Category Archives: Elections

#444: Ability versus Popularity

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #444, on the subject of Ability versus Popularity.

The world seems overrun with supposed talent contests in which ordinary people are invited to vote for the winners–the best musicians seems the most common, but other forms of entertainment are not exempt, including the best books.  I generally do not participate in these (that is, I don’t vote in them; not ever having been nominated, I cannot speak to that side of it), and I expect that people who think that I am at least nominally a friend are upset when I don’t rally to support them.  However, I think such support would usually be dishonest, reducing what is supposed to be a measure of ability to a measure of popularity.  Permit me to explain.

I have thought of this many times before, but this morning an announcer on a radio station which is a bit bigger than “local”, being a network of I think four stations covering sections of four states, encouraged listeners to go to a web site and vote for a particular contestant in a televised contest because he happened to live somewhere in the listening area.  Quite apart from the fact that the specific place he lived was at least a hundred miles from where I was when I heard this, that to me seems a very bad–and truly dishonest–basis on which to vote for someone in a talent show.  It wasn’t even suggested that the specific contestant was a listener of the station, which also is a bad basis on which to cast such a vote.  Nor did the announcer suggest that voting should be limited to people who actually saw the show.

I similarly get personal invitations to vote for people I have at least met, or with whom I have interacted over the Internet, who are participating in local contests, usually musical.  I also am encouraged at times to vote for the best books of the year.

The fundamental problem here is that I am ill-informed on the subject.  Often I have not actually heard the musician or band who wants my support–certainly my fault, that I fail to get to concerts and other venues or to watch many internet music videos, but a clear fact.  I also don’t read most of the best-selling books–I rarely read any of them, truth be told, reading books that are less familiar and usually older most of the time.  For me to vote for a band or book based on the fact that I know the artist or author without having any direct exposure to the work is itself dishonest.

So then, does that mean it is less dishonest to vote for the book I read, or the band I heard?  I think not.  If we are voting for the best book of the year, and I read one of them, on what basis am I asserting that this book is better than all the other books published this past year?  If I’ve only heard one of the bands in the competition, what value is my opinion that it is better than all the bands I haven’t heard?

When I was in radio I several times selected what I believed were the most significant Christian albums released over the year.  Arguably popularity could be a factor in significance, but I was more interested in ministry and artistic factors.  Someone once asked me what right I had to presume to review record albums, and I said, as the first point, that my job meant I heard every record released in the genre every year, and my second point that I had studied and performed music and made my own recordings, so I was intimately familiar with the process and the product.  If I chose an album as among the best, I had a reasonable and defensible basis for saying so.

Of course, people have all kinds of reasons for recommending a vote for a particular selection.  This candidate is from our home town, a member of our organization, an advocate of a particular position on an important issue, a member of a minority group, a Christian.  Every single one of those notions is a very poor basis on which to vote for the best in any group.  It devolves to a question of whom we like, and that’s not what we’re supposed to be choosing.

Thus such “talent” contests devolve into popularity contests.  I don’t like popularity contests, and maybe I’ll talk about that on my Patreon web log, but there is fundamentally a problem with determining the best based on who is the most popular–and it is a problem that infects everything in America from television shows to government.

And since it is thus dishonest to vote for who is the best on any basis other than a more than passing familiarity with all the candidates and an honest assessment of their relative merits, almost everyone who votes in such contests is dishonest.  I will not be dishonest that way, and will not ask you to be dishonest on my behalf.

#435: Hindsight is 2021

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #435, on the subject of Hindsight is 2021.

Once again, as we did last year in web log post #371:  The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty and in previous years linked successively back from there, we are recapping everything published in the past year–sort of.

I say “sort of” because once again some material is being omitted.  There have been a few hundred posts to the Christian Gamers Guild Bible Study which can be accessed there but aren’t really fully indexed anywhere.  Meanwhile, the dozen articles in the Faith in Play series and the similar dozen in the RPG-ology series were just indexed yesterday on the Christian Gamers Guild site, along with everything else published there this year, in 2021 At the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, and won’t be repeated here.  The RPG-ology series began recovering articles from Game Ideas Unlimited, the lost four-year weekly series at Gaming Outpost, so I republished its debut article as web log post #384:  Game Ideas Unlimited Introduction, for the sake of completeness. 

I also posted several days a week on my Patreon web log, which announces almost everything I publish elsewhere on the same day it’s published, but again omitting the Bible study posts.

Similarly, we finished posting the novel Re Verse All, featuring Lauren Hastings, Tomiko Takano, and James Beam, from chapter 58 to the end (chapter 156), which are indexed there along with the several behind-the-writings posts on it:

  1. #373:  Nervous Characters covering chapters 55 through 60;
  2. #376:  Characters Arrive covering chapters 61 through 66;
  3. #379:  Character Conundrums covering chapters 67 through 72;
  4. #381:  World Complications covering chapters 73 through 78;
  5. #383:  Character Departures covering chapters 79 through 84;
  6. #385:  Characters Ascend covering chapters 85 through 90;
  7. #388:  Versers Climb covering chapters 91 through 96;
  8. #390:  World Facilities covering chapters 97 through 102;
  9. #392:  Characters Resting covering chapters 103 through 108;
  10. #395:  Character Obstacles covering chapters 109 through 114;
  11. #397:  Verser Challenges covering chapters 115 through 120;
  12. #401:  Characters Hiking covering chapters 121 through 126;
  13. #403:  Versers Innovating covering chapters 127 through 132;
  14. #405:  Versers Converge covering chapters 133 through 138;
  15. #407:  Versers Integrate covering chapters 139 through 144;
  16. #409:  Characters Cooperate covering chapters 145 through 150;
  17. #411:  Quest Concludes covering chapters 151 through 156.

Then there were several related character papers in the Multiverser Novel Support Site, and we then began posting In Verse Proportion, bringing back Joseph Kondor in fantasy Arabia, Bob Slade in industrial age bird world, and Derek Brown on a lost colony spaceship, at this point having reached chapter 39.  It included one behind-the-writings web log post, #432:  Whole New Worlds, covering the first twenty-one chapters.

Yet there was quite a bit more.

Forgive me for burying the lead, as it were, but just as Why I Believe came out late last year, it was followed this year by the release of The Essential Guide to Time Travel:  Temporal Anomalies & Replacement Theory, the long-awaited book on the subject, at the end of June.  This summarizing of much of the information on the Temporal Anomalies web site includes updated analyses of four films and a comprehensive presentation of time travel theory.  Dimensionfold Publishing interviewed me about it by e-mail, which they published here.

Related to that, a reader sent a letter with comments on Why I Believe, which I edited a bit (removing personal references) and posted as web log post #386:  An Unsolicited Private Review.

Now, getting back to other publications, there were another dozen songs published this year:

  1. Web log post #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom”, inspired by the verse about cutting off your hand;
  2. Web log post #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy”, a frenetic bit of musical excitement;
  3. Web log post #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice”, a bit of serious eschatological humor;
  4. Web log post #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good”, with political overtones;
  5. Web log post #393:  The Song “Why”, one of my rare worship songs;
  6. Web log post #399:  The Song “Look Around You”, an old evangelistic song;
  7. Web log post #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command, one of the generally early ones;
  8. Web log post #408:  The Song “Given You My Name”, written for my wife;
  9. Web log post #412:  The Song “When I Think”, which I hope will play at my funeral;
  10. Web log post #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me”, the title self-explanatory;
  11. Web log post #428:  The Song “To the Victor”, another rare worship song;
  12. Web log post #433:  The Song “From Job”, calling believers to repentance.

And there will be another song published today, but since that’s 2022, we’ll not say more about it yet.

I touched on Christian music otherwise in web log post #374:  Christian Instrumental Music, where I raise the question of how to recognize it.  My series on contemporary and rock Christian music in the 80s also continued briefly with web log posts #389:  Brother John Michael Talbot and #391:  Pat Terry.  A question asked on a Christian musicians group on Facebook prompted the writing of web log post #396:  Why Music Matters.

It was a not insignificant election year in New Jersey, but my first political post, #375:  Fixing the Focus, took a more general view, suggesting that Christians need to get our eyes off politics and on faith.  Closely following that, #377:  A New Tragedy of the Common looked at how online shopping was impacting brick & mortar retail.  Another political post with religious connections was #394:  Unplanned, about pregnancies.  With rules related to COVID in flux, in the late spring I posted web log post #398:  New 2021 Face Mask Rules in New Jersey to help a few of my readers.  The really political stuff began with #400:  New Jersey 2021 Primary and #402:  New Jersey 2021 Primary Results, but before the election an issue across the pond in England called for a response in #406:  Internet Racism, asking whether online social media criticism of black athletes should be criminal.

Then as the election loomed I offered #427:  The New Jersey 2021 Ballot, including a quick look at the public questions, followed a few days later by #430:  New Jersey 2021 Tentative Election Results.

I was given a book for Christmas, which I read and reviewed at Goodreads, God Is Disappointed In You, by comic book creator Mark Russell.

Then early in May someone (and I don’t remember who, how, or why) persuaded me to register as a Goodreads author; or maybe I did that earlier, but it was in May that I was persuaded by Goodreads to launch yet another web log, this one entitled The Ides of Mark because it appropriately posted at the middle and end of each month, updating readers on what I had published during that period.  In that sense, it is somewhat redundant, as the aforementioned Patreon web log covers that as it happens, and this annual review recaps it all eventually.  However, Ides also covers postings in the Bible Study and omits a lot of the personal detail about what I’m doing besides writing which the Patreon blog includes, and gives less information about what I am writing that has not yet been published.  This year’s entries have included:

  1. #1:  New Beginnings, May first through fifteenth, launching and explaining the series;
  2. #2:  Establishing Patterns, May sixteenth through thirty-first, featuring several web log posts;
  3. #3:  The Charm, June first through fifteenth, around the primary election;
  4. #4:  About Time, June sixteenth through thirtieth, announcing the publication of the aforementioned time travel book;
  5. #5:  Going Somewhen, July first through fifteenth, citing an Amazon review;
  6. #6:  The First Quarter, July sixteenth through thirty-first, with a scattered batch of articles;
  7. #7:  Getting Noticed, August first through fifteenth, citing evidence that the blog was being read by someone;
  8. #8:  Ends and Starts, August sixteenth through thirty-first, with the end of Re Verse All;
  9. #9:  Quiet on the Surface, September first through fifteenth, including character sheet posts;
  10. #10:  Before the Storm, September sixteenth through thirtieth, with the remaining character sheets;
  11. #11:  Looking Busy, October first through fifteenth, with the launch of In Verse Proportion and the beginning of the series on Exodus, listed below;
  12. #12:  A Frightening Output, October sixteenth through thirty-first, finishing the Exodus series;
  13. #13:  Slowing Down, November first through fifteenth, including the index of the articles in French translation mentioned below;
  14. #14:  Holiday Season, November sixteenth through thirtieth, as activity winds down;
  15. #15:  Not Much Said, December first through fifteenth, continuing the quiet;
  16. #16:  Years Go By, December sixteenth through thirty-first, with my post-Christmas post.

Not all of that is repeated here, but the bulk of it is.  I also answered ten questions there, which you can find here.

Half a decade ago I wrote about those musicians who influenced me; this year it occurred to me to do the same of writers, and so posted #380:  Authorial Influences exploring that.

Quite a few Bible questions came up and were answered, beginning with web log post #410:  When to Pray, followed by a somewhat technical question about a passage in Matthew, #413:  The Abomination of Desolation.  Then another reader asked me to address a long and complicated collection of issues in an article that claimed the Exodus, as reported in the book of that name, never happened, and I produced an eleven-part miniseries of web log posts in response:

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
  4. The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418:  Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?
  5. The fourth objection was summarized and answered in #419:  When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?
  6. In response to the fifth objection we wrote #420: Were the Hygiene Requirements in Exodus Impossible to Observe?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?
  8. For the seventh objection, we addressed the issue of anachronisms, and particularly those related to place names, in #422:  Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?
  9. The absurdity of the eighth objection is displayed in #423:  What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?
  10. We looked at the penultimate objection in #424:  Did the Earth Really Stop Turning?
  11. Finally, the point was raised that there were similarities between the life of Moses and earlier accounts of Sargon, which led to the conclusion Do Similarities Between the Accounts of Moses Birth and Certain Myths Make Him a Fictional Character?, which also addresses a few final points.

After that, a Patreon patron asked about horror, so I produced #426:  A Christian View of Horror.  Comments on a Facebook group page related to one of my colleges concerning the fact that the campus is almost completely obliterated led to the writing of #429:  Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts, about the legacy such a place has without any memorial markers for the site.  I also finished the year last week with a post-Christmas post, #434:  Foolish Wisemen, something of a pre-epiphany epiphany.

Finally, I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the people at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, under which they have translated and republished quite a few of my articles.  I finally took the time to organize these into an index in English, at least for my own reference, which I made available as web log post #431:  Mark Joseph Young En Fran├žais, with links to such English versions as are available.

The writing of course continues, with more articles already in the queue, more work being done on the next novel, and more posted every week.  Thank you for reading, and particularly to those of you who have encouraged me through posts and reposts and likes, and who have supported me through Patreon or PayPal.me and the purchase of my books.

#430: New Jersey 2021 Tentative Election Results

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #430, on the subject of New Jersey 2021 Tentative Election Results.

The 2021 election was not without its surprises, although it was not that surprising.

In the category of expected, both houses of the legislature are still controlled by the Democratic party.  However, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeny, who has been in the Senate since 2001 and served as its president since 2009, lost his legislative seat to Republican Edward Durr, whom we interviewed when he ran (unsuccessfully) for the Assembly two years ago.

As of Wednesday night (11/3) the election was called in favor of incumbent governor Phil Murphy.  However, with only 90% of estimated results reported, a lead of less than 1%, and a mere twenty thousand vote difference, it is likely that there will be a recount.

Meanwhile, although the second public question expanding raffles in the state passed, voters rejected the first question expanding collegiate sports betting, which will continue to be limited.

If there’s more news on the gubernatorial race, we will return with it.

#427: The New Jersey 2021 Ballot

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #427, on the subject of The New Jersey 2021 Ballot.

It’s a big election in New Jersey this year, as the two executive offices are up for election along with every seat in both houses of the state legislature.  Also, there are again two public questions on the ballot, as New Jerseyans are again asked to amend the state constitution to allow something new.

The sheer number of seats in the two legislatures makes it impossible to cover the candidates with any accuracy.  Democrats control both houses presently, and given the fact that New Jersey’s demographics are gradually shifting more urban and less rural/suburban, that is unlikely to change.

However, the gubernatorial race has been very hot, as each of the two major candidates has been attacking the other.

Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy (left in the picture) is a former Goldman Sachs executive, ambassador to Germany, and National Democratic party finance chair.  He has been largely responsible for New Jersey’s response to COVID.  Some will say that this was an excellent program which saved New Jersey from disaster, given that a significant part of the state was a short commute from New York City, which had rapidly become the epicenter of the disease.  Others will say that the governor pushed a nanny-state agenda, imposing unnecessary restrictions and regulations on businesses and citizens.  The balance on this might tip the election.

If re-elected Murphy will almost certainly continue to press the progressive programs of the Democratic party.  No Democrat has served two terms since Brendan Byrne in the 1970s, but the office has tended to bounce back and forth between the two parties.

His main opponent is Republican Jack Ciattarelli (pictured, right), a former state assemblyman who campaigns simply as Jack.  He has a Masters of Business Administration, and promises to fix New Jersey’s problems, asserting that Murphy is out of touch with the real citizens of the state, and that taxes are out of hand and the governor has handled allegations of sexual misconduct poorly.  Murphy, meanwhile, claims that Ciattarelli will turn back the progressivist advances in areas like abortion.

This is unlikely.  As noted, both legislative houses in New Jersey are controlled by the democrats, and that is unlikely to change in this election.  As such, a Republican governor could potentially slow the rapid slide to the left, but probably could not shift the state to the right.

On that point, there is a benefit in having the executive and the legislature held by opposing parties:  it prevents either party from enacting its most extreme policies, reining in government to a more moderate position.

There are three “third party” candidates on the ballot, the Green Party’s Madelyn Hoffman, Libertarian Gregg Mele, and Socialist Workers Party Joanne Kuniansky.  Votes for third party candidates in most elections essentially support the victory of the major party candidate most opposite that position, that is, the voter who thinks that the Libertarian candidate is a better choice than the Republican and so votes that way weakens the Republican candidate helping the Democrat get into office, in the same way that votes for the Green or Socialist Workers party tend to benefit the Republicans.

The office of Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey is not elected independently, but as with the Vice Presidency to the President is the gubernatorial candidate’s running mate.

*****

Both of our public questions would expand gambling in the state if approved.

The first question concerns collegiate sports betting.  New Jersey currently allows betting on sports, but with the caveat that New Jerseyans cannot place bets on any games involving New Jersey college teams, either at home or away.  This question would amend the constitution so as to remove that restriction.

Betting on sports events has only been permitted for less than a decade, and local collegiate sports were always excluded.  The fear generally is that wagering on sports always has the potential to result in pressure on players, and that this would be bad for college students.  However, since the restriction doesn’t cover all college events (New Jersey gamblers may bet on games in which both teams are from out-of-state colleges), there is some reason to question its value.

The second question pertains to raffles and similar fundraising efforts (e.g., Bingo).  There is a long list of organizations permitted to conduct these in New Jersey which includes such groups as volunteer fire departments, veterans groups, charitable organizations, schools, and religious organizations, but requires that the proceeds of any such activities be used for specific activities such as charity and education, and that only veterans and senior citizens groups can use the proceeds of such activities to support their own groups.

The amendment reduces the restriction by permitting all groups currently permitted to hold raffles to apply the net proceeds of those raffles to their own groups, that is, a civic group such as the Rotary Club could hold a raffle and then use the proceeds to fund the Rotary Club itself, instead of being required to apply the money to one of the short list of approved uses.

Exactly how much difference that would make is unclear, other than that there are likely to be more raffles in the future if it passes.

#402: New Jersey 2021 Primary Results

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #402, on the subject of New Jersey 2021 Primary Results.

With 96% of the votes counted, it may be that they have stopped counting because the results are settled.  In fact, on the Democratic side, Governor Phil Murphy was declared the winner with 0% of the votes counted.  Obviously on the Republican side, the 38% of voters who were undecided either made up their minds or didn’t go to the polls.

Former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattareli might be said to have swept the Republican primary.  In a four-way race he took over 49% of the vote.  He had been polling (as previously reported) around 29%.  Although he did not quite draw half the vote, he did take at least the plurality in every county, leading the other candidates not only state-wide but everywhere in the state.

The surprise in the race is Philip Rizzo.  Previous polling at 8%, he took a hair shy of 26% of the primary vote.  This being his first foray into the political arena, we might be seeing him again.

Hirsh Singh had perhaps a disappointing run, as he lost a point and a half off his poll number of 23% to pull a half point over 21% in the vote.  It is not clear which of the other candidates benefited from that.

The distant fourth place finalist, former Franklin Township Mayor and Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine, picked up a point from his 2% polling number to just over 3% in the election.

So Lord willing we will return with a look at our top contenders and other thoughts on the election, between now and November sometime.

#400: New Jersey 2021 Primary

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #400, on the subject of New Jersey 2021 Primary.

I must admit that the primary snuck up on me this year–it’s today, June 8th, 2021, and I only discovered this last night.  So I have rushed through a bit of research to get this for you.  We are electing a governor this year; that’s not all we’re electing, but that’s the big deal.

On the Democratic side, Governor Phil Murphy (pictured) is not exactly running unopposed.  Although his is the only name on the ballot, Lisa McCormick is formally listed as a write-in candidate.  Her name was struck from the ballot due to evidence that some of the signatures on her nominating petition were fraudulent.

On the Republican ballot, there are four contenders, but the leading percentage of voters as of yesterday had 38% undecided.  Otherwise, Jack Ciattarelli holds the lead with 29% of the voters in most recent polls and all the major endorsements.  He has served in the State Assembly, started two successful businesses, has an M.B.A. from Seton Hall, and owns a publishing company.  He recognizes Trump as the legitimate standard bearer of the party until a new leader is elected even though Biden won the 2020 election.  He promises economic improvement for the state.

Some distance behind him, at 23% of the vote, is Hirsh Singh, an avid Trump supporter who believes the 2020 election was fraudulent.  Singh is an engineer with a bachelor’s degree covering engineering science, biomedical engineering, and material science, with experience in the fields of missile defense, satellite navigation, and aviation security.  He has no political experience.

Philip Rizzo is third with 8% of the vote in the polls.  His bachelors from Villanova is in business management, he has held no previous political office, but he has worked in real estate and construction and served as a pastor.  He met with Trump in May at Mar-a-Lago, and compared his campaign to Trump’s 2016 run.

Finally, polling at 2%, is Brian Levine.  Former Mayor of Franklin Township and Somerset County Freeholder, his bachelors degree is in economics, from Rutgers, and he is a C.P.A.  He is running a grassroots campaign.  He says he supports some of Trump’s policies, but that the party needs to take its eyes off Trump and put them on economic issues.

In addition to the governor’s race, both New Jersey legislative houses are up for complete replacement.  Most of these races, though, are uncontested at the primary level, and those that are contested would take too much space and address too few readers to be worth covering here (we have forty districts).

I shall endeavor to provide additional information once the primary dust settles and we know who the candidates are for the November election.

#375: Fixing the Focus

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #375, on the subject of Fixing the Focus.

I have previously written decrying polarization, and have touched on it enough times since that it is a key word in this web log.  It concerns me that things are not improving.

Being a moderate, I have discussions with people on both sides of the divide.  In the wake of the past few months, some–Christians–have been actively attempting to prove that the Presidency has been stolen by voter fraud on a massive scale, while others–also Christians–have been thanking God that the madman has been removed from the White House.  Both reactions seem extremist to me, and somewhat foolish, but I understand them.

Obviously the attack on the Capitol building in Washington was unreasonable.  The degree to which President Trump was responsible for this is something that will probably be discussed for a long time, even if it is decided by Congress.

As to that, I think that the impeachment action is a vindictive and undemocratic display of fear.  There are only two reasons to impeach a departing President.  One is to make it possible for him to face criminal charges for actions taken while in office, which means that the evidence will have to be taken to the courts if the impeachment motion carries.  The other is to prevent the man from running for office again–and that’s the undemocratic part of it.  It suggests that the party in control of Congress believes it is possible that the outgoing President could be re-elected in a future run, and they want to prevent his millions of supporters from being able to put him back in office–clearly an attack against their rights.

As my friend John Walker recently posted on Facebook,

When either side of a political structure tries to convince you that the the opposite view is the enemy, it’s time to stop believing in sides.

Yet both sides have been espousing this for most of this new century, and our political landscape is riddled with people who believe it.

It has been so for long enough that I am fairly certain nothing I can say will have a significant impact on this.

Yet I will not say nothing.

I will, rather, cite a preacher I heard on my local Christian radio station this week.  He very wisely said that Christians are called to bring about spiritual change, not political change.  Political and economic and social change might come from spiritual change–it has happened in the past–but our calling is to focus on the spiritual, to point people to Christ.  Christians fighting political battles are probably missing what is truly important.

‘Nuf said.

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and PayPal.me, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.

#363: The 2020 Election in New Jersey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #363, on the subject of The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

I was waiting for the vote count to be complete so I could pass the information to you, and it seems that there were a couple of congressional seats that were close enough that the counting continued into sometime Saturday.  The last to be resolved happened to be my own district, District 2, which was also perhaps the most interesting district election in the state, but we’ll get to that.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all three ballot questions passed.  I say not surprisingly because in as long as I’ve been covering New Jersey political news (which is not really so long as all that, but it’s been a few years now) I have never seen a ballot question fail.  I am reliably informed that sometimes they do, but not this time.

So what do they mean?  We discussed them last week in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, but here’s a quick review and summary.

Question #1, on the Legalization of Marijuana, has been widely misunderstood by people eager to get their hands on the stuff.  It does not mean that you can now legally grow your own marijuana.  It means that you can legally buy it from state-sponsored distribution outlets, of which I understand there are eight set up to provide cannabis for medicinal use which will now also handle recreational supplies.  The legislature is expected to create some laws next year that will regulate other aspects of its legal use, but don’t rush out and set up your own business just yet.  Expect to pay the state price plus the state sales tax, plus potentially up to a 2% local municipal sales tax which the municipalities are authorized to add.

Question #2 provides Tax Relief for Veterans, extending a property tax break previously given to veterans who served in time of war to all veterans.

Question #3 updates Redistricting Rules in anticipation of the possibility that the census data might be delayed, to give the state sufficient time to create new districts in that case.

All incumbents up for re-election, which means all federal offices on which we voted, kept their seats.  That means Senator Cory Booker plus twelve members of the House of Representatives, by district:

  1. Democrat Donald Norcross;
  2. Republican Jeff Van Drew;
  3. Democrat Andrew Kim;
  4. Republican Chris Smith;
  5. Democrat Jeff Gottheimer;
  6. Democrat Frank Pallone;
  7. Democrat Tom Malinowski;
  8. Democrat Albio Sires;
  9. Democrat Bill Pascrell;
  10. Democrat Donald Payne, Jr.;
  11. Democrat Mikie Sherrill;
  12. Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman.

As mentioned, the interesting race–and the one that was decided last–was district 2.  In New Jersey, some say that what gets you elected is name recognition, others say it is party affiliation.  Van Drew has held the District 2 Congressional seat since 2012.  He might not be a household name, but his name is not unfamiliar.  On the other hand, when he was elected he was a Democrat, and during this most recent term, influenced by President Trump, he became a Republican.  So the question was, would name recognition return him to his seat, or would party affiliation get him bumped?  It was apparently close, but he remains the Congressman from District 2, giving the state two Republicans in the House against its ten Democrats.

Again not surprisingly Democrat Joe Biden carried the Presidential race in the state, and as of this writing most media outlets have declared him the winner nationally.  There are a number of legal actions nationwide, but none of them look promising enough to overturn that.  The Senate is currently 48 Democrats to 47 Republicans with five races still undetermined.  The House still has forty-two undecided races, with Democrats ahead 201 to 192; thus far Republicans have gained six seats (winning eight previously held by Democrats but losing two to the Democrats).  There is a good chance Democrats will hold majorities in both houses, but it is not certain.  Since Georgia is going to have at least one and possibly two run-off elections, it might be months before the dust settles completely.

#360: Voting in 2020 in New Jersey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #360, on the subject of Voting in 2020 in New Jersey.

I was watching for my annual sample ballot, and realized that what I received instead was a mail-in ballot, and that due to its not entirely unjustified COVID paranoia the state wants all of us to mail in our votes.  They are not opening as many polling places this year, and would rather no one come to them.  (Given the public fights that have occurred over the current Presidental race, one might think that the disease issue is an excuse, but we’ll take their word for it that that’s the reason.)  In the past such mass mail-in voting systems have been fraught with fraud, and already there are reports of fraud in the present election, but the penalties are fairly severe including loss of the right to vote, so the best advice is don’t tamper with any ballot that is not your own.

My initial reaction was to write this article on how to vote.  Then I saw that both Google and Facebook were promoting pages on how to vote, and thought I would be redundant.  Then I rummaged through the pack of papers which came in the envelope and decided that it was a bit confusing, and perhaps I should tackle it.

It is important to understand that your packet contains two envelopes, and you might need them both.  Mine also contained two ballots, one for the general election and a second for the school election, so be aware of that as well.

You will need a pen with black or blue ink.  Ballot readers cannot process red ink or most other colors, and pencil is considered subject to tampering.

The school ballot, assuming you receive one, is specific to your district, and probably is just candidates for the local school board.  It should be marked and placed with the other ballot in the envelopes, as discussed below.

The general election ballot is two sided, at least in my district, with candidates for office and three somewhat extensive and controversial public questions on the other.  Avoid making any marks outside those indicating your selections.  The ballot this year includes:

  • President Trump and his Vice President Pence, with those running against them;
  • Senator Booker, with those running against him;
  • one seat in the United States House of Representatives, specific to your congressional district
  • Some number of county/local offices.

Each candidate name is in its own box, rows across identifying the office, columns down generally the political party.

In the upper right corner of each candidate’s box is a small hard-to-see red circle.  fill in the circle completely of each candidate for whom you are voting.  You are not obligated to vote for anyone simply to have voted for someone for that office, that is, you can decide to leave a row blank.  There is a write-in space to the far right end.

In most districts, you will have to flip the ballot over to get to the ballot questions, and these are somewhat important this year.  The questions are, of course, yes/no votes, with the little red circles at the bottom of the page below the Spanish text.

Question #1:  Legalization of Marijuana.

The state wants to amend the (state) constitution to allow regulated sales of something called cannabis to those at least 21 years old.  There is already a Cannabis Regulatory Commission in the state to control our medical marijuana supply, and they would oversee this.  The bill includes a clause permitting local governments to tax retail sales.

It should be observed that the restriction to those at least 21 years old is likely to be about as effective as the similar restriction on alcohol use.  On the other hand, a lot of our court and jail system is clogged with marijuana user cases.  Yet again, whatever the state decides, marijuana use will still be a federal crime, and it will still be legal for employers to terminate an employee who fails a reasonably required drug test.

This would be a constitutional amendment, so if the change is made, it is permanent.

I have previously suggested issuing drinking licenses which I indicated could be used if the state decided to legalize other drugs.

Question #2:  Tax Relief for Veterans

When you enlist in the military, it’s something of a crap shoot:  even if you know we are at war when you enlist, you don’t know whether you will wind up fighting.  Still, there is a benefits distinction between those who served during times of war and those who served, ready to fight if necessary, during times of peace.  One of those distinctions is that those who were enlisted during times of war get property tax deductions, and those who are disabled get better ones.  Question #2 would extend those benefits to veterans who served in peacetime, including those who are disabled.

Veterans get a lot of benefits; on the other hand, we should not begrudge them these.  There might be a difference between those who fought and those who didn’t, but that’s not the distinction the law makes–it rather distinguishes those who served during a war even if they were behind a desk in Washington from those who served during peacetime even if they were part of military aid to other war-torn countries.  There are good reasons to remove the distinction, and I’m not persuaded that the reduction in property tax income is a sufficient counter argument.

Question #3:  Redistricting Rules

The United States Constitution requires a census every decade.  The states are then required by their own constitutions to use that information to create new voting districts that more fairly represent their populations.  This year the fear is that due to COVID-19 the census data is going to be delayed and will not be delivered to the state in time to create the new districts for the fall 2021 election cycle.

To address this, the legislature has proposed an amendment that states that if census data is not delivered to the governor by a specific date in the year ending 01, previous districts will be used for those elections and the redistricting commission will have an extra year to get the issue addressed.

It sounds simple and logical, but there are those opposing it as potentially racist and benefiting politicians, not people.  On the other hand, it solves a potential problem before it becomes serious.  It would apply to any future situations in which a similar information problem occurred, and while this has never happened before and might not happen even now, contingencies are worth having.

Submitting the Ballot

One of the two envelopes has some bright red and yellow coloring on it plus your name and registered address and a bar code.  Once the ballots are completed, they go into this envelope.  I will call this the ballot envelope.

It is necessary that the information on the flap of the ballot envelope be completed.  This includes your printed name and address at the top and your signature, the same signature that is on the voter registration rolls.

Once you have completed this, you have three options, one of which creates more complications in filling out the envelopes.

One is to use the other envelope to deliver the ballot by United States Mail.  This envelope has the postage pre-paid business reply certification, addressed to your County Board of Elections.  I will call this the mailing envelope.  If you do this, it must be postmarked not later than 8:00 PM Eastern Time on Election Day (November 3 this year) and must be received within a period of days specified by law.  After having sealed the ballot envelope, place it in the mailing envelope such that your name and address on the ballot envelope appears in the clear window on the back of the mailing envelope, and seal that as well.  Your name and address should be written to the top left on the front.  It can then be mailed by any normal means.

The second is that there are reportedly ballot drop boxes, generally at polling locations, and you can insert the ballot envelope in the ballot box (without the outer mailing envelope) to deliver it directly to the board of elections.  This too must be done by or before 8:00 PM Eastern Time on Election Day.

The third is that you can use either of these methods but have someone else deliver your ballot either to the ballot box or the mailbox on your behalf.  No one is permitted to deliver more than three ballots, including his own, in an election, and no one who is a candidate can deliver a ballot that is not his own.  A person who handles your ballot must put his name, address, and signature on the ballot envelope and, if mailed, on the mailing envelope.

So that’s the whole ball of wax, as they say.  Remember, you should vote if you have reason to do so, but you should not feel obligated to vote for any office or any issue about which you are uninformed.