State of Affairs

If you have yet to prepare your popcorn and drinks for the big shindig tonight, you’re burning daylight! Of course, I’m not talking about the annual State of the Union message … tonight is the premiere of the sixth – and final – season for Justified! (Now I can understand why some people might feel the SOTU would be more important but if I must be perfectly honest, I am not one of them.)

ObamaInviteI actually feel a little guilty because I’m not tuning in. I mean, take a look at that personal invitation (above). He really wants me to take part, doncha’ know? Why else would he issue this fine invitation to more than 300 million of his closest friends? Continue reading “State of Affairs”

Vote For Pedro

There’s a mid-term election on Tuesday! I know this likely comes as a surprise to most everyone … especially people in highly competitive states including Alaska, Arkansas (my state), Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina where US Senate races will be decided. I’ll just bet there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in political ads where you live, right?! Okay, so you’ve noticed a slight uptick in the televised ads … but no phone calls, right? And your unsolicited mail? What’s that been like? A few extra slick postcards and political handouts, but not so much you were annoyed by it, huh?readytovote

Okay, maybe I’m overstating that a bit. Thankfully, the end is in sight! Notwithstanding the potential for run-offs, we’ll be free of the intense mania for another couple of years … although I’ve already heard the prediction from a couple sources saying “The 2016 campaign will kick off on Wednesday, November 5th.” Seriously, couldn’t they just wait until after the holidays? Continue reading “Vote For Pedro”

Long Arm Of The Law

Earlier this month, I began to come across stories that chronicled the 40,000 new laws adopted in 2013, many of which went into effect on January 1, 2014. The National Conference of State Legislatures compiled the list and in December 2013 issued its report mentioning some of the “most interesting ones.”IMG_8526

Here’s CNN’s take on this development. Here’s what Charles Payne and reporter Trace Gallagher had to say about it.

When fifty states (plus “commonwealths and territories” according to the release) enact almost 40,000 new pieces of legislation in a one-year period, that averages around 800 new laws per state. If you read the NCSL press release, you’ll see they highlight new laws that address and regulate nearly every sector of our lives!

Interestingly, I received an email newsletter (entitled Cutting Red Tape) today from Senator Mark Pryor (who is running for reelection) and this newsletter addresses recent attempts by the Department of Labor to place a new layer of regulations on Arkansas farmers. Pryor’s email decries “… burdensome regulations.” He suggests:  “We must fix our broken federal regulatory process.” He sounds absolutely conservative when his letter points out:  “… no one knows what to do better than Arkansans.”

Quick on the heels of the NCSL report, I saw Senator Mike Lee‘s snapshot of the 2013 Federal Register, all 80,000 pages of it! The Federal Register records the “… new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats.” Senator Lee contrasts this overwhelming number of pages to the smaller stack (on top) which is those bills passed during 2013 by elected members of Congress and signed into law by the President. Have a look at Senator Lee’s photo below.

Mike Lee photo

Granted, as the Los Angeles Times notes from its December 11, 2013 story, only a historically few number of bills actually became law during 2013. In its lead paragraph, the Times judges this Congress to be the “most ineffective in history.” (I have a different take. I don’t think fewer laws passing equates with “ineffective.”)

Now, before anyone gets the wrong impression, this isn’t meant to be a post about politics, and please forgive me for wandering into political incitement but I did so for the sake of the larger picture. During my lifetime, I’ve talked to plenty of government officials. I’ve read government publications. I’ve watched as local, state and national governments have taken small issues and regulated to the point of strangling all the life out of what they regulate. (I imagine you probably have too.) I’ve also watched as new regulations cast a wider net and ensnare more people − unsuspecting, generally law-abiding people suddenly become lawbreakers!

It’s no surprise. With all of the laws on the books, how’s a person supposed to know what was made illegal yesterday (or last week or last year)? It’s so impossible, even the bureaucrats can’t provide a clear picture! Take the IRS for one instance. A 2013 report from one watchdog group says: “… there is almost always no “right” answer and this allows the IRS to determine that taxes are due or that the needed documentation is not present.” In 2003, CBS published a report titled “IRS Can’t Do The Math” in which the author noted “Less than half, or 45 percent, of the questions [posed by independent tax auditors] were answered correctly and completely.”

audit7If you’ve experienced an audit (I have and several family members have), you know firsthand the terror!

Let’s go back to the beginning where I mentioned the 40,000 new regulations, a portion of which you and I must bend the knee to this year. Reflecting on that, I thought about the Ten Commandments God wrote on tablets of stone for Moses to transmit to the people of Israel. Ten laws … the Decalogue. Straightforward, simple instructions to summarize how to live a life in harmony with man and with the Creator.

But apparently, that wasn’t simple enough for God’s people. They started wondering and asking questions about how close they could get to the sin-line (having other gods, making graven images, honoring one’s parents, killing, stealing, etc.) without provably breaking one of God’s commands. (Typical for us as human beings, right?) By the time it was all said and done, God had given them an entire book (Leviticus) specifying in minute detail laws related to a multitude of issues and questions.

I have no desire to debate the details of Leviticus. It’s God’s law and he’s quite capable of handling any debate. My point is, would things have gone any smoother for the people of Israel if they’d been willing to follow Ten Commandments rather than negotiate to a broader list of ten thousand? (Just so you understand, that was hyperbole. I haven’t counted every commandment included in Leviticus.)

It would seem we’ve arrived today in about the same situation as the ancient Israelites found themselves:  a plethora of regulations dictating life choices and not much freedom to simply do right.

I refer once more to the counsel of the Honorable Senator Mark Pryor who noted in his email newsletter:  “… no one knows what to do better than Arkansans” but I will expand his statement by contending Texans or Iowans or Oklahomans (or citizens of any other state) are equally capable of doing better in addressing local problems. Instead of more laws and regulations being handed down from some faraway bureaucracy, the best solutions are local ones.

Divorced From Government

The religion of Islam permits a man to divorce his wife through the thrice-repeated pronouncement of ṭalāq. triple_talaqGiven today’s deadline for filing income taxes, plenty of folks all over the country — RIGHT NOW! — wish a simple “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!” would suffice to sever the bonds that inextricably tie us to this overtaxing, overspending, insatiable monster called government.

Many American taxpayers find themselves in the untenable position of doing what they consider to be “right” (paying their taxes) and “wrong” (funding government’s irresponsible and socialist practices). Recall the pre-Revolution complaint “No Taxation Without Representation!” It was one basis for our Declaration of Independence. The concept is as relevant today.

What does the Bible teach? Is it biblical for a Christian to opt-out “for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5) ?

Aside:  I ran across a Tweet and its blog rebuttal betwixt my two adult daughters. My (unsolicited!) contribution demanded more than 140 characters but elder daughter’s blog comments were disabled; thus my post here. Elder daughter’s first post (with younger daughter’s Tweet prominent) and a companion post are thought-provoking (recommended) reading.

Second Aside:  Comments about same-sex marriage (which prompted the original Tweet/blog exchange) are reserved for another occasion.

Third Aside:  If my comments here seem lop-sided, it’s only because elder daughter provided posts while younger daughter opined in a single Tweet.

… Enough disclaimers! Elder daughter’s post Married to Government makes many points with which I agree. I won’t address the Erick Erickson column, except to note I concur how laughable it is to employ euphemism (gay marriage vs. civil unions), the “mental gymnastics” that only promotes cognitive dissonance. Ugh!

So, let’s do as elder daughter proposes:  reconsider Romans 13. By titling this post Divorced From Government, my hope is to draw balanced parallels between my elder daughter’s post and my own. She argues that many Christians blindly affirm the belief that Romans 13 dictates robotic fealty to government. She challenges this autopilot mindset.

For my part, I agree with her critique! Any Scripture passage viewed in isolation makes possible a myriad of errors. It’s appropriate to question how one may judiciously weigh Romans 13 (Paul’s treatise) against Peter’s Acts 5:29 declaration, “We will obey God rather than men.” Do Peter’s words contradict Paul’s?

Fourth Aside:  My elder daughter describes Romans 13 as “the favorite Bible passage of would-be tyrants” − a debatable charge (in my view). Seldom have tyrants (would-be or otherwise) sought or needed Scripture’s imprimatur to justify their misdeeds. But I quibble.

Elder daughter supplies a compelling list of saints who stood firmly against oppressive rule. These saints keenly remind us of God’s infinite grace in the midst of grievous circumstances. However, if we focus only on their choice to obey God, we ignore the “parade of believers” who were subject to the tyrant’s brutal whim.

Having celebrated earlier this month the Resurrection of Christ, I reflect how unlike Peter (in Acts 5) Jesus was. In fact, when the soldiers came to seize Jesus, this same Acts 5 Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a slave. The Son of Man instantly admonished Peter:  “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (NIV)

Peter’s instinct was to wield his sword against an unjust arrest. Yet, in remarkable contrast, Jesus’ mission from the Father enabled him to surrender Himself to the soldiers. Neither man’s actions belie the truth of Romans 13 (that “there is no authority except that which God has established” NIV) nor, in my view, would either man’s actions condemn the other’s. They were both intent on fulfilling the Father’s will in their lives.

My elder daughter observes:  “Most governments FAIL God’s standard ….” (She’s usually more circumspect about all or nothing statements than I am.) Still, I think she’d actually agree with my contention that ALL governments inevitably and repeatedly fail God’s standard.

So let’s return this discussion to April 15, 2013, and as elder daughter maintains, we must choose as did the Founders. When it comes to government diktat (in this instance, the payment of one’s income taxes), we each determine whether and when to prudently submit or stand in defiance. Neither action represents a superior position, but rather the call of God in an individual’s life.

May I humbly suggest that viewing the “witness of Scripture as a whole” requires balance wherein both submitting and standing in defiance must be compatible.

Men like Daniel are rare, but when our commitment is to serve the Lord, we know with confidence that we’re in His hands “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) The ultimate outcome belongs to Him.

Life, Gateway to Free Expression

Wikipedia has become a fixture of online communication. Want to familiarize yourself with the various members of the Tudor dynasty? Find it here. Or maybe you need a recording of a cow’s “moo.” Find that here.On January 18th, you might have been annoyed, frustrated or perplexed by the above screen result that prevented access to any Wikipedia page. (Maybe it was the first you’d heard of the SOPA/PIPA bills.) If you searched for an explanation, you might have found articles like this one,  or this, or this. Opinions about the blackout (and its efficacy) varied widely.

In the days following the blackout, my reflections veered in an unexpected direction. With the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade occurring on January 22nd, I contemplated what the impact might have been if all those Continue reading “Life, Gateway to Free Expression”

TSA Redux

No one in my family traveled by airplane for the holidays, so I wasn’t privy to any firsthand reports of TSA gropings. (These outrages will continue to be reported; this excellent site chronicles the abuse from numerous sources.) … Or, get a load of the video below!

This TSA video made my blood boil. Any mother who has breastfed a child knows the value of breast milk, and when a nursing mother (who simply requested not to have her breast milk irradiated) is subjected to such maltreatment by TSA mobsters, their behavior is inexcusable and unconscionable!

When I caught brief snatches on the weekend news about the National Opt-Out Day, I didn’t have a chance to check them right away. In general, the reports said the Opt-Out was a fizzle because few people actually opted out. (Based on these initial reports, I was disappointed, though I certainly understand folks being more concerned about getting to their destinations on time than making a statement about the TSA.)

Ah, but the real news appears to be that there was a major “opt-out” — and it was the TSA that was participating!! (I guess there’s no need for the public to Opt Out if TSA just turns off their machines, right? By many accounts, that’s exactly what happened at numerous US airports.)

Bravo! People concerned about their 4th Amendment rights have won the day. I don’t expect this to be the end of it, however. TSA has maneuvered (at least temporarily) away from the immediate backlash in this PR nightmare. Those costly machines may have been turned off last Wednesday, but the machines will be turned on again sooner or later. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!

The End Game

Referring to what the TSA euphemistically styles “enhanced screenings,” the wonderfully compliant news outlets in their soft-as-a-baby’s-behind reporting (also, here and here) are now regurgitating the TSA-generated meme that “less than 3%” of the flying public is subjected to the heightened screening techniques.

Wow, that’s a relief! A measly 3% of airline passengers are ceding [unwillingly, for the most part] their Fourth Amendment “right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures ..!” I mean, it’s not as if the TSA is trampling on the rights of every American, right? You can still take a train, ride a bus and freely travel without fear of government intrusion, right?

Hmm. This video might change your mind about that notion.

Okay, so maybe this video producer is a crackpot. Consider then USA-Today‘s July 2010 article wherein the head of TSA admits rail and subways are his next priority? Continue reading “The End Game”

These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For . . .

Imagine this scenario: You’re heading out of town for a long-anticipated holiday with extended family. The trip requires nine hours in a car so — in spite of what you’ve heard/read about new TSA-sanctioned sexual assaults,  er, bureaucratic intimidations, er, safety screenings —  you opt to fly instead of taking the marathon but exhausting drive.

You arrive at the airport and bypass the ticket agent (being the savvy traveler you are, you’ve printed your boarding pass the night before). You don’t think of yourself as a Zombie, but you feel like one as you take your place in the mile-long, slithering line that edges ever-so-gradually toward the dehumanizing security checkpoint.

Government-issued ID in hand along with your boarding pass, you conduct a last-minute inventory for any incidental metals on your person. Satisfied you’ve done all you can — you’re intentionally wearing flip-flops, no belt, no underwire bra, no watch/necklace/belly ring, etc. — you move forward, reminding yourself to isolate the laptop before placing your bag on the conveyor belt that goes through the scanner. Continue reading “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For . . .”

TSA = Stranger Danger

Can’t help but continue to cogitate on this TSA screening nightmare (see my previous post).The outrage, tales of indecencies committed, frustrations and absurdities continue to be recounted in lurid and nauseating detail.

The TSA website laughably defends their recently implemented “security” measures, claiming:  “A primary goal of TSA is to treat all passengers with courtesy, dignity, and respect during the security screening processes.” (Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?)

Yes, I can imagine serious-faced, properly licensed and qualified authorities serving up identical reassurances as multitudes of Jews and other undesirables were ushered onto cattle cars headed for their final destination (i.e. death camps).

I would argue the TSA screening practices have little to do with courtesy, dignity or respect. Rather, their intent seems to be to discourage airline travel. (I mean, it’s already worked in my case!) Continue reading “TSA = Stranger Danger”

Keep the Electoral College

The Founding Fathers established the Electoral College (EC) to resolve an unfair advantage the more populous states enjoyed over rural (sparsely populated) states in the Union. Electing a president based on electors (rather than popular vote) allowed a slightly greater voice for the small states. The framers considered this an appropriate trade-off to protect minority states from the majority.

Article II, Section I of the Constitution instructed each state legislature to determine how their electors are appointed. If not for the EC, four states (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York) could have easily overruled the smaller states on every issue.

Here’s the rub. The Massachusetts legislature has enacted a bill this week to bypass the EC, favoring instead the award of all their electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote. Yes, even if that candidate did not win the majority of Massachusetts votes.

Five additional states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington) have previously approved legislation similar to what Massachusetts adopted. For an individual to be elected president, he/she needs at least 270 electoral votes. These six states have a total of 73 electoral votes (27% of the number required). Continue reading “Keep the Electoral College”