Monthly Archives: July 2009

It’s Not About You (Pastor)


If you visit the homepage for Lakewood Church, you’ll find four photos of Joel Osteen. Make that 5, when you count the one in the rotating banner (and three of the Mrs.).

I think it’s safe to say this isn’t a “purpose-driven” church but a “personality-driven” church.

(I make this generalization with only surface knowledge of Lakewood and Osteen. This is what bloggers do.)

At any rate: I like seeing photos of people on church sites, but not a photo of the pastor front-and-center. The latter just tells me this church puts too much emphasis on the pastor (or maybe the pastor puts too much emphasis on himself).

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Dueling Anecdotes About Health Care

As the healthcare debate cranks up, we’re gonna be hearing lots of stuff about Canada’s healthcare system. It has a lot of dysfunctionalities, and will be used to scare people about the idea of government healthcare. Actually, nobody’s proposing a plan like Canada has. America’s private healthcare system is well-developed, and you build on what you already have (not scrape everything clean and start over).

CNN did a report on Canada’s system, trying to determine if what we hear is really accurate (ahh, actual reporting! what a concept!). Some is accurate, some not. In any system, you can find negative anecdotal stories. You can find them about Canada’s system (in which every person is, at least, covered), and you can find them in our system (where people forgo needed medical procedures because they can’t afford them, or because insurance companies refuse to cover them). We’ll soon be engulfed in Dueling Anecdotes.

A wonderful article in the New Yorker talks about the path several other countries have taken (England, France, Switzerland). Each country is different–and none relate well to where the US is right now. It’s a very pragmatic piece, written by a doctor.

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The Rule of Threes

I’m losing track. They say deaths of well-known people occur in threes. So here’s where we seem to be at:

Set 1: Ed McMahon (June 23), Farrah Fawcett (June 25), Michael Jackson (June 25).
Set 2: Billy Mays (June 28), Karl Malden (July 1), Steve McNair (July 4).
Set 3: Robert McNamara (July 6).

Mom mentioned the death of Harve Presnell (June 30) as part of Set 2. He was evidently a Big Name in the 1960s, appearing in some movie musicals (“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Paint Your Wagon”) and on broadway. That would push Steve McNair to Set 3, and mean we need only one more death to complete that set. But since his name rings no bells with me, I’m not including him. (Though I’m sure he was a much bigger deal in his time than Billy Mays.)

You want morbid? You got it.

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The Public Bullying of Sarah Palin

Every school, maybe even every schoolbus, has one: the kid that everyone picks on. Even the schoolbus driver looks the other way, subtly sanctioning the bullying. I remember one such scrawny blond-headed guy in high school. It seemed like other guys were always taunting him, pushing him around. I, new to that school, was not heroic enough to intervene. My thoughts were probably more along the line, “I’m glad that’s not me.”

The media does the same thing. A well-known person crosses some kind of line, and suddenly they are fair game for any kind of mockery. It might be something they did, something they said. Or it might merely be the accumulation of too many silly caricatures. Whatever the case, word goes out, “She’s fair game. You can say anything you want, and it’s okay.” A person’s life becomes tabloid fodder.

Sarah Palin found herself in that tabloidesque situation. In her case, there was nothing major that she did or said; it was just the gradual, day-by-day drip drip drip of negative reporting, which led to continual mockery by late-night comedians and pundits. A good person became a public joke. David Letterman felt she had entered the “anything goes” category when he made disgusting jokes not only about Palin, but about her daughter. He thought he could say such things, and America would laugh, because Sarah Palin and her family had become that scrawy blond guy whom it’s okay to pick on. The backlash says that maybe she wasn’t quite in the “anything goes” camp. But she was close enough that Letterman though his jokes would be socially acceptable.

Tom Cruise seems to be in that category, thanks to jumping on Oprah’s couch and a strange interview with Matt Lauer. Britney Spears was there for several years, thanks to her own bizarre behavior. Amy Winehouse is there. Dan Quayle continues living under the “public joke” cloud. Michael Jackson, especially after leaving the country after his latest trial, became the subject of endless ridicule. Jim and Tammy Bakker were there. 

Sometimes it’s hard to feel sorry for these people, but that’s not the point. The point is: our society revels in knocking well-known people to the ground. And then kicking them. 

Palin, Cruise, Spears, Jackson–they aren’t much different from that scrawny blond kid I observed in high school. It’s open season, in the public’s mind. You can say anything about them, and about the people around them.

Bill Clinton certainly brought this on himself (with some help from Monica Lewinsky). He became a public joke. But Hillary–not only an innocent in this story, but a victim–also got dragged into it. How many sick jokes have we heard about Hillary’s sexual relationship with Bill, and her sexuality in general? How many such jokes have I heard from church people? How many have I then repeated? (Chelsea was spared the ridicule, fortunately.)

I don’t know all the motives behind Sarah Palin’s decision to resign as governor. It’s quite possible she has her eye on running for president, or getting a TV show, or writing a book. There is probably a mixture of motives. But it’s also possible she’s just fed up with the continual mockery she and her family have been subjected to. Who needs that?

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Shooting Fireworks at Stu’s House

Every year our family gathers at my brother Stu’s house in Convoy, Ohio, to shoot off fireworks. Some crazy stuff happens. This year, Stu and his sons Benjamin and Jonathan were dueling with Roman Candles. They would stand a good ways apart, light the candles, and then hold onto one end as fireballs shot out the other. The goal was to hit one of the other persons. They each got hit at least once. Stu has a big cut on the back of one leg where a fireball hit him. 

They are trained professionals. Don’t try this at home.

Another amusement is watching the dogs–little yappy Toby and big Wrench–barking at the fireworks. Stu bought one huge string of firecrackers, and the dogs went nuts as it went on and on. That’s what’s in the video below. (If you’re reading this in Facebook, click on the “View Original Post” link to see the video.)

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Obama: Slow Down, and Count Your Pennies

I’m quite content with my health insurance, but it’s not about me. It’s about the 45 million Americans who have no health insurance. So I favor universal health care. And it IS about me in the sense that, despite our seeming good situation, a health situation could arise that would send Pam and I to the poorhouse. Most Americans teeter on that brink.

I also favor investing in energy independence. I favor investing in green technology, so that the US can become the world leader in what will inevitably become a huge industry. And the financial system definitely needs overhauled.


I’ve thought for some time that President Obama was trying to do too much, too fast. Huge price tags are being thrown around, and we’re rushing to spend this money without really thinking things through. Sure, I guess plans were formulated back during the campaign, and duly published on websites for policy wonks to study. But…can we have some national debate first?

The perpetual Obama-haters at Fox and elsewhere have been spewing about this for some time, but their one-note partisanship lacks any credibility with me. Nobody is ALL bad, as these folks contend about Obama. I listen half-heartedly to what they say, but I pay much more attention to a lot of other folks who don’t take such a partisan approach.

Lately, some credible (to me) voices are speaking words of caution.

Colin Powell, speaking to CNN: “I’m concerned at the number of programs that are being presented, the bills associated with these programs, and the additional government that will be needed to excutie them…..I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president — and I’ve talked to some of his people about this — is that you can’t have so many things on the table that you can’t absorb it all. And we can’t pay for it all.”

Jack and Susie Welch, in BusinessWeek July 6: “With his everything-all-at-once overhaul of our country’s $13 trillion economy, President Obama is unquestionably taking on too much….People are scared; many are angry. They want problems fixed fast. But change–especially massive, frame-breaking change along the lines the President is pushing–can’t just be about getting things done. It has to be about getting the right outcomes, and right outcomes rarely get sorted out in a rush. They emerge from vigorous debate, from grappling with ideas and wallowing in the details of options and their consequences, intended and not….Without question, every area of our economy that he is trying to upend could and should be remade to some extent. Our pushback has to do with pacing and scope.”

The column by the Welches is excellent. They get specific about some problems with things being passed. They write that “a ‘this is an emergency’ approach is just a way to silence debate over long-term consequences.”

I applaud Obama for moving aggressively on a lot of issues that desperately need attention. I don’t have confidence that John McCain would have gotten much of anything done now, particularly with Democrats ruling both houses of Congress. But I’d really like him to just SLOW DOWN.

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Sears Tower Ledge: No Way

The Sears Tower opened three glass-bottomed balconies on the 103rd floor. They say they can hold five tons. I don’t care. You wouldn’t get me to stand on one.

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