Thursday, December 27, 2012

Forgiving the Pope

The Pope has been in the news this week.  Not all that surprising with Christmas being celebrated around the globe.  His Highness's high profile pardon made the bulk of the news coverage.  According to CNN: “Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, weeks after he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for leaking the pope's private papers.”  The Pope’s visit to the prison and his forgiveness of a long trusted ally nicely echo’d the spirit of Christmas.  The Pope even set up the Gabriele family with a new house and a stipend for the rest of his life.  That loving gesture is applied far too selectively by his Emminence.
The Pontiff’s annual Christmas message to the world is one of the most important and listened to speeches of the year.  Per the Huffington Post:   He dedicated [his Christmas message] this year to promoting traditional family values in the face of gains by same-sex marriage proponents in the U.S. and Europe.  Benedict [said] the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children." 
"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves."
The claim isn’t new, or all that original.  The Pope said in his annual peace message that gay marriage, like abortion and euthanasia, was a threat to world peace.
 
As an Anglo-Catholic (the smells and bells part of the Episcopal Church) I attended a Parish that for many years regularly kept the Pontiff in our intercessions.  As a person of faith I know that it’s treacherous to apply secular standards to religion.  Human history is filled with the arguments and counter-arguments of Biblical interpretation.  I’m no religious scholar.  In fact had my grandmother not been sitting in the front row of the Catechism exam unconsciously whispering the answers I might never have been confirmed!  I’m a person of faith, whether I can recite Bible selections or not.
The power of forgiveness lies at the essence of my Christian faith, and many faiths of the world.  I can understand, respect and support Pope John Paul II who forgave the man who tried to assassinate him.  Likewise Pope Benedict’s reprieve to his long-time confident makes sense to me on both a practical and a spiritual level.
Two people celebrating their love together is a rather traditional expression of feelings.  Whether those people are of mixed heritage, same sex or different backgrounds matters little.  Two souls coming together is the most beautiful and sacred experiences that there can be.  Love is the essential foundation for forgiveness and love is the most natural characteristics of being human.  Try as I might in my Libertarian-see-every-point-of-view philosophy, I am unable to comprehend how love is a threat.  Love is the antidote to the world’s ills.  My Solstice/Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza/New Year prayer is for the power of love and forgiveness to trump fear and intolerance.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Here, There & Everywhere

Somewhere around age 10 I wrote a newsletter to family and friends and called it Here, There & Everywhere.  I’d ditto copy it on the machine at Dad’s school and mail it.  I can’t quite remember all the details, but I vaguely recall charging a subscription rate.  The originals are safely ensconced in a box in a storage facility somewhere in Southern California, but the ethos lives on.  The goal of that enterprise was to have entertaining and interesting tidbits that would interest readers.  A lot of things have changed since then, but today’s media environment requires even more effort to grab people’s attention, whether it be a family newsletter, a blog or mass media.
Being able to multi-task and manage a variety of things simultaneously is a given in today’s fast paced world.  It’s interesting in a world that is more fractured, with more demands on our focus and attention that the media landscape has become more singularly focused.
 
Looking back over the past several months, the cable networks, newspapers, and their online counterparts have all gone to single coverage on major stories like Super Storm Sandy, the Presidential election, the “Fiscal Cliff”and most recently the tragedy in Sandy Hook.  Each of these stories has merit, require attention and focus.  But to the exclusion of everything else?
The online resources that are available to support news organizations should allow a variety of stories to be reported with a better depth.  Instead it’s all one subject all the time until the next one comes along.  The ad-nauseum ‘what if’ scenarios that the various television people talk amongst themselves and their colleagues is maddening and has infiltrated newspaper and magazine theorists as well.  What happened to actually interviewing lawmakers, or experts in the field?  When did a reporter for their own network become the go-to expert on a particular subject?
I never thought I’d be one of those people longing for the good old days of (fill in the blank).  But I do.  I listen to BBC most mornings because I can get a range of stories that are happening in the world.  Then I’ll switch over to Morning Joe and Soledad on CNN to see how long I can tolerate the hypothesis of the day.  It’s often not long.
Perhaps the saturation coverage of whatever the subject de jour is an antidote to the fractured world.  If all major stations are covering the same story in largely the same way for days on end, maybe the essence will filter through to the audience?  Not that anybody’s asking me, but I’d much prefer my news to be Here, There and Everywhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Color Splash

HGTV’s “Color Splash has been on the air since 2007 – transforming bland spaces into festive rooms thanks to the innovative use of color.  It’s often over the top, but an amusing distraction.  I don’t think host David Bromstad has ever used Tangerine Tango, the 2012's color of the year.  2013 is the year of emerald.  Pantione determines the color for each year – they are (per their site) “…known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.” Who knew?  Color me educated.
Green M&M’s became developed a mythology that they were an aphrodisiac.  Green is also known as the color of envy and jealousy making it an interesting juxtaposition with the candy legend.  In fact, color has an entire psychology around it.  Studies have also been done on the impact of human behavior as it relates to color.  Given the identical set of information, people react one way if something is set against one color versus another.
In the days of black and white movies – the good guys were distinguished by their white hat, and the not so good guys always wore black.  That visual way to reinforce a characters role in the story actually has continued in modern filmmaking.
Characterizing one’s political opponent as evil just put Americans through a two year, multi-billion exercise.  With 51% of the vote, President Obama successfully painted Mitt Romney as the scarier proposition.  The election seemed to be about who would be worse for the country – not whose vision or policies would be best.
While President Obama won the election – the Republicans continue to demonize.  The idea of coming together and compromising has been a rhetorical nicety, but the practical application of the concept hasn’t yet materialized.  Winning is more important than governing.  With the media’s inability / refusal to report and discuss nuance they’re able to keep the simple narrative of good-bad alive.  Complex issues are reduced to simplistic sound bytes and surrogates from each side are sent out to parrot the lines across the media landscape.  This is not the way to solve a $16 trillion deficit – that under the most rigorous Republican proposals will be $20 trillion by the time Obama leaves office, and likely more. 
That’s me painting Democrats and Republicans  the same color: red.  As in red ink.  As in what happened to even the dialogue about a balanced budget – about the United States of America not spending more than it brings in?  Good stewardship of this amazing, prosperous and vital nation must include real fiscal responsibility – as in a balanced budget and a debt reduction plan.  How did this concept become extremist?  Spending the country into bankruptcy – that’s far more reckless.
 
 
It would be nice if the world was as black and white – and people were either just good or just evil as the entertainers and politicians try to portray.  We are a conundrum of complexities and contradictions.  We are, in short, gray…not in the dull, lifeless sense of the color – but the equal mix of white and black.  Wouldn’t it be nice if our politics actually reflected who we are?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Buddy, spare a dime?

In the sea of $16.3 trillion of debt that grows by another $3.5 billion each day ($1.3 trillion each year) – Congress has an innovative solution:  do away with the $1 bill.  Of course this issue isn’t really related to the debt – but I found it amusing with all of the fervor of the supposed fiscal cliff (that I earlier wrote is really a bump in the road ) there was actually a Congressional sub-committee that once again wants to replace the dollar with a coin.  They can’t seem to figure out how to balance the books - but let's focus on paper money and whether to dump the penny.
Retire the Penny is a website sponsored by citizens who want to abolish the one cent piece.  The most obvious justification is that it costs 2.4 cents to produce each penny.  Each year it costs $120 million to produce currency that is worth $50 million.  Nickels are even worse – at a cost of more than 11 cents per.
The Mint provided the sub-committee with a promise that they will be making suggestions to address the cost basis, including moving to multi-plated steel as the material to make future coins from.  That would save $200 million per year – chump change in a $3.796 trillion budget, but still.  They’ve been studying the issue for 18 months.
It is important to have currency that doesn’t cost more to make than it’s worth.  It’s also time to let the penny retire, just as the half-penny retired in 1857 and other denominations before that.  As monetary value changes with time so must the paper and coins that represent the value.  Replacing the paper dollar with coin hasn’t been effective in the various attempts so far, mostly because people are left with a choice of what they’ve been familiar with their entire lives, and something different.  Electronic payment is rapidly taking over – the elimination of the paper dollar will become a non- issue.
A far better use of Congress’s time would be looking at the $1.327 trillion in annual deficit spending.  None of the hysteria and hand wringing today is about balancing the books:  having the US spend what it brings in.  The hoopla about “the cliff” would change the $1.327 trillion annual shortfall down to about $1.2 trillion for the upcoming fiscal year.  A big amount no question – but not as big as the amount accruing.  Despite the rhetoric, that doesn’t even consider the $16.3 accumulated debt. 
 

 
Continuing to focus on the smaller issues – not that the U.S. seems incapable of fiscal responsibility (by either party) means that the country is heading for a fiscal avalanche.  Maybe not next year or the year after – but as any of us who have ever borrowed money or used a credit card knows:  the bill always comes due.  And the bill will come when it’ll be too late to have our hand out asking if anybody can spare a dime (which costs just $0.04 to make.)