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Beyond The Burden July 28, 2017

I’m going to take a huge hit on my taxes for this year.
Why?
In a word: Obamacare.

This past February I lost the insurance that I had had through my employer do to a change in employment status.  I failed to find/afford health care within the allowed 3-month period following.
Now I’m gonna owe.
The Affordable Care Act has not yet been of personal benefit.
It’s actually a bit of a burden.

This morning, after 7 years of railing against Obamacare, the Republicans again failed to repeal and replace.
And guess what.
I rejoiced!
I have actively done my part by sending emails, making phone calls and sharing info on social media.
Obamacare is going to cost me, and I still rejoice in its continued success (and much-needed fixes).

Why?
Because I know this isn’t just about me!

Good-Samaritan-croppedThe Christian Bible says
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (NASB)
The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

I know millions would have lost their coverage if this repeal and falsely touted “replace” would have gone through.  I know of those who would not have received coverage without the ACA.  There are those who know they likely would have died without Obamacare.
I rejoiced in this morning’s decision because it’s the right thing to do whether I, at this point, am benefited by it or not.

It was already clear for those willing to see, but now is pretty much undeniable:  The Republicans never intended on the “replace” part.  Only the repeal.  That’s why, after all these years, they still don’t have a workable plan.  Because, as they’ve proven, they don’t care about health care as much as they care about destroying the legacy of America’s 1st African-American President.
I believe this with every fiber of my being.

So yes.  For me right now, the ACA is a burden.  It’s going to cost me.
That’s OK.
I also pay taxes to support the school system while having no school-age children.  I pay for roads on which I’ll never travel.  The list goes on.
Yes, it’s a burden.  But I’m looking beyond the burden in the hopes that we can move forward and improve health care.
Not just destroy it.

 

[Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2]

[“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi]

[“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – MLK]

 

AL FRANKEN, GIANT of the SENATE July 10, 2017





Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.

But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.

This is my 4th read by Franken.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir.  It’s humorous.  It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.

We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).”  All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts.  They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken

[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here.  So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]

Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.”  “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice.  And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone.  And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate.  An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.

“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter.  Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.”  But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.

We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction.  Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley.  “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”

The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.”  And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news.  This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”

There’s a chapter on healthcare.  The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing.  They fought and fought to stop it.  Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it.  Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now.  “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law.  They had offered zero plans to replace it.”  And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party.  That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part.  Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.

Another chapter discusses education.  Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble.  But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it.  McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”

In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.

“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman.  For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand.  I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”

Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him.  “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz.”

On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning.  “I know more that the generals,” he would say.  No, idiot – you don’t.

We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer.  Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve.  He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.”  So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others.  And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign.  “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”

As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book!  (And if you don’t vote, well…)

 

 

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

  • Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
  • We all do better when we all do better
  • My wife and I have a division of labor.  Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
  • McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

  • Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you.  But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
  • Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!!  Just sayin’.]
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
  • Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst.  This is going to suck for a while.  But not forever.
  • Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives.  That’s what makes us Democrats.  It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.

Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”


NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!

 

The Vega, The Ghost, and the Rambling Old Man January 19, 2013

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)


I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.

58
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.

Man. 58 years on this planet.
Fifty-friggin’-eight years.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.

So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
well, experience.

I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle.  Just to name a few.

Hey! Ya wanna ride?


When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!

I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?

I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.

I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…chevrolet-vega-1
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.

It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time.  It was just a personal thing.

I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once.  The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through.  I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.


Fun Experiences:
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)

I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz”  to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.


Changes.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Then adopted.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.

I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
High-school dropout.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Got Married.
Became a stepfather.

I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.

More changes.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
Divorced.
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.

Grace.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent.  Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.

Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.

So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.

58 years.
So many changes.

Philosophical.
  World-view.
    Religious.
      Spiritual.
        Social.
          Political.

All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
good-newsI’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.

2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.


Sexual/Spiritual healing.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.

My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
Tragic.

Onward.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)

Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.

I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.

– df
.                                                                             .  ghost-writer

 

Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them April 3, 2010

.

.

“Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:
A Fair and Balanced Look At The Right”
by Al Franken

The humor in this book really was laugh-out-loud funny.  The truth in this book was turn-my-stomach sickening.  There were even a few parts that were tears-in-my-eyes sad.

This book came out in 2003.  I really wish I would have read it then.  I still may not have read it now, if not for the recommendation of a family member.  The thing is, in 2003, I may not yet have been at a place in my journey where I was ready for this.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Long before I read this book, I began to realize that most on the “left” hold their beliefs, not due to a lack of morality, as right-wing evangelical leaders would have us believe, but actually because of their morality.  Many, because of their Christian faith.  That was pointed out by one of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey.  He mentioned that as he was relating his experiences with President and Hillary Clinton.  It was truly one of those scales-falling-from-my-eyes moments.  Reading “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” was another.

The language contained in the pages of Mr. Franken’s book can be very raw, but far more vulgar than any language could ever be, are the actions, lies, and abominations committed by those exposed in this book.
Some of the people discussed are, well, just plain stupid.  But much worse, most are not.  They are, instead, calculating and intentional as they lie, manipulate, distort, and smear.

This book is extremely well researched, and has detailed footnotes, endnotes, and internet links, so you can verify all the facts for yourself.  Al Franken commissioned 14 Harvard students to do in-depth research so he could “do something my targets seem incapable of doing – get my facts straight.”

He exposes
Ann Coulter “whose lies are painstakingly crafted to serve her radical political agenda.”
Bill O’Reilly who “seems to lie for two reasons.  One, to polish his own apple”, and two, “to attack anyone who’s critical of him.”
Of George W. Bush: “The media thought he was kind of stupid.  He isn’t.  He’s just shamelessly dishonest.”
And there’s Hannity and Colmes, Bernie Goldberg, and many more lying liars.

The first 13 chapters really held me.  Somewhere after that, it went a little dry for me.  That only lasted for a couple or so chapters, and then it was back on track.

Chapter 24 is a great exposé on the “Wall Street Journal” and it’s hack journalism.

Chapter 25 was truly sad.  It chronicles how the right-wing media hijacked the pain and anguish of a family who lost a loved one.  They not only used the event as a political tool, they then blamed those suffering loss of the very political hijacking they themselves were doing.  Truly, some of the most despicable human behavior I have ever read about.

OK.  Even a great book may not be perfect.  Chapter 29 was, for me at least, a waste of time.  It is a fictional story called “Operation Chickenhawk.”  It does, in many places, make fun of the disgustingly vulgar piece of fiction that Bill O’Reilly wrote, “Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Murder and Television.”
Still, I found it unnecessary and distracting.   Later in the book there’s another bit of fiction in the form of a one-act play.  It didn’t do much for me, but it was far better than “Operation Chickenhawk.”  Still, there are well over 40 other chapters that you shouldn’t miss.

In the chapter called “I’m A Bad Liar,”  Al and friend set out to perpetrate an elaborate ruse on Bob Jones University.  It heads full force in the direction you would expect from a book like this, but then, it takes a surprising turn; one that gave me even more respect for Mr. Franken.

That’s followed by a chapter about Jerry Falwell.
OK, I know.  Falwell is funny enough without any help.  Well, maybe more scary than funny.

Chapter 33 discussed Abstinence education.  There are some very interesting statistics that every parent should read.

There’s a chapter called “The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus.”  The entire chapter is a “comic strip” of sorts.  It contrasts some of the quasi-Christian right-wing teachings with the actual gospel of Christ.  This chapter can actually be read, or rather watched online.  You can see this narrated version on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK7gI5lMB7M

“Our air, water, and wildlife are under attack.”
Ok.  What did you first think when you read that line?  Ranting of  some left-wing wacko extremist?  Chapter 39 will do wonders to change your mind.  Many of us know we’re killing ourselves and our planet, but here are real-world examples of how bad it really is, and which political party is doing all it can to make sure no one stops it.

There is information in this book about the war against terrorism.  Stories about 9/11.  Stories about advance information our government willfully ignored that could possibly have prevented that tragedy.  There’s documentation of, again, willful deception and lies to get the American people onboard for a war based largely on information about weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.

Should you read this book?
* If you believe for one second that right-wing politicians are more moral than the left, you need to read this book.
* If you don’t realize that the right has used your Christianity and your faith as a tool to manipulate and control you, you need to read this book.
* If you’re one of those who, despite what you say, believe deep down that “Republican” and “Christian” are the same thing,
you need to read this book.
* If you are even close to being able to handle the truth, you need to read this book.

There is an updated version in paperback, which has “More Lies and New Lying Liars!”  If you get a chance, get that copy.  If it’s not available, the original is still a good choice.  If you consider yourself a Christian, and your vote (if you vote) is based on moral choices of the candidates, you, especially, should read this book.  Ignorance may be the reason we do some things in our lives.  I know it’s been my reason many times.  But, in the end, ignorance really isn’t an excuse.

There are some major, very serious, issues discussed in these pages.  So serious, that without the humor, would be much harder to take.  While this book is indeed serious, it’s also very, very funny.

Mr. Franken believes “We have to fight back.  But we can’t fight like they do.  They fight with lies.  We can’t do that.  We have to fight them with the truth.”

This book may open your eyes to what some of that truth really is.

— df

Buy the book at: https://www.amazon.com/Lies-Lying-Liars-Balanced-Right/dp/0452285216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498649831&sr=8-1&keywords=lies+and+the+lying+liars+who+tell+them+by+al+franken

 

 

 
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