Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Charity

The government has no means of its own. It cannot give to one person what it hasn't already taken from someone else.

This is why enforced charity, in the form of huge entitlement programs, are inherently flawed and inevitably corrupt. The church shouldn't expect nor allow the government to feed the poor, clothe the naked, nor care for the sick.

If the government is taking over these tasks, then we, the body of Christ, have failed to be His hands and heart to the suffering world.

Monday, March 29, 2010

President Obama as Robin Hood: Is this a good or a bad image?

I try really hard not to get political here in the cottage, but such momentous things are happening in our nation, that I feel I cannot let it go by without any comment at all.  The "unprecedented" (on of the President's favorite words) health care legislation that passed the Senate last week is going to significantly impact life for everyone in this country, for good or bad, for many generations to come.

Fox News has been consistent in decrying the legislation, pointing out the huge gap between the promised benefits and the funding, the suspicious back-room deals and the false promises, more of which come to light each day.  (For example, that children with pre-existing conditions would be guaranteed coverage, which they are not.) (click highlighted green text for links)

Liberal outlets, such as the New York Times, are actually praising the bill as a way of redistributing wealth in America, something they feel is long overdue and correctly the role of the federal government.

Is it?  Really?  Is the equal distribution of wealth part of the American philosoply?  I don't think so.  Do you?

Even if we could guarantee everyone health care and (by extension) a fair share of the wealth at the outset, there is little doubt that the legislation is underfunded and will, by nature of the system it is creating, grow very quickly beyond its projected scope.  The constant bickering about people losing their current coverage is ridiculous.  Supporters (including the President) repeat over and over that you can keep your current coverage if you have it.  Yes, that is true, opponents say, but only until your employer figures out that it's cheaper for him to drop your coverage and pay into the government plan, in which case you will have no choice but to accept so-called "Obama Care."  Anyone who pretends not to see this, is lying.

You're going to get charged no matter what.  If you have good health care coverage already, you will have to pay a tax to the government for the value of your plan.  If you don't have health care, you will have to pay a tax as a penalty, to help cover the cost of your free emergency care.  Either way, you pay.  Even union members, after a temporary grace period.

Personally, I don't think the federal government has any business getting involved in half the stuff it does, especially health care.  I believe that the powers of the federal government are pretty clearly outlined in the constitution:  to coin money, run the post office, maintain roads, to maintain the military and defend the country in time of war, to uphold the laws of the land (via the Supreme Court), etc.  Read it here.

I know that the "commerce clause" is used to justify all sorts of things, and that there is social inequality in the land.  But the statement "All men are created equal" doesn't mean that we are guaranteed to always possess equal amounts of wealth.  On the contrary, Jesus told us "the poor will always be with you," implying that charity on a personal level (not a government level) is a mandate for all Christians.  The fact that all men are created equal means that we are due equal protection under the law, not under the dollar.

Many of my friends - both Christian and non-Christian - feel that this legislation is necessary on moral grounds.  While I understand and sympathize with their arguments, I disagree with the underlying assumption.  I absolutely, positively believe that everyone should have access to health care.  I know that there are some tragic holes in the current system.  I want those holes to be fixed... but not this way.

I believe it is morally wrong to place a burden upon the citizens of this country, both those living now and those living generations from now, that we cannot possibly pay for.  There is no doubt that many new taxes will have to be levied to pay for it, and in the midst of this recession that will only make a very bad situation even worse.  The worst is the national VAT (value-added tax), which we cannot avoid now.  My fear is that we will end up like Denmark, which has a 25% VAT, or Great Britain, which has a 19% VAT tax and 50% income tax.

Think about it... right now middle-class Americans pay around 5-10% income tax to the federal government, after all of your deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving, dependent children, etc.  In NJ, we pay 7% sales tax.  Can you imagine if your federal income taxes were, say, 25% of your income?  So, if you earned $800 a week, $200 went right to the federal government?  Then you would have to pay whatever your state and local income taxes are on top of that. Then you go to buy a cup of coffee, which costs $1 at McDonald's, and are required to pay a 10% VAT tax on top of your 7% state sales tax.  So the dollar cup of coffee now costs $1.17.

So you stop buying coffee at McDonald's because you can't afford it, along with millions of other people.  McDonald's profits go down, which means that your retirement and other investments, which include McDonald's stock, also go down.  McDonald's has to raise the price of the coffee to compensate, which hurts them even more and they start laying people off.  Those people go on unemployment and the new federal health care plan, which means the government needs more money to take care of them, so they raise the VAT tax to 12% and increase the income tax even further.  And so the cycle continues.

And I didn't even include the effect of the mandatory insurance McDonald's will now have to provide all its workers, which will also raise the cost of the coffee and add more layoffs.

"But," you argue, "ten cents more for a cup of coffee isn't that much if it guarantees health care for people who need it."  Well, let's look at something more expensive, something you can't live without.  Like tires.  My car needs them, and my husband thinks it will cost at least $600 for a set of four, probably more.  So assuming we can get them for $600, with 7% state sales tax, the price would be $642.  Add 10% VAT tax to that, and the price becomes a whopping $702.  If the VAT tax was 25% as it is in Sweden (and don't think that it will never go there, because in 20 years or so it very well might), then the cost of those $600 tires now becomes $792!

See why this is a bad idea?  The Christian Science Monitor said in its article  "New Health Care Bill:  A Robin Hood tax with a twist"   that   "In a decade or so, we'll know whether the new healthcare plan took from the rich to give to the less fortunate – or just mortgaged the future for all of us."

So, what do you think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Live in Concert: David Dubas (and Justin Moore, too)

This weekend I finally got to see my cousin David perform live with rising country star Justin Moore.  David is is playing bass guitar in Justin's band and even doing some backup vocals.  They are currently in the midst of a 200-city tour with Brad Paisley but were in town by themselves at a local country club this Saturday.  So we went and had dinner and got to see the band perform up close and personal.

I must say I really enjoyed the show.  Justin is a dynamite performer, and David cuts quite a striking figure. He's tall and lean, with long hair, a fancy red guitar and an open-necked shirt.  No cowboy hat however.  C'mon David.  At least a belt buckle?  Some boots?  Just kidding, you looked awesome!

 My only complaint is that Justin kept getting in the way of my attempts to photograph Dave.  What a ham!

After the show, my husband and I took David to a quiet corner where we drank coffee and talked until 1 a.m. It was great just getting to sit and talk with him.  Mark hasn't seen him for about five years.  I think the last time I laid eyes on the lad was last August when I just happened to be visiting his parents on his birthday.  He only gets home a few times a year, and now with this big tour he's traveling almost constantly.  We talked about everything he's done to get to this point in his career and how glad he is that he went back and finished his music degree, and what his plans are for the future.  As well as family stuff and all that miscellaneous talk that happens when you're with someone you know well but rarely see.

Two things really struck me about our evening and our conversation.  One is how absolutely, breathtakingly ordinary celebrities are. The other is how lonely life on the road is.  But, he's doing what he loves to do and seems very relaxed and comfortable both on stage and off. I'm so happy for him!  He's hooked up with a quality performer in Justin, who's got a good head on his shoulders and the right attitude as well.

We can't wait to see David, Justin and Brad in concert in June.  It's still a bit hard for me to believe that this strapping guy with the guitar is the little kid I used to play with.  Seeing David again inspired me that if you pursue your dreams with dedication and perseverence, they really can come true.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time for Spring Cleaning

Spring is here, which means it needs
Caring for the grass and weeds.
Tend to one, pull up the other.
How I miss the snow's white cover!

(And the pollen from the trees
Itches my eyes and makes me sneeze
One of these days I swear I'm gonna
Buy a house in Arizona)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finding my comfort zone

I've done quite a bit of revising over the past week, and it seems that I have finally found my comfort zone.  Perhaps it's more appropriate to say that the story has matured to the point that "it is what it is."  All of my ideas about changing it seem to dissolve in the context of the actual scenes.  I find that I am just rearranging words on the page, nitpicking over structure.  Should I put the "said" tag before or after the dialogue?  Should the speaker be standing or sitting? Who the heck cares?

It seems that there comes a point where the story becomes bigger than the author, and truly does have a life of its own.  I know that I could change it if I had to, but it would be like performing surgery on a loved one.  I don't see any need to at this point.  As I've said before, it's all about confidence in our words and in our vision. Whatever I might think this story should be, it has already decided on its own what to be. I have gone from being an author to being a recorder of events.  And that is a very, very good place to be.

To read a brief excerpt, and post one of your own, visit The Writer's Hole: A Grand Day to Be Braggin''.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

42,354 words into the revision of my novel. Separate plot lines have commenced.

Daydreaming in Obscurity

I was writing in my journal this morning, an event which only occurs about once every three months. I've joined the "Experiencing God" study at our church.  I know this is an awesome Bible Study and a lot people have gained great insights from it.

The focus of the first week's lessons is on knowing God's will and having a servant attitude towards doing it.  Time and again, I keep coming back to my novel.  It's difficult for me to acknowledge that God could use this story for anything.  I truly have a hard time believing my talent and concept are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher, let alone a readership.  But every time I try to lay it aside, the spirit of God presses on me:  Finish the book.  So I'm finishing it, little by little.

It's much easier to daydream in obscurity than to actually accomplish something and put it out for the world to view.  I have a pithy little volume called "The American Frugal Housewife" written in 1833 which contains not just a wealth of information on housekeeping, food preparation, and the treatment of illnesses, but some advice on how to manage one's time and money as well.   I think it should be required reading for all public high school students.  It would certainly put modern life in perspective.

In the chapter "Hints to Persons of Moderate Fortune" the author describes a situation in which one woman complains that her friend has become "the idol of the literary world, while I am never heard of beyond my own family unless someone happens to introduce me as the friend of Clio."

"Why not write, then, and see if the world will not learn to introduce Clio as [your friend]?"

"I write! Not for the world.  I could not bear to pour my soul out to an undeserving multitude; I could not see my cherished thoughts caricatured by some soulless reviewer, and my favorite fancies expounded by the editor of some stupid paper." 

The author of course points out the hypocrisy of this response, and goes on to say, "All of us covet some neighbor's possession... Yet most of us could obtain worldly distinctions if our habits and inclinations allowed us to pay the immense price at which they must be purchased."

As I said, required reading.

(Of course, this leads me to wonder, did people really talk that way two hundred years ago, or was it just the literary vocabulary of the upper classes?  Would a young woman in Jane Austen's time really have spoken as her characters do?  While researching the colonial period, I was fortunate enough to obtain a book from the University of Pennsylvania library that included actual newspaper pages from the pre-Revolutionary war days and it was astonishing how formally even the classified ads were written. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Staying up late has its advantages

41,104.  I'm a revising fool.

PG Sex Scene Blogfest

Please check out my entry at The Writer's Hole.  Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I haven't done any writing in several weeks.  I'm just so tired and busy and not feeling well.  This winter has been one virus after another, and I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Why is it that the more I do, the more there is to do?  When I finally start getting a few things done around the house, that leads to more things.  If I let the clutter rest undisturbed, I wouldn't realize how much is lying in wait for me. I thought I'd get so much accomplished in this break between classes. I am doing quite a bit, when I'm not lying on the sofa feeling miserable, but just not the things I wanted to do most.  Like making progress on my novel.

The good news is that I finally got my computer and am typing on it right now. After much research and debate, I decided on a 13.3" HP Pavilion notebook.  It's just the right size to carry around and the battery supposedly lasts 5 hours with energy conserving techniques such as turning off wi-fi, etc.  It's really a sweet little machine.  I've named it Silver, because of silver case and the fact that it's like my trusty steed... "Hi, ho, Silver, away!" 

Yes, I did watch re-runs of The Lone Ranger when I was a kid.

Anyway, here's wishing everyone good health and productivity!  May we all find time to write in the midst of the swirl of activity that is life.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The End

I have suddenly realized how my novel must end.  It's not the direction I wanted to go, but I have at last come to the understanding that it is necessary in order for the book to speak to the audience I want to reach, at the level where I want to reach them.

Oh boy.  Now I just have to write it.

This is gonna be hard.