h&f 0058 There is no love or opinion, except by way of… Geography.

•November 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

youarehere704I’m going to keep messing with this, but posting now as a thought piece.  How does it come to pass that we hold such violently strong opinions about things and really believe that we are dealing in principle, when, if we strip away geography, most of our lives change dramatically?  I mean, if you’re born in Dallas, Texas, I’ll bet safely in Vegas that you prefer the NFL American football Cowboys over the Washington Redskins.  Let’s take it deeper, and to, perhaps an uncomfortable place – geography on the most personal small scale – your household.  Would you have such an affinity to your family if not for the proximity?  The answer to that falls on both sides of my premise.  On the “yes” side, we’ll allow ourselves to grow to love “Dad” with all of his foibles and the worst of faults if we simply remain in the same houselhold.  Even in the worst love – hate, as opposed the absence of love, apathy – we still allow for the base humanity to be a possible redeeming factor.   On the “no” side, that affinity may not ever be redeemed if the actions of a person make it that difficult.  But, still, for all practical and human purposes, it takes some really heinous stuff to overcome the power of simple proximity.  I love because of where I am.

My gosh, this should not only be disheartening, but also downright scary, to think that your parent is only somebody who happened to be near.  ENTER:  the examined life.  It strikes me over and over the saying of Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.

That is, if I only love my people because I’ve not known or been near any other random people, then where is the individual?  Where is the value of this particular person to me?  Now, as I examine my life and the people in it, I can move in and out of my geography.   It’s possible for the examined life to accomodate being a fan of my team that happens to be the closest to me as long as I have a consciousness of that.  More importantly, it is possible for me to love a person distinctly for more than that person simply being attached to my life.  Take your geography away and examine the people near you.  See what makes this person more than the nearest mother or father.  See what makes this person yours.

I know some people will say that, by my very argument, geography won’t allow me to detach these people from my space.  If so, that is a good thing.  Geography is not an enemy.  Unexamined geography is.  This proximity is the only thing that will allow me to really get to know the genius of any one person.   So, while I can know that I am capable of loving any one person at the deepest level, that’s not of value except in the way I treat people – equally.  But, my mother or my wife (one day) as I know her, in and out of my space, is wholly valuable and unique to me.

So, if there is only geography, then God bless latitude and longitude, and whatever has put me at this place and time.



h&f 0057 Barack: Not a Black Achievement (More than that…)

•November 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment
International Herald Tribune)

...the smile of a president (source: International Herald Tribune)

“They said he canceled fireworks at the Tuesday night celebration to underscore the seriousness of the moment.”

That is a President, sober but not somber as he recognizes where he stands and rightfully assumes the mantle without fanfare, because it’s where he legitimately expected to be.  Lottery winners jump and shout.  You would hope that a President-elect would not be so shocked.

So, all credit to Barack Obama, but the real achievement of this election was not only his own.

No, this was bigger than a black achievement. On a much larger and more relevant scale, the real achievement was that enough people in the United States actually decided that a black man would hold the office heretofore defined by a very specific prerequisite having nothing to do with qualifications for the job.

Barack is unique, in and of himself and in this particular disposition of American and world history.  However, he is not the first black person to be qualified for the post.  Even further, we could still posit a reasonable argument for favorable phenotype…  If Michelle had been a very light-skinned black woman, would an Ivy League educated Obama have been able to escape elitist perception in the minds of black voters very familiar with the high coorelation between black achievement and the apparent search for lighter and lighter blood lines?  If Barack himself were black as that last crayon in the box, would non-black voters have been as comfortable with his stunning intellect, poise, and track record?  Given the relevance of these questions, we must still imagine a ways to go before considering this the post-racial moment many are so anxious to declare.

So the real achievement, even with these underlying imperfections, is ours.  We, the people, have taken a small step. May we keep toward a society not colorblind, a plain disability, but rather toward full recognition of humanity and potential in each other, one that can imagine that potential being enveloped in any color or geography.

Proof of intense progress would see this moment as ripe for a new Republican party, too.  Republicans have defined themselves as the “values” party while each year invalidating that stance with a clear embrace of racism in some quarters and malignant neglect of it in the upper ranks of the party.  The real division between Republican and Democrat for that electorate is…race.  Apart from that, most black voters show patterns of belief and values consistent with the Republican party.  Case in Point: In this same election, Blacks in California overwhelmingly voted for maintaining the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Yet, some commenters were shocked at what was perfectly expected among black voters.  Imagine now the feasibility of a black republican candidate who is anti-abortion, for controlling assault weapons, pro some form of affirmative action…  The so-called black republicans to date have openly held very undeveloped views of race and race-relations in America, assuming no need to even examine corrections that we have to make if we are to move forward as one nation.

We may also have given a great boost to people worldwide.  Even those sympathetic with black people and the black struggle in the US are not yet sympathetic to our basic and shared humanity.  Don’t confuse these observations with any sort of rant.  We are marking real progress, but it is not of the kind that we can build on by itself.

Obama is a beautiful outlier, an iceberg tip finally appearing above water with the entire body (and bodies) of the struggle lying beneath the water.  He’s exceptional in his own right, and not, since the body of the berg can only be built by similarly committed and qualified people, mostly black but not nearly all black.

Let’s keep marching toward the promise of truly collective will and intelligence, toward the integration of all of the human capital that can make a country move forward under one flag.  WE have achieved.

h&f 0056 Your Uncle’s Coffee and “The Perfection of The Event”

•October 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Sitting here, listening to Jonathan Schwartz’ Saturday Show and sipping your uncle’s coffee: that is, any coffee properly touched by a fine spirit, in this case Laphroaig single malt Scotch Whiskey, smoky but it works. (mmm, now that’s a coffee, dadgummit!.)

To the point: Have you ever considered how the perfection of any single event? A shot, for example.

When a shot is fired, a web of circumstances is created that can never be created again or lied about in perpetuity. This gun must have shot it. This person must have pulled the trigger. The wind must have been precisely of this speed and direction. It must have been this time on the clock. To trace the occurrence, all we have to do is fall somewhere on the web. The power of this perfection is even to allow us to be imperfect: we don’t need to discover all of the circumstances to discover the event. [We couldn’t do that even if we wanted to.] The inherent power of those connected truths is what such phenomena as CSI and ShotSpotter are all about, the imperfect tracing of circumstances that lead us to the shot and the shooter.

Physics only discovered this in 1687 with Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Whenever a particle A exerts a force on another particle B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the same line. This law is often simplified into the sentence “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

King Ahab, even while disguised as an ordinary solider, discovered it long before Newton, finding his death exactly where Naboth died. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, set Naboth up to be killed for not giving up his vineyard at Ahab’s request. He wanted it because …it was near his house and he wanted to plant a garden of herbs. (What kind of warped imminent domain is that??). That act brought judgment from God, spoken by Elijah: I Kings 21:19 – And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.

I don’t remotely pretend to offer prophesy or its fulfillment, but rather just the apparent evidence of newtonian law and biblical method. Just on observation, it looks like we in the United States, at this very moment, are living the verge of a major comeuppance…

What goes around comes around

Your uncle’s coffee.

h&f 0055 When The Markets Became Human …and Cried Like Babies

•October 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“… futures trading was halted on the S&P. Futures trading is essentially a bet on what will happen when the markets open.”  Washington Post

“…Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) — The Securities and Exchange
Commission halted short selling of 799 financial companies,
pressing an assault on speculators after the collapse of Lehman
Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc.”

Now let’s think:  Artificially halted futures trading; Artificially halted short selling; A huge government intervention in process, principle, and payment in private companies.

In short, plain lifelines given to protect people who started companies and dared to put themselves at the risk and aim for the reward of a free market.  Juxtapose that against our underserved and low-income people in the United States who have also submitted to a free market of labor and liberty and who, by and large, have had too much pride to run begging to the government crying, “Save Us From The Market!”  “The Speculators Want To Hurt Me!”

Instead, the most active advocacy has been for better schools, fair wages, no discrimination and NOT for a simple handout of cash and artificial umbrella of protection from self-generated destruction.  Go to the leading good citizens in poor communities and you will find a clear “you don’t work you don’t eat” ethic exercised heavily on their offspring as they are urged to go to college and do great things.  Pride alone would not allow an immigrant to say, “The market has hurt me.  It’s my fault.  Give me a check.”

Yes, there are examples of that.  I am in no way praising a class of people as automatically virtuous for being poor.  Instead, I am singling out how the best of the community handle the underperformers.  In fact, i am not against subsidies and tax breaks, in principle, if they are properly used as currency between companies and communities in the trading of jobs for early cash benefits.  It’s not ideal in the pure sense of a company having to fend for itself, but the greater good can be achieved if, for a nominal trade, a company locates itself in a US community and creates a long-term employment scenario based on major investment.  Markets are created with that negotiation.  But that’s not the way this works.

On Wall Street, the biggest companies ask for handouts, many of them having received generous subsidies and tax treatments from the government, i.e. us.  On my street, the underperformers in any sphere better not dare have that kind of gall to ask for that treatment.

Let’s go even to the emblem that brands blacks as a trifling class of people – rap music.  In its earliest day and still surviving in pockets today, there is an intense meritocracy.  If your rhymes are wack, people will let you know and will not allow you the stage.  It is vicious, but with an undercurrent of love as an underperforming rapper can go to his woodshed and get his game on track, return to the scene with tight flow and be crowned king, earning it.

The emblem of free market capitalism, Wall Street, turns out to be nothing more than Superman on a string.  He jumps because he knows he’ll never really fall.  He flies with pure confidence knowing that WE will not allow him to fall on his own lack of merit.  The markets will “come back” only when totally assured of government insurance against failure.  Let’s be literal with this: 

  • Australian markets surge on government guarantee…
  • Barclays is set to become the first lender to use the Government’s £250
    billion bank debt guarantee, raising up to £1 billion through the sale of
    three-year notes, a move that mortgage brokers hope will kick-start the
  • Before the bailout, setting the dire stage was President Bush urging the bailout. “I’m a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct
    is to oppose government intervention,” he said. But “these are not
    normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has
    been a widespread loss of confidence.” [Yes, the market NEEDS the government for its confidence.  Superman cannot fly alone.]  BBC
  • After the bailout, hedging expectations…  “The $700 billion federal financial rescue bill was not a guarantee that stock markets would rise, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.”

Now, let’s bring it all to bear with a simple question:  What if actual people were treated as the market?

We are right not to want that – to spend others’ money to bail out admitted slackers.  Instead, we have a populus making legitimate requests for a cooperative agreement betweent government and its citizens.  For example, welfare, when used as a temporary help recognizes that sometimes people hit hard times, but, more importantly, it recognizes that it’s worth it to the country not to have that resource (the people) without any recourse.  Abuse should be punished, but we cannot deny our interconnectedness and the role of taxes paying for our general welfare by ensuring the services individuals or the private sector cannot efficiently provide.

People who advocate for people are called beggars.  People who advocate for bailouts of personally able leaders of our free market system are called… capitalists?  Still?

The fearless man of industry now speaks open paradox, begging for help so he can start the process all over again.  …and we fear giving education to marginalized peoples through Affirmative Action, a system who’s intent is to allow CAPABLE people access to the earned benefits of our collective work to ensure liberty and opportunity.

Be ready for the next bubble when the markets cry out as the mythical, denigrated humans who, instead of asking for a hand as real people do, simply ask for a handout to ply the same scenario once our short-term memory heals.

h&f 0054 On Being Colorblind or… Why aren’t roses clear?

•October 13, 2008 • 1 Comment
Roses are, indeed, Red

Roses are, indeed, Red

I was a bit harsh on some people in high school, college, graduate school, and after,who meant well when they said to me, “H&F, I’m colorblind.  When I look at you, I don’t see black.”  I said, in response, “Why does color matter everywhere else for you?? Traffic lights, Cars, …Roses?? I’ve never heard you wish for clear roses.  I’m sick of your ignorance.” [not exact quote but no need to rehash ballistics right?] I regret that – not the fact of it, but the attitude I gave them.  Again, they meant well.  But they could not see what was so fundamentally wrong and even insulting about the statement. I just bumped into a post that put the argument better and dug into a couple of different angles on not seeing color.

Why Color Does Matter

much peace.

h&f 0053 “Some Ghetto Family” and the trap of Anti-Intellectualism

•October 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

image accompanying Mad Dog Palin article

A Rolling Stone article, Mad Dog Palin got me thinking…

Read on a bit for the ghetto part.  Yeah, it was title bait.  I feel no regret because it’s still accurate, and more importantly it’s what the author said.  (yep.  read on)

First, it is dead on in its indictments of us as a blind, consumer culture in general.  This is where and who we are.  But I would like to challenge the overriding voice of the article.  I’m all for bringing heat against the nonsense being heaped on us, but not in the way this article and much of the left political writing does it.

Not even below the thin surface of the proper indictment of us, you can see how the supposed intellectual class has fallen into the trap set by this gross anti-intellectualism they have correctly named, judging themselves by this new low standard, not against the standards of what simply is right, thoughtful, deliberate, compassionate, truly genius, truly genuine.

In this article, it comes out in what looks to me like forced, gratuitously arrogant language:

“…and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.”

OK.  Let’s get over that as arrogance.  But… how in the world could any person so committed to this premise be so blind as to the effectiveness of the Palin choice?? I was amazed at how smart many of us thought we were in criticizing the Palin choice, calling the election a done deal after McCain made it:

“Until the Alaska governor actually ascended to the podium that night, I was convinced that John McCain had made one of the all-time campaign-season blunders, that he had acted impulsively and out of utter desperation in choosing a cross-eyed political neophyte just two years removed from running a town smaller than the bleacher section at Fenway Park.”

The author corrects his thinking, still too late, in the same article. You can’t have it both ways:

“The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions;”

The article also, surprisingly and not, leans head first into some condescending race-baiting,  playing on tired stereotypes – yes, there are real people who perfectly inhabit stereotypes, but he is caught red-handed with his own “government cheese’ in hand as it is no longer distributed. I know about the government cheese, a big brown box about 2lbs of fake cheese distributed to poor people.  I worked at a center in Dallas back during that program, personally distributing the boxes …and making about 8 billion grilled cheese sandwiches myself over that period.  [Man, I’m still not right from eating all that cheese…]

The cheese line is used for effect, I assume, thought not all the way sure the author knows the program is defunct.  Regardless, for a hyper-literate person to use this example is pure condescension and artifice…

“Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the “difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick,” blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.

This person is supposed to me on my side????

This kind of writing is the emblem for the exact and correct criticism of what the far right has labeled “the liberal elite.”  They are too smart for the country’s good, mixing their criticism of specific behaviors with judgments on people’s values, particularly when it comes to making fun of those who may believe in creation and/or Christianity in the person of Jesus Christ. [The irony is huge as Obama is professed Christian, having publicly acknowledge that he believes in Jesus and in Creation.  But, thankfully, O’s not into theocracies or “being religious” and these writers take that rightful liberty delivered by Obama and contort it into kinship with their narrow-mindedness.  Seems we can’t handle that intellectual freedom so well..]

“She supports teaching creationism and “abstinence only” in public schools, opposes abortion even for victims of rape, has denied the science behind global warming and attends a church that seeks to convert Jews and cure homosexuals.”

Now I wholly disagree with the arrogance of Palin’s religious right contingent but I’m not conflating that with the tenets of her supposed religion.  Her religion, if they only knew, would be the first to condemn her approach to raising these topics, and, further, if you care to read, her theology. This type of mixed criticism from the author, blending values and behaviours, is a way of hypnotizing the left.

History has proven over and over again from Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman to Umberto Eco to Bertrand Russell to C.S. Lewis that right-thinking men can disagree intellingently on values without judging each other, instead letting democracy or whatever form of government resolve to prevailing values.  …judging is defined as overt condemnation of a person for holding a particular belief.  There’s still plenty of room to condemn actions here and we all can do that as an expression of our beliefs – that’s called the working out of democracy.

There’s no place for judgment of this kind, even, to their surprise, in Christianity.  Jesus held the most visceral criticism of the self-righteous church that judged others.  His edict was simply to “just tell the world who I am and  know why you, yourself, believe.”  Force and judgment have no place.  I fear the immensity of the day that Jesus does, indeed, come with judgment as it will be final.

I disagree with many value positions of Democrats and Republicans but I can’t make fun of them – I lose my own case for rational thought and engagment.  What do I look like by calling a man a dummy and then daring to ask him to change???  I’m now a dummy arguing with a dummy – not quite a win-win.  Ravi Zacharias said it better using this Indian proverb, paraphrased:

“What good is it to cut a man’s nose off and then demand that he smell the rose?”

This is where Mad Dog Palin style articles fail, claiming superior intellect and open-mindedness while immediately shutting down on the value points where they disagree.  They confuse open-mindedness with agreement.  Open-mindedness is about engagement, honesty, and thought.

When we do disagree with the order of the day, we aren’t helpless in this democracy.  It’s just time to lobby for change while protecting the moral authority of the cause, resorting at most to civil disobedience and being willing to subject ourselves to the consequences of the laws we don’t agree with for the sake of belief.

Muhammad Ali did that in the highest act of patriotism.  He didn’t run to Canada.  He didn’t change citizenship.  By his stand, he said, at the height of his young career, “I will leave it all behind and go to jail for my belief in my Muslim faith.”    THAT IS AMERICAN!

Protest culture outside of that example tends to be very arrogant, not realising that protest itself is a luxury the way they carry it out, with nice painted signs but usually steering clear of gross personal sacrifice.  A Christian in China is, by definition, a protester.  He or she is also a true person of courage, knowing that even for simply owning a non-sanctioned bible or belonging to a non-sanctioned church, he or she in this very day subjects himself or herself to jail, torture, isolation, and deprivation.

But where, in fact, we do come to judging behaviors and debating ideals, how in the world can we be true to that when we start by comparing ourselves to the lowest standards, e.g. those set forth by Palin? ( I will call hers a very low standard on the basis of her own statements, background, and performance).  We become the same Republicans we rail against.  I believe in the war of ideas, but what I believe about that doesn’t matter.  It’s a matter of simple definition: We all must if we stand for something.  If that one thing is true, as we believe it, then the other thing must be false, but it takes an intellectual honesty and a humble approach to our debate that many voices on the left are not willing to stomach.  The number 4 cannot also be the number 3.  Yet, the relativism that these writers preach consumes their own otherwise thoughtful arguments, making all numbers the same.

So, they never engage the fringe of Republicans or Independents who are frustrated in the same way with this gross anti-intellectualism and who may be open for discussion.  Instead, they stay in a very small circle of intense, self-serving intellectualism writing condemnations like “She supports teaching creationism and “abstinence only” in public schools…”

There are non-Christians who support the first on strict grounds of the intellectual curiosity largely absent in our schools.  And there are non-Christians who support the second stance as an approach that is disease-reducing and life-saving for children.  We may disagree on methods, but we can’t call all of those people crazy without looking crazy ourselves, if only on the basis of classical liberalarts education.

…and then wonder why they’re called “liberal elite.”

The people who suffer are the people they supposedly lobby for, those who don’t have a voice in this system, and they themselves who simply want to uphold a nation of valid ideals.

In Obama’s example, the Democratic party, and politics in general have a real example of what democratic and plain ‘ol human engagement should be about.  His own party misses that concept.  For that reason, I’m glad that the recent administration and Republican party have made their nonsense so manifest as to make that difference between Obama and his party irrelevant.

h&f 0052 Don’t Turn To Your Neighbor

•October 8, 2008 • 2 Comments

I am a Christian.  That just means believing in Jesus, accepting his offer, and trusting him to be who he said he is.  But if I hear one more preacher (this is a Baptist thing) say “Turn to your neighbor and say, ‘Ain’t God good,” or “Turn to your neighbor and say, ‘I’m blessed,” or “Turn to your neighbor and [insert your own],” then I’m bustin’ up the service.

I don’t think Jesus would have us playing this game.  He wouldn’t get us all goofy and neck-tired telling our neighbors every little thing.   …come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t wear a Rolex on his television show either [hold to the 1:24 point – or, of course, you can just skip to the chorus]:

Oh, one more neighbor tip, from The Emotions…