Saturday, January 31, 2009

No Tipping on Sunday - Why??

Check this blog. It is about Christians going into a restaurant on a Sunday and saying that they are not tipping because they believe people should not be working on Sunday.

Friday, January 30, 2009

US Air Safe Landing and Divine Providence

As you are no doubt aware, about two weeks ago a US Air jet lost its jet engines shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City when the aircraft hit a flock of birds. The pilot unable to circle around for a landing successfully ditched his aircraft in the Hudson River. Not only were there no losses of life, but there were only a few minor injuries.

Today I received the following picture in an email.

The artist is depicting they made the safe landing only due to God's hand. Such a depiction and viewpoint is in keeping with my family and educational theological heritage. God's grace and providence is there even when people are not seeking Him and his intervention. The credit to the landing is therefore is more due God's more than the pilot's training, calmness and skills.

Though that is what my theological heritage tells me I should believe and think, I start to be uncomfortable diminishing the pilot's skills, character and training. If I underplay those things as well as general good fortune of having calm water nearby, what then does all those other crashes where all lives are lost say about God's providence and grace? What are we saying to the person who is not a Christian about all those other crashes when we say this positive outcome was all due to God's grace? Why do are we tend to downplay the human?

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great Sounding Statement But Is It?

Patrick Rooney, the interim director of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, the major think thank for Philanthropic last summer wrote regarding the uncertain economic times and charitable giving, “For overall giving, historical precedent suggests the economy’s impact might not be as dire as popular opinion might indicate. In light of financial market upheavals, though, we could be heading into uncharted waters that may or may not follow precedent. The picture is mixed right now. At this point it’s not doom and gloom, but its important for nonprofits to monitor the situation and their individual circumstances. Different types of nonprofits and different regions of the country may be affected differently.” (Philanthropy Matters, Vol 16, Issue 2)

There are a lot of “may” and “might” statements in the quote. With all due respect to the learned Dr. Rooney, the statement sounds like it is something but it is nothing short of a convoluted string of equivocations that really say, “I have not idea what is going to happen.” In the article there are strings of numbers from the past, but not analysis or probative explorations behind the figures. Dr. Rooney takes no real stand and gives no guidence. His statement is similar to those of a palm reader, a bit of everything with so many sweeping statements and escape clauses that no matter what happens he can claim that he was right all along. And his quote stands as a prime example of sounding great but no real content.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rarified Air and "Pulling and Helmsley"

In 2007, Leona Helmsley passed away. She has left an estate worth about $5.2 billion. About $52 million is going to various relatives.

It is what is happening to the remainder that is creating both amusement and outrage. There is the $12 million going to her white Maltese named Trouble, which the court recently reduced to $2 million saying that amount was more than sufficient for the caring and pampering of Trouble. The $10 million is being added to the remainder of her estate, approximately $5.15 billion going into the Leona and Harry Hemsley Charitable Trust. The purpose of the Trust is to support the care and welfare of dogs. That’s right reader, dogs.

How the money will be used to provide for the welfare of the dogs on the greater New York City area is unclear, but the dogs will receive some type of quality care while people live a the streets and go hungry. With an annual pool of funds between $180 to 210 million a large number of people are going to be enjoying some large salaries to help pamper and train the dogs of New York City and give them a better quality of life than a good number of their human neighbors.

People should be free to donate and give their money away as they wish, but it does not mean I should like their choices. Just as John Thain the former CEO of Merrill Lynch did not get it, neither did Leona Helmsley. She is an example of people who live in such rarified air that they are blind to the reality around them. We need fewer people in this world who are “pulling a Thain” or “pulling a Helmsley.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shameless Leadership Vs. Upright Leadership

Last week, after one month in office as the CEO of Merrill Lynch, John Thain who spent $1.2 million to redecorate his office, resigned. One of the items was a $1,400 trash can.

Like candy Mr. Thain generously passed out $3 to 4 million in “performance” bonuses last month to top executives of his failing company being taken over by Bank of America in January. Merrill Lynch was being taken over by Bank of America as part of a government rescue plan to keep Merrill Lynch from closing. How in the world can Thain justify “performance” bonuses when his company is bankrupted and is in need of rescuing?

In contrast, kudos go to President Obama and his Cabinet for freezing the salaries of the Cabinet and other major officials in his administration. Those impacted by the freeze were not caught by surprise as each came into office knowing the freeze would be taking place. Their actions stands in stark contrast to corporate executives who have been reaping and even legally raping their corporations with their huge salaries, benefits and golden parachutes while their companies financial foundation became increasingly perilous.

While in the grand scheme of the whole budget, the freeze makes no significant monetary difference, Obama and his team have made a grand statement to country. They know that a little here, a little there and all the little something elses add up. They are also telling us that they are there to serve their fellow citizens and the country ahead of their own gain. As they call people and the nation to sacrifice, the nation can be assured that Obama and his administration are leading by example. They have the moral ground upon which to issue the call to sacrifice.

President Obama and Mr. Thain stand in contrast to one another. The one understands type of leadership we need, the other serves an the prime example of the leadership we do not need and which got hundreds of companies and this nation in difficulty. One is working hard to undo the damage of the actions of the other while the other greedily keeps the gravy train going as long as possible. One is the example of moral leadership, the other an example of a bankrupt and shameless leader. One gets it, the other does not.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Glimps of LSU Campus and Life

This evening I came across on Youtube a host of LSU produced videos clips that are used in recruiting of students. In the clips are shots of the campus and LSU student life. Josh loves attending LSU and living on campus.

This clip as a range of short glimpses of the campus.

Memorial Tower is a short distance from Josh’s dorm room.

The Greek Theater a stone throw from the window of his dorm.

Josh is not living in one of the specialty residence halls. There is no specialty residence for music or education majors.

The Student Union is where Josh collects his mail, buys his supplies and books, and socializes some.



I will leave it to Josh to fill more information either via a comment or a blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And the Crowd Kept Coming

Charter bus after charter bus streamed down the closed highways, every hotel filled for 75 miles, the ebbing crowds came on and on filling the federal downtown to overflowing and then some this morning. People were walking four or more miles to make their way down to the capital area as all roads and bridges coming into the downtown area are closed. Though temperatures would dip to the mid teens, tens of thousands anticipating the massive crowds elected to arrive early and spend the night on the Mall.

The mass transit authorities announced that by 9 AM 318,000 people had already entered through its turnstiles from when they opened that morning. Hundreds of thousands were still pouring in. From the pictures the crowds were packed from the steps of Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument. That area was closed at 9 AM (three hours before the inauguration) as it was already full and people were filling the area beyond the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, though not tightly packed, the crowd was still solid.

To give the Canadian members of the family a sense of the crowds; imagine a crowd extending down University Avenue in Toronto from the steps of Queens Park to King Street, and now double the breadth of the avenue, that is the space between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument. Now extend a solid crowd down to Queens Quay and a quarter of a mile beyond to get to the steps of Lincoln Monument that was filled with people.

In addition to the crowds along the National Mall, there were over a hundred of thousands already lined up along Pennsylvania Ave securing the position along the parade route. There are about 20,000 law enforcement officers over 58 agencies handling security matters. In support are 10,000 members of the National Guard deployed and 20,000 deployed in the area on standby if there was an emergency. Along the roof tops there are over 20 sniper teams watching the crowds and ready to respond to a threat.

In a way I would have loved to attend the inauguration. Knowing the area, and not willing to start camping out yesterday morning with a sleeping bag, and then spend many hours getting home, I thought I would stay home and watch it on television. Besides, I have never been a great crowd person.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts About President George W. Bush

Today is the last full day of George W. Bush’s presidency. While his presidency will be judged with greater clarity over time, he is leaving office as one of the lowest approval rates in the last 100 years. Over the last year and a half a growing number of Republicans have distanced themselves from him. Some Republicans are seeing him as their equivalent of the Democrat’s President Jimmy Carter.

The more hardcore Republicans and the Christian Right holds his presidency in positive regard because:
· The USA has not had another 9-11 like attack.
· He has taken the war on terror to the terrorists.
· He has removed Saddam Hussein from power.
· He imposed limits on stem-cell research.
· He appointed strong conservatives to the Supreme Court.

If one measured his presidency by the current state of the economy, the financial and housing crisis, the mood of the country, the unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as well as the international reputation of the USA, George W. Bush’s time in office has been an utter failure. I am of the view that history will judge President G. W. Bush and his presidency as amongst the lower third, and one the worst three of the last twenty-one Presidents (going back to Benjamin Harrison).

President Bush has left his successor with a host of complicated challenges that have rarely been left to a successor. In time, and with the revelation of documents that will be unsealed in the future, his presidency may be judged a little more positively but I doubt he will ever be viewed in the top half of American Presidents.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grocery Refuses to Put Child's Name on a Birthday Cake

This past December this cute three year old New Jersey child hit the news when a NJ ShopRite, a regional grocery chain, refusal to sell his parents a birthday cake with their child son’s name it. Heath (35) and Deborah (25) Campbell are demanding an apology from ShopRite for their refusal.

Karen Meleta, a spokesperson for ShopRite says no apology will be forthcoming. I agree wholeheartedly with ShopRite. Heath and Deborah have intentionally named their now three year old son, Adolf Hitler Campbell. Adolf has two siblings, JoyceLynn Arian Nation Campbell, two and 9 month Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.

Both parents acknowledge that they know there is great hate behind the names they have given their children but dispute claims that they are neo-Nazis racists.

The Campbells argue that in America they are free to give their children any name they wish. They feel that ShopRite has wronged them for not putting their son’s name on the cake. They made the same request last year, and asked for a swastika on the cake as well.

They have set their children up for a lifetime of pain. Even if they were later to change their names, the scars of having those names will impact them throughout their lives. I have not thought of this until now, but is it possible that in giving their children those names that the parents are engaged in a form of child abuse?

Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, in America you have the right to give your children those names. You are free to have your views. That said, that same freedom allows ShopRite to refuse to put on a cake what it considers to be offensive. ShopRite also has the right not to accept your business.

That same freedom allows me, if you were my neighbor or children attended my children’s school, to prohibit my children from visiting your home and associated with your family and children. I am free to protect my children from being exposed to the type of thinking that stands behind giving your children those names, you having Nazi tattoos, the swastika painted on your car and wearing Nazi apparel around town.

Adolf and his siblings hit the news again. Recently NJ Youth and Family Services removed the three children from their home. The reason for the removal is not publicly known. By the way, to the court hearing, Heath Campbell wore a Nazi uniform.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For Josh and Thank You Perry

As the family is aware, Josh was in Atlanta on New Years Eve for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Georgia Tech. Early in the afternoon is a parade. First is a picture of the Chick-Fil-A mascot in a LSU jersey.

Second is a picture of the band moving along the parade route. The third is part of the trombone second...note Josh in the second row of the picture, second in. Last is the a great shot of Josh in his uniform. With his eyes front (Crossmen training in evidence) is Josh with his goatee and his marching trombone.

These pictures were taken by a friend of mine who was in the downtown area as the parade went past. Knowing Josh was in the band, this gracious southern belle jumped out of her car, leaving her mother, brother and sister-in-law stunned when she stopped the car in the street, grabbed her camera, ran down the road and then along the side of the band to take pictures of the band just hoping that one of the pictures captured Josh.

Thank you Perry....the pictures were excellent.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cows Sell Chicken

Jenn asked on Josh's blog what is a Chick-Fil-A?

The fast food chain uses cows to sell their chicken sandwiches.

Here is one of their television commercials.

There are two more commercials on the company’s site

For self preservation purposes cows promoting chicken is an interesting marketing concept.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rabbit Foot Religion

Off and on for thirty years I have heard Salvation Army leaders express concerns over an ongoing decline in worship life and spirituality. The average attendance has been declining decade after decade. Headquarter officers tend to point the finger of blame at the Corps Officers for not motivating their soldiers and stirring them with powerful sermons. The soldiers blame the Corps Officers and local officers.

Corps Officers point the finger of blame at the soldiers for the lack of commitment in the soldiery. I recall one CO complaining along these lines by noting that other than a handful soldiers who were retired no one was attending the weekly Bible study he was holding from 6 to 7 PM. He was not use to living in a metropolitan area, and his home was less than a mile from the Corps. He failed to take into account that many in his Corps were working until 4:30 or 5 and his most of his soldiers had 45 minute to 75 minute commutes home and another 20 to 40 minutes to get to the Corps. When that was pointed out he quipped that if they were dedicated enough they would leave work early and be at the Corps on time.

Some argue that Corps went into decline when they ceased holding open airs, evening services and mid-week Bible studies. Essentially they claim that all that needs to happen is to these events and all will be well. The Canadian Territory had two Commissioners who held such a view. One would not visit any Corps that was not holding regular open airs. The other insisted that all Corps must hold evening services, even if only the CO was present, even though a study indicated that over 90% of the soldiers and 85% off the officers held that the structure, nature and time of worship services should be left to the CO and the Census Board.

Critics who point to activities as the answer are walking down the same path as the ancient Israelites who after losing the first day’s battle brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp. They thought the Ark gave them victories in the past and if they had it with them the next day God would smile upon them they would be victorious the next day. Instead of victory their army was routed and scattered.

It is not uncommon in religious thought to have a religion’s teachers and followers think that they do “A” that God is required/obligated to bless them in the positive. All that needs to happen is to do the right program, or say the right words, or do the right act and all will be well. All the is needed is to affirm and follow the roots of the tradition in order to have the same success the tradition first had. If the formula is followed divine blessings will flow.

The Hebrews treated the Ark as a lucky rabbit’s foot. In the face of a crushing defeat they learned the error of their thinking, the error of confusing tradition and traditionalism, holding to form without heart content. Empty ineffective outdated forms/structures and thinking will continue to alienate the younger generations in growing numbers.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Jonathan's Birthday

About this time on this date in 1984 the doctor entered the waiting area to inform me that Evie had given birth to Jonathan. That day remains vivid and will remain a cherished memory. He remains dear to my heart today as he did that day I first held him. Today a host of images flash across my mind from the early steps, to him playing with our dogs, from elementary school concerts to his high school concerts, from helping him to learn to ride a bike to helping him learn to drive.

Though Jonathan has long entered the adult world and no longer needs to be held and cuddled by his father (I will leave the cuddling to Maggie thank you), he will always be my son and I will be there for him.

A Dark Moment For the Evangelical Church

As you may be aware from an earlier post that in October 2008 Ted Stevens, the Republican Senator from Alaska, was convicted on seven felony counts. Though many in his party encouraged Stevens to withdraw his reelection bid, he did not do so. The day after the election is appeared that Stevens would win a narrow victory, but when the absentee ballots were included, Mark Begich won a narrow victory with 150,728 votes as against 147,004 for Ted Stevens.

Prior to the charge and conviction Stevens was assured of victory. Clearly the public turned, and rightly so, against him. According to exit polls, independents who make up 46% of the population voted heavily for Begich (53% versus Stevens 40%...7% would not say). Those who are moderate in their ideology (about 46% of voters) went strongly for Begich, 57%, versus Stevens at 37%.

If independents and those who are moderate in their views heavily went to Begich, and such groups make upon a significant block of voters, how in the world did Stevens come so close to winning?

The answer is that a large social group of voters who made up 26% of voters voted for Stevens by 68% versus Begich at 26%. The group that voted for Stevens almost three to one are evangelical Christians. That’s correct, evangelical Christians, the group that preaches justice, ethical behavior, accountability as well as the importance of social and family values supported Stevens more strongly than any other social group!

It keeping with their belief system, evangelical Christians should have been amongst the first to cry for Stevens’ resignation and the social group least likely to vote for him. Instead, most evangelical pastors remained silent or issued statements of support for Stevens. They dismissed his unethical conduct as not being truly unethical or illegal. The evangelical believers, the same group that ranted and drove for Clinton to be impeached for having oral sex with an intern and then lying about it, is willing to explain away and dismiss political graft, kickbacks and bully tactics.

What message is sent to the non-believer and skeptic by such a heavy vote? Yes, clearly there is a disconnect between what born again Christians claim are critical values and their actions in the voting both. Not only does the evangelical message about accountability, ethics and family values starts to ring hallow to those outside the faith so does the claim that the Spirit of God guides and directs their lives and thoughts. The skeptic is left to conclude is that either the claim is false or that a holy God directed them to vote for an unethical convicted criminal. With the latter, it does not give a favorable picture of God. Clearly, to their shame Alaskan evangelicals voting so strongly for Stevens does not speak highly of the evangelical message and evangelicals in general.

Monday, January 05, 2009

College Football Recruiting

As the college football regular season comes to an end the heart of the college recruitment season commences. Schools are restricted to a set of defined weeks to visit potential recruits in their homes and they can only make official visits to their campus for a few weeks in the December and to the January to March period. All expenses related to official visits are paid by the colleges and are limited in the number of days. Unofficial visits can be made but all expenses are the family’s and their contact with coaching staff is more restricted. The more highly recruited players tend to make their official visits during their junior year.

Recruits must take into a host of factors and not get caught up in all the glitz and the flattering puff up statements made various coaches. The case of Robert Marve illustrates why a student must think carefully about all the factors, particularly if one is being recruited by the major programs. The high school athletes often will make verbal commitments a year or more prior to the signing period. The national signing period for football starts on February 4 2009.

Once a recruit commits to a college in writing, the college is committed to providing the student-athlete the promised scholarship. As a student cannot readily transfer to another university, woe to the player who comes in with expectations that are not meet. What most fans do not know is that NCAA rules make it difficult for students to transfer to another program.

Transferring to a Div II and Div III program is not normally an issue but going to another Div I program normally requires that a student not play the year immediately following his/her transfer. Further the NCAA allows their coach to prohibit the student-athlete from playing for specific colleges. Most coaches put schools in the same conference on the restricted list.

Robert Marve a player with the University of Miami Hurricanes was expecting not to be able to play for another ACC team but he has discovered that the list can be much longer than the ACC. His coach at Miami, Randy Shannon has taken the NCAA’s rule beyond its traditional list and has prohibited his player from playing for a total of 27 schools, all ACC schools, all SEC schools and all Florida schools, Marve’s home state. Shannon’s anger and list is beyond the pale. For his players, his message of intimidation is clear, if you dare to leave the program I will bury you.

Hopefully high school student athletes and their families being recruited by Shannon will give serious pause by Shannon’s list as it indicates the character of the man who coaches Miami Hurricanes. A college coach is a faculty member, a teacher who should not only be teaching the sports skills but life and character skills. A coach who puts winning and intimidation of players above the student speaks is not the life and character issues that I believe should be taught to our college students. Shannon’s action suggests that his players are athletes first and students second, and winning comes above everything else.

College players are students first, athletes second. Let us never forget it! Lets not forget that the character of a coach we see on the television may not be the character.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Isreal's Invasion of Gaza

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has been generating denunciation after denunciation. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used the term, “extreme concern and disappointment” to describe his reaction. Many nations agree with Palestinian President Mahmound Abbas condemnation of Israel’s invasion as “brutal aggression.”

I am not one who feels that any criticism of Israel is unjustified and who will defend Israel not matter what because to criticize “God’s chosen people” is a sin. Israel should be condemned for unjust actions and inappropriate actions. But the current invasion of Gaza is not one of them.

Day after day a dozen or more homemade mini rockets tipped with explosives have been fired into Israel from within Gaza. Initially the rockets reached only a short distance into Israel. Over time the number and range has increased, so much so that the rockets are landing miles within Israel, and do so with impunity.

The Palestinian governing authorities have done little to stop the launch of the rockets from its territory upon the heads of the citizens of another country. By allowing Hamas to launch the rockets with impunity and turning a blind eye to the matter, the Palestinian government and its police have demonstrated that they are not responsible leaders and that they should not be viewed by other nations as a responsible civil government.

The nations who condemn Israel for the current invasion are part of the problem. These nations have remained silent as the rockets were launched. They have not pressed privately and denounced the Palestinian government for is its irresponsible inaction. No nation would accept without action rockets fired into its country from a neighbor.

The authorities in Gaza would never be able to catch and prevent all launches but efforts to arrest, convict and imprison perpetrators would have dramatically cut the number of attacks. Such efforts would have sent a signaled to the world and nation that the Palestinian government was being responsible and working to help resolve the problem. Now that the invasion is underway, the Palestinians and their government portray themselves as innocent victims of Israeli aggression. The World’s responsible response should be universal, that Israel is acting responsibly to protect its own system and that the Palestinians are victims of their own folly of inaction.