Wild Fires and School Shootings

Nearly six years ago, I read an article on Wired.com that dramatically changed the way I think. It was regarding wildfires and how we fight them, and this particular passage struck me:

“Then, when you look at the last century, you see the climate getting warmer and drier, but until the last couple decades the amount of fire was really low. We’ve pushed fire in the opposite direction you’d expect from climate,” [Yale University pyrogeographer Jennifer] Marlon said.

In other words, nature was already adapting to keep fires minimal, but then we in our all-knowing wisdom intervened, thinking we had to prevent fires to save ourselves.

Instead, through our very actions, we caused what we sought to eliminate.

Reading the beginning of the article, specifically about wildfires, allows an easy segue into where this article applies now:

THE VAST WILDFIRES of this summer and last represent a new normal for the western United States. They may signal a radical landscape transformation, one that will make the 21st century West an ecological frontier.

Unlike fires that have occurred regularly for thousands of years, these fires are so big and so intense as to create discontinuities in natural cycles. In the aftermath, existing forests may not return. New ecosystems will take their place.

“These transitions could be massive. They represent the convergence of several different forces,” said Donald Falk, a fire ecologist at the University of Arizona. “There is a tremendous amount of energy on the landscape that historically would not have been there. These are nuclear amounts of energy.”

We could reword this in the following manner, and it would be equally true:

THE LARGE AMOUNT OF GUN VIOLENCE IN THE US of the last 25 years represent a new normal for the United States. They may signal a radical landscape transformation, one that will make the 21st century a sociological frontier.

Unlike violence that has occurred regularly for thousands of years, this violence is so big and so intense as to create discontinuities in natural cycles. In the aftermath, existing institutions may not be able to cope. New cultures will take their place.

“These transitions could be massive. They represent the convergence of several different forces. There is a tremendous amount of energy on the landscape that historically would not have been there. These are nuclear amounts of energy.”

Just as Dr. Marlon said above in relation to wildfires in the west, 25 years ago in particular the US undertook a mission to make our society safer – but we have achieved exactly the opposite results of what we expected.

There are many people with many theories as to why this is, and there are certainly, as Dr. Falk says, “several different forces” at play. But I have arrived at one that I think lies at the root of it, and I think that be correcting our course on this one issue, we may be able to correct our course overall and arrive at our desired, safer, destination.

What is that one issue?

Zero tolerance policies in schools.

I remember as an elementary school kid in the late 80s and early 90s – just before Zero Tolerance kicked in during my 6th grade year – that getting in fights was settled with either the teacher or the Principal, and usually resulted in nothing more than a stern lecture and maybe after school detention. But it also, critically, allowed the small fire to flash over and dissipate.

With the advent of Zero Tolerance in particular, all of a sudden even looking at another person wrong could result in expulsion from school or at minimum a stay at in school suspension for a few days. Fighting became guaranteed expulsion and likely criminal charges, no matter how young the kids in question were and no matter who the actual aggressor was. Now, we have actively and aggressively suppressed the small fires.

But this allows the weeds and brushes of small angers and resentments to build. Angers and resentments that even a few years prior were allowed to flash over as a small fire all of a sudden became… Jonesboro. Paducah. Columbine. And more and more others. School shootings where kids were bringing guns to schools specifically to inflict as much damage as possible, in an attempt to handle their own anger and pain.

This has only continued to build over the last 25 years, as people who were in school then and since have continued to have these grievances actively, aggressively suppressed and are taught to hold them in no matter what. And now we are to the point where these shootings are barely even news unless more than a handful are killed. Where once any attack was national level news, even ones where hardly anyone was hurt – much less killed -, we now have attacks barely make waves in the local media when similar numbers are attacked.

At the time Zero Tolerance was implemented, the 24/7 news cycle was in its infancy. The Internet – the very platform you are reading this very article on – was just beginning to come online in a big way for the average consumer. We had no way of knowing what the 24/7 news cycle, political punditry, and in particular the rise of social media and other instant communications would allow. We had no idea that allowing those small fires to flash over quickly was about to become paramount, instead seeing them as something that needed to be suppressed at all costs.

Well, now we know more exactly what those costs are – and I for one do not believe them worth it. Return us to the era where fist fighting was not encouraged, but was understood. Return us to an era where the small fires were allowed to flash over in order to prevent the widespread devastation of the wildland fire.

Will repealing Zero Tolerance restore all that we have lost over the last 25 years? Not in the short term. But maybe, just maybe, 25 years from now we will see that it did indeed patch the dam long enough for our other institutions to repair themselves and solve that problem for good.

How the Political Climate Led Me To Read More

Earlier today, I read a post on BookRiot titled HOW THE POLITICAL CLIMATE LED ME TO ROMANCE NOVELS, and the title held such promise. Unfortunately, the article itself went on yet another political diatribe. So allow me, if you will, to explain in my own way how the political climate of late has led me to read ever more.

In 2017, I read 80 books. In 2018, I’ve got closer to 120 or so on deck, and we’ll see how many of them I actually read. This, after struggling in 2008 to even read 53 books. Of course, 2008 was very different in terms of the US political climate and my own life. In 2008, I was newly married and working 100 miles (one way) from home. This was before the era of eBooks, and even audiobooks weren’t quite on full mp3 the way they are now. So I had to lug around physical books and could only read on my lunch break or a few hours at home – hours dominated by sleeping, eating, and spending time with my new bride. So 53 books that year was quite an accomplishment – one that my new bride said I should never ever repeat.

But over the last couple of years, I find the political discourse in the United States to be ever more rancorous, and honestly even I – the former Libertarian Party official and political blogger/ activist – am honestly getting sick of it. While I still debate more on Facebook than I should, I’ve also unfollowed quite a few pages, unfollowed or defriended many people, and blocked over 1500 people on Facebook in 2017 alone. But even with all of this, there is just so much discord out there. You almost can’t discuss a political topic, even among the closest of friends, without people speaking harshly to each other and in many cases seemingly coming close to throwing punches. And it doesn’t matter the topic or your position. Someone is inevitably going to disagree, and then the fight is on.

Hell, even when it comes to sports, the same discord shows through – often with similar if not identical language. Can’t even discuss weather, because someone will inevitably turn the discussion to climate change, and then the political fight is on yet again.

So I turn to entertainment. There are only a few select shows I actually enjoy watching, and I’ve now cut the cord – meaning I no longer have cable television. The video games I like to play are few and far between, but I’ve been known to dump hundreds of hours into the same few games (over the course of years). Music, as evidenced by this week’s Grammy Awards show, is increasingly becoming politicized. And there are only so many movies put out per year, even fewer that I actually want to see.

But my To Be Read stack of books I’ve already acquired – the only way they get onto my TBR list – is literally nearly 3000 books long, already more than I could possibly read in the remaining years I have on this planet. And I’ve got all kinds of stuff on the overall list. I’ve got classics of both fiction and philosophy, I’ve got romance (of many flavors), I’ve got scifi, I’ve got adventure, I’ve got drama, I’ve got various nonfiction. About the only things I don’t have on there are cookbooks, comics, and coloring books.

So I created the 2018 TBR list – a list of the books I am going to try to read in 2018. And I’m already reading number 15 on that list, plus I’ve already done a couple of Advance Reader Copy (ARC) projects. Please note that I am actually removing books from this list as I read them, so the list started out longer than what it currently shows as. For a list of the books I’ve read so far this year (minus unpublished ARCs), check out my 2018 Challenge.

With this project, I can thus get away from the rancor that is any discussion of anything remotely politically oriented and focus on escapism and some learning, but overall things I enjoy. I can carry my Kindle with me and when things get too heated, I can just escape into whatever book I’m currently reading. If the radio starts playing politicized music or ads, I can switch over to Audible and listen to at least a few of my books there.

I can have my own opinions, let others have their own, and we can be friends discussing books. What I’ve read, what they’ve read, what we want to read.

And maybe, just maybe, we can all figure out a way to survive this current climate in peace.

Through books.

Jesus and the American Golden Calf

Many years ago, I heard the full story of exactly what was happening at a somewhat routine passage in John 7, and it blew my mind – and altered my life forever.

The passage in question is this:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38, New King James Version

Like I said, a fairly routine passage in a chapter that is a bunch of “quick hit” scenes. Nothing at all remarkable about the text, on its face.

But here’s where things get interesting: You see, that first verse (until it says 38 above) is actually FULL of details that have direct impact into at least one controversy swirling America as I write this. Because the “feast” in question was one of the holiest moments of the Jewish calendar of that era, the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the very holiest of days of one of the holiest religious observances of their year, Jesus protested. He claimed they were dead wrong, that their celebrations meant nothing. That he and he alone was what they were looking for. In Modern American Christian parlance, this would be similar to some travelling pastor walking into CNN on Christmas morning and proclaiming himself the Second Coming of Christ. It was *that* big.

And here’s the pivot to the American Golden Calf. You see, the Jews of Christ’s era were familiar with the story of the Golden Calf – as are many American Christians. Long story short (and it can be found in Exodus 32), Moses was up on the Mount of Sinai for a LONG time getting the 10 Commandments. While he’s gone, his brother commissions a golden calf to be made that the people of Israel begin worshipping – and then one of the 10 Commandments Moses comes down with turns out to be “thou shalt have no other gods before me”. Oops.

Now, what is the American Golden Calf? The United States Government. And specifically, its symbols – its flag and anthem. American Christians are no different than those Israelites of long ago, so tired of waiting and so bored and so sure of their own significance that they will worship almost literally anything that seems to give them an iota of purpose. In our case, they have eschewed “thou shalt have no other gods before me” for placing their entire faith in the American Flag. Sure, they’ll say they don’t. And they will and do make a big stink about how much they don’t. But their big stink shows just how much they do. Because in their every action, they continually reiterate their absolute devotion to that flag. They think that that flag and the cross Jesus died on are the very same thing, when in fact the two are polar opposites.

That flag in modern times does not in any way stand for freedom. The cross never has. That flag in modern times stands for tyranny, oppression, and force – in every detail of life, all over the globe. The cross stands for absolute supplication to the Living God – by each man’s choice. That flag in modern times demands “you will worship me or else”. The cross has always been about personal sacrifice to show the path to God. That flag in modern times says “If my agents are even the least bit intimidated by you, they can kill you any time they want”. The cross says “I would rather die to show you the path to God than let you die without knowing it.”. That flag in modern times says “I will judge you according to my arbitrary rules.” The cross says “I don’t judge you at all.”. That flag in modern times says “I have the right to kill you.” The cross says “If a man strikes me, I will turn the other cheek and allow him to strike it too.” That flag in modern times says “I will scream in your face about anything I want, and you have to stand there and take it because I’m the most powerful force on the planet.” The cross says “I serve a God who created literally everything, and I humbly present my case for his glory.”

When Colin Kaepernick or the literally hundreds of other sports players protest that flag at the height of the modern American religious festival that is the National Football League, they are doing exactly what Christ did all those years ago. They are being, by the very definition of the word, Christian.

When you rabidly adhere to the American flag, you are by the very definition of the term worshipping a falce idol.

Choose this day whom you will serve, Christian. Will it be the God that gave the Ten Commandments and later proclaimed himself to be the living water to the desert population? Or will it be the golden calf and the religious leaders who thought they had killed some madman claiming to be God?

American Cops Have Achieved This Dubious Honor In Less Than 4 Years

9/11. Oklahoma City. Pulse Nightclub. San Bernadino. Fort Hood. DC Snipers. Charleston. Original World Trade Center bombing. Chattanooga. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Columbine. University of Texas. Washington Navy Yard.

Many Americans know what these events have in common – they are a listing of some of the most infamous terrorist and mass shooting attacks in the history of the United States of America. All told, these events and many other far less well known events combine to form the 50 deadliest such attacks in US history, killing a grand total of 3944 people.

3944. Let that number sink in. 3944 dead in the top 50 deadliest terrorist or mass shooting attacks in US history, over a span of 130 years.

Now let me list another series of numbers:

776^. 1111. 1208. 1152. 7*. Add them up.

I’ll save you the math, though feel free to verify it. The total is 4254, and it is from less than 4 years.

What is this 4254 number? It is the number of people killed by US police in less than 4 years, from May 1 2013 until the moment I write this on Jan 4 2017.

That’s right – in less than 4 years, US cops have killed more people than the 50 worst terrorist attacks and mass shootings in the US over the last 130 years. Put another way, US cops have killed 7.9% more people in just 3.1% of the time frame of all the 50 worst US terrorist and mass shooting attacks.

I’ll spare my normal talking points. The numbers here speak for themselves.
Continue reading “American Cops Have Achieved This Dubious Honor In Less Than 4 Years”

The Choice

Last night, I wrote a 3000 word piece about the intersection of Joshua, Samuel, and Jesus Christ. Today, I want to try to make the case a bit more succinctly.

Government is a choice, and in that choice we reject God.

If you read nothing else in this post, that last sentence is the entire point I am making.

Even in Joshua’s “choose this day” speech, he makes that very point – something most people miss when quoting that verse. He specifically says that the choice is between the God that his ancestors had chosen or the gods of those now around them in the land we now know as Israel. This truly is a dichotomous choice – God, or not. Many years later, the gods around them have transitioned into government, and kings have arisen throughout the land. So the elders of Israel go to Joshua’s (much later) successor, Samuel, and demand a king of their own. And at this point, God Himself says to the elders (through Samuel) explicitly that in making that choice, they have rejected Him (and His ability to provide for them). A millenia or two later, God would become incarnate in the form of the man we now call Jesus Christ. And Jesus would make the same point, in such a subtle fashion that it did not alarm the ruling government of his day. Jesus explicitly says in his most famous sermon “You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will serve one and despise the other.”

Thus, you can choose government. Or God. You cannot choose both. Because if you try, you will wind up despising one of them. Even God Himself – twice! – says exactly this.

That is the choice.

That is your choice.

Make Your Choice

Tonight’s situation: I met Mark McIntyre on Twitter, and reading his post about government and Paul, I brought up my standard point about 1 Samuel 8 and how so very many that cite Paul on government routinely ignore this particular passage. Mark asked me to explain a bit, and I pointed out that in 1 Samuel 8, God explicitly tells Israel that choosing a King is rejecting Him. Mark suggested that I was saying that the point is to not look to human government to fix what is really wrong, and to a point, he is correct. But 1 Samuel also ties to Joshua’s famous (at least in American Christianity) “choose this day” speech and even is a centuries early version of Christ’s own “no man can serve two masters”. Mark asked me if I would be willing to work up a guest post on that last bit, so here goes. (And please bear with me, it has been many years since I have written anything of this type, even though these are the thoughts that now form a part of the core of my beliefs about how everything works. I simply am very rarely asked to explain them in this manner.)

Joshua, by the time of the “choose this day” speech, had been the primary leader of Israel for several years after the death of his mentor Moses. Ever heard of crossing the Jordan and the battle of Jericho? That was Joshua. When it comes to “choose this day”, he is handing over power over the various tribes of Israelites – effectively one HUGE extended family – and in the process, he is giving them a challenge. Let’s pick up his exact words, at least so far as the New King James Version of the Bible can get them to us, via what we now refer to as Joshua 24:

And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
2And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods.
3And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
4And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
5I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
6And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
7And when they cried unto the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
8And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
10But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
11And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
12And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
13And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.
14Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
16And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;
17For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
18And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.
19And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
20If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
21And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.
22And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
23Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.
24And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
27And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
28So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.
29And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
30And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath–serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
31And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.
32And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.

The bold piece is the most famous, but look at the entire speech – it really is quite good. Joshua gathers the elders of the tribes – and we find out a bit later on, dude is over a century old himself as he is doing this. He reminds them of their history, of everything God had done for them. And of some of the battles that had been fought against other families with other gods. And he gives them a choice, the bold part above – choose whether you want God or you want a king. Make that choice every day. That last is key, as we will see momentarily.

The people choose God and all of American Christianity cheers.

We flash forward a few hundred years, through the time of the Judges. These were singular leaders who rose up during times of great peril for the Israelites and led them through – a modern equivalent might be the Toruk Macto from James Cameron’s Avatar. Except over a period of time, the Israelites go through this several times. Finally, along comes a man named Samuel, the last of the Judges. Why is he the last? Because the People are about to make a different choice. Remember, Joshua told them to choose daily to serve God or to serve a king. But Joshua by this point has been dead for quite a while, and everything about him and the battles he helped wage have faded into legend – similar to the state we see the Jedi in during Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Except here, we’re going to be waiting quite a while for the Jedi to come back on the scene, and things are going to get very, very dark.

By the time we get to 1 Samuel 8, Samuel is already getting old. The elders know he won’t be around much longer, and apparently his sons can’t be trusted to take his place. So let’s pick things up with the very text in question, 1 Samuel 8:

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
2Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer–sheba.
3And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
4Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
7And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
9Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
10And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.
11And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.
19Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
21And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.
22And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

So Samuel is old, his kids are idiots that can’t be trusted, so the elders demand a king to be like the other nations around them. They’re afraid. Those other guys have standing armies, and all they have is a Judge who may or may not be able to lead them. And in their fear, they demand a king. God sees exactly what they are doing – they don’t trust Him to provide for them anymore, and this is a direct rejection of His ability to provide. He even calls them out on it. Not only that, He explicitly warns them that they really don’t know what they are asking Him for. A King, they are warned, will steal their kids for his purposes. The king will steal their food and money for his cronies. And he will tax them all to pay for his every whim. And eventually, they will get sick of this king they have demanded and beg to God to take him away from them. At which point God pretty much says “You asked for it, you got it – now you deal with the consequences.” But the elders still chose to reject God and demanded a king anyway. So God instructs Samuel to select one, and they wind up with Saul, then David, then Solomon. King David you’ve likely heard of – a very famous hotel in the modern state of Israel bears his name to this day. Dude is *that* well liked among the Israelis even now. (And as a brief aside: If you think the two primary people many think of as running for President of the US in 2016 are bad… as much as those three are respected now, let’s just say that they were pretty bad people that the two modern people don’t really have anything on.)

Now we’re going to flash forward a bit longer though. We’re going to skip over all kinds of Israeli captivity at the hands of the Babylonians and the Persians (Iraq and Iran, for those keeping score with the modern areas we’re speaking of). Again the history here is somewhat interesting, but it is a constant state of Israel screws up, gets taken captive, plays nice, gets set free, rinse and repeat. For hundreds of years. Finally, the Romans come around, and by the time our time warp ends, they’ve already held the area we now call the modern state of Israel for at least a century.

Then these dude everyone called Joshua the Carpenter, of Nazareth shows up. You may know him better as Jesus Christ, but they didn’t. At least not yet.

Then one day, Joshua is giving a speech, one that would become arguably the most famous, defining speech of his life. One that would have scholars debating about for millenia – literally. And there is a LOT to discuss in this speech. Many, many, MANY volumes of tomes have been written about this speech alone, and I’m sure at least that many will be written about this same speech in particular. We now call it the ‘Sermon On The Mount’.

In the Sermon On The Mount, Joshua basically tells every Jew ever that they have no idea what they are talking about. Considering that the local government of his time was run by the era’s equivalent of the Moral Majority at the height of their power… not necessarily a good thing if his intent was to live into old age. (It wasn’t, and he didn’t – for those who may not know that.)

But one bit of this speech in particular sticks out, at least as far as connecting to Joshua and Samuel. Because at one point, in what we now refer to as Matthew 6:24, Joshua explicitly says:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.

In other words… “choose who you will serve”. Or, “choose this day whom you will serve”. Or “are you really sure you want this King dude?”

Here, in this moment, the man we now know as Jesus Christ echoes men from centuries before his time: Choose.

Choose to trust God. Or choose to trust government. But realize right now that you cannot choose both. You will hate one and love the other, or you will serve one and despise the other. There is no other way. You will make this choice, and you will make it daily. You will trust God to provide for your needs, or you will bow down to government and do whatever it takes to make government happy so that it will fulfill them.

Choose Wisely.

Lexington County Primary Elections Runoffs June 28, 2016 – My Picks

So basically every election with more than two people two weeks ago went into runoff mode, and that election is TODAY, June 28, 2016. Indeed, polls open less than 3 hrs from when I write this, and as with the election 2 weeks ago, I will likely be one of the first people there. (Indeed, I was Republican #1 on the signature list 2 weeks ago.)

HOWEVER, the runoff has shown some particularly nasty sides to some candidates, and my thoughts have changed at least in part on 3 of the 4 races – even though of the 4 races, 3 include people I supported in the last election.

So here goes, straight down the ballot:

SOLICITOR:
The (remaining) Candidates: Rick Hubbard, Candice Lively.
My Pick: Rick Hubbard
Reason: In the last election, I supported Lively as the outsider who could get shit done. I pointed out that Hubbard had allowed the prior Solicitor to be as bad as he was, as well as allowing former Sheriff James Metts to be as corrupt as he has been convicted of being. Both those and more still hold true. So why am I supporting him now? Because – and you will find this theme with 3 of my 4 picks – his opponent outed herself as discriminatory. Now this particular discrimination is so prevalent that we don’t even have a word for it, yet I experience it somewhat often and am somewhat vocal in speaking out against it. This particular discrimination is against childless adults. We see this quite often when such an adult runs, that at least one candidate will bring up “I can protect kids better because I actually have them.”, which is SOOOOOOOOOO offensive and equally blatantly wrong. (Famously, we also saw this line of thought used in Georgia against Karen Handel in both the 2010 Governor race and the 2014 Senate race.) This time, Lively was the one that made that comment – on the eve of Father’s Day, speaking against her male opponent no less! This would be equivalent to someone cheering the display of the piss crucifix on Good Friday for many, yet she is cheered for this behavior! I put up with a lot of crap from Lively in the election two weeks ago because I thought her opponents’ background made them worse, but this particular incident showed just how bad Lively was and lost this voter’s support because of it.

CLERK OF COURT:
The (remaining) Candidates: Lisa Comer, Emily Hinson
My Pick: Lisa Comer.
Reason: I picked her last time, and I have seen nothing in the last two weeks to change that. Indeed, in the last two weeks it seems that the people I trust the least – elected officials – have been lining up behind her opponent. Good enough for me to stay Comer.

COUNTY COUNCIL:
The (remaining) Candidates: Erin Long Bergeson, Dino Teppara
My Pick: Erin Long Bergeson
Reason: My fights against natives seeking public office are epic and very nearly the stuff of legend. And Bergeson seems to think that anti-tax groups count as “special interests” and “lobbying” and seems open to raising my taxes. So why the hell am I going with her? Because Teppara is a racist, plain and simple. His opposition to more housing for more people to come to Chapin can only be because he doesn’t want “those people” living in his “perfect” town. Dude, Chapin has a LOT of problems, and the VAST bulk of them are caused by the white people here. Giving some people I know personally a chance to live much closer to work is NOT a bad thing, and the quality of the people I speak of is better than the quality of you. So I go with Bergeson not because I like her, but because Teppara is such a blatant racist.

REGISTER OF DEEDS:
The (remaining) Candidates: Rich Bolen, Tina Guerry
My Pick: NOTA? Unfortunately not an option, so Tina Guerry
Reason: Guerry is a friend, and at this point that is one of only two reasons she is getting my vote. (The other being her opponent is a blatant sexist.) That so many elected officials are lining up to support her is beyond troubling, and if she were not a friend would disqualify her immediately (other than her opponent being a sexist).

Lexington County Primary Elections June 14, 2016 – My Picks

Unlike POTUS nominees (and even Statewide), I try to pick what I genuinely feel is the *best* candidate for the office for local races. Why? Because when the Feds and State fail, local is still community, and even in complete and total anarchy – my avowed desire – voluntary community is needed. (Even though Lexington County needs to be divided into at least 4 separate Counties, but that is another post for another day… someday.)

I’ll go straight down the Republican Sample Ballot, since the Democratic race only has a single race – US Congress vs Joe Wilson, and Wilson will win that race in November anyway.

State House of Representatives, District 85:
The Challengers: Chip Huggins (I) vs Bryan Clifton
My Vote: Bryan Clifton. 1) I DO NOT vote for Incumbents. Period. 2) Clifton has been genuinely working for the last couple of years or so to build his support throughout the district. I’ve never met the guy personally, but I’ve seen a LOT of his signs and I’ve seen on Facebook where he has been out at least a couple of times a month campaigning for the last year and a half at least. He’s put in the work and he does not have an (I) beside his name, so there you go.

Solicitor Circuit 11:
The Challengers: Rick Hubbard vs Candice Lively vs Larry Wedekind.
My Vote: Candice Lively. I’m not *overly* thrilled with any of them, but both Hubbard and Wedekind worked under the current (retiring) Solicitor and allowed former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts to be as corrupt as he was. Initially I wasn’t going to vote for Candice, as her signs were working against her – she absolutely had a case of resting bitch face going on with her face on her larger signs. I think she realized this and corrected later though, as newer signs had a better pic. But ultimately it was learning about Hubbard and Wedekind’s history in Lexington County, along with Wedekind’s outright politicalization of the office via pandering for votes using issues that are in NO WAY connected to this job, that sealed the deal. That, and Lively isn’t afraid to respond to antagonistic comments and leave them up. That too spoke volumes.

Clerk of Court:
The Challengers: Lisa Comer, Emily Hinson, Mollie Taylor
My Vote: Lisa Comer. Mollie Taylor royally screwed over a friend during some legal issue they had, so that was a no-go. Emily Henson just doesn’t seem to know what the hell she is talking about. Comer seems fairly competent, and I know from previous work in a District Attorney’s office that it really doesn’t take much in this job.

Coroner:
The Challengers: Margaret Fisher (I), Glenn Ross
My Vote: Glenn Ross. NOTA would be preferable, but Fisher has an (I) beside her name, meaning Ross gets my vote. I don’t actually like this guy, but I absolutely refuse to vote for any Incumbent, ever, and NOTA isn’t an option.

County Council District 6:
The Challengers: Ronald Derrick, Erin Long Bergeson, Benjamin Stitely, Dino Teppara
My Vote: Ben Stitely. Berenson making it a major point that her family is a native to Lexington County for a few generations (at least) lost me – anyone who knows my history with City Council races knows that I am the one guy that stands up to legacy families/ candidates, because fresh ideas are needed in these modern times and those guys run on nothing more than maintaining the status quo. Similarly, Derrick makes it a proud point that he is a “lifelong” resident of Chapin. Seriously? As many issues as this City has, that you apparently haven’t tried to stop? Wouldn’t be advertising that fact… Teppara is a NIMBY, actively opposing new people coming into Chapin. Stitely is very vague on his FB, but at least he didn’t say anything that disqualified him from my vote.

Register of Deeds:
The Challengers: Rich Bolen, Mike Green, Dan Gregory, Tina Guerry, Joy Munsch.
My Vote: Tina Guerry. I’m not overly thrilled that the retiring Incumbent endorsed her yesterday, but I know Tina personally – the only one of any candidate listed on this page that I can say that about. I’ve known her for 3 years, and some of my closest friends have known her much longer. She’s very competent at her current job, and she has some solid ideas for what she wants to do in this new potential job. And then there are her challengers. Gregory simply is too quiet – his brother blatantly runs his FB page. Munsch doesn’t even *have* a FB page – despite running in a race with nearly 300K population in the district. Green thinks the biggest qualification needed is to be the most extremely conservative Christian – with a degree from Bob Jones University no less and actively censors comments on his FB page. Bolen is an outright sexist who floated the idea of putting his face on his new signs with the slogan “not just a pretty face” – and then actually *did* put his face on his new signs, though at least he was smart enough to not *actually* put the proposed slogan with it. (For those unaware, Guerry has had her face on her most prominent signs since she began putting them out.)

The Lesson Of John Oxendine, Governor of Georgia

or

How I Learned To Stop Trusting Polls

The year is 2009. I have been running a political blog for several months by this time that year, and the various Statewide elections for 2010 were beginning to heat up. I had already had a few runins with the campaign of then State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who was one of the earliest people to announce his candidacy for Governor. But at this time, polls had him at 38% of the vote – roughly 1 year before voters would actually go to the polls in July 2010. Even as late as just a week before the election, at least one poll still had Oxendine in the 30%+ range.

Now, by this point I have hosted the largest political event in the State of Georgia that campaign season in terms of number of Statewide candidates present. I’ve been immersed in this election, particularly this race, for a year. I’ve been following every nuance, reading every tea leaf, and at this point even I am convinced that the WORST John Oxendine does on election day is 2nd place and forcing a runoff.

And then election day happened.

John Oxendine finished the day in FOURTH place, with just 17% of the vote, behind a State Senator, a fellow Statewide office holder, and a former Congressman who had been named the most corrupt member of Congress and who had resigned rather than face an ethics investigation. (That Congressman is now the Governor of Georgia, by the way.)

Within about 6 months or so of this election, I would leave both political activism and even the State of Georgia. But I will NEVER forget that particular lesson John Oxendine taught me.

Never trust polls. The voters will do what the voters will do, and the pollsters are at best guessing.

Why am I writing this lesson now?

The “rise” of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders provide obvious parallels.