jasonbwatson

October 27, 2015

The stupidity of legalizing pot

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “By seeking and blundering we learn.” That is true, of course; some of life’s most painful–and most valuable–lessons come as a result of blundering and failure. Still, it is not necessary to experience everything for ones’ self in order to learn. In other words, it is quite possible to learn from the experiences–and the mistakes, in particular–of others. Being willing to do that is a demonstration of wisdom. There are two other quotes I have heard before in varying forms, and I have not been able to determine the originator of either, that demonstrate this truth. First: “Wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men learn from the mistakes of others.” Second: “A wise man learn from the mistakes of others while fools learn from their own mistakes.” Similarly, according to Forbes contributor Vitaliy Katsenelson, there is a Russian expression that says this: “The wise man learns from someone else’s mistakes, the smart man learns from his own, and the stupid one never learns.” I am afraid we have a lot of stupid people in the United States and next week–apologies to my friends who live there–we are going to find out exactly how many of them live in Ohio.

Next Tuesday, Ohio voters will weigh in on whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. According to some reports I have seen, polls are indicating that as many as 56% of Ohioans are in support of the idea. On September 15, Toledo voted to change its city ordinances to decriminalize marijuana, “abolishing jail terms and penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana” according to the Toledo Blade. The measure passed by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Only 9% of eligible voters turned out to vote on the question, called the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance.” Sensible? Yeah right. Very effective spin by someone, though. It is not as if Toledo specifically, or Ohio in general, have a monopoly on stupidity, though. Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington already allow the recreational use of marijuana. President Obama is on record supporting the idea. The National Organization for Women and the ACLU have been lending their support for legalizing marijuana in the upcoming Ohio vote.

Why am I saying that if projections hold it means the majority of Ohioans are stupid? The Russian expression says the stupid man never learns. Taking even the most cursory look at the impact of legalized marijuana in those states where it is permitted, though, reveals exactly how bad an idea it is. It is surely tempting on many fronts. After all, people have been saying for years that marijuana does not cause the problems that other illegal drugs do. Those places where it has been legalized enjoy tremendous tax revenues as a result of its sale. A recent WORLD article reports that Manitou Springs, Colorado is expected to have $25 million in marijuana sales this year. That translates into $1.2 million in tax revenue for the city. The state of Colorado is projected to take in over $100 million this year in marijuana revenue. In the month of May alone there was more than $11 million in “marijuana-related taxes, licenses, and fees” according to the WORLD piece. And those are just state-level numbers; they do not even include local taxes like the $1.2 million for Manitou Springs. If someone says, “hey, this doesn’t hurt anyone and it will bring in lots of money for the city and state, too?” who wouldn’t be tempted? Only the stupid, though, refuse to look beyond the sales pitch and investigate the darker reality. The financial windfall is legit, but so are the costs that will eventually result. And I do not mean only financial costs, either.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas have all filed lawsuits against Colorado, seeking compensation for the additional costs they have as a result of marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. Sheriffs in Colorado counties that do not allow marijuana sales–and fewer than one-third of the state’s towns and cities do–have sued the state in an effort to get back the additional costs they have as a result of the problems caused by marijuana. What kinds of problems? John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs–which does not allow marijuana–says, “Marijuana has become pervasive in our schools. Most of our suspensions are from marijuana. Legalization has lessened the perception of risk among young people, and when the perception of risk goes down, use goes up.” That quote is from the WORLD article. A September 22 report on RT addressed a 166-page report released after a federal government study. The study revealed “increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions, lab explosions, and pet poisonings.” Furthermore, the report stated “that the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012, with marijuana-related fatalities doubling….” Oh, and as for the suggestion that legalizing marijuana will actually make it safer by eliminating the illegal sale, or black market, for pot? Forget about it. In a February article in Newsweek Ben Smith quoted William Bennett saying, in response to a questioner asking if pot was worse than underage drinking and abuse of prescription drugs, “It’s not worse than alcohol. We know we have a problem, and we have not managed to keep those things from kids. Colorado was supposed to eliminate the marijuana black market, but it did not.” On May 18 Dion Rabouin reported in the International Business Times about the face that legal pot dealers have incredible amounts of oversight and red tape to deal with whereas the illegal dealers do not, creating the problem of “the competing black market dealers who have none of the costs of operating a lawful business and often have access to product of similar quality. Marijuana advocates long suggested that legalization would be the key to wiping out the black market for marijuana, but almost a year and a half into the experiment, that hasn’t been the case.”

There are numerous more reports, articles and studies that could be quoted to support the case against marijuana. None of that gets much attention on the ground, though, when the vote is looming. In the last Republican presidential debate Chris Christie had the courage to say what few others have said, which is that the federal government needs to enforce the law. It was established long ago that when there is a conflict federal law trumps state law. The sale and use of recreational marijuana is still a federal crime. Funny, isn’t it, how the federal government has been happy to allow states to do their own thing on the issue of pot but would not let them make their own laws regarding marriage. Sadly, they have their role exactly reversed. Marriage is not a federal government responsibility, and, per the Tenth Amendment, should be left to the states. Drug use, though, can easily be substantiated as a public security and health risk, making it an appropriate responsibility of the federal government.

I shudder to think of yet another state voting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. My hope is that there are enough people in Ohio who are not stupid that will show up next Tuesday and vote to keep it illegal. And the state then needs to do to Toledo what the federal government needs to do to Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The last thing we need is more stupidity.

October 15, 2015

Pretty Simple, Really

Joy Pullman, in the October 3, 2015 issue of WORLD, wrote a brief article entitled “A real head start.” In the article she addressed the fact that preschool and the federal Head Start program are not all that effective in equipping children for academic success. In fact, she quoted a study which found that watching Sesame Street was just as beneficial as Head Start on a child’s academic success. As much as you have to admire the long-running success of Big Bird and his buddies there is no way to justify the $8 billion annual price tag for Head Start if that is really all the difference it makes.

Pullman also referenced the efforts underway by the group Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), which is running ads in New Hampshire and Iowa in an effort to get presidential candidates to lend their support to the creation of government programs for children from birth to age 4. The organizations web site says that its purpose is “to mobilize all Americans in a commitment that cannot wait–investing in early childhood now.” If you follow the link to the “Secure Early Education” page you will read this:

Save the Children Action Network knows that investing in early childhood education is the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty. These investments lay the foundation for success in school, career and life. The type of environment and the quality of interaction to which children are exposed in the first five years of life greatly influence the outcomes of their adult lives.

Education may very well be one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty but it certainly is not the most effective way. And educating children in preschools and government programs for the first four years of their lives is not the answer. The Save the Children Action Network page lists the following under the headline “The Problem”: “From 2010 to 2012, more than 4 million 3-and 4-year-olds were not attending preschool, representing more than half (54%) of all children in that age group.” I have no reason to think those numbers are not accurate but I have every reason to believe that is not the problem. Nor is the goal of “high-quality early childhood education” the solution. The solution, according to the Save the Children Action Network is this: “A comprehensive, national early childhood education program would add $2 trillion to the annual GDP within a generation, according to the Brookings Institution. Evidence-based, high-quality early childhood education programs not only prepare children for school but also empower parents to influence their child’s academic success.”

It is interesting to me that the web site includes this nod to parents, since the effort to create a national early childhood education program is really an effort to take children away from their parents at an even earlier age in order to submit them to the influence of the state. It is not difficult to imagine how long it would take before such a program would become mandatory once it was created. Of course an incredibly important part of the problem–which SCAN and other organizations do not want to acknowledge–is the breakdown of the family. Even before the legalization of homosexual marriage we had an epidemic of broken families in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children born out of wedlock in the United States in 2013, the most recent year for which I can find numbers, was nearly 1.6 million, meaning that 40.6% of all births in the U.S. were to unmarried women. According to the ChildTrends Data Bank, only 64% of children in the U.S. lived with two married parents. (Notice that does not say those were necessarily the child’s biological parents, so this figure includes adoptions as well as blended families). This is huge because, also according to ChildTrends, “Single-parent families tend to have much lower incomes than do two-parent families, while cohabiting families fall in-between.” The site also states the following:

Both mothers and fathers play important roles in the growth and development of children. The number and the type of parents (e.g., biological, step) in the household, as well as the relationship between the parents, are consistently linked to a child’s well-being. (Nationally representative data on adoptive families are relatively new, and warrant a separate treatment.)

Among young children, for example, those living with no biological parents, or in single-parent households, are less likely than children with two biological parents to exhibit behavioral self-control, and more likely to be exposed to high levels of aggravated parenting, than are children living with two biological parents. Children living with two married adults (biological or adoptive parents) have, in general, better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living in other types of families.

Among children in two-parent families, those living with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage tend to do better on a host of outcomes than those living in step-parent families. Outcomes for children in step-parent families are in many cases similar to those for children growing up in single-parent families. Children whose parents are divorced also have lower academic performance, social achievement, and psychological adjustment than children with married parents.

Given this data, combined with that shared above about the effectiveness of Sesame Street equaling that of Head Start, it would seem that SCAN would be advocating for marriage-based two-parent families rather than more government early-education initiatives. I suspect we will not see SCAN take that route, though, or many other organizations or politicians since that would mean having to address the self-centered focus so prevalent in our culture, having to address the overthrow of traditional marriage and gender roles, the abandonment of commitment in marriage, saving sex for marriage and just about everything else that has been thrown out with the embrace of the attitude so prevalent in our nation today. When the focus is on what works for me right now the focus is solely on self; children are considered very little, if at all.

Pullman’s article highlights another very interesting finding by researchers: what is “most effective for tots’ long-term success is having a married biological mother and father. Other legs up include the number of books in a child’s home and eating meals together as a family.” It seems to me it’s pretty simple, really. Forget Head Start (and Sesame Street). If we want to give children a better chance to succeed, if we want to grow the annual GDP, and if we want to strengthen our nation, what we need to do is get back to the basics–the basic family unit. Father, mother, children. Marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage commitments, not no-fault divorces. Parents who actually read to and with their children, families that sit down at the table and eat together at least once a day–without the television on and without cell phones in everyone’s hands. That sounds like a real commitment that cannot wait. Let’s mobilize Americans to pursue that goal!

October 14, 2015

Choices (Part 2)

Christians need to have a predetermined mindset about what is and is not acceptable in their lives. They need to have decided-upon convictions that will enable them to make the right decisions. Some years ago the WWJD movement had folks wearing rubber bracelets with those letters, representing the question “What would Jesus do?” That’s a good question, and Christians should use that question as a filter in evaluating their own choices. However, Christians must already have the knowledge available to make the right decision when the time comes to make a decision. Effective, God-honoring decision making takes more than a conscience. The conscience is an important guide in decision making, but the conscience is really only a window or sky light–it serves only to let in light from our decided beliefs and convictions. In other words, conscience that is not informed by biblical principles will be a false guide.

What kinds of decisions am I talking about? Any decision, really. For the sake of the three principles I want to share now, though, think specifically about the influences you allow to enter into your mind through your eyes and ears–what you watch, what you listen to and who you hang out with. This includes movies, television shows, internet sites, video games, music and more. There are three tests that I believe will be helpful in making wise decisions.

First, there is the content test. Philippians 4:8 tells us what we should be thinking about. Ask yourself if the content you are filling your mind with is pleasing to the Lord. Is it helping you grow in your relationship with Him or is it hindering that relationship? I Thessalonians 5:22 tells us that we are avoid even the appearance of evil. I John 2:15-17 and James 4:4 tell is that loving the world means loving sin. Reflecting on these verses and using them as filters through which we evaluate our choices can help us to make God-honoring decisions.

Second, there is the control test. In I Corinthians 9:27 Paul writes that he disciplined his body in order to keep it under control. Some things may pass the content test but fail the control test. How? Because whatever controls us is sin. It becomes idolatry when we get fulfillment from anything other than God. Many people, quite frankly, worship themselves. Just a few chapters earlier, in I Corinthians 6, Paul writes that not everything that is permissible or acceptable is also beneficial. In the NIV translation of that verse Paul writes, “everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything.” We must be careful not to allow anything other than Holy Spirit to control our lives, thoughts ans actions.

Third, there is the clock test. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to redeem the time. In other words, we are to use our time wisely–to be good stewards of it. If we spend so much time on unnecessary and unbeneficial things that it takes us away from God then we have failed the clock test. Even those things which are good become bad if they are getting in the way of what is best. Again using the NIV translation, Ephesians 5:15-16 says we are to “making the most of every opportunity.”

So, next time you need to make a decision or evaluate some options, put the matter through these three tests. If it passes the content test, the control test and the clock test, the odds are quite high that the decision is a safe one to make. If, however, there is a failure in any of those tests there should be cause for concern. The should be careful evaluation and consideration given to whether or not that choice which failed the test is really the right one to make. Is it, in other words, really what Jesus would do?

October 8, 2015

Choices

Filed under: Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 6:52 pm
Tags: , ,

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Circumspectly is a big word that does not get used much these days. It means “accurately, precisely, with great care.” And fool in the Bible does not refer to intellectual limitations but to an unbelief in God–or at least inattention to what God says–and the behavior that results. So what does this have to do with choices? This: to do something accurately and precisely requires thought and planning–it requires a strategy. And a strategy involves choices.

So what can we do? The Bible gives us instructions. Here are eight helpful ones:

1. Put off the old and put on the new – see Ephesians 4:22-24
2. Capture your thoughts – see 2 Corinthians 10:5
3. Cast off the works of darkness – see Romans 13:12
4. Lay apart all filthiness – see James 1:21-22
5. Deny ungodliness – see Titus 2:12
6. Flee youthful lusts – see 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 Timothy 6:11
7. Abstain from the appearance of evil – see 1 Thessalonians 5:22
8. Study – see 2 Timothy 2:15

What do all of these have in common? They are all verbs. They all require action. In other words, they all come about as the result of choices we make. Each of the eight actions listed above requires action, and we must make the choice–either one way or the other. We can choose to do what the Bible says we should do or we can choose to do our own thing, do what’s popular, do what feels food, do what feeds our own lusts and desires.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says that God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness. In verse 4 of that same chapter it says that we should know how to possess our vessel (our body) in honor.

We know what the Lord’s will is. Or, if we do not know, we have access to knowing, because it is contained in the Scripture. However, God has given each of us a free will to choose–and the choice is up to us. Ultimately, no one else can make the choice for us. The victory over sin has already been won; we can experience victory when we yield to the Spirit’s working in our lives and make the choose to do what God wants and instructs us to do.

What choice will you make?

October 1, 2015

Managing Time (Part 2)

So what are the standards against each of us should evaluate how we use our time? I believe they are as follows.

1. Do I have my priorities in order? Fishing or golfing or collecting stamps may be perfectly fine activities, but doing any of them when I am supposed to be working would not go over well with the boss and we all know that. That is why we do not pursue these activities while we are on the clock–at least not as long as we want to stay employed. That is because we know that our hobbies cannot take priority over our work. Why, though, do we sometimes allow our hobbies to take priority over our relationships with our family members or with the Lord? If I spend every Sunday morning fishing instead of going to church I am not going to get fired by God but my priorities are quite skewed. The same would be true, by the way, if I spent every Sunday morning sleeping in. Sleep is important, but not at the expense of my relationship with the Lord–and Scripture makes it clear that being an active member of a church is an important part of that.

2. Am I giving my best to whatever I am doing? If I apply myself fully to my work only when the boss is watching then I am not working as unto the Lord. If I put halfhearted effort into my job, my lawn, my laundry, my relationships or anything else then I must not be surprised when I get halfhearted results. Nor, by the way, should I be surprised if (1) I do not get satisfaction out of what I am doing and (2) I will not be doing it long if the “what I am doing” is paid employment. I worked for a while in a setting in which employees were eligible for bonuses based on their annual performance evaluations. It boggled my mind that some people thought they were entitled to a just for doing exactly what they had been hired to do. If you’re one of these delusional individuals then I need to let you know: “bonus” means extra. Beyond the minimum. More than required. In other words, expect not a bonus for doing only what thou hast been hired to do. If you are not doing the best that you can in whatever it is you are doing then you are not maximizing your time. Notice, by the way, that I did not say “if you are not the best at whatever you are doing.” By definition there can only be one “best.” But each of us can do our best at whatever it is we do.

3. Do I have a realistic understanding of “my” time? When you are not at work, when you’re “off the clock”, your time is yours, right? Well, not really. Not completely anyway. I would suggest that if what you are doing with your time is having a negative impact on what you are doing on your employer’s time then you are shortchanging your employer. If you are busy all weekend doing whatever it is you may doing, and thus you are worn out and sluggish on Monday morning, you’re not giving your best. If you stay up late watching a movie, reading a book, chatting with a friend or doing anything else, and do not get the sleep you need to perform at your peak at work the next day, you’re not giving your best. By the way, if you do any of that on Saturday night and thus can barely keep your eyes open in church Sunday morning, you’re not giving God your best. And if you give all of your energy and effort at work and get home zapped with nothing left to give your family, you’re not giving them you’re best either. In any of these scenarios what you are really saying to your boss, to God or to your spouse is that they are not as important as whatever it is you were doing before that has left you unable to give them your all. In other words, your time is only your time insofar as what you do with that time does not interfere with giving your best when you are on someone else’s time.

4. Am I content? If whatever you are doing, whether it is work, play, relationship or whatever, is causing you to be discontent then you need to do one of two things: do something else or get your heart right. If you hate your job and you’re just putting in your time and collecting a paycheck then you need to find a job that will give you fulfillment or you need to correct whatever is wrong with your heart, your brain or your attitude in order to find that contentment. Sometimes, by the way, doing something else is not even one of the options, leaving only the heart adjustment. When your marriage is not bringing you contentment, quitting it is not an option except in a very, very few specific situations. When effectively, meaningfully, lovingly parenting your children is not bringing you contentment, you need to get your heart right, because you cannot quit being a parent. I would suggest you as well that if you are not content in whatever it is you are doing the answer to at least one of the three questions above will be no. You might answer no to two or even all three of them. Inversely, I would suggest as well that if you can answer yes to questions one, two and three, you will almost certainly answer yes to question four.

There are plenty of other places to find tips about the effective management of your time and I am not really sharing anything new here. For whatever reason I have had multiple conversations within the past week about wise use of time and proper time management, so the subject is on my mind. My hope is that these four principles will be helpful reminders to you if (when) you find yourself struggling with time management. We all have the same number of hours in a day but none of us knows how many days we have. May we each manage our time well and make the most of each and every day.

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