Saturday, December 31, 2011

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Away in a Manger

 A Real Manger
I sometimes think it's a mistake to drill into children the Christmas story of Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem. In a way, we end up trivializing the story because it becomes so familiar by the time the child reaches critical thinking that the story loses all its powerful. You almost have to relearn the enormous implications of this story if you, in fact, believe it. What is says is that the creator of the unimaginably vast universe, of which the earth is but a less than insignificant speck, lowered him of herself to be born as a human on this speck and offered a promise of eternal, joyful life. Of course, the story gets even more improbable as it goes on to Jesus's actual life.   But even the birth story is a bit hard to grasp when considered tabula rasa.

It might be better to work backwards.  Imagine there's a God who cares about us.  Now, imagine that this God wants to communicate a certain message to us.  Finally, imagine that the message is one of humility and love for the least among us.  How would God communicate that message?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chicken Hawks

Today's Washington Post shows the utter hypocrisy and false bravado of the tea party nut jobs that are running the U.S. House.  The story is about the grumbling over the outcome of the payroll tax debacle and all their brave talk about how they act on principle and not politics.  Of course, all the messaging coming from House Republicans has been that they want a full year deal, not a 2 month fix that "kicks the can down the road."

But here's the key passage;
The temporary deal extended a tax cut many freshmen believe had been embraced by President Obama and Republican leaders merely because it was popular. Opponents argued that it would not stimulate the economy as Obama had maintained. They also said it could harm Social Security funding over time.
 That is not an argument for a one year deal. That is an argument for no payroll tax cut, at all.  But you won't hear them arguing for no tax cut.  They may be dumb, but they're not stupid.  They want to block the cut without paying the political price, which would be enormous.

Of course,  those who outwardly support the cut are hypocrites, as well.  When the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy came up for renewal, we were told that there shouldn't be offsets, that it was irresponsible to find a way to "pay" for them because we are just giving people their own money back.  But now, when the renewal of a tax cut is for the middle income and poor, we must pay for it.

It's enough to make your head spin.  I hope and pray that the voters are getting all this.  Given the high visibility of this fight, I think they are.  And, for anyone who's missed it, the tea partiers vow to renew the fight next year.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ann Richards

One of my fondest political memories is the evening I spent with Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas.  Her daughter Cecile's family live across the street from me in Washington and Cecile invited me and my wife to dinner with her mother.  It was just the five of us and what a night it was!  I wish I could remember every moment, but I can't.  Mainly I remember Ann and her daughter ridiculing our Boston accents.  But the strongest impression I came away with was her amazing authenticity.  The Ann Richards at that dinner was exactly the same as the Ann Richards that electrified the Democratic National Convention in 1988, just a little quieter....just a little.

Monday, December 05, 2011


I just finished the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.  It may be the best book I've ever read, certainly among the top five.  It is the story of Louis Zamparini, an Olympic runner who crashes in the South Pacific during World War II and is captured by the Japanese.  I won't give away any more of the plot, but suffice to say it is a story of unimaginable suffering, but told in a way that grabs hold of you and doesn't let go.  Hillenbrand knows exactly when you've had enough suffering and lightens the story at just the right moment.  She is an extraordinary writer.  I had no interest in her previous book, Secretariat, thinking, "Who wants to read a biography of a horse?"  The fact that it was a bestseller and made into a movie, suggests there's more to it.  Having read Unbroken, I can better appreciate its popularity.

Her research is extraordinary.  The book recounts day by day, even minute by minute accounts of events that took place 70 years ago and does so in ways that take your breath away.  Buy this book and set aside some time.  It's a long book, but you'll want to read it in one sitting.