Monday, February 23, 2015

Random Musings for a Monday

 

 

I only saw part of the Oscars but checked out some things this morning. The great part about the Internet is that cool things you missed can be seen again.

I really like Neil Patrick Harris and anticipated he’d be a great host. He wasn’t bad but he really wasn’t very good either. My thought was that, in hindsight, the greatest host in the universe would have been Robin Williams. His loss leaves a deep hole in so many people’s hearts and minds.

Say what you will about Lady Gaga. She is strange. Her idea of fashion is strange. When she finished cleaning the commodes and lost her gloves and sang the songs from the “Sound of Music,” one thing is painfully obvious. The woman can sing. Brilliantly. No one sang those songs as well as Julie Andrews or came close----until last night. Lady Gaga came close. She’s that good.

I sought of feel bad for Rudy Giuliani. He was a great major of New York City. Seriously great mayor. He cleaned up the city---no small feat. His work on and after 9/11 was heroic and brilliant. He had been a fearless Federal Prosecutor before that and did a great job going after organized crime. He ran for President but didn’t really have enough national experience to make a good run. So be it. The problem is, for him, he was once a really important guy and now he’s really not. That’s not a criticism----he’s older and he can retire after a great career. The problem for so many of us is that our egos get wrapped up in what we do and being important is difficult to let go of. We see this a lot---a person later in life says something outrageously stupid and gets into the limelight. Rudy is not letting go of the moment and, sadly, he’s building legacy as yet another old guy who put his foot in his mouth and kept it there. To me, this is tragic. He had such a great legacy and I hate seeing him go down in flames.

Tim McGraw singing in a tribute to Glen Campbell who can no longer sing or know who most people are is heartbreaking. I really like Glen Campbell and always enjoyed his music.

It seems that a number of people are going after Bill O’Reilly suggesting that he, like Brian Williams, has exaggerated about his career. It’s not really a fair comparison. Brian Williams was a network news anchor and like ABC and CBS his show is about hard news. He is not a political commentator or an entertainer. Both Fox and MSNBC are networks that run on political commentary instead of hard news. I’m not saying that to laud or criticize either network as they are both niche stations that seek to reach specific audiences. Bill O’Reilly is a prime time commentator and that role puts him in the realm of commentator/entertainer. In short, his role is entirely different from Brian Williams and he ought not to be held to the same standards. When hard news anchors exaggerate the news, it’s a far, far bigger deal.

Say what you will about this winter, but the photos of the ice at Niagara Falls are breath-taking.

Senator Lindsey Graham, someone I rarely agree with, is right about something. Congress needs to fund Homeland Security and allow the immigration issue they are debating to be worked out in the courts.

I’m not questioning the logic of the Oscars with this and the right person probably won, but I really was pulling for Rosamund Pike to win best actress for her role in Gone Girl. The first time I saw her was as Miranda Frost in a James Bond movie and she was great in the film Jack Reacher. Her character or characters in Gone Girl was a brilliant performance.

I saw a video shot from behind me and I saw a bald spot on the back of my head. It reminds me that I shouldn’t look at videos shot from the back of my head. Ugh.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISIS

 

I’ve been pondering ISIS and my ponderings are troubling.

At some point most people have come to the conclusion that this is a group of mindless violence out to kill and destroy as many people in the most horrible ways possible. They do, obviously commit acts of mind-numbing violence and their cruelty seems to have no boundaries. I am not sure, however, that ISIS is mindless.

It seems that way. They have managed to turn most of the world against them. Their Arab neighbors are angry at them and are bombing them as well. Fellow Muslims have turned against them with ferocity. The western world is fiercely involved as well. Acts of vile murder and killings are taking place worldwide and ISIS does not seem to lack recruits.

Part of their murderous success on battlefields has been to fill trucks with explosives and suicide bombers go forward to bash their way into compounds. This is terrifying for defenders because they must destroy and stop these trucks short of the compounds. This is what made Kamikaze pilots so successful in World War II because they had to be destroyed without crashing into their targets. This is easier said than done.

ISIS recruits are willing to kill and willing to die. The value of life has no meaning for them whatsoever. That lack of value is about others and even themselves.

It might not be mindless, however, and that’s the scary part.

ISIS, people are beginning to understand, has an apocalyptic mission. They are seeking end times and doing their best (or worst) to bring this about. They want the world to burst into flames and destroy itself. In order for this to happen they need to draw everyone into the battle. This will kill large numbers if ISIS members but they do not care.

Some years ago, in Waco, Texas, the Branch Davidians made the news and they all died in the end. They were a cult based on the Book of Revelation which is, of course, apocalyptic. Anyone who knew any theology at all knew how that story would end. Apocalyptic groups are about death and destruction.

In the United States, where we debate sunshine, we really do not have a cohesive way to deal with ISIS.

ISIS has great likeness to the Nazi Party. People have compared Presidents Obama and Bush to the Nazis and we love to refer to political ideas we don’t agree with as Naziesque. Our lack of historical knowledge and context allows people to do this, largely unchecked.

ISIS, however, well, they are the real deal. They really ARE like the Nazis and the Nazis were so committed to what they were doing they believed it was better to be leveled and die than it was to tolerate people who differed from them to live.

ISIS is dangerous to all of us and our prayers need to be that the rest of the world come together and deal with them. Worldwide inaction and political paralysis are a dream combination to ISIS and we had better get over it. Quickly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sunday Sermon for 2/15/15

 

The Greatest Prophet

Text: 2 Kings 2:1-12

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

February 15, 2015

 

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams and a Free Press

 

Brian Williams messed up. Badly. He apologized by his apology had a credibility issue. It was fine that he wanted to assure brave people were acknowledged, but he indicated that his memory was faulty. The problem with that is that there are things we never forget. He, of course, remembered that he was in the helicopter and that a previous helicopter had been hit, but his wasn’t. He was in danger, to be sure, but never in the danger that he stated. Now, the man who was touted as the most trusted name in news isn’t very trusted.

I find this sad. I actually find this very sad as I really do like Brian Williams. I think he does a great job on the news and has an excellent sense of humor and always felt a transparent spirit in him. Williams was, to me, one of the really good guys. I don’t know what is going to happen and if he’ll be back on NBC News any time soon. Or any time. I want to overlook this and I probably can, truth be told. The reality is, however, I like Brian Williams and I’m not sure I’d be so generous with my charity if this was someone I didn’t like very much. I really do not know what the wrong thing to do is.

Brian Williams has exposed a major flaw in our national news media. Investigative journalism is largely a lost art and network news programs have regressed into a regurgitation of talking points given to them. Political parties and corporations have hired brilliant communication people who write the talking points and their information, be in accurate or inaccurate, is disseminated and we hear it reported. The networks largely just share the information whereas networks like MSNBC spin it left and Fox News spins it right. By the time we watch the news it has been spun into a weave of cotton candy.

News people have bought into it. When war enters the picture all sort of opportunities come about. Staid and proper journalists go into danger areas and, frankly, they do so because there is excitement to it. They are human.

Who can forget David Bloom? He was put into an Army unit and rode in the armor. The constant sitting in the armor vehicle helped cause a deep vein thrombosis that became a pulmonary embolism and it killed him. Bob Woodruff, of ABC News was critically wounded and suffered a brain injury in Iraq from a roadside bomb. There were some great heroics of the news media in Iraq but none of them questioned very much as to why we were there. They also didn’t question what was found. I suspect WMDs were found. We know Saddam Hussein used WMDs against the Kurds; nerve gas we had sold him in his war against Iran. Did we find the stash? Who asked? No one.

Bengazi? Will we ever know what happened there? There is great speculation on this but most of the inquiring minds had an agenda. Investigative journalism, seeking and reporting the truth, no matter where the truth leads, is no longer in vogue.

Much has been made of the Koch brothers and their spreading financial influence. Some stories tell of us this but the reality is that the average person knows very little about these men. Investigative journalism in the national networks is dead.

Much of what passes for the network news now is entertainment. Do the talking points on some ‘hard news’ and then get to the fluff. The bad news is that even the hard news has turned into fluff. The news anchors have morphed from being serious journalists into being entertainers and they need to remain one step ahead of their competition. As a result we have this.

The founders of our nation built a free press into the system. In France, the killing at Charlie Hebdo was an assault on free press. Charlie Hebdo was satirical in nature, however, and not about investigative journalism. In the United States we have this built into our system, largely, to keep those in power, be it in government or business, honest by keeping people informed. This is no longer happening.

I’m hoping that the whole incident with Brian Williams serves as a wake up call to move from entertainment and reading carefully crafted talking points and challenging networks to become what they are supposed to be. Find the truth and report the truth and allow the truth to speak for itself.