Monday, November 17, 2008

Compassion

The video on this site was shared with me via Bluegill and it is amazing.

The Charter for Compassion is being led by Karen Armstrong and the video that is part of this post is an explanation by her, as well as others, about what this is all about.

It grieves me that, in our day and age, religion is perceived to be about judgment and condemnation. The whole premise of 'hate the sin but love the sinner,' seems almost like a hollow shell because that 'hate' aspect seems to seep about more than the 'love' aspect. It reminds me of segregation where 'separate but equal,' didn't really mean equal. It just makes cruelty appear to be more acceptable.

Karen Armstrong is an amazing scholar and author is has a grasp and love that goes beyond one world religion as she finds so much to share in all of them. Her autobiography, "Through the Narrow Gate," is a painful journey of her life as a young nun that is both beautiful and painful. It is one of my favorite books. This video is amazing and that's about all I can say about it! video

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Running and Governing

On Wednesday morning two people woke up. John McCain woke up, looked around the room and pondered his loss. Then he realized that the mess that is the United States is now not really his mess. He is one of 100 Senators, but he’s not the point guy on this. I suspect he got out of bed and breathed a sigh of relief.

Barack Obama woke up elated that he had one and been the recipient of a great deal of praise from the masses. Then he realized that the mess that is the United States is now his mess. He is no longer one of 100 Senators and he is now the point guy on this. I suspect he wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over his head.

Of course, I jest. A little.

Barack Obama ran what many people believe was one of the most brilliant, if not the most brilliant, Presidential Campaigns in history. Whether one likes the man or not, one must look at his campaign and be impressed. He defeated the Clinton Machine; a machine that the Republican Party could never master. Obama beat them. He beat the Republican Machine, a machine that had won six of the last nine Presidential Elections.

Say what you will about George W. Bush. He defeated a popular Texas Governor, Ann Richards. No one expected her to lose. Governor Richards was quintessential Texas, brash, bold, and fun. She could send out zingers with the best of them and she was popular. Bush defeated her. He defeated Gore when Gore was running as an incumbent Vice President after a Presidency with high approval ratings. He defeated Kerry despite Bush’s own dismal performance in the debates. He, of course, was helped by Karl Rove whose philosophy was to run to your base and burn your opponent at the stake.

The problem George W. Bush had was that he knew how to run but didn’t really know how to govern. Karl Rove set about making a permanent Republican majority and his plan was to govern like they had run. Run to your base and burn your opponents at the stake. They got things through for a while but ultimately things fell apart. Iraq didn’t go as planned. Afghanistan didn’t go as planned. The economy didn’t go as planned. There were telling moments.

When Donald Rumsfeld told the nation that you go to war with the equipment you have, in reference to the failure to have proper armor on vehicles, it was mind boggling. The United States invaded another country with our own time line. It was a staggering moment.

Another classic moment was Bush praising Brownie for doing a heck of a job with Katrina. Hmm. No.

I think that the classic moment was when the Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who was Michael Brown’s boss, was discussing Katrina relief (or lack thereof), in a news conference. All morning on CNN the nation was witnessing the carnage in the downtown civic center. Dead bodies, human waste everywhere. No water, just total chaos. When Chertoff was asked about how they were going to deal with this he said that he was unaware that there was a problem. The press reporters on the scene were taken aback. He didn’t know...

Finally one asked him, “Don’t you people ever turn on a television?”

The fact that Michael Chertoff had a job the next day continues to amaze me. He’s still in that role.

The permanent Republican majority did not last long. The last two elections have been devastating for Republicans. They are a party divided by people with a Randian world view or an Religious Right world view, or people trying to embrace both of these world views not recognizing they are polar opposites of each other. They have been, as a party, cast into the wilderness.

For them, the good news is that groups cast into the wilderness generally always find their way back. Being cast out makes people reflect on who they are and what they are and what their vision ought to be about. John McCain is a remarkably good man who ran a campaign with a lot of tactics but no strategy because he was the leader of a party that had no mission.

Years ago General Motors attempted to sell a car in South America and Mexico. It was the Chevy Nova. The car was fine but the sales were dismal. No one had though to recognize that the words no va, in Spanish, means ‘no go,’ or ‘doesn’t go.’

We now have a new President-elect, Barack Obama. Obama ran an amazing campaign and did things no one else ever did. I have never seen such a national reaction (even world wide reaction) to the election of an American President. The man ran a great campaign.

But so did George W. Bush. Bush’s Presidency failed because he could run a great campaign, but he didn’t have a clue as to actually how to govern.

Barack Obama has demonstrated that he can run but we do not know how well he can or will govern. His critics will scoff and point out that he can’t because he lacks the experience. They ought to be ignored because he hasn’t demonstrated that he can’t. No one can make that judgment until after he attempts to do so.

Of course, the same is true of his supporters. They also can’t be trusted because he has proven he knows how to run, but hasn’t demonstrated that he can govern. No one can make that judgment until after he attempts to do so.

The amazing thing about American Democracy is that we can and do change leaders peacefully. It does not require violence in the streets. It does not require storming the White House and eliminating the First Family. (Thank the Lord!)

It requires an election and the people of the nation get to make a choice. It is an amazing system, an amazing model.

When Franklin Roosevelt died in April of 1945 the leaders of Nazi Germany was ecstatic. They believed that this would mean that all the American troops would be withdrawn and that they might still have a chance. To their chagrin, Harry Truman was sworn in and nothing much changed. The American Army was not called him for the coup, they continued to fight for their country. The Nazis could not believe this.

We are a country greatly blessed with a great system. The system ultimately requires a person who knows how to run in order to win; then it hopes that the person who wins can govern. And, thankfully, if they do poorly at this, the system allows us to make the change.

The United States has elected a new President. George W. Bush will go home and his Presidency will await its verdict in history. I suspect it will not be very good as he seemed to be able to run better than he could govern.

Barack Obama will move into the White House and he will be given the opportunity to govern. I hope and pray that he does so wisely and well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some Very Impressive Coaching in the NFL

There has been some very impressive coaching in the NFL this year. Some very competent coaches have done a really fine job with their teams. Here are a few that come to mind.

Jim Zorn of the Washington Redskins. This is a team that has drafted and formulated itself in an erratic fashion and has a too 'hands on' owner. They looked awful in the first half of game one, but have played extremely well since then.

Jim Hostler of the Baltimore Ravens took a very undisciplined team with no offense and a strong defense and transformed it. They are a tough team; far tougher than people expected them to be.

Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons walked into the position almost no one wanted. The only head coaching position worse than this might have been the Oakland Raiders. Smart drafting and, some key free agent pick ups, and excellent coaching and system around a rookie quarterback has made this team a really strong contender.

Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins took over one of the worst teams in the league and they are now playing .500 ball. That is a huge improvement. They are more disciplined, have a better quarterback, and have shown some offensive innovation. Great job at the halfway mark.

Jeff Fisher of the Titans. Always a tough competitor and a person who patiently rebuilt a team after they had lost so many players. He had the smarts to keep Kerry Collins in there when Vince Young was such a high draft pick. Fisher is smart enough to know that an experienced pocket passer will win more games than a young runner who can throw. Sometimes.

Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. I really had to include this team. Most everyone expected last season to be Coughlin's last. Giants' fans had wanted the previous season to have been his last. Thankfully people's expectations were not met and Coughlin, who has always won, might be doing his best coaching. He has built a deep, strong team and has them ravenously hungry to win the Super Bowl again. Anyone who wondered if the Giants would let down after last season underestimated Tom Coughlin.

On the downside:

Herman Edwards of the Chiefs has always been overrated.

Wade Phillips of the Cowboys is a really solid defensive coordinator. That's about it. He looks lost on the sidelines.

Marvin Lewis took over the struggling Bungles and if he is fired after this season, they will still be the struggling Bungles. Lack of discipline, lack of vision, lack of of great leadership is their problem and Lewis is not the solution.

Bobby Petrino. This is just in case he shows up in Oakland or something.