Thanks, Dad.


Today is Father’s Day.  And it happens to be two days after my father’s birthday, June 14th, ninety-four years ago.  It has been over twenty years since my Dad passed away.  But I think of him often.  I owe him a lot.

Among the many things Dad tried to show me, I am thankful for three.

First, his love of family.  Now that may not sound particularly unique or special.  People should and do love their family.  But there was a sacrificial ferocity about Dad’s love for his family that in some ways defies description.  He would do everything in his earthly power to help his children.  And he was totally devoted to his wife.  Indeed I remember sharp lectures on how I should treat my Mom, if not for the fact she was my mother at least out of respect that she was his wife.  Dad wanted little and gave much.  His family was everything.

Second, his passion for truth.  Dad had this incredible curiosity.  Moreover, he had an insatiable thirst for getting at the heart of any issue – personal or political.  In the process, he didn’t mince words.  Some people found him blunt (including even his children!).  Call it what you will, Dad brought a refreshing honesty to any conversation.  He didn’t shy away from the “elephant in the room.”  In fact, he was the first person most likely to say, “Hey, there’s this big elephant in the room!  Before we talk about all this other unimportant stuff, let’s talk about what we’re going to do with this big elephant … ”  He forced hard discussions.  It wasn’t for the sake of argumentation. It was a desire to get at the heart of an issue.  And it was his way of showing his love for someone.  As he told me once, “if you love really love others, you’ll eventually talk about things people may not want to talk about … but should.”

Finally, his faith.  Dad was a passionate Christian.  He would remind me that life is not things.  Life is not experiences.  Life is not a random act.  Life has a purpose and that purpose is to serve He who created us and sacrificed for us.  If Jesus was just a smart guy and the Bible is just a book, then life is one big crap shoot.  But if it is all true … then that changes everything!

Family, truth and faith.

Thanks, Dad, for showing me how to have a passion for all three.

Happy Father’s Day.



Apparently we all are.  Stressed that is.  According to the American Psychological Association and the New York Times, “too much work, too little money and not enough opportunity for growth are stressing us out on the job.”

That would do it for me!

The research documents what we already know (actually, most research says what we already know but simply don’t have hard data to prove) – that everyone, everywhere, for all sorts of reasons are stressed.
There’s the normal stuff.  Like bills.  Those can be very stressful. ABC says medical bills are particularly stressful (this is a story? this is news!).  There are reports that those facing retirement are stressing out.  Specifically American are stressed over retirement savings.”  Guess why?  They’ve got none!  That certainly stresses me out.  Some reporters are claiming that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is stressed out.  Again, I don’t see this as particularly surprising.

The sad news is that stress today impacts primarily the young, particularly young women.  This is important to me because all three of my children are young people and two of the three are women.

According to the American Psychological Association, if you’re under 30 you’re likely pretty stressed out.  According to Arianna Huffington you Millenials are “leading the stress parade.”  Not exactly a parade you want to be at the head of.

If you are a working woman below the age of 33 it gets worse.  Young women are the most stressed out group in America.  And why are women so bummed?  According to the study it is due to low wages, long hours and lack of opportunities for advancement.  I don’t know about you, but that would get me stressed.  Sadly, the result could be more women smoking cigarettes.  (Yet another study shows that while men smoke for enjoyment, women smoke to calm their nerves.)

Equality at home doesn’t seem to help.  The latest Pew Survey of American lifestyle says that moms and dads are sharing more duties, have greater “equality” (whatever that is) but guess what, we’re both (mom and dad) more stressed!

There is hope.  Scientists have developed a breathalyzer that will enable you to know when you are stressed.  And they’ve figured out what you should eat if you’re stressed.  It is a combination of fruits, low-fat cheese, almonds and asparagus.  Everything but the asparagus can fit easily in a back pack.  (For the asparagus you may have to make sure there’s a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s within walking distance.)

So to my children – particularly my girls – I know that we (baby boomers) have left you a pretty screwed up situation.  Its not something we’re proud of.

But try not to stress about it.  Be prudent.  Be optimistic.  Save your money.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.  Know that Mom and Dad love you.  And God has a plan for you.

And whatever you do, don’t think that a cigarette will fix things.




To all those who spend time building empires, creating networks, amassing fortunes, and spending all your waking hours building and creating and plotting and planning and in great part sacrificing your life in the name of power, glory and fame.  I give you Percy Shelly’s epic poem:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.”
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.


The Other Debate: Footnote vs. Hyperlink

I work with a team of researchers.  I am old (over fifty) and my colleagues are young (twentysomethings).  I prefer my research that has footnotes.  You know, those things with numbers and text at the end of the page or article.  They prefer to use hyperlinks, the stuff you click on to get to a web site.

Suffice it to say it has been a challenge for both sides.  So in the spirit of fair play, I tried to imagine a debate – debates are pretty popular these days – between a Footnote and a Hyperlink.

You tell me who you think wins.

Footnote– I don’t get it.  As best I can tell the biggest distinction you guys have is that you’re underlined and in a different colored font.  That’s it.  I look at you and you tell me nothing.

Hyperlink– We’re highlighted so people know that with just a click they can get to the real source.  Jeez.  You old folks.  You know, you should get out more.  Take a walk or something.  Oh!  How about this?  How about going on the  Internet?  Ever heard of that?  Why waste type space with the endless dribble that you Footnotes put us through when you can take people straight to the source.

Footnote– Funny.  Well, not really funny.  More like impertinent.  Sad, really.  You young folks have an amazing ability to think you are the center of the universe.  That you know everything.  A bunch of baby Jesus’ out there walking around like you’re God’s gift to the planet.  Look, I like the Internet as much as anyone.  But what if there’s no 4G or WiFi?  And God forbid what if someone is reading this on a piece of paper?  What good is your “click” for then?  I’ll give you a hint.  Bupkiss!

Hyperlink– Dude, if you can’t afford to find a Starbucks then I don’t know if you should be reading.  I mean, really, even McDonalds has WiFi now.  Reading something on a piece of paper?  Please.  People used to read on clay tablets and scrolls.  You guys are still killing trees.  I bet you still use one of those 20lb telephone books.  Wake up grandpa.  Today people read on devices.

Footnote– People can read on whatever they want to.  That doesn’t bother me.  But at least with a footnote people get information.  You know, minor details like “author”, “date of publication”, “title”.  All that used to be important.  Check that; all that is still important.  At least for people who are more interested in the truth and real research, not just tricking  people into clicking on someone’s web site.

Hyperlink– Excuse me?!  While you’re sitting there in your wheelchair, I take people to the source.  Directly.  One click and boom.  You’re right at the source material.  In short, I actually do something.  You just sit there.

Footnote– You know, sometimes just sitting there is a good thing.  You might learn a thing or two by staying in one place, focusing and thinking about one topic longer than five seconds.  And please, spare the diatribe about source material and sending folks to “the source”.  Half the time when I click on you guys all I get is crap – stock symbols, press releases and a wikipedia entry.  Frankly, I don’t need your help to figure that out.  More often than not you “sources” are about as helpful as cheese sandwich to a drowning ferret.

Hyperlink– You just don’t get it do you.  It is about convenience and variety.  That is what people want today.  They want to be able to navigate sources without having go through the equivalent of a card catalogue.  And they want a variety of sources.  People like the offbeat, non-traditional perspective.

Footnote– Variety.  That’s a nice way to put it.  Others call it “promescuity”.  You hyperlinks will hook up with  just about anything or any body any time.  That is why you’ve got so many HTDs – hyperlinked transmitted diseases.

Hyperlink– Look, there’s protection for that.  And besides, hyperlinking is a good workout.  Please spare me the lecture on abstinence.  That’s been a great success, hasn’t it!  We’re way beyond that old man.  And please don’t tell me that all footnotes are pure.  I’ve heard stories.  Phantom publications. Footnote loading.  You guys have your issues.

Footnote– But at least we give people something.  We’re transparent.  We lay it all out.   Transparency, now there’s a word I hear a lot from you young folk.  Only problem – actually it isn’t the only problem just one of many – like in most things you guys don’t practice what you preach.  You guys are about as open as a Swiss banker.  And like a Swiss banker you’re more often than not laundering someone else’s trash.  At least with a footnote people know what they’re getting in to.

Hyperlink– Boring!

Footnote– (With a chuckle) I think you’ll find that as you get old boring is very under-rated.

Hyperlink–  O.K.  I’ll give you that.  Sometimes the hyperlink thing gets tiring.  And sure, there are a lot of hyperlinks out there that get carried away and end up doing some pretty silly things.  Chaulk it up to youthful indiscretion.

Footnote– Some?  Silly?  I’d say so.  Look, I think you’re a fine young man.  You seem to want to do the right thing.  And sure, there are a lot of us footnotes that have spent a bit too much time on the sofa.  We’d do well to get out there and have a bit more exercise.

Hyperlink– A bit?  Dude you’re a heart attack waiting to happen.  I’m telling you, this Internet and connectivity thing isn’t slowing down.  You need to get your game on.  Check that.  Just get in the game.

Footnote– So how about this, next time I reference source material I’ll ask one of your buddies to hyperlink to it?  How about that?

Hyperlink– Sure.  Too bad when people mouse over us we can’t do your schtick – the whole author, publication, date thing.  Maybe someone will figure that out in the next rev.  We’re always being update and rewritten you know.

Footnote– I’ll give you the contact information for the folks at the Chicago Style Manual.  Maybe they can get together with your programmer types.


Belle, West Virginia

They are easy to make fun of.

The women’s hair is a bit too big, their necklines a bit too low.  Men sport facial hair and at least one article of clothing is “camouflage.”  Men’s shirts usually don’t have sleeves.  Faces and hands reflect a hard scrabble living.  Cigarettes and obesity are hard to avoid.  A good percentage of the houses are “manufactured” – that is, mobile homes sitting on cinder blocks.  Many are abandoned.  Cars, or various parts of cars, dot the front lawns.  A lot of lawns need  mowing.

But then you meet and work with the people you see something very, very different.

You realize that a lot of us “sophisticated big city and affluent suburban” types could learn a lot from the people in Belle, West Virginia – this town just outside of Charleston south of the Dupont Chemical plant.  A place where the McDonald’s is open all night to accomodate the shift workers.

I spent a week there with a bunch of high school kids from churches across the country – Texas, California, Illinois.  They divided us into crews and we spent a week in a family’s home cleaning, painting, doing odd jobs.  We all learned some things.  How to rehang a gutter.  How to fix a roof.  How to build a deck.

But what we learned most was from the folks in Belle.

We learned that there are people out there who still know and care for their neighbors.  One of our crews was working with an elderly woman whose son was in the hospital with cancer.  He passed away that Tuesday morning, just the second day we were on the job.  Within hours there were dozens of neighbors descending on the house with food and condolences.  They stayed all day.  As one person said with a smile, “we take of each other here in Belle.”

How many of us in our comfortable suburban neighborhoods could say that?

We learned that there are people who keep their word.  Our crew was assigned to the house of “Miss Ginny”.  We were struggling with a gutter installation that was part of our work assignment.  The pitch on the roof was too steep (at least for us) and ladders too unstable.  On our last day in Belle, I saw a handful of men, the oldest well into his sixties, in the neighborhood fixing the roof on a small house down the block.  I asked if he’d come down and look at the project. He did.  “How much?”  I asked.  “Fifty dollars cash.” He replied matter-of-factly.  I handed him seventy-five dollars and never saw him again.  A week later I got a thank you note from our resident, Miss Ginny.  “The gutters look beautiful,” she wrote.

I wonder if I could have relied on a random contractor in our community to do the same.

We learned that there are people who are grateful for even the smallest of things.  We worked the entire week at Miss Ginny’s house, often in blistering heat.  Miss Ginny always sat with us in the shade on the carport.  She was hard of hearing, a cancer survivor, and suffered from lupus.  But she was there every day.  She’d be the first to hold the ladder when someone was up caulking or painting.  She’d bring us home made brownies and store bought Cheetos.  She had water in the fridge.  Her small frame home was dark and simple but she made it our own and never complained about the sweat, sawdust, and grass that I’m sure we tracked in and out.  She was all alone.  Her husband died seven years ago.  The two boys were far away.  She lived off social security.  Not a hint of any modern technology – no cable, no computer.  Her health was failing.

But never a complaint.  Indeed, I’ve never heard anyone say thank you as much as Miss Ginny.  “You guys are doing a great job!” she said repeatedly (even though our work was very amateur hour).  “Thank you so much!” came at least once an hour.  Miss Ginny constantly reminded us that she felt very blessed and thanked the Lord every day for all the good things in her life.  She didn’t have much, but was always joyful for what she had.

And I thought to myself how often I complain about even the small things that go wrong in life.

Yup.  We all learned a lot from the folks in Belle, West Virginia.

Get past the surface appearances, the stereotypes and the things that – at the end of the day – really don’t matter that much- and you see people that we all would do good to aspire to.

Truth is good, but not popular

I remember being there in the Moscone Center.  It was July 19, 1984.  (Yes, I’m that old.)  “Morning in America” had not arrived.  Many thought Reagan would be a one-term president.  I was watching Democratic candidate Walter Mondale give his acceptance  as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.  It was a great speech.  Historic.   Then about half-way through the speech came this:

Let’s tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.

And I said to myself:

And you just lost!

Of course, Mondale was right.  That is, what he said was true.  President Reagan did raise taxes.  But that wasn’t exactly the campaign promise that gets people elected.

Recently President Obama got into trouble for saying that the private sector was doing “OK”.  It actually is doing OK.  The private sector’s got record profits and sitting on $1.7 trillion in liquid assets.  Small problem.  They got OK by laying off people.

Similarly, Congressman Ryan got in trouble by saying that entitlements were bankrupt and that we’d need to raise retirement eligibility and reduce benefits.  Can you guess how that went over?

Al Gore talked about an Inconvenient Truth.  Ron Paul reminds us that as a nation “we’re broke!”.

Popular guys, right?

We hear a lot about honesty and transparency in the communications business these days.  But the fact is that honesty – that is, telling the truth – is something that most people don’t want to hear.

Honesty is only popular when it is something you agree with … or it is funny.  That is, when honesty makes fun of other people.  (We don’t like truth that makes fun of ourselves!)

That’s why David McCullough’s commencement speech at Wellesley High School went viral.  He was the guy who had the guts to tell students, “you’re not special!

Telling truth to power?  Not really, just digging high school students.

Then there’s that great ad movie, Crazy People.  Dudley Moore plays an ad guy who is goes to an insane asylum and begins writing ads that are “truthful”.  Memorable ad copy included:

  • You may think phone service stinks since deregulation, but don’t mess with us, because we’re all you’ve got. In fact, if we fold, you’ll have no damn phones. AT&T – we’re tired of taking your crap!
  • Volvo, they’re boxy but they’re good.
  • Forget Paris, the French can be annoying.  Come to Greece, we’re nicer.
  • Porsche. It’s a little too small to get laid IN, but you get laid the minute you get out!
  • Paramount Pictures presents ‘The Freak.’ This movie won’t just scare you, it will f@*k you up for life.

The fact is most of us don’t like the truth.  And rather than become popular like Dudley Moore, the better story about the effect of truth-telling is in Moliere’s The Misanthrope.  Alceste, tired of the vapid, obsequiousness, and politesse of his community takes a vow of truthfulness.  He quickly finds that truth can be a lonely endeavor indeed.

Fast forward some 350 years, truth remains a bummer.  Colonel Nathan Jessep was right.  Most of us can’t handle the truth.

Don’t get me wrong.  Truth is a good thing.  It can make you free.

Just be prepared.

I don’t see a lot of evidence that it has ever been very popular.

The price of citizenship

After 30 years of living in the United States, my wife is becoming an American citizen.  I’m excited.  More importantly, she is  excited.  She loves the land in which she was born (Holland).  And while she is proud of her Dutch family (and visits them often!), she has raised three children here and has worked as a caterer, teacher, and social worker helping American families.

A hard decision.  But she wants to be able to vote.  And she believes in both the idea and people of America.

Now I read the co-founder of Facebook recently renounced his U.S. citizenship to become a citizen of Singapore.  Originally from Brazil, he’s lived in Singapore all of that last three years.  Why is he trading U.S. citizenship for Singapore?  Taxes, I’m told.  He didn’t want to pay them.

Money.  I understand Eduardo Savarin is changing his citizen because we wants to save some money.  It isn’t because he is poor (he parents were wealthy Brazilians who moved to Miami for security reasons).  He is not only wealthy, he is obscenely wealthy.  And in Singapore, he won’t have to share any of it!  Oh, and there’s a bonus.  He’ll be able to enjoy cheap domestic help since Singapore has no minimum wage.

I hope this guy really like Singapore.  I hear it is a very exciting place.

But don’t bring Juicy Fruit.  I understand that they don’t like chewing gum.  They also seem to have a fetish for caning.  They do it for all sorts of things.  Including immigration violations!  They are also a big fan of executing people.  They are not fans of jury trials by your peers.  Got rid of that in 1970.  Too messy and inconvenient, I guess.  I read on Wikipedia that:

Amnesty International has said that some legal provisions conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that Singapore has ‘possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population’.”

One thing everyone agrees on is this:  Singapore loves money.  I’m reading in Wikipedia that “the Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest,[62] most innovative,[63] most competitive,[64] and most business-friendly.  The entry goes on to say:

“Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaire households, with 15.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars.[94] Despite its relative economic success, Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequality levels among developed countries, coming in just behind Hong Kong and in front of the United States.[95][96]

It is a democracy.  But one of those where the same party has won every election since independence in 1959.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure Singapore is a lovely place with wonderful people.

My wife is changing her citizenship based on family, service, and ideals.  That is America.

Savarin is changing citizenship based on money.  That seems to be Singapore.

I think they both made a decision fit for each other.


One of the many things that fascinate me are fines.  I’m referring to penalties, not “its all good.”  Are they proportional?  Is there a logic?  Do they work?

When I was growing up, people used to go to the library (this dates me!).  Typically the check-out period for a book was 30 days.  If you kept the book longer than 30 days you had to pay a fine.  As I remember it was something along the lines of a nickel per day.  Those nickels added up quickly!  Be late for a month and it would cost me a buck fifty which was about a third of my weekly allowance.

As an adult, one of the fines I’ve paid most often is for parking where I shouldn’t have or longer than I was supposed to.  Fines in the District of Columbia are not cheap.  I think the last one I paid was $100.  If you’re late they double.  Rack a few of those up and you’re talking real money.  Let’s say that you average a couple of parking fines a year.  And you’re late on one of them.  That’s $300.  If you’re the average person with an average family income (which is $51,413), that’s about .6 percent of your income.  Not much.

I read yesterday that the FCC fined Google a whopping $25,000 for for impeding an investigation.  It had something to do with Google collecting information without permission.  I don’t know if the FCC was right in fining Google.  And I don’t know if Google was really guilty of anything.  But I’m thinking that Google doesn’t look at the FCC fine the same way I did my late library book fines or parking fines.

According to Gooogle Finance, Google has about $57 billion in the bank.  But that’s not liquid assets that they can use to pay the FCC.  No, their liquid assets (cash and equivalents) are only $23 billion.  And now that I think of it that’s not the right measure either.  When I paid library fines or parking fines, I didn’t pay them out of savings, I paid them out of income.  So what is Google’s income?  Well for the quarter ending in March 2011 net income was a paltry $3.5 billion.

So how does $25,000 stack up to $3.5 billion?  By my math (and I had to search to find an online calculator that would go far enough in decimals to figure this out) it is .0007 percent.  But that is over three months.  The math gets a bit better if you look at it through the lens of monthly income.  If we assume that Google’s net income is running about $1 billion a month (a bit more than my allowance growing up and slightly higher than the median family income) then they are making net about $33 million every day (this includes Saturdays and Sundays! … those Google people never stop working!).   And assuming that these guys are working 24/7, then the math works out to $22,916 in net income – that is income after expenses and taxes – every minute.

So that’s the FCC fine.  The government got sixty seconds of Google’s net profit.

So here’s the question.  If the library only charged kids sixty seconds of their allowance after candy, soda, and music … if the DC parking authority only charged us sixty seconds of our income after taxes, rent, and food …

Do you think we’d ever bring back a book or pay a parking meter?

Reason and the Reason Rally

Today being Sunday, I thought of the Reason Rally.  That was the rally for atheists on the Mall yesterday that headlined scientists Dr. Richard Dawkins, comedian Eddie Izzard, and magician James Randi.  That and yesterday a good friend sent me a piece that appeared in the New York Times by Gary Cutting with the provocative title, “Does It Matter Whether God Exists?”

The event and the article got me thinking about all my atheist, agnostic and theistic friends and as a Christian, the many wonderful and oftentimes impassioned conversations we’ve had about God, faith and religion.  As I thought about my friends and read through Gary Cutting’s article I also thought about how many things atheists and Christians can actually agree on (that is of course, putting aside the question of whether there is or is not a God.) and how silly it was that we can’t embrace our agreements and move on to more interesting discussions and do so as Peter admonished Christians in “gentleness and respect”.

Here are at least three things on which I think many Christians and atheists can agree.

  • You can be religious and spiritual without a God.  This is most certainly true.  There are many people who are religious and spiritual and don’t have a belief in a God.  At least not the God that I know.  Now I’d be quick to say that most Christians wouldn’t advise this.  Jesus criticism of the Pharisees was, in part, that religiousity and spiritualism absent God quickly leads to legalism.  But  people can be spiritual and have a sense of ethic and moral rightness without a belief in creator God.  I know because I’m friends with many!
  • You can be a “good person” without believing in God.  Absolutely!  I know a lot of great, wonderful, decent people who are atheists.  They are honorable, trustworthy, and people of integrity.  Moreover, I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of people who believe in God (e.g. Christians) and who fall woefully short in this category – that is, behavior.  You have to go no further than me.  I’m a really good example.  There are a lot of people I know who are not Christians and behave much better than me.  I’ll be the first to admit that.
  • “Being good” is important.  Or as philosopher John Gray closes in the BBC article, “What matters is how we live.”  Totally agree.  (Note that Christians would challenge the prior statement  – that what we believe doesn’t matter – but that’s a whole different issue.)  A good part of the book of James talks about behavior.  What we do.  And if anyone wants to read the Gospels they can count how many times Jesus said that “if you love me you’ll do what I say”.  He said that a lot.  I don’t think he was kidding.  And what did Jesus say?  “Love your neighbor as yourself” – a pretty high standard of “being good” in anyone’s book.

So on this Christians and atheists can agree:  (1) you can be religious and spiritual without a God; (2) you can be a good person without believing in God; and (3) how you behave is pretty important.

On this, we agree.

All I’d ask of friends at the “Reason Rally” to consider, is that belief in a God is a quite reasonable and logical conclusion when working through the answers to three important questions about life.

  • How did life come from non-life?  This is a tough one if you exclude a Creator.  We can say we don’t know.  But the conundrum of how animate, sentient, spiritual life came from a big blob of earth, water and air is a tough one without injecting a Creator God.  String theory?  Sure.  But isn’t it reasonable to think belief in string theory is as much of a faith leap as believing in God?
  • Are there objective, irrevocable, eternal moral truths?  Is it right to tell the truth?  Is is bad to murder someone?  Is love the highest ethic?  And are these things all true regardless of when you were born or where you lived throughout history regardless of our evolutionary state?  God explains eternal truths in a very compelling way.  Without God we are left to genetics, evolution, and societal norms which by their very nature have and continue to change over time.  Without God eternal moral truths are hard to reason or logic.
  • Is there a purpose and coherence in life?  Absent a God, purpose and coherence become a struggle.  That’s not just me.  It is everyone from Darwin to Nietzsche to Sartre to Betrand Russell.  They understood, recognized and openly spoke about it.  One can conclude that purpose and coherence is self-made.  But then man becomes the measure of all things and its reasonable for some to worry which “man” becomes that “measure”.

You can disagree with ALL of the above.  All I’m trying to do is suggest to atheists, agnostics and those who challenge faith in God that (a) we agree on more than you might think we do; and that (b) while you may not agree or believe that a God exists, belief in God is indeed a quite reasonable thing.

And if you’re interested, read the thinking of legendary British philosopher and former icon for atheism Anthony Flew – “My Pilgramage from Atheism to Theism.”  We’re not that far apart.


Human silliness and $2.50 a gallon gasoline

You can learn a lot about people and politics just by looking at the silliness surrounding the price of a gallon of gasoline.

The discussion over the price of gasoline is downright bizarre.  In the strum and drang on the price of filling your tank (car, not stomach!) we see the frail irrationality of the human condition in all its glory.

  • Things that are small, we make big.
  • Things that are important, we ignore.

Let’s put the real bizarre stuff – that of conspiracy theories, the secret agenda of the socialist, Muslim Obama presidency, big oil’s manipulation to squeeze the common man until we all end up in “The Hunger Games” – let’s put that to the side for the moment.  (And if you’d like to delve into that read Krugman’s piece in tne NYTimes.)

Let’s focus for a second – just a second! – on the facts.  How much does the price of gas REALLY matter?  How much will a hike in gas prices REALLY mean to the average American?

How about we do the math?

For the sake of my own poor math skills let’s assume that we’re looking at the difference between $2.50 a gallon gas (a la Gingrich) and $5.00 a gallon gas (a la near term market reality).  And for our example let’s assume the average American drives 1,000 miles a month and has a car that gets an average of 25 mpg.

[Note that this OVER estimates the actual impact given that the real numbers are approximately 650 miles per month (Experian) and an average of 22 mpg (TruCar). But the math is easier so let’s stick with 1,000 miles a month and 25 mpg.]

That’s 40 gallons of gas a month. At $2.50 a gallon the monthly cost is $100.  At $5.00 a gallon the monthly cost is $200.

So let’s make this clear.  A DOUBLING of gas prices from $2.50 to $5.00 a gallon is going to cost the average car owner a total of $100 extra dollars a month.

$100 extra dollars a month.

Let’s see … that is …

  • the average monthly cable bill
  • a (very) cheap data plan for your smart phone
  • one (1) dinner for four at Olive Garden
  • a bad Starbucks habit

And that is what we’re excised about.  Medicare is broke.  Infrastructure is crumbling.  The cost of college is skyrocketing.  And we’re worried about the possibility of an extra $100 a month.

[Quick side note.  Since the Obama administration took office the Dow is up 60%.  For a lot of people with 401ks that real money.  Or consider that that home mortgage rates are down nearly 50%.  Again real money. And we’re getting apoplectic of $100 a month gasoline.]

Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s a lot of people out there for whom $100 a month is a LOT of money.  They are the type of people that my wife works with.  She’s a social worker.  Many of her clients live off disability or in section 8 housing or supplemental nutritional assistance (food stamps).

For them, a doubling of gas prices really hurts.

Then again, a lot of them don’t have cars.

And for the ones that do, I don’t think they were the ones that Rep. Gingrich was worried about when he launched his $2.50 per gallon campaign.

Fact is, for the VAST majority of Americans, $5 a gallon isn’t much in the scheme of things.

Which is why a lot of politicians make it such a big deal.