Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trust isn't everything, it's the Only thing.

I have been rather forcibly reminded of the value of trust over the last few days. I have posted on this in a few other spots, but having had it reinforced recently, I felt perhaps this would be a good time to examine it

When you cannot trust someone, it becomes impossible to have a relationship of any sort with them. Could you trust a boss who only keeps their promise to pay you for your work occasionally? How about a leader who says they will support you if you have any difficulties and then refuses to do so when it counts? How many such occurrences need take place before someone is deemed untrustworthy? How many lies does one have to tell before one is considered to be a liar?"

One of the reasons I am posting on this today is that I saw Ingrid Mattson's appearance at the DNC on CNN or C-span(whichever one it is that I get). She was lecturing the DNC and America on the value of telling the truth. The value of being trustworthy. I found this to be particularly interesting because Ms. Mattson happens to be the current head of the Islamic Society of North America.

Ms. Mattson is a convert to Islam from Catholicism and she seems to spend a great deal of time trying to convince us that the real Islam is a loving, and kind religion being exploited by those who do not hold to it's "true" teachings. Ms. Mattson is asking me to believe that a woman who grew up in a Catholic home in Canada knows the "true" teachings better than those who grew up studying the Koran daily under the instruction of Islamic holy men (Otherwise known as those irresponsible terrorists who have hijacked the "true" religion for their own purposes) A book which is illegal under it's own laws to translate into another language because that might cause confusion among it's adherents. (Thus, every convert is expected to learn Arabic.)Perhaps she missed the bits about taqiyya. This is the practice of lying to protect yourself or advance your goals.

So, here we have this well spoken, Canadian woman who has converted to a religion which allows lying under a number of circumstances (there are more lies allowed than just under taqiyya) lecturing Americans about the importance of telling the truth at a major political party's convention. Every terrorist who has access to a television set that showed it must be laughing themselves silly just thinking about how stupid we are.

For the record, if someone believes that lying is acceptable to advance their cause, they are not trustworthy in any area of their life. Because you and I have no way of knowing what their cause is, we have no way to tell what they may lie about and therefore can trust them in nothing. Is there anyone who believes otherwise?

"16These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. " ~Prov 6: 16-19

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I attended the screening on Thursday of I.O.U.S.A. While it is not my intent to use this forum for movie reviews, this is something worth a post. I attended on the 21st because I particularly wanted to see the panel discussion afterwards.

The movie was a fairly straightforward look at the financial health of our nation with a historical context which I found helpful. (Oh, and catchy music too, of course, can't have a movie without catchy music.)They looked at where we are currently, where we have been and where they believe we are going if "something" isn't done now. They briefly presented the concept of financial war on an international level which I found interesting. They showed the home and talked about the expectations in life of an average Chinese (city dwelling, factory working)couple.

They pointed out our current challenges and the necessity for doing something quickly to avoid leaving a huge financial burden to our children and grandchildren.

They did not , however, present any real options for what people should do. By real options, I refer to things the average American can do today to address the situation.

The movie shows Americans buying bonds to support our efforts in WWII but does not explain how this was helpful to the country. They addressed this a little bit(it means our nation's debt is to the nation's people)in the panel discussion. The panel also briefly addressed the benefit of regular savings accounts to the economy(making funds available for lending) but noted that savings accounts are penalized by being taxed twice. (It's taxed when you make it and taxed again for any interest it makes.)

Then the panel discussion went on to exhort the American people to put pressure on our elected officials to vote for fiscally sound policies at all levels. Unfortunately they did not provide any way for the average American to discern, in these days of media spin, what such policies would look like.

This is an area that needs to be addressed. I have noted in other forums the disservice done to a people by media bias and it is no less crucial here. If one has no way to gather accurate and relatively unbiased information, it becomes nearly impossible to know what one should approve of as far as the upcoming votes of one's legislators. Where can I find reasonably unbiased information on current spending proposals before my legislators? How can I verify that such a source is reasonably unbiased?
Almost anything would be better than nothing, but where do I start?

Another solution raised by the panel, but not in the movie was raising the retirement age. The entire panel and most of the audience seemed supportive. Most people understand that Social Security was never intended to be a way of life. There was also a brief mention of forced savings. A mandatory savings account for every worker was mentioned as an option. (One assumes that this is because the government has no faith in the willingness of the next generation to take care of our elderly citizens. Is it a good idea to force people to save - whether you want to contribute or not? And if the government was untrustworthy with Social Security and are untrustworthy on fiscal issues now - another point of the panel discussion - why should we trust them to administer any of our money?) This kind of leads into my next area of concern about the movie's message...character issues.

There was an underlying assumption, throughout both the movie and the panel discussion, that the character of the people of this country is such that we need not question current and future generation's dedication and willingness to do the right thing even if it is difficult. I'm not so sure this is a valid assumption anymore and here's why:
  • The baby boomers came from a generation that went to church regularly and understood many of the qualities of good character without having them explained. It wasn't necessary, those qualities were demonstrated by their parents and neighbors. There was a well defined set of moral and behavioral standards that were generally accepted. That is no longer the case.
  • GenXer's, such as myself, were raised by those who were breaking out of those values sets because they found them to be too restrictive. We did not have the benefit of regular church attendance in many cases and were told that "if it feels good, do it" was the way things should be. That having standards was prudish and not relevant to our modern world.
  • For Generation Y, moral relativity is now the rule of the day. Nobody has the last word on what is right or wrong and so nothing really is. It's all about what works for you.
  • Today's youth are showing some signs of recovery from this plague of moral relativism, but by and large they believe that there will be no Social Security system for them when they reach retirement age. In their view, their parents and grandparents lived high on the hog and now want them to pay the bill. This is jarringly out of step with the character values the film is asking them to display. The attitude that we may reap as a nation may very well be one of "Those older people keep telling us how much better they were and are than us and look at what they've done to our generation. Why should we bail them out? "What's in it for me?" has become the question of the day for the Millenials.
  • Once again, we come to the remarks of the panel that the current leadership of our nation cannot be trusted to do the right thing,fiscally, because their focus has become getting re-elected rather than doing the job. How can we change that? It must be changed because otherwise our young people are correct in questioning the character of those who made the fiscal situation what it is.

I personally believe that our people young and old will come through, but I don't think it will be without consequences. I hope and believe that personal character will become an absolutely overriding factor in elections once again. I'm just not sure how we will get there from here and this movie doesn't provide more than a very tentative starting place.

There would probably have been more than 28 people in the theatre with me if they had advertised it as "doing for Congress what "Supersize Me" did for McDonald's" rather than comparing it to "An Inconvenient Truth".

"The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. "

~Prov. 22:7

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Land of Nuts and Flakes strikes again

The state of California is getting ready to vote on this change to their state constitution:
"Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California"

First a suit was filed to prevent this amendment from coming to the ballot. It failed. Now the Attorney General has changed the wording of this amendment to read:
"Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to state and local governments."

It seems to me that the AG is just setting the state up so that the amendment can be challenged in court and thrown out, but I notice that he doesn't include the fiscal impact of that. He is playing with the people of California and wasting their money to boot. He obviously believes their morals are for sale to the highest bidder. How much more insulting does he have to be before the people of the state wake up and oust him?

Aside from the AG's shenanigans though, I have a problem with the whole idea of indicating that a marriage could occur between two people who are anything but a man and a woman.

Now, I know that some people will find this confusing, but please bear with me. I think that same sex couples cannot be married, because they cannot, by definition, perform the contract of marriage. One cannot make a legal contract to perform an action which one is physically unable to perform and neither can one make a contract not to perform that which one is unable to perform. As I understand it, it must be possible for the terms of a contract to be performed for the contract to be valid. Therefore, same sex couples cannot be married because marriage is a contract which in essence states that both partners will only perform those acts necessary for the creation of children with the other partner in the marriage. That any children they produce will be the children of themselves and the other party to the contract. It does not require the production of children, nor does it prohibit adoption. It simply states that all children produced within the marriage will be the children of the parties to the contract. Since same sex couples cannot produce children with their partner, they do not need, nor can they legally make, a contract that says they will only do so with said partner.

(Before Mr. Morris says so, yes I believe that a marriage is much more than that on a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level-but those things are hard to define and show evidence of in a courtroom, so for the sake of this post, I restrict myself.)

I think it is also questionable to encourage people to enter into agreements which prevent them from reproducing as a contract of marriage would for same sex couples.

While I recognize that there are moral benefits to being able to say one is married, those benefits are available to anyone who wants to get married. I would love to be able to say I'm a brain surgeon, but it wouldn't be the truth. If I wanted to, I could certainly do that which is necessary to earn that title. Changing the definition of brain surgeon so that it includes me would not give me the skills and knowledge of a brain surgeon. It would simply make it more difficult for people to know who is qualified to operate on brains. I can whine all I want about how brain surgeons have people's respect and that makes their lives better and why shouldn't I be able to do that too?, but that isn't a good enough reason to change the definition. And it's not a good enough reason to change the definition of marriage either.
Some may argue that there are legislative benefits to being married. Yes there are. Married people went through the legislative process to get them. If same sex couples want those benefits, they too are free to avail themselves of the legislative process.

It is a dangerous practice to legislate by redefinition. While I applaud the people of those states who have made the effort to legally define marriage in their states, I am appalled by the very idea that it should be necessary. Do we need to put the dictionary into legislation as well so that this sort of thing can be avoided in the future? Aren't we, as a people, better than that?

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
~Gen 2:24