Annual Thanksgiving Day Reflections – 2014

This should be one of the easiest Thanksgiving Day reflections I have ever written, for the very simple reason that I am staring at the handiwork of God as I type, and I have the added inspiration of that handiwork being my backyard view here at our house in the desert. I should just get this part out of the way now – I don’t mean to say, “I am thankful because I have a house in the desert”, or “look at me, our view is awesome”. I take the risk of it coming off that way in setting up my piece as I am, so I want to crush that to the best of my ability. Yes, I am thrilled to have this respite home in Rancho Mirage, and certainly the morning view is stunning. BUT I am mentioning it and sharing it NOT to say, “look what I have” – I swear. I am starting off this year’s reflections this way because I want to say , “look what God has done”. The double meaning here is that He created this, AND He has blessed me with the ability to see it. Seeing it as I draft these reflections requires me to share it. I hope that’s all clear enough.

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The truth is that the material blessings in my life are a very small part of what I most feel grateful for this particular Thanksgiving morning. I look at out at these mountains across the fairway and lake and so forth and can only see a God who is big, and it reminds me that I am small. Maybe I am getting old and maybe God has changed my priorities, but I cannot believe how many blessings exist in our lives that we do not have to pay for, that are readily available for us to enjoy, if we just open our eyes. Sure, my backyard looks out at this view, but I don’t own the view – anyone can see what I am seeing, and all of us have eyes on a world that is utterly remarkable for how it was made. Oceans, mountains, lakes, waterfalls – pick your poison – there is creative evidence of the creativity of God right in front of our faces, no matter where we live. I am thankful for this.

I spent years of my life not seeing what was in front of me. Dealing with my own issues or wrestling my own demons or just being too plain self-absorbed, I couldn’t see the mountains because I was too focused on affording the house. Today, if I could afford 100 more of these houses, but didn’t have open eyes to the awe and power of God, it wouldn’t be remotely worth it. I mean that. I am thankful for this perspective.

There has never been a moment I was not thankful for my kids since the day they were born. I don’t really like even thinking about what kind of person I would be if they had not been born. I have always thought they were precious, adorable, and utterly special. But today I am thankful for their unique, personal, total individuality. They think a certain way, act a certain way, dream a certain way, and will become a certain person, because God made them with souls, image-bearers of Him, for whom He has a plan. As a parent this reality has not been real enough to me, and over the last year it has become more real. For this, I am thankful.

Speaking of not wanting to think about what kind of person I would be, my wife and soulmate, Joleen, is the embodiment of my Thanksgiving in so many ways. She is her own person, with her own personality, driven by what she is driven for, and simultaneously she is my partner, at my side, a total part of my life. She is a model of sacrifice and love for others, and she is determined, industrious, productive, and amazing. We have passed 13 years of married life together, and I am grateful for all 8,087 days we have had together.

I worry that people think I talk too much about my career, my clients, my love of portfolio management, etc. So I won’t pile on here. I am thankful for this moment this year, which was a symbolic summary of gratitude felt up and down my professional life.

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There has been a lot that has happened in my life over the last 523 days, but there has been a lot that has happened in my life the last 6,930 days as well. The former number may seem random but the latter number is how long it has been since my father died. In a lot of ways adulthood started that day, though I had been pretty well prepped for it (by him) beforehand. I could never explain the nature of the journey I have been on since my dad died, both to find myself, to find God, to find peace, and to find success. That journey continues today, albeit with a lot of progress made and a lot of clarity. That progress and clarity I reference are things for which I am thankful.

2014 has enabled a long-time dream of mine to come to fruition, and that is the birth of a faith-based, rigorous private high school in my hometown of Newport Beach, CA. Fall 2015 will see doors open with the inaugural class, but the work we have done over the last year to make this dream a reality has been a blessing. I have incredible partners in this dream-actualizing – Keith, David, Mike, Scott, Matt, Luis, and Ben – and countless others who are joining the team to create a multi-generational institution for liberal arts learning, and more importantly, life preparation. For these men and this opportunity, I am thankful.

There is nothing I am more thankful for this year than the enhanced serenity God has given me, even when I have least deserved it. I live life at a fast pace, and i am at peace with the fact that that is who God made me. But people like me are at risk of a severe “miss” in their lives if they are not careful – missing the mountains in the backyard, missing the funny things their four-year old says, missing their wife’s smile when they head off to work, missing those “moments” in one’s life where the greatest joy and satisfaction can be found. I have a certain symbol of the success God has given me here at this house and in this backyard. But I swear to you this beautiful Thanksgiving morning, that what I most have, is a symbol of moments I never want to miss. And yes, for this, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
– Abraham Lincoln

A Quick Election Postmortem – A Wave by Any Other Name

There is a danger in two things the day after an election: Excessively mourning the results, and excessively celebrating the results. No election, ever, means nearly as much as we want to think it does. Culture trumps politics. For a conservative Republican to believe that America woke up Wednesday morning more personally responsible and interested in limited government than they were a few days ago is insane. Now, the good news there is that America was never as interested in a statist society as the doomsdayers portend either. At our core, we are a center right country, and I am quite confident we will remain such. Only professional fundraisers have a right to say that a given election means the end of the Republic, and only fools believe that with 54 Republican senators we can now get on to the business of fixing all that ails the world. In reality, some very, very good things took place Tuesday night, and a lot of work remains to be done.

I believe NBC, the WaPo, you, me, and anyone else knew that the GOP would take the Senate Tuesday night. I believe we were in danger of losing either KS or GA (probably not both), and that didn’t happen. I believe we could have lost one of CO, AK, or IA on the day of. But the polls were clear as can be (aggregate, composite polls like what RCP offers): Seven states were coming, and eight/nine were a possibility. We got nine. (I am counting Alaska and Louisiana and assuming the Dem, Warner, holds in VA if they recount). So really, the mere sending of Harry Reid to the irrelevant pile where that unpatriotic windbag belongs is not a surprise, though I concur it is a victory. But just like stock prices only respond to good news when it is a surprise, I want to focus on unexpected good news.

The Governor seats were simply extraordinary Tuesday night. Deep blue states going red, and deep blue states ALMOST going red, is a big deal. The wave of people who doubt the efficiency of government, if not its morality or legitimacy, must be converted from the state house to the White House. This election may not have been a rejection of nanny state government (I wish it were), but I do believe the failed ObamaCare website, the VA hospital debacle, the pension crisis countless states face, and the foreign policy miscalculations of this administration all serve up a highly skeptical omelette about the COMPETENCE of big government. I make a moral argument against big government (or rather, for individual freedom), but voters are content to ride along side me with an efficiency argument against big government (right now). The GOP would be wise to message this immutable law into 2016: Big government will always mess it up, always (when the task in question is outside the scope of their legitimate power).

I am mystified why so many on the right are skeptical about what this GOP majority will do. I challenge the haters to name one single malignant law that the post-2010 Republican House has allowed to enter the fray. I get that there are still pouty children in our party wondering why we can’t pound our fist and get everything we want, but from a checks and balances standpoint, this GOP has held the line. We did not elect bad Republican senators on Tuesday night. Gardner, Cotton, Sullivan, Cassidy, Ernst, and Tillis are conservative stars. They are grown-ups. They are ready for the task at hand. Unlike 2002, we scored in both quantity AND quality Tuesday night. For this we should be grateful.

Scott Walker’s re-election is a big deal. The public employee unions are losing their power in much of America (not in California). They are the demon of American politics and they have shown more contempt for the good of the American people than any other force or special interest in American history. This battle is not over but we are making incremental progress (not in California). We have more work to do.

The Virginia Senate seat is the biggest surprise of the election, and obviously us Monday Morning quarterbacks now wish we had supported Gillespie. I’d love to know who is polling that state so I could fire them (right, Eric Cantor?), but I suspect it reinforces the thesis that a lot of purples are just not happy being blue right now.

The Republicans will win the 2016 Presidential election if they nominate a likable and charismatic and competent candidate who can avoid being polarizing (sorry Cruz and Paul) and also hold the line of ideological solidity and political competence. We have folks on the bench who can do that. I’ll address this more as time goes by.

The GOP does not have a mandate now to start acting stupid. The American people want to see action, but they also want to see maturity, poise, and sobriety. We do not need to go along to get along, and we do not need to come off like radicals and flamethrowers jockeying for a plug from Rush Limbaugh. The GOP ought to rule for the next two years the way they got elected two days ago. They nominated sensible and impressive candidates, and they ran disciplined campaigns. Let’s go work for two years with sensibility and discipline. Good things will happen.

I agreed with leadership’s decision to not attempt a Contract with America II in advance of this election. This was a referendum on the failed Presidency of Barack Obama and the American people’s dissatisfaction with governmental incompetence. But now, it is imperative that we proactively lead with issues. We may not override Presidential vetoes, but corporate tax reform, the Keystone pipeline, energy export allowances, school choice, and a host of pro-growth, pro-jobs issues exist that we can and should push, promote, and fertilize. As Thatcher said to Bush Sr., now is not the time to get wobbly.

God’s Business

I heard a well-known Christian leader and author inform 250 successful Christian businesspeople and donors a few days ago that “your business is just a side business; you cannot ever lose track of the fact that your real business is God’s business”.

I am not saying his name or organization because I do not want what I say to be construed as me picking on him, for I am not. His viewpoint is typical of what is said today in American evangelical Christianity, and his viewpoint probably comes from good and decent motives. But what he said is ludicrous, dangerous, and in need of correction.

The notion that we have sort of two tiers to our lives – the extra-terrestrial level where all real spiritual work is done, and then the merely material where we do the “have to” stuff (you know, like run our businesses) – is unfounded in Scripture. I am happy to grant those who hold to this mentality that our business and marketplace efforts do not represent the entirety of our Kingdom identity. Indeed, God cares deeply for our families, our leisure, our church lives, our education, and our cultural endeavors (too). However, the notion that we have a “minor” business (the one we run for a paycheck) which is hugely inferior to the “big one (being God’s business)”, is simply untrue, or better, it is woefully stated.

What exactly, may I ask, IS God’s business? Is not God’s business the redemption of this world? Yes, it is. And does not the redemption of this world include our businesses, our families, our endeavors, our cultural efforts, our finances, etc.? It isn’t His side business, either. He is in the universe business, because after the Fall He covenanted to redeem the universe, and restore it to Himself. He is doing this in history, and in this glorious and eschatological process He has tasked us to work, maximize human dignity, chase our passions and dreams, provide for ourselves and our families, and grow the resources He has given us. The creation mandate is a mandate of growth, and few earthly venues provide more of a canvas for growth than our businesses.

The speaker doesn’t hate business. I know that. But his theology is either consciously wrong or poorly articulated. God’s business is our business, and our business is God’s business. We do not need to tier, prioritize, segment, or belittle anything. We need to work hard, live well, and in so doing, do the business of God.

State of the Senate

It is fascinating to me how these Senate races have turned. RCP now has the Senate going GOP even giving Georgia to Nunn (the Dems) and NOT counting Kansas at all (so if KS goes Dem it would be 51-49 Repub). This also assumes NC stays with Hagan, where most do believe Tillis has a CHANCE to pull that off for the Republicans. So how is this math even possible? Colorado, Iowa, and Alaska all going Repub (along with, of course, Arkansas, Louisiana, and the obvious ones).

Bottom line: We can still fail to cross the finish line. And if we do need Louisiana to do it (vs. having it regardless) we probably are going to need until December to know. Pat Roberts should be utterly ashamed of himself for leaving us in this position in Kansas. I would rather talk about age limits than term limits, but I don’t really mean that. Kansas. Can you believe this? Kansas. Of all states, Kansas might keep us from a GOP Senate majority. Dear Lord.

Iowa is not out of the woods (could go against us) and Georgia is not a lost cause (I still believe Perdue could protect that seat). I’m optimistic enough to say we could win with 53 and I’m pessimistic enough to say we could be stuck at 49. This is going to be a wild ride for the next ten days. At stake is the role of Harry Reid in the governance of this country. No intelligent or decent human being could be comfortable with that kind of implication.

2014 Comprehensive Bahnsen Viewpoint Voting Guide

Mid-term elections can often be more fun than Presidential elections, mainly because more interested and informed voters participate and often there are more consequential things to be voted on (both in the candidate and proposition category). 2014 is no exception. What I have done here is dig into my personal ballot in its entirety, and then spread the research a little outside my ballot to cover various other races I think folks may care about. Should I miss a congressional, ballot, or statewide race you have on your ballot that I don’t cover here please feel free to send my way if you can’t figure it out on your own and I suspect I will be able to uncover some points for your consideration. As much as possible below I have tried to partner my recommendation with a rationale but in some situations for the sake of time it is in a mere list format. Please vote (if you are informed and will be voting with principle, vs. voting like a whore hoping someone will give you something). The latter crude parenthetical is at the heart of all plaguing our democracy: the idea that elections are to deliver us toys instead of more principled and effective governance. Sermon over. Off we go.

California Governor - it is, of course, irrelevant. Jerry will win and win big. The only reason I hope you will vote for Neel Kashkari is that the lower Jerry’s margin of victory proves to be, the theoretical case exists for more restraint from the Governor in a second term. We are a ways off from the GOP playing competitively in a CA Gubernatorial race.

On the Lt. Governor front, the same thing is true (Gavin Newsom will handily beat Ron Nehring). But vote for Ron Nehring, who is articulate, capable, competent, and should have been our guy to lose on the top of the ticket. We do not want a tool like Gavin Newsom going into 2018 with claims of a 20-point win on his resume.

Pete Peterson is our best bet for a statewide GOP win in the Secretary of State race. He is a strong candidate and has a solid shot to win believe it or not based on a lot of complexities in that race and the utter corruption the Dems have brought to that fray. This race means more to me than any of the other statewide races.

I certainly recommend Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin, for statewide controller, but Ashley is not a perfect candidate (who is?). Her support for the High Speed Rail debacle is most unfortunate, but she would be nice to have in that board of equalization spot (likely a tiebreaker).

Ted Gaines as Insurance Commissioner would be the most intelligent GOP member to be in statewide office in over a decade, though he has a tough battle to win this race.

In the Treasurer and Attorney General races, vote for the Republican (who will lose in both cases). Pray that Kamala Harris gets caught in a sex scandal as most abusive Democrat attorney generals do before 2018, because if this person is ever my Governor, I may have to re-visit my Scottsdale real estate agent’s office once again.

Whoever the Board of Equalization candidate is in your district, vote for the Republican. I can see a possible 3-2 win for the GOP here but at worst case a 2-3 minority which is better than 1-4.

As for U.S. congressional seats, Mimi Walters will be a great replacement to John Campbell for those living there, and if you are in the 48th just pray that Dana retires in two years and someone else runs. It is sad that the 48th is in this position, but Dana will win, and that’s that with that. One day it will be different. If you are in north county Ed Royce is one of the best representatives the Congress has.

For my Orange County friends, few races have people more fired up than State Assembly DIstrict #74. A Republican vs. Republican race features Keith Curry (Newport Beach two-time mayor and sitting city councilman and retired business owner) vs. Matt Harper (HB mayor; various local govt staff jobs over the years). This seat is as safely Republican in any year as any district in the country, but because I LOATHE cronyism in local and state politics – loathe it, especially from Republicans – and because I believe we need credible, serious, experienced, mature candidates to represent us in Sacramento, I urge you to vote for Keith Curry. I have barely heard a single honest thing said against Keith Curry throughout this campaign. What I know is that he has not lived at the trough of government paychecks throughout his life, and has absolutely no motive in seeking this seat other than making some difference in Sacramento. He is a Reagan Republican, which means he is both principled and pragmatic. Keith and I do not agree on every single issue, but I fear what happens statewide if we send less-than-credible candidates to Sacramento in the few seats we actually win. Matt has chosen for whatever reason to prosecute an entirely disingenuous campaign against Keith. Keith Curry will serve in statewide office in a manner that pleases conservatives, and doesn’t make liberals laugh at his antics.

Other statewide assembly or senate races outside my own district:

Mario Guerra in the 32nd (this would be a huge pick-up)
Pat Bates in the 36th
Young Kim in the 65th (for assembly); this too would be huge
Bill Brough in the 73rd
Ling Ling Chang in the 55th

I hope you will vote for Janet Nguyen in the 34th State Senate District, but I would be voting for the “Republican” after her name, not for her. It is a chance to take the super-majority level of the legislature from the Democrats, though I remain mystified that this was the best candidate the GOP could come up with to pursue this seat. It is a tight race, and we really would be better off with Janet than Solorio who is pretty much unbearable.

I have never voted for a Superintendent of Public Instruction my entire life as my kids are all in private school and always will be. However, Marshall Tuck is an absolutely special candidate (and I would add, a Democrat), fighting the oppressive evils of the state teacher’s unions day in and day out. He is an innovator, a fresh and principled thinker, and he could make a difference – albeit a small one – in that corrosive rot of a culture that is state education bureaucracy.

I am voting for Allan Mansoor over Michelle Steel in my County Supervisor race, though Michelle appears ready to win with a sizable margin. BUT FAR MORE IMPORTANT is the 5th District County Supervisor race, where the Republicans have a chance to elect the most intelligent, principled, capable, honest, competent candidate to the county board we will have elected to ANY office in this county in twenty years: Robert Ming. Can I say that with any more force?

Newport Beach City Council races: For the love of everything you care about, vote for Mayor Rush Hill in the district 3 race. Diane Dixon is unopposed but will be a strong presence on the council. Tim Brown gets my vote in the 4th. Mike Toerge is a NO-BRAINER in the 6th district. I would be happy to entertain any private emails about why I feel so strongly about these races. None are more important than Rush Hill …

Judges:
Kevin Haskins in Superior Court #14

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 1
Alex C. McDonald– 9 (JI: 8, Q: 10) YES
Gilbert Nares– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 8) YES
Terry B. O’Rourke– 7 (JI: 6, Q: 8) YES
James A. McIntyre– 7 (JI: 5, Q: 9) YES

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 2
Thomas E. Hollenhorst– 6 (JI: 5, Q: 8) YES

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 3
David A. Thompson– 8 (JI: 6, Q: 9) YES
Richard M. Aronson– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 9) YES
Richard D. Fybel– 5 (JI: 3, Q: 7) NO
William F. Rylaarsdam– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 9) YES
Kathleen E. O’Leary– 5 (JI: 3, Q: 7) NO
Superior Court Judge; County of Orange; Office 14

I am voting for Webster Guillroy for Assessor behind the recommendation of the always-reliable John Moorlach. I hear good things about Claude Parrish too.

In Costa Mesa I pray you will vote for Jim Righeimer and Tony Capitelli

Measure Y in Newport Beach – yes, yes, yes, yes

State Ballots:
1 – Hardest one to vote on. I loathe everything about general obligation state bond borrowing. I have talked with a plethora of similarly anti-bond, pro-fiscal responsibility conservatives who support this bond, believing it to be one of the truly rare times a GO bond is for a legitimate public infrastructure project, vitally needed, with proper checks and balances in place. I am voting yes.

2 – NO
45 – NO !!!!!!!
46 – NO
47 – YES (may Republicans disagree)
48 – NO
E – No
G – Yes

For all others not on my ballot feel free to email me. I recommend a NO vote on every single school bond you see no matter what. They are killing our children as they delay the need for fiscal sensibility and a renewed commitment to quality and values. They are a drug. Just say no. This also includes the woeful community college bonds.

I recommend a YES on Measure L in Anaheim. I certainly recommend a vote FOR Tom Tait, the fine mayor there who is leading a righteous cause against piggish cronyism …

In Irvine, of course I support the Great Park transparency measure. I also support Larry Agran being indicted.

Around the country, there are no races that I suspect will matter more than Ernst in Iowa and Tillis in North Carolina. I feel good about Cassidy in Louisiana, Cotton in Arkansas, Sullivan in Alaska, and even Gardner in Colorado. Anything can happen. Never forget: Cheaters usually win, and Harry Reid cheats better than anyone. We need a big enough margin everywhere, and period.

Gubernatorially, if the voters in Florida elect Charlie Crist that will pretty much ruin my plans to spend my retirement smacking mosquitoes off of my body, making hurricane preparation plans, and talking about the 4:30pm dinner special. Seriously, if that guy is elected, Floridians get what they deserve. Please don’t do it.

I think I have covered my bases here. I love the United States of America, I love the golden state of California that the unions have ruined, and I love the city of Newport Beach. I believe we are never too far gone to throw in the towel and never too far ahead to run a victory lap. And most importantly, I believe culture trumps politics. All my political friends are wasting their time as long as they believe these races will secure the societal improvement we want. They are but one piece of the puzzle – just one. The rest is where the low hanging fruit lies. Vote early, vote right, and vote with principle.