Friday, August 12, 2022

Politics and Me, Introduction

 So, I don’t know how you spend your free time, but I like to spend my commute and my running time listening to various audiobooks. I used to listen to podcasts, but I’ve found that I live too close to the office and it’d take several days to get through just one podcast. So, I’ve switched to audiobooks and I’ve added them to my fitness time. I just finished an interesting book on politics and I have another on my docket for next. This book, The Right; The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism, really made me think about politics/political theory and my views. One of the main things it highlighted for me is that I don’t feel like I fit within any political party and that my political views are not party-focused or in support of any one party or candidate, but rather that I care much more about political philosophy and theory. Another thing that came to mind was how a Christian ought to approach politics. And, more specifically, how a pastor ought to approach politics (if at all).

I struggle with the very idea of being a politician. First, I don’t think anyone would really support me to the extent that I could be an elected official. However, I think such a person would be a good person to support. That is, the person who wants power and political influence is probably not the kind of person who would lead with his/her constituent’s best interests in mind. Another thought about being a politician that makes me fairly sure that I don’t want to be one is my distaste for red-tape/bureaucracy. I deal with just a taste of bureaucratic nonsense in my current job, and I hate it. I am certain that for the politician bureaucracy is a way of life. Maybe they like it, I don’t know nor do I understand such a view. I don’t know if it’s true, but based on my dad’s experience of bureaucracy even in the tiny town he lives and serves as a city councilman in, it must be terrible. I have always seen myself as a servant-leader. I don’t sit on high and tell my subordinates to “get to work.” I get out there with my subordinates and do the work with them. We’re in this together! Yes, when a decision is to be made, I’m the one who has to make it (sometimes), but that’s my burden and I bear the brunt of failed decisions. If I make a bad decision I own it and eat the humble pie. That’s my basic philosophy of leadership. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s not the way politics works! I think maybe this book, The Dictator’s Handbook, and the YouTube video based on that book, have made me jaded when it comes to politicians. To summarize the book and video in just a line or two, all politicians, everywhere really only have one goal in mind, staying in and increasing their power and influence. Servant leadership doesn’t fit with that idea of politics. How do we balance the idea that one ought to serve those they’re meant to lead with trying to maintain and grow one’s power at all cost. This is just one way in which my views don’t really fit with any particular political party.

Politics is such a huge topic I’m going to have to break this topic up into a series. In order to tackle everything I can, I’ve found a long list of political issues from which I can draw topics.

In order that they appear on that link and the order that I’ll try to write about them, here are the topics:

1. Abortion 2. Gay Marriage 3. LGBT Adoption Rights 4. Planned Parenthood Funding 5. Gender Identity 6. Government Mandates (healthcare related) 7. Gun Buybacks 8. Gender Transitioning 9. Marital Rape 10. Transgender Athletes 11. Religious Freedom Act (business denying service based on religious views) 12 Racial Sensitivity Training 13. Confederate Flag 14. Hate Speech 15. First Amendment (particularly the separation of Church and State) 16. Death Penalty 17. Gender Workplace Diversity 18. Safe Spaces (on university campuses) 19. Women in Combat 20. Niqab (face veil) 21. Euthanasia 22. Gun Control (generally) 23. Armed Teachers 24. Supreme Court Reform (more seats, term limits) 25. Term Limits (for Congress) 26. Drug Policy 27. Muslim Surveillance 28. Gun Liability (firearms dealers culpable for gun violence) 29. Social Media Regulation 30. Congressmen/women permitted to trade stocks while in office 31. No-Fly List Gun Control (people on no-fly lists also be denied gun permits) 32. NSA Domestic Surveillance 33. Patriot Act 34. Affirmative Action 35. Gerrymandering 36. Eminent Domain 37. Net Neutrality 38. Flag Burning 39. Whistleblower Protections 40. Juneteenth Holiday 41. Edward Snowden (immunity) 42. Political Ads on Social Media 43. Social Security 44. Air Force One (upgrade) 45. Critical Race Theory in K-12 Education 45. Student Loans 46. Free College for All 47. Universal Pre-K (government funded) 48. School Vouchers 49. Common Core 50. Charter Schools 51. Government Financial Aid to Families affected by COVID school closures 52. School Truancy 53. Equal Pay (gender-based) 54. Minimum Wage 55. Taxes (general and higher on the rich) 56. Corporate Taxes 57. Paid Sick Leave (mandatory) 58. Government Spending 59. Corporate Mega Mergers (monopoly laws) 60. Labor Unions 61. Universal Basic Income 62. Welfare 63. Overtime Pay 64. Free Tax Filing 65. Capital Gains Taxes 66. Economic Stimulus 67. Welfare Drug Testing 68. Estate Taxes 69. NAFTA 70. Four-Day Workweek 71. Gasoline Tax 72. Offshore Banking 73. Tech Monopolies 74. Domestic Jobs 75. Pension Reforms 76. Tariffs 77. Farm Subsidies 78. State Ownership of Companies Bailed Out 79. Federal Reserve (audit) 80. China Tariffs 81. Property Taxes 82. Gig Workers (classified as employees) 82. Online Sales Tax 83. Decentralized Finance 84. Cryptocurrency 85. Government Pensions 86. Trans-Pacific Partnerships 87. Drug Price Regulation 88. Single-Payer Healthcare 89. Mental Health 90. Pre-Existing Conditions (regulate) 91. COVID Employment Health Pass (vaccine requirements) 92. Marijuana 93. Medicaid 94. Obamacare 95. Medicare Drug Prices 96. Medicaid Work Requirement 97. Drug Safe Havens 98. VA Privatization 99. World Health Organization 100. Climate Change 101. Oil Drilling 102. Fracking 103. Alaska Wildlife Refuge 104. Paris Climate Agreement 105. Alternative Energy 106. Dakota Access Pipeline 107. Plastic Products Ban 108. Animal Testing 109. Corporate Subsidies 110. Foreign Lobbying 111. Electoral College 112. Voter Fraud 113. Campaign Finance (reform) 114. Right of Foreigners to Vote 115. Lobbyists 116. Minimum Voting Age (lower/raise) 117. Candidate Transparency 118. Criminality Among Politicians 119. Police Body Cameras 120. Defund the Police 121. Qualified Immunity for Police 122. Demilitarize the Police 123. Privatized Prisons 124. Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentencing 125. Solitary Confinement (particularly for juveniles) 125. Police Collective Bargaining 126. Criminals’ Voting Rights 127. Drug Trafficking Penalties 128. Prison Overcrowding 129. Immigration (general) 130. Border Wall(s) 131. Immigration Healthcare 132. Illegal Immigrant Detainment 133. Immigration Bans 134. Muslim Immigrant Bans 135. Border Security (general) 136. Sanctuary Cities 137. Deportation of Criminal Immigrants 138. Immigrant Laborers 139. Citizenship Testing 140. Skilled Immigrants 141. In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants 142. Immigrant Assimilation (learn English 143. Dual Citizenship 144. Mandatory Vaccinations 145. Nuclear Energy 146. GMO Labeling 147. Space Exploration 148. Public Transportation 149. NATO/US Defend Ukraine 150. Mandatory Military Service 151. NATO (stay/leave) 152. Israel (support) 153. United Nations (stay/leave) 154. Foreign Election Influence 155. Military Spending 156. Iran (war) 157. Foreign Aid (increase/decrease) 158. Torture 159. Ukraine Join NATO 160. World Bank/IMF Aid Taliban Government 161. Drones/Drone Strikes 162. Syrian Refugees 163. Terrorism (terrorists’ rights) 164. India Armed by US 165. NATO (US defend other NATO members) 166. Cuba 167. Jerusalem Capitol of Israel 168. North Korea Military Strikes 169. F-35 170. Homeless Encampments 171. Military Action Without Congressional Approval 172. Foreign Assassinations 173. 2016 Election 174. 2020 Election

Whew! That’s a lot of topics! To be honest I didn’t read through the whole list before copying it here. I want to actually write about everything on the list. Of course, some will be shorter answers than others. Most of these will require a lot of thought and more than simple one-word, yes/no answers. That’s part of what I see as wrong with American politics. Politicians are skilled at and are expected to give short, pithy responses to essentially all of these topics at any moment. However, some of them are way too complicated to be boiled down to a one-liner answer. I do look forward to so many options for so much content!

Bike at night in American Village, Okinawa, Japan; Hand-held 150 ISO Film

Monday, April 4, 2022

Vacation and Life Plans - General Update

Northern Lights, taken while visiting Alaska Oct-Nov 2021

Like I said in my I’m trying to get back into blogging more regularly. Something that has been on my mind for a while now is what I have planned for life after the military. Well, I know one thing … I do NOT want to stay in some kind of military-related job after retiring from the military. I joke all the time that I want all my clearances and certifications to expire at twenty years and never do anything military intelligence-related ever again after these years of service. I don’t hate what I do, but I’ve been looking for something of more significance in my life and in the lives of those I interact with. I want to do something more ministry-focused. I don’t know for sure what that will look like and I already do some ministry stuff, but I want to make that my main career, not a side-gig. Michelle (my wife in case you didn’t know) and I have been looking into what we want to do once I retire from the military. Our current plan goes something like this: retire from the military (4.5 years from now), shop around Michigan/Kentucky/West Virginia and maybe Ohio for 15+ acres of land to buy, buy that land and start building a farm/house/homestead, find a part-time or full-time ministry job like pastor for me. Of course, all of that is subject to change. If I finish my seminary degree and can be a military chaplain and I love that work, I might stay longer than twenty years in the military. If we can find an already established small farm/homestead, we’ll buy and renovate rather than buying and building a new house. Our goal is not really 100% self-sufficiency; we just want a nice-sized farm that provides much of our needs. I’ve also considered trying to run a small resort someday and that is still on the table. Essentially, we’d tag it on to the end of that plan and once our little farm is established we’d build a few cabins on the property and post them on AirBnB or have our own website or both. How involved we get with that is totally up in the air. We could make the resort our primary business (hosting camps/retreats for churches, business groups, etc.) or we could just have that as a feature of the farm where all we do is keep the rooms clean for the next set of visitors. We actually visited a camp not unlike what we are thinking of, yesterday after visiting with my parents. It’s called Higher Ground Camp. It is so small and obscure I literally cannot find a website for the camp, that link is to the Google Maps entry for the camp. The photos on Zillow/Realtor.com look lovely, but when we drove around it yesterday it certainly didn’t look as nice as the photos! Also, it was (sorta) on the market for $2.2M!? It’s not worth anywhere near that amount! I was talking with Michelle after our visit and on the drive back to her family’s house (where we stay when visiting family in Ohio). We talked about possibly working some kind of camp like that after I retire as well. The pastor who performed our wedding ceremony, his wife was a director of a camp in Bellefontaine, Ohio. I think that would be a good ministry for our family. I could lead the educational aspects of the camp and be the maintenance guy, Michelle could lead the other activities of the camp. And, if our boys want to be involved with the ministry, they could fit right in with whatever activities their talents lend them to. These are the kinds of things I’ve been thinking about while on vacation/visiting family in Ohio. We have already looked at some properties for sale down in Kentucky and got an idea of where we do NOT want to live. It was annoying because finding the actual properties that were for sale was virtually impossible; they weren’t marked. But, we were able to scope out the region/counties and see that we didn’t like the other properties in the area and ruled out some areas of Kentucky. We also drove up through rural, southern Ohio and love that area, but properties in Ohio are generally over-priced and mostly out of our budget. I would like to check out some areas in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan because I loved visiting Michigan all throughout my youth and think it would make a great place to build such a homestead/farm/resort/camp. Michelle used to work at a Boy Scout camp up in Michigan, so clearly that is an opportunity, though I think our camp wouldn’t be reserved for just Boy Scouts, but rather be open to churches and various other activities. We’ll just have to wait and see what God has planned for us! Until then, I’m going to keep plugging away at that seminary degree and working in military intelligence. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Getting Back into Blogging

Night-time American Village, Okinawa, Japan 35mm film
Well, it's only been almost two years since my last post! I think it's time to get this blogging going again. I used to love blogging. I don't know what happened! So much has happened in the past few years! My last post was back in July 2020, written mostly when I was deployed. One of the biggest changes in my life that I haven't written about before has been the introduction of penpalling. I found a penpal-finding Facebook page. It is a page dedicated to just posting something like: "I'm ____ and I'm looking for a penpal that is ...". In fact, the rules are written such that those are the only kinds of things you're permitted to post. Every once in a while there's a generic post about penpalling, not just looking for penpals. Well, I started writing a couple strangers and my parents. It's been a wonderful experience. Essentially, it's like having a couple new friends from all over the country. Unfortunately, because of various delays it seems like most of my penpals have dropped out of the penpalling hobby. One of them has stuck through the delays (while I was deployed I didn't write much), and I'm glad he has. I think hand-writing letters is a fun pastime that has died off. It makes me sad that people don't put pen to paper much anymore. I don't think it'll matter, but I'd love to think that my letters and my journals might matter to someone someday. I'm reading the book A Severe Mercy and it entails some letters back and forth between the author, Sheldon Vanauken, and C.S. Lewis. I will almost certainly never achieve the level of C.S. Lewis, but I'd like to think that someone might like what I have to say and want to keep them and maybe share them with someone someday. Well, for that to ever happen, I have to actually write things! So, here I am, writing. Hopefully I can keep it up more this time. I only wrote five entries in 2020 and only one in 2019!

One piece of news that I do really think I want to share in this mini update. I sat with our unit's representative chaplain. He works with multiple units but he comes to our squadron three days a week. Well, today I had a chance to sit down with the chaplain and chat. Our chat reaffirmed that I want to finish my seminary degree and become a military (preferably an Air Force chaplain). I did find out an interesting piece of information today. Chaplains, when they gain their commission incur a four-year commitment. That's fine with me. And, if I really like the position I'll want to stay. If I stay over twenty years active duty I'll earn a better retirement. The chaplain I chatted with started his role as chaplain after he had served twenty years. The upside here is that if it doesn't work out for me to become a chaplain I will be able to retire. Hopefully, it's God's plan that I become a chaplain. I feel like that's what I'm called to do. I've wanted this for several years and I enjoy teaching and preaching. I just need to finish my degree and get some experience and then I'll apply.