novatownhall blog

Where you are held accountable for your convictions and record

Browsing Posts published in December, 2010

(Cross-posted at joebudzinski.com)

An opportunity has arisen to sketch out what I believe in the area of “religion.” It is not something I have been inclined to do any time recently because I am not very good at talking about the topic. But in separate conversations in recent weeks I got the idea that if I put it down in writing, I could point the person to the blog post and just say, “if you go read this you will see what I believe.” I think I can do a better job writing than talking (which is not a high bar to pass, believe me).

[This will probably end up being several posts because at some point I am going to need to lay out a slew of qualifications which would be in essence a very long digression - so if we are going to ruin an essay might as well keep the damage contained - and also because there are a few angles that need to be covered so better to break up the discussion than make it too long. We can call this post the intro.]

I am going to direct my explanation at some undefined person whom I think of as an intelligent skeptic, because that comes closest to how I see myself. I am a believer, but have not been a serious believer for very long, so I had a long history in the skeptic camp; and therefore I think it is part of my DNA and gives me an informed perspective on explaining myself to you – you intelligent skeptic, you.

First, let us please toss the familiar terminology. This subject matter is riven with words that have different meanings to different people. More on this probably will end up in the qualifications post, but we need to say this much at the outset. The Greatest Philosopher Of Them All, Soren Kierkegaard, built much of his magnificent body of work in an extended effort to sidestep the problem of commonly misunderstood terminology. It is a really important point. We are going to be looking at propositions set out in a couple relatively familiar sections of a very familiar book, but if your mind clouds over because of preconceived notions about these ideas you will not get what I am talking about.

That is why “religion” goes in scare quotes, because the meaning of the word has become too diffuse to serve any purpose to me. Anyway, if “religion” is half what it’s cracked up to be it seems off base to assign it to a mere interest sector like cuisine, political affiliations or water sports. I just think of it as Life: because what we are talking about is the meaning, appreciation and end – of Life.

I am going to tell you that in my view these truths about existence can all be understood by reading and re-reading two sections of the book called the Bible – namely, the Gospel According to John, and the Epistle of Paul to the Romans – and also possibly hearing what others have observed about these two sections and others.

But let’s leave those bits of what Kierkegaard called the “historical clothing” out for now. We need to get to a more basic point of understanding. Please take a second to clear your mind of all the associations that have accreted over the years. Let go of the wars and scepters and angels and tunics, the cathedrals and gargoyles, the televangelists, politicians and people knocking on your door. Let it all go, cleanse the mental palate, and I will do my best to build my explanation from points of understanding that don’t cause your mind to go wandering through the history of Western civilization.

Where does our discussion of Life start? How about, with the end of it, and whether we persist after our bodies have gone silent. This question should have arisen sometime. It may have been when you looked inside yourself, perhaps observing the seemingly infinite length of your potential strands of thought, or the depth of what you experience when you dream. It may have been when you truly focused on a conversation and the eyes of the person and saw there is something exceptional going on there. It may have been when you watched a child develop. Maybe you considered the whole realm of living things and observed, as G.K. Chesterton did, that the human seems to have certain qualities beyond what might be expected from a chain of chemical and genetic accidents. Or maybe you looked at the sunset or a clear night sky and had some ineffable sense that your awareness of beauty was richer than you could have conjured up yourself.

Whatever the inspiration, I propose that you and I both share the assumption that a reasonable person could believe that our essence and personhood might persist after death.

I have no interest in “proving” this proposition about the possibility of Eternal Life. To be honest, it would be a tiresome argument. It would be a waste of time, as if someone asked me to “prove” I love my family. You can think about it what you will, and I will do the same. The proposition is, I think, at the root of all the world’s religions, so some ink has been spilled to say the least.

But let’s just hang it out there for now. Eternal Life: objectively speaking, could happen.

So this is where I make my first point-of-fact-assertion: I believe Eternal Life is possible, because I believe there is more going on inside a human being than is stilled when the body dies. If I just lost you, fine. If you want to stick around for more, good.

Assuming now that one’s Life persists after the death of the body, there are a whole raft of issues that need to be sorted through – but they are not terribly complicated, so the next portion will not be exasperating, I assure you.

I fly my Southern flag because I am surrounded by Yankee ideals and it is my little form of counter-measure.  Are most of the people around NoVa true Yankees?  Seeing the mix around here I would say that it is 45% Yankee, 50% foreigners and 5% “others”.  I am an other.  With my Southern heritage came politeness and respect.  Don’t get me wrong: when you get ignorant on me I will be the first to go toe-to-toe with you.  For the most part my manners drive my daily life.  I have watched this area degrade in manners for decades and, being a realist, I have found it to be a lost cause with just a dash of hope; diminishing but hope none the less.  Let me explain some of the things I (and others) are having to endure:

My company has been around for over a century.  During my tenure I have watched some real lunacy in the drivers of this company.  After the last merger all sensibility went out the door.  The catch phrase about “customers being our priority” translates to the lame dollar (it use to be almighty but that changed with hope is this government-another topic) and how to satisfy stockholders so the upper echelon can get their bonuses.  No one is paying attention to the long term because “today” is all that matters.  Trying to do business without the costs or, to put it in reality speak, working in a house of cards.  This will not sustain and the only reason it is this way is “self”.

Pork is rampant in the lame duck government bills/laws/agreements/etc. going out the door.  I need not explain as we all keep good track of these things.  Bottom line cause?  Self.  The guy who won’t look for work because he/she has endless unemployment.  Don’t ask or tell because homosexuals are wanting something for themselves.  Salt treaty?  It ain’t for us but someone else.

I wrote the BOS of Loudoun on an issue with the decorations at the courthouse and asked for a reply.  I guess their businesses or personal lives are more important then the courtesy of a reply.  Just thinking of themselves as usual.

Driving around during this Christmas season is what really drives home my thought of self.  People have always been in a bigger hurry and are more important than me.  That is why there is no driving etiquette.  Call somewhere and get a recording where “your call is important” and then wait for someone to answer or even call you back.  Usually doesn’t happen.  Go to the store and get pushed around without an excuse me.  Have someone cut in line in front of you.  Hold the door for someone and not get a word of thanks.  This is all self.  Yes, it is also rude but self means that you expect it and it should be “given” you.  I don’t think so.

Self is responsibility in its true form.  Be responsible for yourself and do for yourself if you want it done at all.  Manners kicks in when it is done for you and you are thankful for it.  Selfless is when you want to help others or care more for others at times instead of yourself.  Pointing bad manners out to people at the time they are only thinking of self is both tasteless and useless.  They just don’t get it.  In this area and elsewhere, people are getting use to having things given or done for them and it becomes expected.  In this time of love, joy and peace I thought it would be different but nope.  We are steadily promoting “everyone for himself” and there are so many people that will suffer because of it.  Our regression will be our doom.

Goodbye Old Friend

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Dan Steinman at the 2008 NVTH Christmas get together

We lost a good friend yesterday. Dan Steinman – “DanS” here at the blog – had a stroke several weeks ago and never recovered. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to Cindy and the family. He was much too young to die.

I met Dan in 2006 and we spent a great deal of time together since then, in meetings and in e-mail discussions and here at NVTH. He was an extremely intelligent, quick-witted and caring guy – a technical mentor on all things related to my various Web projects as well as my learning curve with the Mac, and great shooting companion.

Here is the sad e-mail from this afternoon with the information on the service:

In case you have not yet heard, my husband Dan passed away yesterday. He was calm and peaceful and surrounded by family. Dan never regained consciousness after the surgery.

A memorial service, followed by a reception, will held on Sunday, December 12th at 5:00pm at:

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church
201 E. Frederick Drive
Sterling, VA 20164

For those who wish to honor Dan in some way, a small gift to put toward a memorial tree for him would be appreciated.

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you feel may be interested.

In love and peace,

Cindy Steinman

Much, much too young.

we wish for your shopping dollars,

we wish for your shopping dollars

and to have no returns!”

Those who know me knew this was coming but, hey, we not beat a dead horse while there is still meat on the bones!

Observations:

My dance card has been full or over full this last half of the year so I took a warm opportunity to put my Christmas lights on the roof the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I didn’t light them mind you but that didn’t matter for my neighbor.  I got “Are you kidding me?”  Well, no, I’m not.  I was going to be busy for the next 2 weeks and if these old bones didn’t get on the roof while it was warm and dry, they wouldn’t get on the roof at all.  Things tend to take longer at my age so you have to do what I call long term planning.  Anyway, I’m the type of guy that, between wives and living alone, kept his Christmas tree up all year.  I believe in the spirit and understanding of Christmas, understand the importance, relish the good feeling of it and sometimes need a “gentle reminder” before I go and do some sinning.

I went to the mall today to get some of that great Hickory Farms cheese spread that is only available at this time of year.  Although I hadn’t been to the mall since before Thanksgiving (and Santa was already there, looking a might bored by my observation) I expected the mall and stores to be full-tilt-boogy into Christmas.  It wasn’t.  I took a walk to satisfy my curiousity about something.  I found sparse Christmas decorations (mostly red tinsle trees with red balls hidden amongst maniquins) with signs that say “sale”.  Music eminated from the stores with jazz, hard rock, big band, progressive (boy do I hate that word); everything but Christmas music.  In fact, I might have missed it but I didn’t see one sign that said “Merry Christmas”.  Oh shoot!  I’m sorry.  I forgot that it is the winter holiday sale season.  What was I thinking.

To those of you who don’t know for whatever reason, this is Christmas and Chanukah time so I will wish you Merry and Happy.  Just know this: it ain’t about toys, Santa or sales.  Let the spirit move you accordingly.

Mr. Obama meets with Republicans on Bush tax cut extension.  Well, that isn’t all and, of course, there was give and take.  The extension will be for a limited time (2 years) and for all classes.  With that, unemployment benefits extend another 13 months.  The death tax return is right around the corner but you will see 2% deductions in your paycheck, blah, blah, blah.

Before you say “let’s be fair about this, ACT” I want to say this: yes, I know about taking small bites and, yes, I know about victories and, yes, I know that this puts Obama at odds with his base but let me have my point of view say.  This “compromise” costs money.  Remember when unemplyment benefits lasted only 26 weeks?  Where is the incentive to look for work?  I just don’t want to hear that there is nothing out there.  I was brought up under “old school thought” and I know for a fact that you can get a job if you’re willing to not think about a cut in pay.  How many businesses do you interact with where they have sub-skilled labor?  People who can’t give you the correct change?  People you can’t understand while conducting business?  Pride and self worth is a VERY important issue here and I don’t want anything for nothing when I should be earning it.  This isn’t about compassion.  This is about getting off the public dole, pride, responsibility, self worth and NOT creating a non-motivated society.  Looking for lower wages may not be such a bad thing either when you think that it may re-stucture what unions are always asking for (which, I can tell you, are way beyond what is necessary and it causes the bank to break).  This might be the incentive to bring jobs and industry back to America and compete with China and Mexico (imagine that).  Also, you won’t have to talk to Teeb anymore (that’s Indian [dot head kind] for Steve).

Why only 2 years instead of permenant?  You will have opponents say that if the economy picks up, whose to say it is because of the extension?  It could be what Obama has put in place the last 2 years and is now starting to show up.  Logical and sound statement.  This could also put Obama in line for a return engagement in 2012.  He definitely left that option open by saying that Republicans are terrorists and holding him hostage so that he would have to make this deal in order for the middle class not suffer.  The Dems may despise the chief traitor for the moment but they are always too fickle and will end up flopping again.

There are 2 things about this “deal” I don’t like.  When the Repubs compromise on anything with this administration the people of America lose.  This IS NOT what the elections were all about.  I believe it was to shutdown the expenditures, earmarks, bribes and dismantling of the Constitution.  This does not happen when you compromise.  What will be compromised next?  This should have been a straight deal on Bush extensions, period.  If it doesn’t pass in the lame duck then wait for the new congress in 24 days.

Second, and the biggest froster to me:  the deal was between the Republicans and Obama.  No Dems and behind closed doors.  Personally, I want to see and hear what any Congress discusses AT ALL TIMES!  Transparency has been harped about for 2 years now (that there is none) and the Repubs turn around and do this?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Personally I hope this “deal” doesn’t pass.  The Dems can very easily squash it now and it will show America what they think about the “workers”.  It already has put egg on the face of Obama as well as putting him on notice.  I believe this is a win-win situation and I can’t wait for this disgusting Congress to expire.  I’ll gladly wait 24 days to see if the new Congress “gets it”.

Since when is telling the truth what destroys trust … countries should live by the same morals that individuals do (which is why proverbs where often written to the son of the king … to instruct him in morals befitting anyone, but mandatory the king.

I find it interesting that so many are up in arms about wikipedia’s leaking of documents. What I find really heinous are those that say diplomacy is all about trust and the leaks are destroying trust (reference). What is heinous? The idea that revealing information that is true can break trust. Being trust worthy is what establishes trust, being untrustworthy is what destroys trust. The only people that can destroy trust are the ones being trusted … they are the only ones that can violate someone else’s trust.

The outrage seems almost universal that documents which show the United States has systematically acted without integrity have been revealed. Questioning that we should engage in “politics as usual” seems to be met with accusation of naivete rather than embarrassment at our lack of trustworthiness. If the “full faith and trust” of the United States is only so much hot air, then perhaps wikileaks is correct in revealing the truth. Only when someone is called out on what they are doing wrong can there be any change. All the talk of diplomacy being a delicate dance is worse than lies; it is damned lies. It is certainly not “let your yes be yes, and your no be no”. Anything more is lying. It is liars that break trust, not those that call them on it.

Dennis Husch For Dranesville Supervisor

Dennis Husch, former Herndon Vice Mayor and Town Council member, is a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2011

Dennis Husch of Herndon, Virginia has announced his candidacy for the Dranesville District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the November, 2011 elections. Mr. Husch believes the solution to solving government fiscal crises at all levels lies not in debating the symptoms such as underfunded government services, but rather “changing the policies and assumptions that have created and are maintaining the current expanding bureaucracy.”

In a recent discussion with NOVA TownHall, Mr. Husch outlined what he sees as the major challenges currently facing Fairfax County: “education, budget, transportation and improving the responsiveness of the government to its citizens.”

MESSAGE FROM THE 2010 ELECTIONS

Mr. Husch sees the results of the November, 2010 elections as a clear message to those responsible for public policy:

Taxes are too high, spending is out of control, government is too big and intrusive, and anyone seeking public office who does not ascribe to “first principles” will be rejected by the voters. As Thomas Jefferson noted, citizens will only take so much intrusion from the government before they take back their government.  November was an indication that “we the people” have had enough: What people earn belongs to them; the people have personal responsibility and rights given by God – not the government; the people will decide locally how to manage and improve their quality of life; and the people will force the federal government to constrain its activities as demanded by the Constitution.  Politicians who ignore the voter proceed at their own political peril.

EDUCATION

Regarding the Fairfax County public school system, Mr. Husch notes that

Education costs represent over half of the county budget and we all need to ensure that money is being properly allocated to provide students with the best possible education. I have concerns about teacher-student ratios (class size) and making sure those ratios are consistent across all schools in the county. I am also concerned about the “tooth-to-tail” ratio – that’s the comparison of the number of front-line classroom teachers to the number of administration/central office personnel.

[emphasis added]

BUDGET

During his terms on the Herndon Town Council (1994-2010, 2006-2008 as Vice Mayor), Mr. Husch has spent 16 years preparing and reviewing municipal budgets – along with 40 years preparing competitive corporate budgets during his professional career as an operations analyst and program manager (click here for Mr. Husch’s Curriculum Vitae).

If elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Dennis Husch intends to apply his budget management expertise toward creating a more efficient government, “not through arbitrary spending cuts or moving problems to future years, but by changing the policies and assumptions that have created and are maintaining the current expanding bureaucracy.”

The budget is the place where real impact can be made; not just as a superficial attempt to reduce taxes, spending and the size of government, but as the place where the core policies can be validated and changed that drive the preparation and the magnitude of the budget … In every case the policies and the assumptions applied determine the magnitude of the budget: Change the policies and the outcomes can be much different.

It is unfortunate that many times elected officials are drawn into budget discussions that don’t really solve problems. For example, suppose there is a need to reduce spending by the police force and there is a discussion of how many new police cars will be purchased. If the number is reduced from 70 to 50 there certainly will be a reduction in spending, but the spending problem is not really solved – it is just moved to the next budget.  Eventually the police cars will have to be replaced. The opportunity in this example is to discuss the policy being used to determine how many police cars are needed and the criteria (age, mileage, maintenance history) applied to determine when the police cars should be replaced. A change in the criteria will result in a change in the number of replacement vehicles needed not only for this year but for future years.

It is also unfortunate when the response to a call for reduced spending (due to reduced revenues or a demand by citizens for fiscal responsibility) by the bureaucracy is a proposal to cut the number of teachers, police or firefighters. Such initial budget proposals must be met with disdain and summarily rejected as the bureaucracy’s attempt at self-preservation and not a valid response to the demands of the citizens whom they serve.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation policy is as critical in western Fairfax County as in any part of the U.S. Mr. Husch believes that Fairfax County Board decisions in the coming years can mean the difference between success or “continuing disaster.” In the short term, he thinks spot improvements can make a difference. These include lengthening turn lanes, improving intersections, synchronizing traffic lights and repairing roads and shoulders.

But as residents of Fairfax and Loudoun counties will learn in the near future, some of the most significant upcoming public policy decisions will involve funding the Metro system. Having served on the Phase II Tax District Commission for MetroRail, Mr. Husch thinks our focus should be on the fiscal implications of the “larger picture:”

For example, construction of the Metro Silver Line from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles Airport to Loudoun County will be paid for by increasing the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road.  At what point does the magnitude of the tolls force traffic off the Toll Road and onto neighborhood streets and Route 7?  The funding and operation of the Silver Line must be accomplished in the context of the unintended consequences that could further exacerbate our current traffic congestion problems.  No plan for spot improvements will offset a bad funding plan for the Silver Line.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSIVENESS

Public policy specifics aside, it could be argued that most electoral sea changes in America recently have resulted from elected bodies that have ignored the will of their constituents. Dennis Husch has seen this simple law at work during his tenure in Herndon and in the U.S. as a whole, and he believes it should be instructive for those seeking to serve on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

Improving the responsiveness of government to the needs of those they serve will be the most important and rewarding part of the job for anyone elected to public office.  Constituent services – bringing the service and expertise of the government to the citizens – must be the first task. For 16 years on the Herndon Town Council I accomplished that task and I look forward to continuing that service on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The first step in that process is to remind the government that they work for the citizens…

Because of government overreach and out of control spending, people are suffering and worrying about their and their family’s future. They gather at their kitchen tables to establish priorities and budgets so they can live within their means.  Governments at all levels – county, state and federal – must do the same thing. I sincerely believe that the voters have awakened and will demand these governments formulate plans to live within their means, reduce taxes, reduce the size of government and cease the usurpation of our individual liberties.  Irresponsibility will not be rewarded with votes.

In light of the fact that it is early in the 2011 election cycle, and because of the redistricting process which will take place as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census the boundaries of the “Dranesville” District will not be determined for several more months, we asked Mr. Husch this closing question: However your district is defined after redistricting, it is likely to include voters unfamiliar with your career of public service in Herndon. What are the main things people should know about Dennis Husch?
 

I am an experienced leader who has served eight consecutive terms on the Herndon Town Council and who has served on several Fairfax County and Virginia Commonwealth boards.  I have a demonstrated record of being a fiscal conservative, an advocate for lower taxes and an advocate for a transparent and open government that serves the citizens of our community.  While others may speak of an open and transparent government, I know what it really is and how to do it because I’ve done it.

Click here for more information and to contribute to Dennis Husch for Dranesville District Supervisor (scroll to the bottom of the page).

See below the fold for the official press release on Dennis Husch’s candidacy.
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