The subjects on this blog are mainly political and theological, but your ideas on other topics are welcome. My hope is that we can dialog honestly even if we disagree.. There are some previous posts on this blog. I will be responsible for them even though I may no longer fully support them.

Welcome again!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lies Told and Believed

My mother was a strict disciplinarian.  So much so that I lived in dread of getting a whipping from her:  leather clothes brush, naked butt, leaning over the toilet.  Mom loved me I have no doubt; she said she would walk through fire for me, and no doubt she would--even though the necessitating occasion never arose.

Fear of punishment sometimes drove me to lie to her questioning: "Did you do what I told you not to do?"  My eight-year-old mind weighed the options:  (1) tell the truth (I had done what she told me not to do) and take the very painful punishment, or (2) lie and evoke the future wrath of God for lying.  Of course, I was not a very good liar and I only got away with it about half the time.

When I did not get away with it, I really got angry at her.  I rationalized to myself that I had told the truth (even when I had not) and then I would get angry that she would not believe me.  I was her son and she should believe me--even when I was not telling the truth.

I bring this up because of the many lies being told today on the political front; and the obvious position of the liars that they are telling the truth.

Look at these topics--which I believe to be lies:
  • Obama is a Muslim.
  • He is not a citizen of the United States.
  • The Health Care Reorm Act includes "death panels"
  •  the government is taking over health care
  • we are losing our freedom
  • we need to take our country back
  • the current administration is raising our taxes
I understand that those who perpetrate these lies think they are true (or they deceitfully mislead the gullible for selfish gain); and whatever I might say about any of them would just be a lie to them.

When we hear someone make some statement, the test of truth has become, "do I agree with it?"  If we don't  agree, we often lower our level of trust for the speaker, our sense of their personal integrity diminishes.

If five of us were in business as partners, how successful could our business be if two of the five said, "No matter what you want to do, we are going to say "No"?   Today the Republican members of the Senate adopted the position that whatever the Democrats propose to reform Wall Street and the banks, the Republicans will oppose it.  They have also said, whoever Obama nominates to the Supreme Court, they will oppose that person. 

Two considerations:  first, if we do not enact financial reforms, the same practices that caused our recession will remain in play.  Second, the balance of the court will remain about the same as it was if Obama appoints a liberal jurist (which he probably will).  The real fight will come if Obama gets the opportunity to make another appointment and nominates a liberal in the place of a conservative.

Remember this:  this current court voted 5-4 to allow corporations to donate to political campaigns in such a way that will diminish  the importance of individual donations.  Though this may give comfort to the right wing, it is very scary to me.

One last word:  whether it is ignorance or deceit that fuels the false statements of the right wing, a larger danger looms.

Have you seen signs held by the Tea Party demonstrators:  "Armageddon is coming", "Take Back our Country",  "We came unarmed, This Time", "Clean Your Guns and Have Them Ready", "Obama is a Nazi Socialist".

In a speech given today, President Clinton said, We want to promote disagreement and dialog; but, be careful the words you use.  Remember what you say enters into a vast echo chamber and those words resound across this land and fall up the ears of the serious and the delirious, those who are well-connected and those that are unhinged.

An acquaintance sat down at the dinner table last night.  The first thing he said was "Obama is a Muslim".  I told him that was not true.  Obama's father had been a Muslim, his mother was a non-believer who had a Ph.D  degree (in anthropology?).  Obama has been a member of a Disciples of Christ  (this was a mistake, it should have read:) United Church of Christ in Chicago before the pastor of that church became embroiled in controversy. 

I spoke the truth, as I know it.  Long ago I gave up lying to avoid unpleasant consequences.  But, my acquaintance had been told this by an influential person, and I doubt very seriously if he believes me.  Lies told by friends have  power.  Corrosive and corrupt power.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cornbread Crumbs, etc.

As I get older, my memory grows dimmer; but, it does seem that our political banter is filled with invective and distortion in a manner higher than ever before.  And it comes from all sides of the political spectrum.  While I usually support the more liberal side of most propositions, this year I did not vote in any primary and declared myself to be an independent.

I supported the Health Care initiative in spite of the threats of "death panels" and the predictions that our country would be destroyed by it.  Where things stand right now it appears the economy is slowly turning around, jobs may follow in about six to nine months, and the control of nuclear proliferation looks like a winner (even though the Republicans may mount a push against ratification of the treaty, saying it weakens our national defense or what not).  We are now capable of destroying the world how many times over?

What is really scary is how our trust in the integrity of our leaders (on both sides) has been ripped apart.  The level of criticism is so acrid and hyperbolic that everyone loses.  Eric Severeid said, fifty years ago at another time of national crisis, "He who throws mud, loses ground."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Feliz, Feldham, Francisco, Harden, Olsen, Wilson, and hopefully "Big Game" Hunter promise to be a solid pitching staff for the Texas Rangers.  Pitching has been the biggest problem in the past.  "It's Time" for the Rangers to step out..
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Going to England for the first time in June for two weeks.  It's tough setting an ininerary--so much to see.  London five days, Oxford (and Blenheim Palace), Bath (and side trip to Stonehenge)  then York for four days--that only leaves one day or so for the rest of the trip.  Any "don't miss" suggestions?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
iPad fever is growing in my head.  Anyone have one?  Any suggestions?  Any wi-fi problems?
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My stint as a temporary associate pastor at my church is slowly winding down.  Seven Sundays left.  It has been a real joy to be so involved in the life  of a great church, but my "second retirement" will also be a joy.  At sixty-nine years of age, I understand better the phrase, "My get-up-and-go has done got-up-and-went."
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Tiger Woods stepped up slightly on the national pecking order with his play and demeanor at the Masters in Atlanta.  Chickens finding one in their midst with sickness or weakness will gang up on it and peck it to death.  That seems to be the intent of many golf "purity" supporters. 

The chief spokesman for the Masters in his opening statement couldn't pass the opportunity to stab Tiger for his lapse of morality.   This is the man whose organization will still not allow women to be members, and for the longest would not allow Afro-Americans to play on their sacred fairways. 

I  think of Jesus looking down at the woman charged with adultery, then up at the men who had thrown her at Jesus feet.  "You without sin, cast the first stone." Leave Tiger alone.   He has paid for his indiscretions.  Let  he and his wife deal with this.
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The greedy wealthy are like the junipers (Cedars) in Texas.  Refusing to let the  rain trickle down,  they suck dry the ground which supports them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Always We Begin Again (An adaptation of the Benedictine Rule)

John McQuiston II, an attorney who lives in Memphis has opened the door to a more ordered and peaceful life by translating the sixth century Benedictine Rule into contemporary language.  The result, a small book:  Always We Begin Again

The Memphis Bar Association, no less, has commented that this book can "help its readers escape a frenetic pace of life and seek a more balanced approach to living and to peace of mind". 

The chapters are short (two and three pages) and give themselves to a daily reading.

An excerpt from "The First Rule":

"These words are addressed to anyone
who is willing to renounce the delusion
that the meaning of life can be learned;
whoever is ready
to take up the greater weapon of fidelity
to a way of living that transcends understanding.

The first rule is simply this:

live this life
and do whatever is done,
in a spirit of Thanksgiving.

Abandon attempts to achieve security,
they are futile,

give up the search for wealth,
it is demeaning,

quit the search for salvation,
it is selfish,

And come to comfortable rest
in the certainty that those who
participate in this life
with an attitude of Thanksgiving
will receive its full promise.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
John McQuiston II, ALWAYS WE BEGIN AGAIN, Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 1996, 2001.

[Three correlations to Jesus' teaching:  (1) searching for security:  "the Son of Man has no place to lay his head"; (2) search for wealth:  "you cannot serve both God and the power of money"; (3) search for salvation:  "he who would save his life will lose it".  Living an attitude of "thanksgiving" is deep and requires a sacrificial and loving approach to others.  --cornbread]

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Have Held an iPad In My Hands

Judee and I went to an iPad demonstration last Saturday at the Apple store in La Cantera Shops, San Antonio.  We arrived maybe 15 minutes late for the scheduled demo. 

First  impression:  movie premiere, rock concert tickets, championship playoff game.  What I mean is, there was a line that stretched back way around the corner of the block.  A policeman stood at the door of the store.  An Apple employee was passing out bottles of water to an orderly but urgent herd of folks--just waiting to take a bite off the Apple tree.

And these folks weren't there for the demo.  A sign in front of the line urged all those who had "pre-ordered" an iPad,or who were ready to purchase one, to queue up.  Every minute or two (literally) people would emerge from the store, to the cheers of five or six Apple cheerleaders, with a smug smile and carrying a white plastic bag in which was enfolded:  an iPad.  Their very own.

We were told the demo was pushed back to ten oclock, so we went for a cup of coffee (in what must be one of the most beautiful shopping centers in San Antonio, La Cantera).  Returning, we found the cheerleaders' enthusiasm had not waned, but the line was now less than half as long.

We were ushered to a table in the store and an iPad was placed in front of us.  Our demo leader showed us how to turn it on (just punch a button and instantly you are in the apple grove, where "magic" hides behind every tree).  She then led us through the photos, iBook store, web sites, iStore (where apps reside), email, magazines, newspapers, etc.  The touch screen instantly filled our requests and the screen resolution was really good--the color, superb.  I even found this blog, Archer's Tracers easily. 

I am a little concerned about the usability of the on-screen keyboard.  Perhaps with more practice it will become friendly, but for the moment it was strange, typing without "feeling" the keys.  Of course, by now  you probably know you can turn the iPad sideways (from "portrait" to "landscape") and the screen automatically adjusts.  The landscape keyboard is larger and one might just learn how to use it.  Nonetheless, an external keyboard and dock are available for $69.

The wi-fi hookup was either overloaded or underpowered.  I read in Newsweek that the antenna for the wi-fi reception may face a "recall" to beef it up.  Our demo leader said the slow response (at times)  was due to so many iPads in the store all accessing the wi-fi at once.  Maybe.  I don't understand, but am a little skeptical of that explanation.

Nonetheless, I hope to be able to acquire one of these little jewels soon.  I am currently involved in an effort to "remotize" my world, by acquiring as many remotes as possible.  The goal:  to be able to sit in my recliner and control every device in my home without having to get up.  (A small refrigerator could double as a night stand.)  The iPad will save me from having to go six feet over to my desk and firing up my Dell. 

And, Judee and I are travelling to England in June.  I hope to have a book, a couple of movies, a game or two loaded up for the flight over; and maps of London, guides to places of interest, and instructions as to how to get on the Tube--all accessible on my iPad--snuggly tucked into my back-pack.

Where is that tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  I relish the first bite.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Joining the Tea-Baggers, Radically

Perhaps my taste has changed; perhaps I have grown tired of the failed promises, but whatever the reason, I have given up on the mainline and gone for a radical solution.

No more coffee for me.  After months of hopes raised by slick, colored tin-foil packaging, of smelling the delicious aroma of coffee--only to be disappointed by the brewed result, coffee is gone from my daily diet.

I have tried at least  ten different highly-recommended brands with poor results.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Folgers, imported Rowandan  coffee, Cafe Ole, Sensco, Eight O'Clock, Maxwell House, name it, I've tried it.   I have bought a new coffee pot, tried three older ones with poor results.  I have ground coffee beans, thinking that might render my sought-for pleasure.  Nada. Nada. Nada.

The only satisfying cup of coffee I have found is at McDonalds--and I'm not going to drive thru there five times a day to fix my caffeine level.

Starbucks was a tremendous let-down.  The mecca of good coffee seekers, so I thought.  I tried, but, I don't want a coffee milkshake, just a plain cup of black coffee.  When I asked for that, what they gave me was strong enough to clog my esophagus.  I can only assume the appeal of that place is to adolescent desires for candied coffee.

Hello tea.  For some reason, unexplained to me, I can taste hot, freshly-brewed tea.  It has a pleasant flavor, and I get a smug affirmation of my distant English roots.

Brewing tea seems so elementary and so idiosyncratic.  You can steep your cup to your precise taste. 

A covenant forms between you and your little bag of tea.  A bonding is fused:  "treat me kindly and I will deliver just the taste for which you thirst."  The only pain associated with the process is the discarding of the bag, after the steeping is done. [I wonder if you can get a quality taste by using the tea bag more than once?]

Earl Grey is the tea of choice for the moment; but, I have only been on this kick for a couple of weeks.  I am willing to experiment around with other flavors.  In the meantime you may call me a "tea-bagger", in the radical sense of course.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, A Real Comer

During an interview on Rachel Maddow, Thursday evening (4-01-10), this tweet appeared:  "We did it.  No murders for the past calendar month".  For the first time in 44 years, the city of Newark, NJ went for 30 days with no murders. 

This is in the city which Money Magazine, in 1996, labelled a "Most Dangerous City".  This is the city for which Cory Booker, D-Newark, is completing his first term as mayor.  This is the city in which the crime rate has dropped 20% since 1997.

Booker is a Rhodes Scholar, a Yale law school graduate.  He is "clean and articulate" :-), somewhat hyper, a dreamer grounded in the pragmatic next step.

He is a major tweeter on Twitter (search for "CoryBooker").  In addition to city news, and efforts to mobilize the citizens to improve their lives, Booker intersperses city news with such tweeting aphorisms  as:'

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. --Edison

One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.  --Sidney Howard

It always seems impossible until its done. --Nelson Mandela

One way or another, you need to follow this guy if you wish to join the effort to solve all the world's problems.

[If  you know how (or if it is possible) to access TRMS (Rachel Maddow) shows via I-Tunes or other means, please comment below.]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rachel Maddow: Best News Commentator on TV

Every weeknight I record TRMS (The Rachel Maddow Show) for viewing whenever.  With a PhD from Oxford, Maddow has the skills and the questing to provide true investigative reporting with an open mind (I find her to be quite progressive.) She was a Rhodes Scholar.

Currently she is bedeviling the congressional occcupants of the house at C Street who have been receiving rent subsidies and who may not have claimed such on income tax reports.  She follows the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" issue closely, has excellent guests on [whom she interviews one-on-one (no two opponents yelling at each other)].  She has been a guest on other shows:  Meet the Press, the Today Show.

She is intelligent, tenacious and enthusiastic (unless you are a Glenn Beck fan); and, she is the first openly gay person ever hired to be a news commentator on a network outlet.

Check her out:  MSNBC weeknights, 8 pm central.

Today I saw a woman dressed in jeans, high heels, blackened eyes going into  Wal Mart.  She looked like a cheap prostitute.  If we want to save the world, we need to:

(1) get rid of high heels.  They serve no practical purpose other than to purport faux-sexuality.  They are doubly stupid: (a) who cares how tall you are, (b) they hurt your feet.  Stop it.

(2) Women should stop wearing so much make-up--in fact stop wearing it all.  We'll get used to it; and start seeing real beauty.

Of course, going against cultural norm means tough resistance from the Maybellines, Revlons and Estee Lauder corporations.  So what.  Their propaganda is a bunch of self-serving, greedy sales-pitches.  They care only for making money at women's expense.