Sunday sermon-ettes

No, this is not intended to be overly spiritual. It is intended to offer a few vignettes, some spiritual, some historical, and some pedestrian.

– The Erie Canal is turning 200 years old. What I did not know is the US government did not want to fund its $7 million cost which was privately raised. That is astonishing as the Erie Canal (as the Panama Canal did later) significantly increased trade and promoted several cities like Chicago, Detroit, Rochester and Cleveland to prominence.

– I have been witnessing a letter to the editor debate on whether Jesus would have made the cake for the gay wedding couple, the refusal of which launched a court case. My favorite summed up my sentiments – Jesus would have made the cake and accompanied it to the wedding. We should remember, Jesus tended to hang out with the disenfranchised. He also said something about he who is without sin should cast the first stone.

– The ABC show “What would you do?” warms my heart and reveals the good in people. This Friday it aired a show where the ruse was an American Muslim couple waiting to be seated at a restaurant, but other couples were offered seats before them. When the couple complained, the female maitre’d said openly we don’t want to offend our other customers. Couple after couple stood up for the American Muslim couple, some leaving and one inviting the Muslim couple to join them. It made me feel better about real Americans.

– The Catholic Church has benefited greatly from the people’s Pope Francis. Surprisingly, there are some within the Church that do not care for the openness and discussion of considering changes to traditions. Although, I am not Catholic, we should remember when traditions began. Priests were allowed to officially be married until about the 12th century and some were married as late as the 16th century. The reason – money and property. If a Priest were married, he would retain control over his assets. A retiring Priest said today the Church is missing out on some very good ministers because of this restriction.

– Finally, I read today from one writer that it is not the job of the President to be a role model. I could not disagree more with that statement regardless who was President. Bill Clinton lessened his otherwise effective  Presidency by chasing women outside of marriage. John Kennedy’s womanizing may have as well had he lived longer, but the Press did not report everything like they do now. Invading Iraq under false pretenses damaged George Bush’s credibility. And, Donald Trump has shown Americans how not to act and has turned up the flame on incivility. The President sets the tone and can help reduce tensions, but the incumbent throws gasoline on some fires and starts others.

That is enough sermons for today. I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Pope is Catholic

Today, Donald Trump held a press conference and announced “I am here to say without a doubt, the Pope is Catholic. Believe me.” He went on to say, “I blame Crooked Hillary Clinton for telling everyone he was a Protestant. No one, not even the Bishops, not even the Cardinals know more about Catholicism than I do.”

He went on to explain that he is not a fan of this Pope as he believes climate change is a real problem. “We all know climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.” Plus, he said the Pope worries about the poor too much. If they are losing their jobs or are unable to pay bills due to my stiffing them due to bankruptcies and cash management issues, then “that is their problem,” said Trump. He went on to say, “I am businessman,” to justify his looking out only for his interests.

He also said he doesn’t like this Pope because he says we should not be building walls, we should be building bridges. “We will build the biggest wall and get Mexico to pay for it. They are all rapists and criminals,” said Trump.

Trump said he was not a big fan of the Pope washing the feet of a Muslim. “Can you believe the head guy would wash the feet of a Muslim?” he asked. Trump went on to ask, “Can you believe this guy does not want to live in luxury and chooses to live in a smaller apartment? What kind of leader wants to turn his back on luxury which exhibits true power? I am rich. It is OK for me to show it.”

Note to Readers: The first and last paragraphs use fictitious quotes, while the middle paragraphs use paraphrased quotes from actual things the candidate has said about these issues in his history.

 

Breaking down barriers

A common saying of mine is when religion is inclusive it is at its finest; when religion is exclusive it is at its absolute worst. It matters not the degree of self-proclaimed piety, if we practice exclusion we are sealing the fate of our own demise.

A great example of the power of religion is the work of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church was in trouble with the pedophile priest scandals and too much of an inward focus. With Pope Francis focusing on outreach to those in need coupled with a humility long needed, he has touched many within and outside of the church.

He has broken down barriers. He has led by example, washing the feet of a Syrian migrant and condemning those who want build walls to isolate people. When asked about homosexuality, he has said who am I to judge?

Yet, with heightened fears of terrorism, xenophobia, bigotry and racism have surfaced in an ugly way. While many do not condone this evil triumvirate, what may have been an undercurrent is now more visible in public, campaigns and even governance. We should be vigilant and shine spotlights on these unhealthy behaviors. We certainly should not be voting for people who advocate exclusion or condone bigotry.

These actions do not make us safer. Nor do they make us better people. They prey upon our fears and insecurities. So, let’s not erect barriers and then throw stones  at those on the other side. Let’s emulate the Pope and break down barriers.

 

 

 

 

 

Some hard truths and silver linings

Since we are in midst of a campaign season for the US presidential race, which has been going on forever and we have yet to even cross the halfway point, the real loser in the race has been the truth. In fact, the current leader in the polls on the Republican side has been untruthful 76% of the time (out of 77 adjudicated statements) per Politifacts, a non-partisan fact checking organization. If you are a betting person, the odds would be in your favor not to believe a word he says.

That does not mean the other candidates have not made exaggerations and told a few lies, but Politifacts said the GOP leader has lapped the field. In this crazy race where the attack on political correctness has permitted candidates to be more candid, it would be nice if the candor included more truths. A candid lie told with false bravado is still a lie. But, what do I know? Call me crazy, but I think the truth should be told, and when a falsehood is discovered, the teller should be accountable and correct the record.

A few hard truths for the candidates, supporters and voters:

  • There is little that we can do to stop a motivated terrorist who is willing to lose his or her life on our shores, given our freedoms and open access to weapons. All of us need to be vigilant to report something that looks out of the ordinary and our police need to react swiftly as they did in San Bernardino to locate the culprits to prevent more violence. Our police and intelligence are doing great work, but what scares them most is the under-the-radar extremists.
  • To this first point, the war is on intolerance and extremism, not religion or race. We must live up to our ideals and constitution. We must involve all Americans in this fight against terrorism and not denigrate groups of people. While being vigilant, we must not blow this out of proportion as being done in the presidential race where several have equated it to World War III. Really? These candidates are scaring people into voting for them, but these folks should listen carefully to what the candidates are saying, as they do seem to be making us less safer with less than thoughtful rhetoric.
  • On the good side, the US economy continues to percolate and 2016 is expected to be a good year. This is evidenced by one of the longest successful runs with 70 consecutive months of job growth, unemployment down to 5%, a more than doubled stock market capitalization since the recession and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. We still need to work on wage growth and middle class, but these have been maligned since the early 1980s with outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, and technology.
  • The world is making progress in the battle to limit the impact of climate change. The Paris deal is key, but only part of the story. We have reached a tipping point on renewable energy as the cost has fallen and the awareness of the need has risen. Innovation is creating new paths forward and the glut on oil and natural gas has caused those prices to fall which has halted further investment in more costly retrieval of fossil fuels. Plus, the droughts are showing the world that we have a water crisis that will only be made worse by climate change. So, the time to act in a larger way is now as waiting is no longer an option.
  • On the good side, we are working with other countries to try to solve challenges, such as the refugee crisis, terrorism, corruption (where we can), poverty and lack of women’s rights. Opening trade markets with Iran and Cuba are positives that will pay dividends. It is harder to fight someone you have commerce with. And, freer ideas can find their way in. I am actually delighted to see Russia working with us to address terrorism in the Middle East. Terrorism and corruption are the destabilizers there. We must deal with the former first, but not forget the latter. And, entrepreneurialism is helping more women build income in places around the world. Women hold up half the sky says the Chinese proverb, so investing in women will pay huge dividends for a region.

I am encouraged by the progress that is being made. I wrote a post last week about “Year-end Kudos,” but let me restate that the work Pope Francis is doing is immense. He is the greatest, most trusted leader on the planet and he is shining a light on where it needs to be shown. While Angela Merkel is very deserving of her Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, it is the Pope who has shown us our humanity. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will see they face of God,” I read somewhere. Happy holidays to all and have a wonderful new year.

 

Year-end Kudos

As we near the end of 2015, let me look back and offer kudos to select folks for their efforts. This is not meant to be a complete list, so please do share your kudos for those I may not have mentioned.

Angela Merkel deserves kudos for being the most effective global leader who sees the key role her country and Europe play in helping the many refugees in need or to share her concerns with Vladimir Putin for his transgressions in the Ukraine.

Pope Francis deserves kudos for taking his wonderful message of outreach to those in need to North and South America and Africa. He also deserves kudos for writing about the very real concerns of climate change and the need to act. He is the most respected leader on the planet.

Francois Hollande deserves huge credit for his handing of the terrorist attack in Paris and keeping France’s ideals and openness alive. He has shown how important it is to continue to live and exercise your freedoms, a lesson lost on too many here in the US.

Justin Trudeau deserves similar credit along these same lines by openly welcoming Syrian refugees into Canada. Seeing families reunited is a joy to see and he emphasized its importance by being there in person.

Barack Obama deserves credit for his continued stewardship of the US economy as evidenced by 70 consecutive months of job growth and decline in unemployment to 5%. Given where other global economies are at this point, he should be commended for providing the necessary tail winds over the past few years. He also deserves kudos for moving the ball forward in the US on addressing climate change.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan deserve kudos for navigating an unwieldy ship in the Republican led Congress to get some key agreements done. Boehner greased the skids for Ryan by getting the framework for the budget and debt ceiling increase passed and Ryan has been able to push through a long overdue transportation bill and education bill. It was good to see some bipartisan success and work accomplished.

Delegates to the Paris Climate Change Conference deserve kudos for accomplishing an agreement that was lacking from the last conference in Copenhagen. While no agreement is perfect, this one seems to have more in its favor than not and will help move the ball forward. The move down the path of renewable energy has passed the tipping point and this agreement with business leader backing will help us address our climate change challenge, but also help speak to our number one problem, a global water crisis.

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for the formulation of The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which may be the biggest news out of Paris. This coalition will match government funding to accomplish better technologies and renewable energy solutions to combat climate change. The government funding is supported by the US, France and 18 other countries through a joint effort called Mission Innovation.

Conservatives for Clean Energy is a group that shows the movement to renewable energy is not just a progressive movement. Their efforts show that the need to move more quickly is universal and renewable energy is a viable industry for future jobs. Their existence supports the ClearPath survey results that 75% of conservative voters believe we need to move further down the path of renewable energy.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy deserves kudos for doing what the US Senate failed to do and what terrorism consultants said could help to some degree. He performed an executive order to ban the sale of guns to people on the government no fly watch lists. This common sense change was voted down in the US Senate by party affiliation, including three presidential candidates, who have openly chastised the president for not doing more to combat terror. So, to his credit Malloy made it happen.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and the Families of the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston for the courage, forgiveness, leadership and love in showing how a community can galvanize around a tragedy. Seeing these people of faith forgive the man who killed their nine loved ones was as great a testimony as I have ever witnessed. Haley and Riley deserve kudos for the huge role in bringing the community together and for Haley to deftly use the opportunity to finally bring down the sign of hate represented in the Confederate flag.

Former President Jimmy Carter deserves kudos to showing us all how to handle the news of his mortality with grace and the conviction of faith. Between Carter and the church members of the Emanuel Church in Charleston, we saw two beautiful acts of faith that are lessons for us all, regardless of religion. It should be noted that Carter recently received great news that his cancer is gone after some unique treatments. With his humanitarian efforts, maybe God still has a purpose here for him.

Again, please feel free to share your thoughts on who I may have missed or if you find fault with my choices. Happy Holidays.

Rainy Weekend Musings

Being on the east coast of the US, we are getting the rain that is so needed out west with the droughts and forest fires. Blending with other fronts, Hurricane Joaquin is promoting the continual showers, but I am surprised this illegal alien has been allowed to touch our shores given the hateful rhetoric going on in one of our political parties here. I am sure one candidate will ask why did they give it a Spanish name, just as one candidate criticized Former Governor Jeb Bush for answering a question in Spanish that was asked in Spanish.

Seeing the President’s anger and disappointment yesterday with the latest shooting speaks to the feelings of most people in the country, even responsible gun owners. But, our politicians do not care what people think, as they only care about funders like the NRA who makes them wet their pants and skirts. Surveys have shown all Americans, even Republican voters where guns are more sacrosanct, favor better background checks on all gun transactions and extended waiting periods. Neither of these actions take guns away, but are in the right direction. Yes, other actions are needed, but doing nothing is not the answer. Otherwise, our new slogan is “Welcome to America. I hope you are packing heat.”

Vladimir Putin is the best liar on the planet. And, he does not care. He will lie and two days later speak of his real position, but reporters seem reluctant to say that is different from what you said the other day. We are after ISIL he says initially, then when Syrian rebels are bombed that are nowhere near ISIL, his Secretary of State says “a terrorist, is a terrorist, is a terrorist.” Of course, he also said he is all for supporting a government and accuses the US of supporting the rebels. Yet, Mr. Putin, aren’t you supporting the rebels in Ukraine against a government? Truth be told, the effort to be battle extremists needs the support of Russia and others as it is a collective problem. But, I would encourage him to not be too much in bed with someone who has launched chemical weapons on his own people and has killed 200,000 of his countrymen. It is bad optics.

It is invigorating to see the United Nations meet in New York. Leaders tend to behave better even when they speak their mind, which may be at odds with others’ views. That is a great construct that all  leaders are entitled to speak. Coming together can only help find some common ground on issues. Yes, there are disagreements, but seeing the side meetings that occur to address issues is wonderful. And, this year’s festivities had extra gravitas with Pope Francis speaking about global poverty and climate change, two of our biggest problems in the world.

Finally, it was nice to see the US Senate working in a bipartisan manner on important legislation. Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee led an effort to put forward a bill to significantly address our criminal justice issues and unfairness along with the overcrowding in federal prisons. This effort brought strange bedfellows into the mix and the result is very positive. The Senate will vote on the bill and, if passed, send it to the House, where collaboration has not been as apparent. Let’s hope we see this ray of hope on how governance should be done and listen less to people who just want to pitch a hissy fit in the middle of the theme park, one who thinks this qualifies him to be president.

That is all I have for now. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

It’s the same old song


Fans of Motown and The Four Tops will remember this song from the 1960’s. I use it today to describe the continuation of those politicians who are heavily backed by the fossil fuel industry to naysay climate change as the major concern it is and the role we play in it.

With Pope Francis here in the United States, he is following the message in his Encyclical to define the need to act now. It is a message of truth from the most respected leader on the planet. He has also showed that the world’s poor are impacted even more severely by climate change based on where they are forced to live and their fragility.

But, here in America there has been a concerted and concerned effort by so-funded politicians to diminish his message saying he is not qualified and should stick to his knitting. And, the conservative pundits and pseudo news sources are doing their best to downplay his message. A good question is why?

If you think about it, who is the outlier on this issue? Who is trying to squelch open debate by making it illegal in two states for state officials to use the words climate change or global warming? The Pope’s message is consistent with 97% of scientists and every major science organization in the United States per Dr. Michael Mann, the head of Earth Systems Science at Penn State University. The same kind of consensus resides outside this country and is held by the United Nations.

On the flip side, former Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is adamant that the 97% figure is only 56%. Politifacts, a nonpartisan fact verification group, confirmed not only the inaccuracy of Santorum’s claim, but confirmed his source as a blogger who contrived that number. There is a reason some do not want debate.

Dr. Mann says we have about a ten year window to act more demonstrably. We can ill-afford a President who does not see climate change as the problem it is. To do otherwise would be poor stewardship of our planet. But, what do I know, as I am not a scientist. Yet, the Pope is with his Masters in Chemistry.