Friday, July 30, 2004

I actually listened to Kerry's acceptance speech last. I wanted to be moved, inspired, called to action. But I had to face the reality that Kerry really isn't that dynamic of a speaker. Thankfully, Edwards is. Kerry did say one thing that resonated with me:

"And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

Amen to that. The full text of his speech is here.

Lesson of the day for my employees:

Honest mistakes happen. Careless, stupid mistakes happen too. Being honest about them and working to learn from them is a good thing. Lying about them and trying to cover them up is not such a good thing. Hoping that I don't find out about them is probably not the best strategy in this case. Treating the person badly that actually tells me the truth is not a good thing either.

Is it too much to ask for people to behave like adults?

My mentor believed that if we lived in a less litigious world, a personnel manual would only need two statements:

1.) Use your own best judgment at all times.
2.) Respect human dignity.

Not bad advice for life, either. He also had a plaque on his wall that said,

Trust in God. But lock your car.



Thursday, July 29, 2004

I may hate politics, but at least I've still got my sense of humor...
I'm going to take this opportunity to plug something that probably in no way needs a plug from me.  Last night I stayed up past my bedtime to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  As always it was gut-bustingly funny and well worth my time.  They did a beautiful job skewering the Democratic Convention.  How often can you include the words "goat-ball licker" and "turd miner" in what is actually very insightful political commentary?

I'm anxiously awaiting the Republican's turn...except it's almost too easy with them.

It's a pretty sad commentary that Comedy Central's fake news is more educational and insightful than the networks' real news.  Watch it if you can.  You'll be glad you did.  Unless of course you have no sense of humor... then you'll probably hate me.  But that's ok!


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

More on Goldschmidt
There's a great article in the American Journalism Review about the Oregonian's coverage (or lack thereof) of the Neil Goldschmidt scandal.  For those of you outside Oregon, Goldschmidt served as Portland's mayor, Oregon's governor, and Secretary of Transportation under Jimmy Carter.  While he was mayor of Portland he repeatedly raped his 14-year old neighbor.  The story did not break until well after the statute of limitations had passed for statutory rape, unfortunately.

The American Journalism Review discusses how and why the Oregonian (Oregon's largest daily newspaper) missed the story (it was broken by a Portland alternative weekly, Willamette Week) and seemed to be trying to protect Goldschmidt.  It's a long article, but very good.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I used to love politics.  At one point I was active in the Socialist Party of Oregon and involved in a couple of small political protests.  I believed passionately that the two-party system was broken and we needed new voices.  Eventually I decided that being involved in an organization that was completely irrelevant to the political process was a waste of my time.

But at the same time I haven't been able to go back to the Democratic Party.  I can be pretty cynical at times, especially about politics.  I think cynicism requires two things of a person - a lot of optimism - or at least the ability to envision a better future, and a firm grounding in reality.  In the case of American politics, reality quickly overwhelms optimism.

The reality of our political system is very discouraging.  Beyond just being the "art of the possible," I think both parties lack any sort of compelling vision for the future.  But even if they did, they are so bound to special interests through campaign finances that dramatic visions are limited.  Further, the campaign process is totally disingenuous and grounded in distortion, manipulation, and outright lies.  Kerry does it.  Bush does it. 

I yearn for a real discussion of issues.  But I think the reality is that Bush and Kerry are so close ideologically on many issues that there's nothing to discuss.  All they're left with is slinging mud.  I'd love to see a candidate articulate a consistent, comprehensive pro-life ethic.  We need a platform that cares for children in and out of the womb, men, women, and families.  We need a platform that cares as much about Iraqi or Sudanese children as it does unborn American children.  We need a platform that actually cares for working families, rather that using them as an excuse to further enrich the already rich.

I don't believe either candidate offers anything close.  But I'll be voting Kerry, if only because I think there's a slightly better chance that he won't get us involved in another religious/oil war in the Middle East. 

I wish I could still love politics. 

I think we have a cause worthy of fighting against here in Oregon, though.  The Defense of Marriage Coalition was successful in getting their amendment to the Oregon Constitution banning gay marriage on the ballot for November.  I'm sure someone is gearing up to fight it - I'll just have to find out who...

Update: Basic Rights Oregon is already organizing.  Volunteer opportunities are here.

No on Measure 36!


Monday, July 26, 2004

And finally, the lake! Posted by Hello


Another peak - view from the dining hall. Posted by Hello


One of the peaks around Wallowa Lake. Posted by Hello


Family camp was great.  It was a fanatastic time to relax and enjoy the wonder of God's creation.  I'll post some pictures later, but the Wallowa Lake Camp is in a truly magnificent area.  It is in northeast Oregon in the Blue Mountains, right on the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.  It is across the lake from the town of Joseph.  Joseph is named after Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce.

The cruel irony is that Joseph and the Nez Perce were forced out of the Wallowa Valley under threat of an attack from the US Army.  The Federal Government was requiring the Nez Perce to move to a reservation in Idaho.  The Nez Perce elected to flee to Canada, but after several young men attacked some white settlements killing four whites (in retaliation for the killing of several Nez Perce), the Army pursued the Nez Perce into Montana where Joseph and Nez Perce surrendered after three months of fighting.  The Nez Perce were sent first to Kansas, then Oklahoma. 

In 1885, after lobbying President Rutherford Hayes, half of the Nez Perce (including Chief Joseph) were returned to the Pacific Northwest.  However, they were sent to a reservation in Eastern Washington.  The Nez Perce were never allowed to return to the Wallowa Valley.  Chief Joseph died in 1904.

The powers that be have renamed the valley the "Nez Perce Valley" which is probably a small consolation to the Nez Perce.  I don't think that the Methodists or the Boy Scouts (who also have a camp in the area) shouldn't be there.  But I do think we have an obligation to remember our history.  America has a black mark on its soul for our treatment of Native Americans.  And many of those horrifying actions were in the name of God.  So as much fun as we had at Wallowa Lake, I'll always remember the horrible price the Nez Perce paid for happening to live someplace so wonderful.

More resources:

Nez Perce National Historic Trail
Nez Perce National Historic Trail
- from the End of the Oregon Trail website
Nez Perce National Historical Park 


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Go Camping!
We're leaving tomorrow for family camp at Wallowa Lake.  The Wallowa Lake Camp is part of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference's excellent camp and retreat ministry.  It should be a great time for rest, relaxation, and reflection. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Every so often I get a revelation.  Not from God, but usually something most everyone else in the world has already thought of.  Even if I'm a latecomer to an idea, it still makes me feel good.  So here's my latest revelation.  I was thinking about homosexuality and the church.  One of the arguments I've used is that if you believe homosexuality is a sin (which I don't), is it fair to pick on it when we're all sinners, to varying degrees?

So, if we don't require our ministers to be sinless in other regards, why require them to not commit the sin of homosexuality (presuming you believe homosexuality is a sin)?  The response I've usually received is that homosexuals who want to be ordained are unrepentant.  So it's ok to be greedy occasionally or uncharitable, so long as you feel bad about it.

So then I thought of a pretty major group of unrepentant sinners we let slide in the church: divorcees.  Below are four passages from the New Testament (three from the gospels) where Jesus and Paul lay out the case against divorce pretty tightly.  Not much getting around it.  But most churches still allow divorced men and women to be ordained, to take communion, and marry again.  We don't generally require them to repent of their sin of divorce (I'm sure there are exceptions). 

It seems to me that the church (generally - not any specific denomination necessarily) has decided that divorce is a part of life in 20th and 21st century America.  Most churches will let divorced and remarried men and women fully participate in the life of the church, whether it is a sin or not.  Clearly according to Jesus, divorce is a sin.  If we're going to be hardcore legalists, we have to treat divorced people much, much worse than we currently do.  If you're a legalist and are not willing to go to that length, why not cut gays and lesbians some slack?

I can't believe how much effort churches in Oregon have put into the "Constitutional Definition of Marriage" initiative.  Under state law, they needed 100,840 signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot.  They collected 244,587 signatures.  Those have not been verified - undoubtedly some will not be valid, but unless there's a miracle this will be on the ballot in November.

Imagine if these churches have devoted that effort to loving their neighbors by fighting poverty, feeding the hungry, or protecting the environment?  Oh wait, I missed that part in the Bible about actively persecuting those that you don't agree with.  What was I thinking?

Matthew 5:31-32 (MSG)
"Remember the Scripture that says, "Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights'?  Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are "legal.' Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity).  And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you're automatically an adulterer yourself. You can't use legal cover to mask a moral failure.

Matthew 19:3-9 (MSG)
One day the Pharisees were badgering him: "Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?"  He answered, "Haven't you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female?  And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh--no longer two bodies but one.   Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."  They shot back in rebuttal, "If that's so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?"  Jesus said, "Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God's original plan.  I'm holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery."

Mark 10:2-12 (MSG)
Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, "Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?"  Jesus said, "What did Moses command?"  They answered, "Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her."  Jesus said, "Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways.  In the original creation, God made male and female to be together.  Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman--no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity.  Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."   When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again.   Jesus gave it to them straight: "A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her.   And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery." 

Luke 16:18 (MSG)
Using the legalities of divorce as a cover for lust is adultery; Using the legalities of marriage as a cover for lust is adultery.

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (MSG)
And if you are married, stay married. This is the Master's command, not mine.  If a wife should leave her husband, she must either remain single or else come back and make things right with him. And a husband has no right to get rid of his wife.   For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages--Christian married to nonChristian--we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her.  If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him.  The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God.   On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you've got to let him or her go. You don't have to hold on desperately. God has caled us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can.  You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.

Update: I want to clarify something - I'm not necessarily saying that divorce is a sin and any divorced reader is thereby a sinner.  There are a lot of good and bad reasons for getting divorced and I'm not qualified to judge them.  One thing that seems to be clear from the passages above is that if you leave your spouse so you can marry someone else, that's a sin.  What Jesus says in Matthew 5 is that people were using the law as "cover for selfishness and whim."  That's a very different situation than leaving a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, etc.  But again, it's not up to me to make that distinction.  I also believe that redemption and grace are available to all us and that God can be present in our lives married, single, divorced, gay or straight. 


Friday, July 16, 2004

It's hard to be unhappy when someone looks at you like this. It would be nice if it were easy to always stay this happy! Posted by Hello


Thursday, July 15, 2004

My former pastor used to tell us that she believed fear was the root of sin. Fear has amazing power over our lives. I'm feeling less angry today, but very tired. I think I need to do a better job confronting the things that I'm afraid of. Reading about Rudy's son brought back a lot of memories and strong emotions from the death of my friend three years ago.

I'm afraid of cancer. I'm afraid of pain. I'm afraid of seeing those I love in pain. I'm afraid of not living to see my daughter grow up. I'm afraid of failing my family. I'm afraid of failing God.

In reflecting on the kind words Karen H. left in the comments to my previous post, I think maybe I should just keep praying in spite of everything. I don't know if it will "work" or even what to say. I know it won't give me any answers, easy or otherwise. Not having answers is a struggle for me. In my professional life, I'm an analyst (of the financial flavor). Answers are what I do. Give me a pile of data and I'll tell you what it means. I need to admit to myself that I can't reason or argue my way to an answer. Bad things do happen to good people, but I can't let this reality convince me that God isn't present in our lives.

So God, I pray that you will be present with Rudy, Kafi, and Sam, in whatever form that takes. I pray that I will not be bound by my fear and that I can be present in the lives of those that I love and love me. I'll admit, God, that what I want are answers, but maybe what I need is patience and humility. I pray that I will be able to turn to you in the depths of unbelief, the darkness of faithlessness, and the pain of grief. Help me to rejoice in your goodness even as I'm blinded by self-pity and sadness. God, I pray that I can recognize your presence. Amen.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The power of prayer?
I've always had trouble with prayer. I ask all the questions - why? what? where? when? how? I'm not sure I know how to answer any of them with certainty. The Christian blog world is reeling at the news that a prominent blogger's son has leukemia. I've never met or even corresponded with Rudy Carrasco, who blogs at Urban Onramps, but he seems like a man of great faith. It makes me incredibly sad to think of how much pain he and his wife are feeling right now. I get worried when my five month-old daughter doesn't have regular bowel movements - I don't want to imagine how much worse this must be.

He's obviously praying. I've been praying for his son. But what do I pray for? For healing? That would be great, but if God will heal people if we just ask the right way, why does God let them get sick in the first place? That seems to me to be a pretty capricious God we have. I think of palmer's Journal. Palmer's wife died after a short battle with cancer. He wrote how they prayed daily for a miraculous recovery. Needless to say, it didn't happen. Now he's a single father (supported by a great community) raising their 2 year-old son.

I think the problem for me right now is that I'm angry. I don't understand God. I don't understand why good people get sick and some get better and some don't. I don't understand why we think praying makes a bit of difference. Are we asking for the wrong things? Should we be asking for anything at all? It's not enough to say to me that we "can't understand God's plan." No shit. God's plan doesn't seem to make any sense a lot of the time. Is there even a plan?

I had a very good friend in college. Karen was a fantastic human being: smart, funny, kind, generous, and compassionate. She brought out the best in everyone and made you want to be a better person. Then one day during our junior year she found a lump under her arm. During the summer she had it removed. The doctor, thinking it was benign, put in a shunt to drain the wound. The doctor, being completely f$&%*ing wrong, created a pathway for a rare, very deadly cancer to spread to the rest of her body. Karen died in 2001, after three years of fighting. If that was in God's plan, I don't want any part of it.

I'm angry because I don't have answers. I'm angry because I feel guilty that I'm still here when better people than me have died. I'm angry because it seems like all God has to offer right now is a shoulder to cry on. ("Life sucks. I hope you feel better soon." - God) I'm angry that I'm feeling grief for someone I don't know and will probably never meet. I'm angry that I feel totally powerless. I'm angry because I'm scared. I'm scared because I have a child that depends on me, and I can't protect her from the worst the world has to offer. I'm scared because I hoped God would protect us, but part of me wonders now.

God help us. Please.

Information about the Karen Wyckoff Sarcoma Research Fund


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Christian Economics?
Is there such a thing as Christian economics? I think there probably is, but obviously people come at it from different perspectives. I'm thinking about this primarily because of Father Jake's recent posts on John Kerry's book. Jake, being a priest rather than an economist, is struggling to find economics interesting. I was also inspired by Hugo's post on his struggles with money, though he was talking about personal finances, rather than macroeconomics.

I am not an economist. I know enough to make me dangerous, but not so much to speak with real authority. If you want a real economist, read Paul Krugman. But anyway, what's a Christian perspective on economics? There are definitely some loonies out there. I blogged before about Christian Reconstructionism here. Gary North, a prominent reconstructionist, founded the Institute for Christian Economics which promotes some absolutely nutty theories. But there are progressive thinkers out there too.

So I'd like to identify what I think are some of the really important economic issues out there for Jake and other progressive Christians who aren't all that interested in economics. I might talk about some solutions later if I get around to it.

So one of the major issues is employment and unemployment. A lot of conservatives (and some liberals) love to bash poor people for not trying harder to find work. But the reality is that 5.6% of Americans were unemployed in June and that only counts the people who were actively looking for work. One concept economists use in discussing unemployment is called the natural rate of unemployment or the non-accelerating-inflation rate of unemployment. Basically it is the idea that some level of unemployment is structurally necessary to prevent inflation and keep the economy running smoothly.

So when you hear about the Federal Reserve adjusting interest rates that's what they are doing - manipulating (or attempting to, anyway) the economy to control prices (inflation) or employment. So the Federal Reserve is actively engaged in a policy of maintaining a natural rate of unemployment. Our government has a policy that actively seeks to prevent full employment! Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you believe the economists. The effect of extremely high inflation would be catastrophic (remember people in Eastern Europe around the fall of communism using paper currency as wallpaper because inflation had made it totally worthless?) for the economy.

But here's the Christian perspective - is moral to also have social policies that punish the poor and unemployed when our government is actively working to ensure that a large number of them stay that way? Is it right to send a message a self-sufficiency through hard work when we know without a doubt that there are more workers than jobs? I don't think so. We need social policies that encourage work while recognizing at the same time that some people will not be able to find work, no matter how hard they try.

This is getting long, so I'll cover the other issues more briefly. The way we work is changing dramatically. The blue collar jobs that sustained the middle class through most of the 20th century are disappearing. We're transitioning to an information economy that provides many jobs for knowledge workers and service workers. But its unclear whether those jobs will provide family-wage incomes over the long term. We're already seeing many information technology jobs be outsourced to India - and these were supposed to be "safe" jobs for the future.

The changes in the way we work are affecting other areas as well. Our system (not really a system, more a practice) of employer-based health insurance is failing badly. Non-traditional jobs (outsourced, contracted labor) don't provide health insurance to millions of Americans. In September 2003, the US Census Bureau estimated that 43.6 million Americans don't have health insurance. Families USA estimates that 1 in 3 adults under the age of 65 were without health insurance for all or part of 2003. What is maddening is that most of them work for a living. Further, the dramatically increasing costs of health insurance and care are making it harder for those that are lucky enough to actually have insurance.

There are a lot more issues, obviously. The overriding issue is that it is getting harder for average Americans to make it. I think as Christians we're called to a politics of compassion and care. It is easy to get bogged down in a discussion of capital gains taxes and completely miss the economic reality for a lot of American families. The next step is to consider the effects of American policies on global poverty. Do middle class tax cuts matter that much in a world dealing with a global HIV/AIDS crisis, genocide in the Sudan, crushing poverty across the developing world? I think most discussions of economics in the political system (particularly the Presidential race) are dangerously short-sighted and incredibly myopic.

This is way too long now.


X's & Y's
Douglas McGregor, a social psychologist, developed his X Y Theory in the 1960s. Basically he argues that there are two types of managers: X's, who tend to see their subordinates as inherently lazy with no ambition; and Y's who see them as naturally self-directed and committed. The theory suggests that Y's get better results than X's. X's tend to be domineering, dehumanizing managers, while Y's can bring out the best in their employees.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at the theory over the years for many predictable reasons. Primarly it is a recognition that the world is a heck of a lot more complicated than any dualist-type theory can hope to explain. But I don't think it is totally without value. I think a lot of people tend to approach the world with one of two general mindsets - basically that we'll either get what we need from the world, or the world is going to screw us. My father-in-law who is a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst says infant research bears this out. The research suggests that how we view the world is formed, to a great extent, when we are infants. But I digress.

I've always considered myself pretty much a Theory Y person. I think that people are generally good and when they're not, we need to consider external factors along with their character. Now, on June 21, I became a supervisor - at least for a couple of months. I now have three people reporting to me. I'm finding myself slowly morphing into a Theory X'er.

Part of it may be the people working for me are just testing my limits and trying to find out how I work. Or maybe not. But, man, they're driving me nuts! We're in the middle of the busiest part of our year and I'm getting all sorts of crazy requests for time off. They're not all unreasonable, but the reality is any time they're away from the office makes more work for the rest of us.

Here's a smattering:

  • "I need to take a long lunch every day to go home and feed my puppy." (why didn't you wait a week to get your puppy? Why can't your damn husband feed the puppy?)

  • "I need Monday the xxth off for bereavement leave." (This is for a relative they hardly knew. Further, the memorial service is on Saturday, there's no travelling involved, and it isn't for three weeks. Conveniently, they've planned for their grief three weeks in advance to create a three-day weekend.)

  • "I'm sick and can't come to work today. Cough, cough." (The cough sounds like the smoker's cough I hear everyday. Give up the damn cigarettes and maybe you can come to work.)

I know I shouldn't mock my employeees. I don't know how important their puppy is to them, and maybe they process their grief differently than I do, and I'm certainly in no position to evaluate their health. But with these people it is always something. I guess I just have this funny idea that when you have a job, you should actually SHOW UP FOR WORK every once in a while. The kicker is that now we're seriously behind because no one (except me) actually worked last week. UGH!

Anyone interested in supervising some employees?

Our recently departed pastor always said, "Look for the Christ in everyone you meet." I'm not doing a very good job.

More on the XY Theory:


Monday, July 12, 2004

I've been in a bit of a blogging funk lately. I tend to be a bit manic - I'll oscillate from feeling like I have a great deal to say that someone, somewhere might actually be interested in hearing to telling myself, "What in the hell are you thinking? No one cares what you think!" It's hard to drown out those negative voices in your head. I've been reading Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions - it is a journal of her son's first year (great book, by the way). One of the recurring themes is the difficulty she has silencing the "crazy" voices in her head. The voices that tell her she's not a good mother, she shouldn't have been entrusted with a child, and darker, scarier messages. In talking to Sarah (my wife, who read the book first), we've had all of those thoughts running through our heads in our daughter's first five months. I want tell Anne, "You're not as crazy as you think. We think all of those thoughts too!"

So maybe the message for me, and many others, I'm sure, is that I'm not as crazy as I think. Even though those waves of self-doubt crash on me periodically (like ocean imagery - we just got back from the beach), I do have something to add to the blogging world.

On an loosely related topic, Chuck Currie is the proud papa of twins! I can't even imagine how much work that's going to be. Well, I guess I actually can imagine and that's what scares me. Our one is a handful by herself - visualize projectile vomiting on our bed at 12:00 am this morning.


Friday, July 09, 2004

Going to the beach!
We're going to the beach this weekend. In Oregon, unlike parts of the East Coast apparently, the entire coastline is a State Park. However, unlike most other State Parks in Oregon, there is no daily admission fee (unless you happen to go to another State Park that happens to be on the beach).

In Oregon: we may have (unknowingly) put a rapist in the Governor's office, we may not value education like we should, and we may soon formalize our denial of a basic human right to gays and lesbians, but dammit, our beachers are free and beautiful!


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Now that's commitment!
Three men in France started a fast on June 21, 2004 to protest the use of nuclear energy. They don't know when they'll stop - I hear it will be at least a month. I wouldn't know anything about this, except that the step-daughter of one of the men (Michel Bernard) is staying with my wife's family this summer. My wife also lived with the family for a year in Lyon during college.

This is a pretty impressive level of commitment. If you're interested in learning more, check out Of course it's all in French, but there are some parts you can translate to English. You can also use the altavista Babel Fish Translator. This is the English press release.



Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The nation's top Medicare official threatened to fire one of his subordinates if the subordinate (an actuary) reported to Congress the true cost of President Bush's prescription drug benefit. As a result, the true cost was not revealed until after President Bush had signed the bill into law. Now we know the benefit will cost $500-$600 billion over ten years rather than the no more than $400 billion Bush promised. In December, Thomas Scully, the top Medicare official, resigned to take a job as a lobbyist for health care companies. He now lobbies for (among others) Abbott Laboratories, Aventis (major drug companies) and Caremark Rx, a pharmacy benefit manager. Is it surprising that all of these companies are major beneficiaries of the new prescription drug benefit?

It is stories like this that make people not trust government. Personally, it reaffirms my absolute lack of trust in the Bush administration. If I behaved this way working in local government the best that would happen to me is that I'd lose my job. But more likely I'd probably go to jail.

Full story here (free registration req'd).


New Blogger
My friend David has a new blog, ConXian. David is a United Methodist seminary student and an old friend. I finally convinced him to start blogging and I'm sure he'd appreciate some encouragement.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Why are political advertisements so bad?

The answer is here. This is a great article from the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly.


Fathers and sons
I spent much of this last weekend helping my dad hang siding on his house. We got a lot done and enjoyed working together. That might not seem remarkable, but up until a couple of years ago we didn't have a very good relationship. Nothing particularly interesting, just a typical American story of white bread family dysfunction. What changed our relationship was that I learned to forgive.

There wasn't one moment or one great event that changed me, but rather a slow turning of the tide. This also corresponded with a deepening of my faith. I decided that I wasn't going to let my anger, disappointment, fear, and frustrations keep me from having a relationship with my dad. It took a while, but now I really value having him in my life and I am very thankful that my daughter will know her grandfather.

I think as I came to realize the power of grace through God's love I was able to be more forgiving. For me it was an amazing transformation. My sisters, on the other hand, are a different story. They are angry, and probably rightly so, to some extent. But their anger is poisoning any possibility of having a meaningful relationship with our dad. It makes me incredibly sad that they cannot respond to the positive changes he's made in his life with forgiveness. I wish I knew a way to get through to them. But maybe they'll just have to get there on their own.

So today I rejoice in the opportunity to work side-by-side with my dad. As a new father I am especially grateful to be reconnecting with my dad. Thank God for grace!

Speaking of grace, What's So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey, is an absolutely fantastic book. Not theologically complex, but powerful, challenging and wonderful all the same. Read Yancey's interview at Sojourners too - great stuff. While Yancey is a conservative, he is very thoughtful and honest. While I disagree with some of his beliefs, I respect his intellectual honesty and integrity.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

It's amazing how life can push everything but the essentials (or what seems essentials) out of your focus. I have quite a bit of extra responsibility at work right now because my boss is on maternity leave. I'm swamped at work, the baby has her first cold, I'm fighting off a cold, and consequently I have no time left for blogging.

In the meantime, Jenell Paris is back (from a short hiatus), Hugo Schwyzer is stirring things up like usual, Matthew 25:40 is thinking deep thoughts, and Chuck Currie has an interesting interview with the general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

I'll try to have some original thoughts soon...