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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Thursday, 30 October 2008
McCain, Obama, and who is in control: A tale of four kings and a priest

In recent posts, I've said that some of Sen. McCain's foreign policy statements scare me, that some things said about Sen. Obama scare me, and that many of my friends believe that abortion and immorality will explode and we will lose all of our constitutional rights if he is elected.  Yet I recognize that I should not be afraid. 


It's because the President is not really the one in control, whether his name is Bush, McCain or Obama.  God is.  And God is able to exert His ultimate control in the world even through very bad kings.  I'll give you four examples, directly out of the Bible. 

The first king is King Saul, whose story is told at I Samuel 10 through 16 and I Samuel 31.  God chose Saul to be king. I Samuel 10:1.  Shortly thereafter, God put a new heart in Samuel, and he prophesied.  I Samuel 10:9-11.  Nevertheless, as king, Saul rebelled against God.  Because he was in a hurry to fight a battle and feared his army would slip away if he waited for the prophet and priest Samuel to arrive to offer sacrifices to God, Saul offered the sacrifices himself.  I Samuel 13:7-12.  Later, Saul kept some of the livestock of the Amalekites for himself, when told to destroy utterly.  I Samuel 15.  Because these two incidents of rebellion showed that Saul preferred doing things his own way rather than listening to God, God said he would take the kingdom away from Saul and give it to another better than him.  I Samuel 13:13-14 & 15:26-29.  After that, for the rest of his life, Saul became paranoid, a cruel oppressor of his own friends, and ultimately turned to witchcraft for answers.  He died in battle, and God repalced him with David.  Though imperfect, David was a "man after God's own heart," who listened when God spoke and changed his course when God corrected him.  King Saul demonstrates that, when even a ruler specially appointed by God rejects God's leadership, God is well able to replace him.

The second king is King Manasseh of Judah.  Manasseh's story is told in I Chronicles 33.  Manasseh was the son born late in life to a very good king, King Hezekiah.  Manasseh took the throne at a young age, and rejected evertything good of what his father had done.  For most of his reign, Manasseh was evil, a very wicked king who placed idols in the temple of God, instituted the sacrifice of children to idols in Judah--even sacrificing his own son in the fire--and caused the people of Judah and Jerusalem "to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land."  I Chronicles 33:9.  God first repeatedly warned Manasseh and the people, then, when they ignored his warnings, sent an invading army from Assyria to strip the land and take its leaders, including Manasseh, hostage. 

However, in prison in Babylon, a miraculous thing happened.  "While in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God, and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors."  I Chronicles 33:12.  God responded to Manasseh's repentance, and restored him to the throne in Judah.  "Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!"  I Chronicles 33:13.  During the last years of his reign, Manasseh cleaned up the idol worship and was a good king.  So God is able to get the attention of bad kings and bring them to repentance.

The priest is Caiaphas.  Caiaphas was a member of the priestly family of Aaron, but he was also a corrupt political appointee of the Roman occupiers of Judea. He had the dubious honor of being the elected High Priest in the year Jesus became a great problem for the ruling classes in Judea generally.  In John 11: 45-53, we are told that, immediately after Jesus became a very serious threat to the religious leaders of Judea by raising Lazarus very openly from the deadthe rulers called a council to discuss what to do with Jesus.  The leadersbelieved this discussion necessary because, by raising the dead,  Jesus had placed himself on a par with the great prophets Elijah and Elisha in the eyes of the masses.  The rulers therefore feared that soon "everyone" (the leaders excepted, of course) would believe and follow him, and the Romans would be forced to destroy the Jewish nation and its temple to quell the resulting revolt.  

At this point, the cowardly, unbelieving, pragmatic Caiaphas gave this advice:  "You don't know what you're talking about!  You don't realize that it's better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed."  After that, the Council agreed that Jesus should die.  Caiaphas had advised them to commit the greatest injustice of human history.  

However, what does the Apostle John say about Caiaphas' advice?  John says, "He [Caiaphas] did not say this on his own; as High Priest at that time, he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation.  And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world."  Man's greatest injustice was also God's greatest victory, and God used Caiaphas to prophesy it--to speak it into existence in his office as High Priest.

The third king is King Cyrus the Mede.   In Isaiah 44:28-45:7, God calls Cyrus his "Shepherd" and his "anointed one" for the purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem, and describes the power he will give Cyrus over other nations.  In the same verses, God repeats twice that He will use Cyrus in this way, "even though you do not know me." God can direct kings who do not even acknowledge him to do what He wants done.

The fourth king is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar was the king who destroyed what remained of Solomon's Temple and finally took Judah into full captivity.  He did so with great and excessive barbarity.  He slaughtered many Jews (and many from other nations he conquered as well).  If anyone has ever deserved God's full wrath, it was Nebuchadnezzar.

However, God kept working with him.  The story of exactly how God kept working with him is told in Daniel 2 through 4.  Daniel, one of the Jewish captives in his court, interpreted a dream for him that no one else could interpret, in which God showed Nebuchadnezzar a brief history of the kingdoms of the world.  Later, when three of Daniel'd frinds wouldn't worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol, he had them thrown in the fire--only to come out unharmed after meeting in the fire with one the king described as looking "like a son of God." 

But when both of these incidents failed to flly get this king's attention, God sent him another troubling dream, which Daniel interpreted for him.  The dream was a warning that, because Nebuchadnezzar continued to think of himself as a self-made man, and his power and wealth as things he gained by himself and for himself, God was going to take away his sanity for a time, until he acknowledged God.  One year later, Nebuchadnezzar went insane, and lived in the fields like an animal for a period of time.  Then it says Nebuchadnezzar "looked up to heaven" and his sanity was restored when he "praised and worshiped the Most High."  He acnowledged that "the most high is sovereign over the kigdoms on earth, and gives them to anyone he wishes," setting up over them "even the basest of men" exactly as he chooses.

And that is why I should not fear the outcome of this election.       




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:03 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 3 November 2008 12:33 AM EST
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Either a complete undeserved demonization or a chilling warning!

The following is an e-mail forwarded to me by a friend today.  It is either a complete, undeserved demonization of an honest man, or a bloodchilling warning of what's to come.  My impression has always been that Barack Obama is an honest man.  I sure hope I'm right!


 I received the following email an hour or so ago.  I checked Snopes and there is no report for it.  I emailed the writer to verify and he has verified it to me.  For that reason, I am forwarding it.


It is now 2:55 pm on Monday afternoon.  15 minutes ago, I left Cracker Barrel after eating a late lunch.  While enjoying a southern cooked meal, I noticed the John McCain tour bus pull in the parking lot.  In  a few minutes a very clean cut man in his early 60's (??) got off the bus and came into the restaurant, only to be seated a few tables from where I was. He is the personal bus driver for John McCain, who is arriving into Fayetteville, NC on Tuesday.  As I was leaving I stopped at his table to engage on some small political talk.  What he told me was a shocker.

First, I politely waited until he had prayed over his meal.  As we began to talk, he said, "Sir, the only thing that is going to turn this election is PRAYER.  I found that interesting .  His name was recently in the news regarding the front windshield of the tour bus being shot out.  While it was not his bus, the news had only assumed he was the driver.   He went on to say, "If our opponent wins this election, count it over for America.  It will be the Bolshevic Revolution all over again.   You will need to get ready for riots, uprisings, and attacks like you have never seen".   He further said, "at the Republican Convention, the secret service stopped cars that had Moltov cocktails, grenade lauchers, rocket propelled launchers and other weapons."  I ask, "why has this not then been in the news".  His response was, "the liberal press is controlling this election and they don't want this kind of information in the news".

As I was leaving again he offered this plea for help, "only prayer will change this election.  If McCain is not elected, then perhaps America is at the beginning of reaping the judgements of God and what she deserves".

Lunch hour is now over, I am back at the office and I think I will head to the sanctuary to PRAY about this.

Quite an interesting lunch hour.


R. Barnhill


Can you verify that you are the sender of the enclosed email, and what city/state this Cracker Barrell/lunch/dialogue with bus driver occurred in?  What date did this conversation occur?  I can’t forward it if I can’t confirm it.  Thank you for your time.


From: RevRBarnhill@aol.com [mailto:RevRBarnhill@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 4:00 PM
To: worshipGod@cox.net
Subject: Re: verify

I am receiving emails from all over the country.  This did happen to me yesterday at the Cracker Barrel in Lumberton, NC.  McCain is in Fayetteville, NC as I write.




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:34 PM EDT
Why I'm STILL not thrilled about my choices in this election
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

Since my schedule and my computer are both somewhat erratic these days, this entry will probably be my last shot at the election.

I'm still not very thrilled with the choices.  I haven't (and won't) tell my readers who I plan to vote for next week. But I will explain again my problems with the election.

1.  First and foremost, I have a problem with both candidates because they are advertising (some would say "promising," but I know better) big plans they must KNOW they will not be able to afford to implement.  I have read what both major candidates are saying, in the official words of their own websites.  Sen. Obama has posted a summary of his whole domestic program in a single document at,  Blueprint for Change.  Sen. Mccain has posted a summary of his economic program on one web page, and a summary of his health care reform plan on a second web page, both with links to additional details.  But both of them are aware, I'm sure, that with an economic depression looming and the government already committed to a $700 billion bailout this year in addition to its regular budget, it will be many years before there will be any resources available to fund their promises.

2.  Both candidates have economic reform plans that don't really address the underlying problem of the way debt is marketed and used in this country--by lenders to consumers and, on a different level, by politicians writing Federal budgets.  Sen. Obama at least has some reform aimed at predatory lending practices.  But neither one really seems to understand the problem.

3.  Neither canditate has proposed a health care reform package that will help me very much.  Sen. McCain wants to open up individual policies so that individuals--as a matter of economic reality, young, healthy individuals--may leave group plans and purchase cheaper individual policies in the states where they are cheapest.  This will leave older and sicker people in the group plans, or in partially-subsidized state risk pools.  This will, naturally,make the group plans more expensive (since their best risks will have departed) and the residual state pools very expensive.  He would help everyone pay for insurance by offering a $2500 per person or $5000 per family tax credit, tax credits for employers who pay a portion of their employees' insurance, and additional need-based subsidies for the "poor."  For someone in my position, there are three problems with this plan.  The first problem is that there is no way Congress is going to be able to fund the tax credits under the current circumstances, let alone fund the subsidy for the "poor" at reasonable levels. The second problem is that, since I am not a young and healthy person, my share of my health family insurance premium is already about $12,000 per year, already far above the $5,000 tax credit the McCain plan would offer, and driving the young and healthy into the individual market only promises to make it increase.  I rather suspect that it will in a short time increase more than the $5,000 amount of the tax credit.  The third problem I have with the plan is that the subsidy for the "poor" would be needs-tested, and government-authored "needs tests" are ALWAYS based on gross income alone (as if I can spend my taxes, or my mortgage and student loan payments, a second time, like the government does) and ALWAYS make unrealistic assumptions about how far that income will go.

Sen. Obama's health care plan is somewhat more comprehensive, but, like Sen. McCain's, it is needs-tested and will never get realistically funded.  So while Obama's plan looks better on paper, I'm quite secure in my knowledge that neither plan will ever work well enough to help me--or most middle-income people--very much. 

4.  Both candidates have proposed more relief for homeowners and consumer debtors.  But their hands are already tied.  The money is already committed to go to banks and big investors.  Serious relief for ordinary people won't get funded, no matter who is elected.

5.  My conservative and liberal friends all tell me that I must vote for their candidate because of the effect the winner will have on the Supreme Court.  Each is afraid the other side's candidate will appoint justices who are friendly to a dicatatorship--either Fascist or Communist, depending on which side I'm talking to.  I consider this an unlikely result of electing either party.  However, both parties like to use litmus tests for judges--one just prefers red litmus and the other blue--and I don't like the idea of litmus tests at all.  Moreover, I don't like some of the components of either color of litmus paper.  Standard Democratic litmus paper insists on judges who think that abortion and homosexuality are both morally positive qualities that should be encouraged--even to the point of suppressing the opposition to them to some degree.  I disagree with this.  Both are moral evils (though, unlike most who use the standard Republican litmus paper, I don't believe homosexuals should be discriminated against).  On the other hand, the standard Republican litmus paper calls for a "strict construction," not only of the Constitution, but also of civil rights laws generally. I am aware that it was a standard Republican strict construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (a piece of legislation that's very important to me) that made it almost a dead letter in many contexts until Congress amended it this year, to restore it to the broad interpretation that was originally intended.  Moreover, standard Republican-litmus jurists are friendly toward the Patriot Act, a very dangerous law, whereas standard Democrat-litmus jurists are not.  I want to get away from the litmus tests altogether.  But both candidates plan to continue them.  

6.  In foreign policy, Sen. McCain wants to continue the war in Iraq--a war I opposed publicly as unwinnable months before it started--until a victory that can never happen.  He has also joked about bombing Iran, a thought which scares me (as I explained in an earlier post).  But Sen. Obama's inexperience in this area at such a fragile and dangerous time also scares me. 

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 12:05 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 October 2008 12:20 AM EDT
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Election Year Religious Fearmongering
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

Over the last few weeks, I have received numerous appeals, from friends at church, via email from various contacts, and even from semi-official Republican sources, strenuously warning me that Barack Obama should be feared because he is a "closet Moslem" seeking to infiltrate the leadership of our Christian nation and restrict the religious liberty of all Christians.  These appeals state as a fact that Obama attended an Islamic religious school in Indonesia, where he would have learned to pretend to be a Christian in order to inflitrate our nation.  The writers assume that he is a Moslem on a nefarious mission here.   The writers also generally assume that all Moslems are potential terrorists who desire nothing more than to force us to comply with their faith and to help them destroy Israel.

However, I refuse to act on those fears, for two reasons:  first, the facts do not appear to confirm the fear that Obama is a "closet Moslem," and second, even if he were Islamic, this would not prove him to be in league with the terrorists.

I'll start with the apparent facts.  According to reliable media sources, Obama did in fact attend a grade school in Djakarta.  It was, however, a public school, not a religious school.  Indonesia is a predominantly Islamic country, but has a secular government (it is not an "Islamic republic").  The public school Obama attended did contain a mosque, and religious instruction was provided for those whose parents did not object, but it was a public school.  Obama's parents were divided over religion.  From the best indications, he was not raised as a Moslem, and in adulthood he professed Christ.  This profession is incompatible with Islam, even for  "closet Moslem."

The religious right's concept of a "closet Moslem" here is rather interesting.  It is true that a strain in Islamic philosophy going back at least to the Ninth Century Persian philosopher al-Farabi would condone keeping one's faith a secret for purposes of infiltrating an enemy.  This is, of course, the same strain in Islamic thought that teaches that the deeper truths of Islam, and of philosophy, must be kept from the masses and debated only by a small elite, and that the masses should be fed only pop religion to keep them under control.  (To give equal time to Christianity, this same concept that the deep truths must be reserved for the elite was incorporated into Christian thinking by Medieval Scholastic philosophers who read the works of earlier Islamic philosophers, and was formalized and finally adopted into Christian thinking by Aquinas).  The concepts of keeping the deep truths secret and of hiding one's true beliefs to secure influence are flip sides of the same concept.

However, hiding one's faith for a higher cause and blaspheming it are two very different things.   If Obama were a "closet Moslem," he might not be open about his faith, but he would not publicly profess that Jesus is the Son of God (as I understand he has done).  Under any interpretation of Islam, this statement is blasphemy.  It would not be justified by a desire or plan to infiltrate an enemy.  It is not something a "closet Moslem" would do.

Furthermore, I do not believe Obama wishes to restrict the religious freedom of Christians.  His vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill, though often cited as proof that he wants to restrict religious liberty, is actually evidence of the opposite.  That bill would have added a federal penalty to willful violent crimes committed against a victim because of his or her religion (among other classifictions).   

Finally, even if it is assumed (probably falsely) that Obama is a follower of Islam, so what?  In my long life, I have had a numer of Islamic friends, some of whom I knew fairly well and liked well.  These Islamic friends have been kind, peace-loving people.  Their faith was no proof that they are in league with terrorists.

In voting, we should pay attention to the issues and to the real character of the candidates, not to unfounded fears.  




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 3:09 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 October 2008 3:12 PM EDT
Saturday, 18 October 2008
The fallacy of viewing party platforms as inseparable packages
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

I have received a comment, which I attempted to post but Tripod wouldn't let me (possibly becaue of bad language in it?), from a reader who read part of my last post, and from it drew the conclusion 1) that I support Sen. McCain and 2) that I support him because I'm a racist.  Anyone who read the entirety of my last post will wonder how she could have drawn either conclusion.  My post expressed discomfort with BOTH candidates, and never said ANYTHING that suggested racism.  The truth is, at the 2000 Shawnee County, Kansas, Republican county caucus, I supported Alan Keyes, who is black.  I no longer fully agree with Mr. Keyes' economics, but race is not an issue for me.

I suspect my commenter may have incorrectly identified me as a racist and a committed McCain supporter through the psychological operation, unknown to her, of some form of the Pigeon-Hole Fallacy, the Monolithic Fallacy, or the Opinion-Maker Fallacy.  In essence, most people including my commenter, tend to take bundles of opinions received from an authorized source as being in some way logically and necessarily connected, so that anyone who holds one must necessarily hold all of the others, and anyone who rejects one must necessarily reject all of the others.  So, when my commenter read that I disagree with Barack Obama, her candidate, and agree with Sen. McCain about abortion and a few other things, she drew the conclusion (without bothering to read the rest of my post) that I agree with the Republican platform about EVERYTHING. If she had read the rest of my post, she would have seen that isn't true.  I disagree with Sen. McCain most sharply about economic recovery, health care, Iraq and Iran.  But I also oppose abortion.  I am not in substantial agreement with either party's, or either candidate's, full "package" of positions.  And I am NOT a racist. 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 12:44 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 October 2008 1:14 PM EDT
Monday, 13 October 2008
A disgruntled Republican's problem with this election
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

I've been a Republican for a long time--basically since I first voted in 1974.  I've been a party activist.  I was a precinct committeman for ten years.  Yet I'm not thrilled about the choices I'm offered in this election.  Both of the candidates have major problems for me.  As I will explain in greater detail below, I have come to realize that, when the "free market" rhetoric is stripped away,  the traditional Republican economic approach, which John McCain represents and supports, is really not so much that we ought to deregulate as that we ought to merely change the manner in which some highly regulated market sectors that affect us all intimately are regulated.  The traditional (at least since President Reagan) Republican approach is to change the regulations in favor of the wealthy and the corporations, eliminating protections for ordinary people in the hope that, as the corporations get richer, they will allow some of their wealth (derived from the labors of ordinary statistics) to "trickle down." My economic outlook has, thus, become closer to the Democrats.  However, on the big moral social issues, I'm much closer to the Republican positions.   But I find that the only way to have the one is to completely sell out the other.  The specific liabilities I see in the candidates' positions are set forth below:

Barack Obama's Liabilities

1. Position on Abortion. Sen. Obama openly supports abortion.  This is a big problem for me.  Of course the rhetoric used sounds SO good.  He  (and, in his defense, everyone in the official Democratic camp) wants to protect a "woman's right to choose."  However, here it is important to note the exact language used by abortion supporters.  You never hear an abortion supporter say that they want to protect "a woman's right to choose WHETHER to have an abortion."  Rather, what the Democratic Party wants to protect is a "woman's right TO HAVE an abortion."  It's conceived of as not being in many cases a "yes or no" choice, but simply as a "yes or very yes" choice.  Women who might want an abortion must be protected by law from any influence that might change their minds.   

The reason for this is quite simple.  Behind the rhetoric of protecting a woman's (one-sided) choice in the matter is the reality that what we are really protecting is the abortion provider's God-given constitutional right to market his or her services free of any interfering regulation.  This shows quite clearly in the Supreme Court decisions on the subject and also in the types of legislation that are said to impermissibly burden a  woman's right to choose.  Any requirement that might limit the sales appeals made by provider representatives or that move a woman to change her mind is too big a burden on the right.  So, for all the Democrats' fine rhetoric on this issue, it is plain to me that what they are in reality fighting so hard to protect is not women's rights but the economic interests of the abortion providers.  This remains a big problem for me in deciding to vote for Sen. Obama.   

2. Possible involvement of his friends in creating the housing bubble and subprime mortgage crisis. This potential problem is explained on a YouTube video at Burning Down the House: What Caused Our Economic Crisis. It appears that Sen. McCain actually attempted to warn of this problem and ssponsored unsuccessfullegislation that might have averted it.  Still, this is a problem of some of Sen. Obama's friends and supporters, not a problem of Sen. Obama himself (he hasn't been in Washington long enough to have much actual involvement).  This is another plus for Sen. McCain, though it isn't a very strong minus for Sen. Obama.

3.  Inexperience.

4. Possible threat to freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. This would actually be my largest objection to Sen. Obama if I could substantiate it.  The Republican organizations and ALL of the religious right assure me that Sen. Obama has supported legislation that could be interpreted to criminalize the advocacy of certain opinions.  Once the camel's nose is in the tent, and the Supreme Court has agreed with Congress that the mere speaking of, say, homophobic opinions should be punished as a crime, there really are no limits on the process.  After homophobic opinions, expressions of Christian faith--which many find offensive--may likewise be prohibited.  Or opposition to the present orthodox position on economic recovery may be declared danerous to economic recovery.  Or opposition to the present methods of the war on terror may be declared terroristic.   But the great danger those in the Christian right point to is that all Christian opinion that isn't in strict agreement with official policy--including, of course, the highly offensive assertion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way of salvation--outside of church buildings may quite likely be suppressed if some of Sen. Obama's principal supporters have their way. 

I'm not saying that this is what Sen. Obama himself wants to do; indeed, he has issued public statements to the contrary (and, unlike many in the Religious Right, I consider him an honest man and believe him).  Moreover, the Religious Right's evidence that Sen. Obama is a threat to free speech and free exercise of religion consists exclusively of 1) the statements of some of his supporters in the past, usually years before they were involved with him, 2) the observation that he was educated for several years as a child in an Islamic religious school (though he has never professed Islam) and 3) his support of two bills that did not pass Congress, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (HR 3685, 110th Cong., 1st Sess.) and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105, 110th Cong., 1st Sess.). 

The problem is that none of these arguments really substantiate the charge that Sen. Obama supports limitations on speech or religious expression.  The past statements of his supporters do not tend to prove his present opinion at all.  His training as a child in an Islamic school does not show that he wants to suppress all non-Islamic religious speech.  We all know many people who have rejected, partially or wholly, the religious instruction of their childhood. Moreover, Sen. Obama's vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill directly contradicts the assertion that he wishes to limit religiuos speech--the hate crimes bill would have made it a federal crime, among other things, to commit an act of willful violence against a person because of his or her religion.  Finally, neither of the two bills offered as evidence have anything to do with speech or religious expression.   ENDA would have prohibited most employers, unions, and employment agencies from discriminating against applicants, members or employees because of their sexual preference, but it would have excluded religious organizations from its coverage.  The Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill would have provided federal penalties and federal assistance with prosecution of violent crimes committed against victims because of their race, religion, disability, sex or sexual orientation, among other classifications.  The bill does not attempt to limit homophobic speech at all, only violent crimes.  Both bills were opposed by the Religious Right because they protected homosexuals.  Both were, unfortunately, falsely labeled as threats to free speech and free exercise of religion when, in fact, they would have had no such effect.  Sen. Obama's vote for them doesn't prove he wants to limit religious speech.  

John McCain's Liabilities 

1.  Position on health care. As I noted in my last entry on this blog, I'm already paying 42% of my net, after-tax income for family health insurance coverage plus the $5,000 per year high deductible.  Sen. McCain's plan would only make this worse.  First of all, by eliminating the tax benefit to my employer for paying for my individual coverage, Sen. McCain would require me to pay for my individual coverage. This would be about $500 extra per month, or $6,000 per year, and would increase the percentage of my net income that would be devoted to health care from 42% to 57%, assuming I was still able to get the same insurance I now have without the employer group.  However, I almost certainly would not be able to get my present coverage without the employer group.  Instead, I'd be required to go purchase an individualpolicy from an insurance company in another state--to be specific, in whatever state has laws that are most friendly to health insurance companies.  (Under Sen. McCain's plan, health insurance companies would operate only in that state; if they're free to write insurance nationwide, what incentive would they have to operate in any other state?).  Individual policies have a cost advantage for young, healthy people.  But I'm an older person with some health problems, and there have also been some health problems in my family.  I would probably not be able to obtain insurance at all.  Sen. McCain's plan would create real problems for me.   

2.  Position on economic recovery.  Sen. McCain's position on economic recovery appears to be more "trickle down."  If we help the rich get richer, we hope they'll let some of the bounty "trickle down" to the peons.  This works moderately well in good times.  But in times of economic distress, it doesn't work well at all.  Like everyone else, the rich get frightened and hold onto what they have tighter. In bad times, it can't be expected to "trickle down."

3.  Position on Iran.  "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," as Sen. McCain joked early in his campaign, just might be the worst mistake this country ever made.  It would start a very expensive war we could not possibly win, even if Iran's new friend Russia didn't come in on their side and "bomb, bomb, bomb" us.  Moreover, the results for the stability of the Islamic world would be catastrophic.  Do we really want World War III?

4.  Support for open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq.

Common Liabilities of Both Candidates

1.  They both voted for the bailout of the wealthy investors, in a plan that gave little or no debt relief to ordinary people, but merely made sure the wealthy won't lose too much money.  I have discussed why I believe this to be both wrong and dangerous in earlier postings on this blog, dated while the measure was still being debated.  It is not yet too late to propose changing the bailout program to provide both debt relief for ordinary people and the kind of basic structural changes that are needed in the ways debt is marketed and used in our economy.  But neither candidate is proposing such reforms.  Both seem interested mainly in giving money to the rich. 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 7:51 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 13 October 2008 9:01 PM EDT
Saturday, 11 October 2008
My health coverage and the presumptions of asinine law
Mood:  irritated
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

Within the last six weeks, there have been two changes in my employer-provided health coverage that, between them, have come close to convincing me that bankruptcy sometime next year may be unavoidable.  Both of them resulted from almost unspeakably stupid assumptions made by legisators enacting laws governing health care and health insurance regarding the amounts everyone who is not in officially-defined "poverty" OUGHT to be able to pay the health care industry.

The first change, which took effect September 1, was a $307 monthly increase in the family coverage portion of my group health insurance premium, the part that is deducted from my paycheck.  This increased our monthly premium from $600 to $907.  (I understand there was a proportionately similar increase in my individual premium, which my employer pays).  At the time of the premium increase, this premium paid for "high deductible" group health insurance with a health savings account (HSA)--the only kind that is tax-deductible to employers under the current stupid law--that doesn't pay a cent in claims until I have paid $4,000 for the year.  The present state of the health insurance industry--which is already nothing even close to a free market--are the cumulative result of laws that have sharply limited the pooling of risks in group helth insurance, such that, except where a multi-employer union contract is involved, only single-employer groups are permitted.  

The second change was announced to me this week.  Due to a recent change in the law--which I understand was either contained in the economic bailout package or related to it in some way--the deductible on my "high deductible" policy (again, the only kind my employer can provide and receive a tax benefit for it) is going to be increasing from $4,000 to $5,000 per year.  So, now my increasingly-expensive health insurance won't pay a cent until I've paid $5,000 for the year. Stated another way, the law presumes that, even though I'm now paying $3,684 more for my health insurance than I did last year, I will nevertheless be able to save $1,000 more to cover deductible charges.

The situation looks even stranger when I put the medical care numbers together with my annual income figures.

My gross salary is $50,000, but my net income, after taxes, is only about $38,000. 

My family coverage health insurance premiums now (assuming no more increases this year) come to $10,904 per year.  And the stupid law presumes I'll be able to save $5,000 on top of that for the benefit of the health care industry.  Thus, the law presumes I will be able to pay a total of $15,904 next year for health care.  THAT'S 42% OF MY NET, AFTER-TAX INCOME.

Thus, the law presumes I'll be able to give the health care industry 42% of my income, and pay my other obligations (first, of course) and live on the other 58%.  My only response to that is a quotation from one of Charles Dickens' characters:

"If the law presumes THAT, the law is an ass, an idiot."

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 12:45 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 October 2008 1:33 PM EDT
Monday, 6 October 2008
OK, I'm not alone in my predictions
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism
OK.  I admit it.  Others with much larger reputations than I have been predicting the present times, at least for the last few years.  Most recently, John Paul Jackson issued a prediction The Coming Perfect Storm in line with what I have been saying.  Some of the other similar predictions are collected at the end of this article.  Of course, I've been saying these things for years, too, but my voice isn't recognized.  I even understand the reason my voice isn't recognized, and explained it on a web page nine years ago, under the title The Authoritarian (Opinion-Maker) Fallacy. Be that as it may, I now present the following pages and sites, some written by me years ago, others written by more widely recognized people more recently, a small sample of what is now a number of sites all pointing in the same direction:

My Pages

Prophecies for America, a collection of quotations from Bible prophecy

A warning against idolatry, first posted October 8, 2000, predicting economic collapse and explaining its real cause.

God says, Trust me with the frightening future.

Notes on the King of Babylon and the Peace of Jerusalem, first posted February 5, 2003, before the start of the Iraq war, explaining why the proposed war in Iraq could not succeed.

Other Christian Authors' Pages

Kim Clement, God says, "I will introduce myself starting in Wall Street and going through the Stock Exchange.

Dr. Sharon Stone, September will convince you that you must connect to His economic system.

Kim Clement's prophecy concerning Obama.

Secular Predictions

Financial Sense University, December 17, 2006,The United States is Insolvent

Recession is here, economist declares, Boston Globe, March 15, 2008.

McCain, "I Would Imagine We Are" in a Recession, The caucus, July 8, 2008.

USA Today Survey: We're in a Recession, Economists Say, April 28, 2008.

Global Water Shortage Looms in New Century

The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, Foreign Policy in Perspective.

I will attempt to gather other predictions of the same type and include them in posts over the next few weeks.  The point of the exercise will be to discourage my readers from putting confidence in the election results or the bailout plan, but instead to put confidence in God.  The present times could have been--and were--predicted by numerous people over a period of years.  The warnings were ignored.  Now the way out of the mess is exactly where it always has been, in God working through His Church, not in Washington (which seems incapable of reading the signs of the times, even when beaten over the head with the placard explaining them).

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:42 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 October 2008 10:47 PM EDT
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
A humane proposal for the credit bailout: Provide relief to average debtors

The President's bailout proposal misses the point.  It seeks to benefit the credit industry by offering it an enormous amount of money to get it out of the mess it has largely created for itself, without providing any real relief to common consumer and mortgage debtors--average people with little money and therefore no influence.  Instead, the credit industry meltdown should be used as an opportunity for debt relief for common people and major revision of the way debt is used in our economy.  This CAN be done without sacrificing the credit industry or the U.S. financial system.  Here is my proposal for how this can be done:

1.  The heart of my proposal:  Use the bulk of the funds proposed for the bailout to offer federally-funded or federally-guaranteed consolidation loans,  having long terms and strictly regulated interest, to allow debtors who are presently holding sizable distressed personal loans of ANY type—but particularly of types that are marketed through pooled instruments in which the government’s credit is directly involved (e.g., mortgages and student loans)—to consolidate all of their non-business debt.

2.       The trade-off for the financial industry should be that it accepts stricter government regulation, including particularly regulation of how it packages and markets consumer credit and residential mortgages and regulation of practices designed to keep consumers in debt.  The age of wild promotion of debt--second mortgages, home equity loans, credit cards--as the cure for everything must end.

3.        My proposal will help the credit industry’s immediate financial position, in that the principal amounts of  loans in default or high risk of default will be immediately paid.  This will immediately put large amounts of money back into the private financial industry.  The high-risk debts will be removed to new, government-backed loans. The original creditors will no longer be exposed to the risk inherent in thse loans.

4.       The assumption of my proposal is that most of the debtors in distress are only distressed, not inherently dishonest, and actually WANT to pay off their debts.  If this is true,  the government can expect to recover most of its immediate investment in the bailout over a period of years as debtors pay off their consolidation loans.

5.  Obviously, better consumer credit education is also needed.

6.       Note that the credit market is not now—nor has it ever been—a free market.  It is a highly regulated market, even today.  The “deregulation” of the last 25 years only removed restrictions that benefitted ordinary consumers.  It left in place the regulations that supported the industry’s profits, at least during good years.  Regulations that have trapped people in their debts, preventing any escape in bad years, have also multiplied, and the bankruptcy laws have been made "tougher" three separate times in the last 25 years.

7.       Note that traditional usury laws, though no longer fashionable, had a valid purpose.  Interest should be regulated.

8.      My proposal would be more effective if it were joined with reforms in health care delivery and payment, and education, two economic areas that create large amounts of (at present often almost compulsory) consumer debt.

9.  My proposal would also be more effective if the bailout for individual consumer debtors in distress included real assistance in a) selling nonexempt property for which there is an estblished market at the highest available price (i.e., not a sheriif's sale-type bargain basement) and b) creating an income stream from nonexempt property for which there is no established market but which could become a source of income with proper management--with the resulting income from a) or b) being credited to the debtor's account.

If we are really going to spend, ultimately, more than one trillion dollars fixing the credit system, we should really FIX it, not just put more wealth in our collective creditors' pockets.  If real, serious structural changes are needed--and they obviously are--we should spend our money actually making them, not just making the rich richer.

Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:20 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 September 2008 8:27 PM EDT
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Demythologizing an address in Rio de Janeiro
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

Over this last weekend, thanks to Google Maps, I was able to demythologize an address in Rio de Janeiro that had possessed an almost other-worldly aura for me for more than 20 years.

In September of 1984, at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas, USA, I made the acquaintance of Regina Oliveira, an exchange student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who was also a coworker of mine at the University Library.  Over the next ten months, Regina befriended my wife and I.  Indeed, we became close friends.  Regina's friendship drastically changed my perspective on the world and  my view of my own faith, though the full effect took many years to work itself out.  But, over the much shorter term, during a personal crisis in the late Spring and early Summer of 1991, Regina remained in Lawrence for approximately 2 months after her graduation, when she really wanted to go home to Rio, because we needed her.  Her kindness and true friendship played a large part in saving my life (I was suicidal for awhile) and our marriage.  Then she went home.

Regina returned to the U.S. for about a year later in the Fall.  She lived with relatives in New Jersey and worked an internship in her field.  Then she returned to Brazil for good.  We remained in correspondence until 1991, when she suddenly disappeared completely, without a trace.  All attempts to locate her after 1991 (and, believe me, I made some!) returned no indication that she had ever existed--though I can still prove her existence from 1985 to 1991 by showing letters she wrote and by pointing to her name in the published May 1985 University of Kansas graduation announcement (which is still publicly archived in the campus newspaper and the Lawrence Journal-World).   Her role in changing my life and my attitude was pretty well complete, so it was as if she no longer existed.  I came to regard her as a spiritual figure sent to me for a time, an angel.  (A longer version of the story is found in Suspect Angel, a web page I first published in 1995 as a part of my effort to locate her).     

This is the point in the story where my searches in Google Maps--which I just learned to use this weekend--came in.  After her return to Brazil, according to her letters, Regina lived with her parents at a house on Rua da Bondade (Virtue Street!!!), Curicica, Jacarepagua, R.J., Brazil.  She lived there until shortly before she disappeared in 1990, when she moved to an address on Jardim Botanico in central Rio--an address that, unfortunately, burned in a fire at our house before I could memorize it. 

Before this weekend, I knew that Jardim Botanico was a major thorougfare in central Rio that ran by a large park, the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico).  However, after the street number of the Jardim Botanico address burned, I obviously couldn't use it.  On the other hand, I remembered by heart Regina's parents' address on Rua da Bondade, and had, back in the early '90's, tried sending two letters to Regina at that address via FedEx.  Neither the letters nor the receipts ever returned, and FedEx was not able to trace them--it was as if the letters disappeared into the great void.  This made me wonder whether the location existed.  Perhaps Rua da Bondade itself was an address in the spirit realm?

So, I asked some e-mail correspondents I had developed in Rio de Janeiro what they knew about the Rua da Bondade address.  All but one had never even heard of the street and did not know how to find it.  The one correspondent who said he had heard of it also said it was in a part of town that I would definitely NOT want to visit, though he didn't elaborate on exactly where it was or why I wouldn't want to go there.  The mystery, and the myth, deepened.

Well, this weekend, I found it. Jacarepagua is a borough on the west side of Rio.  Curicica is a neighborhood on the southwest corner of the borough of Jacarepagua, generally north of the old Autodromo of Jacarepagua, which used to be an important auto racing track but is now in disuse and likely to be removed to buiild an Olympic villlage, if Rio wins its bid to host the summer games.  Curicica is also directly west of, and borders on, the Cidade de Deus (City of God!!!) neighborhood, w 1960's planned community social experiment which was the subject of a famous movie.   Rua da Bondade is a short, two block long street which has a traffic circle as its northern terminus.  It is located almost directly north of the autodrome, approximately a mile (if I'm reading the map correctly).

So now the address on Virtue Street has been demythologized.  I can prove it exists, and point to its location on a physical map.  It is not entirely in the spiritual realm, or in my imagination.  Many questions remain, but the location of Rua da Bondade in Curicica isn't one of them.   


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 10:36 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2008 11:41 PM EDT

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