Monday, July 20, 2009

At the Base, It Is NOT True That All Is Relative

As popular as it may be today to proclaim everything to be relative, that is not true. There is a right and wrong which transcend our society and our culture - and which remain right and wrong even in spite of our culture's denial.

Gerard Reed illustrates this well (in the Inroduction to his book C. S. Lewis Explores Vice and Virtue, Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO, 2001) by citing a scene from C. S. Lewis' novel That Hideous Strength where the main character Mark, a young sociologist, encounters Bill Hingest, an elderly chemist. Mark suggested to Hingest "I suppose there are two views about everything?" to which Hingest replies "Eh? Two views? There are about a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."

As long as we use feelings and emotions to determine right and wrong, the line demarcating one from the other is free to move. Only when we look to an external source (such as the Bible) can we have a fixed point to measure from. Until then, all our attempts to be "good" will depend on finding someone who tells us what we want to hear about ourselves.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Discussing Judge Sotomayor's Nomination, Part II

I am not a legal scholar, but I want to base my remarks and arguments on facts rather than conjecture. To do this, I must depend on the reliability of others' reporting. I am including a link to the CNN review of her record which I am using as my primary source of information for this purpose. Note that this article somewhat confusingly lists her cases which have been reviewed by SCOTUS twice each.

My initial reaction to Judge Sotomayor's nomination is probably best described as a resigned disappointment. After this limited amount of investigation, I am mildly surprised at her selection on judicial terms. I remain convinced that she has been chosen because she is a capable judge who is a woman and is of Latino descent - and the President wanted to nominate a Justice who met both of those criteria - and because her inspiring life story will assist her popularity through the confirmation process.

Per my 'judicial terms selection surprise', as I review the list of cases she's had reviewed by the SCOTUS (and I have done no investigation to speak of beyond this article and others like it which cite largely the same facts), I am struck by the percentage of her cases which are overturned. I do understand that she's replacing Justice Souter - and that he has frequently sided with her - and that Conservatives won't agree with her on some issues.

But of the seven cases cited here, (only six of which have finished their review) four times she was overturned, once she was unanimously overturned, and even in one of the times she was upheld they unanimously rejected her reasoning. I wonder how common it is for a judge to twice have been corrected unanimously... and then be promoted to the SCOTUS.

One reason I chose the CNN article was the paragraph quoting more fully Sotomayor's discourse at Duke. It also discusses the comments at Cal-Berkeley which are probably the basis for Gov. Huckabee's remark about "taking the blindfold off" of Lady Justice. The Berkeley remarks are another can of worms alotgether.

When I read the quote of her Duke remarks I have mild concerns about her beliefs. But I saw the video of those remarks and I am alarmed that her excitement about being part of the Appellate Court system comes from her assent to the "policy-making" role she sees the Court system having. I know she qualified the remarks after she remembered that she was being taped, but I can't stop being troubled by what I heard.

As stated before in the FB dialogue, when justices and judges step away from interpretation and into making policy, that's where I believe the system goes astray. That's why I'm alarmed.

Discussing Judge Sotomayor's Nomination, Part I

This is the beginning of a recent discussion from my Facebook page. It started with my snide remark in reaction to Judge Sotomayor's nomination and my having seen her comments to a Duke University forum. I've edited the transcript only to provide easier reading, but have not removed any content from the remarks.

The initial post was my FB status:
Alan Johnson thought that policy was to be "made" by legislatures, not appellate courts. I guess that was part of the "Change".

Audrey Mae DeNeui at 8:36pm May 26
And a friend of mine says she's a Yankee's fan, to boot!

Frank R Kennedy III at 9:26pm May 26
She has been photograhed in a Red Sox hat. She wrote in a dissenting opinion that her colleagues were legislating. Which"opinions" offend you on an activist level?

Audrey Mae DeNeui at 9:42pm May 26
This other guy's a White Sox fan, I guess. It's not like we can actually do anything about it, other than satirize.

Audrey Mae DeNeui at 9:43pm May 26

She may be a very nice lady.

Alan Johnson at 8:38am May 27
The primary opinion which offends me is the one she expressed at Duke University that "appeals courts which is where policy is made". That is expressly the attitude which has blurred the separation of powers and led to the legislation from the bench such as Roe v Wade.

Frank R Kennedy III at 9:27am May 27 via Facebook Mobile
At the same conference she said she didn't agree with that, but she did recognise it happens. What on her judicial record is activist?

Audrey Mae DeNeui at 9:54am May 27
There's that captain's test for the fire department thing...You know, when someone gets nominated for anything, people start examining his/her life with electron microscopes. Not that we shouldn't examine folks who will be our leaders, but it is impossible to please everyone. It would be werid to expect, given the current admin's political bent, ... Read Morethat a strict conservative constitutionalist would be appointed, wouldn't it, now? Which is why I'm not upset about this or anything else, political-wise. Look at what just happened yesterday out here in California.

Alan Johnson at 10:59am May 27
My discomfort remains in the opinion she expressed at Duke... and I heard her qualification and attempt to backtrack upon remembering that she was being taped. I didn't accuse her of having written activist decisions. I am concerned that she really holds the perspective that the courts are where policies are made... since that's what she expressed. I expect her nomination to be confirmed. I don't expect to ever believe that she was the best choice. She was the politically expedient choice.

Audrey Mae DeNeui at 11:27am May 27

I saw that tape, too. I laughed. By the way, how's your ankle?

Frank R Kennedy III at 2:53pm May 27 via Facebook Mobile
So there is no opinion feom the bench that offends you? She ruled in favor of the abortion gag rule. She has been quoted as saying that she doesn' t believe appeals court should make policy...more than once. Have you seen more that 'Duke' clip?

Frank R Kennedy III at 2:56pm May 27 via Facebook Mobile
She agrees with you that policy is made in courts, she like you doesn't condone it.

Frank R Kennedy III at 6:25pm May 27
If I said I know that people speed on the highway and its dangerous....does it mean I condone it. Perhaps? If I had speeding tickets, that would be evidence. She made over 3000 court opinions -- that seems to be a good point of attack not a statement of observation (Duke comment).

Alan Johnson at 9:43am May 28
Frank, Let's take this to my blog ( where we can deal with it in a better format than FB wall posts. I'll copy the discussion to date there and publish your posts as written. Interested parties can follow from there.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Scoop: I Have Been Laid Off


I have been notified that my job at Nationwide has been eliminated. Since the organization that I was a part of has access to sensitive information, I will be paid for the next sixty days but I have been released from my job responsibility immediately. Effective June 1st, I am unemployed.

While no one who receives such news is happy about being let go, I am somewhat relieved to have resolution to an issue I have seen coming for many weeks.

Nationwide has been my employer, but Nationwide has never been my Provider. My Provider is God and God alone. He will provide for our needs through this transition as He has provided for us our whole lives. How our lives change because of this job change, obviously, we don't know yet.

What I do know is that God is present with us, He knows our situation, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Please pray that He gives us clear direction for the future.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Alan's 25 Random Thoughts

1. A large part of me wants to sort this list of thoughts by importance, but I’m resisting that temptation because the title of the list is supposed to be “random thoughts”.
2. I really enjoy reading my friends’ thought lists so I’m assembling one of my own to reciprocate their sharing.
3. Grace is undeserved favor - getting what you don’t deserve. As I grow older I find it permeates my life. I wish I was good enough to deserve some of the blessings in my life, but I’m glad I have them all the same.
4. I love to watch sports. I frequently get too emotionally involved in them for my own good. My teams have very rarely won championships and the frequent disappointments make me wish I didn’t care and make me wonder why I do.
5. My wife is amazing… a primary example of me receiving something I don’t deserve.
6. Parenthood is incredible.
7. I often wonder if I missed a call to be a preacher. I ask God about that frequently. I haven’t yet recognized a response.
8. I have found a good Christian discipleship ministry. I grow spiritually from things I learn from Chip Ingram’s podcasts at Living on the Edge (
9. It drives me nuts that I can’t seem to control our spending well enough.
10. I love my children. It is hard to let them grow up and make decisions which are different than I would make. All I can do is love them, pray they don’t get hurt too badly, and be ready to help them as I can. Parents, your window of influence in your childrens’ lives is temporary.
11. I am surprised at how much I enjoy ballroom dancing classes with my wife.
12. I love deer hunting. I love that I learned it from my Dad and my brother. It doesn’t hurt that I enjoy eating venison. ;)
13. I enjoy teaching (Sunday School, Boy Scouts, or wherever). My father taught for a living. I admire educators who care about their students.
14. I have a tendency to be overdramatic.
15. For a job I manage computer programmer types. I think I’m a pretty good manager in that I do the important stuff well… but lately I’ve really been poor at some of the little things.
16. Some days I seem about as observant as a washcloth.
17. America won’t see significant economic revival with band-aid “stimulus” spending bills; especially if the spending is based so much on debt. We need to quit taxing income and start taxing consumption… until we go to a system like the Fair Tax, other efforts won’t make much of a difference.
18. Rev. Rick Warren’s popular book “A Purpose Driven Life” has the best topic sentences I’ve ever seen. You could get the sense of the entire book just by reading the first sentence of each of the forty chapters. Chapter One starts with “It’s not about you.”
19. America’s biggest problem isn’t economic – it’s moral. Many of us live as if we’re the center of the universe and we can do as we please without consequences.
20. I appreciate the friends in my life who care enough to confront me when I’m wrong… especially if they’re kind while they’re doing it.
21. My younger two kids are ten years separated from their older three siblings. I love all five of the kids. It’s really fun to be reminded of the first three’s childhoods by stuff we see the latter two doing. It helps ease the pain of seeing the older three grow up and leave (or prepare to leave) the “nest”.
22. I love to laugh. I enjoy making others laugh when I can.
23. I admire Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity. He wasn’t perfect, but he had a deep if indirect impact on the lives of more than one million people in need.
24. I wish my church was larger, but I wonder if that isn’t merely a pride thing.
25. I had my first opportunity to go snorkeling this past summer. I loved it. It was like swimming in an aquarium.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Couple of Firsts

Today the nation completed another peaceful transfer of power. It's always a point of pride that we do that so well. History is loaded with political leaders who never willingly step off the stage. I'm thankful that Americans haven't gone there... once an election has been decided, the transition is peaceful and usually smooth.

It's well documented that this is the first African-American President. I'm glad for America that we have shown that minority candidates can be elected. It's now not just empty talk that there is opportunity at all levels in America. Real equality will come should he be judged on the quality of his leadership rather than favored merely for the pigment of his skin.

The second "first" is one thing that concerns me, and I hope it to be an unfounded concern. This is the first day that President Obama has ever been an executive in charge of anything. He has spent his career organizing communities and sitting on committees in legislatures. Legislators have hours to ponder issues and can vote "present" when it's inconvenient for them to take a stand. As President, Obama now must make decisions on the spot and there's no avoiding the difficult issues.

I remember how angry many liberals were with Bill Clinton after his Inauguration when it became apparent to them that he wasn't doing everything they wanted. I wonder how President Obama will keep his vast following happy. It seems that Rep. Pelosi is already complaining about his economic package (surprise, surprise).

I pray that God will pour upon this man the wisdom and courage he'll need to lead this country. He's our President now. Let's hope he has good judgment and leadership abilities.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Goodbye, Jenn

Jenn Viveiros was taken from us Saturday. A close friend to my teenagers and a frequent participant in the church youth group with them, Jenn was friendly and upbeat. She enjoyed many ultimate frisbee games in the church back yard with David, Seth, Zach, Aly, and Sam (and many others).

How can we make sense of this tragedy? I don't believe we can. Some things I may never know nor understand. It may never make sense to me.

The pain is stark, blunt, and hard. I cannot imagine the agony her parents must be experiencing. I can see the impact her loss is already having on my family.

May God help us all to get through this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You asked for it, America.

As I write this I'm seeing the White House go to Sen. Obama (who has never been in charge of anything). It is thoroughly underwhelming.

I walked away from the television after having heard enough gloating to last a lifetime (before 10pm).

What I fear this means I described in my previous post. I pray that I'm wrong.

My anger may settle... I cling to my God (and any guns I may own) while ambiguous "CHANGE" is imposed upon me.