Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Column for Nov. 27, 2008

I am actually pretty liberal about the whole drug thing.

As I sit in front of the computer, staring at a blank screen, wondering what to type and enjoying a few Vicodin pills, I continue my reflection on life. Yeah, I am on Vicodin for about a week. I pulled a tendon in my knee and it has been very painful for the past three days. The more I reflect, the more I am thankful that I live in a day in which God has allowed man to create things like hydrocodone. Hopefully in a few days, with the treatment the doctor prescribed, I should be back to normal and not limping and wincing in pain.

The effects of the hydrocodone provoked a discussion with my mother-in-law. I was joking about taking up a drug addiction sometime soon as a hobby. She laughed, scoffing at the prospect of me doing so. She knows me too well. This has not been a good year for me health-wise, actually. I have had bronchitis twice, with the last time lingering over two months. I have had two colds, a pulled back, pancreatitis, and now a pulled tendon in my knee. This has just been one of those years that remind me of "A Tale of Two Cities". It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The good thing is that I have been able to try some great drugs this year, including a lot of Vicodin, Percocet, and Demerol.

I am not one that supports illicit or illegal drug use. Then again, it is also one of the areas in which I have always been a bit more liberal than most of my fellow conservatives. I have long thought that the D.A.R.E. program has been a tremendous waste of time and money. The alleged war on drugs is one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer funding we have going. I am more a fan of personal freedom when carried out responsibly.

Out of the five brothers in my family, I do believe that I am the only one who has not been a pot head or experimented with drugs. When I went to my brother's wedding several years ago, it was in the middle of a heat wave in Upstate New York. Some of us went into the basement to cool off and my brothers broke out a bag of pot, much to my surprise. Though not for me, I was not tremendously offended, and thought that they are welcome to do what they want as long as it does not compromise me, my health, or my freedom. I have never tried illegal drugs and do not plan on starting now.

The interesting dichotomy for people who are very conservative is that there are few choices left for voters of my ilk. This past election cycle, I could not in all good conscience vote for John McCain. Though I love Sarah Palin's politics, she was not going to get me to vote for McCain. I certainly would not vote for Barack Hussein Obama. That left me with the Libertarian Candidate, Bob Barr, or a write in. I voted for Bob Barr. I know his politics and figure that anyone who ate Borat's cheese just may be worthy of my consideration.

I am on board with much of the Libertarian platform with the exception of two major points. Unfortunately, the Libertarian Party has become a haven for those pushing a total legalization of recreational pharmaceutical use and supports total access to and rights for abortion services. Though I am fairly liberal on the drug policy, I am 100% against abortion. One would think that a party whose intent it is to secure "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" would take the true path of securing life first and foremost. That is where the responsibility part comes into play with the exercise of individual rights. If you can not take the responsibility, you should not take off the clothing.

I was annoyed when my five year old came home from kindergarten one day and proclaimed that we had to dispose of any pills in our medicine cabinet and condemned the adults of the household for enjoying an adult beverage, as infrequent as that is done in my home. We were informed that we were doing evil drugs, even the prescription ones, and that any consumption of alcohol was taking drugs.

Such over simplification and misleading teaching grates on my patience, especially when I am paying for said education. I am attempting to proffer the teaching of balance and temperance in my home, which is not only the responsible perspective, but also the Biblical one. Just this past week, the men's Bible study group in which I am active studied the subject of temperance in life.

For every freedom we enjoy, there can be over indulgence and abuse. Whether the subject is the consumption of legal or illegal pharmaceuticals, alcohol, sex, or even holiday delicacies and feasting. With freedom comes responsibility. With that in mind, I am going to go pop another few Vicodin pills.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Column for Nov. 20, 2008

Retreating is not a bad tactical move at times. I have been studying the American Revolutionary War, seeing the tactics used by various generals of both sides. There were a lot of tactical victories for the colonials seeking independence, though the traditional thought was that securing the field of battle at the end of a conflict was considered victory. In the economy of life, however, retreating can itself be victory.

I don't know if it is just a phase I am going through or what, but I have personally decided to retreat from many things and activities that have frustrated me, taken up time I felt was more valuably spent elsewhere, or just not really meaningful in the grand scheme of things. For a long time, I knew that there were changes coming in America. I knew the form in which they would come. I have even made some predictions i this very column. In today's time, I am watching them come to pass. The prophets of old did not always get to see their prognostications come to pass. Often, their prophecies would take hundreds or thousands of years to come to pass. One did not need to be a prophet, however, to see where this nation has been headed; just a casual student of history and a little bit of politics.

As much as I have desired to be more active in my community, I have decided to concentrate on those areas that have a more permanent or even eternal consequence. That does not mean that I have lost passion or opinion. I have just decided to retreat from other things like blogging, talk show hosting, memberships in ineffective organizations, etc. Sure, I still want to reach for the imaginary death ray or missile launch buttons on my car's dashboard when I see an Obama bumper sticker on the back of a car driven by some ignorant supporter. To be fair, I do have an adverse yet less visceral reaction to McCain bumper stickers.

Knowing that this nation is heading into a downward spiral, I have stayed the course by picking away bit by bit on the mountain of ideas. I pray that I have been effective to some degree. In the grand scheme of things, I wonder if it will make any difference.

I wrote one time about the quotation attributed to Alexander Tytler, a Scottish history professor from the 1700's. "A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship." We are seeing that very thing right before our eyes with massive federal and state spending, bailouts, entitlement programs, and the promise of government run health care.

Tytler also wrote that on average, the age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During the 200 year cycle, each great civilization always progressed through the following sequence:
1. From bondage to spiritual faith
2. From spiritual faith to great courage
3. From courage to liberty
4. From liberty to abundance
5. From abundance to complacency
6. From complacency to apathy
7. From apathy to dependence
8. From dependence back into bondage
I believe that we are in the apathy to dependence stage right now, and have been losing ground in that stage for the past 20 years or so.

What is it that yields a nation that looks to raid the public treasury for their own benefit? Power and money. The root of all sorts of evil, we are told by scripture, is the love of money. How then, can people who claim to support or uplift those same scriptures vote for someone such as Barack Obama? I have wondered that myself and seriously doubt the spiritual Moxie of anyone who did vote for him or anyone else of his ilk. I make no apologies for the position. I have had people question my staunch position as such in the past, though not necessarily dealing specifically with Obama. Usually I get an accusation, I reply with reasoned answers and citations for my faith or positions, and get either no or emotional responses. That is fine. I know where I stand and why.

With our slide towards apathy and dependence rather than concern and independence, I have been preparing for quite a while for the apostasy of not only spiritual values, but also of this nation's civil values upon which it was built.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Column for Nov. 13, 2008

NOTE: Because of a publisher's error, this column did not run on November 6 as scheduled but ran on Nov. 13th, instead.

Singing the school fund raiser blues

In general, Americans are a generous people. Statistically, they are the most generous of any nation. There are causes and organizations for just about everything you can imagine, all of which are looking for funding. Many get a lot of support from the generosity of Americans. If it were not so, then most of the sweaty, screaming televangelists, most of whom could use a course in systematic theology, would not be on TV today.

In my four decades on this planet, I have been involved with and/or solicited by most every sort of organization imaginable. One thing for certain is that I generally am not fond of fund raisers. There are entire industries dedicated to helping groups raise money. My favorite approach is simply a statement of need and the method of being able to help. That, however, would not help the businesses that expertly craft manipulation tactics and schemes to get money out of people's pockets.

When I was in Cub Scouts, we had fund raisers. We carried around these big, cardboard Tom-Wat kits full of cheap trinkets for the home. I also played Little League baseball. We dressed up in our uniforms and stood outside storefronts with containers in which we begged patrons to drop loose change. We sold chocolate bars, candy coated peanuts, light bulbs, had car washes, and whatever else could fund our endeavors. I have heard of co-workers having fund raisers for school soccer teams. We bought a cookbook recently to help a local high school band go to New York City to be in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, I love buying my share of Thin Mints from little girls.

There is one common thread with all of the above. Charities, religious groups, the Boy Scouts of America, extra curricular activities at school, and baseball leagues are all organizations people either give to or participate in of their own volition. The most heinous sort of fund raiser is the one that has captive participation, is already by a group funded by force, and that the proceeds are not disclosed as to their designation.

I always hated school fund raisers. Every student was expected to sell magazines, expensive candy, over priced trinkets, wrapping paper, or some other sort of expensive stuff I can find at the dollar store. Now that I have a five year old that just started kindergarten, my wife and I have been hit with two recent fund raisers. Quite honestly, I am disgusted.

The first one was an annual event that seems to be a nation wide effort for a gigantic restaurant chain that has three hours set aside one day a year. On that given day, local elementary school students are asked to bring their families to patronize that establishment and a portion of the proceeds (probably a tax deduction for the business) will be donated to the school. The flier that is on my desk says nothing about what the money will be donated for or why it is needed.

The part that disgusts me is the absolute manipulation tactic used. We all know that a child loves to go to a fast food restaurant with cartoon characters, a playground, and chicken nuggets on the menu. When the event is hyped to young, impressionable children, a parent will be given a guilt trip to spend the money at that restaurant in order to placate a whining, crying child that can barely tie his own shoes. Ask me how I know. And yet we parents are supposed to trust that the money is going for a good cause.

My kindergartener brought home a catalog full of over priced stuff we do not need and expensive candy. I do not need fudge that I can personally make better at home or chocolates that I can buy far cheaper at Rose's.

School children are a captive group of victims. They do not participate by choice. Of course the parents are supposed to feel obligated to help their child succeed so they carry a catalog to relatives and to work. Ask me how I know. But a five year old? A kindergartener being conscripted as a sales representative? Have school administrators no shame? Children being manipulated into selling garbage nobody needs to raise money for a reason no parent is told? I hate being manipulated for money, especially for unstated reasons.