Saturday, September 8, 2018

Eisegesis strikes again!

Eisegesis (per Wikipedia) is "the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text."

Today's news brought possibly the most flagrant example of this I've ever seen:

[Free] Methodist pastor uses Bible verse to defend forcing Christians to fund abortions

I wasn't surprised at first, because there are lots of United Methodist pastors who are such fervent Democrats that they think abortion is a sacrament, but this pastor is from the more conservative Free Methodist denomination.

Either way, I was surprised to see this issue of forcing Christians to fund abortions still in the news, as that issue was firmly decided in the negative by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

I was even more surprised by the "logic" of this pastor's claim:
“Jesus directs us to advocate for a just society that allows people to live their lives to the fullest. Jesus directs us to advocate for a just society that allows people to live their lives to the fullest. In John 10:10, Jesus says, ‘I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full,’” Baker said. “And this means supporting access to affordable birth control, because by permitting individuals to plan if, whether and when to become pregnant, birth control allows us to live our fullest lives.”

Though this pastor apparently does not realize it, government money does not fall from the sky. Rather, it is taken, at gunpoint if necessary, from citizen taxpayers. However nice she thinks it would be if someone else paid for her IUD, achieving that goal via government compulsion denies the person so taxed any opportunity to help her voluntarily, along with any moral virtue from having done so.

Jesus WAS very much in favor of helping the poor, but only voluntarily, not by government compulsion.

I'm sad to see some Free Methodists may no longer agree.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Why Voter Fraud Is Real, and usually by Democrats

Tom Knighton appears to have nailed the truth on this:

"It seems like every time we see voter fraud and electioneering, there's a Democrat involved. It puts the Democratic outrage over President Trump wanting a national investigation into voter fraud into perspective, doesn't it? The Democrats do not want such an investigation to happen, knowing it would reveal widespread illegal activity.

Why isn't such crime bipartisan? Because it's ideological. Democrats tend to embrace philosophies that lean towards centralized power and "the ends justify the means" thinking. Republicans, on the other hand, tend to side with "law and order" and limited government. They're less likely to break the law because liberty and the rule of law is the end in itself.

I think most Democrats in office know this, which is why they didn't want President Trump looking. You can't spin crimes that the vast majority of Americans are disgusted by as a Republican witch hunt.

It does make you wonder if U.S. cities are really all that liberal in the first place, or if the machines are at work making the cities look more liberal."

What such Democrats are overlooking, if this is their thinking, is that if they ever succeed in making it impossible for anyone but them to win an important national election by voting, all they will really ensure is that the next election after that is fought with bullets instead of ballots. Given their views on guns, I can't imagine how they expect that to go well for them.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One of my favorite charities (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), which our family supports annually instead of any of the colleges from which we graduated, has just released a new study about how well top-rated universities respect the Constitutional rights of their students here.

Sadly, the short answer is - not well. No college earned an "A", and only a few earned a "B" or even a  "C". Every college we attended scored even lower, which really didn't surprise us, and is part of why our alumni donations go to the F.I.R.E. instead.

Best among this tarnished group were:
Cornell University
Stanford University
UC Berkely
UC San Diego (but not on issues related to sex)
U Pennsylvania (but not on issues related to sex)
U Southern California

Our local college, UC Irvine, was in the next tier down, but again  (not on issues related to sex.)

Definitely something else worth considering before sending anyone you love to college.

One note on the sex issues: one might think a low score on those is good if you are sending a daughter there, and only bad if you are sending a son, but college-mandated violations of Constitutional rights are not in the long term interest of any gender.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A good new answer to the perennial question of "How could God let this happen?"

Now here's a neat idea from David P. Goldman that I'd not heard before:

"The Jewish sages of antiquity maintained that God deliberately left creation incomplete so that humanity could become God's partner in finishing the work of creation. That is a central theme in the teaching of the preeminent rabbinic thinker of the 20th century, Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. Improving nature to enhance the dignity of man, for example by curing disease or defending against natural disaster, is a sacred obligation."

I particularly like its implication:

"The atheist Voltaire cited the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 to challenge the idea of a beneficent God. The Jewish response is not, 'How could God let this happen?,' but rather, 'What must we do to protect ourselves against earthquakes?'"

Seems right to me.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar

Progressives may now be making the same mistake with Donald Trump that they made with Justice Clarence Thomas.

Rather than trying to engage with and co-opt Clarence Thomas as a new Supreme Court justice, they attacked him so fiercely and for so long over so little, that he has become their worst nightmare - for decades.

Now it is happening again. Donald Trump has indicated one reason he decided to run for President was because he was so widely and mercilessly mocked by Democrats for honestly questioning President Obama's apparent lack of a provably-valid birth certificate.

Prior to that, he was a happy Democrat.

So now, instead of befriending Trump and encouraging him to re-find his once-progressive opinions, progressives riot and protest in the streets as if he's still the next coming of Hitler. All they achieve that way is making him and his voters even more sure he made the right decision by running as a Republican.

Trump currently seems willing to lay down the hatchet; progressives would be wise to do the same while he's still willing to work with them on common problems.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Too soon old. Too late smart.

Learned a few things about IRAs this week:
1) Once you take an IRA distribution, it's ALL taxable, and as ordinary income, because it went in pre-tax.
2) If that makes you want to undo the distribution, a) you must do so within 60 days, and b) you can only undo 1 IRA distribution per 365 days.
3) There's no longer multi-year income averaging for anyone but farmers and fishermen.
4) You can only deduct up to half of your adjusted gross income as a charitable contribution in any one year. (The rest can be deducted in a future year.)
5)This is not a problem when you rollover money from one IRA directly to another IRA, even with different companies.
6) It's also not a problem with Roth IRAs, which are taxfree when distributed. (However, unless you need the money, a Roth may be even more useful as a way to benefit grandkids.)
7) Once you reach age 70-1/2, you have to take a required minimum distribution, but you can take it from any of your IRAs, so long as you take enough to meet the requirement for all IRAs (about 3.65% in the first year, rising slowly thereafter under an IRS-supplied formula.)
8) If you don't need part or all of your RMD, you can have your IRA donate it directly to a 501(c)(3) charity, which
a) avoids all taxes on up to a $100K donation per year for both you and the charity, and
b) cannot also be declared as a tax deduction (because it's not part of your income.)
9) The charity you can designate for this may [Update: NOT] be a donor-advised fund, such as VanguardCharitable.org or T Rowe Price's ProgramForGiving.org. That way, you can give the RMD immediately, but decide later which specific 501(c)(3) charities get donations from the donor-advised fund, on what schedule and for what purpose. Better yet, once set up, such funds can continue for generations. [Update: Still a great way to channel charitable contributions, but cannot yet be legally used to receive RMDs.]
Long story short: As of today, "The Strasma Family Fund" at VanguardCharitable.org now exists as a way to help our church and favorite charities benefit more, both now and into future generations, while lowering our tax bracket from a too-large initial IRA distribution that can no longer be undone.
Yep, this is deep stuff, covered nicely in a "It's Your Wealth" class a neighbor and I are taking at the local senior center sponsored by feelincontrol.org I only wish I'd known all this before taking any IRA distributions. Oh well. "Too soon old. Too late smart."
(Note: also posted on Facebook and Google Plus.)

Update 12/10/17: I just discovered one further consequence of the unfortunate home purchase IRA withdrawal that led to the above post: If you take enough out of an IRA that it puts you in a high income bracket one year, you also get hit a year later with a much increased cost for Medicare for the next year, in my case up more than double. Overall, an expensive lesson. It would have been better to buy the home with a 5 year loan than IRA cash, as that would have had the effect of income averaging the IRA withdrawals.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lessons from the Roach Hotel

My clinical pastoral education was at Cardinal Cushing hospital in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was a long-term care facility for senior citizens. I cringe to admit we seminarians sometimes called it the "Roach Hotel" because the only way any of the residents ever left was in a casket. Needless to say, that resulted in literally every conversation there that summer touching on the topic of death, usually brought up by the residents.
It was a helpful time for me personally, as I was finally able to deal properly with the death of my father a decade earlier when I was 13. (The goal of CPE was to tear down our faith and then rebuild it on a better footing, so we all spent plenty of time on the hot seat in the middle of our group, dealing with our issues.)
My biggest takeaway from that summer was that there were only two happy patients in that hospital. One was a quadriplegic, only able to move his head, but still always surrounded by nurses and other visitors as he conversed happily and positively with them. From him I learned you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Rather than dwelling on his aches or inabilities, he spent his time listening to his visitors and sharing interesting memories with them.
The other happy patient was a 90+ year old woman in a ward of almost 100 patients. Her secret was that she made a point of visiting every other patient on her ward every day. That gave purpose and meaning to her days in a place where most others were just waiting to die, long since having outlived or been forgotten by everyone they'd ever known.
Ever since that summer, my goal has been to be like those two happy patients, and I hope I still remember their lessons if I too someday am in a roach hotel, awaiting the end of my days on Earth.