Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why the Christian Right Detests Barak Obama

An article by J. Matt Barber entitled “The Gods of Liberalism” on a Republican website represents the mindset that is held by a large number of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals and explains why supporting most Democratic officeholders. To do so is an anathema as it would be the equivalent of idolatry.

Following in red are quotes from Barber’s article, followed by an observation:

Modern-day liberals – or "progressives" as they more discreetly prefer – labor under an awkward misconception; namely, that there is anything remotely "progressive" about the fundamental canons of their blind, secular-humanist faith. Holding humanism is a religion is a typical Fundamentalist and Evangelical mindset. Barber’s dismissive stance of humanism is prototypical of the Christian right. It affirms the dignity of each human being and that humanity needs to work together in a cooperative manner to seek truth. Though humanism does not accept the existence of supernatural, it does accept that there are profound truths and inspirational stories in religious literature.

In fact, today's liberalism is largely a sanitized retread of an antiquated mythology – one that significantly predates the only truly progressive movement: biblical Christianity. Barber takes the view that Christianity has a superior point of few not just on issues of faith but at every point. His dismissive position holds that Christians can learn little from other belief systems and philosophies. Some adherents of his position hold that Humanists and other faiths are demonic. Such an argument is undermined by a host of examples where the Christianity over the centuries has held widely divergent views, has been blatantly and egregious wrong while affirming that it was correct in its position, and has been deeply involved in committing atrocities in the name of God, or has looked the other way while atrocity was being committed. Those who hold such views steadfastly hold that the invasion of Iraq and torture of prisoners and life-time detainment of “enemy combatants” are righteous acts.

Baal worship….its present-day progeny: liberalism. Barber clearly holds that liberal thinking is the same as Baal worship. In a sermon comparisons like those that follow sound good and true but a critical thinker realizes the comparisons are superficial.

Baal, the half-bull, half-man god of fertility, was the focal point of pagan idolatry in Semitic Israel until God revealed His monotheistic nature to Judaism's forebears…..The principal pillars of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual) and pantheism (reverence of creation over the Creator)……congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of "mother earth." Barber overlooks that in the Bible a baby is the womb is not deemed to be a child and as having rights until it is born. The argument of the fetus having legal standing and rights that trump the legal standing and rights of all others is a legal argument that has emerged only in the last century. I have been puzzled why the Christian right has been so resistant to clean water and air, efforts to protect and maintain a healthy animal world, and protecting the environment. Though I think they are grossly wrong, viewing environmentalism as pantheism helps me to end my puzzlement.

The worship of "fertility" has been replaced with worship of "reproductive freedom" or "choice." Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so slightly, to become child sacrifice by way of abortion. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed – yet wholeheartedly embraced – by the cults of radical feminism, militant "gay rights" and "comprehensive sex education." And the pantheistic worship of "mother earth" has been substituted – in name only – for radical environmentalism. Barber has oversimplified Canaanite and other ancient religions and their annual fertility rights. Child sacrifice was not as dominant an element as Barber makes it out to be. What Barber overlooks is that the Israelite sacrificial system was similar, albeit simplified, to the Baal sacrificial system.

In these postmodern times, we've also been graced, regrettably, by the advent of counter-biblical "emergent Christianity" or "quasi-Christianity," as I prefer to call it. The emergent church is much more conservative than the mainstream and Catholic churches. Hence, evangelicals like Barber view the bulk of the Church (those are not Fundamentalists or Evangelical) are false Christians.

Emergent Christianity fails the authenticity test whenever subjected to even the most perfunctory biblical scrutiny…. It's not a matter of right versus left; it's a matter of right versus wrong – of biblical versus non-biblical. Here it is clear that the emergent churches are not authentic Christians. If they are not authentic, then there is little hope for the mainstream churches.

The gods of liberalism have a new high priest in Barack Obama. With such viewpoints we can understand why many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists describe Obama in anti-Christ language.

The post is not from a religious site. Barber's article is found on "Renew America", a Republican political web site that commingles politics with conservative Protestant Christianity. It is articles such a Barber's that provides the basis for secular liberals and liberal Christians to believe that if the evangelical church had its way it would transform the United States into a conservative evangelical state, and have America become the Christian equivalent of Iran or worse, the Christian equivalent of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Obama Cell Makeover

Following is a picture that is part of the Obama cell phone makeover. Ahead of the Inauguration Weekend and event cell companies and civil authorities are upgrading the quality and number of cell phone towers in Washington DC's federal downtown and around party sites.

During 9-11 the cell system crashed due to the traffic of several hundreds of thousands of people calling each other at the same time. Following 9-11 cell phone towers were added to the level that in Washington they are able to handle nearly the whole residential and working population on their cells at the same time. Though the system is robust authorities realize that with millions coming into the city for the Inauguration taking pictures and videos from their cell phones and other such devices that the system would be overwhelmed. Hence, new towers are being added and exisiting towers enhanced, and a host of temporary towers errected like the ones pictured here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Did It Again

Last night once again I did what I did in December 1977 in Los Angeles ....I slept through an earthquake. In 1977 I was the only one of my friends to sleep through the small earthquake that hit in the middle of the night.

Evie, Josh and I are visiting in Leola where just after midnight midnight a 3.3 earthquake struck the area. I awoke Josh and Evie's mother, but not me. At least I am not alone in missing the excitment. Evie too slept through this minor event.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Photos - Blog Challenge

Before heading to the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service I am posting a few pictures of the season. The first our family photo that we took following last Sunday's service. For the last three years just before Christmas I have been taking photos of Corps families at Arlington.

Next are a series of pictures taken Christmas Eve afternoon after I left the office at noon. As you can see there is no snow on the Mall or around the Capitol. We have yet to have a snow. The reflection pool in front of Capitol Hill is starting to freeze.

The closest we will come to Canadian soil is driving past the Canadian Embassy.

The last picture in the series, that is not snow on the side of the road...that is salt. On 19 December with the temperature was around 40F (5C) in the afternoon it started to ran. Since the temperatures late that night could get close to freezing the ice trucks hit the roads at 2 PM. When salt goes onto roads they put it on very thick. This is what is still left on the roadside.

The close of Capitol Hill shows stands being installed for Obama's inauguration.

Merry Christmas one and all. May your gathering and celebration be filled with joy and blessings. May the joy and love of your family warm your heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Great Cornetist

Following is a solo by one of the best cornetists in the world, Philip Sparke. Note who with little effort he plays in the upper register. The solo ends on a high C.

Shortly after this performance at the European Brass Band Championship (this band won the championship) Mr. Sparke retired.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Screaming Past Each Other

As noted in Saturday’s blog, there is great anger from various groups such as People For the American Way, and Gay and Lesbian organizations for Obama asking Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration because he supported Proposition 8. Warren supported Proposition 8 “if [Proposition 8] did not pass, then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way relationships, that that would be hate speech.”

Those who are against Proposition 8 argue that Warren’s claims are preposterous. Frankly unless the matter is clearly defined in various legislations neither side knows one way or the other how courts could rule ten or twenty years in the future. It is not uncommon for a court ruling turn out to be contrary to how legislation was first understood decades before.

One author on CBN wrote, “The tolerance crowd [liberals] has tolerance only for people who agree with them. They are blindly and hypocritically intolerant to the point of tyranny towards advocates of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” The CBN author has rightly noted an issue. That said his argument vanishes when one examines the history of the church. What the author has overlooked and left unstated for his faith community audience is that the conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist branches of the church have again and again lacked tolerance.

Going back to the Middle Ages the Church has attempted to impose its will upon civil matters. Though John Calvin felt many in Geneva were predestined to hell, he forced residents of Geneva to live by Christian precepts, including mandating everyone attend church on Sunday morning. As late as the late 1970s, Ocean Grove NJ prohibited its residents from driving cars on Sunday as it was a violation of keeping the Sabbath holy. Residents who had to travel outside Ocean Grove on Sunday had to part their vehicle in a lot outside town and beyond its locked gates.

While both side cry for tolerance and understanding from the other on a host of civil rights issues, rarely does either side grant it to the other. Instead each side screams at the other saying that the other side is out to silence the other and to dictate how the other side should believe/live. Each decries the other as being a hatemonger. Lack of such a tolerant dialogue on civil matters is a shame. Rather than acting like two pit bulls trained to attack each other with vengeance, it is time to tone down the rhetoric, sincerely listen to the other and their concerns, attempt to understand the other’s pains, concerns and fears.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obama Angers the Democrat Left

Barak Obama is being criticized by many of the left of the Democratic Party for inviting Rick Warren to give one of the two prayers at his inauguration. Meanwhile, Warren has received calls from some evangelical and fundamentalist leaders asking him to decline because of Obama’s support for abortion as well as his position on gay rights and gay marriage.

Joe Solmonese, President of Human Rights Campaign has stated that inviting Warren has tarnished the view that “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your (Obama’s) table.” Solmones goes on to state that the selection of Warren shows deep respect for homosexuals.

For that last twelve years America has been increasingly been torn apart by divisive fighting between the extremes, with each side not being willing to build from the common ground. Bush claimed he was the President of all Americans and he would bring people together. Yet, his choices for his cabinet was heavily weighted with those who were far from being centrists. His choice for Vice-President signaled what was to come. Bush’s view was that he won the election and he would govern from the right (interestingly, with the collapse of the economy the right now claims Bush has not been governing from the right and he was not their man). What Bush meant by building a common ground was that others were expected to capitulate to his position.

Solonese and others who are deeply angered by the selection of Warren are not far essentially in agreement with George Bush’s view of governing. The only difference is that while Bush governed for the most part from the far right they want their man to govern from the far right. They want Obama to use the language of being the President for the whole nation and seeking common ground but not to follow-through on that language. They do not want to have Obama reaching out and conversing with those on the political right. They want Obama to be the left version of Bush.

Like Bush Obama says he is the President of all Americans. Unlike Bush, he is bringing into his administration and cabinet strong people with diverse views. He is taking steps to reach out to all. He wants to have strong views argued within his Cabinet. He wants ideas to be challenged and sifted. I hope that he will help end the politics of polarities and divisiveness.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Blog Challenge

The challenge to the family is to post between December 24th and 2 PM eastern on the 26th at least two pictures from the holiday season. The pictures could range from decorations, lights on the house or in the neighborhood, gift exchange, family posing for the camera or family gathering. For those of us at a distance from each other it is a way for us to share elments of Christmas with one another.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa and His Reindeer

Both male and female reindeer grow antlers each summer. The older males drop their antlers between late November and mid December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in spring. This means that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Blitzen, as well as Rudolph, are females.

We should’ve known….ONLY women would be able to drag a big-butt man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.

Josh is Home

After a weekend in San Antonio with the Crossmen and for the Crossmen’s banquet, Josh arrived home late Monday afternoon from Baton Rouge. The night was spent eating pizza, visiting and watching the Crossmen’s 2008 Tour DVD.

Josh has been telling us about his time at LSU. It is clear that he loves the LSU program and the university as a whole….and the weather too.

Today the last Josh’s final grades were posted. He achieved in his first semester something he did not achieve once in high school….straight As. Congratulations to Josh. With his course selection, the next semester will be more demanding but he is looking forward to the challenge.

He leaves for the bowl game on the 28th. He will return for one more week at home on New Years day.

As a side note, because of the timing of the banquet Josh had to stay overnight in a motel. A number of vets were in the same situation and pooled their resources. Apparently Josh’s share was just over $6 for the one night as there were 12 of them in the two room hotel suite. Twelve left little room for walking around.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jon Stewart Pokes Fun at Canadian Politics

In the last weeks Canada has reached the big leagues of the political game. You know you have arrived when Jon Stewart makes fun of you or your party. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Time to Leave Afghanistan

It is long overdue for the coalition of countries that disposed the Taliban to leave Afghanistan. Going back to the Mongols over the centuries the country has been invaded and somewhat conquered again and again. Each invader has discovered that the country is problematic and in the traditional sense, ultimately ungovernable. Afghanistan’s history is filled with government instability and bloody coups as independent overloads battle with each other.

Its time for coalition nations to recognize Afghanistan's social and political history. Afghanistan will continue to have a turbulent future. Ruthless violent prawn parties will battle against their neighbors for independence from their neighbors areas while seeking to dominate their neighboring areas or region. The military, coalition and central government, will continue to battle local overlords and their militia year after year after year.

It is better for the governments involved to judiciously leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to govern with the understanding that if Afghanistan or areas of Afghanistan again becomes a haven for international terrorism, those camps and areas will be attacked with vigor.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Posting Challenge Update

How are we doing on the challenge issued at the beginning of November. As a whole we are doing very well.

Barb – challenge to surpass 360. Congratulations to Barb as she is now at 362 and likely to go well beyond 365 by year end.

Evie – challenge to surpass 370, now 366 and quickly closing in on challenge.

Jenn – challenge to surpass 370, now at 372 and likely to hit 377 by Christmas. Way to go Jenn.

Josh – challenge to surpass 20, now at 24. He could easily go over 27 by the end of the year. Kudos to Josh.

Jonathan – challenge to surpass 20, now at 17. I am confident he will go over 20. Lately he has posted several humorous items. Thanks for the laughs.

Cathy – challenge to surpass 75. She is at 69 at the time. Two posts a week and she will be over.

Stephen – challenge to surpass 100…10 November was at 101, he is now at 105. Stephen by the end of the year I challenge you to hit 108. A blog done by the kids can also count.

Christian – was at 136 on Nov 4, now at 138. As like Stephen he is deep into kettles, holiday distributions and programs, I will only challenge him to hit 140 by the end of the year.

Joanne - I do not know her total to date. Hopefully she will add two to three more to her total by the end of the year.

Myself – goal to surpass 350, with this post I am at 353 with a revised goal to hit 360.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White Christmas

Thank you Cathy for your comment on my prior post which gave me the idea for this post.

Many people dream of a white Christmas. If you want a 100% chance of having a white Christmas, without going to Alaska, the place to be in the United States is Stampede Pass, Washington is the place to be: it has the greatest statistical probability in the lower 48 states for having at least 5 inches of snow on December 25 (a 100 percent chance) and also the greatest chances for being snowed-in with at least 10 inches (a 96 percent chance).

There are other extreme places in the mountains, including in the mountains of Arizona where you will have snow each year at Christmas.

Without going to extreme mountain heights, other safe bets of a white Christmas in the United States include, any major town in Alaska, Marquette and Sault Saint Marie in Michigan; and Hibbing and International Falls and Minnesota. Each has a 100 percent statistical chance of having at least one inch on snow on the ground Christmas day.

Interestingly Flagstaff Arizona has a higher chance of snow (56%) than either Denver (50%) or Chicago (40%). The chances of us having snow on the ground for Christmas in Washington DC stands at 13%. When we lived in Iowa City we had a 50% chance. Louisville Kentucky has a 13% chance of snow which is about what it would be for Lexington and Wilmore.

In Canada, almost all of northern Canada can count on a white Christmas every year. This would include Nunavut, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, as well as the northern portions of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. Quebec City is one city where the chances of a white Christmas is 100%.

As for regions, southern Ontario, six to eight of 10 Christmas are white. There is a 40 percent chance along the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia of a white Christmas and less than the 20 percent chance in the southwestern mainland of British Columbia and on Vancouver Island.

Those dreaming of a white Christmas might consider not only moving to Quebec City but also Thunder Bay where there is a 100 percent chance that the ground will be white during the holidays. Those two cities have had a perfect record for the past thirty years.

Winnipeg and Saskatoon have a 98 percent chance of having at least one inch of snow on the ground Christmas day. Ottawa has a 83% chance, Calgary has a 59% chance, Montreal 80% and Toronto is at 57%.

Of all our expended family is currently living, Denise and Erma in Portland have the highest chance of having a white Christmas year over year. Their chance of having a White Christmas is 83%.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Temperature Snapshot

This morning when we awoke in Fairfax the temperature was 23 F, which is for this area, very cold. Cold is relative in that for Winnipeg we would be viewing today as a warm day. Though the weather is warmer for most of us then this morning I wondered how our temperatures compare.

As I write this, following are the temperatures in F (and C) for various places where our various members of our extended family have lived over the years.

30 (-1) Fairfax, VA (Dave, Evie, Jonathan and Josh)
26 (-3) Brampton, ON (host of Sears)
25 (-4) North York/Scarborough (host of Sears)
26 (-3) Oakville, ON (Barb, John and sons)
45 (7) Wilmore, KY (Dave and Evie, Dottie)
46 (8) Danville, KY (Steve, Dottie, Krista, Adam and Campbell)
48 (8) New Glasgow, KY (Steve, Dottie and Krista)
27 (-2) St. Marys, ON (Dave, Evie, Jonathan)
27 (-2) London, ON (Joe, Grace, Barb, John and Matthew)
79 (26) Barbados (Barb, John and sons)
25 (-4) Simcoe, ON (Stephen, Gayle and children)
16 (-9) Peterborough, ON (Stephen)
27 (-2) Philadelphia, PA(various Camuti)
26 (-3) Harrisburg, PA (various Camuti)
24 (-4) Wilkes-Barre, PA (various Camuti)
11 (-12) Waterbury, CT (Dennis, Erma, Chris and Tracy)
19 (-7) Norwich, CT (Chris, Elaine and children)
8 (-13) Sanford, ME (Chris, Elaine and children)
12 (-11) Portland, ME (Dennis, Erma and Tracy)
24 (-4) Leola, PA (Paul and Dorothy)
26 (-3) Chillicothe, OH (Dorothy, Dottie, Dennis, Evie)
34 (1) Iowa City, IA (Dave, Evie and sons)
1 (-17) Winnipeg, MB (Dave, Evie and sons)
23 (-5) Calgary, AB (Stephen, Gayle and children, Joanne and Bruce)
12 (-11) Kingston, ON (Bruce and Joanne)
28(-2) Erie, PA (Dennis, Erma, Chris and Tracy)
25 (-4) Suffern, NY (Dennis, Erma, Tracy, Chris and Elaine)
24 (-4) Altoona, PA (Dennis, Erma, Chris and Tracy)
25 (-4) Punxsutawney, PA (Dennis, Erma, Chris and Tracy)
62 (17) Baton Rouge, LA (Josh)

At the moment I hit post, Dennis, Erma and Tracy as well as Joanne and Bruce have the coldest temperatures. The warmest family member is Josh....where he is not even needing to wear a winter coat.

I may well do this again during another cold snap in January or February.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blog Award Goes To...

I was given the following award by Jenn, my niece. Today she hit the challenge I gave her to surpass publish her 370th blog by the end of the year (with this post I too have reached my goal of 350…now I am hoping to hit 360 by the end of the year). Jenn has posted more than anyone else in the family.

Evie and I got to really know Jenn the summer she flew out to Winnipeg and traveled with us for six weeks as we traveled from Winnipeg to Ohio to New Jersey to Boston to the Maritimes to Newfoundland to Ontario. With that history I greatly enjoy following her posts that touch upon common issues she has experienced in her daily life. The family life stages through which she is passing reminds me of where Evie and I were some twenty or so years ago.

Though it took him some time to get started Josh has been posting since August. While a good number of his experiences at LSU have similarities to those Evie and I had at Asbury College, most of them are significantly different. Besides LSU being a much larger institution, LSU’s campus life, Tiger band and the culture in general is much different. Added to that is his love for Crossmen and DCI. I love reading both Jonathan and Josh’s blogs as they give me insight into what is happening in their lives and their thought processes. As Josh posts more often, he just published his 20th post, I am giving the nod to him. Congratulations Josh…and now you have the challenge of awarding the award to another (and it may go to someone outside the family).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hoard Mentality and Seed of Evil Acts

The day after American Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday is the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Stores open extra early with deep discounts on dated items and good discounts on many current items. People line-up two or three hours before the doors open to buy the deeply discounted items. When doors open there can be for some box stores a thousand to two-thousand people in line. For the Canadian reader, Black Friday rush is similar to the Boxing Day rush and sales.

This year, one week ago today, a Wal-Mart employee on Long Island was trampled to death. I do not know how widely the story has been covered so let me give a quick synopsis. When the doors open one of the employees who was assigned to the doors was knocked down by the frenzied crowd out to fight each other for the bargain items inside. No one stopped to help him up. No one stopped to guide others around him to allow him to have an opportunity to right himself. Instead, as the employee lay on the floor, the heard kept pushing forward over him to literally trample him to death.

In the coming weeks lawsuits will be filed against Wal-Mart…and rightly so for not giving the proper training and having employees work in pairs. There is some general faulting in the press of the nebulous “hoard” and how shameful that group of people acted. That said, what bothers me the most is that little attention is being given to taken moving beyond the general group.

This group of people, the hoard, are not rabble rousers. They are our neighbors, those we worship with on Sunday, our family and co-workers. They are me. They are you. Our press and our society not willing to acknowledge that reality scars me as it is a failure to recognize the acts to which each of us is capable. In a sense, this event in New York, we see dynamics at play that have put in place the foundation for normal good natured individuals to behave differently in a crowd and thereby engage in destructive acts. It reminds us that within each of us rests selfishness, greed and a mindlessness that can cause us to turn a blind eye to cruelty or to helping one who is need.

It reminds us that when a Good Samaritan is needed most that such a compassionate individual is not as common as we would think. It reminds those who like to think they would be a Good Samaritan and love their neighbor that they may not act that way if they allow themselves to be carried along by the crowd. They too could readily be carried along by their own selfish goals or acquiesce to the hoard mentality.

I like to think I would stop to help, that I would break with the hoard to help my neighbor. Yet this incident causes me to wonder, to look inward and question. I am forced to conclude that the seed of what happened at the Wal-Mart does not rest in the distant “out there” or with the nebulous “them.” Rather, it rests in me…that is sobering to say the least.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wisdom, Harper and Prorogue

I was going to give a short comment on Stephen’s blog and post of 2 December, but my thoughts kept going and going so I am posting the following. See Stephen’s post at http://searsfamilyhappenings.blogspot.com/.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has found himself in a mess of his choosing. It seems that he is governing as if he has a solid majority. If that it was the Conservative attitude prior to this crisis then they did recall the lessons learned from what happened to Joe Clark.

There is little doubt that the 27 November fiscal update/pre-budget statement is designed to be provocative and possibly draconian. In light of the international financial crisis, the government not putting forth a new budget until late February is a significant error. Not putting forth plans to help move the country forward and to shore up the economy is a mistake. The country is looking for leadership, not silence.

When the markets crashed in 1929, President Hoover too hoped everything would work itself out in four to six months. People looked to the government for leadership and action but none was forth coming from Hoover. His lack of leadership and taking no action to help stabilize matters helped to deepen the crash’s impact. Is Harper going down the same road as Hoover?

It seems to me Harper’s pre-budget statement is intended to challenge the opposition to acquiesce to its will or face the public wrath of forcing an election. He has proposed changes, to be followed with a full budget, that if one of the other parties acquiesced, which he may well have counted upon, will dramatically turn Canadian politics strongly to the right, and mirror much of the positions of the Republican right in the USA. Harper is playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship.

The elimination of the $1.95 subsidy/grant for each vote received increases the opportunity for the large parties to push aside the smaller parties. It seems to me that Harper is targeting the BQ and is an effort to turn them into a rump party. It also is an effort to decrease the power of the NDP. The proposal allows the major party to become more beholding to special interest groups and other major contributors.

In 1980 when Joe Clark’s minority government fell when it brought forth a budget that was too aggressive, which Crosby called “short term pain, for long term gain.” A friend of mine who was in the Clark government admitted later the PCs were too aggressive with that budget. He admitted that governing as if they had a majority government was also a mistake. They thought that if they were defeated on the budget the people would support them and return them with a majority. The miscalculated and misread the mood of the nation as Trudeau’s Liberals returned to power with a majority. I suspect that Harper has gone down the same road as Clark.

I like the idea of the Governor General not dissolving Parliament and instead giving a Liberal/NDP coalition government an opportunity to govern. Did Harper consider this likelihood? He had to given that he was willing to form such a coalition in 2003. If he did not think it would happen, then he has been injudicious and should find himself stewing as leader of the opposition while the other two parties outflank him with populist legislation.

Harper’s back-tracking and the possibility of asking the Governor General for a prorogue are signs that he and his government have miscalculated badly. Though a prorogue could last for a year, anything more than a month would be disastrous for Canada, particularly during an economic crisis since not orders-in-council or major policy initiatives could be undertaken. In essence, the government would be powerless to respond to a fluid economic period. Even a prorogation of more than four to six weeks could be putting the nation’s health at risk.

A prorogation that lasts more than a month starts to become a means for the Prime Minister and the government to avoid answering to the will and vote of Parliament, which a most dangerous road for a democracy to take. Though it such a vote is unpleasant, no government should ever unduly delay on a pending vote of non-confidence. To delay undermines the democratic process. Hence, when facing such a vote a request for a prorogue should be used sparingly.

By running ads attacking the idea of a coalition government, the Conservatives are being reactionary and suggesting that they are fighting to stay in power by any means. What is most interesting is that Harper was willing to form with the NDP just such a coalition government if Martin’s minority government fell within a few months if the 2004 election. He supported the concept then, but is strongly against it now that he is Prime Minister.

If there is an election in the coming months, the ads against a coalition government will shift the blame for a new election solely upon his shoulders. The other parties came up with a reasonable option to avoid an election but Harper and his team fought the idea.

A minority government that rules as if it had a strong majority has acted unwisely. In Westminster democracies, a Governor General inviting the opposition leader to form a coalition government after the fall of the government shortly after an election is not unreasonable or unheard of. Often the coalition will not be formed as there are too many differences, and when they are formed, most only live less than a year. Yet when they do work, the legislative course is thoughtful and balanced as the bills tend to have broad consensus.

If Harper and his team have calculated this badly, what does that then say about their judgment in an age when our nations need cool thoughtful reflective leadership.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bowling Season

College football bowl season will soon upon us. Once the BCS selections take place Sunday, the non-BCS bowls will quickly start picking their teams. Most bowls have agreements with particular conferences to select a bowl eligible team from their conference. The non-BCS bowls pick in a sequence…for example the Capital One by agreement gets the strongest Big Ten team that does not go to a BSC. Once the Capital One bowl makes its choice, the Outback Bowl makes it choice followed by the Alamo Bowl making its choice of the remaining Big Ten teams.

For the SEC (Southeast Conference) once the BSC selection is done, the next highest team goes to the Capital One Bowl. Once Capital One Bowl is settled, the Cotton makes its selection, followed by the Outback and then the Chick-fil-A bowl in Atlanta makes its choice from the remainder. Then the other SEC bowls follow as per their agreements with the SEC.

If Boston College beats Virginia Tech (Atlantic Coast Championship game) on Saturday, Virginia Tech will likely go to the Chick-fil-A bowl.

If Ohio State is selected to go into a BSC bowl, the Capital One will take Michigan State which will likely mean Iowa will go to the Outback bowl.

As for LSU, the opinions are that the Tigers will be going to the Chick-fil-A bowl. If so Josh will have a good number of friends on the other side of the field, several of whom will be in VA Tech’s marching band. That said, the Outback bowl could elect to invite LSU instead of South Carolina (which would then go to the Chick-fil-A).

If LSU goes against Iowa, as Evie has said to her son, at half-time she will be cheering for the LSU band to do well. But for the rest of the game she will be for Iowa. I will be conflicted…at the moment I would side with Iowa but then I may end up cheering for of LSU.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Have a Psychological Disorder

Do you have a neurosis?

A certified psychiatrist claims that if you are neurotic if you are a liberal. During the American primary Dr Rossiter, a psychiatrist, out promoting his book said on national television stated that, “The kind of liberalism being displayed by both Barack Obama and his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton can only be understood as a psychological disorder.”

He went on to explain, "The roots of liberalism – and its associated madness – can be clearly identified by understanding how children develop from infancy to adulthood and how distorted development produces the irrational beliefs of the liberal mind," he says. "When the modern liberal mind whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives, the neurosis of the liberal mind becomes painfully obvious."

During the political talk show, the good doctor’s views where affirmed by the conservative host. Granted the interview was during an election and the man was trying to pump sales with a targeted audience, but by engaging in political sensationalism he ceased functioning as a balanced psychiatrist. He admitted to being a life-long Republican.

Dr. Rossiter feels that liberal thinking is grounded in the faulty manner in which parents have raised their children. For the learned doctor, the neurosis of the liberal mind is grounded in a distorted child development process. Parents have not encouraged their children to accept responsibility. They have not disciplined their children correctly. They have coddled their children and given them too many things. When things have gone wrong in the lives of their children these parents have faulted not the child but others…their child is a victim. There is an escape clause for parents who did teach “the right” values, the faulty child development is blamed on the teachers and the schools.

Such thinking is flawed as it does not account for sincere convictions and cogent thinking. It does not account for how conservatives and liberals emerge from the same families and after being exposed to the same schools.

I also take issue with the underlying assumption, if you do not think like me and believe like me than you must be ill or evil. Such thinking is what ultimately lies behind many of the greatest evils humanity has inflicted upon others.

Clearly, those who would agree with Dr. Rossiter have a bias that read insidious meaning into the words of liberals. Obama and Clinton hold that government should be involved in helping to address social justice issues. They hold that government has an important role in supporting the poor and disadvantaged, and that government must be involved in health care, one of the nation’s more troublesome social justice issues. That said, and regardless of what the Republicans and the biased psychiatrist claims, their positions do not negate individual responsibility or participation in their own emotional health and advancement, and for their lives in general.

Dr. Rossiter may call liberalism desire to care and help all, particularly the poor, as madness. Those who agree with Rossiter need to step back and take a deep breath. The Bible teaches that it is importance for community leader/rulers and the community as a whole to carry for the poor. In his charge Rossiter is implying the Bible’s teachings in this area are mad and that Jesus, who too upheld a liberal social agenda, is psychologically imbalanced.

If helping the poor is viewed as madness and a neurosis, then I am mad as a hatter and very neurotic. So be it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

2009 DCI Season Starts

The beginnings of the 2009 DCI season are underway with Corps holding audition camps. This weekend Josh has taken a bus to Dallas to help out the Crossmen with the audtion camp being held there. They want as many vets as possible to help tell the story of what it is like to march.

On the weekend prior to coming home for Christmas will be going to San Antonio to attend the Crossmen banquet. At the banquet they will be showing the video from last year. To help promote their work the Crossmen have posted samples from their 2008 video.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Obama Is To Blame

Strong partisanship is dangerous as it creates extremes and limits the possibility of balanced policy for the good of all. On Sept 10 2008 on Hannity and Combs, Sean Hannity a Republican apologist trashed a guest for suggesting the economy was in dire straits. He declared “this is garbage you are spewing.” Hannity went on to say that the economy was not only fine but that very healthy and that the guest is an Obama agent a charge which the man denied. Hannity all but screamed, “You have to convince the economy is in bad shape….it’s all based on a lie.”

In these last weeks Sean Hannity has joined Rush Limbaugh, the self proclaimed guardian of righteous thought, in blaming President-elect Obama for the failing economy. Both are beating their chests calling what we are experiencing the “Obama recession.” Limbaugh on the radio stated, “This is the Obama recession. Might turn into a depression. He hasn’t done anything yet. But his ideas are killing the economy.” Dick Morris has joined them by arguing that as long as the tax increases are on capital gains are on the horizon, people will be pulling their money out of stocks.

Morris is held to be a thoughtful balanced analysis, but he is far from being balanced. One must never forget that Morris is a strong Republican who is making hundreds of thousands a year with his unbalanced commentary. On the surface Morris’ comments sounds plausible until one does the math. What Morris is saying is that people are selling their stocks rather than pay a higher rate of capital gains tax, and are doing so even if they take a lost on those stocks or have less net income.

Morris, Limbaugh and Hannity are arguing that thousands of people who had stocks worth $10,000 in the summer started to quickly sell them in September to present for $7,000 because they did not want to pay more in taxes. Let’s do the math, a person who had a net profit before taxes in the summer of say $3,500 profit in October was willing to sell and take a profit of $500 rather at a higher rate, say of 28% versus 15%. Amazingly this triumphant are actually suggesting people are willing to have less money than to more income. It makes no sense to me, and as they say in court, if it makes no sense it is not true.

Morris, Limbaugh and Hannity are absolving Bush and the Republicans of blame. They are blaming the world’s financial markets melting down not because of bad lending practices, poor retail sales, falling housing prices, declining production and layoffs, but because investors fear Obama’s tax and health care policies. These men represent one of the major problems with the right wing of Republican Party, denying reality when it does not match their ideology.

The genius of great political leaders and thinkers like Washington, Lincoln as well as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt is rooted in their capacity to grow, a willingness to change their mind in light of new information and their avoidance of becoming slaves to ideologies. They had their partisan views, but they were realists. They were willing to change their thinking and modify their models and ideology in light of new information and what was happening around them. Many Republicans, including this trio, are blaming the lost of the White House, Senate and House upon the Republican party running candidates who were not dogmatic and conservative enough rather than upon a lack of great leaders and thinkers with balanced policies.

Hopefully Republicans will not listen and follow these three men who are far short of the genius of the thinkers the party needs. The nation needs a credible pragmatic Republican party that is not fixated upon holding firmly to failed ideologies. Unfortunately the early signs are that the dogmatic extreme of the party are increasingly guiding the direction of the party.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Some Perspective

There are moments when one is arrested by an item that causes one to pause and gain perspective. Some moments are unpleasant while others are pleasant. Below is a link to a video that helps me to keep what I do in perspective. It causes me to refocus my eyes to see what I may not notice if I was not looking.

This short video reminds us how little things can make a big difference to someone else.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Bowling With Jonathan and Maggie

This past Friday evening, Evie and I went bowling with Jon and Maggie. Though we forgot to bring a camera to capture the night, it will be a remembered evening. It is remembered because of the horrendous scores (104 and 103). Though I consul myself that it was almost two years since Evie and I last bowled. My gutter balls than outnumbered my strikes by nine to one.

Regardless of the what was posted on the score sheet and the loud music that was cranked up as we were finishing our second game, the night was pleasurable. I enjoyed socializing with my son as an adult and his girlfriend level. I love it that over the past five years our socializing and conversations have moved to a different plain than in the past. I look forward to more such events.

For those interested, Jonathan one the first game, and Evie the second.

LSU Tiger Band Tigerama! 11.17.08

Josh in his blog on Saturday mentioned Tigerama, as performance where the Tiger Marching Band performs selections from their season. There are a host of clips on YouTube. I have elected to post this one since between the 1:12-1:18 mark Josh is clearly seen (particularly in the high resolution version option on YouTube). He is standing just in front of the one cymbalist who is facing away from the drum major before turning around. If you want to see more of the show, go to YouTube, search for LSU and Tigerama.


Josh is in this clip at the 0:28 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mtc_xkEE1y0

Josh is also in this clip. He comes in and out on the right side at the 1:34 mark ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDNoOeyLHX0

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Josh - Crossmen Pictures

Below are two pictures of Josh from this past summer. The first is from their performance in June in Madison Wisconsin. The second was in San Antonio in mid July.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gas Prices Are Coming Down

From the summer highs gas prices have dropped significantly. In 1996 when Clinton was elected to second term gas prices across the nation were running between 1.32 to 1.44. I just returned from a trip to Williamsburg. Today I saw gas ranging from 1.79 to 1.84 in Williamsburg and 1.68 to 1.75 in Fredericksburg. What are you seeing in your area?

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Sad Commentary on American Politics

Ted Stevens, the current Republican Senator from Alaska, was convicted of lying on Senate disclosure forms regarding renovations on his home and other related matters. He claimed that the $250,000 in work were not gifts. Though convicted he refused to heed calls to step down from the Senate and withdraw from his reelection.

Stevens proclaimed that he was not convicted as he was going to appeal his case. This is an interesting as Stevens is thereby saying hundreds of thousands currently in prison are wrongly incarcerated as they are still writing and filing appeals from prison for years.

By rational reasoning, he should lose the election badly. Yet on election night he was ahead over his Democrat opponent by 3,200 votes. For some, the attitude is that he may be convicted but it was not a serious crime. With about 30,000 absentee and early voting needing to still be counted (out of about 90,000 such votes), Democrat Mark Begich is ahead by about 810 votes.

If he wins, Stevens is forcing/daring the Senate to remove him for his crimes. First the Ethics Committee of the Senate need to investigate and come forward with a finding that he be removed. Then the full Senate will debate the finding before voting to remove him. An interesting twist of the rules allows Stevens to not only speak as a fellow Senator and lobby them to his side, but he is also allowed to vote on the motion to expel him. This process will not start until late January and go on as long as a eight to ten months. In the meantime, Stevens remains in the Senate.

If he is removed from the Senate, which is likely as the Senate will not tolerate having a convicted felon in the Senate, the Governor of Alaska will appoint his successor. Governor Palin has not ruled out appointing herself and has implied that “If he’s (God) got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interests, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

There is a possibility that Stevens will still in the Senate for years. As one of his final acts before leaving office, President Bush could give him a Presidential pardon. Given other things Bush has done, a pardon is a stronger possibility.

Hopefully the Democrat will win at the end of the day and put an end to this sad commentary on American politics.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

American Healthcare, Is It the Best?

Americans, particularly those on the right, strongly claim the American healthcare system is the best in the world. The greatest system, by what measure and standard? If it is the greatest number of doctors per capita, yes. If it is the most ornate and beautiful hospitals, yes. Most moderate to large communities have hospitals that are as appointed as major corporate offices. If the measure is the country that develops more medicines and machines than any other, the United States comes out on top. If the measure point is the country with the most well equipped hospitals on a per capita basis, the answer is a clear yes. Small hospitals have a plethora of the latest machines even if they sit idle several hours of the day for if they did not patients would go to the hospital down the road. Each hospital needs to have the machines in order to compete with their neighbors. It the measure is the country with a greater number of skilled medical professionals on a per capita basis than any others, yes the United States is the best. If the measure is the system that creates wealth for doctors, suppliers, hospitals, etc., most definitely the United States is the place to invest in healthcare!!

As the American healthcare system is the best, it is a reasonable expectation for that to translate into having one of the highest overall life expectancy rates in the industrialized world. If it is not at the top, American should be in the top five, and then barely edged out by those above. Does that expectation hold up?

The United States has an overall life expectancy of 78.06 years. There are 44 countries in with longer overall life expectancies than the United States. The major industrialized countries with a longer life expectancy rates are: Sweden (80.83), Australia (80.62), Canada (80.34), Italy, Spain, Norway, Israel, France, Switzerland, Japan, Austria, South Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany (78.95), Belgium, United Kingdom (78.7), and Finland (78.66). The only major industrialized country that has a lower overall life expectancy rate than the United States is Russia.

In America the Canadian healthcare is disparaged as being inferior to the United States. Whenever arguments for a government run health system is raised, the medical lobbyists ask if Americans want to settle for an inferior system like Canada’s. Canada has a life style so similar to the America. The difference between Ontario and Michigan, Ohio and New York is less than the differences those states have with North Carolina or Texas. If Canada which is culturally similar to the US has a healthcare system that is so inferior, then why are Canada’s overall life expectancy rates two years higher than their neighbor?

While the American health care system has great strengths, the claim becomes suspect when we look at how this great system translates into the care received by the average middle class family. Amongst western countries, on a per capita basis the United States has one of the lowest rates of its citizens with health insurance. Yet on a per capita basis is spends more on healthcare than most other industrialized countries.

In America tens of millions of its citizens will go three or more years without seeing a doctor for a basic check-up. Every year millions delay receiving care due to the cost of medical care. Thinking they only have a mild ailment that will clear-up too many Americans delay going to the doctor only to find out that they have a major issue that only has become more significant during the delay.

That a good number of Americans fear government healthcare should not be undervalued. A large portion of that fear is created and sustained by the healthcare industry which clearly has a significant invested interest in maintaining the status quo. While they are in the business of providing healthcare, their primary goal is not quality service as inexpensively as possible. We must be clear, the primary goal of the industry is to maximize profit throughout the system. The lobbyists have the public that managed care means some bureaucrat will make their medical care decisions rather than them and their doctor. They are told that they will not be able see the doctor of their choice but that as some government official will make that determination for them.

Those who live in places Canada, England, Sweden, Norway, Australia and Germany have not experienced some bureaucrat making such decisions in their government managed care system. In America a good number of health care plans require patients to call their insurance company, in other words an insurance bureaucrat, prior to receiving a host of treatments. Many health insurance plans in America have an approved list of doctors and hospitals, and if you receive treatment from medical practitioners or hospitals not on the list, the patient pays a much greater portion of the expense. In other words, the rationing of care by bureaucrats that the healthcare industry says will happen in government run system happens more frequently in the existing American healthcare system than it does in Canada.

The healthcare lobby, whether it is the lobby for doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms or the healthcare insurance industry, has an invested interest in maintaining the current structure. They have and will continue to play upon the ignorance of the general public about what the care the average citizen receives in other industrialized countries through their government managed care. They have and will inflame the fears of the unknown. Amongst the uninformed, the fear of the unknown is a powerful weapon.

One of the fundamental principles of the free market is that if you produce a superior product that is properly priced that you will not only be the leader in the market but that others will follow your lead. In other words, if you are successful others will mirror you practice. If America truly has the best medical system in the world and government healthcare is such a terrible system, why is it that no other industrialized country is adopting the American system?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Republican Socialist Charge

As noted in an earlier blog in this past election the Republicans tended to label Democrats as being Socialists and Marists. As one writer, Barbara Simpson, has penned “It’s clear Marxism will permeate Obama’s presidency.” The Socialist/Marxist label was not new to this election for it has been a tactic that has been used by the Republicans for decades.

Before commenting on the charge, let me summarize the essence of Marxism. Marxism views society through the prism of class struggle whereby the wealthy keep workers repressed while they absorb the wealth of their worker’s labor. The goal of the wealthy is to exploit workers by underpaying them and limiting their employment rights.

The goal of Marxism is to create an egalitarian system by eliminating class distinctions. It holds that all workers are to be paid the same wage. To this end, the state owns all corporate assets and creates monopolies, owns all farms and manages every aspect of the society. To help establish the egalitarian system and eliminate the wealthy landed gentry, Marx advocates the abolition of inheritance and implementing a heavy progressive income tax to strip the wealthy of the wealth that they have accumulated and inherited.

When I look at Democratic policies, I do not see Marxism at play. Neither the Democrats nor President-elect Obama is advocating that the state hold all property and assets, the creation of state run monopolies, implementing an egalitarian pay system and the abolition of inheritance.

No one can deny that the current tax structure is progressive with the wealthier paying a higher per cent of their income in taxes than those who are paid less. A progressive structure is not Marxism if it is neither heavy nor intended to eliminate the wealth of those who have amassed it. Heavy is a matter of interpretation. A tax rate of 35% is heavy if you believe that you should not be paying more than 20%, 15% can be viewed as outrageous if one holds that one should not be paying more than 7%.

Like the next guy, I would love to pay less in taxes. Yet, if there was a poor public infrastructure it is unlikely I would have my same standard of living. Public infrastructure elements ranging from transportation to education, from regulatory standards and enforcement to public safety are essential to a stable and healthy modern country. Without such a solid public infrastructure corporations and business owners would not be able to flourish and increase their wealth. Without a healthy business community, solid gainful employment for most in the country would be unlikely. A progressive tax structure allows those who are benefiting economically at a higher level to pay for a greater portion of the public infrastructure.

The red herring Socialist charges will continue to be made by the Republicans. As evidenced by Representative Michelle Bachmann’s blatant McCarthy like statement during the campaign, there are Republican elements who would be happy to have Congress investigate Obama and a host of Democrats for anti-American and Marxist beliefs. Fortunately, the attack has had less traction this year than in past elections because a large portion of those under the age of forty are buying into that language. The Republican attacks indicate that they are either ignorant about Socialism or if they are informed as to its definition, that they are intentionally preying upon those who are uninformed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

LSU Tiger Band Halftime Show 11.08.08 Veterans Salute

Courtesy of Aline, this the LSU band show from this past Saturday. Where Josh is located in the trombone formation in the bottom right half of the field is unknown to me. I will leave it to Josh to note where he is at a particular point in the show.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Conservative, Strict-constructionist Judiciary

As noted in my earlier post of November 10 I noted that in America the far political right holds that government has a narrow role to play in society. As part of their argument they frequently speak out about the need to eliminate “judicial activism”, that is, the courts by their ruling expanding civil liberties. They heatedly argue for a strict understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not within an evolving civil context but within the original setting. They hold that it is a travesty to read into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights issues not envisioned or addressed by the Founding Fathers.

Until recently have been somewhat perplexed by the strength of this narrow understanding of the role of the judiciary within the religious right who like Dr. Dobson openly call for the President and Congress to appointment “conservative, strict-constructionist judges.” They want judges who will strike down rulings laws that expand civil liberties, impact personal and corporate property and trade rights that are not in keeping with what the Founding Fathers envisioned. Three issues drive their viewpoint,
1. Abortion
2. Gay rights and marriage
3. Broadening of the definition of the separation of Church and State which has led to the removal of the Lords’ Prayer and prayer in general from schools and the public square.

In all three areas the courts issued created rulings that permitted abortion, accepted the gay lifestyle that citizens are free to pursue rather than imprisoned as sexual perverts, and recognized the rights the validity of non-Christian faiths without being confronted daily in government settings by government sanctioned Christian worship and expression.

Many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians would freely nod in agreement that the courts have been prime movers in these areas. Hence, their stand against judicial activism makes sense, at least within a narrow context of just these issues over recent decades.

Their position puts the conservative strict-constitutionalist in a position of affirming that the courts were:
1. Correct in upholding the Dred Scott ruling and that slavery is an acceptable practice.
2. Wrong is upholding and expanding child labor laws.
3. Wrong is upholding minimum wage laws that helped to break the cycle of indentured servitude to their employers.
4. Wrong in its rulings such as Brown vs. the Board of education that integrated public schools.
5. Wrong in ruling after ruling of civil rights cases that eliminated segregation
6. Wrong in helping to define and uphold truancy laws.
7. Wrong in issuing rulings that eliminated laws that institutionalized the mentally handicapped.
8. Wrong in issuing rulings that allowed the mentally and physically handicapped to attend the same public schools as their neighbors rather than “special schools.”
9. Wrong in invalidating legal contracts with children that were not signed by the parents.
10. Wrong in granting Miranda Rights (the right to remain silent and be interrogated only with one’s lawyer present).
11. Wrong in allowing those who appear before the court to have a translator when they do not speak English.
12. Wrong in addressing in firm terms lynching and other forms of rush to judgments by the public.
13. Wrong in defining due processes that we now all value as part of our judicial system.
14. Wrong in defining slander and issuing other statements that affect the public safety of others, such as screaming “fire” in a crowded theatre, as not protected free speech.

A host of other issues could be added to above list. While the modern strict-constructionist would distance himself/herself from issues on the list, by the very nature of their static view of justice, they are against each of the civil rights issues in the above list. If one is a strict-constructionist, one cannot pick and choose what rulings are judicial activist rulings were appropriate or not appropriate.

Even though the courts may issues rulings with which I do not agree, I am pleased that our judicial system recognizes that society progresses and evolves, and the laws need to be understood afresh within that changing context. Though we hold our Founding Fathers in respect, a dynamic view of the judiciary recognizes that their views and writings are not divine writ. They may have been insightful, but they did not envision our contemporary society with its plethora of issues, nor are their views without flaws that subsequent generations have had to address.

I am pleased with a dynamic posture of the judiciary for a fixed view of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not justice. A static posture is blind legalism which as the decades pass creates an unjust judicial system that lacks wisdom.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Challenge - What Have You Done?

Once again, two posts in one day.

Following my sister Barb’s challenge I have noted in red what I have done. Jenn modified Barb's list. I have included most of Jenn’s modifications and then added a few other options.

I have done 61% of the items. How many have you done?

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower / Watched the Northern Lights
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (also, Disney World twice)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped / White Water rafting with at least one level IV rapid
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty / Been to the top of all four classic tall structures in North America (CN Tower in Toronto, the Sears Tower in Chicago, World Trade Towers in NY City, Empire State Building in NY City)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train / Slept overnight in an airport
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when youʼre not ill (son was ill)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (solar and lunar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (both)
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on an overnight cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangeloʼs David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt / Seen the wheat fields of the Prairies
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (very muddy college rugby game is a vivid memory)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie / Been on television / Been on the radio
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies/ Sold Boy Scout Apples
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter / Flown in a plane that took off and/or landed on water
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial / Toured Parliament Hill / Toured Capitol Hill
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt / Changed our car’s oil
73. Stood in Times Square / Visited Old Quebec City
74. Toured the Everglades / Gone Shopping at West Edmonton Mall / Gone Shopping at the Mall of America in Minneapolis
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London / Watched the Rose Parade in person.
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book / Recorded are record or CD
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House / Visited inside the White House (attended a reception) / Visited Ann of Green Gables
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating / Eaten Moose or Deer / Eaten Squid / Eaten Allegator
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someoneʼs life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake / Swam in all five Great Lakes
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

So...what have you done?

American Political Right Wing

Over the years I have not voted for a single political party. While in Canada I voted for mainly for the Conservatives and Liberals, twice in provincial elections I voted for the NDP candidate. Since becoming an American citizen I have voted for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Until recently I have had a hard time understanding the extreme political right’s cries against big government and their labeling Obama as a Marist. One quote by Fred Barnes, one of the key piece to help me understand the right wing of the Republican party.

In the days going into the election Barnes wrote, “Elections are government undertakings, so they are not expected to be well run…” The extreme right holds that anything that government is involved in will run poorly, be ineffective and doomed to failure. Hence, they reflect what Chuck Norris’ view of the Constitution that a President who takes the Constitution seriously will “limit the powers of the federal government, reduce takes (for everyone), encourage the freedom of religion and expression (even in the public square) and stand up for such things as our right to bear arms.”

The other day I listened to Sean Hannity, one of the American right’s talking heads and personalities rail against big government and socialism. He holds that the government should only be involved in running the military, justice system and immigration, and other activities that protect the country and citizenry from foreign influences and invasion, and crimes against individuals and property. The government should not be involved in education, agriculture, health care, transportation, building of infrastructure, regulation of trade or industry. This hands off view is what stands behind Norris’ view.

Joseph Farah, and right wing extremist has recently said in a commentary on education stated, “Government schools cannot be reformed. They must be overthrown. I don't mean burned down. I mean abandoned – left behind, deserted, forsaken. The day conservatives are radicalized is the day the government indoctrination centers, the child-abuse detention camps and this corrupt, immoral system of mind control implode of their own dead weight.”

Barbara Simpson another writer on the far right recently wrote, “It's clear Marxism will permeate Obama's presidency.” Prior to that statement she wrote, “I don't want Marxism in my country….I don't want bigger, more expensive and intrusive government.”

These writers and their followers hold that every person has the opportunity to become wealthy and that they will achieve it if they fight hard enough for it. They are against income tax and would agree with Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Fields that income tax will inevitably lead to Marxism. As an aside, also standing behind their views is the view point that government has no role to play in defining workplace conditions or hours.

The far right Republicans freely cry out against various policies that are not in line with their thinking by liberally using the terms Marxism and Socialism. They use these terms to describe their detractors and Democrats, even though the positions of Obama and the Democrats are far removed from what they are charging (to be examined in an upcoming blog). I regret they have an overwhelming fear created by the prism and paradigm through which they view civil discourse and discussion. That said, in America, civil discourse and the freedom of expression allows for their voices to be expressed in the public square.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Walk In the Clouds

Released in 1995 A Walk In the Clouds, staring Keana Reeves and Aitana Sanchez-Gijun, is one of my favorite movies. I will not outline the plot, as I would not do this romance story set in the post WWII California justice.

Two young people (Paul and Victoria) surely and steadily fall in love while her father is against their relationship. Her father rejects Paul yet he remains by Victoria’s side. Paul is a noble character who continually looks to do the honorable thing. When the father unduly criticizes his daughter, with sincere passion Paul repeatedly comes to Victoria’s defense.

Beside a strong romantic threat, the story is also about stubbornness, both negative and positive. The plot deals with forgiveness, hope and building for the future. It is about an outsider being embraced by most of the family while the patriarch rejects him. Underlying the story is a competition between a father and the man who has captured the daughter’s heart.

The characters are warm, dynamic and not forced. The acting is solid across all characters. This enjoyable movie is well worth watching more than once.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Carolina Crown Hornline 2008

The brass players in the family will find this warm-up process to be of interest. This is Carolina Crown which had one of the better sounding horn lines in 2008.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Unjust Justice

Earlier today when I read a story I cried it cannot be true. But alas, I must remember that though I wish it not to be real does not make it any less than true. Instead of looking the other way, I must face the stark reality that in Somalia a thirteen year old girl who is raped by three men was victimized again. Under militant fundamentalist rendering of Islamic Law, rape means the woman has committed adultery, which is deemed to be punishable by stoning to death. And that is not only what happened, but she was stoned in a stadium with over a thousand spectators cheering the stoners.

Here is the link to the story….http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27484976/

Though the story does not indicate what happened to the men, I suspect that no effort was made to find the rapists. I suspect that even if they were known, they would not be punished. In Islamic extremist thinking, the woman bears the blame and guilt. Islamic extremism victimizes the victim rather than seeking balanced informed justice. This thirteen year old girl has paid the price for seeking justice whereas her rapists are free to victimize other women.

While Islamic law is not interpreted in such a manner by many of its practitioners, the story powerfully indicates the type of thinking that is found within Islamic extremist movements such as the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Reflection on 2008 Presidential Race

Two posts in one day...what can I say...my goal is to hit or surpass the goal announced in the challenge to the family. Now as as to the election.

As I type, throughout the east voting is concluding on the agonizingly long 2008 American presidential campaign. If the election goes along the lines of the polls it will not be close as far as the Electoral College is concerned. Obama should have about a 70 to 110 spread between over McCain.

About a year ago, the election started to impact our direct mail strategies. Earlier in the year our division was looking at implementing a donor call system that it has done in the past. Though Virginia has been solidly Republican for decades I argued then that we should not do so. The early signs indicated that Virginia could be a battle ground. Over the last four presidential cycles the popular vote spread between the two parties has narrowed significantly.

The military vote was not a solid as it has been in the past years for the Republicans. Add to those two factors that Obama was energizing the younger voters at a level unseen since Kennedy in 1960 and you have a fertile ground for a battle.

For the first time in decades Virginia has its second consecutive Democratic Governor and at least one Democrat Senator. With the second Senate seat being vacated by a retiring Republican, it seemed to stand to reason that the senate race was going to be hotly contested by the Democrats.

With a hotly contested presidential and senatorial race the state would be flooded by robo calls between mid September and the election. Not only would candidates be making calls, but so would various PACs from right to life to woman’s rights groups, from the National Rifle Association to groups opposed to the United Nations. The last thing The Salvation Army needed to do was to make calls during the same period and be caught up in the backlash.

It appears that former Democrat Governor Warner will soundly defeat his Republican predecessor Governor Gilmore. The early returns appear that Obama will take the Commonwealth and its 13 electoral votes by seven to nine points, which would be a major shift.

With McCain going down to defeat, recriminations and figure pointing will commence within days. Some leaders of the Religious Right will cry the Republicans ignored their concerns by selecting the wrong candidate. Those leaders and their followers who nod in agreement need to be reminded of two realities. The first is that the Religious Right is one voice, albeit a significant voice, in the Republican Party. The democratic process is grounded upon the civil discourse and of putting forth a cogent persuasive. If others have a more convincing message than the Religious Right, they need to accept the result. They should not bemoan that they did not win the day and do what James Dobson did, announce that he was picking up his ball and going home because he did not like the result (he later came back to the game when Palin was picked by McCain).

The second is that the Religious Right has lost credibility by wrapping themselves around George Bush. In the last election many evangelical leaders made it clear, as did Sarah Palin’s pastor did, that a good Christian could not vote for Bush’s opponent or any Democrat. As these preachers of righteousness remained silent on abuses within the Bush administration the Religious Right started to lose its moral ground and hearing. The middle of the road independents, particularly those under thirty, are giving far less attention to leaders of the Religious Right than in the past.

The McCain campaign continued to struggle to find a message that would hold traction and undergird the whole campaign. The first narrative was McCain the hero who does not back away from tough fights vs. those who lack courage. How he tried to cast Obama did not hold. Obama did not allow McCain’s bait to distract him. Instead Obama remained calmly focused on the message of change and his game plan.

Over the summer McCain’s message evolved to be the deal maker who puts country first versus Obama the nonpartisan pretender. McCain had a long history of brokering deals and working with Democrats in the Senate but the message did not hold. That message did not connect primarily because Obama again was being cast far from how he was being perceived. The Republican’s underlying dismissive view of Obama was apparent in their messages.

During and immediately following Obama’s trip to Europe the Republican message shifted to McCain the decisive leader versus Obama the rock star celebrity. That message died quietly when the electorate felt Obama had serious ideas that stood behind his popularity with the younger demographics whereas McCain still was not focused upon the serious issues facing the nation. McCain’s answer to rising gasoline prices was to drill more and diversify. When pressed as to flesh out his diversify message he remained vague and wanting. He answers to the rising foreclosure rates remained fuzzy. A vague energy plan and a fuzzy foreclosure plans did not match the McCain the decisive leader message.

Saying it was a reflection of his decisive leadership McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. Immediately the unknown Palin became the rock star, a star who dwarfed McCain on the campaign trail. Coming out of the convention the new narrative was McCain/Palin, a team of mavericks standing against old style Washington politics. This message took hold for a while but soon lost traction. Though it lost traction the theme kept surfacing again and again through to the end of the campaign. The general public had difficulty seeing Obama as old style politics in light of his time in Washington and balanced thoughtful approach to issues.

In his effort to court the far right of the party McCain jettisoned a host of positions previously held. In changing his positions just to get the nomination, the maverick became a typical old style Washington politician. The message also lost traction when the public started to know about Palin and witnessed her in two disastrous interviews.

When the signs of the economic crisis become increasingly evident, McCain continued to claim that the fundamentals of the economy were sound. He and his financial advisor assured all would be well. McCain appeared shocked by the meltdown. Trying to portray himself as the decisive leader who could work with both parties to resolve a problem, he boldly announced the he was suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to solve the financial problem. That action backfired badly on three fronts.

It soon became evident that McCain was charging into the battle without understanding the nature of the battleground which was evident in several of his public pronouncements. Then people started to read and hear the stories that McCain sat silently in meetings without giving any suggestions. He was not being the reconciler or the decisive leader he claimed. Not only did he leave town without any plan in place but it appears that he emboldened those who were against doing anything. Hence, McCain became identified as being part of the problem.

Sarah Palin’s posturing herself as a down-home honest speaking hockey mom WalMart shopper was derailed by stories about $150,000 being spent on her wardrobe. It is one thing to have good looking clothing, but the cost of the outfits alarmed the middle of the road voter at a critical point in the race. Even when the press left the story, Palin revived it again by her comments on the campaign trail and by her Alaskan handlers false faulting Wallace.

In the closing weeks McCain turned to the traditional Republican message, the conservative fighter against the tax and spend liberal. Bush effectively used the same message against Gore in 2000. The message resonated with the base and independent voters who are right of center. It did find traction but it lost its punch when left of center voters recalled McCain’s past votes against Bush’s tax cuts undercut his message. The message lost some punch when amongst voters to recalled that Bush said the same yet is the President with the greatest deficit in the nation’s history whereas his “liberal Democrat” predecessor had a surplus.

That said, polls tightened in the last week as the Republicans unleashed an endless stream of attack ads that played upon fear. In the next hour time will tell if going to the well of fear will work once again. For the sake of future elections, their approach does not work.

On the whole, Obama has run a stronger campaign at all levels. His message has been consistent. His decisions have been thoughtful as against McCain’s rash selection of Palin and during the financial crisis charging off like mindless general into a war without knowing the nature of the battlefield. In his moving passionate speeches he has given the country a vision. We have seen a thoughtful passionate man. While campaigning is not the same as governing, running a thoughtful deliberate campaign does show potential leadership.

On another election issue, Kay Hagan is projected to defeat Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina (see the earlier 30 October post on this subject).

A Multi Car Crash In the Making

A van stopped on the freeway triggers a series of accidents. It also reminds us about driving to close and fast for the conditions.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Blog Challenge For the Family

In June 05 Barb was the first family member to start blogging. With 346 posts to date, Barb has been one of the more prolific bloggers.

Two months later Cathy, though less prolific, started blogging too. To date she has posted 68 posts.

The next to jump into the blogosphere was Christian who posted his first blog on December 05. As he does not have a sidebar counter I cannot say how many blogs he has done since. That said I suspect that he has around 90-100 posts.

Evie got going in March 06. Evie started off with posting several times a week and soon was one of the more frequent bloggers in the family. Though her rate has decreased in the last months, she has posted the most items in the family with 354 blogs.

Joanne got started in April 06. She has posted less frequently, submitting one to three posts a month for our reading. I cannot say how many, since like Christians she does not have a sidebar record.

In June 06 Jenn jumped into the pool. Since she has posted with a vengeance and taking into account when she started, Jenn has posted more often than others in the family. To date Jenn has posted for our reading 352 posts, two less than Evie.

After weeks of encouragement from Evie I too got started in June 2006. My blogging rate dropped off earlier this year but with a more rigorous posting schedule lately I have posted 332 blogs prior to this one.

Two months later, in August 2006, Stephen started blogging. To date he has posted 89 posts.

Dad posted his first blog in August 2006. Though he initially was posting every three to eight weeks, after his ninth blog he dropped off the blogosphere.

In August 2007, Krista (Evie’s niece), started blogging consistently and steadily. She has posted three to five times a week. There is not history sidebar or count, so I am unable to give a count. That said I would not be surprised that Krista has over 250 posts.

Late comers, Jonathan and Joshua got started this past summer. Jonathan posted his first of eleven blogs in May 08. Since starting in August, Josh has posted thirteen blogs.

We valued James’ blogs while he was in Korea. His posts were a way for us to learn little things about Korea and James’ life during that period. Since his return to Canada, his blog went inactive.

Jason too posted periodically prior to May 2007. The number of blogs posted is unknown as his blog is inactive.

Now for the challenge. Between now and the end of 2008 the challenge is to hit or surpass the figure below. Posting pictures or stories from where you live could help you to hit the challenge goal.

Evie …. 370
Jenn …. 370
Barb …. 360
Stephen … 100
Cathy …. 75
Jonathan … 20
Josh … 20
Dad … 11

Christian, Krista and Joanne, I have to leave it to you to announce the number of blogs you have posted to date and your challenge goal.

As for myself, my goal is to hit or surpass the 350 mark by the end of the year.

It would be great if kudos can go to all by the end of the year for hitting their goal.