Monday, December 29, 2008

As the Season Ends

Another regular season in the NFL has come to an end. I, of course, have several observations.

First off, of course, the Giants. They have home field advantage and are the #1 seed. There is no one in the playoffs who the Giants cannot beat, most especially at home. They should go into the playoffs healthy and prepared. I think that they hit their low water mark against the Eagles and Cowboys (when the Giants were banged up) and played well against Carolina. True they lost to the Vikings yesterday, but it took the Vikings’ first string to defeat the Giants’ second string by one point. I am not overly concerned and am optimistic. I am, however, well aware, that they would not be the first #1 seed that is one game and out. Dallas learned that last year.

Speaking of Dallas....

The Cowboy are built like a Fantasy League All Star team. On paper, they have the most talent in the NFL. Their biggest problem is that Fantasy League All Star teams are on paper and the players do not have to play together. Football, in real life, is the consummate team sport. One All Star or even a handful of All Stars do not help you win. Quarterbacks need a solid offensive line, capable receivers, and a running back who can run enough to keep the pressure off the QB. The defensive side of the ball is much the same way. A great line with a bad secondary gets you nowhere. A great line helps a secondary a great deal; and conversely, great defenders aid in giving the line assistance by allowing blitzes. Last year the Giants won the Super Bowl with one All-pro player. One. The one thing they did have down, however, was an excellent concept of team. They were in it together, no matter what.

The Cowboys have Tony Romo. Poster boy. The next really big game he wins will be his first.

But, if I own the Cowboys and want to fix them, and have a shot as being a team, the first thing I do is cut Terrell Owens. Owens is a terrific receiver and capable of making really big plays, but he’s toxic to a team. He is disruptive in the locker room, always in front of cameras after games and motivates opponents like no other. Perhaps worst of all, however, in huddles he says the worst four words a quarterback can hear over and over again. “Throw it to me.” No matter how good the quarterback is, it is difficult to get past this and they will try and will look at that receiver first, often missing open guys. Worse is that they often attempt to force passes in when they should throw it elsewhere. The Giants had a player like this in Jeremy Shockey and when he got hurt, Manning got better. A lot better. Additionally, Jerry Jones ought to hire a football professional as his GM and get out of there.

Of course, actually, they should keep TO and Jerry should stay involved. It’s certainly better for the other teams in the NFC East...

It’s good that San Diego won the division. After Ed Hochuli hosed them earlier in the season against the Broncos, this was a just win. It is sad, however, that an 8-8 division winner is in the playoffs and the Patriots were 11-5 and didn’t make the playoffs. And Arizona is 9-7 and won their division. Oh, and the Colts are 12-4 and the Chargers have home field advantage against them. Weird.

The Jets bet the farm that Brett still had it in him. They forget that older players tend to fade later in the season. Also, Chad Pennington was NOT going to lose this game. After being unceremoniously dumped he had something to prove. And he did. This cost Mangini his job. Mangini demonstrated in his career with the Jets that he was far better at whining than winning...

The sad thing is that they will blame all of this on Brett Favre. Too much rested on him and no player can do it all.

The Falcons and the Dolphins deserve a lot of accolades. These are two, classy organizations that got the short end of the stick with coaches and some players. They came out on top this year and did it well.

It was good to see Michael Bush of U of L have a breakout game in Oakland. Oakland made a smart pick with him and had the patience to let him heal. They actually have some talent. They need a good coach and for Al Davis to stay out of things.

I always love how people say how bad Donovan McNabb is and then he comes back and is brilliant. He has always been really good. This is a team that never runs and hasn’t had a solid power runner and hasn’t had very good receivers for a long time. Yet, everyone wanted to blame McNabb. Then pinheads, one in particular decided to RUSH in and decree him to be over-rated. Give the guy the right players and he’ll kill you. Unfortunately the Eagles seem to finally have receivers...

Lovie Smith seems to be in the Brian Billick school of coaching. You don’t need a top flight quarterback... They both made it to the Super Bowl one time and then....

Did the Cowboys fold against the Eagles or what? Oh yeah, high priced talent, Roy Williams and the ever brilliant Adam Pacman Jones....

And lastly, the Lions. I’d make no one untouchable and make some trades to get some higher caliber players in. Besides that, if you spread some of the current people around the league you’ll make other teams worse!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mike Lupica's Column on Dick Cheney

My favorite sports writer is Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News. I grew up reading the Daily News and I read it every day online. Considering that I am a lover of New York sports teams (have I mentioned anything about the Giants???), I read the sports section regularly and I like Lupica the best.

This article appears in today's (December 22, 2008) Daily News and Lupica is reflecting on Dick Cheney. There aren't many columns by Lupica written that are not about sports, but this one is worth sharing:
Mike Lupica

I'll be thrilled to see you go, Dick Cheney

Monday, December 22nd 2008, 3:33 AM

Pellaschiar/AP

U. S. Vice President Dick Cheney is saying goodbye, not a moment too soon for his many detractors.

At least Dick Cheney, as wrong a guy as we've ever had this close to the presidency, goes out in character, thinking that he and George W. Bush were right about everything. The problem is that Cheney's character now sounds as weird and unhinged as Jack Nicholson's in "A Few Good Men."

There was Cheney on the Fox television network Sunday, always more a home to him than Yankee Stadium is to Derek Jeter, defending the last days of a dying administration and a dying Republican empire, defending Bush and Iraq and Donald Rumsfeld, defending Guantanamo and torture and surveillance and all the rest of it.

Cheney never got around to defending Scooter Libby, the felon who was once his chief of staff, but maybe that was because he ran out of time.

He did go after Joe Biden big Sunday, because Biden said during the campaign that Cheney was the most dangerous vice president the country has ever had.

"If [Biden] wants to diminish the office of vice president, that's obviously his call," Cheney said to Chris Wallace.

No, Cheney is the one who diminished that office. He goes now, and not a moment too soon. When Wallace asked him Sunday about polls showing the approval rating for this administration at 29%, Cheney shrugged and said, "Eventually you wear out your welcome in this business."

He made it sound as if that was something that happened just the other day. The truth is, Cheney wore out his welcome a long time ago the way this President did, long before the economy tanked, because of a war in Iraq that he wanted more than anybody.

But then Cheney, whose five deferments during the Vietnam War were an all-time world record for a major American politician, has always loved any war that he didn't actually have to fight himself.

Dick Cheney also had this to say about Joe Biden Sunday:

"I think that President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president. And apparently, from the way they're talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I've had during my time."

He sure did have a consequential role under Bush, had the kind of influence no vice president has had in many decades. It is one reason the world is a more dangerous place now than it was nearly eight years ago, no matter how much he and George W. Bush take bows for everything they've done since Sept. 11. As if it has been the two of them on that mythical wall that Nicholson kept yelling at Tom Cruise about in the movies, the one Nicholson said we desperately needed him to defend.

Yesterday Chris Wallace said to Cheney, "If the President during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?"

"General proposition, I'd say yes," Cheney said.

And Nixon told David Frost, quite prominently, that when the President does something, it's not illegal. From the beginning with Cheney, even more than with Bush, the law was whatever he said it was.

He goes out the door as stubborn and defiant and out of touch as ever, talking about the way he defended and protected the Constitution. Talking now because soon nobody will care what he says. Saying that history will be so much kinder to him and Bush than their current critics. It can only mean Cheney believes history is dumber than Donald Rumsfeld's postoccupation strategy in Iraq.

What history will determine, more accurately, is that Cheney - who came to his position from a company called Halliburton, the home office for war profiteering - tried to hijack the Constitution, with the war in Iraq and just about everything else.

"I was a Rumsfeld man," he said on Fox on Sunday, talking about the secretary of defense eventually fired by George Bush two years ago.

Of course he was a Rumsfeld man. They were going to take out Saddam Hussein and be "greeted as liberators," as Cheney said, "in the streets of Baghdad." They were going to finish the job that Cheney felt George W. Bush's father, Bush 41, didn't finish in the first Gulf War. Bush 41, an actual war hero of this country, clearly wasn't tough enough for Dick Cheney, who would have said or done anything to start a war with Iraq.

But there were never weapons of mass destruction, and Cheney didn't know or didn't care or both. Now more than 4,000 men and women from our armed forces are dead, and the number of wounded and maimed is beyond imagination. And on his way out the door, having diminished his office and this country's standing around the world, Cheney is still going to tell you all about it.

This was more his war than his President's, more than Rumsfeld's. He seemed willing to say anything to justify it. Scooter Libby was willing to do even more than that. It is why Libby ended up getting himself convicted of lying and obstruction of justice for his role in the Valerie Plame case, forcing Bush to grant Libby executive clemency and commute his sentence.

But it is Cheney, Libby's old boss, who seems unable to tell the truth about the last eight years in America. It is why the movie to talk about with him really isn't "A Few Good Men." It is "Dr. Strangelove."

The Earth Shook and the Wind Blew!

The Giants running backs are known as Earth, Wind, and Fire. Last week the Giants were without Brandon Jacobs, aka, Earth.

Jacobs us 6'4 and 265 pounds which is roughly the size of a defensive end. Jacobs actually has good speed and good moves, but his hallmark is running at people and running over them. He batters an opposing defense.

Derick Ward is Wind. He's not as big and has great moves and has a lot of speed.

The Giants, after playing puny for two weeks came back to life against Carolina in the biggest game of the season. The Earth shook and the Wind blew for over 300 rushing yards against the NFL's hottest team.

Now, the Giants are the NFC #1 seed. They were the #5 seed last year and all the playoff games were on the road. Now all their games will be in the Meadowlands.

And one thing for sure. Winning the Super Bowl last year. Remember, the fluke?

It wasn't.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Great Lesson of Christmas


The Puritans did not really celebrate Christmas. It is not that they didn’t believe in the birth of Jesus or that they wanted to eliminate the infancy narratives from the Bible, but they did believe that a huge celebration of Christmas was paramount to missing the point about the coming of the Messiah.

Much of our celebration of Christmas comes from Germany. Gathering around a Christmas tree and singing carols comes from beloved German traditions that have become a part of our lives. Christmas is not just for Germans any longer.

A friend of mine once went to Japan and he said that in Tokyo they celebrated Christmas in a huge way. Christianity has never really been accepted in large sectors of Japan and the influence of Christ on that country is minimal. However, the influence of Santa Claus is huge and so they celebrate the “Santa Claus Christmas.”

In all reality there are two Christmas celebrations. One is about the birth of Jesus and the other is the coming of Santa. They run concurrently and we celebrate both, something as one, but, in many ways, separate. Often we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus on Christmas morning.

In the Gospels the birth of Jesus is not as huge an event as often perceived. In the four Gospels, Jesus’ birth is only mentioned in two, Matthew and Luke. And, if you read the two Gospels you’ll find remarkably different stories.

In Matthew and angel tells Joseph, in a dream, what is going to take place in Mary’s body. In Luke the angel comes and tells Mary and mentions nothing to Joseph.

In Luke there is no room at the Inn. In Matthew Jesus is born at home in Bethlehem.

There are shepherds in Luke; wise men in Matthew.

John the Baptism is Jesus’ cousin in Luke but Luke has no star. Matthew has a star, but there is no mention of John the Baptist being related to Jesus.

There really are only two things the stories have in common. They have common parentage with Mary being a virgin and God being the Father; and the birth takes place in Bethlehem. We generally meld the two narratives together to develop the beloved story, often missing the fact that the story is less about grandiosity and awe, and more about the humble and anonymous birth of the Messiah.

The people had prayed for a Savior and God heard their prayers. And while looking to the Heavens waiting for the Messiah to show up on a cloud surrounded by singing angels, the Messiah was born in an occupied land to a peasant couple with no fanfare and little notice to anyone.

At the time people who knew how God was sending the Messiah. They were all wrong. God moved as God chose to move and people missed it.

I am constantly reminded, at Christmas, never to presume I know all that much about God and what God wants and how God is going to move. I hear a lot of people who know all of this, who know God, who know what God wants, and who will tell everyone they know how God is going to move.

But I am reminded that on the most important issue of all, the coming of the Messiah, the people who knew were all wrong. The only people who truly ‘got it’ were a peasant couple no one had ever heard of. And such is the great lesson of Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren and Barack Obama

Rick Warren is giving the Invocation at the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Good idea?

Bad idea?

Obama's point is admirable. He is deliberately choosing a person with whom his disagrees on some significant issues. It is showing an amazing amount of tolerance on the part of Obama.

It is interesting to note that on the same day that Obama chose a man who was one of the leaders in California in overturning a gay rights law, Obama made his strongest statement ever on his affirmation of gay rights. It was, in fact, the strongest statement ever by an American President.

I really don't know the answer. On one hand, Warren is a fundamentalist and a Calvinist. I could not disagree with him more on his theological positions. Many, if not most of his social positions are very much in line with the Religious Right. On the other hand, Warren has shown greater concern for poverty and climate issues than many from this perspective. He has also been significantly more respectful of people who have differing opinions of him. One commentator opposing him referred to him as Jerry Falwell in a Hawaiian shirt. My sense of Falwell is that he used Christianity as a defense for his own bigotry; and I don't see this about Warren.

Conversely, Obama has been spiritually nurtured by the Religious Left. a perspective that is largely unknown and ignored by the mainstream media. It might have been an amazing thing to have chosen someone from this perspective.

Or, from a purely political perspective, Obama choosing a young face in the Religious Right might mean that he is seeking votes from that portion of the population many of whom are disenchanted by much of the hate and the bigotry that was often promulgated by the likes of Jerry Falwell. It just might be a shrewd move on his part. Or a cynical move. Who knows.

The one thing I do wonder about is this. Obama seems to be demonstrating a great deal of generosity towards a person and a perspective with which he doesn't agree. I wonder if that generosity would be or will be reciprocated.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Amazing

I find it amazing.

Some fool in Iraq takes his shoes off and throws them at President Bush. The President ducks and the first one misses him demonstrating quick reflexes. The second one he sees coming and dodges it. In postmortems the President pretty laughed the event off.

But then the amazing stuff happened. All the networks had 'special analysts' on to explain what happened. The analysis went like this. If a person takes his or her shoes off their feet, and throws those shoes at a person speaking in front of the group, that demonstrates disrespect on the part of the shoe thrower and a contempt for the potential receiver of the flying shoe.

So, in the Middle East, if you take a shoe off and throw it at someone, it is an act of disrespect and contempt.

As opposed to the United State where, when you take a shoe off and throw it at someone, it is an act of, what, respect and high regard?

At the Party Conventions this past summer not one speaker for either party was given the respect of having shoes thrown at them. Either this demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the speakers or, in the United States, if you take a shoe off and throw it at someone, it is an act of disrespect and contempt. Which, of course, it obviously is.

I am not an expert on all things cultural but if someone had called me up and asked me what the thrower was trying to express to the President, I would have at least guessed on the disrespect angle. Duh.

I guess that there isn't too much else in the news.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Random Observations

Say what you will about George W. Bush. He had great reflexes. When the guy threw the shoes at him he ducked at just the right time. The second throw was not a big deal because he was prepared. But Bush did a great job not getting hit on the first go around.

Speaking of President Bush....is it my imagination is it he and the Democrats working together in opposition to the Republicans in Congress? It is ironic because he generally offered no compromises with the Democrats before and now seems in love with their ideas.

Rod Blagojevich is not going to have a happy Christmas season. Where does one begin with him? Does one observe that we ought never elect a person with a name no one can pronounce? Do we not vote for people who use Miracle Grow as a hair treatment? It sounds like virtually everyone knew he was corrupt and remained silent. No one, however, seems to be passing an opportunity to toss him over the side of the ship. Sad thing is that this fool totally deserves it. What a sleaze! The best thing he did for Obama was to call Obama a word the speaks of maternal incest. What a sleaze! At this level of sleaziness and dishonesty and maggotry about the only thing left would be to be a host on talk radio.

In watching the football game last night, it struck me that the next time Tony Romo goes to Cabo for a romantic getaway, he should take John Madden instead of Jessica Simpson. Madden just couldn't stop speaking about how wonderful Romo is. The man sounds absolutely smitten!

Part of the difficulty of the McCain/Palin campaign was an utter cluelessness about technology. There were tons of Blackberries handed out with contact information, private e-mails, phone numbers, cell phone numbers, and many e-mails on them. The campaign decided to sell these off for $20.00 a piece which is really, really cheap so they got rid of them all very quickly. BUT, they had the mistaken notion that if you let the battery run down, all the data would vanish. They know nothing about flash memory and so all these Blackberries hit the market with contact information, private e-mails, phone numbers, cell phone numbers, and private e-mails on them. They didn't realize that they had to erase the data. My ability to be dazzled and amazed is, again, stretched...

Caroline Kennedy looks like she's really interested in New York's Senate seat. One pol in New York warbled on about how unprepared she is. I guess the fact that she's one of the country's leading Constitutional scholars is not a big deal...

Sarah Palin's turkey slaughter turkey got a lot of money on E-bay. In watching that scene, I keep having to remind myself, this is not Tina Fey, this is not Tina Fey, this is not Tina Fey....

People always weep this time of year for college students. Papers are due and exams are there to be taken. Been there, done that. There is a group, however, who truly do deserve our sympathy. We ought to really pity the professors who must sit and read the masterpieces their students have written. I've actually taught some classes on a college level and was amazed to discover that many students and the English language are not on speaking (or at least) writing terms...

Monday Morning NFL Musings

Only two games left in the regular season.

My Giants are not looking good. In the last two games their offense has been downright offensive. They have only scored one touchdown and it was a garbage touchdown at the end of the Eagles game. Last night against Dallas the offensive line of the Giants did mostly LOOK OUT! blocking for Eli and the performance was abysmal. They have injuries and people out and an offensive game plan that is still including what they do not have. This is a bad time for them to have gone so completely flat.

Interesting note about last night's game, however. It was a critical game for Dallas, not so much for the Giants. The Giants are playing for a bye week and which seed they will be. NEXT week, win or lose last night, is the really critical game. They are in trouble, however, as they are flat, flat, flat and Carolina is torrid. The Giants end the season against an excellent Panthers team and the Vikings who have an amazing hex on Eli Manning. The Giants may have already won their last game this year. We'll see what happens next week.

The Falcons seem to be the real deal. Talk about a turnaround. Oh, and the Redskins are obviously pretenders. I'll give the Bengals credit; they may be a lousy team but they've played the NFC East teams tough. As for the Bengals, I would update my resume if I was Marvin Lewis. The Bengals should hire Steve Kragthorpe. He will enable them to maintain their misery and help alleviate the misery at U of L...

Some really bad officiating this year. At the Seattle/St. Louis game an official used the Jumbo tron to call a penalty. Terry Holt has called him out on it. Holt will get fined for telling the truth. So will the Ravens Head Coach who had a call reversed giving the Steelers a touchdown when, it was painfully obvious the plane had not been broken. When games turn on the calls of officials instead of the play on the field, that is wrong.

It's hard to believe that the Packers were in last year's NFC Championship game and that the Falcons and Dolphins were so woeful. I really like the Packers and they are an amazing organization. I suspect that a lot of blame will go on Aaron Rodgers but he is a young quarterback and it is a tough league. The reality for the Packers, however, is a porous defense. Defense wins championships.

The team I really felt bad for yesterday were the Chiefs. The game just slipped away. What a painful way to lose.

Detroit obviously has some good players. The Colts offense was way too much for them, but the Lions can get a whole lot better with some new players coming in. The sad thing about them is that they are a team loaded with high draft picks!

Who are the best teams right now?

In the NFC I think that the Panthers are the team to beat. They are solid and they are hot at the right time.

In the AFC I'm probably wrong, but I have some thoughts. I am not a big believer in the Titans. I've seen Kerry Collins close up and he does not come up big in big games. Collins is one of those guys who, when he is good, is very, very good, and when he is bad, he is awful. I don't believe he will take the Titans to the Super Bowl and, least of all, win it.

I'm also not that enthused about the Steelers. Frankly, I am not a big believer in Big Ben. He can get careless and he doesn't have the team he had a few years ago when they really didn't need him to play big in the Super Bowl.

In the AFC, I'd put my chips on the Colts. They are playing well at the right time and I think that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL. And, yes, even is Brady was healthy, I'd choose Manning over him in a heartbeat. And Manning can come up big when he needs to.

It would be great to see a Manning bowl this year but I doubt it's going to happen unless the Giants rediscover their talent.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Colin Powell's Comments

Colin Powell made a recent observation that he believed that Sarah Palin is a person who is one of the more polarizing figures on the political stage and exemplifies the growing polarization of and in the Republican Party. Interesting to note, in recent polling data, her approval rating across the nation is in the 30's and amongst the Republican base is in the 70's.

She is, it appears, part of the contingent of the party that sees itself as more ideological that pragmatic. Solutions are found by sticking to an ideology and if the ideology doesn’t work, stick with it anyway, because it will some day. People who listen to Rush Limbaugh here this kind of rhetoric all the time. It’s always fun to note that these theories are labeled as principles whether they prove to work or not.

It is interesting to see the demographics of the last election. Cities and college towns voted overwhelming for Obama. Small rural areas voted overwhelming for McCain. Sarah Palin played into this by intimating that real American values come from small towns and the rural areas. For people who grew up in large cities or major metropolitan areas, her words were and are personally insulting. Colin Powell said that he was raised in the South Bronx and there is nothing wrong with his values. Indeed, many people who are good, upstanding citizens, were raised in cities and major metro areas.

Part of the problem is that what built the nation is often misconstrued. Throughout the campaign the Republican candidates repeatedly said that the United States was built on small businesses. In small towns and rural areas that is certainly true. However, in large cities and major metropolitan areas, the United States was built on manufacturing. It was the large factories that employed people and the mass production of products that changed the course of American life.

Before World War II people marveled at American production and we were seen as people who loved to manufacture fun things for ourselves. Hermann Goering noted that the United States would never be a manufacturing threat because we were too busy building cars and making razor blades. Pearl Harbor and our entry into the war demonstrated that our manufacturing ability could turn on a dime. We built tanks and planes in such a quantity that we fought two wars at the same time, and won both, decisively.

Unlike Karl Rove who sought a permanent Republican majority I see the nation through a different lens. I see a nation that needs at least two, probably more political parties. If for nothing else, having opposition keeps one honest. The old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is certainly true. No one party should have all branches of the government for very long-----unless they do a magnificent job------and we haven’t seen that as of yet.

For the Republicans, it is time to get back into the game. Colin Powell is right. Sara Palin and people like her are polarizing and will never reach people in the cities and major metro areas. I guess I’d decree her fifteen minutes of fame to be over, and find someone a lot smarter, a lot better educated, and a lot more pragmatic than her to be in a leadership position.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Random Observations

I am not sure about how I feel about 'bailing out' the automobile industry. If any group deserves to go down in flames, they do. This is most especially true of GM. On the other hand, the collapse of the automobile manufacturing industry impacts such wide swaths of the country and of the economy. What is interesting to note is that the Washington crew was delighted to wine, dine, and pay the bankers, but they bristled at the big three----who represent some of the last vestiges of American industry. People like to say that the nation was build on small businesses whereas it's probably really built on factories. Or it was. It is ironic to note that as factories have collapsed, so has the American economy.

Cal Thomas wrote a column speaking about pessimism in America and how people need to have hope. I guess he missed the crowds on election night who seemed to be delighted and celebrating hope. I guess when your guy loses pessimism sets in. I guess Cal needs to get out more.

OJ Simpson will probably spend a lot of years in jail. I do hope that people are able to get over the sadness of this....

I have a sense that George W. Bush is not going to miss being the President very much. I can't blame him.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Real Life and Pro Sports


Plaxico Burress is the wide receiver on the New York Giants who caught the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. In the NFC Conference championship game, he torched the Packer’s defense in a way they had not been abused all season. Burress is an incredibly talented player and was, up to this year, a major star for the New York Giants. Last year he played in great pain and people often reflected on his courage to play through pain.

This year has been a different story. He signed a huge contract and played a great first game of the season and other than that, was not a huge factor in the Giants’ success this season. Personal issues and, frankly, stupidity on his part, led him to a suspension and he was also injured again. He was becoming a distraction on a very solid team that increasingly looked like didn’t need him very much.

On Friday night, wearing a lot of ‘bling’ and carrying wads of cash, Burress showed off a gun he had in his pocket to protect him from criminals. During the course of the evening, he was fumbling with the weapon and it fired and the bullet went through his thigh. The good news is that it was essentially a flesh wound that left little damage and will be fine. The bad news is that carrying that gun in New York City was a felony that has a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 ½ years.

It is looking like his next games might be in the penal league with Michael Vick throwing passes to him. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg weighed in and suggested that if Burress is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, it would be a travesty. When the judge imposed bail of $100,000.00 it signaled that the New York criminal justice system is not playing games with Burress. Burress could easily afford bond, but the amount of the bond is steep.

In recent years we have seen several professional athletes caught up in major legal problems and even jail time. A tragic issue with this is that as they face the criminal justice system and even jail time, they have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look of bewilderment.

The problem? Often the star players in high school get very special, some would say, pampered treatment. People often identify with the high school teams and they want their teams to do well. Often teachers and administrators are willing to overlook some things to accommodate these great athletes.

In college these young folks are often given major scholarship money and the best accommodations on campus so they can play on the school team. Again, many colleges use sports to help define who they are. And, again, often things are overlooked with the star athletes that might not be overlooked with other students.

If you have ever watched some of the pro players in the NFL or the NBA being interviewed and they sound like they are barely literate, it is chilling to note that they have high school diplomas and four years of college. Many or most of them do not have degrees from the colleges, only trophies from their triumphs on the field of play. It should be noted, however, that Penn State football players have a very high percentage of graduates. Whatever one thinks of Joe Paterno, he has high expectations of his players in their conduct and their academic performance. Sadly, very few see him as a role model for a college coach, whereas he ought to be.

Then they become pros. The professional sports leagues offer big, big money. Many of these players can barely read and they are making an annual salary higher than their local high school’s annual budget. They have big money, and buy big houses, and fast cars, and live life in the fast line. All the while there is the expectation that they are protected because they are the team’s star player.

And then they rape a woman.

Or they sponsor dog fights.

Or they kill or attack someone.

Or they shoot themselves in the leg with an illegal gun.

Or they get drunk and drive.

The list is endless. And suddenly they find themselves arrested by police officers who are unwilling to overlook something because this perpetrator is a star.

They come before judges who see them first as the defendant that they are, and less as a player on a team.

They are placed before juries of people who are working hard for a lot less money and who obey the law.

Plaxico Burress is in big trouble. He carried a loaded gun in a city where carrying a loaded gun is a felony. He is facing a mandatory sentence of at least 3 ½ years. His only hope is that he is able to make some sort of plea agreement where he gets less time. It is hard to imagine, probably impossible, for him not to spend time in prison.

The NFL, of late, has recognized that they have a problem on their hands with players running amuck and breaking the law. The NFL has taken this seriously and lots of players have been suspended for significant period of time costing them major money. Many teams have been unwilling to sign such players.

The Giants are, like they always have been, a family-owned team by families with fine reputations. Tom Coughlin and his high expectations of players and their conduct is a reflection of a franchise that has been around a long time. The Giants have proven themselves to be more than willing to remove players on their roster who have become distractions.

When pampered people get away with a lot and they confront a society that is less tolerant than their school or teams, they have that deer in the headlights look of horror. How can they be doing this to me?

Perhaps this is a statement or a reminder that pampering people or loosening the rules for star players do little good for the schools, and ultimately does very little good for the players. Real life is out there waiting for everyone; even the star of the team.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Compassion

The video on this site was shared with me via Bluegill and it is amazing.

The Charter for Compassion is being led by Karen Armstrong and the video that is part of this post is an explanation by her, as well as others, about what this is all about.

It grieves me that, in our day and age, religion is perceived to be about judgment and condemnation. The whole premise of 'hate the sin but love the sinner,' seems almost like a hollow shell because that 'hate' aspect seems to seep about more than the 'love' aspect. It reminds me of segregation where 'separate but equal,' didn't really mean equal. It just makes cruelty appear to be more acceptable.

Karen Armstrong is an amazing scholar and author is has a grasp and love that goes beyond one world religion as she finds so much to share in all of them. Her autobiography, "Through the Narrow Gate," is a painful journey of her life as a young nun that is both beautiful and painful. It is one of my favorite books. This video is amazing and that's about all I can say about it!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Running and Governing

On Wednesday morning two people woke up. John McCain woke up, looked around the room and pondered his loss. Then he realized that the mess that is the United States is now not really his mess. He is one of 100 Senators, but he’s not the point guy on this. I suspect he got out of bed and breathed a sigh of relief.

Barack Obama woke up elated that he had one and been the recipient of a great deal of praise from the masses. Then he realized that the mess that is the United States is now his mess. He is no longer one of 100 Senators and he is now the point guy on this. I suspect he wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over his head.

Of course, I jest. A little.

Barack Obama ran what many people believe was one of the most brilliant, if not the most brilliant, Presidential Campaigns in history. Whether one likes the man or not, one must look at his campaign and be impressed. He defeated the Clinton Machine; a machine that the Republican Party could never master. Obama beat them. He beat the Republican Machine, a machine that had won six of the last nine Presidential Elections.

Say what you will about George W. Bush. He defeated a popular Texas Governor, Ann Richards. No one expected her to lose. Governor Richards was quintessential Texas, brash, bold, and fun. She could send out zingers with the best of them and she was popular. Bush defeated her. He defeated Gore when Gore was running as an incumbent Vice President after a Presidency with high approval ratings. He defeated Kerry despite Bush’s own dismal performance in the debates. He, of course, was helped by Karl Rove whose philosophy was to run to your base and burn your opponent at the stake.

The problem George W. Bush had was that he knew how to run but didn’t really know how to govern. Karl Rove set about making a permanent Republican majority and his plan was to govern like they had run. Run to your base and burn your opponents at the stake. They got things through for a while but ultimately things fell apart. Iraq didn’t go as planned. Afghanistan didn’t go as planned. The economy didn’t go as planned. There were telling moments.

When Donald Rumsfeld told the nation that you go to war with the equipment you have, in reference to the failure to have proper armor on vehicles, it was mind boggling. The United States invaded another country with our own time line. It was a staggering moment.

Another classic moment was Bush praising Brownie for doing a heck of a job with Katrina. Hmm. No.

I think that the classic moment was when the Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who was Michael Brown’s boss, was discussing Katrina relief (or lack thereof), in a news conference. All morning on CNN the nation was witnessing the carnage in the downtown civic center. Dead bodies, human waste everywhere. No water, just total chaos. When Chertoff was asked about how they were going to deal with this he said that he was unaware that there was a problem. The press reporters on the scene were taken aback. He didn’t know...

Finally one asked him, “Don’t you people ever turn on a television?”

The fact that Michael Chertoff had a job the next day continues to amaze me. He’s still in that role.

The permanent Republican majority did not last long. The last two elections have been devastating for Republicans. They are a party divided by people with a Randian world view or an Religious Right world view, or people trying to embrace both of these world views not recognizing they are polar opposites of each other. They have been, as a party, cast into the wilderness.

For them, the good news is that groups cast into the wilderness generally always find their way back. Being cast out makes people reflect on who they are and what they are and what their vision ought to be about. John McCain is a remarkably good man who ran a campaign with a lot of tactics but no strategy because he was the leader of a party that had no mission.

Years ago General Motors attempted to sell a car in South America and Mexico. It was the Chevy Nova. The car was fine but the sales were dismal. No one had though to recognize that the words no va, in Spanish, means ‘no go,’ or ‘doesn’t go.’

We now have a new President-elect, Barack Obama. Obama ran an amazing campaign and did things no one else ever did. I have never seen such a national reaction (even world wide reaction) to the election of an American President. The man ran a great campaign.

But so did George W. Bush. Bush’s Presidency failed because he could run a great campaign, but he didn’t have a clue as to actually how to govern.

Barack Obama has demonstrated that he can run but we do not know how well he can or will govern. His critics will scoff and point out that he can’t because he lacks the experience. They ought to be ignored because he hasn’t demonstrated that he can’t. No one can make that judgment until after he attempts to do so.

Of course, the same is true of his supporters. They also can’t be trusted because he has proven he knows how to run, but hasn’t demonstrated that he can govern. No one can make that judgment until after he attempts to do so.

The amazing thing about American Democracy is that we can and do change leaders peacefully. It does not require violence in the streets. It does not require storming the White House and eliminating the First Family. (Thank the Lord!)

It requires an election and the people of the nation get to make a choice. It is an amazing system, an amazing model.

When Franklin Roosevelt died in April of 1945 the leaders of Nazi Germany was ecstatic. They believed that this would mean that all the American troops would be withdrawn and that they might still have a chance. To their chagrin, Harry Truman was sworn in and nothing much changed. The American Army was not called him for the coup, they continued to fight for their country. The Nazis could not believe this.

We are a country greatly blessed with a great system. The system ultimately requires a person who knows how to run in order to win; then it hopes that the person who wins can govern. And, thankfully, if they do poorly at this, the system allows us to make the change.

The United States has elected a new President. George W. Bush will go home and his Presidency will await its verdict in history. I suspect it will not be very good as he seemed to be able to run better than he could govern.

Barack Obama will move into the White House and he will be given the opportunity to govern. I hope and pray that he does so wisely and well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some Very Impressive Coaching in the NFL

There has been some very impressive coaching in the NFL this year. Some very competent coaches have done a really fine job with their teams. Here are a few that come to mind.

Jim Zorn of the Washington Redskins. This is a team that has drafted and formulated itself in an erratic fashion and has a too 'hands on' owner. They looked awful in the first half of game one, but have played extremely well since then.

Jim Hostler of the Baltimore Ravens took a very undisciplined team with no offense and a strong defense and transformed it. They are a tough team; far tougher than people expected them to be.

Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons walked into the position almost no one wanted. The only head coaching position worse than this might have been the Oakland Raiders. Smart drafting and, some key free agent pick ups, and excellent coaching and system around a rookie quarterback has made this team a really strong contender.

Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins took over one of the worst teams in the league and they are now playing .500 ball. That is a huge improvement. They are more disciplined, have a better quarterback, and have shown some offensive innovation. Great job at the halfway mark.

Jeff Fisher of the Titans. Always a tough competitor and a person who patiently rebuilt a team after they had lost so many players. He had the smarts to keep Kerry Collins in there when Vince Young was such a high draft pick. Fisher is smart enough to know that an experienced pocket passer will win more games than a young runner who can throw. Sometimes.

Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. I really had to include this team. Most everyone expected last season to be Coughlin's last. Giants' fans had wanted the previous season to have been his last. Thankfully people's expectations were not met and Coughlin, who has always won, might be doing his best coaching. He has built a deep, strong team and has them ravenously hungry to win the Super Bowl again. Anyone who wondered if the Giants would let down after last season underestimated Tom Coughlin.

On the downside:

Herman Edwards of the Chiefs has always been overrated.

Wade Phillips of the Cowboys is a really solid defensive coordinator. That's about it. He looks lost on the sidelines.

Marvin Lewis took over the struggling Bungles and if he is fired after this season, they will still be the struggling Bungles. Lack of discipline, lack of vision, lack of of great leadership is their problem and Lewis is not the solution.

Bobby Petrino. This is just in case he shows up in Oakland or something.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday's NFL Post-Game

First, in a non-NFL game, I saw the Ball State Cardinals play on Saturday. They are Indiana's only ranked college team and they are quite a good team. Very, very impressive performance by them.

First off, the Giants and the Steelers was a key matchup. Two 5-1 teams and questions were being asked if one was a pretender or if these were two quality teams. The answer was the latter. This was one hard fought game and the hitting was intense. I was frustrated with the Giants' offense for running so much, even uneffectively. I realized this morning, however, that Eli was barely touched and their running game kept the Steelers' pass rush at bay. The Steelers played great goal line defense, but 4 field goals do add up to points. The safety was a huge play and a reminder as to how important a long snapper is.

This was, on another level, the first time Big Ben and Easy E played each other when both were on comparable quality teams. Lots of people said that the G-Men had chosen poorly picking Eli over Ben. In a first head to head match up, Eli won and played an efficient game. Ben had four throws picked. I'm happy with the Giants' choice.

You have to love Mike Singletary's intensity and his dealing with a foolish player. He certainly got his team's attention.

Dallas played a tough D against Tampa Bay. Dallas is at Giants Stadium next week in a huge game.

Drew Brees wanted to have a big game against the Chargers and he did. But Rivers had a good game as well. The Chargers made a difficult choice and two teams have great quarterbacks.

The Browns are looking more and more like last year's quality team.

Tonight is a huge test for the Colts.

And finally, alas, the Bengals. 0-8. Dear Mr. Brown. Marvin Lewis is not going to turn your team around.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rep. Michele Bachmann on Hardball

Last week Rep. Michele Bachmann from Minnesota was on Hardball with Chris Matthews last week. She made allegations that Barack Obama held un-American views and pretty much went on and implicated a large swath of Congress. She called for a major media investigation into all of this. It really was amazing. It was really over the top. I mean, really over the top.

The result was that her opponent received over $1,000,000.00 in donations as a result of her apperance. The RNC pulled out all of their funding for her. It is looking like her political career has gone down the tubes.

Two things have been said in response by her. First off, she has backed away from her comments. She misspoke, she was misunderstood, etc.

The second thing, of course, was that she blamed Chris Matthews. Actually, in watching the interview, Matthews pretty much let her do the talking only asking points of clarification, often with, 'are you sure...?' She had never watched Hardball (right) and didn't know much about Chris Matthews (right) and he trapped her.

A couple of responses.

First, I suspect that she said what she really thought and really felt. Actually, she spoke with such passion and conviction it was painfully obvious that she said what she really thought and really felt.

Secondly, about Chris Matthews. I watch Chris Matthews a great deal. Matthews is actually usually very gracious and even self-depricating. He is willing to allow people, actually wants people to say what they really think about things. He is painfully fair to people from any perspective and despite is loudness and bluster, is a good interviewer. He does have one streak, however, that people like Michele Bachmann find painfuly. He does not suffer fools gladly. If you show up on Hardball and can answer questions with a sense of coherence and knowledge, he's great. If you are a fool, however, when he's done with you people will know that you are a fool. If you are not knowledgeable and show up on his show saying things that you don't know much about, the world will know of your ignorance.

Some time back a radio talk show host was comparing Barack Obama with Neville Chamberlain with appeasement. Matthews asked his guest what exactly Chamberlain had done in appease Hitler. He asked the question probably two dozen times and the guest only kept repeating that he 'appeased.' Matthews was looking to hear the name Czeckoslovokia.

He never heard it. It was obvious the man did not know what Chamberlain had actually done. He, of course, like Bachmann, blamed Matthews for trapping him. If we get trapped in our own ignorance it is not the person who exposes our ignorance to the world who is at fault, it is us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Isms Show Up

Recently, in New Albany, Indiana, a local merchant told a Chicago newspaper that while he was a lifelong Democrat, he would never vote for an African American for President. Race was the key issue at work. The blogs in out fair city have been afire with people decrying racism as well they should.

Rush Limbaugh, in his recent blast on Colin Powell, stated that the only reason Powell was backing Obama was because of race. Limbaugh’s usual logic was at play as Powell’s rationale, whether one agreed with it or not, was clearly laid out with statements as to why. The reality that Limbaugh missed was that Powell just made his decision; and six months ago Barack Obama was already an African American. Nothing new changed there. Unless Limbaugh believes that Powell recently had corrective eye surgery or something. But I do digress. Rush Limbaugh has made enough comments over the years to demonstrate that he is a pretty blatant racist and his bigotry is pretty easily traced. I would certainly hope that people who have not seen this would be interested in a bridge I’d like to sell them in Brooklyn...

Interestingly enough the current flap about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe is actually pretty sexist in tone.

Take note of things that have been discussed about Sarah Palin.

Her glasses are very fashionable and many women are seeking these glasses. Lots of people have taken note of how attractive she looks wearing them.

The lipstick she wears is one that has drawn buzz.

How Sarah Palin wears her hair, up, down, or a combination of both is a regular discussion. People have opinions on how she wears it.

Obviously her clothing is well coordinated.

It has, we have learned, cost the RNC $150,000.00 to keep her ‘beautified.’

At this juncture I have yet to hear anyone speak about the hair styles of Barack Obama, John McCain, or Joe Biden.

I have not heard anyone speak about the color of their suits, the kinds of shoes they wear, their ties, their pants, or their shirts.

Some recent research showed that on ABC television programs leading female characters have a budget of a bit over $4000.00 per episode for attire, hair, and make up. Palin’s expenses are up to almost 30 episodes----but think about how many times she is on television. Every night, over and over again. And how she looks is scrutinized.

Her appearance is a subject for discussion in so many circles which, frankly, demands that she looks really good. Did they go overboard? Perhaps. Did they seem to contradict her appeal as a hockey mom? Probably----though I strongly suspect if she was campaigning in a hockey jersey and jeans she’d be eviscerated for that too.

We do have a double standard on how men are presented to the world and how women are presented to the world. When that double standard is in play, and it is in play here, this is sexism.

She is being treated unfairly in this regard.

And please note. I am not a fan of her’s, will not vote for her, and am a male. So when I say that she’s being treated unfairly, I think I actually may have a tad of credibility...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Problem with Marginalization

I’m going to begin by stating that I am a hypocrite. I do enjoy Saturday Night Live and I’m amazed at Tina Fey’s imitation of Sarah Palin. She wins the award for the best mimic job on television right now.

There is an underlying current, however, that has a major lack of health and benefit. We have become a society of learning to marginalize people.

For better or worse, Sarah Palin has become very marginalized. When she stands up to speak we think of Tina Fey. We also think of how Tina Fey will portray her. I might not be a fan of Sarah Palin’s, but I do not believe she is lacking in intelligence. She is lacking in education on issues and that lack of education shows itself time and time again. She is partly at fault for accepting the nomination for a position she had no business taking; but she also can fault those who chose her. What has taken place now is quite simple. She has become fodder for Saturday Night Live and fewer and fewer people are taking her seriously. She has become marginalized.

Marginalization is one of the favorite mechanisms of Rush Limbaugh. If one listens to him he is less interested in a person’s positions or arguments, but finds himself more interested in finding ways to demean the person. His comments about Colin Powell and race being the only real reason Powell was supporting Obama. I like to think that most people who can count to 21 with their shoes on do not fall for such foolishness but I would probably be sadly disappointed. Limbaugh ignored the words of Powell and made it all about race so that Powell would be marginalized and not taken seriously. It is a bold gambit, I might add, because Powell is a person of great integrity, courage, and accomplishment. Limbaugh cannot argue with him on merit, so his attempt is to demean him.

It goes on.

We have John McCain being portrayed as a tottering old fool who is all over the lot and not to be taken seriously. This is marginalization in a blatant form.

We have Joe Biden marginalized who lives to put his foot in his mouth so as to make him appear incompetent and lacking in judgment. Again, this is marginalization at its best. Or worst.

So much of the campaign by many has been to marginalize Barack Obama as being Arab, Muslim, odd, friend of terrorists both foreign and domestic. If people can marginalize him enough, he becomes less serious.

This is done because it is an effective political tactic.

No one has been more marginalized than George W. Bush. One can argue that his judgments (or lack thereof) and his failures have helped him earn the role he has right now. That is not an unreasonable or foolish argument. He is leaving a mess behind that no President has ever inherited. Not even close.

But...

George W. Bush is also in an important office and the office of the President means something. Years ago Andy Rooney spoke to a man during the Watergate era and the man had a picture of President Nixon on the wall. Rooney asked the man about having a picture of Nixon on the wall and the man said that he didn’t have a picture of Nixon, but a picture of the President of the United States. The position is less about the person and more about the office.

So when the marginalized George W. Bush spoke before an anxious nation to speak about the economy, he calmed no fears. It really mattered very little as to who wrote the speech or what he said or even how brilliant or dumb his words were. He, he personally, has been so marginalized that hardly anyone takes him seriously.

The lesson in all of this is simple. When we marginalize our leaders, when we make them irrelevant, when we make them little more than laughing stocks, they have no ability to lead us when we have a crisis or reassure us that all will be well.

Being critical of bad leaders and bad decisions is not only a Constitutional right, but a Constitutional responsibility. All good governments require a loyal opposition; but when the opposition works to marginalize the people in power, we all suffer the consequences.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The weekend in the NFL

It was a weekend of upsets.

Last night last year’s 10-6 Giants played last year’s 10-6 Browns. The Giants had read too many of their press clippings and forgot that they were playing a team that had played just as well as they did last year. The Giants offense was bad with Eli throwing three picks, but their defense was putrid. They never once stopped the Browns. Not once. The Browns had two drives to run out clock at the end of both halves and one missed field goal. Other than that, they scored every time they had the ball; most often on long, time-consuming drives. To say that I was disgusted by my team’s performance last night is an understatement. But, they had to lose sometime!

The Cowboys did not look good on Sunday. Now Romo is out for a month. Romo has too much swagger and while is often a really solid NFL quarterback, has a tendency, when things get rough, to be somewhat dumb. The Cowboys have a problem with TO, however and it has impacted Romo. TO is NOT team player. He’s out for himself....always. I suspect every time he goes into the huddle he’s saying he’s open; throw it to me. Having both TO and Pacman Jones on the same team sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

The Bears lost to the Falcons and they have their coach to blame. I’m not a big believer that Lovie Smith has a clue and he consistently provides me proof. He by-passed going for a sure field goal when he needed to put points on the board. All he did was to fire up the Falcons. But he had a one point lead with 11 seconds left. This kind of game is difficult to blow. Most, if not all of that time, will be used on the kick return. Even if the return is for 30 or 40 yards, there will only be time for one play. But a squib kick takes less time off the clock. The clock did not begin until the receiver had the ball. He had a short return of 10 yards, but that brought him to the 40 and there was still time, alas, for two plays. So the Bears’ defense covers the CENTER of the field and allowed the sideline to be open. Matt Ryan’s pass was perfect and bam. Jason Elam will not miss two field goals in one game like that.

The Colts looked awesome on Sunday. Really awesome. The Ravens’ offense is not a big challenge, but their defense is and Peyton shredded them.

The Patriots do not look like a highly competitive team this year. Enough said.

The Bucs started Jeff Garcia and he had a good game. And they were surprised...why?

The NFC is listed as the best division in football. They certainly did not look that way this past Sunday!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

And People Say that Church is Boring

Before I read another posting about Barack Obama picking his nose and eating it in the 4th grade or John McCain passing gas in Kindergarten, I thought I'd post a funny video.




Monday, October 06, 2008

This Past Sunday at St. Marks....Our Wonderful Choir!

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1045539980429

This is a Campaign????

Suddenly new names are swirling around the campaign to be President. Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weathermen, a radical group has emerged as someone Barack Obama has associated with. Sarah Palin observed from reading a New York Times article that they ‘palled’ around. She probably should have read the entire article as it observed that they barely knew each other and that Ayers’ activities took place when Obama was eight.

Charles Keating and John McCain’s involvement with the Keating Five is back in the news. This was an instance where John McCain reached across the aisle and found himself in hot water with four Democrats and their involvement with Charles Keating.

Sarah Palin has raised Jeremiah Wright. This will leave McCain open to having John Hagee raised; and Palin herself open to the YouTube video of her with a rather bizarre minister praying over her that she might not be overcome by witches or something or other.

Some will say that these issues are important. Sure. Pigs are going to fly next week as well. Some will remark about character; but character is never really defined by the people we have interacted with in life as much as how we conduct ourselves.

Sadly, this is a really bad turn in this campaign. A really bad turn. This is an angry left that will do whatever it needs to do to win; and an angry right that will do whatever it needs to do in order to win. And all will pretend that this is important.

It makes me wonder if these people who run campaigns are truly serious people and it makes me greatly question their patriotism.

Here are some basic issues.

The United States is at war in two countries. We have a large number of troops in Afghanistan who are undermanned and under-armed to do what they really need to be doing. We have a larger number of troops in Iraq who have sufficient numbers to do what they need to be doing; but a huge question hanging over them as to what happens when the American Army leaves? And, at some point, the American Army has to declare that it did its job and can now go home. The problem with victory in Iraq is that no one knows what it looks like.

But there are major trouble spots. Pakistan is a looming disaster. We have rogue nations such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and yes, Saudi Arabia. We like to call Saudi Arabia our friends but if one observes where the 9/11 terrorists actually came from and where the funding actually came from, the answer is always the same.

We have major world security issues and our army is stretched out on two fronts and does not have the manpower to respond to another crisis in a meaningful way. This is a major issue.

The biggest issue, of course, is the economy. As more and more economists have stepped forward with what actually happened it seems to be this. Wall Street made some huge bets and lost. Big. Those big time losses have shaken the entire economy because those losses directly impacted banks which had loaned out vast sums of money and insurance companies that had insured vast sums of money----vast sums of money that, for the most part, was on paper and never really in existence. The debate has been raging for months and people were assured that we were not in a recession. Well, the elephant in the living room was that it might be worse than a recession and much of the fault lies at the feet of people who actually bet against this country’s companies.

We also have a major healthcare crisis. We do. We have great sick-care if people can afford it but we have dreadful preventive care and a system with little to no checks and balances. People can charge whatever they want and people can sue for whatever they want. Both parties are defending these contrary positions and helping to keep a crisis a crisis.

These are the issues I care about. Frankly, Charles Keating and Bill Ayers are ancient history. We have far bigger issues and far greater problems and I want to know who has the ideas on how to solve them.

And it might actually require answering the questions given as opposed to the ones we want to answer...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wow!

The Giants beat the Seahawks 44-6.

Wow.

I'm speechless.

In a good way, of course.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

This is a Great Story

This is a great story!

Really Pro-Life or,....

St. Paul wrote, :”proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”

I am often struck by the words, ‘whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.’ In another translation it says, ‘in season or out of season.’

In short, if your message comes at a time when people are open and eager to hear the message, proclaim it. But if there is a time when people are going to ignore you or even loathe you, proclaim it.

Paul’s words and listening to the way people speak about being ‘pro-life’ has brought me to reaching a boiling point. Society, the news media, politicians, and even the average person have consistently called people ‘pro-life’ even when they aren’t.

The whole concept of ‘pro-life’ has something of a tradition of being on the front burner when abortion was legalized and capital punishment was reinstated. Roe v. Wade dated back to 1973 and then in 1977 Gary Gilmore was executed, thus beginning the United States back on a trail of killing the worst criminals in society. An ethic, called the ‘whole life ethic,’ often called the ‘seamless garment’ argument was that for a person to be pro-life, that person had to be opposed to abortion, opposed to capital punishment, and opposed to euthanasia.

Lots of details went into this. People disagreed on the circumstances when an abortion could be moral. The Roman Catholic Church determined that a direct abortion was always immoral no matter what circumstances. Most others exempted this when the life or well-being of the mother was in danger and/or in instances of rape and incest.

Anti-capital punishment did not disallow police officers to use deadly force in lives were in danger, and was not considered to be pacifists. It considered killing prisoners to be immoral.

Euthanasia included directly causing a person’s death and physician assisted suicide. In the late 1970's in the case of Karen Quinlan, the Roman Catholic church and the state of New Jersey deemed it moral and legal to removed a person from life support when this life support was considered to be an extraordinary means. This was not euthanasia or assisted suicide, it was merely allowing nature to take its course and allow a natural death.

The label, “Pro-life” is not a political label (or meant to be) it is an ethical principle, an ethical way of approaching life issues. It sets the bar high.

I am consistently disturbed by many people who masquerade (strong word, but I believe to be accurate) as pro-life. Here is what they do:

First, they are anti-abortion.

Secondly, they are pro-capital punishment.

Thirdly, they are against abortion and physician suicide and often confuse natural death/extraordinary means with euthanasia. The Terri Schiavo was very representative of this. Lawrence B. Casey had written a landmark document concerning Karen Quinlan with the same principles being very much in play. Most of the people protesting in this instance had never read the document or had a clue who Lawrence B. Casey was or what he wrote.

Here is the problem.

It is often politically popular to be anti-abortion in certain segments of the population. Among a significant segment of our nation the topic of abortion is one that motivates how people vote and who they will vote for. (The reverse is also true.) As a result, phrases like ‘defending the innocent,’ or ‘defending those who have no voice,’ are used and they are very effective in attempting to make an argument opposing abortion.

It is, however, often politically unpopular to be anti-capital punishment. The people who are executed (presuming the trial was a good one and the verdict was accurate) are legitimately heinous people who have earned the right to die. The issue isn’t what they have earned, however, the issue is how society can, ethically, deal with them. It is far more difficult to defend the lives of the heinous than it is to defend the lives of the unborn. It is also politically unpopular.

In the issue of euthanasia we have less a conflict because euthanasia is not legal. When it happens it takes place very much under the radar and so we don’t grapple with it very much. The real tragedy of the Terri Schiavo case was that some zealots who distorted ethical teachings took advantage of very grief stricken parents. It was a horribly sad story from start to finish.

Politically there are very few pro-life candidates. Actually, I do not know of any. There are people who are anti-abortion, but they are not really pro-life. They might masquerade themselves as such, but they are not pro-life. The ethic behind this actually is a seamless ethic and needs to be.

Which brings me back to the words of St. Paul. These are, to me, wise and clever words. They are words reminding us to hold fast to that which is good, whether others like it or not. It does not matter what the political climate is or who is running, or what party a person is representing. One is either pro-life, or not.

As for me, I do make it my one person crusade to call people out on this one. I will not allow a person to masquerade as pro-life when they are simply opposed to abortion. I respect their opinion on abortion even embrace most of it with a strong belief that circumstances and life and well-being of mothers has to be taken into consideration. But, to be quite blunt, I have little respect for people who proclaim how pro-life they are when they either approve of or have little concern for the issue of capital punishment. For many, it’s a great political position to have, but has little to do with any ethical thought.

I once received a phone call from the National Right to Life Association asking for a donation. I asked them about their efforts to stop capital punishment. I received a song and dance story on how that wasn’t really their fight and blah, blah, blah.

I then said, “You know, I take this pro-life stuff seriously. I’ll tell you what. When you get serious about really being pro-life, call me back.”

My phone has not yet rung from them getting back to me...

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Defeated Bill

The House voted down the bailout package. The Democrats are blaming the Republicans even though almost 100 Democrats voted against it; the Republicans are blaming the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi who, I guess hurt their feelings beforehand. Bizarre, one would think that thick skin was a requirement in the House.

The stock market dropped almost 800 points for the day. Whatever one’s opinion on whether this package was good or bad, the stock market certainly didn’t like it.

There are certain things that we have learned.

Neither Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner has the pull that they need to get votes. They have both blamed each other for the defeat but if they were truly honest, they are both to blame. They have both helped create and maintain a partisan hostility within the House and it does not go away because a leader says so. Neither person was able to get the votes to pass the bill.

President Bush has lost the respect of people in both parties. Big time. The largest number of ‘no’ votes came from his own party despite him almost begging them to go along with him. He long ago lost the trust of the Democrats, but now he no longer has any respect from his own Party. Dick Cheney got booed off the platform the other day from his own party. This is an Administration that has completely and utterly lost the respect of others.

Neither Senators McCain or Obama were able to muster the votes. They may be the de facto leaders of the two parties, but neither of them could pull this one off. Obama didn’t push as hard as McCain and McCain’s party did not follow his lead. They will both blame each other, of course. The reality is that neither of them had the mojo to pull this one off.

Locally both Baron Hill and John Yarmuth voted against the bill. They, like most everyone in closely contested races, chose to vote ‘no’ to this incredibly unpopular vote. It’s hard to say if this was an act of courage or cowardice in their parts. Whatever is the case, in virtually every district where there is a close race looming, the person voted ‘no.’

Having said all of this, here is what we know for sure.

No one knows for sure if this bill will solve the problem. It is a $700,000,000,000.00 gamble. We really don’t know the answer to this.

We also don’t know for sure what will happen if no bill is passed. There are all sorts of ‘gloom and doom’ statements, but no one is really sure what will transpire long term.

We know for sure what we don’t know much for sure.

It seems to me that this mess is a mess that people from both parties helped create and the only resolution is for people of both parties to solve it.

They might need to grow up, however, in order to do so. And that might be a tall order!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sports Observations

In New York this is the last year for the venerable Yankee Stadium and the easily disposable Shea Stadium. Hard to say that as a life-long Mets' fan but their stadium has long ago ceased being a great place.

Speaking of the Mets. They are in their annual September swoon. It looks like they have blown their way out of the post-season. The thing is, I suspect that they might actually have the best team in the National League EXCEPT, and this is a huge EXCEPT, they have the bullpen of the 1962 Mets. No lead is safe for this bullpen. They have blown more leads then almost anyone else. And some of the leads were substantial. Even if they make the postseason, they won't advance very far; their bullpen is that bad.

I think that someone needs to whisper a name into Lovie Smith's ear. Brian Billick. Brian Billick coached the Ravens who had one of the finest defenses of all time and this was a team that could have and should have been in several Super Bowls. Brian Billick stubbornly held the notion that one of the stiffs he had in the quarterback position would do the job. They didn't. Billick is no longer on the sidelines. Lovie Smith is, from all accounts, a great guy and loved by his team. He cannot even be considered to be a good coach if he doesn't make a concerted effort, a huge effort, to fix this gaping hole in his team.

The Colts are complaining that it was a bad call against them last week that cost them the game. It might have been a marginal call; but it did have the aroma of at least defensive holding which would have given the Jags a first down. The thing with the Colts is this. They gave up in the neighborhood of 250 yards rushing. Two runners gained over 100 yards on them and the Jags burned a ton of time. That is where they really lost the game.

Funny thing about Brett Favre. Had he been patient and not pushed to come back when he did, he would have received a phone call from Boston inviting him to play for the Patriots... Instead he's with the Jets. Eric Mangini is not, in my mind, the sharpest knife in the drawer. Favre, crafty veteran, has played in a totally different system than the Jets have. Instead of adjusting his system to aid his quarterback, he's hoping that an old veteran can change. In the history of the NFL, great coaches adapt to their personnel. Eric Mangini is sans a clue...

Does one get the impression that Joe Torre has found the circumstances of this season to be quite entertaining?

My World Series prediction: The Red Sox and the Phillies. The Red Sox win it in 5. The Cubs? The ghost of Fred Merkle will wander in their midst and will wander in the stands, and prevent the Cubs from winning.

As an aside, I would recommend that Steve Bartman not attend any games.

And, lastly, Matt Millen was fired by the Lions. I mean, DUH!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Bitter Pill

The Federal Government is setting up a $700,000,000,000.00 bailout of the economy. Those are a lot of zeroes all in one place at the same time.

As I write this on Monday the Stock Market is down almost 400 points. Lots of questions abound about this bailout. Most of the experts think that it’s absolutely necessary and yet, no one knows if it going to work or not. We have watched some financial giants collapse and others are in danger.

Economically we have some major issues. Unemployment is up, though not catastrophically. Prices are up.

The price of oil is a disaster. This not only impacts our daily commute or our riding about town or our vacation trips. This impacts food deliveries and prices. This will greatly impact people this winter when they pay for gas, oil, or additional electricity to heat their homes. People who get sick because of living in colder than usual environments will strain the medical system.

There is also no place to invest money. Stocks are haywire at best. Bonds are doing nothing. The interest rates for investments are almost non-existent. The economy, for the average person, is not very good.

Is the bailout a good idea? I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone is addressing the fundamentals of what put is in the situation we are in.

First, there was the predatory selling of variable-rate mortgages. Sadly, many of the people who fell for this scheme were not educated as to what they were getting into. I strongly suspect that people were told that the interest rates would not spike. It was a lie. They did spike and many people were in trouble. As real estate plummeted people’s debts were higher than the value of their homes. As so many of these mortgages had been sold, and insured, when people defaulted on the mortgages, major money was lost.

Secondly, was the rampant short-selling of stocks. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are two banks that have been healthy, have solid assets, and were not in trouble based on anything that they did wrong. Last week, however, their stocks dropped like rocks and the banks, almost overnight, lost half of their value. This took place because ‘investors’ were short-selling their stock, betting that these banks were over-valued, and betting that they could drive the price of the stock down. There is a temporary ban on short-selling, but in the coming weeks, when the ban is lifted, I can’t imagine these ‘investors’ will be back at it.

As a digression, what does it say about people that they invest in hopes of a company’s collapse? It is mind-boggling.

In the midst of this is a Presidential campaign where two candidates are promising major tax cuts for most of us and happy days arriving.

For those who like to argue ideology, for those who love government, our government failed us.

For those who like to speak about the free market, the free market failed us.

I do not know what the solution to all of this is going to be. I do know that the pill we need to swallow shall be a bitter one.

Week Three in the NFL

I do have to begin where my heart begins. It almost stopped several times in the Giants/Bengals game. I was sweating this one out. The Bengals have looked bad the first two weeks of the season but I was also aware that the amount of talent they have on the Offensive side of the ball made them a serious threat. They were able to put it together very effectively against the Giants on Sunday.

The Giants have historically had a difficult time with the Bengals. Different players, different years, different teams, and the Giants have always had a tough time with the Bengals. Who’d have thought? In any case, they did. The Giants did get several sacks on Palmer, but it was from the front 4. Their blitzing was picked up by the Bengals very effectively and Palmer’s quick, short, passing worked well.

The difference of the game was Eli Manning. I may look foolish at some point, but Eli has risen into being one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He was only the second to lead his team to victory in the final minutes of a Super Bowl. In the playoff game against Dallas, Eli led the Giants to a touchdown before half-time. The Giants got the ball with 45 seconds left. When the game was on the line yesterday, Eli rose up to the occasion and won the game. Good genes in that family.

The Colts. Sigh. Peyton was amazing, as usual. Their defense, however, did a poor job. The Jags ran, ran, and ran on them and chewed up the clock. When the game was on the line the defense folded. Ugh!

The Patriots and the Dolphins. We all knew it was coming. We all knew, at some point, the Patriots would have a meltdown game. They have been so good, so amazing, and losing Brady was devastating. They also have an older defense and injuries on the offense forced the defense to play more. They got smoked and faked out. Chad Pennington does not have a great arm, but when he’s healthy, he’s an effective quarterback. I don’t really think that the Dolphins are as good as they played yesterday and the Patriots aren’t as bad as they played.

One of the hidden treasures in the NFL this year was given up for done. Kerry Collins is now starting for the Titans and has played really well. Several teams do not have much competence at the quarterback position and Collins had been out there all along. Amazing.

The Raiders will probably fire Kiffin today. Good for Kiffin. Who would ever want to coach for Al Davis? The thing is, when the Bills were driving, Kiffin had two timeouts that he never used. The Bills drove down the field and kicked the winning field goal. What was he thinking? Scott Norwood is not longer the Bills kicker...

The Bears would be a really fine team if they had a quarterback. I think that Lovie Smith is greatly over-rated as a coach. He’s a sharp defensive guy and he gets players to play for him, no doubt, but he seems clueless as to running an offense and even more clueless as to the need for an effective quarterback. The Bears have not had someone capable in that position in a while and Smith has done nada about it. Ask Brian Billick how this works, long term?

It’s funny how Jeremy Shockey hasn’t been all-world for the Saints and is a disruption in the locker room. Hmm.

The Cowboys and the Eagles seemed to lack defense a week ago. Yesterday their defensive units went crazy. Especially the Eagles. They turned Big Ben into Uncle Ben and converted his rice!

Best division in football? The NFC East. After three weeks, the combined record of the NFC East is 10-2. The two losses were by the Eagles to the Cowboys and by the Redskins to the Giants, thus making both losses to division rivals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Random Musings

I do find people to be amusing.

Carly Fiorina decreed that Sarah Palin couldn't run Hewlett-Packard. Of course, realizing that she had dug a hole she tried to climb out. So she said that John McCain couldn't run HP either. Realizing that she was closing in on her knee, she decreed that Joe Biden or Barack Obama couldn't run HP either. I guess that she thinks HP is a more complex place than the United States. In fairness to all those she has dismissed, lots of people at HP felt that she couldn't run HP either.

Word has it that Fiorina will not be making more television appearances for John McCain...

Barack Obama is releasing a two minute commercial. Critics say that we need more sound bytes than substance. Whew! Two minutes, I guess, is too short a period of time to really make a complex point, but we need sound bytes?

Sadly, the critics are probably right.

Ironies abound. People screamed for deregulation as regulation of financial institutions was Socialist. Too much government control. Well, greed and lack of regulation has caused some major collapses and the companies are being taken over by, ahem, the government. In a blind effort to not be socialistic, we've actually become more so.

Sarah Palin is blocking any attempts to investigate Troopergate. She really needs to read "All the President's Men." It's usually not the deed, it's the cover-up. Let the thing work its way through. Even if she fired the guy because he wouldn't fire her brother in law she'd probably have survived that-----now the story just plays on and on and on and if she did a misdeed, the cover up will make it far, far worse.

The Vatican decreed that Darwin's theory of evolution was compatible with the Bible, but decided not to rescind the condemnation they issued 150 years ago.

OJ Simpson is on trial for kidnapping and armed robbery and these are the less serious crimes he has ever been on trial for. I'm glad I'm not on the jury. My inclination would have been to vote 'guilty' even before the trial started. OJ in jail sounds about right.

The Mets are in the Septembe swoon. It's hard to be an optimist with the Mets.

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys was in two different luxury boxes, on the sidelines, and in the stands during the game the other night. My guess is that he's an equal opportunity annoyer...

I wonder if Jerry Jones could run HP?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Of Tanning Beds and Substance...

The first thing I saw on the news this morning is that Sarah Palin has a tanning bed.

I am officially in the "I don't care" category on Sarah Palin's tanning bed. Actually, I do not care about her relationship with her husband or her children. I do not lay awake at night worrying that her daughter is pregnant. There are many things about her policies, etc., and her prevailing philosophy on things that I am interested in. I do not care that she has a tanning bed.

This weekend Lehman Brothers collapsed. Merrill Lynch was bought out by Bank of America. AIG is seeking major loans; loans exceeding its corporate worth. The Stock Market plunged over 500 points yesterday.

Lots of people believe that this is not going to impact them. Many people do not own stock or mutual funds. However, many pension plans and annuities that we are relying on or will rely on when we retire are getting hammered by this.

Phil Gramm (of you're a bunch of whiners fame) was the principle author of a bill deregulating the banking industry and allowing them to make almost unlimited investing. It has worked as well as Napolean's strategy at Waterloo or Custer's strategy as Little Big Horn. The fact that many people see him as the architect of John McCain's economic plans is downright chilling.

John McCain, to his great discredit, stated yesterday that the economy was fundamentally strong stands as one of the most monumental statements of the campaign.

Fundamentally strong on the day of a collapse of one of the country's leading investment banks. Another one is sold. Another one is in major trouble. The stock market plunged 500 points. The job market is bad. The housing market is bad----people are losing value on their homes. Interest rates for investments are low. There is no place for people to put their money. Fundamentally strong? My sense is that when you have help to toast your bread and butter your toast and pour your coffee, you might have a bit of a disconnect with the average person. I think that John McCain, at his core, is a good person, but he is woefully out of touch with the average person.

I am not sure Barack Obama is either. He, at least, is pointing to the elephant in the living room. He is not touting that the economy is fundamentally strong----he sees a problem. I'm not sure, however, that he has any sort of idea on how to get the elephant out of the living room.

The economy is something that impacts all of us. A great deal of rhetoric has been thrown out there talking about the American worker and that small business has been the foundation of the American economy.

The thing is, this isn't what built the American economy. It was built by manufacturing. When the United States entered World War II, Herman Goering said he wasn't worried because the United States was too busy worrying about manufacturing cars and razor blades. To his great chagrin, those automobile factories built tanks and planes in quantities Hitler's Germany could never match.

In many places, part of the dilemma that is facing people is that the manufacturing jobs are gone. Automobile assembly lines are shutting down. In Louisville, General Electric's Appliance Park is being sold or shut down. My Dad worked for GE years ago for product service in New Jersey. In his GE branch in New Jersey, people spoke of how great Louisville was and how they would love to see where the refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines were being built. That branch, a proud group of people, is gone.

We are in a time of major transition and I suspect we will never again be the manufacturing superstar that we once was the American dream. The transition, however, is painful. In the meantime our greatest financial institutions are collapsing, the stock market is plunging, and there is no place for people to invest their money.

There is a huge issue hanging right out there.

And this morning, the first story on the news was that Sarah Palin has a tanning bed...