Monday, October 30, 2006

A Modest Proposal

I must say that I write this modest proposal despite the immense harassment I’ve suffered. Some poor unenlightened persons no doubt believe with all due sincerity and yet great ignorance that I am crazy. There are a few who have expressed support for my plan, and to these people I give thanks. Many great ideas which have now become accepted were once met with great hostility and disbelief, e.g, that the world is round and revolves around the sun or that oh so great ideal we call democracy. The French Revolution was met with much resistance by reactionary powers seeking to maintain the status quo, yet the bourgeois would persevere in their fight for Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. Therefore, it is not only my right but my responsibility to proclaim this plan and let it be judged by fair-minded people, whose right it is to consider thoughtfully and either accept or reject.

I do not present this plan as a panacea. Although I write this knowing this plan would solve many problems, I also present it as a challenge. If one does not agree with it, come up with a better plan. But as of yet, our government, our President, and our Congress have failed to provide adequate leadership, and so I must do my share as citizen of these United States of America and of the world.

So to begin, I shall simply state the plan. The plan is to add an extra hour to each day. And by that I do not mean we should adjust the length of an hour so that each day still lasts the same amount of time, 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds to be precise, but that each day should be 25 hours long. Neither do I mean that the amount of days in a year should be lessened, but it would remain at 365 days. At the same time, a year would increase from lasting 8760 hours to 9125 hours, a difference of 365 hours. Of course I’m sure you the reader already inferred before I even stated those facts. These numbers will be expanded on later, as no proposal would be complete without numerical analysis to provide absolute numerical evidence for the advantages of the plan. We wisely value numbers which do not lie and we wholeheartedly put our trust in them to guide our nation.

So what would this proposal accomplish? It would certainly eliminate the need for that annoying daylight savings time, which is advantageous. However, that alone is not nearly enough to justify changing the amount of time in a day by even one minute. No, change should not be embarked upon unless is clearly better than convention. However, prudent change is not only possible but desirable.

Our lives we live are incredibly chaotic and busy. People are so busy that many don’t even have enough time for a good night’s rest and are sleep deprived. That fact alone that people are operating vehicles while in a state of perpetual sleep deprivation is a serious public safety hazard that needs to be addressed. Certainly you can agree that you could use an extra hour each day; you’ve probably said to yourself if only I had an extra hour. You could use that extra hour for whatever you want, sleeping, exercising, reading, spending time with your children, et cetera.

One area of many which this plan would have significant benefits is energy consumption. As we all know, we are facing an energy crisis, in particular but not exclusively in the area of petroleum consumption. The average price of gasoline at the pump is starting to go over $3 a gallon. Now, if everyday is an hour longer, that means energy consumption will be partially spread out over that extra hour. In particular, driving will be less frequent. I said I was going to go back to those numbers, and now let me do so. Currently, there are 600 hours in twenty-five 24-hour days. Now, if a day lasts 25 hours, then in 600 hours there is only twenty-four days, a reduction of one day out of twenty-five for the same period of time. (You’re wise, as you are still reading this proposal, and I would ask that you delay the question undoubtedly raised in your mind over where the one day went for a moment.) That reduction of one day eliminates with it one day’s worth of daily activities, e.g. commuting to and from work, etc. That means a reduction in energy consumption. If you perform the calculations, which you are of capable of doing and probably already have done in your mind, you see that there is a reduction in energy usage by 1/25 or 4.0% by simply adding an one hour to each day. Furthermore, during that one extra hour petroleum is still being pumped and refined which is equivalent to increasing by 1/24 or 4.2% the amount of petroleum available for consumption on the market. All this is accomplished without any infrastructure improvements.

I would like to remind the reader that Congress in its infinite wisdom last autumn of 2005 anno Domini passed an enormous energy plan which included adjusting daylight savings time to save energy. Now, if changing the clocks twice a year by an hour can help reduce energy consumption, surely it would follow that changing everyday to 25 hours would save so much more energy.

I shall not delay any longer in responding to the question of what happened to that one day out of every twenty-five 25-hour days. I’m sure you the patient reader would agree looking back that the deferment was warranted. The day doesn’t is not eliminated, but rather pushed back. As was stated earlier, each year shall remain at 365 days. So, the implications of this is that for a certain period of time, there is 1/25 less years, So 25 years when dealing with 24-hour days is the equivalent to 24 years on the 25 hour clock. Let’s say someone lives to be 75 years old under the 24 hour clock. Under the 25 hour clock they live 72 years. This person now lives 3 years less.

Now, you will ask why would you want to live a shorter life. First, it is about the quality of life, not the quantity of life. You will live less years but each day will be more enjoyable when you have an extra hour to do whatever you will. But more importantly, this has tremendous implications for social security and other entitlement programs of the government. One is now working longer while living shorter. This means they pay into social security longer and take out less. Since Congress will neither raise the retirement age, lower benefits, nor raise taxes, as it cannot stop pandering to the elderly, this seems to be the only solution to making social security solvent. May I remind the reader if you have a better solution please present it.

You probably have already seen a potential problem, won’t this require either changing clocks back one hour everyday or replacing all clocks. The answer is yes, but this is not a bad thing. Certainly it would be an inconvenience to change clocks everyday and I have no intention on that being the case. No, every clock will have to be replaced. Now you will say this will cost money. Yes it will, and that is the advantage. The economy works by money circulating, the more circulation the better the economy; its not that there is more money when the economy does well. The money spent to replace clocks will stimulate the economy tremendously and generate jobs. This includes appliances with clocks built in, such as VCRs, microwaves, etc. It will provide jobs in all areas of the economy, manufacturing, engineering, retail, etc. So don’t selfishly hoard your money, buy a 25 hour clock and you will do your part as an American in helping the economy and you will see the benefits of a much more robust economy. Likewise, more lighting will be needed and so that to will generate jobs and stimulate the economy.

I must interject here that this proposal was formulated first and that any benefits to any companies in any area of the economy are only natural implications. I am not pandering to the clock and lighting industries and I am not corrupt in accepting donations to the campaign for the 25-hour day. As it is in their interest, not that is not in the interests of others, for the 25-hour plan to be implemented, it is only natural that they should donate money to the campaign for the 25-hour plan and for any politicians in favor of the implementation of the plan. Of course you understand that people only give to that which they support, so it is not pandering to the clock and lighting industries by accepting donations from them for a campaign for the 25-hour day from which they will benefit. Environmental groups donate to those they see as environmentally friendly, which I consider myself to be. I should add less frequent consumption of energy and other goods is good for the environment, and so I would gladly accept donations from anyone, any company, or any organization which is pro-environment.

Now you may be thinking, this plan actually sounds pretty good, but won’t the daytime and nighttime get out of sync. Well, yes it will, but that is actually a benefit. First of all, we have heard a lot about promoting diversity. With this plan you’ll get to experience the diversity of day and night over a rotation of 24 days. The majority of people work something along the lines of an 8 to 5 job. Well, why do you always need to be inside during broad daylight when it would be just as feasible to work indoors at night. So now you will be able to experience much more daylight. You’ll be able to watch a beautiful sunrise without having to wake up early. You can have a nightlife without having to stay up late.

Furthermore, this out of syncing will help reduce crime. There are two deterrents to crime, daylight and people being active. Unfortunately, under the 24-hour clock those deterrents always line up and so people can easily commit crimes at night when it is both dark and people are generally indoors and usually asleep. But under the 25-hour clock there would be times when those deterrents complement each other, it would either be daylight or people out, leaving no opportune time for people to commit crimes and thus would follow a reduction in crime. Sadly this would not always be the case as it would vary over a 24 day period and sometimes the two deterrents would not complement each other but overlap. Nevertheless, it is an improvement over the 24 hour clock. However, the better lighting that would result from the implementation of the plan would take away some of the cover of darkness afforded criminals when that overlapping occurs, still resulting in a decrease in crime.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Smoking Ban Burns Up The US Constitution In Louisville

Yesterday, the Louisville Metro Council passed a comprehensive ordinance yesterday banning smoking in 'every' 'public' building and workspace besides Churchill downs and a tobacco-product plant. Not exactly a comprehensive smoking ban.

I would like to remind the Metro Council that they are stepping on our constitutional right to smoke. Where in the constitution is this right? Its implicitly there, but it might as well be enumerated, indeed it really is. The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Now what type of arms were they referring to? Firearms. And when you smoke what do you have, fire. And you also use your arm to smoke. They also can kill people. Therefore, cigarettes, cigars, etc, are arms covered by the second amendment which we have the right to bear and use. And of course that amendment does not actually mean in a militia, as has clearly been shown in court cases before. You might think this is absurd logic. I'm not going to contend with that claim, but rather submit that absurd logic is okay when it comes to making the law. Let me just point you to a supreme court decision that was just as absurd, Roe vs. Wade, and is now stare decisis. Because you implicitly have the right to privacy, you have the right to kill your children. Likewise, you implicitly have the right to smoke. Another similarity is abortions don't occur in private homes, even though its protected under the right to privacy, so why should things be any different with smoking.

Now restaurants, bars, etc, might me public places, but they're private businesses. No one forces you to go a restaurant, bar, etc. that allows smoking. So why the ban? The ban doesn't allow exemptions for places with separate ventilated rooms for smoking. But it does allow for smoking outside on patios, etc. Now how is that really different then separate ventilated rooms. Do non-smokers not like sitting outside. Second-hand smoke is just as annoying and dangerous when outside than when inside, especially when all the smokers are packed in a separate room. The claim has been made business increases when smoking is banned. Well, let each business decide what's best for them, and if they make the wrong decision they'll suffer the consequences. Since when did the government run private businesses?

What really gets me is this exemption for Churchill Downs. They claim its because they compete globally and with Caesars Indiana across the river, which allows smoking. Do local restaurants and bars not compete with those across the river, especially if smokers have to go across the river to smoke. It seems more likely its because Churchill Downs is a big corporation which can afford to lobby. And Churchill Down will probably get some of the smokers business just because they have a monopoly on smoking in Louisville.

Perhaps the point of a comprehensive ban is to protect the workers at these places. They after all still have to work in the smoking rooms night after night. So what about the workers at Churchill Downs? Does their health and well-being not matter? Why not just let places that want smoking to require those working in the smoking areas to be smokers? Or require them to wear masks, and maybe shame the smokers out of their habit? "Hello, I'm Darth Vader and I'll be your server for tonight. I'm wearing this mask because you gave me cancer. Can I start you off with some drinks?"

If we really wanted to do what is "good" for us, we would ban smoking in Louisville all together, both in public spaces and in people's homes. We have dry counties which don't allow alcohol to be sold, so why not make Louisville like that for cigarettes? (Because we're in Kentucky which produces the tobacco) Regular smokers after all do drive up our healthcare costs, both for the state and for insurers, leaving us the bill when they get cancer. So we would be better off if we banned smoking and tobacco products altogether. (Although they do die sooner, meaning they cost less social security money. So why not do a study and see if we save more paying their healthcare costs while they're dying earlier, and make our decision based off that. We might want to encourage smoking.) While we're at it lets ban fast food since that is unhealthy too, and costs almost as much to our society and pretty soon will cost more. Yum Brands Inc. might not be to happy about that, so we can give them an exemption, since they are a big corporation headquartered in Louisville. Sound familiar?

While I'm not big on smoking, I am big on keeping our government where it should be, largely out of our lives. (to a limit) We don't need the government to make every decision for us even though we might be better off. That is not compatible with our notion of liberty.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Solution to the North Korean Problem

I'm sure you heard the news about North Korea's apparent nuclear test. This is obviously a cause for concern. But let's for a moment look at the bright side, North Korea has one less nuclear bomb. All we have to do is get them to keep testing, until he uses up all his nuclear material. So I'm going to make a direct appeal to Kim Jong Il. "Kim Jong Il, you were just lucky. But we all know you can't do it again. Don't even bother. Unless you test six more nuclear bombs, we'll have no respect for you. So just go back to watching your DVD collection and leave nuclear bombs to us who know what we're doing."

Now Kim Jong Il likes movies, particularly James Bond films, and apparently wanted to be a film director before becoming a dictator. Now what is it with people who dream of being in the arts, have their dreams shatter, and then decide to become a dictator instead. Hitler wanted to be an artist but wasn't accepted into art school. We need to have special slots in art school for people who would otherwise might try to become a dictator. "Your portfolio sucks, but you did check the I'm going to take over a country box if you reject me, so we're letting you in to be on the safe side."

Now maybe Kim Jong Il felt compelled to live up to his father's expectations and tossed away his childish dream of being a film director to be a ruthless dictator. So here's the deal we need to offer. If Kim Jong Il ends the nuclear program, reforms North Korea democratically so to end the totalitarian regime, we'll let him direct the next James Bond movie, maybe even in North Korea. Let's face it, the James Bond movies are going down hill anyways, so what's to lose. Maybe he would even do a better job and turn them around. The deal is too good for him to refuse. And if he doesn't accept the offer, we're cutting off his Netflix, and charging him late fees. (I did not get paid to mention Netflix, although if they want to pay me, that would be perfectly alright with me.)

Now I heard Bush talking about diplomacy. Diplomacy! That's not the Bush I knew when we were under an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein wanting to develop weapons of mass destruction. If we invade a country for just thinking about weapons of mass destruction, why would we only verbally condemn a country who actually tested a weapon of mass destruction? And how are we going to sanction a country which has nothing and doesn't care about its own people? (I read an article saying they were going to cut off funds from counterfeiting, money laundering, and other illegal financial activities. Why would they not have cut that off long ago?) The UN is going to write a strongly worded letter to North Korea. Kim Jong Il is trembling in fear right now. That's why he performed the test on a Sunday, no mail delivery.

Of course its really not that simple. Sure, it might be better for the US for the US to pre-emptively take out the North Korean threat through a decisive military strike before North Korea is putting nuclear bombs on bottle rockets that will reach the US. But South Korea would lose if we strike. And even if we knew that North Korea had not nuclear bombs, they still have a large military and plenty of conventional weapons pointed at South Korea. South Korea would be devastated before we could get rid of North Korea. Thousands and thousands of South Koreans would probably be killed and the South Korean economy would be wiped out. And we certainly don't have the troops available to have any sort of ground invasion of North Korea. Even if we hadn't gone to war with Iraq, I would doubt we'd have enough troops without a draft.

Another problem is that even if we could take over North Korea, democracy would not work right now. The North Korean people have been brainwashed, kept in the dark, and kept uneducated for way too long to be able to start a democracy for years to come. You can't have a successful democracy without educated people. And reintegration with South Korea would again devastate the South Korean economy. The UN would have to run North Korea for years to come.

So after considering the various options for a response, I'd say the best option is to offer Kim Jong Il a director's job in exchange for dismantling the totalitarian regime and stepping down. It's clearly the only thing that will work given the circumstances. I wish I could offer something better, but that's the best we can hope for. So we're going to be inviting to the multilateral talks all the major movie studios. And get ready, Kim Jong Il is coming to a theater near you.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

How should Christians work with Government?

It's pretty obvious and clear what Christians should do when under a non-Christian government that is either neutral or hostile to them. When the government is neutral and has not banned Christianity in whole or part, then we should do as Paul wrote in Romans 13 and "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities." And when a government is hostile and persecuting Christians we go ahead and disobey them when it comes to prayer, worship, fellowship, reading scripture, and sharing our faith, whatever the consequences. But what are Christians suppose to do when they have the opportunity to be in power, and the temptations that go along with that power? Unfortunately, we don't have in the Bible any epistles to Christians in a pro-Christian state, a democracy much less. It would be interesting to see what Paul would have wrote to Christians in the US today, but I will not attempt that as I am obviously without Apostolic authority.

First of all, I believe we must understand the difference between the new covenant and old covenant, between the New and Old Testaments, before we can begin to understand how Christianity and government should work. In the Old Testament we see a theocracy, which God ordained. The disobedience of religious and moral laws had punishments to be enforced by the state. Some of these punishments seem harsh to many of us today, such as stoning for being rebellious to your parents. And forsaking God would lead to death. Now in the New Testament we don't see any calls for theocracies. They were dealing with oppressive governments that persecuted the early Christians. Now we don't see a drop of discipline for God's people though. Members of the Church are to be disciplined. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you,youu have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17) Now under the Old Covenant, members of it could be killed for disobedience, but under the New Testament, we are never told to kill, but rather if worse comes to worse kick them out of the Church.

So why the change? In the Old Testament, God was establishing the Israelites as his people in a land full ofnon-believerss with all sorts of vile practices. God commanded the Israelites to kill them so that they would not corrupt his people. "But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God." The Israelites did not do listen to God, and thus were led astray and suffered the consequences of having their nation attacked and deported. (God knew this would happen.) So why would this not apply today, to us under the New Covenant. First of all, America nor any other state including the modern state of Israel are not the nation-state of Israel as known in the Bible. Second, the Great Commission, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20) The roles have reversed, and instead of fearing that believers will be taught bynon-believerss abominable practices and thus killing them, we are to teach them and make disciples out of them. Now it seems pretty obvious to me we can't teach and make disciples out of people who were are killing for being non-Christians. Under the Old Testament non-believers were like a virus that threatened to infect God's people, but now believers are like a virus that is to infect non-believers. This is why many Old Testament laws can't be made law here in the US even if there was enough support to do so.

Now would it be wrong to go establish Christian only communities, a Christian only state? "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36) This passage would seem to suggest that would not work, since households are generally not divided by national borders. A Christian state would not work since as soon as people started having children their would be non-believers. Yes, you would teach them about God, but that would mean everyone of them would accept what you tell them. No, like it or not under the New Covenant the Church and State are separate. Members of the Church are members of states, but members of a state are not all members of the Church. And if you somehow tried to force people to be members of the state to be members of the Church, you would only end up with nominal Christians who are not saved and the church would be weakened by this, as it once was. Plus, how would one evangelize if you lived in a Christian only state, a giant Christian bubble.

So when Christians are writing laws, we must remember that the state is not, will not, and cannot be the Church. We cannot legislate morality, and certainly not salvation. We cannot save people through laws. Even if everyone stopped all the obvious sins because of the threat of prosecution by the state, they would still sin, if just in thought. And if they are sinning without having accepted Christ as thsaviorur, as one who atoned for their sins, they will still go to hell. What it might do is give people they false idea they are good people because they don't break the civil law, and will deserve to go to heaven because of that.

Now perhaps part of the problem is churches are largely failing in America to do their jobs of teaching and disciplining, and so we are somehow trying to resort to the civil law to enforce what we should or should not be doing as Christians. If we had the IRS collect tithes along side taxes, we would sea lotot more Christians tithing.

This is not to say that we don't need laws because they don't do any good. They do good, they restrain sin and protect us from the consequences of sin that would ensue under a state of anarchy. We should thank God for government to protect us. But the government cannot save us eternally. Laws that protect people from other people's sin arcertainlyny good and we need them. But laws that are somehow suppose to forcefully protect people from their own sin perhaps need careful examination, to say the least, as they will sin anyways. And since government must be based of a moral system of some sort, it might as well be based off that of Christianity, as that is right. I seemed to have digressed from the role Christians should play in government to why we shouldn't have a theocracy. Perhaps this discussion on why we shouldn't have a theocracy is largely unnecessary, as not too many people are calling for a theocracy, but I think it is still good to have. So I will soon again try to address the role Christians should play in government, hopefully without digressing.