Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

The Forth Estate Crosses Over

There is this program that runs on the WE Cable Network.  It’s called Crossing Over with Jonathan Edwards.   Jonathan Edwards is a psychic medium.  He stands in front of a live gathering of 75 people and tunes into psychic vibes emanating through the audience.  The vibes are messages from deceased loved ones who have crossed over the Acheron.  The dead are keen to communicate warnings, good wishes and assurances to assist living  loved ones on how to navigate the tricky vicissitudes of life.   During the show, Jonathan walks about the room picking up on celestial chatter and begins to relay and interpret a soliloquy of the dead like a macabre game of supernatural telephone. Jonathan Edwards asks his audience to suspend all disbelief as he bestrides the nexus of the metaphysical spirit world and the pedestrian reality that most earthlings inhabit.

The most common messages the dead channel through Jonathan seek to absolve the anxiety and guilt of the tormented living.  Crossing Over is popular because it offers its audience an  absolution, confirms personal cosmology and rationalizes the pursuit of desires by affirming the consequences of decisions as a self fulfilling prophecy.  It safely places its audience in a self validating cosmic echo chamber.  Its an ongoing morality tale with only happy endings and unfortunately only a tenuous connection to authenticity and objective truth.

The state of the news media industry is very much like Crossing Over.  The Forth Estate once thought of as an objective arbiter, information dispersant and truth seeking medium it is now chosen and consumed as a branded version of reality.

The devastating earthquake that buried Haitians in heaps of rubble unleashed global battalions of news teams to cover the event.  Many of the news crews from large established networks beat first responders to the scene.  In some cases the arrival of news teams actually held up the arrival of rescue teams and supplies because the airfield and crowed airspace could not accommodate all the traffic.  The news teams were forced to hole up at the airport because blocked roads prohibited them from going anywhere.  I recall Robin Roberts and the GMA News team dodging fork lifts and supply trucks left with nothing more to do then to urgently interview themselves.  Correspondents were reduced to ghoulishly opining about the tragedy while eagerly mugging for the cameras with contorted faces to portray the human tragedy unfolding beyond the range of their cameras.

GMA’s presence added nothing and in fact inhibited rescue efforts.  I thought of all the drinkable water these crews consumed could have been used to quench the thirst of Haitians dying from dehydration. Thankfully the GMA News team soon left after spending a self indulgent weekend at the airport. Their moral outrage registered and attempt at ratings grab accomplished.  Their contribution to shedding light on the scope of this tragedy and placing it in a larger context of its meaning to the global community of nations was lost in deference to the tragedy’s emotional impact on GMA reporters.  For GMA the subjective condition of the emotional distress of their media stars had become the story.   Their viewers must have figured that if GMA’s News celebrities were hurting this story must be big.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was an example of how a newsman became part of the story in a positive way.  I recall with great admiration watching a camera crew following Dr. Gupta as he walked amidst the rubble of Port-Au-Prince.  He learned of the location of a hospital and went to investigate how it was delivering services to the injured.  Upon his arrival Dr. Gupta discovered the make shift hospital was little more then injured people being placed in the hallway of a building.  The dead were being stacked outside by a wall surrounding the compound.  The hospital had no doctors, nurses, beds or supplies.  The facility lacked water to clean wounds or salve thirst.  What the hospital did have was a constant stream of wounded arriving in greater numbers desperate for any type of care.  The scale of the quake, the massive amounts of injured victims and the overwhelmed capacity of  the hospitals ability to respond was reported in stark clarity.

Dr. Gupta was overwhelmed by parents cradling their broken children.  Dr. Gupta a licensed medical doctor took off his correspondent hat and put on his stethoscope.  He honored his Hippocratic Oath and started treating babies and the wounded with whatever he could cobble together.  Dr. Gupta was no longer a journalist but was now a doctor.  He asked that the cameras stop rolling so he could perform his duties as a doctor.  I’ll never forget the look on Dr. Gupta’s face.  It spoke volumes about the desperate conditions he was confronting and the firm resolve that he would perform his duties as a trained physician under trying almost impossible circumstances.

We could understand Dr. Gupta’s crossover from journalist to doctor.  It was proper and correct response as a human being but as a journalist all objectivity had been lost and in many respects Dr. Gupta had become the story in a constellation of a million stories emanating from the epicenter of one of the great human tragedies of the past century.  This is a departure from the norm of real time documentary reportage.  I can’t tell you how many documentaries I came away from cursing the producers and cameramen for doing nothing to prevent the baby wildebeest from being  consumed by the lion pack or for failing to offer a family of refugees in Darfur a bottle of water or a ride on their jeep to escape the marauding  Janjaweed.

News Corps, network media division Fox News belies the myth of the monolithic liberal mainstream media and its claim of balance in its marketing handle.   Fox News may offer a fair presentment of the news to its conservative viewership but its claim of balance that suggests the inclusion of a liberal perspective in their news product is specious.

Fox News really came of age following 9/11 and the growing conservative drift of the nation. Its useless to posit weather Fox News created the conservative drift or developed programming to market to this political demographic; but the political inclinations of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have always been decidedly conservative.  At its founding in 1996, Fox News started differentiating itself from the liberal mainstream media by supporting the Republican impeachment drive of President Clinton, effectively  setting the stage for its partisan approach to reporting the news.  In many respects its unabashed partisanship was a game changer in how news and information was being packaged, positioned and delivered in the emerging narrow casting market paradigm.   Its sentiment not very different from the golden days of yellow journalism practiced by William Randolph Hearst.

Liberals and progressives have criticized News Corp for its lack of objectivity and  balance.  Many believe it to be the official party organ of the Republican Party and its compromised coverage is more akin to propaganda then news.  I believe this to be true as well.  Fox News has countered that it provides both news and opinion.  Fox News employs many of the leading conservative voices.  Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee are senior GOP members on the payroll of Fox News.  They regularly appear on shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity who are conservative celebrities in their own right.  The trick is discerning what is news and what constitutes opinion and editorial content.  The line that demarcates them is increasingly a fine one.  Even the innocuous news blurbs scrolling along the bottom of the TV screen seep in partisanship.  Some may report objective facts like the closing level of the Dow or the latest sports score. These little factoids appear alongside pieces that consistently reinforce the conservative credo of the network.  Its also a practice for commentators like Karl Rove to opine on stories covered on news segments.  The pundits impassioned analysis of the story leaves the listener little room to doubt the interpretation as a validation of the viewers conservative  political sentiments and ideological disposition.  The ability to distinguish fact from opinion becomes increasingly lost in these clouds of obfuscation.

As the model of creating, packaging and marketing partisan news the advent of Glenn Beck as a political entertainer is symptomatic of the maturation of the industry.  Glenn Beck’s show is more of a political reeducation camp that tries to provide low information voters and political neophytes with a more robust framework to understand the history and philosophy of conservatism.  Beck extends the Fox News portfolio of infotainment products.

Beck’s role in encouraging the formation of the Tea Party expands the footprint of News Corp.  Some may consider this crosses the line into political activism but I believe it to be a highly developed form of call and response direct marketing.  Beck’s incessant rants about the imminent collapse of  American democracy, the downfall of free market capitalism and the advocacy of the purchase of gold to hedge against these terrible prospects has attracted  the sponsorship of gold marketers and other fear merchants living large and minting major coin in the time of terror.

Fox is not alone in this sin.  CNBC profited from the pre-crash market run-up and had a vested interest in fueling market speculation and excess.  The business channel owned and operated by NBC  took some heat on this issue in the wake of the market meltdown.  During the market run-ups and the creation of the numerous market bubbles CNBC was taken to task for its roll as a biased shill in creating a risk averse mania that fed into the speculative orgy.  The encouragement of reckless behavior would cost investors and Main Street citizens a good portion of their retirement savings.  Jon Stewart took on CNBC celebrity Jim Cramer for his role in stoking unhealthy speculation. The claim of caveat emptor is not a sufficient disclaimer to absolve CNBC of this perceived wrong doing.  Information and data is the fuel that powers the capital market engine and viewers perceived CNBC to be a critical channel for this type of decision support data and analysis.  As animated red bulls flashed across the TV screen screaming “buy buy buy” the speculative urge feeding the demon greed of Cramer’s viewers jumped at the prospect to secure easy profits and pushed the execute button to route a flood of orders to E-Trade.

Media outlets were not alone in profiting from the conflict of interest in their business model.  The rating agencies Moody’s, Standard and Poors and other issuers of financial health assessments were roundly criticized for a business model that accepted fees from companies  to determine their investment ratings investors use to judge safety and soundness of the companies securities.  Investment banking institutions like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley ran into trouble for trading securities that they advised their clients to hold in investment portfolios.  Large commercial banks have also been called on the carpet for the inherent conflict of interest in their mortgage lending business that integrated mortgage underwriters, originators, servicers, securitizers and investors under a single roof.

Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has given corporations a megaphone to direct enormous amounts of capital and influence on Americas political culture.  The exponential growth of the political industrial complex places media companies on the cusp of an emerging market.  News Corp occupies a well defined franchise in the vortex of this growth industry.  News Corp will be the predominant media channel attracting politically sponsored advertising from 527 corporations to advocate issues central to the conservative agenda.  The market for political theater is strong and growing and News Corp has one of the hottest theatrical properties in celebrities like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

If Fox News bends and packages information with selected editing in support of political narrative; Andrew “NAACP” Breitbart and James “ACORN” O’Keefe edits news to create a false narrative to affirm ideology.  The omnipresent  multi-channel digital world and the need for consistent real time affirmation justifies entrapment and libel as fair game in the political narrative. The specious political ethics of radical entitlement, means justify ends, medium is the message and relativistic ethics is the next step of  an ideologically mature ,technologically enabled infotainment industry.  The self affirming echo chamber that verifies fact and swears to any truth is blessed with selective amnesia and a self correcting mechanism of  a highly refined subjective fact checker informed by extreme prejudice.

Jon Stewart  use of satire and exaggeration to make a lager point of clarified and reified truth is old school stuff.  In the Age of the Avatar,  the real, the imagined, the intended and the manifested get confused in the digital clouds of form, delivery and content. The medium is the message, the network is the computer and Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity was a marketing event to stake a claim on the market of moderation.  No doubt a highly educated discerning market segment with lots of disposable income.  Its only downside its getting a little long in the tooth.

The Forth Estate is rapidly evolving due the dramatic changes in technology, market structure, business model and consumer consciousness.  The role of the free press and the constitutional protections it enjoys in a democratic society is under siege and on the verge of bankruptcy.  The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and LA Times are old media institutions struggling to stay financially solvent and culturally pertinent.  Time will tell of their ability to evolve and create a sustainable business model  that will be validated by a market economy.  We have learned that truth, disclosure and transparency are not priceless assets but virtues that must support a sufficient  p/e ratio to to survive in a capitalist economy.

The past few weeks we’ve had a few First Amendment martyrs.  Rick Sanchez, Juan Williams and Keith Olbermann learned that the sword was more powerful then the pen.  The more important lesson that managers could remove them on the whim of executive fiat if they failed to demonstrate restraint of pen and tongue.  In actuality the  removal of these gentlemen from the news desk was more of a business decision then a violation of  their right of Free Speech.

As we enter the second decade of our two wars on terrorism even the embedded journalists rolling through the distressed hamlets of Iraq and Afghanistan are getting a bit war weary.  Like a captive hostage the embeds could not help but to identify with their chauffeurs.  The brave soldiers driving the Humvees’ were always in control of what the embeds saw, was responsible for their safety and quickly became the reporters best friend born of dependency, admiration and the comradeship that develops during war.  Objective reportage was the first causality in this  type of arrangement.

We need to take a cue from Jonathan Edwards.  He is the real shaman of our time.  Blessed with unique skills to help his audience to realize that self affirming connection is only possible by crossing over and taking suggestions from the well placed authorities residing in an unseen mysterious supernatural world.

You Tube Music Video: Tom Waits, Lie to Me

Risk: First Amendment, free speech

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November 12, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, banking, branding, business, Clinton, commercial, commodities, culture, democracy, democrats, economics, elections, government, history, investments, marketing, media, news, philosophy, politics, product, regulatory, sustainability, Tea Party, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blue Beams

Two Blue Beams
rise in the twilight
from the dark recesses
of a scarred metropolis

astral projections
paint night clouds
in looming hues
of temporal intent

declarative beams
affirm a bold portent
of an insistent will
and timeless aspirations

one thrusting light
projects wanton determination
bequeathed from unhealed wounds
of a lacerated city

the other casts fervent hope
onto the vast celestial sea
boldly etching upon the heavens
an earnest nations highest ideals

the pillars of light
reveal the dual nature
fixing our place
in a turbulent universe

the brighter light
affirms the beneficence
of liberties eternal grace
so divinely conferred

received by a higher self
accepted with gratitude
the gracious anointing
of freedoms rich abundance

ride this beam of angry cries
conjure ghosts from a dead past
channel a full measure of resent
the light of restoration is quelled

stirred from nagging agonies
nursed righteous indignation
untreated wounds fester
the weak blue spire cannot heal

a bleak azure apparition
screams for selfish retribution
heed this dire admonition
a promised fury of
full demonic dimension

the rankled city
yearns to come together
united in communion
around these lights

drawn to the blue flames
like swirling moths
unconscious of what
compels shock and awe

earnest yearnings
flutter to exhaustion
struggle toward the light
aspires to heal in the inviting glow

transcending the fissures
of our fractured nation
the waning resolve
of a national will

a restless Zeitgeist
cannot be repressed
nor will it relinquish
its will to manifest

a city’s fondest hopes
entombed in collective memory
is foretold again
around these bold lights

entranced by the light
a solemn urban campfire
transfixed and sealed
we speak our hearts

holding hands
gnashing teeth
we bite into
our bent knees
tucked up
to sullen chests
heavy hearts
bear pains of loss
dreary tears wash
ash stained cloths
crumpled photos
dear bereavements
of faded memories
and expired hope

resolve is renewed
in bursts of pride
incendiary nationalism
suppress dissent
pummel thoughts
of perceived sedition
pump iron fists as
zealous sledgehammers
forged with conviction
in kilns of
righteous indignation
seething with infected
emotional hangovers
from prurient
tribal diatribes

these sweet sentiments
swing between the polls
of the vast pendulum’s arc
along a narrow celestial scale

too and fro
angst and expectation
ebbs and flows
in this astral assignation

the heavenly helix
a set of blue axles
a modern vision
of Ezekiel’s Wheel

the rung-less vertices
of our Jacob’s Ladder
invites all citizens
to climb again

ascend this pathway
in the company of angels
arrive transfigured
renewed again

build new cities
transcendent destinations
new Edens await
pioneers to explore

fearless pilgrims
sojourn onward
moving to secure
liberty for all

conscious stewards
of the blessed good earth
celebrate rich diversity
of all the beloved

descending back
to an expired past
is a ridged stasis
anchored in Hell

witness flitting
nostalgic phantoms
pathetic pantomimes
of histrionic fictions

the downward path
of the lesser light
tethers us to the place
we cannot leave

The upward light
abhors a hells decent
resolved to vacate
acrimony and hate

the dancing helix opens
a blue portal to heaven
don angels garb
wing upward in light

transcendence calls us
to traverse with angels
touch the luminescent hem
of God’s divine robe

Selah

You Tube Music Video:
Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring , Simple Gifts
NYC
9/11/10
jbm

September 13, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, poetry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Day

That day has arrived again.  In a very real sense it is a day that has never left us.  We remember our incomprehension of how benign jetliners could transform into vehicles of mass murder.  We remember our astounded shock as we witnessed the compelling images of those trapped above the gaping mortal wounds of the WTC Towers cascade downward after a decisive leap of death.  We remember the indomitable Towers crumbing into broiling clouds of toxic dust rumbling through the canyons of Wall Street engulfing the spires of Bankers Trust and Trinity’s dark steeple.  We remember the confusion of the civic turmoil that erupted throughout the besieged city and the depths of terror that rang our soul from an unseen force of wanton power and ambivalent devastation.  We remember the heroic bravery of first responders who gave the last full measure of their devotion in service to others.  And we remember our shared egregious grief, the broken hearts and the traumatized families whose sense of loss will never fully dissipate.

For nine years we have weaved the bits of steel from the wreckage of that day into our national DNA.  9/11 has truly transfigured our nation and its people to a depth that we find difficult to comprehend or understand.  We have entered two wars, ceded civil liberties and fed the beast of fear a diet of suspicion, mistrust and agonizing vulnerability.   We have let this fear express itself as an emotional response that quickly acts to salve immediate pain with force of will then allow a more deliberate and considered course of action that fully expresses the resolve, fortitude and ideals of a free people.

We believe that the terrorists attacked us because they fear us.  They  fear a nation and a people that cherish freedom and prize liberty for all.  The cornerstone of those liberties are the freedom to think, express, associate and worship according to the dictates of ones own conscience.  No authority or government institution will abridge those freedoms nor compel any individual to associate, act, think or worship in a manner antithetical to their personal beliefs or values. Tyrants, despots and authoritarian governments compel belief and extract tribute of action by demanding conformity to ideology and submission to self serving authority. They idealize the use of force foregoing dialog and negotiation as a way to convey ideas and forge consensus.

The tool of terror is the way of tyrants.  Terror compels the terrorized to acquiesce and submit to wanton authority at odds with personal liberty and freedom. Is not Pastor Terry Jones, “Burn a Quran Day” nothing more then a form of terror aimed at Muslims, a maligned and vulnerable minority?  Why do many believe it is perfectly suitable to ascribe the status as “less then” for Muslims seeking to build the Park51 Mosque on the grounds that their religious affiliation excludes them from building a house of worship too close to the hallowed ground of the WTC?  Prohibiting the rights of a people because of their religion is a Taliban like mindset that all lovers of freedom should abhor. The propagation of the belief  that the construction of the Park51 Mosque is a monument intended to commemorate the martyrdom of  terrorists is a vile lie and a pernicious attempt to advance a reactionary political agenda.

Can the United States extol religious bigotry by celebrating intolerance?  Do we applaud compelled fealty and submission by profaning Holy Books and sacraments of religions and faith traditions that are not our own?   Do we deny the full and equal rights of a group of citizens that are somehow deemed less then or not fully enfranchised to enjoy and exercise the protections of a full palate of constitutional freedoms?  The United States cannot allow itself to sink into the morass of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion.  It runs counter to the central ideals of a democratic republic and the very essence of what distinguishes the United States from the forces of terror that seek to destroy it.

Creating national emblems of  fetishistic icons to express our grief  is not the correct response to the 9/11 attacks.    Chunks of steel from the downed towers, bits of damaged flags or falsely ascribing a sanctity to a two block radius around the WTC site turns grief into a fetish that will forever enslave the will and endlessly torment the soul.  This nation cannot cling to its illness, it must restore and strengthen its democratic character by building alters to liberty through the practice of tolerance by jealously guarding and joyously celebrating civil liberties for all.

Let the burning of the Quran be an indictment of ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance.  Let the building of the Park51 Mosque be a monument to the strength and hope of a free people that proclaims America as a light to all nations.

Our prayers for peace, restoration and life affirming abundance to all affected by 9/11 remain steadfast.

Selah

You Tube Music Video:  Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings

Risk: democracy

September 11, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, Civil Rights, democracy, Muslim, politics, psychology, Quran, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Convergence and Innovation Inhibitors: 011110

As we start the second decade of the new millennium, innovation is understood as a critical driver to overcome the economic malaise plaguing the global economy. Economic stasis and political factionalism has made it increasingly evident that faltering economic and social institutions cry out for sweeping reform. These reforms can only be achieved with innovative approaches in policy and practice. Innovation is realized by giving flight to uninhibited thought and the clear application of ideas with decisive action. Though most agree that we badly need reform, we remain at painful odds as to what those reforms should be and how to implement them. The destructive legislative debates on health care and the ugly political theater of town meetings that occurred in the United States over the summer accomplished little in regards to meaningful reform. The exercises  only served to drive a deepening wedge into the ability of a democratic culture to form a transformative consensus.

Our society is a complex ecosystem comprised of many competing interests. The classic definition of politics, “the means to decide how limited resources are allocated to disparate interests” is clearly a truism that must be applied if we are to realize the reform that we desperately need. In a post scarcity society that definition may seem a bit crude or antiquated. America’s history is marked by a culture of innovation and the incubation of industry. Innovation and its commercial expression in entrepreneurialism is a national asset that tempers the hard edges of stringent allocation or resources and has been the source of our great social wealth. Democracies continually require citizens to arbitrate how competing interests are reconciled and converge. As a self professed democracy the United States must break down the barriers that inhibit innovation by confronting the challenges posed by convergence.

Convergence has been the watch word in the tech industry for the past few years. Convergence aggregates, joins and aligns discreet trends, competencies, technologies and missions to spawn innovation and progress. Masters of business innovation understand that a precondition of convergence is the ability to collaborate. Collaboration requires extended conversations and dialog to understand how competing interests can be reconciled and brought together so that innovation and progress can be achieved. Marketeers invent neologisms like coopetition to brand the idea and lend heft to its thrust. We believe that innovation borne from convergence is the path to rebuild our economy, heal cultural wounds and take a step toward political maturity the United States needs to sustain the great experiment of our democratic republic.

With that in mind we offer a list that outlines the inhibitors to innovation. It is hoped that our nations leaders and people can begin an earnest conversation to address these barriers to growth. Maybe I’m wrong with offering this modest list but I remain willing to discuss it, hopeful that people of good will with a different viewpoint will be open to correct my thinking and contribute to my enlightenment.

1. War: War is inherently wasteful. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grievous examples of waste and national distraction that hampers the United States economic recovery. At an  Ecumenical Memorial Service held at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terror attacks  a Buddhist Monk stated that  he believed “it was wiser to drop refrigerators on Afghanistan then bombs”.  Almost a decade later and two wars on I can’t help but to think what a meager $100 billion investment in Afghanistan would have returned to the United States tax payers.  More importantly it would have shown the world that above all else America values the sanctity and preservation of life.  It would have also minimized the rising toll of casualties of both citizens and soldiers.   We developed some great bunker buster bombs but we can’t figure out a way to stop a suicide bomber with exploding underpants.  We succeeded in stirring up a hornets nest of angry insurgents and failed to build innovative pathways to peace with steadfast bridges to secure allies and pacify combatants.

2. Politics: To be sure politics is omnipresent  but the politicization of faith institutions and government functions is a great separator of people. When politics infects faith institutions their ability to breach the social divide and  join people together is seriously compromised or downright destructive. The Catholic Church’s practice of denying the Eucharist to parishioners based on political biases of the communicant places politics at the center of the Lords alter.  The recent occurrences of  radical Islamists burning down Christian Churches in Malaysia  is tragically ironic.  The violence, a response to the Christians appropriation of the word Allah as a name for God; is  a violent rejection of  language convergence of two great faith traditions.  It would seem that unity is a  threat that God cannot abide and is a growing threat that must be abolished.  In the secular world government agencies  were instructed to withhold scientific climate change research of the National Science Foundation because it did not conform with the politics of the party in power.  The extent of the politicization of the judicial branch of government under the Bush Administration was a seditious move worthy of dictatorships.  Innovative application of constitutional law in defense of civil liberties is one of the greatest challenges the war on terror poses to this country.  The creation of kangaroo courts to support the politics of the ruling party would undermine our system of justice.  It would  transform our judiciary  into a repressive apparatus of the state, our laws into  stale dogmas ill suited to meet the legal challenges  of our time and a  justice system that is indistinguishable from the justice offered by our opponents.

3. Ideology: Only good ideas need apply. Deng Xiaoping said it best “does it matter if its a communist or capitalist mouse trap. The question is, does it catch mice?” Seeing this as a threat, Mao Zedong unleashed the cultural revolution and routed the capitalist roaders as a threat to the Great Proletarian Revolution. After the death of Mao, Deng would be rehabilitated and play a key role in China’s adoption of a market economy and its current ascendancy as a world economic power.  In my mind there is a striking resemblance to the debate about heath care.  Socialized medicine is bad.  Do you want to turn into France?  Canadian health care is too expensive.  UK heath care system is overloaded and can’t cope with demand.   These problems would be solved however after the death panels had a chance to meet  and decide who shall live and who must walk the plank.

4. Entrenched Commercial Interests: Though we are ardent believers in capitalism as an engine of innovation the dictatorship of ROI, entrenched concentrations of capital and an unwillingness or inability to adopt longer term investment horizons hamper innovation. The failure of the United States automobile industry to develop fuel efficient vehicles is a good example of market intransigence. The development of junk bonds by Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert dismantled the manufacturing base of the US economy accelerated the countries decline as a net exporter of products creating the foundation of a debtor nation. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. The succeeding administration had them removed. Imagine where the alternative energy industry would be today had it developed this leading edge idea and capitalized on this first mover advantage.

5. Unbridled free markets: The economic carnage of the banking meltdown is a startling example of the excesses the pursuit of profit will create. The boom in commercial and residential real estate construction created massive stocks of unused inventories that misdirected and wasted enormous resource. The energy and capital expended on these wasteful endeavors misdirected funds and created huge social hazards that requires massive amounts of capital to mitigate. Also worth mention is the development of video gaming. Lots of energy and creativity is being expended on the best techno music to use while your Mafia Avatar bashes open the head of your opponent with a baseball bat. We are not suggesting censorship or a prohibition of video games nor centralized economic planning. Its a compensation and social value issue.  Perhaps a communicants denial of participation at the Lord’s Table lead them to leave the church and miss the message about social values.

6. Technology: It may seem odd to include technology as an inhibitor to innovation but technology for technology sake may inhibit the development of innovative applications solutions that are not technological in nature. The technorati of the world is transforming technology into a religion. Deprived of its human dimension it can become a dogma that grows in an antagonistic relationship with its human masters. The United States continues to trumpet its technological prowess as the deciding factors in its war in Afghanistan. But that paradigm was explored during the war in Viet Nam where pungi sticks ultimately trumped napalm bombs. The power of an idea and how it connects and motivates people is force that is mightier then the sword.

7. Fundamentalism: The Pharisees once asked Jesus, “is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” Jesus answered that it was always the right time to heal those who are sick. The world recoils in horror at the capacity for destruction fundamentalism regularly visits upon the world. The denial of equal civil rights to LGBT people creates a  bifurcated system of citizenship.  It is an ugly stain on our democratic heritage.  The gravest peril to democracy is the abridgment and denial of civil rights to any group of citizens. Democracy necessitates that all republicans enjoy equal access and rights in order for it to function. The denial of that right based on a fundamentalist reading of religious scriptures makes it particularly abhorrent because civil rights of citizens in a secular democracy is not an issue that is decided by theologians or the adherents to a particular theology.

Tolerance and consensus are both antithetical to the precepts of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not the sole province of religion. It has its secular and ideological adherents as well. Fundamentalism is a pillar of dictatorship; either of a political or theocratic nature both are enemies of secular democracy. Secular democracies require tolerance to respect the diverse ideas and competing viewpoints require in the democratic process. Secular democracies require the trust to converse and hash out the best ideas that serve the greatest good. This is only possible if consensus can be achieved. It is how “out of many becomes one”. It is the true genius of America. It is a worthy innovation of governance that every freedom loving citizen should jealously guard and consciously pursue.

8.  Public Education:  The public education system that the United States built is the true arsenal of democracy and the nations source of wealth and its many contributions it has made to the world.  Without the vast network of learning institutions built and supported by successive generations of Americans the worlds great experiment in representative democracy would have long ago perished.   The public schools sole charter is to create an enlightened citizenship with the skills to discuss, discern and decide in a civil and constructive manner the ever evolving dialectic of a democratic consensus placed at the service of the republic.  It is one of the true geniuses of America and remains her enduring strength.

Today public schools are under attack by forces whose agendas are the pursuit of parochial goals that first and foremost seek their enrichment and interests at the expense of the greatest good of the republic.  The charter school movement is a trend that threatens the public school system by privatizing some of the systems assets and draining away much needed resource and financial support.  It forces public schools to dispense with curriculum offerings like music and arts, sports programs and civic excursions that will convey an understanding of how institutions  interact and support the greater social good. This aspect of the educational experience is supplanted by an exacting examination regime that destroys the love of learning.  Secular learning is also being threatened through the introduction of theological precepts like creationism into the science curriculum of public schools.  Religion and faith are important precepts to offer in a public educational curriculum;  however theology that masquerades  as   science  is an ideological stricture that has no place in public schools.    These  trends are pose great challenges to the  public  schools mission to form enlightened citizens free to think and free to act in the sole service of liberty and participatory democracy.  Innovation and progress is in danger of becoming a secular sin a disease of the soul that needs to be eradicated from the public schools as its threatens to infect the greater body politic.

You Tube Music Video:  Louis Armstrong, I Get Ideas

Risk: innovation, convergence, progress, tolerance

January 11, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, business, Carter, China, Christianity, culture, democracy, economics, faith, history, institutional, manufacturing, Muslim, politics, real estate, recession, regulatory, sustainability, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring the Warriors Home

Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”

The Ballad of the King’s Jest

Rudyard Kipling

The irony of President Obama’s selection as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2009 was not lost on the recipient. In one of the receptions held to honor him, Mr. Obama spoke about Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite and its use as a weapon of war as the source of wealth that funds the prestigious peace prize.   Earlier in the day during his acceptance speech, Mr. Obama spoke eloquently on the motives for his decision to continue the prosecution and escalation of the Afghan war.  As a war time President, Mr. Obama sees war as a tool to bend the will of history toward justice and good.  He believes the greatest global good will be served by the pursuit of the Afghan conflict.  I respectfully disagree.

The greater irony in Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech for a peace prize is that it was essentially a discourse of war apologetics.    Mr. Obama delivered a speech void of any contrition and never once equivocated as he outlined his commitment and reasoning why a nation should engage in war.  To be fair to Mr. Obama, his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan is not a surprise. Throughout his Presidential election campaign, Mr. Obama was explicitly clear that he intended to pursue Osama bin Laden and his band of murderous terrorists to the Gates of Hell.  Even if those gates led to a protected compound in downtown Karachi,  Mr.  Obama’s resolve to check mate al-Qaeda remains steadfast.

The problem with the continued prosecution of the Afghan War is that our enemies are not a nation state nor do they occupy a single geography.  Al-Qaeda and their confederates are stationed throughout the globe.  They exist in underground sleeper cells waiting to be summoned by unconscionable puppet masters.  They are guided by an ideology of hate neatly disguised and wrapped in a hajab of religious orthodoxy. They use asymmetric strategies and tactics to wage war on citizens and soldiers alike.  A conventional army garrisoned in a provincial  hamlet is ill suited to fight an enemy that knows no bounds in territories and tactics and is prepared to conduct a military operation that spans multiple generations.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda’s access and control of Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade forms the socio-economic base that allows them to leverage considerable political power to pursue their terrorist agenda.  The opium trade is weaved into a complex tribal culture whose power and prominence supersedes a weak and corrupt central government that derives its right to govern by the tepid consent of friendly tribal leaders and the military might of foreign armies.    Afghanistan like other narco dependent states will remain politically unstable and continue as a terroristic threat to the United States until the opium trade is supplanted as the countries principal source of economic and political power.

Afghanistan is not the world’s sole narco-terrorist state.  A number exist in the Western Hemisphere and one need look no further then across the Rio Grande to witness the growing power of a narco-dollar financed state subversion.  Mexico’s difficulties serve as a reminder that the risks to the stability of our republic lie much closer to home and is in fact in full residence within our borders.  Engaging a war in Afghanistan is a clear and present distraction from addressing the pressing issues that undermine our national security.

True al-Qaeda’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon conjures up many unimaginable and terrifying scenarios.  Unfriendly regimes that are hostile to the United States like North Korea and Iran control nuclear capabilities.  But we have  no armies attacking them.  Perhaps the solution is to remove nuclear weapons and uranium devises beyond the reach of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other avowed enemies of our republic.  If this is the major threat, its mitigation can be achieved without the prolonged deployment of 130,000 troops.   It can be accomplished by having an international force guard and quarantine Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  Certainly the Bush Doctrine allows for this type of intervention.  Some will object to this course of action on the grounds that we must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.  But Mr. Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War will require unilateral incursions into Pakistan.  This action to eliminate the ultimate horror of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is the surest way to mitigate this pressing threat.

The multifaceted omnipresent dangers to the United States transcend nuclear terrorism. Economic degradation is compounding social problems and creating deep political fissures within the country.  Our countries fractured culture is being exploited by powerful self serving interests.  A cabal of corporate elites equate national security with their economic well being.  They employ armies of lobbyists  and ply multi-channel media platforms to stoke fear and division to advance their narrow interests.  Usually at the expense of supporting initiatives that address the complex threats that weigh on the security of the country.  These special interests attack programs that stabilize social safety nets.  They finance expensive media campaigns condemning aid for local government fiscal stability, universal health care, meaningful environmental policy, expanded funding for public education, infrastructure improvements, support for trade unions, job creation programs and social assistance programs.  The well being of our people is the basis of our national prosperity.  The sources of social instability remain strong and continue to grow.  The recession,  a jobless rate of 10%, 4 million foreclosed homes, 30 million citizens unable to have access to affordable health care, failing school systems, bulging prison systems and environmental degradation represent a greater threat to national security then 100 al-Qaeda fighters holed up in an ice cave in the Tora Bora tribal regions.

No doubt  the United States was attacked by terrorists enjoying protection of a friendly regime in Afghanistan.  On 9/11 I witnessed first hand the horror of fellow countrymen jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center.  Moments later as I stood in front of Trinity Church I escaped the pyroclastic cloud of the falling South Tower through a revolving door on Wall Street.   I understand the irrational hatred terrorists harbor in their hearts and the devastating consequences of their insane acts.  They are a cancer that must be eradicated.

Mr. Obama, has stated that the Afghan insurgency enjoys no popular support.   Afghanistan has a long memory and a longer history of a people subjected to the designs of imperial powers and foreign invaders since the time of Genghis Khan. The resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghani’s is legendary.  From the massacre of Elphinstone’s Army trying to escape blood thirsty tribes through the Khyber Pass, to the Soviets disgraceful retreat from the hail of Stinger Missiles supplied by the United States; it now  may be our time for a  ride in this horrible wheel barrel.

Afghanistan is a region of the globe where the great powers and trends of history clash.  It is a vortex of a turbulent maelstrom that brings the powers of China, Russia, India and Islam into a volatile mix.  The forces of national interests and modernity is held at bay by tribesmen toting WWII rifles, expedient tribal allegiances and ancient codes of honor.  Why doesn’t China and India have a more prominent role in ending this conflict?   It is in their geopolitical interest.  Better let the United States  send its nations finest young people to chase phantoms and fight in the endless canyons of the Hindu Kush; while Chindia builds their economies at home and forge new alliances abroad.  Perhaps they hope that this war could be the Pax Americana’s Waterloo?

Mr. Obama quoted from Dr. Martin Luther Kings Nobel acceptance speech, stating, “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.”  This above all else may prove to be the most prophetic and ironic truth to Mr. Obama’s war.

The United States cannot afford this war. It is a distraction. It weakens us.  National security is more then a well provisioned and gallant army. A nations strength and its ultimate security is based on an enlightened, well fed, healthy and industrious people.

Mr. Obama acknowledged his indebtedness to those that went before him.  He stated that, Mahatma Gandhi, George Marshall, Albert Schweitzer,  Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are worthy figures that we should emulate.  Their greatness showed us that a better path must be chosen if we are to progress as a people.  Their choices and examples of leadership were not based on expediency and some came at  terrible cost.  The pathway of war is worn and old.  The world is much too weary from the familiar journey.  Its time to choose a better path.  End the war now Mr. Obama.  Bring the troops home.

You Tube Music Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic

Risk: war, peace

December 14, 2009 Posted by | 9/11, China, economics, Obama, recession, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Lasting Sanctuary: 911 Remembered

Corkscrew_Swamp_SanctuaryEight years ago today,  I was running down Wall Street fleeing a protoplasmic cloud that I believed was intent on claiming my life.  Fortunately as it was about to overcome me a revolving door of a Charles Schwab office offered me an escape portal from the deadly billows of powered cement, asbestos and other matter emulsified by the collapsing South Tower of the World Trade Center.

I was fortunate to have access to a sanctuary of  safety and ready escape.  The brokerage office was filled with confused, terrified and wounded people.  All consumed in a maelstrom of an iconoclastic force that at the time laid beyond our understanding or comprehension.  The hysteria in the room was balanced by the command of resolve summoned by the afflicted to survive and a compassion that recognized our shared humanity and common plight.  Most responded with a spirit of action that held out a hand to help those in distress.  It was heartening to witness such a selfless demonstration of empathy and commitment to others.  It was how we escaped and survived the terrible fate that too many suffered on that infamous day.

On this day as I sit watching family members read the names of those lost at the World Trade Center,  I am moved by the endless tears they shed for the dearly departed.  The aggrieved wear shirts with images of the fallen.   They hold photos of people captured in the light of the victims finest day.  Children wear medals and the caps of fallen fire fighters.  I  marvel at the depth of their love and wonder how they will find a portal of escape and a lasting sanctuary from the deep wounds and loss afflicted upon them that day?

We all need to discover and walk through a portal of escape to a sanctuary of restoration.  As a nation we desperately need  to heal the seemingly fathomless wounds of loss we all so keenly feel as a result of 911.  A sanctuary is a place of transcendence.  It is a place where the faithful can meet the divine and are in turn transfigured by the miracle of grace.  We must prepare ourselves to enter the sanctuary.  We need to find a place where this national nightmare can be laid to rest on an alter in God’s sanctuary.  God hears our cries for justice.  God understands the depths of the dark places in our hearts that scream and wail from the deep wounds of loss suffered.  God’s justice holds out a hope that we become fully restored from the deep loss we experienced.  God’s wisdom  requires us to shed our sense of victimization so as we can realize our restoration.

The events on 911 has deeply transfigured our nation.  We have sacrificed civil liberties, entered two wars and raised fear, xenophobia and the pursuit of righteous vengeance to a national obsession.   Vengeance is a bitter bread to feast on.  The wisdom of the Bible instructs that vengeance is the province of the Lord.   We must prepare to enter the sanctuary by practicing peace.  It is the best way to honor the loss of our beloved brothers and sisters and it is the only way this terrible wound will ever heal.   Together we can eat the bread of peace and drink from the chalice that promises to heal and restore that which has been lost.

Rest in peace beloved.  I offer prayers of restoration and healing to those who lost loved ones.

Loping Wolf:  Christo Redentor

Risk:  war, restoration, peace, faith

September 11, 2009 Posted by | 9/11, Bible, culture, faith, family, life, love, politics, psychology, religion, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day of Infamy

USS Shaw

Sixty seven years ago today, on an early Sunday morning the US Pacific Navel Fleet at Pearl Harbor was attacked by an air assault launched by the Japanese Imperial Navy. It was an audacious attack that caught the US by surprise. The attack killed over 2000 servicemen and women. The bombing also claimed a number of civilian casualties and it destroyed or disabled a good portion of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The attack at Pearl Harbor forced America to enter WWII as it declared war on Japan with a Day of Infamy speech made by FDR.

This day is worthy of remembrance for so many reasons. First and foremost is to recognize those who fell in service to our country and the many civilian innocents who always comprise an awful toll in the casualties of war. This attack should also be remembered as the day when the illusion of American isolation dissipated into the billowing smoke plumes of the burning destroyers inside a presumably safe harbor. Fortress America was under the false impression that its security was guaranteed by the large expanse of two of the worlds great oceans and by borders with friendly nations.

As the United States entered the war it mobilized its significant resources, will, talent and determination. It was the sleeping giant at the time, still licking its wounds from a debilitating recession and political uncertainty. But Pearl Harbor served as a focal point to fuel national sentiment for the US to take the lead in the great global crusade against fascism. Studs Terkel called it the “Good War” fought by America’s “greatest generation”. Americas successful prosecution of the war and its role in it positioned the country to ascend as the preeminent world power.

The world has known other days of infamy since then. But Pearl Harbor set the world in motion to create an intricate weave of connections that accelerated the pace and depth of global transformation. The era witnessed the terrible consequences of modern global warfare and created the necessary conditions for a nuclear fueled modernity to collide with humanity’s delicate mortality.

9/11 and last weeks Mumbia attacks are events that exhibit similar characteristics of a causal event that spawns and accelerates a series of transformative effects on a global scale. Undoubtedly military and political experts will study Pearl Harbor to discern what eventual outcomes will emerge as we pursue different strategies to protect our national interests and security. As they should. But perhaps the real opportunity these terrible events present is how best to discern considered responses that can transform conflict into peace to avoid the possibility of any more days of infamies.

You Tube Music Video: Glenn Miller Orchestra, Moonlight Serenade

Risk: extreme risk events, cause and effect, unintended consequences

December 7, 2008 Posted by | jazz, military, war | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September 11 in Memoriam

On the anniversary of this most tragic day we offer prayers and condolences to the family and friends of the victims of this terrible event. As an on the ground witness to the terrible effects of the terrorist attack and as a recipient of aid and shelter for that nights refuge I experienced the best and worst of humanity in the span of a day.

Its most ironic that the attackers and aid givers were both motivated by what they presumed to be God’s will. I can only say that the aid givers truly demonstrated what I understand to be moving in the holy spirit in a selfless demonstration of God’s love.

To be sure God is not a terrorist nor compels humans to kill on his behalf. I believe God wants us to live in peace and work for peace so as we can truly know and become what God will is for the people of this world.

I recall a 911 healing service held at Yankee Stadium soon after the attacks. I remember a speaker who quoted a Buddhist monk suggesting that America should respond to the attacks by dropping refrigerators on Afghanistan. The meaning being we should respond to this atrocity with kindness.

Considering what these attacks have since wrought; I believe this statement contains a kernel of sage advise. It speaks of an ageless divine wisdom that echoes the teachings of Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek, offer your coat also and the grace and blessings of peacemaking.

Sage advise indeed. Consider the dividends the world would have received had America and its coalition partners placed exclusive attention on the military, political and national development of Afghanistan and its troubled neighbor Pakistan.

A $100 B investment in Afghanistan would have gone a very long way in helping develop and build a destitute country, create good will for America abroad and help America achieve security at home.

God compels us to be peacemakers. If you remember anything concerning the meaning of this day consider the Psalmist words,

“God is our refuge and our ever present help in trouble… be still, and know that I am God. … the God of Jacob is our fortress”

May the victims of the 911 attacks rest in peace. For us that remain may we find peace in our hearts and find the strength to share it abundantly with others.

Amen

Music: Donald Byrd Cristo Redentor

Risk: security, peace, war, good will of all people on earth

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bush, faith, holiday, jazz, terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

The Rev. Prince Singh

On the morning of September 12, 2001, I awoke in an AIDS hospice on Washington Street in Lower Manhattan. The day before, I was one of the thousands of refugees fleeing the terror from the World Trade Center bombing. Unable to leave the island for my home in New Jersey, a Nicaraguan Nun from Mother Teresa’s Order of The Missionaries of Charity saw my distressed condition and took me into their care. They gave me something to drink, washed away the terror dust from my body, fed me, put me to work in the kitchen to feed the residents and gave me a bed for the night. That day I experienced the worst and the best of humanity and witnessed two radically different interpretations of how people act out of what they perceive to be God’s commands.

That morning I awoke early to join the Sisters for Morning Prayer. It was led by a Priest from the Bronx and after the prayer service we spoke over coffee in the hospice kitchen. He bummed a cigarette from me and recounted the death of the Catholic Priest Mychal Judge and how they laid him on the altar of St. Peter’s just hours before. He offered a simple homily “sic transit gloria mundi,” the glories of this world are fleeting. He explained that these words are recited by a bare footed boy running alongside a procession carriage conveying a newly elected Pope in front of the cheering throngs of devoted Catholics. It’s a good reminder of how we perceive permanence and immutability and how it can all evaporate in the wink of an eye.

That terrible day as I stood peering into the gaping entry wound of the south tower and witnessing jumpers cascading down to their decisive deaths, I continued to wonder how they were going to put out those blazing infernos 110 stories up. Like everyone else, we never considered the likelihood that those buildings could fall. The idea of American indomitableness was the largest casualty on that day.

I felt compelled to recite the same words to my friend, rabbi and spiritual mentor on the night before his consecration as the Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, the Reverend Dr. Prince Singh. It’s not that Rev. Singh lacks humility or is trapped inside an inflated ego or offers a false piety. Indeed if Rev. Singh has vulnerability it is his infinite accessibility and his unfathomable compassion. Bishop Singh’s faith is deep, real and compelling. It is exposed like the iconic Sacred Heart of Jesus, tender, vulnerable, large, life affirming and open to anyone wishing to partake in an ever deepening walk with Jesus Christ. He is a true pastor and I pray that his pastoral gifts are not lost amidst the responsibilities of a ministerial higher office.

Our past glory, Father Singh, as our parish Priest is now gone to the Great Lakes region to continue his ministry on a higher level. I now know how his former Dalite parishioners and his family felt when Father Singh left India to begin his ministry in the United States. I believe that divine providence has brought this great man to Rochester. This great city, once a sparkling jewel of American inventiveness, entrepreneurial spirit and industry now faces great challenges to revitalize and reinvent itself in a post industrial economy. Who would have believed a scant 10 years ago that premier corporate brand names like Xerox, Eastman Kodak and Bausch and Lomb’s business fortunes could be so fleeting and so drastically change? Bishop Singh will contribute to the rebirth of this region. His ministry can weave together the many elements and talents needed to bring forth a new and vibrant community fabric. That’s what great pastors do.

On 9/11 Father Singh was the last of family and friends that I spoke too before being consumed by the conflagration and civic turmoil of that day. After watching the towers burn I returned to my office at 25 Broadway. My phone was ringing. It was Father Singh. He found me and advised me to leave the city. He was relieved that I was unhurt and he promised to contact my family to let them know I was safe. A good pastor always finds his lost sheep. Though I had yet to face my greatest danger of that day, and I would not be in contact with my family until my return home the following day, Father Singh’s contact would assure my loved ones that I was alive and on my way home.

I believe that Bishop Singh’s installation signals that Rochester and its greater region have an opportunity to bring forth a new and vibrant community on a great lake. Just like Mother Elizabeth the Nicaraguan Nun who took me into her care on 9/11, Bishop Singh will water the seeds of growth, will wash away the dust from the city’s broken past, feed the hungry with spiritual food, put the beloved to work in God’s vineyards and see that the weary have a place to rest. It’s what great pastors do.

With God’s help a change will come to the fortunes of this great American city. Our prayers are with you Bishop Singh. May God continue to richly bless your ministry.

You Tube Video: Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come

Risk: unbelief, pessimism, product risk, urban renewal, terrorism

June 2, 2008 Posted by | cities, faith, gospel, terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment