Are We Being Punished for our Efforts to Use Less Gasoline?

000In California motorists pay 69 cents of state taxes for each gallon of gas they pump into their cars, more for diesel. Add to that another 18.4 cents per gallon for federal excise taxes, and it could go higher in some counties. In 2009 that generated almost $3.2 billion in revenue for the state of California, most earmarked for the construction and repair of our roads and highways. California is close to tied with New York when it comes to the highest state taxes for the purchase of gasoline.

California, especially in the south, has the unfortunate combination of high population density and concave topography that can trap particulates and create air pollution. To reduce pollution and wean people from fossil fuels, incentives were developed to get people to buy fuel saving vehicles and eventually hybrids and electric cars became popular, and may likely become ubiquitous in the next several years. One such incentive was the right to use the carpool lane with only one person driving their new Prius.

002This was not an easy transition since the economics of buying a hybrid required a lot of miles and a long period of time owning the car before you could justify the premium prices. Nevertheless, many socially conscious people stepped up and happily paid the premium to do what they considered the “right thing.” But the picture is beginning to change and new challenges are cropping up, a result of the ramifications of this sociological, environmental and technological shift.

004Electricity costs are increasing as coal-fired power plants are being phased out. Solar and other renewable energy sources cost more on the basis of producing a kilowatt of power, though the benefits are obvious, important and substantial. But those with the electric cars will be paying increasingly more to charge their vehicles. A few companies (e.g. Kingston Technology) are providing free charging stations at work, but thus far that is the exception more than the rule.

005Now another problem has come to the fore. Gasoline tax revenues have fallen rather dramatically, and the state of California is studying a “pay per mile” tax to make up for the shortfall in revenue for roads and highways. This could have the unintended effect of shifting some of the costs from cars that are gas-guzzlers to the gas-misers. Other countries have innovative ways to avoid this problem. Germany, for example, charges high-polluting trucks and cars more than cleaner ones, so fewer of those dirtier trucks are now on the road. Singapore has cut gridlock by levying a higher road charge during rush hour and on busy roads. Many different ideas can be incubated to get the right combination of revenue balanced by solving for problems such as weaning us from fossil fuels, reducing air pollution and traffic gridlock.

006The governor of California is expected to have completed the study and have recommendations by 2017, so what are some of your ideas?

Noah, Ark and Global Flood: Myth, Maybe or Most Certainly?

00That many geologists are today creating a global flood model may incense those who have already settled in their own minds that Noah and his family, the ark and a global deluge are the stuff of myth and mysticism. Yet the very same strata evolutionists point to – the fossil record — holds clues to another possibility that shows far more evidentiary support for a global flood than for evolution.

Ever wonder about what happens when organisms die? They decay, they return to the same basic elements found throughout nature: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Given enough time, entropy, the second law of thermodynamics takes a well-designed and complex living organism and devolves and deconstructs it into its constituent parts. So how is it that we have extremely widespread strata that contain the calcified remains of marine fossils? Should they not have decayed and left no trace?

0The Theory of Uniformitarianism underpins and frankly necessitates the argument for evolution to have worked. The fortuitous occurrence of accidental circumstances sequenced together over a long period of time is needed to believe that organism complexity today could have happened by chance. But has our planet existed peacefully enough to allow for evolution, or is there contradictory evidence that must be taken into consideration? Indeed the evidence is overwhelming that our planet has survived many cataclysmic interruptions that would have been of sufficient force to reset any evolutionary clock.

1Scientists write of the Permian-Triassic extinction event, when 96% of marine and 70% of the land organisms were doomed to extinction. The world’s forests were literally “wiped out.” In the model of a global deluge, the rapid flows of water would account for the marine life being virtually eliminated, and a large barge (i.e. ark) would explain how some land organisms survived.

2Throughout the world, peoples and cultures have stories of a worldwide flood; there are hundreds of such stories. Certainly these stories have been embellished and changed over the years, but the common denominator is this: worldwide flood. Here is just one example taken from the records of the Hualapai Indians of northwestern Arizona (especially fascinating since the Hualapai were a proud people, despising the ‘religions’ of the white man):

It rained for 45 days, and the whole earth was flooded. All the people were destroyed, except for one old man atop Spirit Mountain. Many days passed and a dove brought him instructions from the Creator to drive a ram’s horn into the earth. The old man obeyed and the waters were drained. He sent the dove forth, and when it returned with fresh grass in its beak, he rejoiced for the land had become dry.

When the old man died, the Creator made “a younger brother and an older brother.” In obedience to a dream, the two scraped, cleaned, and laid out canes. Before the next dawn the canes turned into a great population, and older-brother’s rule over them was good. When he died, younger-brother commanded Cousin Coyote to fetch fire for the funeral pyre from faraway Fire-starter. But Coyote was disobedient and looked back, only to see that the fire had started without him. Dashing back to the pyre, he reached into the blaze, snatched older-brother’s heart, and fled with it in his clenched teeth. (To this day, coyotes bear the mark of rebellion in their upturned, disfigured mouths.)

The land became irrevocably “not good” by this act, and younger-brother led the people “across the water” to a new land in the east. Overcrowding soon ensued, and younger-brother chief dispersed the people into three major people groups (Navajo, Mojave, and Hualapai).

There are many more “flood traditions,” stories recorded and repeated around the globe. Science too confirms many supporting theories for a flood, though their discoveries were likely not intended to do so at the time. Here are just a ten among hundreds:

  1. The genealogical records of many of the European kings can be traced back to Japheth, son of Noah.
  2. An analysis of population growth statistics confirms that there was zero population at the estimated time of the end of the flood. This indicates the global demise of humans by Noah’s flood.
  3. Human paleontological evidence exists even in the earliest geologic ‘ages’ (e.g. human footprints in Cambrian, Carboniferous, and Cretaceous rocks). If the layers of rock were laid down by a global flood and then interpreted as evolutionary long-ages, human remains and artifacts would appear to be in such positions.
  4. The most ancient human artifacts date to the post-flood era. This indicates that the earlier hardware could have been buried beyond reach by a huge flood.
  5. Calculations have shown that there is nearly the same amount of organic material present today, worldwide, as there would have been if all the fossils were still alive. This indicates the demise of all living things in a single global event.
  6. Studies show that much of the world’s folded beds of sediment have no compression fractures, indicating that they were contorted while they were still wet and soft. For this to occur on a global scale, and on sediment thousands of meters thick, it would have required a catastrophic global flood.
  7. The uplift of the major mountain ranges are relatively young, based on evolutionary chronology. If the long-age evolutionary time scale is ignored, these processes would have occurred in the very recent past – i.e. as a result of the flood cataclysm.
  8. Marine fossils can be found on the crests of mountains. Apart from mountain uplifting, this can also be explained as the marine animals being washed there and then buried. A global flood could do this.
  9. Meteorites are basically absent from the geologic column. With the large number of meteorites hitting the earth each year, they should be very plentiful throughout the sedimentary rocks – unless much of the world’s sedimentary rocks were laid down in one year.
  10. Hydrologic evidence points to the rapid deposition of sedimentary rock layers. Therefore, the thousand’s of meters of sediment must have been deposited by a catastrophic global flood.

That scientists dismiss the possibility of a worldwide flood is consistent with their dismissal of problems with their Theory of Uniformitarianism. When extraneous evidence contradicts a worldview, it is dismissed, discredited or disavowed, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Thoughtful people who are not intimidated by the scholarship of others are encouraged to investigate these things and draw their own conclusions. The debate is ongoing, but when I see the cavalier dismissal of all of this evidence I can only conclude that some people are simply too frightened to even imagine the possibility wherein God exists, He has spoken to us, and His Words are true and reliable.

r_mann

References

New ancient fungus finding suggests world’s forests were wiped out in global catastrophe. Imperial College London press release, October 1, 2009.

Jin, Y. G. et al. 2000. Pattern of Marine Mass Extinction Near the Permian–Triassic Boundary in South China. Science. 289 (5478): 432–436.

Sephton, M. A., et al. 2009. Chemical constitution of a Permian-Triassic disaster species. Geology. 37 (10): 875-878.

Renne, P. R., and A. R. Basu. 1991. Rapid Eruption of the Siberian Traps Flood Basalts at the Permo-Triassic Boundary. Science. 253 (5016): 176-179.

Thomas, B. Dinosaur Soft Tissue Issue Is Here to Stay. Acts & Facts. 38(9): 18. Genesis 7:11.

Scared to even utter the name Jesus Christ?

1Earlier this month in Kenya when Muslims had left the university to head to the mosque for their morning prayers, Al Shabab attacked and killed almost 150 Christian students still at the school.

Last year 3,000 Christians in Mosul, northern Iraq were told over loudspeakers to convert to Islam, submit to its rule and pay a religious levy, or be put to death if they stayed. 2The last to leave was a disabled woman who could not travel. The fanatics arrived at her home and told her they would cut off her head with a sword.

Two years ago, Saeed Abedini, 33 years old and a pastor at Boise’s Calvary Chapel Church, was accused of trying to convert someone to Christianity and sentenced to 8 years in a Tehran prison where he languishes today. Abedini had traveled to Iran to visit family and help build an orphanage there.

3Many of the comments that followed the article in the “Boise Weekly” mocked both God and Abedina, suggesting he should “have kept his mouth shut about Christianity.

Today Christians everywhere are being exhorted to “keep their mouths shut” about their faith. Everywhere I go, from public forums to social media forums, whenever someone speaks or posts anything Christian, the taunts, mocking, insults, hatred and the inevitable “take it somewhere else” trail the post like some sad yet revealing commentary on just where the world stands today on the subject of Jesus Christ.4 “We will NOT have this man to rule over us,” Luke the physician and one of those who accompanied Jesus during His 3 ½ years’ ministry wrote of a parable Jesus taught them.

Jesus said to His faithful followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 5But today people are afraid. They are afraid of what their friends might think, they are afraid to speak up at work and risk losing their job, they are afraid of possibly being mocked, taunted, and ridiculed if they speak for what they believe. So instead, many are quiet, hiding behind a veil of “this is my personal faith and I don’t want to offend anyone by saying so….” Thus their faith becomes a well-kept secret and in many cases their friends, even family might be shocked to learn that they had a relationship with Jesus Christ at all!

Jesus said this: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

8But sometimes the first hint of persecution and Christians slink away after apologizing for their offense, careful never to broach the subject again. We were warned what would happen at the end of this age, just before Jesus Christ would return: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” When I read the comments and posts on social networks, the vast majority of those posts reflect this admonition perfectly. People have indeed become unforgiving and arrogant, lovers of pleasure and money, wanting nothing whatsoever to do with the things of God.

So what should we do? None of us want to ridiculed, or jailed, or murdered for our faith. Pray. Pray that the Lord will give us the strength to stand. The Lord said, “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” Our courage comes from God. Seek Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, ask that He fill you with His strength “that whenever we speak, words may be given to us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel,” and in so doing perhaps save people from eternal damnation. If ever the time has come, it is now, it is today. Lord bless and strengthen you all. Amen.

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What do YOU believe?

Belief – An opinion or judgment in which a person is fully persuaded.00

Did you know that there are 41,000 different Christian denominations or ‘sects’ that can be categorized into five major ‘families’ of churches?

  • Catholic Church [50%]
  • Protestant and Anglican churches [18%]
  • Eastern Churches [12%]
  • Pentecostal churches [12%]
  • Evangelical (non-Pentecostal) [8%]

Besides these researchers have identified that more than 2/3rd’s of the rest of the world that have faith in non-Christian religions: Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.19.20 PM

And within each of these non-Christian religions are numerous sects and segments. 3

Sometimes I smile when I receive a social media post or response from someone claiming that they do not believe in religious fables whatsoever, but only in science. Did you know that “science” too could be categorized as a “religion” in terms of its foundational beliefs or underlying reliance, confidence or credence? This particular religion is called “Secular Humanism” and is defined as “the philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.”4

Of the roughly 7 billion people in the world, the number of combinations and permutations of specific sects or sub-sets of any faith must be well over a million. So when someone says “I believe in God,” I always think of the (Bible) Scripture (James 2:19) that says, “You believe that there is one God? Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.” Belief in God, or an alleged belief in God may start an interesting conversation, but that is all, it is only a start, not an understanding.6

Social media is full of vitriol when it comes to subjects such as politics and religion. I am guilty myself. A Muslim friend of mine stated, “I believe Jesus was a good man and a prophet.” I responded by saying, “Impossible – if you read His claims He was either a liar, insane, or the Son of God; but ‘good man’ or ‘prophet’ is inconsistent with everything He said about Himself.

I was immediately ashamed of my insensitive response and began to reflect upon what I today consider an acceptable way to engage people in what we, and they, believe. Here is what I have concluded:

  • If someone asks about your faith, answer him or her politely and with respect.
  • If someone asks you about the “why” of your faith, answer him or her with your reasons, but don’t go into too much detail or send them a link to your favorite faith site.
  • If someone shares their faith with you, respect them, because after all, they may turn out to be right and we may turn out to be wrong!
  • If someone clubs you over the head with the “science” of evolution and the futility and insanity of “religion,” treat them with dignity and offer friendship. They may someday convert you, or you may convert them, but that should never be the primary reason for friendship. Friendship should be based upon the fact that you both like one another.
  • Do not debate. Debate has as its engine arrogance and pride. The reactions you will get are more and different questions, further debate that begins to ‘rathole,’ anger, intolerance or ridicule, none of which you set out to receive in the first place.
  • If you believe in God, love your neighbor as yourself, and if they reject your faith, what do you do next? Pray. And then continue to pray.7

r_mannRodd signature

Did Jesus Claim That He is God?

Did Jesus Claim That He is God?

0Only God can forgive sin. When Jesus did so the religious rulers were incensed. Yet He pointed out it would be easier to heal the lame man on mat than to forgive sins. He said this because He knew the suffering, humiliation, agony and death that would be required to forgive men their sins. (Mark 2:5). No man has ever raised someone from the dead as Jesus did when Lazarus had been dead several days and ensconced in his tomb (John 5:25-29). More importantly, directly and to the point, He claimed to be honored as God (John 5:18, 23) as well as to be equal with the Father (John 10:30).

John 8:58 states, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'” This “I Am” reference is made in connection with Exodus 3:14 when God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush as “I Am.” Jesus’ statement is a claim for the deity of Christ.

1Jesus claimed to be Yahweh God, the same God of Israel from the Old Testament. This included His claim to have eternal glory with the Father (John 17:5), His claim to be the first and the last (Revelation 1:17), His claim to be judge of all humanity (John 5:27), His claim to be the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), His claim to be the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1; Isaiah 62:5), and His claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12; Psalm 27:1).

Jesus also claimed to be the Messiah God. This is evident in many of the titles attributed to Him in the Old Testament that are referred to in the New Testament. These include reference to Jesus as God (Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8), Lord (Psalm 110:1 and Matthew 22:43-44), Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9 and Mark 14:61-64), and as Messiah (John 4:26). These references affirm the biblical deity of Christ.

2Further, Jesus accepted worship as God. Though the Old Testament commanded not to worship anyone but God alone, Jesus accepted worship on many occasions. Some of these included the healed leper who worshipped Him (Matthew 8:2), the ruler who knelt before Jesus after his son had been healed (Matthew 9:18), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:25), the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:20), and a demon-possessed man (Mark 5:6). The disciples even prayed to Jesus (Acts 7:59) and in His name (John 14:6; 15:7).

And lastly, Jesus’ followers recognized Jesus as God. They called Him God on multiple occasions (John 20:28; Colossians 2:9), referred to Jesus by other names used only of deity, such as Savior of the world (John 4:42), and prayed to or worshiped Jesus as part of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). John taught He was with God in the beginning as “the word” and that “the word was God” (John 1:1).

3While the New Testament never makes the direct statement “Jesus is God,” it is clear that He is referred to as deity in a variety of ways. Colossians 2:9 confirms, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (See also Philippians 2:6). Those who claim Jesus never referred to Himself as God deny many clear statements in Scripture (such as John 14:6). The deity of Jesus is biblical. Jesus is God, the second person of the Triune Godhead, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If you have a red letter Bible, indicating Jesus speaking, make note of the following if you’re not yet convinced that Jesus is indeed God:

4“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!”

Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.”

“No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?”

5“…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God…”

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

“For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

“The Father and I are one.” Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

“…he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

“…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

6Even though you will not find certain words in the Bible (trinity, rapture), nor certain unequivocal claims, you must take the preponderance of evidence to determine what is meant when you compare Scripture upon Scripture and examine the totality of the book from Genesis through Revelation. There is indeed a triune God, three distinct persons in the Godhead. When Jesus was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove while His Father spoke from heaven, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The evidence is persuasive and can be summed up in this: “I have come in the volume of the Book as it is written…even so Lord Jesus, come quickly…I am the Alpha & Omega, the Beginning and the End. Our King of Kings and Lord of Lords will soon be returning and will rule and reign for 1,000 years on earth from Jerusalem.

Piling on President Obama

Economy.

RecessionWhen President Barack H. Obama first took office in January 2009, the financial markets were poised for a monumental collapse. The first to go – and indeed the federal government let them go- was Lehman Brothers, at the time the 4th largest investment bank in the United States. Two years earlier price-earnings (PE) ratios for the overall stock market were 25 times, compared to an historical average of about 16 times. By March 2009, that same PE would sink to 13 times, about half the value of the stock market was wiped out and within a few more months unemployment would rocket to 10%. This was not the internet bubble that popped in 2000, this was far more pervasive, before it would be over the world’s financial markets, especially liquidity, willingness to borrow and regulatory scrutiny, would mark one of the most painful economic periods since the Great Depression.

During World War II, the French were famous for blaming all sorts of inefficiencies and shortages on the war with the all-purpose excuse “C’est la guerre.” Obama’s version of that is “C’est le Bush Administration. He became President, not King, so his ability to either bring good or harm to the problems he faced in 2009 were limited to a) Ability to formulate effective, affordable, durable policy that hopefully could be implemented and impacting quickly, and b) Ability to cobble and compromise in a bi-partisan nature with Congress, while ensuring whatever plans got developed they could stand up to Judicial scrutiny. He tackled the first with fervor, but the second requirement was left undone and only became worse. Rather than building consensus, President Obama chose the unfortunate posture of scolding. He scolded the banks. He scolded Congress. He scolded businesses and others saw all of his scolding as pontificating and alienating.

Unemployment TrendIn 2009 the national debt stood at approximately $12 trillion, representing 83% of GDP. But 2012 the national debt would become approximately 100% of GDP and remain there to the present day, a staggering $18 trillion in national debt. Most of the increase was attributable to the recession and the decrease in income tax receipts, however, in 2012 Obama agree to almost $1 trillion in defense spending. Rather than cutting back on spending both the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the Federal Government ratcheted up financial stimulus to hopefully stave off a worsening economic recession. Somewhat like pushing on a string liquidity remained intransigent, creating an unwillingness of banks to lend without the most pristine of credit history and collateral.

As long as unemployment remained high and manufacturing capacity utilization remained low, there was no inflation impact to flooding the money supply, a point where economists – throughout the years – disagreed sharply. Now that unemployment is closer to historical averages and manufacturing capacity utilization likewise, continued government and Fed tinkering will likely and finally create inflation. Indeed the 30-year Bull Run on long-term bonds appears potentially catastrophic once interest rates are finally left alone to float with the market. This sets up a conundrum from a policy standpoint, that is, how to unwind the combination of trillions in assets on the government balance sheet and also allow interest rates to rise without a new albeit somewhat different economic collapse.

Health Care.

ACAThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 has enabled 11.7 million Americans to obtain medical insurance, three-quarters of them on the federal exchange, which finally seems to be working reasonably well. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that by 2022 fully 33 million will be insured via the ACA process. On the face of it a good thing since prior to insurance these people would avoid going to the doctor until so sick they would show up at the emergency rooms of hospitals. Unable to pay such an expensive bill, the bad debt would find its way into the overall costs for everyone who was buying health insurance.

For those signing up on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, some 87 percent received federal subsidies to help them afford the monthly premiums. The subsidies totaled $263 a month, on average, leaving consumers to pay $101. These subsidies are at the heart of the next battle for the administration. The Supreme Court is currently deciding whether those signing up on the federal exchange are eligible for subsidies.

Insurance companies can no longer discriminate on the basis of “pre-existing conditions.” In addition, insurers must spend 80-85% of every dollar they receive on medical care (instead of advertising, administration, etc.). The law is expected to spend a bit over $1 trillion in the next 10 years. The law’s spending cuts — many of which fall on Medicare — and tax increases — are expected to either save or raise a bit more than that, which is why the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will slightly reduce the deficit.

War.

WarThe wars begun in 2001 have been tremendously painful for millions of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and the United States, and economically costly as well. Each additional month and year of war adds to that toll. According to the Watson Institute for International Studies, some of that toll can be summarized as follows:

  • 350,000 people have died due to direct war violence, and many more indirectly in addition to indirect deaths from the wars, including those related to malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure, and environmental degradation
  • New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 970,000 disability claims registered as of March 31, 2014. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
  • 7 million people have been displaced indefinitely
  • Erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad have accompanied the wars.
  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century.
  • The US federal price tag for the Iraq war — including an estimate for veterans’ medical and disability costs into the future — is about $2.2 trillion dollars. The cost for both Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan is going to be close to $4.4 trillion, not including future interest costs on borrowing for the wars.
  • While it was promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank extremely low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with US support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.

direct-deaths-multiPresident Obama has not only ended these two wars, though some say too quickly, but has steadfastly refused to take America headlong into new wars. This has led some to conclude that the U.S. is no longer viewed as a leader and a superpower. Yet it has also had the effect of getting other countries to begin to step up with their resources rather than always expecting the United States to save the day. For far too long, most countries have enjoyed national savings resulting from an artificial underinvestment in military capability. The unvarnished truth is that if China decided to take Taiwan tomorrow the United States would not go to war with China. This new reality changes nations’ policies toward armament as well as treaties and economic ties, rather than expecting the United States to protect them as was the case with Kuwait and Desert Shield.

Religion and Terrorism

ISISTerrorism has been around a very long time. As a little boy watching the 1972 Olympics I was shocked to see the terrorist attack on athletes from Israel. Terror can be organized abroad, it can also be localized; it can be large and well-funded groups and also lone wolf attacks almost no one can anticipate. Generally, though not always, terrorists claim their motivation is religious, that is, God has determined that they must kill in order to bring about change that God desires. This can result in generalizations from the terrorists to larger religions, turning neighbor against neighbor in fear and outrage. When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, setting off U.S. involvement in World War II, we set up “internment camps” for the Japanese Americans, primarily arising from this type of fear.

Although Obama has presided over the killing thousands of terrorists, most notably Osama bin Laden, many in the United States demand that he take a more definitive and strong stance against Islam, claiming jihadist ideology is an inherent doctrine in the Koran, Islam’s holy book. The President has resisted, seeking to differentiate peaceful Muslims from the perverted ideological claims made by groups such as ISIS. The extreme reaction to the President’s view has been to accuse him of “hating America,” “sympathizing with Muslim terrorists,” and perhaps even being a closet Muslim himself. Some in Congress have even gone on record making these sorts of accusations. The combination of Obama’s resistance to new wars in far-flung places, along with his desire to allow Muslim’s in the U.S. and the world to freely practice their religion unfettered, has had the effect of creating a divisive nation at home, with very strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

Summary.

Report CardWhile this summary assessment is concerned with President Obama, much could be written about the inability of the Congress to be effective and productive as well. That is a subject for another paper. Overall the President has done poorly in terms of building consensus, coalitions, compromise and goodwill among federal government and the general population. In terms of the economy, it appears the Keynesians were right about the so-called “liquidity trap.” As Germany demands austerity (in Greece for example), Europe remains mired in recession even though the example of stimulus in the United States appears to have cut our economic suffering short and shallow. How to unwind the tinkering that has been done will be a daunting challenge; indeed as interest rates finally rise we should expect economic repercussions from asset devaluation (long-term bonds) to high interest payment on our burgeoning national debt, severely impacting the productive use of government income tax receipts.

The ACA had a difficult start and will almost certainly require modifications. Getting millions insured has been accomplished, likely a good thing in the long run. But the jury remains out in terms of overall long-term impact on health care costs and freedom each person had to choose their health care providers. Several more years will be needed before any conclusions regarding efficacy can be written with reliable facts and figures.

The cessation of the wars and the resistance to enter new wars has certainly saved lives, disabilities and dollars. The somewhat new policy has also had the effect of getting other countries to step up their resource commitments toward defending their own interests, certainly an important step in the right direction. But increased investment on weaponry all around the world can also mean another inevitable result: we can expect more wars.

Every president has had a mixed record of accomplishments and failures. No president is ever able to take full credit for great accomplishments, nor should he take full blame for failures. Far too many variables outside his control impact what happens to the United States and the rest of the world. Given all of what President Barack Obama has managed to do, however, it would be unfair to grade him as severely as many are prone to do today. To say he hates the country, supports terrorists, is a racist and a socialist is to overstate the true picture. To say he worked hard and made some progress while doing a poor job at building consensus is a more even-handed approach in terms of grading his performance. The world is a dangerous and violent place, how we navigate the future will require consensus but it will also require tolerance and compassion, of which we seem to have less and less of lately. compassionRodd signature

Time to give up on Christianity  

1I know you dearly want to hold on to your fairy tale, mainly because it just sounds nice. But there is no God, and there is no Savior. Worse, the Christians are the main source of all of the problems in the world today. From the corruption in the church to the Crusades, the only things Christians have managed to do in their imposition of their unreasonable and unscientific worldview is to wreck havoc on the rest of us. But I won’t leave you alone; I won’t orphan you so that you have no security blanket. I am here to offer you several excellent and acceptable alternative worldviews that can be embraced; all having far more merit and credence than does Christianity.

2First, and probably the best choice, is to reject the notion of a celestial dictator altogether. The brightest among us, scientists and philosophers alike, are learned and intelligent enough to have determined that no God could possibly exist, especially the God of the Bible. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, science has proven that as a fact. The Bible is full of errors, inconsistencies, and fables such as Jonah being swallowed by a large fish, prophets calling down fire, a worldwide flood, the Red Sea being parted, and the craziest notion of all: that God would become a man and leave His so-called celestial throne only to be humiliated, taunted, tortured and executed. What kind of King would allow such a thing as that? Is that your idea of an all-powerful God? It is certainly not mine.

3But if you are weak and atheism is not your cup of tea, there are several reasonable religions from which to choose. If I were a weaker vessel as you may be, I would adhere to Islam. The main reason is that people are fighting for a cause, and that always brings out the heroic in men. If you are brave enough and strong enough to annihilate the enemies of your God, all of your friends and family, indeed the world will see you as a man’s man, someone willing to stand up to evil without fear of death. But if Islam doesn’t quite fit your idea of a religion you can endorse, then I can recommend several other good ones: Hinduism. At least Karma you can control. Your good works can outweigh the bad stuff you may have accidentally done, right? Or any numbers of groups that are not foolish enough to think that an eternal Son of God would become a man in order to save us…save us from what exactly?

4Lastly, if your parents are putting pressure on you – to attend their Christian church — and you love them too much to hurt their feelings – you can certainly go to your church, I can’t stop you. But don’t keep calling things that are good – evil, when in fact it is the reverse. Same sex marriage is as right and acceptable as marriage between a man and a woman. Stop discriminating! Aborting an unborn child is the right of every woman to have her say and control over her own possession: her body. And stop – please stop – dangling people over the pit of some fictitious place called hell. Do you really think a loving God, if He did exist (which I personally declare unequivocally that He does not exist)… would He send people to a place of eternal suffering? Do I look stupid to you?

6So get your life in order. You do not need God. You need you — and you alone. Stand strong, be positive and optimistic. Motivate yourself to become all that you know you can be if only you will conquer your fears and step out, never accepting defeat, never quitting. Be the master over your own destiny, be a man! The fact of the matter is this – and I leave you with this one thought to ponder – if there really is a God, guess who He is? He is you my friend, yes YOU!

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Sincerely yours,

 

Lucifer, Son of the Morning, Anointed Cherub, Prince of the Air.