Friday, July 21, 2006

$ Obscenity

Obscenity: 1. the state or quality of being obscene.
Obscene: 1. offensive to one's feelings, or to pervailing notions, of modesty or decency; 2. disgusting; repulsive
--Webster's New World Dictionary

In today's Tennessean there is an article on Tennessee U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker's $1.745 million contribution of his own money to his campaign (Corker gives almost $2M to campaign). The article states that it is unlikely Corker will be able to treat this as a loan and repay himself from political contributions.

The rest of this post is done under the following assumptions: 1) Corker will not be repaid directly from his campaign funds, thus this is an expense for him. 2) Because these large personal donations are common, the statements herein are not made in regards to Mr. Corker personally but apply to all candidates in general terms .

These large donations just seem obscene to me and are disgusting and repulsive in their implications. Bear with me please. A U.S. Senator makes $165,200 per year and has a term of six years. Using a 28% tax rate on the cash flows, I present a summary analysis of his senatorial cash flows below. Any revenue from endeavors already in place when elected are not relevant to the analysis, only income derived directly from being a senator is pertinent:

** The candidate earns a -14% return on the $1.745M investment if his only senatorial revenue is from his senate salary (read negative 14%).

** To breakeven (0% return), the candidate must derive an additional $125,608 per year benefit from being a senator beyond his $165K salary.

** To earn an 8% return on his $1.745M investment, the candidate must derive and additional $212,206 per year benefit from being senator beyond his $165K salary.
(8% is a reasonable expected return on an investment; general rule is long term returns are: Bonds ~8%, stocks ~12%)

The implications? We are either electing candidates who have little financial sense (good evidence for this actually), or we are electing candidates who know the financial reward for spending millions is worth the risk. And, that financial reward has to come from some source other than their senate salary that is direct result of being a senator. Thus impying a less than forthright revenue stream.

If a candidate claims to be making such a financial sacrifice to serve his country, his constituents, etc., then the candidate is at best misguided and at worst dishonest. If one wants to serve, then there are much more efficient and beneficial uses of their millions. They would do more service donating to homeless shelters, children's foundations, the arts, hospitals, churches, United Way--pick one. Millions of dollars to any charity has to be better than spending the same to get elected.

Now some candidates, Bill Frist for example, can afford to spend millions as a donation to serve without affecting his other charitable outflow and without being bothered by the negative return. The question in this case is can such an independently wealthy candidate truly represent his constituency? He or she certainly has little in common with the majority. Certainly little in common with me, that is for sure.

Now I am faced with the problem of who do I elect? Someone has to serve. I think I would lean toward the candidate who is not willing to spend beyond reason to land a $165K job. But there are so many other questions one could grill me on based on my statements here.

Bottom line for me, at present, is that spending millions upon millions across this country just to get a few humans elected seems like a obscene waste of God given resources that could be better used elsewhere. It reinforces my growing disgust with politices.

What are your opinions?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Peaceable Kingdom (rev. 1)

(rev 1 in green)

With all the news coming from the Middle East and North Korea; with all my thoughts on discipleship; with Phil's class on The Kingdom; and with my reading of Night by Elie Wiesel, I can't get the lyrics of a song out of my head. I love the song and the group, but lyrics are haunting me for other reasons. So I share them and look forward to the ideas and comments they put in your head. Please post any thoughts they elicit.

Peaceable Kingdom
from Vapor Trails by Rush
Lyrics Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson

A waive toward the clearing the sky

All this time we're talking and sharing our rational view
A billion other voices are spreading other news
All this time we're living and trying to understand
Why a billion other choices are making their demands

Talk of a peaceable kingdom
Talk of a time without fear
The ones we wish would listen
Are never going to hear

Justice against the hanged man
Knight of Wands against the hour
Swords against the kingdom
Time against the tower

All this time we're shuffling and laying out all our cards
While a billion other dealers are slipping past our guards
All this time we're hoping and praying we all might learn
While a billion other teachers are teaching them how to burn

Dream of a peaceable kingdom
Dream of a time without war
The ones we wish would hear us
Have heard it all before

A wave toward the clearing sky
A wave toward the clearing sky

The hermit against the lovers
Or the devil against the fool
Swords against the kingdom
The wheel against the rules

All this time we're burning like bonfires in the dark
A billion other blazes are shooting off their sparks
Every spark a drifting ember of desire
To fall upon the earth and spark another fire

A homeward angel on the fly
A wave toward the clearing sky


I pray every night with my child and then dream of the Peaceable Kingdom . . . "your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven . . . deliver us from the evil one."

Or how about this: I have seen the evil one, and it is us!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Numbers 35:33 and Atonement

Lee Camp recently taught a class at Otter Creek on Atonement called Why Did Christ (Live and) Die? (follow link for podcast) The main purpose of the class was to examine the question in the light of historical and cultural biases to see how they have shaped our understanding of the Cross today.

I ran across an email I had sent to Lee, not asking for his direct response in email but to see if the questions below had merit and application to the class. The specific questions were never really addressed as we constantly stayed behind Lee's original schedule due to class discussions.

So I post my questions here to draw out some discussion and hopefully get some illumination or answers.

First, I was reading Numbers this morning and read this: 35:33 "Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it."

Is there a historical perspective that says the Creator is the only one who can atone for man's evilness because the Creator allowed evil as choice in His creation and is the ultimate cause of "bloodshed" and therefore only God could redeem man?

Second, C.S. Lewis stated something similiar but from a different angle: that the only one with no need for the sacrifice could make the perfect sacrifice. Only Christ, who had no need for redemption could be the perfect redeemer. Was this original to Lewis or did it derive from other historical perspectives?