How to Undo Years of Government Overreach

“In Washington, there is a saying that regulators never met a rule they didn’t like.”  — Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Heritage Foundation’s senior legal research fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

One of the big issues of the day is the mounds of regulations that federal agencies have been inflicting upon the American people and businesses for decades, while Congress sat on their collective hands. It is the administrative state gone amok, and it has had the effect of putting a stranglehold on the American economy and freedom in general. I’ve been meaning to write about this monstrosity for some time, but I just don’t know where to start.

In an article for ‘The Daily Signal’ last week, Paul Larkin asked the question, “What if Congress could not only reverse this trend, but undo years of burdensome regulations dating as far back as the mid-1990s?” His answer is the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996. (Download a CRA Fact Sheet here.)

The Act authorizes Congress to “invalidate an agency rule by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, not subject to a Senate filibuster, that the president signs into law.” He continues…

“Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is given 60 legislative days to disapprove a rule and receive the president’s signature, after which the rule goes into effect. But the review act also sets forth a specific procedure for submitting new rules to Congress that executive agencies must carefully follow.

If they fail to follow these specific steps, Congress can vote to disapprove the rule even if it has long been accepted as part of the Federal Register. In other words, if the agency failed to follow its obligations under the Congressional Review Act, the 60-day legislative window never officially started, and the rule remains subject to congressional disapproval.”

This sounds very promising! Larkin goes on to explain…

“The definition of ‘rule’ under the Congressional Review Act is quite broad — it includes not only the ‘junior varsity’ statutes that an agency can adopt as regulations, but also the agency’s interpretations of those laws. This is vital because federal agencies often use a wide range of documents to strong-arm regulated parties.

The review act reaches regulations, guidance documents, ‘Dear Colleague’ letters, and anything similar.

The Congressional Review Act is especially powerful because once Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval and the president signs it into law, the rule is nullified and the agency cannot adopt a “substantially similar” rule absent an intervening act of Congress. [emphasis mine]

This binds the hands of federal agencies to find backdoor ways of re-imposing the same regulations.”

To use a phrase from my youth, “Excellent!”

Obviously, President Trump doesn’t need congressional support to undo some parts of the Obama regulatory agenda, for example, and he has been revoking previous Executive Orders with new ones where he can. But, for those more difficult areas, this sounds like a terrific tool for our anti-regulation President and a sympathetic, majority-Republican Congress to work together to not just neutralize but make null-and-void tons of freedom-restricting — and sometimes downright stupid — regulations written by unelected bureaucrats from the past 20 years. In fact, they’ve already begun, and I’m all for it!

EPA, FDA, FCC, IRS, etc., y’all are hereby put on notice!

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Is the Bible History?, part II

“If archaeologists and historians could not find correlation between archaeology and the biblical text, there would be no such thing as ‘biblical archaeology’. But of course they do find such correlation, and lots of it.”  — Dr. Craig A. Evans, author of Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence

Givati Parking Lot Excavations (arch. dig in Jerusalem)

This is a sequel of sorts to my “Is the Bible ‘History’?” post from a couple months ago. In that one, I cautioned against judging the content of the biblical text using modern standards, especially when not allowing for different authorial styles, purposes, and genres. Citing from an article by Kirk Lowery, the post affirmed that the Bible does indeed record real, historical people, places, and events that took place in various time periods.

In modern history, however, a skeptical approach has been adopted by many academics and laymen alike. It became quite popular to assume that the Bible was mere myth and legend, especially when clear evidence for certain individuals, people groups, kingdoms, and cities had not yet been found by professional archaeologists. In other words, until a document or other artifact is found and “proven” to support something from the Bible, it is assumed to be fiction. So, I decided that another post was in order, this time listing several examples of important archeological finds that support the biblical record. As before, I turn to an article from  Holman’s Apologetics Study Bible (2007), this one titled “How Has Archaeology Corroborated the Bible?” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

“The real role of archaeology is not to ‘prove’ the Bible, for that kind of ‘proof’ is available only in certain deductive sciences such as mathematics and logic. On the contrary, the role of archaeology is: (1) to supply cultural, epigraphic, and artifactual materials that provide the background for accurately interpreting the Bible, (2) to anchor the events of the biblical text in the history and geography of the times, and (3) to build confidence in the revelation of God where the truths of Scripture impinge on historical events.

Over the last century or so, archaeology has strengthened the case for biblical reliability. Missing individuals, peoples, places, and obscure customs, historical, and political settings have been helpfully identified.

Missing Individuals
It had been fashionable in some circles for many years to ridicule Isaiah 20:1 for its allusion to ‘Sargon king of Assyria.’ Excavations of Nineveh had seemingly revealed all the kings of Assyria, but there was no Sargon. The Bible must have gotten it wrong. However, in 1843, Paul Emile Botta found a virgin site northeast of Nineveh, later excavated by the University of Chicago with details published in the 1930s. Sargon had built his own capital there in 717 BC. His son, however, moved the capital back to Nineveh, so the site was lost as was Sargon’s name. Now Sargon is one of the best known Assyrian monarchs.

Relief of Winged Bull of Nineveh, from Palace of Sargon II (Louvre Museum)

Likewise, the bible contended that King Belshazzar was the final ruler of Babylon (Dn 5:1,30), but until AD 1929, the extra-biblical evidence pointed to Nabonidus as king at the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. This apparent conflict was solved when documents were discovered revealing that Nabonidus spent his time in Arabia, leaving the affairs of the kingdom to his eldest son Belshazzar, who reigned as co-regent for a decade or so.

Discoveries of other biblical names have confirmed biblical reliability, including King Jehoiachin’s presence in Babylon, Sanballat as governor of Samaria along with some of Nehemiah’s adversaries such as Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab (Neh 2:19). Other discoveries confirm well-known biblical individuals such as Balaam, David, Ahab, Jehu, Hezekiah, Manahem and others.

Missing Peoples
Until Hugo Winckler discovered the Hittite Empire in 1906, many unbelievers doubted the Bible’s insistence that the Hittites were part of the land of Canaan (Gn 10:15; Jos 1:4). Now they are so well documented that a score of volumes has been necessary to build a Hittite dictionary based on the tablets left in their civilization. [Ed. Note: In fact, I happen to have a copy of a book by Dr. E. Neufeld titled The Hittite Laws: Translated into English and Hebrew with Commentary (1951).]

Another mystery group were the Horites, descendants of Esau from Edom (Gn 36:20; Dt 2:12,22). But in 1995 Giorgio Buccellati discovered the Horite capital city beneath the modern Syrian city of Tell Mozan.

Missing Places
First Kings 9:28 claimed King Solomon brought back 16 tons of gold from Ophir. But where was Ophir and did it really exist? In 1956 at Tell Qasile in Israel, broken pottery was found with an inscription referring to a shipment of ‘gold of Ophir for Beth-Horon, thirty shekels.’ Thus, Ophir was confirmed as known in the world of commerce with its trade in gold. Ophir is identified today as a port some 60 miles north of Bombay.

Another example is the disputed list of sites along the route of the exodus in Numbers 33. But Charles Krahmalkov noted three ancient Egyptian maps of the road from Arabah to the Plains of Moab, with the earliest of the three maps inscribed on the walls of Karnak in the reign of Thutmosis III (c. 1504-1450 BC). According to the list, the route from south to north follows precisely the way the Israelites listed in Numbers 33 with four stations especially noted: Iyyim, Dibon, Abel, and Jordan.

Other Sensational Finds
Discovered by Grenfeld in Egypt in 1920, the ‘John Rylands Papyrus’ yielded the oldest known fragment of a NT manuscript. This small scrap from John’s Gospel (Jn 18:31-33,37-38) was dated by papyrologists to AD 125, but since it was so far south into Egypt, it successfully put an end to the then-popular attempt to late-date John’s Gospel to the second century rather than to the traditional first century date of AD 85-90.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1948 in caves at Qumran, near the northwest end of the Dead Sea, gave us some 800 manuscripts of every book (in part or the whole) of the OT except for Esther. Prior to that, the earliest Hebrew texts dated to around AD 1000, but the scrolls at Qumran are generally more than one thousand years older! These Hebrew texts illustrate that a thousand years of copying had provided us with an amazingly pure text, with one of the best examples being the book of Isaiah where only three words had slight modifications.

In 1990, a bone chest was discovered accidentally during work in Jerusalem’s Peace Forest. This ‘Caiaphas Ossuary’ belonged to the high priest from AD 18-36 (see his cynical words in Jn 11:49-53). The inscription, found in two places, read: ‘Caiaphas’ and ‘Joseph, son of Caiaphas.’ First-century Jewish historian Josephus provided the full name, ‘Joseph, who is called Caiaphas of the high priesthood.’

Space precludes discussion of the many more archaeological corroborations, such as the Pontius Pilate Inscription, the Pool of Siloam excavated in 2004, and the amazing Ketef Hinnom Amulets discovered in 1979 (with inscriptions of Nm 6:24-26 and Dt 7:9 perfectly matching the biblical Hebrew text — amazing since these seventh to sixth century BC amulets contain OT texts skeptics argued could not have been written until the 400s BC.)

Archaeology, then, has illuminated and corroborated the Bible in numerous ways. The interpreter finds in archaeology a good friend for understanding and substantiating Scripture.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this stuff encouraging and exciting. The fact that the people and things found within the Bible are set in history — and not merely “once upon a time in a land far away…” — should make them even more real to us as readers. These discoveries also not only provide insights into ancient history and peoples, which are valuable in themselves, but they give ever-increasing physical evidence that the biblical accounts are historically reliable. The Bible cannot be simply dismissed as fictions and fables.

If you are curious to dig into this subject more, in addition to the book mentioned in the opening quote, here are a couple more substantial texts: On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2003) by Kenneth Kitchen and Archaeology and the New Testament (1991) by John McRay. My copies are several years old, but there may be newer editions. An even older but handy introductory book that you might be able to find used is Archaeology and the Bible (1979) by Donald J. Wiseman and Edwin Yamauchi. (There are others, of course, but these are ones I am familiar with, and they are by respected archaeologists with a “high view” of Scripture.)

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Jesus Was NOT a Social Justice Warrior

“Jesus is the most famous Social Justice Warrior of all time.”  — misguided gamer on Tumblr

I thought that title might get your attention. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are already formulating your objections. I mean, isn’t it obvious that Jesus was a SJW, given all his attention to and instructions regarding the poor, sick, orphans, widows, etc.? EVERYbody knows this! Well, hold your horses for a minute and consider what Mr. Koukl has to say, alright?

I am referring, of course, to Greg Koukl — Christian apologist, speaker, author, radio show host — who just came out with a terrific new book called The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. In the chapter titled “The Rescue”, Koukl begins to answer the question “What did Jesus come to do?” by clarifying what He did not come to do.

“[L]et us be clear. Jesus did not come to help us get along or teach us to take care of the poor or to restore ‘social justice’.¹ To some, this assertion is a bold stroke, since they have been told just the opposite. This is because there are many noble people who are drawn to Jesus for his moral excellence (as they should be). However, often their admiration of his civic virtue has distracted them from a more important matter.

Their mistake is thinking that Jesus came principally to teach us how to live a better life. He did not. God had already sent many before with the kind of advice we need to hear, and there was no point in his personally coming down merely to repeat what had already been said. No, Jesus came for a different reason.

What I am going to say next will come as a shock to some, but here it is. You can eliminate every single thing Jesus ever said in his life about the poor and social justice, and still you will not undermine his main message one bit. As severe as that may sound, this is precisely what one of Christ’s closest followers actually did.

The Gospel of John is the last biography written on Jesus, and it came to us from his last surviving apostle, the ‘beloved’ disciple John, a member of Jesus’ intimate inner circle. Many think it the most elegant summary and most definitive statement of who Jesus was and what he came to do. Yet you can read from John’s first sentence to his last and you will not find a single word about helping the poor or restoring social justice. Not one. In John’s lone reference to the poor, Jesus is actually somewhat dismissive of them.² That is not because he doesn’t care about them, but because he is comparing their situation with something far more important.

This observation about John’s account in itself seems enough to make the point about Jesus’ focus, but let’s go a bit further. Jesus gave four major discourses — the Sermon on the Mount, the Bread of Life Discourse, the Olivet Discourse, and the Upper Room Discourse.³ Only in the first does he mention the poor at all. Yet even here there are two qualifiers you must keep in mind.

First, in his Sermon on the Mount Jesus commends not the poor per se but rather the poor in spirit. To them, he says, belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. There is a reason the Kingdom belongs to them — not because they are poverty stricken (their income is irrelevant to Jesus), but because they are morally broken and they know it.4 That is what ‘poor in spirit’ means. Picture the tax collector in Jesus’ parable — hardly a destitute man — beating his breast pleading, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’5 This man proclaiming his spiritual poverty goes away justified, Jesus says, while the Pharisee, whose spiritual arrogance clouds his genuine spiritual need, does not.

The second qualifier I want you to keep in mind about Jesus’ comments on the poor is this: In the vast majority of cases where Jesus mentions the poor, he does so not to commend the poor as such, but to make a point about something else — hypocrisy, a widow’s generosity, Zacchaeus’ repentence, the rich young ruler’s confusion, or a lesson about the afterlife.6 Even when he mentions them, the plight of the poor simply was not the focus of Jesus’ teaching.

Now, we must not conclude from this that Jesus didn’t care about the poor and so we need not care either. He cared very much about them, and the Story has much to say about their situation. Do not miss, though, that he also cared about the rich and powerful. Jesus helped everyone and anyone who came to him — poor beggar or prostitute, wealthy tax collector or Pharisee. The divide for Jesus was not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant, regardless of income or social standing. Miss that, and you miss everything.

These are the facts we must face if we are to get Jesus right. ‘Social justice’ is not the Gospel. It was not Jesus’ message. It was not why he came. His real message was much more radical. Jesus’ teaching — and the Story itself — focuses on something else. Not on the works of Christians but rather on the work of Christ. That is what the Story teaches.”

Make sense? Man, I wish I could write as clearly and insightfully as Koukl does. If you want to read more about “the Story”, follow the above link to get the book. (Note: Yes, that link has my affiliate code, as do most of my links to books on Amazon, so I’ll get a few cents if you purchase through it.) Plus, you can visit STR.org to read Greg’s articles and listen to his podcasts. And, of course, Greg and I both highly recommend reading the Bible, too. Check out the NET translation, free online over at lumina.bible.org. (It has the most footnotes of any translation out there, which is awesome, if you’re into that sort of thing — especially in re textual criticism.)


Footnotes:

1. The term social justice is misleading. The poor only need justice if they have been wronged in some way. Otherwise, the Story teaches charity and mercy toward those in need. The view that all poor people are victims is a recent invention. It is not what Jesus taught, and it is not part of the Story.

2. The single reference in John to the poor is found in Jn. 12:8: ‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.’

3. Find the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7; the Bread of Life Discourse in Jn. 6; the Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24, Lk. 21, Mk. 13; and the Upper Room Discourse in Jn. 13-17.

4. Jesus makes a reference to the poor in Lk. 4:18-19 NASB: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ Even here, though, it seems clear that, in light of the rest of the verse and everything that follows about Jesus’ teaching on ‘the Gospel,’ He is making reference to spiritual benefits, not material benefits.

5. Lk. 18:9-14

6. Hypocrisy (Matt. 6:2-3), a widow’s generosity (Lk. 21:2-3), Zaccheus’ repentance (Lk. 19:8), the rich young ruler’s confusion (Matt. 19:21), a lesson about the afterlife (Lk. 16:20,22).

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Sojourners Among the Hebrews vs. Illegal Immigrants in America

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”  — Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)

I don’t have to tell you how controversial an issue the whole illegal immigrants thing is. I mean, what is the compassionate thing to do, while still protecting U.S. citizens and making sure that our laws are respected and upheld? Should we deport millions of people? Do we care if we break up families? How does all this jibe with our founding principles? Etc.

Then there is the biblical angle. Christians want to do the right thing, according to God’s teaching. Loving our neighbor and all that. Even those who don’t normally hold the Bible — especially the Old Testament — in high regard suddenly become Bible thumpers, when they find a verse or passage that they think supports their position. In particular, those who are pro-open borders and amnesty quote the above passage (and others) to “prove” that the Bible is on their side — at least, on this issue. But, is it?

Is there a parallel between the ancient Hebrew nation and present-day America? Even if so, is it appropriate to apply God’s covenant instructions for Israel to the current situation in the U.S.? In a recent article for the Religion News Service (RNS), Dr. James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and author of The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, weighed in.

“This wonderful passage has nothing to do with illegal immigrants in America…. Old Testament laws were primarily intended to promote an orderly society for a nation — ancient Israel. Simplistic application of 3,000-year-old laws to American society is ill-advised until one thoroughly understands what was meant by “stranger” in this verse. The Bible is not “a living breathing document” that can mean whatever one wants it to say.

Regarding the Hebrew Scripture’s instructions on the “stranger,” two fundamental questions must be answered: What is a “stranger,” and how did people obtain that status?

The relevant Hebrew word is [transliterated] “ger,” variously rendered in different English translations of the Bible as “stranger,” “sojourner,” “alien” and more recently as “foreigner.” The [last] is quite misleading because there are other Hebrew terms for foreigner — for example, “nekhar,” or one who is passing through another country and not seeking residence. “Zar” is another Hebrew term rendered “foreigner,” but it has a more hostile nuance: a squatter or an enemy. The “ger” alone has obtained legal status to live in a different country and might be seen as a foreigner who has become a “protected citizen.””

In case anyone is curious, I checked over 30 current English translations (and a couple older ones) to see which ones use which term in the Leviticus passage: “stranger” is used by ASV, AMP, ESV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NLV, RSV, VOICE, WEB; “sojourner” is used by YLT, CLV; “alien” is used by CSB, ISV, LEB, NABRE, NRSV, REB; “foreigner” is used by CJB, CEV, GW, GNT, HCSB, MEV, MSG, NCV, NET, NIV, NLT; “outsider” is used by the TLV; “immigrants” is used by the CEB.

“How did people become legal aliens (gers) in another country? The classic example is when Jacob’s family went to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan. They asked Pharaoh for permission:

And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were” … “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen” (Genesis 47:3-6).

No less authority than the king of Egypt granted this permission. This means that the Hebrews, though foreigners, obtained legal status in Egypt; they were gers.

“Joseph Presenting His Father and Brothers” – by François Boucher

In biblical law the distinction between the alien or stranger (ger) and the foreigner (nekhar) is striking. The ger in Israel could receive social assistance such as the right to glean in the fields (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22) and resources from the tithes (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). The ger and citizen were to be paid alike (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

None of these benefits was available to the nekhar (the foreigner without legal status) in biblical law. Charging interest to fellow Israelites or ger was prohibited, but the foreigner (nekhar) was fair game (Deuteronomy 23:20). These passages show that aliens or strangers received all the benefits and protections of a citizen, whereas the foreigner (nekhar) did not. The reason is that the ger had legal status; they were, so to speak, documented!

It is wrong, therefore, to confuse these two sociological categories of foreigners and then to use Scripture regarding the ger as if it applied to immigrants of today who enter the country illegally. I would argue that if one wants to apply biblical passages regarding the ger to our context, green card holders would better correspond. They need protections so as not to be abused and exploited as we have unfortunately seen. Old Testament law simply does not address how people in the U.S. illegally should be treated.

My intention here is not to discourage utilizing biblical principles to shape public policy and law, but to call out the abuse of Scripture and to urge that it first be read carefully and contextually before emotionally satisfying, but simplistic and inaccurate, interpretations are applied to 21st-century American issues. Certainly Christians should not be made to feel guilty by the exploitation of Scripture by social justice activists who seek to advance a particular political agenda.”

Dr. Hoffmeier makes some much-needed distinctions, and I’m glad I came across his article. If the supporters of open borders and amnesty for illegal immigrants insist on making a biblical argument, they are going to have to do much better. (I, for one, don’t think they have a legitimate case, though.)

We seem to have many nekhars — and, unfortunately, more than a few zars — in the U.S. that are posing as gers or insisting that they be treated as such, and we cannot allow this to continue. Our new President agrees, and I pray that he, his administration, and our Congress use both wisdom and compassion in how they undertake to stem the flow of illegals and properly deal with those already here.

P.S.  Here is another article from Hoffmeier that I came across shortly before going to press. He addresses some of the above, as well as a little more on Moses, plus re sanctuary cities.

P.P.S.  On a related note, if you or someone you know is freaking out about Trump’s new executive order re refugees, etc., check out this article to get past the hysteria.

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On This Historic Day

As you probably have seen for yourselves, the media (including blogs of various sizes) has been awash with commentary on the Presidential Inaugural ceremonies — from the actual swearing in of Donald J. Trump as our 45th President to the various dances and observations of what the ladies in attendance were wearing. Rather than going in that direction, I wanted to express some feelings of excitement mixed with trepidation about the new administration and its potential impact on the nation and the world.

After wrestling a bit with the issue, I decided instead to share the following, which pretty much sums up what I am thinking and does it fairly concisely. It comes from an email sent out this past Friday afternoon by a Tea Party group called the Independence Hall Foundation. (Hope they don’t mind me sharing.)

“Dear Members and Friends,

On this historic day, the Foundation wishes both the incoming and outgoing presidents well as the peaceful transition of power, prescribed by the US Constitution, is successfully completed.

We have endured 8 long years under President Barack Obama’s leadership and can honestly say this day couldn’t have arrived soon enough.

To President Donald Trump, we extend our best wishes for a successful four years–one that brings peace and prosperity to all Americans.

As a conservative organization, we will support President Trump when he seeks to fulfill conservative policy goals–such as appointing conservative judges, repealing ObamaCare, cutting taxes, reducing regulations, preventing illegal immigration, or making America energy independent–and will oppose him (as we did President Obama) when he veers away from conservative principles by proposing trillion dollar spending programs, initiating new federal programs (childcare), or raising tariffs that lead to trade wars.

While we back the President’s support of Taiwan in the face of a hostile mainland China, we are horrified by his indifference to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia, Syria, and elsewhere–and his coziness with Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin.

And though we appreciate President Trump’s criticism of the United Nations, we are completely dismayed by his constant reference to NATO as obsolete.

Suffice it to say, we will be as vigilant with President Trump as we were with President Obama–the only caveat being that we expect to be in the 45th President’s corner more often than not.

On behalf of the Foundation Board,
Don Adams”

Trump & Co. appear to be off to a fine start, and I truly hope and pray that they stay on target, defending the Constitution (as originally conceived) and doing what is best for America and Americans. MAGA!

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3 Positive Things About Obama

I was reflecting on all of the negativity in the press about the President-elect-now-President Trump from the Left and other detractors and about the now-former President Obama by the Right. I have posted several things over the years about how bad a president Obama has been, and I stand by them. But, now I’d like to try to point out three objectively positive things about the man. I’ll be brief, but here goes…

1) He was “cool”. He exhibited an air of calm, cool confidence, both in his manner of speaking and in his body language. He just projected an ease about himself that was attractive and made people think, “This is one cool cat!” Then again, in another sense of the word “cool”, he also often came across as coolly indifferent. And, of course, whether or not his self-confidence was justified is another matter entirely.

2) He was articulate. Give the man a rousing speech to deliver — either memorized or by teleprompter — and he would knock it out of the park almost every time. For many, Obama’s rhythms and cadences served to make even the most self-serving talks sound inspiring. In fact, his most ardent fans seemed to be awestruck by his well-crafted, well-delivered addresses, such that the guy could do no wrong.

3) He appreciated decorum. For the most part, Obama appeared to respect the “dignified propriety of behavior, speech, dress, etc.” that is expected in the Office of the Presidency. I say this, of course, as one observing from a distance and only occasionally. Unlike our new President, Obama seemed to (mostly) exercise proper civility and restraint in his communications. At least, when he said stupid, inappropriate, and/or untrue things, he used the “proper” methods of communication.

Unfortunately, the above characteristics, while nice, are not enough to make anyone an upright or effective leader. Just sayin’…

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Blinded by the Light

reflectacles demo - camera 13If you watch a lot of cop shows like I do, you may have noticed how often facial recognition software provides the good guys with crucial images for identifying criminals, victims, and even witnesses. Though the real thing probably doesn’t have quite the success rate as its fictional counterpart, it really is amazing technology.

However,… with CCTV cameras here, there, and everywhere, — and not always obvious — isn’t it a bit disconcerting, knowing that people are (or could be) watching your every move? (At least, when those cameras are present.) Most of us probably recognize the need for such security measures in and around banks, for instance, and other institutions where financial transactions are handled and proprietary information is located. But, when the cameras are on street corners, traffic lights, subway platforms, etc., monitored by law enforcement and other government officials, it can get kinda creepy. “Police-state” creepy.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that someone has finally invented technology to counter such surveillance. Call it “anti-facial recognition”, if you will. Or, as creator Scott Urban calls his new eyewear product, “Reflectacles”. They are made from “solid blocks of clear cellulose acetate” and “micro-prismatic retro-reflective materials” normally only used in specialized fields. Microscopic examination reveals “many very small cube-like prisms that bounce light along each edge of the prism surface and then bounce it right back in the direction the light originated from,” as Urban explained to The Sun. No glare to the wearer, though.

Reflectacles Originals, available in seven different colors, reflect only visible light. Reflectacles Ghost, available only in Gray, intensifies the effect by incorporating micro-corner-cubes, “the most reflective material that currently exists… used in laboratory situations or for signal/controller applications.” This model reflects light from the visible and infrared portions of the spectrum.

reflectacles“This means, security cameras that work using infrared technology, which basically means a majority of such devices, will never capture your facial features when you are wearing Reflectacles Ghost…. [They] can also reflect visible light, due to which drivers on the road will be able to notice you at once as soon as you enter the road no matter if you are walking or riding a bike.” (H/T Hackread)

I think this is pretty cool, and I totally understand some people’s being a bit freaked out by the increased surveillance by the state. (Even more so in places like the UK than in the US… for now.) No surprise, then, that these are Urban’s primary target market. But I was concerned about criminals of various sorts using the tech to protect their own identities while committing crimes. To this, Urban points out that full-face ski masks are still cheaper and (in most cases) more effective for such nefarious purposes.

Sturdily built and reasonably priced (£77 Originals; £101 Ghost), Reflectacles will begin being sold in June 2017.

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Pure Fantasy

“[A]fter many decades of trying to comprehend the gender confusion that persisted even after my sex transition, I came to understand that my grandmother’s cross-dressing of me was emotional child abuse. The psychological harm grew as years went by.” — Walt Heyer

National_Geographic_Transgender_Cover_460_by_470You probably saw it — the recent National Geographic cover featuring a “transgendered” young boy by the name of Avery Jackson. Why NG decided to help push the LGBT agenda, I don’t know. But, the cover and issue are stirring a lot of controversy.

Former transgendered man, Walt Heyer, has previously written about the LGBT community and about his own experiences as part of that community and after having left it. This past week, Heyer wrote a commentary on NG’s transgender issue (no pun intended) and about the damage being done to young Avery and to society at large. He has no patience for NG’s conflation of mere cross-dressing with the more popular term, “transgenderism”.

“Avery is simply a cross-dressing boy. Cross-dressing affects outward appearance only; what you do not see are the deeper long-term psychological consequences. No sex is changed; no biological transformation takes place.”

Heyer’s combination of relating personal experience and sharing several sad realities about transgenders and transsexuals — the latter having undergone “sex reassignment” surgery — is particularly effective.

“I can see from my experience that transgenderism is fantasy motivated by strong feelings. When it comes to gender, people can change clothing and other aspects of the public persona, but biological sex will always remain fixed…. No amount of hormones or cosmetic surgery can effect a biological change of sex. Feelings, no matter how strong, cannot change sex. To pretend anything else is only a masquerade. At best, transgenderism is Mardi Gras, not reality….

Notably, the magazine does not include any interviews with individuals who have had their lives destroyed by the long-term consequences of cross-dressing and gender confusion. Cross-dressing eroded my true gender which in turn ruined my teen years, ripped apart my marriage, and ended my career.”

Why not check out Heyer’s article?  It’s not terribly long and definitely worth a read.

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The Obama Delusion

“Facts don’t care about your feelings.”  — Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro

Are you familiar with Ben Shapiro? He’s one of those conservative “young guns” making a name for himself these days — an attorney-turned-political commentator, columnist/author, and radio show host. He’s very sharp, articulate, possesses a familiarity with an amazing number of issues and pertinent facts, thinks clearly & critically about those issues, doesn’t get tripped up by PC nonsense, and has no problem calling out corruption, ineptitude, hypocrisy, foolishness, etc., regardless of race, creed, position, or political ideology. I like that. He’s also fearless, as he speaks at ideologically hostile venues (except when “tolerant” protestors manage to get his talks cancelled) and on panels where his non-PC, conservative views are clearly in the minority. (Here are a couple examples.) I greatly admire that, too.

I’m not saying I am totally in line with everything I’ve read or heard Shapiro say, but I am very impressed with him. So, when I discovered his daily “The Ben Shapiro Report” back around Thanksgiving last year, I subscribed. (Still training Hotmail not to automatically send it to the ‘Junk’ folder, unfortunately. Dang Russians!) Each email issue contains a “Subscriber Exclusive” from Ben, along with links to 4 more articles on The Daily Wire, which Shapiro founded and where he serves as editor-in-chief.

Last Monday, Shapiro started off the week/month/year with a reaction to President Obama’s quasi-revisionist, and possibly self-delusional, tweets about his administration’s legacy. Shapiro was civil but held nothing back….

“With the beginning of 2017 comes newfound optimism: in just two weeks, President Barack Obama’s term of office will come to an ignominious end. As the clock ticks down, Americans get more and more excited to see Obama’s back – we’ll no longer have to hear his sonorous baritone lecturing us about his higher morality, which invariably requires the overthrow of individualism in favor of the collective.

But Obama won’t leave without some historical rewriting.

He tweeted on January 1, “As we look ahead to the future, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the remarkable progress that you made possible these past 8 years.” What progress, pray tell? Obama tweeted that “Facing the worst financial crisis in 80 years, you delivered the longest streak of job growth in our history.” That neglects to mention that this was the weakest economic recovery in American history – that recessions are usually followed by booms, except when big government interventionism quashes those booms.

He tweeted, “After decades of rising health care costs, today nearly every American now has access to the financial security of affordable health care.” That’s patently insane. Obamacare has been a massive bust. When you mandate that people buy health insurance, people typically will do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s quality, that doctors will take it, or that health care gets better. Actually, premiums have skyrocketed nationwide under Obama, and only Medicaid has seen true growth – and many doctors are now rejecting Medicaid thanks to its low reimbursement rates. Amazingly, despite Obama’s health insurance mandate nearly 9 percent of Americans still have no health insurance.

obama-not-done-lyingObama said that America “traded foreign oil for clean energy, we doubled fuel efficiency standards, & we acted on a global scale to save the one planet we’ve got.” This has nothing to do with Obama’s policy. It has to do with dropping prices of oil worldwide, as well as the fracking industry’s production increase, which helped fill the gap domestically.

Obama added, “We brought home more of our troops & strengthened US leadership – leading with diplomacy & partnering with nations to meet global problems.” This is nuts, too. Syria is in flames. Libya is in flames.

Obama just set Israel on fire to watch it burn. Iran is now a burgeoning regional hegemon. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is on the move everywhere from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. China is moving rapidly to consolidate control over the South China Sea and expand its sphere of influence over surrounding states ranging from Taiwan and the Philippines to South Korea and Japan. Iraq is a war zone. Afghanistan is a disaster area.

Obama stated, “From realizing marriage equality to removing barriers to opportunity, we’ve made history in our work to reaffirm that all are created equal.” Actually, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a Constitutional right, Obama has utilized his power to crack down on religious Americans, and race relations are at a serious low in the modern era.

Obama concluded, “It’s been the privilege of my life to serve as your President. I look forward to standing with you as a citizen. Happy New Year everybody.”

Get out, President Obama.

And don’t let the door hit you.”

Nailed it! Thanks, Ben. (Can I call you ‘Ben’?)

P.S.  Just f.y.i., he’s no fan of Trump, either.

P.P.S.  This brings to mind one of my favorite Frasier Crane quotes from “Cheers”: “[Mr. President], what color is the sky in your world?” Also, I just realized that this isn’t the first time I’ve used “Obama” and “Delusion(s)” together in a title.

P.P.P.S.  I don’t know what the terms of use are for these “subscriber exclusives”, because the “Terms of use” text at the bottom of the emails is not hotlinked. But, if you haven’t already, let me hereby highly recommend that you all subscribe to “The Ben Shapiro Report”. It’s great stuff! (Check out ‘The Daily Wire‘, too.)

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24 Quotes About “24”

“You are gonna tell me what I want to know. It’s just a question of how much you want it to hurt.”  — Jack Bauer, Season 5

Something kinda fun to ring in the New Year…

Did you know that a new “24” TV series is about to debut? Yup! “24: Legacy” will premiere on Feb. 5, 2017, on the Fox Network. No Jack Bauer, though. Corey Hawkins stars as Eric Carter, “A military hero who returns to the U.S. with a whole lot of trouble following him back. With nowhere else to turn, the man asks CTU to help him save his life while also stopping one of the largest-scale terror attacks on American soil.” (IMDB plot summary) It’s too bad Kiefer Sutherland opted not to return, but I am still optimistic and looking forward to the new show.

For Christmas 2015, I received a copy of the book Secrets of 24: The Unauthorized Guide to the Political & Moral Issues Behind TV’s Most Riveting Drama as a gift. (Note: It was published prior to the debut of Season 7.) It’s a great choice for me, since it mixes the subjects of my two blogs. It has been a year now, and I haven’t yet worked it into my reading schedule. But, I was recently skimming through it and got an idea for a blogpost. This one, in fact.

secretsof24Interspersed throughout the book’s text — which includes articles by and interviews with various journalists, writers, actors, experts of different kinds, etc. — are little sidebars, “quick takes on the facts, humor, and breadth of voices and ideas generated by ’24′”. So, I have chosen 24 of my favorites to share with you. A few are funny or merely informative, but most give insight into the show, the central character of Jack Bauer, and their influence by and on American culture. Hope you like…

Among the boldface names who are fans of the show: Dave Barry, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Jim Cramer, Billy Crystal, Tony Danza, Trent Dilfer, Geena Davis, Bill Gates, Laura Ingraham, Stephen King, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, Jim McMahon, Donald Rumsfeld, Seal, Barbra Streisand, Clarence Thomas, and Tina Turner.

“We do want democratic process, but we also want justice. And the show allows us to have both, and that’s why we love it.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“We always had the idea of this King Lear story, of Jack being the prodigal son, the guy who was his father’s favorite but turned against his dad, and the less favorite son took over the empire. In some ways, you get to see that his family is his destiny.”  — ’24’ executive producer Howard Gordon on the plan to give Jack Bauer “genetic responsibility for a lot of the misery by association” in Season six, when he duels with both his brother and his father

“An America that looks to Bauer rather than Batman is an altered nation indeed.”  — Ezra Klein, blogger and writing fellow, The American Prospect

o  Jack Bauer has been to Mars. That’s why there’s no life on Mars.
o  Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
o  How many CTU special agents does it take to change a lightbulb? Twenty. Nineteen to set up a perimeter, while Jack Bauer tortures the lightbulb into revealing the whereabouts of the socket. [Ed. Note: I think the better answer is, of course, twenty-four.]
— sampling of Internet humor about ’24’

“The show reflects where we are in the culture at this moment in time. Every generation has it. There’s social transformation going now in the way we see the world, domestic policy, foreign policy, domestic intelligence, and foreign intelligence. All these things are becoming blurred, as are the questions that we have to face on morality. And the show does a really great job of trying to put those questions on a personal level for all of us. We’re all Jack Bauer in our hearts.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“I have fallen in love with another man. For the past five months we have been meeting in a dark room every Sunday night, while the children are tucked up in bed and my husband snores upstairs. It is crazy because I know he would love him too, but he lacks the stamina that this relationship requires. So it’s just me… and Jack Bauer…. His sense of duty is unbreakable. His idea of a hot date is to bundle you into the boot of a mercenary’s car and he is more interested in speed-dialing the office than sex. Yet there is a vulnerability about Jack where women are concerned. Tenderness even. He would lay down his life to get you home safely and maybe, just maybe, this time you could make him stay.”  — Sheila McClennan, The Guardian (UK)

24-seasons-1-6“Characters that push things over the limit are interesting characters. It’s very natural to create a character like that in the world of terrorism because there are so many difficult moral, ethical and legal dilemmas, political dilemmas, that constantly arise. You want a character that’s over the edge a little.”  — Robert Cochran, co-creator, ’24’

“When men watch Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer they enter into a contract with the characters. They watch and savor the brutality but recognize how pathetic these heroes are. Guys watch TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ’24’ and see all the horror, humiliations and complications of being male. Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer are not role models to emulate. They are case studies to brood upon. They are a warning. Every man knows that.”  — John Doyle, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

According to co-creator Joel Surnow, the first few episodes of ’24’ were heavily influenced by the movies Three Days of the Condor, La Femme Nikita, and The Day of the Jackal. But these episodes were “in the can” before 9/11. Afterward, and in fact for every season after the first, Surnow says the plots were influenced by “real events.”

“While we don’t try to represent any kind of real truth — obviously 24 hours in the format makes it impossible — we try to, I think, present an essential truth, or an essential problem. So when Jack Bauer tortures, it’s in a compressed reality… We try to compress these arguments and these issues and dramatize them in obviously very unreal ways, but hopefully in dramatic and compelling ways. And that’s really ultimately our master… making a compelling, ‘adrenalized’ TV show.”  — Howard Gordon, executive producer of ’24’

“’24’ dispenses with the politically correct evasions that pervade prime time episodic television…. It identifies the terrorist enemy without flinching and lets the good guys fight to win — without apologies.”  — Christian Toto, The Washington Times

“In this age of terror and worldwide insecurity, ’24’ created the illusion of an all-American superagent on whose watch the bad guys, whether Muslims or Russians or shady white men, would inevitably blow off their sorry behinds. It was political comfort food.”  — Andrea Peyser, the New York Post

“’24’ was well into production when the terrorist attacks on September 11 happened. The effect on the show was that Fox’s legal department reviewed the first few episodes and made us recut the sequence where the 747 blows up at 36,000 feet (11,000m). Fox did not want to show the actual plane exploding in the air. It also meant that an extensive aerial sequence which was to have been shot by a second unit downtown was shut down and we had to substitute Glendale for downtown.”  — Jon Cassar, director and producer of ’24’

Over six seasons, the enemies depicted on ’24’ have included mercenaries, Serbian nationalists, Arab terrorists, American oil executives, Mexican drug lords, corrupt British businessmen, the Chinese, pseudo-Chechen terrorists, a vast right-wing conspiracy based in the White House, more Arab terrorists, rogue Russian officials, and, of course, Jack Bauer’s own father and brother.

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