The things that make you go hmm

Things that make you go hmm

The things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm…


More things.  Current events that make the Intramuralist go hmmm.  Truthfully, there are a lot of them lately…


… Yesterday — with all eyes on the Supreme Court, awaiting the ruling on the Patient Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/Mandated-Health-Insurance/Or-Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-It-Act — the justices passed on healthcare, ruling instead on Citizens United and the Arizona immigration law; they will release their ruling on the “all of the above healthcare act” Thursday.


The controversial Arizona ruling struck down 3 of 4 parts, but said the most controversial (and yes, popular) aspect was constitutional, meaning that it is lawful for state and local law enforcement to verify immigration status on routine stops.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  Both sides claimed victory.


Wait… if both sides feel victorious, does that mean the issue is finally done?  Ha…  Friends, an editorial note here…  There is a reason the first word of illegal immigration is “illegal.”  But we have to find a humane way to deal with the issue that doesn’t saturate the employment pool nor pave a path for terrorists.  Terrorism is still, sadly, alive and well on planet Earth.  Too much rhetorical spin is already involved in this Supreme Court ruling.



… Lest you are unaware, Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney are in race to solicit the largest stockpile of dinero.  Cash.  Money.  Etc.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  The latest gimmick by the Obama campaign is the Obama Event Registry.  “Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?” asks the re-election campaign.  “Let your friends know how important this election is to you — register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift.  It’s a great way to support the President on your big day.  Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate — and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.”


Geepers.  With all due respect to the Obama campaign, with my birthday arriving in a few short weeks, I’d enjoy a few gifts.  And I’m expecting far more than a gravy bowl.



… Venus Williams lost in round 1 of Wimbledon yesterday.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  The talented Williams sisters never lose that early.



… In the “Furious & Fast” or “Fast & Furious” gun smuggling mess, Pres. Obama has claimed “executive privilege,” thereby allowing Att. General Eric Holder the freedom not to turn over subpoenaed documents.  Holder has turned over approximately 7,000 of the requested 70,000 documents.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  70,000 documents??  Are you kidding?!  How could anyone want 70,000 documents?  How could anyone be expected to turn over 70,000 documents?  And what’s buried in those 70,000 documents that no one wants us to see??


Another editorial note here:  More respect and honor should be given to the family of Brian Terry, the federal agent who died on the opposite end of those smuggled weapons.  In all the discussions… in all the exertions of “privilege”… he should be remembered and revered.



Ah, current events…


The things that make you go hmm

Things that make you go hmm

The things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm…


They always do…


… noting the lack of wisdom and integrity in this world…




the error of our ways

Typical of my family’s summer evenings, I had opportunity to watch another youth baseball game yesterday… (actually, I watched about 4 games yesterday.)  Good thing I love that sport.  While yes, the pace can seemingly eke along at times, all the strategic nuances of the game can be fascinating…  well, not always as fascinating as the fans.  Yesterday, I decided to observe the fans…


 … the yellers… the screamers… the strong, silent types… the knowledgable… the casual observer… the college scholarship hoper… the sibling who’d prefer to be elsewhere… the devoted family… the team mom… the always encouraging… the discouraged… the focusers on the positive…


Before my son began playing, I observed the loyalists at the game on the field before us.  The red team was to my left — the blue team to my right.  Note that these kids were 13 years old…  competitive baseball, but 13 nonetheless.


The red team’s parents cheered only for their team.  The blue team’s parents likewise cheered only for their own.  On a side note, my observant younger son and I enjoyed cheering on the good plays regardless of team color.


As the game progressed with the score remaining close, the intensity also evolved.  I noticed a little more enthusiasm.  A little louder cheer.  And a little more dramatic disappointment when the diamond’s circumstances didn’t match the fans’ desires.


These fans weren’t unique.  They didn’t seem different than any of the fans gracing the sidelines of the 31 other fields in this tournament.  Truthfully, they didn’t seem much different than you and me.  Still, one thing bothered me most…

When the first baseman dropped a foul ball, the opposing fans cheered.  

When the shortstop made an error, the hoopin’ and hollerin’ continued.

When a pitch went wild that allowed all runners to advance, screams of delight went shrieking through the stands.


In other words, the cheers were no less in enthusiasm and volume than when a great play was made.

The fans cheered just as loudly when their sons did well as they did when the other teams’ sons messed up.  In other words, it mattered not how their own sons succeeded.  The means justified the end.  If someone else erred, it was irrelevant if their own son benefitted.  All they seemed to want was for their kid to win.  Truth be told, I’m not sure those parents are any different than you and me.


Previously this week I had a conversation with a friend who suggested the means didn’t matter.  It was fascinating to me.  He recognized that while the means may not “look good” or be saturated with obvious integrity, sometimes that was necessary to get the desired end result.  We were talking current events — not even baseball.


Cheering on the errors was nowhere more evident than on the game immediately preceding my son’s initial playoff game later in the day…


Ahead 12-3 going into the top of the last inning, the Elks’ defense suddenly gave up 10 runs, changing pitchers 4 times in less than 3 outs — attempting to somehow stop the so-called baseball bleeding.  With each run and pitcher alteration, the intensity ratcheted up another notch.  In the game.  In the stands.


Going into the bottom half of the inning now down by 1, the Elks first play was a slow dribbler toward second — a seemingly easy play.  The ball then went methodically right through the second baseman’s legs.  The crowd, no less, went wild!  Cheers (and jeers, of course — not from the strong, silent type) were dependent on the color of your team.


Question:  do we celebrate the error of another if we stand to benefit?  Does it matter to us if someone else screwed up?  Do we even care about those people?  Or do we simply cheer if something good happens for us?


Many seem to cheer — socially and politically and even at baseball — because of what they personally receive —  because of how they personally perceive the benefit.  I feel at times like often that’s more important that what’s fiscally responsible, constitutional, or even what is good.  I’m reminded of the 20-something I overheard talking about the new healthcare law.  She didn’t care what was in it; she was just happy that she didn’t have to pay for insurance any more.  In her words, she could “blow it on something else.”


Often, it seems, we’re solely focused on our own benefit.  On winning.  On us.


I wonder if we do that in far more places than youth sports…




my elliptical

It’s true.  All the accusations are accurate.  I am an exercise nut.


I love it.  I exercise 6 days a week with a minimum of 30 minutes cardio.  Add in strength and weight training, and Monday – Friday amount to a 60 – 80 minute regimen.  I believe it’s good for me; it’s good for all people.  I look better.  Feel better.  No doubt we’d each benefit from consistent exercise.


In order to make exercise practical, numerous equipment exists in our home — free weights, Bowflex, medicine ball, etc.  None, however, compares to the preciousness of my beloved elliptical.  Yes, I love it.


The elliptical is raved about by kinesiologists and fitness experts.  It elevates the heartbeat, utilizing the entire body, but minimizes the impact on the body’s joints.  Hence, many one-time runners switch to the elliptical at some point in order to lessen the impact specifically on their knees.  The elliptical is an effective, efficient exercise machine.  We’d each benefit from having an elliptical.


As a leader in my family, I’ve decided that each member of my extended family should also have one.  My parents, brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins, you-name-it.  Some of them are opposed to exercise — especially this daily idea — but they don’t know what’s good for them; they need to exercise.  Even more so, they need to purchase an elliptical.


The reality is that if only a few of us buy this excellent cardiovascular machine, then the price increases.  The manufacturers have to make money, and so stores have to sell their products at a high enough profit margin to recoup their costs.  But, if everyone in my family buys one, the stores can reduce the cost.  Better for me!  Granted, some of my family never intended to buy an elliptical; but alas, they don’t know what’s good for them.


Truthfully, originally my family wasn’t all on board.  It didn’t matter.  Even though some passionately disagreed with purchase, I had enough persons in the family willing to side with me.  We could vote.  I would win.


In fact, I was ready for that vote.  And then… wouldn’t you know?  A new person joined our family; marriage will do that to you.  And so this new guy came along, and he had a bit of a rebel in him; he wasn’t willing to go along with my plan for the family.  Remember:  this is good!  Each of us buying an elliptical will drive the cost down.  And it will keep us all healthy!  Don’t people know what’s good for them?


But our new family member was pretty stubborn.  He wouldn’t go along with my plan.  Hence, I had to find a new way to make everyone buy an elliptical.


At first, I continued to try to convince the majority.  “Come on… you have to buy one to figure out how much you’re going to enjoy it.  You have to purchase it before you actually realize the benefits.”  But that didn’t go over so well.  My plan wasn’t quite as popular as I thought.


Sorry, but I had to push this through.  Ancestors had advocated for ellipticals for decades!  My family simply doesn’t know what’s best for them.  Trust me.  I know.  I know best.  Then I remembered an old way we used to settle on the family budget.  It required fewer of us to agree.  It may not have set well with my siblings who disagreed, but hey, remember, I know best.  Ellipticals will be good for them!


And so, using that ole’ budgetary tactic, I got enough votes to force everyone to buy one… even though they didn’t like it.  They’ll thank me later.  That’s what I’m banking on… this is good for them.  They’ll thank me later.


And so, as soon as today, the Supreme Court will rule on the new health care law, the Patient Affordable Care Act, or as some call it, “Obamacare.”


It is no secret that the Intramuralist believes this law is unwise.  I say that not as a partisan, but rather, as one who read the entire bill.  Note:  most congressmen did not read it.  Consistent with previous posts, I believe it to be unconstitutional in the mandated purchase of health insurance solely based on the condition of being alive; I also feel that the approach taken to ratify the legislation was heavy-handed, disrespectful, and oblivious to differing opinion… just like me and my elliptical…


… even though it’s healthy.




martyrs, anyone?

Nathan Hale…  the bold young captain in the Continental Army, who went behind enemy lines, hoping to gather intelligence in the American Revolution, who was then captured and hung by the British, whose purported last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”


Saint Valentine… the Roman priest, who — absent the flowers and conversation hearts — was marrying persons within the Christian church at a time when the emperor was persecuting the church and prohibiting marriage, who was then imprisoned and tortured for his conduct, receiving a 3 part sentence of beating, stoning, and finally decapitation because of his stand for Christian marriage, with his supposed last words signed, “from your Valentine.”


And Joan of Arc… a onetime peasant girl who led the French army in several military victories during the Hundred Years’ War, known for her solid intellect, who steadfastly claimed to receive divine visions, who was burned at the stake at only 19 years old, charged with “insubordination and heterodoxy,” who refused to renounce her relationship with God.




Committed to truth.


And one more powerful description…


Regardless of potential consequence.


Each of the above are identified as “martyrs.”  A martyr is willing to die instead of sacrificing truth.  Nothing matters more to them than what they believe to be true.  And the truth is never obscured.  It’s never veiled or debated or packaged publicly nicely so that no one will actually know what that truth is.  Everyone watching knows what the martyr believes in.


My sense, friends — and I could be wrong — but my sense is that we are in an age with few martyrs.


So many, so often, sadly it seems, are willing to compromise — at the very least conceal — even alter to the point of convenience — what they believe to be true.


The concept of being willing to actually die seems foreign indeed.


What do many willingly do instead?


… exaggerate…

… deflect responsibility…

… blame…

… engage in ad hominem attacks…

… change the subject…

… deceive…

… lie…

… utilize rhetorical spin…

… or perhaps arguably worst yet, alter the truth.


I’m reminded of Jack Nicholson’s infamous line in “A Few Good Men”:  “You can’t handle the truth!!”


Jack’s right.  Often we can’t.  That goes for many in public office… many of us.  We are more apt to change the truth, cover it up, or make it somehow more convenient.


Where are the martyrs?


… the historical Stephen’s? … the man who knew something so powerful, inspiring and real, that he refused to compromise his message?  Where are the humble and those always committed to truth?  Where are those public servants who refuse to compromise their message?


I’m afraid they may no longer be here.





On Friday Pres. Obama altered U.S. immigration law via executive order.  In one of those mind-boggling moments that quietly reveals the hypocrisy on both the established right and left (and makes the Intramuralist sarcastically snicker), the use of executive order has come under increased scrutiny.  Let’s objectively dissect the issue here.


An executive order is a decree issued by any executive branch of government (could be local, state, or federal, for example) in which law is either established or changed.  While the decree bypasses the legislative branch of government, it is not free from judicial review.


American presidents have issued executive orders since George #1 was in the White House, yet contrary to popular belief, there exists no explicit constitutional statute that authorizes such action.  Presidents have been following the precedent of their predecessors, based on the Constitution’s vague granting of “executive power,” combined with their sworn charge to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”


The purpose of executive orders varies greatly.  Via such directives, FDR prohibited the “hoarding” of gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates in 1933; in 1964, Lyndon Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of JFK; and in 1969, it was Richard Nixon who prohibited employment discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, etc. in the federal civilian workforce.


As the practice has evolved — again, based on presidential precedent as opposed to clear constitutional authority — the frequency of usage has remained high (FDR issued over 3700 orders; Truman utilized the process almost 900 times, compared to Bill Clinton’s 364, George W. Bush’s 291, and Barack Obama’s thus far 127).  However, the controversy of the practice — due especially to the questioned motive for bypassing congressional approval — has increased significantly.


For example…


In 2007, Pres. Bush issued an order to expand the use of approved stem cell lines in the way he deemed was ethical.  Some wanted no limits, as the research is considered extremely helpful in curing future disease; some wanted a complete ban, concerned about the intentional destruction of human life in the process.  Bush decided via executive order what was ethical.


As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry issued an order requiring all Texas girls to receive the HPV vaccination.  Supporters of the order cite the possibility of obtaining cervical cancer; opposers don’t believe it is government’s role to dictate vaccine, especially when the purported dangers are sexually transmitted.


And on Friday, Pres. Obama eased American deportation policy, halting the deportation of illegal immigrants’ offspring.  Supporters believe it’s humane, as the fact that children (up to age 30) are in this country illegally is no fault of their own; opposers worry about the impact on unemployment and long term cost.  The issue is complex and has multiple aspects to discern, especially, currently, in regard to how much committed crime is allowed by the illegal immigrant allowed to stay.


The hypocrisy?


Some claim Obama had no authority to alter immigration law on his own, yet they were quite comfortable when Bush 43 issued his directives.  Others enthusiastically cheered Obama’s Friday move, forgetting the outrage they once articulated under Bush.  In other words, support or outrage of the use of executive order depends most on the executive and on the order — as opposed to its actual use.


Back to the Intramuralist’s snicker… directed again toward both the established right and left…


Last September, when asked why he simply doesn’t alter immigration law via executive order, Pres. Obama said, “I cannot do this on my own because there are laws on the books.”  Those laws were still in existence Friday.  Hence, since previously Obama felt he didn’t have the authority to do what he just did, I must conclude that the fall, potentially close election is a factor.


Also snickering…  previously many on the right have also believed that immigration laws should be altered, finding an effective and compassionate way to handle the influx of illegal immigrants.  But they, too, seem well aware that there exists this fall election.


My bottom line, friends, is that politics is motivating policy.  Politics is also motivating the method used to enact the policy, and politics motivates both our opposition and support.


Sometimes, I just can’t stand politics.


In search of wisdom… respectfully,


not special

As commencement speeches become snoozingly predictable and rhetorical, creative overtures are especially appreciated.  One address, given last week by English teacher David McCullough at a Massachusetts high school, was not appreciated by all.  The now ‘gone-viral’ speech is colloquially known as “You’re Not Special.”  The following words are extracted verbatim from McCullough’s message:


“Commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.  All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.  You are not special.  You are not exceptional.


Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.”


If you watch the video, you will find the teenage crowd attentively chuckling in response.  My sense is that McCullough intentionally worked to speak to the graduates in a language they’d understand.  Once he knew they were ‘with him’ — interested in what he was actually saying instead of lured to sleep by another predictable or rhetorical overture — that’s where McCullough left sarcasm behind and shared his central message… a message to a culture that so easily focuses on self…


… where we think we’re the most talented athlete…

… where we think we’re the brightest politician…

… where we think we’re the greatest, best, most grounded, solid, exceptional, experienced, gifted, intelligent, successful, you-name-it…


… where we’re so focused on our own ‘specialness.’


Hence, having their attention, the wise English prof adds:


“… We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it’s ‘So what does this get me?’


… If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an FYI)  I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It’s where you go from here that matters.


… Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer…


… None of this day-seizing, though, this YOLOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion-and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.  Because everyone is.”


That was his point.  Everyone’s special.  But we can’t allow that to cause us to think too highly of ourselves.  Too many people do.




missing in our mission

I’ve decided I’m not too keen on this concept of being “religious.”  So many of us seem too religious.  We are religious about our work schedules, our workouts, eating, drinking, reading, looking good, our morning crosswords, shopping, iTunes accounts, iPods, iPads, iSomethings, word choices, kids’ sports, etc.  Being religious has little to do with faith, friends.  “Religious” simply means devoted to a cause or activity.  I’ve known many who are wholeheartedly devoted; and yet many omit any acknowledgement of the divine.


Repeatedly in current societal mantras — also, often, with no acknowledgement of God — I am hearing the calls for justice… for social justice, for a just social standing.  The reason so many advocate for the widows and orphans and poor and disabled is because such persons have no social standing; there is no prestige attached to their position.  And so, some loudly articulate the need for social “justice.”


How can we provide social “justice”?  What can — and should — we do for the least of these? … for the most vulnerable?


… feed.


… give a cold drink.


… invite in.


… clothe.


… care for when sick.


… visit when imprisoned.


Each of the above compassionately and effectively ministers to the least among us.  We should thus be generous in the above provisions.  Many, in fact, are “religious” in their attempts to both advocate and provide.


Fascinating to me still, is that many religiously attempt to both advocate and provide but offer no acknowledgement of God.  And yet, each of the above socially “just” provisions is deeply rooted in biblical exhortation.  It thus then blurs the supposedly nonporous boundary between what is church and what is state — especially when one advocates for social justice as a role of federal government.  We are then asking government to do what God has commanded — albeit, what God has commanded the individual… what God has commanded for you and me.


For many “religious” persons — most likely myself, too, at times — we ignore that individual command.  We oft abdicate our role in providing for the least among us.  We can sit back, shout the name of Jesus, but do we actually engage in the feeding and giving, inviting and clothing, caring and visiting?  Some will be called to work in the field; others will be called to contribute monetarily.  But it is equally, arguably hypocritical to stand back, acknowledge God’s exhortation to the individual, but then, do nothing to provide for those who have lesser.


Once again, friends, we find a societal issue where far too many are firmly entrenched on a supposed right or left.  The solution is not compromise.  The solution is to dissipate man-created, partisan opinion and do what we are individually called to do.


What are we called to do?


Feed.  Give.  Invite.  Clothe.  Care for.  And visit.


What else?


Acknowledge God.


If we do one without the other — even though the call for individual social provision is actually historically, biblically beseeched — then something is missing in our mission…


… most likely something that is prudent and wise.




scanning the headlines

Scanning the headlines from the week in review, I find the following actual leaks and laments…


Game On!  2012 Battle Lines Are Drawn


Bloomberg Versus the Big Gulp


Wisconsin Race Seen as National Barometer


Bill Clinton Said What?


What’s the Matter With Bill Maher?


Why Dems Don’t Want to Talk About Economy


Walker’s Example: Courage Rewarded


Post-Wisconsin Overreaction Commences


Presidential Race at a Tipping Point?


The Unions’ Biggest Loss Was in California


Big Government Has Paralyzed U.S. Economy


Dems and GOP Blast White House Over Leaks


Obama’s Revealing Press Conference


“Spain Seeks Bailout”


Sorry, but when I spend too much time focused on the above, it exhausts me…


Wisconsin, Washington… Washington, Wisconsin.  Obama, Romney… Romney, Obama.  Rhetoric, rhetoric, and even more rhetoric.  Impression management.  Egad.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  How can we focus on what is good and pure and right, when so much works to distract us?


And then I’m reminded this week of my dear friend, Phillips…


Phillips was leaving an MLB game, when she noticed a man frantically running nearby… running toward her actually.  And while in this society, so many fake both need and sincerity, Phillips knew she had to stop.  Stop.  She had to help him.


Quickly she discerned the man was in dire need.


“Do you have a cell phone?!  Can you call 911?” he yelled.  “I think my friend’s having a heart attack!”


His friend was slumped over at the wheel.


I can’t imagine what those minutes were like… when life and death hang in the balance… when all other concerns melt in momentousness.  And yet here was my friend, calling 911, her fingers holding tightly to the wrist of a fading pulse, her heart grappling with the sobering reality of what was happening:  one life.  One soul.  The moment one good man died.


On the weeks where I struggle watching the headlines — distracted by what is not good, not noble, and not right — my struggle is that so much of this world focuses on the wrong things.


Thank God for people like Phillips… people who know what is good.


And noble.  And right.


Thank God.





Who will lead us now?


Friends, I’ll be honest.  Actually, I think that’s a fairly funny saying.  If we say, “I’ll be honest,” does that imply we were always previously dishonest?  The Intramuralist will always be honest.


I am concerned at the levels of polarization in this country.  I am worried about the increasing intensity.  When we spoke Tuesday of the Wisconsin election, we called it “the national hotbed of polarized politics.”  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  To be polarized means to be divided.  And to be divided completely contradicts a united state of America.


So my call is for wisdom.  Specifically, my call is for wise leadership.


Who will lead us wisely?


To lead us wisely means to put aside personal pursuits.

To lead us wisely means to forgo ingrained ideology.

To lead us wisely means to cease rhetorical division.


Who will lead us wisely?


To lead us wisely does not necessarily mean compromise.

To lead us wisely does not mean absent of strong opinion.

To lead us wisely does not mean free from all emotion.


Who will lead us wisely?


To lead us wisely means to have a proven economic, social, and moral plan.

To lead us wisely means to communicate that plan respectfully.

To lead us wisely means tirelessly and compassionately working to unify all people through that plan.


The plan of any good leader does not have to be agreed upon by all people.  It should always be communicated, however, with respect for all people, and the ways in which the effectiveness of the plan will be measured must be tangible and clear.


Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) kept his job Tuesday night.  Democrats attempted to recall him because of his desire to limit collective bargaining due his perception that unlimited public contracts negatively affect the state budget.  Let’s watch and see what happens to the state budget now that his plan is in effect.  At the same time, let’s be sympathetic to those union workers who now have to pay a little more.  Let’s work to understand their frustration.  Yet again, let’s see if his plan works.  Will Gov. Walker lead Wisconsin wisely?


From a national perspective, will Pres. Obama lead us wisely?


I would like to say “yes.”  I can’t at this point.  Pres. Obama, as much as I respect him, often uses words that feel intentionally divisive to me.  Maybe I’m wrong.  But I’m uncomfortable with blaming seemingly all failure on the previous administration while attributing all success to self.  Economically, especially, that seems illogical to me.  And thus, it doesn’t seem like wise nor courageous leadership.


Who will lead us wisely?


The persons who will lead us wisely will be morally-grounded.  How they feel will not evolve with the prominence of polling data.  They will say what they mean and mean what they say.  They won’t say one thing to one audience and something else to another.


Who will lead us wisely?


The one who will lead us wisely will do so with cords of human kindness… with submission and respect… and with a clear recognition that leadership is a humble calling…


There is zero arrogance.  There is no use of the pronoun “I.”  There exists only the sobering reality recognizing that wisdom evades most who attempt to actually lead.




on Wisconsin

Today’s the day Wisconsinites gather for more than a Packer game.  (Granted, Lambeau Field seems far more unifying.)  Today is the recall election for the state’s chief executive.  For more factual details on what has progressed to this point, please read our week old post entitled “Discerning What Is Wise.”  Today’s respectful opining focuses instead on what’s actually at stake.


In order to genuinely discern what’s at stake, step one is to whittle away the rhetoric.  If you read hyperbolic editorials or listen to the latest rhetorical robo-call, you may hear the following, actual claims:


“The Final Battle In The War Against Unions Is Underway”

“Wisconsin Can’t Wait”

“Governors Declare War on Nurses and Teachers”

“Governor of the Year:  Scott Walker”

“We Hate Walker!”


Scott Walker has been Wisconsin’s CEO for only 18 months, and yet, in that brief period of time, “America’s Dairyland” has been transformed into the national hotbed of polarized politics.  What’s synonymous with polarized, political hotbeds?  Rhetorical abundance.  Factual manipulation.  Limitless passion.  Record distortion.  And a total disrespect of dissenting opinion.


(Note:  more people in Wisconsin need to read the Intramuralist.)


Clearing away the rhetorical chaff, there exists no Wisconsin “war.”  Last I observed, while American armed forces fight bravely in Afghanistan, there is no war on women, no war on teachers, no war on Christmas, contraception, etc.  Let’s not disrespect our troops by claiming military conflict where it doesn’t exist.  Hence, there is no “war” in Wisconsin.  The origin of this conflict rests in the question of whether or not collective bargaining should be limited.  That is not war; that is a question… a question on which reasonable people disagree.


What is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?


And a secondary question that all reasonable people must also wrestle with:  do labor unions funnel money to their candidates who, if elected, then return the favor by approving overly generous contracts?


Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Refrain from emotional argument.


Our opinions on the appropriateness of collective bargaining limitations say nothing about how we feel about teachers.  That is an emotional argument simply serving to ratchet up the rhetorical volume.  I had some great teachers; in fact, thanks to clever Mr. Cunningham, I’m now consistently utilizing my genuine interest in current events!  And allow me to not speak solely of my own experience, as I’m also incredibly thankful for my sons’ educators, especially those who unselfishly empower my youngest, having special needs.


Yet how we feel about our teachers does not correlate to the relevant question.  What is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?  How have public employee pensions and insurance affected state budgets?  Those questions must be asked and answered without all the rhetorical and emotional interference.


Notice California — a beautiful state currently strangled by massive debt.  Public pensions have been a significant contributor to this noose. (FYI:  Be careful when researching this issue; many partisan writers will claim an inaccurate percentage, omitting the key accounting issue of underfunding pensions, with some state funds scheduled to run out as early as 2017.)   According to Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), “Three times as many people are retiring as are entering the workforce. That arithmetic doesn’t add up. In addition, benefits, contributions and the age of retirement all have to balance. I don’t believe they do today. So we have to take action.”


Agree or disagree with the approach, the origin of the Badger political hotbed is a result of one state taking action.


Gov. Walker asked public employees (exempting law enforcement and firefighters) to pay 5.8% of their salary toward pensions and a minimum of 12.6% toward health insurance premiums.  Previously in Wisconsin, employees paid little to nothing for pensions and an average of 6% toward healthcare.  While the jury’s still out on long term implications, in these short 18 months, a clear majority of objective sources conclude that Wisconsin’s economic climate has improved.


Thus, the question:  what is the longterm impact?


If rhetoric stays out of the way, today Wisconsinites might be closer to answering that question.  The rest of the country will most likely also answer it soon.