August 2008

Judgment Daze For John McCain.

Judgment Day.  Many of America’s evangelical churches have annual Halloween events called “Judgment Days.”  They show what happens to little boys and girls who have been naughty, who stray from the word.  They depict hell and what it takes to get there.  Women who have abortions, things like that.  Regardless, I like the name of the event because Republican presidential candidate John McCain asserts he has the judgment to be president and his opponent, Barrack Obama does not.  Let’s examine the claim that McCain is man of “good” judgment.

In his 40s.   John McCain chased his current wife, Cindy around reception tables.  He was married at the time.  He had returned from Vietnam battered and beaten but so was his old wife, Carol.  Carol McCain had been in a serious car accident approximately 18 months before John McCain came back from Asia.  Carol McCain has had 23 operations to mend her body.  She is actually five and one-half inches shorter than before that accident—so horrific have been the corrective surgeries.  What’s a man to do?

At age 42, John McCain jettisoned his broken down old wife for a new younger (age 24), and oh, so wealthy model.  McCain (before he was a senator) met Cindy (Budweiser Beer distributor heiress) Hensley at a reception in Honolulu.  This is what Cindy McCain said on the Jay Leno "Tonight Show." She joked about how the Navy captain pursued her. "He kind of chased me around . . . the hors d'oeuvre table," she said. "I was trying to get something to eat and I thought, 'This guy's kind of weird.' I was kind of trying to get away from him."  Isn’t that fun?  Ha! Ha! Say it over and over with a Julia Child accent. “He chased me around the hors d’oeuvre table.”   It gets a lot funnier.

Ross Perot didn’t think it was funny.  He had been paying for Carol McCain’s rehabilitative surgeries.  This is what Mr. Perot says about John McCain, “After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.” Perot goes on to say, “McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory.”  Oh, Ronald and Nancy Reagan were also disgusted with McCain’s judgment.

Carol McCain the old discarded wife said, “My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25.”

In his 50s.  John McCain was formally rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with federal regulators on behalf of John Keating. POOR JUDGMENT!  Isn’t that what McCain is running on? His judgment?   His peers, the ones who know him best tag him with “poor judgment.”  The Keating Five scandal revolved around the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association of Irvine, California. Lincoln’s chairman was Charles Keating who ultimately served five years in prison for his corrupt mismanagement of Lincoln.  Keating poured money, trips and favors on McCain.  Keating called in his chits by having McCain and four other legislators intervene with federal regulators. They were caught.  Keating got five years and McCain got off with “bad judgment.”

In his 60s.  Speaking of bad judgment.  McCain supports Bush’s illegal, immoral war and occupation of Iraq, a nation that was not a threat to America.  McCain totally missed that the Bush (Cheney) administration was fabricating a war, that none of the reasons for America’s pre-emptive war of choice were legitimate.  Over 4,000 dead servicemen.  Thousands horribly maimed. Dead and maimed for what?  Bad judgment.  Dead because of poor judgment. And please don’t trot out how McCain was the first to criticize the war’s faulty execution or that he was the first to castigate Don Rumsfield or that he got the surge right.  That is so much spin.  It was his judgment to war in Iraq in the first place.  He was the good soldier, he fell right in line.  Some judgment.

In his 70s.  Is it judgment or just an old guy’s faulty or selective memory that has John McCain forgetting how many homes he actually owns (seven)?  He couldn’t even offer a rough estimate, “Uh, well, ummm, six, no, maybe eight.  I’ll have my man, Jeeves get back to you on that?”

McCain rants mindless, empty rhetoric about Russia’s invasion of Georgia and he’s the toast of the town in rightwing circles.  He chants, “Bomb, bomb Iran (Think Beach Boys melody),” and folks just laugh.  Not funny.

Joe Biden summed it up succinctly, “These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader.”  McCain has demonstrated for decades that he does not have the good judgment to be a wise leader.

For a better America, I invite all of Winter Park and Maitland to an Obama Rally on Friday, September 5th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the parking lot outside of the new Obama office located at 200 North Denning Ave, Winter Park 32789.  The phone number is 407. 975.9111.  Jazz singer Jacqueline Jones and her band will perform. It’s free.  It’ll be fun.  Be there for America!



Faith In America.

I watched in complete fascination as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain trothed their fealty to Jesus Christ on Saturday night.  Both were interviewed on a CNN broadcast by Rick Warren of some California mega-church.  Warren evidently represents the epitome of 21st century evangelical thinking, dare I say, enlightened thinking.  I joke.  I jest.  I do not consider it enlightened thinking.

A reader e-mailed me last week. He thought I might be a Mormon or a Jehovah Witness because I had indicated in a column that for my daughter to have ever rebelled against my values that she would have had to become a Catholic and a nun.  I took from his criticism of my words that Mormons and the Jehovah Witness faithful are suspicious and critical of the Mother Church. That I do not specifically know. Nor do I care.  Such intramural religious bickering of that sort is laughable.  It is as comical as the kettle calling the pot black.

My wife was raised in the Lutheran Church. I once told her that the founding father of her faith was arguably the worst anti-Semite of all time.  Luther’s rants and hatred of Jews knew no bounds and provided fertile ground, so too the rich teachings of the Catholic Church, for the German population’s acceptance and participation in the Nazi Holocaust. It is a documented fact.  My point is because you have a faith does not make you a good person. Far from it.

I am not so much interested in what dim-witted people think.  If that is arrogant, call me arrogant. I am interested, however, in how intelligent people come to their decisions. Let’s work through a few ideas.

If God did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent him.   —Voltaire

We are born.  Some are now suggesting that we have a God gene, that humans are predisposed genetically to believe in a higher being.  I don’t have space to devote to that argument but suffice it to say, it is controversial and unproven. Regardless, we are, to a great degree, tabulae rasae and typically our parents imprint their religious beliefs on our susceptible “little” minds. That is fine, parents have their duties.  God bless’um.

At some point in our development, we say, “I am having doubt about what I believe.  My faith says “X.” Yet, “X” doesn’t square with what I perceive reality to be.  It is at this point that the individual either accepts their faith blindly recognizing (you have to be somewhat observant to see the dichotomy between religion and intelligence)  that two plus two in religious terms is not the same as two plus two in what, oh, let’s say, in real or scientific terms.  Enter: doubt.  Enter: multiple shades of gray. Enter: daily life.

Now it is at this juncture that I am keenly interested in what the intelligent human being does.  You can either literally check your brains at the door and embrace the dogma (virgin birth, resurrection, hell, omnipotent, omnipresent, personal god, whatever it is your faith embraces) or you accept that doubt is the human condition and that is just fine. It is what it is.  Now does that mean you go through life slaughtering, raping, creating mayhem and sorrow for your fellow man?  Not from my values.  From an historical perspective, those seem to be well-established, time-honored religious values. (Doesn’t history bear that out?)

Is religion as we practice it requisite for an orderly society?  No, actually religion has, arguably, been the most divisive of issues.  (Name a more prominent one historically?)   Whole cultures and societies have flourished  without it.  Oh, they have organizing principles but not centered on numbers of virgins you get when you die for God or whether or not the same God died for my sins. Hey Now!  Just a different spin on the “TRUTH” don’t-cha see?

And none of this makes any difference to me, it’s all gobbledy-gook.  It’s superstition.  It’s hoke’um, bloooey,.  It’s nonsense. It’s history.  It’s great fiction.  It’s what all of us do in some respect to get through the dark part of the night, metaphorically speaking of course.

A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.  A theologian is the man who finds it. –H. L. Mencken

It’s how you come out on the other end that counts (largely). To me.  What kind of human being are you? If your God brings you peace, makes you take care of your property, obey traffic signs, be a good sport, makes it so that you laugh at yourself but with others, and importantly, if your God makes you tolerant, loving and generous, too, more power to your God.  I am sincere.

But understand, because some man stands before you, his left hand on the Bible fervently proclaiming (bearing witness) he’s one of you, America in mere months can be waging an unjustified, illogical, immoral war of “choice.” The man of God ignores New Orleans, too. My faith “in” America isn’t the same as my faith “IS” America.

Next time you are in the voting booth, please engage your brain and your imagination.  Your faith in America is apocalyptic.  It could destroy the nation.


The Conversation

What was John Edwards thinking?”  I’ll venture a guess but I bet 50% of America’s women over the age, oh, let’s just say of marriageable age, had that thought when it finally broke that John Edwards had an affair in 2006.  This was during his bid to be President and during his wife’s fight with inoperable cancer.  What was John Edwards thinking?

A lot of these “wifely” thoughts were verbalized, no doubt, to their husbands.  If statistics are to be believed, anywhere from a quarter to 60% of American males have had an affair and from a quarter to 40% of American women have too. One study suggests 12%-17% of all children are raised by fathers who think they are the child’s biological father when they are not. Last Friday, the opening day of the Olympics became the day of “THE CONVERSATION.”  Many men, no doubt muttered, “Thank you, John Edwards.”

What was John Edwards thinking?   Well, he wasn’t thinking about the Democrat Party.  He wasn’t thinking about his wife (family).  He wasn’t thinking about his reputation.

Before the timeline of the affair became public knowledge, I was insistent that there was no way Elizabeth Edwards knew about the affair until recently.   This was my thinking.  I could not conceive that Mrs. Edwards, a genuinely bright and intelligent women (a first rate mind) wouldn’t have pulled the plug on her husband’s campaign because it was only a matter of time before it all became public in the most denigrating manner.

I thought, “The Edwards are smart human beings.  How could they go forward in a Presidential campaign with the Sword of Damocles hovering mere inches from both their heads.  No way would Elizabeth Edwards continue campaigning knowing the inevitability of the outcome—public disclosure and humiliation. She didn’t know.” I thought that the obvious conclusion.

If reports are to be believed she did know and went forward anyway. It is inconceivable to me.

So we are left to believe that they both knew and went on with their “dream” of capturing the Democrat nomination to be President of the United States.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Elizabeth Edwards thought, “I cannot pull the plug on my husband’s dream.  If I do that,” in this scenario,  “I’ll be the one responsible for derailing his plans.”  What actually did occur? Edwards lost the race on his own, he could not muster the support or the energy for his campaign. He failed in his own right not because of any spousal bitterness or rancor.  John Edwards failed on his own.

“I shot the Sheriff but I did not shoot the deputy,” is a Bob Marley song lyric, a tune most notably covered by Eric Clapton.  I thought of it pretty quickly as I listened to Edwards admit to the affair but deny the alleged love child of his tryst.  “I shutupped Miss Hunter but I did not make no baaabeeee.”  Ha! Hum my timeless lyrics to the rhythmic, “I shot the sheriff but I did not . . .”

What was John Edwards thinking?  Edwards recently met with Miss Hunter in a Beverly Hills, California hotel and when confronted by National Enquirer reporters (they broke this story months ago) actually holed up (pun intended) in a toilet for 45 minutes.  Too funny.

Then John Edwards goes on ABC’s Nightline and confesses to Bob Woodruff that he did have an affair with the 42-year old Rielle Hunter, but indicated that he did not love her. And, of course, the child is not his.  What was John Edwards thinking?

Stop it, John. Please stop it. Your choice in women rivals Bill Clinton’s and your denials and confessions give me the dry heaves.  Do not use the media as a public confessional that only confirms your over-preening need to be on camera validating your existence.  You do not owe us one more word on the subject. You never owed us a word on the subject.  A simple, “Xxxx you and the horse you rode in on,” would have sufficed to any reporter’s inquiries.  But you couldn’t say that because it isn’t presidential.  Sigh.  What a knot we sometimes tie (contort) ourselves in.

Oh, to be Nelson Rockefeller.  I have a photo of him at a hearing of some sort flagrantly flicking someone the bird and laughing.  His aides and sycophants are all guffawing, too. To be sure.  But how many of us genuinely have that cavalier attitude of the “devil may care” but I sure as hell don’t.

What was John Edwards thinking?  In a word: himself.   Just like all of us.  At times.

But for hubris, we’d know none of this.

And the sin is?   Those Greeks.


Strauss in the Morning. Stones at Night.

My grandson is learning to tie his shoes.  My daughter is insistent that he be able to do this task before entering kindergarten later this month.  I help out in such matters but I quickly tire of repetition.  I do.  This is how you do it.  Come back if there’s a problem. Can we move on to the more interesting?  I did, however spend time—lots of hours—with all my children teaching them to read.

My father taught me how to throw a football at a young age (five).  He always had a football around and threw it all his life. I was needed.   He taught me to throw and importantly he taught me how to catch. It was critical that I keep my body between me and the football. That way if I missed one of his blistering missiles, it would hit my body and Dad, therefore wouldn’t have to wait too long for me to return it.  It’s kind of a generational metaphor for what the father “passes” on to the child. “Fer gawds sakes, if you touch the ball, catch-it!” That and, “Throw the ball.”  (“C’mon, keep it moving! You can talk while throwing.”)

Dad taught me to hunt, too. He hooked me up with fishing, how to manage a fire and imparted two specific pearls of wisdom dispensed at different times in my life.  1.) If “it” hurts, don’t do “it.”  2.) Don’t boink your secretary.

That was it as far as prescriptive advice.  Dad was a mind-your-own-business kind of a man. Whatever I learned from my father—other than what I have already identified—I picked up through repeated observation. Oh, he had rules that had to be observed but they were mighty few.  I had to be home by 6:00 p.m. every night for dinner.  I could not wear a hat at the table.  I could not ask Mother what was for dinner (“What!  It’s going to make a difference whether or not you eat that you know what your mother is preparing?”) I could never-ever touch my sisters aggressively even when they were hammering on me.  And, Mother was to be revered, obeyed and respected. That was it.  If I did those things I could travel under my father’s radar of scrutiny.  I lived freely. I did.

This is what I learned from my father through osmosis and observation.  If you can read, you can do it.  Reading is enjoyment. Reading is perspective. Read history.  Reading is cathartic.  Reading is essential.  When you sit down, most of the time you read.  Read before you go to bed.  Read the paper when you get up. Read if you are dining alone. Read before work.  Read after work.  Read while going to the bathroom.  Keep a dictionary where you most often read.  We had bathroom dictionaries and front porch dictionaries.

The second thing I observed and internalized was, “You can do it.”  Don’t like being a lawyer?  Don’t be a lawyer.  Want to be a mink rancher?  Be a mink rancher.  Want something built?  Build it yourself.  Want a well. Drill it. Don’t have the expertise? Read up on it. Do it. My father was the Nike mantra incarnate, “Just Do it.”  Father also taught me much about humor and to not take myself too seriously. Or anyone else.

I’m thinking these days about what I need to impart to my grandson.  My daughter is, in several key aspects of her demeanor and outlook, the antithesis of me.  I was fortunate to spend most of the first four years of her life staying home, going to school and taking care of her. It was a sweet time in our lives.  I used to laughingly tell friends, “For my daughter to rebel against her father, she’ll have to become a Catholic, a nun, join the military and become a cop, an MP!”  Much laughter.  None of those things occurred, of course.  But she is wired a little tighter than her dear ol’ dad.  All in good ways.  Rememeber the Disney cartoon about the fiddle-playing grasshopper and the industrious ant and approaching winter. Guess each other’s character.

I grew up listening to music.  Nearly every morning before high school I put a Strauss waltz on my bedroom stereo. It lifted my heart and spirits and put a kick in my step. I’d three-step around getting dressed. By the time school was out it was the Stones and, “Hey, hey get off of my cloud.”

I told Neil, we all need to dance and sing more. I know he’ll get the “serious stuff” from mom and dad.  But life is so much more than that.  It is, indeed, about tying one’s shoes and math and showing-up on time and respect and manners and achievement.  It is also about whimsy and laughter and just plain silliness. It’s about listening to your heart and feet and doing the dance.  Of life.  Of being joyously alive.

I put on George Thoroughgood’s, “Ba-Ba-Bad to the Bone.”  The boy can dance.  Both boys.