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    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    2008: My Year in Review

    What a year it has been.

    First, in January I moved to Tallahassee, Florida. What on God’s green earth would possess a Miami Hurricane fan to move to the land of the Florida State Seminoles? Well, I guess it was for liberty and to be a part of shaping the future of our sunshine state.

    I joined The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank. So far, the first year as Director of Development for JMI has been great! I have enjoyed my time there, including getting to know my great colleagues, and learning all about public policy issues that affect our state. And, I have continued to learn about the challenges of trying to preserve liberty when government continues to just want to grow! More government = less individual freedom. At JMI we realize we have to continue to provide solutions in the free-market to allow Floridians to continue to enjoy an environment that promotes individual freedom and personal responsibility.

    As if my job didn’t keep me busy enough, me and two friends decided to write a book, Who is the Real Barack Obama? For the rising generation; by the rising generaton. The book was written for an audience of young voters and warning everyone that Barack Obama isn’t going to bring any real “change.” But it was more than just about Obama, it also is about what our generation can do to preserve liberty and continue this great experiement in self-government.

    Despite our book, Obama did do a nice job taking the “brand” of “change” and committing himself to that brand. His sales job to America and his ability to fundraise using new online technologies and social mobilization has to make us all impressed. The GOP nominating an aging John McCain didn’t really help them much. But I was still surprised to see America elect an avowed socialist with little experience, with close ties to a radical preacher, a domestic terrorist, and other dubious associations. However, I’m not surprised by the associations that are continuing to haunt Obama (Blagojevich anyone?) and the fact that he isn’t bringing any real “change” to Washington – just more of the same – Washington D.C. insiders, mostly connected to the Clinton administration.

    For a conservative like myself, this is actually welcome news. Obama isn’t taking the country as far to the Left as he has been throughout his entire lifetime (as we demonstrated clearly in the book). But, I still worry that he will creep us slowly to the Left without us realizing it. Obama is a smart politician, after all. He knows we live in a center-right country and America didn’t elect him because he is a socialist. They elected him because he promised not to be another George W. Bush.

    After an embarassing election year, I worry most about the future of respectable journalism in this country.

    Unfortunately, the Bush legacy and the Obama legacy may be one in the same – on foreign and economic issues, that is. As our economy waned, the so-called believer in free-markets, George W. Bush told America that the government needed to “bailout” Wall Street. This wouldn’t be the cure-all for the economy, but would help it, he said. Obama agreed. So did John McCain. Do we have any real leaders any more?

    Some are now referring to this period as the “Bush-Obama bailout,” which seems to continue each week as the government decides to continue forking out billions (now trillions) of dollars to all sorts of industry, at taxpayer expense. We continue to mount the debt that may cause our nation’s own internal destruction. I continue to recommend this piece by JMI scholar and FSU economics professor Randall Holcombe: Government's Actions Encouraged Wall Street's Risky Business (pdf).

    Thankfully, Bush’s commitment to Iraq has proved a success. Unfortunately for John McCain, as our troops succeeded, the war became less of an issue. And McCain himself told us that the economy wasn’t his strong suit (gaffe!). Obama continued to lie to the American people about who he is and what he really believes, and the American electorate bought the smart liar over the honest idiot. Either way, this election season proved that we need better leadership in this country and a better way to educate the electorate, who didn’t seem to know much about the candidates and the issues, and much less so about the role of government as articulated in the U.S. Constitution.

    Ok, so back to my year in review: I traveled around Florida meeting lots of JMI members and seeing good friends and family. This is such a great, big, beautiful state. I was everywhere, from Pensacola, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Naples, Orlando, Gainesville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and of course Palm Beach.

    I gave lectures about the Obama book at Arizona State, Florida State, the University of Georgia, and LSU. I even got to enjoy a good Georgia-Vanderbilt game in perhaps the best college town in America: Athens, GA. On average, 60 people attended each lecture, with about 80% or more of them being against Obama. The rest engaged me in some good civil dialogue on the issues. It was an enjoyable experience, as me and my co-authors appeared on various local and national radio programs and blogged incessantly on our book website trying to get the ideas out there.

    I also traveled back to D.C. once this year, in April, for a conference and to visit some friends. I even ventured to Midland, Michigan for a conference at the Mackinac Center (the equivalent of The James Madison Institute in Michigan). While I lectured on the book and attended the State Policy Network’s conference in Scottsdale, AZ, I also spent some time with my good friend Teddy Sifert and his family, enjoying the heat of Arizona (even in September), shooting some guns in the mountainous forests of Arizona, and enjoying the great outdoors of the American frontier.

    In Tallahassee, I made lots of great new friends, which I am grateful for… whether on the tennis court or in the church pews. I am part of a great young adult Catholic group in Tallahassee called the Frassati Society – we have some great adventures in the outdoors, including our recent hike in Florida's Torreya State Park, about an hour from Tallahassee.

    Thanks to being back in the year-round warm weather of Florida, my tennis game has benefited from being able to play a couple times a week on a regular basis and finding good players all around town. I even ventured over to Pensacola for my local USTA tennis team’s regional playoff. 95 degree weather in July. Hot, humid, sticky, and sweaty. You gotta love it.

    Perhaps the biggest thing for me in 2008 was that I bought a house! On September 15, I moved into a very nice, brand new 3-bed/3.5 bath townhome in the Southwood community of Tallahassee. It was a moment of accomplishment for me and it now gives me a sense of permanence after moving around from place to place. I even scored a good roommate and hope to score perhaps one more in 2009.

    Finally, 2008 has ended with a bang as my Miami Dolphins shocked the nation, going from 1-15 last year to an 11-5 record this year, winning the AFC East division and making the playoffs. That was all I wanted for Christmas, and they delivered. On Sunday, I will be going to their first home playoff game at Dolphins Stadium in Miami. A great big thank you goes out to Brett Favre for returning to the NFL, specifically to the Jets, and allowing the Jets to dump Chad Pennington, who ended up being the savior for the Miami Dolphins.

    God help the Dolphins, my tennis game, the new President-elect, and the nation in 2009. Most importantly, may the New Year bring YOU and yours many blessings.

    I hope we get to enjoy some good memories in 2009.

    -- Francisco

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Have A Blessed Feast of Christ's Nativity

    This has been a busy year, a busy holiday season. It's been so busy, I haven't been able to find the time (or the energy) to go out, buy Christmas cards, and send them out to everyone. I keep thinking, I know I'm going to forget someone. As I was frantically thinking of this "chore" many of us try to do each Christmas season, it got me thinking of a few things:

    1. The loss of permanence: It seems that each year, it gets harder and harder to actually mail Christmas cards to family and friends. Many of us are constantly moving (myself included!) With all the people I have been blessed to have in my life, I couldn't tell you where every single one of them is right now. Of course, many of us "take flight" to the skies (or the roads) often and so we are busy traveling around. But still many others of us do more than that kind of travel, we seem to constantly be moving - from job to job, city to city. Does anyone stay "rooted" anywhere anymore? Where are we going? What are we looking for?

    2. Social networking helps? I guess it does. I have found the best ways to keep track of everyone in this "brave new world" is best done through email and social networking platforms like Facebook and MySpace. Shoot, I've even resorted to a blog (again!) to send out my impersonal Christmas card. Social networking via the world wide web seems to help us keep in touch, but it breeds an impersonal nature. Forgive me for contributing further to this decline. Are we more connected, but yet less connected? I look forward to having a good conversation with each one of you in the coming year. I can tell you every simple conversation I have these I appreciate. Every deep conversation are some of the most joyous moments of my life.

    3. Staying busy with white noise: With the internet, crackberries (yes, I just caved in and got one), social networking sites, cell phones, i-Pods and all the things that are supposed to free up our time, keep us more connected, and keep us entertained, we seem to be more busy, more distracted, and less satisfied - as individuals. Are we doing less with more? Are we getting more done? Are we really entertained? If so, are we forgetting to stop, pause, think, and reflect? During some day trips I took this year, I went hiking with friends. It was good to just get away, to take in nature, and to just soak up the time spent away from the things that are meant to entertain us. And, getting outdoors with good friends in places away from distraction breeds good conversation, and elevates the soul.

    What does this all mean at Christmas? So what does this all mean at Christmas? Let us pause for a moment and reflect on a signature Christmas song that can help us all with the loss of permanance, the impersonal nature of our brave new world, and the busyness and noisyness of life. The song I am thinking of is: "Silent Night." You may be busy at the moment, but please take a deep breath, pause and reflect (slowly if possible) on these lyrics:

    Silent night, holy night
    All is calm, all is bright
    Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
    Holy Infant so tender and mild
    Sleep in heavenly peace
    Sleep in heavenly peace

    Silent night, holy night!
    Shepherds quake at the sight
    Glories stream from heaven afar
    Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
    Christ, the Saviour is born
    Christ, the Saviour is born

    Silent night, holy night
    Son of God, love's pure light
    Radiant beams from
    Thy holy face
    With the dawn of redeeming grace
    Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
    Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

    Take a look at those lyrics again. There is nothing more glorious than the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is what we celebrate this Christmas - that God entered humanity to save humanity. To the Austrian priest who first wrote these lines in 1816, it took a "silent night" to appreciate the awe of this moment.

    In large cities, tall skyscrapers, noise, and the busyness of life seem to get in the way of God - and of appreciating the stillness of our souls. That is why when you are out in the rural countryside, where the sky opens up, the traffic disappears, and the stars ("heavenly hosts") brighten the sky, that is why they call it "God's country." It is no surprise then that this song alludes to "shepherds" who "quake at the sight" (the sight of God entering humanity). Shepherds don't typically roam the cities. They are out in "God's country."

    Christmas seems to be the busiest of seasons in our life, but there are also moments this season that allow us to pause, reflect, and open up our souls to all that God has to offer. It is only in a "silent night" that we can begin to see "Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face" and have the opportunity to "Sleep in Heavenly Peace." (How often have we slept that well lately?)

    May you and yours enjoy this Blessed Feast of Christ's Nativity. May you have a "silent night," a "holy night," and "sleep in heavenly peace."

    St. Thomas Aquinas: No. 1 Football Team in America

    My alma mater, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, has earned the mythical national championship. All the polls are unanimous: the Raiders have secured the #1 national ranking after whooping Lakeland for back-t0-back Florida 5A State Championships.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Politically Correct Seasonal Greeting

    A politically correct seasonal greeting that I got as the result of a forward from a friend. I thought it was prertty funny (and sadly, not so funny to some).

    For My Conservative Friends: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    For My Liberal Friends: Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

    I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

    By accepting these greetings, you are accepting the aforementioned terms as stated. This greeting is not subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself/himself/others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Get these RINO's out of the Party

    The following so-called "Republicans" (RINO'S) supported Barack Hussein Obama Jr. for President. Please join me in excommunicating them from the Republican Party by reposting this list and/or sending it to all your Republican contacts!

    Jeffrey Hart, National Review Senior Editor
    Christopher Buckley, son of the founder of National Review.
    Former Los Angeles Mayor, Richard Riordan.
    Former Maryland Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest.
    Former Bush Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
    Former Bush Press Secretary, Scott McClellan.
    Former Reagan White House Chief of Staff, Ken Duberstein.
    Former Reagan Solicitor General, Charles Fried
    Former Reagan White House Counsel, Douglas Kmiec.
    Former Governor Massachusetts, William Weld.
    Former Rhode Island Senator, Lincoln Chafee.
    Former Governor Minnesota, Arne Carlson.
    Former Governor and Senator Connecticut, Lowell Weicker.
    Former Governor Virginia, Linwood Holton.
    Former Governor Michigan, William Milliken.
    Former South Dakota Senator, Larry Pressler.
    Former Iowa Congressman, Jim Leach.V

    * For the record, there are many other RINO's that actually did not support Obama and supported McCain that I would also like to excommunicate from the party. But, we'll save that for another day.

    DISCLAIMER: Just because someone doesn't vote for a Republican doesn't mean you should "excommunicate" them from the party. But to actually vote FOR Barack Obama... well, that just defies logic, as Obama stands against just about every conservative principle.