The self-destructive sin of bitterness

Are you tempted by bitterness? You need to repent. Bitterness is like eating rat poison and waiting for the other person to die. Giving into that sin does not harm your enemies, but it does harm you, emotionally, mentally and physically. It harms the people who love you and kills your chance at happiness.

Perhaps you were legitimately wronged. Perhaps something was taken from you unfairly, or perhaps you were denied a life goal that you legitimately deserved. Even if you are right, and you did unfairly lose something that is rightfully yours, the odds are you will never get that thing you so desire, which has become the god you worship. You need to let go of the loss and move on. If the people closest to you truly care about you, they have probably already staged an intervention. Listen to them.

But most importantly, those who embrace bitterness face the danger of eternal damnation in Hell fire. Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:14-15 that if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us. The sins that God has forgiven us are infinitely worse than anything anyone has done to us, because God is perfectly holy.

The most effective way to kill bitterness is to be thankful for God’s blessings on our lives. Thanksgiving and bitterness are mutually exclusive. No matter what we have on earth, the infinite blessing of God sacrificing His only Son as payment for our sins against Him is more than enough reason for joy. If you are a bitter person, repent. Our Father in Heaven loves you and does not want you to live the life you are living. Accept Jesus Christ, and learn true forgiveness.

Please oppose President Trump’s tax increase

Note: I sent this to Representative Trey Hollingsworth and Senator Todd Young on March 10.

Senator Young and Representative Hollingsworth,

I am writing to express my opposition to the President’s proposed tariffs and to urge you to take action to reverse the President’s policy.

Even if I agreed with the tariffs, I would urge you to oppose them. The President should not have the authority to unilaterally impose tariffs, because the authority to tax is explicitly given to Congress by our Constitution. It is shameful that Congress granted the President the authority to do this decades ago, shirking their responsibility as legislators. Allowing the President to do this continues the long slide of giving the Executive Branch more power than it should have in a healthy republic, and far more power than the men who wrote and ratified the Constitution ever intended.

On policy, these are a bad idea. We just passed a historic tax cut that is already helping Americans and will stimulate more economic growth. Why then, would we want to raise other taxes? We should not lose sight of the reality that tariffs are taxes and that increasing tariffs (or imposing new ones) is a significant tax increase. This is exactly the kind of big-government, tax-and-spend politics that Republicans are supposed to oppose.

Furthermore, government should not be picking winners and losers, favoring some American industries over others. Yes, these tariffs might help the aluminum and steel industries. However, other industries (specifically the automobile industry) will be harmed by higher steel prices. Ultimately, though, this is a tax increase on working Americans who will be paying more for the products we purchase.

President Trump was elected with the promise that he would “drain the swamp,” but protectionist tax increases are a perfect manifestation of the swamp. The tax hikes should be reversed, and (more importantly) the President’s authority to unilaterally act on tax increases must be revoked.

Making my website archives mobile-friendly

I have had a personal website for twenty years now, going back to when I built one on the personal website server for a computer class I took in 1996. Here is the issue: I have never been very good at web design and I have never taken the time to significantly improve my skills. My personal website has always been about content, not design. So as long as I could make a basic shell for the content that made the content readable, I was happy. That is why my site is very minimalist.

Here is the problem. My 1998 web design skills are fine for people perusing my website on a desktop, but not on a tablet and certainly not on a smartphone. The reality is that a majority of web traffic is done on smartphones these days. So while my blog has a mobile friendly theme thanks to the blog hosting service I use, my website is hand-coded and has never been properly formatted for mobile browsing.

I have redesigned the article template to fix that. All new articles that hit the website from this point forward will be easy to read on both a desktop PC and a smartphone, and anything in between.

But here is the issue: Every single article I have on my website is a hand coded HTML website. This means I have a number of unfortunate style choices, and why the skin looks so radically different from year to year before I settled on a design in 2012. So going forward, I can easily put all new articles in a new custom-built mobile friendly format. Everything before that is a different issue entirely.

Even with the new mobile-friendly template, fixing the archives will be an incredibly long, time consuming task. I have written anywhere from 150 to 200 articles a year since 2004, so that alone is over 2000 hand-coded websites to change. I was not nearly as prolific from 1997 to 2002, but I still have over 180 articles to convert to the new format by hand and re-upload.

What this means is that new articles will be in the new mobile-friendly format but reformatting everything for the last twenty years will be incredibly time consuming and labor intensive. It is a project that will likely take several years to complete, even if I devote myself to it. Of course, I am not sure anyone other than me ever actually goes back to look at my old archives, so it is by no means something that is going to take priority in my “to do” list. The main attraction is my blog, not my archives website.

See this blog post in the new mobile-friendly format.

Thoughts on meme culture and the legacy media

As long as people have been posting on forums, website comments, blogs, social media, and personal web sites, there have been memes. Memes have been prominent for the last five elections, so why is the legacy news media suddenly worried about them? Did they only notice the “destructive” (guffaw!) nature of memes on now that we have a President who likes memes?

Let me tell you a dirty little secret. Memes are the modern equivalent of editorial cartoons. The legacy media is not worried about memes because they oversimplify or cheapen debate. If that were the case, they would not publish editorial cartoons. The legacy media is worried about memes because their monopoly on editorial cartoons is gone. They are angry that some “nobody” on Twitter can create a silly meme that goes viral, bringing them fifteen minutes of fame despite not having a journalism degree.

Let’s go back to political cartoons. They generally make a very simple point with a picture and text. They certainly cannot go into as detailed of an argument as a six hundred word column, or explore as many aspects of an issue as a five thousand word investigative piece. Yet they have been published since before these United States existed. Why? Because they are funny, and because satire is often effective.

Are there bad things about memes? Yes, memes are bad when they convey blatantly false information and doctored photos designed to smear someone’s reputation. But let’s be real here: Nobody changes their vote based on memes. If I see a meme ridiculing someone I support, it does not make me change my mind. If I am undecided in a primary, a meme (or a thousand memes) will not sway my vote.

What memes do is take the air out of arrogant elitists. When someone creates a meme of Donald Trump beating up someone with the CNN logo over his head, it lets the air out of the puffed-up, entitled legacy media. The one thing an elitist cannot stand is being mocked by someone he considers his “inferior,” which is why CNN became so deranged in the aftermath of that viral meme.

Here’s my tip to the legacy media: Chill out and relax. When you hyperventilate over the role of memes in our political culture, you demonstrate you are both out of touch and hypocritical. (Remember, editorial cartoons are memes.) When you become hysterical because a meme ridicules you, you invite more ridicule and mockery, as CNN found out last summer.

Video Game Memories: Super Mario 64

Mario has always been Nintendo’s flagship character, and every new Nintendo system (both home consoles and handheld systems) has featured a new Mario game. Super Mario 64 was where Nintendo took a risk, moving from the familiar 2-D side-scrolling platformers to a 3-D platformer.

It was a risk that paid off. That is something that could not be said for other games that made the jump to 3-D only to produce a game vastly inferior to the 2-D versions on older consoles. (Hi there, Castlevania 64.) The blocky polygon graphics look primitive by today’s standards, but it was spectacular for its time. Mario ran around in a 3-D world and could explore all kinds of areas.

Most importantly, Super Mario 64 felt like a Mario game. The controls and overall gameplay were very similar to what we were used to: Stomping Goombas, kicking turtle shells, swimming and jumping from platform to platform all made the transition to 3-D perfectly. It was new, but very familiar. Again, that could not be said for other games that went form 2-D on 16-bit systems to 3-D on the N64.

What was more revolutionary was that Mario 64 is truly an open-world game, and it pre-dated the “sandbox” games on the next generation by several years. You had a castle to explore and paintings that led to multiple huge worlds. Within each world, there were many different things to do. You could actually defeat Bowser and finish the game without playing a huge portion of the game’s content.

This would be the last proper Mario game I played on a home console, as my next system was a PlayStation 2 that I sold in 2009. Nonetheless, it still holds a lot of great memories.

I never realized slaves had it so good!

I was surprised to learn recently that chattel slavery in these United States was not really all that bad. In fact, slaves had a pretty sweet deal! They only had to work for a year, and were provided food, housing and a college education. Then they could leave and had the opportunity to make tens of millions of dollars. If they did not like working without monetary payment, they could walk any time they wanted.

Wait, that is not how it happened? Oh. You can see how I would be confused given how NCAA basketball is being discussed. NCAA college basketball is equivalent to slavery, according to some.

Folks, this is stupid. It is also offensive and racist. The best college basketball players are not slaves. They are student athletes who get a high-profile stage to showcase their talents and an opportunity to jump to the National Basketball Association for incredibly lucrative contracts beyond most people’s wildest dreams. They are given a free college education in exchange for their play. If they do not like the deal, they can walk at any time.

American chattel slavery was very different. It was an evil system that forced people to labor. They were frequently abused and beaten. They had their wives, husbands and children ripped away from them. Women were raped with no consequences because they were the property of their owners. Equating that to college basketball is historically ignorant hysteria, offensive and racist.

Speaking of racist, the NCAA’s treatment of players is not a race-based policy. The same rules apply to players of all races: black, white, Hispanic and every other race. Making this a racial issue unnecessarily polarizes the issue, especially in a society where a huge number of people immediately dismiss allegations of “racism.” This is “the boy who cried wolf.”

Look, it is possible to make the case that the NCAA treats their athletes poorly – exploiting their image and skill for huge profits while not allowing them even the use of their own likeness. That case is weakened when the person making the argument is using hysterical and ignorant comparisons. Please do that.

Police are not and should not be soldiers

Printed in the Herald-Times, March 12, 2018.

To the Editor:

Police are not soldiers, and should not have a soldier’s mentality. Do not militarize our police.

The purchase of a “BearCat” armored vehicle, while sprung on this community with little debate prior to the purchase, is not a complete surprise. After all, the city wanted a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) military vehicle a few years ago, which I opposed as a candidate for city council in 2015. I find it a little dubious that Bloomington wanted the “least militaristic” option, given the request for an MRAP that was denied.

The fear-mongering about violent crime simply does not meet the crime statistics. There were 24,530 murders, 106,010 rapes and 659,870 robberies in 1993. In 2017, there were 17,250 murders, 95,730 rapes and 332,198 robberies, despite a significantly higher population. (The data is compiled by from FBI crime reports.) We are safer than we used to be. Police officers are also safer, as Radley Balko of the Washington Post has documented.

Why can the city not use an armored bank truck like they had from 2001 onward? If the concern is that the armor would not withstand high-powered rifles, why not have a bank truck custom built with heavier armor?

Is it time to raise the age of consent?

Liberals have a good point: It is time to raise the age of consent for sexual activity. It is absurd that it is legal for teens to consent at 16 years old, and we should increase the age to at least 18 years old. Ideally, we should raise the age to at least 21. Oh, wait, that is not what liberals are saying? Maybe they are not saying that directly, but it is the logical conclusion of their policy proposals. In fact, it actually makes more sense than some of their favored policies.

Look at two other areas of policy: Buying tobacco and firearms. An effort to raise the age where someone may legally buy cigarettes failed in Indiana, but it has passed in other states. There is renewed interest in raising the age to purchase a gun to 21 years old. It is already illegal for someone to drink alcohol until he is 21, so the firearms and tobacco policies would follow the same trend.

But why not sex?

Here’s a little biology lesson for you: Sex leads to babies. Sure, there are things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, but the sexual act is by its nature a procreative act. If someone is too immature to buy cigarettes or responsibly own a firearm, why should they be trusted with the possibility of caring for a newborn? Having cared for two newborns, I can tell you it is an incredibly heavy responsibility. I was much more prepared at 16 to own a gun than I would have been to take care of a baby.

So why not prevent that (or at least reduce teen pregnancy) by making sexual activity illegal until the age of 21? We already have age of consent laws because we assume that a young teenager is too mentally and emotionally immature to consent to sex, even if he or she is as physically sexually mature as a twenty year old. These laws also protect teens from sexual predators who would exploit them sexually – which, even if “consensual” can leave a teenager (especially a girl) emotionally broken.

Here is my point. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot advocate raising the age for buying a gun or buying cigarettes to 21 years old based on the alleged mental and emotional immaturity of legal adults while also buying into propaganda from the likes of Planned Parenthood that we cannot restrict the “sexual freedom” of a 14 year old. There is no logical consistency in taking those diametrically opposed positions.

NRA money

The money Republicans get from the NRA is a convenient talking point, but it is misleading when it comes to how Republicans vote on gun control. Marco Rubio is mentioned in a letter to the editor in the Herald-Times today, but the money he took from the NRA is a tiny percentage of his overall campaign spending in 2016.

Rubio raised over $25,000,000 for his Senate campaign.

The NRA gave him $10,000.

That is 0.04% of his total – four one hundredths of one percent of his total.

The meme that the National Rifle Association is “buying” Republican legislators with truckloads of cash is simply false. If Republican legislators are worried about the NRA, they are worried about the NRA’s members and how they will vote.