Friday, June 27, 2008

Not Another One!

According to Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, presumptive Republican presidential nominee has exactly one (1) weekend campaign event since February... Do we want another part-timer in the Oval Office?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why the fuss over N T Wright?

N T Wright, Bishop of Durham (England) is currently held up by some as the great theolgian of our time. Every encounter I have had with his writings was left me saying, "Huh?" I managed to get through his brief article, Kingdom come: The public meaning of the Gospels and, frankly, I am left surprised and baffled.

I am surprised that he reduces the significance of the Kingdom of God that Christ's life and resurrection ushered in to the Church confronting "secular" leaders to be accountable to Jesus/God's instruction or to be martyred in the attempt. He might insist that "advancing God's restorative justice" is of utmost importance but it is expressed solely in terms of "holding powers to account." Color me unimpressed.

Bishop Wright makes it abundantly clear that he believes that the "rulers of this world" govern by some sort of Divine Right. "God wants the world to be ordered, not chaotic, and that human power structures are the God-given means by which that end is to be accomplished.” Furthermore, “... rulers are corrupt and to be confronted yet are God-given and to be obeyed." In a way I admire Wright's fidelity to Paul's language. But are we really to resist overthrowing tyrants in our now familiar Enlightenment manner toward which the Bishop hurls such disdain? To indicate that martyrdom is acceptable when the tyrant does not welcome a call to restorative justice (whatever that means) would indicate that the answer is a firm No. "That sounds to us as though we are simultaneously to affirm anarchy and tyranny. But this merely shows how far our conceptualities have lead us again to muzzle the texts in which both stand together." To prove this by saying that Isaiah recognized Cyrus as a ruler glosses over the fact that God threw in some heavy signs of His sovereignty to keep Cyrus in line. I assume neither the Bush nor Clinton administrations received any such warnings. Hence my bafflement. We are to accept worldly authorities but to hold them accountable. We are “called to collaborate with compromise” with “overtly pagan” authorities but to “put them on trial” after they leave office.

Maybe “doing God in public” is about letter-writing campaigns, protests and 527 organizations. If so, why doesn’t Bishop Wright just say, “Get active in your community and lobby for prayer in schools and food stamps?” All this about God reclaiming the world seems like God is not doing much of anything other than sending the Holy Spirit to give a stirring pep talk during halftime. His followers are doing ALL the work. The God who stopped the sun and raised Jesus from the dead is reduced to this? As the founder of the Vineyard Church said, “Where’s the stuff?”

Finally, God’s apparent sloth has reached the point where 2000 years of slaughter and mistreatment by Christians, pagans and secularists have been allowed to transpire without any sign of God redeeming his creation. Wright has implied in his “debate” with Ehrman that reclaiming the world was an ongoing process. With Dr Ehrman, I would say, enough is enough. Wright can get as cranky as he likes toward scholars and the flippin, modern world but some of us would just as soon walk away from his God’s little project and see what can be done to end river blindness and to bring a tiny bit more peace to the world.

As far as I am concerned, paraphrasing Paul Kurtz provides a more succinct and useful statement than all the Bishop of Durham’s thick prose: “There is no God. We have to fix this ourselves.”*

• - sorry, can’t lay my hand on the exact quote.

Update: Found the Kurtz quote from the Humanist Manifesto II - "No deity will save us; we must save ourselves."

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Outrageous Accent

Our company is pushing hard to expand the amount of our work done offshore - namely in India. Comments from those who have experience in working with the sub-continent have mentioned issues with coordination across global distances and timezones but invariably the issue of communication comes up. There have been complaints about understanding the accent of those not raised speaking American English. I have experienced this and found that the situation improves with time, no doubt due to my own ears acclimating themselves.

Another observation made was that the team members on the other side of the phone line seem to struggle to understand American speaker's comments and questions. One sign of this is when the same questions are asked over and over again. Somehow the answers are just not getting through.

I must admit my first thought is, "Gee, their English must not be very good." But now it occurs to me that the trouble may well be my accent! An accent is all in the ear of the hearer. If someone in India has limited exposure to a southern-tinged way of speaking, especially one not trained in elocution to the degree common in actors and TV journalists, we should not be surprised if they have a little trouble cutting through our southern drawl or even a northern twang.

Once again, Humility proves the greatest virtue.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Green Lantern Fiscal Policy

"In an exclusive interview with The Times on the eve of the United States-European Union summit in Slovenia, Mr Bush expressed concern about the dollar's continuing weakness and said that he favoured an appreciation in the US exchange rate.

"'We want the dollar to strengthen,' he said on Air Force One as it crossed the Atlantic bound for the summit."

But Deb Riechmann writes for the Associated Press that in his press availability today, Bush "essentially rejected the idea of possible government intervention to prop up the value of the U.S. dollar. He said he believed in a strong-dollar policy, but that world economies will end up setting the value of the dollar."

From the Times of London via White House Watch

Does the man understand anything about currency markets? There is no power ring to wave around and change exchange rates. The market doesn't devalue the Euro to make George Walker Bush happy. You have to do something to make the dollar more attactive, ie improve your economy or increase bond rates.

Good riddance

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Plea For Intelligent Discussion

There are a number of news sources I admire and pretty much trust, like NPR and Diane Rehm. However, there is established practice in the mainstream media that is creeping into these high quality sources of balance and perspective. This is the seemingly reasonable practice of inviting "news makers" to participate in the commentary and analysis of those issues in which they are involved. I am not talking here about inviting the UN Secretary General to discuss future directions in international cooperation. The problem I have is when the campaign manager for John McCain spends 15 minutes shouting at the democratic party official. What the hell do you think these guys are going to say? Do you really expect the Obama supporter to concede that McCain has a forward-looking and innovative plan for mass transit? Of course not. You are going to get spin, spin, spin, spin, spin. Please don't waste my time. The same goes for predictably doctrinaire pundits. I know what Bill Kristol is going to argue so I simply turn off the program as soon as he launches into his standard spiel.

Now there are some somewhat more nuanced pundits. Pat Buchanan, for instance, is unexpectedly evenhanded at times. But I want insight and perspective from people who have listened closely, cut through the crap, and can present honest, intelligent analysis. You can keep the shouting heads.