All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Monday, September 30, 2019

10,457 + 5,000

What would you do if you had an extra 5,000 days to live?

It's a kind of hypothetical question that rarely comes with any degree of certainty. I don't know that most people would change a thing.

Today, I am 5,000 days older than my biological dad was when he passed away. He accomplished a lot in his life, more than me so far in several cases. He was married, had a kid (me), and had clear ideas of what he wanted to do (be a missionary) and where he wanted to do it (remote Venezuela). Had this plan not been interrupted when it was, it may have met another interruption that came later.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

When to ignore others

1 Kings 13 is one of the stranger passages in the Bible, even among those who believe it. I don't normally turn to commentaries after reading the Bible, but I did in this case.

Warren Wiersbe had the most helpful comments:
If there is one lesson to be learned from 1Ki 13:11-34, it is this:
• don't let other people determine the will of God for your life.
• Obey what God's Word says to you, regardless of the cost.
Source: Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament

Friday, September 27, 2019

2 kinds of random

There are two kinds of random, and they are nearly opposite with respect to numbers.

random sample, such as for a poll, is one that is very ordered. For instance, if one has a population of 1,000 people and wants a random sample, one would take an alphabetical list of names, and then take every 100th name in order to get an even random sample of the population.

Every 100th name would not appear to be random mathematically as each number would easily be divisible by at least one other number, in this case 100.

A random number is a number with no discernible mathematical pattern. Nothing repeats indefinitely, nor is it evenly divisible by another number. The digits of an irrational number qualify as a random sequence.

When scientists search for life outside of earth, they are looking for signals of random sequences from radio transmissions. Thus far, all we've ever physically found or heard from beyond our solar system is very ordered signals from things like pulsar stars.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Therapy ownership

Every therapy session belongs to both patient and therapist, to the interaction between them.

It was the psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan who, in the early twentieth century, developed a theory of psychiatry based on interpersonal relationships.

Breaking away from Freud's position that mental disorders were intrapsychic in origin (meaning “in one's mind”), Sullivan believed that our struggles were interactional (meaning “relational”).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cost increases memory

Everyone remembers what costs them something. Not every remembers details about things, but even people who have difficulty memorizing things remember when something costs them.

I used to forget my water bottle until I made myself drive several miles out of the way to return and pick it up. I have less difficulty remembering it now.

Costs can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary costs are when we make a purchase. Involuntary costs are by our mistake or the fault of others. Either way, costs create indelible lasting marks in our minds.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Those who can't

There's a saying among non-educators, “Those who can't do, teach.”

It's a very loaded phrase that's mostly used to denigrate teachers. Perhaps there have been some examples of this along the way that lead people to believe this. There are also examples of the inverse of this phrase. Not everyone that can do, can teach. Albert Einstein did not accept this standard saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Autumn Constellations

As I've been noting at the beginning of each astronomical season this year, there are specific constellations visible during that respective season.

Northern hemisphere constellations visible during the fall include: Andromeda, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pegasus, and Pisces.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

All labor and all skill

“Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

Everything man does is one man striving against another man.

That's a humbling thought. We all get hungry. We all need to eat. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). One primary point of working is to earn money to buy food (if one does not work his own food source). The only way to earn money is to exchange value with others. We must engage with others, and all our interpersonal activities are in some way motivated to satisfy and please our desires.

God demonstrates the opposite way. “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’” (Romans 15:3).

Friday, September 20, 2019

The sound of grief

I’ve also seen grief from afar, like the time in medical school when I was transporting blood samples in the emergency room and heard a sound so startling that I almost dropped the tubes.

It was a wail, more animal-like than human, so piercing and primal that it took me a minute to find its source.

Out in the hallway was a mother whose three-year-old had drowned after running out the back door and falling in the swimming pool during the two minutes in which the mother had gone upstairs with her infant to change his diaper.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Attachment styles

Attachment styles are formed early in childhood based on our interactions with our caregivers.

Attachment styles are significant because they play out in people's adult relationships too, influencing the kinds of partners they pick (stable or less stable), how they behave during the course of a relationship (needy, distant, or volatile), and how their relationships tend to end (wistfully, amiably, or with a huge explosion).

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Government is not a business

There are people who correctly claim, “If I ran my business like the government, I would go out of business.” Their point is usually financial. They cannot endlessly spend more than they take in and remain solvent. The entity that prints or mints the money can do things that those who must earn money cannot.

The point is well taken and should be instructive for the government. While a government may be able to stretch financial limits more than those with more immediate accountability, it, too, can face a day of reckoning when its bill finally comes due.

Comparisons of government to business should stop here. There is an important way in which government and business are not and should not be alike.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

3 surprises in the U.S. Constitution

Happy Constitution Day!

232 years ago the United States Constitution was ratified. This is the document which describes that which constitutes the United States of America. Without this document, the states would not be united. This document effectively takes the sinful nature of man into account by separating powers into different branches of government, similar to what we see in Isaiah 33:22: “For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King; He will save us.”

The Virginia Declaration of Rights reminds us, “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” Congress has done this in recent years by opening its new term with reading the still-active parts of the Constitution on the House floor.

As for the non-active parts, “The text we will read today reflects the changes to the document made by the 27 amendments to it. Those portions superseded by amendment will not be read.” Some people get wrapped around the axle about whether the parts not read are being ignored or suppressed. There are a few things I find interesting still in the document, one related to parts others are concerned are suppressed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Why higher tax revenue?

Today third quarter estimated federal taxes are due. When people have to pay their taxes themselves, that makes them more likely to consider the rate and its purpose.

Conservatives, of which I am generally one, have had an interesting approach to tax policy for a few decades now. During the Reagan Administration, Arthur Laffer introduced his famous curve. The basic premise is government tax revenue would be $0.00 if the tax rate were 0% and if it were 100%. Somewhere in the middle it reaches a high point. Then, the 0% point, peak, and 100% point form a curve of expected tax revenue based on the tax rate.

This was developed at a time when the top income tax rates were well north of 50%, presumably on the far side of the curve when it was nearing 100% and revenues would be heading to $0. The conclusion, then, was if tax rates were reduced, that would move the revenue point on the graph back which would move the amount of revenue up the curve. That is, with the government taking less money, people are free to spend or invest more, the economy grows accordingly, and as the economy grows, the government tax percentage grows with it—higher revenue with lower tax rates.

Where that high point is on the curve—that is, what tax rate produces the most revenue—has been the point of much debate over the years. Democrats agree that as the economy grows, revenue goes up. The disagreement is about the cause. This post is not an argument in that debate. The purpose of this post is to ask questions about each side's assumptions and conclusions.

Conservatives tend to perpetually believe that lower tax rates will produce higher revenue. Let's assume that's true. Why do conservatives, who want smaller government, push for something that would produce bigger government revenues?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

God doesn't hammer us into place

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7).

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Construction can be loud, right? Not with God's temple.

Did you know, if you are a believer you are being built together into a holy temple?

The tools made no noise where the physical building was built. I think there's something to be said in applying this to how God builds His temple with us, too. He doesn't hammer us into place.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Limits to the size-of-government argument

Conservatives, of which I am one, like to argue in favor of smaller governmentPresident Reagan laid the foundation for popularizing this argument in his first inaugural address in 1981: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

That is actually a statement more about big government than it is smaller government. To a government bureaucracy, problems become less something to be solved (which would put bureaucrats out of a job), and more something to be managed (which would keep bureaucrats employed). It is no coincidence, then, that as government has gotten bigger, society's problems have increased with it.

It is logical to conclude that reversing this trend would improve things. If big government makes things worse, smaller government would make things better. While there is truth to this argument, it also lacks a foundation. Size is entirely relative. Taking this argument to its conclusion, one would wrongly assume conservatives believe having no government at all would solve all our problems.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

How to evaluate any political argument

Start with Who.

In any policy or political debate, when considering the point a candidate is making, ask • Who are the governed? and • Who is governing?

The governed are the free—those who do good. Those governing are the ones who punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. The essence of governing, then, is to identify evil and decide how to punish it, and to identify exceptional good and decide how to praise it. What punishments for the crime? What recognition for the good would be most appropriate? That is the essence of governing. Outside of those two things, government is not there to do anything. (Distinct from evaluating public policy is the evaluation of debate about public policy.)

With that understanding, ask yourself if the candidate is proposing something that governs or something by which government participates in doing good. Doing good is a good thing, but not with the government. If you want to do good, go do it. Why use coercive government to do it? This is dangerousGood policy debate is about how government reacts to the actions of others. Bad policy debate is about making the government a participant in whatever area the candidate is focused.

If those governing are promising to use government to do good or make government “a force for good,” then ask yourself, Who will be there to govern them while their government attempts to do those supposedly good things?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Floridian memories of September 11, 2001

Last year I wrote about my own memories of 9/11/2001. This year I asked David, my 9/11-born brother in Florida, to share his memories, and he did. Links added.
The morning of September 11th, 2001 was originally just like any other Tuesday morning. Classes went as expected, it was my birthday, my 16th no less, but being in high school, that really did not mean as much as it did when I was a kid. Little did I know that my birthday that year would end up as anything but ‘sweet.’

While I was walking on my way to my American History class, I started to hear some commotion. This was in the days before smartphones so information did not travel nearly as fast as it does today. When I arrived at the classroom there were a few students telling the teacher to turn on the TV, but at first, the teacher thought they just wanted to goof off so their requests were denied.

However, one student heard what had happened and said that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings! We were shocked to hear that because this came from a student not known for making outrageous, false claims. So, the teacher promptly turned on the television. On the screen was a picture of one of the World Trade Center buildings, on fire! Every network was covering the news — we were witnessing American History that day!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Is a 'right' to health care absolute?

The left generally does not like absolutes, especially moral absolutes. “Who are you tell me abortion or homosexuality is wrong?” They're not in to higher authority.

Rights come from God, but they'd rather people think they came from them. And the rights they do like to “afford” to others they speak of in near absolute terms.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he wants to “guarantee healthcare”, the services provided by medical professionals, “to all people as a right.” The key word there is guarantee.

They're trying to have it both ways—something absolute without absolutes. That's why this is an important and telling question: Does the left believe the right to health care is absolute?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Health care reform at 10 years

Today is the 10-year anniversary of President Obama's health care speech to Congress.

SMMRY of the speech:

Unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek—especially requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions—just can't be achieved.

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined:

consumer protections for those with insurance,
• an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and
• a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

An additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Understanding the nature of obedience to God

Someone once tried to rewrite the Ten Commandments, “stating them as a positive.” They didn't like the “negative” tone of “Thou shalt not…” There are several problems with this.

First, not all ten are written “as a negative,” as it were. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and “Honor your father and your mother,” are written as a positives.

Second, if “as a positive” was the wisest way to write them, wouldn't God, who is alone wise, have written them that way?

Third, this misunderstands the nature of the freedom God intends.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Breaking streaks

This week I decided to ditch daily electronic to do lists altogether—even for the recurring and electronic tasks. Late nights due to internet access have still been an issue.

Electronic devices can far too easily hold my attention, and make me constantly check to see if there's something else to do.

Swipes is one of the most effective at this. While this is powerful for helping ensure things get done, it's too powerful if it feeds internet addiction.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Guest biometrics

Just before leaving town for the August recess, there was a special order hour on the House floor about immigration. One of the speakers, Representative Scott Perry, said, “I have been here for 7 years, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in healthcare, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in immigration. What I have learned is that when you put ‘comprehensive’ in front of a cause, it doesn't happen. It is political speak that says it is not going to happen because the room becomes divided, and everybody uses it as a political tool for the next election.”

This reminds me of a similar observation I made a while back in realizing the meaning of “reform.” Anything they want to “reform” is usually something they want to eliminate. Those in favor of “campaign finance reform” really just want to eliminate all campaign finance. Of course, they would say they just want to eliminate private campaign finance, and make everything publicly funded, but that's a formula for preserving the power of those who already have power. (More on this in a few weeks.)

Nonetheless, Rep. Perry: “What I want to do is, instead of trying to do comprehensive immigration reform, I want to focus on a small bite of the apple.” His small bite is “a guest worker program” in lower-skilled “agriculture, hospitality, and construction.” His focus that night was on agriculture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

5 ways to reinvent newspapers for millennials

As newspaper subscriptions have dwindled to the point of endangering a longstanding business model, it's worth pointing out some things could be done to revive print journalism business.

After all, there are some things to like about newspaper content. It's daily. It's not always-on, up-to-the-minute/second. This provides an inherent value filter against the immediate. It's local which increases the odds the content will actually be relevant. It's in print which creates a bias toward words and meaning, not images and emotion.

There are some things that can be done about some of a newspaper's inherent limitations.

First, get rid of newsprint. It's gross.

For a generation that grew up on laser printers, unsealed ink on newsprint is substandard. I once worked in an office that had a staff person gather the “clippings” each morning by physically cutting articles out of a newspaper. She literally had to spray and wipe down her work space every single day because of the disgusting mess the newsprint would make in just an hour. It smelled nice afterwards, and it was a potent reminder of why I have no interest in a newspaper subscription.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

An Ideal French Address

I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech—it never names an historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:

“Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before Heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th March in history, no 12th October, nor 9th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May—that but for him, France, the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant almanac to-day.”

I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent way:

Monday, September 2, 2019

What is unique about America

Chesterton's observations about humor and familiarity were in the context of his observations about questions posed by America to foreigners: “Are you an anarchist?” and “Are you in favour of
subverting the government of the United States by force?” As if “anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.”

Seeking not to be the traveler who “has found something to make him laugh, and he will not suffer it to make him think,” he continued, “It is not to deny that American officialism is rather peculiar on this point, but to inquire what it really is which makes America peculiar, or which is peculiar to America.”
America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

To what should the Bible be applied?

The Bible should be applied to whatever it applies itself.

This may or may not mean our personal lives or something in them at any given time. Not everything in the Bible is about us or the Church. Some things are about things larger than us—like nations—and some not dealing directly with people at all—like nature.

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