Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bobby Jindal calls for national revival

Speaking at a prayer rally in Louisiana last Saturday, Bobby Jindal called for a nationwide Christian revival. The Louisiana governor told attendees that spiritual renewal is needed to turn the country around.

According to ABC News, Jindal told the group, “"We can't just elect a candidate and fix what ails our country. We can't just pass a law and fix what ails our country. We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country.”

Other reports said that Jindal gave a personal account of his conversion to Catholicism. The 15-minute remarks, summarized in the Guardian, describe how Jindal became disillusioned with religion after the death of his grandfather. Later, a friend gave him a Bible that Jindal he would have sold if it hadn’t been personally inscribed. He was also influenced by a “pretty girl” in high school who wanted to be a Supreme Court justice so she could “help save innocent human lives right here in America” by restricting abortion.

Jindal said that his conversion came while at LSU in a chapel service that he had attended to hear a friend sing. He was moved to drop to his knees and worship by a film depicting Jesus Christ on the cross.

“God chose that moment to hit me harder than I’ve ever been hit before,” Jindal said.

Jindal, who is seriously considering a presidential campaign in 2016, skipped an event in Iowa attended by other potential candidates to attend the prayer rally. Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Chris Christie were in attendance at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines according to National Journal.

Jindal is not alone in calling for a return to Judeo-Christian values and religion in America. Many conservatives link the destruction of marriage and the family with the explosive increase in entitlement spending. The debate over same-sex marriage, federal mandates on abortifacient and contraceptive drugs, and the continuing controversy over abortion have created a crisis for religious freedom in America.

The Louisiana rally was sponsored by the American Family Association, a pro-family group that is considered “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its opposition to gay rights and same-sex marriage.

According to the Guardian, Jindal concluded his remarks saying, “It is like God has given us the book of life. He doesn’t let us see the pages for today, tomorrow. He doesn’t promise us everything will go the way we want. He doesn’t promise you your sports team will win, or you’ll get the promotion at work. He doesn’t promise you you’re going to win the next election or that everything’s going to happen like you want. But he does let you see the last page in the book of life. And on the last page, our God wins.”

Read the full article on Examiner.com

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why I believe in God

temporaryIn the beginning, I believed in God because my parents told me to. I was raised in a Baptist church in Georgia and we were typically in the pews every time the church was open. We not only regularly attended church, my parents and other extended family members lived their faith in Christ seven days a week.

As I grew up, I questioned the beliefs that I had been taught. I knew the Bible, but I didn’t know that it was true. I wanted to determine for myself whether God was real and the Bible was true or whether I was wasting my time.

I began my investigation with research. Two memorable books were “The Bible as History” by Werner Keller and “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. “The Bible as History” satisfied my doubts about the historical reliability of the Bible. Unlike some other religious texts, much of the Bible has been verified by archaeology. Other parts of the Bible, such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, might not have been verified by archaeology, but neither had they been disproved. Absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence. For example, many skeptics considered King David to be a myth until 1993 when a rock with the inscription “House of David” was discovered in Galilee. Other evidence has been discovered since then.

Lee Strobel did for the New Testament what Werner Keller had done for the Old. “The Case for Christ” argued for the validity and historicity of the Gospel accounts. Strobel, an atheist at the time he wrote the book, used the reason and logic of an investigative reporter to prove to himself that the authors of the Gospels gave a true and somewhat verifiable account of events in First Century Jerusalem.

On the scientific front, there were several sources that helped me answer my doubts as well. The most persuasive was Dr. Hugh Ross and his team of scientists at Reasons to Believe. I first became aware of Dr. Ross, an actual rocket scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, through his book, “Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men,” an analysis of the UFO phenomenon. The Reasons to Believe team was not pastors and evangelists who dabbled in science; they were scientists who did not find Christianity and science to be mutually exclusive.

Science probably will never conclusively prove (much less disprove) the existence of God, but it can offer much circumstantial evidence for his existence. A Christmas Day article by Eric Metaxis in the Wall St. Journal detailed the long odds against life being formed through random chance.

Science can also more directly support the existence of God. A peer-reviewed study by British scientists in 2014 found convincing evidence of life after death. The study found that 40 percent of cardiac survivors who had been clinically dead reported some sort of awareness. Many of the people who report near-death experiences (NDEs) come back with knowledge that they could not have otherwise. Colton Burpo, the boy who inspired the book and movie, “Heaven Is For Real,” is one example. Burpo returned with knowledge of an elder sister who had died before being born and who Colton had never been told about.

In many cases, nonbelievers consider divine signs to be coincidences, but how many coincidences with astronomical odds against them does it take to prove that there is purpose behind them? Purpose behind seeming coincidence was the subject of two books by Jonathan Cahn. “The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah” both point to the staggering number of “coincidences” that link the Bible to the September 11 attacks and the two largest financial crashes in U.S. history. How many coincidences must be stacked atop one another before the odds are simply impossible?

I also looked at the opinions of people on the opposite side. I investigated claims of Biblical errors, contradictions and problems and found them all to be overblown. In many cases, the purported errors could be resolved by simply looking at the larger context of the passage. In other cases, the translation to English subtly changed the meaning from the original languages. In all cases, there was a reasonable explanation. There is even collection of Biblical “difficulties” and their explanations.

The problem of miracles is a stumbling block for some people, but if you believe that God is real and that Jesus is God, then it isn’t really a problem to believe that God and Jesus can do miracles. In some cases, miracles can be explained away as natural phenomena, but, quite often, natural phenomena require miraculous timing to be considered miraculous. If God is the creator of the universe, then he obviously has the power to control nature.

Another difficulty for many people is why, if there is a God, that there is so much evil and suffering in the world. To me, this is the wrong question. A better question is, if there is no God, why there is any good and altruism in the world at all. It isn’t in man’s self-interest to help the poor and weak.

Likewise, pointing to the failings of believing Christians doesn’t disprove the underlying truths of the Bible. Rather, since the Bible teaches that all people are imperfect and sinful, such failings are to be expected.

My belief in God goes beyond the academic and theoretical, however. My belief is that God is a personal God who still intervenes in the daily lives of people on earth. I have heard many cases of such interventions, ranging from strength to deal with adversity or addiction to healing to angelic protection. In a couple of cases, I have seen miraculous healing of people that I knew firsthand. In far more cases, I have seen the grace and strength that believers have when dealing with almost overpowering adversity. Among those are my mother, currently undergoing her second bout with cancer; my brother-in-law, who struggled for years with the after-effects of childhood cancer; and my wife’s cousin, Chad, whose brain tumor miraculously disappeared for a time, only to return a few years later. I have seen miraculous healings, but any healing, whether supernatural or medical, is only temporary. Even Lazarus ultimately returned to the grave. Rather, his body returned to the grave while his spirit returned to Heaven.

In my own life, I credit strength from God with seeing me through dark times in my life when there seemed to be no hope. While I have never had a “burning bush” moment, I do believe that God has spoken to me in other ways, including warnings when I strayed. In at least one case, I directly witnessed an event that has no other explanation apart from the supernatural.

I don’t have all the answers. I can’t explain why God does things the way he does. Not having all of the answers, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t have enough information to see the reality of God.

Read the original article on Examiner.com

Friday, January 16, 2015

Air Asia pilots did not scream ‘Allahuakhbar’

A popular story going around the internet today is that the cockpit voice recorder, one of the “black boxes,” from Air Asia Flight 8501 revealed the chilling last words of the pilots. In the story, typically attributed to Yahoo News Singapore, claims that a National Transportation Safety Committee investigator revealed the last words of the pilots to be “Allahuakhbar, Allahuakhbar.” The implication from American news outlets that have picked up the Yahoo story is that the Air Asia crash was the result of Islamic terrorism. Investigation by Examiner reveals that this is not true. At the very least, the claim is premature.

The Yahoo article is an almost word-for-word copy of an earlier article from the New Straits Times, an English language newspaper published in Malaysia. A pundit from The Right Scoop noted that Yahoo had omitted a crucial detail from their version of the story.

In the NST story, the investigator, Nurcahyo Utomo, says, “It is as if we can feel them... Allahuakhbar, Allahuakhbar were the last words said before they died.” Yahoo repeats this quote in its entirety.

The NST description of the quote was “he said referring to his experience analising [sic] black boxes from past crashes.” The Yahoo article omitted this entire phrase, leaving readers with the impression that the quote came from the Air Asia pilots rather than pilots of crashes that Utomo had previously investigated.

When viewed in the context of the entire article, it is clear that Utomo has not yet analyzed the cockpit voice recorder from the Air Asia crash. The lead sentence of the story says that analyzing the data will – note the future tense – be difficult for Utomo because he knew the pilot personally.

The last sentence quotes Utomo as saying, “I could not imagine how I am going to listen to his last words.” Again, the article and Utomo himself use future tense, implying that he has not yet heard the recording of the last words.

In its entirety, the article discusses Utomo’s past experiences with crash investigations and listening to cockpit voice recordings. “Listening to the playback of a black box involved in a crash is not like listening to music or a discussion,” he said. “We are listening to a recording that represents the last moments before the crash and it is disturbing. There are times where the investigators would get unnerved listening to the recording.”

The NST article goes on to say, “analysing [sic] the recording while listening to their final words like ‘Allahuakhbar’ repeatedly, give the investigators goose bumps” according to Utomo.

While it is possible that the Air Asia pilots said “Allahuakhbar” before they died, there is no indication that the cockpit voice recorder and other black boxes have already been examined. The absence of this story from the mainstream American media and its presence only on blog-type sites should be an indication of its lack of credibility.

Read the full article on Aviation Examiner

Thursday, January 15, 2015

America’s most underrated politician


John Boehner “don’t get no respect” from conservatives

John Boehner is not going to win any popularity contests among conservatives. The Republican speaker of the House is much maligned among his own party and has even been the target of several unsuccessful coup attempts by Tea Party factions, including the one last week. In spite of his unpopularity on the right, Boehner has done much to stymie President Obama’s agenda and to make the 2014 Republican sweep possible. In spite of his accomplishments, most members of his own party would not vote for Boehner as speaker according to an EMC Research poll released on January 2. Boehner is truly the most underrated man in American politics today.

The road to speaker

John Boehner has served Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1991. In February 2006, he replaced Tom DeLay (R-TX) as majority leader. After the Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 elections, Boehner served as minority leader, a position he held until 2010 when victorious Republicans unanimously elected him speaker.

Even though Republicans gave Obama and the Democrats “a shellacking” in 2010, the party was still at a terrible disadvantage. The GOP controlled only half of one of the three branches of government. Democrats still held the presidency and a majority in the U.S. Senate. The Republican majority in the House gave conservatives just enough power to block the liberal agenda, but not enough to enact their own policies.

Boehner’s war on spending

Republican control of the House came too late to stop landmark Democratic bills such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, but the GOP did score important victories under Boehner. The website of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) includes a list of bills that were blocked by Republicans. These include the DREAM Act, the DISCLOSE Act , the Paycheck Fairness Act, a millionaire tax, federal firearms background checks, increased taxes for companies relocating outside the U.S. and subsidies to keep federal student loans below market rates. Additionally, Republicans also blocked an internet sales tax and a bill that would have gutted the First Amendment by allowing Congress to regulate spending on federal elections.

Boehner and the House Republicans began to fight Obama’s out-of-control spending as soon as they reached Washington. In 2011, Democratic spending had almost reached the debt ceiling specified by law. The battle that raged over raising the debt ceiling culminated in the Budget Control Act of 2011, a compromise bill that raised the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts and the creation of a “super committee” on deficit reduction. While Republicans did raise the debt limit, that outcome was never in doubt because it was necessary to preserve the “full faith and credit” of the United States. It was a victory for Republicans in the sense that they exacted meaningful cuts without corresponding tax increases from the Democrats.

The spending victory was also due to another Boehner victory, that of the fiscal cliff and the sequester. For those who don’t recall, the fiscal cliff was the large number of tax increases scheduled to automatically go into effect at the end of 2012 as the low Bush-era tax rates expired. The tax increases coincided with automatic spending cuts that hearkened back to the Budget Control Act of 2011. When President Obama ignored the recommendations of the super committee in favor of pursuing tax increases, automatic spending cuts were scheduled to go into effect across the board.

In spite of having lost the presidential election, Republicans in Congress stood firm under Boehner. In a last minute deal, the GOP was able to prevent income tax rates from increasing for the majority of Americans, a compromise endorsed by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. The deal also postponed the sequester and permanently fixed the Alternative Minimum Tax, a previously ever present threat to middle class taxpayers, but resulted in a number of other tax increases. Elections have consequences and the Republicans simply did not have the numbers to force a better deal.

Two months later, everyone once again expected Boehner to cave in on the sequester negotiations. Republicans hoped to avoid defense cuts, while Democrats opposed entitlement cuts and pushed for tax increases. In the end, there was no agreement and the budget cuts went into effect across-the-board. Much to everyone’s surprise, the sequester was scarcely noticed by most Americans. What they did notice was the government shutdown a few months later.

The defund disaster

As the implementation of ObamaCare approached in October 2013, a faction of the Republican Party proposed an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. As opponents of the plan noted at the time, the defund attempt was unlikely to succeed because ObamaCare was already funded and the Republicans did not have the votes to overcome the Democratic majority in the Senate. Nevertheless, with a large number of Republicans in favor of trying to defund the ACA, Boehner and the rest of the party went along as well.

The attempt was disastrous. The government was shut down at the same time that ObamaCare enrollments started and the exchange websites crashed. Because of the shutdown, the focus was on the Obama’s negotiations with Republicans rather than on the website catastrophe. For 16 days in October 2013, Republican poll ratings were in freefall. Boehner attempted to negotiate with Obama during the shutdown, but with Obama enjoying the Republican self-destruction, no agreement was reached. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Majority Leader Harry Reidn (D-NV) finally reached a deal to end the shutdown. This deal was passed with mostly Democratic support and has rightly been called a Republican surrender. The alternative to surrender, however, was the destruction of the Republican Party. For Republicans, the best thing that can be said about the deal that ended the shutdown is that it kept the sequester, the only real leverage against Obama that the Republicans had, in place.

The sequester also survived a late 2013 budget deal brokered by Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA). This deal kept the sequestration in place while Republicans held the line against Democratic calls for more taxes.

From hero to zero

Less than a year after the failed attempt to defund Obamacare, Boehner and other conservatives were campaigning hard for the midterm elections. Boehner campaigned hard for Republican candidates around the country and raised $100 million for the party according to USA Today. Boehner’s own PAC doled out $1.3 million to dozens of Republicans according to campaign finance data from Open Secrets. The 2014 Republican landslide was due many people, but John Boehner deserves much credit for his hard work in recruiting candidates and his tireless campaigning. The resulting Republican majority, the largest since 1928, would not have been possible with an ineffective Republican leader in the House.

As 2014 drew to a close, Boehner was again criticized for the passage of the so-called “cromnibus,” a compromise bill to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. While many conservatives were angry about the bill, few proposed viable alternatives. Also, as U.S. News pointed out, the bill was hardly a sellout to the Democrats. Republicans gained many concessions, including cuts to the budgets of the EPA and IRS, no new funding for Obamacare, and a prohibition on the transfer to Guantanamo Bay detainees to U.S. courts. Nevertheless, for many conservatives, any credit that Boehner had earned with the election victory was lost in the cromnibus deal. This led to the recent coup attempt by a small number of Republicans.

The next two years

In the end, cuts to federal spending may be Boehner’s biggest triumph. According to Congressional Budget Office figures, federal spending has fallen each year since 2011 when Republicans assumed control of the House. The budget deficit has fallen by nearly 70 percent in that time. As Michael Medved recently pointed out on his radio show, the last time that federal spending declined in three consecutive years was under President Calvin Coolidge.

In the new session, the House has already approved construction of the Keystone pipeline and passed a bill restoring the 40-hour work week. These bills will now go to the Senate where, with Mitch McConnell in charge, they will probably pass and go to the president’s desk.

As Boehner shifts from defense to offense, it is likely that many of his critics will be surprised. With a record of strong accomplishments from a weak position, the man that Ralph Benko of Forbes called “the worst thing to happen to progressives since” the fall of the Soviet Union, will be a much more capable foe of Obama and the Democrats when allied with Mitch McConnell’s Senate. The alliance is likely to produce results that cannot be ignored.

Read the rest on Examiner.com

Romney and Ryan reach split decision on 2016

The two men who formed the 2012 Republican presidential ticket both made decisions this week about whether to launch presidential campaigns in 2016. On Monday, Paul Ryan, the candidate for vice president in 2012, made an announcement about his intentions for 2016. At about the same time, word began to leak out about Mitt Romney’s intentions. The men seem to have reached different conclusions about what paths they would take in 2016.

On Monday, in an interview with NBC News, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he feels that he can make a “bigger difference” in his role as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee than as one of many Republican candidates in what will likely be a crowded field.

“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people - from friends and supporters,” Ryan said, “but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that.”

Early this week, it became known that Mitt Romney had met with a group of potential donors in New York last Friday. The Washington Post reports that, although there has been no formal announcement, Romney is working to reassemble his political network. He reportedly told a senior Republican that he “almost certainly will” run for president in 2016.

The Post reports that Romney has discussed his intentions with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former senator Scott Brown, and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. Romney also reportedly spoke with Paul Ryan, who was supportive of his candidacy.

Romney is reportedly planning to run to the right of Jeb Bush, who has already announced his candidacy. Romney and Bush tend to attract supporters from the same elements of the party and would likely compete for potential donors.

A third Romney candidacy would have pros and cons. Romney is not popular among some factions of the GOP, who blame his 2012 loss on not being conservative enough. An enduring myth among some conservatives is the belief that many conservative voters stayed home rather than vote for Romney. As Examiner discovered, Romney actually did well among conservative voters, but lost the election when he lost moderates and independents, many of whom made up their minds to vote for Obama after his response to Hurricane Sandy. A poor showing among minorities also hurt Romney.

Romney would have the advantage of experience and name recognition. After two presidential campaigns, almost every voter in the country knows who Mitt Romney is. Many also like him. A CNN poll from July 2014 showed that he would handily beat Obama if the election had been held then. The same poll showed him trailing Hillary Clinton.

Romney also has the benefit of learning from his past mistakes. His business career was built on correcting mistakes and transferring this ability to politics could mean that the third time is the charm. Early reports are that his new campaign will be very different, with Romney taking a more direct role on messaging rather than taking advice from consultants, according to Politico. The Washington Post reports that the theme of the campaign will be economic empowerment.

The theme and tone of the campaign would need to incorporate real changes to win support of many conservatives for whom Romney is associated with failure and waffling on the issues. In the past, some Republicans doubted Romney’s sincerity on core issues such as Obamacare, guns, and life.

What about the possibility of a second Romney-Ryan ticket in 2016? Neither man specifically addressed the issue, and Ryan also did not rule out a future campaign for president. Speaking to NBC, Ryan said that he will do his best to help the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that might be.

“It's clear the country needs a change in direction and our party has a responsibility to offer a real alternative,” Ryan said.


Read the full article on Examiner.com