When I was a young engineer, I had just started at a new company and, as part of my orientation, we attended a presentation by the company CEO, who was a wonderful motivational speaker. His talk was about “Negative Target Fixation,” in which he related the story of amateur pilots who, sometime have to do an emergency landing in a wide-open field with a single tree in it, and while they’re thinking “don’t hit the tree,” wind up hitting the tree. The very act of focusing on what you don’t want to happen can prevent you from accomplishing your goal. I was taking notes throughout the talk and, to my horror, realized that I had actually written down “avoid Negative Target Fixation.” Of course, by framing it in that way, I had made “Negative Target Fixation” the metaphorical tree in my own “wide-open field.” I’ve tried to be cognizant of this irony over the years since then.

One might say that “Negative Target Fixation” is what cost Hillary the 2016 election. It’s become almost a cliché that political candidates can’t just say what they’re against, they have to say what they’re for. However, with all the talk of the midterm “Blue Wave,” the Republicans find themselves in an interesting situation, mostly because when they claim to be “for” something, no one believes them anymore.

I will freely admit that I was anti-Trump in 2016 right up until he won the nomination. Once that happened, my electoral “wide-open field” was one in which Hillary was not president, so I voted for Trum. For the midterm, the Left is completely focused on the Negative Target of allowing Trump to continue to govern. Even though there is no hard evidence that the president did anything illegal, the “impeachment” mantra persists if the Democrats take over the House, even though there is absolutely no possibility of conviction in the Senate. I keep hoping that enough voters will recognize the tree in the middle of this electoral field and that the Republicans will be able to give them a positive message for which to vote. I can’t say I’m optimistic that either side will rise to the occasion.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.            – Jn 3:16

Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.       – Lk 24:5-6

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.                – He 11:1

Happy Easter!

There have been three images that come to mind for me when I think about Easter. The first occurred twenty years ago, when I celebrated my first Easter as a father. I was familiar, or course, with the famous John 3:16 verse, but it wasn’t until my own son was born that I was able to understand the depth of love that would be required to make such a sacrifice. All of you who are parents can I’m sure relate to that feeling.

The second image that comes to mind is when I first watched “The Passion of the Christ,” which has become an annual Good Friday tradition for me. I remember hearing as a kid in Catholic school that Christ actually suffered enough in the garden on Holy Thursday to make up for our sins, and I had heard of how awful death by crucifixion would have been, but it was largely an intellectual argument. To see such an intense depiction of what Jesus may have actually gone through puts into perspective just how much He actually did suffer for us.

And the only way any of that makes sense is that He actually did rise on Easter Sunday. There is no way the Church could have survived its early persecution and thrived as it has for two millennia if it were based on a lie.

And I saw the “evidence of things not seen” about four years ago as my mom was dying. When I visited her shortly before the end I witnessed her receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Seeing the look of peace that came over her at that time, I am certain that she is in a better place and that I will see her again. I know that Jesus has led the way.

I pray that you and your family share in the joy of Easter today and throughout the year.

I want to thank Pete for giving me the opportunity to write more often, starting today. I’m looking forward to being able to comment on things closer to when they happen. And please remember to hit DaTipJar!

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.           -Stephen Hawking

In one of those interesting examples of Cosmic Timing, Stephen Hawking has died on Pi Day. I have been a Hawking fan for pretty much as long as I can remember. I’ve always been something of a nerd and grew up on science fiction, whether in books, television or the movies, and the idea of black holes, the Big Bang, and an infinite universe have always fascinated me.  I have always appreciated Dr. Hawking’s ability to explain complex cosmological concepts in ways that we all could understand. Maybe that has something to do with my current career, in which I make my living in part by explaining complex technological concepts to large audiences.

I recall reading A Brief History of Time when it came out and I’ll admit that I had to look up what year that was. I was surprised to see that it came out in 1988 because I would have sworn that I read it in high school (which was quite a few years before 1988). Perhaps if I had read it in high school I may have become a physicist – although having peaked in my math abilities with differential equations and electromagnetic waves, perhaps not a very good one. As it is, I’ll have to be content having my biggest personal contribution to the field of Physics be my son, who is a Physics major in college. 

Stephen Hawking died today, being a confirmed atheist. He has said that the Universe does not disprove the existence of God, but he believes that it proves God is unnecessary. Given that he also showed how the smallest change in the values of different physical constants, or of the speed at which the early universe expanded would have made our lives impossible, I’m not sure how he got to that conclusion. Perhaps even Stephen Hawking fell prey to the “illusion of knowledge” when it came to the true origin of the Universe.

A quick google search turns up the statistic that 70% of lottery winners go broke within just a few years. As the recent Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots got up over $1 Billion a few weeks ago, I confess I bought a couple of tickets and allowed my mind to wander to what I might do with the winnings (while assuring myself that I would definitely be in the 30%). Right around this time, the immigration discussion started involving the Visa Lottery and it got me thinking.

I recalled the Uber driver I met down in DC who came to our country by winning the Visa Lottery. This fellow was industrious, friendly, spoke English very well and was going to college as well as driving. My first instinct on meeting him, was that the Visa Lottery was a great program if it brought over folks like him to the US. But actually, the program would only serve the interests of the US if everyone who came through the Visa Lottery were as hard working as this guy. Sadly, that is not the case, nor is it even possible when visas are allotted by chance. Unfortunately, this is one lottery where the “house” loses.

I happen to agree with Bobby Jindal who said in the 2016 campaign that “Immigration without assimilation is invasion.” The biggest difference I’ve noticed in immigration between now and earlier generations is that back then, immigrants came to this country to be Americans. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. On Ellis Island, within sight of the Statue of Liberty (the same one that Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi think is crying because Donald Trump is president), immigrants who risked more than just money and time to come here from overseas were often denied entry due to disease or other criteria which basically boiled down to whether they would benefit the US or would be a burden on our society. Why is that now a bad thing? And how could allowing such a burden to then bring over his relatives – and their relatives – who will simply be a larger burden, be a good idea?

Yes, we are a nation of immigrants. But we’re a nation of Americans too. Our nation was founded on the ideas of equality, God-given rights and limited government. Our founding documents were written in English. Yes, there’s plenty of room for diversity of all kinds, including opinion, in our society, but is it too much to ask that immigrants who want to come here be equally committed to our founding principles and contribute to the General Welfare? I’m sure that a rational immigration system would allow folks like that Uber driver to be at the head of the line and I’d be right there to welcome him to his new home.

“Age is a state of mind.” –Hermann Hesse

“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.”  – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of my favorite subjects in high school was geometry. I especially enjoyed doing geometric proofs where, using a set of rules, or theorems, we would start with a set of agreed-upon facts about a problem (“given that angle A-B-C is a right angle”) and apply proven theorems to show how the facts lead to a specified conclusion (“prove that line segment BC bisects line segment DF”). One aspect of these exercises that appealed to my logical (and slightly OCD) brain was how the theorems themselves were built up from other theorems. Once we proved a hypothesis, it became a theorem that we could use to prove additional problems. But we had to start from somewhere. We started with “axioms” which were statements that were taken to be true and did not require proof (“two parallel lines never intersect” for example). One way we tested hypotheses in geometry was to see if they led to a contradiction of another previously-proven theorem or axiom. If a contradiction could be shown, then the hypothesis was proven false. In other words, starting from common principles, we could logically apply a set of rules to establish the accuracy or truth of a statement about a given problem. One would think that such an approach ought to work in society as a whole.

The science of genetics tells us that a person born with XY chromosomes is a male and one born with XX chromosomes is a female. This is an objective fact. According to dictionary.com, a man is “an adult male person, as distinguished from a boy or a woman.” However, liberals would have us believe that an objectively-defined man could – in fact, must – be considered a woman if he so chooses. So liberals claim that a person’s beliefs about his or her own existence override objective reality. Let’s consider this a hypothesis that we can test using our logical method from high school geometry and see how well it holds up.

There is no logical reason why this ability for a person to change an objective fact about himself or herself based simply on believing it to be so should be limited to sex. If I can make myself a woman simply by believing myself to be one, I should also be able to make myself a different age. Therefore, from now on I am declaring myself to be 68 years old which, according to the Left, now makes me eligible to collect Social Security (current eligible age: 67), Medicare (65) and to withdraw penalty-free from my 401(k) account (59½). I will be notifying the ACLU of this fact and expect them to represent me pro bono as I attempt to collect my money.

Q.E.D.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court, relying on little more than the majority’s “reasoned judgement” that “liberty” as mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment somehow encompasses the dignity of same-sex couples, created a right to same-sex marriage. As the case was being deliberated, traditional marriage supporters, including me, were concerned that creating such a right would immediately create tension (to say the least) between this newly-created right and the right to Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech. In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts correctly pointed out that “Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority— actually spelled out in the Constitution.” In a separate dissent, Justice Thomas elaborated on what Religious Liberty actually means, pointing out that it “is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.” In an apparent attempt to mollify the dissenters, Justice Kennedy explicitly stated in his majority opinion that “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.” Unfortunately, the LGBT community has done nothing but disparage us and our beliefs since.

Fast-forward two years and we’re back at the Supreme Court for Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case where a same-sex couple sued a Christian baker to force him to create a custom cake to celebrate their “wedding.” The baker, Jack Philips, declined to create a custom cake, but offered to sell them anything else in the store. Naturally, the couple cried “discrimination” to the Commission who claimed that Philips not only had to use his creativity and talent to create a cake to celebrate an event to which he was morally opposed, but also had to teach his staff, including members of his family, that his religious beliefs about marriage were discriminatory. The Commission’s ruling blatantly violated both Philips’ right to freely exercise his religion and his freedom of speech, and eventually led to oral arguments at the Supreme Court last week.

I’ve read the transcript of the oral arguments, and while I’m optimistic that Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch, along with the Chief Justice, will rule in favor of Philips, I’m a bit concerned that the ruling may be too narrow to fully protect religious liberty against the same-sex “marriage” onslaught. Much of the argument focused specifically on what aspects of a wedding ceremony counted as “speech” for the purposes of the First Amendment. Trying to draw a line and putting some wedding-related activities, such as cake baking and photography on the protected side and makeup and hairstyling, for example, on the other side, is a complete red herring.

Rather, I believe and hope that the court will take a broader approach to the question of religious liberty that was touched upon by Chief Justice Roberts when he asked whether a Catholic legal aid service could be forced to represent a same-sex couple in a marriage-related case simply because they offered pro bono legal services to the community at large. The question really goes beyond just a wedding. If “decent and honorable” people believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, their “freedom of action in matters of religion generally” demand that they be able to live out their faith.

Christianity teaches that we should treat everyone with love, but it does not demand that we approve of every choice that others make. Why should there be a difference between forcing a baker to create a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding and forcing a Catholic adoption service to place children with same-sex couples? Why does the same-sex couple’s supposed right to adopt a child supersede a child’s right to have a mother and a father or the Catholic social worker’s right to live out his or her vocation to care for orphans by placing them in healthy family environments?

In either case, the state would be forcing the subject to endorse or facilitate an event or behavior which his sincerely held religious beliefs teach is wrong. It’s really that simple. In either case, the objection is not to the fact that the person is gay. It would be discriminatory if Philips refused to sell the couple a pre-made cake or anything else in the store because they were gay, but that’s not what happened.

The Constitution says there shall be no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion or abridging the freedom of speech. I believe the Court can and should develop a doctrine that allows Christians and other decent and honorable people to avoid endorsing or participating in events or behaviors that their religious beliefs proscribe while still protecting the rights of LGBT persons against discrimination. As Justice Kennedy said in the oral argument, “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.”

Everyone knew that whoever let the sadness overtake him would sink into the swamp.

The Neverending Story

It’s now been a year since President Trump’s election and I, for one, think that’s plenty of time for all the tantrums to have played themselves out. I can understand the disappointment of the losing side in the immediate aftermath of the election, and I can even understand how they could imagine that all their worst-case scenarios might actually come to pass, even if some of them were pretty ridiculous. But come on, after a full year of actual results, isn’t it time for the Left to stop pretending that the country is doomed?

I can understand having policy differences with the administration. Heck, I spent eight years disagreeing with the Obama administration on just about everything, so I know what that’s like. But the economy is growing at more than double the rate it was under Obama, the stock market is at record levels, ISIS is actually “on the run” now that the rules of engagement have been changed to let our military do its job, and consumer confidence is higher than it’s been in over 15 years. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that, rather than actually being afraid that President Trump is going to ruin the country, the left is, and always has been, afraid that Trump really will Make America Great Again. So they will seize on any issue, no matter how small, as long as they can use it to claim that they’ve been right all along. What do the Russian collusion “investigation” – with no evidence having been found to that effect after more than a year of investigating – and the fake news story of President Trump supposedly over-feeding fish in a koi pond in Japan have in common? They can both be used to claim that the president is unfit for office. And then the left claims these as proof that President Trump can’t govern.

Think of how our allies, and especially our enemies see this. No matter what the president tries to do, foreign leaders will see a divided country behind him, and a relentlessly negative press and this considerably weakens our position. Imagine if President Trump could engage a foreign leader with the same kind of press coverage that Obama received. This leader, whether friend or foe, would reasonably conclude that President Trump would likely be in power for the next 7 years and could enact whatever policies he might use to entice/threaten/coerce that leader to do what we want. The options of either ignoring the U.S. or actively antagonizing us would be off the table because they would know – or at least perceive – that President Trump means business and that the country is behind him.

Regardless of how much they try to spin it, it is obvious that Obama left the country in a hole. They tried to convince us that it was “the new normal” and that things just were the way they were and had nothing to do with Obama’s incompetence or socialist tendencies. Even with the relentless negativity, President Trump has, in less than a year of governing, been able to reverse a lot of that “old normal,” and that scares the pants off the left. So, unfortunately, I predict that the whining, crying and fake news will continue for the foreseeable future. But at least we can see it for what it is: a desperate and disingenuous strategy to weaken the president and the country until democrats can get back in power. SAD!

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
by William Goldman

I live in a relatively small town in Massachusetts and, like most towns, we have our political differences. They usually play out in local issues, but something happened about a year ago that seems to have the leftists in our little town riled up, much like leftists across the country. I won’t go into details, but there have been a number of contentious issues brought up and discussed at recent town meetings and through letters to the editor in our local paper that make this division clear. It is interesting to me that all of these new problems have been brought up by leftists in our town who apparently didn’t know that these problems existed until President Trump was elected.

Shortly after the election, one of the more progressive churches in town distributed lawn signs which many of my neighbors – including one right across the street – display even today:

It is a safe bet that anyone with such a sign in front of his or her house did not vote for President Trump. It is also clear that the sign is an attempt at signifying some kind of moral superiority on behalf of the residents of that house, implying that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with them on these points.  The problem is that these points are so completely disingenuous that it’s obvious that anyone putting up such a sign has no desire to engage in a reasonable debate on any of them.

Black lives matter: Of course they do. So do all other lives, including the lives of police officers who risk their lives to keep us safe and have been put in greater danger by the behavior and rhetoric of “Black Lives Matter” and their political sycophants. Unfortunately, the people in this house are unwilling to admit the “Black Lives Matter” movement is based on a lie. Michael Brown was a criminal who was assaulting a police officer when the officer shot him in self defense. He was not a “gentle giant” who was surrendering with his hands up.

Women’s rights are human rights: Of course they are. Everyone’s rights, by definition, are human rights, and those rights are spelled out in the Constitution. But the fact that I am against abortion-on-demand and taxpayer-funded birth control does not mean that I am a “misogynist.” I believe in the right to life, from conception to natural death. This is the most basic human right.

No human is illegal: Of course not. But when humans break the law, like entering our country illegally, they should be punished. That’s what “the rule of law” means.

Science is real: Of course it is. Science is based on the idea that you form a hypothesis, experiment, and adjust the hypothesis according to the data. Science is never “settled.” The closest the proponents of “global warming” have come to the scientific method is when they changed the name to “climate change” when they were unable to massage the data enough to show that the earth is actually warming. Biology is also a science, and it tells us that men are men and women are women and wishing to be the opposite sex doesn’t make it so.

Love is love: Of course it is. But that is not a justification for changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Especially when that change brings with it the force of the state to compel others to endorse and participate in same-sex ceremonies that violate their sincerely held religious principles. The reason that the traditional definition of marriage was in place throughout all of human history until only a few years ago is that it is the ideal environment for bringing up children. My wife and I are complementary in many ways, each bringing a unique perspective to our family in ways that same-sex couples simply cannot.

Kindness is everything: I agree, which is why I don’t have a sign on my lawn that implies that my neighbors are a bunch of neanderthals for disagreeing with me. If these people truly believed that kindness is everything, they would respectfully engage in conversations instead of accusing those who disagree with them of being science denying racists, bigots and homophobes.

In Gill v. Whitford, democrats are challenging Wisconsin’s congressional district map, claiming that the Republican majority redrew the lines in an unconstitutional way back in 2010. The Constitution permits states to determine legislative districts, thus it is a legislative function. However, since Democrats haven’t won what they consider enough seats in Congress (i.e., all of them), they reason that there must be something wrong. It would be easy to say that what’s wrong is simply their understanding of the Constitution, but I believe there is something much more sinister going on.

In order to challenge the current district map, they have concocted something called an “efficiency index,” which Chief Justice Roberts correctly called “sociological gobbledygook” during oral arguments. The index purports to calculate the number of citizens of either party who wind up represented by a legislator of the opposite party, and Democrats are claiming that, since this calculation shows that more democrats live in districts that elected republicans than vice versa, the courts should usurp the legislative power of redistricting to create a district map that is more in Democrats’ favor.

If that were all, it would be bad enough. We have seen repeatedly over the years that it is easy to find a federal judge willing to reach beyond the Constitutional judicial role and claim jurisdiction over just about any issue, particularly when it is a matter of “fairness.” Only the Supreme Court can decide once and for all that this must remain a legislative function, but Democrats are hoping that the Court will decide on some kind of formula to control redistricting. Let’s set aside the impossibility of creating such a formula that would account for the possible future movement of citizens such that what is a Republican district today may, in less than 10 years, become a majority-Democrat district (If you don’t think this is possible, just look at New Hampshire). I believe that this entire effort is a Trojan Horse to eliminate the Electoral College.

Democrats have long hated the Electoral College, but that hate has grown to the heat of several white-hot stars since Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton (I love writing that) last November, even while losing the popular vote. They have hated the Electoral College going back at least to the 2000 victory of George W. Bush, and have been pursuing the National Popular Vote project for many years. This project is an attempt to convince enough states to constitute a majority of the Electoral College to assign their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This is possible since the Constitution allows each state to “appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” its Electoral College delegates. But the fact that this is possible doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

The NPVP is trying to convince enough states to appoint electors who will vote for the winner of the national popular vote. So much for Democrats bravely telling Electors to “vote their conscience” and select Mrs. Clinton. Now they want to remove any discretion from Electors and force them to vote for a particular candidate.

But here’s where the Wisconsin case comes in. If the Supreme Court decides that the “efficiency index” or some other bogus formula should be used to make representation more “fair,” then Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) will claim that the Supreme Court has ruled that elections that fail to meet this “test” are unconstitutional. Therefore, they will claim that, since the Electoral College can lead to a situation where the “wrong” candidate is elected president, the Electoral College itself, apportioning Electors on a winner-take-all basis as they have since the beginning of our republic, is by this standard unconstitutional. What better way to try and convince states to adopt the National Popular Vote? Let us hope that the Supreme Court recognizes this case for the long-game con that it is and rejects the plaintiff’s case.

“But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We now have a Dr. Seuss two-fer here in Massachusetts. A couple of weeks ago, a librarian in Cambridge rudely refused, without the authority to do so, a set of 10 Dr. Seuss books, a gift from the First Lady, because the First Lady is married to President Trump. And just last week, three equally rude authors refused to participate in the inaugural Children’s Literature Festival at, of all places, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, because – horror of horrors – the museum features a mural depicting a scene from Dr. Seuss’ first book, To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.
As a lifelong Seussophile, allow me to say that these people need to find real issues to worry about. The librarian, seeing an opportunity to lash out at Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos through the First Lady, belittled the gift as unnecessary, because her school has such a wonderful librarian (herself), and proceeded to lecture Mrs. Trump that she should have sent a completely different set of books to a different school. Keep in mind, the reason this school was selected was to recognize its excellence. The letter that accompanied the books encouraged the children that they “can accomplish anything you set your mind to,” and that “the key to achieving your dreams begins with learning to read.” Fortunately, the school district overruled the librarian – who, by the way, once dressed up as the Cat in the Hat to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday – and graciously accepted the books.
Of course, there was more to it. The Big Problem, according to the librarian, is that the books themselves, including Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, are – wait for it – racist. Even though these books weren’t racist when the Obamas read them to children, apparently, the three festival-boycotting authors agreed with the librarian. They claim that the Mulberry Street mural features a “jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man, who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.” Here’s the image:


I suppose Dr. Seuss could have written “a nondescript Asian-American child who may be a biological male – but we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions – who eats with traditional Chinese eating implements” but that doesn’t really fit the rhyming scheme, does it?
As you might expect, the museum caved and is not only removing the mural – from, again, the first book written by perhaps the most popular and well-known children’s author in the history of the English language – but they cancelled the festival! Apparently, they felt it was more important to cater to the fragile egos of these authors that nobody ever heard of than to hold an event to celebrate Children’s Literature and encourage children to read, like the First Lady was trying to do.
In her ungracious letter to the First Lady, the librarian cited Philip Nel, a Kansas State University professor who wrote “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?” Professor Nel was also quoted in a recent Boston Globe article about the controversy offering parents and children’s librarians a choice to either skip Seuss’ more controversial works or read them to children “and be ready to have uncomfortable conversations about them.”
I don’t know about you, but I read these books to my children when they were probably four or five. Needless to say, I did not have any “uncomfortable conversations” with them about the pictures in any of these books. As Mrs. Trump points out, they are “the future of America” and I know that my children, having been given a foundation of faith, reason, logic and love, will be well ahead of their peers whose parents had “uncomfortable conversations” with them and taught them to see racism everywhere.

The Museum of Seuss, with a mural in back
shows whimsy and fun, not a racist attack.

But snowflakes won’t stop, since all they’ve been taught
Is that everything’s wrong and it’s never their fault.

That’s not true, of course, since all that they do
Is to whine and complain and they blame me and you

For not giving in and just going away
But fighting for good in the U.S. of A.

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