Monday, December 05, 2011
Advent is a fitting time to give thanks to God for the gift of the Christ and the message of love and peace Jesus brings to the world. It is also an appropriate moment to thank the surviving WWII veterans for their service. There are fewer representatives of this "Greatest Generation" with us with each passing day. I was sad to hear the Pearl Harbor events are now scaled back - there are too few survivors left to sustain larger commemorations.
In thanking these veterans we are not glorifying war or nostalgically trying to reify some mythic past. There is nothing "good" about war. It is a sign of human sin and failure, a reminder of our rebellion against love and truth and our deep capacity for violence. The only good that comes out of war is the defeat of powers that would enslave humankind. Good is also found in the innumerable acts of bravery and kindness that take place in the midst of the night and fog of battle. Yes, it was good that Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were defeated. In order to achieve this, many men and women risked life and limb for years and returned home with emotional and physical scars. Most of these veterans sublimated the hurts and set about building the greatest era of economic prosperity in world history. Some returned to battle just years later, fighting an awful war of attrition in Korea.
December 7 is a day to remember courage, sacrifice and a generation that bequeathed liberty to much of the world. Alas, we have squandered much of this heritage. Perhaps in this moment of reflection we can remember those virtues that built our prosperity: hard work, thinking of others more than ourselves and partnering with others to confront challenges. I think our "public servants" in both parties can learn from our vets. A little more sacrifice (instead of another vacation, Mr. President), a lot more cooperation (are you listening Mr. Reid and Mr. Boehner?) and a renewal of concern for the future instead of our immediate comfort are the best ways we can say, "thank you" to our veterans - and "bless you" to future generations.
Let's express appreciation to our veterans and allow the spirit of Advent to foster consideration of our deepest virtues. Perhaps 2011 will mark the advent of a new era of cooperation and service, with reverence for God and respect for our neighbors creating joyful communities.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
But today I am thankful. Not for the nonsense mentioned above, but for the real blessings bestowed by God on our nation and planet. The Thanksgiving Holiday is the least sullied, least commercialized day off remaining on the calendar. It is a simple moment: we return thanks to God for all the blessings, take time with family and friends, look for ways to serve the less fortunate and tuck into a good meal. We pause to consider that all we need for sustainable, prosperous living is within reach, if we will be creative, ethical and generous. This week I return thanks for hot water to bathe in, food and water that is healthy, and work that is meaningful. I embrace family and friends and pray that I can be a friend to another who is lonely.
A few days ago I went to the YMCA to exercise. In the gym I saw a dad and his son playing basketball. The little guy was good and reminded me of another "fiery humanist and repressed basketball star (too short)" at his age. The quote about me from my father's description in his 25th Anniversary Harvard Alumni Journal. What was wonderful was the affection of the Dad and the joy of the little boy as they shot hoops and joked together. For a brief moment, all was right: a parent enjoying his role, a child cared for and laughing and a community center supporting these healthy activities.
I am thankful to God. I am grateful for Kathy and 31 years of loving marriage. I am overtaken with joy when I think of each of my adult children. They are not exempt from challenges, but they are full of faith and making their way forward, all the while thinking of others. I am grateful for churches to worship in, students to mentor and teach, colleagues to grow with, audiences to encourage and facebook friends opening vistas of humor and wisdom. I am thankful for health and humbled by friends who return thanks while severely ill. I am glad for life, and join with others in mourning the loss of family members. We laugh through the tears, hug each other and keep walking by faith.
I am thankful that I can make a difference through my prayers, words and works. I am grateful that I can think out loud without fear of imprisonment - something denied to billions on our beautiful sphere. And, despite all the hot air, I am glad I can go to a polling location and cast my ballot.
I am thankful and encourage all who read this to pause and praise in the midst of pressurized lives.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
When people cease self-regulating, anarchy ensues, creating the conditions for hard or soft totalitarianism. In the USA we are at a tipping point of public dependence on public funds. In the midst of the Occupy Wall Street's shrill cries for fairness, we can forget that wealth must be created through (ethical) enterprise and that "government money" is actually our money that is poorly administrated.
Our crisis is much more than economic. The fact that so many people even give a thought to the sham marriage of a narcissistic celebrity while millions suffer privation and our public institutions of ethical cohesion implode is a sure sign that we must find a new way forward. We are in a moment of moral turpitude, spiritual vacuousness and social fragmentation. We know more about social network friends than our neighbors and we mistake soundbites for information and Internet rumors for insight.
What is our way forward? Are we doomed to further decline into nihilism followed by religious or secular totalitarianism? How can we push a "reset" button that will bring change that helps the global community as well as our nation? I offer these thoughts as a place to start.
First, let's decide that it is unacceptable for billions to live in abject poverty. The answer to global poverty is not more UN aid programs. The answer is unleashing the creative powers of entrepreneurship, establishing democratic processes, fostering religious freedom and extending generosity. From fair trade efforts to development initiatives that provide water, health care and education, we can see fundamental change. An Imam from Silicon Valley admitted that there was enough money in the global Muslim community for every member to be cared for, with much left over to show kindness to others! Americans of all faiths or none are a generous lot, but an increase of just five percent in resources for service to developing nations will transform the daily lives of millions. We can unite around a better future for the next generation.
Second, let's live up to our highest ideals instead of making excuses for immoral and unethical decisions. Personal integrity and caring more about the good of others will nurture our souls far more than private ecstasy or other forms of self-indulgence. This Christmas, let's make another family happy as well as our own. I am not suggesting we should deprive ourselves of fun; in fact, when we think of others, life is more delightful as we devise ways to work more efficiently, serve more effectively and play more inclusively.
Thirdly, let's demand that our elected officials privatize their pensions, live within their means, operate more efficiently and demonstrate accountability instead of accommodation to lobbyists. From our President down to City Hall, we can expect better...and we need to wake up and recognize that we voted for these folks! Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians all need to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.
Finally (at least for this essay), let's stop deceiving ourselves about the real situations we face. Radical Islam is a real threat to liberty and the enemies of Israel are also aiming for the USA. We cannot be a warfare and welfare state. Teachers cannot teach students who come to school poorly parented and unready to learn. If we are going to have children, we have to care for them. We must also end our current pathologies of abortion on demand and consider adoption if fertility issues arise. We need borders that are real and immigration laws that are fair. We need to end the current IRS and create a truly fair tax system. Even with religious tensions, it is still better to have complete freedom of conscience and faith and argue with civility than to erase public religious influence or impose a theocracy. We do want the highest values of faith to influence how people live. We must also defend the right of others to disagree and declare their opinions without fear.
We can forge a better future as we live out our faith, unleash creativity and local economies, refuse to give in to intolerance and choose hope instead of fear.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Where is the good news in all of this? What is heartening is the reawakening of the true American ethos by people on both sides of the political aisle. Clear-minded folks are discovering that we need to create wealth in the private sector if we are going to have any public largess. A solid work ethic coupled with public fiscal restraint, is the only pathway forward. Our federal government is incapable of creating jobs directly - it must regulate, not administrate. Government must become more local and less D.C.-centric. Democratic politicians are distancing themselves from Obama and Occupy Wallk Street ius a footnote to real news and the daily focus of most people. The failure of Solyndra is not stimulating gas-guzzling and environmental disaster . quite the opposite is true - Amricans are constantly inventing in backyards and laboratoies, in coffee-bars and corporate boardrooms. Creativity is alive and well - if only we could apply our social networking and technology development energies to new governmental systems!
Hard work, clear thinking, creativity and the end of the warfare-welfare state open new possibilities for a better American future. Our current headlong rush to self-destruction can be turned around in a moment if we will recover courage, humility, reverence for the Almighty, respect for one another and self-discpline that looks beyond the next paycheck. We can drill for oil AND develop new enery sources without environmental armaggedons. We can advocate for a new Palestinian State AND assure Israel's security. We can recover public virtue AND respect privacy. We can have toleration AND debate our deepest differences. My moral objections to homoerotic behavior are not hate speech or intolerance. My support of Israel is not colonial racist zionism. My affirmation of the free market is not an endorsement of rapacious capitalism. Cutting public entitlements includes cutting over-bloated defense spending, recalbrating our global war on terror and choosing seek and destroy missions instead of foreign occupation.
Let's agitate intelligently by reading about the issues, asking searching questions of our public servants and insisting that politicians and public unions play by the same rules as private-sector businesses. There is good news - perhaps we are arising from a half-century of lassitude and willful ignorance. We do not need bumper stickers and other agitprop devices - we need to wake up every day ready to make the world a better place.
Monday, October 10, 2011
First, both groups are suspicious of "the machine." For Tea Party adherents, the machine is an over-bloated, under-accountable, out-of-control federal government. Critical Constitutional liberties and national values are being scorned in favor of a soft totalitarianism. The Occupy Wall Street communities see the machine a "corporate greed", especially in the banking and finance industries. Where is all the bailout money that was supposed to help the "average citizen"? Billions of federal dollars are in the banks and few regular folks have enjoyed any real assistance.
There is much in common here: both groups are (rightly) suspicious of the Corporate State. 20th century history is filled with Communist, Fascist and even "democratic" regimes that established control by cutting deals with their favorite magnates, even as they proclaimed themselves the champions of the middle and working classes. For the Left, Apple Computer, Progressive Insurance and General Electric are OK, but any oil companies, smokestack industries or most banks are the epitome of evil. For the Right, the Federal Reserve, IRS and supporters of the anti-corporate agitiator (President Obama) are enemies of liberty and economic progress.
Second, both groups agitate publicly and are accused by their opponenets of being extremists. While there are a few "nut jobs" and professional agitators in both groups, the way particular media outlets portray these demonstrations is interesting. Tea Party folks are labeled racist, far-right, uncivil and much more by the left-leaning academic and media personalities. According to the Right, the Occupy Wall Street groups are communistic, socialistic and full of hypocritical leaders who endorse the protests while jetting off to foreign vacations.
There is a third similarity: both groups are deeply frustrated with systems that unethically enrich a few at the expense of the many. The Tea part folks ask why all politicians are wealthier after their "public service" and call for benefit and pension reform as well as fiscal responsibility. The Occupy Wall Street groups call out corporate and financial beneficiaries of government largesse. Why are executives getting huge bonuses while their companies still owe the texpayers?
There are differences between these groups as well. Occupy Wall Street has the tacit support of the Obama Administration and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Republicans want the Tea Party vote, but they are still squeamish about full endorsement due to media influence. The Tea Party movements is not an "astroturf" group manipulated by extremists - it is regular folks deeply concerned about borders/immigration, government regulation and size, and personal liberties. Occupy Wall Street has its share of media-hounds and socialists, but most folks want some kind of ethics and honesty in the systems that manage wealth.
A wise leader will see the commonalities and call for a new day of personal and social responsibility, with free markets, balanced budgets and fair tax codes. A wise leader can read between the lines and realize that most Americans do not want "pure" capitalism or socialism, but opportunity to flourish in a fair system (the rule of law) and compassion that cares for the vulnerable without creating generational dependency.
Populism is a deep vein in American political and social history. From the early emancipation and temperance movemments to the agrarian silver advocates to women's suffrage and industrial unions, hard-working Americans have seen through the image-manipulation and advocated for justice. It is my hope that we can transcend the libelous labels and professional pundits and call on the goodwill of responsible people to elect ethical leaders and energetically promote policies that create wealth within the rule of law and open opportunities for a better future.
Friday, September 23, 2011
A cursory review of news outlets blames Israel's refusal to halt new settlement construction for the breakdown in negotiations a year ago. While there is some merit in this, such a facile explanation betrays ignorance of the real issues underlying the current conflict. There is much myth masquerading as truth about The Arab-Israeli conflict. Sorting fact from legend - even for historical events less than a century old - requires intellectual integrity and patience, two virtues lacking in our instant-information-and-analysis Internet Age.
Myth: Israel's oppression of the Palestinians is the reason for the "cycle of violence."
Fact: Israel is not blameless in this conflict; however, she has come to the table again and again, signed peace accords (Campd David, 1978; Oslo, 1993; others in 2000) and watched jihadist radicals subvert the process.
Myth: Palestinian national identity and historic claims to the land are equal to Jewish aspirations.
Fact: Palestinian "national identity" is a recent construct, though many families and villages have deep roots in the land. Jewish connections are unbroken for nearly 3000 years.
Special fact: the tragedies of war in 1948 created a refugee disaster still festering, with the descendants of 400,000+ Arab refugees living in squalor and exile.
Myth: The 1947 UN Resolution establishing a Jewish State place forced the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians and gave control of a large piece of territory to a minority group.
Fact: The UN Partition Plan gave the Jewish population of Palestine a small portion of land in which the Jews were a majority. The plan also called for both Transjordan (the first Palestinian state)and Israel to respect minority civil, property and religious rights.
Myth: Jewish terrorism was equal to Arab terrorism and the Jews massacred civilians and destroyed Arab villages on a large scale in 1948 and 1967. "Remember Deir Yassin" became an Arab war-cry.
Fact: The unauthorized work of the Irgun did result in scores of Arab and British casualties. The legitimate Israeli authorities punished such acts when possible. The exigencies of war did cause up to 400,000 Arabs to leave their homes; however, nearly 200,000 remained and many of them and their descendants have become Israeli citizens. The Mufti of Jerusalem went well-beyond any Zionist rhetoric when he stated unilaterally, "Kill all the Jews!" Egypt's ruler in the 1967 conflict, General Nasser, made it clear that his goal was the destruction of Israel. By the way, more than 600,000 Jews were forced to leave Arab homelands as a result of the 1948 conflict.
Myth: Israel started the conflicts in 1948 and 1967.
Fact: There was low-level fighting in 1947-1948 as both sides positioned themselves before the departure of the British military. The British equipped the Arabs, gave no help to the new State of Israel and washed their hands of any responsibility. The 1967 war was preceded by scores of Arab missile and guerrilla attacks, the closing of borders and waterways and the movement of Arab armies on all sides of Israel. The Israeli "pre-emptive strike" was a brilliant response to the violence and brought a rapid victory. It also cemented Israel's nationhood and wounded the pride of the nations around Israel.
Myth: Israel is a Western imposition arising our of Holocaust guilt.
Fact: The Holocaust DID accelerate world sympathy and UN action toward the new state. The problem with this line of reasoning is that many of its adherents are either Holocaust deniers or exaggerators of Israel's "apartheid" policies.
Special fact: Current PA leader Abbas remains a Holocaust denier and refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist in peace next to a new (and second) Palestinian state.
Myth: Israel does not want an independent Palestine as a neighbor.
Fact: Israel has repeatedly negotiated toward a "two-state" solution - Camp David and Oslo both point the way. She has given up much land for peace and will even negotiate settlements in the West Bank - IF her neighbors will fully recognize her legitimacy, renounce terrorism and produce maps for their schools that include her name! Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this time and again recently and even suggested another settlement freeze in exchange for direct, good-faith negotiations.
Israel is not perfect. She has
* Caused the displacement of many Arabs
* Invaded Lebanon and allowed her "allies" to wreak havoc among refugee camps.
* Erected a border fence that will make peaceful travel between two states difficult.
* Refused to look at creative solutions for Jerusalem - perhaps a shared capital of both nations?
But current Palestinian leaders have not
* Renounced terrorism - especially the killing of innocents.
* Recognized Israel's right to exist peacefully and in perpetuity.
* Demonstrated any ability to treat minority populations with equity.
* Realized that their (exaggerated number of) descendants of the 1948 refugees cannot be allowed to settle within the political boundaries of Israel. Many could, however, help a new Palestine flourish.
Israel remains the only pluralistic democracy in a region of extremism and intolerance. If the USA was not so dependent of Arab oil, we would have helped popular secular movements topple several regimes long ago. Even this year's "Arab Spring" is shrouded in mythology as the Islamicist Muslim Brotherhood takes control in multiple locales. The vandalizing of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is a sign of what awaits these "revolutions" that are the darlings of the anti-Israeli Left in Europe and the USA. It is an insult to all decency to allow the Iranian leader on US soil. The greater tragedy is that thousands of unthinking students and chattering class members parrot his calls to destroy Israel. Ignored in all of this are the arrests of dissidents in Egypt, the "ethnic cleansing" of Blacks in Libya and the non-existence of anything resembling pluralism in the nations surrounding Israel.
The Palestinians deserve better leaders who want to live in peace and create a thriving region in partnership with Israel. When Israel left Gaza to the PA, the result was destruction and more violence. Hundreds of intact businesses were destroyed for no reason. Infrastructure was sabotaged. All this in the name of jihad.
Peace is possible, with direct negotiations and honest US leadership. But first we must know the facts and reject the myths.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Here is the essay:
A Word on then 10th Anniversary of 9-11
As a Christian leader and historian, I am called upon to comment on the threat of radical Islam to America, Europe and other parts of the world. The anniversary of this tragic day is a moment to pause and pray, to reflect and respond to the love of God and the challenges we face. There are three facets of our response to those who wish to destroy our way of life and enslave (they would say, "liberate") the world under a universal caliphate.
The first facet of response is spiritual. As a follower of Christ, I am enjoined to bless those who curse me, pray for those who persecute me and look for ways to serve even those who wish me ill. The most important response to the threat of radical Islam must be a deep spiritual awakening that leads to intimacy with God, integrity in life and positive impact in the world. For Muslims around the world (and perhaps across the street), the terms, "Christian", "Western" and "moral decadence" are all part of the same corrupt culture they want to transform. If we are honest, we must concede that we have abused our liberties and transgressed the commands of a holy God. Authentic repentance and a renewed desire to honor God and serve others is the greatest antidote to the virus of intolerant theocracy.
The second facet is a reaffirmation that the liberties, principles and virtues undergirding the U.S. Constitution have produced the freest societies and the greatest social progress in human history. Radical Sharia law is not just a few folks wanting to practice their religion. Roman Catholics (think charities, churches and parochial schools), Orthodox Jews, Amish communities and other groups have found ways to maintain their distinctions without hastening the demise of a nation and civilization suffused with Judeo-Christian principles. We must never allow two legal systems to coexist and let any group be above the law. Islamic radicalism suppresses women, creates class distinctions among differing religions and, in some cases, rejects all the intellectual and social progress of the last 500 years (think Taliban).
The third facet: Let's make friends with our Muslim neighbors, work together to make our neighborhoods beautiful places for families and call upon all people of goodwill to resist the totalitarian claims of Taliban, Wahhabi and other radical strains that pervert piety. There are millions of Muslims who want to live in a pluralistic world, practice their faith and make a better future for their children. When they discover that we want to life peacefully with (not under or over) them and help them reject the intolerance and violence of some of their co-religionists, the possibilities for real peace increase exponentially. There are reform-minded groups hoping to create a pluralistic Islam. They are few in number, but they deserve our respect.
Moral courage, relational outreach and spiritual awakening compel us to pray for millions to find the joy and peace that Jesus Christ offers. The Gospel is not a coercive religion - it is a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that liberates all to discover God's love and their personal destiny.
We are 13 months away from the most important presidential election in my lifetime. In my next essay I will propose some key principles for progress as I refuse to give in to fatalism and national self-destruction.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
We need to celebrate our relative safety and express our gratitude to the men and women in our law enforcement, intelligence and military forces who work tirelessly to keep us secure.
We also need to reflect deeply on the current contradictions in our policies, with thousands of soldiers at risk, a political class afraid to confront intolerant Islam and economic policies undermining our strength to resist evil.
Even more than policy reflections, we need to respond to this moment with deep moral and spiritual change. Our greatest defense against terror is Divine love demonstrated in compassion, integrity and a resolve to honor past heroes with our own courage born of profound encounters with God and engaging service on behalf of others.
Our enemies call us decadent. We will respond with decency.
Our adversaries hate freedom and liberty. We will reaffirm that we want for all others the rights we desire for ourselves. We are willing to live with our deepest differences.
Radical Islam treasures a coercive, universal caliphate. We will value diversity and never capitulate to totalitarians.
Those who hate us also envy our prosperity and resent our influence. Our posture must be humble, generous and persuasive, allowing our reverence for God, respect for all people and resolute defence of freedom to lead us forward.
Let's rid ourselves of fear and choose faith. Let's forget being "politically correct" and choose moral clarity. Let's love our Muslim neighbors, but not be naive about religious perversions that sanction violence. Let's commemorate this moment with prayer, hugs for family and friends and choosing life every moment.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I invite my readers and all thoughtful Americans to change the course of our current direction and consider the following questions as we seek to build communities and a nation worthy of our founding principles.
To those of the chattering Left, I ask,
Have you actually sat down and spoken at length with your Tea Party neighbors or are you too content in your insulated world of self-importance? You might discover concerned, hard-working people with lots of different backgrounds and ideas that care deeply about their land. You might discover, as I have in many locations, people from every continent and cultural persuasion united by the dream of America.
Have you sat down and spoken with the owners of small and medium-sized businesses who carry an enormous tax burden and find themselves threatened by government-protected multinationals and state politicians squeezing them dry with regulations and taxes? Oh, you love the Hollywood moguls, and leaders of "progressive" companies; however, you recoil around anything with a smokestack or any state that will not support certain union mindsets. You might discover compassionate and generous folks who sustain our communities and want a better future for their children.
To those on the clamoring Right, I ask,
Have you sat down with people across cultural and generational lines and deeply listened as they share the challenges of being different in a world that rewards conformity? Have you heard the cries of disabled workers shuttled from one office to another awaiting help? Are you aware that history is not kind to capitalism divorced from ethical and spiritual restraints? You might discover that the "magic of the markets" is not so simple and that our military budgets are just as full of graft and waste as our social service ones.
Have you thought about how to ameliorate the cost of transitioning millions of workers into a 21st century global economy where other nations do not play by our rules? Family-sustaining jobs are harder to find for those without college and graduate degrees. You will discover many folks working many jobs to make ends meet and wondering if their kids will have a brighter future.
I have one question for both "sides" in the media war. Have you considered comparing the policies and principles of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower? A bit of history may inform all of us. No, there are no "good old days." There were, however, among all Americans, rich and poor, black and white, religious or skeptical, some common values of fidelity to family, respect for neighbor, frugality, generosity and civic spirit that are undervalued in today's sensationalized world. Thank God for the Civil Rights movement that created a better future for millions by appealing to such foundational ideas. Conservatives and liberals a half-century ago had more in common than they had in conflict.
Perhaps these queries will stimulate fresh answers as we reaffirm key values and reach for a better future.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Rein in government spending.
Judiciously privatize many public pension systems, with clear controls to protect the investments of workers.
End special health and retirement benefits for all elected officials.
Transform the tax code, closing outdated loopholes, eliminating double and triple taxation and capping top rates so that investments are rewarded.
Bring our troops home quickly, establish anti-terror military strategies that are mobile and not occupying and start reforming a bloated and corrupt defense industry.
Good ecological policies mean good economics for generations to come. Open new venues for oil and natural gas, while allowing profits from these efforts to fund private-public partnerships for cleaner alternatives. Let's stop both the simplistic, "drill here, drill now" and the "de-development" social engineering and get on with the kind of creativity that built the world's greatest economy.
Reform immigration with compassionate and judicious policies that open doors for legal residency and work while securing the borders and screening out criminals.
Carefully and humanely begin deportation of all illegal immigrants in US prisons.
Reform federal agencies and decentralize as much administration as possible. Instead of more federal money to the states, have a summit with the 50 governors and work on keeping more public dollars at home.
The list could continue for many more pages, but the principles are clear: ethical and fiscal integrity, wealth creation and local/regional socioeconomic strategies that deploy best practices.
Both local and global economies run on confidence. When fear takes over, recession and depression are not far behind. To my friends of the Right - we MUST reform military spending processes and stop being the world's policeman, even while we judiciously confront terror. To my friends of the Left - we must secure our borders and create better efficiencies for public compassion.
Out of the crises of the 1990s both parties had to cooperate and the results were a nearly balanced budget and four million folks off welfare and deployed in the work force.
Will our leaders have the courage to change or will we slide toward Weimar-style amorality and anarchy that opens the door to totalitarian rule? The choice is ours, today and in 2012.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Our soldiers and veterans deserve better policies and support, from how and when we engage terrorism to the fiscal, physical and psychological needs they have off the battlefield.
Disabled and injured workers with legitimate needs have to navigate a dehumanizing system just to get the help they deserve.
Our ally Israel faces hostility from the leaders of the false "Arab Spring" and the threat of a unilateral declaration of another Palestinian state with no diplomatic or security guarantees.
Millions of families will be taxed again when a loved one passes away if there is not real reform in Congress.
Our citizens along the Mexican border and in several cities need protection from criminal cartels and illegal immigrants overtaking their land and opportunities. There are thousands of acres of beautiful parks that are war zones.
Deeply religious people of many traditions are alienated by social engineers determined to rewrite history and social norms.
In the midst of all the inflammatory language, the people most injured are the hard-working, mortgage-and-tax-paying citizens who deserve better stewards of the public trust.
On behalf of all the forgotten folks, I urge leaders to rediscover public service and restore the good credit of the USA.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Create a budget based on the real revenue of the previous year. If there is more money, decide ahead of time where it goes; if less, have the cuts ready.
We cannot be a warfare and welfare state. Declare victory, bring our troops home and have forces ready to strike at global terror threats from secure bases on land and sea.
Stop double and triple taxing the hard-earned wealth of Americans, here or abroad. No death taxes and lower the rate for foreign profits that have already been taxed overseas.
Begin a process of removing the thousands of agricultural subsidies that benefit huge agribusinesses and are no longer needed.
Eliminate the Department of Education.
Transform HUD and other agencies into efficient, decentralized catalysts for help and transformation instead of career paths for social science majors.
Cut defense spending and increase support for veterans. One less bomber means help for thousands of vets and less pork for Congress to give away.
Privatize all public pensions, with excellent regulations through the SEC and other agencies. Eliminate the special retirement benefits for elected federal officials and have them held to the same economic standards as all citizens.
Public employee unions should be able to bargain, but not hold taxpayers hostage to benefits they cannot afford. Bring all teachers and workers into Social Security and offer excellent private plans - just like the rest of the country.
Hold all government agencies accountable for best practices and have private-sector leaders offer insights on efficient methods and ethics.
Transform the IRS with a complete simplification of the tax code, and consider alternative ways of raising revenue.
Invigorate private/public partnerships for all kinds of infrastructure, with high standards, but honest bidding processes and a cap on "change orders" and lawsuits.
Stop sending tax dollars to colleges and universities for frivolous programs and lower the cost of education by demanding that teachers teach and students work.
Above all, create a balanced-budget process (with or without a Constitutional Amendment) that will unleash creativity and economic growth and allow us to start repaying our debt!
Friday, July 01, 2011
James Madison is called the Father of the Constitution, examining 3000 years of sacred and secular history and adept in ancient and modern languages. Compare his irenic intellect with the sound bites of Carville or Gingrich.
Thomas Jefferson is the darling of the Left at times (excepting his ambiguities on slavery of course). But his most important work - our Declaration of Independence - reflects deep reverence for God, concern for natural rights, including personal and property rights, and economic liberty against the mercantile system. Compare this to the central planning economists and bureauocrats like Thomas Friedman who live in mansions while they dictate lifestyle to the American masses.
Many of the founders were clergy, but they defended the rights of others to dissent. Thomas Paine had little regard for traditional religion; however, he affirmed the important of personal responsibility and public virtue. Compare his Common Sense of 1776 with any writing of current Presidential candidates. Here is a freethinker unafraid of the world of ideas while today's Left cowers before Sharia-driven Islam and tries to remove all traces of the Judeo-Christian ethos from public life.
I am forever a hope-filled person. But I am finding it difficult to be hopeful about America's future with the current crop of candidates from both parties and the unreasonable posturing of our federal legislators. May I suggest that all in public life pause this weekend, read the Constitution, allowing the context of our founding to inspire courageous and creative action?
Monday, June 27, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
These phrases are uttered daily by well-meaning people. Change is hard. Changing long-held conscious and unconscious thinking is even harder. There are a few people temperamentally wired for change; however even these initiators of innovation have some habits that are hard to break.
If we are going to solve some of the economic, political and social problems of our era, we must welcome change, as long as the proposed ideas and actions are rooted in well-established values. We often confuse morality with modality, or purpose and method. Within ethical boundaries, there are multiple sound ways to achieve noble ends.
Here are some reasons change is vital right now:
- As most Americans see more than 30% of their earnings going to taxes, there is something wrong with GE paying no taxes.
- As Congress cries poverty as they manage social programs, perhaps they need to shed some perks and join the rest of the citizens in paying for health care and pensions.
- Colleges and universities need to rediscover the mission of professors and students learning together. Let's try to graduate more students debt-free instead of multiplying irrelevant courses.
- A good society takes care of those in need; however, most citizens in such a commonweal do not believe such help is a "right."
- A death tax on monies already taxed is foolish. Far better to give incentives for investing.
- We can drill judiciously and have private-public partnerships developing alternative energy sources. Look how far batteries have come in just a decade.
- Reformation of systems begins with reformation of self. A republic is only as strong as the virtues of its citizens.
- We can be honest and humble about history and hope without denigrating the achievements of our past and indoctrinating earnest minds with politically-correct but empirically untested formulae.
- Change is hard. There is, however, no virtue in stubbornness born of fixation on old methods.
- Unregulated capitalism and bureaucratic socialism achieve the same end: a few are enriched at the expense of most.
Why not change how we do things? From government services to business ethics; from education to social welfare - we can do better if we keep the good of all in mind. Why not? The only limiters are our fear and pride.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Let me unequivocally state that their are "radicals" on the Right and Left that subvert common values and imagine and America and the world in totalitarian terms. I am deeply disturbed by the policies and principles of the Obama administration and I will work tirelessly to see another President elected in 2012. I want local, state and national leaders that share my principles to be in office. I am also weary of libertarian extremists that think that no government regulation is needed and that the "magic" of market economies will solve all our problems.
What we need is radical change - action rooted in values and vision that are not trendy, but truthful; actions rooted in values and vision that inspire moral and spiritual transformation. Here are some "radical" ideas for a 2012 platform:
- Let's live within our means.
- Politicians must have term limits and pay into the same pensions all Americans invest in.
- Let's have an effective, nimble military. We can cut waste and lessen the hold of the "military-industrial complex" on our Congress.
- Let's make sure health care is available to all and that there is ethical oversight. BUT - this is best delivered locally by the private sector.
- Let's welcome all legal immigrants, deport all undocumented prisoners and hold businesses, schools and all agencies accountable for who they admit and hire.
- Let's welcome people of all faiths or none - and refuse special accommodation for any one religion.
- Let's deport any leader who desires the destruction of the USA and advocates jihad for a sharia future. The same severity is also applied to any domestic left or right-wing groups undermining the Constitution.
- Let's affirm the results of anthropology, biology, history, psychology, sociology, and common sense and affirm that the family ideal is a man and woman in lifetime marriage nurturing the next generation. Other adult consensual relationships can be recognized, but they are not marriage.
- Let's fund our public schools well, stop merely teaching to tests and remember that all education centers on students actually learning from teachers that know their subjects.
- Let's rebuild our infrastructure with public-private partnerships that are well-supervised, but free from backroom deal makers who add cost and foster corruption.
- Let's have real transparency in government - why do we need secrets, apart from sensitive intelligence and personnel issues? "Open covenants openly arrived at" needs to be our motto again.
- Let's bring together local and regional educational, business, religious and social service leadership, remove the media from the room, roll up our sleeves and create new ways to combat that tangible problems we face.
- Let's remain friends with Israel, and offer full support to a Palestinian leader willing to unequivocally abide by the accords penned in 1978, 1992 and 2002...everyone is served by democracy, bilateral economic friendship and a region at peace.
- Let's believe in the Constitution. It is neither the Bible nor a "living document" - it is the foundation for the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever seen.
No matter what policies we advocate, our hearts and minds must be united in common moral virtues that affirm both individual liberty and love for neighbor. We must celebrate common goods and well as personal achievements. We must rid ourselves of narcissism and reaffirm reverence for God and respect all humans who are made in the image of God.
Let's be radical!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
- I want for my neighbor all the same liberties I desire for myself.
- Life is more than my current desires, it is about preparing a better future for others.
- Love is not agreeing on everything or accepting any opinion - it is respecting others you profoundly differ with and searching for ways to work together while debating fundamental ideas.
- Love is not an opposite of justice - it is the real center and circumference of justice. Punishing evil is necessary if we love others and want their safety. Offering redemption and remediation to perpetrators is an essential part of a just world as well.
- Love is not the absence of anger - it is anger transformed into altruistic action.
- Agape love is the proper context for all other affections, from erotic attraction to loyalty as friends.
When I turn on the news or read debates, the missing ingredient is unselfish love. Passion is fine, debate is needed, but it seems that our entire culture is awash with fear and narcissism. We can and must do better. The future of our neighborhood and planet depend on the decisions we make today. I choose Love.
Friday, March 25, 2011
- We can protect workers from rapacity and balance a budget.
- We can grow our economy and be good stewards of the delicate and extraordinary ecosystem.
- We can work for freedom around though non-violent means when possible.
- We can protest private property from the petty fiefdoms of corrupt city and county officials while caring for the environment.
- We can have real academic freedom, debating all world-views and refusing to alienate those who are no politically correct.
- We can welcome people of all faiths or none to the public square, with the understanding that they must want the same rights for others that they desire for themselves.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
C = There is no CLARITY in current decisions. Until the recent months, Libya was barely on the radar screen and her leader a bit player. Now we are "liberating" Libya? Why was it wrong for both Bush Presidents to engage in Iraq but Clinton and Obama can drop bombs?
E = There are no ETHICAL principles guiding this Administration other than ideological vagaries and political expediency. Yes, sometimes economic realism forces us to work with regimes we find distasteful - and isn't interesting that we are in tune with the Saudis who fund terrorism and bombing a nation that renounced it?
A = There is few AMERICAN interests behind current trends. The Administration is determined to make us good global citizens at the expense of the creativity and liberties that make us an exceptional nation.
S = The lack of STRATEGIC thinking is tragic and does not bode well for our future. There are strategies for all the wrong ideas, especially policies that increase federal control and oversight. Obama is content, like all totalitarians before him, to try to ride above the contentions of his minions and then appear to save the day.
E = The utter lack of ENTHUSIASM for American life and our potential is evident, with all the bowing to foreign royalty, calls for "humility" and outright capitulation (dare we say submission?) to the Islamic interests we are "reaching out" to. Our friends do not trust us, our enemies see us confused and the world lacks a clarion call to freedom.
There must be a candidate for President willing to balance the budget, use military force wisely with as little occupation as possible and keep our land free from self-destructive dependence on resources from regimes dedicated to our destruction.
Republicans must choose wisely and be ready to endure a hailstorm of abuse from many voices, who, though disappointed with Obama, cannot bear the thought of ethical, principled leader who is patriotic, devoted to liberty, determined to reduce federal waste and a believer in the potential of every person.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
We must pause for prayer, reflection, and generosity. It is also an opportunity to think deeply about what really matters in the human condition and set aside the ideological rants and political posturing.
Human beings are more than their material conditions. We are complex creatures with the potential for gross depravity and great dignity. We work and worship. We want a future for our posterity. We can be crassly materialistic and creatively magnanimous and philanthropic. Most of us spend most of our best hours working in order to eat, clothe and shelter ourselves and others - and we wake up the next day to do the same. Yet in the midst of our survival we find time for altruism and art, liturgies and loves.
When a family member or close friend dies, the extended clan and neighbors rally to help. Somehow the computer can wait while we mourn, bake bread or help clean a home.
Our global family has suffered loss - can we take a moment to pray and look for ways to help? Why don't we suspend political wrangling (even about climate change) for one day and focus on our friends in the Pacific? Maybe it will help recalibrate the rest of what we do.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
But there are other, more pressing questions. Will I have a job next year? Will we be able to pay our mortgage or rent? Will my investments - especially in real estate - hold up? Will my kids have a better or declining future? Is climate change real? Is today's solar flare a sign of things to come?
As I write these words, I am grateful for the breakfast I just ate, hot water that works, clean clothes and a full "to do" list for the days (OK, weeks and months) ahead. I have a great marriage, three wonderful adult children, purpose in life and friends and colleagues that challenge me toward growth and love me as I am. As Art Garfunkel sings, I am "blessed and truly grateful."
But the questions remain and I cannot hide away in my office or try to create some kind of detached mental or physical bunker to escape my connectedness with the real world. One of my gifts is clarity, so I want to get to the heart of each matter in a few sentences and confront myself and others with our responsibility for the current problems. It is not enough to talk about "them" before we look in the mirror.
The unrest in Arab nations is not new, but it is well-planned and staged for a global audience. Corrupt regimes are being challenged and the protesters are in two groups. The first consists of moderate or liberal, well-educated and caring people who want to establish freedom. The second group, lead by the Muslim Brotherhood and other devotees of radical Islam, will join with the first temporarily to be rid of the current regimes. Their goal is to gradually impose sharia law and attempt to return these lands to Koranic values. On the surface this sounds like self-determination, but it means oppression for women, dhimmitude (inferior) status for other religions and a long-term aim of a universal caliphate, thrusting the world back to the 13th century.
Peace with Israel is simple: She must have an unconditional guarantee that her existence and sovereignty will be honored by Palestinian neighbors and surrounding nations. Settlements will stop and boundaries will be established when Arab leaders want peace. As long as the Arabic speeches scream blood libel and spew out violent propaganda, there is little hope for resolution. Whatever influence Obama thinks he has (and it is precious little) should be spent arm-twisting Arab nations and the Palestinians, not lambasting Israel.
Our leaders must summon the courage to stop the economic bleeding NOW. Impose an immediate freeze on all increases, cut ALL budgets by at least 10% and start looking for ways to re-empower states and localities and re-engineer the process of resource distribution. The tragedy at the federal, state and local level is that when cuts are imposed, they hit the most vulnerable instead of targeting the bloated boards and bureaucracies. We need more dollars for the mentally and physically challenged, the young and the old, and for the classrooms. We do not need more dollars for employee pensions that must be privatized, duplicate agencies and wasteful Pentagon contracts. Cut the fat, keep taxes reasonable, eliminate the death tax, and create environments for wealth creation. We can again be the economic leader of the world if we will stop lying to each other!
The moment spending is under control, investment will grow, money will be more available and stability and growth will return. Our understandable personal fears will diminish if our future is not wasted by the abusers of power and purse.
By the way, one of the core issues underneath all our problems is that we cannot sustain a warfare and welfare state simultaneously. Both Democrats and Republicans have lacked the courage to stand up to the false compassion and the faulty contracts that place us in this mess.
Let's keep rapid deployment troops near terrorist hot spots and bring home our troops. We do not need to be an occupying power in inhospitable lands. Taliban leaders can be toppled by popular unrest - and we can support this intelligently. But the presence of US forces long-term is now a liability. "Bring Him Home" Mr. President.
Underneath the overt media-driven narcissism, below the surface of our consumerism is a wellspring of compassion, creativity, hard-work, neighborliness, entrepreneurial strength and hope that is the soul of the USA. With a moral and spiritual awakening and some common sense, we can renew our land and be the beacon of hope for a world.
I remain hopeful and realistic. History demonstrates the great good that comes from concerted ethical action (Wilberforce and slavery; MLK and Civil Rights) and the tragic consequences of economic and moral decline (Rome in the 3rd-4th century and Spain after 1588). Let's make history by creating a better future starting today.