9/11 in the age of Trump

September 11, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comment 

This morning – and I say “this morning” despite the fact I’m writing this about 12 hours in advance of publication – President Donald Trump, a native of New York City, will preside over what is described as a “mostly solemn and nonpartisan occasion” with ceremonies at both Ground Zero and the Pentagon. (Vice President Pence will handle duties in Shanksville, PA at the Flight 93 Memorial.)

Because he’s a native New Yorker, Donald Trump has a unique perspective on the event. Most of his critics point to a declaration The Donald made in the wake of the attack that his 40 Wall Street building became the tallest in the city thanks to the demise of the World Trade Center. On the other hand, President Trump made a very solemn Patriot Day declaration on Friday, bringing it up to date by citing our response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. One notable departure from the Obama years, though, is the dropping of the “National Day of Service and Remembrance” from the release (although Trump alludes to it in the body of his text, in keeping with the Obama-era law recognizing September 11 as such.)

Some of the conditions which led to the 9/11 attack (and its ongoing response on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq) have been addressed by President Trump, although his main initiative of a temporary pause on accepting refugees and visitors from nations deemed to be potential sponsors of terror was thwarted by a series of activist judges. However, on a broader foreign palette, we have had little change in Middle East policy over the last several months, particularly in dealing with a poorly-drafted nuclear agreement with Iran: well-respected former U.N. ambassador and foreign policy hawk John Bolton is on record as wishing Trump would back out of that bad deal.

Regardless of what policy initiatives come and go, though, the passage of time insures that those who recall the incident first-hand are a dwindling majority. The number of Americans under age 21 now rests at about 27%, and if you add in those who weren’t Americans when the attack occurred you’re probably talking a number north of 3 out of 10 Americans who have little to no memory of the day because they weren’t born yet, too young to understand it, living somewhere else at the time, or some combination of those factors. I know I won’t forget where I was that day but the 17-year-old in the house won’t recall because she was only a toddler. The day may be remembered at school, but even then only in passing.

And while we live in an era where being patriotic isn’t necessarily cause for suspicion by certain groups as it was not so long ago, we’re a long way from the fever pitch we had in the months after the attack. Then again, perhaps our nation has given us cause to be cynical after such a Long War with few tangible results. One could readily surmise that, with our superior military firepower, we could have made short work of any of these tinpot regimes if we put our mind to it and employed more of a scorched-earth policy. Lord knows we were willing to do so in 2001 but President George W. Bush preferred a coalition approach. Some may call that kicking the can down the road.

It’s frightening to think that we could be on the doorstep of another such attack, but the possibility is there and it’s not necessarily going to involve Islamic terrorism. So-called “suitcase nukes” or an EMP attack that North Korea could be capable of delivering would bring tragic results on a scale many times that of 9/11 – and we really can’t defend that well against them. Yet the response, some civil libertarians argue, would be tantamount to living in a police state.

Walking that fine line is now the job of a 71-year-old man who’s prone to fits of pique as expressed on Twitter but was supported and elected by a group of patriotic Americans who believed he would be the one to get tough on these threats. Since this is the first of what could be eight occasions where Trump commemorates 9/11, this is the one that sets the tempo.

An interesting perspective on Harvey

This is going to be another one of those “unless you’ve just crawled out from under a rock” posts, because that’s about the only way you wouldn’t be submerged in coverage of Hurricane Harvey and its aftereffects on the Houston region in Texas. If you thought Noah was just a Biblical character and the story of the Ark simply a parable, imagine what 40 straight days and nights of rain could do…less than a week’s worth dumped over 50 inches on some hapless portions of Texas.

Anyway, there’s an estimate that Houston was bathed in nearly 20 trillion gallons of water, and if I recall my formula correctly a cubic foot holds roughly 7 1/2 gallons – thus, an area of 2.6 trillion square feet would have been submerged one foot deep. In turn, that works out to an area 1,632,993 feet on each side, which equals 309 miles – 95,653 square miles, to be exact. Imagine not just Maryland and Delaware under a foot of water, but all of Pennsylvania and the majority of Virginia as well. Put another way, under that same deluge all of Maryland would be drowned beneath about 10 feet of water.

What make this relevant is an article written by Jon Cassidy in the American Spectator that I came across. When people talk about planning it piques my interest for obvious reasons: architecture is my chosen profession, but I know just enough about land planning and civil engineering to be dangerous – one area I learned a little bit about in the position I have now (albeit when I had my first bite of the apple a decade ago) was the technique required for doing stormwater management and other civil work. Coming here from Ohio I found out stormwater management is a BIG f’ing deal in Maryland, much more so than in my home state.

This is important because the blame for the extreme flooding in and around Houston is being placed on the rampant growth and large amounts of impermeable surface in that area. But, as Cassidy writes, development is many orders of magnitude shy of being the primary cause:

The idea that pavement is to blame for Houston’s flooding is, to put it simply, idiotic, even comical. The daily journalists on their deadlines haven’t had time to realize how out of their depth they are, but the (Texas) Tribune has no excuse for its shoddy reporting. The committees that awarded those prizes should be ashamed of their inability to spot the obvious hole in the narrative, which has been there all along.

The turf surrounding Houston is not, in the words of the county official the Tribune singled out for abuse, a “magic sponge.” Yes, it absorbs some water. Yes, of course, impermeable surfaces produce runoff. But no, absolutely not, no way, no how, could the clay and sandy soil around Houston have absorbed this deluge. The poor absorptive capacity of our soil is a matter of record, but that didn’t really matter. Even if our turf had the absorptive capacity of the Shamwow, Hurricane Harvey would have overwhelmed it.

study by the Harris County Flood Control District, which focused on the same Cypress Creek region that interested the Tribune, found that a residential development with 50 percent impervious cover would indeed absorb less water, creating more runoff. To be precise, the development would absorb exactly 1.79 inches less rainfall than an undeveloped property. But we got hit with up to 51.88 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey. That’s more than rainy Seattle got all last year.

So even if the Tribune had had its anti-development agenda fully realized, it would have made no difference. The soil would have absorbed the first couple inches of rainfall, and the next 50 inches still would have had to go somewhere. Back in 1935, when the area was almost entirely covered by natural wetlands, it still got flooded.

Cassidy has an unlikely ally in Charles Marohn, the creator of a website called Strong Towns. (It’s often cited by the mayor of Salisbury, who seems to be an advocate of so-called “smart growth.”)

Harvey is not normal times. We can’t look at this event the way we look at other flooding events. The devastation in Houston from Hurricane Harvey is not the result of the accumulation of many bad decisions. It was simply a huge storm.

The Texas A&M research I highlighted above suggests reckless wetland filling robbed Houston of 4 billion gallons of stormwater storage capacity. For context, the Washington Post is reporting now that Harvey dumped 19 trillion gallons on Texas—a large portion of that hitting the Houston area. That means that, had those wetlands never been filled, they could have accommodated at most .02-.1% of the water that fell in Harvey.

Exactly. Soil has a carrying capacity of drainage, and some soils drain better than others. If you’ve spent any amount of time in Florida, you’ll know it rains nearly every day but the soil drains quickly because it’s quite sandy. Places with a lot of clay, though, aren’t as fortunate. To manage stormwater, the common technique involves collecting the overflow from impermeable areas and placing it in retention ponds where it can be released for drainage in a controlled fashion. It’s why you often see bodies of water along roads, highways, and inside developments – they’re not necessarily there for looks, but as catchbasins.

Of course, not every area has managed stormwater and in times of extreme weather they flood. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a large part of downtown Salisbury flooded, causing damage to several buildings. Other parts of town are often under water after a heavy rainfall of 4″ or more, with one significant headache being the closing of Business Route 13 at its intersection with Priscilla Street, adjacent to a large pond.

But even the best techniques would fail under a deluge like Harvey, and that’s the point. We design for 10- and 100-year flood events, but it’s prohibitively expensive and, frankly, unnecessary to worry about 500- or 1000-year events like Harvey may have been. Those cases are truly acts of God and the best we can do for those is pray for minimal loss of life. We can rebuild a building, but we can’t get the 30-odd victims of Harvey back.

Back to routine: Here at this residence, we’re getting set for one last school year. With the distractions of summer over, it will finally be time for me to get serious about writing once again. While it’s looking more like a wrap by the middle of 2018 rather than the spring, I’m still thinking I have a good start on The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, and with recent developments there may be an entirely new hook to expound upon as I increase the word count.

So I haven’t forgotten. However, I also want to get a little bit into the 2018 campaign and perhaps get back to doing this blogging more often than a couple times a month. We will see.

But the year of my discontent seems to be closing – not that I miss being politically active, but going forward I’m not going to studiously avoid it, either. (I will miss the WCRC Crab Feast, though, but only because my grandson’s first birthday is being celebrated that day. Family first.) If nothing works its way onto my calendar for that Saturday I might make the Lincoln Day Dinner in October.

So that’s a brief update. All those impatient because I do other stuff besides politics may get their wish as baseball season winds down.

An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text

August 22, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on An evening (and day) at the Wicomico County Fair in pictures and text 

While its root event, the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show, would have celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, the Wicomico County Fair officially celebrated its third edition in the county’s sesquicentennial year. As I sometimes do, this post will meander between photos and text to tell its story.

We actually attended all three days of the WCF, although Friday was just for a brief stop to see how our photos did.

Do you see the purple ribbon signifying Best in Show? One of mine is next to that on the left, just one of the also-rans. Kim had two of hers place in their categories, but that was about it between the three of us. I thought I had some nice photos, but I guess the judges liked others better.

So that was the extent of our Friday, although our daughter stayed to watch the concert (from local boy gone Nashville Jimmy Charles) and fireworks.

Now that we knew the fate of our entries, we came back on Saturday to see one of our favorite events at the WCF, Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

When the WCF became a fair in 2015, this was an event that was brought in. It’s probably the biggest draw they have as the bleachers are usually well-filled to watch this competition, which is one of a handful of fairs the local Mason Dixon Deputies group does around the region. Of the evening shots I took I thought this was the best.

Once the competition stage was over – each runs about an hour, give or take – I decided to get off my behind and walk around.

I did so only to find that a lot of the WCF was hidden across the road behind the rides.

I found several vendors and some other attractions not easily found by the casual visitor.

Because the Cowboy Mounted Shooting runs its own soundtrack (a surprising mix of country, classic rock, and a little bit of other stuff) I didn’t hear the bands until I was almost on top of them. This one was called Rip Tide, which played a few classic rock staples to close their act.

As we had a bite to eat from the (somewhat limited) selection of vendors back there, this group called Swamp Donkey took the stage as we ate. They were in the same vein as a number of albums I’ve reviewed over the last couple years – sort of a mix of country, Americana, and roots rock. The band sure put a spin on Pink Floyd, though.

This photo was just a cool shot that provides a transition break.

On Sunday we were there before noon in order to hear Pastor Oren Perdue preach, with a message gleaned from the Book of Amos. It’s not one of the more studied books, but he made the message interesting. (If your child attends the Summer Fun camp at Salisbury Baptist, you’ll know who Pastor Perdue is because he runs the Friday evening rodeo. That’s how Kim met him.)

Since we started from the side I’d seen the evening before, we made our way back. This train wasn’t doing much, nor had it the evening before.

I noticed the ride price had been changed to “free,” which helps make a point I’ll return to in a bit.

And if it’s a agricultural event in this county, you’ll see one company there almost every time.

I liked this truck better, though.

That blue-and-yellow Perdue label was found a lot, not to mention the orange and green of competing tractor companies, too.

The orange ones did more work, as their local outlet was a sponsor of the mounted shooting.

The state of Maryland even had its nose in with an agriculture RV.

Cops on one side, fish on the other: the state was well-represented.

You could even find a few non-native beasts.

And here’s a clash of cultures: a cowgirl on her smart phone.

Day 2 of the CMS competition was packing them in again. And I swear I didn’t touch the second shot, but I used it solely because that point of light was in a rather interesting place.

Yet the mounted shooters weren’t the only equestrians there, as much of the grounds were taken up for more traditional competition.

And I don’t think there’s much call to remove this plaque from their venue.

Nor would it be a fair without barnyard animals.

Look, I grew up in a rural county so I’m aware of the extent 4-H is still popular among the youth here. Inside the Carriage House was their competition field (as well as that for the rest of us) in arts, crafts, and yummy looking items from the gardens and kitchens of Wicomico County.

I was disappointed by the truck show, though. It wasn’t what I was expecting – these would have been nice additions to some classic old restored Big Three trucks and maybe a few Jeeps and imports. Not just a handful of work trucks.

And while it wasn’t unexpected, we arrived too late on Saturday to see LG Boyd Rutherford. In fact, I really didn’t see many candidates pressing the flesh at the WCF when I was there, even though the local GOP was in its usual place. Most of them participated in the Saturday afternoon parade, then skipped out to other events, I guess.

The only candidate with a regular presence there was Jamie Dykes, a Republican running for State’s Attorney. Granted, she was very diligent about being there and engaging voters.

Next year, however, the joint will be crawling with them. I wonder if they will resurrect the buffalo chip tossing I once participated in as someone on the ballot to be elected.

But if I were to make a suggestion for next year, it would be to somehow better tie in the two sides of the fair. Because of the lay of the land, the poor vendors on the east side of the road had hardly any foot traffic (and at least one I spoke to complained about the lack of it.) Maybe the rides need to go at the very end, with the beer garden and vendor row placed closer to the center. In fact, I was told by city councilman Muir Boda (who I did see there) that the dunking booth the Jaycees were sponsoring was vandalized overnight on Saturday. So something needs to be done about that issue.

Once they got through the sauna of Friday evening (and the monsoon that followed, luckily after the fair ended) though, the weather turned out near-perfect. It looked like they had great crowds, the likes of which I haven’t seen before at the Fair (or especially its predecessor Farm and Home Show, which was about on its last legs.) So if they can get the siting issue fixed for next year (a large map would definitely help!) they may have a strong event worthy of the county it represents.

Announcing: the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project

August 21, 2017 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project 

For the eleventh year in a row, I have graded all 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into floor votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 20 pages, can be found right here or in its usual sidebar location.

The major change I made for this year was reverting back to a system of all floor votes, as I had in the early years before committee votes were made readily available. It’s not that committee votes aren’t important, but in this year’s case I had so many possible relevant votes from the floor that I decided not to use three on committee votes that may not have had such impact. Two of the 25 votes are veto override votes, one from legislation carried over from 2016 and the other from a bill proposed this session.

If there’s one thing that Democrats like even less than not being in the governor’s chair to spend money, I think it’s the fact that Donald Trump is President and the GOP controls Congress. Several of the bills I used had to do with impacts they perceived would occur with the Trump administration. It’s strange how federal government effects become a big deal with Republicans in charge, particularly one like Donald Trump. Mandates placed by his predecessor were just peachy with the General Assembly majority, and they often adopted them with very little fuss to continue Maryland’s complete over-dependence on the federal government as an economic driver. Ironically, the type of president this nation needs would be bad news for Maryland in the short run as those well-paid federal workers wouldn’t be working and paying taxes.

So you’ll notice quite a few floor votes deal with these subjects, but this year was about as loony far-left as I ever recall. Thus, the number of correct votes is little changed from last year; however, one significant change I made was adopting what I call a “flip-flop” indicator. Votes shown in red are votes where the member changed sides between the House and Senate votes. I was truly shocked how much this happens.

As I did last year, I’m leaving the 2015 and 2016 reports available as part of a long-term process to show trends for the 2015-18 term.

Feel free to print yourself a copy for your use – just don’t forget where it came from.

Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully)

August 19, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully) 

This is going to be inside baseball to many of you, but as a regular reader of this here website it’s something you should know.

Back in July I received a notice from my server provider that they would be upgrading their servers:

In an effort to become compliant with the latest security bulletins, and to support our ongoing effort to provide the most reliable hosting experience possible, we will be upgrading MySQL and PHP on your server.

PHP will be upgraded from 5.6 to the latest version of 7.0. MySQL will be upgraded from 5.6.35 to the latest version of MariaDB 10.1. Roundcube databases will be migrated from MySQL to SQLite. If your site or applications implement PHP functions that are incompatible with PHP 7.0.x, there is a helpful information about the upgrade in our knowledge base.

That last sentence is key, because I have been running a legacy version of WordPress for some time. Supposedly it was updating core functions, but after this upgrade I came to my site only to realize to my horror it wasn’t there. Obviously WordPress 3.7 was one of those incompatible programs.

Fortunately, I found out there was a grace period where I could still run the old PHP (and made the fix that restored my site) but that would only be about 30 days. In other words, whether I liked it or not, I had to update my version. Now I know just enough about HTML and computer programming to be dangerous, so to me upgrading sounded like a daunting task.

It turned out to be not so bad after all. Basically I swapped out new files for old, and at the moment most of this seems to be functional. The only two things I had to do once I put this back end up were to bring my theme over (since it didn’t migrate) and move my uploaded photos. The last step was resetting the PHP to 7.0 and that’s now done, so I should be good to go!

And as a special added bonus, come Monday I will write up the official release of the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project. With that out of the way – finally! – I can now get back to working on my long-delayed book. But don’t worry, I’ll be popping in here from time to time now that I know this site is upgraded.

A long-awaited return

July 8, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Oh my gosh, have I been pining to write this.

You are probably wondering why it’s been so damn long since I wrote a post, so let me tell you: we moved. This was actually a planned thing, but I wasn’t planning on doing it quite so soon. And part of that move was having to re-establish internet service and that took until today – until now I had to use my phone’s mobile hotspot to get on the internet and I wasn’t going to chew up gobs of data just to write and research blog posts. (I did it for writing Patriot Post, though, such as yesterday’s piece that led off their “Weekend Snapshot.” That was plenty enough.)

Now I have service re-established, though, I can get back to writing stuff every once in awhile. In fact, one thing I owe you is a Shorebird of the Month for June as it was a casualty of my wait for internet. I’ll pick that up next Thursday at the appointed time.

But wait: there’s more. I got some news yesterday that I’m keeping under my hat for a few days, but in time this will be the opportunity to end my hiatus from serious writing. Let me assure you that prayers are answered.

I may have a post tomorrow for you as well because I started one before we moved, hoping to get it done (obviously not.) I’ll have to look it over and see if it’s still relevant but I think it will be. In the meantime, I’m pleased to be back online with good internet.

And boy do I have a lot to say!

Seeing the other side

I have seen a number of people who I count among my friends fall on the other side of an issue where I’m not certain they’re seeing the proper perspective.

If you look at the situation from the world’s view, Maddi Runkles is being punished because she became pregnant and chose not to abort that pregnancy; yet despite that commendable pro-life stand she is being denied the honor of taking the stage to accept her diploma, among the other discipline handed down by the Heritage Academy, a Christian school in Hagerstown.

However, I look at it from the standpoint of a Christian, and perhaps more importantly, that of a step-parent who could theoretically very well be in the exact same situation as Kim and I have a daughter in a Christian school. So as I was reading some of the reaction from my friends (and their friends) on social media, I was led to the statement from the school, or as one particular friend put it, the group of “lost souls, despite what they are ‘preaching.'” Since this is probably creating more traffic in a week for the school than their website previously received in the last year, their front page has this statement so I’m choosing to reprint it for posterity when this all eventually dies down and the school returns to normal. (Otherwise, the link will point incorrectly.)

Dearest Heritage Family:

As I begin, please understand that my wife and I have fallen in love with the people of Heritage Academy.  Therefore, it is for Heritage’s protection that I write this.

The main reason I have been silent to this point is because in disciplinary situations, each Heritage family deserves confidentiality. The conduct of your children is not everyone’s business. This perspective would have been the best way to deal with Maddi Runkles’ disciplinary situation. However, her family has chosen to make her behavior a public matter. Before sending this letter, I contacted Scott Runkles who gave me permission to discuss this publicly. In my thinking, these were the two to protect: first Maddi, then Heritage, in that order. Unfortunately, both are now being hurt by those who do not know or understand the situation. For this sole reason, I am now willing to comment publicly.

Let me clarify some facts. Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral. The Student Pledge which every student from 5th grade through 12th grade signs states that this application of Philippians 4:8 “extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs”.  Heritage is also pleased that she has chosen to not abort her son. However, her immorality is the original choice she made that began this situation. Secondly, she will receive her diploma that she has earned.

Much has been said about grace. I believe that there are two kinds of grace: saving grace and living grace. One is concerning spiritual birth “once and for all” (Hebrews 9:12, 10:10) which demanded no effort on my part, because my Savior Jesus, finished this on His cross and from His empty tomb. The other kind of grace is spiritual growth that does demand my effort (2 Peter 3:18). It also includes discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11). A wise man told me that discipline is not the absence of love, but the application of love. We love Maddi Runkles. The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation.

As I conclude, I have two concerns. First, I am concerned that my Heritage family feels that the Board and I are harsh, cruel, hard-hearted men. Nothing can be further from the truth. We have spent countless hours in prayer and discussion. The Board has listened to three appeals from the Runkles family and compromised all three times. Secondly, I am concerned about our graduation ceremony on the evening of June 2nd. That night, I want God to be glorified in a dignified manner. Please enable us to do this.

With deepest sincerity,

David R. Hobbs

Administrator

(All emphasis mine.)

Before I go on, I want to add the context of Phillippians 4:8 that their Student Pledge is apparently based upon:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In so many words, do the things which are good and which are right based on the Biblical values being taught in the school.

But let me step away from the Biblical and moral for a moment and consider the practical. Whether a young lady is taking birth control pills or not, whether the young man is wearing his own protection or not, whenever there is sex there is always the possibility of unplanned pregnancy as has occurred in Maddi Runkles’ case. And bringing a baby into the world as an unwed couple means the child is more likely to grow up in poverty and/or with single parents, neither of which are the more desirable outcomes. That’s not me talking, that’s a statistical fact: the best way for a couple to avoid poverty is to finish their schooling and find work, get married, and then have kids – in that order.

Most of those people who are taking issue with the school are saying they are punishing her for doing the right thing insofar as having the child; but the problem remains that she violated the school code and she faces a punishment for doing so. However, the punishment cannot be given to both participants because the young man does not attend the school, and the truly unfortunate fact of life is that, for boys (even if they attended that school and got a non-student pregnant) they could get away with doing the same thing Maddi did because they’re not going to get pregnant and it’s quite likely they could deny getting the girl pregnant until there’s no need to anymore. (It would be his word against hers.) It’s not fair, but neither is life.

I can’t speak to this for a fact, but as I read this there was the distinct possibility the school could have expelled Runkles immediately without giving her a diploma. We don’t know what other previous transgressions (if any) may have occurred involving her, either, but we do know that she has been made out to be the victim in this case because she lost out on the privilege of receiving her diploma with her classmates. But what she has lost out on are just her privileges. She will still be a graduate of Heritage Academy and can do with that what she will.

To me, the reaction to this story coincides very well with the reaction to the news about the group of graduating students who made the public show of walking out on Vice-President Pence as he delivered commencement remarks at Notre Dame last week. Those who thought the students were justified seem to also believe this school should bend its rules to allow Runkles to receive her diploma because she deserves it, despite one incident of wrongdoing (that we are aware of.) On the other hand, people like me who think the Notre Dame students should have handled the situation differently (perhaps by boycotting the ceremony entirely) are more likely to believe the school should remain firm in enforcing its rules.

One final thought. I’ve seen a number of comments from people, particularly of the Millennial generation, that basically run along the line of “well, no wonder they’re having a hard time getting kids to come to Christian schools when you have such draconian, backward rules.” I agree, to a point: for example, I could understand the girls being pleased about being able to wear pants because they ditched the skirts-only rule a few years ago at our school. Small stuff like that isn’t worth sweating over.

But the larger stuff, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and premarital sex? Such prohibitions are among those I find entirely appropriate for a Christian school. And yes, I think it is appropriate to expect Biblical-style morals from our children. Why should we settle for less when we see the results in the world today?

As parents, our charge is simple, and it’s reflected, among other places, in Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

That’s not to say any parent will do a perfect job, but there’s a reason it works best when a couple gets to know one another well enough to make a commitment to be wed then prayerfully and reverently embarks upon the job of rearing children (and even then it’s not foolproof.)

Apparently the plan was different for Maddi Runkles. I hope and pray when graduation is over she has a healthy baby and she and the father decide to do what’s right. I also hope and pray that the fifteen minutes of fame she receives for this episode, good and bad, will be gentle about chewing her up and spitting her out (as I’m sure it will, because that’s the fate of most “average” people thrust into the limelight so someone can make a point.)

Finally, I pray that the Heritage Academy weathers the storm sure to come from a world that’s sure it’s right but knows nothing of the sort. If I were them, the only people who need to be at their graduation a week from Friday are the graduates, their families, and invited guests. The media wouldn’t care a whit about whatever number of solid Christian graduates the Heritage Academy (and other schools like it) send into the world any other time, so why indulge them now?

The receding safe harbor

March 31, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on The receding safe harbor 

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a trend, and I’m all but certain it’s because we have a Republican president and Congress once again. (At least in a nominal sense.)

It’s worth recalling the last time this situation was in force was the six years prior to the 2006 election. We spent the two years from 2007-2009 watching our economy go into the tank with a lame-duck GOP president and Democrats in charge of Congress, then eight years with a Democrat as president, although he only had his party in control of Congress for two years before people were fed up with his efforts.

But we are back to the theme – now expressed by many on social media as well as the prevailing mainstream media – regarding how heartless the government is, how people are suffering, and so forth. (It’s funny how a lot of us suffered for the last eight years but no one really noticed or cared.) They shriek that the government could throw people off their health insurance, or give tax cuts to the rich and their corporations, or allow polluters free reign over the countryside, and so forth. People who were complacent because their needs and desires were catered to in the last administration are bitching and complaining now, but their reasons have the depth of a cookie sheet.

It seems that more and more people have what could be called Linus syndrome, with the government acting as their security blanket. Apparently the blanket covers their eyes and ears because they’re not seeing nor hearing what has really been going on for the last many years. (Often you have a quote here, purportedly from Thomas Jefferson, that a government big enough to supply your needs is big enough to take it away. He never actually said that.) Thomas Jefferson did write that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” And it’s gained a heckuva lot of ground in my lifetime.

I think, though, that one casualty of that concession is the substitution of government for charity. In days long ago, there were provisions made in the community for widows and orphans who were left without their breadwinner through whatever tragic means. Now we have the situation where to live on the various forms of government assistance works out to the equivalent of wages from a working-class job in many states. Human nature is such that most will take the easy way out, live for today, and never have a second thought about it until the goose that laid the golden eggs keels over from exhaustion from keeping up with everyone’s needs.

On the other hand, my faith tells me that the Lord will provide. It may not be in the manner I would prefer or up to the standard where most in the world would equate with a comfortable living, but the needs are met and we find out that other needs were simply wants in disguise. To borrow an expression from Jesus, we have rendered far too much to Caesar and people grew accustomed to it. Luckily for them, there’s little danger of the system collapsing totally for the moment – but that peril is lurking in the distance.

Those who have put their faith in government seem to have the loudest voices now, and if you aren’t strong in faith in God you may believe they are the ones in the right.

It seems to me that rightsizing the federal government would have some significant benefits that far outweigh the costs. Yes, there would be a painful transition for many who are let go from their jobs and the state of Maryland would be hit hard because of it. Yet I believe charity giving would surge and perhaps people may begin to pay more attention to their own communities. Imagine having the freedom of more money in your paycheck, more choice on how to educate and raise your children, more input as more easily accessible local and state officials decide what government services are worth providing and what is kept in the private sector, and so forth.

Maybe it’s quaint, but I have a preference for faith and resourcefulness over dependence and lack of ambition.

A week ago I did a Patriot Post piece on happiness, whether measured by the government or expressed in a different survey. It was interesting that the government measured happiness by metrics while the other survey was more on emotional happiness. It turned out that the places which were most happy on an emotional level weren’t blessed with a lot of material wealth but were pleased with their lot in life nonetheless. (The happiest nation in terms of the survey was Paraguay, which isn’t known as an economic power.) It could be inferred that the Lord was providing their needs and their wants were minimized.

I know that I want to be free from worry in both an economic and lifestyle sense, and to me one key in getting to that direction is helping my fellow man understand that faith in government is faith misplaced. We have a safe harbor available to us but our national ship is steaming full speed in the wrong direction. A course correction is urgently required.

A Van Hollen rant

March 22, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Van Hollen rant 

On social media I have somehow found myself receiving a number of missives from our recently-elected (but not by me) Senator Chris Van Hollen. The other day he posted a link to a New York Times story about Trump budget cuts, and frankly I had to let him and his mindless minions have it, both barrels.

I notice not one of them has responded! Since I don’t think all that many people I know see Van Hollen’s leftist propaganda, these thoughts must have stunned those minions into silence.

**********

It’s interesting to me that the media didn’t go out and find “struggling Americans” during the last administration. (They could have interviewed me, since I was in the building industry and was laid off from it for several years – so I found my own work.)

But here’s my real point: these people who are whining about the Trump budget – which is still going to be deficit spending, although maybe not as much as we would have had – need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are so worried about government cuts. How did you manage to put yourselves in a position of dependence?

The way I look at it, the federal government has a limited number of core functions that are spelled out in the Constitution. That is what they are supposed to do, and nothing more. (The rest goes to the states, or the people – refer to the Tenth Amendment.) But over the years our nation has found that it’s good to be on the gravy train and politicians like Chris Van Hollen will pander to them over and over with posts like this. As long as they can buy votes with federal largesse, who cares whether our grandkids will have to pay the bill?

Well, I do. Let’s make a deal, Senator: you figure out a way to allow me to get back everything I put into the Ponzi scheme of Social Security and black hole of Medicaid over the last thirty years I’ve worked and I will figure out how to get through my golden years using that little nest egg without you parceling it out monthly. I can figure out a budget, unlike you guys and your continuing resolutions.

And if you say that the money I put into Social Security and Medicare is being set aside so I can use it later, well, perhaps my late brother could have used some of what he put in before he passed away with no wife or kids at the age of 47. Just give me a lump sum and let me walk away. Even President Trump isn’t saying that – in fact, he campaigned saying neither needed to be touched – but I think it’s necessary to deal with the bill we’re giving our kids.

Trump’s cuts are pocket change to where the federal government needs to be. And, just so you all know, I didn’t vote for him and I certainly wouldn’t have voted for Hillary even if you put a gun to my head. I chose a far better candidate, one who had he somehow won would have caught a tremendous amount of flack for doing what he said he would from everyone who has figured out a way to become dependent on Uncle Sugar.

So, Senator, if you and your supporters were looking for an “attaboy” for finding a story about Americans struggling under Trump, the only one I would have is for the young Tracy Spaulding:

“People get laid off every day. I’ll make it one way or another.”

I have been laid off four times in my life, and guess what? I made it one way or another. You all can survive a few government cuts, and you might just find it liberating. And to ask the government workers whose jobs are on the chopping block who read this: didn’t they say just a few years ago that unemployment was a great thing because there was all that extra free time you could enjoy?

Why yes they did.

Lucky for you people in the private sector are hiring.

**********

Callous? Perhaps. A little over the top? I don’t think so. And by the way, the Medicaid was a typo since I think it was mentioned in the story. Later I correctly stated Medicare.

I have grown weary of all the strife over the last 4 1/2 months since Donald Trump was elected, even though I wasn’t one who voted for him. Certainly I have my policy differences with him, although to be honest these are far fewer than the number I had with our last President. But I have to give Trump credit for following through on some of those things he promised, even as the Republican Congress goes seriously wobbly regarding all they pledged. (Case in point: I don’t recall anyone really talking about the “replace” with the “repeal” until Donald Trump came along. Just repeal it with an effective date of this time next year and states will have time to do what they wish to do in the interim.)

Once upon a time I used to put some of my best comments elsewhere into posts, as I believe in not letting good writing go to waste. This may be a feature to resurrect in the near future, but this one wasn’t going to wait for an editorial decision.

You know, I think I was blessed with a decent amount of intelligence – maybe not Mensa-grade, but I did all right in public school. I don’t think I’m that much smarter than the average bear, though, and maybe that’s why I can’t figure out how everyone can’t see what has been going on for the last thirty years – although I know some who would argue the timespan is far longer. We have put ourselves at the mercy of a lot of people and entities that, when push comes to shove, are going to think about themselves first and the rest of us not at all. Perhaps it’s always been like this, with some people destined to be the lords and kings and most destined to be the vassals and serfs. But as long as their chains rest lightly I suppose most of these people who wish for more and more government aren’t going to mind a little less freedom.

It wasn’t much more than a century ago that there were still places in continental America where you could live in an informally organized territory, and maybe there is still a real-life Galt’s Gulch here in America. But our people now seem to want America to be the land of the free stuff, and we need to remind them often that things don’t work that way.

With that my work is done here, at least for tonight.

At throats

February 27, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Some thoughts at large:

Is it just my imagination, or have the last 20 years simply escalated the tension in this country between political factions?

Once we were told that politics and religion were two subjects that really weren’t suited for dinner table conversation. In days of old, I’m sure the women who used to trade gossip over the back fence as they hung the laundry out to dry and the guys who bowled together on Tuesday nights couldn’t care less about who their neighbors and teammates voted for because they had so much more in common than they did differences. Conversations were more about how to best ward off the Fuller Brush man coming to the door or needing to throw two strikes and count on the fill shot in the tenth frame to win the series and avoid having to buy the final round, not whether the President needs to be impeached for some real or imagined slight.

Fast forward a few decades and now people are selective with their friends and associates, preferring to be in their own information silo. Needless to say, that information silo exists because we’ve come to a point where people consume their news and information almost exclusively from sources they believe are true, and that element of truth comes from being aligned with their worldview. If you had one belief style, you would believe that Ronald Reagan was a dunce whose best acting job was becoming President, the Bushes came from a crooked, out-of-touch family dynasty, Bill Clinton was hounded by overzealous prosecutors and everything against him was just about sex, and Barack Obama was the best thing since sliced bread because he gave us health care. On the other hand, you could also be convinced that Reagan was worthy of sainthood, the Bushes were a true American family dedicated to public service, Bill Clinton was a crook who got away with murder, and Barack Obama was a communist plant who was really born in Kenya. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between, and people were made even more passionate by the Trump-Clinton election of 2016.

So now everyone has to be on a side, or you will be assigned to one. If you were #NeverTrump, you had to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. If you think climate change is real but mankind has nothing to do with it, you are still a “denier.” And so on and so forth through a host of political topics and issues – it’s my red team or blue team, wrong or right.

If you have been here since the beginning or known me for any length of time, you know that I’m not a completely neutral observer, although I try hard to be objective as a reporter. I have a set of beliefs and I defend them; however, I’ve been working more on stepping out of the information silo because the research will make for a more interesting book when I finally finish it. When discussing the TEA Party, there is the perspective from conservative media (it was a grassroots movement), the liberal spin (Astroturf set up because a bunch of racists hated a black President), and the truth (they were mainly people who were truly scared about their future and didn’t want the government taking so much money, power, and control.) Such a movement will attract a handful of true racists but really attracts the charlatans trying to make a score via the political topic of the day. I say this about just one subject, but there are myriad others with the same sort of arguments on both sides.

Perhaps a reason I needed a break from politics and its associated idea that you have to be either on the red team or the blue team is the realization that the game is on a completely different field. We argue about how much influence Uncle Sam should have on paying for our health care when the argument should be regarding their involvement in general, for example. To speak to anything else is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

That being said, I’m glad that some people I know had a good time at CPAC this year, but I had no desire to go. They told me that getting out of politics would be liberating, but they didn’t say how much. It’s more fun to discuss issues and try to break through the silos on social media than to go cheer for one candidate or another.

I think it was said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Politics will make you a lot of friends, although when you leave you notice there are fewer. But taking a stand in this day and age will get you a lot of enemies, and I don’t think they ever forgive or forget. There are lots of reasons friendships break up, but isn’t being for a presidential candidate other than your own a pretty stupid one?

The uprising

February 17, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on The uprising 

Saturday could be an interesting day in Salisbury.

I’m sure you know I am writing a book on the TEA Party (more on that in a bit) so one restore point I like to return to in my political memory was the first Tax Day TEA Party we had out in front of the Government Office Building. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon there were probably 400 to 500 people in attendance. Three months later we celebrated Independence Day with a gathering of perhaps 200 to 300. (Sadly, I wrote great pieces on both events but the demise of my photo repository means the photos are dead links. Someday I will rectify that – but I have to find the photos on my old external hard drive, which I also have to find! *sigh*)

Anyway, Saturday could be the flip side of the TEA Party since there’s a completely different protest planned, called the “No Ban No Wall No Registry” Salisbury rally. And unlike the TEA Party of yore, this one will have a counter-protest called the “Resist the Resistance” rally. I’m guessing that the opposition to Trump will have the larger numbers, if only because they’ve secured a little bit of publicity for their event and it’s something that indeed unites certain segments of the community.

Yet I have to question their sincerity, since they haven’t batted an eyelash when the last six presidents have put up a similar ban of some type against particular countries, not to mention the recent change in policy toward Cuban refugees. (However, I may give them the benefit of the doubt if they chastise Trump’s predecessor for that change.) I also have to question their reasoning as to why we should not secure our borders, which is our right as a sovereign nation. Once upon a time we were more secure in the fact that two oceans and inhospitable terrain shielded us from the world, but no more. By the same token, is it not our right to know who is visiting the nation and for what purpose? If only they were against a registry for firearm owners, we may be on to something.

While I agree that Donald Trump is a lowering of the standard one should expect from the President, so was Hillary Clinton. (Thus, I voted for the Constitution Party nominee.) I can’t promise anything because I also have a family commitment that day, but if I have the chance I may wander down there to see what’s going on and maybe play reporter once again. Lord knows I haven’t been much of a blogger lately because I’ve spent a lot of time working on The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.

So it’s on that front I’m going to make my final point of the night. I had envisioned the book being done by this fall, but recently I have had a different opportunity placed before me that I think is worth pursuing for some other personal and professional goals I have. At this time, it will take a significant portion of my already limited free time so in order to give this a fair shake I think a more realistic timetable for the book is now the first half of 2018. I’m going to put it on pause for a few months, with the hope that this opportunity may morph into something else that would give me the time back.

One other benefit: it can give me a chance to see how this resistance movement pans out and how it compares to the grassroots TEA Party. So there is that, and Saturday will be the first chapter of that story.

Prayer requests?

February 8, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Prayer requests? 

This will be more of a faith exercise than anything political.

As I get deeper and deeper into my faith, I find that a lot of people request prayers for things, which I think is perfectly fine. I believe that God answers all prayers; however, this comes with the caveat that you may not necessarily like the answer. Setbacks will occur in life in order to test our faith.

But something we stress at our church and in our small group study* (which is actually where I’m at as this posts) is that prayers need to be made with authority. I can’t pray for something and believe it will occur on my own, but with God all things are possible. (Not just a reference to Matthew 19:26, but the motto of my home state.) So we end our prayers with an invocation of Jesus’s name. The phrase I would use in writing this out (since I text out the prayer request reminders for small group) goes something like “this I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

You may also know I am writing a book on the TEA Party, which has nothing to do with prayer or faith except that I pray it sells well and have faith it will then spread the message I’m writing on to a wider audience. But one facet of the TEA Party’s rise was the introduction of the Twitter hashtag #TCOT (for Top Conservatives on Twitter), which made it easy to find relevant information for those who were conservatives looking for worthy reading or messages to pass along. Since then, we’ve often heard about hashtags as shorthand for movements, like #MAGA for Donald Trump supporters. (It stands for “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s slogan.)

So it dawned on me: if we want to share our prayers and give them authority, perhaps a hashtag of our own would be good for collecting and sharing. It’s a little clunky, but if you take the first letters in my phrase you have #TIPIJNA. I think it’s a good idea if we can somehow make it viral, so you would write something like this on social media.

I give thanks to You, Lord, that we have a small group for prayer and fellowship each week, and pray that more parents come to our small group to learn for themselves about raising Godly children in a lost and dying world. #TIPIJNA

I think I went over 140 characters there, but you get the idea. Give it a try. It may be our little secret for awhile, but it can’t hurt and may help.

__________

* Instead of doing the usual Bible study as the rest of our church is doing on the Book of Colossians, as parents of teens in our church youth group our small group (led by our youth pastor) is studying and discussing the parenting book Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. I’m sure we will return to the next small group study, whatever it is, since over the spring and fall we tackled the Books of James and Philippians. (In summer we do “Picnic on the Go,” which features more fellowship and testimony, instead of a formal study.)

If you live in the Salisbury area, let me know and I can give you the information.

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