Today marks the 235th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps. The Marines are a storied branch of America’s armed services and have always fought valiantly to defend our country. As we mark this anniversary Marines continue to fight in Afghanistan. We pray for their well being and for the families and friends who await at home for their safe return. We continue to work for the cessation of all conflicts and witness for peace. We also advocate for the returning veterans and their families full restoration and integration into private life. We salute the USMC for their dedication, sacrifice and service to our country. Happy Birthday USMC.
You Tube Video: USMC Cadences
Risk: military, democracy
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
At last nights Peace Vigil outside of the Teaneck Armory, I am reminded of the grim number of those lost in the senseless war in Iraq has climbed to 4372. This day it is particularly right and fitting that we remember them and those that loved them. Family and friends of the fallen’s pain will be a bit more acute this time of year due to the absence of their beloved. Our prayers and thoughts are with them.
On this night it is also right and fitting to remember the quarter of a million service men and women who continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. These sentinels remain alert and vigilant on the cold windswept deserts of Asia tonight. As they stand under star filled purple skies many will pray for their families and friends at home. Those at home will recite the same prayers and thoughts that their beloved remain safe that they’ll make it through this night and the countless others they have yet to endure until the tide of peace is won.
On this night Christians celebrate the arrival of the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Councilor whom God sent to redeem a broken world. It is a divine wisdom, a miraculous grace that we must heed in all earnestness. Men and women of good will everywhere hear this call and bring it to all the small places that occupy their lives. We welcome the Christ Child by keeping a lamp lit so all may find a place at the table of peace.
May the Lords Peace be with you always.
You Tube Music Video: Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel
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
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
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.
Music: Donald Byrd Cristo Redentor
Risk: security, peace, war, good will of all people on earth
If President Bush sits atop the Dome of the Rock during his visit to Jerusalem and takes a 360 look around he will witness the widening concentric circles of war and violence that continue to expand throughout the region.
Looking north, Lebanon appears to be on the precipice of all out civil war. Iran and Syria are doing all they can to destabilize Lebanon’s weak government by supporting Hezbollah. They have formed some type of unholy alliance to flex their muscles with the development of a nuclear power infrastructure while they continue to extend their tentacles of influence into the civil war in Iraq.
Up the coast where Europe meets Asia, Turkey embarks on periodic bombing runs against the Kurds in Northern Iraq while Russia continues to put out pesky flareups in it’s former Black Sea Republics. To the south and down to the tip of the Red Sea, Ethiopia is being drawn into a war with Somalia and to the west the great powers of the world shadow box in Darfur, stoking the flames of a proxy war between Chad and Sudan. If Mr. Bush strains his neck, way to the east he’ll be able to see the continued disintegration of political stability of Pakistan, Islam’s only nuclear state and Afghanistan’s inability to shake the Taliban infection.
As Mr. Bush sits atop the holy space where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, where Jesus Christ proclaimed peace to the people on earth and where Solomon installed the Arc of the Covenant, it will serve the world well for him to look into his own soul and examine how his actions and inactions have contributed to the regions instability. The escalation of war and hostilities is never a harbinger of peace. War is averted and peace is won through negotiations, communications and the building of trust through the recognition and pursuit of shared interests and objectives.
As a Christian, Mr. Bush should be able to grasp the need to make sacrifices to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East. Mr. Bush’s ego may just be “the perfect sacrifice” the world needs to set the region on a track of peace. Mr. Bush can begin with a de-escalation of the rhetoric about Iran, speaking with Hamas representatives in Gaza and the immediate commencement of peace talks in line with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to end the war in Babylon.
Sacrifice is a sign of strength Mr. Bush. The alternative is ceding power to the regions growing conflicts. The overlapping rippling effects of these concentric disturbances threatens to immolate the entire region. Consider an Israeli bombing run on a nuclear reactor in Iran, or the fall of the Pakistani government to a Taliban friendly regime. It is time to make the perfect sacrifice Mr. Bush.
You Tube Video: Santana at Royal Albert Hall, Soul Sacrifice
Risk: Political, War, Middle East, Nuclear Exchange, Peace,