Archive for March 2017

Roadblocks to improving the energy grid: Regulations and empty chairs   Leave a comment

Although Lisa Murkowski is Alaska’s senior senator and I’m an Alaskan, I am not surprised in the least that she is suddenly not a fiscal conservative when it’s time to cut the budget. That’s who Lisa was before fiscal conservativism was needed to win a Republican seat. Her stand against reducing the budget is the primary reason she lost the GOP nomination in 2010. That she retook the seat with Democratic help is an indictment of the intelligence and knowledge of Alaskan voters.

Well, she’s just a few months into her current term, so there’s not a thing we can do about it, but let’s remember this and not ask her back in 2022 … if the country, given the current debt load on the government, lasts that long.

I’m just saying … Lisa, the nation is $21 trillion in debt, digging the hole deeper by $1 trillion every year. Don’t you think you could find it within your conscience to reduce that burden by a few billion for programs that are duplicative or completely outside the scope of Constitutional authority? You are a Republican, right? Not a Democrat? Lela

 

Trump’s steep $54 billion budget cuts could create a conundrum for lawmakers who want to support infrastructure development, but can’t because of the cuts.

Source: Roadblocks to improving the energy grid: Regulations and empty chairs

Posted March 28, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Bakers Accused of Hate Get Emotional Day in Court | Kelsey Harkness   1 comment

The ongoing battle between gay rights and religious liberty escalated Thursday as husband-and-wife bakers in Oregon appealed their case after being ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Image result for image of a wedding cakeEvery time we tried to make a constitutional argument it was stomped on, because it was administrative law.

“Everything up to this point has been administrative hearings,” Aaron Klein, co-owner with his wife Melissa of the since-closed bakery, told The Daily Signal afterward.

“Every time we tried to make a constitutional argument it was stomped on, because it was administrative law,” he said. “But now we’re finally in a courtroom where the Constitution and due process can be argued on a level we haven’t seen before. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome.”

In court, an attorney for the Kleins again argued that designing and baking a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage would violate the bakers’ Christian faith.

Both the Kleins and the same-sex couple who filed the original complaint against them were present inside the courtroom.

Afterward, while speaking to reporters, Melissa Klein had an emotional response.

“We lost everything,” she said. “I loved my shop, and losing it has been so hard for me and my family.”

In an exclusive telephone interview with The Daily Signal later, she added:

“That was a part of our life, and it was something that we thought was going to be passed down to our kids. It’s something that I miss every day still. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over it because it was our second home.”

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides, with questions focused on issues such as:

  • Does Oregon have a “compelling reason” to grant the Kleins a religious exemption from the state’s antidiscrimination law?
  • Does a cake count as artistic expression protected by the First Amendment, and how do you differentiate between what constitutes art and what doesn’t?
  • What was the particular message involved in designing and making a cake for a same-sex wedding, and how is it understood by an observer?
  • To what extent may an artist be compelled to do something?

The Kleins used to run Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a family bakery they owned and operated in Gresham, Oregon. But after the Kleins declined in 2013 to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding, citing their religious beliefs, they faced protests that eventually led them to shut down their bakery.

In July 2015, an administrative judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Kleins had discriminated against a lesbian couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, on the basis of their sexual orientation. The judge ordered the Kleins to pay the $135,000 for physical, emotional, and mental damages.

Under Oregon law, it is illegal for businesses to refuse service based on a customer’s sexual orientation, as well as race, gender, and other characteristics.

The Kleins maintained that they did not discriminate, but only declined to make the cake because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Designing and baking a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, they said, would violate their Christian faith.

The Kleins appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals on the basis of their constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech, and due process.

The three appeals judges also pursued these lines of questioning:

  • Was the award of damages—the $135,000 the Kleins were ordered to pay—out of line with other cases before the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries?
  • Was it reasonable for that state agency to extend the damages through more than two years after the alleged discrimination actually occurred?
  • Did Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian prejudge the case and in doing so strip the Kleins of their right to due process?
  • How is sexual orientation different from race as a personal characteristic?

Each side had equal time to make their case and the Kleins, as plaintiffs, got an additional five minutes for a rebuttal. The oral arguments were live-streamed, and may be watched in full here.

“The government should never force someone to violate their conscience or their beliefs,” Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom group that represents the Kleins, said in a press statement, adding:

The administrative judge who issued the final ruling also is employed by the state agency.

“In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We hope the court will uphold the Kleins’ rights to free speech and religious liberty.”

But Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, whose lawyers represent the Bowman-Cryers,  said:

“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against a same-sex couple when they refused service based on sexual orientation.”

Since the case began in 2013, the Kleins have argued the cards were stacked against them.

Lawyers for the Bureau of Labor and Industries pursued the charges against the Kleins on behalf of the lesbian couple, who went on to marry.

Avakian, the agency official, made multiple public comments criticizing them before any rulings, the Kleins said.

The administrative judge who issued the final ruling also is employed by the state agency.

Besides ordering the Kleins to pay $135,000, Avakian ordered the former bakery owners to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

Both parties have said the case has taken a heavy toll on their families. Aaron and Melissa Klein, who have five children, say they continue to face hurtful attacks from liberal activists.

According to an article the Bowman-Cryers wrote for The Advocate, a publication focused on LGBT issues, they are foster parents for two “high-needs” girls.

“Part of the reason we decided to get married in the first place was to provide stability for our daughters,” they wrote, adding:

Before we became engaged, we became foster parents for two very high-needs girls after their mother, a close friend of ours, died suddenly. Lizzy, now 9, has cerebral palsy, autism, and a chromosomal disorder that causes developmental delays. Anastasia, now 7, has Asperger’s and stopped speaking when her mother died.

While the case wound its way through the courts, we won full adoptive custody of Lizzy and Anastasia, and they are the light of our lives.

The appeals judges are not expected to rule for several months. If they rule against the Kleins, the couple’s next step would be appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Republished from the Daily Signal.

Source: Bakers Accused of Hate Get Emotional Day in Court | Kelsey Harkness

 

I would point out that even if the Kleins win their case in court, they have still lost as this has taken their businesses and more of less bankrupted them. I would also point out because the article does — this lesbian couple were repeat customers. Melissa Klein had served them before when the service was not a wedding cake. Lela

Must a Jew Bake a Nazi Cake? | Jeffrey A. Tucker   3 comments

At the first-ever nationally televised debate between candidates for the Libertarian Party, the subject turned to a fundamental issue: the freedom not to associate. The subject concerned anti-discrimination law, particularly as it affects religion.

Image result for image of a nazi cakeGary Johnson was asked whether he, as president, would retain laws that prohibit discrimination based on religion. He said he would, especially given the current political climate in this country. There’s so much anger out there, he said, that he would be concerned about Muslims being denied access to basic utilities, for example.

Opponent Austin Petersen immediately seized on this compromise of principle. People must have the freedom to associate or disassociate based on whatever criterion. If they do not, he said, a Jewish baker would be forced to bake a cake for Nazis. Johnson agreed that non-discrimination would imply exactly that.

It was the best moment of the debate, and it sparked a thousand Reddit and Facebook discussions.

Who is right?

One objection is that this hypothetical is wholly unlikely in any case. Why would a Nazi demand such a thing from a Jew? If the Jewish baker really refused a Nazi, could he actually expect to be prosecuted for doing so?

However unlikely this scenario would be in the United States today, it is not entirely ahistorical. In the early years of the rise of the Nazis, party members demanded boycotts of Jewish businesses. This was part of their propaganda to whip up the public into scapegoating Jews for all the sufferings of the German people. Over time, public antagonism intensified to more direct forms of attacks and exclusions, from lootings, pogroms, ghettoization, concentration camps, and finally gas chambers.

A Slippery Slope?

Supporters of anti-discrimination law cite this as a case in point. If you let people refuse service based on a religious criterion (or race, sex, disability, and so on) you create a slippery slope. What starts as a bigoted choice ends in more violent modes of exclusion. Yes, this can lead to weird results such as forbidding a black-owned hotel from barring a Klan member, and a Jewish baker forced to service to a Nazi based on religion. But this is a small price to pay, they say, for a more generalized atmosphere of tolerance.

Let’s consult the great economist Ludwig von Mises, a Jew himself, who was actually present in interwar Vienna and personally affected by the rise of anti-Semitism. It kept him from obtaining a position at the city’s great university, and it eventually drove him out of his beloved Austria. Eventually arriving in the United States, he wrote what might be considered the most anti-Nazi book ever: Omnipotent Government (1944). It opposed Nazi racism and anti-Semitism but also the entire Nazi economic policy that itself was rooted in a form of legal discrimination of some producers over others.

Choice and Coercion

Where did Mises stand on the issue of discrimination? He distinguished two kinds: that extending from choice and that imposed by law. He favored the former and opposed the latter. He went even further. He said that a policy that forces people against their will creates the very conditions that lead to legal discrimination. In his view, even speaking as someone victimized by invidious discrimination, it is better to retain freedom than build a bureaucracy that overrides human choice.

“In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody,” he wrote. “Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost.”

What might this principle imply?

A Czech or a Pole may prefer to buy at higher cost in a shop owned by a Slav instead of buying cheaper and better in a shop owned by a German. An anti-Semite may forego being cured of an ugly disease by the employment of the ‘Jewish’ drug Salvarsan and have recourse to a less efficacious remedy. In this arbitrary power consists what economists call consumer’s sovereignty.

These choices are up to the consumer, and, presumably, the producer too.

In a world in which people have grasped the meaning of a market society, and therefore advocate a consumer’s policy, there is no legal discrimination against Jews. Whoever dislikes the Jews may in such a world avoid patronizing Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers.

And yet, if you have a social movement that is just dead-set against a certain group, and pushes a strategy of boycotts and exclusions, does it eventually end in harming people in devastating ways? So long as markets are working, Mises says the answer is no.

Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda did not succeed in preventing German “Aryans” from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors. They did not patronize the Jews unawares—’Aryan’ competitors were careful to tell them again and again that these people were Jews. Whoever wanted to get rid of his Jewish competitors could not rely on an alleged hatred of Jews; he was under the necessity of asking for legal discrimination against them.

Mises is arguing, in other words, that voluntary discrimination tends not to create permanent disabilities for groups. It might be wrong. It might be ugly. It might be intended to create harm. But so long as the market is working, exclusion does not work over the long run. The benefits of the division of labor are too great, and the costs of pervasive discrimination are too high, to make it worth it.

As Mises wrote elsewhere:

The market does not directly prevent anybody from arbitrarily inflicting harm on his fellow citizens; it only puts a penalty upon such conduct. The shopkeeper is free to be rude to his customers provided he is ready to bear the consequences. The consumers are free to boycott a purveyor provided they are ready to pay the costs. What impels every man to the utmost exertion in the service of his fellow men and curbs innate tendencies toward arbitrariness and malice is, in the market, not compulsion and coercion on the part of gardeess, hangmen, and penal courts; it is self-interest.

Power Will Be Used

What’s more, argues Mises, society needs a market society that includes a full range of freedom to choose precisely to prevent political violence against groups. Nazi economic policy punished importers against domestic producers, large stores against shopkeepers, large-scale industry against startups, and so on. The machinery was already in place legally to punish Jewish businesses against non-Jewish businesses.

Sacrificing principle for the sake of marginalized groups is short-sighted. If you accept the infringement of human rights as an acceptable political weapon, that weapon will eventually be turned on the very people you want to help. As Dan Sanchez has written, “Authoritarian restriction is a game much better suited for the mighty than for the marginalized.”

Commerce has a tendency to break down barriers, not create them. In fact, this is why Jim Crow laws came into existence, to interrupt the integrationist tendencies of the marketplace. Here is the hidden history of a range of government interventions, from zoning to labor laws to even the welfare state itself. The ruling class has always resented and resisted the market’s tendency to break down entrenched status and gradually erode tribal bias.

Indeed, commerce is the greatest fighter against bigotry and hate that humankind has ever seen. And it is precisely for this reason that a movement rooted in hate must necessarily turn to politics to get its way.

The real danger is not human choice but a regime that overrides it. The market is rooted in choice, which also means the right to discriminate. But so long as the state stays out of it, the discriminatory intent can’t last.

The freedom to choose implies the freedom to decline any particular choice on any grounds.

What about the Johnson scenario of a public utility that denies service to a Muslim community? One can easily imagine a private power generation company using that as an opportunity for profit.

As for the Nazis, they will just have to find someone else to bake their cakes.

Source: Must a Jew Bake a Nazi Cake? | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Come on, GOP! Go Free Market!   3 comments

Lela’s preferred free-market plan for medical care policy would be no plan whatsoever. I’m offended that anyone thinks they need to tell me how to take care of myself. I’m able to make those decisions for myself. Government, get out of the way and let the market work. Free individuals can negotiate among themselves for lower and better coverage and care.

Rick’s preferred free-market plan for medical care policy would include sliding-fee medical clinics that would operate under charitable auspices. We forget that fraternal organizations used to contract with doctors to provide their members with medical care for a low monthly fee and that churches used to operate hospitals. Contrary to revisionist history, these systems and institutions were well-run and responsible for a rapid increase in the overall health and lift expectancy of Americans. That was all before the American Medical Association got involved in deciding who could become a doctor or open a clinic, using the force of government to create a virtual monopoly.

Image result for image of the american health care billRick was stunned when he wrote that. We believe he just became a libertarian … except he supports government-funding for those sliding-fee clinics, so he’s not quite there yet.

The fact is that it’s really scary that so much of the country believes we must have a federal top-down strategy to manage a huge chunk of the American economy. That’s the main problem. We don’t need a federal plan for health care now any more than we needed in the 1990s or the 1950s. Yet Republicans have allowed liberals to frame the entire debate in anti-market terms.

The Freedom Caucus stood up and said these things and Pesident Trump, who is a progressive who in the past said he favored liberty-and-choice-destroying universal health care, pulled the bill. He hinted that they would keep the Amercian Health Care Act on the shelf until Obamacare implodes (likely toward the end of this year) and then dust it off then. That’s the wrong approach!

The AHCA falls far short of a free-market solution. It’s certainly not a repeal of Obamacare. It’s a half measure that tries to fix the unfixable with tiny doses of deregulation that essentially do very little to impact the core of the ACA. The AHCA’s the “tweak” on the rudder of the Titanic headed toward the iceberg that did nothing to keep the behemoth from hitting it and eventually sinking.

Trump suggested a three-phase rollout, but there were no details for the other two phases, so they might as well not exist because the Republicans will lose the Senate and possibly the House in 2018 if things continue the way that they are headed. Obamacare has too many flaws to ever be fixed and pretending otherwise is not going to get us anywhere.

We’ve seen what the Democratic Party plans for health care (and not insurance, but actual care). They would channel us all into Bureau of Indian Affairs-like services that see our mortality rate drop to British levels (dead people are much lower drain on government than living ones). The Democrats oppose opening up insurance markets across state lines because …. Who knows why because it doesn’t make any sense. Opening up auto insurance across statelines did wonders for improving competition and controlling premiums. Thirty years later, my monthly premiums are just now about what they were before the market was opened up. And Alaska has different coverage than, say, New Hampshire, so no, that’s not a problem either … except maybe in the minds of people who think government-run medical care is the answer to the medical insurance crisis in this country. If that’s the only choice you’re willing to accept, all other alternatives look wrong.

The Democrats don’t want to look at access to actual medical care, insurance costs or the continued growth of the welfare state. They seek to constrain markets to create monopolies that can be controlled by a federal regulatory regime. When that fails, because it ignores economic reality, they will insist upon passing single-payer.

“When I was working in France, I had opportunity to do some visitation in England and Germany and look behind the scenes of their medical care systems. When I developed appendicitis, I dosed myself with pain killers and antibiotics and caught a jet to the United States rather than go under the knife of any of my colleagues in Europe. They’re nice people; some of them were very well trained by European standards and they mean well, but I do not recommend any single-payer or universal medical system in the world. All of the ones I’ve seen are inadequate for anyone I love who has any illness requiring high-skilled treatment.” Rick (speaking as a doctor)

Potential Victories:

  • Halting federal funding of unPlanned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion mill
  • Offering states more flexibility in the operation of their Medicaid programs.
  • Expanding health savings accounts
  • Getting rid of the individual mandate
  • Opening insurance across state lines
  • Repealing Obamacare’s taxes

Pressure from conservative groups made the American Health Care Act, as presently conceived, a non-starter. That’s a good thing. The Affordable Care Act would have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for the moderate Democrats who just couldn’t stomach its more socialist aspects. Democrats did not, despite prevailing mythology, compromise with the GOP in 2009. The GOP managed to pass some amendments, but they were all technical in nature – commas and spelling repair. The Democrats were forced to compromise with their own moderates.It only takes a few senators to hold an entire party’s golden goose hostage.

This time around, the GOP was confronted by the conservative Republicans of the Freedom Caucus, who rightly pointed out that the people did not sweep the GOP into office in order to “tweak” Obamacare. They voted for the GOP because the GOP promised to REPEAL Obamacare.

No federal entitlement has been repealed, replaced or even significantly modified after its passage, but this is the fight that caused Republicans to win majority control in 32 states, hundreds of seats in the House and Senate, and that nicely shaped office in the White House. So Republicans need to take a good hard look at where they stand right now. If they don’t have the strength of character to back of full repeal of Obamacare, then they were elected on a lie. Surely someone among them has a better idea than either the AHCA or the ACA.

Republicans, please recognize that you were put into the position that you’re in right now by people who want to get rid of Obamacare. You shouldn’t allow yourselves to be intimidated by Democratic rhetoric that you’re going to kill Grandma and expose “the children” to the winter winds. We know they’re full of gas. They tried to convince the American people that Obamacare would be a political and economic success story even as the American voters argued that it wouldn’t be. Reality has shown the Democrats were phenomenally wrong and that the American people understand economics better than the elites. The voters who put you in office are not going to fall for a lecture about how unpopular a repeal bill will be. Feel free to pass a bill that incorporates the principles many GOP voters say they believe in.

 

REALLY! They’re behind you and even libertarians like Lela and doctors like Rick will cheer you on.

Breaking Up   Leave a comment

President Trump has been in the Oval Office since January 20 and, have you heard, he hasn’t done anything substantive yet. This new Congress has been in Washington for even less time and … oh, my god, they haven’t passed a repeal-and-replacement bill for Obamacare yet, so clearly they don’t have a plan. (They do, but the one they’re going with right now is Obamacare-lite).

Image result for image of political breakup

President Trump has been compared to Hitler, Pot Pot, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the 911 terrorist attacks. The New Republic is theorizing that Trump is mentally unstable because of neurosyphilis.

Establishment furor over the two-month-old Trump administration is growing. Forget that 100-day honeymoon most presidents, even President Obama, get.  Talk of removing the Trumpster through impeachment, or opposing everything he does (the progressive “Resistance”), is commonplace. Some op-ed writers and European pundits have openly hoped for his death.

The American media hate Trump with a passion, the entrenched administrative state (called “deep state” by some), the Democratic Party, progressive activities and a fair slice of the Republican Party are all freaking out about his presidency.

Trump is undisciplined and brash, a New York businessman if ever there was one. He’s not the polished (some might say “fake”) Obama and he clearly doesn’t meet the standards of the high-society ruling elite, who have dismissed him as a rude idiot who should never have been elected … and wouldn’t have been if rural rubes weren’t allowed to influence elections, by gum.

They preferred Hillary Clinton, apparently unconcerned that her election would have resulted in a Bush or a Clinton being president for 24 years of the a 32-year span. Dynasty much! Why do we think that’s a good idea on any planet, ever?

This is reminiscent of another presidential campaign. In 1828, the wild and unruly Andrew Jackson was elected president because the rapidly expanding country had tired of the pretenses of the tidewater and New York elites. The tiny coastal establishment of the 1820s perpetuated the ancestry and background of the great but waning Founding Fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. The difficulty with this was that the Founders’ lesser successors had not earned the status they had assumed. They were the grandchildren of the Founders or grandchildren of the Founders’ friends. Jackson won by exposing their pretenses.

What got the Donald elected was a similar popular outrage that the self-described best and brightest of our time are enjoying influence and power over the rest of us without real merit or visible achievement. Trump has at least built a business empire, even if it is based on debt and serial bankruptcy. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and most of the members of Congress have never held real jobs (no, being a law intern and community planner does not count as a real job), let alone created an actual job for someone else in their highly-publicized lives.

But who are all these angry elitists? Conservatives refer to them a lot and someone on Facebook or Twitter recently said they didn’t actually exist, that they were bugaboos used to stir up the masses. And, these folks wonder why some of us refuse to listen to their wisdom. Clearly, you are living in a bubble if you haven’t entered elitist trolls, at least of the liberal variety, but even of the Republic flavor.

In California, state planners and legislators spent three decades focused on outlawing plastic grocery bags and not killing rodents by curtailing cutting down flammable brush while California’s roads and dams slowly fell apart. The result is crumbling infrastructure that now threatens the very safety of the public. Powerful Californians with impressive degrees also came up with the idea of nullifying federal immigration law through sanctuary cities. I’m okay with the nullification part, but not with the illegal immigrants who kill or rob American citizens within those sanctuary cities.

In the last eight years, sophisticated Washington, D.C., economists produced budgets that increased U.S. debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, as economic growth reached its lowest level since the Hoover administration. And, they declared that to be victory for Barack Obama.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied repeatedly on national television about the Benghazi debacle, apparently unaware that the Internet had the video that would show she was lying. And the media backed her up, despite the Internet having the video that proved she was lying. Is it any wonder that Americans are now deeply skeptical of the media?
Over the last year, pollsters and “expert” media pundits assured the public that Hillary Clinton would be the next president … right up until she was overwhelmed by the Electoral College landslide. Were the polls just wrong or were they lying about the polls in an attempt to sway the election?
Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. Universities now embrace politically correct indoctrination as a measure for these degrees, so how can anyone with a modicum of sense believe that a costly university degree guarantees knowledge or inductive reasoning? Especially, when we’ve seen these degree-holders look like idiots on public television after we’ve told them that their ideas won’t work in the real world. And, by the way, I hold an advanced degree. I just didn’t stop learning after I collected it.

Elites like to believe that their ideology is defined by brilliant and proven theories and they certainly act as if that were true. Meanwhile, we’ve watched university-sired identity politics tear our country apart over the last eight years. Free speech or diversity of thought are not welcome on campuses. Progressive governments have mired most inner cities in deeper poverty.

The Western world is having a breakdown and perhaps a breakup. We’re all over the map on what the solution to our ills is. Is it socialism ala Bernie Sanders? Populism enjoys some fans as evidenced by Trump’s election, the Brexit vote and the spread of anti-European Union parties across Europe. Is the answer to be found in the total state of socialism or the total state of populism?

No! They’re remedies for symptoms, but don’t address the cause of the disease itself which stems from our false notion of elitism.

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be based on titles, brands and hype. They want to see demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The elites in the Beltway, Hollywood and Silicon Valley look down on the value of hard work, feeling that the 21st century culture should belong to the “experts” who live in the right zip codes and circulate in the proper social circles while garnering appropriate media admiration rather than from a demonstrable record of moral or intellectual excellence. Meanwhile, the public sees the brilliance that can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm.

Donald Trump may not be one of those hard-working middle Americans, but he has tapped into the understanding that they don’t see themselves as idiots and they love him for that. It remains to be seen if he will keep his promises to them, but let’s be clear about one thing — Hillary Clinton promised to ignore them entirely … like the elitist paragon that she was. and remains.

I’m still holding out for an understanding that the elite need to be removed and not replaced. Let individuals decide for themselves what is good for us and reclaim the 19th century dynamism that truly made America prosperous. Doing that would require reclaiming the liberty that made that possible.

Can we do it? Yes, we can … if we will.

Soundtrack for a Novel   4 comments

I am not a peace-and-quiet sort of writer. I grew up in a small house where my mom operated a daycare and Brad and I lived for several years, with the kids, in a small cabin. I can write anywhere and ignore the noise level.

Image result for image of classical music

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But sometimes music helps to set a mood that the general chaos of living cannot. Often we remember a great movie by its soundtrack and writing a novel sometimes has the feel of writing a movie. The soundtrack is only for me, but it has its place in my art.

Daermad Cycle was inspired by songs by Enya. Makes sense, right? Celtic music inspired a Celtic-flavored novel. And when I’m feeling distracted when I’m working on Daermad Cycle, I still listen to Celtic instrumental music or songs sung in Gaelic.

Big bold instrumental music inspires battles in my imagination, so often there’s a Manheim Steamroller song behind the ringing of swords in my fantasy books. Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War” is currently my go-to for writing a complicated naval attack scene in Fount of Wraiths. The Verdi Requiem has a similar effect as does the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Prokofiev’s “Death of Tybalt” is a murder scene from Romeo & Juliet) that is fraught with tension, great for scenes where I might want people to distrust one another, so it gets used a lot.

When my characters start winning battles the 1812 Overture will probably be behind it.

Other types of scenes call for jazz or blues, but I might also plug in some big band, or even zydeco. Often, I just scan through lists looking for something that matches the mood of the scene I’m trying to write. I don’t need music for every scene, but if I’m having trouble getting into it, I head over to my music lists for some inspiration.

You might have noticed — I prefer to be inspired by music that has no words. I’m not a classics snob. I LOVE contemporary music and listen to it a lot, but I don’t want the words telling me what I should think while I’m writing. That isn’t conducive to writing my own story. Enya didn’t count because she was singing in Gaelic.

That “no words” goal makes it a bit more difficult to find music for contemporary pieces, but I don’t seem to need the musical inspiration so much when I’m writing in this world. As I’m moving into sadder and sadder times in Transformation Project, however, I’m starting to look for minor-key classics to inspire those scenes. Brad has suggested that I might need to find some Tchaikovsky or Mozart or zydeco or ska to lighten some scenes. He’s worried I might depress my readers, but the third book in the series, A Threatening Fragility, is about the breaking of our society, so sad and heavy is appropriate. Don’t worry. I’m not a naturally sad or depressed person, so my characters — most of them anyway — will not stay down long, but Brad is probably right that I might need some Vivaldi to lighten my writing mood when those scenes roll around.

 

Don’t Follow Pied Pipers   Leave a comment

Christianity has had its share of “Pied Pipers,”  — charismatic individuals who seem to be able to lead a group of followers anywhere they wish. We wince at the thought of Jim Jones or David Koresh and what they did to their followers, not to mention the name of Christ. Then there are some whose sins have devastated others, and at times have wrought financial havoc for Christian ministries.

Image result for image of church following pied piperIt is not just the “way out” fringes of Christianity which are plagued with leaders who have nearly total control over the lives of their followers, but whose personal lives are out of control. I’ve seen it happen in respectable churches where people should know better. One common element in these disasters is that these men who fell were so powerful and so in control that they seemed almost “unstoppable.” They had been so elevated and revered in the minds of their followers that they were considered beyond the temptations and sins of ordinary mankind. Their followers refuse to believe the evidences of sin. Even if they are guilty of known sin, no one seems to feel sufficiently qualified to attempt to rebuke or correct them.

This is precisely the problem at Corinth. Those who identified themselves with a certain leader did so in pride, confident that his (or her) message and methods was highly esteemed by the culture of that day. Paul reminded them that this was not the way they began their Christian life. He came to them in weakness, fear, and much trembling. He did not come with a “powerful” message or method of presentation, but with the simple proclamation of Christ crucified. While that message and method may not have won the praise of the lost, it was the means of their salvation (2:1-5).

Now at verse 5, Paul commenced to show the folly of exalting one leader so highly that all others are rejected. He used three analogies to illustrate his point.

First, he compares the church to God’s farm.

What is Apollos, really? Or what is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, and each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us. I planted,  Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. (I Corinthians 3:5-9)

Notice that Paul wrote of himself and Apollos alone, omitting Peter for the moment (compare 1:12). Paul was the first to come to Corinth with the gospel, followed later by Apollos. These were the two apostles most intimately associated with this church. I like the NET Bible’s translation here because it puts the emphasis on the position, rather than the personality, of the Corinthian leaders. The King James renders the Greek as “Who?”, but the textual critics and translaters at the NET believe “What?” is the more precise translation that focuses on the place or position to which the Corinthians’ leaders have been elevated, rather than upon the personalities of each. “To what position or place have you assigned your leader?” Paul asked.

They apparently thought their leader was above all others. Paul brought the Corinthians down to earth by basically saying “We are not heroes, to be adored; we are not gods, to be worshipped; we are not masters, to be blindly followed. We are simply servants of God, appointed by Him to speak the gospel in Corinthi.” Whatever was accomplished by their coming, it is God who accomplishes it; it is God who is Master; they are but servants. How then can the Corinthians place them on a pedestal?

God did not choose either Paul or Apollos to be the single instrument to achieve His purposes in Corinth. Each had his own task, his own calling. The ministries of Paul and Apollos were dependent upon the other. They were not competitors or rivals, but teammates, fellow-workers.

Both unity and diversity can be seen in the complementary ministries of Paul and Apollos. Both served the same Master; both were engaged in accomplishing the same task. Both were brothers in Christ, but each had his own unique calling and contribution to make to the overall task.

Verse 9 plays a critical role in this passage by serving as a transition from the analogy of the “farm” to that of “construction.” When Paul wrote “For we are God’s fellow-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building,” he told us two very important things:

  • All the saints belong to God, and none of them belongs to any apostle.
  • He distinguished himself and Apollos, as apostles, from all the rest of the saints in Corinth. He and Apollos are apostles; the rest are not.

The apostles played a unique role in the founding of the church, a role not to be duplicated by any other. In a unique way, the apostles did “labor together with God” in their intimate contact with Him, and in being witnesses of His resurrection, but especially in the “laying of the foundation of the church” by being the human authors of the New Testament Scriptures.  (See Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 1:1-3; Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12 for supporting passages).

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straweach builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

In this passage, the church is likened to a building which is under construction. Paul called himself a “wise master builder,” who had laid the foundation on which others built. When Paul referred to himself as a wise master builder, it was with a very deliberate goal in mind. The Corinthians thought themselves wise, and they considered Paul and the other apostles simple, foolish, and weak. Their thinking was wrong! Paul was wise whether or not the Corinthians (or we in modern times) believed it to be so.

Paul distinguished himself from Apollos in this passage. In the prior paragraph, Paul was the one who planted; Apollos was the one who later watered. Now, Paul alone is the foundation-layer in Corinth, and others like Apollos built upon that foundation. Apollos was a powerful and eloquent speaker, a man mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24), but also a man who built upon the foundation Paul laid in Corinth. Apollos was trained in the gospel by Priscilla and Aquila, who were students of Paul, therefore, Apollos learned the gospel second-hand from Paul. He built on Paul’s foundation. Paul’s work of “foundation laying” is represented as a finished work, as a work which is not to be repeated.

Paul looked upon his mission of laying the foundation for the Corinthian church as complete. What remains was for the saints at Corinth (and elsewhere) to completing the construction. The proper function of each worker is Paul’s primary focus.

Paul was not talking about salvation here. This is not a proof-text for the doctrine of purgatory. Paul was saying that a Christian’s works may be burned up by the fire of divine judgment, but not the believer. The believer will be saved, but only by the “skin of his teeth.”

Some argue that Paul’s words encourage the “carnal Christian” to live a careless, self-indulgent life, knowing he will get to heaven regardless. A very few Christians think that they can get the “best of both worlds”, free to sin and yet be forgiven and saved. How foolish and dangerous! Paul’s next words are aimed right at those who might try to pervert his teaching in practice, so that a life of sinful self-indulgence is based on the “comfort” of his words in verse 15.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, which is what you are. (1 Corhinthians 3:16-17)

The Corinthians thought they were very smart and yet Paul demanded “Don’t you know …?” The building described by Paul as under construction in verses 10-15 was “God’s building”. Paul now explains that the church is God’s temple, His dwelling place. While elsewhere Paul spoke of each individual believer as God’s dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:19), here he spoke of the whole church as God’s dwelling. We are not the temple, but we are a temple, a place where God dwells. Because God dwells there, the temple is holy, and it must remain holy.

We should understand the seriousness of defiling God’s temple. When we live godly lives, in obedience to His Word through the power of the Spirit, we display God’s glory (1 Peter 2:9). We are good workers, building up the church in accordance with our calling. But when a Christian fails to fulfill their mission, then they become a detriment to the church. In the symbolic terminology of Paul, we “destroy” (NASB) or “defile” (KJV) the temple of God when we are not building well.

The consequences for such defilement are severe, because we are defaming the reputation of God by defiling His temple. Those who would do damage to God’s dwelling place should expect severe consequences. Paul did not mince words when he warned, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (verse 17).

We know from the preceding verses (especially verses 13-15) that a Christian will not lose his salvation, but that he will lose his reward. Lest one feel too smug and secure in sin, however, let him ponder the meaning of the word “destroy” in verse 17. Paul did not seek to comfort any Christian who sins willfully. This passage cannot be construed to encourage a sinful, carnal, lifestyle, for Paul’s words of warning are clear.

We today live in a consumer age. A lot of the church growth movement caters to members, or seekers, as consumers. It’s like a marketing program that finds out the kind of church people want to attend, and then seeks to provide that kind of church. Consequently, some churches may have many of their pews filled, but with people who expect, even demand, to get what they want from the church in terms of services, at little or no cost to themselves. They want to get much and give little.

Paul knew nothing of this kind of church. Paul knew only of the kind of church where every member is a worker, and where there is no such thing as a shirker. Paul’s words have a very clear inference. He assumed we know that we have an obligation to build the temple, to play an active role in the building up of the church as the body of Christ. Why then in most churches do a few members give much, some members give a little, and many to most members do not give at all? Why does the church have so much trouble getting volunteers to teach in Sunday School, and to help with the many tasks in the church? It is simply because many consider themselves a part of the church (rightly or wrongly), but fail to grasp the fact that God requires every member of it to be a working member, contributing to the growth and ministry of the church.

Not only are we obliged to be an active contributor to the construction of God’s temple, we are to build upon the foundation of the apostles. While in those days, the churches had to remember Paul’s words or perhaps refer to a letter, we have the New Testament. To build well, we must know the foundation well, for all of our building must conform to “the code” the Bible sets down. Some people seem to think that “working hard” in the church is enough. Paul wouldn’t agree. We are to work hard, but only in compliance with, and in submission to, His Word, the Bible. For the builder who would work so as to please God and to obtain His approval and reward, he or she must build in accordance with sound doctrine as taught by the apostles.

Doctrine is therefore important to every Christian, and not just for the theologians, because it is foundational. Sound doctrine is not required just for those who teach; it is required as the basis for each and every ministry which takes place in the church. Those who show mercy should do so in accordance with sound doctrine. Those who give must give in accordance with sound doctrine. For example, they must not give to the support of those who are false teachers (2 John 7-11). Those who serve should serve in accordance with sound doctrine. Those who “love” must love within the confines of sound doctrine (Philippians 1:9-11).

Sound doctrine is the basis for all ministry. We dare not seek to serve God apart from sound doctrine.

Divisions, often the result of following a particular leader and rejecting all others, are a very serious offense. For saints to be divided and opposing one another is a tearing down of the church, not a building up of the temple of God. Let us see the evil of divisions, and also the serious consequences which it brings to us personally.

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