Hard Working Traditional Values With A Dash of Fun

Hard Working Traditional Values With A Dash of Fun

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Phoned My 100 Year Old Future Self


I Phoned My 100 Year Old Future Self
A Cautionary Tale
by Don Milne

“And so, for all of the above reasons, I respectfully demand that the songs Away in a Manger and Silent Night be excluded from the upcoming Winter Choir Concert.”

Sincerely,
George Thomas Benjamin John Adams

I paused for a second before hitting the send button on my computer.  Was using my full name too much? No, I think not. I am proud of my name.  I was born on the fourth of July, in the year 1976, the bicentennial of our nation’s birth. I am a direct descendent of three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and with a last name of Adams already, my dad decided to name me after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams. I am truly a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the fourth of July.
I sent the email on its way to the principal.
It is disappointing that in the year 2012, someone has to take action like this.  What was the choir teacher thinking?  Frosty the Snowman would be a much cheerier selection than a pair of songs promoting the myth of a virgin birth of a mythical savior. And no song about Kwanzaa? How could she overlook that?
I shut down my computer and locked up my classroom. Being a high school history teacher has always been my dream job. I like shaping young minds to face the future. I walked out to my Prius and drove home, stopping at Whole Foods on the way to buy some organic vegetables and tofu for dinner. I walked into an empty house.  The nanny had taken my two girls, Gloria and Hillary, to a Girl Scouts field trip and my wife Jackie was still at work. Putting in the long hours to make partner was a sacrifice, but she’s a great lawyer so I am sure she’ll be promoted soon.  I placed the groceries on the counter and checked the phone for messages.
“Hello, Ben!” I didn’t recognize the voice. “It’s me, Ben.  I’ve been waiting 64 years to make this call.  I did it! I invented a time machine that lets me talk by phone with the past. And I wanted to call me, I mean you, first, to congratulate myself.  What do you think?  Anyway, call me back.” He left me a 32 digit code and the call was over.
I stared at the phone and tried to figure out who was prank calling me. The voice was unknown, but maybe one of my students was behind this. After all, I have always loved time travel stories. I was curious why the caller called me Ben; I have always gone by my first name, George. Well, the only thing to do was to call back and see who the crazy nut was that was behind this crazy call.  It took me a couple of tries for me to punch in the correct 32 digit code, but when I did I could hear the call go through.  There was something different about the sound of the rings that I couldn’t quite pin down.
Strange.
“Hello? Is that you, Ben?” It was the same voice from the message.
“I don’t go by Ben.  Call me George,” I replied, curtly. “Who are you and what is this all about?”
“Ben, er, George, I just have to say what a thrill this is to talk to me, er, you. This is a historic occasion. I need to say something memorable such as ‘One small step for man,’ or ‘Watson, come here. I need you.’  Hmm, how about ‘George, it’s you calling yourself from 64 years in the future.’”
I was quiet for a moment. “Okay, who is this, really? And who set you up for this? I have to admit this is extremely creative, but enough is enough. You can end the prank now.”
“George, this is no prank.  I am you.  I am sitting here in my home office calling me on my birthday.  It is July 4, 2076. Happy birthday to me.  I, you, we’re 100 years old today.”
“Listen, I don’t know who you really are, but I’m not really interested in playing along with your stupid joke. So I’m going to end this call.  Have a nice day.”
“Wait! I know about your secret addiction.” He casually mentioned a website.
I almost dropped the phone in shock. “You what?”
“Why are you surprised, George?  I’m you. Of course I know everything you do, even the stuff you haven’t told anyone else about.”
I looked around the room feeling self conscious. I lowered my voice “Okay, this is getting serious. Nobody knows about . . . knows about . . . you know what. Is this some freaky identity theft? Are you going to blackmail or embarrass me about this?”
“George, settle down. I’m just trying to establish that I am who I say I am. Remember that time when you stole the answers to the math test in college? How about the secret stash of beef jerky you hide out in the tool shed? It makes it easier to be a vegetarian the rest of the time. Am I right?”
I slowly lowered myself into a chair.  Could this really be? Could I really be talking to my future self? I had to admit, I have always been fascinated by time travel.  This is just the kind of project I would devote myself to, if I thought it could be done.
“George, are you going to waste more time with me convincing you that I am you?  Making this call uses a lot of energy.”
I decided, incredible as it might seem, that this call was really happening. “Fine, you’ve convinced me. You obviously know all about me, but you have me at a disadvantage. What have I been up to for the next 64 years?”
“Where do I begin? Do you have any questions in particular?”
“How’s Jackie? Is she still alive? Did she retire a rich lawyer?”
“George, Jackie and I divorced years ago.”
“Divorced? Really? Why?”
“Well she was getting older, not really keeping herself in shape, if you know what I mean.  It was just time to move on. You and one of your future former students really connected.  We were like soul mates.  It was meant to happen.”
I frowned.  I was not too happy with myself. “Well this is a shock. Do I want to know about Gloria and Hillary?”
“Sure, what do you want to know?”
“Well, have they been able to achieve their dreams? Do they have great careers? Do they end up divorce like Jackie and me?”
“Some of their marriages were more successful than others.”
“What does that mean?”
“Hilary? The less said the better. As for Gloria, her first marriage ended soon.  He was a jerk.  Her second marriage was better, her wife was a very nice woman, but she found someone else she liked better than Gloria so that ended too.  Her third marriage was surprisingly the best—her husband and wife were very compatible.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, George. I think I need some more details here. Her second marriage was to a woman?”
“Yes, you don’t have a problem with that, do you? And call me Ben, not George.”
“No, of course not. So gay marriage finally prevailed? And what’s wrong with George?”
“It sure did. You don’t see too many Adolfs for obvious reasons.  Same thing happened with the name George.  Bush ruined a perfectly good name.”
“George is a good name. That sound’s kind of harsh. But tell me, what do you mean about Gloria’s third marriage with a husband and a wife?  Did I hear that right?”
“You did.”
“So America condones polygamy? That is so sick and wrong.”
“Well, George, once gay marriage became the law, it didn’t take long for polygamy to follow suit.  It was like shooting an arrow through a paper target, it just keeps going, hitting more targets on the same path. A bisexual who wanted to marry a man and a woman took her case to the Supreme Court and won.  It’s really not that big of a deal.  We are kind of in a post-marriage America.  Marriage never really caught on with the gays, after the initial surge, gay marriages became quite rare. It was all about acceptance of the gay lifestyle. If gay marriage is acceptable, then all gay behavior must be too.  Little boys can go to school wearing a dress and it’s no big deal.  Disney could make movies where the princess finds her princess and they live happily every after.  Bathrooms are unisex now.  Marriages in general have become more rare, except with those backward Christians.  Polygamy is actually more popular than you think.  A rich guy in his 40s or 50s is able to attract three or four young teens who don’t mind sharing a sugar daddy who can shower them with a luxurious lifestyle.”
“You’re turning my stomach, Ben. I’m a high school teacher, we have really strict rules against this kind of behavior. Are you saying it becomes acceptable for adults and teens to . . .”
“Well it didn’t happen all at once, George.  They lowered the age of consent a year at a time, slowly over a few decades. It only made sense because so many other countries had lower ages of consent and America was looking backward and restricting freedoms. You’re looking at this from a prudish 20th century perspective. Throughout most of history having an active love life in your teens has not been a big deal.  Even Mohammad married a 9 year old.  You’ll change your mind.  Wait and see.”
“I think I want to change the subject,” I said. “Can you give me some good stock tips, or some locks for some sure sport bets?  I could really clean up knowing the future, and it would confirm that this conversation is the real deal.”
“Bush no, I’m not going to tell you.”
“Why not?”
“Because I didn’t when I called me the first time when I was you. Besides, it might draw
attention and ruin my plans for future use of my time machine phone.”
“You said, ‘Bush no.’ What does that mean?”
“We don’t use the F word anymore.  Over the decades it lost its shock value. It became common place in mainstream music and television.  When every five year old uses the word in everyday speech, its time to retire a swear word and come up with a new one.  Bush seemed a good choice. Liberals starting using George Bush’s name in vain and it caught on.  Now everyone says Bush you, Bush off, and what the Bush. It drives the conservatives crazy, which is part of the fun, and since there are so few of them, what can they do? The S word fell out of favor too.  Bullrush.  You’re full of Rush. Oh Rush. It’s given Rush Limbaugh immortality.  We also replaced the God word with the Ron word.”
“Ron?”
“You know, Ronald Reagan.  People say, Oh my Ron and Rondammit.”
“I think that is just about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“George, we live in a post-religious America, for the most part.  We took God out of the schools, we finally took him off of our money, eventually it just made sense to take him out of the language in general. That’s what we want, right? Remember that email you just wrote to the principal? This is what we want, right?”
“Yeah, of course, I guess,” I paused for a moment. So many questions I wanted to ask my future self. They were jumbled up in my mind like a log jam. Finally, I randomly blurted one out. “Did we get global warming right?”
“Oh that’s been a Bushing mess. No mater how much money and green resources we’ve thrown at climate change, it hasn’t made a Rush of difference.”
“What do you mean?”
The U.S. is only 5% of the global surface. We can’t make enough changes in our energy usage to make any difference. Turns out the third world didn’t want to stay in the third world.  The world’s like a big bathtub.  It is impossible to change the temperature in 5% of the tub and expect the other 95% to change too.”
“But we’re running out of oil.  We need to migrate people to wind and solar.”
“Wind and solar are still a high cost source of energy. Oil still fuels our automobiles.”
“How can that be? There is a limited supply of fossil fuels.”
“Not so far.  We keep finding more and there is a debate as to whether oil really is a fossil fuel.  Some scientists claim that it is abiotic, that oil is a natural process that occurs in the mantle of the earth and it is unlimited for all practical purposes.  And then there’s nuclear power.  Turns out it is the cleanest, safest source of energy around. We’ve had no reactor accidents despite the wide usage of the technology.”
“I’m surprised. I would have thought that in the next six decades, we would see multiple nuclear accidents.”
“No, the only nuclear explosions were on purpose.”
“What?”
“The Iranians tried to take out Jerusalem, but their bomb was a dud.  The Israelis did not have the same problem when they retaliated. The threatened destruction of Mecca kept the Arab world in line—no more trying to nuke Jerusalem again.  The North Korean’s were luckier.  They took out San Francisco.  And Chicago was destroyed by Al Qaida.”
“San Francisco’s gone?”
“Afraid so. The evangelicals said it was the wrath of God destroying a modern Sodom and Gomorra. That’s just bullrush, otherwise at least two dozen other cities should have been wiped out.  It was just the looney North Koreans. It was getting too expensive to live there anyway.”
“Did we retaliate?”
“We’ve destroyed most of our nuclear stockpile and we didn’t feel it was worth it.  Besides, right after the attack there was a coupe in North Korea; they got rid of the crazy head of state and his cronies, so we couldn’t nuke them back.  They ended up reuniting with South Korea.”
“How did Al Qaida get Chicago?”
“Well that was a Bushing embarrassment.  Turns out we had one of the ringleaders in custody before the bomb went off. He knew everything about the attack but we couldn’t make him talk. No waterboarding or any such thing.  He was lawyered up and untouchable. But on the bright side, Chicago had a terrible carbon footprint. Ten million fewer people is a plus to the environment.”
“So we didn’t go to war again like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
“We couldn’t if we wanted too, our military has been cut way back. Besides, the Al Qaida cell that nuked Chicago was made up of French and American Islamists.  What were we suppose to do, destroy Paris?”
“France is Muslim?”
“Most of Europe is. The Cathedral of Notre Dame has been converted to a mosque for Ron’s sake.  It was demographics in action.  Muslims have children, native Europeans do not. Same thing happened to the white population in the USA. We’re now a minority. The whole country now looks like Miami or El Paso.  Everything is in English and Spanish. We haven’t had a white president in 20 years. The last inaugural with in Spanish.”
“How did this happen? Did we finally reform immigration?”
“That was part of it, but the main contributor was the big drop in the birth rate. This is a post-family America, except in the few Christian enclaves.  When the government takes care of your basic needs from cradle to grave, who needs the headache of raising children?  The change with blacks has been the most noticeable.  They once made up 12% of the population.  Now, thanks to aggressive abortion practices, they are less than 5%. And of course making Puerto Rico and Cuba into states raised the population of Hispanics.”
“What? We added two new states? That’s got to be weird, to see 52 stars on the flag.”
“Well, actually there are still only 50 stars.  We had to sell Alaska to the Russians and Hawaii to the Chinese to pay off debts we owed them.”
“And Alaska and Hawaii were okay with this?”
“They were more than happy to leave.  Hawaii was given special status like Hong Kong, they pretty much govern themselves.  Same deal with Alaska, plus peoples’ taxes dropped by two-thirds.”
“So that’s how we ended up handling the national debt, selling off states?”
“Well, that was only part of it. We internationalized the national park system; that helped. It’s the Japanese and Europeans that like to visit them.  Why not have them pay the bill? Oh, we had to raise everyone’s taxes to 50%. Running a progressive government is expensive.  There just aren’t enough super rich people to pay the taxes, especially when so many of them moved out of the country.  Higher taxes for everyone was a big help.  However, it took a period of hyperinflation to really get the job done. It’s easier to pay back trillions of dollars when a dollar is worth less.  Remember the old show, ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Now, thanks to hyperinflation, everyone is a millionaire.  It really hurt the old people and savers, but it was the rich and the older generation that caused this Rush, so who better to pay, right? Being heavily in credit card debt turned out to be a great deal for you, thank Ron. We paid back our loans with pennies on the dollar.  All thanks to inflation.”
“And this is good news?”
“It sure as Rush is. Could you imagine the horrors we would be living in if conservatives had prevailed? Persecution of gays. Forcing unwanted pregnancies on women. People without health care. Children going hungry. A big bullying military. Some people getting rich while others stay poor. Elections have consequences.”
“Are you saying conservatism died off?  That’s hard to believe in 2012.  Obama barely won the last election and conservatives control the House of Representatives and most state governments. The Red states are growing while the Blue states are shrinking.  Conservatives have more children than liberals.”
“So what?  Liberals control the public schools and the universities. Conservative parents can try to pass on their backward, bigoted twisted values, but we’ll get them at the local school most likely, or the universities for sure. So keep up the good work, history teacher. We even managed to take control of conservative institutions and turn them around.”
“Like what?”
“Like the Boy Scouts.  We got them to stop the ban on gays. 90% of the troops shut down, ending that blight on America.  The military isn’t the bastion of conservatives that it once was either.  We introduced women into front line units and a lot of the conservatives quit.  They didn’t like the fraternization or the lowering of physical fitness standards.  Why should the wild parties be limited to the college kids?  Those serving in the military should have the same rights, no? Bush, yes.”
“So did the conservatives win anything?”
“The Rondamn Second Amendment.  Too many conservatives have guns. We haven’t figured out a way to make them give them up.  And they keep finding a way to fudge the statistics to show it is safer for society for average citizens to have guns. They’re just a pain in the Beck.”
“Okay. It seems I like conservatives even less in my old age. On a lighter note, have the Cubbies won the World Series yet?”
“Never did and never will. Remember, Chicago got nuked. We’re not that into baseball anyway. We caught up with the rest of the world and soccer is America’s game.”
“What? I can’t believe that. What about the NFL?”
“You won’t recognize it. Old players dying early with dementia and other concussion related problems, a couple of players killed on the field from wicked hits. The lawyers had a field day. No more NFL. We have the NFFL and the NWCFL.”
“What’s that?”
“The National Flag Football League. No tackling and coed teams. It’s popular because the players wear the same skimpy uniforms they use for beach volleyball.  The National Weight Class Football League is the other modern version of the sport.  This is where players are divided into weight classifications like wrestling or boxing, except boxing is extinct. It’s kind of fun watching the heavy weights—nobody on the team is less than 350 lbs. Ever see a 350 lb wide receiver go long? It’s a hoot.”
“How can soccer be the most popular sport? What happened to the NBA?”
“Lawyers again. The NBA got hammered for lack of diversity. Too many tall black men.  The courts made them lower the hoop so shorter guys could dunk and no more than two blacks on the floor at any one time. Plus women play too.”
“Now that’s nuts. Isn’t that taking diversity a bit too far?”
“Not when we let the courts decide.”
“From our conversation, it seems that women have made out pretty well in the future.”
“You’re Rondamn right they have. We are in a post-male America. Women hold most of the good jobs because they actually finish school instead of wasting their time with porn and video games like too many men.  And with a supportive government, women don’t need stupid men in their lives to complicate things.  There is universal child care and school lunches and school breakfasts have been expanded to school dinners.  Too many parents were feeding children the wrong kind of foods.  We put the nutrition of children in the hands of the experts. Child obesity is a thing of the past”
“That’s great.”
“Of course the kids throw away huge quantities of food they won’t eat, but that’s just calories that might have caused weight gain. The farmers don’t care, they get their government payments whether the food is eaten or not. The schools put the girls on birth control when they hit puberty.  That has really cut back on the messy abortions. It’s really popular with the kids, not having to worry about pregnancies.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Oh come on, George, don’t be such a prude. Kids are going to mess around, always have, always will.  We’ve just eliminated the complications that got in the way. Are you turning conservative on me here?”
“No, no. Not me. Not in a million years.” It was time to move on. “Tell me this, Ben. We’ve just made history by reelecting the first African American president. What was his legacy? Did Obama get added to Mount Rushmore?”
“Mount Rushmore is no more.”
“What the --"
"What the Bush happened?”
"Yeah, Rushmore is gone?"
“Afraid so.  First of all it was out in the middle of nowhere. It took too much travel for people to get there, not good if you are trying to combat climate change. Next, the presidents on Mount Rushmore are pretty much an embarrassment—two slave holders and two Republicans.  What message do we send to the next generation if we honor such despicable individuals? Last of all, the Black Hills are sacred grounds to the local Indigenous Americans. We ended up giving them back their land.  They blew up the faces to give things a more natural look. Next, they opened up the area to gold mining and a real popular casino.  Meanwhile, the government decided it was time to honor some real presidential heroes. The problem was finding a location with little or no environmental impact.  Finally, a New Jersey artist came up with an idea to build the monument out of garbage.”
“That’s gross.”
“No, no it was tastefully done, a great way to promote recycling and it was constructed near public transportation to limit global warming.  The four presidents featured were Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama, Benito Juarez, and Fa Fungde. We called it Mount Trashmore.”
“Benito Juarez? He was a president of Mexico, not the United States.”
“Yeah, but he was still a great man, and more important, a Latino. Remember, diversity trumps all.”
“Who’s Fa Fungde?”
“She was our first Asian president. If you ask me, she wasn’t the strongest candidate for this honor, but she was a three-fer.”
“What does that mean?”
“She was Asian, a woman, and gay—a three-fer.”
“So instead of going to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, people go to New Jersey to visit Mount Trashmore?”
“Well, actually, not anymore.  It burned down.  It was made of garbage, remember.”
I stood silent.  I did not know what to say.
“It’s okay, George, we’ll rebuild it.”
Time to change the subject again. “I can’t believe I am talking to the future and haven’t asked this already; Did we finally get to Mars? Did we colonize the Moon?”
“If by ‘we’ you mean the United States, we did not.  However, the Chinese sent a manned mission to Mars and they have a few bases on the moon.”
“The Chinese, not America?”
“You need to have scientists and engineers to have a viable twenty-first century space programs.  You can’t get American students to study math or the hard sciences. Plus, we didn’t have the money to spend on a space program because we needed it for social programs and debt service.”
“Like Obama's Affordable Care Act? How did that work out?  The conservatives have been spreading horror stories about how terrible it will be.”
“Change is never easy, but Obama plan prevailed. A lot of people complained, but what could they do? Obama couldn’t be punished at the ballot box anymore. The main thing Obama Care did was price private insurance out of the market.  It didn’t take long before government health insurance was the only affordable choice.  They clamped down on the exorbitant doctor fees, those rich doctors gouging the poor patients with unnecessary procedures.  Sure a bunch of selfish doctors retired and many others cut back their hours resulting in long lines and rationing of health services, but the good thing was everyone was covered and we all had to stand in line together, no more class differences when it came to health care.”
“Why am I not cheered by this?  I just read a paper of one of my less enlightened students. It was annoying when he quoted that Winston Churchill once said, ‘Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.’” I gave his paper a "D" but now after hearing this, could he be right?"
“Sour grapes, George, sour grapes. We don’t have misery. We are a post-misery America.  It’s all about pleasure seeking, baby. We all know how complicated human relations can become.  Isn’t that the main reason for divorce? The man wants one thing, the woman, or other man, or other women or men, want something else? Well most people don’t get married anymore—it makes things far less complicated. You only have to worry about what’s important to you, not someone else. You do what you want, they do what they want. As long as nobody is hurt, no harm done. Now with high definition 3D computers and robots, you can program the love life you want and without worrying about STDs! Men get the kind of partners they want and so do women—the ultimate freedom.  And isn’t that what America’s all about, the land of the free? Do you want to know how we finally solved the problem of underfunding Social Security and Medicare?”
“This is what land of the free means? Actually it sounds more like Huxley’s Brave New World.”
“You’re making the amateur historian’s mistake of looking at one period of history with the values of another. Things change, but we’re okay with it. It’s progress. That’s why we’re progressives. The trick is to make it happen slowly.  Remember, if you try dropping a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump out, but if you start with warm water and heat it slowly you can cook the frog.”
“So you’re saying we cooked America?”
“Let’s just call it evolution, George.  It’s just nature following its course. Anyway, I was about to tell you how we solved Social Security and Medicare. In 2012 you’ve got all these worrywarts and naysayers posing as actuaries spouting alarms that Social Security and Medicare are a broke Ponzi scheme.  Well, you’ll be happy to hear that their fears were totally unfounded. The answer was the incredible power of computers.  In just a few decades time, the computing power and memory of an average computer will reach the same level as the human brain.  We were able to develop a process to transfer someone’s essence from their disease prone body to an eternal computer. It’s been nothing short of amazing.  We started using it with people who were in a vegetable state and quadriplegics.  Just think, you go from a useless body to an environment where you can do anything you want, and I do mean anything.  Want to fly? Want to slay a dragon? Life has become a video game. Who wouldn’t trade this life of disappointments for an eternal life where whatever you imagine can come true?
“What about you? Am I talking to a voice from a computer or a real person?”
“I’m still a real person.  There is one downside to going dijj (short for going digital); Computers can see and hear, but they can’t smell or touch. I’m just not ready to give up that part of the human experience. Most people, though as they get older, their bodies break down and their mental facilities deteriorate. They are only too happy to go dijj – it’s like finding the Fountain of Youth.”
“That seems kind of extreme.  I mean, I would think that with the modern advancements, people would have technology to fight aging.  What about hip and knee replacements and heart transplants?”
“We got those, but they are too expensive to offer to everyone.  It is easier to market people into going dijj.”
“So how did you afford to grow old? Do I get rich?”
“No, you can’t buy medical care based on wealth, that would be unfair and unequal. No, you got lucky. The USA has a national lottery, it’s a major source of tax revenue. We also have a national health care lottery for seniors. If you win, you get access to all the medical miracles.  Everyone else has to go dijj or let nature take its course and who wants to die?”
“So if what I am hearing is right, we solved the Social Security and Medicare problem by euthanizing huge sections of the American population and downloading their essence to computers?”
“Yeah, isn’t it great? It’s done wonders for reducing our carbon footprint. We just have to make sure that dijjees maintain the right to vote.  Otherwise the conservatives could retake control of the country.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they’re the only ones still having babies and raising families. They still believe in free market economics, self reliance, the Founding Fathers, traditional families, Biblical morals, and God. What nonsense. We’d lose a hundred years of progress if they were to take over the government. I tell you George, it’s the only thing that could ruin this country and I’m sad to report that Hilary and her whole Rondamn family has fallen in with this crowd.”
“My Hilary? The polygamist?”
“No that was Gloria. Hillary became a Born Again Christian, stayed a virgin until she was married and this part kills me—she had ten children! Do you know what that’s done to my carbon footprint legacy?”
“I can imagine.”
“She’s had more than a hundred grandchildren and great grandchildren. Do you know how Bushing embarrassing that has been? Holy Rush. All my friends can show they have no more than two children and four grandchildren, and here I am the patriarch of a breeding factory.”
I began to realize that my feelings for my future self had been building up to one of loathing. I can see what caused Darth Vader to finally get fed up with the Galactic Emperor and throw him to his demise.
“Ben, you’ve opened my eyes to a future I find hard to believe; taxes at 50%, cities destroyed by attacks from our enemies, acceptance of polygamy and teen sex with adults, children raised by schools instead of parents, selling off whole states to pay off debts, the Islamification of Europe, soccer!, wealth destroyed by hyperinflation, rationing of healthcare, euthanization of large segments of the population, and my own family riddled with divorce and dissension. How can you be celebrating the tri-centennial of our country? Is this the legacy of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams?  John Adams once said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” George Washington said, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society." Benjamin Rush said, "The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind." As a history teacher I used to discount these statements as uneducated nonsense and make fun of them. Now I am not so sure.”
“Don’t worry, George. You’ll get over it. After all what can you do about it? You’re just one guy. Listen, I need to ending this call, but I need you to know that I won’t be calling back.”
“Why not?”
“I wish I knew.  You’ll just have to wait another 64 years to find out. I have my suspicion that the government will want to take over control of my invention and I am not sure even I think that is a good thing.  Maybe I destroyed it to keep it out of the wrong hands. Cheer up, George.  You’ve just had a preview of the next seven decades.  Good news, the progressives won, we won.”
“Yeah,” I said. “We’ll see.”
We said our goodbyes and I put the receiver down. I walked over the fireplace mantle and picked up the smiling picture of my wife and children.  I must have been lost in thought, because I didn’t notice Hilary until she was giving me a hug.  Her sister Gloria waved at me but was busy texting on her phone. I dropped to one knee and hugged Hilary back. My hug lasted longer than usual. I felt tears in my eyes.
“What’s wrong, daddy?”
“Nothing,” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes. “Hilary, life is about hard choices. I just want you to know that I believe you will make great choices. No matter what happens, stick to your values, you won’t be sorry.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FDR - Flubbed Depression's Recovery


UPDATED: September 19, 2014

Does FDR stand for Flubbed Depression's Recovery?

The seven-part Ken Burns PBS special that came out this week devotes one of the episodes to Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression.

Unfortunately, you are not going to learn anything different than you probably did in your American history class or reading general histories. The special does not argue against the commonly held believe that Franklin Roosevelt was responsible for guiding the nation out of the Great Depression. It describes the many programs he started, but spends less time explaining why most of what he tried was no help at all.

In recent years, books like The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes and New Deal or Raw Deal by Burton Folsom have presented strong arguments that Roosevelt's actions made matters worse. Had Roosevelt not interfered so much in the economy, these authors believe the country could have recovered much faster. Neither author was interviewed by Burns.

In May 1939, Roosevelt's Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., made a startling confession (not used in the documentary) in testimony before congress:

"We tried spending money. We are spending money more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . .somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job, I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. .  .  . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started.  .  .  . And an enormous debt to boot!"

We are currently living in an age with parallels. We are in a time of weak economic growth with a president who believes strongly in government interference in the economy. One of the late night TV talk show hosts told a joke that is most revealing. "After having golfed with the President, Tiger Woods was asked about the President's golf game. 'He's not too bad for someone that only golfs five days a week,' was Tiger's reply. Asked if he knew what the President's handicap was, Tiger said, 'He doesn't understand the economy.'" When the late night comics are poking fun about this, there has to be an element of truth.

Ken Burns is a liberal Democrat, so although he does not stoop to Michael Moore levels of bias and inaccuracy, you can't watch his documentary and expect to see many facts that will show Franklin and Elanor Roosevelt in a bad light.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Atlas Shrugged and Jesus Wept


Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has been referred to as the most influential book of the 20th Century.  It was written in 1957 and barely broke into the Publishers Weekly Top Ten for that year.  A half century later the other nine books on the list have faded in popularity, but not Atlas Shrugged.  Ever heard of the #1 book of 1957, By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens?  In early 2012 a Google search would yield about 8,000 matches. Meanwhile, #10 Atlas Shrugged —had over 11 million Google results, not bad for a 1,200 page tome with no wizards or magic.
So who reads and is influenced by Atlas Shrugged?  Not big government liberals.  Rand, who lived in Russia during the early years of its communist era, deftly describes the inherent ineptitude that accompanies a centrally controlled economy.  She wrote Atlas Shrugged in the 1950s at the beginning of the Cold War and described an America on the road to socialism. In the ensuing decades, government control of various aspects of the economy has only increased so the modern reader sees much more of the impact of government interference in the economy than the 1950s reader.  Liberals don’t burn books, but they make sure that books that promote anti-liberal ideas don’t get the exposure that liberal books do in liberal venues like college campuses and left leaning media.  If a liberal has a copy of Atlas Shrugged on his or her bookshelf, it is not there because he or she agrees with its message.
The audience attracted to Atlas Shrugged is the one disillusioned with liberalism; which includes conservatives.  But the attack on government incompetence is only part of the message of Atlas Shrugged.  Rand’s central theme is that people need to be more selfish: America can only achieve greatness if people embrace selfishness.  In John Galt’s lengthy radio address, Rand expounds on the rational reasons why self-interest should trump all other values, and then attacks the curious combination of religion and socialism, strange twins rarely seen together in America.
John Galt’s speech is long and ponderous and many an Atlas Shrugged reader has skipped over this yawn-inducing section of the book.  Ayn Rand took two years to write this part of her book and it feels like two years to slog through it.
I will not argue whether Ayn Rand was a genius, nor will I argue whether Atlas Shrugged is a book worth reading.  I will argue, however, against her championing of self-interest and disparaging religion. Those that follow and promote such a philosophy will end up as unhappy and diminished as she ended up.  Ayn Rand rejected conservatives as much as liberals.  Her Objectivism, based on reason and atheism, is the philosophy she promotes.  Anyone who reads Atlas Shrugged is getting a broken, anti-God message.
In Atlas Shrugged and Jesus Wept, I present a defense of the Judeo-Christian world view that Rand criticized.  The reader who has not read Atlas Shrugged can read Atlas Shrugged and Jesus Wept and, through the eyes of a rookie angel named George, learn the story of Dagny Taggart and John Galt.  George decides his intervention can influence Dagny and the other followers of John Galt to turn from selfishness to self-sacrifice.  Can they choose faith over reason?  For those familiar with John Galt’s speech, you will notice that George’s version in Chapter Sixteen is a section-by-section rebuttal where Rand’s words are turned from an attack on Christianity to a defense of Christianity.  The section of the book in Chapter Eighteen pays homage to another writer, which you will easily recognize.  And for those with a sharp eye, you will see at least one “Easter Egg” in each chapter.  See if you can figure out what it is.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fiddlin' - Live Life On A Budget

Again, with a tip of the hat to Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University program (FPU), here is a song about budgeting. Yeah, I know it's a strange topic for a song, but it gets to the point in a humorous way.



Live Life On A Budget
(sung to the tune of Tim McGraw's Live Like You Were Dying)

He said
"I was deep in debt at forty
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I’d spent too much and what’s worse,
Had a minus net worth
Talkin' lack of options
And talkin' 'bout lost time"
I asked him
"When’d you wake up 
And saw how much you really screwed up?
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I’m now paying tithing
I stopped credit card revolving
I went 1.7 hours to a class named F.P.U.
I’m a baby step completer
And I lived cheaper
And I cut my charge card, I'm using debit"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live life on a budget”

He said
"I was finally the saver
And not that misbehaver
And I paid back a loan a bank would like to have
And all my kids signed a petition
‘Cause I put them on commission
I’m a “no workee, no payee” kind of dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Reconciled my checkbook
Oh what I'd do if I could do it all again
And then

"I’m now paying tithing
I stopped credit card revolving
I went 1.7 hours to a class named F.P.U.
I’m a baby step completer
And I lived cheaper
And I cut my charge card, I'm using debit"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live life on a budget”

Yes, my budget was a gift
And I've got prosperity
Just think about
What you'd do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

"Paying tithing
I stopped credit card revolving
I went 1.7 hours to a class named F.P.U.
I’m a baby step completer
And I lived cheaper
And I cut my charge card, I'm using debit"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live life on a budget
To live life on a budget
To live life on a budget
To live life on a budget
To live life on a budget”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Parable of the Talents - Gov'ment Style


What if the Parable of the Talents reflected the impact of modern government?

Matthew 25:14-30

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.

15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.

17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.

18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the Federal Government of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘My master,’ he said, ‘entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “The Federal Government replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been fortunate with a few things; I will take five of your bags of gold and share your happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘My master,’ he said, ‘entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “The Federal Government replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been fortunate with a few things; I will take one of your bags of gold and share your happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘My master,’ he said, ‘I knew him to be a hard man, harvesting where he had not sown and gathering where he had not scattered seed.

25 So I was afraid and went out and hid the gold in the ground.’

26 “The Federal Government replied, ‘You poor, unfortunate servant! Do you know that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?

27 Well then, you should have put your trust with the Federal Government.

28 “‘So here's a bag of gold from him that had ten and another from him that had four. What's more I have taken more bags from your children who are too young to notice I have taken away their bags. Here, take all and worship at the seat of Government.

29 For whoever has, even what they have will be taken from them. Whoever does not have, will be given more and they will have an abundance.

30 And as for the children? Their future is darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’