Friday, November 30, 2012

Odds of winning the Powerball? 1 in 175 million. Struck by lightening? 1 in 5,000.

Getting hit by lightning or winning the lottery.  Which is more likely?  Not even close. 
It's true to say that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the Powerball. But that woefully understates the danger of lightning.

Tim Norfolk, a University of Akron mathematics professor who teaches a course on gambling, puts the odds of a lightning strike in a person's lifetime at 1 in 5,000. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot: 1 in 175 million.

While weather is the go-to analogy for such astronomical odds, Norfolk suggests there are better ones.

For example, you'd have a slightly better chance of randomly picking the name of one specific female in the United States: 1 in 157 million, according to the latest census.
 A problem with all of this is you have the government enticing people to waste their money on this gambling.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

African American couple is challenging taxpayer funding of abortions in Minnesota.

Since 1995, Minnesota taxpayers have been paying for tens of thousands of abortions each year under the Doe v. Gomez Minnesota Supreme Court decision.

Below is the press release announcing the lawsuit.  The lawsuit claims the state is paying for too many abortions under even the Minnesota Supreme Court decision requiring theraupeutic abortions be paid for.  In addition, the lawsuit argues the Gomez ruling distinguishing between therapeutic and non-therapeutic abortions is unworkable.

The lawsuit also points out the disproportionate impact of the ruling on blacks.  40% of the abortions paid for by the state are on black women even though blacks constitute only 5% of Minnesota's population.  I'm told 60% of pregnancies in the black community end with an abortion.  Talk about the decimation of a racial community.  Look no further than abortion. 

The Minnesota Family Council has been working on this initiative for several years and is excited to see it moving forward.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys filed suit Tuesday on behalf of two African-American taxpayers in Minnesota who are challenging the unauthorized use of state funding for elective abortions.

Minnesota can only use public funds for abortions that are defined as medically necessary, but government reporting statistics clearly demonstrate that tax dollars have paid for thousands of elective abortions for indigent women, including a disproportionate number performed on African-Americans. More than 40 percent of publicly funded abortions were carried out on African-Americans even though they account for just over 5 percent of the state’s population.

 “The critical taxpayer dollars of Minnesotans should not be used for medically unnecessary abortions, nor should such funding be used to take the lives of more African-American babies than other babies,” said lead counsel Chuck Shreffler, one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

“The reporting statistics are unambiguous,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden, who is co-counsel in the case. “The state is indisputably funding medically unnecessary abortions in violation of state law, and 40 percent of the abortions are being executed on African-Americans even though they make up only 5 percent of the state’s population. This lawsuit intends to stop this from continuing.”

The complaint in the case, Walker v. Jesson, was filed in the Minnesota District Court for Ramsey County, Second Judicial District.

From 1999 through 2011, Minnesota taxpayers paid for 47,095 abortions performed on indigent women, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The data indicates that, at most, only 10,044 of these abortions were done for a “medically necessary” reason, meaning that the state paid for more than 37,000 unauthorized abortions. The statistics regarding the number of abortions performed on African-Americans also came from the Department of Health.

In the late 1970s, the Minnesota Legislature passed a statute limiting the abortions for which it would pay and prohibited taxpayer funding for elective abortions. In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the statute and ruled in Doe v. Gomez that the state cannot withhold state funding for medically necessary abortions. The ruling made clear, however, that “this court’s decision will not permit any woman eligible for medical assistance to obtain an abortion ‘on demand.’”

“The Department of Health statistics show that the state is going far beyond what the Minnesota Supreme Court required in that decision,” Shreffler explained.

The Minnesota Family Council, which advises state lawmakers on family-related matters and supports the lawsuit, says it believes the new facts provide the courts with a good reason to reconsider the public abortion funding mandate in Doe v. Gomez.

Many states are refusing to bail out Obamacare by creating their own state exchanges.

Here's an article in the Wall Street Journal pointing out the refusal of 18 states to create their own health care exchanges. Thus the responsibility falls to the federal government which doesn't have the bandwidth or expertise to set up health care exchanges.

It points out part of the mess Obamacare created.
ObamaCare is due to land in a mere 10 months—about 300 days—and the Administration is not even close to ready, so naturally the political and media classes are attacking the Governors and state legislators who decline to help out. Mostly Republicans, they’re facing a torrent of abuse in Washington and pressure from health lobbies at home.

But the real story is that Democrats are reaping the GOP buy-in they earned. Liberals wanted government to re-engineer the entire health-care system and rammed the Affordable Care Act through on a party-line vote, not stopping to wonder whether it would work. Now that implementation is proving to be harder than advertised, they’re blaming the states for not making their jobs easier.

Editorial board member Joe Rago on HHS's extended deadline for states to implement health exchanges under ObamaCare and why many Republicans governors are refusing to.

The current rumpus is over ObamaCare’s “exchanges,” the bureaucracies that will regulate the design and sale of insurance and where 30 million people (and likely far more) will sign up for subsidized coverage. States were supposed to tell the Health and Human Services Department if they were going to set up and run an exchange by October, but HHS delayed the deadline to November, and then again at the 11th hour to December.

Sixteen states have already said they won’t participate. Another 11 are undecided, while only 17 have committed to doing the work on their own. Six have opted for a “hybrid” federal-state model. That means HHS will probably be responsible for fallback federal exchanges in full or in part in as many as 25 or 30 states.

The opposition isn’t so much political as practical. Or rather, the vast logistical and technical undertaking to build an exchange helps explain why so many Governors resisted ObamaCare in the first place.

States have regulated the small business and individual insurance markets for decades (some well, others less so). Now they’re supposed to toss everything out for a complex Washington rewrite, which is still being rewritten. The exchanges will also help enforce the individual mandate and premium increases. They’ll also have to spend a ton of money. Ohio estimates it will cost $63 million to set up an exchange and $43 million to run annually, based on a KPMG study.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Poverty. When words lose their meaning.

Here's an interesting article by Robert Rector on the federal government's definition of poverty.  It distorts and corrupts what the word means.
The federal government now considers a family of four in New York City to be poor if its pre-tax income is below $37,900.Even with full medical coverage.

The calculation helps explain why newly revised Census Bureau figures hike the number of poor Americans to 49 million as of last year, further widening an already yawning gap between ordinary perceptions of poverty and how the government sees it.

This breathtaking number begs the question: What does it mean to be “poor” in the United States?
To the average American, the word “poverty” means significant material hardship and need. It means lack of a warm, dry home, recurring hunger and malnutrition, no medical care, worn-out clothes for the children. The mainstream media reinforce this view: The typical TV news story on poverty features a homeless family with kids living in the back of a van.

But poverty as the federal government defines it differs greatly from these images. Only 2 percent of the official poor are homeless. According to the government’s own data, the typical poor family lives in a house or apartment that’s not only in good repair but is larger than the homes of the average non-poor person in England, France or Germany.

The typical “poor” American experiences no material hardships, receives medical care whenever needed, has an ample diet and wasn’t hungry for even a single day the previous year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the nutritional quality of the diets of poor children is identical to that of upper middle class kids.
In America, about 80 percent of poor families have air conditioning, nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV, half have a computer and a third have a wide-screen LCD or plasma TV.

All these government statistics were based on the Census Bureau’s old definition of poverty. The new definition, released last week, stretches that gap between common-sense and government perspectives even further.
A couple of consequences of distorting the understanding of poverty jump out at me.  First, it means more government transfers to people who aren't truly in need.  Second, it further expands the entitlement mentality in our nation

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's a mess. Obamacare.

This article Politico by the Independent Woman's Voice points out that while President Obama won the election and Obamacare will remain the law of the land, it didn't resolve the ongoing problems with the whole initiative.
Yet, research conducted by the polling company, inc./WomanTrend for Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) shows that health care was an important concern for Americans on Election Day. The president was reelected in spite of voters’ lingering distaste for Obamacare, and the health care issue will remain a critical issue for voters moving forward.

Just a quarter, or 26 percent of those surveyed by the polling company on Election Day supported implementing Obamacare completely. Even less than half (48 percent) of self-identified Democrats want full implementation, suggesting that the health care law remains a liability, even within the president’s party.

Forty-three percent of voters surveyed want Congress to either “just repeal the law” (30 percent) or move toward repeal, while pursuing other measures - including defunding, amending, and blocking - to prevent its implementation (13 percent). Another quarter (23 percent) favor amending the law, rather than full repeal.

 This opposition is also borne out by the significant resistance in a number of states which don't want to participate in it.   Lack of involvement in some aspects makes the funding mechanism even more tenuous.  As our financial/debt problems for the nation and federal government only accelerate in the next few years, it will make the problems associated with Obamacare worse.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Education like Health Care is in Trouble. Part of answer. More Competition.

A well known college drop out says there are enough jobs but not enough qualified people to fill them.  The problem is our education system.  Most people would give this comment a second thought except the source is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, a multi-billionaire.
The tech billionaire and philanthropist singled out exclusive universities for caring more about their acceptance rates than the quality of the education they offer. Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University, said federal money should go to those who look to teach.

“Who takes the people with the low SAT and educates them very well?” Gates said. “That should be rewarded."

Gates also expressed concern about state funding for education, given that health care expenses are increasing.

“State budgets are pretty easy to describe: They are spending more on medical costs, and a lot of that is coming from reducing their education spending,” Gates said.
I think he sees a legitimate problem with education and growth of health care expenses.  We're spending tons of money but not getting back the return we want.

An important part of the answer?  Empowering consumers rather than just pouring more money into the status quo.
Gates argued that the high unemployment rate — 7.9 percent, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics — is the result of deficiencies in the educational system, rather than an absence of available jobs.

There are currently three million more jobs than there are people with the degrees to fill them, and Gates said the American system needs to start supplying workers or risk losing these opportunities to other countries.

“Many people want jobs, and there are a lot of open jobs,” Gates said. “It is up to the education system to equilibrate that.”
Whether that's totally accurate, I don't know the answer to that.  But even if it is correct, the education system isn't THE answer.  Part of the solution but not the whole.  The breakdown of the family, loss of character are also key parts of the problem.

The day of reckoning is fast approaching, because the money is running out to throw at education, health care and other social problems.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another consequence of government controlled health care? Doctors' shortage.

With the debate over Obamacare at least temporarily settled,  the problems with government run health care will only grow and worsen.  This story "Doc Shortage Could Crash Health Care" caught my eye as another example of a consequence - shortage of doctors.

Why would government run health care mean fewer doctors?  Simple.  Less attractive wages.
In a 2008 census by the AAMC and the American Medical Association, researchers found that the number of medical graduates choosing a career in family medicine dropped from 5,746 in 2002 to 4,210 in 2007 -- a drop of nearly 27 percent.

"It's pretty tough to convince medical students to go into primary care," said Dr. Lee Green, chair of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, who was not involved with the study.

Green added that he believes this is because currently primary care specialties are not well paid, well treated or respected as compared to subspecialists.

"They have to think about their debt," he said. "There are also issues of how physicians are respected and how we portray primary care to medical students."

These problems loom even larger considering the aim of the Affordable Care Act to provide all Americans with health insurance -- and with it, more regular contact with a primary care doctor.
Perhaps the best known example of this approach has been Massachusetts, which since 2006 has mandated that every resident obtain health insurance and those that are below the federal poverty level gain free access to health care. But although the state has the second-highest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any state, they are struggling with access to primary care physicians.

Dr. Randy Wexler of The John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Policy said he has concerns that this trend could be reflected nationwide.
"Who is going to care for these people?" he said. "We are going to have problems just like Massachusetts. [They] are struggling with access problems; it takes one year to get into a primary care physician. Coverage does not equal access."

Some have already proposed solutions to this looming problem. One suggestion is that non-physician medical professionals, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, can pick up the slack. Doctors, however, said his may not be enough to fill the gap. 
What will be the response?  Higher taxes to pay these primary care doctors more?  Again wrong headed.  The answer?  Restore a basic free market system rather than command and control from the top via government regulations and mandates.  There are only two ways to control health care costs - consumers responding to market prices or rationing.  Obamacare will mean more rationing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obama re-election is a wake up call to Catholics but also Evangelicals.

Here's a sobering article on the impact of the Obama Administration on the Catholic Church. George Weigel, author of authoritative biography on Pope John Paul II, points out the direct attacks posed by Obamacare and gay "marriage".
The immediate threat, of course, is the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate requiring Catholic institutions and Catholic employers to include coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. The legal challenges mounted against this obvious violation of the first freedom, religious freedom, may well be vindicated. But with Obamacare now seemingly set in concrete, the Church will face a host of such implementing “mandates” and it will be imperative to contest those that are morally unacceptable, time and time again. Authentically Catholic health care in America is now in mortal danger, and it is going to take a concerted effort to save it for future generations.

A further threat comes from the gay insurgency, which will press the administration to find some way to federalize the marriage issue and to compel acceptance of the chimera of “gay marriage.” Thus it seems important to accelerate a serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not pre-emptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.

If the Church were to take this dramatic step now, it would be acting prophetically: it would be challenging the state (and the culture) by underscoring that what the state means by “marriage” and what Catholics mean by “marriage” are radically different, and that what the state means by “marriage” is wrong. If, however, the Church is forced to take this step after “gay marriage” is the law of the land, Catholics will be pilloried as bad losers who’ve picked up their marbles and fled the game—and any witness-value to the Church’s withdrawal from the civil marriage business will be lost. Many thoughtful young priests are discussing this dramatic option among themselves; it’s time for the rest of the Church to join the conversation.
I would add his concerns confront not just Catholics but Evangelical Protestants and Orthodox believers as well.

He does point out one of the consequences of this looming crisis. It will force people who identify with the Gospel of Christ and the Scriptures, to get serious about their faith. That's what persecution always does and I suspect why it is often allowed to come.
As for the opportunity embedded in this crisis, it is nothing less than to be the Church of the New Evangelization, full-throttle. Shallow, tribal, institutional-maintenance Catholicism is utterly incapable of meeting the challenges that will now come at the Catholic Church from the most aggressively secular administration in American history. Only a robustly, unapologetically evangelical Catholicism, winsomely proposing and nobly living the truths about the human condition the Church teaches, will see us through the next four years. Radically converted Christian disciples, not one-hour-a-week Catholics whipsawed by an ever more toxic culture, are what this hour of crisis, in both senses of the term, demands.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Welfare state and massive budget deficits. "It's the Welfare State, Stupid!"

Here's a column, "It's the Welfare State, Stupid" by Robert Samuelson on the growing welfare state in the US and the implications of massive federal budget deficits.  Samuelson writes for the Washington Post and isn't necessarily viewed as a member of the conservative camp.  As a finance and economics man he simply realizes that we need to get to a balanced budget, so we don't bankrupt the nation.  One essential ingredient is cutting back government spending. A big area is welfare spending.
If you doubt there's an American welfare state, you should read the new study by demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, whose blizzard of numbers demonstrates otherwise. A welfare state transfers income from some people to other people to improve the recipients' well-being. In 1935, these transfers were less than 3 percent of the economy; now they're almost 20 percent. That's $7,200 a year for every American, calculates Eberstadt. He says that nearly 40 percent of these transfers aim to relieve poverty (through Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance and the like), while most of the rest goes to the elderly (mainly through Social Security and Medicare).

By all means, let's avoid the "fiscal cliff": the $500 billion in tax increases and federal spending cuts scheduled for early 2013 that, if they occurred, might trigger a recession. But let's recognize that we still need to bring the budget into long-term balance. This can't be done only by higher taxes on the rich, which seem inevitable. Nor can it be done by deep cuts in defense and domestic "discretionary" programs (from highways to schools), which are already happening. It requires controlling the welfare state. In 2011, "payments for individuals," including health care, constituted 65 percent of federal spending, up from 21 percent in 1955. That's the welfare state.
 A problem with the welfare programs is they become corrupted.  They stray from their original purpose.
Granting the welfare state's virtues -- the safety net alleviates poverty and cushions the effects of recessions -- it's time to pose some basic questions. Who deserves support? How much? How long? How much compassion can society afford?

Programs have strayed from their original purpose. Take Social Security. Created to prevent destitution among the elderly, it now subsidizes the comfortable. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about a couple (he 66, she 70) touring the world. They've visited London, Paris, Florence and Buenos Aires. Their financial adviser sends them $6,000 a month from investments and proceeds from their home sale. They also receive Social Security. How much? They don't say. My hunch: between $25,000 and $50,000 a year. (I emailed the couple for details but received no reply.)

Is this what Franklin Roosevelt intended? Should Social Security be tilted more toward the less affluent? Good questions, but politicians rarely ask them. Anyone who does risks being attacked as hard-hearted.

Welfare programs tend to expand. Advocacy groups discover coverage "gaps." Economic downturns understandably sow sympathy for the needy. Arcane eligibility rules are liberalized. In 2010, a fifth of food stamp recipients had incomes exceeding twice the federal poverty line (about $45,000 for a family of four), estimates a study by David Armor and Sonia Sousa of George Mason University.
 And the dangers of welfare?  Samuelson references a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute.
Eberstadt, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, sees three dangers in the welfare state's unchecked growth.

First, it squeezes other government programs. This is already happening. President Obama's budget assumes that defense spending, as a share of the economy, falls 39 percent from 2011 to 2022. The Army is to drop by 80,000 soldiers, the Marines, 20,000. Domestic "discretionary" spending is cut even more, 45 percent. Research, education, transportation, law enforcement and other programs face pressures.

Second, it undermines work incentives. This, too, is occurring. Social Security's eligibility ages influence retirement. If eligibility were higher, people would work longer. Eberstadt thinks that relaxed disability requirements have lowered work effort. In 2011, about 4.5 percent of working-age adults (20-64) received Social Security disability benefits, up from 1.3 percent in 1970.

Finally, there's a moral cost. It encourages "gaming" the system to maximize benefits. It devalues the ethic of "earned success." There's tension between helping the truly needy and fostering dependence on government and helplessness.
 What needs to happen, according to Samuelson?
The welfare state's great contradiction -- the reason its politics are so messy -- is that what seems good for the individual is not, when multiplied by thousands or millions of cases, always good for society. Politicians appeal to individuals who vote, but in doing so may shortchange the nation. Most obviously: The welfare state's costs may depress economic growth.

The need is not to dismantle the welfare state but to modernize it gradually, preserving its virtues, minimizing its vices and not doing it abruptly so as to derail the recovery. But first we need to admit it exists.

Monday, November 5, 2012

And the winner for the presidency will be?

For someone who follows political issues and campaign numbers more than I should, I've found the race for presidency very interesting.  At Real Clear Politics website - the political junkie's favorite website - the polls consistently show Obama neck and neck with Romney in nationwide polls and slightly ahead on individual state based polls.  Going on that you might give Obama the edge.  However, a closer look suggests that might not be the case, given questions about polling methology and weighing voters disporporationately in favor of democrats.

Michael Barone, a serious student of campaigns and Washington politics for decades, thinks Romney will win because of the way polls show independent voters breaking disproportionately for him and voter enthusiasm is greater for Romney than Obama.

In a column he says,
Fundamentals usually prevail in American elections. That's bad news for Barack Obama. True, Americans want to think well of their presidents, and many think it would be bad if Americans were perceived as rejecting the first black president.

But it's also true that most voters oppose Obama's major policies and consider unsatisfactory the very sluggish economic recovery -- Friday's job report showed an unemployment uptick.

Also, both national and target state polls show that independents -- voters who don't identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans -- break for Romney.

That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting -- and about their candidate -- than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.

That's been apparent in early or absentee voting, where Democrats trail their 2008 numbers in target states Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada.
 Here's an interview with him.  

His verdict?
Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals. 
Another interesting perspective is by Fred Barnes at Weekly Standard.  He points to enthusiasm, issues, and high propensity voters favoring Romney.

What's interesting is the political pundit class universally believes Obama will win.  I suspect they're looking at the polls and they naturally tilt towards their natural bias which is more liberal.  As Howard Kurtz, former Washington Post columnist, points out:
We still have to go through the ritual of holding the election on Tuesday, but the media’s forecasters have placed their bet, and the overwhelming consensus is that the president will win a second term.

As the candidates again raced to the swing states where the election will be decided, and as parts of New York and New Jersey remained crippled by Hurricane Sandy, the unmistakable message emanating from the press was that Mitt Romney had fallen short....
 But Kurtz also points out the consequences of them being wrong.
If Obama somehow manages to lose, it will be a stunning defeat for the nation’s first African-American president. But it will also be a crushing blow for the punditocracy that headed into Election Day filled with confidence that Obama had it in the bag. And Fox News won’t let the mainstream media hear the end of it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Looming social crises - 40 percent of kids born out of wedlock and record low birth rates.

A recent story noted a CDC report showing record low birth rates and extremely high out of wedlock birth percentages.
The birth rate in the United States hit an all-time low in 2011, according to a report released this month by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The 2011 preliminary number of U.S. births was 3,953,593, 1 percent less (or 45,793 fewer) births than in 2010; the general fertility rate (63.3 per 1,000 women age 15-44 years) declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States,” said the report.

More than 40 percent of all babies born in the country last year, the report said, were born to unmarried women....

The percentage of American-born babies who were delivered by unmarried women actually declined slightly from 40.8 percent in 2010 to 40.7 percent in 2011.
In 2011, 1,606,087 babies were born to unmarried women and 2,347,506 were born to married women.
Although the percentage of babies born to unmarried women was highest among teens, the percentage of babies delivered by unmarried women of older ages increased from 2010 to 2011.

In 2010, 33.9 percent of the babies delivered by women 25-29 were delivered by unmarried women, and in 2011 that increased to 34.4 percent. In 2010, 21.1 percent of babies delivered by women 30-34 were delivered by unmarried women, and in 2011 that increased to 21.6 percent. In 2010, 19.6 percent of babies delivered by women 35-39 were delivered by unmarried mothers and in 2011 that increased to 21.1 percent. In 2010, 21.7 percent of babies delivered by women 40 and over were delivered by unmarried mothers and in 2011 that increased to 22.4 percent.
For many, it's no big deal.  But a closer look reveals it is a big deal.

Declining birth rates means a smaller population which will impact economic growth and the ability of government to sustain it's current expenditures.  This will impact social programs and everything else government does.  It also will also increase pressure for higher taxes.

Higher out of wedlock birth rates means a significant, negative impact on character formation in the next generation.  Lack of fathers means kids are more likely to engage in criminal activity, do poorly in school, and a host of social of other social pathologies.

I compare it to the effect termites have on a house.  It destroys the foundation out sight, until one day the house collapses.  Same with the breakdown of marriage and child rearing.  If we do nothing, society will break down and collapses.

Same sex "marriage" is relevant to this discussion. Redefining marriage means mothers and fathers are no longer important.  Fathers become superfluous.  The state, if a new, genderless definition is adopted, will no longer be in a position of encouraging the involvement of fathers in children's lives because this would be discriminatory against same sex, female households. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Billy Graham and the defense of life, marriage and religious freedom

Billy Graham is coming under criticism for calling on Christians to vote for biblical values of life, marriage and religious freedom and for candidates who uphold these values.  Why these three issues?  Because they are foundational, moral issues in society.

Here's a great response to Graham's critics written by Timothy George.
I was in Europe when I first heard of Billy Graham's "endorsement" of Mitt Romney. I was skeptical of this report because I knew that Graham was not in the habit of endorsing a particular candidate for any political office. When I saw a copy of Billy Graham's statement, it made a lot more sense. This is what he said:

On November 6, the day before my 94th birthday, our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. I strongly urge you to vote for candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and woman, protect the sanctity of life, and defend our religious freedoms. The Bible speaks clearly on these crucial issues. Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back toward God.

Some have decried Graham's turning "political" in an election year. Others have claimed that the great evangelist in his senescence is a mere puppet of his son Franklin – a baseless claim that smacks of brazen ageism. That Graham met with Romney is no more surprising than the fact that he met with President Obama in 2010, another election year. Billy Graham is a national treasure and has met with every president since Harry Truman. Although he is a lifelong Democrat, Graham's relationships have always transcended politics. He preached the funeral of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and he led President George W. Bush to personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Graham's statement about the election reveals three things about him and the times in which we live. First, it is a message filled with the pathos of a person who has long outlived most of his contemporaries. The end of life approaches, and one's thoughts turn toward things that really matter, things of eternal moment. Billy Graham's most recent book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (Thomas Nelson, 2011), is about heaven. Deathbed requests and words spoken near the end of life have a certain gravity. They command attention. Graham had something important to say, and we should do him the honor of listening to his words with respect and weighing them carefully.

Second, Graham reveals in his words a deep love and genuine concern for his country. Jesus (and Jeremiah before him) loved Jerusalem and wept over it. There are some tears in Billy Graham's lament about the turning point we face in our American republic today. Here is a man who has preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in history. His heart yearns for everyone everywhere to know and love Jesus Christ. But discipleship is also part of the Christian life. Graham is helping many believers who came to Christ through his ministry, as well as anyone else who will listen, to form their conscience about a crucial national decision in light of the lordship of Jesus Christ. And that is a good and godly thing for a minister of the gospel to do.

Third, Graham asks his readers to take a stand on three non-negotiable commitments of the Christian worldview: the sacredness of every human life including those children still waiting to be born; the dignity of marriage as God intended it to be, a lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman; and religious freedom, not only for Christians but for all persons, for individuals and institutions of faith alike.

The Manhattan Declaration, which deals with these three concerns, was born in the heart of Chuck Colson. He wisely saw that they were threshold issues without which a wider moral consensus on many other pressing matters could not be built. That America's greatest and most respected Christian evangelist has come to support these three principles in such a bold, nonpartisan way is an act of moral courage.

I write these words as an Independent who holds no loyalty to any political party and who has voted for candidates of both the red and the blue. Chuck Colson knew all too well that the kingdom of God cannot be equated with any partisan movement. He also knew that politics was not the answer to the deepest needs of our society.

But there are also times in human history when people of faith cannot in good conscience opt out of the political process. Wilberforce was a leader in Parliament and worked tirelessly to pass legislation that ended the British slave trade. Christians living in 1930s Germany were concerned about many issues other than anti-Semitism, but Bonhoeffer knew that following Jesus required taking a stand against that intrinsic evil. Martin Luther King, Jr. lobbied both Congress and the president to enact civil rights legislation. Today we face a similar moment with respect to the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom. As Chuck Colson said as we released the Manhattan Declaration, "Enough is enough. The Church must take a stand."

Chuck'd be proud of Billy.

Billy Graham endorses Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment

Billy Graham has come out in support of the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the soon-to-be 95-year-old Graham mentioned his connections to the state and his hopes for how they vote next Tuesday.

"For more than 50 years, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was based in Minneapolis and we were blessed by the support of thousands of Minnesotans who helped us spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world," said Graham.

"As a former resident with strong personal and ministry ties to the North Star State, I pray that the good people of Minnesota will show their support for God's definition of marriage, between a man and a woman."...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interesting and entertaining interview with Supreme Court Justice Scalia

Can anyone make the topic of constitutional interpretation interesting, for non-lawyers?  The person I'd put near the top of the list is US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who has written a 600 page book on the topic entitled, "Reading Law:  The Interpretation of Legal Texts".

Here's an interesting interview with him on the topic.  He's articulate, intelligence yet understandable, and witty.

A few years ago, I sent him a letter along with a book I was interested in him seeing.  I had heard him speak in person shortly before when he said he only read letters if there was money enclosed.  So I included $1 with a reminder of his statement.  He sent me back a letter with a witty sentence or two rejoinder coupled with a line in Latin.  His response fit my impression of him perfectly.