Monday, August 30, 2010

What Did That Accomplish?

So, Glenn Beck held a rally in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

As President Obama rightly said, “As an American citizen, he’s got that right.”

But I’m wondering, “What did it accomplish?”

Beck is a popular TV and radio personality. He has published several books, some of which have become best-sellers.

So what did he do or say on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that were important enough to stage such a rally?

I am very familiar with the speech Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made on those same steps on August 28, 1963. It was hopeful. It was forceful. It was inspiring.

“And… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

But for a man who built his career on sound-bites, I can’t find a single quote from Beck’s rally that I believe will live beyond this current news cycle. Here's one, spoken to the largely-white crowd:

"We are the people of the civil rights movement. We are the ones that must stand for civil and equal rights, justice, equal justice. Not special justice, not social justice. We are the inheritors and protectors of the civil rights movement. They are perverting it."

Are you kidding me? Is that the best you’ve got?

News reports indicated that “thousands”, or “tens of thousands”, or “hundreds of thousands” – maybe even 500,000 – people attended the rally.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, let’s say the number was 500,000. And let’s say he has 3 million viewers. Break that down into percentages and that would be like if I held a Revival at my church and only six people showed up!

Better yet, compare Beck’s rally attendance to the numbers of his arch-nemesis – 2 million people turned out for President Obama’s inauguration!

Beck said he wanted to honor the troops. But did he? Did he mention the fact that the President has declared an end to the combat mission in Iraq?

One of Obama’s campaign promises fulfilled, by the way!

Wait... what about this?

Nope, that was from a rally back in February.

Okay, but Sarah Palin honored the troops in her speech. She bragged about raising a military son.

God bless America!

Which brings me to another question: Does Glenn Beck really think he is the new Messiah who is going to lead this country back to God?

Has anyone checked his creds? The dude is Mormon!

If you remember, just a couple years ago Mitt Romney was turned down as a Republican presidential contender because he is Mormon.

It wasn’t long before that when the Southern Baptist Convention targeted Mormons in a concerted effort to convert them.

I find it ironic that Liberty University (founded by the dearly departed Rev. Jerry Falwell) gave Beck an honorary Doctoral degree this spring!

Even the United Methodist Church, which loves everyone (unless you’re gay!), calls the Mormon Church a “faith tradition outside the parameters of historic, apostolic Christianity”. Would-be converts from the Latter Day Saints would have to be baptized and instructed in the teachings and ways of Christ.

I did a little research on Glenn Beck and this is what I discovered. He was raised Catholic and attended parochial school during most of his childhood. His mother was an alcoholic, which led to his parents’ divorce when Beck was 13. Oddly, custody was awarded to the alcoholic mother. Two years later she drowned. Some say it was an accident, others (including Beck) say it was suicide.

That started little Glenn (at age 15) down the road of drug and alcohol abuse, which steered his life for the next 16 years. He was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

That explains a lot right there!

He tried a semester of college at Yale University. He took a course in “Early Christology” and dropped out. From that point forward, he “self-educated”.

He married his first wife at age 19 and had two daughters. One of the daughters developed cerebral palsy. The marriage ended in divorce after 11 years because of Beck’s drug and alcohol abuse.

Beck got sober in November 1994. He married a second time five years later. After “church shopping” with his new wife, they family settled on the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. Beck was baptized into the Mormon faith.

Beck started his career as a radio DJ, then as the annoying guy on the morning program, then on to the ever-so-popular "shock jock". At one station, while on the air, he phoned his rival's wife and mocked her for her recent miscarriage!

What a guy!

He entered television as a news commentator for CNN. He was hired away from CNN by FOX News in October 2008 and given his own show (simply called “Glenn Beck”) in January 2009. He claims the show is “a fusion of entertainment and enlightenment.” He describes himself as an entertainer, a commentator (not a reporter), and “a rodeo clown.”

Those who like him love him. Those who don’t like him hate him. Horror writer Stephen King calls Beck “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother.”

...but I’m not sure if Stephen King meant that as a compliment or an insult!

So what I see when I look at Glenn Beck is a semi-intelligent but deeply wounded man who has been given free reign on the airwaves to vent a lifetime of pain.

He is a clown, but a sad clown.

And he has found his audience among other Americans who feel disenfranchised. Apparently there are a lot of them out there.

Unfortunately for Beck, his viewers used to find him entertaining. But not so much anymore. As he has started taking himself more seriously, his viewership has plummeted. In August of 2009, he surpassed Bill O’Reilly with 3.2 million viewers. Today, his numbers have fallen to 1.7 million.

So I’m thinking this rally was not about honoring our troops or returning America to God at all.

I’m thinking it was a desperate little boy’s cry for help: “Do you still love me?”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Joys and Woes

On Sunday, Kerri Walsh turns 32.

Happy Birthday to my favorite athlete!

Yesterday, however, the AVP – which made Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser household names – announced it is cancelling the rest of the beach volleyball season, due to financial hardships.

According to the Associated Press, the AVP told members a month ago the players’ organization was struggling financially. An attempt to sell out to an investment group in 2007 failed as Shamrock Capital Growth Fund II offered only $1.23 per share for AVP stock. AVP stock is today valued at $.02 per share.

The recession also factors in to the equation. It has apparently hit everyone hard and sponsorship money –which makes up 80% of AVP’s operating fund – is not as readily available as it once was. Cuervo, McDonald’s, Nautica, Banana Boat and Hilton all left in 2008, a collective loss of $7.8 million in sponsorship revenues.

Crocs, the title sponsor of the AVP from 2006-2009, had its own share of financial woes, with stocks plummeting from $75 per share in October 2007 to $.79 per share in 2009. It is currently trading at $12.80 per share.

In fact, I had noticed recently that the AVP was starting to look like NASCAR – the players were literally covered with temporary tattoos of lesser sponsors.

The event scheduled for this weekend in San Francisco was at first pushed back a month in order to secure more funding. It, along with four other AVP events, has now been cancelled; among those, the Manhattan Beach Open scheduled for next weekend. The MBO was to celebrate its 50th year next week.

Some of you may be thinking, “So what’s the big deal? Dave just won’t get to see his beach volleyball players in their tiny bikinis anymore.”

But it’s more than that.

Okay, it is that, plus more.

First, the players who want to continue will have to move over into the FIVB and play on the international stage – which does not include the USA. And most of the players will likely lose their American corporate sponsorships.

But more important, the point system in the AVP determines who will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. Since Beach Volleyball was first introduced as an Olympic sport (1996), AVP players have brought home medals from every Olympics – climaxing with the gold medal sweep in Beijing in 2008 by Walsh/May-Treanor and Rogers/Dalhausser.

If the AVP is not revived next year, USAVolleyball hopes to join with FIVB to create some tournaments on American beaches. But that is still up in the air.

Meanwhile, having given birth to two sons just a year apart, Kerri Walsh is now itching to get back onto the sand.

Let’s hope she can.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's All in the Attitude

This will be redundant if you read any of the blogs under my list of “Blogs I Love to Read”, but on Tuesday Edward Deitch, wine columnist for Reuters and blogger of “Vint-ed”, wrote the following:

     I read with interest about a study of current views on alcohol among managers in the business world. Their attitudes have, indeed, changed since the days when their fathers were doing business over cocktails back in the ‘60s.
     Two researchers, Scott Rick of the University of Michigan and Maurice Schweitzer of the University of Pennsylvania, looked specifically at how the managers viewed job applicants who ordered a glass of wine (it happened to be the “house merlot”) during a dinner meeting. In their study, presented to the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, they asked more than 600 middle managers to watch a video depicting a series of mock interviews involving a manager and a prospective hire. Depending on the scenario, the manager ordered either the merlot or a Coke. Even if the manager went for the merlot, the applicant was seen as less “intelligent, scholarly and intellectual” and less worthy of being hired if he, too, ordered a glass of wine.

I thought the study sounded interesting. The researchers have labeled the apparent phenomenon "the Imbibing Idiot Bias".

I’ve always been interested in the perception of others about alcohol… I guess since I first heard the joke, “What’s the difference between Methodists and Baptists?”

The answer: “Baptists don’t drink… in public!”

And while I shouldn’t have been surprised, I found the responses to the video survey even more interesting.

“…less intelligent, scholarly and intellectual”? Really?

So I wrote back to Ed:
What if the applicant ordered a more intelligent choice of wine than the "house Merlot"? [shudder!] If you order what I order, I'll think you are just sucking up to get the job. Demonstrate to me you know good wine - perhaps even suggest to me a better choice -- and I might think you are MORE "intelligent, scholarly and intellectual".

That apparently elicited a chuckle from Ed, who responded:
Thanks for the comment. I agree that "house Merlot" was probably not the best choice for their exercise inasmuch as there must have been at least a few sophisticated wine drinkers among the hundreds of managers who screened the video. Seen another[r] way, perhaps one would not want to work for a boss who ordered the "house Merlot."

Friends don't let friends drink cheap wine!

(Editor's Note: All of us at "Banana Winds" encourage you to drink responsibly.)


Monday, August 9, 2010

New Sunday School Lessons

Yesterday we began a new series of lessons in the adult Sunday School class I teach. The text is Will Willimon's 2005 classic, "Sinning Like a Christian -- A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins".

After just reading the introduction, one class member announced, "I can already tell three things about the writer. 1) He's a socialist, 2) He's a liberal, and 3) he's verbose."

It's going to be a fun eight weeks!

To make the class more interesting, I have been searching the internet for graphic images to underscore the Seven Deadly Sins. With the help of class members, I want to make a giant collage of sins.

My initial search for the general subject led me to a blog that revealed interesting insights into the old television favorite, "Gilligan's Island", which I shared with the class.

What does "Gilligan's Island" have to do with the Seven Deadly Sins? Here's what the blogger argues:
     --the Professor represents the sin of "pride" or "hubris".
     --Maryann represents the sin of "envy", always comparing herself to Ginger.
     --Ginger represents the sin of "lust". Do I really need to explain this?
     --Mr. Howell represents the sin of "greed". Again, ...
     --Mrs. Howell represents the sin of "sloth". Seriously, did she ever do ANYTHING in any episode that you can remember?
     --The Skipper represents both "gluttony" and "anger".

Think about it for a minute before you dismiss it as pop-culture heresy.

What about Gilligan, one might ask? The blogger points out that since it was Gilligan's fault they were stranded on the island, and his fault the were unable to escape, he must represent Satan himself!

Hey, he even wears a red shirt!

I told you this was going to be an interesting class!

So, this coming Sunday, we will focus on "Pride", said to be the father of all sin. I have asked the class to bring in images representing "pride".

My own internet search turned up a lot of this:

Hmmm. Not quite what I meant.

So I decided to change the search parameters to "Vanity".

And I got a lot of this:

Did I mention this was going to be an interesting study?

Monday, August 2, 2010

What Will It Take?

Someone mentioned it in Sunday School class yesterday. I couldn’t believe my ears. After all this time, there are still some (otherwise intelligent) adult people who believe President Obama is not an American-born citizen.

The comment (completely out of the context of my lesson, by the way) was in reference to his birth certificate.

Haven’t we cleared that up already?

Look! Here it is, okay?

But wait. That’s not good enough, the critics say. It's a phony, they say.

Yet officials in Hawaii have repeatedly assured us it is the real thing, as official as it gets.

But bloggers and others on the lunatic fringe argue it’s only the “short form”. They want to see the “long form”.

Oh, no! Who are we to believe? Elected officials entrusted with public records, or internet bloggers?

And besides, what difference would that make – long form or short form?

Last week Karen and I finally got around to applying for a passport. We had to show our birth certificates. Hers was a “short form” from California. Believe it or not, it was accepted as proof that she was born in California and is, therefore, an American citizen.

BTW, what a relief!

But I’m guessing the President has a passport?

Come to think of it, when I got a driver’s license at 17, I had to show a birth certificate.

I’m guessing the President has a driver’s license?


Wait, here’s more proof: this is a photocopy of a clipping from a newspaper in Hawaii announcing his birth.

What? Still not proof enough?

Okay, sure, anyone with a time machine could have gone back to 1961 and placed a phony birth announcement in the newspaper. And I wouldn’t put it past Osama bin Laden to try something sneaky like that!

Again, who are we to believe?

Last week I engaged in a discussion on another person’s blog.

No, I don't allow comments at "Banana Winds".

Can't you read? At Banana Winds "It's all about me!"

Anyway, the topic of the post is not important here, only the tactics. The blogger expressed his opinions on a particularly volatile subject. Readers attacked. Every piece of evidence proposed by both sides was countered by the charge that it was not from a valid source (i.e. the internet).

“The internet is full of crack-pots.” “Wikipedia is a joke.” “Television and print news stories are biased.” “Photos and videos can be doctored.” “Quotes can be taken out of context.”

To make matters worse, a church member (okay, the same church member) today forwarded me an email with a supposed excerpt from a recent book by Lee Iacocca. The emailed excerpt railed against President Obama and his administration.

Sadly, my church member did not realize that the Iacocca book was published in 2007, before Barack Obama was elected president. The truth is, in his book Lee Iacocca was giving a tongue-lashing to the Bush administration!

Unfortunately, unauthorized revisions were intentionally made to make it appear that Lee Iacocca hated the current president and his policies.

Yes, there are even some people who are intentionally and maliciously making this stuff up!

So now we can’t even trust forwarded SPAM emails???

So who or what is a valid source? As I lamented to the bloggers, “Walter Cronkite is dead; who can we believe now?”

Friends, we are at a dangerous juncture in American history. The country is deeply polarized and there seems to be no common ground. Everything from inuendos to some pretty serious accusations are casually tossed about, and little respect is afforded anyone with whom we disagree.

And Jesus reminds us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Before we can come together again as a nation, we first must agree on some ground rules, foremost among them the importance of telling the truth. That means no more “spinning the truth”, and definitely no more outright lying to support your cause. Let’s just agree to speak the truth, no matter how difficult or painful that may be for us.

Let's try this... say it with me: Yes, Barack Obama is an American citizen. Yes, he won the 2008 election fair and square. And yes, according to our Constitution, that makes him PRESIDENT Obama… OUR president.

You may not like him or his policies, but let’s stop all the lying and intentional undermining of this administration. In the end, it only hurts us… or should I say, “U.S.”?

So here are my recommendations for a more positive and productive national dialogue. I believe it works well for every challenge that faces us:

     1) Agree to the rule above – no more lying.
     2) Tune “Pandora” on your IPhone to the “Contemporary Hawaiian” station.
     3) Pour yourself a nice cold margarita.
     4) Repeat step #3 as necessary to bring on that essential spirit of Aloha.

Hey, I'm feelin' it already!