28.3.08

Wall Street is Main Street

To hear some presidential candidates tell it, it’s time for the US Government to offer the same buyout for home-owners as for Bear Stearns. Forget for a moment the utter complexity and real danger of that action—the suggestion makes a distinction between Wall Street and Main Street that is completely false. We only have to look to the Northrock collapse in Brittan a few months earlier to see that.

Consider: March 17, 2008 – America wakes up to find that Bear Stearns finds itself crippled with illiquid assets. The company is finished; business ends. Everybody goes home—okay, so lots of them do—and they take their belongings with them. Bear Stearns' call upon its existing credit lines puts stress upon the banking industry. Bank of America (BAC) and a dozen other national banks find themselves unable to respond to the call. The downward spiral of layoffs, (further) delinquencies and foreclosures, and stress on the credit market would certainly create a run on the bank not unlike what we witnessed with Northrock. Wall Street would go home to Main Street and call it a day—only to wake up to a sheer fall in the stock market, paralleled by an equally steep rise in unemployment and personal bankruptcy (remember, Americans carry personal debt—not counting primary or secondary mortgages) of nearly $10,000 per family). Rise in available labor creates downward pressure on salaries. But many Americans are just getting by—their income matches (if that) their expenses. A reduction in salaries—caused by an increase in available labor, caused by a steep rise in unemployment—tips the scales. A sudden need for cash by individuals in turn means the liquidating of market holdings at the best available rates (at a loss). The sudden decline in stock values reduces the book value of companies who have collateralized their company against lines of credit (not to mention existing debt). Worth less, they borrow less, grow less, hire less, pay less, and the cycle repeats.

Like George Bailey said in It’s a Wonderful Life, Wall Street can say today, “I don’t have your money here. Your money is invested in the Wal-Mart and the local hardware store. And they don’t have your money either. They have soap and bolts respectively.” Bank of American has invested my money in Bear Stears—and I let them do it. In return, they give me interest.

Folks—Wall Street is Main Street. The fact that some don’t think it is—the fact that these prospective leaders somehow suppose the Government can ad hoc the deliverance of poor, personal, financial decisions, with fiat money—is grossly na├»ve and laced with ignorance (def. lack of knowledge).

But then again, it’s what we have come to expect from some segments of the political realm.

27.3.08

Because…(for Dr. Wilber Wallace)

Because a man is more than what years reduce him to:
more than age and indignity,
more than wrinkles and time,
more than the ability to speak, laugh, sing,
or smile;

Because the frailty of body fails to capture:
the spirit of a man unbound,
his dreamy days and hopeful nights
his greatest glories
earth has never known;

Because the heart and mind are more than flesh and blood:
more the organs of music than of life,
greater vessels of adventure than of blood
more the vehicle of divine glory
than the mode of articulation.

What is man that God is mindful of Him:
a little lower than the angels,
crowned with glory and honor,
ruler over the works of creation?

O Lord, our God, how Majestic is Your name
in all the Earth!

Because this pettiness and vile derision is not the end:
you stand upon the banks of the Jordan,
heaven anxious to receive you
in the hands of a Savior
who has redeemed you, body…
body and
soul.

18.3.08

On (adjective here) Gay Men.

The regular and persistence reporting that attempts to promote the homosexual agenda has done little to advocate the normalization of that lifestyle. And so—as heard on NPRs Fresh Air, dated Feb 26, 2008—a new angle, a new advocate, and a new invitation seeks to inspire and encourage, as the show beings:

“Connecticut has become the first state to have an openly gay, black lawmaker in its general assembly. Last week, State Representative Jason Bartlett told local reporters that he is gay.

“Six openly gay legislators are already serving in Conn. But Barlett’s announcement makes him the first African American serving in a state legislative body to be open about his homosexuality. It is one thing to be black and gay, but to be a black, gay, democrat with a mostly white, republican constituency…well, on paper at least, looks challenging.

“So how big a deal do you think it is, your coming out?

(Bartlett) ‘I think any public office comes out, it’s a big deal still….’”
(hear full archive here: http://tinyurl.com/2ddl9l)

One wonders, what next? The first, gay, black, woman, senator in Connecticut? Maybe the first, bisexual, black, senator in Connecticut? And when Connecticut is done with firsts, we can go to the other states, other descriptors, and other occupations—“Wow, it’s the first…(insert favored adjectives here)…in…(your state of choice here)…who is a…(chose an occupation here)…” How long before we hear, “Wow, it’s the first donut-eating, non-coffee drinking, flannel-wearing, cancer-surviving, hybrid-driving, tree-hugging, conservative-leaning, Harvard-trained, internationally-raised, black, gay, man.”

Unfortunately, the lengthening of adjectival descriptors does little for the pedigree. “How big a deal is it…?” asks Tony Cox.

(yawn…)

You want news worthy notes of trend-bucking lifestyles that are changing the political, economic, and historic face of this nation and the world? Spotlight the faithful black men who day-after-day work behind desks, in shops, in offices, driving vehicles, on factory lines—as doctors, lawyers, teachers, clerks, associates, managers; blue collar, brown collar, or white collar—who work with integrity, consistency, and honesty; black men who at the end of a long work day go home to an equally tired wife and loves her well; black men who come home to oft-times-demanding and sometimes-disgruntled children, and plays with them; black men who do not hide behind a newspaper or television, pornography or prostitutes, alcohol or abuse, but who engage their families with compassion in a world that is a poor model. Now that’s newsworthy

But it’s not unique enough or edgy enough for NPR. Special? Sure. Amazing? Yes. Worthy of our praise and recognition? Absolutely! But not unique. Such black men can be found in the most common places: cities, towns, and country-sides. No, it isn’t unique. But it is newsworthy.

Sadly, we won’t get many hour-long conversations with such men. Sorry, brothers. You don’t represent a lifestyle that the medias want to advance. Leave your wife for another man and then we’ll interview you. Abandon your children and make a new life for yourself, then we’ll tell your story. But love well, work faithfully, and give a damn about your family…well, that’s just boring!

But it sure is beautiful! Given the option, I’ll take boring and beautiful any day.

So to you black men, who strive for and often attain to the description I have presented as newsworthy—who will never be interviewed by NPR—may I take this moment to honor you, encourage you, and remind you that frivolity is rarely remembered, but faithfulness is a foundation cannot be forgot.

17.3.08

Integrity – Now on Clearance!

I recently returned to a store to pay for a book—40% off, priced at $14.99—that was originally part of my order but not actually charged to me (I only discovered the error at home). When I explained the situation to the associate, I was met with a chorus of snickers, snorts, gasps and other expressions of disbelief from the customers behind me—one even saying, “Oh, come on! I have somewhere to be.” The response from the associate was no less remarkable. At first he thought I was asking for something. Then his uncertainty turned to suspicion as he began to ask more probing questions about how I got home “without paying for the book.” Finally, as he rung up the book, he watched me guardedly as if wary that I might ask him for a “discount” for my honesty.

Ours is a culture dominated by the drive of entitlement mingled with the caution of suspicion. Integrity has fallen under such scrutiny as to actually be suspect, even when it shows up in its purest forms (not to imply this is one such example). We accept that there is no such thing as a free lunch—but ours becomes the task to discover how I can eat for free while someone else pays the bill. We secure our greatest possessions, and redouble our efforts to multiply wealth—but at what point did the “pursuit of happiness” advance at the expense of character?

We have—and continue to—sacrifice that which cannot be bought for that which will eventually be spent—love exchanged for lust, trust for advancement, integrity for…a book. The US economy can, and may well, survive and recover from the current credit crisis, mortgage debacle, and economic stagflation. But as with mighty Rome before us, we cannot—nor can any nation—survive the wholesale loss of moral aptitude. When the dollar is weak, we flee to the commodities of oil and gold. But a weak character has no safe-havens against inflation. And when all is said and done, what is the price of integrity? If recent experience is any indication, it is to be acquired at bargain-bin prices—aisle 4, clearance rack, now only $14.99.

10.3.08

Review of Jerome Bixby’s “Man from Earth”

When movies stop dressing themselves up as an expertise on religious discourse, we will all be better for it. Movies that show the human condition—the historic patterns of creation, fall, and redemption—do well enough. But when a film stoops to preaching through fixed dialogue and an unchallenged premise, we see a patronizing of the art. I refer to “Jerome Bixby’s Man from Earth.” The story—if one may so describe this non-narrative dialogue that strings along the extremes of human emotions and responses—is about John Oldman who, after 10 years in one place, decides to move on. Before doing so, he takes the risk of revealing that he is in fact 14,000 years old.

Thus begins the conversation between the historian (John), the Christian literalist, the Biologist, the Psychiatrist, and the Archaeologist. Continued cross examination eventually drives John to the confession that is at the heart of the film: He was/is Jesus. Well, to put it mildly, he was the human who tried to teach the principles of the Buddha—who was followed by some dudes (aka Disciples) who bunked up his teaching (despite over 1000 biblical witnesses) and then dressed it all up in myth and ideology (and were willing to die for it!). Thus the film runs as a poor answer to true questions about Christianity—presented as true because of the professions (and confessions) of the characters.

Based on the classic “liar, lunatic, or truth”—the movie spins round and round a shallowly challenged premise offered by the main character. Nor does it remotely resemble the science fiction to which it is compared—the box tantalizes with “from the writers of Star Trek” Dressed up with new age music that played an indistinct tune, the film presents itself as fiction, but is more the commentary seeking the upending of established Judeo-Christian religious views—oh, and not to be complete without some plea for the environment, as in this bit of dialogue about religion:

Dan, “What do you think about it [religion]?”
John, “You can’t get there with thought.”
Dan, “You have faith?”
John, “In a lot of things.”
Sandy, “Do you have faith in the future of the race?”
John, “I’ve seen species come and go. Depends on their balance with the environment.
Dan, “We’ve made a mess of it.”
John, “There’s still time, if we use it well.”

Ironically, despite the fact that John has lived 14,000 years (he only remembers recent history) and he can tell us about Columbus, Picasso, the Buddha, and other such historical figures—he doesn’t speak any of the languages of those proposed epochs: no hints of French or German, Koine Greek, nor even the slightest Latin phrase—like Tabula Rasa which means clean slate (which is what I think the directors hoped we would be before their…ah, em, theatrical attempts). It’s the weakness of the film, and comical. For a moment, should the audience suspend all disbelief at this philosophic discourse—the 14K man who meets all the right type of occupations to be able to prove himself sane, non-manipulative, and not a liar (“then he must be Lord!”)—it shows the shallowness of the directors. Sirs, if you mean to string me along through such endless dialogue, at least do me the honor of doing some justice to the issue of language. For your John speaks, but long before, God spoke—and “t’weren’t” in the Queen’s English.”