Danita’s Children

Cherie and I are preparing to go visit an orphanage in Oanaminthe, Haiti. 

I’ll probably blog about the trip when we’re back.  In the meantime, check out the website, and consider supporting these folks, as they try to bring a little hope to a miserable suffering place.  http://www.danitaschildren.org/

The orphanage was started by Danita Estrella,  whose remarkable story can be seen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc6YPqEsLNA&feature=related

Haiti is by far the poorest nation in this hemisphere.  Disease and malnutrition is rampant.  Unemployment is so high that they don’t even keep track of it.  Child slavery is common, and social injustice is the norm.  The country’s enviroment has been destroyed by decades of abuse and irresponsibility.  Most of the people there live in abject poverty, almost beyond our imaginations.

Haiti is only 600 miles from Florida.  These are our neighbors.

Love Wins

 

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The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness

Below is Dr. Donald Miller’s article “The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness,” from lewrockwell.com. I really like it. Enjoy.

The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness

An ill person may have diabetes or an infection. When an economy becomes ill people lose their jobs and watch the value of their homes and stock portfolios fall. A doctor evaluates symptoms and signs (physical findings), orders laboratory tests, and makes a diagnosis. Having determined the cause of the illness and its pathophysiology (how the disease alters bodily functions), the physician prescribes treatment and gives a prognosis, predicting how the patient will progress under the treatment and the likelihood of recovery.

Government officials and their financial advisors approach economic illness the same way–they diagnose the trouble, institute treatment, and provide a reassuring prognosis.

As in medicine, with its opposing schools of allopathic (pharmaceutically oriented) medicine and homeopathy, there are two diametrically opposed schools of economics: the Keynesian one and the Austrian School of economic thought. Based on the ideas of the John Maynard Keynes (1883�1946), a British economist, Keynesian economics is the one government officials, academic experts, pundits, journalists, editors, and establishment economists follow. Employing mathematical models, this school evaluates the economy from a macroeconomic perspective–as a whole. The Keynesian prescription for treating economic illness is more government spending, along with fiscal and monetary policies designed to achieve full employment and price stability.

Austrian economics focuses on the individual. Taking a microeconomic approach, this school studies the actions of individuals in the marketplace, where people act to achieve their chosen ends, governed by one’s perceived needs and wants. It eschews mathematical models. Instead, Austrian Economics addresses such subjects as marginal utility, the subjective theory of value, economic calculation, scarcity and choice, capital malinvestment, moral hazard, and the importance of free markets and a stable currency for setting prices.

Named for its country of origin, the Austrian School of economics was founded by Carl Menger (1840-1921), a professor of political economy at the University of Vienna from 1873 to 1903. Leading Austrian economists include his successor Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914); and then Henry Hazlitt (1894–1993), F.A. Hayek (1899-1992), Hans Sennholz (1922-2007), Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), and most importantly Ludwig von Mises (1881�1973), who taught at the University of Vienna from 1913�1934. His book Human Action, published in 1949, is the defining work of this school of thought. Austrian economics explains and predicted the last depression and also the one unfolding now.

The worst economic illness the U.S. has suffered so far is the Great Depression, which began in December 1930 with the collapse of the Bank of United States, a bank in New York not affiliated with the government. By 1932, more than 10,000 banks, 40 percent of all the banks in the country, had failed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, after reaching a high of 381 in 1929, dropped to 43 in 1932, an 89 percent fall. GNP dropped 31 percent. International trade fell by two-thirds. The unemployment rate climbed to 25 percent. The Great Depression lasted for 17 years, through the Second World War (WWII) until 1946.

From a Keynesian point of view, the government should have intervened with sufficient fiscal and monetary stimuli to keep the recession of 1929 from turning into a depression. The money supply contracted 30 percent and the velocity of money also declined (people held on to their money and didn’t want to spend it). Farm prices fell 53 percent. President Herbert Hoover is said to have done little to try and prevent the economy from sliding into depression. But he did, in fact, pursue a vigorous Keynesian line of attack.

A Hoover “New Deal” preceded the one that Franklin Roosevelt put in place after he became president in 1933. Hoover had been an activist Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. He was in favor of government intervention and embraced central economic planning, which he called “economic modernization.” He increased government spending on public works projects, propped up weak firms, and bolstered wage rates and prices, all to no avail. Hoover spent 13 percent of the GDP on various “stimuli” to combat the growing depression (compared to 5 percent of GDP President Obama is spending to stimulate the economy now–a $787 Billion stimulus package in a $14.1 Trillion economy). Nevertheless, despite three-and-a-half years of vigorous government spending in a Keynesian mold, the depression worsened and hit bottom by the time Roosevelt was inaugurated.

The Austrian School of economics holds the United States’ central bank, the Federal Reserve System, responsible for the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The business cycle–“boom-bust” cycle–is not a component of free-market capitalism, as the Keynesians would have it. The Austrian economists show that central banks and/or a government-sanctioned and supported fractional reserve banking system spawn cycles of boom and bust. Central banks inject new money into the economy and push interest rates below where the market would set them. These actions generate a boom, which ends in a bust. With interest rates held artificially low, entrepreneurs misdirect capital into unsustainable investments, creating malinvestments such as building too many shopping malls and an oversupply of expensive homes. Thomas Woods, author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse (2009), puts it this way:

The bust is the period in which the economy sloughs off the capital misallocation, re-establishes the structure of production along sustainable lines, and restores itself to health. The damage is done during the boom phase, the period of false prosperity.”

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law in 1913. It created the Federal Reserve System, with its presidentially appointed Board of Governors, twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks acting as fiscal agents for the U.S. Treasury, and in a 1930 amendment, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates. Wilson also signed the Revenue Act of 1913 into law after the 16th Amendment, permitting a federal income tax, was declared ratified earlier that year. As Austrian economists make clear, these two signal events helped turn our Republic into the Empire it is today.

The current era of big government began in 1913–except during the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861–1877), which serves as a prelude (like Das Rheingold to Wagner’s Ring Cycle). Prior to this watershed year federal government spending averaged 3 per cent of GDP–except during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It rose to 20 per cent of GDP during the First World War (WWI) and up to 44 percent in the Second World War (WWII). For the last half-century federal government spending has ranged between 17 and 24 per cent of GDP.

Wilson was a Progressive and believed that, if they had enough power, experts could make the world better. He wanted to expand the power of government to bring about a revolution in society, both at home and abroad. Seeking to “bring light and liberty and peace to all the world,” Wilson sent U.S. troops to intervene in a European war that had no bearing on American national interests. When U.S. troops arrived in France in 1917, this three-year-old war had reached a stalemate. With American troops coming in on the side of Britain, France, Russia, and their allies, however, the balance shifted; and in 1918 this coalition of states defeated Germany and its Central Power allies.

The Wilson-inspired Treaty of Versailles effectively destroyed Germany as an economically and politically viable nation and led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Had the United States not intervened and allowed the war to end in a stalemate, there would have been no Hitler and an intact Hohenzollern Germany could have thwarted the Bolshevik takeover of Russia and Central Asia and prevented the rise of Stalin. Wilson turned a stalemated European war into WWI, which led twenty years later to WWII.

Sixteen million people, soldiers and civilians, died in WWI; 72 million, in WWII. There are parallels between WWI leading to WWII and the Great Depression (GD-1) leading to the economic illness that now afflicts the world, which may come to be known as “Great Depression-2” (GD-2).

Ignoring, or, more charitably, unaware of the tenets of Austrian economics, Roosevelt and his Progressive academic advisors, like Wilson, believed that the government could run the economy better than profit-seeking businessmen. They viewed businessmen as scoundrels and blamed the free-market economy for causing the depression. Roosevelt established many agencies, bureaus, and acts. The NRA (National Recovery Act) Code Authority, for example, established 700 state-supervised trade associations that codified union privileges; stipulated regulations for wages and working hours; and regulated qualities, prices, and distribution methods of what goods the Authority allowed to be produced. The AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) paid farmers to burn oats, plow under cotton, and kill millions of hogs in order to keep prices up. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) made government the employer of last resort.

Entrepreneurs and private investors became concerned about the security of their property rights and stopped investing. The unemployment rate remained high. Instead of recovering, the economy took a downturn and dropped to another low in 1937.

Keynesian economists think that WWII ended the depression. Unemployment dropped from 20 percent to 1 percent, but the rate dropped because 10 million men were drafted into the military. Government deficits of $3.5 Billion in the 1930s did not lift the U.S. economy out of its depressed state. Then during the war deficits peaked at $55 Billion ($2.2 Trillion in today’s dollars). Keynesians conclude that the right dose of the government-spending treatment needed to cure the depression was $55 Billion rather than the much smaller $3.5 Billion.

As the Austrian economic historian Robert Higgs has shown, the economy did not begin to recover from GD-1 until after the war had ended, and Roosevelt had died. During the war, with price controls and rationing, the public’s economic well-being deteriorated. Spending for civilian consumer goods declined through 1941–1943 and was still below the 1941 level when the war ended. People spent a lot of time in lines trying to purchase things. The quality of consumer goods deteriorated. Rationing of tires and gasoline limited where people could go. After the war, Federal spending contracted by two-thirds, freeing up money for businesses to invest for civilian purposes. And with a less threatening Harry Truman now president, investors became more sanguine about the security of their property and went back into the market.

War does not cure economic illness. Ludwig von Mises puts it this way: “War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

Measured by military and civilian deaths, World War II was four times worse than World War I. Likewise, the unfolding Great Depression-2 has the potential to become much worse and more protracted than the 1930–1946 Great Depression. In GD-1, the U.S. was a creditor nation. There were no subprime mortgages (and no property taxes), no credit cards (and thus no credit card debt), and no financial derivatives (there are $600 Trillion of them today). The country had a trade surplus. The U.S. now has a trade deficit (the gap between the nation’s imports and exports), ranging between $612 and $759 Billion a year since 2004.

Nine months into Great Depression-2, U.S. federal debt is $11.3 Trillion ($37,000 per capita). The government also has $62.9 Trillion in unfunded liabilities. Part of that amount is for Social Security, a legacy of the New Deal.

Tax receipts are plummeting. In the first six months of fiscal year 2009, which began in October 2008, income tax receipts fell 31 percent and corporate tax receipts, 64 percent. The budget deficit this April was $20.9 Billion, the first deficit in this tax-paying month in 26 years. April 2009 tax receipts dropped 44 percent compared with those in April 2008. Money collected by taxes is only going to cover half of the fiscal 2009 federal budget, requiring the government to borrow and print more than $1.8 Trillion to fund it. Equal-sized deficits loom for fiscal year 2010 onward. Tax receipts fell 50 percent in GD-1. Now eight months old, GD-2 is already rivaling that drop.

In the 1930s the country had a strong manufacturing base and was self-sufficient in oil. Only 12.2 million people in a total civilian labor force of 154.7 million (8 percent) are now employed manufacturing goods, while the government employs nearly twice that number, 22.6 million people (15 percent of the labor force).

The official government-reported “U3” unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in May. Using the older “U6” method it is 15.8 percent (this includes workers who have given up looking for a job and those working part-time who cannot find full-time work). The true rate of unemployment is closer to 20 percent, as John Williams shows in his Shadow Government Statistics Newsletter. For the last six months more than 500,000 people each month have lost their jobs. In March, 633,000 people lost their jobs; in April, 568,000–149,000 in manufacturing, 110,000 in construction, 269,000 in the service sector, and 40,000 lost jobs in the financial sector.

One in every 10 Americans, 32.5 million people, now receive food stamps. Fourteen million homes in America stand empty, one out of every nine. And the United States now imports 62 percent of its oil. The U.S. economy today is in a much more precarious state than it was at the onset of GD-1.

Americans trusted their currency in the 1930s, even after Roosevelt (in his April 5, 1933 Presidential Executive Order 6102) no longer allowed people to redeem their Dollars in gold–only central banks could still do this. President Richard Nixon closed the central-bank “Gold Window” in 1971, taking the Dollar completely off the gold standard. During GD-1 the U.S. Dollar was worth a fixed weight of gold. Now it is a fiat currency. The Latin word fiat means “let it be done,” and Nixon did it. The Dollar now is simply a piece of paper with printing on it, or it exists as electronic digits in a computer. It is not backed by any tangible assets. Nevertheless, the government declares the U.S. Dollar to be legal tender “for all debts public and private.” It is the only form of currency that people can use as a medium of exchange in the U.S. economy.

While the government can decree that it be used as a medium of exchange and serve as a unit of measurement, the U.S. Dollar has proved to be a poor store of value. A basket of goods that cost $100 in 1913, when the Fed was formed, cost $409 in 1971 and now cost $2,152. Over the 96 years that the Federal Reserve System has been in existence it has inflated the money supply (M2) 500-fold, from $16.4 Billion in 1914 to $8,264 Billion in April, 2009. The U.S. Dollar has lost 96 percent of its value. The life blood of an economy is its currency, which makes economic calculation and efficient markets possible. Federal Reserve monetary policy is like a cancer that is ravaging the body of a leukemic patient.

Given the true cause of the country’s economic illness, the only way to keep GD-2 from worsening and reaching WWII proportions is to take the following Austrian medicine:

1) End the Fed. Repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. If the economy is going to be able to recover any time soon, the market must be free to set interest rates, without a central bank that can inflate the money supply. The government must play no role in monetary affairs. Banks will exist as free-enterprise institutions with no privileges from the state; and if they engage in fractional reserve banking, they do so at their own risk.

2) Restore sound money to the economy. Have no legal tender laws that restrict what currency the market chooses to use. Privatize the country’s monetary system and allow the free market to determine the forms of money it prefers: gold and silver; new currencies based on gold and silver, or other commodities; PayPal dollars; a Google currency based on any number of goods; foreign currencies, etc. There has to be a separation of money and banking from the state, just as there is with church and state.

3) Lower taxes and cut government spending. Repeal the 16th Amendment and abolish the personal income tax. Like cutting government spending by two-thirds after WWII helped end GD-1, the government needs to cut spending by a similar amount in this depression. Close the 865 U.S. bases around the world, bring the troops home, and end the U.S. Empire. Abolish unconstitutional departments and programs like Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. Limit cabinet departments to State, Defense, and Justice. Cut the government’s budget as drastically as possible, thereby releasing resources for use by the productive sector of the economy. An economy where the government employs twice as many people as its manufacturing sector does will stay sick.

4) No bailouts. Stand aside and allow malinvestments, bankrupt firms, and insolvent banks to fail. The economy needs to liquidate all the mistakes made during the boom in order to recover from the bust.

5) Allow prices and wages to fall to levels set by the market. Government must not pass laws that prevent wages from adjusting to circumstances, despite pressure from vested interests and labor union monopolies. Prices are the vital signals that enable people to decide what to produce and consume. Propping them up artificially stifles recovery.

6) Regulate the government, not private property and markets. Investors will only make long-term investments that spur recovery and boost employment if they think that their property is secure. Fifteen cabinet-level departments control different aspects of the economy, along with 100 Federal regulatory agencies that have produced 73,000 pages of regulations � not including those set by state and local governments.

In a nut shell, this is the Austrian prescription for curing economic illness, as per Murray Rothbard in America’s Great Depression:

 

If government wishes to alleviate, rather than aggravate, a depression, its only valid course is laissez-faire–to leave the economy alone. Only if there is no interference, direct or threatened, with prices, wage rates, and business liquidation will the necessary adjustment proceed with smooth dispatch… The proper injunction to government in a depression is cut the budget and leave the economy strictly alone.

If government refuses to undergo this treatment, the economic collapse that some analysts are predicting will likely occur. A Weimar-Zimbabwe-like hyperinflation could result. If that happens, the suffering that a depression can cause will seem mild compared to the devastation an inflationary depression wreaks. The astute observer William Buckler, Editor and Publisher of the Privateer Market Letter, predicts:

The action of governments and central banks everywhere is guaranteeing a catastrophic collapse in the purchasing power of the money they are borrowing into existence. [And�]

The last of the big time spenders, the U.S. Treasury, is on a countdown to bankruptcy with its gargantuan borrowing. When it goes, the final U.S. underpinning–the international value of the U.S. Dollar–will go with it.

I recently finished rereading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It is timely. I certainly hope that an Obama-led U.S. economy does not go the way of the Thompson-led economy in Atlas Shrugged. There are some disturbing parallels. But we have some valuable resources in GD-2 that GD-1 lacked that can help cure this depression. We have Congressman Ron Paul, authors like Thomas E. Woods, Jr., sites like LewRockwell.com and Mises.org, and vast amounts of information available at our fingertips on the internet. Tea Parties reminiscent of the one that sparked the American Revolution have been held across the nation by students and people from all walks of life, and some states are beginning to assert their 10th Amendment rights.

Austrian economics is most compatible with a Jeffersonian republic–one with free trade, private property, and limited government.

There is hope. The treatment Austrian economics prescribes for 21st century America can restore us to the republic we once were and salvage our economy before its illness proves fatal.

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Love Wins

Deep Thoughts

By Jack Handey

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
 
One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said. “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late. 
 

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis. 

 

Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind”. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – “mank” and “ind”. What do these words mean ? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind. 

 

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face. 

 

If you define cowardice as running away at the first sign of danger, screaming and tripping and begging for mercy, then yes, Mr. Brave man, I guess I’m a coward. 

 

I bet one legend that keeps recurring throughout history, in every culture, is the story of Popeye. 

 

When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges. 

 

To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other. 

 

We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can’t scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me. 
Probably the earliest flyswatters were nothing more than some sort of striking surface attached to the end of a long stick.

 

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
 
Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his head out when you’re coming home his face might burn up. 

 

The memories of my family outings are still a source of strength to me. I remember we’d all pile into the car – I forget what kind it was – and drive and drive. I’m not sure where we’d go, but I think there were some trees there. The smell of something was strong in the air as we played whatever sport we played. I remember a bigger, older guy we called “Dad.” We’d eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you. 

 

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is “God is crying.” And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is “Probably because of something you did.” 

 

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone. 

 

If you’re a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it’s real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you. 

 

If you go parachuting, and your parachute doesn’t open, and you friends are all watching you fall, I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming. 

 

Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling. 

 

Whether they find a life there or not, I think Jupiter should be called an enemy planet. 

 

Instead of trying to build newer and bigger weapons of destruction, we should be thinking about getting more use out of the ones we already have. 

 

I think a good gift for the President would be a chocolate revolver. and since he is so busy, you’d probably have to run up to him real quick and give it to him. 

 

Just because swans mate for life, I don’t think its that big a deal. First of all, if you’re a swan, you’re probably not going to find a swan that looks much better than the one you’ve got, so why not mate for life? 

 

If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid looking in a mirror, because I bet that will really throw you into a panic.

 

Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead. No, wait, not me, you. 

 

I can’t stand cheap people. It makes me real mad when someone says something like, “Hey, when are you going to pay me that $100 you owe me?” or “Do you have that $50 you borrowed?” Man, quit being so cheap! 

 

I think the mistake a lot of us make is thinking the state-appointed shrink is our friend. 

 

If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet you could shoot beer out of you nose. 

 

I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex. 

 

If you’re in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it’ll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them. 

 

I think a good product would be “Baby Duck Hat”. It’s a fake baby duck, which you strap on top of your head. Then you go swimming underwater until you find a mommy duck and her babies, and you join them. Then, all of a sudden, you stand up out of the water and roar like Godzilla. Man, those ducks really take off! Also, Baby Duck Hat is good for parties. 
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

Sometimes, when I lie in bed at night and look up at the stars, I think to myself, “Man! I really need to fix that roof.”

If you lived in the Dark Ages and you were a catapult operator, I bet the most common question people would ask is, “Can’t you make it shoot farther?” “No, I’m sorry. That’s as far as it shoots.”

Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he’s carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you’re drunk.

I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I’d just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.

If you go flying back through time and you see somebody else flying forward into the future, it’s probably best to avoid eye contact.

It’s easy to sit there and say you’d like to have more money. And I guess that’s what I like about it. It’s easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.

Whenever you read a good book, it’s like the author is right there, in the room talking to you, which is why I don’t like to read good books.

Instead of a trap door, what about a trap window? The guy looks out it, and if he leans too far, he falls out. Wait. I guess that’s like a regular window.

During the Middle Ages, probably one of the biggest mistakes was not putting on your armor because you were “just going down to the corner.”

If I ever get real rich, I hope I’m not real mean to poor people, like I am now.

Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then on the way out, slam the door.

Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you’d look out your little window and think, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not out in that.”

Consider the daffodil. And while you’re doing that, I’ll be over here, looking through your stuff.

For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here’s a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?

It’s sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs.

Instead of having ‘answers’ on a math test, they should just call them ‘impressions’ and it you got a different ‘impression’ so what, can’t we all be brothers?

If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He like enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting!

Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.

I hope that after I die, people will say of me: “That guy sure owed me a lot of money.”

If you get invited to your first orgy, don’t just show up nude. That’s a common mistake. You have to let nudity “happen.”

Ambition is like a frog sitting on a Venus Flytrap. The flytrap can bite and bite, but it won’t bother the frog because it only has little tiny plant teeth. But some other stuff could happen and it could be like ambition.

Can’t the Marx Brothers be arrested and maybe even tortured for all the confusion and problems they’ve caused?

How come the dove gets to be the peace symbol? How about the pillow? It has more feathers than the dove, and it doesn’t have that dangerous beak.

Instead of studying for finals, what about just going to the Bahamas and catching some rays? Maybe you’ll flunk, but you might have flunked anyway; that’s my point.

I hope that someday we will be able to put away our fears and prejudices and just laugh at people.

I hope, when they die, cartoon characters have to answer for their sins.

If they ever come up with a swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something.

It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

Some people think clowns are funny.  Not me.  Clowns have always frightened me.  Maybe that’s because when were kids our Dad took us to the circus, and a clown killed him.

Love Wins

The Red Pill

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.
(In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)
Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (a red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember — all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.
(Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water)

Love Wins

Meeting together

I’ve had this one queued up for a while.  Below is something my friend Rachel wrote about Hebrews 10:25, which I thought I’d share with the readers of this blog.  I like it a lot.  The first “love wins” is Rachel’s.  When I saw how she wrote that, I had to agree.  By the Way, Love Wins.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This has been on my heart lately. Our family has quietly walked away from the mainstream, method of church-meeting and has experienced some criticism for doing so. Unfortunately, Hebrews 10:25 has become one of those verses which is often plucked up out of context and used to guilt folks into never missing an “authorized” church service (and completely missing the positive message of that marvelous passage). For me, the real beauty of Hebrews 10:25 begins with the overall context of the new covenant’s superiority over the old, the priesthood of Jesus (Spirit-grace) has replaced the insufficient priesthood of men (sacrifice-law). It is in that amazing, paradigm-shattering context that we read Hebrews 10:19-25:

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(TNIV)

I would continue to the end of the letter as the writer of Hebrews says some of the most amazing things regarding this new life in Christ, our assurance of it and how we are to live, but for the sake of space I will refrain. The main thing I would like to point to is that this “assembly or meeting” of believers has absolutely nothing to do with a building or location, it’s a non-issue which has unfortunately been made into a major issue. In fact, it is only one of two places in the new testament that the greek word επισυναγωγην (episunagoge) occurs (the other being 2 Thessalonians 2:1… interesting). If the author of Hebrews meant this passage to refer in particular to the regularly scheduled meeting of believers he/she would most likely have used the word συναγωγην (synogogue, as in James 2:2). The “epi” in “episunagoge” adds the meaning of “over” or “above and beyond” which implies that this instruction is aimed at a more informal kind of “assembly” which happens outside of the regularly scheduled gatherings, like coming together on a friday night with other families for supper and a sweet, open time of friendship and fellowship.

The primary instruction in verses 24 and 25 is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. The writer then specifies how to do that: by meeting together and exhorting (encouraging) one another. If we abandon being together, how can we possibly “stir up love and good works”? The emphasis is on the PEOPLE, not the place. It really doesn’t matter if the location is a modern, air-conditioned venue with a big parking lot (and probably highly mortgaged, but that’s another issue), a tiny apartment or an obliging field. What matters is that believers come together in order to celebrate and experience kingdom life with each other.

If location did matter, then I fear many of the meetings I have witnessed in places like Sao Paulo, Brazil and Nyeri, Kenya would fall outside legitimacy and those wonderful brothers and sisters might then be seen as “forsaking the assembly” by meeting together in a field, a park or a grass hut. Do you see how this argument simply falls apart outside of our western notion of “doing church” under a steeple (or a denomination for that matter)? Otherwise we come mighty close to saying that certain verses may not necessarily apply to folks in other cultures, implying that our western way of doing things is the correct way… dangerous! Was the bible written for our 21st century American christianity or is it sufficient for all believers in all places at all times?

The Church, then, is not a place but a PEOPLE. Jesus is coming back for a BRIDE, not a building. We’ve heard this before, but we haven’t really understood. The beauty of the Kingdom of God is that it transcends time, place, social class, ethnicity, gender, age, political affiliation… you get the point. Our citizenship is now in Christ’s upside-down kingdom where the first will be last and the last will be first, where there are no celebrity christians, and where we are truly free.

For the record, I personally have nothing against meeting in mainstream church buildings, I’ve seen Jesus there too. Our family has simply opted out of that system, just like we opted out of the educational system because we found something that resonates with our heart. That was our choice and I don’t judge any brother or sister who chooses differently. It’s really about the attitude of our heart.

… and by the way…Love wins.

Love Wins

Hemp

It is illegal to grow hemp in this country.  For some ridiculous reason, the government’s prohibition of psychotropic marijuana (which is itself ridiculous), also includes and criminalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp, which is not an intoxicant.  The USA is the only country on the planet where growing hemp is illegal.

Hemp was once a major agricultural crop in this country.  The pilgrims grew it.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it.  It was the major cash crop in Kentucky.  The original Declaration of Independence was written on paper produced using hemp.

In 1970 the federal government imposed strict limitations of the production of cannabis sativa, making no distinction between cannabis with intoxicating levels of THC, and industrial hemp.  In order to grow hemp a DEA permit is required.  None have ever been granted.  The US is the only developed nation on earth that does not cultivate hemp as an agricultural commodity.

Products made from hemp are not illegal here.  So all the hemp milk and other hemp products sold in this country are imported, primarily from Canada, France and China.   As as a result, millions of dollars that could remain in local communities here, are transferred overseas.

Blocking the production of hemp is silly and unjust.  Nine states (North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, West Virginia, Montanta, Vermont and Oregon) have passed laws permitting hemp production, but the DEA and Federal authorities continue to block any attempts to move forward. 

As is so often the case, Representative Ron Paul of Texas is leading the fight to protect the rights of America’s farmers.  He has introduced a bill (HR 1866) that would remove the federal prohibition against growing hemp, by excluding industrial hemp from the federal definition of marijuana.  As Dr. Paul said in introducing the bill, “It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has stood in the way of American farmers, including many who are struggling to make ends meet, competing in the global industrial hemp market. Indeed, the founders of our Nation, some of whom grew hemp, would surely find that Federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited, restrained Federal Government. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to stand up for American farmers and cosponsor the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.”

Write your members of Congress.  Support HR 1866.

 

Love Wins