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Trump Presidency Predictions

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Here are 80 predictions I give for the Trump presidency from 20 January 2017 at noon to 20 January 2021 at noon.

I wrote these to be falsifiable. A good example is International number 1: “Bashar al-Assad is assassinated, commits suicide, or otherwise dies” is something that either happens or it doesn’t, which means that if it didn’t happen, I can be proven wrong. A prediction like “the Syrian War will start to go badly” is not falsifiable.

Hopefully these become more than a gotcha or told you so tool, although I fully anticipate doing that. These are more of a way to keep myself honest in 2021, so that I can’t say told you so unless I, in fact, did tell you so.

A scoring rubric follows the list of predictions.

Financial

  1. The economy collapses: Dow value drops below 13,500, 80% of the drop happens within one week, and unemployment increases to 8.5% within six months of the drop. 89%
  2. If this economic collapse does happen, it will occur between June 2018 and January 2019, inclusive. 50%
  3. If the economy collapses, one of the Trump administration’s main arguments is that Obama caused it. 80%
  4. A well-respected think tank publishes a study arguing that Trump’s deregulation is selective, helping some businesses but hurting others. 60%
  5. The Federal Reserve uses negative interest rates. 60%
  6. The dollar continues to be the world reserve currency: international market in oil does not begin to use another currency. 55%
  7. Trump will appoint only one Secretary of the Treasury over his term. 70%
  8. Congress, though led by Republicans, raises the debt ceiling — twice. Trump approves each time. 60%
  9. The first budget Trump’s administration proposes will not be set to balance in the first five years, and spending will exceed revenue. 100%
  10. There will be no Audit the Pentagon, though members of the Congressional Liberty caucuses will make an obvious attempt (filibuster, speeches, debate, publicity stunt, press conference, etc.). 60%
  11. Trump’s administration will have five or more  positions filled by former banking executives. 60%
  12. Inflation will rise to 3.5% rate between January 2018 and July 2019. 65%
  13. China overtakes the US in GDP during the third or fourth year of the presidency. 70%
  14. Trump pursues a weak-Dollar policy. 95%
  15. Import Tariff does not happen, against Campaign-Trump’s wishes. 90%
  16. NAFTA remains standing. 70%
  17. Medicare, Medicaid face budget cuts. Social Security faces budget cuts. 80%
  18. Trump proposes infrastructure/stimulus bill; bill is rushed to a vote (less than 1 hour per 50 pages) and passes with bipartisan (though at least 20 Republicans between the House and Senate vote no) support. 70%
  19. Inventory-sales ratio crosses 1.50 before the end of 2017. 80%
  20. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together have a higher average GDP growth rate than US for the majority of the presidency. 60%

Domestic non-financial

  1. DREAMers program ends. Children are left in legal limbo with no replacement plan on the books. 55%
  2. Trump will not actually build a wall with Mexico, nor will the proposal even be officially put forward by the administration. 80%
  3. The immigration balance between US and Mexico will remain negative (as it has been for years) or become more negative. More people will be leaving for Mexico than are entering from Mexico. 55%
  4. Immigration from India and China will increase by 120% or greater from the beginning to the end of Trump’s term. 70%
  5. Roe v. Wade will still be the law by end of his term. 95%
  6. Congress will pass an abortion law, but this law will be poorly worded or vague enough to have little to no practical consequence. 60%
  7. Congress defunds Planned Parenthood. 60%
  8. Gay Marriage will remain federally recognized as law in all 50 states; no overturn of Supreme Court decision in 2015. 70%
  9. A comprehensive education bill (on or around the scale of NCLB) will pass, divided sharply along partisan lines; less than 10 Democrats will vote yes and less than 10 Republicans will vote no in the House; less than 5 Democrats will vote yes and less than 5 Republicans will vote no in the Senate. 51%
  10. Trump administration does not revoke recent Justice Department order to stop private prisons. 70%
  11. If Trump eliminates “job-killing environmental regulations” through executive order rather than through Congress. 60%
  12. Reverses position on paid family leave legislation. 55%
  13. Makes no effort to undo Citizens United. 90%
  14. Common Core scrapped from federal education policy. 75%
  15. Toothless legislation signed to protect the 2nd amendment; no legislation is signed that has or is even intended to have a significant impact on 2nd amendment issues. 65%
  16. Ceases all refugee inflows into the US from predominantly Muslim countries. 90%
  17. Trump renews indefinite detention provision of annual NDAA bill. 99%
  18. Trump’s health administrators pursue voluntary vaccination policies. 59%
  19. Sanctuary Cities do not end as a federal immigration policy. 70%
  20. Retirement age for social security benefits is not raised. 90%

International

  1. Bashar al-Assad is assassinated, commits suicide, or otherwise dies. 79%
  2. Trump stops helping Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen. 60%
  3. Africa remains unstable or gets worse. Defined as: at least three countries in Africa have descended into civil war, and less than three existing civil wars have been resolved, with a net change of zero or more civil wars. 80%
  4. TPP is not ratified by the requisite number of countries and slowly dies. 70%
  5. Edward Snowden remains in Russia continuously for all four years. 90%
  6. Somaliland is recognized as a State by the UNSC, and all five veto-holding members voting yes. 70%
  7. Trump continues Obama’s legacy of easing relations with Cuba. 80%
  8. Trump revokes Iran nuclear deal, reissues sanctions. 55%
  9. The US does not invade Iran. 90%
  10. Trump administration fully supports Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, repudiates Two State Solution, and increases foreign financial aid to Israel from current $3bn to over $4.5bn. 60%
  11. US remains in the WTO. 100%
  12. US remains in the UN. 100%
  13. US remains in NATO. 95%
  14. US remains in G10. 90%
  15. South Sudan violence declared humanitarian crisis by UN, but the US does not intervene. 65%
  16. US pulls out of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 60%
  17. US continues to support the NPT and all nuclear non-proliferation causes internationally. 90%
  18. US becomes involved in a large-scale COIN operation in Northern Africa. 65%
  19. US relations with China falter: diplomacy breaks down, Xi and Trump refuse to meet in person, Trump recognizes Taiwan or Tibet, or calls for democratic elections in Hong Kong. 70%
  20. Ukraine devolves into civil war. US does not back the government; either backs opposition (proxy for Russia) or stays out altogether. 60%

Meta-Political

  1. Trump’s proposed ban on foreign countries doing fundraising for American elections will pass with overwhelming support. Less than 5 Republicans across both houses will vote no, and less than 20 Democrats across both houses will vote no. 75%
  2. Obamacare will be repealed, and along a strictly party-line vote: less than five Republicans vote no, and less than five Democrats vote yes. 90%
  3. Trump will successfully reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health) by freezing workforce hiring, and though ultimately this will end, total number of federal employees will not exceed 110% current figures (excluding 2020 Census collection). 70%
  4. The Trump administration’s term limit bill will not gain 2/3 majority of Senate. 55%
  5. Five year ban on lobbying after government service will fail to pass Congress. 80%
  6. Five year ban on lobbying after government service will will not even be taken to a vote in at least one chamber of Congress. 55%
  7. The Constitution will be amended in some way. 60%
  8. The Constitution will not be amended twice. 90%
  9. Political polarization increases, as measured by Pew Research in this ongoing study, but the polarization will be asymmetric; the left will shift farther than the right does. 65%
  10. At least one Democrat files impeachment charges against President Trump in each of the next four years. 80%
  11. No noticeable progress against Gerrymandering; 2020 Census redistribution leads to further right-leaning Congressional districts. 75%
  12. Republicans retain the House, but lose the overall “popular vote” composite of all districts. 55%
  13. The 2018 midterm elections result in a 51, 52, or 53 seat Republican majority in the Senate. 75%
  14. No Libertarian Party candidate receives more than 30% of the vote in any House, Senate, or State-level race in the 2018 mid term elections. 90%
  15. No state changes its voting system to IRV (as Maine did this past year) or any other non-FPTP system. 80%
  16. Congress fully ends the Office of Congressional Ethics. 70%
  17. Breyer or Ginsburg will leave the court, by resignation or death, but not both. Kennedy will also leave the court, by resignation or death. 60%
  18. Trump appoints a replacement to Scalia that is among the 20 names he floated during the campaign. 99%
  19. Conditional on there being another vacancy, Trump nominates someone who was not on the original 20 person shortlist. 60%
  20. Of the nearly 1200 PAS positions (Presidential appointment with Senate approval), greater than 70% will be white men. 80%

Scoring

To score: decide yes/no on each prediction, clump predictions into groups based on 10 point percentage ranges, and award myself one point if >50% of the predictions in the 50% category were met, 2 points if >60% of the 60% category were met, 3 points for 70%, 2 points for 80%, 1 point for 90%. If an item is ranked ending with a five, then it counts as two predictions within its category. If an item is ranked ending with a nine, it counts as three predictions within its category. Items ranked at 100% are awarded no points for being correct, but lose one whole point if incorrect. Of the nine points regularly possible, I win if I receive 5 or more.

My take: Kokesh v. Cantwell

[This post responds to the debate between Adam Kokesh and Christopher Cantwell on January 17, 2017. I watched the event in its entirety and took down light notes & quotes. This post is not comprehensive — I don’t have time — well thought out — I don’t have time — or logically organized — I don’t have time. Consider it good grace and read accordingly.]

Richard Rorty once remarked that “truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with.”

Tonight is a great example of that principle in action. Christopher Cantwell and Adam Kokesh debated for roughly two hours (after starting an hour late) at an event hosted by Liberty Hangout and livestreamed on Facebook. Roughly 150 people were tuned into the debate, along with a crowd of about 30 in person.

Imagine a hailstorm — inside a hotel banquet room — but the hail is actually terrible arguments and the storm is the eternal rage of Christopher Cantwell.

Before this gets analytic, I should say that before this event I had never heard of Cantwell, that I have loosely followed the activist career of Kokesh for around five years now, and that Kokesh’s brand of libertarianism is far closer to my own and to the online circles in which I run. With that said…

The Debate

The entire first hour of this debate focused on immigration. How does that make any sense? When did this become the biggest issue within libertarianism? In my opinion, immigration is almost a complete non-issue, and certainly not worth diving over to the extent that Cantwell sees it. I completely disagree with Cantwell on the actual facts of immigration, and these facts are relevant enough to overturn all of his points. It is not really worth continuing without stating my objections here. First, most immigrants to the US are coming from Asian countries that outperform whites on all the indicators that he would probably suggest as valid measures of white superiority over blacks and hispanics and etc. Second, nearly all illegal immigration to the US is due to overstaying work visas, not to sneaking over the boarder in the night. Third, that the immigration balance has been at zero or negative the past several years. Fourth, I don’t think that immigrants have the ideological homogeneity that Cantwell assumes they have. More on that later. Fifth, most people unaffected by the bombastic rhetoric of Cantwell’s type are perfectly fine with living near immigrants and working with them, especially if they speak English.

Cantwell argues that libertarians have to get people to hate leftist social values. Bingo! People, whether logic allows it or not, tend to clump issues together into ideologies even when those clumped issues don’t follow in logical consequence. The same people that don’t like gay marriage do like lower corporate taxes, even though these share the most tenuous of connections if any. People who believe in climate change tend to also believe in tight regulations on businesses. So then, if the economy is what really matters, we should use the flip social issues (that political lemmings gobble right up) to convert people onto “our side,” and then they will get the libertarian economic message later. This is the purpose of the alt-libertarian group on Facebook, although I only gather this from their mission statement (“The alt libertarian movement is a movement to un-cuck the libertarian message. Politics are a combination of an information war and a culture war. The well known faces of the liberty movement are all fighting the information war. We are here to fight the culture war.”) since I will never work up the nerve to actually join the page.

This is blatantly manipulative. I cannot possibly claim to value rationality or mental self-defense if my activist methodology is just to mislead people by playing into their tribal tendencies. Something about this speaks of evil, and everything about it screams of epistemic vice. So no, this isn’t an ethical strategy. We are just as bad as the statists if this is our approach.

Cantwell made two distinct but closely related points near the middle of the debate: “everything has to be discriminatory” and “if we have to convince everyone of libertarianism to get rid of the state, then get used to the State, because it will never happen.” He used an example of a bouncer keeping 12 year old from entering a club, because 12 year olds tend to pull down the average quality of the club experience. This is a metaphor for immigrants with a non-Western ideology that enter the U.S. due to lax migration laws. The immigrants themselves don’t ruin the country, but their ideology does because they tend to vote for the Democratic Party, and that is the problem. This original statement, everything has to be discriminatory, sounds like a vaguely philosophical premise that Cantwell has swapped for a conclusion. Or it just doesn’t follow. Or it requires a whole breadth of additional evidence to substantiate, and that evidence got left behind.

His second point may have more merit. Although he does underestimate the potential that outsider campaigns can have (notably Ross Perot in 1992), his point remains that libertarianism itself is not a very popular ideology. Most people who believe in fiscal responsibility are bound up in inane 1990’s Moral Majority social politics, and similarly most who care about ending U.S. imperialism abroad tend to also live in an economic Candy Land removed from positive economic theory. Many people hold to fiscal conservatism, and many hold to reducing our war footprint, and yet more hold to eliminating irrelevant social restrictions and prohibitions by the government. The dilemma of libertarianism is that few hold more than one of these.

Later on, Kokesh says that war is the worst expression of state power. (Cantwell disagrees, and says that he will explain later, but doesn’t). This is part of his argument against Trump: James Mattis is a war criminal, which Kokesh can say with first hand experience because he served under Mattis in the Iraq war and Kokesh himself committed war crimes. This can be considered an argument for Clinton, Kokesh says, only in a subjective way. Another subjective argument against Trump was that the state can collapse faster under Clinton, thus accelerating the emergence of a free society. These are all “silly subjective arguments”. I am really curious to know his definition of subjective, since these seem to both be objective claims (because my belief in their truth or falsehood has no impact on their truth or falsehood). At any rate, he argues that libertarianism isn’t about a short term political victory like getting any one individual into an office; rather, we are winning hearts and minds (wham) in the long term, and the trajectory of the past several years shows libertarianism headed up, not down.

Cantwell says that the NAP doesn’t prohibit violence; it describes the proper use of violence. This is completely true. “Violence” is usually used as an approximation of “breaking the NAP without someone else breaking it first.” Maybe the problem is just semantic — does the NAP include in itself a provision for self-defense? If it doesn’t, then most people will immediately tack it on afterwords. So then the difference is only packaging. I have no issue with this.

But Cantwell wants to extend the NAP way beyond imminent threats. He derides the idea that “if you don’t have a knife in your chest, you can’t use violence” because ultimately it requires the same solution (self-defense) and we can just eliminate the wait time. He says that since “the violence of the world is coming to your door,” libertarians and all of society should “have government policy exclude people who threaten your way of life.” Now in one sense I wonder exactly how much Molyneux he has consumed in the past two years.

But seriously, why does he think that immigrants threaten our way of life? Because of their lower average IQ? Because they import different ideologies? Over the course of the debate he mentions both of these possibilities. I could psychoanalyze him by saying he just feels insecure and insulates himself in self-affirming ideology, which is by definition exclusionary, or that he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to tolerate anyone who disagrees with him without devolving into a high-pitched yelling match. But I won’t do that. To take his argument at face value, his point that we shouldn’t wait until near death to stop a threat is valid. But then emerge the tricky ethical waters: how early can we act? The usual answer is “reasonably early,” but how early is reasonable? I would argue that the most reasonable time is once you know beyond reasonable doubt that the given individual is a threat and also all diplomatic or civil means have been used to deter or restrain them before force. This fits nicely within the stateless society model.

Kokesh makes the point that “if you have given into the darkside, you have already lost.” Well, this bit of rhetoric sounds fine, but which darkside? Does he mean ideologically or strategically? In my ideal liberty movement, there would be leaders totally pure in ideology who achieve practical ends — like Ron Paul, whose blamelessness on the debate stage and throughout the 2008 and 2012 campaigns kept his credibility intact. But Cantwell seems to not think this is real. You either hold to ideological purity or you do something in the world.

In one sense it is Cantwell’s own defection from the purist mentality that causes the problem he describes. If the liberty movement together had no defectors and was strongly organized along ideological lines, then it would be larger and have more impact than in its current fragmented state. Kokesh is therefore thinking long term, while Cantwell is thinking of tomorrow. There is some type of game theory issue here, where actors defect on the second derivative because they expect a positive third derivative if any others jump ship before them. But I’m not sure, and this could be looking for a signal amidst noise when there isn’t one.

Cantwell: Identifying groups is not hostile to liberty. I agree with this. I think Ron Paul’s argument against Collectivism is reductionist. People do tend to amalgamate into groups, and those groups tend to act in collective ways. That they “tend” to do this is a matter of statistics, not ethics. However, I would caution against self-fulfilling prophecies. When you see that “most libertarian conferences are rooms of white guys,” and then decide to use rhetoric that excludes non-whites and women, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that libertarian conferences will stay how they are. This is true in a whole number and variety of other examples as well.

Kokesh: You [Cantwell] are turning to the abuser to end specifically one type of abuse. Kokesh is right, and its the biggest problem with Cantwell’s argument. If Cantwell really is against the state, why does he so clearly and passionately advocate using it to exercise power over other people? This is obviously related to the point about imminent and long-term threats to liberty. Kokesh restates the point more forcibly: “The criminals coming across the boarder? We have a much bigger criminal in the state.”

Cantwell’s strongest point in the debate was his metaphor about the LNC last year. He asks the audience if any were at the Libertarian Party convention; now imagine if the entire convention attendees were Democrats. Would the party have still picked Johnson as their candidate for president? The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is no, they would have chosen a candidate that matches their views. Cantwell uses this as a metaphor for immigration: immigrants are entering the US and they vote Democrat, so, in his wording, “the people of the United States are being replaced by other people.” This metaphor expresses his point in vivid terms and is difficult to rebut. Kokesh did not, to my knowledge, address this point.

But I’ll take a swing at it. The important disconnect in his metaphor is between the near-certain result of importing Democrats to the convention and the, in my opinion, much less certain result of allowing immigration. Why is this a disconnect? For one, most immigrants to the US are from China and India, two countries that surpass the US in all the objective markers used to distinguish races in the typical “race realism” sense (that I’ve seen). This actually flips the metaphor on its head: instead of importing Democrats to the convention, you are importing Rothbards and Miseses, intellectual elites who actually fit better into the convention than the average convention goer.

Also I might point out this about Hispanics:

pew-graph

In a campaign where Trump unashamedly proposed the deportation of millions of Hispanics, 28% of Hispanics still voted for Trump. Shouldn’t this number have been zero? Or much closer to zero than in 2012, when Romney earned 27% of the Hispanic vote? What happened?

Here is what happened, has always happened, and will continue to happen: political groups are conditioned historically more than they are ideologically. Blacks voted for Obama at incredibly high rates, but, surprise, not much higher than they did for Kerry, Gore, or Clinton, who earned more than 70 point margins themselves. Moreover, the reason that whites tilted Republican in this election and in others was a combination of being told that “white people vote Republican” their entire life and that all their friends happen to be white people — and guess who their friends tilted towards. Sociologists spend their careers bending over backwards trying to analyze these circular trends without realizing the fact that people are banal, tribal globs of the past and the present — not just the present.

Near the end of the debate a Hispanic man asked a question about inclusion in the political process, and it illustrated Kokesh’s point quite clearly. The man asserted that Hispanics can be libertarians too, and that messages of fierce racial exclusion will block Hispanics from ever considering libertarianism to begin with. Cantwell answered that he wasn’t proposing blocking Hispanics from being libertarian thinkers, just from being libertarian thinkers in his country. Nonsense. If Hispanics are libertarian thinkers, then his argument about importation of hostile-to-liberty ideologies that vote Democrat has fallen apart, to no repair.

At the ultimate end of the debate, Cantwell makes the incredible, mind numbingly stupendous claim that you can’t universalize principles (!) because [justification needed]… I now forget the exact context, but I do remember that one of Cantwell’s policy proposals on immigration was based on a hidden premise involving something, and a questioner asked another question that would involve a negative of this premise, and Cantwell fumbled hard. He says you can’t universalize. You can’t universalize? How does that make any sense? In Western philosophy we hold to analytic reasoning rather than synthetic reasoning — meaning that there is a Law of Non-Contradiction preventing us from claiming A and Not A at the same time. So then, all facts, principles, systems of thought, etc. can be systematized into more and more abstract claims until full intellectual consistency from first principles has been achieved. Cantwell didn’t want to even move beyond level 3 of this abstraction-systematization process, let alone to level 20 or 30 like is actually required to reach the bedrock of thought. It is intellectual dishonesty to be questioned on an inconsistent principle and then reject the entire process of attaining consistent knowledge rather than admitting your own mistake, and I call penalty.

The final questioner has a fantastic point that I’m sure got underneath some people’s skin: Communism was created by white Europeans, but not all or even most whites or Europeans are Communists. I’d also add that every bad thing in Western history was created by white Europeans.

Conclusion

They each made some good points in time, but this was a very circular debate between two thinkers that weren’t listening to each other beyond criticizing minutia and small fumbles of terminology. At one point Kokesh used the word equal, and Cantwell gave a stirring rebuttal against equality as a principle — I want to live in a meritocracy! Equality is impossible as a goal and can only be enforced through Communism, and so on. But Kokesh used the term in the context of equality before the law. So once the stirring speech concluded, it took just a simple “yeah I meant that word in exactly the same way you just did” to clear the air. Kokesh was guilty of this a few times as well, though I don’t recall any examples worth writing.

It seemed throughout the debate that Kokesh had the majority of audience support, both online and in person. I’m not sure how reliably the floating reaction symbols measure real reactions, or if I can trust the live audience clapping. But this doesn’t matter much.

I return now to my opening quote: truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with. Adam Kokesh let Christopher Cantwell get away with a ton in this debate. From the premises that each had, this should have been a homerun derby, Kokesh smacking each point out of the park with little possible rebuttal from Cantwell. Instead, Cantwell’s flaming demeanor gave the impression that he won the argument — even though Kokesh’s won the debate.

There is another king, one called Jesus

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. 

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd, But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (Acts 17:1-9, NIV)

 


Paul and company have traveled about 100 miles in the first sentence of this chapter. He arrives in Thessalonica and “reasoned with” the Jews. This verb translates from the original language as dialegomai, the same word that English speakers today use as dialogue, the conversation between at least two people. Paul’s dialegomai with these Jews extended beyond greetings and small talk; he “explained and proved” the real concept of Messianism, not as a political savior but as a suffering savior.

The common view among first century Jews of the messianic hope was especially informed by the Roman occupation. During the intertestimental period, the Jews living in Palestine were subjected to various ruling empires, depending on the century. Persia, Greece, Egypt, at one point the Jews themselves again, and finally Rome. Also, the prophetic literature of the post-exilic Jews began to narrow down the concept of God’s redemption into messianism; God would redeem the descendants of Abraham through a single person who would restore political control to the throne of David.

What the Jewish people and especially teachers of the scriptures did not expect was that the messiah would return to overthrow the tyranny of sin, not the tyranny of Rome. No political solution would be given — give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. When Peter attacks the soldier arresting Jesus, his rebuke is simple: they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. If Jesus had come to fight a war, his disciples would be killed in that battle.

Instead, they would all die in a different way, many years later, some at the hands of the very same ruling elites. But not now, not yet. Jesus goes on trial before the Roman governor over Palestine and says that “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.”

So then, the messiah did not meet expectations. He acted outside of, parallel to the political system. He didn’t come to establish a kingdom on earth; he came to establish the kingdom of heaven.

Buried deep in this analysis lies the assumption that the kingdoms of heaven and earth are separate.

The Jewish people never expected the suffering Messiah whom Paul explains in verse 3. They never conceived of resurrection for the Messiah himself; of all people, he should be immutable, unchanging, representative in some way of God’s own character. Imagine the shock on their faces as they first hear teachers of Jesus of Nazareth — that treasonous villager whom someone mentioned years earlier, and whom they promptly forgot as another failed messiah.

Paul and his company then face a pre-trial for defying the decree of Caesar. Caesar had allowed any religion to exist, so long as among their various gods they included him. To polytheists this was not an issue; to the monotheists, the tension was between imminent government persecution and worshiping the one true God. Note that the Jews were totally comfortable undermining Paul’s public credibility by pointing this out, which clearly implies that the Jews themselves had been complying with the emperor worship in some way.

I think that the Jewish accusers accidentally misrepresent Paul more favorably than they intended. Paul, in making the point that Jesus is king, doesn’t discount that Caesar also is a king. Caesar being the emperor of Rome is just a fact. But Paul isn’t merely placing Jesus as a second parallel king; Jesus is a second, superior king. Though their domains are established adjacent, Jesus’s power extends far beyond and even within that of Caesar’s rule. This undermines the autonomous authority of the emperor.

There is indeed another king, one called Jesus. His citizens are not of this world, because his kingdom is not of this world. We hold dual citizenship and every day must tease out the boundary lines between our allegiance to Christ and our subjection to the earthly rulers. But whenever these priorities conflict, we know which to follow — and which is supremely greater.

NSP meets the Packers

This week a team of seven NSP staff and mentors head north to Green Bay, Wisconsin. We are staying in the area as we coach and mentor local high school students in how to effectively reach their schools with the Gospel message.

We will be working alongside NSP mentors from Green Bay whose year-round efforts have made this city into fertile soil for the Gospel to be shared.

Students at four high schools in the city and suburbs (De Pere, Bayport, N.E.W., and Southwest) will hear the good news of Christ throughout the next week, due to the student leadership of Christians at those high schools.

green-bay-logo-final-final-trimmed

The National School Project equips college students and young adults to mentor the leaders of a Christian club over the span of a year. These Campus Mentors develop close relationships with the students, pray for them, and invest in their lives. They also take students through a training curriculum using our Outreach Guide that is customized for each school depending on their needs and goals.

NSP never takes over clubs or forces clubs to do anything. We will not lead the mission for them. Students are put in the spotlight and take charge of reaching their school.

Students develop their own goals for their school. Students select their own strategies. Students run their own club meetings. Students organize their own events. Students request and coordinate their own guest speakers.

Read more about the National School Project at our website here.

For this week, our team will be assisting the local high school students in organizing and preparing for an outreach event at each of their respective schools, alongside their coaches and mentors.

Please pray for us, because our ministry efforts are entirely fruitless without God doing the real work in students’ hearts. As Jesus said in John 15:5, apart from me you can do nothing. We take this seriously and understand that the real power of outreach is God working through us.

Pray that students in De Pere, Bayport, Southwest, and N.E.W. high schools are given the opportunity to receive the good news of Christ, and that school administrators will acede to the students’ plans.

Pray for the health of our team, as some members are facing mild sickness, potential allergy concerns, and anything else that could happen.

Pray for the high school Christian leaders to grow in their faith and to be bold in front of their peers.

Finally, pray that God, through the efforts of these Christian high school students, would draw their peers into the Kingdom eternally.

A framework for the spread of ideas

The term Globalization carries all sorts of connotations. To some, it inspires hope and change through the productive innovation of free enterprise. To others, it signals doom and destruction, the capacity for a New World Order and the subjugation of all mankind to one centralized dictator.

To most people, it registers nothing, a blank term they’ve never heard.

Globalization is a very large phenomena, and like a good critical thinker does to all large phenomena, I will set up some categories which will help to begin to understand it all. First, globalization happens economically, politically, and culturally. These are three separate processes, but they are not totally separate. Where they overlap and how they interact are the subject of theoretical debate and it all gets confusing very quickly.

(This is all irrelevant primer to the actual topic here).

The full subject of globalization will be treated in much depth later. But for now, I just want to present an interesting concept from one of my research books which will not fit with the actual research essay.

Malcolm Waters mentions this concept, and it has more widespread applications than the author’s modesty would allow.

“More importantly there has been a process of global cultural transmission to which the Japanese version of the best way has been carried around the world as a system of ideas. This transmission occurs in three arenas:

in the popular mass media Japanese production systems are represented as a highly generalized but somewhat ambivalent ideal, discussed in terms of both fear and admiration;

in universities, business school academics and organization theorists conduct comparative research on the Japanese advantage and these results are both published and incorporated into organizational design courses for potential managers;

and third they are written up as easily digestible popular books that can be peddled to managers as manuals for organizational transformation.” (82).

From Malcolm Waters, “Globalization” Routledge, 1995.

I will draw a crude comparison between this and the postmodern movement in the 1980’s. Initially the academic response to relativization of truth was fear and anywhere it was represented, which wasn’t many places, it was greatly oversimplified and streamlined. This is where fundamentalist Christianity stopped its analysis, and still today I have seen this streamlined version presented and ‘debunked’ on several occasions. This is a perpetual meta-strawman fallacy, and nobody realizes it. Second, the concept became academicized and gradually entered the mainstream of university departments like gender studies, social sciences, economics, and racial theory. These (some of them) are the <identity> studies departments, often mixed with Critical Theory. Finally, they become easily digestible chunks which has been everywhere in the feminist hyper-inflation bubble which finally burst late last year.

This same process can be repeated with a dozen other things. I will be writing on them in the future.

Bright Lines for 2017

I’m thinking about and meditating on an essay I discovered weeks ago called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—“.

What a title! And what an essay; but peel back the vernacular language and vulgar rhetoric to find an important point:

In life, our f—s must be spent on something. There really is no such thing as not giving a f—. The question is simply how we each choose to allot our f—s. You only get a limited number of f—s to give over your lifetime, so you must spend them with care. As my father used to say, “F—s don’t grow on trees, Mark.” OK, he never actually said that. But f— it, pretend like he did. The point is that f—s have to be earned and then invested wisely. F—s are cultivated like a beautiful f—ing garden, where if you f— s— up and the f—s get f—ed, then you’ve f—ing f—ed your f—s all the f— up. [redaction added]

In other words, I can only mind so much. I am finite, and so are my concerns. Could I possibly care about everything?

Some things in life matter, and I should care about those. Other things in life are unimportant, so why care? Obvious examples include the health of immediate family members and the number of blunts an old classmate from high school smoked yesterday. (You decide which is the important one).

More often I wander the uncharted gray-zone blur between the important and the unimportant. What about that petition circulating to change my high school’s musical? What about my 7 friends who got engaged on NYE? What about whole categories of topics, like “politics” or “pop culture” which contain a dozen topics inside? These go between, filling an intermediate space, so I then have to decide which matter — and that is hard.

This all reminds me of a moment in the book Fight Club where the protagonist says that “after a night in fight club, everything in the real world gets the volume turned down,” especially at work. He had realized that his job didn’t matter, but his underground street boxing club did matter, and the contrast was deafening.

fight-club

Just like him, after I pour myself into something worthwhile, everything else seems a tad bit quieter. At least, it should. I could thus intentionally misquote the book to say that “after living my purpose, everything else in the world gets the volume turned down.” This became more relevant with yesterday’s slew of New Year’s resolutions.

The New Year

Consider the video “New Year Resolutions Vs Reality”:

In the Odyssey, Homer tells the story of the mythical hero Odysseus who recognized that he would be overtaken by temptation upon hearing the mesmerizing songs of the Sirens. He therefore tied himself up to his ship to avoid jumping overboard and drowning. This is what psychologists call “pre-commitment.” In essence, by pre-committing, you preemptively lock yourself in a virtuous path by recognizing the limits of your self control. In acknowledging that you will face terrible temptations to deviate from your path, you can strategize against them. A modern-day Odysseus could, for example, secure himself to his internet browser by installing software that prevents him from surfing distracting websites.

So ask yourself, what in your life is the equivalent of the Siren songs, and how would Odysseus outwit their temptations?

Pick me! Pick me! I have one.

Something happened to me on November 8th. My best theory goes like this:

Politics should be a long string of policy opinions in my brain. But on November 8th? Politics became a frame for seeing the world around me. Instead of mere abstractions or ideas that I considered true or false, I now held a pair of spectacles through which I viewed other issues. This is profoundly dangerous in the obvious sense that everything everywhere becomes political, but also in the less obvious sense that hyper-politicization kills friendships and makes everything a conflict. To view everything else through politics is to lose my self-differentiation and to become a piece of politics; my friends may well wonder, where did Ross go? because I myself ceased to exist independently of my political thought.

I have good reason to believe this. Primarily, I am me. Don’t question me on me. I know me better than you know me. Beyond that, a crude example helped me see it: I am friends with a set of twins whose birthday was last week, but I noticed only one appeared on the sidebar birthday wishes panel. It took 10 seconds of profile creeping to see that the other unfriended me, and I can (for more reasons as well) make the very reasonable assumption that it involved this. Another friend in casual conversation settled upon the term strictly political to describe my posts. These and more small mentions helped me realize that this isn’t very healthy or helpful.

So then, the Siren’s temptation is to invest more intellectual and emotional capital into politics than I should. The question remains, how would I outwit the temptation?

Back to the video:

Another issue with making resolutions is that we are very fuzzy and unclear when it comes down to which behaviors are permitted and which ones are unacceptable for us to reach our goals.

Take for example the most common New Years resolution: to eat healthier. Well what does that even mean? Can I still eat french fries? How often can I have desert? Is organic free-range ice cream still acceptable? How about a tuna sandwich with lettuce, but made with white bread, however the white bread is low-fat — is that a healthy choice?

All these decisions are incredibly demanding and end up drawing your willpower. You will consequently end up indiscriminately stuffing your face with junk by the end of the first month. Instead, counter this decision paralysis with the help of Bright Lines. Bright Lines are clear, simple, unambiguous rules that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Nothing fuzzy is left in between because the lines are bright. So going back to our goal of eating healthy, we can keep things very simple by, for example, deciding not to consume any foods that contain white flower or processed sugar, under any circumstance, no exceptions. Now that is a clear rule that makes eating decisions very simple and fast.

Straightforward enough. If I decide that I will care only about what matters in politics, then of course I will quickly change nothing; indeed, I will continue to over-value things that don’t matter.

The food metaphor exposes that we never really intended to follow-through in the first place, ourselves dashing any hope for success. Our pollyannaish minds never expect the challenge ahead: How can I possibly ask enough questions to descry what is important? Even if I could, the mental toll is too high, and knowing me, I’d take the path of least resistance every time.

In this spirit, I have decided to draw some Bright Lines in the political sand to delineate things that I will care about from things that I will not.

Bright Lines

Here are the pre-committed behaviors that I will follow in 2017. If it does not involve one of the six approved topics, I will not:

  1. Tweet about it
  2. Retweet someone else’s tweet about it
  3. Write a Facebook post about it
  4. Debate someone else in their comments about it
  5. Engage someone in debate on my own status about it
  6. Share a Facebook image or video about it
  7. Read a book about it
  8. Write a blog essay about it
  9. Research it
  10. Make a video about it
  11. Enter into a debate about it elsewhere online
  12. Watch a YouTube video more than 15 minutes about it
  13. Listen to a podcast focused on it

This list is a minimum and other unlisted behavior should also be avoided.

(The only legitimate exception to these rules is when assigned for a class or similar involuntary circumstance. If given the choice for a political topic, I must choose one of the six).

Here are the pre-committed political topics that in 2017 I will care about.

  1. War: terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, genocide, small arms and light weapons imports and exports, territorial disputes, U.S. Department of Defense policy, proceedings in the ICJ on war crimes, inventions in war technology, biographic studies of leaders in different aspects of wars, and drone policy
  2. Monetary policy: the Federal Reserve, audit the Fed, end the Fed, interest rates, the exchange rate, the discount rate, inflation, quantitative easing, the impact of Fed policy on the market, strong vs weak dollar, macroeconomic trends and how the Fed responds to them, China being labeled a “currency manipulator,” hyperinflation in Venezuela and wherever else it happens, the impact of Brexit-Frexit-Grexit-Italeave on the Euro, unemployment, market liquidity, Bitcoin, fiat currency in general, stocks and derivatives, bonds, and the theory-debates between Austrian economics, Keynesian economics, neo-Keynesian economics, and whatever other post-neo-liberal economics will arise.
  3. “Good Governance”: this includes all meta-governmental issues. Term limits, executive overreach, political corruption, the legitimacy of longstanding institutions, crony capitalism, voting methods like instant-runoff voting, political polarization, privacy vs surveillance, pork spending, free and open elections, continuity of policy despite party turnover, political cooperation and bipartisanship, freedom of dissent, transparency and accessibility, separation of powers, constitutionalism, media that is free and independent from government, UN SDG #16, and the rule of law.
  4. Deregulation: cutting costly regulation, keeping helpful regulations, negative externalities, the homogeneity of regulation, the bureaucracy, the departments of government, “selective deregulation,” the revolving door effect, ALEC, corporate influence in the deregulatory process, metrics for evaluating cost and benefit of a regulation, small business health, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with respect to regulation, occupational licensing, and the history of deregulation under Reagan.
  5. Education: school choice, voucher systems, state policies, Betsy DeVos’s policy changes, closure rates, empirical research, separation of church and state concerns, impact on existing public schools, cost effectiveness, the price of private schools, the impact of voucher systems on non-voucher private schools, ethical/moral arguments about school choice, which types of alternative education count as “schools,” racial impact and gentrification impact of school choice, school choice as opposed to busing, overhead costs, impact on college admission rates and procedures, impact on standardized testing programs, magnet schools, ESA education savings accounts, teacher’s union politics, and virtual schooling.
  6. Political Theory: the philosophy behind politics, public choice theory, macroeconomic theory and debate, the process of globalization, libertarianism as an extension of the NAP, macro-historical criticism, the so-called apolitical politics of some avant garde thinkers, the ethics of moral coercion, how political theory fits with faith, the role of religion in government, the nation-state concept, Kuhnian paradigm shifting in politics, and meta-political concepts like tribalism or the social imaginary.

This excludes everything else. Here are examples of the “everything else” topics that I choose to not care about in 2017:

  1. The Culture War: SJWs as a movement, the Alt-Right as a movement, seeing really any of politics from within an ideological lens that requires bad historical eisegesis. “Cops have never committed a crime, cops are a thin blue line and so must be strengthened at all costs” and “Racist cop pigs are slaughtering innocent black children in the streets” are good examples. The process of cultural Marxism. Gendered bathrooms, cake-baking laws, the war on Christmas, etc.
  2. Fiscal policy: taxes, government spending, the national debt and the annual deficit.
  3. Income Inequality: it’s a good thing in my opinion and therefore the complaints about it are all just noise
  4. Obamacare: except where it intersects with the deregulation topic.
  5. Immigration: it matters but nowhere near enough to enter my above list
  6. Guns: does not matter to me
  7. Abortion: matters but has no real solution
  8. the VA: I do not care
  9. Labor Unions: except where it intersects with the education topic
  10. Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state: don’t care
  11. Eminent Domain: don’t care
  12. Social Security reform: barely care
  13. the Death Penalty: matters but already banned in Illinois and not likely to change
  14. the Drug War: matters but not enough
  15. Entitlements reform or Welfare reform: does not matter
  16. Texting and driving: does not matter from a policy standpoint
  17. Minimum Wage: barely matters but also unlikely to change
  18. Medicaid expansion: do not care
  19. Environmentalism: matters but not enough (this was the next-in)
  20. the NSA, the TSA, surveillance: no real solution
  21. Prison reform: matters but has a lot of inertia and unlikely to budge

These are hard to justify. Think of that last one. Am I really going to say it doesn’t matter? That I shouldn’t mind it? Prison reform probably matters to people who’ve been wrongly imprisoned for years, or who faced mandatory minimums for victim-less crimes, or who paid their debt to society and the system, yet carry the irrevocable scarlet letter of “ex-con” on their job applications. It certainly matters to them.

Puerto Ricans have strong, if divided, beliefs about statehood. Abortion takes away innocent lives. The repeal of Obamacare threatens to upset a regulatory equilibrium that took five years to settle down, raising costs again. The environment faces the unpresidented threat of a Trump EPA and climate change denialism. Texting and driving laws may have saved my life from the thumbs of a numskull teenager, and theirs from mine.

Notice a pattern? For every topic this is true. As the video pointed out,

Willpower is a very precious and limited resource, and dividing it among multiple overly ambitious goals will lead to none of them being completed. Confucius exposed this downfall when he wisely said that he who chases two rabbits catches none. So only pick one rabbit at a time and hunt that furry bastard down.

 

I already anticipate the counterargument that I can afford to take this approach only because I am extremely privileged; some people don’t have the luxury of getting to ignore prison reform, the drug war, or environmentalism, because those are destroying their communities.

two-rabbtis

Good luck.

Fair enough. I’ll reply that anyone else can focus on whatever issues they want. In fact, we may be doing each other a favor if we both specialize; you catch that rabbit, I’ll catch the other one. The worst approach involves us both spreading too thin and becoming ineffective.

Ultimately I must answer this difficult question:


What matters enough for me to care?

Our answers will diverge, but I hope we can agree that it is the process of deciding and finalizing, not the answers we have, that makes the difference. This process makes us less scatterbrained thinkers and more depth-oriented writers; it trades our reactivity for purposeful participation in the discussion and perhaps makes us better friends.

I hope that others join me in 2017.