Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No Choice 2016

A good friend from church sent me a forwarded email, one of those "Trump is bad but still have to vote against him to stop Hillary" things.

This was the reply I sent back to him:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Voting Guide for November 2016, The Amendments


I'm going to have to do some jumping around here, but I'll make up for summarizing at the end. Items #1 and #3 are each standalone, but each of them has a bunch of story that is not being told on the ballot that has to be shared. #2 and #4 each seem to follow a pattern that I want to explore, to make sure that I can vote with principle and consistency, so that I can decide not just the question of whether this particular proposal is good, but whether this type of proposal is sound.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Voting Guide for November 2016

I'm not going to write about the Presidential race. I'm done with it. Let's go down the ballot.

For United States Senate
  • JOHNNY ISAKSON (Incumbent) Republican
  • JIM BARKSDALE Democrat
    • Typical Democrat party line of being “for the little guy”... With more taxes, regulation, Federal control.
  • ALLEN BUCKLEY Libertarian
    • Seems to be a Libertarian of the “not wacko” sort, really for bringing Washington back to its proper place.
For Public Service Commissioner
  • TIM ECHOLS (Incumbent) Republican
  • ERIC HOSKINS Libertarian
During the primary I voted for Echols’ Republican challenger. Echols’ website bragged on some great causes that in my mind are very worthy for private undertaking but not related at all to the role of Public Service Commissioner. Now, I'd like to give the Libertarians a chance, but Hoskins doesn't even seem to be really campaigning. I even contacted the Georgia Libertarian Party about this, and got a reply that he is running mainly so that the party can keep its ballot access. Ballot access rules stink. The fact that more of the offices on this ballot were settled by primaries than by the actual November election stinks. Solving that problem is beyond the scope of what to do for this particular election, but it's a problem. As for what to do in this race… I expect Echols is likely to win, but I'll vote Hoskins as a private protest against the situation.

For U.S. Representative
  • DREW FERGUSON Republican
    • Very little info about her personal background, other than “helping people” with “20 years in allied health and as a volunteer”. Don't know what that means.
    • “Angela Pendley follows the democratic platform and is proud to be a democrat, because the Democratic Party is tolerant.” Personally, I dispute the left-wing definition of “tolerance”.
    • “Angela Pendley does not use social media such as Facebook, twitter, or instagram. Angela Pendley communicate with people in person, on the phone, through email, through United States Postal service, and through text messaging.”
In the first round of the primary, Ferguson was one of my “runner up” choices, seemingly a safe second in case my top choice didn't win. When it came to the runoff, he started to disappoint, running some misleading mudslinging campaign ads against Mike Crane. So, I'm not happy about voting for him, but the Democrat contender worries me with her proclaimed view that her party is the tolerant party, so her party can do no wrong. Nothing about why we should vote for her, only that we should vote for her party. Because they are tolerant. Unless you disagree with them, because then you are the intolerant one. Sorry, time to end this rant. Holding my nose and voting for Ferguson.

For Tax Commissioner
  • KRISTIE KING Republican
    • Has worked in Tax Commissioner's office since 2001, has risen in rank over the years to Chief Deputy
    • Has a kid in my daughter's kindergarten class
  • RASHEED "BJ" DAWODU Democrat
    • Management consultant
    • Website has impressive resume in both public and private sectors
    • According to one reporter, it appears that Mr. Dawodu has “exaggerated” his work with tax offices in other counties. In other words, he claimed to have worked for the top brass when it looks like he was a seasonal mailroom worker:

For County Commissioner District 1
  • ERIC MAXWELL Republican
  • PAM REID Democrat

In the primary, I voted for Maxwell because I thought it was important to unseat an incumbent who referred to political opponents as “demoncrats” and made a number of other highly questionable statements. Now we have a clean slate between two non-incumbents.
Eric Maxwell's campaign slogan is “Vision for Fayette”, but so far in looking at his website and Facebook page I can't tell what that vision is. I can tell you that he believes in “vote early and vote Republican”; as disenchanted with both parties as I am, I am not fired up by this rallying cry.

I can tell you that Maxwell is skeptical about “affordable housing”; If affordable housing is defined as government subsidized, as it is all too often, I would agree, but I will also say that I almost couldn't find a home in Fayette County that I could afford when I was house shopping three years ago. I don't want subsidies, but I don't need a luxury mansion either.

When I look at Maxwell's Facebook page, I see all campaign and all party. When I look at Reid’s, I see all community. I am leaning towards Reid in this race.

For County Board of Education District 1

Lohr’s big issues: She opposed closing schools and redistricting, she wants to reduce class size, and she wants to buy more Chromebooks. All well and good, but also expensive. Closing schools and redistricting is never fun, but maybe needed from time to time.
Marchman is standing on his record of pushing for balanced budget, lower taxes, and increased teacher salaries.
Both of them are strong on the issue of local control of the school system over state and federal intervention.
I like Marchman in his current position, and I like Lohr in the PTO raising funds to support the schools.

For County Board of Education District 5
  • BRIAN ANDERSON Republican
    • Eagle Scout, software development MBA
    • Good position on not using emergency funds to balance the budget
    • Support for local school governance
    • Sees value in the goal of having standards, but those should be established at a local level, so Common Core fails. Also, Common Core math is a fail.
  • CHING CHING YAP Democrat
    • Music teacher, education consultant
    • Position on common core is that people at the local level need to understand and be ready for any “curve balls” from the state.

Now, just to wrap up, let's look at all of the no-contest races. I won't waste words, but just notice how many folks have already won, with only a primary race:

State Senator MARTY HARBIN (Incumbent) Republican
State Representative DERRICK L. JACKSON Democrat
District Attorney BEN COKER Republican
Judge of the Probate Court ANN S. JACKSON (Incumbent) Republican
Clerk of Superior Court SHEILA STUDDARD (Incumbent) Republican
Sheriff BARRY H. BABB (Incumbent) Republican
Coroner W. BEE HUDDLESTON Republican
County Commissioner District 1 CHARLES W. ODDO (Incumbent) Republican

Friday, July 22, 2016

An Election Dream

Maybe it's a dream, or a parable, or maybe just the invention of my wild imagination... 

Picture a D&D-type setting, if you will. Two great dragons are preparing to battle for dominion over the land. But rather than fight directly, each is recruiting armies of supporters from the land's population.

One dragon is Neutral Evil. She claims to be Lawful, but her misdeeds are well known, in spite of the fact that bards dare not speak of them and no one has the courage to hold her accountable.

The other dragon challenging her is Chaotic Evil. He has claimed a recent conversion to Good, but this dragon has a reputation for deceit, and everyone knows that a dragon doesn't change their scales easily. Besides, before this contest began, this dragon was best of friends with the other.

I am but a low level Paladin. Lawful and Good. I have friends who have tried to convince me to side with one dragon or the other. Some say that the Chaotic dragon will be less of a danger to the innocent people of the world than the True Evil dragon. Others say, no, the Chaotic dragon is more dangerous.

I know that, in truth, no one can know which is the greater danger. The nature of Chaos is to be unpredictable. And I know that whichever dragon wins, it will be Evil.
So, do I throw in with either dragon? Do I look for another way, knowing that the odds are against me?

Or do I hope against all hope that by staying true to my alignment that my Deity will see me through?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Supply and Demand!

I've had this idea rolling around in my head on the economic effects of health insurance coverage mandates. It started in my mind over contraceptives, but could be applied to just about anything, from prescriptions to doctor visits.

My wife had an economics teacher who told her, "If you don't know about supply and demand, you will fail!" You have to understand supply and demand.

Quick Micro Econ 101 review. Look at the graph over here. If you've taken an econ class, you should have seen variations on this again and again. The blue line shows that as price goes up, the number of people willing to jump in and buy goes down, and vice versa. Red line shows that when price goes up, sellers are more excited about selling. Somewhere in the middle, the quantity of product that buyers want to buy meets up with the quantity that sellers want to sell, and there we have what we call market equilibrium.

That market equilibrium price is what you will pay without insurance in the mix. Using the numbers in the graph, let's say it's a 10 month supply for $30. It's up to you to decide whether you can afford it, or whether you want to look for alternatives. It's that freedom to decide between "that's a bargain, I'll take it!" and "too rich for my blood, I'm going somewhere else" that gives the customer power over prices.

Now, the law comes in, and demands that people should be able to get their three year supply of this product for a $5 copay. What are customers going to start doing? Price goes down, more people will buy.

How do sellers react when the quantity being purchased goes up? They raise the price! Who pays the inflated price? The insurance company! Where do they get the money to cover their increased expenses? They have to raise premiums! And the customer doesn't have the freedom to decide that the increased premium isn't worth it, they have to buy! Now these drug companies get to sell more of their product at an inflated price, all because of a law that was supposed to bring costs down!

In other words, the customer is acting like they are paying a price lower than equilibrium, but in reality they are paying a price which is much higher.

I believe that is what the economists call "unintended consequences".

I'm not saying that insurance is bad. I'm saying that mandates which mess with supply and demand and rob the customer of their power to drive prices down are bad.

Are there any real ways to bring down prices that might use supply and demand, instead of trying to fight them? There are a few. If you want to attack it from the supply side, look for ways of making manufacture less expensive. Maybe figure out if there are some regulations or rules that aren't really helping anyone, that can be taken off the books. Or, see if you can invent a cheaper way of making the same high quality product.

If you want to attack it from the demand side, you could encourage people to be discerning price shoppers. Give them the power to walk away from purchasing decisions. Help them make the distinction between what they are buying because of want and what they really need. This is going to be an individual decision, and "universal" plans and programs are not going to help here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What if Trump wins?

I've been lurking lately in a NeverTrump discussion group on Reddit. A Trump Train guy dropped in recently to ask, very respectfully, how NeverTrumpers were going to react personally should Trump win the election. I thought that it was a question worth thinking about, and after I finished writing my reply below, I decided to hold on to it. I might need it in the near future, and some of my friends are bound to be in the same place as I am.
Here's what I said:
Thanks for asking, and more than that, thanks for asking in a spirit of kindness. No matter what our differences of opinion, we need to be kind to each other, that's the only way forward.

Speaking only for myself, when Obama was elected to a second term, I was initially very frustrated. Had to tune out of politics for a short bit. Nothing new or unusual about that, when you stand on principle you have to get used to siding with lost causes.

After the frustration faded, and my wife and I spent some time in prayer, we decided to be practical. Our take-away from the election was that the country wouldn't be turning away from its economic bad decisions any time soon, with or without the Tea Party. We decided that the best thing we could do would be to make the best decisions possible in our own economic life, and prepare for the worst. We went Dave Ramsey on our debts and have been building up our emergency savings. It's been well worth it. The worst hasn't happened yet, but it's still looming, and even if things turn around completely, we will have no regrets over getting our house in order.

Now, what if Trump wins? Again, I can only speak for myself, but my trouble with Trump is that he doesn't seem to have any principles apart from "winning". He lies, he is a bully, he admits it, and he doesn't mind. Even when he promises something I want to hear, I can't trust it, because he changes his position every few minutes.

So, how could I personally respond to such a person gaining the office of President? I think I would have to look again at my own life and try to be better. Examine my principles again, and try to live by them. Teach my children to know what is true and stand up for it, and not be bullies. Find my better self, and encourage others around me to do the same.

I don't know if this is anything close to what you were looking for, but again thanks for asking, this process of answering has been thought provoking for me.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Voting Guide for May 2016 - "Cheat sheet" version

Now that I've been through my research, here's the "bottom line" on where I'm voting for each race:

Part 1:

  • US Senate: 
    • Mary Kay Bacallo
  • US Representative: 
    • Mike Crane
  • Public Service Commissioner: 
    • Kellie Pollard Austin
  • District Attorney: 
    • Rudjard Hayes
  • Sheriff:
    • Barry Babb
  • Coroner:
    • W. Bee Huddleston
  • County Commissioner:
    • Eric Maxwell for District 1
    • Allen McCarty for District 5
  • Board of Education
    • Brian Anderson
  • Republican Party Question
    • "Yes" for empowering parents
  • Judge, for Superior Court
    • Mack Crawford (Was leaning Sanderson, but getting more information that is swinging my vote) 
    • Scott Ballard
  • Judge, for Magistrate Court
    • Christy A. Dunkelberger

My Voting Guide for May 2016 - Here come the Judges

Last post in my voter guide for this election! I'll follow up with the "summary", now that I've been through the whole ballot.

For Judge, Superior Court of the Griffin Judicial Circuit
Update: I was leaning towards Sanderson, but I have learned a few things this morning. First, her campaign has apparently included some smear and false claims. I'm still researching this, but I have no patience for dirty campaigning. Second, looking over her Facebook page, she seems to strongly lean towards progressive, left-leaning causes. I want my judges to be Constitutionalists, not progressives. 
Finally, I ran across an online interview where she was asked about her proudest moment in her career. She cited a case where she got an appeals court to override sodomy charges against two sixteen year old lovers on the grounds that they had an "expectation of privacy" for their activities despite being in someone else's home. For the details on this case she linked to an activist website run by people who are all about overturning sodomy laws worldwide. Now, as a libertarian-minded person, I'm not a huge supporter of sodomy laws, but as a parent, I'm not a huge fan of teens sneaking in sex in other people's homes. My big problem is that she called this her proudest court accomplishment.

For Judge, Superior Court of the Griffin Judicial Circuit

For Judge of Magistrate Court Post 1

Again, can’t find much on either candidate, but it's a challenger against an appointed incumbent. I'm going with the challenger.

My Voting Guide for May 2016 - Time for Party Questions

Let's take a moment to look at the Party Questions. This time, I'm not going to look at just the one Party Question on the Republican ballot, but also the five on the Democrat ballot.

My Voting Guide for May 2016 - Part 3

I know I'm running late, early voting is almost over and the actual voting day is this coming Tuesday, so I'm hurrying up! County Commission and Board of Education!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Voting Guide for May 2016 - Part 1, Federal Seats

Once again, it's time to write about our upcoming races! Long list of candidates to look over, let's get this show on the road!

Federal Seats
For United States Senate
In this race, Mary Kay Bacallo gets my vote. I see where she’s coming from, why she’s running, and I approve. She is a local/state education person going to Washington, to get Washington out of the hair of local and state education people. Isakson has been in party politics for too long for my tastes.

For U.S. Representative
  • Samuel Anders
    • Military background (Air Force), believes: “The stronger our military, the better our economy.”
    • Proposes a “flat tax” which is just another graduated income tax but with three rates (0%, 15%, 30%) and no deductions. Not a true flat tax.
    • Believes that bases should *never* be closed, because of the damage done to the local economy. (Even bases built for specific purposes that are no longer needed due to changing circumstances?) Also, believes that the military is not a branch of the federal government.
  • Mike Crane
    • Georgia Tech degree in Industrial Management. Career in construction.
    • State Senator
    • Strongly pro-life. Strongly against tax increases and illegal immigration. Supported by legislative history
  • Drew Ferguson
    • Dentist, former Mayor of West Point. Points to a very respectable record as mayor.
    • Issue positions: End ISIS, Term Limits Amendment for Constitution, 2nd Amendment, Iran is not to be trusted, take care of veterans, repeal Obamacare, secure borders, deregulate and control budget to encourage job growth, flat tax
    • Believes that the FairTax is a VAT (it is not)
  • Chip Flanegan
    • At least the second time running for Westmoreland’s seat. Last time around, I was willing to think about giving him a try to get Westmoreland out. This time around, we have many candidates in the running, and “not Westmoreland” is not enough to win my vote.
    • Big personal bio point is rebuilding a business destroyed by natural disaster and paying off enormous debt.
  • Richard Mix
    • Bio shows him as an entrepreneur who has built businesses in several fields. Boasts on not being a politician.
    • Describes himself as “fiscally conservative, socially moderate”. But even on social issues, seems to prefer more done by private and non-profits and less by government.
  • Jim Pace
    • Co-founder of Group VI (real estate developer and construction company, has done work for my church)
    • I know his son Jimmy and his family, great bunch, lots of kids! Deeply Christian.
    • Has pledged support for a balanced budget amendment and term limits for Congress, by constitutional convention if need be.
    • Similar pledge for repealing Obamacare.
  • Arnall "Rod" Thomas
    • Extensive biography on his web site. Grew up in Effingham County, GA. Vietnam vet. Former insurance agent, salesman, restaurant owner, Master Gardener.
    • “It will be necessary to increase taxes on the upper 1%” (direct quote from web site)
    • Pledges to live on a school teacher salary, and donate excess salary to community food banks.
    • “I will work hard to make sure our district gets its fair share of all the spending of the federal government.” Not to cut spending from the federal government, of course.
    • Also wants to forgive student debt.

Outright no: Samuel Anders and “Rod” Thomas. For Anders, the assertion that military strength begets economic strength rubs me wrong. It is good to have military strength in a dangerous world, and good to have economic strength in order to build the future, but they are separate. For “Rod”, his belief that his job is to bring his district as much “federal money” as he can is wrong. If you want to “bring home the money from Washington”, have Washington stop taking the money away from me to begin with. And both are just wrong on taxes.
Reasonable second choices:  Drew Ferguson, Chip Flanegan,  Richard Mix, Jim Pace. Mix and Pace both have the “outsider coming into politics for the first time” appeal. Ferguson and Flanegan also both say good things, although Ferguson’s view of the FairTax is a disappointment for me. But the winner is…
Getting my vote: Mike Crane. In addition to having clear limited-government principles, he can point to a record at the state legislature which has shown him backing his words with actions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

About bathrooms

I am shaking my head that this is even an issue. The world really is going downhill.

In a sensible world, people would be free to set sensible boundaries for whatever bathrooms are within their control, and decide for themselves how strictly to enforce those boundaries. If you have a shop, and you want to designate a single bathroom as "employees only", but you're willing to make an exception for the parent whose kid is doing the potty dance, that's cool. If you have a couple of single-stall bathrooms, and you put a "man-ish-shaped" sign on one and a "woman-ish-shaped" sign on the other, but you don't really care as long as people are being mature, that's cool too. Even if the signs aren't "enforced", I as a customer am generally going to follow them just because I think that's the sensible and courteous thing to do. And if a shop owner is going to be a jerk about it, well, I don't like to buy from jerks anyway. For schools and for libraries, let the administrators set rules that are simple and sensible and agreeable to local parents. There is no reason for a one-size-fits-all rule here.

But that's the thing that started this whole mess, at a city level. Charlotte decided to impose a one-size-fits-all rule. Even worse, their rule was, "no rules are allowed". Telling people that they are *not allowed* to set their own common-sense rules on their own bathrooms is stupid, overreaching, and a bad idea.

The State legislators saw that it was a bad rule, but they made the same mistake, just in another direction. They started by making a law, "Cities can't make a law like Charlotte's". But then they ended by making their own new one-size-fits-all rule. C'mon guys.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The power of labels

I've been volunteering at a school lately, as a reading mentor. I've been reading Charlotte's Web to this kid. Of course I read the book a few times when I was young, but it's always interesting what you can pick up on from a really good book when you are an adult sharing it with a child who is hearing it for the first time.

For one thing, I am noticing how E. B. White takes the time to paint vivid pictures of farm life, the people, and the animals. Sights, sounds, smells. How the children play on the rope swing in the barn. The trash that Templeton likes finding down at the dump. Charlotte's actions and movements as she weaves her Web, legs and spinarettes working together, as she talks to herself. This is good storytelling. I have run into enough disappointing stories over the years that it's refreshing to get back to quality, and having a child to share it with makes it like new again. I can't wait for my girls to be old enough to share it.

Another thing I'm picking up on is the power of labels. Wilbur is a pig. Just a pig.  He is special in the eyes of Fern and Charlotte, who love him simply for who he is. But in the eyes of the world, he is just another pig, destined for the dinner table. Until Charlotte gives him a label. "Some Pig". Then the world agrees, he is no ordinary pig. When the web declares him to be "Terrific", and everyone talks about how terrific this pig is, he starts to feel pretty terrific about himself. Then Charlotte rejects a couple of "appetizing" words suggested by the rat, and settles on "Radiant". Lo and behold, Wilbur becomes radiant.

Here are a couple of things that I take from this:
1) The power of labels can be used for good. If you want to bring out the best in a person, you first need to love them enough to see the best in them. Then you need to help them see that best in themselves. As a dad, I want to see my girls live amazing lives. I see that potential in them. It is my job to show them a positive image of who they can be, what sort of women they can become.
2) Love is crucial in this equation. Check out this news story for a case where a teacher's ability to love his student failed catastrophically. I know that my kids can and will test my patience. From time to time discipline will be needed. It falls on me to make sure I am always making it clear, when I have to give one of the girls a time-out or worse for bad behavior, that it is the behavior that is the problem, and that Daddy still loves them.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tea Didn't Start the Fire (Or: Don't shoot the messenger)

Another Facebook conversation on a different friend's post. This time, the topic was disaster relief bills being held up by Senator Cruz invoking parliamentary procedures. I had pointed out that it was not the disaster relief itself that Cruz is opposing, but rather the pork riders, amendments, and other additions that always seem to get added.

The friend-of-my-friend arguing the other side went on to assert that the bill currently on the table for Flint, Michigan has "only a little bit" of pork attached to it, and expressed his anger at the Tea Party for "trying to break" everything in Washington.

News flash: Washington is already broken. Washington has been broken. And the Tea Party movement didn't cause the problem.

Since I am in the Quality Assurance business, I liken it to the little guy at the company who discovers serious underlying problems, reports them, and pushes to get them fixed. Only in this case, the higher ups already knew that it was broken and have been trying to sweep it all under the rug as long as they can. And when the problem gets to be too big to keep hiding and ignoring, who gets made into the scapegoat? Only the poor sap who tried to do the right thing by reporting and trying to fix it in the first place.

As for how much pork is in the bill: How much is "just a little bit" when it comes to grift, cheating, and lying? How much is just a little bit of spoiling in your milk? How bad is "just one little drink" to an alcoholic, or "just one trip to the mall with a credit card" for a true spending addict?

Washington DC has a spending problem, and more than that, a corruption problem. The addicts need a king size intervention. The addict always sees the interventionist as hateful, evil, mean, the bad guy. Just as my kids think I am being mean when I tell them that no, you can't have sweets right now, dinner is in fifteen minutes and you have to eat your vegetables if you want a cupcake. But someone needs to be the adult in the room.

By the way, from what I understand, Cruz's office has announced that they won't be actually opposing the Flint bill, they just wanted to slow it down long enough to let the people voting on it actually read it. And is that too much to ask? It would be all too easy to throw together a bill with only a token bit of Flint business, a ton of unrelated spending, and push it through on the strength of the public's outrage over this justifiably outrageous situation. But the people in Flint aren't suffering from natural disaster, they are victims of political malpractice that has been going on for decades, and they deserve better than to be used as political pawns by the people who would claim to be their rescuers.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Beware the scare words

Earlier this week I found myself in a Facebook discussion with a friend of a friend. This guy Jim sits on the far opposite side of the political and religious spectrum. I like to try to engage with people who don't see the world as I do, it can be very enlightening.

In this conversation, I had just espoused my preference for Senator Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate, given my perception that his honesty is unwavering and he has a strong understanding of and allegiance to the Constitution. Jim replied with his own opinion that Senator Cruz would be "worse than Trump", and described him as a "Dominionist".

I like to think that I am reasonably aware when it comes to political and theological "isms". In the political world, I know about conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, progressivism, communism, socialism, and more. In the Christian theological arena, I have heard of dispensationalism, pre- and post-millenial tribulationism, gnosticism, Arianism and modalism, I've even heard once or twice about "isms" attached to the debate over whether or not Adam and Eve had bellybuttons. (Hey, that was actually a very contentious issue just a few centuries ago.) But "Dominionism" was a new one to me. So I asked him to clarify what he meant by the word and tell me why he believes that it applies to Mr. Cruz.

He gave me two links to articles talking about how Ted Cruz is a Scary Christian who says Christian things to groups of other Christians, therefore he must want to make this country into a Christian theocracy. (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the crux of what I got from these articles.)

I've even looked up "Dominionism" on Wikipedia. It is apparently a word that is supposed to describe a type of Christian theology, that was invented by people who are not Christians and not versed in our theology.

I haven't found any cases of anyone who would describe themselves as a Dominionist, and I haven't found any instances of someone advocating in favor of a set of ideas that they refer to as "Dominionism". As far as I can tell, it is a word that is supposed to describe a set of ideas that are actually never held by the people who are accused of being its supporters. I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like a very unhelpful word. It doesn't communicate anything meaningful about the person it is supposed to describe, but rather it shows the fear and misunderstanding of the person who uses it to describe someone else.

If you happen to be worried by Christians who bring religious talk into political discussions, I don't blame you. Christians have a jargon, just like computer professionals or theatre geeks. These specialized vocabularies can make it easier to talk with people who have our same background, but they can be strange and misleading for anyone else.

If you'll give me a few moments of your time, I'd like to try to demystify some of these things we "scary" Christians say to each other. This isn't an attempt to convert you, you have your own views and I respect that.

First thing, some Christians have been reminding their fellow Christians to vote in accordance with their principles. I like it when people vote from principles. It beats voting from anger, or fear, or envy. It's better than voting based on a candidate's looks or popularity. But it demands a lot from the voter. Before you can vote from your principles, you have to sit down and figure out what those principles are. Even more challenging, you have to figure out whether the candidates who are claiming to support those principles are being honest about themselves.

As a Christian, I personally think that my church offers a good set of principles for making decisions, and not just political decisions. If I didn't believe that, it wouldn't make sense for me to call myself a Christian. Christ taught that leaders should be servants of the people they are leading. Christian values include truth, life, freedom, and love for one's fellow human beings. Christians are supposed to defend the innocent, respect lawful civil authority, and stand against corruption. Perhaps most importantly, we are to be always mindful of the fact that we are human, and that even the best of people with the best of intentions can be led down a bad road.

One thing you absolutely have to know: If I set out to force you to follow my religion, then I have betrayed my religion. My God wants me to value truth and freedom. Fake worship is not what He wants. Forced fake worship, doubly so.

Another thing we Christians seem to talk about a lot is fasting and prayers. This may also be greatly misunderstood. Recently, when we have talked about prayers for the victims of great tragedies, I have heard an angry retort, "Don't just pray about it, do something!" But God isn't some genie in a lamp who hands out magic wishes in exchange for prayers. On the other hand, when nothing we do seems to be fixing the problems we all see, political or otherwise, maybe it just might make sense for me to spend some time listening to a God whose perspective is greater than my own. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Or maybe I'm doing it right, but just at the wrong place or time. Or maybe I'm doing it right, in the right place and time, and I just can't see it yet. God knows, I don't.

If you don't believe in divine guidance, that's no skin off my nose. The fact that I do believe in it should be no skin off of yours. Fair enough?

One last thing we Christians seem to get knocked around on is talking about defending our religious liberty. It seems that some people think that we want to club gays or women or black people over the head or something, and use religious liberty as our defense. That's nonsense.

But here's the real problem. You'd think that it would be common sense that if I hold an event that exercises my free speech but offends your religious views (or lack thereof), I would not be able to compel your participation or support, or punish you for deciding to do something else with your time. And if you are the one holding the event, I should be able to decide that I just can't be a part of it without us getting into a fight over it. But we're in a time in this country when business owners' lives and livelihoods are being destroyed over this issue. It's insane. All I want is some protection against the possibility of being sued over a mess that I didn't want to cause in the first place, that should have been just "live and let live". I shouldn't even need a law saying "don't sue the pants off of a person over hurt feelings", but that's the state of things today.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough for one day. I hope I've disarmed some fear mongers. Or maybe I'll have the chance to learn about a new scare word from someone who will use it to describe me. We will see!