Wednesday, August 10, 2022

on O'Reilly's "Killing Patton"

I've thought about reading a book from Bill O'Reilly's series on conspiracy killings and I finally got around to reading his work (with Martin Dugard) on General George Patton. This book is doubly interesting to me because it may be the last book my dad ever read. He read from this series; he was a huge fan of Patton; and he died within a year of the book's publication. So, I don't know, but I'd be surprised if he didn't read it and it wouldn't be shocking if this was the last one!

Let me open with two broad points. First, the book is an easy read, with a lot of interesting detail, well-organized, and so on. If you're into this sort of thing (a combo of history, unsolved mysteries, biography), it's good stuff. I wouldn't go out of my way to read this series (not my cup of tea) unless I was particularly interested in the subject's life. 

Second, I was impressed and a bit surprised that O'Reilly was sober in his analysis and (seemed) careful to distinguish between contexts where he and the consensus are more/less certain of how things went.  I expected more flash, hyperbole, and sensationalism. (It reminded me of Randy Alcorn's approach in his excellent book Heaven-- and a humble anthropological/archaeological dig we saw at Carters' Grove in VA, where they would only build/exhibit as much as they knew.) 

Aside from that, I just want to share some favorite observations from the book: 

-Ike was willing to put up with Patton given his prowess in leading his troops (51). In contrast, Hitler  has Rommel killed after suspicions that he was involved in trying to have Hitler killed (33-36). Granted, Patton's many excesses were merely problematic, insubordinate, and embarrassing, while Rommel was traitorous. But there is debate about the extent to which Rommel was involved. And it still points to a larger issue about a willingness-- or not-- to tolerate garbage from people who have much to offer you (or society). 

-Eisenhower's long-running affair with Kate Summersby is another example/aspect of the sort of mediocre religiosity that Ike brought to the presidency as he reflected as pseudo-Christian version of religion, American Civil Religion. It was fascinating to read about efforts to keep them apart and ironic to see efforts to erase their history-- all for the good of Ike's political future and "the country". Not surprisingly, she wasn't a fan of this work (279-280, 320).

-Patton's take on religion was much more fervent, even if wrong-headed at times. A blurb from his journal is telling: "I seemed always to be a ray of sunshine, and by God, I always am. We can and will win, God helping." (116) But he also believed in reincarnation, from a few personal experiences (200). The most amazing discussion was about Patton's prayers when he was frustrated with God for the weather in Christmas 1944. It is full-throated stuff-- reminiscent of the prophets, psalmists, Moses, David and Job; questioning how God runs His universe. (126-131) And then, when God comes through, he backtracks, repents and apologizes (159). 

-The authors have a brief discussion of the "scientific racism" that helped drive the German efforts. Akin to slavery back in the day, eugenics throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and the popularity of the Molechian position on abortion, human beings were seen as "sub-human." (95, 97)

-A bit surprising: O'Reilly holds the popular but erroneous views that FDR deserves acclaim for his handling of the economy (69, 166). He also noted FDR's electoral prowess, only surpassed by Reagan. Ignoring policy, if you're going to give credit for improving morale, popularity and election success, and leading through difficult times, FDR and Reagan have to be in the upper tier of your presidential rankings. 

-The premise of the book are the possibilities that Patton was murdered. Here, he lays out a few possible angles (274-275, 285). The Russians wanted him dead and had experimented extensively with poison (286-290). Patton knew "too much" and some folks at the CIA/OEO wanted him dead (294-295). And then, the strangest thing involves a strange plane incident (241-242) and then, the direct manner of his death-- a suspicious car accident with a new driver (283, 297-303, 309-313). The car crash resulted in his paralysis and his death a few days later. While it's certainly possible that it was an accident; it's also possible that it was nefarious.

Smaller things: 

-Patton predicted Pearl Harbor (74)

-The West Point Class of 1915 was amazing (87), including Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. 

-O'Reilly (100) details the differences between the barbaric SS and the more standard aspect of the German military, the Wehrmacht.

-I hadn't heard of the "Malmedy Massacre" (102), but apparently it's relatively well-known, including prosecution for war crimes. 

-Hitler's health woes were impressive-- self-inflicted wounds and not the best constitution to boot (135).

-They detail Stalin's cleverness in dealing with the West. (I have it on my shelf, but I hope to read about this angle in McMeekin's Stalin's War.)

-There are a few interesting, explicit references to incentives in concentration camps (176) and Stalin encouraging rape as a reward for soldiers (192). 

-Jews were tattooed with a number-- their new identity to replace their name (183). 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

on "orientation", choice, determinism, etc.-- with applications to male (and female) sexuality (hetero and homo)

Thanks for the 1st paragraph and the clarification on the 2nd P. In particular, it seems important/vital to make the distinction between men and women in terms of sexual fluidity. And it seems to me, without strong evidence, significant female sexual fluidity undermines the claim that males have no fluidity. Of course, it's possible that females have quite a bit, while males have none, but this seems odd. (As an interesting aside, such a difference is troubling for those who [like/need to] imagine that men and women are roughly the same.)

To be clearer on my end in the 2nd P: I'm modeling orientation as a spectrum rather than a 0/1-- and I'm not narrowing this to (male) homosexuality. If the model is correct, then feeding an orientation will make it stronger, tend us toward more rationalization about both the orientation and the choices within it, etc. So, for example, if I don't practice disciplines in contexts that tempt me to anger, then I will tend grow angrier over time. If I hit the cookie jar more and more, it will be more and more difficult to avoid it. If I watch porn, I will increasingly objectify women, etc. And so on. (Beyond the narrow point, I believe that orientations are inter-related: if I hit the cookie jar with less self-control, then I will tend to struggle more with anger, lust, doing difficult things, etc.)

I don't see this (or at least these examples) as debatable. Within this model, some orientations might be tougher to battle than others-- or tougher for certain people: easier to end up on a slippery slope, more difficult to move the other direction, etc. But this model allows for the impact of choice (vs. utter determinism) for all/most people.

Is male homosexuality or other things (e.g., alcoholism) different in this regard-- for everybody or anybody? I don't think so and would need (strong) evidence that X is different from the model that I believe (strongly) to be correct. (To be candid, I'm not sure that fully-compelling evidence is even possible. What would it look like?) Perhaps it's interesting that sex and alcohol are arguably the (only?) two areas where there are questions about my model. In any case, is alcoholism inevitable for some people? Is there a trigger for potential alcoholics-- that they have a first drink and then they're toast? It's difficult to believe it's that simple. It's common to hear that males have a "sex addiction". But what does that mean? How did this happen? Were/are they without choice? And finally, why would homosexuality be different in this regard? It's easy enough to believe that many/most males are strongly oriented toward homo or hetero from an early age. But even there, we know examples where people cross between the two, undermining the claim for utter rigidity. And my model allows that change in some/many cases (albeit difficult in many of those cases).

Happy to continue the discussion on FB-- and maybe the public portion is instructive to others. But it took a long time to craft this, so if it'd be more constructive to meet in person, let me know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

on "Christian" cowardice...

Let me go two ways here:

1.) Individual believers often lack courage-- and when so, it's a lack of faith and/or (head and experiential) knowledge. Courage assumes there's something to fear-- and that's fine; that's life. So, what's the response to fear: courage or cowardice? Key reasons for cowardice for Christians:
a.) lack of trust in God's providence (Do I really believe? I generally live/do in line with what I really believe!);
b.) sins of omission tend to be subtle (People see and call out sins of commission much more often-- their own and others.);
c.) lack of knowledge about what to do in any given circumstance (Related: Christians often quote Joshua 1:6,7,9 to "be strong and courageous", but they don't know and aggressively address what's in 1:8!).

2.) Related but far deeper and wider: many self-styled "Christians" aren't believers; they're "belongers". Religion has its sociological components-- a way of belonging-- and those tend to dominate when religion X is in the majority. Or we might say that they're X culturally but not religiously. In our country, this manifests as "cafeteria Christians"-- picking and choosing among Christian doctrines and practices, without meaningful biblically-Christian community-- as a way of life, with (really) themselves as god.

So, we have been a "Christian" nation in this sociological sense (with a peak in the 1950s). But to your point, we have not been a Christian nation in the religious/biblical sense. What we've seen in the last few decades and esp. the last few years, is the falling away of the belongers from churches-- and a significant increase in self-styling as "nones" rather than "Christian". (Nobody is a "none" in a religious sense, but it's easy to be "none" in the sociological sense.) This trend is generally good news-- probably quite good news, since they're less of a fraud and ironically, more likely to accept the Good News.

If you've read this far, you would like (love?) one of my essays on this latter point-- on "Christianity" as "American Civil Religion".

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Ridley on the benefits of "global warming"

Ridley is a good often provocative read on many topics. I've seen a version of this article in the past and use that in my on-line Micro class as a forum. (Maybe I'll update to this one.)

At the least, this is a good reminder of a key principle in politics and public policy: if you're being pounded with the (supposed) costs of a condition and the (supposed) benefits of a policy remedy-- while the benefits of the condition and the costs of the policy are (largely/completely) ignored-- then the purveyor is a rube OR a demagogue who thinks/hopes you're a rube.


on jazz and Christianity

I had a small jazz phase, and even played around a bit on my violin, but can't say that I ever "got into jazz".

This book project is interesting by its nature: wrestling with a claim that X is a conduit of the Gospel rather than merely consistent with the Gospel. (I've done something similar with Libertarian political positions vs. its political philosophy.)

And it's interesting because it's....well, jazz. I seem to remember a movie line about "it's the notes that are missing". (What is that reference?!) This is also true for life and Christianity: it's often the things that aren't there-- whether righteous acts, sins, or blessings of omission.

But I'm also reminded of the line in Amadeus about "too many notes". Again, there is often the misperception of "too much" in Christianity: too many things to do or not do to supposedly be righteous-- and too much to add to the saving work of Jesus and the grace of God to supposedly be saved.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Indiana's 9th-CD GOP Primary 2022

It seems crazy now, but I thought I could win the race for Indiana’s hotly-contested 9th District seat for U.S. Congress in the May 3rd primary—if our grass roots spread widely; if my advertising choices paid off; if big money and/or big name-recognition didn't crush; and if God's hand was in it (in terms of delivering a victory). None of these conditions played out in our favor and we only got 3% of the vote. In particular, I over-estimated how much money we would raise; under-estimated what others would spend; and didn't understand that big money was absolutely crucial to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. 

One implication of this is that governance should be state and local rather than federal, as much as possible. There are other reasons to prefer state/local: it's constitutional in most cases; it leaves less room for bureaucratic excess; it is centered closer to the problem—and thus, in most cases, more able to form better solutions; and so on. But the connection to money is another concern. If big bucks are required, then we end up with a decidedly mixed bag of self-funded, independent candidates—or more often, candidates funded by national interests. 

Interesting characteristics of this election

First, having an off-year primary was useful, since fewer (marginal) voters turned out. Many people are attracted to the voting booth by the shiny object of a presidential election. Usually, they know even less than the average voter. And having so many candidates could have been advantageous because it diluted the crowd's impact, spreading it among many candidates.  

Second, because we had so many candidates, we only had one significant forum and no debates—both of which would have been helpful to me. (When we had an opportunity to speak, it was usually a 2-3 minute elevator speech—a limited medium for making comparisons between candidates, since it's a short time completely controlled by each candidate.) It was more challenging than normal to arrange for debates, but not prohibitively so. The lack of debates stemmed from poor organization and/or bias in trying to avoid them (by candidates or the establishment).

Third, I ran as an "economics professor", trying to bring expertise on federal public policy (especially in economics) to Congress. Among a wide array of economic policy concerns, my top issue was the national debt—driven by both of the major political parties for the last 20 years. (Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea to have at least one econ prof in DC these days?!)

A few times, people expressed concern about a connection between professor, college, and "liberal". This is a common point of confusion, conflating the Left-dominance of research-oriented (often "elite") universities with the moderation/conservatism of regional schools like IU Southeast. Our faculty aren't particularly Leftist, but even if they were, the market (consumers) wouldn't allow us to exercise it. If you're worried about Leftist dogma or trying to avoid poor teaching at research-focused schools, send your kids to schools like IUS instead. 

Fourth, Trump wasn't discussed publicly—in elevator speeches or sadly, even in our few opportunities to answer questions in a forum setting. The candidates were probably not eager to broach the topic, especially with such a short time to speak. And I suspect local party leaders wanted to avoid such a divisive topic.

Trump did come up, toward the end, in terms of advertising. One big-money candidate declared "pro-Trump" and the others followed. I suspect this was causation: Once someone broke the implied cartel and brought him up, the others had to follow or risk getting left behind. (Our campaign ran into many more people who were anti-Trump than pro-Trump. But this could be a reflection of anti-Trump preferences that were stronger.)

All of these are interesting factors, but none made a significant difference—at least for the small-money candidates. Exceedingly few voters paid attention to us—or were ever going to do so. I wasn't rejected; I was ignored. None of the above (except big money) would have changed this. 

Running our race

I'm glad that I thought victory was possible, because this made it much easier to stay motivated! I was amazed how God strengthened me—and my body/mind continued to wake me up early-AM after 5-6 hours of sleep for weeks on end. (I broke my ankle a month into the race, so I was actually limping for Congress instead of running!) Beyond attending dozens of events, I made 7,000 calls; we mailed out 5,000 postcards; we sent 35,000 texts; and we had 775,000 targeted banner ads on phones and computers. 

All of those efforts were spread throughout the district. Our only geographically-focused efforts were hundreds of radio ads on four stations (Christian and news/talk). You rarely know what works in a political campaign. (The only measurables are campaign contributions, volunteers, and yard signs.) In our case, looking at the results, we can confidently say that nothing worked (well), at least in a race against big-money opponents.

We focused on 25K or so of the 32K most-likely (off-year, GOP primary) voters we could reach through the data we had. So, I thought we were making contact with most of the voters. Wrong. Voter turnout was much higher than expected at 58K. (The District continues to trend GOP strongly, since the last off-year primary, so that's probably responsible for much of this gap.) So, my vote total was on the lowest end of my expectations. And thus, my vote percentage was much lower than the worst I anticipated. Another implication of the turn-out: we advertised to less than half of those who actually voted. Not good.  

With my previous campaign experience, there were some important things that I understood relatively well, but other things that I still missed. (One small, odd thing: our JPG banner ads had much higher click rates than the equivalent GIF files.) I made two mistakes: 1.) When I had good phone calls early in the campaign, we sent a hand-written postcard with a note from me. But we should have followed up more than once; we should have cultivated those relationships. 2.) Until Election Day, when I experienced the boring Clark County ballot, I never thought about the potential impact of important local races attracting more voters (e.g., sheriff). With more bandwidth and resources, we might have differentiated efforts based on expected turnout by geography. 

I'm happy with how smart we ran with the resources we had. I could have done things a bit better, but not much. I'm impressed with how hard we ran. I haven't worked that much since late in my undergrad years or maybe the first year of grad school. And among our many volunteers, I had four who were work horses: David on the website; Buddy, Mom, and Tonia texting like freaks.

Most important, I'm content with how well we ran, loving the people we came into contact with. We avoided negative campaigning. In our texts and phone calls, we engaged ornery people graciously. We ministered to people who are not yet (comfortable) in the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

For me, a big part of this was a.) staying balanced in my time with the boys and especially my wife Tonia; b.) observing a Sabbath from Saturday evening through Sunday evening; and c.) Bible study. In my previous two campaigns, I did daily Bible reading in the Gospels. This time, I mostly kept up with my radio/podcast and Bible teaching schedules.

Two other thoughts on faith. First, it turns out that my teaching schedule included Wednesday nights. Fortunately, the political calendar only had one Wednesday night event, bowing to the common Christian practice of Wednesday night programming. Providentially, my schedule had been determined many months before, allowing me to miss very little political activity because of classroom commitments.

Second, in my elevator speeches, I typically started with biography and then moved to policy (especially federal spending and the national debt). Within my biography, I mentioned our ministry efforts and resources. It never seemed to inspire much interest and I was never asked anything further about it. This is not too surprising, since the folks at these events are approaching politics as something between a serious hobby, a job/career, and a god. Few would be expected to have much if any bandwidth or interest in ministry as a priority, even assuming that they're Christian. (Again, this can't give a Christ-follower much reason for faith in the political process.)

We did best in Floyd and Clark counties—and relatively well in Monroe and Brown. (I'm not sure why on the latter two.) In four counties, I was beat by Bill Thomas—someone who made no apparent effort and ran as a Democrat a few years ago. Then again, Bill beat quite a few of the lower-tier candidates in certain counties. He even finished 4th in Harrison County! (That's apparently where he lives. And maybe a plain/popular name helps a bit—at least on the lower end?)

We can't take any of this personally, since we were rarely judged personally! (The big-money candidates—Erin Houchin, Mike Sodrel, and Stu Israel-Barnes—might lose some sleep over being judged, since they were all actively rejected by a majority of the voters!) Only a handful of voters really considered my candidacy. In a word, we weren't disliked; we were rarely considered at all.  

This lines up beautifully with a key tenet of "Public Choice" economics: the nearly-universal "rationally-ignorant voter". Since most voters have so little to offer the process—a vote and maybe a few bucks—there is little incentive to gain knowledge. Instead, voters typically rely on cheap and reasonably-effective signals (e.g., party, campaign spending, yard signs) to choose.

Labor economists call this "statistical discrimination"—as people stereotype and pre-judge to make decisions with highly-limited and costly-to-obtain information. (Of course, all of us do this every day, in a vast array of contexts!) As such, most voters simply ignored the six small-money candidates—and weighed the three big-money candidates, based on a policy issue, impressions from ads, etc. (All of this ties into my most-recent academic paper in Cato Journal on "the limits of democracy".) 

The campaign and the outcome

The winner (Erin) had big money and had been a five-term state legislator. Mike had served in Congress in 2004-06; is a long-time truck company owner; and was largely self-funded. Stu had no legislative experience but spent a lot of money. J had one term in the state legislature but only spent $5K. Erin got 37%; Mike got 26%; Stu got 21%; and J got 3% (like me).

I was not able to raise enough money to be a factor. A key economic concept explains part of the problem. Many people may want me to win, but they’d also like to keep their money. This leads to the “free-rider problem”, where people benefit from the efforts of others without contributing. Economists call this a “public good”—where consumption is “non-excludable” even if one does not pay. (Sometimes, markets can get around this problem, but provision is tricky, requires creative ways to raise money, and is usually produced at a sub-optimal level.) This problem was exacerbated since I was trying to raise money from people who aren’t particularly fond of government in the first place.

Another potential money-raising angle is PAC’s. All three of the big-money candidates got help from national groups. The House caucuses were bidding into the process, looking for winners who would help them fund-raise in the future. This story describes a crypto-CEO supporting Erin. I might have had a shot at this, given my views—if I’d been above the radar. And I had hoped Americans for Prosperity would get behind me. But I wasn’t a player and getting involved wouldn’t make much sense to them with so many candidates in the field.

Unfortunately, big money was required to have a shot. (Three candidates spent at least a half-million dollars, including help from PAC’s.) After that, the quality of the campaign and the perceived quality of candidates were decisive. In local and state races, diligent effort can substitute. But there's not enough work in the world to make a difference at the federal level.

 

Fortunately, the best (big-money) candidate won. Objectively, Erin ran the best race. She was specific in describing both her past record and her plans for the future. She has the best resume; she raised big money; she connected with the establishment; and she had a good ground game. Her margin of victory in Lawrence Co. (not her home county!) was enough to beat all of us, even if she didn't win another county.

 

Even better: The most-likely-to-be-conservative (big-money) candidate won. Erin seems to have a solid and broad conservative record as a state legislator. My only concern is her (rapidly) increasing connections with "the establishment." But hopefully, she won't compromise. Mike was reliably conservative when he was in Congress on everything except fiscal matters. (See: his grades from the National Taxpayers Union. See also: being average in a big-spending Congress can't be considered fiscally conservative.) Stu might be conservative, but has no record and his promises were too vague to inspire much confidence. 

It's probable that gender discrimination—for and against Erin—played a small role. I'd guess that there was anecdotal negative and significant positive, but not enough either way to change the race. From Republicans (compared to Democrats), I'd expect a bit more negative discrimination and less positive discrimination toward women. (Of course, one would hope for no discrimination at all!) It's interesting to speculate here, but it's all a guess; we can't estimate the impact of these empirically. 

Jim Baker "won" among the small-money candidates, earning 5%. He spent the most money among the six of us. And I suspect that he had the strongest ground game: more contacts across the district from his business connections—and thus, the ability to use/distribute yard signs. Another interesting factor (h/t to fellow candidate, Brian Tibbs): being first on the ballot is usually helpful. (There is some academic research on this!) The effect is (far) larger in down-ballot races, where voters have even less information than usual. But it probably gave Jim a little boost. 

J Davisson did well in his state legislative district—a small subset of the congressional district. (This probably pulled a bit from Houchin.) Jim, Brian, and I all did relatively well in Clark and Floyd—not surprising, given our connections here (including Brian's state rep race in 2020). The three of us probably pulled a bit from Sodrel, but not nearly enough to make a difference. And we all would have needed to drop out to help him at all, since we were pulling from each other to a large extent. (Interestingly, Jim and Brian both have significant connections to DC: Thoroughly Equipped—our discipleship curriculum. Jim hosted the first DC group in So. IN at his office. Brian's church used DC a ton and were the inspiration for what started as DC for Students and later became Getting Equipped.)

Earned media was of marginal (or no) importance. As expected, local radio and TV barely covered the race. The newspapers in the district have become far less active since I ran in 2006-08. (I saw the trend in dramatic trends from 2006 to 2008 in Bloomington. But all of the newspapers have faded in terms of political relevance since then.) The Indy Star was active but seemed biased—with an early puff piece for Houchin, 1.5 (legitimate) pokes at Sodrel and Barnes-Israel, and a juicy topic they never raised. Still, their impact was probably even less than mine.  

Related: It was interesting to learn that appearances on Fox/MSNBC and national talk radio are probably bought. (What are those prices? What is the role of third parties in facilitating these trades?) Stu appeared on FoxNews and one often hears candidates on talk-radio shows. It also makes one wonder about larger newspapers. With journalism and journalistic integrity fading over the past few decades, would/did they take money for stories? (Ironically, we could use some investigative journalism to figure this out!) 

Newspapers didn't print (or report on) press releases—even those of substance. For example, all of the big-money candidates (and at least two of the small-money candidates) openly supported a three-term (six-year) limit on tenure in the U.S. House. In contrast, I can support a longer term-limit, but understand that term limits are a mixed-bag approach, a distraction from larger issues, and a terrible idea if so short. Why? Well, imagine a one-term limit: it creates lame ducks immediately and it would transfer more power to an unelected bureaucracy. Of course, a three-term limit is not as bad, but it's not much better either. 

Here's the kicker: a six-year limit would maximize the number of people who receive the Congressional pension (which kicks in after...wait for it...five years). Hilarious! So, instead of term limits, I committed to refusing the Congressional pension—something only done by Ron DeSantis, Ron Paul, and Thomas Massie. You'd think that'd be "news"—both the policy analysis of term limits and the pledges that we'd taken. But no.

The candidates were mostly collegial—and always so with me. I really enjoyed my time with J, Jim, Brian, and Dan Heiwig (whose effort faded down the stretch). Of the big-money candidates, Stu and Erin were friendly to me—although it was easier for me to talk with Erin than Stu (not sure why). It was most awkward with Mike. We have some history from the 2006/08 races—no big deal to me, but perhaps something from his perspective. Then again, he seemed to be awkward with most/all of us. 

It was all friendly within the lower-tier, because we didn't take ourselves or the process too seriously. With one ironic exception, it was friendly enough between the tiers, because we were no threat and everyone was nice enough. It got a bit chippy in the ads between those in the upper-tier, so they didn't talk much in public. But the ads didn't seem especially brutal; this was simply par (or even birdie) for an often-unfortunate course. 

The county political events were generally well-run. Almost all of the local party leaders are volunteering a ton of time/energy and doing a commendable job. As a group, they were passionate, hard-working, competent, engaged, kind, and impressive. The interest group activity (federal, state, and local) was decidedly more mixed, ranging from professional and balanced to incompetent and corrupt. Their power is another tenet of Public Choice economics: the incentives are well in place for these folks to pursue concentrated benefits through government activity. But it’s another reason to have even less faith in the political process.

One anecdote stands out to me. I had a Zoom call with the Climate Change Lobby—an environmental group with branches in Bloomington and New Albany. I didn't anticipate much common ground. But I'll listen to anyone (for a while) and I'm happy for opportunities to teach as well. To my surprise, we were in nearly-complete agreement, since they were free-market environmentalists! So that was cool, but here's the sad part: none of my GOP colleagues met with them. Ideally, we'd have representatives in Washington who can listen and speak—not just as a reliable GOP vote, but as a thoughtful, civil, conservative voice in DC. 

Sadly, the process was quite a bit more sterile than my general election runs in 2006 and 2008. First, the timing was tight and the pace was blistering. We only had 13 weeks to put everything together. Second, most of the efforts were concentrated among political types—given the pacing, the paucity of off-year primary voters, and the need to vet and promote candidates for many different offices. Third, because you weren't going to talk with many people, it put more weight on short encounters and impersonal advertising.  

It was good times, all in all. I was called to run, but I wasn't called to win. Good news: I can return to my wonderful, purpose-filled, normal life! I won't run again—unless God bangs on my door, something strange happens, or you know folks who can help me raise at least $250,000! (I might do something at the local level, where money is not crucial, but I'm not particularly interested in state policy.)

We learned that big money is essential in national politics. This doesn't bode well for the future of the country. I wasn't optimistic about turning things around with respect to federal spending and the national debt—a dangerous, immoral, and undemocratic bipartisan effort. But with the power of money and “the establishment”, I'm less excited about the ability of Congress in general, and the GOP in particular, to take us where we ought to go. It's a good thing we have greater things in which we should place our trust.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

on giving/stewardship and "the Prosperity Gospel"

I see "the Prosperity Gospel" (PG) as a spectrum rather than a 0/1. I'm "in the middle", seeing important errors on both sides. Hard-core PG treats God like a vending machine who is mostly interested in our material well-being. Unacceptable. But there's another side that is gnostic, imagining that what we do (in this case, what we give of our time/talent/treasure) is irrelevant to our bodies, souls, and well-being. Aside from being a form of cheap grace, this view errs in assuming away the impact of our thinking and our decisions on our well-being.

To me, a Proverbs-like view and an understanding of giving as a "spiritual discipline" are best: there is a general relationship between giving and well-being (giving and stewardship make us better people which results in spiritual well-being and often, material well-being too), rather than a gnostic non-relationship or the mechanistic/materialist view of the hard-core PG'ers.

Related posts: -My all-in-one post with all previous Joel Osteen posts (including a lengthy review of Your Best Life Now).
-A FB-discussion-turned-blog-post on Robert Morris' sermon at SE and related topics.

Friday, October 29, 2021

on Trumpers, anti-Trumpers, January 6th, and a self-emasculated media

Rebecca Panovka rings true for me in her Harpers critique of Trump & anti-Trumpers. Thoughts here (from Trumpers, anti-Trumpers, anti-anti-Trumpers and others of us "in the middle"):


"[Trump] invented facts as he needed them, flooding the field with misinformation. He tossed off a lie, and by the time the media had scrambled to fact-check him, he had already moved on to the next one. For the most part, his supporters were undeterred when his lies were unveiled, because they understood he was saying whatever was advantageous, not speaking as an absolute authority...He antagonized the press but never made moves to dismantle it. Even when he contested the 2020 election result, he made his case through lies and lawyers rather than recruiting the kind of organized military force that might have executed a bona fide coup. On January 6, there was no serviceable plan because Trump never made the defining totalitarian effort to bend reality to his fictional world. His lies never progressed beyond the singular goal of saving face."

"Trump’s loudest critics spent his time in office wringing their hands over 'alternative facts,' worshipping fact-checkers, and fetishizing factual truth—declaiming Trump as an exception and yearning for a return to normal. But amid the criticism, they did little to examine the status of truth under previous administrations. Trump was not the first liar in the Oval Office, and unlike some of his predecessors, he was fiercely challenged by an adversarial press and an opposition party keen to decry his every statement. Rather than a calculating liar with an all-embracing plan, Trump was an opportunist able to exploit a lack of public trust in the institutions charged with disseminating facts. The journalists who nitpicked his statements managed only to preach to the proverbial choir, while his most ardent supporters [were] convinced that the media was aligned with the 'deep state.' The press, after all, had already proved itself unequipped to dismantle the fictional reality constructed by the architects of American empire."