Post-election thoughts

I have avoided blogging about the election because frankly, I annoyed myself last time around and I figured there was enough – and better – coverage out there. But now that it’s wrapped up, let me hit a few points. Let me disclaim this before I start: I’m tired, and this is pretty much a stream of thought post. It’s not going to be up to my usual standards. That said, here we go:

First – Romney did better than I could have imagined. I came into his selection upset, expecting him to be a McCain-esque, passive, big government RINO. He reversed my opinion of him with his behavior on the campaign, his selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate, and his performance in the debates. I think Romney is a better man than I originally gave him credit for, and I know he’s a more competent one – even despite the loss.

Now comes the “now what?” sentiment I’ve seen posted across Facebook and popping up on blogs already. It appears that along with the Executive branch, the left has kept its hold on the Senate as well. It’s not a good-looking scenario for conservatives or libertarians, but it’s what we have. What’s important is to focus forward, not backward. Ignore the whining, ignore the jeering and the gloating, ignore the “what-ifs.” Remain positive. I posted tonight on Facebook that I truly hope Obama is everything his supporters hope and nothing that I fear – and I mean it. I would LOVE to be wrong about this, because I love this country, and I don’t want to see harm come to it. I spoke to a good friend of mine tonight who could not have a more diametrically opposing political stance than I; and we thanked each other for remaining civil and for being friendly through it all. I love him and thank him for keeping me grounded and remembering that there are good people on both sides of this argument.

Now, despite the recent focus, I think that Obama is not so much the problem as a potential symptom of the problem. Another thing I said a while back, and that I reposted tonight, is that I thought this election would come down to the choice between fiscal accountability and government subsidy. It appears we’ve made our choice to follow Europe down the road of a government-subsidized lifestyle; it hasn’t worked for them, so I hope desperately that we tread their path far better than they did.

As Bill Whittle said tonight: A moral, virtuous people is what it takes to keep our system and government afloat. Thomas Jefferson knew it, John Adams knew it, and I think a lot of us still know it. Currently, a big issue is the accountability and responsibility that is sorely lacking in the Federal Government. The next few years will mean a lot as the world comes to grips with this idea. As for us, Ben Franklin said, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” My fear is that Obama will not handle it well and that the country will suffer as a result; again, I hope I (and Mr. Franklin) am wrong – but I don’t think we are, given Obama’s record so far. This country has become lazy and apathetic, and the best intentions of the honorable – on both sides! – are dragged down by the demand for a free lunch. That is what needs to change if any significant difference is to be seen. Virtue has to be taught, and we are not teaching new generations virtue. Instead, we teach them laziness and vice. Don’t believe me? Watch a few music videos or an episode of  reality TV. Virtue is no longer being taught. In fact, it’s being actively compromised. And if a government like ours – one driven by the will of the people – is to change, that is where it must start.

So,conservative, so, libertarian, take heart, and know what you must do! It is the heart of the people and the nation that must be targeted to see the level of change you desire. Realize that the liberal you see opposing your every move thinks he is correct and doing what is right for the country. Realize that he is well-meaning and probably just as frustrated as you are. The amount of whining about Romney being an imperfect conservative is probably only matched by the amount of whining that Obama is an imperfect liberal! Be civil, be loving. Arrogance and anger will never change anyone’s mind.

Finally, know that God is in control. No matter what good or evil any politician can come up with, they cannot trump whatever God has in stake for me, you, and this country. Those of you who are believers can take hope in that.

And now, I’m off to bed. Goodnight, all.

Happy Independence Day

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient suffrance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their acts of pretended legislation.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally, the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizen taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Tomahawk’n’roll

Lamest. Title. Ever.

Tomahawk seems to be one of the most exciting new developments in the music playback world – an aggregator for all your music services, including your local library, Spotify, Grooveshark, Youtube, Last.fm and a few others I’ve not heard of. I’d never heard of it until a friend of mine, Flexstyle, pointed me to Wired’s review of the app, which is – to say the least – glowing. Also, it’s open source, which regular readers of mine will know makes me all sorts of happy all by itself.

So! How does it actually work?

I downloaded the app from their website and installed it, happily discovering that this much, at least, was free of any surprises or unnecessary complications. When you launch the app you are asked to choose from a list of “resolvers” and let Tomahawk know where to find the music stored locally – Windows users, your “My Music” library is selected by default. So what’s a resolver?

Resolvers are the plugins used by Tomahawk to use a content service – so for instance, you would have a resolver for Youtube, another for Spotify, and another for Last.fm. You can add or remove these at will, and almost all the ones I was interested in came by default with the program, I just had to install them from the list of available choices. Notably absent was Spotify, which must be downloaded separately from their website, but that’s a hassle that takes all of 10 seconds to resolve. The resolvers for Youtube and Soundcloud both gave me the option to include or exclude covers, remixes, and live versions, which is a nice touch – but relies on whoever uploaded the file to have labeled it as such. This isn’t something I expect Tomahawk to be able to handle, but it’s something end users should keep in mind.

So, I added my resolvers, signed in to Spotify (it requires a premium subscription, which I have, to function) and Last.fm, and set it to work scanning my local library. After completing the scan, the app crashed. Whoops. Fortunately, it at least had saved all my resolver and account settings, so all I needed to do was set it scanning my library again… which led to another crash.

 

I wish...

I have about 8,000 songs on my local disk right now, and it took the app only a couple minutes to scan and add them all, which was impressive, but what I found odd was that the “local collection” says it found 25,000+ tracks before it crashed, which makes me wonder if it is duplicating when coming across playlist files or something like that. I tried selecting “update collection” instead of “fully rescan collection,” and this time it counted up to 50,000+ tracks before crashing. I headed off to their support forums to see if anyone else was having the same issue, but didn’t see anything apparent, and trying to register an account didn’t work. It appears their site is moving slow – maybe Wired’s fault? – and the registration email isn’t being sent. Bugger. I’ll be skipping the local music library for now, I guess.

It worked just fine with Spotify and Soundcloud immediately, though my initial searches didn’t find anything on Last.fm or Youtube, when I know there’s content at both for those searches. Youtube started getting hits when I told it to allow all versions of a song, but I couldn’t get Last.fm to give me anything. I was also hoping it would be able to import my playlists from Spotify and/or Youtube, but no such luck – this would be a great feature, though I don’t know what technical limitations might stand in the way of the developers. My biggest hesitation in moving to any new music application is the need to recreate my playlists, of which I have far too many.

This could be a really cool app once the bugs get worked out, but for now, I think I’ll stick to the normal Spotify app. Hopefully I can review this again in a couple months with more success!

Reading

“Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers” was the advice an old mentor, Charlie Bell, gave me years ago. It’s a bit of a cliche statement, I suppose – but if it is, that’s only because it rings of truth. I’ve always been a reader, and a voracious one at that. I remember distinctly the look of shock on the new librarian’s face when she told me, at age 10, that I’d checked out over a thousand books from the library – and the look of amusement from the other librarian, who’d seen me dutifully coming in and out of that branch since I was four.

That pattern of eagerly reading everything I could get my hands on continued throughout my teenage years, but at some point – I’m not sure when – I stopped reading books at the breakneck pace I used to. A couple weeks ago, I realized (with no small amount of horror) that I’d only read six books cover-to-cover in all of last year. That’s one every two months – this from a guy who used to average a book a day! In its place were thousands of blog posts, news snippets, forums, and discussion threads.

What’s interesting is how I see myself having changed during this time. It could be a result of this, or something else entirely – correlation does not equal causation, after all – but I honestly don’t feel as smart or as sharp as I did. I don’t feel like I’m sharpening myself as much as I was before. It appears there is some loosely scientific evidence to back this idea up – but regardless of what caused it, I do miss reading as much as I used to. That said, I’m making it a goal to read actual books significantly more than I have been, lately – I’ve gotten two down already this year, and I’m about halfway through a third right now – “A Feast for Crows,” by George RR Martin. Up next are A Dance With Dragons and then the Hunger Games series, but I’m open to suggestions as to what to read next – fiction or non, just so long as it’s a book and not a blog. So, what say you, my readers?

I’ll close with a video of a vaguely on-topic poem that I enjoyed.

The Law, the Gospel, and You

Today’s passage: Galatians 3.

As I referenced in my previous post, grace is a key concept in the Christian faith. The idea of God’s holiness is so overpowering that grace is the only solution by which an imperfect being can be allowed into God’s presence – without grace, there is simply no mechanism for us to have salvation, or hope. Incidentally, the concept of grace lays waste to the idea of “losing your salvation” – if you can’t do anything to improve your status with God, and didn’t do anything to attain your salvation, then how can you do something to lose it?

So, what is the Law? The Law is God’s standard. It’s a catechism that explains what “perfection” means, what standard we are held to. Take note that the standard is perfection – anything less, and “cursed be!” And unlike in college, God doesn’t grade on a curve. This means you’ve already failed before you even knew the rules. The Law exists, in essence, to show you that you’re screwed. “The only way to win is not to play,” and that’s the option that grace gives us. Interpreted through the lens of grace, the Law is now, as Paul says, a tutor, something that directs us to God.

But, if doing those good works has no effect on your status with God, if you can’t do anything to improve your standing, then why do good works? We shouldn’t do them to improve our standing, we should be doing them out of love. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” Not “if you want to get in good with me,” or “if you want to get into Heaven,” but “if you love me.” If that doesn’t make sense to you, let’s try analogy.

Say you’re someone who’s worked their way into an incredibly deep debt – the kind of hopeless, crippling debt that prevents you from doing anything else. Then one day you get a call from your dad: “Hey, son, I just wanted you to know, I love you. Don’t worry about the debt, it’s taken care of.” You later find out that your father sold everything he owned to pay off your debt, and was living in a small apartment. What’s your reaction to this? Do you immediately go back into debt? Or do you make sure to do right by your dad from here on out?

Or what if you had screwed up your lungs from years of smoking, to the point where you needed a transplant – but no medical board would ever give you one, because you refused to quit. So your friend, without you asking, gives you his. Do you keep smoking? Or do you refuse to touch a cigarette ever again?

Analogies for God are never perfect, but I hope you get the idea of the dynamic here. That’s why James is able to say that faith without the accompanying actions is dead. If you really had that happen to you, if you really had that faith and love, then something would happen. You’d keep his commandments.

So take a look at your life. If you call yourself a Christian, do you really believe that enough to have it show evidence in your life? If not… why?