Thursday, March 12, 2015

I’M ON HILLARY’S SIDE!

Hillary Clinton takes a question at her Press Conference
        I’m on Hillary’s side.
        I thought she handled herself pretty well at her recent press conference. If what she did about her emails was not illegal, and it wasn’t, what’s the big deal? If the security of the United States was not compromised, and apparently it wasn’t, I have no problem with her using a properly secured private server.
        True, there are some unanswered questions, but they don’t bother me. I don’t care why she did things the way she did. She said it was a matter of convenience, I accept that. She also admitted, given the firestorm that has arisen, that it would have been better had she used the State Department server for her official email correspondence. I agree with that. I don’t care if she erased some of her personal correspondence. She is entitled to her privacy. Did any of those emails in any way compromise the integrity of her position as Secretary of State? I seriously doubt it. Hillary Clinton is a very intelligent, experienced woman who is well aware of the protocols and the risks of violating them. There is no doubt in my mind that she has her country’s  best interests at heart, and she has demonstrated that as a public servant.
        But here is what I find really infuriating. In the midst of all this politically motivated fuss about Hillary Clinton’s email the media commentators for the most part are barely mentioning one of the most infamous and unprecedented actions ever perpetrated by a group of United States senators. Forty-seven Republican senators signed a letter (click to see) addressed to Iranian leaders that was intended to undermine President Obama’s efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Their action has led many to label the signers as traitors! They have jeopardized our nation’s negotiating position. They have misrepresented our President’s role in the negotiating process.

Friday, March 6, 2015

NYET, NYET, MR. NETANYAHU!

You were preaching to the choir.
        I listened carefully to both of your speeches, Mr. Prime Minister. Your delivery was excellent.You knew your audiences, You told them exactly what they wanted to hear. You waved the Israeli flag well. You were strong on Israeli-American relations, as well you should be.
        Your remarks were very well received by your AIPAC friends and by your hawkish Republican supporters in Congress, whose thunderous applause must have warmed your heart and massaged your ego. You were preaching to the choir! And their response was sure to play well with your friends back home in Israel. Even your opponents must have been impressed with the enthusiastic reception you received from your highly politicized audiences.
        Contentwise your speech to AIPAC was appropriate. You kept it within proper bounds. But was your address before the joint session of Congress equally appropriate? Was it the right thing to do? Nyet, nyet, Mr. Netanyahu! You knew that Speaker of the House John Boehner had violated protocul by inviting you without having consulted the President of the United States. You knew that the President did not approve of having you, as a foreign head of state, address the Congress two weeks prior to your having to face a hotly contested election in your own country.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MORE KUDOS AND CATCALLS (No. 4)

Kudos to President Obama for vetoing the Keystone Pipeline Bill. ThiNo. s was the first substantive veto of his presidency. Before this he had used his veto power only twice in six years, both on minor bills, far fewer than any of his recent predecessors.  We can expect there will be more to come, unless the Republican controlled House and Senate have a change of heart and attitude and start working with the President instead of against him. . .

Catcalls to Congress for threatening to cut off funding for Homeland Security. The adverse and even disastrous effects of shutting down the government or parts of it do not seem to bother our Republican Congressional Representatives, even when they now control both Houses of Congress. They are still the Party of NO! . . .

Kudos to New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson for ordering Governor Chris "In your face!" Christie to restore the funds he had withheld from the Pension Fund for retired public workers. The New Jersey Governor's many troubles at home are seriously damaging his chances of winning the Republican nomination for President. His state is worse off financially that it was when he took office. And then there is the "Bridge scandal". . .

Catcalls to United States District Judge Andrew Hanen for granting, in response to an appeal by twenty-six Republican controlled states, a temporary injunction blocking President Obama's executive action on immigration. They want to pursue a lawsuit that would permanently stop the President's executive action. This is a suspiciously political decision that will be appealed and hopefully reversed. . .

Friday, February 20, 2015

LOUD CATCALLS TO RUDY GIULIANI! (No. 3)

No apology from Giuliani (photo by Rob Kim Getty Images) 
        Loud catcalls to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the totally inappropriate, blatantly false, and shamefully disrespectful remarks he made about President Obama at a fundraiser for Scott Walker on Wednesday. “I do not believe the President loves America,” said Giuliani. “He doesn’t love you, and he doesn’t love me.” When questioned about his remarks, the outspoken ex-mayor made matters worse in an interview on Fox News, and he has refused to retract or apologize for what he said.
        More catcalls to Governor Walker for not disassociating himself from Giuliani’s comments, when asked how he felt about them, in an interview Thursday morning on CNBC. Instead he “punted” again, saying, “I’m in New York. I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.” Answer the question, Mr. Walker. Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Giuliani?
        Catcalls to all the racist Obama haters who are constantly saying these kinds of things about the President of the United States. They have every right to disagree with him on any issue, but it is egregiously unfair and completely inexcusable to question the President’s patriotism. If their comments were not so reprehensible they could be ignored as utterly ludicrous. Barack Obama embodies the American Dream, and for that he has expressed his immense gratitude over and over again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

IF I WERE A BASKETBALL COACH . . .

       What qualifies me to write about basketball? Not a whole lot, compared to long-time coaches, big-time players, and serious analysts.
        But I did play basketball in high school and college, and in between jobs one year I worked as a Math and English tutor and assistant basketball coach at McDonogh School, of which I am an alumnus. The head coach was dealing with a serious leg injury, and I was called upon to help. We had a winning season in the Maryland Scholastic Association’s A Conference, that included the major public high schools of Baltimore.
        Since then I have continued to be a fan of the sport. Before she died Margie urged me to continue ordering our two season tickets to the Princeton University basketball home games, and I have being faithfully attending the games, usually with my son Woody or occasionally with a friend, when Woody can’t be there.
The Princeton women's basketball team is currently ranked
 No. 16 in the Associated Press poll
        It has been a special joy to watch the 23 and 0 Princeton women play. As I write this they are currently the only undefeated college team in the nation and are ranked sixteenth by the AP and 17th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
        I like watching games with Woody, because we both focus on the game and our conversation is all about what is happening on the court. We both are distracted by fans at sporting events who talk about everything else but the game. Woody is comfortable with my analytical observations, and I am with his.
        All that said, I have come to some conclusions about the sport that if I were coaching I would stress with my players. I don’t know whether or not today’s coaches would agree with all or any of my “basic rules for basketball players,” or if they even think about them. I would have to conclude that some coaches must not, because their players seem to violate one or more of these rules in every game I have ever watched.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SCOTT WALKER FOR PRESIDENT?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
       The Koch brothers like Scott Walker. That should tell us something!
        Wisconsin voters who were bitterly opposed to Governor Walker’s denying State employees the right to bargain and slashing other benefits, to his drastic cuts to the state’s public education budget while giving tax breaks to the wealthy, to his opposition to a minimum wage hike, to his voter restriction measures, to his denial of a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, to his defunding of planned parenthood, and his other ultra-conservative policies, forced a recall election.
        But with huge financial backing from the Koch Foundation PAC and the shenanigans of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans For Prosperity (AFP), Walker managed to survive the recall and go on to win reelection, much to the amazement and disgust of many outside observers. What is wrong with the people of Wisconsin?, they wondered. Can’t they see it? Don’t they get it? Obviously they didn’t, even when the Koch-founded-and-funded AFP sent out faulty absentee ballots to Wisconsin’s voters. The ballots indicated the deadline was August 11, when the election was to be held on August 9!
       And now here he is at it again, embroiled in another heated controversy, as he attempts to cut state funding to the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation’s great state universities. This is the man who recently refused to respond when asked if he believes in evolution.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

MORE KUDOS AND CATCALLS (No. 2)

Kudos to the Senate and the House of Representatives for passing, finally, the bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. It was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday. . . .

Catcalls to the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee for backing off from supporting Loretta Lynch for Attorney General of the United States and forcing a delayed vote on her confirmation. . . .

Kudos to the Senate for their overwhelming confirmation of Ashton B. Carter to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. . . .

Catcalls to Republican Senator John Cornyn (Texas) for introducing a bill that would allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits to carry their hidden firearms into any of the other 46 states that grant such permits. As we would expect, the NRA has enthusiastically endorsed the bill. Why do so many people think the solution to gun violence is more guns and less restrictions on those who own them? . . .
You're almost there, Sissy!

Kudos to Sissy, the miniature Schnauzer who ran away from home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was able to find her owner, Mrs. Dale (Nancy) Franck, who was recovering from surgery in the Mercy Medical Center, twenty blocks away. Sissy had never before been to the hospital! . . .

Catcalls to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who during an appearance in London, refused to answer whether or not he believes in or accepts evolution! “For me, I’m going to punt on that one as well,” he told the questioner. “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” That tells us a lot about Scott Walker. . . .

Have you any kudos or catcalls to add?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT, CONGRESS!

        Let’s see if we can make sense of a complicated issue.
        President Obama has asked Congress to give him authority to take military action against ISIS, with whom we have already been at war for months. It is a carefully drafted resolution that he hopes will be a fair starting point for a thorough discussion and debate by Congress.
        The resolution has received strong reactions from both sides of the aisle. Some Republicans argue that the President already has the power to deploy troops as he sees fit under the War Powers Act. Being more hawkish than the Democrats, they don’t want to limit the President’s authority to use ground troops. At present more than 3,000 American troops are employed in an advisory and supportive capacity, but are not engaged in direct combat.
        The somewhat hazy language of the resolution allows for the use of combat troops for special purposes but not for “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

FAREWELL, OLD FRIENDS

        My Dad often commented sadly in his later years, as he would hear of the death of a long-time friend, “The longer you live, the more friends you lose.”
        That sounds like a truism, not the least bit profound, but for my Dad it expressed a powerfully emotional reality that we all must face, if we live long enough, as more and more of our friends predecease us.
        All of my closest boyhood friends have died. All of my college roommates, my closest shipmates from my Navy days in World War II, all of my good friends from my baseball years, goodness knows how many wonderful friends from the various churches I have served, some close colleagues with whom I served on the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary, and many good friends from recent years are no longer living.
Jim Hester, 1925-2015 
        That’s why I cherish the good old friends who are still around, and that’s why I grieve all the more, when one of them dies. In recent days I have lost two such friends. Jim Hester was my oldest Princeton friend and classmate. We met in June, 1942, when we both showed up as student waiters in the undergraduate student dining halls known as “the Commons.” We became instant friends, and the following November Jim came home with  me for Thanksgiving. We both loved to harmonize, and we used to entertain my mother, as she was preparing the delicious meals she served us. Her favorite song and ours was “The Java Jive.”
        Jim joined the Marines and I enlisted in the Navy the next month. We went our separate ways, but continued to see each other at Princeton reunions and on other occasions. In recent years we have been living in the same retirement community, where our almost daily greeting was not "Hello!" or "Good morning!" or "Good evening!" or just "Hi!" but "I love coffee, I love tea, I love the Java Jive and it loves me!"
        If you clicked on the Jim Hester link above you know what an amazingly accomplished man he was and what a distinguished career he had. But I'll remember the young Princeton freshman with whom I used to wait tables, study and harmonize, as well as the wheel-chair bound but still sharp as a tack friend I've been seeing almost every day for the past few years. Jim's ashes will be buried in Princeton Cemetery, not far from where my wife Margie's are buried and where mine will be, when my time comes. I'll be conducting a graveside committal service for Jim's family a few weeks from now, when the weather is more favorable.

Monday, February 9, 2015

I DON’T LIKE RELIGIOUS LABELS

       When it comes to matters of religion and faith, I don’t like labels, because of the baggage they carry with them. I try not to label others, and I don’t like to be labeled.
        I have not found a single term that describes who I am. I am more comfortable with adjectives than with nouns. On social justice issues I am usually on the liberal side. Morally I am conservative. Politically I consider myself to be quite independent. Theologically I would call myself confessional and in some respects radical, but I’d want to describe what I mean by that. Faith-wise I am evangelical, but I don’t want to be called AN evangelical, or A liberal, or A conservative, or A radical, because not one of those terms by itself defines who I am.
        There is a huge difference between being evangelical and being an evangelical. The adjective evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “good message,” or “good news.” The corresponding Anglo-Saxon word was god-spel, which was contracted, as is the way with words, in English to “gospel.” So the adjective “evangelical” means pertaining to, or characteristic of, or devoted to the gospel or the good news, specifically the good news of Jesus Christ. How could any

Thursday, February 5, 2015

KUDOS AND CATCALLS (No. 1)

There are some folks in the news deserving our plaudits and others deserving our criticism. Depending upon our political leanings and other factors, we will have our differences of opinion as to who deserves which. Below are some of my personal choices for kudos or catcalls. I invite viewers to add some of their own to the list.
Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady

KUDOS AND CATCALLS

Kudos to Tom Brady for wanting to giving the 2015 Chevy Colorado pickup truck he received for being the MVP of the Super Bowl to his teammate Malcolm Butler for his game-winning interception in the final seconds of the game. . . .

Catcalls to the creators of most of the TV commercials on Super Bowl Sunday. How can so many advertisers get it so wrong? . . .

Kudos to Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll for the way he has dealt with the harsh criticism he has received from the Monday morning quarterbacks and second guessers who know what he should have done after the fact. Coach Carroll had a game plan. If it had worked, and the chances were good that it would, he would have been hailed as a genius. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that Marshawn Lynch, as good as he is, would have scored. The Patriots might have risen to the occasion. They were not looking for a pass. The quick pass, could well have worked, had not Malcolm Butler made an incredible interception. . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2015

CONFIRM LORETTA LYNCH!

 
      U. S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch comported herself very well yesterday and today in her appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was articulate, composed, confident, unruffled, gracious, and she is extremely well qualified for the position. The Committee should move quickly to confirm her appointment.
        The Republicans on the committee, however, have been more interested in criticizing outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, whom they accused of being in cahoots with President Obama in ignoring and violating (my words) the Constitution of the United States. They were bent on making sure that Ms. Lynch, if confirmed, would be her own person. She assured them that she would be, but she would not comply with their attempts to get her to criticize the President’s actions regarding immigration.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

COMMENTS ON 'DEFLATEGATE"

The quarterback and his coach
        I have mixed emotions about the "deflategate" controversy. I don't like the rush to judgment against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady that has characterized much of the discussion on the social media and public media.Too many commentators are acting as if the Boston coach and his quarterback are guilty until proven innocent.
        On the other hand the fact that eleven of the twelve footballs used by the New England Patriots in their AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts on January 18 were found to be below the allowed air pressure range does raise questions. How did it happen? Did someone tamper with the footballs? Did either Brady or Belichick know about it, or have anything to do with it? Why is it taking so long to find out, and is there anything to the rumor that the culprit was an equipment manager?
        Could the drop in pressure have been weather related? There have been conflicting opinions   offered by scientists about that possibility. Regardless of the cause, did the deflated footballs give the Patriots an unfair advantage over the Colts? I seriously doubt it. The lop-sided score is enough of an indication that the Patriots were the far better team that day both offensively and defensively.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

TOO MUCH COMMERCIAL TIME!

        Yesterday I posted an article calling attention to the frequent cutting off of commercials on my favorite news channel, MSNBC. Their sponsors are getting short-changed!
       Now I have a beef on the other side of the coin. I resent the amount of time devoted to commercials! MSNBC is no worse than any other channel or station in this regard. I remember when half-hour programs were limited to three and a half minutes of commercial time. Those were the days! How different it is now!
        Way back in 1951 the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) adopted a code of practices for television broadcasters. It prescribed not only the amount time that should be devoted to commercials but also a set of ethical standards prohibiting such things as the use of inappropriate sex, profanity, and the disparagement of God and religion. Television broadcasters indicated their compliance with the Code by displaying a "Seal of Good Practice" in the closing credits.

Friday, January 23, 2015

MSNBC’S SPONSORS ARE GETTING SHORTCHANGED!

       My channel of choice for watching the daily news and commentary is MSNBC. I wonder how many of their viewers have noticed, as I have, that many of their commercials are cut of before they finish. This is not an isolated occurrence. It happens frequently.
        When I saw first saw it happen many weeks ago, I thought it was a mistake that could and would be quickly corrected. I can understand how such a mistake could occur once in a great while. But when it kept happening day after day and week after week, I became more and more concerned and frankly annoyed. Not that I love watching TV commercials, but I was offended by what was at best sloppy programming and at worst deliberate  malpractice on somebody’s part.
"Chicken parm you taste so good!"
        One commercial I do enjoy watching is the one in which Payton Manning is singing his own words in various settings to the Nationwide Insurance Company’s theme song. At the very end he sits down to watch television and you hear the familiar voice of their young woman singing “Nationwide is on your side!,” after which Payton  hums the tune one more time.
        As a former advertising executive who used to produce commercials, I would give the Nationwide commercial a very high rating. In a low-key but interesting way it very effectively fixes the insurance company’s theme song/slogan in the viewer’s memory. Though the sponsor’s name is mentioned only once, the end result makes for excellent product identification. So the first time it was cut off before I heard the woman sing the Nationwide theme song followed by Payton’s humming the tune again at the end, I thought to myself, “Nationwide should get its money back!”
       The sponsors to whom this is happening have a legitimate beef . They are getting short changed. At first I thought that whoever monitors the programs would notice what was happening and put a stop to it immediately. When it kept happening day after day and week after week, I decided I should call it to my readers’ attention to see if anyone else has noticed.
        I’m hoping MSNBC will get my tweet about this. Maybe if enough people bring it to their attention, they’ll do something about it!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SWEETHEART OF THE NASSOONS - Part 5

        As a college student I did not own a typewriter. I wrote all my papers in long hand. I did the same in Midshipmen School. In my senior year at McDonogh School I had sat in on part of a typewriting class, where I picked up a few exercises but never really learned to type. As a Naval Supply officer aboard ship I had enlisted men (“storekeepers”) who did most of the typing. For what little typing I had to do, I used my own two-finger “hunt and peck” method.
        Lacking that skill proved to be a disadvantage in more ways than one. All of my correspondence was hand-written, included much of what I had to do as Business Manager of the Nassoons. I would punch out the more important letters on a borrowed typewriter, but that took so much more time, because I was constantly having to erase my typos on the originals, as well as on the carbon copies, using what in those days we called “slip sheets," and that took time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A MEMORABLE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

        Speaker John Boehner’s facial expression and body language during President Obama’s State of the Union address last night spoke volumes about the Republicans’ attitude toward Mr. Obama’s accomplishments and about his agenda for his final two years in office.
        Likewise, the unwillingness of the Republican lawmakers to applaud, let alone rise to their feet, for ideas in the President’s speech they themselves once favored, is a further indication not just of their disagreement with but of their dislike of the President.
        As a Pastor I learned early on that parishioners’ comments about my sermons told me more about them than it did about my sermons. I also learned that if you are really being true to the teachings of Jesus Christ, you are bound to step on a few toes. Those who like you will thank you for that. Those who don’t like you won’t like your sermons, no matter what you say.
        That is analogous to what’s going on with Congress. The Republicans have resented Barack Obama from the beginning, and they agree with nothing he says. That was certainly obvious tonight. If it were not so exasperating, listening to the Republican responders to the address tonight would have been almost amusing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

GET READY FOR THE HILLARY BASHERS!

Hillary Clinton
       Hillary Clinton has been and still is the most likely Democratic nominee for President in 2016.Her delay in formally announcing her intention to run is undoubtedly at least partly due to a desire not to peak too soon. Nevertheless, she has been and continues to be far ahead of any likely Republican opponent in the polls.
        But to borrow a line from Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, “Just you wait, Henry Higgins!” The big Republican smear campaign is about to begin. And the sad truth is that negative campaigning works. Look what it has done to President Obama’s popularity ratings. I hate to think of the kinds of smear tactics the Republicans will use against Hillary.
        Once again the perspicacity of the American voting public will be tested. Will they discern the half-truths and misrepresentations that are sure to come? Given the gullibility of so many Americans regarding the Republicans’ distorted criticisms of Obamacare, I wish I could be more confident that they will pay more attention to the facts than to the falsehoods.
        But when many of the same people who are opposed to Obamacare are all in favor of the Affordable Care Act, how can one be optimistic about the fair-mindedness if not the intelligence of those who will soon be the targets of the Hillary bashing brainwashing the Republicans are so good at?      
        We’ll see.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A CHRISTMAS SONG


I don't know what the shepherds heard that night so long ago.
     Angelic messengers of God defy my mind, although 
I love to hear the story of the angels from on high,
     and sing about that holy night when music filled the sky.

For if we hear the angel song and know the joy it brings,
     then Christian faith today as then must be a faith that sings!
A song there is for all to sing, yet each one's own must write ---
     a song of faith and hope and love, a song of truth and light.

Have we a Christmas Song, I ask, a message to proclaim?          
     What news have we to share with those who may not know the name
of him whose birth we celebrate each year on Christmas day?
     Is there a melody of works that blends with what we say?

The shepherds heard the angels' song with gladness and good cheer.
     I wonder if our Christmas Song brings joy to those who hear,
and hope to those who have no hope and need a helping hand?
     A song of acts our song must be, before they'll understand.

The Christ of whom the angels sang, a servant Christ was he,
     and if we want to be like him then servants we must be ---
our Christmas Song, a servant song; our gospel backed by deeds;
     our peace on earth, good will to all; its theme:  our neighbors' needs.

What better way to tell the news about the Savior's birth?
     How better to proclaim good will and peace to all on earth?
So let our hearts and voices now blend with the angel throng,
     for what would "Merry Christmas!" mean without a Christmas Song?

From Now, That's a Miracle!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A BOLD STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

        A few days ago I started an article advocating the normalization of the relations between our country and Cuba, but some pressing personal matters forced me to put that project on hold. I had planned to urge President Obama to take steps to fulfill his early intention to do that.
President Obama announces is new policy toward Cuba.
        Then yesterday, following Cuba’s release of American Alan Gross, whom they had held prisoner for five years, came the President’s world-shaking announcement that the move toward normalization had begun. It was initially brokered, as it turns out, by Pope Francis. The USA had released three convicted Cuban spies, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino, members of the so-called Cuban Five, in exchange for Gross and an unnamed US intelligence agent, whom they had been holding for twenty years. Even as Mr. Obama was speaking, Cuba’s President Raul Castro, brother of ailing Fidel, was simultaneously informing the Cuban people of the exchange in a tone some commentators called remarkably conciliatory.
        President Obama sees this as a first step toward ending the embargo, an action only Congress can take, because of congressional legislation naming three conditions that have to be met first: 1, the liberation of all political prisoners; 2, the legalization of all political parties, guaranteeing the freedom of the press and of labor unions; and 3) the scheduling of free elections for the Cuban people, with international supervision.