lovin’ the gold

Oh, how I love the Olympics.  They remind me of all that is good and pure and right… and so much of what is absent in every day life.  Such a contrast…

 

… in the humility…

 

You rarely hear an Olympic athlete claim, “I am the best.  Most recognize they are part of a team and together represent a nation.  It’s thus refreshing to see an athlete like the NBA’s LeBron James — whose nickname at home is “The King” — omit the regality and public promenades.  He is no part of the host monarchy nor is he seemingly acting like it.

 

… in the individual effort…

 

So much of current culture has recently surrounded this concept of not only shared sacrifice, but also, shared success.  What is the basis for such thinking?  If someone else works hard and succeeds, do you and I deserve a part of that regardless of the lack of any contribution?

 

In the Olympics, 2 kinds of persons tend to earn the greatest gold:  those who are inherently, naturally gifted — and those who work the hardest.  Refreshingly, those who fail to medal recognize they’re not entitled to the reward of another.

 

… in the national pride…

 

National pride has seemed a negative concept in recent years.  It’s almost as if there is no place for a pride absent of arrogance.  But yet, the 2 terms are not synonymous.  Hence, whether you are an athlete of Austrian descent, Iranian descent, or American descent, there is no need for any so-called ‘apology tour. ‘  It’s ok to be proud of your country — regardless of which nation it is.

 

… in commitment…

 

While so much about our younger generations is attractive and contagious, few seem to stay loyal for long… to a job, to a marriage, to a relationship.  I relish the Olympic modeling of commitment.  Authentic commitment.  There is so much wisdom and growth reserved for steadfastness.  And so we watch the Olympic athlete, who has trained for years for essentially one moment in time. The only way this moment exists is due to the individual’s commitment, a commitment to be maintained even on the days with no cameras, no glory, and no medallions strung around the neck.

 

… and lastly, in the good stories… this one from the “Sporting News”…

 

… Just when it seemed U.S. swimming had lost its marquee value, along came Missy Franklin.  She won the 100-meter backstroke Monday, then reacted like you’d expect a 17-year-old to.  “I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “It exceeded my expectations 100 billion times!”

 

…For all the nice stories about badminton whizzes, a truly grand Olympics must hitch itself to a star. We thought it might be [Michael] Phelps, getting a few more golds before swimming into the sunset.  Then all eyes turned to [Ryan] Lochte after he swamped Phelps in their first race Saturday… Umm, not so fast. A French guy ran him, or swam him, down in the final leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay on Sunday…

 

Enter Missy the Missile.  She’s the second-youngest swimmer on the U.S. team. She’s also the most versatile and probably the most embraceable. She’s down to swim seven events in London, one more than any female in Olympic history. Franklin got a bronze in the 400-meter freestyle relay Saturday. But Monday was the real coming out party for the girl who’s been called the female Phelps.  She caught Australia’s Emily Seebohm in the final strokes to win in 58.33 seconds…  “Incredible,” she said. “I still can’t believe that happened…”

 

She’s from Centennial, Col., outside Denver. She’s an honor student who will enter her senior year of high school in a few weeks. She really wants to swim in college, but London may be messing up those plans.  The NCAA is built on the free labor of “amateur” athletes. If Franklin took endorsement money, she’d be ineligible to swim for good old State U. She’s already turned down nice endorsement offers. But if Monday night is any indication, she could make enough to buy a college and make her own darned rules.  Not that such things were on her mind. Franklin was too busy crying as the national anthem was played. About the only disappointing thing was that there was no “Tebowing” on the medal stand.

 

Oh, how I love the Olympics… love that focus on what is good and pure and right.

 

Respectfully,

AR

eat mor chikin

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a bit of a squabble (good poultry term) over Chic-Fil-A, one of the nation’s top fast food franchises.  The impetus for the squabble lies in the voluntary comments of Dan Cathy, Chic-Fil-A’s chief executive, who said the following in a recent interview:

 

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.  We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.  We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

 

Note that there has been zero evidence of discrimination on Chic-Fil-A’s part.  The outrage entirely revolves around the viewpoint expressed by the executive.

 

Each of us has the right to agree or disagree with Cathy’s viewpoint.  In fact, as consumers, we have the prerogative not to shop there.  We can shop wherever we want… just as some African-Americans are known to support African-American owned businesses… just as some veterans are known to support veteran owned businesses.  Shop where you want.  Shop ’til you drop.  Shop for whatever reasons you want.  Feel free not to shop nor drop.

 

But that consumer freedom is for some reason not enough for all – especially politicians seemingly more mindful of populist voting than of constitutional legality.  Specifically, the mayors of Boston and Chicago have now vowed to block the business from future expansion in their cities.  “How dare they,” they infer…  (sorry, an Intramuralist paraphrase). But to quote the mayor of Chicago, in reference to Cathy’s comments, “It’s not what the people of Chicago believe.”  Last I knew, we didn’t all believe the same thing.

 

In fact, how have those mayors – officials who serve in a representative democracydealt with the following viewpoints?

 

“If I was a woman in Russia I would be a lesbian, as the men are very ugly.  There are a few handsome ones, like Naomi Campbell’s boyfriend, but there you see the most beautiful women and the most horrible men.”

 

“They’re like leeches…I’m so tired of it… They start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars and everything.  End up penniless.  It is a conspiracy.  The Jews do it on purpose.”

 

“Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

 

And…

 

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.  Now, for me as a Christian – for me – for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.  God’s in the mix.”

 

Funny… but those cities have been silent about the above words from the mastermind behind popular fashion brands, Chanel and Fendi, the sale of CD’s by Michael Jackson and John Lennon, and the stated stance of then Sen. Barack Obama.  The above quotes are attributed to each.

 

My point is this…

 

Outrage is selective.  Outrage is emotional.  Please feel free to agree or disagree with Dan Cathy’s comments.  That is the beauty of this county.  That is the freedom of this country.

 

When the mayors of Boston and Chicago practice viewpoint discrimination, unfortunately, they are being inconsistent and selective.

 

And let me add one other word:  hypocritical.

 

Understand, friends, this post says nothing about the legitimacy nor purity of gay marriage.  We can choose how to react.  We can choose what to believe.  If any of us are ever puppeteered or coerced into what we must believe, then we are being intolerant and not adhering to the constitutional U.S. of A.  The problem with the Boston and Chicago mayors is that they are extracting our freedom of choice; they’re taking away our freedom to believe.  They are thus attacking the legitimacy of opposing viewpoint, and that, frighteningly, is inconsistent with tolerance, democracy, and individual liberty.

 

Hence, I say once more – “how dare they…”

 

Respectfully,

AR

someone is responsible

Wow, we are good at blaming other people.

 

Witness…

 

Celebrity news outlet, TMZ, is reporting that the first lawsuit is being crafted in the Aurora movie massacre.  It is being filed by Torrence Brown, a man who was in the theater but was not physically hurt, although a good friend was shot and killed. Brown now claims to suffer from extreme trauma.

 

So given his situation, he’s suing James Holmes, the shooter, correct?

 

Of course not.

 

According to TMZ and Brown’s attorney, Donald Karpel, Brown is targeting the following 3 entities or people:

 

  1. The theater.  Karpel claims it was negligent for the theater to have an emergency door in the front that was not alarmed or guarded.  It’s widely believed Holmes entered the theater with a ticket, propped the emergency door open from inside, went to his car and returned with guns.
  2. Holmes’ doctors.  Karpel says it appears Holmes was on several medications — prescribed by one or more doctors — at the time of the shooting, and he believes the docs did not properly monitor Holmes.
  3. Warner Bros.  Karpel says “Dark Knight Rises” was particularly violent and Holmes mimicked some of the action.  The attorney says theater goers were helpless because they thought the shooter was part of the movie.  Karpel tells TMZ, “Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today.”

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

I can’t shake that line.  While “someone is responsible,” that person’s name is James Holmes.  Granted, James Holmes doesn’t possess near the bank accounts of the theater, doctors, and Warner Bros.  While certainly the question of what each could have done differently would be prudent, holding them responsible seems financially expedient.  They are easy to blame.

 

Also, last week we witnessed Penn State receive sanctions for the sexual abuse scandal involving assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.  Sandusky was found guilty of 45 charges of child abuse over a 15 year span.  In an independent report, members of the university’s administration and athletic department were found to be negligent; they were not involved in the abuse, but the tough questions are what did they know and what then, did they do with that information.

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

Penn State certainly should have reported what they knew when they knew it to law enforcement authorities.  There should exist a harsh consequence for that negligience.  Yet one of the penalties levied against the Penn State football program is the decision to vacate 112 of the team’s wins over the past 14 years.  In other words, all the victories on the grid iron during the time something should have been reported no longer exist.  Also, vacating those wins means extracting them from not only head coach, Joe Paterno, but also from the 85 other innocent collegians who potentially played their hearts out that day.

 

Again, “someone is responsible”; that person’s name is Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky’s perverse activity gave Penn State no competitive advantage on the football field.  What he did was horrific, but it didn’t influence the outcome of the game.  However…

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

We tend to place blame where it’s easiest…

 

… on those who can’t defend themselves…

… on those who are financially expedient…

… on those who’ve gone before us…

 

If we can hold someone responsible — regardless as to if they are the person responsible — sometimes it makes us feel better; sometimes is also adds to the foolishness involved.

 

Respectfully,

AR

miracles

What happened in Aurora, Colorado last week was evil and horrific.  I can’t imagine the depth of the pain for the families who lost loved ones or who were innocently in that theater that night.  The following [slightly edited] perspective from a Denver blogger, however, caused me to pause.  In fact, my planned post was actually scrapped, as we humbly attempt to focus on finding some kind of good and pure and right…

 

At Columbine, I have seen this before. But not up close.  As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain with several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Littleton Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22 year old woman from my church, Petra Anderson (pronounced Pay-tra). Petra went to the movies with two young friends who are biking across America.  You and I have been inundated with news about what happened next. A joyful movie turned into bloody, unbelievable chaos. Petra was hit four times with a shot-gun blast, three shots into her arm and one bullet which entered her brain. This a bit of Petra’s miracle story.

 

… A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned, because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain—if she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed…

 

If you have lived any of your days in a hospital waiting room, you know how long the enduring process is. It has a woeful pattern to it. Sit. Walk. Grab a drink. Sit. Walk. Answer a phone call. Sit. Walk. Hug someone. Sit. Talk to the FBI. Sit. Pick at the food. Sit. Walk. Go down the hall, but not too far because you’re afraid to miss something. Back. Hug. Pray. Sit. Sit. A picture of a five year old waiting for next Christmas from January 1st comes to my mind. FOREVER. Only this feels worse: a heavy forever, with no promise of presents, Santa, or good news at the end.

 

After the waiting drags for over five hours, tired doctors and nurses spill back into the room, one or two at a time… The doctors update us: “It went well, and she’s recovering now. We found very little damage to the brain, and got the bullet out cleanly. It went better than we hoped for… Something might still go wrong. We just need to wait and see if she makes it for the next 48 hours.”

 

Tears and thank you’s abound. We are so thankful for these men and women. We hug. Everyone hugs. Then, round two. Sit. Wait. Pray. Fully dressed people cuddle into small snails and try to sleep on the floor. Some are shuttled to a room donated by the Holiday Inn across the street. Thank you, Lord, for every little thing. We sit. We pray. “We’ll understand better tomorrow.”

 

Petra is moved back to ICU. She looks, surprisingly, wonderful. With a small hole in her nose, and her arm wrapped, she almost looks uninjured. She is medicated and sleeping when I come to visit her on Saturday. I sit, talk, and pray quietly with Kim amid the darkened room, lit by glowing medical screens and power switches. Nurses, like quiet soldiers posted on guard, come in, march attentively through the machines, and go out.  These men and women really care. Finally, one of the surgeons comes in to check on Petra. He has had some sleep, and looks more like a movie star this time. As Petra sleeps, he retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions.  The doctor reads the perfect script, as if he is on Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fills us in on the miracle. Honestly, he doesn’t call it that, he just uses words like “happily” and “wonderfully” and “in a very fortunate way” and “luckily” and “we were really surprised by that.”  Kim and I know a miracle when we see it.

 

It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear.  Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.

 

But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself.  Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed.  The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.

 

As he shares, the doctor seems taken aback. It is an odd thing to have a surgeon show a bit of wonder. Professionally, these guys own the universe, it seems, and take everything in stride. He is obviously gifted as a surgeon, and is kind in his manner. “It couldn’t have gone better. If it were my daughter,” he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, “I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.” He smiles. I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy. In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.

 

While we’re talking, Petra awakes. She opens her eyes, and sits up, “Mom.” Movie-star doctor spins to grab her, to protect her from falling. The nurse assures him she’s been doing this for a while. He talks to her, and she talks back. He asks questions, and Petra has the right answers. “Where do you hurt, Petra?” “All over.” Amazed, but professional, he smiles and leaves the set shaking his head. I am so thankful for this man.

 

Petra is groggy and beat up, but she is herself. Honestly, I look worse before my morning coffee. “I’m thirsty,” she proclaims. “You want an ice cube, honey?” Kim replies, “Please.”  Wow. She lays down, back to sleep, a living miracle who doesn’t even know it yet. Good flowering out of the refuse pile of a truly dark night. “Thank you, Jesus,” I whisper.

 

Petra, you are amazing. Kim, you, too, are amazing. I am so proud of you both. But God, you are in a league of your own. (Duh.)

 

Respectfully — and in quiet awe…

AR

 

[Reprinted from “Celtic Straits” by Brad Strait]

Colorado killings

In moments of tragedy, we grapple for answers.  Pained by unspeakable shock, we seek solution.  “We must fix this,” we demand, “So it never happens again.”

 

We.

Must.

Fix.

 

Never again.

 

Sorry, friends, but I’m a little struck.  I’m struck by this feeling that “we” are so capable, that we’re capable of “fixing.”  We think we’re so in control.

 

“How could he do this?!”  How could a 24 year old man, James Holmes, described as a “brilliant science student” — reportedly planning for months — ravage through that theater Thursday night, mercilessly murdering the innocent?

 

We grapple and seek once again.  “How could he do this?” 

 

We’ve heard some of the articulated reasons…

 

“He lost it!”

“He’s just off inside.”

“He’s insane!”

“Must be a chemical imbalance.”

“He thinks he’s the Joker!”

 

We’ve also heard the early instant fixes…

 

“Take action now!”

“We need gun control!!”

“Tougher gun laws!”

“Stop the violent video games!”

“All movie theaters must have electronic screeners… restaurants, too!”

 

As witnessed above, in tragedy, we’re tempted to rush to both judgment and solution.  Why?  Because otherwise we have to admit that evil exists.  What James Holmes did Thursday night was evil.  It was wicked.  There are few other ways to authentically describe it.

 

The inherent challenge for us then is that no legislation or philosophical explanation can eradicate wickedness.  We can’t simply “fix it.”  Hence, what can we do?

 

We can fix our thoughts on what is good and pure and right…

 

We can focus on the victims… the young man who dove in front of his girlfriend, shielding her from the bullets… the 6 year old girl… the newlywed… the young female sports reporter… focusing on their innocence.

We can focus on the community… how people work together…  support one another… law enforcement… leaders and politicians…  focusing on what we have in common instead of this divisive crud.

We can focus on a God who knows far more than us… humbling ourselves… recognizing we can’t possibly have all the answers… focusing on the comfort that only an omniscient power can provide.

 

This post doesn’t offer any answers.  It also doesn’t answer any “why’s” or “what if’s,” and it certainly doesn’t provide a so-called solution to the “problem.”  The Intramuralist simply suggests that  wickedness isn’t something we can “fix.”

 

Finally… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — think about such things.

 

Yes, we would be wise to think of them.

 

Respectfully,

AR

i see dead people

Funny thing about dead people.  They can’t talk.

Funny thing about us.  We talk about dead people.

 

Remember the deceased can’t talk nor talk back.  They can’t respond to the words we say nor the impressions we have.  They can’t affirm what’s right nor correct what’s wrong.  Hence, I wonder what they’d say…

 

Thinking back over the years… what would John F. Kennedy say?  By most historical accounts, it seems an inspiring sense of optimism evolved via JFK’s leadership.  There was something contagious in how this charismatic, young politician spoke… how he dreamed… how he challenged…

 

  • “To whom much is given, much is required.” 
  • “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”  
  • “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

 

Yet after only an approximate 1000 days, JFK died in his political prime.  While for some this prompted increased reverence, romanticism, and historical rewrites, there’s much the public learned after Kennedy died.  There were reports regarding affairs with multiple women.  There were reports of serious health ailments and prescribed drug usage for those problems.  There were questions as to how the medications impacted his infidelity.

 

I wonder what Kennedy would say.  What was intentional?  What did his wife know?  What would you tell us if you could speak?

 

More recently, what would Joe Paterno say?  Among the NCAA’s winningest football coaches, Paterno led Penn State and contributed significantly to academic life, donating over $4 million to the State College campus.  There was something unique in how this career coach spoke… how he motivated… how he challenged…

 

  • “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”
  • “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”
  • “It’s hard for me to explain. I don’t have an ego. I’m going to work to give these kids a chance to win. If we win, it’s theirs.“

 

Yet after 46 years as the Nittany Lion coach, Paterno’s former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse over a 15 year span.  While Paterno passed away this past January, investigations continued at Penn State.  There are now reports of conspiracy and cover up.  There are questions as to what the coaching staff and administration knew.

 

I wonder what Paterno would say.  What did he know?  What other motivations were relevant?  What would you tell us if you could speak?

 

And finally, 3 days ago, Steven M. Covey died.  Covey wrote the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Unlike JFK and Joe Paterno, there is no residual scandal; hence, I think I know what he would tell us if he could speak…

 

  1. Be Proactive.  Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind.  Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals.
  3. Put First Things First.  Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency.
  4. Think Win-Win.  Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.
  6. Synergize.  Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
  7. Sharpen the Saw.  Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.

 

Personally, I like #5 best.  We could all work to understand a little more…  especially understanding dead people… especially not assuming we know all.

 

Respectfully,

AR

tupperware, etc.

And then there was this…

 

“Michael Salman, a pastor from Phoenix, Ariz. who was fined and sentenced to jail, began serving his 60 day sentence on Monday.

 

Salman was found guilty of code violations for hosting Bible studies on his 4.6 acre property. He has been holding the Bible studies for 7 years. He was ordered to 60 days in prison and three years probation and was also ordered to pay a $12,180 fine.

He believes he was criticized for his religious faith and insisted the City of Phoenix would allow gatherings for poker or football…

 

‘They’re cracking down on religious activities and religious use. They’re attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home.’

 

Salman and his wife made a YouTube video which can be seen arguing their cause and how they violated codes no more than their neighbor who happened to have a lot of cars in his driveway and even on to the street.

 

The Phoenix prosecutor’s office said the violations were not about religious freedom, but about zoning and proper permitting. A lot of the dispute is whether a building in Salman’s backyard is a church or not.  City says yes, Salman says no.

 

Salman has fought the battle in court but has been ruled against many times, most recently in 2010 where the court stated that the state is not prohibiting him from running a church or worship services at the location, but rather the state just requires Salman to abide by proper fire and zoning codes.

 

Michael asked for prayers as he left his wife and kids Monday morning to begin serving his sentence at Maricopa County Jail.”

 

So where do we go with this?

 

How do we wrestle with the wisdom and/or lack of it?

 

Truthfully, I don’t know.  While this is seemingly one of those issues where pre-engrained opinion only becomes more affirmed, our perspective is limited.  We do not know all the details regardless of the passion of our opinion or the depth of our curiosity.

 

Some will cry discrimination.  The authorities are only enforcing the law because Salmon is a Christian.

 

Others will encourage ignoring that Salman is a Christian.  Laws are laws.  Zoning is zoning.  Let’s take the faith out of it.

 

Yet I wonder if we would “take the faith out of it,” so-to-speak, or overlook the primary purpose of the group’s meeting, if that group was…

 

… the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

… the National Rifle Association?

… the American Association of Retired Persons?

… the International Gay and Lesbian Association?

… the Council on American–Islamic Relations?

… the National Football League Players Association?

… or, the International Tupperware Alliance?

 

(Ok, so I was kidding about the Tupperware.)

 

Friends, from our limited perspective, it’s difficult to discern the wisdom of the enforcement in Phoenix; it’s even more difficult to discern the wisdom of the law.

 

But can we “take the faith out of it”?  Probably not.

 

Respectfully,

AR

hmmm…

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…

 

Respectfully,

AR

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.

 

Respectfully,

AR

discerning what is wise

One week from today a historic election will be held in the Badger state.  For those comfortably identified as a “political junkie,” it’s actually rather fascinating.  For those who prefer politics be kept far more than even an arm’s length away, it’s an event that will fly completely below all radars.  Yet for the Intramuralist, it reveals the wisdom — or rather, lack of it — in the established political process.

 

First, briefly, the basic facts:

 

  • Republican Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin in Nov. of 2010.
  • On Feb. 15, 2011, the “Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill” was introduced.
  • Details of the bill:  The stated purpose was to help fix unbalanced state finances by cutting benefits for most union employees (law enforcement and firefighters were exempt).  Union negotiations (for all but wages) became limited.  State employees were required to contribute 5.8% of their pay toward pensions and at least 12.6% toward health care.  (See the Green Bay Press Gazette for a more specific summary.)
  • On Feb. 17, 2011, Democrat state senators walked out and left the state, in order to prevent the bill’s ratification.
  • Large protests occurred; protestors hailed from multiple states.
  • In March, the bill was signed into law.
  • Efforts ensued to recall multiple Republican state senators who supported the legislation, costing millions of dollars.  When elections were held in August, most senators kept hold of their seats and Republicans thus kept control of the Senate.
  • A recall election was then pursued for Gov. Walker (state election rules require a governor to be in office at least 1 year prior to pursuing recall).
  • This coming Tuesday, June 5th, is that election.

 

Here’s what the Intramuralist finds foolish in this process…

 

First, I’m astounded by any adult whose means of dealing with undesirable circumstances is to run away.  I’m reminded of my 13 year old; he’s still maturing.  There are times when we have some tough conversations, and often, those are conversations he prefers not to have.  What’s one of his current coping strategies?  “I’m not having this conversation!”  And then he storms away.  I don’t care about party affiliation.  Have the tough conversation.  Stand proud and respectfully articulate your point when you disagree.  Otherwise, there’s great question for the need of maturing.

 

Second, the decision to recall Gov. Walker was made only a few months into his initial term.  I am struck by how partisanship so often trumps reason —  whether you are calling for Walker’s recall or the impeachment of a president.  Unless engaged in obvious criminal activity, give the elect their initial term.  If you are satisfied, vote for him again.  If you are dissatisfied, vote him out.  But don’t allow partisanship to masquerade as any sense of wisdom.

 

And thirdly, notice the massive amount of money by those desiring to oust Gov. Walker — and those who support him.  Estimates vary, but the reality is that Wisconsin has spent millions on these recall efforts.  For the 8 state senator recall races, an estimated $31 million was spent.  In the Governor’s recall election, that amount is expected to soar.  (Hmmm… wouldn’t those millions actually help fix the budgetary problems?)

 

Evidence of even more impurity?  Millions of the contributions opposing and supporting Walker are coming from organizations and people outside the state of Wisconsin.  In order words, non-Badgers are badgering the Badger elections.

 

Friends, whether you are engrained in a firm Republican or Democrat stance, if you believe your party’s establishment and the election strategy is pure, you are either unaware or ignoring the facts.  The fact is that too much money is involved in politics.  Money is polluting the system.  Without a doubt, it’s currently polluting the otherwise beautiful state of Wisconsin.

 

The fundamental question in the state of Wisconsin — the argument that the Intramuralist believes should be wrestled with and the argument over which good people will still disagree — is what is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?  Is there any truth to the belief that unions funnel money to their candidates who, if elected, then return the favor by approving overly generous contracts?  What is honorable?  What is good?  What is good for the economy?

 

While serving as the original impetus for the protests, the campaigns are no longer discussing the long term impact of collective bargaining.  The economic conditions in Wisconsin have been improving.  Yet due to the massive amounts of money distorting the political process, people and parties are now simply attempting to get “their guy” elected.  Hence, neither the Badger nor the watching non-Badger can easily discern what is wise.

 

Respectfully,

AR