Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - Good Riddance

As we say goodbye to what I consider a pretty crappy year, I just want to add, Good Riddance!

Man, what a ridiculous year. I won't belabor the nonsense that we had to endure. You were there, you saw it for yourself. Personally, there is a single malt scotch with my name on it for tonight. I plan on erasing much of 2008 with my favorite medicine, an 18 year old Macallan.

Let's all hope, plan, and work for a better 2009.

Happy New Year to all.

Dennis

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peace On Earth


The continued strife in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians seems oh so natural. It's hard to remember a time where there wasn't violence between the two peoples. Regardless of where you come down on the Israeli-Palestine issue, it is clear that the violence will continue until people in both camps demand a cessation of violence. Until that happens, until someone says "I don't care who started it, I don't care who is to blame, I just want it to stop", we'll see this tragedy play out again and again and again. Seems that if God truly exists, and really gives a damn about humanity, he would intervene. I thought the following lyrics of a U2 song were relevant during this holiday season. I hope all of you can find some peace.
Peace on Earth
Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I’m sick of all this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of pain
I’m sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be peace on earth

Where I grew up, there weren’t many trees
Where there was, we’d tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you

And you become the monster
So the monster will not break you
And it’s already gone too far
You said that if you go in hard
You won’t get hurt

Jesus, can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line?
Peace on earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on earth

No who’s or why’s
No cries like a mother’s cries
Fore peace on earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he’s in the dirt, peace on earth

The reading names out over the radio
All the folks, the rest of us
Won’t get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus, can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line?
Peace on earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on earth
Jesus and the song you wrote
The words are stickin’ in my throat
Peace on earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won’t rhyme
So what’s it worth, this peace on earth

Peace on earth
Peace on earth
Peace on earth
It's from the album "All That You Can't Leave Behind". Terrific music, thoughtful lyrics. Check it out.
Tell me what you think
Regards
Dennis

Monday, December 22, 2008

Without a Doubt

I am always amused when people voice an opinion that they are absolutely certain about but have no factual basis for their belief. This usually comes up in religion, but is also so prevalent in politics. Of course, there is little distinction in my mind between the methodologies that the political and religious arenas employ. They both want you to "trust" or "believe" that their way is the best and proper and only way.

This morning while reading my newspapers and blogs, I read several articles and posts regarding President Elect Obama's decision to have Pastor Rick Warren lead his inaugural day invocation. Of course, this has upset many people who view Pastor Warren as a bigot towards gays. While Mr. Obama has remained fairly silent on the matter, Pastor Warren has not. He is not, as one of his defender's mentions in this post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-leo/rick-warren-and-gays_b_152166.html , a "hater" of gays and believes they shouldn't have equal rights. Mr. Warren is parsing his words and is according to the article referenced above, in favor of equal rights (e.g. domestic partnership or civil unions, take your pick), for gays. He is not in favor of "forcing" a re-definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

OK, take that for what ever you think it is worth. Is Warren homophobic? I think probably not. Is he holding to a deeply held view by religious people that homosexuality is a choice, and is therefore something that can be controlled? Yes. Like many other ministers, Pastor Warren believes in the notion that being gay is sinful. His entire ethos is constructed around dogma found in the Christian Bible that describes what is sinful and what isn't. So, it is fairly obvious which side he'll come down on. Does this make him an odious person that should be ridiculed, castigated, condemned as a bigot? Well, you be the judge. I personally don't think so.

Perhaps Mr. Obama has made a mistake. Perhaps he hasn't. Perhaps this was an intentional choice designed to portray the President Elect as a "big-tent" guy, someone open to all Americans, and yes, even to bigoted ones. The pastor leading the benediction for the inaugural is Reverend Joseph Lowery, a well known progressive and civil rights advocate. The following post describes the Obama team's talking points on the matter: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/18/obamas-talking-points-on_n_152056.html.

Regardless of what you think if the inaugural invocation dust-up, the point of this post is certainty without proof. I wanted to make the point above as an illustration that one person's certainty that the "gay" is a choice and a sin is without factual basis.

The meat of the discussion topic centers around religion. Last night my daughter and I attended a Christmas Pageant at my mother's church. The title of the pageant was "An Old Fashioned Christmas", and the theme was taken from Laura Ingall's "Little House on the Prairie" stories. The setting was the late 1880's, and the point of the story was that we have somehow lost the true meaning of Christmas. The pageant was good, the music, fine, the costumes great (made by hand by my 82 year old mom (shout out). However, as usual, after the carols were sung, the pastor had to get up and exhort everyone to come to Christ. I know, I know, this is the price of admission to most any evangelical church. But while I was sitting there listening to the good reverend do his dead-level best to save our heathen souls, I started thinking about how certain he was in his message. No doubt there buddy. Without any hesitation, the good reverend quoted scripture indicating that if we just believed in the lord and committed to him, we'd gain internal life.

How does the good reverend know this? Well, the Bible tells him so. Just like the old children's tune "Jesus Loves Me", this minister is dead certain that because he is "saved", the instant he dies he'll be in heaven with Jesus.

Now, no one has ever experienced heaven and knows what it is like. We have the story from the Bible that Jesus told his flock that "in my father's house there are many mansions...". Other sections describe streets paved with gold, no suffering or sadness, a place full of rejoicing. Of course, the good pastor was also certainly of the yang to Heaven's yin: Hell. He was sorrowful for those of us who hadn't found salvation yet, because just as certain as Heaven for those who have accepted Jesus, so was eternal sorrow and misery guaranteed for those of us who had not become disciples of the Carpenter from Nazareth.

Certainty. Absolute, rock-solid, doubt free knowledge. This is what the pastor had coursing through his veins. All of it based on a collection of books, allegories, fables, wisdom, law, history, and opinion known as the Bible. None of it factually proven.

Of course, right now in Tel Aviv there is a rabbi in Hebrew School teaching the Torah to his students with absolute certainty that the law, the history, the actions and the declaration that the messiah has not yet arrived is absolute certainty.

At the same time, there is an imam in Tehran or in Jeddah teaching his students that the prophet Mohammad is the true messenger from God and that Jesus, while a great prophet was not God's son. He will say this with absolute certainty because the Koran teaches his this.

There are approximately 4200 discrete "religions" in the world today according to this site: http://www.theologicalstudies.org/classicalreligionlist.html. While some of them are organized around a similar god-head or deity (e.g. The Abrahammic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam), many others are totally different, and in most ever case, they are certain of their dogma and belief systems.

John Adams once said: "Facts are stubborn things". His point was that while someone may hold an opinion, a belief or a point-of-view, facts usually refuse to conform to those things and remain what they are. So, it is interesting that there can be such certainty with so little fact.

I wonder, in this season we are spending celebrating the birth of the a messiah to some, a prophet to others and a myth to others, if we can't just all take a breath, step back and think about the notion that the things we are some times so certain about are those that we should always take with a grain of salt. Especially if those beliefs can harm others.

The idea that a child was born to show humanity a way to peace and love has always been attractive to me. Did it really happen? I hope so. I'm not certain though. You won't convince me that it was a fact.

What I do know (Without a Doubt) is that I wish all of you peace, happiness and good health for this season and the coming new year.

Pace,


Dennis

Monday, December 08, 2008

What Will George's Legacy Be?

It's fairly certain that George W. Bush will not be held in high regard by historians or the general public for some time to come. Mr. Bush's legacy will be tarnished by many things, but none more significant than the financial crisis we are currently experiencing. The irony in this is that it is probably one of the many problems experienced in the course of his presidency that he had the least to do with causing.

There are many causes and drivers of the economic situation that we are in. Some are cyclical, some are made by poor policy decisions. Suffice to say, the era of Reagan era Laissez Faire economics is over. When I hear conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Tony Blankley call for immediate and extensive stimulus spending (read: Deficit Spending) by the government to get the economy going, I think "we aren't in Kansas anymore Toto".

Anyway, I digress. This post is about George's legacy. Like an old Polaroid photograph, time will fade the clarity of just how damaging the Bush Presidency has been. I suspect several authors, both insiders in the Bush White House as well as the usual punditry will attempt to capitalize on the foibles of the Bush years with books out as soon as possible. However, like most political tomes, these will find their way to the remainder table at Barnes and Noble fairly soon. Time will cause a blurring of the egregious sins Messrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. have committed against you, me and the rest of the world.

Barack Obama will have an influence on the Bush Legacy. Should he decide to support the pursuit of congressional inquiry into things like the Attorney General firings, he could place the Office of the Presidency in the middle of (now, take your side here) "trashing George Bush", or if you think like me, "Shining the Light on the Darkness that was the George Bush presidency".

Did George Bush do only terrible things as president? Was he just Emperor Palpatine in a Brooks Brothers suit? Is he really that evil? No. He's not. Dick Cheney is. Sorry, a little humor there. George did do some good. His efforts on increasing funding to combat AIDs in Africa is laudable. He should be commended for this. Africa is often the forgotten continent (continent Sarah!). It is per capita the poorest and most tragic place in the world. It is also likely where humanity got it's foothold. It is our birthplace. President Bush gets little to no political capital for saving hundreds of thousands of poor Africans dying from a terrible, devastating disease. He did this because his faith, his principles (however fucked up they may be on other things) drove him to it. I sincerely appreciate his efforts here.

However, that's the only thing I can see that is worth mentioning on the plus-side of the ledger. There are too many things in the negative side that I can't get away from my contention that he is literally the worst president we have ever had.

I know I'm biased. I couldn't stand the guy when he was governor of Texas. But that's just me. I would really like to hear from my readers (all 5 of them) about what they think the legacy of George Walker Bush might be.

Tell me what you think,

regards,
Dennis

Friday, December 05, 2008

Transition

I've been thinking a lot about transition lately. Transition in it's simplest description is the hand-over of responsibility from one person or group to another. My business (IT Services) does this all the time. We transition responsibility for information technology management and services from one company to another. There are rules associated with transitions. In my business, we have agreements, contractually specified levels of service that must be adhered to for the client even during the transition period. Service is not to be disrupted because of the change.

Watching what is happening in Washington as we transition the responsibility of the presidency from Mr. Bush to Mr. Obama has me wondering what rules or "Service Levels" must be adhered to during the transition.

Mr. Obama has said this many times. We only have one president at a time. George W. Bush is still the president until January 20th, 2009 at about 12:30 pm. At that time. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in President-Elect Obama and he will be formally responsible for the office of the presidency.

Until then, President Bush is in charge. Since the election however, we have seen significantly more of President-Elect Obama than President Bush. The President has surfaced occasionally to discuss among other things the financial crisis, but on the whole, he has been conspicuously absent from the national scene.

I'm concerned about this. When we see an incumbent president retreat into the confines of the Oval Office with little information regarding significant national issues coming forth, it makes one wonder if there is really anyone doing anything. It is expected that the outgoing president won't launch a major policy initiative after the election, but it is also expected that he will focus on more than who to pardon. I expect my president to be on the job until the appointed hour and day in January, then certainly we can say Bon Voyage. However, right now, there are serious problems that need his attention. I would like to see more coming from the office on the financial crisis, on the Indian terror attacks, on just about anything that concerns us. What we are getting is the Bush Legacy project; a series of interviews, public appearances, attempts at re-writing history now so Bush isn't seen as poorly as people now see him.

One thing he could do that would be redemptive: Instead of excusing his behavior regarding Iraq, the lack of focus on the financial markets, the horrible situation we have with respect to our health care system, the inglorious way we managed the Katrina crisis; he could apologize. Think of how this would sound: "I'm responsible. The buck stopped with me and I didn't make it work. I sincerely apologize for the failures of my administration. I was wrong to go into Iraq. I should have been more mindful of corporations run amok. I should have done a better job on health care. I will work with President - Elect Obama over the next month to insure the transition works as well as possible, and then I, as a private citizen will be at his disposal to work on any project he needs my assistance. I am after all an American. I love my country. My way didn't work like had hoped. I look forward to helping my President be successful. Again, to the country and indeed the world. I apologize."

One would only hope to hear something said sincerely. It would set the stage for the healing and redemption that is needed inside this country and to the rest of the world.

That would be a transition speech for the history books.

Tell me what you think,

Regards,
Dennis