiritual experiences and lead many to have spiritual experiences from reading them.
·        Listen to the thoughts, ideas, impressions, or feelings that come in answer to prayer, or as inspiration even in between prayers.
·        Act on these promptings.
·        Record the promptings and results.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to debates between believers and atheists. The atheists are not persuasive to me, because they dismiss my experience simply because they have not had those experiences. [Writing on this theme is adding up. See here, here, here, and here, for example.] 

I don’t know why they don’t get them and I do. Sometimes it might be due to willful blindness on their part. Sometimes they’re decent people just not looking at things in a way that allows them to see the extra dimension that I see. But their not seeing something I’ve experiences doesn’t convince me that I’m somehow mistaken. The evidence is in my favor.

image from Wikipedia
Remember the children’s story Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss? This elephant, with enormous ears and excellent hearing, and a kind heart, hears the sounds of the people on a world that exists on a dust speck on a clover. He knows they’re there, and so he protects them. But the non-hearers all around him, while they could simply ignore him and let him do his thing, are determined to stop him from believing he hears something. They threaten, and connive, and work to destroy. Why? Does Horton’s belief (knowledge that they can’t perceive) harm them?


In the end, Horton is able to convince the Whos down in Whoville, the people on the speck, that they need to rally and make enough noise to be heard. The final addition of one small child is enough to make them heard by the ears of all the others in Horton’s world—similar to the development of telescopes so we could see distant galaxies.

What if the Whos hadn’t been able to muster enough noise? Would they have still been there? Yes, Horton knew it, whether the others knew or not. (It’s fiction, I know, and therefore not actually real. I’m talking within the realm of this story.)

The inability to perceive does not determine whether something exists. This is particularly evident among believers in God and those who don’t.

It is not limited to our day; this has happened many times in history. But today, again, there is a vocal segment of nonbelievers that act like those conniving bullies in the Horton story. If believers commit to live better lives than they otherwise would—more honest, more committed to family, more hardworking, getting rid of corruption and trying to remove evil tendencies from their hearts—why should that garner the ire of nonbelievers?

Yet that’s what is going on when the attack companies like Chick-fil-A, or Hobby Lobby, or small business owners like florist Baronelle Stutzman or baker Jack Phillips.

Then there’s this story about a Christian charter school in Maryland that was eliminated from the voucher program for holding biblical views on sexuality. 

There’s this story about Amazon discontinuing selling books by a Catholic psychologist, with a large body of work spreading over decades, because of pressure from LGBT lobbyists. 

This isn’t confined just to America. Canadians, a supposed freedom of religion nation, just passed a law prohibiting public employees from wearing religious symbols or clothing at work—no Christian crucifix, no Jewish yarmulke, no Sikh turban. 

Further in that same story, the Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that all doctors must give up their religious beliefs or get out of medicine:

Doctors must abort, euthanize, provide transgender interventions or any other legal medical procedure—or find a doctor who will, called an “effective referral.” In other words, Ontario forces doctors to take human life or provide services he or she might consider mutilating, even if the doctor considers it an egregious sin—either that, or be ghettoized into areas of practice such as podiatry in which no such requests are likely to be made. And if they don’t like that, as one judge put it, they can get out of medicine altogether.
Elsewhere in the world, such as Syria, Christians are persecuted to the brink of extinction, making everything I talk about here seem minor. Still, I believe we need to address the relatively minor attacks while that is what they are.

We mentioned Chick-fil-A above. They’ve been persecuted for years. Recently, during a gay pride parade in New York, a Chick-fil-A restaurant was vandalized, and the vandals ironically accused Chick-fil-A of being the haters. 

There are sparks of goodness, still, because so many people want to be good and are trying to figure that out for themselves. One man tweeted this response to the Chick-fil-A attack: "I’m gay. I eat Chick-Fil-A. I love Chick-Fil-A. They have different beliefs than I do. We can agree to disagree on things. Doesn’t mean I hate them. Not seeing tolerance. Not seeing love."

Another good story is that the near-century-old Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial, in the shape of a cross, is being allowed by the Supreme Court to stand.

Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial
image from here


The odd question is why there would be so much hatred against a religious symbol in a country that is founded and dedicated on Godly principles—including, and maybe especially, the freedom to believe as we choose.

Like those bullies in the Horton story, I’d like them to stop with their screed long enough to explain why they are so desperate to stamp out the possibility that other people perceive something they have not.



[i] The entire talk is here, with both video and transcript. There’s an additional video within the text of a shorter clip, with illustrations, which I used for screenshots.
[ii] See Marcia Bartusiak, The Day We Found the Universe (2009), xii.
[iii] See Moses 1:33,35 in The Pearl of Great Price, and note that this was revealed in June 1830, nearly a century before Edwin Hubble announced his discovery of distant galaxies.
[iv] See, for example, the Hubble Heritage Image Gallery at heritage.stsci.edu/gallery/gallery.html.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

I'm a Friend of the Founding


I wasn’t sure I’d post today, on the Fourth of July itself. But, before we head out to do fireworks, I’d like to share just a little bit, in celebration of our country—and our founding documents based on our radical founding ideas.

"The Declaration of Independence," by John Trumbull, 1819
image found here


I was listening to Andrew Klavan the other day[i], and he had a segment that used different words from the Spherical Model, but still a good description of the dichotomy between the northern and southern hemispheres of freedom and tyranny. He talks about the divide specifically as between friends of the founding of America and enemies of that founding.
Andrew Klavan
image found here


So, in honor of the Fourth of July, here’s the transcript of those few minutes:

We know that our country’s divided. But I think we’re using an old template to describe how it’s divided. I stopped using the word “liberal” a long time ago, because there’s nothing liberal about the left. They oppose free speech, free thought, free markets, freedom of religion. The only freedoms they support are the unbridled fulfillments of physical desires, which are guaranteed to turn you into a dependent slave.
So I call them “leftists” now, but maybe leftist isn’t quite right either. It’s kind of an old-fashioned word to describe a European phenomenon.
And what about conservatives? Are we really conservative? Well, we’re sort of conservative. But in America conservatives aren’t about blood and soil, or even really about tradition necessarily, except insofar as our traditions preserve our essential America ideas.
Unlike conservatives in other nations, American conservatives are trying to conserve the most radical political document ever written—the Constitution—which guarantees a limited government of specified powers tasked with guaranteeing the individuals’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So, that’s not really conservative in the usual sense of the word. In fact, what I think we’re seeing is a division between friends of that founding and enemies of that founding. Those of us who believe the creation of the United States in the image of our Declaration and Constitution is the greatest political event in history and therefore worth saving, and those who think, no, we should return to the age-old habit of top-down government or race-based identity politics, rather than the radical politics based on our founding ideas.
You can tell friends of the founding, because they talk about founding ideals. They quote Jefferson. They quote Madison, Adams, Franklin. They wrestle with the original intentions of the Constitution and the underlying principles of the Declaration. We can have passionate but civilized debates about whether a new idea, like gay rights, is antithetical to those founding intentions or is in fact in keeping with them, because we have source materials and writings and foundational ideas we can compare our arguments to, and then move ahead, abandoning out-of-date practices or clinging to those practices that still hold true to the founding.
But the anti-founders, they got nothin’. All they have is an amorphous sense of their own glowing compassion, tolerance, and virtue. So, these empty phrases like “That’s not who we are,” which literally means nothing. They invent mean-sounding words like Islamaphobia or transphobia, which describe utterly nonexistent phenomena; nobody’s phobic about transgender people or Islamic people. They just want to demonize legitimate concerns about whether violence is inherent in Islamic theology and whether sexual identity is eating away at morality, and even sanity.
They address issues of high emotion and zero importance, like use of pronouns or abortion rights for girls who are actually guys[ii]. They’re guided and manipulated by emotive pictures on the left-wing news. Babies dying at the border is a crisis, but babies dying in Chicago, not so much.
Most of all, the enemies of the founding define everything that opposes them as hate. Of course they do. Since they’re defined by their love and their virtue, anyone who’s against them must be hateful, and therefore can be opposed by any means necessary. So the enemies of the founding call the friends of the founding, not just wrong, but evil. And they license their own evil in the process. They call us hateful while they obviously seethe with hate. They call us violent while they assault us and scream at us and spit on us in restaurants. They call us racist while they see everything in terms of race. And they call us fascist while they try to undermine every freedom our founding defends.
Momentary issues and the huge presence of Donald Trump distract us from the essential nature of this division. But, in each issue, each crisis, each argument, it’s important to remember what exactly we’re fighting for, so we can defeat these forces of violence and hate.


[i] This was from his podcast Monday, July 1, 2019. The whole podcast is available here. This short segment can be seen on Facebook, here.
[ii] This is a reference to a comment by Julian Castro in the Democratic presidential debate last week. He’s apparently unaware of biology. Afterward, he received praise, at least in our newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, for his breakout, excellent performance.

Monday, July 1, 2019

What the 4th of July Is About


Last week, while we had Little Political Sphere 1 (our granddaughter, the daughter of son Political Sphere) visiting with us, I planned to do a little interview with her. But we were stuffing the week intensely full all week, and I didn’t get to it until on the drive to take her back to her parents.
Me and my granddaughter
at the Water Wall in Houston


She’s almost ten, has just finished 4th grade. I told her what I wanted to do, to talk about some American history, and she was worried, because they didn’t study that this year. But I thought she did quite well.

I’ve typed up the transcript. We got distracted occasionally. I’ve edited out the GPS interruptions, and the occasional wild diversion. But the rest is here. She knew several answers, and asked good questions. There were things neither of us knew, and she was very quick to look things up on her phone (she just got her phone a few days before her visit to us). I've also added a few clarifications.

Here’s what we—Spherical Model (SM) and Little Political Sphere 1 (LPS1)—think the 4th of July is about:

SM: All right, so LPS1 and I are talking today about the 4th of July. Tell me what you know about why we celebrate—something—on the 4th of July, and what is it we celebrate.
LPS1: Our independence?
SM: From?
LPS1: Britain.
SM: Yes. Right. Good. So, what happened on that day? How did it become an important day?
LPS1: It became an important day because we got independence from Britain?
SM: What we did—we declared it that day.
LPS1: Oh, we did?
SM: So, you’ve heard of the Declaration of Independence?
LPS1: Yes.
SM: That was signed on that day. They’d been writing it a couple or three days before that, and then they signed it on that day.
Next question: Did everything go fine from that moment on, and Britain said, “OK, fine, you’re independent”? Or did something else happen?
LPS1: I think there was a war.
SM: There was a war. It was already going on by that time, but it went on for…
LPS1: a long time?
SM: Yeah. A year or two, or so. I can’t remember exactly how long. I’ll have to look that up. [The Revolutionary War lasted April 19, 1775—September 3, 1783.]
But it took a while for them to win independence. And it was kind of surprising that they won independence, because Britain was, like, the superpower of the world at the time, and America was just these thirteen little colonies. So you’d think that maybe there was a destiny or a purpose in having the United States of America in the world, and all of the ideas that came with it.
LPS1: So they wouldn’t throw more tea into the ocean?
SM: (Laughter) Do you know why they did that? What that was about?
LPS1: The tea, or…?
SM: Yeah, the tea? Why did they throw tea…? Who threw the tea and why?
LPS1: Because they had—it was the Boston Tea Party, and because they had to pay taxes for tea, I think?
SM: Yes, and they didn’t have representation. Nobody—they didn’t get to send a representative to decide on those things, so they just got charged. It was like, “Well, that’s no fair.”
LPS1: ‘Cause it’s bad for the ocean?
SM: Well, it was only a little bit in the big ocean. But the point was that they didn’t want to buy tea if they had to pay a tax that was an unrighteous tax. So they just said, “We won’t drink tea.”
LPS1: Maybe they should have just given it back.
SM: It was a symbolic demonstration.
Let’s see, so they were taxed when they shouldn’t have been. There were other things that were kind of tyrannical being done against them, so they said, “We want to be a free people. We can govern ourselves. We don’t need a king any longer.” Which was kind of a surprising new idea at that time.
Do you know who any of the leaders were at the time? We call them Founding Fathers.
LPS1: George Washington?
stained glass depicting reading the Declaration of Independence
to George Washington, at the museum at Mt. Vernon

SM: Yes. OK, tell me about George Washington.
LPS1: He was, like, the leader of them?
SM: Yeah. What did he do?
LPS1: He was like a general, and he helped them fight?
SM: Yes, he was. He was the main general of the army of the colonies, and had to hold everybody together, and do the strategy, on very little budget and resources. But he was a very good leader, and so he managed it.
Do you know anything else about George Washington?
LPS1: After the war, he became president, the first President of the United States.
SM: That’s true. Not immediately after the war. It might surprise you to know that there was at least one other president before…
LPS1: Oh yeah. I forgot his name, though.

SM: I did too. Because George Washington was the first President once we got our Constitution, which was about seven or eight years later. So he became the first President that we think of once we got our Constitution.
LPS1: Who was the first president? (She’s looking online on her phone.) It just says George Washington. He was not the first president.
SM: Well, he was the first president once we got our Constitution.
LPS1: But it just says—I asked, “Who was the first president?” in the whole world?
SM: Oh, I don’t know about that.
LPS1: That’s what I’m asking. Here it is. The first—"John Hanson became the first president of the United States of America,” and “not George Washington, was the first president of the United States.” John Hanson.
John Hanson, first President of Congress within the
Continental Congress of the United States,
from Google search screenshot
[Many people have argued that John Hanson, and not George Washington, was the first President of the United States, but this is not quite true. Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States had no executive branch. The President of Congress was a ceremonial position within the Confederation Congress. Although the office required Hanson to deal with correspondence and sign official documents, it wasn't the sort of work that any President of the United States under the Constitution would have done.]
SM: John Hanson. OK. Let’s see. Do you know anything about Benjamin Franklin?
LPS1: He did this kite project.
SM: Yes. He was a scientist, among other things.
LPS1: Yeah. He was a scientist.
SM: Yeah, so he did the kite project. He was one of the people who helped write the Constitution.
Have you heard of John Adams?
LPS1: He was— No, he wasn’t….
SM: He helped write the Declaration of Independence.
LPS1: I was thinking of the…
SM: Actually he encouraged Thomas Jefferson to write it. Do you know who Thomas Jefferson was?
LPS1: Thomas Jefferson was a president?
SM: Yes. So was John Adams.
LPS1: Yeah, he was. They were both presidents.
SM: After George Washington. I can’t remember in what order. James Madison was also one—
LPS1: I know Abraham Lincoln was the 16th.
SM: Yes. He was much later. About 80 years later. “Four score and seven years ago”—87 years. That’s from the Gettysburg Address.
So, let’s see, who else were the others? So, Thomas Jefferson did the writing of the Declaration of Independence, that they signed on the 4th of July, because he was a very good writer. And, I mean he was good at putting words together. He also happened to have really good handwriting. A lot of them did back then. It’s harder to do, ‘cause they had to do it with ink and a quill pen.
LPS1: I’m trying to think of more people, but I keep thinking of someone else that’s in a different country.
SM: Well, let’s see. We’ve got a lot of them: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin. Who did I leave out? James Madison. John Hancock—he has the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence.
LPS1: He just writes big?
SM: Yeah, he wrote bigger than the rest of them. Yeah, really pretty handwriting. And, let’s see, who else am I thinking of? The one from New York that was—  So, when they were discussing things for the Constitution, they wrote newspaper editorials [The Federalist Papers], little pieces for the newspapers to talk about—
LPS1: Wait. They had newspapers?
SM: Oh, yes. They had newspapers back then.
LPS1: How did they get the paper from the trees? They didn’t have any, like, machines.
SM: They did. Well, they didn’t have electrical machines, but they had a lot of machines. And they did— So you wouldn’t get a newspaper maybe every day, but you might get one once a week, and people would pass them around from person to person, so everybody got to see it.
LPS1: So, one newspaper for a whole town?
SM: No. Multiple people in town would buy it, enough people would buy it that the newspapermen could make a living, but they’d have to have people—
LPS1: How big were the towns?
SM: They’d have to take pieces, you know, of the type, and put a letter in separately, and it took quite a while to do it. Um, how big were the towns? Good question. You’d have to look up the numbers to know for certain.
LPS1: I’ll look.
SM: But a town, a big town would probably be 10,000 people, or a really big city maybe 25,000. Like Boston. There were big places, in Virginia and Massachusetts, mainly—
[Philadelphia (40,000) New York City (25,000 people), Boston (15,000), Charleston (12,000), and Newport (11,000)] 
LPS1: How do you divide that, like, newspaper?
SM: Well, people subscribe to a newspaper. Or they buy it at a stand where it’s sold. It’s still kind of done that way, although we do a lot more online now.
So, let’s see. Where were we? So they had these articles they would write for the paper, to discuss the ideas. And everybody could read and understand them, and share their ideas back and forth. Some of the main writers of that were James Madison, John Jay, and—I’m trying to remember the one from New York—Alexander Hamilton.
LPS1: Oh, yeah.
SM: Yes. So, those three mainly, but also some others, would write these articles arguing back and forth the ideas, and how things should work and would work. And then the people would understand too. The people did. They understood all of the things that are in Constitution.
LPS1: That’s cool.
SM: So you could read it. Everybody could read it at that time and understand it. Sometimes we look at it now, and it’s a little bit hard to understand, because language changes over time. But it’s still pretty understandable to read both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Our main law, the Constitution, is only a few pages long, really. It’s about as long as a chapter of a book. And you can read that and understand it. I mean, at your age you might have to ask what a few words mean, but your dad could tell you. ‘Cause he understood it when we were doing school together. He went through it very carefully and wrote out what he understood of all of those—‘cause, you know, your Dad does weird things for fun.
All right. Anything else about the 4th of July we should remember?
LPS1: That it is not only about fireworks.
memories from 4th of July celebrations past

SM: Yes. We do fireworks, ‘cause they’re a celebration, and they’re also reminders that there was war and bombs. But now we’re safe and we just do it for fun. And we do barbecues and go swimming and stuff like that, because we’re free to do that now. Because other people fought for our freedoms. Right?
LPS1: Yeah.
SM: OK, thank you for the interview, young lady.