Tuesday, November 30, 2010

President Bush, Rick Warren and "The Good Book"


 A friend invited me to view last night's "Civil Forum on Leadership" online in real time from Saddleback Church  featuring former President George W Bush and Pastor Rick Warren. This event was basically designed to promote/sell Mr. Bush' new book. While it was an intriguing almost 90 minute interview between Bush and Warren...I came away sincerely troubled by much of the attitude and quite a bit of the content that was communicated. This "forum" to me illustrated the worst of combined politics and religion...a combination that in my opinion has turned lethal and led the USA into a modern day version of "The Crusades" ...only THIS version of Crusade could turn nuclear in a heartbeat.

I truly don't wish this blog to be considered taking political sides. My observations would have been the same if President Obama or a Libertarian candidate would have been featured in such a manner. I imagine both men mean well in what they are trying to communicate and the leadership they are trying to inspire. At the same time, in my opinion the basis for their leadership and reasoning in so many things were unfounded, "un-Biblical" and lacking sensitivity and respect for the THOUSANDS of lives lost due to these political decisions and under their watch.

Here is my honest summary of the telecast I sent to my friend via email:

  I caught all but the first 20-30 minutes. Nice to see the ex Pres in a more relaxed and contemplative setting and being more candid on certain things. I'm sure he is sincere and real about most of the things/stories he shared. I'm sure Laura is a wonderful lady. I still think if a rich man will find it so hard to enter the "Kingdom of Heaven", it will be twice as hard for a politician. (Of course you understand I am speaking "tongue in cheek").

It was somewhat nauseating to me the "good ole boy", backslapping approach Ricky took towards the former President.  These people in my opinion are "trivializing" the risks of our country and the deaths of THOUSANDS that took place under their watch.  There should be more solemnity...and yes APOLOGIES...for much that happened instead of trying to make each other out to be "God's modern day Messiahs". I'm sick of this pseudo religious posturing. Much of it is bad theology from my Biblical studies of many years. This is the worst marriage between bad politics and "syrupy" religion...

I still come away from this interview feeling that Bush Jr had much less intellect, class and grace than his father. I also think his father for all his "intellect, class and grace"...was guilty of some pretty heinous decisions and involvements going back as far as CIA directorship days and as the "hatchet man" for Reagan during the Iran Contra scandals...arming Iran and making a lot of USA enemies in Nicaragua and the rest of LatAm. While intentions may have been reasonable in their minds...the morals for many of those actions and international intervention are what we are now paying a price for in our country. I do not view these guys as "holy" men of faith. Sorry. Their theology goes to about the first grade level.

My biggest disappointment overall in life is not seeing more "leaders" of great intellect and moral character. I'm not talking about blowjobs in the oval office. I am talking about abiding by the constitution and voluntarily limiting powers and being honest and open with the electorate. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Bush was basically honest enough to admit that and to his "ego" during this program).  I unfortunately feel and observe that all of these former USA leaders are in some regards corrupted by their power and tradeoffs they have made to get where they went...

Terms like "Good Book" and the "man upstairs" used so much by Bush and others are terms bred by "American style" Christianity. These terms to me are irreverent, basically secular vernacular. It seems to me the "Muslims" take their religion much more seriously/solemnly and for that reason are a growing tide in the world more than the Christian faith. Christianity has lost its "salt" and become just another "religion".

The final scary thought for me last night was that this tide of commentary and attitude expressed is the growing consensus in American consciousness. Rah rah patriotism tied to claims of "God's guidance" have put our country in a bad position globally...both economically and politically. In response to their own problems, the "powers that be" are passing more laws and regulations to control the tide of American's funds and thought process.  This week you have seen the unprecedented shutdown of over 70 internet sites by the government without due process of law. After the fact they are trying to ram through legislation giving them legal support to do so when there are so many legal opinions that this is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, you can also see many of these lying political leaders shaking in their boots at the "Wikileaks" outing of their documents and communications that obviously won't line up with the political and media spin given to the general public on these recently catastrophic war activities. If you have studied Nazism in the 30s, these types of actions should bring tremendous fear to any true American's mind.

Perhaps the perfect conclusion for this blog is a news clipping sent to me today via email which I about 90% agree with...

Monday, November 29, 2010

The matter of Wikileaks

The situation of our Government's panic over the "Wikileaks" emergency where millions of supposedly "secret" documents and communications hacked from our "secure" government databases are being released semi-publicly provokes a number of reactions. I think it time for a little "family discussion" amongst us Americans to understand the real issues and how we should respond to them.

I approach this situation like a "family matter" where someone outside the family is spreading all the family secrets and dirty laundry for all our neighbors and community members to see...and it is aggressive and unpleasant. Personally I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I want my family's (country) honor maintained and be PROUD to be an "American"...yet I also want to know what it is that is so dangerous to my fellow countrymen and allies. Part of me wants to know about our family's dirty dark secrets...while another part of me just wants to stay childlike and trusting of my parents (government).

Unfortunately, for me it is very hard to be trusting of my "parents" in recent decades. It seems that they are broke financially and have been sending a lot of money to unknown "foreigners" or strangers to the detriment of the family's financial security. They also have been wanting to know more and more of my private business and controlling my behaviors and morals while they themselves seem not too bound by many of those same "rules". They have been using my "college trust fund" (social security) for decades for other purposes while leaving promissory notes for only part of the funds that have disappeared. Some of my parents (Congressmen) work 2-4 years and receive lifelong pensions and insurance benefits that I have to work 40+ years to carry them and myself. They allow my foreign cousins (British, Scandinavian, Indian, etc) to come and work in our home country for the same money without having to contribute to the rent and living costs at the same rate I do. Every time I leave or return home, my parents pat me down as if they don't know me and treat me as a common criminal because they don't seem to recognize my credentials. I get treated with more respect by the neighbors than I do my "parents".

Now it appears the family name and all our network of friends throughout the world is in danger because of letters and messages our parents have sent over the years describing things they have done that even to this day I don't know about. They have held all this information from me all my life and yet now they are warning me that this information...which I still don't know about...will harm me and them for a long time to come.  It will somehow be a reflection on all of us...and yet I apparently have no right to know the details of that which I am supposed to fear.

So, I say to my "parents"..."I love you and my home, but if you want me to stand behind you in this matter or worse yet perhaps FIGHT for the family's honor...you'd better start telling me what is going on. If I am too "young" to know, then I am probably too young to fight your battles. Plus, if you don't start letting me keep more of my allowance, I will probably be less content or passionate about your problems and be more rebellious to your wishes. I will probably just stay here in the dark and "hope" you somehow restore the family's honor. I think it will be very sad to read about all your private "sins" or questionable moralities that might not match up to what you have forced ME to abide by all my life from someone outside the family. It will be very embarrassing for me when asked about these things (should they be as bad as you are suggesting) to simply say "I didn't know" or "I'm sorry". That should be YOUR role, not mine."

To summarize...the role of government is to represent the PEOPLE's wishes and viewpoints. It is obvious to me that concept has gone out the window for most of our legislators. If these "Wikileaks" are as bad as everyone seems to be braced for...I for one will be holding my own government and fellow Americans who elected them accountable for what truths come out. Its up to each of us "family members" to pursue that which is right and punish those who do wrong.  Wrong is wrong...no matter who is doing it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Travel Pananoia

Flight travel post 9/11 has become very hazardous and laborious, especially for USA based passengers. As is often the case, reactions turn into over reactions...often times without foundation or reason. This seems to be happening on both sides of the travel security equation. Governmental security continues to over react to many perceived terrorist threats, while travelers often over react to new processes put in place to secure the general travel public's safety.

The most recent illustration of this phenomenon is the John Tyner pat down case in San Diego. According to the Youtube taping of the incident by him, he refused the machine scan process and chose the optional "pat down" method...but took exception when they said they would be touching his genital area. When told by a supervisor who was called into the situation that he could submit to the process...or leave and not fly today...he chose the later. He was escorted by TSA and police to an American Airlines counter who refunded his non-refundable ticket. During that process, TSA management with the police came back and asked him to resubmit himself for the screening or basically be charged criminally on some sort of code that they didn't seem to mention. Apparently those charges have been filed with an $10,000 fine attached. Now Mr Tyner and other citizens are going more public with their fight against this perceived governmental tyranny.

Personally I see paranoia and over reaction on both sides of this conflict. I think the general public wants security to be thorough and secure the people who are allowed to travel with them. I would rather go through the scanner machine than to be physically patted down...yet many people, apparently including the pilots union...are paranoid about over exposure to that technology for health reasons. I supposed if I had to be scanned multiple times every day, I might have the same concerns. I don't have that concern for occasional flying. If someone doesn't want to go through that machine, then pat downs make sense somewhat. Yet, I think the genital touching is going overboard on that front as well.

My biggest disconnect with the TSA approach is their "randomness" approach of who they pull aside for more thorough examination...and on the other hand their paranoia about "profiling" people. This has never made sense to me. If your typical "terrorist" is of Arab decent and between the ages of 18-40...I don't "get" pulling American retirees in wheelchairs over to one side for a "pat down" or sniff test. With today's access to technology and ID verification...these people should be screened and risk levels accessed on each passenger long before they even reach the airport. The Israelis do this and they seem to have a much better record of controls on flying terrorists. They also are not afraid of "profiling" the bad guys.

Unfortunately, many of us normal citizens are now getting paranoid about traveling and the overt governmental presence and oversight of our lives. 9/11 caused in my opinion an over reaction on the government's part in suspending many privacy rights and freedoms granted by our constitution. The "Patriot Act" was supposed to be a "temporary powers" type of bill that has somehow turned into a permanent contract with our government powers. We are rightly paranoid when our government can arrest or search us without due cause or process of law. Many of the attitudes and tactics being used by our government are reminiscent of the "Gestapo" tactics of the Nazi era. They used many of the same justifications and stirring of paranoia to gain the upper hand over mass civilians in limiting their rights and freedoms. Travel is now just another extension of overstepping governmental regulation into our way of life.

Thanks to the immediacy of internet media we are now seeing natural balance and access of information...as well as disinformation...being distributed to the masses. Hopefully this will help us find a balance of what is acceptable between government actions and the constituents they serve. We need balance and reason instead of over reactions and manipulation of emotions. We want our governments to get the bad guys without making us all suspected criminals. The problem is that at the end of the day "humans" are on each side of these conflicts. Humans run our government bureaucracies. Humans run the airlines and travel agencies. And of course, the general public is full of humans. All are imperfect and we all need to work together to arrive at the balanced common good.

I am convinced most disconnects in this dynamic is based on egos and human pride. All the role players in the San Diego pat down incident to me are so representative of the various factions in this "play". You have the systematic messaging and direction given by particular TSA "worker bees"...who when faced with a John Q Public that doesn't agree to the process calls over a manager of bigger ego. When that person doesn't succeed in getting compliance from the citizen...they make it into a scene with uniformed police escort away from the "security area". The worst part of the TSA reaction was when they brought in the "suit" management guy who is determined to "win the argument" and "complete the process" whether the civilian likes it or not...at the threat of criminalization and hefty fine. That was way over the top and too authoritarian a position for a "public servant" to take on. You are there to get "terrorists"...not turn a citizen into a candidate for being one. STUPID.

The overarching sadness for me in this "dance" is that all sides are playing roles that perpetuate the problem. The more authoritarian governmental entities become, the more rebellious become various sectors of citizenry. This has the potential of pushing more and more bystanders into the side of the "terrorists". It's kind of like the psychological aspect where if you accuse someone of being a criminal or treat them like one long enough...they will start acting on the notion. It is negative psychology on the grandest of scales.

I hope all the publicity on this issue affects reason and brings positive change for travelers as we approach the holiday travel season. Meanwhile, I will try to reduce chances of conflicts with the "authorities" as much as possible while traveling. I will probably chose the machine over the pat down...and dress as little like a terrorist as possible, including leaving the wheelchair at home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why no one invades Switzerland

This video underscores one of the reasons Switzerland has little history of invasion and a very low crime rate. As the Swiss gentleman in the video says towards the end..."the key to freedom is to be able to defend yourself".

My fellow Panama blogger Sam Taliaferro posted this video with his comments about Panama passing new gun restriction laws. I agree with his sentiments. I continue to get alarmed that world governments in general are trying to disarm their citizens...while at the same time producing more weapons for "the State" than ever before.

In an ideal world or Utopia...you would not need firearms unless you hunted for survival food and clothing. But as long as so much of the world continues as the old "wild wild west" of crime and lawlessness...it is a foolish notion to take all armaments out of the hands of the law abiding.

I prefer Switzerland's model where they train their citizens in firearm safety and how to shoot. I believe in having harsh laws against those who use firearms in a crime...yet I still believe the best deterrent to crime is being prepared with equal or superior "force" in your personal space. Governments that don't support this approach in my opinion are suspect in their motivation. If they are the government OF the majority of the people...why should they be afraid of armed constituents? I understand taking guns from outlaws and convicted felons...but not law abiding citizens. At least in true constitutional republics or democracies...this should NOT be an issue.

Election Day

Tomorrow brings a new mid term election in the USA. There seems to be a quiet acceptance that the "Republicans" will be taking over in Congressional leadership capacity. Personally I'm not sure it will make much difference who controls congress as a majority of congressmen in recent decades seem to me more "self" or "special interest" serving than to their "constituents".

I personally have the following core sentiments regarding this (and all recent) election:

While having lost faith in most of our political leaders, here is hoping tomorrow's elections in the USA brings forth more TRUE leaders who will represent their CONSTITUENTS versus "special interests" or party "platforms". I support any candidate (Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, or Liberal) who stands for a strong Constitutional government with limited roles their constitution grants them. Their role is primarily to defend our borders and EVERY citizen's rights to privacy and the individual pursuit of peace, prosperity and happiness. Lets call it a return to "freedom and justice for ALL".

Another interesting quote that struck a chord with me today on the populace and politics...

"I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand "I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!" or "I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!" "I am homeless, the Government must house me!" and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations..." Margaret Thatcher, 23 September 1987

Here's to hoping some Constitutional "freedom lovers" make it into office tomorrow. It's up to you America...