Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Social Experiment at Work

There is a frequently shared meme on social media that tells that the United States Department of Agriculture proudly reports that they provide free meals and food stamps to over 45 million Americans annually. Then it points out that the National Park Service posts signs in parks that say "Please don't feed the animals". When asked the reason, Rangers will tell you that the wildlife will become dependent upon the handouts and will cease trying to take care of themselves, and will learn to attack people in pursuit of food.

While most reasonable people will admit that people will respond in the same way, some liberals dismiss this as mere nonsense. Recently, however, I realized that I have witnessed this principle in action at my workplace.

I am a member of the maintenance team at a large distribution center (DC). The DC has several miles of conveyor that are separated by area and function, each system has its own computer system to control it. When I hired in three years ago, I spent two weeks with the senior technician on the early shift so that he could teach me about the systems. When we discussed one of the areas, he told me flat out, "we don't reset that system, it's the responsibility of (our logistics contractor)."

After my two weeks of training, I was moved to the day shift, where I spent half my day with the early shift, and half my day with the late shift. I was surprised to see that the two technicians on the late shift frequently reset that system! When I asked about it, their reply was "well, it's not our responsibility, but we do it so that the system stays running and we get through with the day's work earlier."

About a year later, both of those men were gone, and I was moved to the late shift. Agreeing with their logic (and wanting to leave as early as possible), I reset the system whenever I noticed that it was jammed. After all, it was helping me in the long run.

I honestly don't remember the last time that anyone from our logistics contractor un-jammed and reset the system. They simply wait for us to do it. Last week, however, was a startling experience. One of the contractor employees got on the radio and called for someone from maintenance. When I responded, they very rudely and arrogantly informed me that I needed to come reset their system so that they could keep working!

Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit kept me from pushing the reset button with their face... Imagine! I had been doing them a favor for a LONG time, something that was not my duty, not my responsibility but a simply act of charity. But it was now not only my job to do, but I was a failure at my job for not doing their job fast enough!

Whether it is a bird or a person, if you provide a free service with no strings or shame, it will be accepted. Even by people who do not need it. It will soon be expected. And it will ultimately be demanded.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stop Wasting Your Vote!!!!

Tell me if any of these sound familiar:
If you don't vote for Bush, you're voting for Clinton!!
If you don't vote for Dole, you're voting for Clinton!!
If you don't vote for W, you've voting for Gore!!
If you don't vote for W, you're voting for Kerry!!
If you don't vote for McCain, you're voting for Obama!!
If you don't vote for Romney, you're voting for Obama!!
If you don't vote for Cochran, you're voting for Childers!!

For as long as I have followed politics, I have heard some variation of that siren song, luring rational conservatives to crash their ideological beliefs on the rocks of partisan politics. Many a person has held their nose and voted for the lesser of two evils, instead of voting by their conscience and "throwing away their vote."

In his Farewell Address, George Washington stated:
The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. (This is from an article by Dennis Jamison on the Washington Times Communities)

One would not have to think long for an instance of each of Washington's predictions in our modern political sphere. The current two-party system has locked power into the hands of party leaders and advisers, most of whom the general public couldn't name.

In my home State of Mississippi, this issue has once again raised its ugly head. Thad Cochran and his party Establishment thugs stole the primary runoff election from Chris McDaniel. There are multiple allegations of voter fraud that various state judges and county clerks are shoveling fast to cover up. There were audio recordings of horrid race-baiting calls and pictures of flyers all paid for ultimately by Cochran and his supporters. As door after door is closed by Barbour cronies on McDaniel's legal options, conservatives are being forced to face this question: Who do I vote FOR in November?

1) Vote for the GOP Establishment candidate that basically called conservatives bigots, even though he's only going to serve two years of his term before he retires and the Establishment picks his replacement.
2) Vote for the moderate to conservative Democrat candidate, trusting that he'll lose the seat in 6 years against a unified GOP. A side effect of this is that it helps keep Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader
3) Write in Chris McDaniel on the ballot, knowing that it not only will not count as a legal vote, but additionally will not even be counted and tallied at all.
4) Vote for Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara as a protest vote, admitting that he's a political gadfly who's run for close to a dozen seats, but never won an election. Additionally, he has a few positions that very few people will find palatable or agreeable.
5) Simply stay home. According to several sources, about 5 million GOP voters did this in the 2012 presidential election.

Of all of these options, #4 is the only one that doesn't play into the hands of the party apparatchiks. I have made the personal decision that I will never again cast my vote against a candidate. I will vote FOR the person that best represents me.

And I will be putting pressure on my State legislators to change both the open primary laws and the write-in candidate laws to ensure that we don't face this issue again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sin and private property rights

In the past week, two stories have brought a great deal of discussion to my social media streams. The first was about a mall in Georgia that does not allow any of their patrons to pray on the property. The second was about one of the towns in my county that had banned smoking in restaurants. One of these stories is good, and one of them is bad. Unfortunately, most people are cheering the wrong one of the two.

Many of the people in my circle of friends, acquaintances and followers were howling about a mall that bans prayer. The immediate cry was “freedom of religion” and about our “first amendment rights”.

Additionally, many of the exact same people were cheering the smoking ban. Tales of parents, family, friends and others who had died due to lung cancer were mentioned, as well as the dangers of second hand smoke.

In both of these stories, the majority of people talking about them are wrong. Flat wrong.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m a teacher and preacher and minister of His gospel. The Bible tells us that we should be in a continual attitude of prayer and to pray without ceasing. Additionally, both of my grandfathers died of cancer and both were in some way caused or aggravated by smoking, as did my paternal grandmother. While my bride was pregnant with our first child, I either flushed or baptized her cigarettes every time that I got my hands on them.

But neither of those issues are reasons for me to be arrogant, selfish or lazy…

Yes, we’re still talking about smoking in restaurants and praying at malls. I simply see the root issues instead of the superfluous topics of smoking.

Let’s start at the core of the issue; does an individual have rights over his property? Does he forfeit some or all of those by opening a business? Set aside the issue of smoking…what if a restaurateur decided to ban skinny jeans in her establishment. Doesn't she have that right? Or instead of a mall that bans open prayer, what about a china shop that bans children under 16?

I believe that the business owner still retains control and autonomy over his or her assets. The function of government is to provide the greatest protection to the rights of the greatest amount of people while causing the least restriction of rights to the smallest number of people, giving precedence to what we refer to as inalienable rights, the chief among those being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So how do arrogance, selfishness and laziness fit into this issue? Very simply.

First, let’s look at arrogance. Consider smoking bans, soda cup size limits, salt restrictions and school lunch restrictions. At the root of each of these topics is the assumption that Party A knows more about health, diet, or exercise than Party B. And since Party B is either too stupid or too uninformed to make the “right” choice, their choices should be restricted to only those with which Party A agrees. Basically, the ideas is that citizens should be forced to do what some government bureaucrat feels is best. That is in complete opposition to freedom and personal liberty.

Okay, but what about selfishness, right? Well, let’s say that all of the smoking bans were repealed tomorrow, and every business owner was free to set the rules for their establishment. (I know, it’s a radical idea, right?) Many businesses would choose to allow smoking, especially those restaurants that also sell alcohol. And folks would scream bloody murder because their favorite place to eat chose to allow smoking. The reply would be “well, you’re free to go to another restaurant that doesn't allow smoking”. And they’d scream “But this is my favorite place to eat! You don’t understand! I've eaten here every Friday night for the past three years!” Translated, they’re saying that the property rights of the owner are subservient to their desires.

Finally, what about laziness? That one is easy. If all of the bans were lifted, and business owners were free to set their own rules for their establishments, then the customers would be forced to make choices and suffer consequences. A family goes through the typical 45 minute discussion/argument over where to go for dinner. They pull into the parking lot, walk up to a restaurant and see that they allow smoking. Now they have to go through the entire ordeal again because they don’t want to eat around cigarette smoke.

The family would absolutely have the right to inform the manager that they are choosing to eat somewhere else due to their policy. This would give the owner the information to choose if that policy is making him money or losing him money. Then again, it’s uncomfortable and tiresome to actually speak to the manager and to voice an opinion to every business that does something that I don’t like.

It’s much easier to just lobby my government to ban any restaurant from allowing smoking, and then I can be ensured that I don’t have to worry about making any choices, that I’m not deprived of eating somewhere that might allow smoking. And they should know that smoking is unhealthy anyway, right?

In a free society, you are not guaranteed freedom from ever seeing or experiencing something that you don’t like, or even find offensive. Most certainly, you are not guaranteed freedom from having someone else do something that you don’t like. Do you want to live in a society where your property rights are determined and allowed based upon the arrogance, selfishness and laziness of your neighbor?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Christian Body Building

When I was in high school, I was a runner. I wasn't a jogger. I wasn't someone who just wore running shoes and running clothes. I was a runner. On an average day, I ran somewhere between ten and fifteen miles during my workout. I ran the half mile in a little under two minutes, the mile in under five, and my best time ever in a 5K was 17:15. That's three consecutive sub-six minute miles. Again I say, I was a runner.

It was clearly observable that I was a runner. My parents almost went broke trying to keep me fed, as I ate about 4000 calories a day. Our Tupperware got so little use that it dry rotted. A 10-pack of pork chops meant that my parents and little sister got one each, and I ate everything else. But even eating that much, I couldn't gain weight if I'd wanted to do so. I was a 6', 145 pound lean, mean running machine.

Looking at me with street clothes on, you wouldn't think that I was much in the way of strength, most probably would guess me to the arch-typical "98 pound weakling". But they were wrong. Dead wrong. Since I also pole vaulted, I really didn't want to gain much in the way of mass, I wanted strength instead. And strength is gained by muscle density, not muscle mass.

If you talk to a body building type, they'll tell you that muscle mass is developed by working out using high weight amounts and performing low repetitions. Muscle density, on the other hand, is developed by using low weight amounts and performing high repetition. As an example of this, find an older, skinny automotive mechanic and try to have a hand squeezing contest with him. He'll crush your hand like it's origami. Because for years, he's been using his hands thousands of times a day. When I occasionally went to the gym, I did seated calf raises with 450 pounds. The first 3 of my 5 sets of 15, I slapped the weights. That means that I threw them up so hard and fast that they lifted off my knees. When I did bench presses, I took the 45 pound bar and did at least 100 repetitions straight. Doesn't sound like much, until you try to do it. Finally, definition of muscle groups is developed by doing a multitude of different exercises, making sure not to overlook or overwork any area or areas. Exercise guys have a variety of ways to ensure this, but the goal is to make sure that you don't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger above the waist and Olive Oyl below the belt.

About this time, you're asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with Christianity, or have I been suckered into reading a glory days bragging session? No, there is indeed a theological point to all this.

How does the Bible call a follower of Jesus most of the time? A disciple. One who follows the disciplines of becoming like their Master. 1 Timothy 4:7b tells us "... On the other hand, discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness." (NASB) The disciplines of a disciple include but are not limited to prayer, reading the Bible, meditation (mulling over Scripture, not contemplating your navel), worship, service, fasting, solitude, submission, humility, confession, stewardship and charity.

Now, let's consider the muscle development rules with regard to discipleship. If you want strength in your Christian life, you need to do small things over and over and over and over and over and over and over (are you getting the point?) Conversely, if you perform large things on a rare basis, it might very well result in you getting a massive ego, that is, getting puffed up. Again, care must be taken to exercise all of the spiritual disciplines, or you might wind up being a disciple with massive arms of prayer and pencil legs of fasting.

To exercise my own discipline of confession, I am HORRIBLE at spiritual disciplines. But I am working on building up my spiritual muscles. I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why The Left REALLY Wants A Minimum Wage Hike

One of the favorite manipulational issues of the Left is that of the minimum wage. Every few years, the unified cry of the Democrat party is that the minimum wage needs to be raised. Upon that word, those in the liberal media dutifully print article upon article about how billions of Americans are starving because they can't feed themselves on the minimum wage. We're showered with sob stories about how these decent, hard working people have a right to the dignity of earning a "living wage".

Of course, business leaders accurately state that raising minimum wage will cause the prices for goods and services to rise, so in just a few months, the new minimum wage will have the same purchasing power of the old minimum wage. Additionally, raising the minimum wage also causes a decrease in the work force, as businesses try to reduce costs to keep their costs as low as possible so that they can maintain their evil, greedy profits. How dare they actually expect to make a return on their investment of time and capital. But, I digress on what will be another post on another day.

At a rally yesterday, our Campaigner-In-Chief made the following statement: "If your member of Congress doesn't support raising the minimum wage, you have to let them know they're out of step, and that if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you'll put them out of office."

Many people believe that the Democrats push minimum wage hikes to rally the uninformed voters to keep themselves in power in the 2014 elections. Others believe that they do so because when the minimum wage goes up, the wages of many union workers go up because their contracts stipulate their pay as a proportion of minimum wage.

Personally, while I know that those are true, I believe that I had an epiphany a few days ago about why they truly want to raise the minimum wage. That reason is to get an increase in tax revenue. "But Mike", you're saying, "most of the people making minimum wage pay little to no income taxes!" And you would be right, they don't pay very much in income taxes. They DO, however, pay PAYROLL taxes. Every person pays 6.2% of their direct pay and 6.2% of their indirect pay in FICA taxes. Also, every person pays 1.45% of their direct pay and 1.45% of their indirect pay in Medicare taxes. (Since we're talking about low income workers, just forget about the fact that these apply to the first $117k of their wages. And yes, the worker DOES pay both parts of the tax, but you've been duped into believing that since your employer writes a check for half of it, it doesn't come from your earnings.)

I know that math can get boring and repetitive, so let's make it a little easier. There are 52 weeks in a year and payroll taxes equal to 15.3% of wages are paid. 15.3% of 52 is 7.956. That means that you can multiply pay by average hours per week by 7.956 and determine annual payroll tax. 

Here are some annual payroll taxes based upon our current minimum wage:
$7.25 x 20 hours x 7.956 = $1154
$7.25 x 30 hours x 7.956 = $1730
$7.25 x 40 hours x 7.956 = $2307

Here are some annual payroll taxes based upon the PROPOSED minimum wage:
$10.10 x 20 hours x 7.956 = $1607  (an increase of $453)
$10.10 x 30 hours x 7.956 = $2411  (an increase of $681)
$10.10 x 40 hours x 7.956 = $3214  (an increase of $907)

The person only working 30 hours a week would be paying more in payroll taxes than the person currently working 40 hours a week at the current wage. Now, you're probably shaking your head, thinking that (A) all that money goes in Al Gore's mythical "lock box" to be used for only Social inSecurity and Medicare, and (B) it's only a few hundred dollars, so what difference does it make? 

First, payroll taxes get dumped into the general fund, and are spent faster than they are collected. The second is the more important, however. Just for the sake of simplification, let us use the 30 hour worker as the typical example. He or she would be paying $681 in additional payroll taxes. Not a great deal, right? Not individually, but remember, there are 3.6 million workers making minimum wage. Assuming they all work 30 hours a week (many will only be allowed to work 28 due to Obamacare, but again, that's another story) the federal government will see a revenue increase from minimum wage earners of:
$681 x 3,600,000 = $2,451,600,000. That's 2.45 billion dollars in new spending money, all because the caring, considerate Leftists wanted to help the poor and downtrodden.

It doesn't stop there, however. Millions upon millions of people make between the current minimum wage and the proposed minimum wage. They'll not only be raised to the new minimum, but will (rightly) demand to be paid the same proportion above the new minimum wage. That is to say, if I made $1.50 over the old minimum because I had been at a job for a year, then I'd expect to make $1.50 over the new minimum. Just using some assumptions of $12 an hour and 40 hours a week and 10 million workers, that would mean $15 billion in new tax revenue. And don't forget about the guy who was earning $10 or $11 or $12 an hour because they're a supervisor or skilled worker. You better believe that they won't settle for their pay being just above minimum wage.

Additionally, millions and millions and millions of workers make more than minimum wage, and will not settle for taking a de facto cut in our pay. So the people making 2x or 3x minimum wage will demand a raise, or move around to other companies willing to pay them what they are worth. Again, pure assumptions, but let us look at worker making 3x current minimum, or $21.75 an hour. Suddenly, the minimum wage goes up to $10.10, and he's now only making twice the minimum instead of three times the minimum. As we've clearly shown, almost EVERYBODY'S wages will go up, and contrary to what the people who've never worked a day in business believe, prices WILL go up as well. It's called inflation. So, does our hypothetical worker settle for getting a raise equal to the increase in minimum wage? That would be $10.10-$7.25 = $2.85 + $21.75 = $24.60? Or is he going to expect that his pay remains at 3x minimum wage, which would now be $30.30?

Going back to an earlier possible motive for the minimum wage hike, many union contracts do stipulate their contract wages be proportional to minimum wage. All those people will be paying more in payroll taxes.

So in about six months, most employees will have some type of an increase in their wages. At the same time, prices will go up, and their new pay will have about the same purchasing power as their old pay. But the federal government will be receiving billions upon billions of new money to spend.

Fast forward another year and a half to early 2016. The increased revenue has been pouring in for a while now, and guess what. Since the government took in more than they estimated at the time that they passed the budget, the deficit will be less than projected. And all of the coiffed propaganda artists at the alphabet soup "news" agencies will be crowing about how Obama's policies are finally working, and that's why we need to not only continue with a Democrat in the White House, we should give both houses of Congress to them as well.

THAT is why I believe that the Democrats are pushing for a hike in the minimum wage. To increase revenue, and to win elections not only in 2014, but in 2016. If you truly believe that the rich liberals (shouldn't that be a registered oxymoron?) care about the little people, I don't think that you're paying attention. And if you think that the liberals have done all to this great nation that they WANT to do to it, you're sadly mistaken. The fundamental transformation is just getting started..

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Government Gremlins

Most of us remember the 1984 classic movie, "Gremlins". An unsuspecting young man gets an exotic pet from his father. Caring for the pet consists of three rules: Never get it wet, keep it away from bright light, and never, ever feed it after midnight.

Over the past week, there has been a standoff between 200 federal agents and a Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy. The situation seemed to be poised to become the next Ruby Ridge or Waco...when the involvement of Rory & Harry Reid with a Chinese company about a solar power plant saw the light of day. Within 16 hours, the Bureau of Land Management decided that they didn't want to push the issue. The BLM announced that it was releasing the cattle that they had rounded up, and were not going to steal anymore of his cattle.

As I thought about this development, it occurred to me that the federal government is a lot like the Mogwai. Government seems like a good idea at first. The idea of having a government to keep us safe gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. As a Christian, I understand that God created government, and that it does have a place in our lives. However, government, like fire, is a great servant and a horrible master.

The first rule of gremlins is that you can't get them wet, or they multiply. Consider the rate of growth of our federal government. We now have federal agencies that regulate what kind of toilet (EPA), what kind of light bulb (DOE), and what kind of car we can drive (DOT). Not only do we have multiple agencies, we have so many agencies and laws that they routinely argue among themselves about who has more authority, and who has "jurisdiction" for an issue. If you could bring the Founding Fathers to modern day DC and show them all of the federal laws and agencies, they'd ask us what part of the Declaration of Independence we didn't understand.

Secondly, you're never allowed to feed a gremlin after midnight...no matter HOW much it whines, cries or begs. Sounds just like our government. Year after year, the "public servants" in DC tell us that they have to rob more and more and more and more and more of our hard earned money from our pay because they just simply must have it. Government should be treated like children and pets, that is, it should be trained and taught that there are limits, and that "NO" means "NO". Once a child is allowed to tantrum his way to a treat at the supermarket, he'll continue to do so.

Lastly, government is like gremlins in that it HATES bright light. When government dealings are done in back rooms and in dark alleys, the people cannot be aware of how they are being robbed. Cases such as contracts being steered to companies of sitting US Senators like Diane Feinstein.

The American people must but our government back in the cage our Founders created for it. We MUST remind our bureaucracies and politicians that they work for US, not the other way around. Our government believe otherwise. But as Sir William Wallace said in the movie "Braveheart", "You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide these people with freedom."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spiritual Physicals

I went to the doctor yesterday for an annual physical. The doc checked my blood pressure, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, white & red blood counts and my height & weight. 

He looked at all the info on his chart, closed the folder and said "Have a nice day, see you next year."

Absolutely stunned, I asked, "Aren't you going to tell me anything about the results? What I'm doing wrong? What I need to do differently?"

He smiled and said, "No, it would be judgmental of me to say that your results are either good or bad, or to tell you what you are doing is wrong or right. Even worse, I'd not want to force my opinions on you by telling you what you should do. Just pay the clerk at the desk...."

NOW, consider this: your local church is not to be a hotel for saints, it's to be a hospital for sinners. You wouldn't go back to a doctor that did what I'm describing, why in the world would you go to a church like that?

If you choose to skip regular doctor visits, it's your own fault if your life is shortened and diminished.  
Same thing if you skip regular worship attendance...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why I Love The Movie "Cool Runnings"

As we begin the Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi, the Jamaican bobsled team has been in the news due to the fact that their luggage was lost, which also contained part of the bobsled! Many years ago, my bride and I went to see "Cool Runnings", and it immediately became one of my all time favorite movies. While primarily billed as a comedy, it has some VERY powerful messages to tell. Albeit with comedic and dramatic adaption, the characters and the story are real.

If you've never seen the movie, here's a quick plot synopsis, with Spoiler Alert: The primary character is Derice Bannock, the son of a champion Olympic sprinter who is himself seeking to win Olympic gold in Track. During the official qualification trials, another sprinter trips Derice and a third runner, removing them all from contention in the Summer Olympics that year. Desperate to become an Olympian, Derice tracks down Irv Blitzer, a former US bobsledder who was disqualified and disgraced for cheating and has moved to Jamaica in shame and self-imposed exile. Blitzer had unsuccessfully tried to convince Ben Bannock to compete as a bobsledder, based on the idea that four fast sprinters should make excellent pushers, and thus champion sledders. Derice coerces his best friend to help him, and they eventually convince Irv to train them, IF they can find two more members for the team. Of course, the two other members wind up being the guy who tripped Derice and the third runner. No one on the team is happy, most of them have some reason to hate the other, and Irv doesn't believe that they can even make it as a team. After many, many, many hilarious training escapades, the team winds up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Winter Olympics..without even having a sled with which to compete. Irv buys an old training sled from his former US pals, and they paint it with the Jamaican colors and name it "Cool Runnings", which is said to mean "peace(ful) be the journey". Derice develops an admiration for the Swiss team, who have a watch-like precision in everything they do on the course. Far from home and in front of recognized world-class athletes, the team struggles to fit in, and to overcome their fears and nervousness. The first time they try a practice run, the sled winds up going down the course without them, as they fail to mount properly! During their first competition run, the team fumbles, largely due to Derice trying to imitate the Swiss, but manages to complete the run, landing them in last place. Overnight, the team fights over whether they came as themselves, or someone else, particularly the Swiss. On their second day, the team shows up in full Jamaican flair and not only competes successfully, but does so well that they are actually in contention for a medal. During a heart-to-heart between Derice and Irv, Derice asks why Irv cheated. Irv tells him that he did so because winning was everything to him, and that if Derice isn't enough without a gold medal, he'll never be enough with one. When they take the course on the third and final day, they are ready, sure and prepared to compete, and hopefully win. The team absolutely aces the pushoff, and is on track to win the gold when disaster strikes. One of the nuts on their old, rickety sled comes loose, and they lose control and suffer a horrendous crash, sliding to a stop within sight of the finish line. After determining that they are all okay, they pick the sled up, put it on their shoulders and carry it across the line, because Derice has to finish the race. As they observe what is happening, several of the competitors who had previously picked on and harassed the team begin scattered applause, which turns into a full standing ovation from the crowd, competitors and even the judges as the movie ends. When the lights came up in the theater, my bride was astonished to see tears streaming down my face. Not a lone tear, but a full on gusher. As Larry The Cucumber says, "I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob".

As a Christian, there are many, many truths that can be gleaned from this story:
1) You might not wind up running the race that you prepared for and thought you would run. Several of the Apostles were fishermen, one was a tax collector, and Paul was a Pharisee.
2) You might not like everyone on your team. One of the Apostles was Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a nationalistic political group that hated the occupiers and collaborators. Another of the Apostles was Matthew, who was a tax collector for the occupying Romans. Imagine a Tea Party activist and an IRS 501(c)(4) application inspector playing on the same softball team.
3) You might not run your race in an environment that you would choose. Paul was a Jew's Jew, who would up preaching salvation to the pagans and barbarians of the world.
4) You have to run your own race in your own way, without worrying about other runners. Peter asked Jesus what would happen to John, to which Jesus reminded him "follow ME".
5) You might not have the best and newest equipment to run with. David went into battle carrying only a sling and five stones...and the presence and protection of Almighty God.
6) Your contentment cannot come from your circumstances or even your results, but instead from the fact that you are precious to Jesus, and that you are working diligently to follow Him. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12&13 that contentment comes from relying on Jesus.
7) You may not win according to the standards and measures of the world, but you have to finish your race. Paul himself speaks of this in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Jesus rewards those who finish their race, not those who run the fastest, best, or most attractively.

I encourage you to watch this film! It's funny, it's entertaining, and it is indeed a moving picture. Then share with me your insights into Cool Runnings!

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Proposal For Presidential Primary And Election Overhaul

Most Americans are already tired of talking about the 2016 election, since the media began discussing potential candidates about .0005 seconds after President Obama was declared the winner in 2012. And I believe most Americans are nowhere as enamored with political primaries and campaigns as the establishments themselves, along with the hundreds of managers, advisers, pollsters and reporters.

I read with great fury an article about the RNC attempting to shorten the 2016 primary season. Of course, the fact that the news is covering the 2016 primary in early 2014 is a little aggravating, but let's set that aside. The thing that infuriated me the most was the fact that the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries were again enshrined as being first in the nation. To be clear, I have no particular dislike for the citizens of these two states. But where, exactly, did the US Constitution grant them disproportionate influence over the selection of presidential candidates?

To answer my own question, the USC did not do any such thing. This system was set and agreed upon by the establishment politicians and power brokers of both major parties. I suppose that part of this is simply because they are lazy, and want to be able to utilize the existing networks in these states. However, I also believe that a large part is to allow the establishment itself to hold sway over the primaries. Let me be clear: I cannot stand and have no respect for establishment politicians and power brokers of either party. As a general rule, anything that they want should be immediately opposed, until a compelling reason can be determined and supported.

When the primaries for both the 2008 and 2012 elections finally came to my state of Mississippi, the candidates that I was most passionate about supporting had already dropped out. This essentially meant that I had to hold my nose and vote for someone I didn't really want.

With that in mind, I propose the following changes to the presidential primary and presidential election systems.

Presidential Primaries:

  1. Divide the many states into two categories, large and small, based upon congressional representation.
  2. Select, by blind lottery, two large and two small states to be the early primaries. These four states are removed from the rotation for the next 4 elections
  3. Schedule the four primaries over a two month term, one election every two weeks, on a small, large, small, large progression.
  4. Two weeks after the last primary, every other state holds their primary. The entire primary season lasts 10 weeks.
  5. The delegates of every state are awarded based upon the voter results of their congressional district. No state may award based on a "winner take all" system.
Presidential Elections:
  1. The entire nation has a synchronized 24 hour period where the polls are open. Polls open at 2pm in Hawaii, 3pm in Alaska, 4pm in Pacific, 5pm in Mountain, 6pm in Central, and 7pm in Eastern, and close at the same time on the next day. This removes any possibility of the media influencing voter turnout or voter decisions by reporting poll results or survey responses in the time zones that have already reached 7pm.
  2. As in the primary elections, electors are awarded by their congressional district, with the exception of the two Senatorial electors who would be awarded by majority vote. This puts almost every elector from every state in play, instead of the current system where presidential candidates can and do make willful decisions to completely ignore the citizens of entire states because their victory road map does not require them. In addition, it also decreases the influence of metropolitan areas over rural areas. For example, Idaho has approximately 1.6 million citizens, but over half that number live in five cities.

As a side note, in case anyone asks about the Electoral College being abolished. The disparity between populous and remote states, as well as the disparity between urban and rural areas is the reason that the EC exists. Removing the EC would soon result in presidential candidates focusing only on a handful of metro areas and basically ignoring the majority of the nation.

Well, I've made my suggestion. I'd love to hear your feedback. My biggest point is that the establishments of both major parties like the existing system because it allows THEM power over our decisions.