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 noticed it for the first time many weeks ago, I thought it was a glitch 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.

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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE TORTURE REPORT

Dec. 9, 2014 - Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne
Feinstein is besieged by reporters about the Committee's
summary  report on torture (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)
       The first time I heard about the use of
torture by the CIA in their interrogation of prisoners I was appalled. Such procedures violate international law and are completely contrary to our American values.
        With the release of the 525-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s much longer report of more than 6000 pages, I am even more appalled, not just by the totally inhumane and brutal practices employed, but by the reaction of those who opposed the release of the report, whether for fear of evoking retaliatory strikes by terrorist groups or out of a misguided belief that the use of such practices was effective and hence justifiable.
        The report shows clearly that the use of torture was not effective.  But that is not the point! Whether it was effective or not, the use of torture is morally and legally wrong. We lost the high moral ground with our preemptive invasion of Iraq and the use of torture has added to our disgrace. What right have we to complain the violation of human rights by any other nation, when we ourselves our just as guilty? The end does not justify the means, and those who say otherwise are doing our nation a huge disservice.
       As for whether or not the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report should have been publicly released, it had to be! One thing that distinguishes America from her enemies is our willingness to confess our mistakes, to disown whatever illegal practices we engaged in, and to recommit ourselves to the high principles for which our nation has always stood, even when individuals and parties have sometimes strayed from them. Would that other nations would do the same.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON THE NEWS FROM FERGUSON

Prosecutor Robert McCullough
       St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement earlier tonight that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown was distressfully disappointing but not at all surprising, given McCulloch’s unprosecutorlike behavior with the grand jury. He has acted all along more like Wilson’s defense attorney than his prosecutor.
        That is understandable but not justifiable, in view of McCullough’s close working relationship with the Ferguson Police Department. That said, his role was to convince the grand jury that Wilson should be brought to trial. Instead, he abrogated that responsibility and inundated the grand jury with conflicting evidence that they were supposed to sort out, evidence that was obviously intended to justify the officer’s shooting of the unarmed African American teenager. In so doing the prosecutor in effect transformed the grand jury into a trial jury, whose conclusion sounded more like a verdict than a decision whether or not to indict.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

Photo by Isaac Brekken/AP
        Thank you, Mr. President!
        Given the unwillingness of the House of Representatives even to discuss the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill that has been in their hands for a year and a half, your executive order providing temporary relief from the fear of deportation to millions of undocumented immigrant families was the right thing to do.  
        You gave the House every opportunity to act. You warned them time and again that if they did not, you would. You gave them ample opportunity to avoid your having to take executive action, and they did nothing. The Republican leaders said they preferred to work on the immigration bill one part at a time, and when you said you were okay with that, they backed off.
        You have stated clearly that even now they can nullify the need for any executive action on your part by passing the immigration reform bill they already have, or their own version of it. But no, they just want to attack you for doing what you legally could and morally should do to fix our broken immigration system.
        This is only a temporary solution, of course. There is much more to be done and you have acknowledged that. But it is a humane and hugely important first step.You have kept your promise to the American people. Thank you for having the courage of your convictions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DON'T WAIT, MR. PRESIDENT!

        The President should act on immigration.
        He has waited long enough for Congress to bring him an immigration reform bill he can sign. He has said repeatedly that the moment they do, the new legislation will supersede whatever executive action he has taken. In the meantime he has promised to take whatever steps are legally possible to improve our broken immigration system.
       Despite that, and despite the fact that both Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush took similar executive action, for Barack Obama do so would be in the minds of many Republicans and the right-wing media one more example of his “lawlessness” and an impeachable offense.  They have been bashing Barack Obama from the moment he first took office, and their negativity paid off for them in the mid-term elections. It aroused the Republican base and disenchanted the Democratic constituency, who, as feared, simply did not turn out to vote.

Monday, November 3, 2014

WHAT WOULD ISAIAH SAY? (A Preelection Sermon)

[This is a shortened and slightly modified version of the sermon I preached yesterday to the Pennswood Village Interdenominational Congregation, in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where I am in my thirteenth year as Minister of Worship.].

From a Bible card published by
the Providence Lithograph Co.
(c. 1904)
        If Isaiah were alive today, I doubt that he would win the most popular preacher award. He would be in too much hot water with those who think the church should keep out of politics.
        Isaiah was not too popular in his day either, for the very same reason. I can imagine the reaction when he attacked King Hezekiah’s foreign policy and denounced the politicians who were advocating an alliance with Egypt. One of the leaders was a foreigner named Shebna, who had risen to a position of power and influence in the court. Isaiah rebuked him publicly for his arrogance and presumptuousness in building an ostentatious tomb for himself.
        This, incidentally, is the only time in the Book of Isaiah that we find the prophet condemning an individual by name, and I’m sure Shebna’s supporters were infuriated by such blatantly partisan politics. Other prophets, like Amos and Jeremiah, did the same thing on occasion, but most of the time the prophets were dealing with issues and policies and general conditions. That was meddlesome enough, and they often paid a severe price for it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

SAY NO TO THE PARTY OF NO!

        It is incredible to me that this mid-term election could result in a Republican controlled Senate, as well as a Republican controlled House of Representatives. What a disheartening prospect that is, even frightening, when you realize how many Republicans would owe their victories to their States’ voter restriction laws and the Koch brothers’ millions.
Mitt Romney sounding off again. Associated Press photo.
        How could any reasonable person see such an outcome as being good for America? What has “the Party of No” done to deserve anyone’s confidence in their ability to govern? Mitt Romney claims such an outcome would end the gridlock in Washington. He conveniently ignores, as he is wont to do, the fact it is his own party that is responsible for the gridlock!
       It is the Republican controlled Congress that has blocked every constructive piece of legislation that has come before the House. They blocked the American Jobs Act, they have opposed raising the minimum wage, they oppose gun control legislation, they have continually tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have blocked the infrastructure bill, they have rejected immigration reform, they have fought campaign finance reform, they have opposed closing the gender pay gap, they have opposed the President’s economic stimulus plan, and they have been against everything and anything the Obama administration has brought to them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SHORT MEMORIES

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
       Too many American voters have short memories.
       Take the Wisconsin electorate as an example. In April, 2012, more than a million Wisconsinites signed a petition to recall Governor Scott Walker. They were infuriated by the Governor’s attacks on the public service unions, by his administration’s misleading preelection tactics, by his enactment of a restrictive voter ID law and a law requiring women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion, and by his continual misrepresentation of the facts.
       Thanks partly to an inordinate amount of special interest money from out of State, Walker survived the recall election. Perhaps an even more important reason for the failure of the recall was the reluctance of many Wisconsinites to go that route. According to the exit polls the majority of voters were concerned about the divisiveness of the election. Two fair-minded friends of mine whose opinions on the matter I had sought, responded along those lines. Their feeling was that the better solution was to vote the Governor out of office in the next election.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TIME IS GENTLE

My grandson, Seth Olsen, writes beautiful poetry. Here is a sample. He sent me this poem a couple of days ago, and with his permission I am posting it on Minding What Matters, for I am confident that you will find it as profoundly moving and thought-provoking as I did. I am adding Seth's name to my list of Guest Contributors, in hopes that he will continue to share his artistic gifts with us from time to time. Be sure to read the entire poem.

Time is gentle;                                                       
and when we need compression
for our gaping wounds,
we cry for it to push harder,
and we fear that it will let us bleed out;

But time is gentle,

and it meets our cries
with the caress of soft hushing,
until finally we fall asleep,
and it abandons us to our dreams,


where we toss and turn,
confined to burn inside a mind
that just might never learn,
no matter how many times it awakens.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SWEETHEART OF THE NASSOONS - Part 4

The Dinky
        What Princetonians affectionately call “The Dinky” is a two-car train that runs back and forth between Princeton and Princeton Junction, where passengers then transfer to a New Jersey Transit or Amtrak north-bound or south-bound train. Princeton Junction today is one of the busiest NJT stations, with thousands of commuters heading to New York or Philadelphia and many points in between throughout the work week.
        The Dinky, also locally dubbed the “the PJ and B” (Princeton Junction and Back!) has been operating for 149+ years. It doesn’t look much different today than it did that Saturday morning of April 26, 1947, as I waved good-bye to my fellow Nassoons and watched the little train disappear around a bend in the track. I wanted in the worst way to be on that train, en route to Wellesley, Massachusetts, but I had to snap out of my sad mood in a hurry, for the Princeton baseball team had a game to play at 2:30 that afternoon against an undefeated Army team. I had no idea, when I woke up that morning, how totally different the day would turn out to be from what I had resigned myself to expect.
        What follows next is my best effort to recall the incredible sequence of events that took place on that fateful Saturday. I wish I could relate the story in precise detail, but I can’t. There are, however, some parts I do remember quite vividly, and there are also established facts and helpful clues that enable me to surmise, deduce, assume, or make some reasonable guesses about the forgotten parts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON THE RAY RICE INCIDENT

Janay and Ray Rice holding press conference
        Domestic violence is a serious problem in our culture. It is usually hidden from public view. Not so in the case of Ray Rice.
        The recently released video taken by a security camera, showing the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back knocking his then fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator back in February has evoked a storm of outrage at the act itself, outrage at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to investigate the incident more thoroughly after seeing an earlier video of Rice dragging her out of the elevator, outrage at the League’s initial lenient disciplinary action of just a two-game suspension for Rice, and outrage at the Ravens’ management and coaches for not immediately denouncing the act more forcefully.
        Even though the couple had had a physical altercation in Atlantic City and had both been arrested by the police and then let go, and even though the couple are now married, and even though the athlete has publicly denounced and apologized for his own actions, and even though Janay is outspokenly supportive of her husband, nothing has assuaged the public anger generated by this incident.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SWEETHEART OF THE NASSOONS - Part 3

        The spring of 1947, my final semester as a Princeton undergraduate, was in full swing. I could not have been busier, with the baseball season underway, a heavy class schedule to keep up with, senior comprehensives and final exams looming on the horizon, my senior thesis to complete, and Nassoon engagements, rehearsals, concerts, and business affairs demanding an inordinate amount of my time.
        All the while I was maintaining an intense correspondence with Margie, my most enjoyable activity by far. We were, as the saying goes, madly in love. On her birthday the Nassoons serenaded her with our own special arrangement of “Happy Birthday to You.” We sang it through once straight vanilla, and then again with the melody buried somewhere in the midst of the wildest six-part chords anyone ever heard. She loved it!
        The Nassoons’ concert schedule had been filling up to the point that we were having to turn down some invitations. We had been booked since way back in October for the Wellesley Senior Prom on Saturday, April 26. It was beginning to look, however, as if we might not be able to muster up a full complement of Nassoons for that occasion because of various conflicts that had developed, including the fact that the Princeton baseball team was scheduled to play at home against Army that same afternoon. Only if the game was rained out would I be able to make it to Wellesley!