Sunday, November 23, 2008

Durable and reliable guidance for these troubled economic times

Each passing day seems to bring further news of stock market losses, job cuts, mortgages foreclosed and bankruptcies of corporate icons contemplated. Last week we witnessed the spectacle of the “big three” auto presidents - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - traveling to Washington in their private jets to plead for government handouts. All of us are seeking guidance at a time when many whose “wisdom” and “integrity” we trusted have failed us.

This morning’s Gospel message at Leeds Church provided guidance from a more reliable and durable source. The quotation is from the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Chapter 25, verses 31-46.

"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then he shall sit on the throne of his glory. "And there will gather before him all the nations, and he will choose them one by one, like the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. "And he sets the sheep from his right and the goats from his left.

"That is when the King says to those from his right, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom that was destined for you from the foundations of the universe." For I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was an outcast and you took me in. 'I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. '

"Then the saintly will say to him, 'Our Lord, when did we see you hungry and we fed you, or you were thirsty and we gave you drink? 'And when did we see you an outcast and we took you in, or when were you naked and we clothed you? 'And when did we see you ill or in prison and we came to you?' And the King replied and told them, 'Amen, I am telling you, that whatever you do for one of these my little brethren, for me you have done

"Then he will say also to those on his left, 'Go away from me you accursed to eternal fire, that is set for the Devil and his angels. 'For I was hungry and you did not give me to eat. I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink. 'I was an outcast and you did not take me in. And I was naked and you did not cloth me. And I was ill and in prison and you did not visit me.'

"Then they too shall reply and say, 'Our Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or an outcast or naked or ill or in prison, and we did not serve you?' Then he will reply and say to them, 'Amen, I am telling you, that whatever you did not do for one of these little ones, neither did you do it for me.' And they will go these to eternal* torment and the saintly to eternal life."

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Reasons for giving thanks to President Bush

For many weeks, learning more about Tibetan meditative practice has been a goal during my early morning ‘quiet time.’ How to Practice: A Guide to A Meaningful Life, by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has been my principal resource.

Forgiving enemies is a a theme of many spiritual traditions. However the Dalai Lama’s views regarding enemies are even more demanding. He believes they should be valued as spiritual gifts because of the opportunities to change, grow stronger and practice compassion they provide.

The Chinese Communist leaders who ordered the invasion of Tibet, tortured and killed many Tibetan citizens and drove the Dalai Lama into exile provide an illustration. He acknowledges that the invasion catalyzed needed changes in Tibetan spiritual practices and raised the visibility of those practices on a global stage. He speaks of how Communist outrages compelled a rigorous testing of his own monastic vows emphasizing radical compassion, forgiveness and non violence.

I would not place President George Bush in the same category as the Chinese Communist leaders who ordered the invasion of Tibet. But I believe we must recognize contribution of his administration’s failed economic policies, flawed international policies, corruption and incompetence that even conservative-leaning publications such as The Economist have highlighted. Absent these failures, the transformational election America has just witnessed might well not have occurred. President Bush provides us, too, with an opportunity to practice compassion and to forgive.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'The world is a different place'

Election night was an exciting time at American University. I worked until after eight at my office, then went to my apartment for a quick dinner and then to AU’s central gathering place for students, “The Tavern.” There were television sets everywhere on the student first floor, but I knew the Tavern was where the action would be. The large room was filled to overflowing with students, a small number of campus life staff-members and only one other faculty member - or at least one that I could see in the mob. A giant screen was tuned to CNN. Whenever a result favorable to Obama was reported, the room would break into cheers. If there were McCain supporters in the room, they were invisible - and inaudible.

When the Ohio returns were posted, the cheers were almost deafening - we could now be almost certain that Obama had won. The results were soon followed by Pennsylvania - or did Pennsylvania come first? Anyhow the suspense was over. Most stayed to watch the President elect’s victory speech and Senator McCain’s gracious concession speech, but I had a full day of work ahead and returned to my apartment. My feelings were the same as many - elation at a historic event, joy that the hard work of an able and good man had paid off, relief that the George W. Bush years would soon be over, hope mingled with trepidation about the road that lay ahead. ‘Great Expectations” was the title of This week’s Economist issue that greeted me at my home in the country.

What is most remarkable about the election was the reaction around the world. I could experience this vicariously when I spoke with my daughter, who had recently returned to the US after a public service trip to South Africa. The country was ago with excitement, she reported, with many many young people wearing Obama tee shirts.

I look forward to traveling internationally once again and not having to contemplate conversations about my country’s President and foreign policy that are an embarrassment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

'The Economist' endorses Barak Obama - he's dormgrandpop's choice too

The Economist magazine endorses Barak Obama - he’s my choice too.
If one reads only a single news publication each week, I believe The Economist should be the one. Its principal editorial offices are in London, however its reach is worldwide. Its quality coverage of economic, business, science and technology news surpasses that of competing weekly news magazines by a wide margin. Its political coverage is nuanced, balanced and written in elegant prose. Its cartoons, especially its cover cartoons, are the best in the business. Though it is printed in the UK, its larger audience must be US since US focused articles almost always come first. Its political and economic positions tend to be more conservative than my own, however I always read them with care and sometimes change my opinion.

The Economist does not shrink from no-nonsense editorial judgements. Its 2004 pre-presidential issue was titled, ‘The incompetent or the incoherent.’ It noted that “this years battle has been between two deeply flawed men: George Bush who has been a radical, transforming president but who has never seemed truly up to the job, let alone his ambitions for it and John Kerry who often seems to have made up his mind conclusively about something only once, and that was 30 years ago.” Having endorsed George Bush in 2000, the Economist switched to Kerry, in 2004, but grudgingly. In 1992 it endorsed democrat Bill Clinton, in 1996 republican Bob dole. In 1988 it made no endorsement.

In the 2008 pre-election number, The Economist’s editorial appraisal of the Bush administration is much harsher than in 2004; surprisingly harsh for a publication that weighs its words carefully. The editorialists write: “A spell in opposition seemed apt punishment for the incompetence, cronyism and extremism of the Bush presidency. Conservative America also needs to recover its vim. Somehow, Ronald Reagan’s party of western individualism and limited government has ended up not just increasing the size of the state but turning it into a tool of southern fried moralism.

About Senator McCain, the editorialists write: ‘If only the real John McCain had been running? [but] in the past six months he has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery; his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. ...Had he become president in 2000,” they conclude, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems and Mr. McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.

The endorsement of Obama is titled “he has earned it.” The editorialists write, “...this cannot be another election where the choice is based mainly on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr. Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Weather he can fulfill his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr. Obama deserves the presidency.”

Had John McCain been the Republican nominee in 2000 he would have had my vote and, I believe, won convincingly. Tragically his ‘straight talk’ candidacy was derailed by scurrilous primarily campaign tactics in South Carolina, reputedly orchestrated by George’ W. Bush’s political guru, Carl Rove. That was Senator McCain’s moment. I believe this campaign has demonstrated that the moment for this decent, courageous American to be president has passed. If Obama does win, perhaps he will emulate Matt Santos, the Obama-like character in the TV series, The West Wing, by finding a place for Senator McCain in his new administration.

My home is in Virginia, as regular dormgrandpop readers will know. I voted by absentee ballot several days ago. My choice was Barak Obama.

Check out all the details of the pre-election issue - and much more - at And if you have not yet done so, be sure to vote tomorrow.

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