Archive for March, 2009

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ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN

March 30, 2009

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These two churches sit across the street from each other in a small southern town. Enough said.

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You can’t make this stuff up.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

 

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NO BEEF?

March 28, 2009

wheresbeefTwo weeks ago, the Obama Administration showed their brilliant strategic thinking by suggesting that Rush Limbaugh is now the leader of the Republican Party. Rush and the media took the bait – hook, line and sinker. (See Checkers and Chess)

Here we go again.

As is customarily done by the minority party, the Republicans are criticizing the President’s 2010 Budget. On March 24th the President asked why the Republicans have not presented their budget plan. At that time, there was no Republican plan – only amendments. Then two days later, their “budget” miraculously appeared.

I put the word “budget” in quotes for a reason. Here’s their plan. For those that don’t want to read through it, here’s a quick two-point analysis and the reason for my title:

(1) The plan is 19 pages. I’ve had to present small church budgets that had more pages. Here’s the President’s plan – 142 pages.

(2) There are no real numbers in the plan. Let me repeat this in case you missed it: THERE WERE NO REAL NUMBERS PRESENTED IN THE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PLAN.

Huh?

Here’s the gotcha: The Republicans are the opposition / minority party and therefore, are not required to present a budget. So why would these seasoned politicians allow themselves to be baited into doing something that they didn’t have to do? Then, to add insult to injury, they try to fake their way through a press conference presenting a pretty blue binder with less pages inside than a grocery store newsletter.

The Republican leaders have been in Washington for years. Don’t they know how to play the game better than a former junior senator? They campaigned saying that then candidate Obama did not have enough experience to handle the presidency.

Really? It seems to me the “rookie” just sidelined his opponents – again.

Needless to say, the questions started flying from the press about the lack of numerical data in the plan. It was obvious the Republicans were not ready.

In a very weak attempt to respond, Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), had to back track on calling the document a budget, instead calling it a blueprint for the budget that they “…will present next week.”

Maybe that’s when they’ll add the beef.

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At this moment, I’m actually starting to become genuinely concerned about the state of the Republican Party.

Okay, the moment passed.

Now, I’d like an 10oz. Angus Burger, medium well, with fries and a cool one.

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Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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BULLIES AND NERDS

March 25, 2009

bulliesnerdsWe all remember the super intelligent, highly introverted, shy kids in school – the ones that many called “nerds.” They were picked on by bullies, teased by jocks, and usually dateless for social functions  – if they showed up at all.

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You could always find them hanging out together in one corner of the gymnasium, auditorium or hallway. They could complete academic tasks at the speed of light but were very uncomfortable with casual conversation.

Occasionally, you would learn that a few of these kids were not bothered by anyone. Did you ever wonder why? Was it because they were physical bad-asses that no one wanted to hassle? Did they buy their “protection” from the bullies and jocks with lots of cash? Did they have cool cars and drive everyone around all the time? The answer is “D” – none of the above.

What they had was – hello – brains! They did the bullies’ and jocks’ homework for them and in return, they were not hassled. The real smart ones didn’t tell anyone – not even their friends. They walked the halls and the parking lots with no fear. They didn’t have to worry about their books being knocked out of their arms (we didn’t have book bags back then), being pushed around at lunchtime, or even ditched in line. They weren’t accepted into the “in crowd.” Instead, these kids smartly bartered their way into peaceful co-existence with it.

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The “wiz kids” usually moved on to secure very good employment and incomes. Some eventually became heads of departments, and depending on their communication skills, went on to be top executives in major firms. Some even started their own companies, like Bill Gates.

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Most of the bullies and jocks usually ended up with mediocre employment and maybe middle-management positions, at best.

Enter Tim Geithner – Nerd Extraordinaire.

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He is successful by any measure: educated, intelligent, good husband and father, good income and recognized for excellence and high achievement in the world of finance. He is a man of many accomplishments and few missteps. He is not – much like the “nerds” back in school – socially charismatic.

Enter Pundit World – the Bullies.punditworld1

Geithner has been on the job for barely two months and already Pundit World is all over him as if they were calling a football game and the quarterback threw a bad pass. “He’s not very good on his feet.” “Couldn’t the President have picked someone better to do the job?” And the ever-popular “Why aren’t we seeing more details in his plan?” – as if THEY have the ability to understand these complexities.

If you hear a pundit say “I’m no financial wizard but it seems to me that…” – take them at their word – they are not an expert. Realize they are on the air for our entertainment, not their “knowledge.” Truth-be-known: they know this, too. This is why most of them are skilled at making themselves sound more important than they really are.

Solving this country’s current financial crisis requires selecting the best for our team.

I’ll take the “nerd” standing in the corner, thank you.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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CONTRARIAN

March 20, 2009

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My last name means “contrarian” in Greek. I’m about to live up to it – again.

Most of us grew up with the story of Adam and Eve and how Eve enticed Adam to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge – after she partook – against God’s orders. By doing so, they both committed the ultimate “sin” (disobeying God) thereby committing all of us to pain, suffering and mortality through the curse that God placed upon them which will not be lifted until the second coming of Jesus Christ. (I know there’s a serpent in the story, but I find it more than challenging to wrap my head around the concept of a talking serpent.)

adameve2A couple points need to be made before I go on. First, I realize that although it is absolutely not my intent, I may upset some of my Greek Orthodox, Methodist and Evangelical family members and friends. And second, I want to make it clear that these are my personal thoughts, and not those of my church or our minister.

That said…

The story is an allegory. If you believe the story actually happened, then all human beings on this planet are blood relatives and we’re all born from incest. So let’s stay with allegory, shall we? In addition, I believe we humans are – and always have been – created with free will and the power to reason.

With this in mind, I have some questions. (You’re shocked, I’m sure.)

According to this allegory, Adam and Eve became aware of many things that they did not know or care about prior to eating the fruit. Was their new-found knowledge about good and evil, a bad thing? Did this knowledge really make them less “perfect?” Would God really create beings only to “curse” them and force them from their surroundings?

adamevebanned6I think not.

The idea that God curses people was a man-made concept to control peoples’ religious thinking through fear of His supposed “wrath” and “condemnation.”

This allegory does not represent the God I know. I believe we are born with the ability to choose (again, through free will and the power to reason.) It is, among other things, what separates us from other mammals. Why couldn’t we believe that Adam and Eve’s actions resulted in knowledge that is helpful to mankind, not detrimental? If God did not want them to have the knowledge, why create the temptation?

The answer that is always given, of course, is, “…to test their obedience.” What if it was, instead, to test their free will?

Surely God already knew what the outcome would be, did He not?

He is, after all, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, is He not?

The God I know would not have been at all surprised or disturbed by Adam and Eve’s choice. The idea that all of us are cursed because they “disobeyed” doesn’t make sense if we are to believe that our God is a loving God, as Jesus taught us. Through Jesus, we learn that God is not judgmental, wrathful or condemning. He taught us that we have the ability to walk in God’s light, if we so choose. If we choose not to, so be it. How does choosing not to mean we are somehow cursed?

If I am born in His image and likeness, with free will and the power to reason, then I was born with the ability to challenge religious concepts, such as the one presented in this allegory.

Because of Jesus’ teachings, I live my life knowing I am free, without limits and unyielding to fear.

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How different this world would be had we focused on God’s love all these years instead of man-made concepts about His supposed “wrath” and “condemnation” in some allegory.

Still love me?

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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CHECKERS AND CHESS

March 12, 2009

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President Obama continues to make news, nearly on a daily basis,  from shifts in policy on stem cell research to merit pay for teachers. His political counterparts are still searching for a way to regain their voice. The 2008 election was a big “NO MORE” on the policies that gave us an unnecessary “war”, soaring deficit spending, invasion of personal rights and privacy, unfunded education mandates, torture, complete de-regulation of our financial industry, and so much more. I could go on but I have to get to the reason for the title.

As I watch all this unfold, it occurs to me our new President is playing Chess while the Republicans are playing Checkers. Chess requires thinking several moves ahead (in other words, “a strategy”) while Checkers requires trying to get one of the board pieces “kinged.”

Since the Republicans don’t currently have a “king,” the Obama administration suggested that maybe conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is the newly “kinged” piece for the RNC. It worked. Rush’s ego cannot resist assuming the role of “King.” His pompous rhetoric fits perfectly with his Jabba-the-Hutt posture as seen on the “Ditto Cam” of his radio show. (I couldn’t resist creating the image.)

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Pundit World predictably took the bait. No sooner than Rush finished addressing the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Convention in Washington D.C. as the featured speaker, on February 28th, media was asking, “Is Rush Limbaugh the head of the Republican Party?”

rahmcbsRahm Emanuel, the Whitehouse Chief of Staff, executed the administration’s plan the next day on CBS’s “Face the Nation” by saying “…whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him and say they were misunderstood. He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. He has been up front about what he views and hasn’t stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it and I compliment him for his honesty. But that’s their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh…” and later, “I do think he’s an intellectual force, which is why the Republicans pay such attention to him.”

Rahm’s words are true. (BTW – Kudos to Rahm for being able to keep a straight face while calling Limbaugh an “intellectual force.”)

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On January 27th, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-GA said “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing.”

The next day…

“I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience. Everyday, millions and millions of Americans-myself included-turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination.”

The newly elected RNC chair, Michael Steele, apologized to Rush after saying that Rush’s words were “..incendiary…” and “…ugly..” on CNN’s “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.”

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He then “apologized” on FOX News.

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“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. “It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the boogeyman, and he’s not.”

I don’t expect the new leader to maintain his position with the RNC much longer.

Now back to Checkers and Chess. Our President is showing us that he is, more often than not, several steps ahead of us. His political opponents see a board with sixty-four squares and continue to assume the game is Checkers. It is not. We went through eight years of “Checkers thinking,” when the issues and challenges facing our country required a much higher level of intellectual discernment and long term strategic planning.

Now more than at any time in the last seven decades, leadership must step up to the plate on many issues, quickly. We do not have the luxury of “…choosing our battles…” At this moment, the economy is the “battle” on all of our minds. What “Checkers thinkers” do not (or, choose not to) understand is that in order to solidify the economy, there are several things that have to happen simultaneously.

The opposition continues to insist that the President is trying to do too much at one time. I strongly disagree.

Keep playing chess, Mr. President. Your instincts are serving you well.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com