Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Email to Senator Bunning

Dear Senator Bunning,

Your recent comments about Geithner were uncalled for ... we're in this deep and forlorn mess as a result of Reaganomics and years of Republican mismanagement - trusting the fox to guard the hen house, so to speak.

I long for the day when Republicans regain the greatness of Everett Dirksen and Dwight Eishenhower - men of large thoughts and graceful commitments.

Senators like you can help the Party regain its composure and it's message.

It takes courage to buck the recent trends of thought in the GOP, but it can be done.

I'm sure you have plenty of second-thoughts about all of it, so I would encourage you to take a stand for the highest principles of the traditional GOP and lead your colleagues to a better place, and this country to a brighter future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Fascists Are Alive and Well

Obama may be President, but the Repuglican Fascists are alive and well.

See Ashcroft's speech ... "I have no mark on my conscience" - which is easy to achieve if one has no conscience.

Between Bill O'Riley and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and John Ashcroft, the idiots are on the run - e.g. the Legacy Tour, trying to polish the tarnished record of Bush.

Along with some "moderate" Dems, the reaction against change, the reaction against the future, will continue to grow.

The Fascists are a force to be reckoned with, a dangerous and poisonous influence.

They frighten me. They really do.

After all, they won the day in Italy and in Germany.

And it took a world war to defeat them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama the Calm

President Obama tells the truth, calmly and coherently: the quintessential professor brings to bear upon the subject at hand a great wisdom grounded in study and deep reflection (see the New York Times).

That some might suggest "distance" and "too analytical" misses the point: now is NOT the time for rhetoric or histrionics, but a cool and focused review of the needs and solutions.

Tough to be President - if he's too cool and calm, he's accused of being distant. If he's humorous, he's labeled a stand-up comic or punch-drunk.

And the Repubs and the Dems in Congress right now are all on the same bent: they're not likely to see the big picture, nor are they likely to make the changes needed to fix our economy, especially the sacred cash-cow of health care. Biz as usual is the name of the game, but if there's a game that needs to be ended NOW, this is it. Biz as usual got us to this point, and what a mess it is.

It's not that all of this was inherently flawed from the beginning. Not at all. What was, was! And it worked, but the point is this: nothing remains the same; what worked 50 years ago, just because it worked, is no guarantee that it'll continue to work; in fact, anything that worked as well as it did ought to warn us of its time-conditioned nature.

As the world changes - globalization, technology, terrorism, expanded healthcare (because it's available) - all of this and more signals the need for huge change requiring both adjustment and sometimes a complete overhaul.

Anyway, it was reassuring for this hearer to listen to Obama - the man knows his stuff, he has a command of the language, he's thoughtful, and, indeed, speaks only when he knows what he's talking about.

I hope and pray our nation has the wherewithal to ask the primal questions and do the hard work of crafting a nation for the 21st Century. I hope and pray that our politicians will buckle down and cut their rhetoric, curb their self-serving instincts and begin to work together to heal the nation and help America be the leader it has been and can yet be. I hope and pray that Americans will see clearly just how perilous are the times, and rather than panic and look for quick solutions, will support the President and encourage their politicians to lead this nation to a new day.

Can we do it?

Of course we can.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

China the All-Powerful!

What's up with this?

South Africa bars the Dalai Lama from a "peace conference."

Three of South Africa’s Nobel laureates had invited the Dalai Lama to attend, and the government’s move to deny him entry drew sharp condemnations on Monday both here and abroad.

Critics of the decision, including Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, said South Africa had caved in to China, which has aggressively sought to extend its influence across Africa in recent years. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said at a news conference this month that foreign countries should stay away from any involvement in the Tibet issue.

“We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure,” Mr. Tutu told a South African newspaper, The Sunday Tribune, a statement his office confirmed on Monday. “I feel deeply distressed and ashamed.”

Click HERE to read more.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Diplomacy? Iran?

Roger Cohen writes a thoughtful piece about the international chess game we call diplomacy ... click HERE to read more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Legalize Drugs

"The Economist" believes it's time to end the foolish "Prohibition" on drugs, and I agree.

It's time to see and treat this as a health issue, not a criminal problem.

Though any "solution" is going to be messy, the failure of the nations to deal with the First World's consumption of drugs driving, then, Third World producers, is manifest.

Now, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same old thing, but expect different results. Our efforts to reduce drug consumption has failed. Statistics seemingly indicate that in any given society, a certain number of its citizens are likely to become addicts, even as with alcohol and tobacco. Further efforts along the lines we've followed for a hundred years seems to be fruitless, if not actually contributing to the problem.

Without being dreamy-eyed, "The Economist" offers wise counsel for a "less bad" solution to the seemingly intractable drug trade.

Click HERE to read more.

Monday, March 16, 2009

AIG - America's Self-Appointed Royalty

What does AIG stand for?

Apparently it stands for anything that furthers its self-interest.

Someone said to me, "I don't get it. How can they behave this way."

I replied, "It's simple. This is how royalty behaves."

The kings and queens of old Europe were amazed that anyone might question their "divine right" to rule. Even as they were led off to the guillotine or run out of the country, they could only shake their heads in disbelief that "their people" couldn't see it their way.

Beginning with the Great Liar (Reagan), this nation began to create a self-appointed royalty accountable to only themselves. We've always them, of course, but in the last 40 years, we've seen an explosion of wealth - not real wealth at all, but a credit-wealth boosted by government policy and a growing infatuation with wealth.

It's an entitlement identity, and, thus, it's no wonder that Jesus observed, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

This is not difficult to understand when we understand what wealth does to the mind and to the soul - it creates multiple illusions: "I'm right, I'm powerful, I'm self-made, I deserve this and I'm wonderful." And if one is religious, the added illusion: "God must want all of this for me."

Nor is it surprising, then, that Jesus said, "To whom much has been, much is required."

It takes enormous spiritual counterweight to bring balance to the lives of the wealthy, but it's not impossible.

I have been blessed to know people of wealth who live lives of moderation, restraint, compassion, humility and mercy - though such virtues were increasingly more elusive as our nation imbibed the liquor of self-indulgence. Our current crash and burn might help, but time will tell if we can see this as a means to improvement of character, or simply a nasty bump in the road to self-aggrandizement.

Sadly, many of our churches have failed to preach the whole gospel when it comes to wealth, and I understand why. One of the tactics of wealth is to threaten early withdrawal should the preacher offend with the truth, and most preachers, including this one, have a family to support.

Beginning with elements of an older Calvinism, wealth was seen as proof of God's election, and so the elect, or those who thought they were, worked all the harder, amassing wealth, and then seeing their wealth as proof of their spiritual status. And if so blessed, they had to be right about many other things.

In the last 40 years, we've witnessed the emergence of a "name it, claim it" Christianity that saw wealth as a divine blessing, and since "we're all children of the king, we ought to live as royalty," and it wouldn't hurt, by the way, to send in some money to the TV preacher, because it costs a lot to fly a jet and live in Palm Beach.

Wealthy congregations face enormous temptations to "spiritualize" the gospel and gut the message of its meaning, congratulating the wealthy for their intelligence, hard work and their place in life, turning the gospel into "five steps to wealth, health and happiness." Too bad Jesus wasn't around to hear this kind of preaching; he might have been able to avoid that messy things called "the cross."

Wealth is a gift from God - it's not a blessing to confirm one's spiritual status; it is test of our character, and when given by God, it's given for the sake of others!

Great wealth, when properly understood, produces great humility and great compassion.

But such things are not required of self-appointed royalty.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watching It Unfold

Been watching the economy ... wondering ... and looking at Obama last night - did I see deeper lines, or was it just TV?

The power of blogs, 24-hour news and constant connectivity allow for a greater for a micro-management of events - like Nervous Nellies, we monitor things moment-by-moment, a depressing experience at best, as the economy bumps and grinds its way through one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression.

I appreciate those who remind us of just how great the Great Depression was, and that we've learned  critical lessons, putting in place safeguards that are likely to prevent the onset of anything similar.

I'm wondering about Germany. They're weathering the storm better than most Euro-countries, but I wonder where the voice of the church is these days. Are there theologians and pastors calling for a broad-minded view of Germany's place in the world? That the other nations, especially the former Soviet Bloc nations, need special attention and support? Sadly, we Americans get very little international news, and I'm wondering what kind of discussion is being raised in Germany.

I am  pondering the plight of the Conservative Movement here. How deeply alienated they must feel and how reactive they are to Obama, but I think the real key to understanding them right now is the squabble between Steele and Limbaugh - it's not about doctrine, it's about ideology, and the problem with ideology is that it allows for no adjustment. Ideology is fixed and becomes a self-sustaining, self-defending, group of thoughts increasingly isolated from history. The idea is everything. The reality that may have prompted the idea initially is forgotten, and current events are irrelevant.

But I appreciate their dilema. When Bush and Gang were around, I found myself wanting them to fail, even if it meant hardship for everyone. I think it was Graham Greene who noted in "The Heart of the Matter" when Scobie momentarily daydreams of his wife's death so that he can carry on an affair just how relentlessly self-interested we can be at someone else's expense, and that, of course, is the definition of sin: relentless self-interest.

It will be interesting to see what the G20 offers, and how Timothy Geithner fares.

Some who would like to see solutions quickly take effect are already calling for his resignation or removal ... hmmm. What's up with that kind of thinking? Of for the days before the Pony Express when it took three or four weeks for news and a letter to cross the nation; that gave everyone time to think, and these days, thought is clearly in short supply; reaction and criticism are abundant.

Will the stimulus work?

Of course it will ... because history is on the move, and the things we do, or fail to do, make an impact and shape the course of human events.

Will the auto companies make it? Now that's another question. But I have a lot of friends in Michigan, and I wonder how wise it would be to let this huge industry simply collapse and all the suppliers with it.

Lots of questions, lots of thoughts ... it will unfold, as history does, and when it's all done, what will we think of ourselves?