Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to be a hipster Christian (or Pastor)

While remarking on my Pastor's use of technology the other day, as well as his revelation that he was going to switch to the iPhone from Android for extremely dubious reasons, I thought to myself all of the times that I have assisted pastors/churches, and how often they have burned me for having done so. (THAT's an AWESOME run-on sentence.)

To further add to the mix, I've been having conversations with people from other churches in the area, in which the church (or pastor) has tried to spiritualize their attempts to make the church "cool." It was then that I realized: There is a huge drive to try to make Church edgy by approximating the hipster stereotype, which has resulted in a weird mix.

This is a "how-to" guide in how to be the new church. Remember, you aren't part of the new "cool church" unless you fit into this mold:

Section 1: Music

1) You are free to like classic rock as much as you want. However, when it comes to CCM, you are required to find the most obscure band or artist. You are then to claim that they are good enough to herald the second coming of Christ through music. While you cannot use "corporate" or "sell-out" in a Christian environment, feel free to use "not as spiritually motivating" or "doesn't speaks to me" to describe anyone who expresses interest in any mainstream CCM artist. Also, be sure to treat them in a manner suggesting that maybe they just aren't in tune with the movings of The Holy Spirit as you due to their choice of music.

2) Picking friends with similar musical interests. In the name of "reaching out", you will find the most apathetic music listener possible. Find something secular, non-threatening, but somewhat obscure to express mutual interest in. Muse used to be a common one, but they have succeeded, and are now "corporate". Get together with your MIB (Mutual Interest Buddy), and talk about your mutual interests like 13 year old fangirls. Anyone who tries to tell you that the emperor has no clothes is to be looked upon dubiously.

Section 2: Technology

3) You are required to love Apple. Whether you claim to like it in an "ironic", fashion or decide to cross into serious fanboi territory, anything that has an "i" in front of it shall be fawned over like a newborn baby by her helicopter mother. If Apple has stated that they have better technology, claim it as fact. You are not required to have in-depth knowledge of the actual functional differences, but rather, parrot Apple's, and Steve Jobs' addresses and press releases like a mother robin puking up a meal for its offspring. His word is to be treated as god-breathed. If anyone comes up with good reasons as to why a non-Apple product is better, you are required to say that you feel it is easier to use, regardless of having actually used a competitor's product. In that way, you never have to admit that a non-Apple product is superior, and ass-raping your wallet. Which leads us to:

4) Outsourcing technological efforts. As a pastor, you are to be busy hanging out in your local coffee shop (preferred) or Starbucks (just to be ironic), "working on your message". Due to spending all your time coming up with cool promotional materials for your pet church outing, you may need to outsource some of the technological needs of the church to some of the parishioners. If nobody springs to mind, you can give it to the people that know more about what you need, but hamstring their efforts until one of your buddies can give you the solution that you want. The solution needs to either be stuck in your outdated and obscure technological experience to avoid having to learn anything new, or be overpriced to ensure that it coddles your personal preferences in layout. Be sure to not accept a solution because the obscure product you were using before had an on-screen ruler, or some such small-time issue. Remember, the focus here is not learning something new; rather, it needs to cater to your whims, obsolescence and compatibility with the outside world be damned. Actual functionality and security need not be actual concerns. If you are technologically inept, your poker buddy should be able to run it, and should oversee its rollout. It doesn't matter if all of the people that are technological professionals try to tell you that your solution is insecure/behind the times/overly expensive. You are the pastor, the shepard of this flock. You cannot let any aspect of your church to not involve your pet technology. Minus points if it involves a non-Apple solution.

Section 3: Personal interaction

5) As a pastor, you need to have favorite parishioners. You are to claim to be almost eternally busy, except for your favorite parishioners. Feel free to remark on all the cool stuff the two of you did during the week on Sunday while talking in a group with others that would like to spend time with you. But reiterate the fact that you are waaay too busy to spend time with anyone. Repeat every Sunday.

6) Business corollary: If someone of some importance is in attendance at your church, they get automatic access because, hey, it's someone important.

Section 4: Spiritual-sounding guilt == free work

7) When it comes to helping out around the church, there are those that will genuinely help out with the church. You can accurately call these people "suckers". They will help you doing the same menial job through thick and thin. Even though you know they are proving themselves loyal to work at more interesting volunteer work, make sure you never give them something more important to do, as it will take away from their being low man on the totem pole. Because, hey, if they were capable of doing a better job, they would be, right? After they have proved themselves faithful at doing the same crappy job for several months/years, and even after having filled in on an emergency basis for a higher-up volunteer position they are hoping to do regularly, it is your job to make sure that they stay doing the menial work. Wait for someone to join up that can fulfill the more advanced position.  Make sure it is someone cool enough to be your poker buddy. If that isn't happening, get your non-Christian buddy to become a marginal Christian, or even hire someone from the outside on staff to fill in said position. Dashing the hopes of the faithful is a good way of making sure that they learn humility before God. Or something like that.

8) Innovating church functionality. If someone inside the church has a better way of doing something, by all means, hear them out. After you are done talking with them, call your poker buddy again. Try to remember the gist of what the original person suggested. Remembering important details is actually unimportant. Because you have heard this good idea, conveying that good idea to your poker buddy, and coming up with a solution between the two of you will automatically be a better solution. If need be, make your poker buddy an elder. That automatically trumps any proposed solution suggested by the hoi polloi. You can also claim that "well, that decision was made involving the church elders." This overspiritualization of the matter will make people who take their faith seriously to have no recourse.

9) People who are de-volunteering. If someone who has been volunteering for a period of time declines, for whatever reason (like they need to do anything outside of YOUR church!), be sure to guilt them into coming back. Use phrases like, "shepard/servant's heart", "doing God's work", etc. Remember, to people that place God as the center of their life, spiritualizing their toil at your church is a great way to lock them into doing work for close to free.

If you follow these steps, I'm sure you'll have a successful slave-based church where production is high, you are cool, and free to do whatever you want.

If you feel like any of this is leveled at you personally, I'd suggest you ask yourself why you feel pangs of guilt over this. You might discover some hidden points of pride that might be hindering you and your church spiritually.

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Dodge Duck Dip Dive Dodge...

Note:  This is an old post.  The argument referenced in this post is LONG since gone.

I *hated* my Pierce College English teacher. If you ever come across someone there named Mrs. Tierney, please feel free to say I called her a tree-hugging hippy. Her emesis-inducing postulation that nature was infinitely wiser than humans made me grab for the nearest container. Truly a horrible way to start my college education. And yet, some of the things we read in Walden continue to stick with me, no matter how hard I try to beat it out of me. And here we go:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."

Some background: In High School youth group (High Impact at COTW), there was a LOT of pressure to fit kids into the ministry somehow. Those that made the decision were almost deified in the youth group. My gifts did not lend themselves to evangelism at all. The feeling was that if you were not planning on being a youth pastor or starting a church to convert the penguins, you were deficient in some fashion.

So, my sense of humor took a very attacking tone. I didn't know why at the time, but I was angry at everyone for making me feel excluded because I intended to be an engineer when they felt that anyone of any intellectual capacity should be going to LIFE, APU, etc.

In 10th grade, Rock Solid was asked to provide the Worship team at Camp Cedar Crest. While up there, I was very clearly directed to examine the hurt I was inflicting people with my pointed sense of humor.

After I returned, for a while, I had to humble myself, and actively seek out people I knew I had offended, and ask their forgiveness. It was a tough thing to do, but I discovered that I didn't want to be that person again.

My Senior year, while at another camp, for the only time in my life thus far, I honestly feel like I heard distinctly from God. It was a confirmation that I was not intended for the ministry at all. The release from bondage that I felt was so extreme that for the first time, I actually thought that God's plan for my life might include using the talents that he had given me.

This included my sense of humor. My earlier experience had shown me that using my outgoing sense of humor to hurt people is a path I never want to go down again. However, my experience Senior Year showed me that God gives us our personalities, desires, and strengths for a reason.

Fast Forward to about five years ago. I was new in town, and, as I've said in previous posts, the people here in Santa Barbara are very close-knit, and I was coming in as an outsider. My lack of social interaction caused me to literally go to bed crying myself to sleep some nights. I knew that I thrived on social interaction.

My former roommate Paul Laufer put it very succinctly, but I'll have to paraphrase: "Joe is, at all times, unabashedly Joe."

I love to include people.

I love to mix people from various facets of my life and see if anything gels.

I love saying what everyone is dying to, but can't bring themselves to say.

I love releasing the tension in a room by talking about what everyone is thinking about.

I love to make people laugh.

To that end, I've found that the best fit for my sense of humor and personality, besides being pointed at someone, is to bring the surreal and unexpected into a given situation. I imagine that strangers walk away from a chance encounter with me going "WTF was that?" Not in a bad way, mind you, just with a chuckle and a shake of the head.

And my fearlessness to be in a difficult social situation, whether at the center of attention, for bemusement/possible scorn, or to launch into the unknown, has served me well.

I've gotten up in meetings and asked difficult questions that everyone wanted to know, but were all too afraid to ask.

While working for the Navy, during a crowded lunch room during a three-day meeting, I asked if I could sit at a table with two gentleman I didn't recognize. My Team Lead informed me shortly after that the two gentlemen were the Program director for Land Attack (PMS 529) and a one-star admiral (to be fair, the admiral was in civilian clothes). We had a good lunch, despite my Team Lead sweating bullets three tables away. (He thought I was going to whip out my thoroughly tasteless Helen Keller Jokes.)

The Walden quote from above has gotten me thinking about marriages. It's been said that women enter into marriage hoping their men will change, whereas men enter into it hoping the women do not.

There is a very (unhealthy) stereotype in most churches that the women will eventually "domesticate" their partner, and mold their men into being more like them. This can be seen in various cute quips and jokes that go back and forth, remarking on the establishment of women as the puppet master of the husband.

For the most part, it is only humor.

However, there are those marriages where the husband, in his efforts to appease his wife, has given up all vestiges of having anything he finds interesting. The ironic part is, in most cases, the wife is still not happy with him;  now he's boring.

During a particularly dry point in my dating career, my good friends Jeff and Sarah loaned me a collection of pastor's take on the initiation and continued success of healthy marriages.

Surprisingly, it didn't contain the expected recurring theme of: "whatever the wife says goes." Most of them discussed the distinction between compromise versus collapse when it came to concessions when dealing with conflict; the need to provide the other person with boundaries to respect, as opposed to being a shapeless mass of goo. Being who you are, and yet supporting the other person.

I came to the realization that with my first girlfriend, in my eagerness to be supportive, I neglected to give her anything she could respect. My newfound realization to be true to who I was fit well with my earlier resistance to High Impact's pressure to force people into the ministry.

Let's go back a three and a half years ago. I was seeing this young lady, who, while a lovely girl, was exceedingly quiet.

Any conflict we had she would internalize, and she thought she should take any trampling of her personality as her burden to bear. I felt like I was dating someone that I could accidentally hurt to excess, and she would never let me know.

I came away from that relationship with a newfound respect for the verse "like iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another".

Not to say that she wasn't capable of it, but I doubted that I would ever be able to sharpen her without absolutely breaking her spirit, and I didn't think she would be able to correct me unless I made her so mad she couldn't see straight. It wasn't healthy.

This got me to thinking about the verse again, and how it might be likened to sparring partners (don't worry Petrie family, I'm not advocating any actual violence). But sparring partners are used to toughen up a competitor, but they are matched up by weight divisions.

You wouldn't take a heavyweight sparring partner and match them with a lightweight fighter.

In the same fashion, I know I need someone who can let me know when I've hurt them, and isn't afraid to tell me how they feel about it.

So why do we have all these disparate parts of my life in one post? Why post all this internal monologue concerning things that people could very well not care about?

Tabitha and I had a rough fight last night. It seemed small enough, but I didn't realize the full implications, or why it affected me so much until I had a chance to think about it.

The long and short of it had to deal with two situations in close proximity to each other. One of which I was being my loud self, and she tried to reel me in. The second dealt with a drive from LA to SB in which literally nothing was said.

I love being loud, happy, inviting, surreal, and sometimes embarrassing. It's who I am, and, unless I want to live a "life of quiet desperation", it's who I need to be.

I could quash that side of me, but that would leave her little to respect if the result of any argument was the removal of large sections of my personality. My experiences at High Impact showed me the importance of being myself, and the passive/aggressive nature that I exhibit when I'm being railroaded into something.

In the same light, I also don't want to quash her. I want to hear from her when she's upset. I want her to tell me when I've made her mad.

The entire car ride over, I was giving her the chance to speak when she was ready. I had told her what I thought, and didn't want to railroad the conversation.

Afterward, I realized I was still upset because I HAD wanted her to speak up. I had already told her how I felt, and I wanted her to feel confident and safe enough to let me know how she felt.

The whole reason I fell in love with Tabitha is because of her ability to tell an inappropriate joke. I love her confidence, I love her enthusiasm, I love her ability to point out when I've messed up, and to tell me how she feels. My frustration is in her reluctance to bring it out fully. My hope and desire is for her to feel safe enough to be able to express the amazing person she is with full confidence of my support in any situation.

I want to go through life together. I want her to be just as excited and confident about life as I hope to be. I want her to allow me to fuel her interests as much as she encourages me about mine. I want to be weird together. To have a passion and love of life that is infectious to all we touch.

The title of the post is a quote from the movie "Dodgeball". I include it because it because there is another quote that I think is relevant to this situation: "You gotta grab life by the haunches and hump it into submission!"

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Me and my brother (ok, ok mom, my brother and me)...

So on Saturday I had to drop Tabitha off at her Choir rehearsal (The APU 30th anniversary UCO concert). We hadn't planned ahead too well, and, as Tabitha hasn't been doing good with staying awake late at night while driving, suddenly realized that I would either have to drive to Azusa and back to drop her off, then drive to Azusa and back to pick her up, or stay in the area.

On such short notice, all of my friends in the area had plans (how dare they!). So, in a last ditch effort, I called my uber-social brother John. As expected, he had plans with the Orange County Wine Society. However, after a brief pause, he said he would find out if there would be space for me to join him.

About 20 minutes, he texted me and said I was cleared to come on down one way or the other.

Let me back up a long bit:

Growing up, my brother and I have NEVER got along. I mean like...ever. Everything was a battleground: bicycles, nintendo, nintendo controllers, computer time, model trains, legos, imaginary friends (mine could TOTALLY beat up his...), etc.

I think the only time we ever got along was when I got my wisdom teeth removed, and was sedated for half a day. However, I do suspiciously recall it was about that time my favorite monopoly piece went missing.....

It got so bad that one of John's close friends at the time, a very nice kid from a very nice household, often went home crying due to the viciousness of our arguments.

While I was in Jr. College, and working for the Navy, we shared a roof again, and, let me tell you, it got baaaad.

Yet through it all, there are certain snap points that I look at where, despite the hostilities we were currently engaged in, I was extremely proud of my brother, or hurt for him beyond words.

One time we were with CPAC at the beach. John was in training for Annapolis entrance (which he SHOULD have gotten into...don't get me started). My good friend Janelly, someone I'd known for a year and a half at that point, was a paragon of athletic excellence (or so I thought), said, "Hey, I'm going to go for a run down the beach." John said, "I'll join you", loaded up his camelbak, and they took off. I goofed around in the water for a bit, then came back to the towels, only to find Janelly arriving, walking somewhat slowly. "Where's John?" I asked. She replied "I couldn't keep up with him." My jaw hit the floor. Janelly is the kind of person that you envision running marathons casually. John ran in about 30 minutes later. (My brother kicks ass. )

As stated, my brother attempted to get into Annapolis. For those of you who don't know, this is a very big deal. The physical requirements, along with letters of recommendation and community service are extremely stringent. I remember swing dancing at Java the Hutt on campus at Cal Poly Pomona when I got the call that John hadn't made it. I collapsed onto a bench, trying to fight back tears.

Since then, my brother has come back with a vengeance. John has a major gift in business: my brother is one of those people that can sell ice to Eskimos. Going through his house, he can casually rattle off the number of times he has gotten a company to either spend their money to make him happy, or knock off a few hundred/thousand on a sale. He's has a wonderful life for himself in Orange County, married a lovely young lady, has a pudgy cat, a career that is rocketing higher and higher, and a wine cellar that is not to be believed.  (Seriously...300 bottles of red, 150 white, and a liquor collection that rivals most bars in quantity, and beats most in quality.)

It was an interesting day when I discovered that I could hang out with my brother without worrying about whether or not we might be getting into another fight.

However, driving down to Costa Mesa Saturday night, realizing that John had turned his remarkable charm to make space for me, I realized that the nature of our relationship has changed. It's no longer a case of not dreading being around him; I'm now looking forward to spending time with him.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wow...I bought the car

I found this in drafts...interesting to look back at it now:

While Tab sleeps, I feel the need to put down things on e-paper for future remembrance...only because I've gone through so much the last few days...

So...firstly, I'm married! Let's start there.

When I worked at Blue Cross of California, it was one of the most fun jobs I've ever had. I started out doing trouble tickets, but ended up doing PC rollouts (I.E. upgrading entire departments with new PCs). There was a lot of goofing off in the lab, but we got sh*t done, and done well. However, it always started with Ignacio or one of the other senior techs going up to the department manager, meeting with him, arranging the walkthrough, noting any PCs of note, etc.

It kept us working, allowed us to interface with the customer, then we would retreat back into our little nerdery, work on the PCs, and resurface again to roll the PCs out. It all worked very smooth.

One day, Ignacio was tied up with meetings all day long, so he pointed to my good friend Vince and me and said, "Vince, I need you to take the entire Accounting rollout, I'm too busy. Joe, you are his backup."

There was a weird moment where, for as well as I knew my job inside and out, and as much as I had prepared, I thought, "We're not ready. We're just the kids downstairs goofing off. What do we know about this?"

I've had the same feelings both times I bought a car: my Purple-Dirtmobile-of-Death (AKA my Plum colored '97 Saturn SC2), and my current '99 Ford Mustang (No name yet).

Both times, I spent weeks and weeks looking for cars, researching all the finds I could find in my price range, carefully weighing each decision, and finally going ahead with the purchase.

Each time, even though I know I've made the right choice, and the car was a good buy, there was a sudden moment of panic, thinking, "Holy crap! I just spent $6000/$8000! Was this a good buy? Can I maintain this car as it is needed? I've never had a V6 before, is there something I need to know about maintaining it? Would it work better if I put in premium gas?, etc. etc."

Now, I'm married. I've waited my entire life for someone who is Christian/funny/witty/goofy/fun/sane/single, and now I've married her.

Driving off from the wedding, I was elated, but I got that feeling again. The thought of "I'm just a kid! (I'm not anymore, but this is freakout talking) What happens when we get into a fight? What happens if one of us gets sick? Will she still love me if I'm involved in some horribly disfiguring windmill accident? How can I possibly keep her entertained for a lifetime? I've done good so far in a year and a half, but what happens if we reach 20 years and we have nothing interesting left to talk about? etc. etc." But you learn with the car. It's various quirks and intricacies, how it handles, where you need to baby it, etc. After awhile, you and the car work so well, you can't remember a time you were with any other cars. The memories you form in that car you will tell. You just have to remember that it requires continual maintenance and care. What a fun, interesting time to be alive!

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now I know why Assassin's Creed has "Ass" twice in the title.

Ok, I'm a little behind the curve when it comes to video games now that I am a family man.

So, I waited until Assassin's Creed was $10 on Steam, then purchased it just to see what all the fuss is about. So now it's 1 in the morning, I finally finished it, and I am *PISSED OFF*

*breaths*. This game is one of the most overhyped pieces of donkey dung I have ever had the mis-fortune of playing. While beautiful to look at, and the crowd mechanics were interesting, the gameplay itself was *SO* *DAMN* *REPETITIVE*.

Lemme set the scene for you: You are an Assassin in the middle ages in $SOMEWHERE_IN_ISRAEL. Damascus, Acre, Jerusalem (and some I'm forgetting) are now only 2 miles away from each other.

Your master assigns you a target in a section of one of the cities. You go there, play the same 5 mini-games, each time gaining information on your target. When you have beaten a sufficient number of the mini-games, you are allowed to take out the target.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

And you do this 9 times.

Oh, and Sam Fisher is an Assassin. This guy is as obvious as Liberace in a Baptist Church.

Let me tell you what I mean by that: When the time finally comes for your assassination attempt, you can try to be sneaky and take the guy out stealthy and all quiet-like, but as soon as you do, even if you did it out of sight of the guards, the entire city is alerted to your presence, and you have to beat off or outrun/hide from a gajillion guards who have been alerted to your presence. Which doesn't make you an assassin really.

Or not a good one, anyway.

Which would make for an interesting game mechanic: Short-bus school of assassins. But I digress...

There is some attempt at stealth during the mini-games, which is ok, I guess, but the guards forget where you are the nano-second you jump into conveniently placed haypiles or roof garden, despite the fact that you just ran all of their best friends through in gruesome fashion 10 seconds ago. No, no, They simply forget about you. But can somehow remember who you are if you run through an area where you killed someone previously, even if by "previously", we mean 20 minutes ago.

There are two absolutely ludicrous "Nuking the fridge" mechanics about the game: Scholars and "Leaps of Faith"

If a group of white hooded monks should walk by, and you are being chased by the guard, you can elect to follow them, adopting a similar stance and shuffle, and the guards are fooled by this. Despite the fact that your sword, throwing knives, and gauntlets are plainly visible. It's like they all got injected with Stupidol.

The second involves "View Points" where you can gain reconnaissance of a given area to reveal the mini-games necessary to get to the assassination attempt. This involves free-climbing to the top of a very very very high building (in some cases, ~10 stories in in-game height). After reconing the area, you are provided a ledge to jump off of, as actually climbing down could be somewhat tedious. Below these ledges are haypiles.

So, 10 story drop.

Onto a haypile that is perhaps 3 feet tall.

What makes it odd is the fact that they got the motion of actually falling down pat. If any of you have ever fallen out of a tree, off of a garage, etc., when you are falling, you experience motion blur, acceleration, etc.

Ubisoft nailed the sensation of falling from a great height. So when you see that ground coming at you after a 10 story climb, you are thinking, "wow, I'm about to make a very large stain, first in my pants, then on the ground" And then you are stopped by three feet of hay. I laughed the first time it happened, and had to show Tab, who, even with a limited grasp of deceleration times vs. structural integrity, realized that it was absolutely ridiculous.

And the fighting. Oh lordy, the fighting. They meant to have all sorts of moves and counter moves, but after the first level, you gain a "block, counter-attack" move that you pretty much use for the rest of the game. Why? 'cause it's all that is needed. I was literally surrounded by 15 guys at one point, and was able to fend them all off using that one move.

What makes it bad is that it suffers from "Final Fight-itis": the bad guys are too polite, and by that, I mean that only one will ever attack you at a time. Ubi tried to mix it up by having a second guy attack you while you are assaulting another, but they neutralized that threat by allowing you to break off your assault and immediately "defend, counterattack" the second.

They will also wait until you complete an absolutely awesome looking finishing move on one of their Guard buddies before they will even think of attacking you.

Complete waste of time. I paid $10 for a pretty world, an interesting crowd mechanic, and an effective marketing campaign. Ugh. De-installing this crap right now. On to Mirror's Edge!


Monday, November 09, 2009

Peace beyond understanding

Tab is really unhappy with her job right now, and it is putting strain on things. She warned me when we where dating that when things got rough, she tended to bolt.

In fact, it was a point of amazement for her when we had our fight and she treated it as a speed bump in a longer road.

Yesterday, we had a tense conversation that dealt with Tab's frustrations, as detailed here.

However, this morning, in spite of all the issues, I found myself amazed that I am her husband, and loving her for who she is.

No resolution to her stress, or the issues surrounding it.

We haven't yet addressed the issue that brought this out.


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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Health Care issue..

Once again, an online dispute has forced me to put into words how I feel about the current debate.

This time, it's health care.

To provide setup, the first claim was that Michael Moore's movie Sicko, claimed Cuba has wonderful health care. My response:

It's propaganda. It's well documented. When the U.S. visits Cuba, they go to the clinic that Michael Moore showed. The average Cuban citizen has a much more dismal health care experience:

Then we got into a debate on health care in general:

It's not the government's job to met out health insurance any more than they should be handing out candy on corners for all kids...

All it takes is someone being competitive and offering a better solution.

When the government runs a place from stem to stern, this is what happens:...

The government should not be assisting anyone out of anything, save breaking up monopolies preventing barrier of entry for new businesses.

Health care is not a basic need. Air is a basic need. Food is a basic need. Water is a basic need.

Health insurance is a luxury. It's exactly what the name implies: insurance in the event of a health issue.

Life insurance is not mandatory, renters insurance is not mandatory, car insurance is only mandatory if you elect to drive....

In any case, the government, when left to run things, does not do a very good job. The Post Office, DMV, etc. should be enough proof.

Depending on the government for any aspect of your well-being or happiness is a recipe for disaster. The only thing the government has proved time and again that it can do well is blow things up, and waste money. And even then, it needs help to blow things up. I should know, I have worked as both a Federal Employee, and now as a Defense Contractor.

This person then brought up the familiar "Health Care should be as basic a right as firefighters, police, libraries, etc.", which is a common argument. Here's how it went down:

All those programs were sold to the American people, then left to rot. As a former Federal employee, I can tell you with absolute certainty that your money is being wasted.

What seems to be not understood is that the money for these programs was taken from the people that may or may not use it.

If you were earning twice what you are earning now, would you invest in health care for yourself and your family, or would you simply say, " car is getting kind of old..."

People choose to invest in Health care for themselves or not.

There are low-cost clinics available in almost every town.

Emergency services are available everywhere.

Health care is available for those that choose to invest in it.

As for the other list of "necessities", they could all be improved by forcing them to compete with rival companies.

Do you think the cops would be beating people indifferently if they were paid by the number of convictions of the people they brought in?

All the examples you have given me are for "services" that are supposedly "free", but in actuality have been paid for by people who dare to try to excel and further themselves.

My friend has a saying, "Americans are born free, but taxed to death". (Ed.  Thanks, Paul!)

As for the drug companies, if people cannot afford their products, they would be forced to lower the rates at which they sell it.

Ironically enough, the massive amounts of money that people pay into health insurance artificially props up the market so they can sell pharmaceuticals and emergency services at massively inflated prices.

And once again, I can say this with definity. I used to work at [A major US Health Care insurance provider]. Only 10% of the company is for dealing with medical issues. The other 90% is dealing with how to invest the truckloads of money that businesses and people pay them every month.

If people abandoned Health Care as an insurance, and dealt with it on a case by case basis, the price of health care would go down massively.

But we have been sold a bill of goods that health care is something we need to be making monthly investments in.

We are screaming to be taxed further, which is simply insane.

Think about this...what if, everyone could simply elect at tax time whether or not they wanted to fund things, and how much.

("Do you want to fund firefighters? police? Military? libraries? Pell Grants?")

No, nobody would volunteer. Why? Because it is YOUR MONEY. You earned it.

People are screaming for the government to save them as a substitute for taking care of the issue themselves.

If you feel strongly that you want to fund something on a monthly basis, set up a co-op with a doctor's office and your neighbors. Start the change now, but don't complain when EVERYBODY ELSE isn't funding something YOU want.

It really boils down to two schools of thought:

Should the federal government's role in the lives of Americans be to simply maintain the basics? (Military, Roads, and Business Regulation) This would allow people to venture out on their own, earn, and keep what they make. It puts the economic decisions of what to fund back into the hands of the people, and makes for a strong middle class that people can easily get into.

Or should the government be a "nanny" and provide for people from cradle to grave, punishing its most productive citizens to pay for services to the underperforming ones. At that point, the question becomes, "why work?" Everything is being handed to you simply by being in the US and breathing. California has had a long history of doing just that, and is paying for it, with businesses finding it is just too expensive to be in California, and moving to Nevada, Texas, and Arizona.

As for being in France and Norway, that's nice, but, last time I checked, they haven't had nearly the high innovation rate of the U.S., precisely because there is no increased incentive to be an entrepreneur.

In those two countries, the company is forced to pay massive amounts of taxes and benefits for the employees (health and otherwise).  This, combined with the fact that if you employ anybody, it is EXCEEDINGLY difficult to fire them if they underperform, results in virtually no motivation for your employees to work hard or be clever.

When there is the possibility of massive reward, you will be more inclined to take more risk. If nothing is certain in terms of job, you will work hard to make sure you stand out and are rewarded for hard work. Increased taxing on those that work hard only leads to a nation of slackers, regardless of the perceived benefit for "all".

Then there was the "I'm a Christian, it's all God's money, we should give it all to a government-run communal pot that claims it will help the poor" argument:

I am a Christian, but I take comfort in the parable of the ten talents. God did not end the story with the last person getting bailed out. He called the lack of financial gain "wicked and lazy".

It is the job of CHRISTIANS to provide for the poor, the downtrodden, etc. It is not the job of governments. As we are not a country that has corporately put themselves in line with Christ, it is not right for us to demand Christian motivations out of the government. Remember the two heathens who tried to call out the demons in Christ's name? The demons laughed and beat them savagely.

It is up to us as individuals to do what Christ would do. If we demand it from our government, we have replaced government for God.

I accidentally didn't complete a thought that I will put down here:

The sheer amount of new technologies that we have put forth from our efforts as entrepreneurs due to decreased taxing allows us the medical breakthroughs that we have today.

I agree there needs to be change. But, like I said before, it should take the form of business regulation, not taxing the productive members of society.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Environmentalism and Africa

I'm having a good-spirited debate with a friend of mine on facebook regarding the role of environmentalism in Africa.  He has taken the side that we must do all we can to ensure that nothing the developing countries do will impact Africa, and that we must do all we can to ensure that we don't impact Africa with our environmental emissions.

He even brought "white guilt" into the equation with the line, "However, we also can't ignore the centuries of colonialism that has been a major contributor to African countries being in the position they are in now."

I don't think he is talking about setting up wind farms in our country because England took over large portions of Africa 130 years ago.  I'm going to take a guess that he is thinking we should impose modern Environmental standards on today's Africa.

I take the tack that with Africa being largely free since the '60s, the best thing to do is offer goods and services, but withdraw from telling them how and where they should conduct their affairs.  Let them use DDT to combat Malaria.  Let them drill for oil using the methods they want.  To do otherwise is to revert back to a "convert the heathen" approach used by colonialists years back.

It's not often I find an article that nails it on the head, but I found one here:
(The Independent Review, v. VIII, n.1, Summer 2003, ISSN 1086-1653, Copyright © 2003, pp. 65– 86.)
(See mom!  I can do references!)

Yet much of the crusading energy of current environmentalism derives from a much different source. For many of its followers today, environmentalism has been a substitute for fading mainline Christian and progressive faiths—its religious quality obvious to any close observer of its workings. Its language is often overtly religious: “saving” the earth from rape and pillage; building “cathedrals” in the wilderness; creating a new “Noah’s Ark” with laws such as the Endangered Species Act; pursuing a new “calling” to preserve the remaining wild areas; and taking steps to protect what is left of “the Creation” on earth. At the heart of the environmental message is a new story of the fall of mankind from a previous, happier, and more natural and innocent time—a secular vision of the biblical fall from the Garden of Eden.

Before the corrupting influence of modern civilization (and perhaps the true date of the fall can be traced as far back as the rise of agriculture, almost ten thousand years ago), human beings lived in genuine harmony with nature. Since the fall, the rise of acquisitive urges and the destructive powers of modern science and industrial production have defiled the innocence of nature almost everywhere. Environmentalism therefore seeks to protect the vestiges of the original natural order and perhaps in some places to restore a “true” nature—the original Creation, as it is in effect regarded within the movement—that has been lost.
One of the issues often overlooked is that Africa in its current state cannot afford to have environmentally friendly solutions to power needs.  For the price of solar cells, they can get, at a minimum, 3 times the electricity using gas or coal-burning methods, and can have electricity during the night (imagine!).  Not to mention the environmental damage done from the production of solar cells.  (ethylene-vinyl acetate lining and heavy metals in water, not to mention the electricity draw necessary to heat and dope the silicon itself)

Later on, he talks about massive displacements of the indigenous people to make way for conservation parks.  Ironically, most of these are on some of the most fertile ground that Africa has to offer.  This is done to preserve these areas to bring in tourist dollars.  People come in to experience "primeval Africa".  Mostly westerners. 

Turns out that the needs of the people are being marginalized due to the massive lobbying efforts from outside.  By environmental groups.  Western environmental groups.

The western world is starving Africa with its environmentalism practices, then making ourselves feel better by arranging aid. But hey, we get to feel better in the process.  And isn't that the important part?

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Monday, July 06, 2009

We're in (gross) sync...

So apparently, Tab has filled you all in on my poo-ems.

For a touch more background, Sev, Matt, and I have been texting for some time about our sit-down activities when on the john, not in graphic terms at all, but in very flowery, poetic language that gives a valid description without being crass. 

The humor of using delicate language to depict something so base is part of the humor, really.

Kind of like when Shakespeare made a sex/drinking joke in the middle of Macbeth, really. (look up the role of the gatekeeper if you have any doubts).

One of the side effects of this is that I have utilized (and invented) all of the delicate ways to describe such stall-based antics.

With that in mind, this past Sunday happened to be a communion Sunday. Pastor Dan Hicks gave a message about freedom, and was trying to make the point that you should leave your concerns and cares at the table.

However, the exact phrase started out as: "leave a deposit on this table..."

I stifled my laughter. I looked at Tab, and she had an equally devious grin on her face. If memory serves, the conversation went like this:

Tab: "Don't you dare..."
Me: "Honey, the pastor said to..."

We are going to have sooo much fun in life...

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