Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Monday Musings on Tuesday

I have been thinking that Judge Sonia Sotomayor before too long is going to wonder why she ever wanted to be on the Supreme Court. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are or what you believe, the other party is going to turn you into a caricature of what they want people to believe about you. People who choose to be in public service, no matter which party, get skewered by those who oppose them and the news media that delights in reporting every lurid thing. I am finding that I no longer have the stomach to watch any of this.

I wish I had a sense of what to do with North Korea. I do believe that they are a real threat and I am not sure that there is much we can do about it right now. An air strike on them would mean an invasion of South Korea and I am not sure we have the resources to stop that let alone the political will.

Adam Lambert looks, to me, like Eddie Munster all grown up.

Wow. I watched Jon and Kate Plus 8 last night. It’s my oldest daughter’s fault. Had it not been for her I would have never known about them. I am trying to determine if they are having real problems or if this is to increase ratings. Of course, living your life on television, having your home life revealed to the world isn’t necessarily healthy for a marriage.

I do have to say that I find Kate’s anger at the paparazzi to be a little ‘out there.’ I mean, she chose to be a public figure and chose to air her life out there and she hasn’t exactly avoided interviews. What did she expect from all of this public exposure? Privacy?

Strict Roman Catholic Mel Gibson, who thinks that Roman Catholics should ignore Vatican II got his girlfriend pregnant. I guess he did follow teachings about contraception, but decided there was one rule he could overlook...

I am wondering how California can ban gay marriage but still recognize the marriages performed there as legal. Here’s an interesting question. We have several states that recognize gay marriage whereas the vast majority do not. What happens when people move or laws change in their own state, ie, California? Can a state not recognize something as legal from another state? If not, can states refuse to recognize driver’s licenses or license plates on out of state cars?

Rush Limbaugh thinks that Colin Powell should leave the Republican Party.

Let’s see. Colin Powell is a highly decorated retired General, retired Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is highly respected at home and abroad, a former Secretary of State who knows world leaders in numerous countries and has good relationships with them and is one of the finest military minds in the nation.

Rush Limbaugh is a thrice married, thrice divorced, recovering drug addict whose out of country junkets include Viagra when visiting nations with large numbers of prostitutes.

Let’s see, who would I trust?

I think that the debate is based upon ideological purity. I tend to find that leaders who have integrity are better all the way around than people who are ideologically pure. Of course, I don’t consider myself to be an ideologue all that much. Frankly, I don’t trust ideology a whole lot. I tend to put my trust in good people.

Finally Terrell Owens is bad mouth his old teammates and coaches in Dallas. He did this in Philadelphia and in San Francisco. If the coach and players on the Buffalo Bills believe that he won’t do so there as well, there is this bridge in Brooklyn that might be of interest to you...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Little Chef----Closed?

The Little Chef in New Albany has a sign on the door, "Closed until further notice."

This might be big news. New Albany without the Little Chef is like pancakes without syrup; hot dogs without mustard; burgers without ketchup. It's unthinkable: Like the Cubs winning the World Series or Sarah Palin having a thought!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Random Musings

Random Musings

It was a very interesting ‘war of speeches’ yesterday between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney. Whatever one’s opinion is on the subject, they both made very coherent arguments for their positions. I don’t know how appropriate or inappropriate it is for a former Vice President to be so ‘in the face’ especially so soon, after leaving office, but Cheney has definitely been a unique type of Vice President from the start. My greatest regret on this is that I wish this debate had taken place before the fact as opposed to after the fact. The debate itself is great, however.

Let’s see. Newt Gingrich had an affair with this second wife while his first wife was battling cancer. He dumped wife number one for wife number two. Then he had another affair (during the Bill Clinton sexual escapades) with wife number three for whom he dumped wife number two. I remember when Gingrich was assailing Clinton on character issues back then and my daughter asked me if Gingrich would succeed. I told her that to assault another person’s character one must actually have character—--an attribute Newt lacked and lacks. I question Nancy Pelosi a great deal, but Newt Gingrich is not a person I’d want speaking for him. His honesty and integrity can be ascertained by interviewing either of his ex-wives.

I never watched the television show ‘24' before this year and I really like it. I can’t imagine why I haven’t seen it before this year.

Michael Vick has been moved to home incarceration. Thus goes my fantasy of Vick hooking up with Burress in the Penal League.

Regretfully, Keith Olbermann is turning into a left winged Rush Limbaugh. His show is becoming increasingly about personal attacks and is increasingly offensive. His new WTF moment as the last segment of the show is, frankly, tasteless. Offensive is offensive, from the left or the right and my TV tuner is not heading to MSNBC at 8pm for a while.

A big headline today was that summer is here and people are being told not to pee in the pool. I

On that note, I have nothing else to add.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Michael Steele's Large Victory

RNC Chairman Michael Steele managed some successful party leadership when he convinced his fellow Republicans that it was a poor idea to try and rename the Democratic Party the Democrat Socialist Party. It was an idea that most people who had an IQ over that of a kangaroo knew was a bad idea, but one never knows these days. Instead they will condemn a Democratic march towards Socialism.

What made this effort so incredibly foolish becomes evident on several levels.

The philosopher/theologian Dallas Willard has a classic and wise statement. "The system we have now is perfectly designed to produce the results we are now getting." His statement, in its totality, is very simple. If you want different results, you must change the system. Most failures are systemic as are most successes. But when a successful system fails, it fails and it must be changed.

The move to change the name of the Democratic Party failed to pass and would have been an embarrassing effort for these reasons.

The first is systemic. The system the party has been using, of late, is a tried and proven failure. It is the relentless use of cheap labels in an attempt to define others. Rush does it all the time. The McCain campaign did it. The RNC does it. Congressional elections did it and the result has been a huge failure. When people are paying high prices at the gas pumps, are worried about their jobs, their houses have fallen in value (or they have lost them), and their 401 K's are now 201 K's, labels mean nothing. Nothing. Steele, I think, actually sees this and he's trying to move a party that has placed its faith in labels, into having faith in ideas.

The second reason is definitional. The word 'Socialist' has little meaning for younger generations. For people who grew up during the Cold War, the word Socialist has clearly defined meaning. A generation of young adults has little regard or little concern for this word. The phrase' Socialized Medicine' is thrown around like it's this monster, but the reality is that people who have no health insurance do not care what anyone calls something that will get them health care is named. The term Socialism is not a word that the average American can really define any longer. It is difficult to get lathered up over a label you cannot define.

The third reason is personal. People do not vote for ideologies, they vote for people. Here is the news flash. Many people did not vote for Barack Obama because of his ideology. They voted for HIM. They liked him and had confidence in HIM. And, the same was true for Ronald Reagan. Most people who voted for Reagan didn't vote for his ideology, they voted for HIM. They had confidence in HIM. There are political junkies who vote for positions and ideology, but a significant number of people vote the person they like better. Voting is personal.

Michael Steele gets mocked a great deal and even vilified. He saved his party from a group of people who had IQ's lower than kangaroos. This was a large victory for Michael Steele.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

I am beginning to be more and more convinced that the epicenter of international problems is and will be Pakistan. They built nuclear weapons because they perceived a threat from India----and it does not appear that India is a threat as much as it will come from terrorists.

Much of the world crisis that is perceived comes from radical Islam. This is better stated as Fundamentalist Islam. It is even better said as Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, no matter what its form or what religion it espouses, is dangerous. It is a literal declaration of rules----rules that are right under all circumstances. It is not about faith, it is about certainty. People who claim certainty about the ways of God are, whether they are willing to admit it or not, claiming equality with God. They are intrinsically dangerous to the hearts and minds of people.

The interesting thing about the ‘persecuted’ Miss California is that I don’t even know who won Miss USA. She has a right to say what she thinks and believes and whether I agree or disagree with her is of no consequence. Persecution is being fed to the lions, burned at the stake, or imprisoned. Persecution is not coming in second place.

John Demjanjuk was deported from Cleveland back to Germany. He was a suspected Nazi guard at a death camp and is at least perceived as a war criminal. There is a part of me that feels badly that an 89 year old man, now sick, is being deported for this. But then I recently watched a portion of Schindler’s List again and the crimes of the Nazis can never be forgotten or overlooked...

Jon and Kate Gosselin of “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” a television program about their lives with eight small children, are both accused of having affairs. Jon was seen out with a young woman with whom he says is merely a friend, and Kate is suspected of having an affair with a bodyguard. I am not much of a reality show watcher but I have found their show to be rather fascinating. Jon and Kate legitimately and honestly struggle with being the parents of eight small children and very much struggle with each other. I hope that the affairs are merely rumors. I really do. I also think that despite the fact that they have been well payed for being on exhibit (by their choice) to the whole world, they might want to consider their future as a television family. At some point, privacy, and a dignified privacy, is priceless.

All the predictions are that the New York Giants won’t make the playoffs this year. Last year it was predicted that they wouldn’t make the playoffs. The previous year all the ‘experts’ said that they would be, at best, 6-10. They went 10-6 and are well remembered for giving the Patriots the number ‘1' after ‘18' instead of ‘0' after ‘19.’

Allow me to smile for a moment and bask in the memories of this.

Okay, I’m back. Maybe they won’t make the playoffs but I’m always amazed that no one ever comes them a chance or the time of day as a good time.

Speaking of football, my daughter and I were wondering of Jessica Simpson forced John Madden into retirement because Madden always spoke so lovingly about Tony Romo. He would speak of Romo so often that we were convinced he was madly in love with Romo. I’m thinking that Jessica put a stop to this and Madden, heart-broken, chose to retire...

There will be a major plague of bugs this summer. Microsoft is planning to release a new version of Windows that I am sure will have more bugs than we can possibly imagine. My laptop (which I am not on at the moment) has Vista and it is not really bad, but does remind me of the ‘good old days’ of Windows when programs did crash on a fairly regular basis.

All the controversy that is coming out concerning the movie, “Angels and Demons” reminds me of the controversies surround “The DaVinci Code.” Both were Dan Brown novels and both were FICTION.

I have been watching Nancy Pelosi. The Bush Administration demonstrated, over the years, an incredible ease with lying even about big things. I might be naive, but I have a difficult time believing that the CIA would have been as completely dishonest to Speaker Pelosi as she is suggesting. She is the Speaker of the House and they would be held accountable to Congress for actions and for money. In short, her story, at least to me, does not make sense. It looks like she tried to make political hay on torture and she’s been caught. The old line that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is, sadly, ringing true.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beauty and Love

I am not always a big fan of paraphrasing The Bible but every so often I read passages from “The Message” which is a paraphrase, that strike my fancy.

Take how the 23rd Psalm is rendered just before it ends.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.

This is most often rendered like this:

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life,

I certainly love the words ‘goodness’ and ‘mercy’ and they are meaningful. As I look at the words ‘your beauty and your love,’ I am struck in different ways.

We don’t often use the word ‘beautiful’ in reference to God. There is a famous and beloved hymn entitled, “Beautiful Savior,” but we rarely refer to God as beautiful. We talk about beautiful people and the beauty of creation, but rarely do we speak of a beautiful God.

Every year “People” has a survey of the most beautiful people of the year. They are making reference to people who are incredibly attractive, very good looking, etc. One thing we never learn, however, is what the hearts of these people are like. They are very attractive, but do they have beautiful hearts-----hearts that are open to loving others and being loved by others.

Outward beauty is great but it doesn’t always tell us what is happening inside a person.

I often think that real beauty can be seen in a person’s eyes. It is said that the eyes are the pathway to the soul and often you can look into a person’s eyes and be captured by immense beauty that captures one’s soul.

I somehow think God is like this. There are times I look into the eyes of people and come face to face with the heart of God and there is such beauty. It is the beauty of great kindness and tenderness.

And then there is love. God’s love is beyond our ability to even comprehend. One need only read and embrace the story of Christ and one begins to comprehend, even in a small way, God’s love.

And God’s beauty and love CHASE us. Imagine that. This, for me, is something to truly ponder.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wanda Sykes Comments

At the corespondents dinner the other night Wanda Sykes took on Rush Limbaugh in her comedy routine. She said, facing President Obama, “You know, you might want to look into this, [President Obama], because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight. ...”

The President gave a polite smile and did not laugh. Half the room laughed and half the room groaned. It was a low, cheap joke and people knew it. Rush will rant about it today because he’s pretty thin skinned about people making fun of him.

Anyone who knows me, even in the least, knows that I do not like Rush Limbaugh. I find him petty, mean, and dishonest. Much of what he shares as ‘fact’ is very much opinion and he has found that if you repeat a lie over and over again, people believe it. His level of cruelty towards others is often limitless and the kind of joke Wanda Sykes leveled at him is one he is very capable of leveling at someone else.

This, to me, is the very reason her joke was offensive.

His hope that Barack Obama fails is well documented. For a person to publically pronounce that they hope that the President of the United States fails when the nation is in such a difficult climate is repulsive. He said that many people hoped that George W. Bush would fail in Iraq. My sense was that many people believed that he would fail (which is different from hoping) but I never really heard someone say that they hoped he would fail. I can’t imagine people wanting to see our soldiers killed to see a President fail. Limbaugh’s comments, stand by themselves, and they were repulsive.

The biggest problem with Rush Limbaugh is not anything specific he has said. The list of offensive things he has said towards people who differ from him is rather extensive. These specifics are specifically offensive to lots of people, but in their accumulation they speak to something greater. He has helped lower the level of discourse in this nation.

Instead of people having civil discourse in discussing differences of opinion, they now have found it right to just verbally abuse each other. Rush Limbaugh has the highest rated radio show and he does it. If he does it and has made millions doing it, than everyone should do it.

Frankly, I’ve done it towards Rush Limbaugh. I figure if he can dish it out, people can dish it right back. Sarcasm is, to me, often funny and when there is a target like Limbaugh, my sarcasm tend to run wild. I'm finding something wrong in how I have approached this, however. I have become that which I do not admire.

When I first read what Wanda Sykes said, I laughed. The more I have thought about it, however, the more troubled I am by it. We have allowed ourselves to be pulled into the mud pit as a society. Difference is a dish best served with cruelty and derision. Or so it would seem. Rush has taught us this and has made a great deal of money doing so. Others are now following his lead.

But the more I reflect on this, the more I am coming to the conclusion that we, as a society, need to extract ourselves from the mud pit and learn civility.

Wanda Sykes is a funny person but I think she went to far. It’s not that Rush, personally, didn’t deserve it, but as a society we need to deserve better, we need to expect better. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to wallow in the mud of cruelty and derision. We need to learn that difference is a dish best served with dignity and respect.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Random Thoughts

The hopes of Chrysler seem to all rest on Fiat. I’ve known people who have owned Fiats over the years. I have owned cars made by the Chrysler corporation and have sworn, never again because of their incredible lack of reliability. People who have owned Fiats generally swore at their Fiats because they did EARN the nickname, “Fix It All the Time.” Sounds like a match made in Heaven...

I’m still trying to figure out the tea bag day. They were protesting taxation and my taxes went down. So, this was a protest that their taxes went down? I’m still mystified by the whole thing. One Englishman said that he was highly insulted as King George was a much better oppressor than Barack Obama. The original tea party was about taxation without representation; this one was about lower taxes and our people lost the election. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

There is rampant speculation as to the love life and virginity of Miley Cyrus. I mean, this is a news story? This ranks even lower than tea bag rallies.

The two New York baseball teams play a massive amount of money to a bunch of players who are great at losing. The high priced players don’t always produce great teams. Speaking of New York teams, the New York Jets who last one a big game was in 1969 have gotten most of the New York news media these days. We Giants fans like it this way.

Prediction: Brett Favre will sign with the Vikings.

Prediction #2: The Vikings will sell a lot of tickets and regret this. He is 40 years old with a sore arm...

Elizabeth Edwards is breaking her silence and pretty much telling us what we already knew. She is married to a skunk. I used to like John Edwards a great deal. I have long since gotten over it. For her part, she's dealing with a terminal illness and children and she comes to realize that she's married to a guy who not only cheated by has the significant chance to be the father of another child.

I do appreciate that Arlen Specter was at least honest that he became a Democrat for selfish reasons. Actually, he started out as a Democrat and became a Republican for selfish reasons. The ideological purists in the Republican Party were happy to see him go and have invited others to leave as well. This kind of strategic thinking served Custer well too.

I somehow wish that judges were not Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. The concept of the blind justice holding the scales and political ideology, at least to me, to be mutually exclusive. I understand that I am being naive about this but this bothers me a great deal.

Stephen Baldwin has been repeatedly saying, "I believe that my not being able to express my traditional Christian values and views regarding marriage is a hate crime against me.” He decries this as religious persecution. He’s been on virtually every television channel decreeing the fact that he’s being silenced and persecuted for his beliefs and expressing his views on traditional Christian marriage, which, of course, is a husband owns his wife and has complete control over every thought and action she does. In Biblical times, the time he wants us to go back to, marriage was a legal contract of a man owning a woman. She had no rights. He could abuse her, beat her up, and even kill her with no legal ramifications. Of course, he’s been on television repeatedly telling us about his traditional Christian values and such, so I’m wondering where the hate crime stuff is. I wonder what his view of tea bag day was.

It’s funny that after Barack Obama’s first 100 days people who like him thought he was the greatest thing since slice bread and the people who don’t like him thought he was the worst thing since someone determined that brussels sprouts were edible. The fact of life, however, is that 100 days into a Presidency gives us very little to base judgments, good or bad.

Ann Coulter was speaking the other day about Bristol Palin and her baby, etc. Bristol Palin's baby is not Ann Coulter's business nor anyone else's.

I'm thinking that betting on the penal league team that has Vick throwing to Burress may be a good bet.

I'm realizing that I am aging. When I was a child I saw a football game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills led by their start quarterback, Jack Kemp. Kemp, of course, went into politics and eventually ran as Bob Dole's running mate. Jack Kemp was one of those guys who was in the mold of Hubert Humphrey, a happy warrior. Kemp was a person who you might have disagreed with politically, I certainly did, but he was also a person who cared for those less fortunate than he was. He truly did seek to help others. Whether one agreed or disagreed with, Kemp was truly a fine person.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Trying Kindness

In the 1970's when I was in the seminary in New Jersey a New York news anchor spoke at our seminary. News anchors from New York City reported it all. Actually, to be honest, New York City in the 1970's was not a very nice place to be. The city has been cleaned up a great deal since that time; the ‘70's were a real low point.

In a question and answer session after his talk (that I do not remember) people asked a variety of questions. One student asked a fairly mundane question: “What do you see as the biggest problem people face now?” Most of us figured this was mundane and boring, and the speaker would give some standard answer. His answer, however, was unforgettable. He said simply, “People don’t love each other enough.”

I have often remembered those words. “People don’t love each other enough.”

We live in a culture plagued by a lack of kindness.

I have come to loathe election years. Watching television commercials from so many candidates is often painful. Many of the ads are cruel and often not even remotely accurate.

I simply do not turn on the radio. Talk radio has become a breeding place for hatred.

Most of the evening cable news shows are pretty much the same. Sadly, I often watch these shows and delight in seeing people I do not like very much skewered. It really is not right and I find myself wondering if watching these shows is actually wrong. When I find myself delighting in unkindness directed at people with whom I do not agree or who I feel are unkind, I lower myself into the muck.

Most people who know me would say that I am a pretty nice person. People who know me well know, however, that I have a ragingly sarcastic sense of humor. I sometimes direct my sarcasm at myself, but I also aim sarcasm at others. It is not me at my best. I may be funny when I do this, but unkindness probably ought not be laughed at.

Every so often, however, I run into people who are incredibly kind and good and I greatly appreciate their goodness. I think I’m going to work on having that kindness rub off on me.

At least a little.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Learning to Apologize

I was struck yesterday by Virginia Foxx's lack of apology, apology. Her words were to the effect of, "I apologize IF."

There are two words that never belong in apology.

The first word is 'if.'

When we hurt another person, we hurt the person. A proper apology is this: "I apologize that I hurt you." When you say like this, "I apologize IF I hurt you," now the emphasis is on the response of the person who was hurt. It is their responsibility now to take ownership of the issue. If a person is hurt, they are hurt. Just say "I am sorry," and be done with it. I think it's often helpful to add that 'it wasn't my intention to hurt you' because most often when we hurt others, we really don't intend to do so. Often we say or do things in the heat of the moment or in the heat of a response that gets carried away. What made Virginia Foxx's comments so incredibly awful was that they were prepared remarks and untrue. It makes you wonder if her parents taught her manners. Her words sounded like she was raised by Tarzan and seven of his apes.

The other lethal word in an apology is the word 'but.' And it is usually a very big but in the middle of a sentence. (Pun intended!)

When we say, "I am sorry, but....," this is no longer an apology but a justification pretending to be an apology. "I am sorry for wrecking your car when I was driving drunk, BUT you did ask me to drive your car home from downtown."

"I am sorry for punching you in the mouth, BUT it was your mouth in the way of my flying fist."

"I am sorry I humiliated you BUT I am a Christian and it's all God's fault." (This one shows up in a lot of various forms----misbehaving and blaming our cruel remarks on God.) "God told my heart to tell you that you are a terrible human being. Don't blame me. God told me to tell you that!!!" Grr.

Virginia Foxx is not the first person in need of apologizing properly and will not be the last. As a society, however, we need lessons in learning to apologize and in learning to say, "I am sorry," and ending the sentence before we mess it up.