A Few Predictions for 2014

 

presdictionsheaderEvery January I try to make a few predictions for the upcoming year.  This is not astrology, tea leaf reading, or prophecy.  I am simply making some informed guesses based upon observations.  My track record is pretty good, but it is certainly less than 100%. Here are a few:

  1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average high on January 1st was 16,500+.  On the last trading day of the year, The Dow will be a net loss (under 16,500) for the year.  I am guessing that there will be a large correction period this year, but it could also be from fallout from a major political event, or a world event.
  2. There will be a major political change in North Korea.  I cannot see the Kim Jung Un regime lasting another 12 months.  I know that part of North Korea’s strategy is to appear weaker than it actually is (see Stratfor’s analysis), but I think the regime is more tenuous than many believe.  This regime change will likely come from an internal coup rather than an external invasion.  I must admit that this is more wish than anything, but I do believe this has a good likelihood.
  3. The NSA related security issue will be one of the biggest stories of 2014, just like it was this year.  However, part of 2014’s story will be about the private sector trying to both solve consumers’ desire for security.  There will be new products and maybe even new companies creating products and services to safeguard consumers’ private data.  Some of these will be mostly hoaxes, although there might be some new creative technology.  There will also be a rising popular push for keeping private information off of the internet

Bonus

  1. There is a high likelihood of Israel being a much more significant newsmaker than last year.  The possibility of a strike on Iran has increased significantly after the last American and Iranian presidential elections.  The ramifications of this would also be huge.  Even if there is no Israeli strike on Iran, I believe there will be significant West Bank/Palestinian related violence, perhaps even another intifada.
  2. Gas prices will end the year lower than the $3.12 they are at now.
  3. Hollywood movies will be remarkably more upbeat in tone than they were in 2013.  This will be especially true of the Summer Blockbusters, which will feature less apocalypse porn  than in recent years.
  4. Hilary Clinton will formally announce her candidacy for President this Summer.  She will announce this Spring that she is going on a “listening tour” and will announce her presidency surrounded by a sense that people are crying out for her to run.

 

Mistake on Drudge

I’ve been saving this little goodie for a month and had forgotten about it, when I just saw it in my inbox.

I was on the Drudge Report a few months ago when I saw this obvious typo below.  Drudge doesn’t make these very often, so it was fun.

Car Urine picture

 

I’m not entirely sure what “car urine” is, but it must be that small puddle of water that appears under your car in the summer after you’ve been running your air conditioner.  I never tried to smell it, though.

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 4

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4. For the fourth gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly

All of these interesting plants represent the Christmas season in some way.  We have all seen bright red Poinsettias in every house or church, kissed under some mistletoe, or sung the words, “deck the halls with bows of holly.”  They are pretty green plants in the middle of Winter.  But did you know these plants also have something else in common?

All three are poisonous.  Yep, that is right, they will make you go poo-poo something awful.  That is, if they don’t kill you.  The one you have probably heard the story about most is actually the least deadly.  Poinsettia can give you a pretty painful stomachache, but that is about all.  The other two can put you in the hospital with some serious vomiting and a case of the fire-pigoo.

Add to the mix that mistletoe is a vampire.  Mistletoe grows as a sap-sucking parasite in tree branches.  Of course, that inspires you to let your loved one suck on your own face as you stand beneath it this yuletide.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 3

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3. For the third gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Neighbors crappy Christmas lights.

Christmas lights are actually one of my favorite parts of the whole season.  When it comes time to set up the tree and other decorations, I enjoy heading outside and getting all the lights up on the outside of the house.  I like driving through the streets of town and seeing other people’s houses decorated as well.  It can be beautiful.

But, then there are displays like this, and every neighborhood has one—one wonderful family that ruins it all for the whole block. I know, because this video was taken in my own neighborhood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhj1ghyq44Q
About a mile from my house is an area of a few blocks where all the houses are decorated with a common theme.  One of the highlights of the season is driving down that block.  It is peaceful.  It is serene.  There are houses with lighted reindeer, houses with lights on almost every square inch of the roof, and there are homes with cardboard cutouts of snoopy and inflatables all over the lawn.

You know what you won’t see in that neighborhood?  Blinking lights.  That’s right.  No one has ever said, “Wow, that house with all the blinking lights really makes me feel all warm inside and peaceful.”

The blinking lights send a different message entirely: “Gamble Here!”  When anyone turns down the main street to my neighborhood, the first sight they see is much less O Holy Night and far more Live Dancing Girls.

There is a reason that light red blink-inducing bulb comes in a hermetically sealed bag when open your new stringlights.  It is a warning.  If you want your lights to cause seizures, keep it inside your own house, and stop terrorizing your neighborhood.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 2

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2. For the Second Gripe of Christmas, I will Give to Thee: A mall Santa in front of JC Penney.

I generally like Saint Nick, particularly the German version who either rewards good children with fruit or takes them to sell into slavery.  But as I don’t want to sound too much like Dwight Shrute, I will let that be.

My issue with Santa is actually quite extensive.  First, there is the typical complaint that Santa is a huge distraction from the whole point of Christmas, and while that is definitely true, I am not a big enough grinch to advocate kicking Santa entirely out.  But there has been a clear effort to kick Jesus out of his own birthday party.

When I was a child, my mom told me that Santa was good, but that Jesus was the real reason to celebrate Christmas.  Now we have “progressed” to the point where even acknowledging Christmas at all is frowned upon generally.  Instead, we call it Holiday.  But, while Jesus has been largely thrown out of the party, Santa is still allowed.

The problem is that Mr. Claus is pretty much an anti-Jesus figure in many ways.  Santa makes a list and checks it twice in order to separate the good children from the children whom Santa’s NSA network has built a strong enough case against.  The children who have acquired enough good karma are rewarded with gifts.

The story of Jesus is that He came to give free gifts to those who especially don’t deserve it.  Jesus is specifically showing the message that God is not making a list and checking it twice.  This is especially true when you exegete the song a bit.  If he is “making a list and checking it twice,” then he is specifically doing it to properly identify the bad kids.  If he were only checking his list once with the kid’s behavior, then some kids who were naughty might actually get gifts anyway.  Instead, he is making doubly sure to weed out the bad.  But God in Christ, is sowing grace prodigally.

But Santa is even more confusing than that.  In my childhood, we lived in a house for a while that had a fake fireplace which had been boarded up years ago.  I was very concerned about how Santa would get in.  My mom offered to keep the door unlocked, a proposition that I felt was unsafe.  She told me that Saint Nick had his secret ways.  That led to a realization, and many sleepless nights.

Santa is basically the same as a cat burglar.  He sneaks in through the chimney or some other weak point in the home.  He brings a giant bag, and only enters if everyone is properly asleep.  He has the perfect getaway vehicle.  At the end of the night he will sneak out of the country.  He goes by several assumed names, and he has been casing your family for a long time.

The fact that Santa leaves things instead of taking them is a minor detail he may work out at any time.  And how do we know he hasn’t actually been stealing stuff for years.  You know all those socks you think the clothes dryer has been swallowing?  You can’t prove that he hasn’t been taking them all along.–Ryan

12 Gripes of Christmas – part 1

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I know that I might upset a few people with this one, but really when has that ever stopped me…

I have always been kind of a bah-humbug type when it comes to much of the Christmas festivities.  I could do without most of it, and skip the entire month of December entirely.   And I am not alone.  Many people feel this way.  We are all just afraid to say it.  Why, you ask?  It is because all of the Christmas Nazis out there will shame us as if we threatened all of existence by not liking the holiday.

Now, let me make myself clear.  I love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ.  I like spending time with friends and family, and I have some fond memories from my childhood.  I also do not wish to ruin other people’s joy in any way.

But that being said, there are a few things I need to get off my chest.  Let’s call them my 12 Gripes of Christmas:

1. On the first gripe of Christmas, I will give to thee: Awful Christmas melodies. 

Christmas music is terrible.  There, I said it, and I won’t take it back.  Yes, yes, there are some really good songs that are emotionally powerful, and some fun to sing.  But the only reason that any of us enjoy most holiday songs at all is that we have heard them every single year for our entire lives…every year…for a month straight.

Think about that.  If you imagine your five favorite songs of all time, would you really want to hear them every year for a month non-stop?  Would you like to hear the Beatles Day in the Life as an all-instrumental version in every mall?  How about Billy Jean done by the cast of Duck Dynasty?  And these are actually good songs.  Instead we get to listen to:

The 12 Days of Christmas: A twelve-verse hymn consisting of a lover gifting his beloved with wildly inappropriate items such as farm animals, overly expensive jewelry for every finger, and apparently slaves.  I don’t care who you are, if you love me please do not gift me with maids-a-milking.  I do not need that much cow juice, I have nowhere to put the accompanying cows, and owning another person has been illegal since the Civil War.

No one knows all the words to this song, and no one wants to hear this song all the way through.  It should be permanently banned and used only for torturing terrorists.  If you think about it, there is nothing even remotely Christmas-y about this song except that the writer wants to inform you that the obsessive stalker is using this particular holiday as the cover for his psychotic behavior.

Baby It’s Cold Outside: This is a more recent addition to the songbook, after people started looking frantically for years in desperation for a new Christmas song that is halfway decent.  “Decent” is probably the worst word to use to describe this song.

All one has to do is read the lyrics in order to see that this song is about a man trying to use every means at his disposal to get this somewhat unfamiliar girl to stay with him overnight, including: giving her a spiked drink, bribing her with cigarettes, frantically changing the subject, flattering her, and indirectly threatening her life.  If a man talked like this to your daughter, there would probably be a homicide.  And we listen to this on the Christian music station.  Also, this song doesn’t mention Christmas even once.

We Wish you a Merry Christmas: This song does get bonus points for mentioning Christmas—over and over and over again.  Essentially, that is all the song points out, at first.  The bulk of the song is just “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”  It is a festive sentiment, meant to evoke the idea of some carolers coming door-to-door singing.

But once the listener opens the door, we realize that this is actually a home invasion robbery.  The second verse demands, now that we are successfully inside, that you bring us plenty of food (and everyone knows how much we love figgy pudding) or else we will trash the place.–Ryan

Lies

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It’s been only a week since the contentious Texas State Senate drama and already the revision of history has begun.  It is as if, by repeating the lie often enough, the broadcast narrative has become true.  At least in the popular understanding, apparently it really does work that way.  After all, one of the immutable laws of marketing is that reality doesn’t matter: it is perception of reality that is the only thing that really matters.

In this case, I can’t fall prey to a redefined reality.  I saw it live.  But the majority of Texans (and the larger group of Americans) did not, and so the melting of truth has begun, turning the truth into some Dali-esque version of the preferred Liberal story.

That story goes something like this:

The Texas legislature was trying to end their session by passing a landmark law that would destroy the reproductive rights of women, and force them to get back-alley abortions.   This was perpetrated by the out-of-touch old white men in the government, against the will of the people.  We needed a hero.  We found Wendy Davis.

In a legendary move, State Senator Wendy Davis stood up for 13 hours and filibustered, speaking non-stop without drinking water, leaning, or going to the bathroom, and defeated the evil Republicans: The leader we needed, right when we needed her!

It is a beautiful story.  It could be a movie.  And just like most movies you’ve ever seen, it is completely untrue.

If I’m to be completely candid, I’m not an unbiased observer.  I worked actively for the opposition in last year’s election to get Wendy removed from office.  It was an election where the Democrats spent more money than in any previous State Senate race.  They outspent almost every national congressional race—let that sink in—they outspent most national candidates.  I read the Democrat internal memos, saying that she was a key part of their plan to “turn Texas blue,” and that they were positioning her in a race for governor.  I was also there as Democrats from Chicago bussed voters to the polls to insure victory in their $2.8 million gamble.

But, me being as biased as I am, doesn’t make me incapable of being a witness.  In fact, from about 9:30 that night, I watched the filibuster live.  I saw when the Republicans determined Davis had gotten her “third strike” and she was made to sit down, ending the filibuster.

Then I saw State Senator Dan West and other Democrats repeatedly flood the floor with Points of Inquiry (questions about the proceedings).  All of these sounded like, “I…have…a…question…about…” (with sometimes 2 or 3 seconds between words) Many of these were simply repeats of a question just asked mere moments before.

No less than three times did the Democrats ask to hear about each of the “strikes” Davis had incurred.  This dragged on for over half an hour.  It was a mockery of the democratic process.  It finally became obvious that their game had worn thin, and it was determined to go to a vote.

San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (who should not be allowed anywhere near a place where decisions are made) had the microphone as the vote was announced.  She had asked the last question.  As it was announced, she loudly complained that her motion was being ignored.  She was being ignored in favor of the Republican men (forgetting of course that she had taken up much of the preceding 15 minutes on her own time-wasting questions).

She showingly crowed, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”  Apparently, she forgot that she was holding the microphone the whole time, and had not actually made a motion in the first place.  Maybe she just forgot.  It was late after all.  It is far more likely that she was lying.

The voting began.  Finally, the bill would be passed…but then the Democrats turned around and began waving their arms into the air.  The crowd packing the Capitol started to shout and scream.  They screamed so loud that no one could hear the roll call.  They screamed until it was past 12, and the Special Session was officially over, meaning that the bill hadn’t passed.  The mob defeated the democratic process.

I don’t really blame Wendy Davis in all of this.  Her political career has been engineered by forces bigger than she is.  She decided to filibuster (an allowed process) a bill that her politics and beliefs require her to fight.  But, Senators like Van de Putte who stupidly lied in order to achieve her ends, and all of the Democrat operative that organized a mob in order to force their political will, are villains.  They should never be celebrated, even by those who agree with their political goals.

The next day, the news media began to celebrate.  I heard on an NPR show days later that Wendy Davis had defeated the Republicans with her courageous filibuster.  The TV said that the Republicans couldn’t get the votes needed in time.  The newspaper told of the swelling of support for “women’s reproductive rights.”  Commentators prattled over the Republican plan to subvert the democratic process by calling another special session.  Wendy Davis appeared on national news shows.  The local TV showed only tweets of Democratic activists.  I read an article about how people were “clamoring” for Davis to run for governor.

The fact is that 60% of Texans favor this bill, and those numbers haven’t changed since the filibuster.  If the language of the bill is listed without mentioning SB5 (the name of this particular bill), 85% of Americans agree with it.  This is the will of the people.  This is also the will of the elected officials we voted into office.

SB5 does not take away “women’s reproductive rights” in any way.  A woman who hasn’t made a decision before the 6th month of pregnancy is not losing her right any more than a woman who hasn’t made up her mind after the 90th week post-conception.  Those who haven’t made up their mind before then are usually using abortion as a sex-selection option.

The bill also raises the standards of abortion clinics to be equal with that of clinics that perform prostate exams, and other medical procedures.  It is an interesting bit of propaganda to claim that people wanting adequate medical facilities performing abortions, instead of places that couldn’t even get legal authority to conduct  even simple procedures, are anti-woman.  Isn’t the opposite more truthful?  Are we that Orwellian that we blindly accept that people who want women to have abortions in appropriate medical facilities, are doing it because they hate women, while those advocating abortion for even sex-selection (which means more baby girls aborted) and in virtually any type of facility are women’s protectors?

But all of this is quite inconvenient to the Liberal-activist Left, just as the actual events of the night of the failed filibuster are inconvenient.  It seems that in their eyes it is far better to demagogue their opponents, whip up emotional mobs into frenzies, cheat in the democratic process when you are losing, and then lie to everyone about how it all happened.  It couldn’t be any easier if Winston had handled it from the Ministry of Truth. -Ryan

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

 

Apple Juice

Back when I used to watch Saturday Night Live (before the Jamie Foxx episode that permanently changed my mind), there was a skit that for some reason I still can’t stop laughing about. The episode was being hosted by Bryan Cranston, and near the end of the episode where they put the skits that just aren’t very good, he is joined by Fred Armisen in a skit called the Bjelland Brothers.  The skit centers around a song with the lyrics, “I sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house.  Did you get it?”  But, rather than describing it to you in detail, I’ll just embed it below.  Give it a chance…it’ll grow on ya.

So after watching this and having the song in my head, I realized that the chords were really easy, and the next week in youth group, I started by playing this song and getting the kids to sing along.  I doubt that any of the had any idea what this was, but they thought it was funny.   Just like a good shampoo (lather, rinse, repeat) I’ve done it occasionally since, and the teens always think it’s fun.  I doubt that hardly any of them still have any idea what it is from.

As anyone who ever reads this already knows, I recently left youth ministry.  My teens showered me with love in ways that I still can’t put words to.  The most powerful for me are never little trinkets or gift cards (although I do like those), but the teens that tell me how something I did affected their lives, or when they go the extra mile to make me something, or do something creative to honor me.  All of the ways in which they’ve touched my life through the years I’ve known them, and even more as I’ve left will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Tonight I cleaned the last vestiges of clutter from my old office at church.  It was bitter-sweet.  Now there is nothing tangible that ties me back to that building.  As I left, I looked back into my office with a touch of sadness.  After a large part of a decade, it is no longer my place.

When I got home, I carried boxes of books and other office stuff from my car into my home office.  As I carried the last box in, I looked down and saw this on my doorstep.

Bottle of Sparking Apple Juice 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle of Sparkling Apple Juice 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest, I got it.  Thank you