Friday, December 28, 2012

Funeral for a Friend

His name was Giuseppe. We met over thirty years ago in graduate school while  both pursuing a relatively useless Masters Degree in Spanish Language and Literature.  Though he was almost 20 years my senior, we had much in common in addition to our course of studies:  Like me, his parents were from Sicily.  In fact, his home town was only a few miles from my parents’ birthplace of Torre Faro, Messina.  We hit it off well, and I invited him over to dinner often, as both of us enjoyed having someone to speak Italian with, as well as talk about Sicily.   

There was also much that we did not have in common.  I was a young Christian, married for a couple of years with an infant daughter, attending a local church and doing my best to stay on the straight and narrow as best as I knew how.  He on the other hand, was an older, confirmed bachelor, and very much a man of the world.  I had some opportunities to share the Gospel with him and was thrilled when he prayed a prayer of faith and repentance, only to be disappointed that his profession of faith apparently did not result in an immediate change in lifestyle.

After we both completed our studies, we saw much less of each other, though we kept in occasional contact.  He eventually retired and moved to Florida, still a confirmed bachelor, but not like he used to be.  He started living a relatively solitary and quiet life, and his social contacts seemed to be limited to friends in a small prayer group at the church he attended in Florida.  His conversations with me seemed to be limited to two topics:  (1) his politics, which—believe it or not—were even further to the right than mine; and (2) the church, and he was particularly fond of talking about his prayer group.

I got to see him about once a year, inviting him over to the house when he periodically traveled back north, but otherwise our contact was limited to an occasional phone call and exchanges of Christmas greetings.  I was surprised this year when the Christmas letter I sent him was returned with no forwarding address.  I had not heard from him, and it would not be like him to not let me know that he had moved.  When I called his number and got a recording that the number was no longer in service, I assumed the worst--  “googling” his name and the word “obituary”--but the search did not yield any relevant results.  When I searched exclusively on the address and found some real estate records listing him as the owner, I clicked on his name and learned that he died sometime in 2012 at the age of 73.  There were no other details.

Given the lack of an obituary on the internet, I wonder if there was even a funeral.  As far as I knew, his only living relatives were a sister and some nieces and nephews in Sicily.  Though his absence will not have a major impact on my life, I am taken aback that a friend of mine is no longer here, and I am particularly saddened by the possibility that he may have died alone.  And yet, by God’s mercy, I have reason to hope that he did not die alone.  So long, paisano.  May you receive a rich welcome in God’s Kingdom, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Epiphany

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."
*          *          *
The look on Herod’s face confirmed to Melchior that perhaps the long trip to Jerusalem was not such a good idea after all.  He had doubts ever since the day he left Persia.

It started as kind of a lark or adventure, maybe even a dare.   Melchior was well read, a scholar—some would say a nerd—well versed in the sciences, mathematics, philosophy, history, literature and religion.  His studies in the latter discipline were more of a hobby, and he really was not sure what he believed.  Yet all of his reading and studies seemed to be drawing him to the conclusion that something special was going to be happening in the land of the Hebrews… or what was left of it.  As he knew well from his studies, they were once a great kingdom before they got done in by the Babylonians, to be followed by Melchior’s own Persian ancestors, then the Greeks, and now the Romans.

Yes, the land of Israel, once a mighty nation of great kings like David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah, was now a two-bit backwater colony.  According to their sacred writings they were hoping a new king would arise and restore their former glory.  Good luck with that!  Anyway, it was all very interesting, and Melchior had always wanted to travel there, so off he went. The trip to Jerusalem was quite an adventure, starting with the caravan he ran into out in the middle of the desert.  The ensuing conversation was interesting, to say the least.

“Who are you?  And where are you going?”

“Perhaps I should ask you the same thing!  My name is Balthazar.  I left Arabia three days ago and am on my way to Jerusalem.  Don’t ask me why—it’s a long story—but I believe something special is going to happen there, perhaps the birth of a great king.”

“You’re joking, right?  Are you some kind of wise guy?”

“Oh, some people back home think I am wise.  I’ve certainly read a lot, but I’m not certain that makes me wiser than anyone else.  In fact, I’ve wondered for the past few days how wise it was to venture on this journey, really based on nothing but a hunch.”

Melchior and Balthazar continued to compare notes when they noticed yet another caravan approaching. The riders were dressed rather strangely, their turbans quite distinctive, definitely not from Arabia or Persia.  The head rider dismounted and approached.

“Allow me to introduce myself.   My name is Caspar, and I left India two weeks ago.  I am on my way to…”

“Jerusalem?” Melchior interrupted. 

“How did you know?”

“Oh, just a hunch, I guess.”

Caspar continued.  “I have been reading the ancient writings of the people of Judea.  I could not put them down.  They speak of one God who made the heavens and the earth and created mankind.  They recount how this God dealt graciously with His people despite their rebellion, and how He promised to send them a special King.  I am not sure why, but these words ring true.  That is why I am on my way to Jerusalem.  Stranger still, and don’t ask me how I know, I have this strange feeling that this special King has already been born.  I just wish I had something to go on other than this feeling in my gut.  Some kind of sign perhaps would help, maybe something in the heavens.”

“Like that star?” Melchior interrupted. 

The three travelers gasped in simultaneous astonishment.  It was brighter than a typical star, and it stood out in the night sky.

“Supposing we find this Special King,” Melchior wondered out loud, “I guess we should be bringing Him some sort of gift to pay Him homage.  All I have is some extra gold.  I admittedly did bring plenty more than I needed for the journey.”

“All I have is some incense,” Balthazar chimed in.  “I wasn’t even sure why I brought it, but now I guess I will have some use for it.”

“Same here,” Caspar continued.  “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this myrrh. “
*          *          *
These conversations kept playing through Melchior’s mind as he tried to interpret the hostile and fearful look on Herod’s face.  Whether or not it was wise to make this journey, it definitely was not very bright to ask the regent in Jerusalem where they could find the newly born King of the Jews.  He saw right through Herod’s feigned interest in finding and worshiping the child himself.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" 
*          *          *
Having been unceremoniously dispatched by Herod and his court, the three travelers set out. It was not until they had cleared the city gates of Jerusalem and left them far back in the distance that Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar finally breathed a sigh of relief.  The audience with “King” Herod had been neither pleasant nor friendly, and they were thankful that they made it out alive.  As they approached the humble village of Bethlehem, a far cry from the pomp of the Jerusalem court, their fears subsided.  As the sky darkened, they noticed the same unusual star that had left them astonished just a few nights prior.
 *          *          *
…and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
*          *          *
As they approached the house, Melchior and his companions had to wonder whether they had the right place. Granted, it wasn’t the royal palace in Jerusalem, but beyond being several cuts below a king’s residence, the place was downright plain and inconspicuous.  It was a tiny house in an agricultural setting, with a stable for farm animals attached.  His doubts about the wisdom of this journey began to return.  “This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever done!”

All three of them conferred as to what to do next.  The place looked desolate.  Was anybody home? Should they knock?  Supposing someone answered, what would they say?  Those questions all became moot as the door opened and a man exited, apparently on his way to run an errand.  The man was understandably startled to see the three strangers at his front door.  Both the quality and the style of their dress indicated that they were not from anywhere near Bethlehem.

“Hello friends!  My name is Joseph.  May I help you?”

The three travelers stammered for words, not having a clue what to say.  Caspar finally decided to cut to the chase.

“We have come from far away, each from a different land, but all of us have been led here.  We seek the One who has been born king of the Jews.”  Caspar immediately sensed how awkward and bizarre his words must have sounded.  Melchior and Balthazar were visibly uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, Melchior managed to add:

“The bright star that has been in the night sky over the last several nights seems to have led us here.  Forgive us for disturbing you, but perhaps we have come to the wrong place.”

“Perhaps not.  Please come in.”
*          *          *
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother.
*          *          *
Nothing or no one in the house seemed particularly noteworthy.  There was just a lowly mother nursing her child, nothing indicative of royalty.  Like the surrounding village and the house itself, both mother and child seemed to be plainness personified.  There was nothing in the least bit extraordinary about them, much less anything regal—which made the reaction of the three travelers all the more inexplicable.  

Suddenly, each one sensed in the core of their being that they had indeed found the One they were looking for.  Had they been asked how they knew, they would have been at a loss for words.  They just knew.
*          *          *
And they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
*          *          *
As they presented the gifts, each traveler sensed how paltry and pathetic they were.  What good would gold be to this child? Perhaps his parents could use it.  But frankincense and myrrh?   At best, they could be sold and put to the same use as the gold.  Furthermore, each was painfully aware that they could have given so much more out of their vast treasures at home.  Had they known they would find the One they were seeking, perhaps they would have brought more.  But then again, if this Child was indeed the One that their hearts seemed to be telling them, the entirety of their treasures and possessions would not be sufficient. 

Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar rose from their reverent posture, bid farewell to Mary and Joseph, and simply left.  Thinking again about the utter inadequacy of their gifts, they nonetheless felt a strange sensation that their gifts were nonetheless accepted, not because they were worthy or had any value, but simply because the Child somehow accepted them.  

How did they know? They could not say.  They just knew.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Unless you have been a hermit living in a cave, you are aware that according to some ancient Mayan prophecy, the end of the world as we know it may occur on December 21, 2012. Just in case the Mayans were on to something, I figured I should try to post a Christmas related message a little earlier than usual this year.

Last year a well meaning but misguided evangelical Christian by the name of Harold Camping made his umpteenth prediction about the return of Christ and the end of the world, which according to his calculations was supposed to occur on May 21, 2011.  When that did not happen he said he miscalculated and it would actually occur on October 21.    The rest is history. 

Jesus Himself said that no one knew the day or the hour of His return.  The unfortunate obsession of people like Camping to predict the date was not only wrong-headed but justifiably mocked by the world.  I myself joined in the fun and had a few good laughs. But the sad part about such end-times and doomsday obsession is that it distracts from the main message of the Gospel

Having said all that, I have been thinking a lot about the supposed Mayan calculation of December 21, 2012.  The possibility does make me kind of pensive in a funny sort of way.  Wouldn’t it be just like God to not reveal such things to Christians, who would ostensibly be interested—even eager—to know the day of Christ’s return, but instead reveal it to those whom you would least expect?  Sometimes God in His grace gives supernatural wisdom even to pagans. After all, how did the three wise men (pagan astrologers at best) know to follow the star to Bethlehem?

At Christmas we celebrate when Jesus came the first time.  No one seemed to be expecting Him, save for the precious few to whom God had revealed it.  The world was in turmoil, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were once again a captive people without much hope.  The Romans had taken over.  All of “God’s chosen people” were suffering under oppression, except for those who had sold themselves out or had been co-opted by the Romans; such as tax-collectors, corrupted religious leaders and, last but not least,  “King” Herod.  Needless to say, the latter was not thrilled when the wise men inquired:  "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."  Everyone desperately needed for such a Savior to be born, but not everyone knew it, nor did they have a full appreciation of what they needed to be saved from.

Two thousand-plus years later, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The world is in turmoil.  The regions surrounding the birthplace of Jesus look frighteningly like a powder keg ready to explode.  The great democracies of the western world, which for the most part have been a force for good, seem ready to collapse under the weight of their own excesses.  We sense that there is something fundamentally wrong, but we may not have a full appreciation or understanding of exactly what ails us.

Against this backdrop, we live our daily lives.  I personally am truly blessed and have much to be grateful for.  Life is good. I have been married to the same lovely lady for more than 33 years, taking great delight in her and being amazed that she apparently delights in me. We have been blessed with three children, the oldest of which is married to a godly man, and they have given us two beautiful grandchildren.  Our other two children have special needs and we continue to pray for them, but they are otherwise healthy, content and provided for, and we love them dearly.  We also take joy in our extended family and a circle of friends, particularly those with whom we fellowship at Solid Rock Church, where we have attended for more than 33 years.

These are little slices of heaven on earth.  And yet there is a longing in my heart for something more.  Part of it is because of the pain and disappointments that stand in contrast to the blessings:  mourning over lost loved ones, disappointment in myself over sins and shortcomings I have not yet been able to overcome, and the aches and pains of life, both figurative and literal.  And a quick glimpse at the newspaper on any given day feeds my fears that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.  But even if life were presently a bed of roses, I know it is all fleeting.  We all eventually grow old and die, and everything we worked so hard for and everything that seems so important eventually comes to nothing, except…

… except it does not come to nothing.  I said earlier that the sad part about doomsday obsessions is that they distract us from the main message of the Gospel, The Gospel in a nutshell is this:  Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh and lived the perfect sinless life that we could never live, died the death that we deserve, and rose again to offer us forgiveness and eternal life. One day--and we don't know when--He will indeed return.   

May it be soon.  Come, Lord Jesus.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Sexagenarian Brother

I am the youngest of three baby-boomer brothers.    When we were growing up, the Smothers Brothers were popular, and we would occasionally joke about one of their routines in which the younger Tommy Smothers would lament to the older Dick, “Mom always liked you best!”   In our case, the mantle of “favored-one” fell not to my oldest brother Pete, but to the next in line, Nick.

In stark contrast to Tommy Smothers, we say this about Nick  with not even a hint of bitterness or jealousy.  It was simply a fact.  After all, what’s not to like?  Nick was always the best behaved and the most compliant.  He cleaned up after himself, did his chores, never left things half-done, and was always ready to serve his parents.  He was most likely the one who started the practice of serving our mother coffee and toast in bed on weekend mornings, which kind of obligated the rest of us the follow suit.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Finding Hope in Babylon

I’ll cut to the chase by stating the obvious. I am deeply disappointed at the results of the election on November 6.  I find little or no comfort in any of the results.  Beyond disappointed, I am frightened.

I was just as frightened, albeit prayerfully hopeful, in the months preceding the election, as I watched our continually deteriorating and weakened nation losing its way.  Our economic woes, exacerbated by profligate spending of money we do not have, have us careening toward a fiscal cliff, yet we continue to speed pedal to the metal as if the laws of basic economics—or even basic math—did not exist.  Like the law of gravity, they are pretty non-negotiable.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Clinging to the Rock of Ages

Augustus Toplady was an Anglican priest who lived a relatively short time in the eighteenth century (1740-1778).  By his own account he became a committed Christian at the age of 15.  He was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1762 and served the rest of his life in various ecclesiastical capacities. 

He also wrote a number of hymns, and even if you have never heard the name Augustus Toplady, you are probably familiar with his most famous hymn:
Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the water and the blood
From Thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure

Saturday, September 15, 2012

“Let Baal Contend”

The odd title for this post needs an explanation.  It is a somewhat obscure quote from the otherwise familiar Old Testament account of Gideon.  Most Sunday school children know Gideon as the guy with the fleece.  The Israelites had been overrun and ruled by the Midianites, who ravaged their crops and held them in servitude.  When an angel of God appeared to Gideon, a humble wheat farmer, and instructed him to lead a rebellion against the Midianites, he was naturally incredulous and wanted to see a sign that would convince him it was really God speaking to him, so he “laid out a fleece” (Sunday school kids know the rest of the story; if you are not familiar with it, you can read it in the Book of Judges, Chapter 6.)

The first thing Gideon did after the divine visitation was to smash down the altar of Baal, the deity of the idol worshiping Midianites.  As expected, this caused no small amount of commotion, and when the Midianites learned that Gideon was the culprit, they surrounded the house of his father (Joash) and demanded that Gideon pay for the deed with his life. 
But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? … If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar…. Let Baal contend with him.”
I often think of this story whenever  I hear of yet another episode of Muslim’s rising up in anger whenever they feel their religion or their prophet Mohammed has been insulted.  This happens all too often, with the most recent episode playing out at U.S. embassies across the Middle East, as angry mobs have been stirred up into violent and homicidal protests over some amateur YouTube video that allegedly insults the prophet Mohammed.  The reaction is typical and predictable, as demonstrated by countless similar episodes, from the death threats against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses to the frenzied mobs rising up over some Danish cartoons that supposedly insulted Mohammed. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Of God and Dice

When Albert Einstein was first presented with Max Plank’s theory of quantum mechanics—that the behavior of particles at the subatomic level is not completely predictable—he rejected the idea out of hand.  Before the quantum theory was postulated, the underlying assumption behind science and the scientific method was that the universe and everything contained therein was completely orderly and predictable, which caused Einstein to quip: “God does not throw dice!”

I don’t claim to know much about quantum mechanics, but I can draw one conclusion from Einstein’s reaction, together with many other things he said:  Einstein believed in God.  To be sure he was more of a deist—not believing in a personal God who involves Himself in the affairs of men—but there was no question in his mind that there was an intelligent deity behind the creation of the universe. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

It's still a free country, for now...

"Adam Smith" is a rather common name, but most people associate it  with the 18th century Scottish social philosopher, the author of The Wealth of Nations and  the father of capitalism.  Another Adam Smith of modern times is/was the CFO of a medical manufacturing company called Vante.

The latter, lesser known Adam Smith has achieved his fifteen minutes of fame.  He does not happen to care for Chick-fil-A, calling the company a horrible organization, a hateful organization, because the family owned restaurant chain  supposedly hates gays.  To be precise, the owners said they believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, to not only include the union of one man to one woman, but the faithful “until death do us part” definition of marriage.  In Mr. Smith’s eyes, that is hateful.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life's a Beach

My daughter and son-in-law thought it would be a great idea for our two families to spend some time at the beach together.  I agreed, but it was going to be a challenge, because we were limited time-wise to a long weekend, which made it next to impossible to rent a decent beach house that could comfortably accommodate four adults, a teenager and two toddlers.

We settled on two efficiencies for three nights at the Quality Inn Beachfront in Ocean City, MD.  It was going to be a tight fit, but, who knows?  Perhaps it would be a great time to make some memories with the grandchildren.  The husbands and wives planned on taking turns looking after the kids so the former could have a guys’ night out and the latter could spend an afternoon talking and watching chick-flicks.  And of course, we would make plenty of memories at the beach.  If nothing else, I was looking forward to getting away.  Work had been stressful, and life at home was no picnic either.  Life always has its challenges with an autistic daughter (Angela), but it has been even more difficult lately due to my wife Susan’s foot injury and two surgeries which have severely limited her mobility, thus causing me to carry a significantly heavier load as well.  I was more than ready for some R and R.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Texas: A Textbook Case for the Tenth Amendment

I have written about this before, but I was freshly reminded of the genius of the founding fathers by a recent interview of Texas Governor Rick Perry.  After giving a brief summation of Perry’s impressive career, Uncommon Knowledge host Peter Robinson started the interview with an interesting statistical anecdote:
Robinson:  U-Haul rates.  This is painful for me.  This is very painful for me.  I went on line and checked how much it would cost to rent a 26 foot U-Haul truck to drive from Palo Alto where I live, to Austin, Texas, where you live.And to go from California to Texas today would cost $1855.  To go from Austin to Palo Alto, $723
Perry:  We need to get those U-Haul trailers back to California.
Robinson:  That’s what makes it so hard.
Why?  The obvious answer is that more people want to move from California to Texas than vice-versa.  And why is that?  Texas is where the jobs are, the Texas economy is humming, and it is a much more pleasant place to live, despite the sweltering heat of a Texas summer.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Roberts' Russian Roulette

I sat in stunned yet stoic silence Thursday morning as my coworker told me the news that the Supreme Court had upheld Obamacare.  I was determined not to get worked up about it.  That determination was severely tested when details started to come in.  The culprit was not Justice Anthony Kennedy, as would be expected of the notorious swing vote of the SCOTUS.  Kennedy not only sided with the conservative minority about the unconstitutionality of the law’s infamous individual mandate, he joined them in wanting to throw out the whole law.  The culprit, of course, was Chief Justice John Roberts, who is supposed to be a conservative jurist, a strict constructionist wanting to uphold the original intent of the Constitution and the rule of law.

And indeed, Roberts argued strongly in his opinion that Obamacare and the individual mandate would be a gross violation and abuse of the commerce clause, but guess what?  Despite what the President and Obamacare's  proponents and the law itself clearly say to the contrary, Roberts inexplicably declared that the law’s penalty for not buying insurance is not a penalty at all, but rather a tax.  Because taxation is one of Congress’ enumerated powers--voilà—the law is constitutional!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Not All Democrats Are Lemmings

The first time I had heard of Peter Franchot was back in the late eighties during his unsuccessful run to oust Representative Connie Morella from Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.  Though Connie Morella was not conservative enough for my tastes, she was a classy lady, and I was glad she survived the challenge at the time..  After Franchot's loss to Morella, he subsequently faded from my memory.

But Mr. Franchot has been in the news much more as of late, and I am starting to like what I see. As a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates, he was an ardent campaigner against legalizing slot machines in Maryland, believing that the social costs of increased crime and broken families would far outweigh any (illusive) revenue gains.  Though he was unsuccessful, I believe Mr. Franchot has been and will continue to be proven right.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reid to the Rescue!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw Senator Harry Reid being interviewed the other night on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta van Susteren".  The illustrious majority leader of the world’s greatest deliberative body seemed quite subdued, saddened by recent events, and he was considering legislation to remedy the situation. 

What could have put him in such a somber mood?  Was it perhaps the out of control deficit of about $16 trillion, exceeding the gross domestic product of the USA?  Maybe it was the highly classified intelligence leaks, which people on both sides of the aisle agree have severely damaged our national security?  Or maybe it is the increasingly disappointing employment numbers in light of the stalled economic “recovery”?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Corny Capitalism II

It was about a year ago that I published a post entitled Corny Capitalism, which discussed the advertising efforts of the Corn Farmer’s Coalition and other associations.  Their form of advertising is obviously not an effort to get people to buy their product.   Their target audience is not individual consumers, but rather elected and bureaucratic officials, with the hope of influencing law, policy or regulations to favor their industry.

Well, they are at it again.  Huge wall murals and floor decals are again gracing Washington’s Union Station and informing me and my  fellow commuters that:

  •  95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.
  • America’s corn farmers are by far the most productive in the world, growing 20% more corn per acre than any other nation.
  • An acre of corn removes 8 tons of harmful greenhouse gas, more than that produced by your car annually.  (Source: EPA)
  • America’s corn farmers exported $10 billion worth of corn last year – one of the few American products with a trade surplus. (Source: USDA)
  • More than 30% of U.S. farm operators are women. (Source: USDA)

And on and on it goes.  It kind of makes you want to go out and buy a bushel of corn, doesn’t it?  No, I don’t think that is their intent.  Their website makes it abundantly clear that the target audience is policy makers, not consumers of silver queen sweet corn in the summer time:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

GSA: Do As I Say And Not As I Do

It was in back April when the stories of GSA waste, fraud and abuse started breaking, the most infamous among them being the $823,000 boondoggle to Las Vegas for 300 employees of GSA’s Western Regions, a convention to engage in “team building”.  It is old news by now. 

The GSA made the headlines again in the last couple of days, this time with revelations that work-at-home employees had somehow managed to rack up $750,000 in travel expenses over a nine month period.   This was even too much for Jeff Neely, the former head of the GSA’s Pacific Rim Region and the infamous mastermind behind the kumbaya fest in Las Vegas.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Julia, Vote for Me

I am certainly not the first to comment on it, but I am not sure how to react to the Obama-Biden Campaign’s web-ad Life Of Julia.   I literally don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is there a Grain of "Truth" in Правда?

Being a cold warrior in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, I have always taken anything printed in Pravda with a grain bucket of salt.  This misnomer of a newspaper could always be relied on to parrot the propaganda and misinformation of its patron, the Soviet government.  I fondly remember Reagan’s reaction to one of Pravda’s many whoppers:  "We have a word for that.  It’s a word with a long and honored history in our rich agricultural tradition."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Long Oh Lord?

Has anyone ever asked you “What is your favorite Psalm?”  Many would cite Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) or Psalm 103 (Praise the Lord O My Soul and Forget not all His benefits) or something similar.  Though I appreciate these wonderful Psalms, I often find myself drawn to Psalm 13.  If you are familiar with this Psalm, you might think I am a little strange.  It starts out like this:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Adding Insult to Injury

I had never even heard of the Susan G. Komen foundation, much less ever donated money to it.  Yes, I had heard of “Race for the Cure” and I am certainly sympathetic to any organization that wants to fund breast cancer research, but I never knew the specific name of the foundation associated with such an otherwise worthwhile effort. 

Though I have given to plenty of worthy causes in my life, this just happens to not be one of them.  I just never thought to do so.  My bad.  But whatever the merits of breast cancer research, the Susan G. Komen Foundation (SGKF) will certainly not ever be getting a dime from me now--not after the events of the last few days.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Iron Lady

I wasn't really sure I wanted to see Meryl Streep’s rendition of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.  The little I had read about the movie in pre-release reviews made me suspicious that it was going to be another left-wing hatchet job.  It was understandably causing a furor in the UK because of the film’s setting and approach, portraying the prime minister’s otherwise remarkable and admirable career as a series of flashbacks in the mind of an ailing, demented Margaret Thatcher.  Throughout the movie she is shown having hallucinatory conversations with her long deceased husband Dennis, hardly a respectful and dignified portrait of one of the great world leaders of the twentieth century.