Blog-cation

August 28, 2008

  

Ahhhh!  Spending a few days shy of a week, looking at these.  The Grand Tetons.  No computer, no Internet connection.  Instead, my wife, some good friends, some good books and the Word.


Clinton Calculation

August 27, 2008

                     

For anyone who might believe that there is anything NOT calculated about the public appearances and performances of the Clintons, let this be an example of the lengths to which they go in the way of advanced planning.  Handlers are seen here “sampling” a variety of her famed pantsuits to see how they look with the lighting in the Pepsi Center and the DNC stage backdrop.

By way of commentary, the two on the left wash out with the color of the backdrop.  And, as for the red one, it might conjure up too many notions of “red states” and then there is that whole spiritual realm thing that red associates with.  So, the choice was pretty obvious, t-sip orange, which is what she wore.


Michelle Obama Redux

August 26, 2008

Last night at the Democrat National Convention, we saw a major effort to rehabilitate the image of Michelle Obama.  In many ways, they probably did about as good a job as they could possibly have hoped to.  That said, I can’t imagine that it has changed many minds about her, nor will it have that great an impact on the decisions that have already been made (or will be made) about the preparedness or qualifications of her husband to be president.  Still, there were several things that struck me as I watched Michelle deliver her address, and in the video that preceded it.

First, Michelle was re-cast as a loving daughter, sister, wife and mother.  This is not to suggest that these are new roles for her, but rather this more gentle side is what was emphasized.  And in so doing, the party was trying to soften the hard image that has plagued her since her husband burst onto the national scene.  It has been a process that started some time ago, when it was announced that she was undergoing a makeover and was going to be repackaged.  Perhaps it really started when she appeared in a feminine sundress on The View, instead of the more hard-edged professional attire she has been known to wear on other occasions.  Gone for the most part were specific references to her Ivy League education and the only real mention of a profession came by way of the means by which she met her husband.  

Secondly, what struck me was the conclusiveness with which Michelle attributed her character and groundedness, to the nature of her upbringing.  I suspect that the intention of the DNC was to try to paint Michelle as “one of the rest of us”, with a normal (whatever that means) childhood and family experience built on the American Dream of hard work, education, and resulting success.  However, the irony of this projection is this.  Michelle (and her mother in the video) describe a family experience that is so troublingly absent in our culture, and ESPECIALLY in the African American community.  Her family experience was described as having a known, present, and breadwinning father, a stay at home mother, a cohesive and supportive sibling relationship, with a family emphasis and insistence on education.  To too great a degree, these terms cannot be used to describe the black family in America today.  To what extent are the welfare state programs that the democrats are so in favor of, serving to reverse this dangerous trend?  Or could it be argued that these programs actually facilitate the deterioration of family? 

Noticeable absent was any mention of the part that faith has played in her early years, or how it shapes her today.  Frankly, even though its absence was noticeable, the fact that it was excluded is not the least bit surprising to me.  This aspect of both Michelle and Barry’s history is beyond any short term remediation in terms of image making.  Clearly neither are beyond the grace of God, but this is a subject that they needed to avoid bringing back up.  Because, the absolute best explanation for why the two of them maintained a 20 some-odd year relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is that they were too ignorant to perceive the nature of his theology with its race-infused hatred for America.  Given the educational credentials and advanced professional degrees that both possess, attributing this to ignorance seems implausible, so the alternative is equally difficult to explain away.  And that alternative explanation is that for 20 plus years, the Obamas held at least smoldering sympathies for Wright’s message.

Finally, Michelle has been outspoken in the past, and while she and her handlers and supporters have tried to cast some of her more famous gaffes as having been taken out of context, their efforts have largely failed.  It was apparent from the content of her script that there was an objective of producing at least a single sound bite to counteract those earlier haunting comments and quotes.  In fact it was so obvious as to almost seem disingenuous.  But she announced last night that she loves her country.  So now, in words that have poured forth from her own mouth over the course of the campaign and last night, we are to conclude that Michelle loves this downright mean country, that she is just now, for the first time in her adult life, become proud of!  What a strange affection she has for our country.

It will be interesting in the next few days to see the other ways in which Michelle continues her metamorphosis.  Some may be obvious, some more subtle.  Among those changes, I am guessing that on Thursday night, gone will be the fist-bump between Michelle and Barry, along with Barry’s pat on her booty.  But we’ll just have to wait and see.


Really random ruminations on Obama Biden

August 24, 2008

Now that Barry Obama has selected Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate…

It will be interesting to see if this quote by Joe Biden, made in reference to Obama, will be revisited by the mainstream media.  The apparent mindset on the part of Biden was the source of all sorts of commentary in January, 2007 when it was made, and evoked outrage from the usual voices in the black community.  Frankly, I believe that Biden was trying to be complementary of Barry, but WOW.  The implication of what Biden thinks of other blacks is stunning, otherwise, he would not have framed his description of Obama in such a way as to contrast him with other African-Americans.  It was that contrast that makes Obama a “storybook” according to Biden.  It seems like Biden’s attitude bears some analysis from the media.

None of us is without our flaws and a past littered with regrettable actions.  But Biden seems to rank among one of the best in Washington for creating his own messes.  He was shown to be a plagiarist (with respect to some speech that he gave a few years ago), inflated his resume by claiming a masters degree that he does not have, and making other racially insensitive comments aside from his “articulate and bright and clean and nice looking” remark.  The Republican National Committee is having so much fun with this that they now have a “Biden Gaffe Clock” counting down the time until Biden’s next foot-in-mouth moment.  His first such gaffe occurring within 12 hours of being announced as Obama’s running mate, referring to Obama as “Barack America” during their first apperance together yesterday.

Biden has made a bunch of comments about Obama’s preparedness, or more precisely lack thereof, to be the president of the United States.  It begs the question, was he lying then when he said that Barry was not qualified, or now, when he says that Barry is our country’s best choice for president.  Has the intervening time between Biden’s comments during the primaries until today really prepared Obama for the most important job in the world?

I am curious how selecting a Washington insider like Biden (36 years in the senate) allows for any consistency in Barry’s message of “Change”?  Obama continues to talk about how Washington is broken and needs to be changed from the “outside.”  How is selecting a consummate Washington “insider” helpful?  Biden has been in the senate longer than John McCain!   It seems like this is such a contradiction to the premise of Barry’s “change” candidacy that a charge of caving-in to politics as usual is one that will necessarily stick.

Barry made a brilliant selection in terms of appealing to the far left wing of his party.  Biden is apparently just behind Obama in terms of his liberal voting record in the Senate.  By the objective measures that are available, the Obama Biden ticket is even more liberal than the Kerry Edwards ticket of 2004.  It seems like it is a foregone conclusion that Obama was going to win the far left voting block, even before selecting a vice president.  So, what has he accomplished in terms of appealing to moderates, and independents?  It would appear, nothing. 

On a much sillier note, I am convinced that sometimes you can’t help what your mind mistakenly sees in printed words.  When I woke up on Saturday morning and turned on the cable news, the announcement was already four hours old.  (No, I did not get the text message.)  The captions at the bottom of every screen on TV were announcing something to the effect of Obama Biden the Democrat Ticket.  Maybe I can attribute it to still being groggy from waking up early, but I could not help but almost see three letters inserted in those two words, “Obama Biden.”  And those letters were “nla“.  As Obama’s name has become more familiar over the last couple of years, I have been able to disassociate Obama from Osama, in spite of Ted Kennedy’s mangling of his Barry’s name a few years ago.  But for some strange reason, when I saw the letters b, i, d, e, n, following the word Obama, my mind saw the letters “nla” like this:  b,i,n,l,a,d,i,n.  Now, every time I see the presumptive democrat ticket spelled out on TV and on campain posters, I see “Obama Binladen.”  Crazy!  Maybe with time, I will be able to disassociate this oddity just as I did with Barack’s last name and the famed terrorist.

It is a certainty that these two will not receive my vote in November, but I have been reminded that they should receive the benefit of my prayers for them.  Those prayers will not be for their victory, but for Godly wisdom and discernment as they strive for the highest offices in our land.


The second best thing to ever happen to Mark Spitz

August 22, 2008

  

Surely the best thing that ever happened to Mark Spitz, was his winning 7 gold medals at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.  Spitz was appropriately thrust into the position of sports hero and commercially viable “product.”

Whether he is able to recognize it or not, the second best thing to happen to Mark Spitz is the fact that Michael Phelps broke his single Olympic Games record, by winning 8 gold medals.  Phelps breaking of Spitz record has re-energized the Spitz “brand” which up to this week has largely been forgotten.  I dare say that apart from occassional recollections of Olympic Games of the past, Spitz has hardly been thought of in the last 20+ years, particularly outside of competitive swimming circles.  Since the opening of the 2008 Games, Spitz’ name was mentioned on at least a daily basis, by the media and fans around the world, as anticipation was bulding that Phelps would break his 36 year old feat. 

Once Phelps achieved his goal, Spitz was not only being mentioned, but also interviewed on national television.  But as if receiving renewed interest in his 36 year old accomplishment and some fresh celebrity relevance was not enough, Spitz is now asserting that if he and Phelps were to compete against one another in their primes, they would tie.  Really?  His contention that great competitors “know” how to beat each other just doesn’t seem to work for me.  The problem with this conjecture is that they did not swim all the same events in their respective Olympic Games.  So, this speculation is a little goofy.  But to the extent they did share some of the same events, in a very real sense, they have competed against one another in their respective “primes.”  And using the most objective measure possible, the clock, and what we could assume to be their “best times,” Phelps crushes Spitz.  But, the issue is not whether or not they would be competitive with one another on some hypothetical basis.  The indisputable fact is that Phelps swam in, and won more events in one Olympic Games than Spitz did.  I contend that if Spitz had been capable of winning 8 medals in 1972, he would have at least tried to do so.  Don’t you think?  He did not. 

The breaking of long standing records must be an emotional affair that few of us mortals can understand.  When one’s identity is so wrapped up in that record, it must almost seem as if a part of you has died when it is finally broken.  In that respect, I empathize with Spitz.   But I am reminded of how graciously Hank Aaron congratulated Barry Bonds when his home run hitting record was broken.  And Aaron graciously conceded his “title” of Home run King to a man who is essentially a juiced-up cheater. 

Mark Spitz really ought to just be grateful for his new found celebrity status, and leave his hypothetical “I’m as good as he is” bluster left unsaid.  If he wants to imagine it, that is fine.  To utter it out loud, not such a good idea.  Phelps stands alone, and the hypothetical “we’d tie” rhetoric makes Spitz look shallow and lacking in grace.

Application for believers?  We should remember that our identity is found in Christ.  Not in our personal accomplishments, no matter how noble, significant or long lasting.  Our identity is found in the accomplishment and fame of someone else.  And ours is an identity that can never be lost.  No need to EVER anticipate or be anxious about someone taking it away from us.  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Isaiah 43: 1.


Presidential Legacies

August 21, 2008

Every U.S. President leaves a legacy, a lasting impression, a particular memory imprinted on the mind of the people in our country and around the world.  Most people can probably use a couple of sentences, or even less, to describe the legacies of our former presidents, especially those that have served during our own lifetimes.

The first president that I have any real personal memory of was John Kennedy.  His legacies, “Camelot,” the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, and especially his assassination.

LBJ’s legacy was his untimely ascent to the Oval Office, the Viet Nam war and his conceiving, and birthing our welfare/entitlement state through his Great Society initiatives.  The Great Society made FDR (and the New Deal) look like an amateur when it came to pointing our country in the direction of socialism.

Nixon: “I’m not a crook!”  Right!  His legacy…Watergate and impeachment. 

Ford:  Improbable ascent to office.  Fairly inept.  A moderate Republican at best, maybe even leaning left.  A lousy Supreme Court nominee/appointment (John Paul Stevens).

Carter:  Probably the worst U.S. President in my lifetime.  Gotta be in the top 5 worst in history or the nation.  Diplomatic employees in the U.S. embassy in Tehran held hostage by terrorists for 444 days.  Gasoline rationing, and double digit inflation.  His claim to fame would be the so-called Camp David Accord, which in retrospect has not done that much.

Reagan:  Without question, the greatest president in my lifetime, and perhaps in the history of the nation.  Fixed the economy and broke the back of The Soviet Union.  Produced a really hopeful, optimistic and prosperous nation following the disastrous Carter years.

Bush 41:  “Read my lips, no new taxes.”  A promise that he broke!  That may have been a major reason for his defeat by this next guy.

Clinton:  People who presented any threat to his personal agenda, or that of his wife, often died prematurely.  At least one confirmed extramarital sexual affair with an intern in the private areas of the Oval Office.  House of Representative impeachment proceedings.  Extraordinary ability to compartmentize his moral failures.    An artful and probably pathological liar.

Bush 43:  Since his term is not yet over, the legacy may not be finally written.  Certainly the war on terror and the War in Iraq will make the list.  The expression of his faith in Jesus Christ has appeared to be much more genuine than, any of the presidents who have come before him in my lifetime.  Talks like a Republican, spends like a democrat. 

But, his failure to properly understand this man may trump even the cataclysmic events of 9-11 and all that has occurred in response to that.  Bush naively believed he could look into Putin’s eyes and see his soul and he believed that he was a “good man.”  In so doing, I think he gave not only comfort but also wiggle room to a confirmed super-communist who, from his behind-the-curtain position of power wielding, has successfully invaded and occupied an independent, sovereign  nation (Georgia) and is now promising something more than a diplomatic response to the missile defense agreement that the U.S. has just signed with Poland.  Does anyone recall the term “Cold War”?  We should all count our blessings, if this stays “cold.”

This situation demands that we elect a president who understands the very real and now undeniable interest on the part of Russia’s current leadership to re-assert itself as an expansionist nation.  If this pattern of behavior is allowed to progress, we will see the disappearance of countries that are now on the world map, and Russia’s borders being redrawn.  And it should correctly be recalled that this started on Bush’s watch and under the supervision of his “good friend Vladimir.”

Said another way, this MAY wind up being a major part of the Bush legacy, if you think 5 to 10 years into the future.  And I think it is a virtual certainty that Russia’s new ambitions will frame the legacy of our 44th president.  I think this will go very badly for our country and the world if we wind up electing Barry.  And if we do, I think it is not a stretch to say that virtually no eastern European nation nor an independent state that was formerly a part of the old USSR, will be safe.


Waiting, expectantly!

August 19, 2008

The Coca-Cola Company, in its global marketing efforts, has the delicate task of creating demand for its products by giving them “local appeal,” all the while being unable to deny the fact that the company and its flagship product are considered to be a distinctly American icons.  In some markets, being an American brand is an advantage.  However, in certain parts of the world, and especially in the Middle East, being “American” can be a real disadvantage.

Fox News reported this afternoon that The Coca-Cola Company will offer its flagship brand with graphics celebrating Ramadan, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic faith.  Cans in support of this distinctly religious holiday will bear the crescent moon and star associated with Islam.  The product will, understandably, be offered only in the middle east.  I would have to say that this is a pretty smart strategy, assuming that consumers in those select markets are impressed by the company’s acknowledgement and commemoration of the holiday. 

What remains to be seen, now that The Coca-Cola Company has made an intentional and overt recognition of a religious holiday by using religious symbols associated with it, is the degree and extent to which they equally commemorate holidays of two other major world religions, Judaism, and Christianity.

As for Christmas, I am sure that Coke would argue that the use of the Hadden Sandblom Santas, appropriately recognizes Christmas.  And they would be wrong, as that symbol is representative of the secular aspects of that holiday.  But I think we should give Coke a bye on Christmas.  But we do so with the expectation that the cross of Christ will appear on packaging next spring,…just in time for Easter.