Wednesday, December 18, 2013


It's been a while since I've posted an entry here... life has been full.

In October our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson moved in with us.  It has been a tricky adjustment.  We have 5 adults, an infant, and 3 cats in our medium sized condo.   There are the tensions and adjustments one would expect when a grown child and her family move back with the rents.  Add the clutter that comes with a baby and you get the picture.  All of that has been a more difficult adjustment for my spouse than for me, but it is what it is.  I can only guess what my daughter and son-in-law are feeling about all of it.

Well, here's the good side.  I get to see my grandson every day and directly experience the changes that most grandparents don't get to see.  I tell him daily that he is "my favorite person in the whole world," and I mean it.  He brings a sense of delight to my life that hasn't been there in a good while.  When I hold him, I see the future.  When he smiles I melt.  Life is good.

I've thought a lot about the differences between parenting and grandparenting.  Obviously there are some bits that are the same.  We all want the very best for Corwin.  We want him to be happy, healthy, and to find a path for his life that is full.   Still there is a big difference.  I'm not responsible.  That makes my agenda for his life much less weighty.  I can enjoy my time with him.  If I change his diaper, it is because I want to, not because I have to.  Indeed, changing his diaper is one of my favorite activities as we get to talk uninterrupted.

OK, so let me brag on him a bit... Corwin loves music, or at least the music that he loves.  He is very opinionated.  He loves rhythmic music.  When music he enjoys is playing he moves arms, legs, and head and sometimes sings along.  When that song ends or when he hears music he doesn't like, he cries.   The first time I noticed it, I had recorded the Saturday Night Live episode with Katy Perry and it was playing while I changed his diaper.  He loved Roar and trying to get his diaper on was like trying to do origami with a fish as all of his limbs were moving.  The song ended... and he roared.  He likes faster Irish music and just about anything with a strong rhythm.  One of his favorites is an old Harry Belafonte tune I sing to him sometimes - Zombie Jamboree (as a child, the Kingston Trio version was in heavy rotation at my house).  There are those times when our tastes don't quite line up.  We were watching The Voice this week (one of his favorite shows BTW) and the coaches did a song with Def Leppard.  He loved it... me not so much.  Given the way he moves all of his limbs, I won't be surprised if he becomes a drummer.  Watch out Manu Katche, here he comes!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

unsolicited advice re: musicians' websites

OK... nobody asked for my opinion but that has never stopped me before.  I'm speaking here as one who books a venue (Cambridge Drive Concerts), not a fan looking at musicians' websites.  Some of the needs are very different so take that into account. 

As a booker, when I go to an artist's website, there are a number of things I look for and I want to be able to find them relatively easily. 

First, I want to be able to hear the artist's music.  It is better yet if I can actually hear their live sound rather than a CD they're selling (which tells me next to nothing about what they sound like live) and even better yet if I can watch a quality video of a live performance. 

Next I want a good, useable bio.  If it includes recommendations or reviews, they are worth more to me if they are related to live performances than to a CD.  And if you have quotes from venues that are similar to mine, even better yet.  Te whole thing doesn't need to be press ready, but if it is, I appreciate that.  One performer sent me a press kit with three different length bios... I loved it.  I didn't end up using any of them verbatim but took pieces from two and put together something that fit our requirements and seemed to reflect the performer's personality.

I want to know where the musician is based.  I hear lots of music on the web, have a feeling the person would be a good match for our venue, make a contact, only to discover they're based in Maine and never travel outside of New England.  You wouldn't believe how many websites don't even give a clue as to where the musician is based.  It would have been so much easier if somewhere the website might have said, "New England based" or "I spend 50% of my time driving cross country and perform everywhere."  Maybe even a "I'm currently putting together a west coast tour for next fall..." 

Last, I want to be able to find a good high rez photo to use for my press materials.  I can't tell you how many artist's websites have zero useable photos for press releases.  Yes, I can send an e-mail and ask for one and wait for it to be sent, but it is soooo much easier when I can just go to the website and download it.  And of course, there are those times when I forget to ask until a day before the press release needs to go out and there just isn't time and I end up using something inadequate that I pulled off the web somewhere.  As likely as not, that photo doesn't get included in the announcements in the media and maybe we lose a few audience members.

Once I've booked an act, I need a few other pieces.  What do you need from me for sound, ie how many microphones, inputs, DI's?  Do you have any food allergies or requirements?  We like to feed folk.  Any pet allergies if we're putting you up?  Where are you coming from and going to?  That helps with our plans.  Send me a CD a few months before your date.  It isn't just for me (although I've gotten a few of my favorite CD's from performers).  I'll play it at shows as people arrive and during intermission and inform the audience... "You're listening to John Doe who is performing here next month."  The high rez photo becomes more important here.  I need one, one way or another and I have to have it more than a month out as press releases go out before the 1st of the prior month.  And most important, give me your cell phone number and get mine as soon as we solidify a date.  It isn't likely we'll need to call one another, but if you're stuck on the 101 outside of Ventura because of a mud slide an hour before our scheduled soundcheck, I need to know.

One more piece of advice.  I love to get e-mails from performers looking for someplace to play and have connected with some wonderful folk that way.  More often than not though,  the sender has done no research and they are not the right artist for us.  I get e-mails from hip hop artists, alternative rock bands, you name it... and it is a waste of time and bandwidth.   Find out who we are and what we do before you make a contact.  FWIW, I usually book about 6 months out and do the fall in a block and then the winter/spring in a block.  We present once a month on the first Friday.

One of these days I'll give some more unsolicited advice about performing.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

winners and losers in the ACA

No doubt you have heard reports of folk  who have lost health insurance or had it increase in price because of the Affordable Care Act.  I know that in some of those instances, the reporting has been less than 100% accurate.  In some cases, such as with Trader Joe's, the employer discontinued their employee insurance because they calculated that their employees could get coverage through the exchanges for less than their portion of the coverage they were getting at work.  Dropping them actually got them equivalent insurance for less money.  In other instances, people with woefully inadequate insurance found themselves having to pay more but also receiving significantly better coverage.  All that said, I know there are folk who have seen increases in the cost of their insurance and I've heard some reports for which I have no data to question, that the reason is Obamacare.  And finally there are those young adults who "don't need" health insurance until of course, they do.  For them, any cost is an increase.

My experience has been different.  As I said in an earlier post, moving to the exchange will save significantly money for my employer.  I had no idea how much.  To recap, my insurance is ridiculously high for a number of reasons.  Clergy are a high risk group to begin with.  They tend not to take good care of themselves so heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are rampant.  Clergy also tend to be older which just increases the risk pool.  Finally, the health insurance we get through our denomination is an even higher risk pool as it tends to include only those who cannot get insurance elsewhere.  Until the ACA, I was part of that group.   I also happen to live in an area where healthcare and insurance are very expensive.  We received word that for next year, our denominational healthcare plan would increase by 11.5% and the increase has nothing to do with the ACA.  Additionally, the co-pays all increase as does the out of pocket limit and fewer medications are covered.  Add the fact that I move into another age category and insurance for my spouse and I would cost $4251 a month.  Simply, that is beyond what the church could possibly afford and minus housing allowance, is more than my salary.  Looking at the exchange, it seems that a platinum plan in our area at our age would be under $1900 a month for a savings of about $2,350 a month or over a 55% savings.  It is still a lot of money but the church can afford to keep me covered.

My son-in-law, daughter, and grandson will experience an even larger savings.  My son has been without health insurance for 3 years because as a single male he was not eligible for any government help and could not begin to afford coverage on the open market.  He will have insurance beginning January 1 and I will breathe much easier every time he plays basketball or flag football.

I guess there are losers in all of this.  I still agree that the overall shape of the ACA is not the best we could have done.  Given the current situation and the political climate in which we live, I am more thankful than I could say for the ACA.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Keeping the Feast

About a year ago, I received Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal by Milton Brasher-Cunningham in return for a promise to read and review it within 30 days.  Well, it got into the pile and I never got to it.  The other day I got an e-mail reminder (thanks Mike) and found the book and read it.  Here's my review.

This book is about meals... primarily communion but it also reminds us of the sacredness of being at table with one another and the place that meals hold in building community and reinforcing "who we are and to whom we belong." It shares a few recipes (we're going to try them), some poems, and lots of metaphors illustrating the role of communion in our lives.

I like this book.  A lot.  I wanted to like it even more, but I read it too fast for that.  It is a short book and easily read in two or three sittings, which is what I did.  That was a mistake.  It reads more like a series of free flowing discussions over the kitchen table rather than a linear argument or treatise on the theology of the Eucharist and each little bit requires some time to properly digest.  The book made me think of the Slow Food movement, a reaction to fast food eating that envisions food as something we ingest quickly and without thought, as a means of getting a little quick physical nutrition as if eating is the same as refueling a car at the gas station.  Slow Food says that eating together can be a time of meaning, of community, of re-membering and it can be sacred time that makes us whole rather than just full.  I read Keeping the Feast like fast food and that was a mistake.  I'll read it again... slowly, digesting each metaphor and wrestling with the challenges.  (I love the idea of the Thursday Night Dinner).

The secondary theme of the sacredness of eating together will be most meaningful in my life.  My wife and I do eat dinner together every evening but too often it is perfunctory as we grab something and park in front of the television.  Recently my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson moved in with us which has changed our eating pattern and pushed us back to the table together.  It takes more time and a lot more energy, but it might just be a wonderful opportunity for re-membering.  I'm hopeful.  I dare not implement a Thursday Night Dinner without permission but the idea holds a lot of attraction for me.  At the very least, it will push me to open our door more than we do in our isolated American life.

So... I recommend this book.  Read it slowly and take time to digest the ideas.

In the meantime, check out Milton Brasher-Cunningham's blogs - for recipes and  for reflections.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alternatives to Obamacare

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Republicans in the House have voted to repeal the ACA 46 times and not once have they offered an alternative.   The reason that they have not offered a reasonable alternative to Obamacare is because Obamacare was their idea.  Yep.  Back in 1974, the Nixon administration proposed an insurance program where all employers would provide insurance for all of their workers or face a fine.  The poor would be added to an expanded Medicare and small businesses and low income folk would receive a government subsidy to help cover their insurance costs.   It failed because Democrats wanted a public system rather than one based on private insurers.  In 1989 the Heritage Foundation proposed a law with an individual mandate requiring everyone to purchase insurance and that feature began showing up in Republican proposals for healthcare reform up until Newt Gingrich made it a centerpiece of his agenda when he was Speaker.  All of this on the federal level.  Then, of course, Romney established a very similar plan in Massachusetts on the state level.  Obamacare is a Republican program.  A Democratic program would have centered on a public option with a single payer.  The ACA is not socialized medicine, it is a program based on the private sector. 

There are other options to the ACA.  I prefer a single payer, public program.  I think that is the only way to address the myriads of problems in our healthcare delivery system.  There was no way the Republicans would have voted for truly socialized healthcare and there were enough Dems who would have sided with them that it was an idea that was dead in the water regardless of whether or not it might have been the best idea.  It never even made it to the table for discussion.

I have heard two other options mentioned by some.

Leave the system alone.  That is fine if you are someone who has good insurance from your employer without a large employee contribution or never experience any illnesses or accidents that cause injuries.  It leaves out the folk who have no insurance or are under-insured.  It causes many people to forgo treatment until it is too late and sends others to the most expensive healthcare option of all, the emergency room.  It leaves those out who have pre-existing conditions which preclude them from purchasing insurance (and there is no way to stop insurance companies from excluding pre-existing conditions without an individual mandate).  And regardless of what folk say, healthcare does not work like any other "free market" industry so in this option there is no way to slow the runaway price increases we've all experienced.  Leaving it alone is not an option that I can see as making any sense at all.

I've recently seen multiple folk advocating another option which I find sickening (excuse the pun).  They are arguing that we do away with insurance completely.  Healthcare would become like any other commodity on the market with individuals bargaining with physicians and hospitals when needed, health care going only to those who can afford it, and the "free" market running its course.  In their minds, those who are healthy would not have to subsidize those who are not and those who are not in this scenario are always caricatured as irresponsible folk whose poor choices are causing their problems.  While there are many who do not need regular doctor visits or medications and think they can go without insurance, one accident or unexpected illness changes everything in a heartbeat.  Those folk argue that a free market would bring down costs, but never imagine the ridiculousness of sitting in the emergency room with a broken bone sticking through their flesh while arguing with the doctor about the costs or leaving to go 55 miles to another hospital that treats heart attacks more inexpensively.  I presume they would argue that anyone arriving at the hospital must pay in advance or not receive treatment.  Without that stricture, who would pay for those who receive treatment and never pay?  Most of all, this kind of idea completely excludes any sense of community and the greater good for the entire community.  I can't help but think of politicians in New York and Colorado who argued against government disaster funds until their communities were struck by Sandy and terrible floods and they saw the light that we really are all in this together.  The only folk for whom this option works are the very, very, very few who never get sick or injured or the extremely wealthy.

Are there other options that I've missed?  Realistic ones that preserve a sense of community?  I agree the ACA is not the best option.  I would even agree that it does not represent any sense of a compromise.  In spite of the fact that it was passed by the Dems,  it is a completely Republican idea that Democrats supported, expecting that Republicans would own the baby they birthed.  They did not.   And they offered no reasonable alternatives... because their proposal was already on the table.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In the Ghetto

Yesterday was the first real sit down meal for the blended Busby/Donkin families (although John was working so we weren't all here).  It was a simple meal, sauteed asparagus and sloppy joes, but I decided to open a little higher grade wine.  We have about 180 bottles in our "cellar" so I sat in front of them and looked at the labels and came across Ghetto Red from Joseph Blair winery. 

Yep... Ghetto Red. 

It is a fun joke as the wine area in Lompoc, CA is called the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  It clearly is not the ghetto red I knew as a teenager growing up very near the ghetto in Wilkinsburg, PA.  The ghetto red I knew was Tiger Rose or Bali High...  I think it had some kind of grapes in it.  The Ghetto Red we had was a very nice blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot.  It really went well with the cloves in the sloppy joes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What the Republicans Are Doing

It has been interesting watching the media cover the ongoing political mess.   Fox News has refused to call it a government "shut down," preferring instead a government "slimdown."  As has been noted by some, words are important and the one who controls the language, controls the debate.  On October 10 at a press conference, press secretary Carney used the word "ransom" which was rejected by the press corp as being too provocative.  The Republicans have repeatedly slammed the president for "refusing to negotiate" while the president has refused to allow the economy to be held "hostage."   All the while, the media has implied more or less equal blame for the mess we're facing.

At this point, it is important to clarify what has actually happened.  A law was passed (the ACA).  That law was judged constitutional by a very conservative SCOTUS.  The electorate re-elected the president, running on the basis of that law and even a majority of voters in House races voted Democratic, all endorsing the law.  Republicans, largely because of gerrymandered districts held the House majority.  Some 41 times, the tried to repeal the ACA, failing every single time.  It should be noted that laws get repealed and modified all of the time... through the legislative process or via the courts.  Neither worked for the Republicans so they decided to do an end run, holding first the budget hostage and then the full faith and credit of the United States.  Make no mistake, when the Republicans in the House were unable to repeal Obamacare via the normal means, they decided to threaten severe damage to the economy of the country and indeed the world.  Give them what they want, what they could not get by normal means, or they would destroy everything.

Perhaps "ransom" is too provocative... but terrorism is an accurate description.  Here's one definition I found for that word... other definitions were all similar.  "The use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Welcome to Crazy Town

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or move to another country when I think about the current political mess in Washington.  We have Tea Party folk willing to shut down the government because all of the normal ways of changing a law are out of their reach.  So, to defund the ACA, which they are afraid will succeed, they are willing to directly hurt thousands of Americans and add one more drain on a still very fragile economy.  Of course, they are willing to fund parts piecemeal - fund the WWII Memorial in DC but forget the EPA and the FDA... you get the picture.  While FOX News calls it a government "slimdown," the reality is that it is being felt throughout the economy and is impacting the lives of all Americans, though clearly some much more than others.

And then comes the debt ceiling.  I have to say that I don't fully understand all of the ins and outs of the debt ceiling.  I do understand that if it is not increased, that the US government cannot pay all of its bills.  That would be devastating to the economy of the US and the world.   I also understand that even the threat of a default ripples through the skittish economy as Wall Street reacts to the slightest insecurity in the financial system.  The last time they threatened to breach the debt ceiling (2011), the Dow dropped 2000 points and the US credit rating was impacted.  A 2000 point drop is a serious hit on investments, people's 401Ks, retirement plans, etc. and that is just the impact on the US market.  Because much of the world's markets rely on US Treasury bills as the safest investment in the world, a hiccup there is felt everywhere.  Already the worldwide market seems to be reacting to the possibility of a default. 

Here's the scary part... there are Republicans who are saying that a default wouldn't be a big deal,  They are irresponsible.  Every economist is saying that at best it would be an economic catastrophe.  At worst, it would plunge us into a worldwide depression that would make the Great Depression look like a Tea Party (excuse the pun).  Of course, these are the same folk who ignore the clear scientific consensus that Global Warming is real and caused by human activity, dismiss the clear scientific consensus that evolution is the way we got here, and even question whether children should be taught science and the humanities.  Why would they listen to economists?

There is a worse group.   They are seeing breaching the debt ceiling as the best strategy to destroy the government they hate.  They believe it would be catastrophic but that would provide the easiest cover to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, the EPA, the FDA, public education, and virtually all of the other parts of government that help secure the common good.  They want to destroy the US government as it exists.  If the first group of Republicans are irresponsible, those in this group are treasonous. 

I almost want to believe those folk are truly crazy.  I feel sympathy for people with mental illness. I know it is not their fault and that they need treatment.  If those Republicans are not crazy, the other options are not good.  You could say they are stupid... or you could say they are very, very badly misled... or you could conclude they are evil.  I like crazy better.  Maybe with some thorazine they'd be OK.   Why we've allowed the inmates to run the asylum is another question... addressed in the next paragraph.

There is a third group of Republicans, possibly the most despicable of all.  They are the more moderate Republicans who see the other two and are afraid to stand against either.  They are afraid they will be Tea Partied in the next primary and will lose their power and position so they acquiesce to the crazies and allow them to set the agenda and chart the course even though they know it is insane.  They are motivated by self-preservation and lust for power, not by the best interests of their constituents or for the nation as a whole. They are not crazy.  They are despicable.

I have said before that I believe in a two party system.  Actually, I think we need more viable parties to represent a broader spectrum of views at the tables of power.   I think decisions are best made when reasonable people of a variety of understandings struggle together to make compromises that work.  I see nobody acting reasonably on the Republican side.  Literally, nobody.  I think they all need to be voted out of office so that another coalition of folk who truly represent conservative values and understandings can come to the table and wrestle responsibly.  Let the far right come to the table as well... but do not allow the tail to wag the dog any longer.  (FWIW, I'd like to see the Democrats split into multiple parties so that the true liberals get a voice at the table as well.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

budget blues

Budgets are moral documents.  Jesus put it this way - "where your treasure is,  there is your heart."  The converse is the same, where your heart is, there is where you put your money.  I am appalled at the budget passed by the US House this week, cutting aid to millions of poor folk and defunding the ACA which provides health insurance for millions more.  And these actions by those who call themselves pro family and pro life.  They are neither.  If this budget shows us where their hearts are, it is clearly on the side of the rich and powerful at the expense of those on the margins.  As an American,  and even more importantly as a person of faith and a follower of Jesus who always stood with those on the margins, I am disgusted by these actions.  This bill is immoral and clearly at odds with anything taught by any religious tradition.

Unfortunately,  or fortunately,  my representative voted against this travesty.  So, I cannot vote against a representative who so offends anything I value or that I think represents my faith or my understanding of what we stand for a as a nation.  I will give to candidates running against those incumbents who so voted and I will call again and again for those who are my friends and acquaintances to put those people out of office.  Their immoral visions do not represent any version of America I hold  dear.

If you live in a district served by someone who voted for this immoral document, write, call, or email them, telling them that you cannot support a candidate who votes against the needs of the poorest and neediest.  Then vote them out.  If you vote for them, then you have forfeited your right to call yourself moral and certainly cannot claim to follow any religious tradition that is worth embracing.

Sojourners published a list of the representatives who voted for this immoral budget both by state and by last name.

Here they are ordered by last name.  VOTE THEM OUT!

Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)
Rodney Alexander (R-La.)
Justin Amash (R-Mich.)
Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) 
Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.)
Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)
Andy Barr (R-Ky.)
Joe Barton (R-Texas)
Dan Benishek (R-Mich.)
Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich)
Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.)
Rob Bishop (R-Utah)
Diane Black (R-Tenn.)
Marsha Blackburn (T-Tenn.)
John Boehner (R-Ohio)
Charles Boustany (R-La.)
Kevin Brady (R-Texas)
Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)
Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)
Susan W. Brooks (R-Indiana)
Paul Broun (R-Ga.)
Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)
Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas)
Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)
Dave Camp (R-Mich.)
John Campbell (R-Calif.)
Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
John Carter (R-Texas)
William Cassidy (R-La.)
Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Howard Coble (R-N.C.)
Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) 
Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Doug Collins (R-Ga.)
Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)
Michael K. Conaway (R-Texas)
Paul Cook (R-Calif.)
Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)
Rick Crawford (R-Ark.)
Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.)
John Culberson (R-Texas)
Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)
Charles W. Dent (R-Pa.)
Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)
Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)
Sean P. Duffy (R-Wis.)
Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)
John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.)
Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.)
Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)
Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)
Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.)
John Fleming (R-La.)
Bill Flores (R-Texas) 
Randy J. Forbes (R-Va.)
Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)
Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)
Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)
Scott Garrett (R-N.J.)
Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.)
Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)
Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)
Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.)
Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)
Kay Granger (R-Texas)
Tom Graves (R-Ga.)
Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)
Morgan Griffith (R-Va.)
Brett S. Guthrie (R-Ky.)
Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas)
Gregg Harper (R-Miss.)
Andy Harris (R-Md.)
Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)
Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)
Joe Heck (R-Nev.)
Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)
George Holding (R-N.C.)
Richard Hudson (R-N.C.)
Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.)
Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.)
Randy Hultgren (R-Ill)
Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.)
Robert Hurt (R-Va.)
Darrell Issa (R-Calif)
Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)
Bill Johnson (R-Ohio)
Sam Johnson (R-Texas)
Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
David Joyce (R-Ohio)
Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)
Steve King (R-Iowa)
Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)
Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)
John Kline (R-Minn.)
Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho)
Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.)
Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)
Leonard Lance (R.-N.J.)
James Lankford (R-Okla.)
Tom Latham (R-Iowa)
Robert E. Latta (R-Ohio)
Billy Long (R-Mo.)
Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.)
Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.)
Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)
Tom Marino (R-Pa.)
Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)
Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas)
Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)
Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.)
Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)
David McKinley (R-W.Va.)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)
Luke Messer (R-Ind.)
John Mica (R-Fla.)
Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)
Candice Miller (R-Mich.)
Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)
Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)
Tim Murphy (R-Pa.)
Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)
Richard Nugent (R-Fla.)
Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.)
Pete Olson (R-Texas)
Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)
Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)
Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)
Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
Thomas Petri (R-Wis.)
Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.)
Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.)
Ted Poe (R-Texas)
Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)
Bill Posey (R-Fla.)
Tom Price (R-Ga.)
Trey Radel (R-Fla.)
Tom Reed (R-N.Y.)
David G. Reichert (R-Wash.)
Jim Renacci (R-Ohio)
Reid Ribble (R-Wis.)
Tom Rice (R-S.C.)
Scott Rigell (R-Va.)
Martha Roby (R-Ala.)
Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)
Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
Harold Rogers (R-Ky.)
Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
Todd Rokita (R-Ind.)
Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.)
Dennis Ross (R-Fla.)
Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.)
Ed Royce (R-Calif.)
Jon Runyan (R-N.J.)
Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)
Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)
Steve Scalise (R-La.)
Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)
David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)
Austin Scott (R-Ga.)
James F. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)
Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
John Shimkus (R-Ill.)
Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)
Jason Smith (R-Mo.)
Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)
Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
Steve Southerland (R-Fla.)
Chris Stewart (R-Utah)
Steve Stivers (R-Ohio)
Steve Stockman (R-Texas)
Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)
Lee Terry (R-Neb.)
Glenn W. Thompson (R-Pa.)
Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)
Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)
Scott Tipton (R-Colo.)
Michael Turner (R-Ohio)
Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)
Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)
Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)
Randy Weber (R-Texas)
Daniel Webster (R-Fla.)
Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio)
Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.)
Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)
Roger Williams (R-Texas)
Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)
Robert J. Wittman (R-Va.)
Steve Womack (R-Ark.)
Robert Woodall (R-Ark.)
Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.)
Ted Yoho (R-Fla.)
C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.)
Todd Young (R-Ind.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

two weeks

Two weeks ago, Corwin Alexander Busby mad his debut into the world.   A week ago, I met him for the first time and have gotten to spend the last week with him, my daughter, and my son-in-law.  Someone recently told me that the love between a grandparent and a grandchild is the purest form of love.  I don't know whether that is accurate or not but I understand the idea.  As a grandparent I approach the child with only one agenda... to enjoy his presence.  And I do... how I do...

I told Corwin that he is my favorite person in the entire world.  He responded by filling his diaper... "How do you like me now?"  I was excited!  I got to change his diaper again.  I am truly and absolutely in love.

I don't have many photos of him awake... it seems that most of the time he is not sleeping, he is eating...  so, here is one.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


I hear the drumbeat and we are marching ever closer to war again.  Like the last time, it is based on limited information, has no realistic goal, and has virtually no chance of ending in a positive way.  Simply, it feels to me like we are planning to throw missiles that will kill hundreds of innocent people and accomplish little because our leaders cannot imagine something else to do in the face of horrendous atrocities.  Or maybe they can imagine other paths but those paths are just too difficult.  Throwing missiles is easy.  It feels good.  It feeds the myth of redemptive violence that is so central to our culture.  The problem is that redemptive violence is a myth in the non-technical sense of the word.  Violence does not solve the problem and only causes more suffering and pain for the innocent.

I refuse to believe that violence is the only path available or that it is the most effective path.  There are diplomatic paths.  Russia and China must be engaged.  They must be convinced that cutting off arms to the Assad regime is in the best interest of the entire world.   We must not stop pushing them until they agree.  If it takes years or decades, so be it.  The US must begin building positive relationships with Muslims throughout the middle east.  If we spent 1/2 the resources we put into military interventions into schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, we would have an entire region that loved us.  We don't have to teach the children in a way that is offensive to rather conservative Islamists.  We could teach them in a way that presents a possibility for making the world a better place other than through suicide bombing.  We could work with Assad's allies to isolate him.  Convince them that this war is not in their best interest either.  It isn't.   We could "smother" those in Syria who reflect some of the values we'd like to see reinforced with food, medical supplies, other resources... heck we could even give those things to our "enemies" and work to turn them into friends.   Instead of threatening bombs and military interventions, we could work to actually make peace.   I'm sure there are other tactics as well.  Yes... they're all difficult but we haven't really tried them and to the degree we have, we haven't exhausted them.  Will they work?  Who knows.  We haven't tried.  Does military intervention work?  Look at Iraq and Afghanistan and answer that one for me.

There is an aphorism that says "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail."  The only tool we have is military.  We need a bigger tool box.  We need leaders who can imagine other possibilities.  We need a national commitment to philosophize and strategize other ways to solve problems.  We need to be proactive to make the world a better place rather than reactive "police" who go in to punish wrong-doers.  I am astounded at the number of colleges and other institutions in the US devoted to training military leaders and working to make war more effectively...  There is nothing like that devoted to peacemaking and no university level programs sponsored by our government aimed at peace studies.  Indeed, I could only find 10 colleges in the country that even offer a major in Peace Studies. There are more military high schools - 21 that I could find - than that.  And they all get funding from the federal government to train boys to make war.  Why not train a few to make peace?

As a nation we have serious work to do... or we could take the easy way out, spend huge amounts of money while starving our own domestic needs, kill many more innocent people, make more enemies, and accomplish little to nothing of positive value.  Yeah... that sounds like a good idea.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

It is Not My World

Most of the time life moves along like a river - smoothly, quietly, consistently.  While you can never stick your foot in the same river twice, in large degree, just looking you'd never know that.  One day blends into the next.  Time goes by like an ever flowing stream.  The artificial breaks of months and years are just that.  Every now and then, though, something happens that is a big marker, separating one chapter of life from the previous one and it is obvious that nothing will ever be the same again.

Getting married is one of those jarring changes for many people.  It wasn't so for me.  I'm not sure whether that had to do with my lack of maturity or what, but I didn't feel as if things were particularly different afterwards.  The birth of my daughter and the adoption of my son were big deals.  In both cases, I knew that the world had changed.  When I was diagnosed with familial hyperlipidemia was another and I first really faced my own mortality.  In 2006 both of my parents died (two weeks apart).  That was a huge one as I realized that I was then in the oldest generation of my family.  I wasn't the son, I was the old man.

Yesterday another huge one happened.  At 7:15pm in Berkeley, CA, Corwin Alexander Busby arrived in the world.  We knew he was coming.  For 9 months, we've been getting ready both physically and emotionally.  His mother and father, Alexis and Christian have been full of dreams and anxieties.  I've been thinking about that day for months and realized that he brought with him a message of critical import.  The world is not mine.  Yes, I knew that some day I would die and that there would be people who followed after me who would never even hear my name let alone forget it.  Still, seeing yet another new generation begin reminded me in a life changing way that I am only visiting here for a short while.  Indeed the only thing that I leave behind are the relationships that have formed people who will form people who will form people for who knows how many generations.

It is sobering.  It is wonderful.  It is exciting.  It reminds me of what is real and important.  I can't wait to get that little boy in my arms and embrace a future that I will not live to see but which will go on none the less.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Wrath of God

You may have heard that the Presbyterian Church USA is releasing a new hymnal and that the committee decided not to use the popular hymn written by the Gettys and Stuart Townsend - In Christ Alone.  The popular story is that the song was rejected from the hymnal because of the lines Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied... 

I expect there is more to the story than the simple explanation, but in any case,  it has generated a lot of discussion even in the secular press. A piece by Timothy George - No Squishy Love - went viral which does a very good job of sharing the kind of theology behind the song.  It and No Squishy Love Part 2 are worth reading to get a good understanding of that viewpoint.   

Two disclaimers before I wade in... we sing this song along with a number of other songs written by the Gettys.  I like their sense of melody and in general I appreciate the depth of their lyrics.  At the same time, they are too Calvinist for me and a lot more conservative than I am or my church is.

I'm sure there are those who would give a much more reasoned and sophisticated theological treatment of the issue, but let me share two simple reasons why I cannot accept the simplified view of a wrathful God requiring death.

My first reason is a personal one.  As a parent, there is nothing that my children could do that would ever cause me to reject them.  Certainly they could do things that would break my heart, including turning away from me, but I would always be there waiting with open arms.  If they were doing terrible things I would certainly want that to change, and wouldn't hesitate to let them know my displeasure but I would never turn away, never forsake, never stop loving.  I cannot imagine a God who is less loving than I am.  I understand those who portray a God who requires the death of his son as monstrous and abusive.  I simply do not understand holiness or justice in those terms.

Then there is a theological reason... Colossians 1 is crucial in my understanding of who God is.

15 He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 

Jesus is the image of the invisible God and in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.  You want to understand God?  Look at Jesus.  You want to understand how God acts?  Watch what Jesus does.  Jesus does not require retribution, he gives himself.  Jesus does not judge, he forgives.  Jesus does not turn sinners away, he reaches out to them, embraces them, and offers them forgiveness and new life.  If, as Paul says, Jesus really is the image of God, then God does exactly the same thing.  

There are lots of different understandings of what happens on the cross, but I cannot agree that God's anger requires someone to die in order that God's wrath be satisfied.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Men and Boys - The Way Way Back

There have been scores of studies that talk about the need for positive adult male influence in the development of boys.  My own experience points to the accuracy of those studies.  I can point to a number of adult men who were critical in my development, without whom, I would have become a very different man.  I am so thankful for them... especially two that I will name publicly - Charlie Appel and Earl Creps.  There were others and of course, my father played a significant role although father/son dynamics being what they are, it wasn't until I was an adult that I began to appreciate George Donkin.

Yesterday, Cheryl and I saw a wonderful film that highlights both the positives and negatives of those relationships between adult men and teenage boys The Way Way Back.  The relationship between Duncan and Owen is critical in both of their lives and both come out as better people in significant ways because of the ways they touched one another.  I highly, highly recommend this film and invite any adult readers to think about the teens in your life and the ways that you can be a positive influence in their lives.  Know that it will impact them in ways you cannot imagine and will likely change your life too.

Monday, August 12, 2013

not a smart move, Israel...

Israel has announced that it is going ahead with construction of just under 1200 new homes in occupied areas.  Not a smart move, Israel.  Here's why.

1.  The vast majority of the world sees these settlements as violations of international law.  OK, obviously Israel doesn't care, but there just may come a time when they'll want the positive feelings of the rest of the world. 

2.  Every new settlement makes a 2 state solution more difficult and too many more will make a 2 state solution impossible.  Those Israeli settlers aren't going to want to leave their homes should Israel decide to give that land to a Palestinian state (really unlikely) and they certainly aren't going to want to or be welcome as citizens of a Palestinian state.  You can't have a 2nd state that looks like Swiss cheese - filled with little holes of Israeli sovereign land.   Every acre of settlement is an acre of ground that could have been a part of that 2nd state and for the above reasons never can.  Every acre removed from consideration makes the 2nd state less tenable for the Palestinians.

3.  The status quo is not tenable.  Israel is essentially maintaining an apartheid system right now.  There is no good end for that.  It does not promote safety for the Israelis or justice for the Palestinians. 

4.  Moving the Palestinians to Jordan or some other Arab country obviously is not a tenable solution... it hasn't worked yet.

5.  A single state destroys Israel.  If they continue to maintain the current apartheid system, they continue to lose any moral authority and their national soul dies.  If they allow the Palestinians to become full citizens, they maintain moral authority but lose their identity as a Jewish state as very quickly the Jewish citizens would become a minority.   In either case, the ideals and visions that led to the founding of Israel disappear.

I don't see any easy way for Israel to turn back the clock and dismantle settlements already there... but they can stop pushing forward.  If they do not, they make the possibility of peace less and less likely.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Health Insurance redux

more on the saga of health insurance for our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson on the way...

One month before Christian lost his job, his employer switched health insurance providers.  That is always a pain as you have to find out whether your providers are still covered and if not, find new ones... but that was more complicated for them.  Neither insurance covered the birth center and midwives they were using for the pregnancy and birth.  They had negotiated coverage with the first insurance company - Anthem Blue Cross.  After all, midwives and birth centers are way cheaper than doctors and hospitals.  It made fiscal sense for them but it was a hassle for Christian and Alexis.  They were in process of trying to negotiate the coverage with the second provider when Christian was fired. 

Fast forward a few weeks...  Every time you do a web search on COBRA, an ad pops up for Anthem Blue Cross as a COBRA alternative.  So Christian contacted them... and they told him they would not insure his family as pregnancy is a pre-existing condition.  It didn't matter that they had been insured all along and until a month ago, their insurance was with Anthem Blue Cross... they are not eligible for insurance from them.  Luckily, they do still have the option of COBRA.  As I understand it, that continues with the provider they had when Christian lost his job so they begin negotiations again.

As I said in my previous post, the Affordable Care Act cannot kick in soon enough.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Health Insurance... the ACA can't come soon enough

Two weeks go my son-in-law lost his job.  That is bad enough under the best of circumstances... but the circumstances are anything but "best."  My daughter is 7 months pregnant.   They have health insurance through the end of July... but the baby is due in September.  They had decided to do their birth at a birth center with a midwife which involved negotiating with their insurance company to begin with...  They live in one of the most expensive areas of the country .  Of course, if they move, they have to find medical systems for the birth of the baby and find health insurance.  If they stay, they have to figure out how to pay rent plus get health insurance.  Christian got a job quickly although that income will render them ineligible for any government aid... and he is not eligible for health insurance at his new job for 90 days.  Of course, he has not started as they wait for his drug test to return from the lab.  And there is the ever there and overwhelming shadow of student loans which equal monthly payments higher than rent in most areas of the country.  Those bills have made it impossible to accumulate any savings... so there is no money for COBRA or as a buffer against other costs.   The ACA would make things easier for them... but it doesn't kick in completely until January.

My son has not had health insurance for over two years... and that makes us very nervous.  He is an athlete and plays basketball, softball, and flag football at least twice a week.  One injury and his life would be a mess.  John rarely gets ill but when he does, he does.  Since childhood he has run very high fevers.  A year ago, he got some sort of virus and woke in the middle of the night with a fever of 104.  You can imagine the fear and the number crunching that went on that night... does he got to the ER?  The bills would be far beyond his ability to pay.  Even to wait and go to Urgent Care in the morning would be devastating to his finances.  He was able to get his temperature down and he went to Urgent Care the next morning.   His income is minimal so he will be eligible for the MediCal part of the ACA beginning in January.  It is not good insurance but it is something and I will breathe easier.

The same day Christian was fired, I received a note from MMBB, the benefits board for our denomination.  As of January 2014, MMBB will no longer offer health insurance.  Since moving to California we have gotten our health insurance through them.  It is a reasonably good plan but is extremely expensive.  Due to California insurance laws, the only other option for me would be to get insurance as an individual.  Because of my familial hyperlipidemia no insurance company would offer me insurance at any price.  Through the years, the MMBB medical plan became the plan of last resort for clergy in my denomination.  Anyone who could get insurance elsewhere did.  This led to an increasingly smaller and higher risk pool in a demographic group that is already higher risk than the general population (clergy tend to be older and have more stress and lifestyle related problems than the general population).  That adds up to obscenely high premiums.  My church pays health insurance premiums that are almost equal to my salary for my spouse and me.  Our son is eligible to be included but the cost is so prohibitive that neither the church nor us can shoulder that additional cost.  It is not an easy situation for the church but without this option, I would not have been able to accept the call to this church.

Because of the expense, I have been asked to search out other options every year for the past few years and each year have received the same answer from the broker - "not insurable at any price."  It doesn't matter that we've known about the condition since 1987, it has been under control by medications, I've had no incidents, and every test shows that my coronary arteries are healthy.   I assumed that this year, I would be asked to investigate the insurance exchange set up via the Affordable Care Act.  I did not expect that there would be no option via MMBB.  It does make sense that we go with the exchange.  The price for roughly equivalent coverage looks to be at least 30% less than the church is currently paying and according to the ACA, they cannot deny me coverage because of my condition.  Still, the letter felt like a punch in the stomach... and every headline that I see stating that groups are trying to completely derail the ACA literally reads like a death sentence for me.  Without the medications I likely would have died within a year or so of my diagnosis in '87.  Indeed, the meds were new enough that they were unsure whether they would really help someone with my condition.  One cardiologist told me,  "We're hopeful, but just in case, get your affairs in order."  If I had to stop them now, it might take a couple of years... and then I would begin having heart attacks. 

One might say, "you could continue the meds, you'd just have to pay for them."  True... sort of.  The meds require regular blood tests, require a physician to monitor them and prescribe them (our experience in CA is that the primary care physicians don't want to do this so I'd need to see a cardiologist), and none of those costs are inexpensive.  At this point, they are still significantly less than what the church has been paying in premiums but one small incident...  Add that my wife is likely going to need a hip replacement in the next year or two...

Others might ask why they should shoulder any of my medical risk or costs?  That is a real question and comes down to how one feels about community responsibility or the fact that we've been paying health insurance premiums for these years, supporting costs for the health care of others (and salaries and profits for the health insurance industry).

All of this is just to rant about a system that is clearly broken, looks to get better in 2014 but still is not nearly what it needs to be, and which is frightening and frustrating for me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Race in America

I'm white.  That fact has shaped my experience of life from day one.  I grew up in a mixed neighborhood in the city and experienced the civil rights era as a child.  I know what racism looks like and I've experienced it up close and personal... from my side of the equation.  As I look at the USA today, I see that we have come a long way in regards to race, but anyone who thinks race is a non-issue is naive, blind, or just plan stupid.

Yesterday a verdict of not guilty was handed down in the George Zimmerman trial.  I wasn't there to hear the testimony or arguments so I can't make a judgement as to whether or not that was a reasonable verdict.  I can say that it was all about race.  Had the races of the two parties been reversed and a black man had shot and killed an unarmed white teen walking home from the store, the arrest would have happened immediately and the trial would have been short and to the point with that black adult now in jail.  Everything about that evening had to do with race.  I would guess that Zimmerman may have been afraid, but was that fear reasonable?  No.  It was based on racial stereotypes and prejudices.  Had the boy been white, Zimmerman would not have even noticed him.  And I am positive that Trevon Martin was afraid.  My black male friends have all told me that from the time they were little boys their parents ingrained in them that they could only walk in certain ways and act in certain ways when in public or they would be profiled and could end up being victims of violence, often times from the very police who were supposed to be protecting them.  They were warned that at times, one could die for Walking Around Black or Driving While Black.  Martin was walking home, being followed by someone in an SUV.   He knew the possibilities.

There is no way that I could minimize the terrible thing that George Zimmerman has done and I cannot but hold him responsible for the events of that evening.  He took the life of a young man with no reasonable justification.  (That he went on Fox News and said that it was God's will that he be there only infuriates me more).  Still, the situation is not so simple as one racist man acting out.  The events of that night and the jury verdict are indicative of a sickness in our culture where black youth are devalued to the point that one can be killed with virtually no ramifications.  We have a legal system that incarcerates young men of color  at nearly 10 times the rate of white men.  Through them in jail and take away any hope of a future.  A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.  Every measure shows that African American men are more likely to experience injustice in the legal system.  I believe that is simply an indicator of societal values.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

when a win is not a win

Some of you have followed Cambridge Drive Community Church's struggle with the Safe Parking program in Goleta.  The city of Goleta has an ordinance allowing churches and other non-profits to allow folk who live in their vehicles a safe place to park and sleep for the night in their lots.  As a way of protecting anonymity of the program participants, the permitting process is simple and quick with minimal notice given to the neighborhood.  We felt that the program was a no brainer and so did not share the plan beyond the minimal number required.  Among those neighbors there were a few folk who were very upset by the idea and began to spread incomplete information through the rest of the neighborhood.  That got a number of others riled up and things became ugly.  Those folk appealed our permit and we won.  They then appealed the appeal with the hearing taking place last night.   The planning commission tied which deferred to the previous ruling and the permit stands.  It was the final hearing in the statute and stands.

So... we won... but nobody did.  The neighbors against the program have succeeded only in making people mad and driving a wedge into the community.  The New Beginnings Counseling Center who administer the program did not win because while the permit stands, there are a bunch of very vocal very angry people who will work against any other lots they contract for homeless folk.  The needy have not won because even if someone does come to sleep in our lot, they will likely be surrounded by some angry folk, rooting for them to screw up.  The church did not win because while there are those in the neighborhood who feel we are doing exactly what we need to be doing, others have nothing but contempt for us.  It is possible that New Beginnings could even decide that the atmosphere is too charged and possibly unsafe for a client who likely has already been abused and lives in constant fear and so not place a client in our lot.  There were strong hints that some may pursue a lawsuit.

I don't know what we could have done to avoid the anger short of not pursuing the ministry.  And that does not feel like that would have been the proper course either.

I am still amazed at the animus some folk are feeling regarding the program and really cannot begin to understand the depth of anger.  At the same time I have been reminded both by church and non-church folk that I/we need to be loving, supportive, and seeing the best even of those who are telling half truths about us and misrepresenting our motives.  That's my call in this situation.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


One of the joys of a new computer, guitar,  whatever... is that they always come with a series of uneedas - you know, the list of other things you need to make it work right.  I got a tablet a month or so mostly for my music chsrts but quickly decided that there are times when it could replace my laptop.  Right now I'm writing this podt on mh tablet...but thst reveals a uneeda.  Typing via the software keyboard on the screen is actuslly not ss bad as I anticipsted, but the keyboard covers hslf of the screen... so I can't see what I'm typing and there are scor3s of typos (at first I toggled the keyboard off and tried to fix them but then I decided that they prove my point) I guess I need a bluetooth keyboard.

That is the nsture of s consumer society.  Each new aquisition open doors requiring more stuff and ineed some stuff comes with a list of uneedax, literally without which it will not work.  That shiny new computer may not run any of your old software without updates... that gorgeous acoustic guitar needs a pickup and preamp if you really want to play it live... and this cool tablet requires a bluetooth keyboard if I really want to do any half way serious typing. ?. And maybe a hard case to keep it safe... Iand I already upgraded the memory... on it goes

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Safe Parking Update

You may have read my 5/15 post regarding Cambridge Drive Community Church's application for a permit to allow folk living in their vehicle to have safe parking in our parking lot.  As I said before, the permit was granted and then appealed by some of the neighbors.  Today was the appeal and the appeal was denied.

It wasn't my brightest moment though.  As a few of our neighbors have spread misinformation regarding the program and others have implied that they have final say over the shape Cambridge Drive's ministry should take I have gotten more and more frustrated.  When it came my turn to speak, I was more than a little frustrated.  I began by sharing that we are not participating in this program because it is a good thing to do, although it is.  Instead, we are fulfilling our call.  I outlined the Hebrew scriptures' injunctions to welcome the stranger and to care for the poor.  I followed up with the affirmation that Jesus was homeless and we dare not exclude folk who are just like him.  I should have stopped there.  I ended by saying that the neighbors have no say in how we fulfill our ministry.   Those in the audience arguing against the permit did not take that statement well.

While my wording was more incendiary than it needed to be, I believe that.  Baptists practice a regenerate church membership so that only the folk who are actually in touch with the leading of the Spirit have a say in the directions of the ministry of the church.  I also believe that because of the Free Exercise clause of the 1st Amendment the city government has no say in how we fulfill our ministry.  Yes, I know the courts have struggled with that clause since the 1870's when they ruled against polygamy and said that there was a difference between belief and action and that the state could restrict certain actions...  In the 60's the Warren court established that a compelling interest must be demonstrated before the government can restrict religious practice but the definition of compelling has wavered through the years.  Still, the scriptures are clear that if this is our calling we are obligated to fulfill our call rather than please our neighbors or obey civil authorities.

Of course, it is not that simple.  CDCC has been a part of this neighborhood from its beginnings and has always sought to be hospitable to our neighbors.  We have over 2 acres of "park" that our neighbors use for walking their dogs, for picnics, and as a shortcut through the neighborhood.  We host recitals, concerts, 12 step programs, classes through the county adult ed programs, boyscouts, and senior citizens groups in our buildings... our properties are used, primarily by community folk, almost all of the time.  We want to be friends with our neighbors.  In this process we tried to listen to their concerns and to address those that were reasonable and correct those that were not while fulfilling the ministry to which we have been called.  Our attempts did not allay the concerns of the most vocal and I have to admit, they hooked me.

The ruling today can also be appealed and I assume it will be so we'll face this again... I'll try to be a bit more temperate.   One piece that has been positive through this is that a number of neighbors have reached out to voice support.  A number who were against the program have changed their minds once they received accurate information.  On we go...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

False Choices - Ecology vs. Economy

Yesterday, Exxon Mobil's CEO, Rex Tillerson made a statement that has to make any thinking person scratch their head.  A group of shareholders presented a proposal that the company adopt a plan to reduce its carbon emissions.  As part of the discussion Tillerson said, "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?"

Is he actually saying that we can trash the planet without humanity suffering?  Or is he saying that short term profits are worth more than the long term health of the planet?  Is he denying that climate change is real and that it is caused by human activity (in opposition to over 97% of climate scientists)? 

Whatever he is implying... he's wrong.  We are not making a false choice between human suffering and the health of the planet.  They go hand in hand.  If one suffers, both suffer.  If one is redeemed, both are redeemed.  Now it may be that working for the health of the planet will require hard work, changed priorities, and new technologies.  Difficult perhaps, but in the long run good for humanity.

By the way, the shareholders rejected the proposal by nearly 3 to 1.

Monday, May 20, 2013


You've probably seen the photos going around on the web of Walmartians... folk supposedly shopping at Walmart, often dressed inappropriately and often with body issues that take them far outside of the stereotypical beauty models in our culture.   One set of photos and captions came through my inbox yesterday.  I laughed... and I am ashamed that I did.  It's pretty much that simple.

Friday, May 17, 2013

new tires

We had to replace the tires on my spouse's Honda about a month ago and decided to try out a set of the new low rolling resistance tires to see whether they really impacted mileage.  We have a 35+ mile commute each day so even a small increase would be helpful so it felt worth the try. 

We went with the Nokian eNTYREs as our tire dealer gave us a good price and had good things to say about them.   Our first trip with them was from our home to Oakland to see our daughter and son-in-law.  I was impressed.  Handling was much the same as the previous tires (I forget what they were).  They were a little quieter.  Most important, mileage did increase although it was difficult to tell exactly how much since the mix of highway and city was different for those five days.  Since then as she's been doing her typical driving we have seen a significant increase.  Her typical mileage with the previous set of tires was about 28 mpg.  Since we replaced her tires with the eNTYREs, it has been between 30 and 31.  I'm very, very happy with that number.

I have no idea how they would handle with wet roads or snow, we essentially have neither... especially this year when our rainfall was about 25% of normal which is still technically "semi-arid."  For her situation, I am really pleased with them in every way.  The real question will come when I need tires for my GTI.  I don't know whether they have the size for my car and I'm not sure that I'd be willing to sacrifice my stellar handling for a few miles per gallon... but I might... and that will be a decision to make.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Compassion vs. NIMBYism

Greater Santa Barbara is a beautiful place to live.  The scenery is breath-taking.  The weather is close to perfect.  There is wonderful produce and incredible locally produced wine available all year long.   Traffic is reasonable.  Culture is available.  There are scores of great restaurants.  There are also downsides... housing is limited and because of systemic issues like Prop 13, the cost of housing is prohibitive for many.  Many folk who live here are literally one pay check away from homelessness and once you fall off the ledge, it is next to impossible to get back up. 

As a result of all of the above, we have a significant population of folk who live in their vehicles. Many of those folk have full time jobs that do not provide enough income even for a minimal apartment in the area.  Many have children who attend local schools.  Some are senior citizens who for whatever reason have lost their homes or apartments.  They live in RVs, in vans, and even in cars.  Most are permanent and longtime residents of the area who have fallen on bad luck and through no moral failings or fault of their own have no other way to live in a community which they have called home, sometimes for their entire lives.  So they search for safe places to park and sleep.  Mothers search for a streetlight, strategically placed so their children can do their homework by streetlight.

Unfortunately the powers that be decided years ago that it wasn't good for folk to sleep in their vehicles so every few hours the police knock on the window, waking everyone from what is never a sound sleep in areas that are often not safe, and force them to move.  Those who work, show up at the job without a full nights sleep.  Children go to school tired and stressed.

Some years ago Catholic Services began a program allowing some of these folk to park in church parking lots.  The program grew beyond their resources and it was passed on to another non-profit who shaped it into a program that has received national attention for the positive impact it has.  Rolling Stone wrote about it.   AARP magazine mentioned it and there is a video interview on their website of a person living (quite well and happily so) in a van.  Santa Barbara city and county and the city of Goleta each recognized the need and have passed laws allowing churches to participate in the program.

The Safe Parking program has stiff requirements for the participants and is very well supervised.  It is not designed to help vagrants or the stereotypically homeless.  Instead, it provides a safe haven for those who are living in their vehicles so they can begin to put their lives back on track.

Cambridge Drive Community Church applied to the city for the appropriate permits to allow overnight parking in our lot of up to five vehicles (although the church was only planning to allow one at this time).  We can see no negative impacts on our neighbors and indeed we believe it will help to make our neighborhood safer.  We cannot see any negative impacts on the community while at the same time believe it provides us an opportunity to do the ministry to which we are called as a church.  We received the permit according to city law.

Many of our neighbors have supported the plan.  Multiple times I have heard people say, "Isn't that what churches are supposed to be doing?" A few have observed, "My father (sister, brother) is living in a van. I'm glad there are safe places for them to park."   There also is a NIMBY backlash.  Some neighbors have been spreading misinformation about the program, telling neighbors that we will be having vagrants camping in the church park and that we will be bring undesirable criminals who are "not like us" into the neighborhood.  Their implication is clear that these folk will damage property, rob homes, and molest children.  They have even passed out flyers at the local elementary school.

What according to the city law is a simple administrative procedure now will include a hearing before the zoning commissioner.  I don't see any legal reason to withdraw the permit but that is what they are hoping will happen.  If that hearing does not go as these folk want, we are told they will likely appeal the hearing to the entire zoning board.   I expect that if that does not go as they want, they will try to get the city council involved. 

I'm frustrated... angry... that these folk think they have the right to define our ministry...  and ready to stand for compassion and for the gospel.

Two scriptures come to mind -
Mt. 8:20, "Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'" and 
Luke 10:25-37 
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Thursday, May 09, 2013

still pro-choice... but

My daughter Alexis and her husband, Christian are pregnant.  She's about 23 weeks now I think.  I am excited and really looking forward to becoming a grandparent.  My only grief comes that they live in Oakland, CA and we in Buellton... it is a bit more than a 4 hour drive in reasonable traffic so I won't get to see Kiddo (their name for the one who is coming) nearly as often as I'd like.

Two weeks ago we had the wonderful experience of being present while Alexis had a sonogram and we saw Kiddo, moving around inside his/her warm and safe place.  I teared up.  I have dreams and hopes and fears of all of the potential futures there in Kiddo.  Sitting in the waiting room, I saw a number of young women, obviously pregnant, waiting their turns.  Most were with partners, but one or two were alone.  Most seemed excited, a few scared, and one or two were less obvious.

I couldn't help but wrestle with the question of abortion as I thought about the joy of our experience and the pain an unwanted pregnancy is for some young women.  I couldn't help but think of the wonderful visions we hold and the terrible ones held by some other women in similar circumstances.  And I couldn't help but think that while Kiddo is becoming a baby, Kiddo isn't one yet.  At the same time, I could not and cannot deny that Kiddo is well on the way.  This is not just a mass of cells or a growth... there is a potential here that is awesome and wonderful beyond words.

So... I am still pro-choice.  I cannot make a decision for a young woman about the rest of her life when I have not walked in her shoes and felt her fears and despair.  I know that pregnancy is not a simple condition and that pregnancies are lost for "natural" reasons all of the time, many times with nobody even knowing that a pregnancy had occurred.  Our reaction to those losses is not the same as the death of a baby and there are good reasons for that.   But I am also reminded that an abortion is not like a haircut and isn't and never should be a simple decision.  What is happening here really is miraculous.  So, I am also pro-life.  In my best of all worlds, there would never be another abortion.  In my more realistic hopes, abortion will be extremely rare but when it happens, it will be safe, affordable, and accessible.  More importantly, all will know that as a society we have done all we can to make that choice unnecessary.

All too often, those who label themselves pro-life are really pro-birth and see no need to provide care for the woman while she is pregnant nor for a child once it has been born.  As a society we do little to address the structural issues that force a woman to make a decision she may not feel the need to make were circumstances different.  We must address those issues as a nation if we really want to lessen the number of abortions.  There should be comprehensive sex education for kids so a girl knows how her body works and doesn't.  We in the Church should be speaking to them about the values of sexual relationships and the responsibility that goes with that without the stupid overlay of abstinence only (which of course works... until it doesn't).  And contraception should be affordable and easily accessible.  Let's make unwanted pregnancies rare.  Sure they will still happen, but we could make them much less common than they are now.

And then we need to think about cultural supports for children and families.  As a culture we need to put in place serious, serious supports for families with young children and especially for families with special needs children and adults so that facing a future with a child with issues doesn't equate to financial ruin.  We need affordable, quality childcare.  We need structural supports that allow parents to be a part of their children's lives such as family leave and flexibility in work hours.  We need positive adoption policies and processes that allow parents to surrender children without legal repercussions.  We need to work to alleviate poverty which is associated with higher rates of abortion.