The Difference Between Involvement and Commitment…

This quote comes from an excellent book written by Brad Taylor, a favorite author, titled “Ghosts of War”.  I knew this had to be the source of a blog but have had to work on the proper subject matter to do justice to the quotation.  Here it comes…

The full quotation is this:  “It was the difference between involvement and commitment, like ham and eggs.  The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.”

As I look over the past eight years of Barack Obama’s Presidency versus what I expect I will see in the coming first term of four years of President Donald Trump, I find that Obama’s tour of duty had the appearance of involvement while I expect that Trump’s tour of duty will have a solid commitment.  President Obama enjoyed his time in the Oval office but never really seemed to take the oath of office as seriously as I think it ought to be taken.  He did what he wanted to do and little else unless current affairs forced him to take a position on some issue.

Obama came into office with a ton of ideas as to how he could materially change the United States of America so that it would better represent what he thought it should be rather than what the Founding Fathers designed it to be.  He has done a remarkable job of accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish much to our collective chagrin.  Obama’s use of executive orders has been astounding.  I noted a comment from another person along the lines of: “Wouldn’t it be great if Trump issued his first Executive Order which abolished all of Obama’s executive orders?”  That might not such a bad idea; President Trump could replace the handful that had merit very quickly.

I am convinced that we will see real commitment from President Trump rather than simply the involvement we saw from President Obama.  There was not much passion from President Obama.  Maybe he was just trying to be Mr. Cool to demonstrate just how smart he was in dealing with the rest of the world.  I have already seen more of what seems actual commitment from President-elect Donald Trump and he isn’t sworn in for almost three more weeks.

Many, if not most, of the world’s leaders will see, or already have seen, the same thing as they compare the two men.  Those world leaders are not fools.  They see the involvement that President Obama displayed and they are already able to compare that to the commitment of President-elect Trump.  The difference is palpable and it has only just begun.  That easily explains Putin’s relationship with Trump.  They have mutual respect and each is a ‘get-it-done’ kind of person.  They read each other instantly while Obama stood off in the corner of the Oval office pondering.

I know there are ample numbers of people who see President-elect Trump as some kind of circus showman without the brains to do much else.  They will be very surprised assuming they have the ability to see how wrong they were and to admit their error of judgment when the discerning and very intelligent man who is President-elect Trump takes office.

Where President Obama was quite distant, even aloof with other world leaders, we will see a comparatively gregarious man as our next President.  His ability to see things others miss is acute.  Those who miss what he sees come to understand, whether or not they’re big enough and comfortable enough in their own skins to admit it, just how smart this guy is and how he is able to read those with whom he is engaged.  Love him or hate him, he has been successful and that is far more than simply being in the right place at the right time.

We are in for an almost night and day transformation in the Oval office.  It will take time for some of us to get comfortable with that.  Others of us are already salivating over the prospect.  There are stuffy press folks who will see that as blasphemy; those are also people whose excrement doesn’t smell as you may’ve noticed over the course of time.

Being perfect ain’t easy!  Our incoming President Donald Trump knows who and what he is, and he is very comfortable in his own skin.  He is accustomed to gathering a lot of information on a lot of different subjects and he is accustomed to making decisions.  He has been up against some of the greatest bamboozlers of all time and will be again.  I’d put my money on our President Trump every time.  He has the decided advantage of not having been in the political world before so he is a relatively unknown quantity for those with whom he’ll interact.  They may be a bit uncomfortable with that, but that is their problem, not ours.

The man has a high opinion of self, but that seems justified when we look at what he has accomplished to date.

We may well look back on his time in office as compared to that of Barack Obama and say:  “It was the difference between involvement and commitment, like ham and eggs.  The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.”

Minimum Wage Magic…

Someone much brighter than I must’ve stumbled across the magic solution to making hourly pay greater without having any impact on the product or the number of people working.  An Associated Press story today has this headline:  Pay to rise for millions; minimum wage will increase in 19 states.

Massachusetts and Washington will have the highest new minimum wage at $11 per hour.  A quotation in this AP report tells the story:  “This $1.50 increase, I cannot even comprehend or tell you how important this will be”, said the 51-year-old father of four who helped lead the fight for the increase in his state.  “The price of food has gone up.  Rent has gone up.  Everything has gone up…this will make a difference for so many people.”

And here I thought that everything was now wonderful following eight years of the Barack Obama presidency.  There seems a disconnect somewhere.  Am I uncaring?  No.  Do I understand that when the balloon is squeezed something has to give?  Yes.  A significant part of the problem is that minimum wage jobs were never intended to provide support for families.  These were the jobs you and I might have had when we were first starting out in life.  That was what the minimum wage was intended to provide for, a helping step onto the ladder…the steps up that ladder were left to each of us to negotiate.

Our national minimum wage is still set at $7.25 per hour and was last increased in 2009.  Congress obviously would like to be able to defy reality but apparently knows better.

As the minimum wage increases, the jobs affected will decrease.  Products will degrade and/or automation will increase or fast food restaurants will simply go away.  Will we get to the point of paying $12.00 for a Big Mac?  What if we want fries with that?

There is an obvious disconnect between these new levels of “minimum” wage and reality. This is something of an equivalent to passing a law that says gravity no longer exists, and then expecting that we can take strides of ten feet or more because we have become weightless.  That is possible on the moon but not here on earth.

We have an increasingly complex problem to resolve, and simply creating new levels of “minimum” income is not the solution.  We need to begin with an honest discussion of basic economics devoid of the bombast that politicians and attorneys can often provide.  We need to be honest with all the citizenry; there is no economic Santa Claus and gravity still exists.  Politicians who continue the charade are disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.

This is one of those times when I am thankful for not having to participate in figuring out how this all gets resolved.  This can has been kicked down the street for so long now, there may not be an effective solution.  I doubt that we can raise the minimum wage to the point where it will provide support, or even half the support, for a family of four.  What do we do?  Do we simply let that family and all those like that family starve to death?  Do we gradually reintroduce the realities that exist?  Where will the politicians come from who are up to that task?  We need adults in the room, and there aren’t many of those that I can identify on the Democrat side of the aisle.

This is but another of those classic liberal vs. conservative debates.  This is another display of feelings versus facts.  Voters in Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Washington state approved increases for this year.  Seven other states are automatically raising the minimum wage based on indexing.  It is a cinch that the Obama years did nothing to ameliorate this issue.

The time has come for a real and earnest discussion by and between all political factions and there is an absolute requirement for honesty without the usual political puffery.  Reality must be explained over and over until it is absorbed.  Politicians need to be absolutely honest in their interactions with their electorate.  It may cost them some votes, but it has to be done.

Too much to ask?  I fear that we may be so far down this road there may not be enough adults left in the halls of Congress to progress toward a workable solution.  This is not sustainable.  I believe we may have already passed the point where a viable economic solution might be found.  There is going to be pain associated with whatever the solution is determined to be.  That simply is unavoidable.

We, collectively, need to work to resolve this problem before it gets to the point of being irresolvable.  Maybe it is already at that point but we must put forth the effort anyway. This simply is unsustainable at its current pace.

Dig Behind The Headlines…

A poll by the renowned Gallup organization gives one an impression that bears a bit of further digging.  That organization asked Americans who their first and second choices were for the man they admire most.  Based upon the responses, Gallup then broadcast the ‘results’ and the headline writers went to work:

“Obama to leave office as the most admired man in America”

That, in and of itself, didn’t seem so misleading but when one digs down a bit deeper, the actual results were there to be found.  The poll asked Americans who their first and second choices were for the man whom they admire most.  Obama earned 22 percent of those responses while Donald Trump came in at 15 percent.  The clearer and, to my thinking, more accurate way to report this would’ve been:

“22% of those polled find Obama most admired man in America”

Similarly, Gallup polled for the first and second choices as the most admired woman in America.  Those results had the same headline writer made the call would’ve appeared as:

“Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America”

In reality, just 12% of those polled by Gallup picked Hillary Clinton as the woman they admire most, while 8% said their choice was Michelle Obama.

Polls are, in my estimation, notorious for misleading people based upon the way the results are staged.  And we people are so gullible and prone to taking anything in print as ‘gospel’ that we do not take the time to look a bit deeper for the facts supporting the conclusions drawn.

As memory serves, the polls leading up to the election of President-elect Trump seemed to show Trump without a chance and Hillary Clinton the near odds-on favorite.

I am not taking the Gallup organization to task so much as I am taking us citizens to task.  We have become less and less critical thinkers and more and more simply the sheep who lap up whatever is placed before us.  We can easily become our own worst enemies given the sloppy manner in which we permit ourselves to reach “informed” conclusions.  We might be “informed’ but I’d submit that more often than not our slipshod approach to gathering ‘facts’ leads to us being victimized by ‘facts’ others would prefer us to believe.

That sometimes is entirely innocent.  But, there are those times when critical thinking is an absolute requirement.  The problem is this: we aren’t always sure which is which without some kind of critical review of the “facts” we’ve been given with which we reach our conclusions.  I suspect that most often this is not some nefarious scheme designed to mislead us, but simply an easier way to get a point across without wasting space and/or ink.

We become sloppy thinkers.  We become less able to help others see our points-of-view as the result of our sloppy thinking, and we finally simply quit trying to be thought-leaders; and, simply become another member of the sheep flock.  That is the point that too many of us voters seem to be at based upon some of the things we vote for and against.  Results of votes sometimes seem difficult to square with the facts that exist, but, if we are ignorant of the facts, our votes might not reflect facts so much as simply the result of the popularity contest we endured prior to voting.

That gets to the difference between those of us who deal in facts versus those who deal in feelings.  That is the primary difference between a political conservative and a political liberal.  Facts vs. feelings.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with feelings.  Only if and when we let feelings get in the way of a fact-based decision are feelings no longer our friend.  Feelings are the things that drive us to buy various and sundry items.  We are shown what we will look like if we but buy this or that.  We are being manipulated through our feelings.  Who wouldn’t want to be handsome or beautiful?  Who wouldn’t want to be so smart as to drive a BMW?

Manipulation through the control of our feelings is okay so long as we know that we are being controlled by our feelings.  It feels good sometimes to do something we feel is important even though we know in our heart of hearts that the decision is not a good one based upon the facts involved.  I can’t begin to count the times I have done that.  I try not to do that, however, in matters of significant importance.

By the way, the poll discussed also had the following results:

Pope Francis came in third and Bernie Sanders came in fourth.  This alone points up the fallacy of making decisions through the exclusive use of feelings.  Unfortunately, this might also give us a look into our future.  If this is how we view and go about things like the selection of our leaders, we are in deep trouble as a nation.  The best advertisement, the one that really plucks at our heartstrings, will determine whom will be sitting in the Oval office.  That is what decided the first Presidential election in which I was old enough to vote.  A child picking a daisy was shown against the backdrop of a mushroom cloud.  Barry Goldwater (AuH2O) went home defeated.  I don’t think that is the best approach to such a huge decision, but that is the way many go about making those decisions.

In the really important decisions we confront, we simply must use our reasoning and not our emotions.  Once again, we have arrived at the essential difference between liberals and conservatives.  They feel and we think.

Kibitzer-in-Chief?

President Obama seems to be signaling that he is going to do us all a favor and stay very, very close to us so that he can help us really understand why the new President just ain’t cuttin’ it.  He may be applying for the new position of Kibitzer-in-Chief.

What a great idea.  He has had eight years to learn how to be a good President and that didn’t work so very well for many of us.  Now he wants to take this golden experience and apply it to this new position designed, of course, to help us simple voters better understand why we voted for the wrong person.

President Barack Obama is showing signs of becoming the first former president, in my memory at least, who will be telling us all the mistakes this new doofus of a President is making or has made.  He has already shared his belief that he’d have beaten Trump had he just been able to run for a third term.

Wow!

Being almost at a loss for words…and that is an oddity for me as regular readers will attest, I struggle to go on.  This is about as strange a pronouncement as I believe I have ever heard from a departing President.  Every departing President in my adult lifetime has faded gracefully into the background.  Albeit, some might’ve wished to express their frustrations with the replacement BUT they had the good sense and the good taste to avoid anything so crass and ugly.  It cannot be easy, having been the most powerful person in the world a month or two before, to watch as the new person in the office does things that the former would’ve avoided.  It cannot be easy, but it is an accepted fact of the new position, the position titled FORMER- President.

President Obama has signaled the press that if they ask he might just have something juicy to say, thus assuring, he hopes, an ongoing dialog about the replacement’s shortcomings.

This would require that a new definition be devised for an especially-egotistical former President.  We have watched this President do his own flailing around from the Oval office, and there was not a hint from any former President that there would be ongoing commentary available if the press would only ask.

Admittedly, this President has been a bit of a ground-breaker.  He has cultivated that ability to look down his nose at us knuckle-draggers without breaking stride.  He has given us, or at least me, that look of disgust that we are so dumb he has to explain things to us using very short words and uncomplicated sentences.  I may have to undergo counseling just to regain my sense of self-worth.  Maybe that is covered under ObamaCare.

All joking aside, almost all, who does he think he is?  We have survived his reign and I am happy to see him off to retirement even if it does cost us all a bunch of tax dollars.  I do not believe he was so good at this job as to make me want him to be standing by to help the next person through the tough spots.  I’d prefer that he fade into the deep background, play golf, maybe write a book or two, try to get his wife nominated for the 2020 run.  You know, just be a regular former President learning how to smile again after looking down his nose at us all for eight years.

Let us assume, for a moment, that we simply welcome the President-elect into the Oval office on January 20th with the usual fanfare, the parade, the oath, the speech and let him get on with getting on.  Is that such a bad way to say goodbye to this President?  I think that would be great.  He has grayed considerably in these last eight years.  We are still a free country.  I’d be very happy for him and his wife to be able to travel and see old friends without the added task of having to watch over the new President’s shoulder to correct him before he screws up big time.

I believe the President-elect will do just fine without kibitzing from the former office-holder.  He’ll have his own style just as the outgoing President had his own style.  He won’t need advice from the outgoing President but I believe that, if he thought that might help in a spot or two, he’d reach out for that without having to read a press report about what he should or shouldn’t do in this or that situation.

Frankly, if there is second-guessing, kibitzing, by the outgoing President, I think Congress ought to very seriously consider rebuking that action formally.  We do not have a need for nor the room for a double-occupancy Oval office.  That would be a very serious transgression by the former occupant no matter his political persuasion, and would severely damage the current President’s use of power with potential for disastrous effects on all of us.

The Complicated Middle East…

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.  There are an estimated 35,000 to 38,000 Christians in that area which is actually now under Palestinian control.  This is an example of the unintended consequences that can follow various changes in the way the West sees and treats the Middle East.  Due to lack of passports, these people have nowhere to go even if they wanted to leave.

I feel quite certain this fact did not influence President Barack Obama’s actions in the UN recently, but it is a fact that we Christians need to be aware of when we discuss the Middle East.  It is a complication of which we must be aware as we address our proper concerns over the United Nations and more particularly with our outgoing President Obama and the end run he brought to the UN.  There is absolutely no excuse for that; it is a lasting indictment of the man and of many in his Administration that participated in this travesty.

This does not mitigate the actions recently taken by the United Nations nor does it excuse the end run by our outgoing President.  It does help, however, to point to the complexities of this region of the world and to the question of just how the United Nations might provide a workable solution with the least damage to those being ‘helped’.  There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Christian communities in certain sectors of the Middle East that need help to survive and prosper.  It is critical that we not paint with such a broad brush as to bring further harm to those groups.

Palestinian Christians often are living hand-to-mouth with no alternatives.  Indigenous Christians are often finding themselves in the path of ISIS.  Middle Eastern Christianity has a face today that it may not have had for many of us prior to the eruption of ISIS.

While we properly, in my opinion, make the point of a disingenuous President Obama who ought to leave office in shame for his handling of the UN and this epic tragedy, we cannot afford to waste that heightened awareness on those who need our help.  It is too easy to lose track of the need when we are only aware of the brightest shiny object in the area.

We want, obviously, to help Israel but we must not be blinded to the needs of Christians under Palestinian control.  They need our help even as we lament the actions of our President and his minions who blindly followed his directives in the recent abdication of responsibility in the United Nations.  It is right and proper that we are infuriated by those actions and that his position in history is treated appropriately as the result.

We recognize that getting the factions together may take a long time still, but that should not negate our ability to recognize where and how we can help those caught in the tug-of-war between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We ought to be able to do that even as we damn the actions of our government.

Palestinians vs. Israel…

The U.N. vote that President Obama engineered accomplished nothing other than to raise hackles around the world.  The Palestinians have shown they cannot govern themselves. They have no ability to defend themselves.  They seemingly refuse to work together within their own arena much less develop into a viable nation-state.  Across-the-border terrorism is their strong suit.

Our President Obama showed something in this situation; I don’t know that he accomplished anything but to exacerbate an already explosive situation and to further demonstrate his apparent hatred for the jews and Netanyahu.  In short, nothing changed but it must’ve made President Obama feel really good as he vacations on our dime in Hawaii.

This was, in my opinion, the ultimate cheap shot that did more to demean Obama’s entire presidency than it did anything else.  It also gave those who hate jews something about which to feel good during this Christmas season when most of us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

I have no idea what this might have done to our country’s hosting arrangement with the United Nations if anything.  That remains to be seen and I’m not overly concerned about it.

We have been the primary support system for the Israeli state.  We have tried diligently to work for a ‘solution’ to the Israeli/Palestinian issue that would be helpful to both, but our President simply cannot abide the Jewish state, or so it seems given his history with Netanyahu, coupled with this action (more a cheap shot than an action) taken at his direction in the waning days of his presidency.  Obama’s legacy has been tarnished beyond redemption and that is simply due to his own actions.  His treatment of Netanyahu during the latter’s visits to our country has been deplorable…and not just a little childish.  He, Obama, would have us wonder about the incoming president’s ability to be ‘presidential’ when he has shown again that he is not ‘presidential’; this is a childish action taken by him and him alone.

I am ashamed, as an American, at this behavior by our President.  I am concerned with what the fallout might be from this action.  The Israeli nation is nothing with which to toy; it has managed to defend itself since its formation, albeit with our help which will not likely be withheld under the new Administration.

I have to believe this was more Obama ‘getting even’ with Netanyahu, I’m not at all sure for what, than anything else. It might be that Netanyahu is the leader Obama wanted to be but couldn’t quite attain.  It certainly was not presidential by any stretch of the imagination.

President Obama might well have been better advised to work on the Chicago gunshot death rate of 745 so far in 2016 than to pick a silly, childish fight with Netanyahu whose reputation will only be burnished by the action.

Great men are remembered for their kindness and their leadership abilities.  Small men are remembered by the actions they take trying to be great.  President Obama has put the final touch on his reputation…and he did himself no favors.  What a shame.  What a waste.

President-Elect Donald Trump is gaining in stature even before he is sworn in as our next President.  A breath of fresh air blows across America and none too soon.  This has been eight years that seem like at least sixteen.  Makes me even more thankful that Hillary Clinton is not the person about to be sworn into that office.

Christmas Stories: Biblical, Secular & Personal…

The Biblical Story (Luke 2 New International Version):

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The secular story (“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.

“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor-

I am 8 years old.  Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”  Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong.  Thay have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe except they see.  They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little.  In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.  Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!  It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.  There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.  The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus!  You might as well not believe in fairies.  You might get your papa to hire men to watch chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?  Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.  The more real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.  Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?  Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.  Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.  Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.  Is it all real?  Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus!  Thank God!  He lives and lives forever.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

The personal story:

On a cold and wintery Christmas morning in my childhood, I looked out on our porch in Viroqua, WI and saw what appeared to me to be the gift of a dog, since I had never had a pet, just laying at our doorstep.  After pleading and begging for seemingly hours, at least hours to my parents, I was permitted to open the door and invite the straggly old fellow into our living room.

He, I think it was a ‘he’ but I didn’t know how to determine the answer to that question, was extremely happy to have found the inside of a warm house and someone to pet him (or her) at the same time.  S/he and I enjoyed that Christmas by just laying together with me patting the shaggy old guy or gal while s/he had water and some table scraps and a warm house to enjoy.

That was probably 65 years or so ago, but it still lives in my memory as if I were experiencing that day again.  I can’t remember what my presents were that day, but I still recall the most important part of that Christmas, my dog for a day.