2015 Predictions

presdictionsheader

Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. It seems like I’m beating an old horse to explain this, but once again this is not astrology or psychic power (as you might realize by reading my analysis of 2014’s predictions). I’m just making my best guess as to what the news in the coming year might include. No one reads this anyway, so I really just do it as a game for myself.

I wrote these down on the first week of January because my website hosting has been a bit of a debacle lately. I have witnesses to this, if anyone wants to doubt me. So, without further adieu…

Continue reading “2015 Predictions”

Arms

declaration of independence

Dear Friend,

I recently have read several of your posts on Facebook questioning our Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.  In your last post, you mentioned that you were confused as to its meaning, and that “it seemed to refer to circumstances that no longer apply.”  I know that you have a different perspective on the situation than I do, being from the United Kingdom.  I hope that in this posted response I can clear some of that confusion up for you.

First of all, as we get into this topic, we need to address two separate, yet interconnected issues.  The first, is why this was written into our constitution in the first place by our founding fathers and what they might have intended in this guarantee.  After understanding that, then we can be safe to try answering the question of whether there is still a purpose to this guarantee, and what might happen if we decided to remove it.

It is important to note that one cannot really understand the continued purpose of the Second Amendment if one doesn’t grasp its original meaning.  Also, if the founders were wise in putting that right into our Constitution, that doesn’t mean it is wise to leave it there.  On the other hand, if those circumstances still exist for us, then maybe we are wise to continue this right.

Why did our founders include a constitutional right to bear arms?

The US Constitution is an old document.  It is no Magna Carta, but it certainly wasn’t written in MS Word.  The world of pre-1776 was a place of kings and dictators, where it was assumed that governments were meant to be led by single autocratic leaders.  Much of the western world also used out-of-context scripture to point toward God ordaining this situation.

It easily followed from this mindset that the God-ordained king could give life, and take it away, that in fact, the rights of a people were given them by the king himself.  Thus, when the king decided that all people were to be members of the Church of England that is what the people had to do.  Or if the ruler wanted to tax you, or put troops in your home there was simply no other recourse.  He was the king.

In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was written, it gave voice to the writings of philosophers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.  When they wrote the words “…all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…” what the founders were saying was that rights came not from any earthly ruler or document, but were given to each of us by God, Himself upon our birth.”  We are given the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that no ruler or government could take them away.

That is where we usually stop in our reading of this famous document, but when we do, we miss something really important.

See, the first sentence of the Declaration gives its thesis.  Paraphrased, it says that when in history a people decide that they need to be separate from another and form their own government, there better be a good reason and it should be given.

After this, is the famous section about God-given rights and the government’s purpose of securing and protecting them.  But, when a government isn’t doing that job properly, it is the “right of the people to alter or abolish” that government.  This is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it is one of those unalienable rights of all mankind.

Our founders thought that the ability to protect yourself without relying on the government, to tell the government “no” when it was attempting to usurp your own rights, and to even destroy that government when necessary were all things that the government could never take away from our people.

One of the writers of the Second Amendment said, “What is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” (George Mason, co-author of the 2nd Amendment, 1788).  Other founders statements agree with that.  There is no scholarly doubt that the “militia” written in the text means the unorganized people themselves.

This makes sense when you read the wording of the amendment.  It has also been our greatest source of national security.  No one has ever invaded the US homeland.  Why?  It is because no army could disarm the people.  As the Japanese said, every blade of grass would hide a man with a rifle.  Or as Lincoln said, “All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasuries of the world, save ours, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or a step on Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.”

The Second Amendment had nothing to do with hunting, and it also has no problem with weapons that held increasing firepower, and a violent society (remember, one of our founders died in a gun fight with one of our past Vice Presidents).  Whether or not the Second Amendment should remain is the focus of my next blog.  It is a different topic altogether.

Now, not many people will talk about these aspects of the Second Amendment, mostly because it sounds like advocating violent revolution of the government.  But remember, all of this was set in place not necessarily so that people could overthrow the government, but that the founders thought the right of self-defense and self-determination were one of those rights no government ever had any mandate to ever take away.

My next post will cover the question of whether or not the Second Amendment should be continued.–Ryan

 

Gun

Gun Header

Today I ended a two-week marketing contract for a major cellular phone provider that had me spending most days in my car, driving from one location to another.  This meant that as the events of today’s school massacre in Connecticut unfolded, I was listening on the radio.  I heard all happen right before my ears.

Events like this usually don’t inspire a strong reaction for me.  While I am passionate about current events as they pertain to politics and world events, things like the OJ Simpson murders, Casey Anthony, and Virginia Tech just don’t impact me as much for some reason.  That is just how I’m geared, but this case is different.

We have heard lately about mall shootings, football player murder/suicides, and the Movie Theater mass shooting in Colorado.  Some people, like Bob Costas, have used these opportunities to talk about increased gun control.  That may be a good conversation to have, although I personally do not believe that more gun regulations will be the solution.

As the radio told me of the teachers that hid their students in closets and bathrooms, police making the kids leave the school with their eyes closed, and a room full of kids gunned down by hundreds of rounds of ammunition, I became enraged.  I can’t think of any other emotion to feel when that kind of evil is present, and I don’t think any other emotion is appropriate.

The Bible says to “be angry, yet do not sin.”  It also talks about God’s fury at sin, and particularly those who intentionally hurt His little ones.  Yet we live in a world with increasing evil.  I don’t care to debate this with anyone: murder rates, violent crimes, and corruption cases are telling, but the simple fact is that evil is becoming far more evil than ever.

I mourn for our country and it’s people.  Christians must stand and say, “enough.”  We cannot be blamed for things like this.  It is not the church’s fault that things like this happen, but evil triumphs when good men do nothing.  And that is what we have done.  We have hibernated and cloistered while the gates of Hell have advanced, laughing at the impotence of God’s people.  We don’t fight our wars with guns or fists, but on our knees and making all else but the gospel secondary.  This has not characterized God’s people of late.  More church programs and laws won’t stop this advance of evil.  More steadfast men of faith will. -Ryan

Praying for Japan

A lot has been said about Japan in the media over the last few days.  I honestly have no idea what I can say, but I feel compelled.  I want to do or say anything I can to make it better.  I am struck by the horrible suffering in the midst of mounting tragedy.  But there is little I can say or do.  Please pray for comfort and healing for this noble nation.

This picture says more than anything I could.  I hope this AP photographer, Asahi Shimbun, wins the Pulitzer.

From News Shots

Absent

Absent HeaderI just read this article online.  Please take a minute to read this excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online.

Madison Law enforcement officers are searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to act on the bill.

As Republicans denounced the move, one Democratic senator said that he believed most of the members of his caucus are in another state. However, an aide said that at least one, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), was still in his Capitol office listening to constituents.

In a telephone interview, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) declined to give his location but acknowledged that at least one other Democrat was with him. He said that law enforcement would be able to compel him and his members to the Senate floor if they are located in Wisconsin.

“I can tell you this – we’re not all in one place,” Miller said. “This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes. The people have shown that the government has gone too far . . .  We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”

Fighting Quorum

Basically, the Wisconsin legislature (under the governor’s direction) is trying to pass legislation that significantly reduces  the ability of unions in the state to hold the upper-hand in negotiating contracts with the government.  This would enable them to set salaries and benefits for state workers that are more reasonable in light of the seriousness of the government’s economic situation.

The reaction in Wisconsin has been teacher strikes, marches on the state capitol, and loud complaining by Democrats.  Though of course state workers would want to have the best bargaining positions possible, the state is facing a $3 billion shortfall in its budget over the next 2 years.  That means they are going to have to make serious cuts, or  face bankruptcy.

Democrats feel they have no choice but to resist this.  The unions are both a major source of funding and voters, although there is no chance that the union voters will abandon them even if this passes.  However, the Republicans have a majority in the Wisconsin congress, so the Democrats can’t do much to stop them.  The Dems were in a situation where they could not possibly win.

So the Democrats left.  They walked out and hid.  This would seem silly, except that it creates a problem in parliamentary procedure, the rules that govern how the legislature is run.  In order to take a valid vote, the legislature needs something called quorum.  Quorum is the number of members that must be present in order for any action to be valid, and is greater than the number it takes to pass a law.

The quorum rule was created to prevent a minority from holding a secret session, or meeting during some sort of emergency that prevented most members from attending, and passing some strange law.  But the rule of quorum was never intended to be used as a blunt instrument to prevent democracy from working when a minority didn’t like what was happening.  This kind of action is unfortunately not atypical of the kind of tactics that Democrats have played throughout the years, but it is a very bad sign for the gridlock that could be coming in many states and nationally.

What neither the state Democrats, nor anyone in the media seem to be asking is, “What is the best thing to do for the state’s $3 billion defecit?”

The Real World

America needs to wake up!  Nationally for the first time since World War 2, our country owes more money than we have in our entire budget.  The national debt is currently $14 trillion, with total obligations above $55 trillion.  But these numbers seem to be too big to really wrap one’s mind around.  So maybe an easier scale would help to make this all make more sense.

Let’s say a small family (father, mother, and small child) have a yearly income of $50,000.  But by the end of this year, the family will owe over $50,000 to the credit card companies, more than their entire income for the year.  All of that would be a difficult situation, but not impossible.  The problem is that every month, even though the family gets a salary of over $4,166, they are keep spending $4,582.  So, each month they are more than $400 in debt more than the month before.  This is obviously an impossible situation.  It won’t be long before the credit card companies cut the family’s credit line and sue them.  They will go bankrupt.

Any family would have to sit down and start cutting their budget.  That might mean moving to a smaller house or apartment, selling a car, not eating out.  They would have to make these changes, no matter how much they didn’t want to.  Anything that was not necessary to keep them alive would have to be cut so that they would be able to pay off the debt.

But many in America are loath to see this happen nationally.  There have been protests over the proposed de-funding of PBS.  Recently, some lawmakers even held a press conference with characters dressed as cartoons from popular PBS series, trying to drum up support to “save these shows.”  On the radio, callers have talked about the Republicans “killing Big Bird.”

Killing Big Bird

No one wants to “kill big bird.”  These TV shows are important in American culture and life.  Many children have learned important things from these programs.  But they are just that, TV shows.  PBS can go away if need be, and America will go on, children will learn about the alphabet, and people will be forced to go to the opera instead of just watching it on television.  People will miss PBS.  Maybe the arts will be less supported and there won’t be as many educational TV shows.  Everyone would miss PBS.  No one likes to reduce spending.

The point is that things must be cut.  Some of these things will be government programs that people love, and often count on.  There will probably be few if any budget items that no one will miss, in the same way that the fictional family in the previous illustration will probably miss going to the movies and living in their 4 bedroom house.  But the truth is that there are very few, if any, government programs that don’t affect anyone in some way.  And if any do exist, they aren’t taking up that much of the budget anyway.

When the Democrats walk out of legislatures and hold press conferences with cartoon characters they send a clear message that they are unwilling to do the difficult things that must be done to save the country.  They also send a clear message that their political power and fund raising efforts are more important than the good of America.  If the country is going to pull itself out of this horrible mess, this kind of budgetary brinkmanship must be avoided at all costs. -Ryan

Wikileaks, The Federal Reserve Bank, and a blind free press

Wikileaks Header

A Busy Week in the Newsroom

For connoisseurs of news and politics, the flurry of activity this week has been thrilling.  There have been assassinations in Iran, countries in the EU going bankrupt, and another little scandal brought on by a website called Wikileaks.org.  Over the last day and a half, the US has also willingly revealed some rather embarrassing information about the actions of the Federal Reserve Bank over the last few years.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve revealed new information about the recipients of the money given in 2008 and 2009 in order to bail out businesses and banks under TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).  The information also indicated dollar amounts the bank has given.  According to The Washington Post, the Fed essentially loaned GE $16 billion, Harley Davidson $2.3 billion, and Verizon $1.5 billion.  None of this was publicly known prior to Wednesday’s announcement.  This new information is serious and troubling, as partly indicated by its placement on the front page of many newspapers and top-red status on the Drudgereport.

This federal candor brings to the surface some serious questions.  Why would the government choose to release such scandalous information at this time, when they are already embarrassed by the current leak of information?  Further, what do they stand to gain through this level of disclosure?  Finally, how could government funds allocated to some of the largest companies in the US, totaling $3.3 trillion go unnoticed by any of the nation’s news outlets until now, and what does that mean about the state of American journalism?

Candor in the Fed

Time almost always clarifies questions such as these, but at this moment Wikileaks appears to be more the impetus behind this Fed announcement than merely tangential to it.  Wikileaks has been a constant thorn in the side of the US government over the past several years, as it has revealed increasingly damaging and embarrassing classified information about the government’s secret activities.  This week, they began publishing 251,287 classified US diplomatic cables on their website.  While this document dump is possibly less damaging than some previous leaks, it is very embarrassing for the US.

But what appears to be even more significant is the website’s claim to be on the verge of releasing information on “a major bank that is still in existence,” according to a Reuters report.  Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange has declined to announce the name of this bank.  So people are guessing.  Prognosticators are placing their money on Bank of America.  They might be wrong.

Of course there could be other reasons for The Fed’s recent disclosure, but it appears likely that they are assuming that the next Wikileaks disclosure (set for January) will target the Federal Reserve Bank itself.  This would make sense.  In order to stay relevant, Wikileaks is under pressure to have increasingly major leaks to share.  It is not clear what vendetta the site has against the United States (if it is not simply about freedom of information—which seems doubtful), but it is clear that the site is focused more on government actions than it is on business corruption.  Sharing secret bank documents would be somewhat out of the site’s typical MO.

If the Fed assumes that the next leak is to be about them (whether it actually is or not), it would make sense for them to dump this information while there is already so much political embarrassment on the table.  The chances that the banking information will get lost in the glut of news are much greater, and it takes away power from Wikileaks disclosures, lessening the impact.  If the Fed is wrong on this guess, they will be playing into Assange’s strategy quite nicely, however.  The Fed must assume that this information cannot be hidden forever, and now could be as good a time as any to release it while it must compete for front page status.

A Blind Press

One question that doesn’t appear to be answerable at the moment is, how in the world did the entire US free press miss $3.3 trillion in unreported aid sent to major American businesses?  That much money does not get hidden very easily, even in an economy the size of the United States.  One might understand how money sent to GE, which owns NBC and affiliated news outlets, might have suppressed this inside their newsrooms, but how the news could have escaped every competing outlet and the blogosphere is simply astounding.  Perhaps the American free press should be more embarrassed about this disclosure than the Federal Reserve Bank and the US government.

Many answers to these riddles will have to wait until after January.  But the American public should expect more self-disclosures by the US, and possibly American banks, and further world tension involving Wikileaks.  December and January should be quite exciting.   -Ryan

Adventures in Capitalism

Electric Meter Header

On Monday, Oncor electrical supplier installed my new Smart Meter electrical monitor.  Typing this makes me feel like I have an advanced engineering degree, but basically it means that they replaced the little thingy that spins outside my house to let them know how much to charge me each month for my electricity.  It might also appear that I just got some fun electronic gadget.  But really the only perk is that now they have all sorts of new and exciting ways of charging me more money.

Oncor has been preparing me over several years for this momentous event.  It all started a couple of years ago when I went to one of those fairs that towns in Texas love to have, like Grapefest, Peachfest, and any other word that ends in fest and allows the city to charge vendors for the right to charge exorbitant prices for turkey legs and lemonade.  I don’t remember which one I was at this time.  But right in the middle of the square, stood a mobile home-like trailer sponsored by Oncore Energy, the electrical provider.  I was pulled helplessly toward this shining beacon of applied technology.

Inside, the polo-shirted representatives told us all about new tech that would soon be available, and would transform life as we know it.  They showed a computer hooked up to the Internet which could turn appliances on and off.  I wondered why that was necessary when I could have just hit the on/off button, but it was through the Internet, so I smiled assuming that it must be awesome.

They showed our growing crowd of happy revelers a kitchen setup being monitored by a laptop, also hooked up to the Internet.  As the attendant turned on a lamp, we watched and oohed as the laptop showed the energy use increasing on a little display.  The nice promotion staffer explained that we would be able to monitor and control our energy usage from anywhere through the Web.

“That way,” she explained, “You can reduce your energy consumption at peak times when energy costs the most.”

“Umm, so you are saying that energy will now be billed to me at a variable rate according to when more people are using it?” I asked.

“Well, when these meters are installed, they will be able to change the price per kilowatt hour depending on when demand is highest.  That will help people conserve.”

“Charging more money for a product when I most want to use it sounds more like a good way for the power company to make money than a benevolent way to help me.”  I replied with a frown.

I walked away after assuring her that I knew it wasn’t her fault.  She was just a paid pitch-woman.  The thousands of dollars of Oncor’s money (which I have given them over the years) that they had tried to spend convincing me of the greatness of their new monitor had now created the opposite effect.  I was now paying close attention to how they were planning to take more of my money, while trying to convince me it was for my own good.  When they sent me a letter informing me that I wouldn’t receive mine until Fall 2010 made me both happy that I had over a year, and sad that doomsday was approaching.

Many lawsuits and TV news stories later, Oncore came and installed this new Orwellian reverse ATM at my house.  It came accompanied by a little door hanger explaining many of the details.  It told me that this new device would help me someday in the near future, to be able to monitor and control my energy usage through the Internet.   Oh and by the way, they would be charging me a monthly fee of over $2 for this new gadget through 2012.

So let me get this straight, Oncor will now not need to pay a meter reader to come to my house each month.  This gives them more money.  They will now be able to charge me more for my energy when I am using it most.  This gives them more money.  They can now slowly and quietly raise energy costs by bumping variable prices incrementally, giving me a constantly raising energy bill.  This gives them more money.  For the joy of taking more of my money, I get to pay Oncor each month for this new technology.  What a deal!

Knowing how much Oncor is looking out for me, I wish to kindly decline their benevolence.  They can pick up their new meter and reinstall my old one any day now.  Unfortunately though, I don’t get to opt out.  I have no choice in the matter.  Don’t you love capitalism? -Ryan

RACISM!!!!—oops

After finding out that your charge of great injustice is groundless, sometimes the easiest way of saving face is to keep accusing.  As evidenced here.  *update–link now working after I switched to YouTube.  It seems that it was removed from the original ABC channel 7 site.

Let’s follow the logic on this one, shall we?  So Hallmark, a card company that makes its money from selling cards that make people feel good, actually decided that it would totally break with tradition and just record a racist statement on one of their cards?  Further, they decided to put that message in a card themed around space.  Perhaps they should be mad at Walmart for also selling racist stockings for

A New Series

I am soooo happy to be back blogging after my weeks moving and making my house livable.  There is a new blog series I’m posting on my Post-Christian page.  You can start reading it here.