Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Davos Dithers While Cairo Burns

Per-Gynt-in-the-Hall-of-the-Mountain-King-Dovregubbens-Hall-1913_WEBB

In the pristine air of the Swiss Alps,  the worlds power elites gather at an annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.   In this rarefied Hall of the Mountain King’s, Prime Ministers, CEOs and the esteemed emissaries of the global elite get some valuable face-time with each other to assess the world situation and figure out ways to arrange it more to their likeness.   Russian Prime Minister Medvedev  was scheduled to give the welcoming address but had to cancel because a Chechen suicide bomber blew himself up in Moscow’s busiest airport taking a couple dozen travelers with him.

Busy looking inward to protect personal interests,  the fiduciaries of global solvency stew about regulatory overreach and the added burden it creates as the ruling elites balance the demands of worldly subsistence with the perplexities of generating sufficient cash flows to cover dividend payments to shareholders.  More often than not the heft of shareholder concerns outweighs the growing immiseration of the world’s troubled masses.  The deeply held sacred dogma that enlarged prosperity for the wealthy benefits the disenfranchised is being increasingly challenged as the wealth gap rises against a backdrop of growing economic duress and political instability.

The growing movement to topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak illustrates the failure of a global trickle down political economy.  Mubarak has held office since Anwar Sadat’s unceremonious removal from office  is receiving urgent signals from the Egyptians that he has clearly overstayed his welcome.  For three decades, Mr. Mubarak and his military caliphate have been the recipients of generous western aid packages designed to maintain a tenuous peace with Israel.  Stitched together at Camp David in the closing days of the Carter Administration; the sibling rivalry between Abraham’s jealous children remains incendiary and its stability will be tenuous at best considering the growing role of  The Muslim Brotherhood in challenging Mubarak’s continued rule.

The United States sends Egypt $1.5 billion in military aid each year.  Its seem a small price to pay to guarantee the peace with Zion and to  underwrite a strategic ally in the volatile Arab world.  It’s also a perfect political foil to counterbalance Israel’s favored nation status.   But US aid and IMF loans have financed Mubarak’s autocracy creating deep political fissures within Egypt.  These aid programs have widened the wealth gap by limiting opportunity to a select few; abetted political disenfranchisement that encouraged social unrest,  fueling Islamic radicalism and the urgent need for democratic reforms.

The game plan followed in Egypt for the past three decades is not working.  The nature of western aid to Egypt and how it was used to benefit the military ruling elites illustrate the conundrum of the Davos Hajiis.   Aligning economic development and political empowerment of the world’s disenfranchised with the needs of the global capitalist elites has failed to deliver on its promise.  The pursuit of Mule and  Sparrow economics have engorged the elites and left the many sparrows emaciated.

When the Davos delegates leave their ski chateaus for an afternoon on the slopes, as they exit the lifts at the top of the world, it may yet still be possible to glimpse the growing crowds amassing in Tahrir Square.  It may still be possible to connect the dots of promoting the inclusive economics of reciprocity and social democracy.  The revolutionaries gathering in Liberation Square  are joining with the dispossessed to give full voice for an agenda of change.

The elites have stored up too much wealth for themselves.  The masses have remained wanting, impoverished of goods and denied liberty, fed a steady diet of repression they stoke fires in Tahrir Square signaling the time for change has arrived.

Music selection: Edvard Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain Kings

Risk: Middle East, political stability, economic prosperity, global economy, democracy, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Davos, IMF, Israel, Tahrir Square, revolution, military rule, Jimmy Carter, Mule and Sparrow Economics, Camp David Accords, Medvedev, Anwar Sadat, World Economic Forum

 

 

 

January 30, 2011 Posted by | banking, corporate social responsibility, credit crisis, democracy, Egypt, history, Israel, Middle East, military, Muslim, politics, revolution, social unrest, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberty and Justice for All

Today is Gay Pride Day in New York City.  The march commemorates the Stonewall Uprising by Gay men in a Greenwich Village bar over 40 years ago.  Stonewall was a watershed event for everyone.  It was a poignant reminder to all people that a specific population of our citizens were the victims of harassment and repression because of their sexual identity.  Stonewall was a bold proclamation that the LGBT community would no longer suffer in silence and shame.  Refusing to be victimized,  LGBT people would courageously come out of the closet at great personal cost to claim their place at the table of the worlds great democratic republic.  It is the very same spirit and motivation that led to the creation of the United States and its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Sodomy Laws prohibiting homosexuality and its practice has been on the books of state and municipal law since the founding of our republic.   Jefferson wrote the first sodomy law in Virginia in 1778,  proposing castration for those found guilty of the act. Pretty amazing that during the height of the Revolution, Virginia took time to write laws prohibiting homosexuality.  I also find it a bit ironic that as revolutionaries were striking a blow to end the rule of a foreign tyrannical monarchy they would focus their attention to pass a tyrannical law aimed at repressing the rights for a portion of its citizens.

Sodomy laws find their inspiration and justification in a biblical certainty proclaimed by parties that remain painfully at odds with the promises and problems of secular democratic government.  Proponents of  laws prohibiting civil rights to LGBT offer a world view informed by Old Testament precepts and proscriptions authored two thousand years ago.  Their moral compass seems to be ruled more by a dogmatic creed enforced by a vengeful deity.  In their zeal to live a pious life they seem to miss the greater message that all God’s children enjoy full and equal rights in God’s Kingdom and that we demonstrate our love of God by extending that love to others.

Those that oppose equal and full rights of citizenship to all people are the avowed enemies of democracy.  Democratic republics cannot survive if it withholds any right or civil liberty to a group of its citizens based on a legislative distinction of acceptability.  Indeed, today’s proponents of laws like Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Laws, the prohibition of gays openly serving in the military or the denial of the right for a teenage girl to go to the prom with her girlfriend share a mindset more in common with the Taliban then our Founding Fathers.  We recoil in horror as we witness the divinely inspired handiwork of the Taliban and rise to meet it with a national resolve to assert and protect the sacred liberties offered by secular democratic governments.  Given a choice and a true understanding of what is at stake, I pray that my countrymen will join me in support of equal rights and civil liberties for all citizens.

Frederick Douglas’s famous quote that “power concedes nothing without demand”, is as relevant today as it was when the great abolitionist spoke these words.  Douglas states,  “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

We salute the Gay Pride Marchers as they step off  this morning  to remind us that liberty and justice for all remain beyond compromise and an absolute necessity for America to remain true this promise for all its citizens.

You Tube Music Video: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Get Up Stand Up

Risk: democracy, civil rights, 

June 27, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, legal, LGBT, politics, religion, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Healing on the Sabbath

There is a wonderful story in the New Testament from the Book of Matthew. It tells about a man Jesus discovers in a synagogue with a withered hand. The Pharisees who were the fundamentalists of their day asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Jesus answers that it is always lawful to do the right thing on the Sabbath. Jesus understood that The Divine Healer requires us always to be mindful as to how to respond to those in need even if that means violating supposedly sacred rules to do so.

The Republican Party opposition to the economic stimulus legislation reminds me of this story from the Gospel. The passage of the recovery bill in the congress was accomplished without one affirmative vote from the GOP. Almost every Republican to the last member cited concern about the country sliding into socialism. Taking a cue from lead party shill Rush Limbaugh, the self anointed demagogue and chief has been howling about the government sponsored recovery plan. Speaking for all Republicans, Rush states that government involvement will lead to the corruption of free market enterprise, ballooning administrative bureaucracies and the sure return of the debauchery of erstwhile earmarks splayed about in an orgy of pork barrel spending sprees.

The economy like the man with the shrived hand needs healing. He cannot find work if he is not healed. The doctor is in the house and being faithful to the Hippocratic Oath is compelled to heal despite the incantations of conservative demagogues of damnable results if ideological dogmas are violated.

An interesting historical analogy steeped in realpolitik can be found in a famous statement made by Deng Xiaoping as China’s disastrous Great Leap Forward was concluding. Said Deng: “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. It’s a good cat so long as it catches mice.” This was interpreted to mean that being productive is more important then upholding beliefs in communism or capitalism.

The leader of China at the time, Mao Tse-Tung saw this type of thinking as a great threat to his power. To consolidate his power and mitigate the threat Deng’s thinking represented, Mao launched the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution. Deng and his policies were rehabilitated years later only after the damage of the Cultural Revolution became apparent. The adoption of liberalized economic reforms and the eradication of ideological strictures has done wonders for China. Like Mao, the GOP demands ideological purity regardless of the effect. The United States has pursued the policies advocated by the GOP since the Reagan Administration. Those policies and philosophies have brought us to where we sit today. A moribund economy over dependent on a financial services industry, leverage and the availability of cheap credit.

President Obama’s recovery program is classic move taken from the Keynesian economics playbook. It offers a massive capital infusion into the economy that is funded by an increase in Federal debt and a generous tax cuts that should satiate the most rabid Reaganomic raconteur. Obama is not beholden to ideology. The Great Empiricist has proclaimed the death to all ideologies and is not beholden to the stale bread of old dogmas. Obama is willing and most able to craft solutions from tools and systemic loam to effect the cure. He might even resort to a dollop of supply-siderism and sprinkle a bitty bit of voodoo economics on the zombie republicans to get the American economy going again.

You Tube Video: Dr. John, Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya

Risk: economy, politics, recession

January 30, 2009 Posted by | economics, heal, Obama, recession, republicans, rock | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghetto of Fear

Banksy BangAmidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.

Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.

We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.

Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.

Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.

There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.

Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.

A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition.  Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.

Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.

Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.

We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.

The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.

We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.

You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, culture, democracy, faith, jazz, life, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Was a Child

On Thanksgiving Day in 1973 I trotted off a football field knowing I played my last game. In my mind I kept repeating the words, “when I was child I acted like a child and now its time to put away childish things.” Like many teenagers, athletics had been a very large part of my life and comprised a good portion of my identity of who I was as a person and how I defined myself. I was a good athlete but a not so good student. I intuitively realized that if I were to succeed in college I would have to devote the energy and attention to academics that I had previously given to athletics. So as I walked off that field with my team as league champions I knew it was time to put away childish things if I were to progress to the next stage of life as a young man. It was a turning point where a teenager begins a journey to manhood by stepping away from the loves of his youth.

President Obama’s Inaugural Address cited the same verse from Corinthians. Apostle Paul’s words are often cited at Christian weddings as testimony to the supremacy and power of love.  President Obama’s purpose in citing St. Paul was to wed Americans to his clarion call to come to the service of the nation in a dire hour of need. Yet on a deeper level the citation is more of a transformational call that asks us not to reassemble the vestiges of a broken past but to engage in the earnest work to grow into a more mature, sober and steadfast nation.

In the history of civilization the USA is a very young nation. Its been only 234 years since the America declared its independence to end colonial rule. As political cultures go we are but a precocious adolescent. Our adoringly daring and quixotic youthfulness has marveled the nations and people of the world. For the last century America has roamed about the aisles of the globe like a bull in a china shop at times seemingly ambivalent to the collateral damage the path of its will has wrought. The ego of an unrestrained adolescent is a difficult bull to tame. President Obama’s call to leave the childishness and sometimes foolish selfishness of youth is a call most worthy of our attention and may help to preserve this more perfect union for the future generations of citizens.

The stultifying behaviors Americans need to leave behind are numerous. None more so then the selfish sense of entitlement that warps our value system and cripples our sense of a shared humanity. Too many people believe that the pursuit of property is a divine right encoded into our cultural DNA entitling American’s to anything they can grab. Many believe this is codified in some celestial capitalist manifesto bill of rights that assures that we must be first in line, receive the greatest portion, can go through anyone or any thing to realize desires, can rationalize aggressive behavior with a socio-religio creedo “that God helps those who help themselves”, is recused from answering the question “when enough is actually enough”, and will act on the principle of “never ask permission because you can always apologize later”. Like a child tethered into a shopping cart seat grabbing everything off the supermarket shelves as his perplexed parent wanders down overstocked  isles  we need to recognize these behavior flaws and learn not to be slaves to them.

Many believe this sense of personal entitlement is the well earned dividend of American exceptionalism. But American exceptionalism is more a gift of grace then an entitled dividend. Yes America is an exceptional place because of its democratic ideals, affirmative culture and freedoms protected by our constitution. It is not about being above the rules all others must live by. American exceptionalism is about responsibility. This exceptionalism requires us to be stewards of our natural abundance and guardians of liberty’s light. The Pilgrims understood this well and thought that this would be the celestial yardstick by which the Beneficent One will judge the recipients of these divine gifts.

As a culture we have badly confused the meaning of freedom as a society with freedom to consume and acquire material things. Americans need to take only what one needs and bless their equitable share of apportionment. We need to share in the reward for responsibility that others assume while affording patience to let others equally deserving have their earned turn and make a genuine effort to give something back for the general good.

A definition of adulthood is one who accepts responsibility for choices. If American’s want to fight wars in Iraq we must be prepared to suffer the loss of opportunities the cost of war surely brings with it. If American’s don’t want to pay taxes they better be prepared to suffer the closing of the local firehouse, poor roads, dangerous bridges, decrepit schools, lax regulatory protections, no social security and masses of people falling through safety nets creating social discord and displacement. Mature adults prioritize what issues are most important and live with their choices. Americans need to make sober assessments of what is needed and discern wisely how it will act.

The healthy soul of a mature nation treasures the meaning of democracy and the responsibility its protection places on its citizens. That means serving on jury duty and voting in elections. That means getting involved in the schools and communities. That means preserving and strengthening public schools because the defeat of ignorance is liberty’s surest sentinel. That means transparency in government and an undying commitment to civil discourse and the protection of  liberty for all citizens.

Adults believe it is better to desire mercy then demand sacrifice. Americans must understand that the projection of its power as a nation is not measured in military capabilities but how effectively it can mitigate conflict with diplomacy, arbitration and the relentless pursuit of justice. Our nations expenditures and exertions in pursuit of war denigrates the respect for life, erodes our world leadership, bankrupts our treasury and defies the spirit of the people.

The time is now America. We must put away the childish things that prohibit our national growth. The clothes of our former selves no longer fit. We must don a new golden fleece that we alone can weave. As we take up the call of our new president to set aside childish things we will begin to perceive as we peer through the glass darkly a new vision of what we are capable of becoming. It is then that we will rightfully reclaim our birthright affirming that our nation is that shining light of liberty and freedom that cannot be extinguished.

That will be something to behold.

You Tube Video: Song of the Sirens, Go To Sleep Little Baby

Risk: refusing to grow up

January 23, 2009 Posted by | culture, democracy, folk, Obama | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator is a film done by Charlie Chaplin in 1940. The first scene from the film included here is Charlie Chaplin making an anti-fascist speech. The speech speaks volumes about our political condition today and the need to be ever watchful to guard our liberties and freedoms by safeguarding our humanity. In Chaplin’s time the threat was Nazism. In our time the threat is ambivalence, the allure of narrow nationalism, dehumanization of others, consumerism, faux patriotism and an ignorance of the essential tenants of a democratic republic and why they are critical to our freedom and liberty.

As Charlie Chaplin implores his countrymen to “fight for democracy not for your enslavement.” I ask that you carefully consider your vote and to most importantly exercise your vote and protect the right of others to participate in our great democracy. Its the humane thing to do.

Vote, use it or lose it.

Movie Video Clip: Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator Speech Scene

Movie Video Clip: Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator Globe Scene

Music Video: Glory

Risk: democracy, elections,

October 27, 2008 Posted by | democracy, elections, movie, soundtrack | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Joe the Plumber

The GOP has injected another populist caricature into the election campaign. Joe the Plumber joins Hockey Moms and Joe Six Pack as the holy trinity on whose rocks the Republican Party will make its stand.

Joe the Plumber from the swing state Ohio sounds like he could be from Jersey. Joe the Plumber said he wants to buy his bosses plumbing business. But Joe the Plumber doesn’t like Obama’s tax plan because he thinks it will force him to pay higher taxes on a $250,000 salary he hopes to earn someday. I don’t know of many plumbers that are making $250K a year. Many small business owners don’t have to take a salary or pay themselves a distribution from the profits of the business if it pushes them into a higher tax bracket. Joe the Plumber should see an accountant.

But that is not the point. Joe the Plumber wants to start a business and hire Joe Six Pack. Joe Six Pack needs a job so he can make car payments on the Chrysler minivan that his Hockey Mom wife drives to get the kids to practice.

Every four years The GOP seems to rediscover the common folk with a slew of populist rhetoric to run cover for their trickle down economics. The trickle down economics that have been practiced for the past 8 years have led to the abysmal economic mess we are now fighting to overcome.

McCain’s disingenuous socialist insinuation of wealth redistribution belies the fact that generous unfunded tax cuts, entitlement giveaways and unbridled corporate welfare have all been hallmarks of the recent GOP legacy. A kind of socialism for the rich.

This legacy has contributed to the broken down minivan in Ms. Hockey Mom’s driveway and the inability to afford the kids participation in the way too expensive hockey league. All this has left Joe Six Pack crying in his beer over his lost job and his resetting mortgage rate that he won’t be able to make payments on.

Obama’s tax plan will not discourage small business capital formation. On the contrary, Obama’s plan will reduce the tax burden on the middle class so they can hire Joe the Plumber to replace the old hot water heater and repair the leaky pipes under the kitchen sink. Duct tape just ain’t doing it anymore.

So with all the extra income in the hands of Joe Six Pack and Ms. Hockey Mom they will have the money to spend with Joe the Plumber and he will finally be able to buy that business from his boss.

Joe the Plumber should really be in the tank for Obama. Another GOP administration may forever flush away the possibility of Joe the Plumber’s dream of owning his own business.

Music Video: Plumbing Song, Weird Al Yankovich

Risk: small business taxation, capital formation, tax policy

October 16, 2008 Posted by | elections, McCain, Obama, Palin, politics, pop, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment