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Monday, February 21, 2011

What's the big deal about Big Government?

If you listen to any news program - radio, television, Internet - for any length of time, you will hear someone complaining about big government and someone else justifying it. That is the world we live in right now.

Rabbit hole #1: Why is Internet capitalized? Aren't radio and television important anymore?

My name is Xanthorpe and I used to watch Fox News.

There. I said it. Is this how folks who abuse drugs or alcohol feel when they finally admit a dependence?

Frankly, I can't much stand to watch any news program on television these days. I remember when I was a kid and trustworthy newscasters like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were on the tube every night. And Walter Cronkite. If it came out of Walter's mouth, it was gospel.

Rabbit hole #2: Don't you hate it when people begin a sentence with Frankly or Honestly? Does that mean everything else they've said isn't true?

So what's the problem with big government? Here's my theory:

We don't trust the people who can afford to serve their country without drawing a salary to make the right decisions for us.

Conversely, we don't seem to trust anyone running for office who we have never heard of and who doesn't have much money. They're just not electable. Whatever that means.

I can certainly understand our reticence toward letting the Rockefellers of the world run our country unchecked. History is rife with examples of the privileged few exercising said privilege for their own benefit when put in positions of power.

And I can appreciate that we don't want Joe Schmoe off the street being given the keys to the nuclear car, so to speak. Heaven forbid we elect ol' Joe and after watching a Hannity and O'Reilly marathon he's all heated up and decides to push the button.

But isn't there a happy median? Not any more, apparently. Listening to NPR the other morning, the resident political pundits opined that 2012 could be the first election in history where both major party candidates have at least $1 billion to spend on the presidential campaign.


Upon hearing that report, a friend of mine wondered what would happen if one of those candidates offered to take a large chuck of that and put a down-payment against the national debt. I told him that's a nice idea and Mr. or Ms. Candidate might even get elected. But it's probably illegal to use campaign funds to pay down the national debt.

I'm just saying.

What does big government represent? To me, it's the federal government having so many employees that if we closed down unnecessary departments and trimmed the ones we needed to keep, it would make the nation's unemployment rate untenable.

Rabbit hole #3: Think flat tax and no need for thousands of IRS employees and private-sector loophole experts.

In other words, it (big government) is what we have now.

What else does big government represent? The power to tell states what to do. The power to tell the people of this country that they must buy health insurance and if they don't, they can be fined.

It's one thing to tell us we have to pay taxes. And I'm okay with that - if we're going to have a standing military and people at the federal level to handle international relations, trade, and all those sorts of things, I understand that it takes money and I'm prepared to chip in my fair share.

I'm even okay with the whole Social Security thing. It's kind of comforting knowing that I'll reap some small financial stipend from all those hard-working years. Maybe...

But for a government to tell me I have to buy health insurance? That's along the same lines as a government telling me I have to drive a particular kind of car because it's safer or that I can't eat pork rinds because they're bad for me.

Rabbit Hole #4: I don't really eat pork rinds - but I do eat bacon.

That kind of government is just a little too big for me.

What do you think?


Friday, February 18, 2011

Bubbles are worse than road rage...

Don't tell anyone, but I am starting to type notes to myself on my Blackberry while I'm driving. It seems I have my best ideas for writing - be it blog entries or advancing the plot of my novel Night's Edge - while driving. I try my best to only do this if I'm at a red light; maybe I need to go on a Blackberry fast.

I recently had a friend who had a crisis. My friend and I had talked periodically about getting together for months. Most recently, he had even asked that we get together so he could talk to me about something that was bothering him. My life is busy - but no busier than others - and certainly not busy enough to put off spending time with someone in need, right?

These recent events got me thinking about how we interact with those around us. Unfortunately perhaps, the picture that sprang to mind was that of Lady Gaga making her grand entrance into the recent Grammy Awards ceremony.

I'm not a fan of Lady Gaga but my perception of her symbolism here is unmistakable - the egg protects her from the harshness of the world around her while still acknowledging her specialness. Or maybe not, but that's what started me thinking yesterday...

Remember, I was in my car - my own special bubble; we all have one. A few years ago, I couldn't read a paper, watch the news or talk to someone without hearing stories of road rage - horrifying tales of drivers folllowing people, confronting other drivers at traffic lights, pulling guns, running people off the road for perceived was rampant.

Now? I can't recall the last time I heard a road rage story.

Have we all retreated into our eggs, our bubbles? Have we unplugged from society? Shelved our emotions in favor of just not caring at all? A phrase I hear a lot of lately is, "I'm done with that."

Are we done with each other?

What do you think?


Monday, February 14, 2011

Excess luxury makes it hard to remain humble

I have another business trip coming up on the 1st of March. It's been a busy winter of travel and I've been thinking a lot about how all things travel have changed since I began moving about the globe as a young boy. The impetus for this entry - the last straw if you will - came from this inncouous list of Deluxe Room Features and Amenities at my upcoming home-away-from home in Rochester, NY:
  • Signature Bed with luxurious 310 thread count linens
  • Upgraded Bath Amenities including curved shower rods
  • Complimentary Wireless HSIA and spacious work desk
  • Ergonomic chair
  • LCD Flat Panel Televisions with Premium Cable
  • Mini Refrigerator/Honor Bar
  • Room Service until midnight
  • Coffee Maker and Tea Service
It's a fairly standard list, but what caught my eye is the second entry. I don't consider myself sheltered and I'm definitely not a spoiled traveller. As long as I have a bed, a shower and an iron, and it's clean...Still, I have to admit ignorance regarding the promotion of curved shower rods to the pantheon of upgraded bath ameneties. Sorry, all you folks that still use straight shower rods; so much for your curb appeal.

Travelers these days enjoy a nice bouquet of features (except on the airplane), even from historically low-priced inns. Though one might think there would be more powerful tag lines to lure prospective customers. Most business hotels have the ubiquitous ergonomic chairs and the in-room coffee maker. Just about all have a small fridge and wireless internet access.

Moving up the ladder I've seen the Flat panel LCD televisions popping up more frequently. Room service after midnight? Eh. I suppose that's a nice feature but I stay away from room service like the plague anyway because of the cost but if you're on expenses I suppose that's a perk.

To put all this in perspective, when I lived in Dubai and travelled around Europe, the Middle East and Africa, our company - bless their hearts - put us up very nicely, thank you. Hilton, Sheraton, Inter-Continental; 5 stars all the way. the Sheraton in Kuwait City, remodeled after damage from the first Gulf War, had an indoor golf video game. And when I say golf - I mean with real clubs and full swings and hitting the ball into a screen that calculated your ball speed, spin and shor trajectory.

When placed against a curved shower rod, well, you get the picture.

What do you think?


Monday, February 7, 2011

in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti...

...Play Ball!

Last night was the second Super Bowl I had ever watched in a church. Watching the biggest spectacle in sports - at least in the USA - in a church is an interesting experience. We had food - and anyone who knows Baptists knows we're not going to skimp on the food! We had plenty to drink (no, Baptists don't drink alcohol in church; we don't even drink wine for the Lord's Supper) and a halftime show that sounds like it beat the real thing by a mile.

Yesterday was a super winter's day in NW Florida - mid-50's, sunny, light to no wind. Many of us arrived early at the student center with our covered dishes, snacks and drinks. After depositing mine on the two tables in the back, I grabbed some kids and went out to the parking lot to play some football - you know, the kind you play with your feet. Didn't everyone?

Kickoff: (including pre-game, pre-kick, pre-coin toss, pre-coin toss call, pre-commercial, post-commercial, some more commercial and, hey! What are those 22 guys in uniform doing on the field?

Oh, and I can't forget the strangling of the cat; otherwise known as Christina Aguilera attempting to sing the National Anthem. And look, I know how hard it is to get in front of a room full of people to speak or perform. I can't imagine the pucker factor of trying to sing a song in front of a live audience of one hundred thousand people and untold millions around the world. Look at it this way:

In the first half, Jordy Nelson, a young Packer wideout dropped what would've been a long gainer. I listened to several fellow Baptists bemoan what they perceived as an automatic catch. Yes, the ball did go right between Mr. Nelson's hands but in all fairness he was laid out and fignting off the challenge of a Steeler's defender. Still, that's what he gets paid for right?

Aguilera is a world-renowned singer. A performer on top of her game. Shouldn't we be able to bemoan the lyrical jumbling she brought to our nation's theme song? In fact, I wonder if this is an indictment of our school system - notwithstanding the fact that a young Christina may not have even gone to school in the United States - I mean, I could probably sing the National Anthem from memory (at least the first verse).

But that's right, they don't do that sort of thing in our schools any more.

Seriously, what a relief to finally get the game underway.

First Half:

The Packers owned the Steelers in the first half, well, right up until the end anyway. I was distracted by all those pesky kids wanting to play more football outside. Don't they realize when the game finally starts the grown-ups want to eat too much and yell at the big screen?


Pastor Brian - our awesome pastor at Ferris Hill Baptist Church - gave a great devotional that used football's yellow and red flags as object illustrations. The yellow flag is used in football by the officials to denote a foul - something that someone has done wrong. In life, this is the conviction we feel when we have stepped outside of God's rules. The red flag is used by coaches to challenge the call on the field - an attempt to overturn that call and change the outcome of the play. In life, there is only one way to change our eternal outcome, and that is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

If we don't make that decision, sincerely and heartfully before our demise, there is no changing the outcome of where we will spend eternity. No one will be able to throw the red challenge flag for us.

Second Half:

Sigh. I admit, I'm a sucker for the kids. They wanted to play some more, so outside we went into the semi-dark parking lot and - away from all the cars - we played some more football (soccer, for those of you who didn't get my earlier reference). I was able to make it back into the student center for the last quarter and enjoyed some final munchies, a nice cup of coffee and a Green Bay Packer victory.

Honestly, I didn't really care who won but I decided to pull for the Packers for a couple of reasons. One was Ben Rothlisburger. I saw him pointing at the sky when he threw a touchdown. I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, but his past behavior still weighs heavy on the scale of public opinion. Second, The Packers hadn't won this thing in a while and I just thought it might be nice to see the cheeseheads from Title Town take home another one.

Vince Lombardi said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Well, if you want to win in the game of life, there is only one way. Jesus said it best in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

What do you think?