Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts

Okay, first thought I’m going to share is one where I’m going to duck. I watched Oprah’s last show and her final monologue. She’s very accomplished and done well in life and I felt that she reminded us over and over again about this. I know many people were moved by this. I wasn’t. But perhaps that’s just me.

Sarah Palin is playing catch me if you can with the news media and her whirlwind tour. I’d say ‘why bother.’ She said she hates coverage from the mainstream media, so I’d say don’t cover her. Simple solution.

I don’t agree with him about much, but I think Tim Pawlenty is a pretty good candidate. I think the Republicans don’t have their strongest field, but I think he’s the best of the lot by far. Of the group right now, I think he and Romney are the only really serious one’s, and I think Romney has a problem with the base and will struggle in getting the nomination. As for Palin, I think she’s looking to run as a Tea Party candidate and morph that into a third party, but I could be way wrong on that.

I would not be overly excited about this if I were President Obama, however, George H. W. Bush, at this time, was facing a weak Democratic group and Bill Clinton came out of that. In politics, things change rapidly. And the economy is still bad.

I think Amanda Knox would have been acquitted had her first trial been in the United States and her appeal trial is demonstrating that she was railroaded. Could be wrong, but...

Snookie was arrested in Italy. Seaside Heights, New Jersey is praying she stays...

Tiki Barber compared himself to Anne Frank. Tiki used to be a smart guy. Notice the word ‘used’.

Adrian Peterson said that NFL players are treated like slaves. Peterson is an African-American running back who, perhaps, has ancestors who were, in fact, slaves. I wish they could have coffee or something so he could see the difference between being a multi-millionaire running back in the NFL and a slave.

And maybe, while he’s having coffee, Tiki can lock himself in an attack every day in fear for his life.

My patience with the moronic is getting smaller and smaller. You probably can tell...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Real Lawn King

God said: "Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the
world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the
dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a
perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of
soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the
long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of
songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I
see are these green rectangles."

It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They
started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill
them and replace them with grass.

Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract
butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive
to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass
growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it
green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any
other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast.
That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut
it-sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow.
And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on
the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves
them a lot of work.

You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so
fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can
continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer
stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the
spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they
fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the
soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As
soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to
have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter
to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which
they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're
in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

'Dumb and Dumber', Lord.. It's a story about....


Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis

Friday, May 13, 2011

Justice without Delighting in It

Like many others, I have spent a great deal of time contemplating the demise of Osama Bin Laden. There has been a great deal of discussion about the event, the morality, and the credit.

First off, I think most of the conversations about the credit are misplaced. The Intelligence Services, the Navy Seals, and the Army helicopter pilots obviously deserve a ton of credit. Three American Presidents have been trying to get to Bin Laden and he has been one of the most elusive people in the world. All three, Clinton, Bush, and Obama deserve credit for the hunt. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who was the President when the job was finished; they all deserve credit. Obama was the one who made the final call; a call any of them, I believe, would have made. So, enough about the credit.

As for the morality of all this, there is a simple fact to be viewed: Osama Bin Laden made war on the United States. He launched attacks against us in the Middle East and on our own soil. Many have wanted to call him a criminal and I greatly appreciate the desire to do so as what he did WAS criminal. He was an avowed enemy, however, of this nation as he made war on us. It was and is a deplorable kind of war that sinks to the lowest form of human behavior, but he made war on us.

In classic morality, when one makes war on another, one loses one’s right to life. It is a harsh reality of war.

In 1943 the American military had learned that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of Japan, the man who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, was going to be in an airplane flying from one base to another. The approximate route was calculated and a group of American fighter planes were launched with the hope of finding Yamamoto’s plane. They did and he was shot down and killed. He had made war on the United States and our military tracked him down and he died.

Interestingly enough, the stories of getting Yamamoto and Bin Laden are a great deal alike. Justice, it can be said, was served.

But justice should not be celebrated.

Again, during World War II, there was another battle in another continent.

After D-Day on June 6th, the often untold story is that the United States and the British were trapped in Normandy for weeks. After a devastating attack to break out, the British were north and the American Army was south. General Omar Bradley was the overall ground commander and he watched how things developed.

The German Army was told by Adolf Hitler to not retreat and not give up an inch of land. That always sounds ‘tough’ but it’s an incredibly stupid strategy for victory. In fact, the ‘never give an inch’ mentality generally is a successful model for defeat as a strategic, well planned retreat often allows people to regather and come back.

In any case, the German Army was staggered and pushed back and they finally came up with a really amazingly bad plan. They counter-attacked into the center of the American and British line. The German Army believed the best trained, best disciplined, and best equipped army would prevail. The Germans were correct. The best trained, best disciplined, and best equipped army did prevail when the American Army stopped the German Army after the Germans had pushed themselves into a deep pocket.

Bradley, who is vastly under-rated and often unknown, saw that the Germans were in a deep but narrow bulge trapped by Americans and British in the west, the north, and the south. There was only a gap near Falaise, France. The American and English Armies began to close the gap. Estimates say that 10-20,000 German troops got out, but the bulk of the German Army was trapped. 50,000 German soldiers surrendered, and between 20-30,000 of them died in the center of the trap.

The German Army in France was essentially destroyed and an entire Army Group was wiped off the planet.

General Dwight Eisenhower, Bradley’s boss, was thrilled and toured the battlefield where so many German soldiers had died. What he saw appalled him. There were no signs of life. French life stock was dead. Horses that pulled German Army items were dead. Thousands and thousands of young German soldiers were dead. It was said that even the flied had not survived the carnage. There was nothing but death.

It had to have been done. The dead soldiers would have done that to American soldiers if the shoe had been on the other foot. But Eisenhower was greatly disturbed. There was no elation----just the grim reminder and fact that was is a brutal business.

Osama Bin Laden was a man of brutality who died brutally. Jesus observed that those who live by the sword die by the sword. If one calls violence on another, that violence will be returned. But we must not delight in it.

In the Jewish Seder Meal there is a moment when people dip their fingers in the wine and drop drops of wine on their plates ten times to remember the ten plagues against Egypt. It is a reminder of the blood of one’s enemy that was shed so the Israelites would be freed. The drops of wine are dropped but there is a command. You must not lick your fingers afterwards to delight in it.

Sadly, sometimes people die for justice to prevail and that is part of the world we live in. But let us never delight in it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Random Thoughts

It's always fun coming back to work after being away. Graduation and moving my daughter to Cleveland was exciting, fun, sad, and exhausting all in one. I have a bunch of random thoughts.

Newt Gingrich tossed in his hat to run for President. I think there are two groups of people seeking to get the Republican nomination, at least in theory:

The jokers. Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, Sara Palin, and Newt all fall into this category. For all of them there are serious character issues, most especially in terms of honesty. Frankly, the more time, energy, and money focused on them is good for President Obama.

The really serious people. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and potentially Mitch Daniels. I may not agree with them but these are serious people who have good character and actually have leadership skills. They also have a history of honesty.

I pretty much dismiss Rick Santorum who has the charm of a gila monster, but I am intrigued, always, but Ron Paul. His is a wile card as I don't consider him to be a major player in getting the nomination but I do see him as a person who may actually help focus the agenda on real items.

A part of me, by the way, thinks either Trump, Palin, or both will run as a third or fourth party candidate.

I am becoming short tempered over the feuding over which President deserves the credit for getting Bin Laden.

First, off, between Intelligence and the Navy Seals, that is who 'got' Bin Laden. President Obama gave the order. Would President Bush have given the order? Of course. I have no reason to believe otherwise. End of story.

Thinking about parenting. You are a successful parent, it seems, when your children grow up and leave home and begin to make their own mark on the world. I'm proud of both of my daughters because they are doing this right now. It does make me sad, however, because I miss having two little girls in my house. It is a reminder how fast life flies by...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Random Musings

My daughter graduates from college tomorrow. I'm very proud of both my daughters. In my family they are only the second generation of college graduates. It is a big deal.

I read that some of the 'birthers' are now becoming 'deathers.' I mean, what can you say. Cognitive dissonance is not easily cured.

I have been reading the most excellent book, "Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe." It's a very unvarnished and honest portrait of these three incredible man. If you are a person interested in World War II, this book is a must read.

Of the three, the most interesting, to me, has been Eisenhower. The others were great generals, but Ike had the weight of the world on his shoulders and was often the ball in a soccer game. His easy smile and public charm often gave the portrait of a shallow man who seemed to know less than others. Actually, the opposite was true. He definitely had an easy smile and charm, but he was very, very smart and insightful. He had to deal with the politics of two nations, Generals with massive egos, and hounding news people. He also had to deal, regularly, with the very formidable George Marshall who was probably the most influential (and largely unknown) American of the 20th Century. Ike proved himself to be an amazing man whose influence on American society is largely ignored.

Oh yes, and by the way. There was an American General whose troops were the first to reach Paris, France, and he led them through Germany. His troops fought the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and had a major role in the Ardennes Offensive, other...wise known as the Battle of the Bulge. The First Army was the first unit to cross the Rhine River, by using the still standing Ludendorff bridge at Remagen, and to meet with the Soviet Red Army near Torgau, on the river Elbe. Most people, if asked, would presume this General to be George Patton who loved the limelight and is often the star of highlight reels. But, one would be wrong. It was General Courtney Hodges, who was probably the finest ground commander of the war and led the 1st Army. (Patton) led the 3rd Army in Europe, and the 7th Army in Sicily and Tunisia.

And unlike the others, Hodges did not graduate from West Point. He enlisted in the Army as a private and went through the ranks the hard way.

I think George Patton would have loved George C. Scott's portrait of him in the movie "Patton." The persona is very real except the 'real' Patton was very emotionally and easily came to tears. He was far most sensitive and fragile than often perceived----some of which Scott nailed perfectly. One thing Patton would have loved, however, was Scott's deep voice. Patton had a high pitched squeaky voice and he hated it.

World War II had some of America's finest generals. I often wonder if they were great generals in the right place at the right time, or if the events of history made them great. Or a combination of both. Who knows? In the end, it matters little. They were great men at a time the world needed great men.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Human Decency

Human Decency.

I recently read this article:

PITTSBURGH – Police have arrested a 17-year-old boy accused of robbing an usher who worked at the baseball stadium where the Pittsburgh Pirates play after he stopped his car while having a heart attack on his way home from an extra-inning game.
Police aren't identifying the suspect because of his age. They said Tuesday he approached the car and pulled out 58-year-old driver Michael Schacht, who had been slumped over and in distress. They say he stole the man's wallet and drove off in his car, leaving him on the ground.
Police were puzzled by the man's death because he had only a superficial head injury when he was found April 10 a mile from PNC Park.
The suspect doesn't qualify to be charged as an adult. He's being taken to a juvenile detention facility.

When we use words such as depravity, this is the kind of behavior I see. There is an amazing lack of human decency.

I can imagine the conversation with the 17 year old boy would have gone something like this.

He needed the money. He needed the car. He really didn’t do anything wrong. The man was dead and he wasn’t going to be using her car or needing the money any more. But I keep coming back to the belief that the young man probably didn’t believe he did anything wrong.

Where would he have gotten such an idea? If the man was dead, why didn’t the youngster call 911? What was it about his lack of human decency that made him not think that Mr. Schacht may have had a family who loved him and would be devastated by his death, but also even further devastated that this man’s body, this man who they loved, was left on the ground, dead?

Why did he think that Mr. Schacht, even in death, deserved human decency and dignity?

It often makes me think that we, as a society, need to begin re-teaching dignity and respect, and living our lives in a way that facilitates this.

As for Mr. Schacht, I hope he received the kind of funeral he deserved, filled with love and respect.

And as for the young man. I’m not convinced he need to be in prison. Where he needs to be is someplace where he can grow a heart and be taught lessons in decency----in a place where he will be treated with such decency, that he desires to live in that manner toward others.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Three Presidents have been seeking this to take place as he was considered to be the most dangerous terrorist in the world. President Obama was the President when this finally took place which demonstrates that the perseverance of those who have held that office has paid off. The President is not running around patting himself on the back saying, “I did it,” but instead of graciously pointing out to a long line of work that has taken place. It is correct that he do so. This is an American accomplishment that neither party can take credit for. It is an accomplishment of the United States.

It is, of course, a huge accomplishment by our intelligence services and the Navy Seals. The Seals, despite some last minute mechanical difficulty on one of the helicopters dropped in and did their job efficiently and well. While I hate the fact that, at times, killing seems to be a necessity, it is amazing how well these brave Navy folks worked. They dropped in and did their job well with as little collateral damage as they could, and left. They had no casuals and the only ‘innocent’ person who died was a poor woman who was used as a human shield. This woman’s death is a reminder to everyone as to the character of the terrorists happens to be.

As for Bin Laden’s body, he was buried at sea using Islamic traditions. His body was washed, wrapped in a white cloth, placed in a ‘weighted bury at sea bag’ and the ritual prayers were done. It was the right decision. A grave with him in it would be a shrine to terrorists and would, in and of itself, be a place of violence for too many people. Bin Laden has been the cause of enough people’s deaths. In a moment of being personally evil, the fact that fish are feasting on his remains as I write this does not disturb me. This man was evil and deserves no honor and neither does his death. What happens now is between Bin Laden and God.

I’ve been thinking about how awful this kind of decision is to make if one is the President. In the movie, “The American President,” after President Andrew Shepherd orders a military action which will lead to the death of others, an advisor tells the President how proud he is as the President had never been more Presidential. The President’s response is that he had never been ‘less Presidential’ in ordering the killing of others. I would imagine many Presidents have laid awake at night wrestling with the fact that, on their orders, deaths took place. Even when those deaths, those killings seemed like the right thing at the time. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, the Sixth Commandment is very short and does not offer much in terms of wiggle room. But, alas, people choose to run for this position and so they choose to make these decisions and pray to God they are correct.

Of course, as difficult as this is for the President to make, I think of the Navy Seals who actually carried out the mission. As they headed into Pakistan on the helicopters, these incredibly well trained and brave people did not really know what they would encounter and if the intelligence was correct. Would the mission be a success? Who would live and who would die? Amazing.

And, I think of the people who died on 9/11. Over 3000 people either burned alive or caught in a collapsing building, or jumping to their deaths. When I think of the phone calls made from people at the top of the Twin Towers, telling loved one’s that they loved them and had to say good-bye, before they vanished into the smoke of that day, my heart breaks.

The deed is done. God help us we are glad a man has been killed; but we know he was evil and now we move on-----and pray for peace.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Observations About the Royal Wedding

I admit it, I watched the Royal Wedding. I wasn’t hardcore enough to get up early, but I watched the recording of the event. And, I doubly admit that I really am glad that I did. I came away with several observations.

The comparisons between Kate and Diana are almost endless. The thing is, there are actually very few comparisons. When Diana got married she was a 19 year old girl in what was essentially an arranged marriage to a relative stranger. William married a 29 year old woman who is the love of his life and best friend. From a ‘health’ perspective, there is no comparison. Additionally, let’s let Kate be Kate and not Diana.

I liked the very attractive and very modest wedding gown.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has about the best speaking voice I have ever heard and the wildest eyebrows I have ever seen.

Fergie’s daughters have very strange taste in hats.

The Worship Service was amazing. I think many people were amazed at the beauty of a well done Liturgy. Considering that so many people attend Worship Services that are more like infomercials for Jesus than they are real Liturgies, it was not a surprise. The beauty of an ages old Liturgy is still amazing.

I love, love, love, the English hymn Jerusalem.

It is very obvious that the English people still love their royalty. It’s also obvious that Americans love the English royalty as well. We might not want them as ‘our’ royals, but we seem to like them just fine.

The Mother of the Bride is always such a pivotal character in weddings. However, when the Grandmother of the Groom is the Queen of England, the rules change a little bit.

The siblings of the couple did really well and it is obvious that there is great sibling love on both sides of the family.

I think Prince Charles gets a bum rap on how well he helped raise his sons. I think he did a very fine job along with their mother; and carried it on after her death.

The tragedy of Diana’s life and death still looms. I think the longness of William and Kate’s dating and seemingly slow decision making came, in part, as a result of William not wanting tragedy to befall two women he loved and loves so much.

I found the experience to be incredibly moving and am very happy I watched this moment in history.