Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interesting Reading for Today

I encountered all three of these articles at various times today. Each is interesting in its own way.

1. Obama excoriates Wall Street, then attends expensive Wall Street political fundraiser. From the Huffington Post, no less.

2. Yes, it really is that bad in New Jersey's budget; and yes, Gov. Christie has some good ideas to handle it. From RealClearPolitics.

3. An Earth Day article on how more e-mail and internet news means less recycled paper which means lower-quality, scratchier recycled toilet paper. From The environmentalists just can't win. :-)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Was Obama's 2nd Biggest Donor in the Presidential Campaign?

The politically naive may be surprised, but when we realize all the favors the Obama administration has done for this company, it does make a lot of sense.

Some may say, "But his administration is threatening to fine them a lot of money!" Whatever. I think it was mostly hot air and PR for the financial "reform" Obama wants. The fine wouldn't hurt them all that much anyway.

Who is this donor? Click here to learn.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 6: The Mystery of Providence

[I apologize for the interruption in posting this series of lessons from the excellent book, Not By Chance, by Layton Talbert. See the end of the post for links to earlier chapters.]

The key question addressed in this chapter is, How does God providentially govern human deeds and decisions without violating human will? Two significant doctrinal points appear to be at odds:

  • God rules and reigns over everything, according to His good pleasure (Eph. 1:11)
  • Man—saved or unsaved—is fully responsible and accountable for his choices and actions
The focus in this chapter is on the Exodus, and specifically on Pharaoh, he of the "hard heart." There are eighteen explicit references in Exodus 4-14 to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. How was Pharaoh's heart hardened? Here is a brief outline:
  • God warns (4:21, 7:3) that He will harden Pharaoh's heart.
  • Pharaoh hardens his own heart (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7).
  • God hardens Pharaoh's heart (9:12)
  • Pharaoh hardens his heart further (9:34, 35)
  • God further hardens Pharaoh's heart (10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8)
Note that it is Pharaoh who, in rebellion to God, first hardens his heart.

Ultimately, we must remember that wicked people will want to do wickedly. God, at His perfect discretion, can thwart, or can allow, their wickedness as it pertains to His will being done.

A variety of other examples were provided. Jacob valued the birthright of his father, while Esau did not; God used this. God used Samson's improper lustful decisions in order to see His will done. In II Samuel 17:14, God thwarted the "good counsel" of Ahithophel because it suited His purpose.

On the positive side, we see in Ezra 6:22 & 7:27 that God used Darius and Artaxerxes, heathen men, to accomplish what He wanted done.

Most of the examples cited were kings, and all were leaders. Do we really believe today that God can and will direct the hearts of leaders—whether in politics, in the workplace, or in the home?

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts From the IRS Commissioner

In an unusual (and brief) fit of boredom, I read an e-mail I received from the IRS (Note: As a tax preparer, I get e-mails regularly. I'm on their list. Nothing more). It included the prepared remarks of IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman at the National Press Club yesterday. You can read the whole thing here, if you are so minded. Here are a few tasty excerpts:

You also see police officers and guards keeping a close watch over their safety… park rangers giving directions or explaining a bit of history…landscapers keeping the City beautiful…and teachers leading and educating their students.

And they have one thing in common. They’re all public servants, who are working to serve our fellow citizens, families, neighbors and friends.

However, there are other public servants you probably won’t see, including thousands of IRS employees who right now are answering taxpayer questions over the phones, processing returns, issuing refunds and helping taxpayers struggling through these tough economic times.

And that’s what I want to talk about today: public servants and public service…

The first of the big refundable tax credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit – was enacted in 1975, and it was official: The tax system and the IRS were now viewed by policymakers as an efficient distribution system for societal benefits, not just the mechanism to raise the funds to run the government.

Let me conclude with this thought. I firmly believe that the spirit of public service is part of who we are as IRS employees.

But the men and women of the IRS are often under-appreciated public servants. At its core, we are an agency of professionals working to serve the hardworking taxpayers of this country: processing returns, sending out refunds, answering questions on the phone, and trying to help people navigate a complicated tax system.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions for now.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday: Matthew 28:1-8

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Math Teacher's Thoughts on the Census

Today is April 1, 2010, so I dutifully filled out my census form today and will mail it in the morning. Despite what the media and the U.S. Census Bureau tell me, I don't think I need to fill it out ahead of the official day—indeed, if some tragedy had befallen my family, say, two days ago, and I had already mailed in my form, it could have been inaccurate.

Two things really rub me the wrong way about the Census this year.

1. The Cost. It's outrageous. According to the NBC News (note: credibility warning), the U.S. Census Bureau is spending $14,000,000,000 for the decennial count. Think about this: That works out to about $45.60 per person (if we assume 307,000,000 people will be counted). That means the government is spending $273.60 just to count my family of six!

The commercials and advertising are excessive. The reminders that the census helps determine which communities most heavily contribute to future budget deficits add to the annoyance.

We can only imagine what healthcare will look like. And that happens more than once a decade.

2. The ridiculous efforts "to count everyone," while also ignoring whether those counted belong in this country at the moment, while assuring those counted that nothing "bad" will happen to them because the census data is confidential. This will give lopsided representation to those states with lots of illegal, countable immigrants, while denying it to states which have few. This is inconsistent with the intent of the Constitution and the census.

People who are not legally in this country, and people who are not citizens, should not be counted for the purposes of determining representation. And really, that's the purpose of the census, isn't it? Isn't it??