Archive for September, 2009

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THE DANGER OF A BROKEN RECORD

September 17, 2009

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“When we lose our curiosity, we disarm ourselves as Americans.”

This quote is not from some philosopher. I didn’t hear it in a political speech or from a CEO. This was said by a man who is a former college football player and coach, a hunter and fisherman, and the owner of two small businesses. 

I’ll tell you who it is later.*

This lack of “curiosity” (or what many of us call “intellectual curiosity”) identifies a shrinking but noisy part of our citizenship. They loudly repeat what they hear, with no concern for the veracity of their words. If they heard it from their favorite commentator, it must be true.

In a nutshell, this is the formula for the success of FOX News and others emulating their format on TV and radio.

The people at FreedomWorks, (Dick Army’s organization), Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, the Tea Party Organizers and FOX News (the highest rated cable news network) decided to join forces for a show of strength against our President’s policies. With all of that publicity, and all spring and summer to prepare and promote this event, you would think that they would have packed the National Mall on September 12th. If it’s true that a large majority of the 300,000,000+ Americans aren’t happy with this President, one would expect at least 1% (3,000,000) to show up. But that’s not what happened. It wasn’t 1%, it wasn’t 1/10th of 1% (300,000), it was .022% (approximately 66,000) according to the DC police and fire departments. Not a small crowd, but certainly not what it was hyped up to be:

FreedomWorks said there were “…hundreds of thousands…” on their website.

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The video below tries to make you believe that, “Rare footage from the terrace of the US Capitol building and time lapse footage of protesters marching down Pennsylvania Avenue illustrate the gathering of people who attended the March on Washing…”

Here’s a still from the footage. I noted the tower on the left for a reason.

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Using the tower as a marker, watch how many times the same footage repeats to make you think there were far more people in attendance than authorities reported.

Here’s the rebuttal of a statement made at the gathering that ABC News reported 1 to 1.5 million attending.

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In an attempt to discredit the truth, the picture below was distributed showing the National Mall filled with people. Once verified, it was revealed that the photo is at least 5 years old.

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The picture was of the Promise Keepers’ gathering in 1997. Less than one minute of research reveals this. Those with no intellectual curiosity don’t want to know. They find it easier to just repeat what they’ve heard.

I’m not going to bother to show you what FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (who did not show up at his own gathering) had to say about the attendance. They reported anywhere from 1.5 to over 2 million. Unlike their viewership and listeners, the rest of us know how to use a PC for research. 

What we saw at this gathering was a re-run of what we’ve seen all spring and summer: the same derogatory signs, the same all-white crowds and the same speeches. Below are some pictures from this most recent event that could have been taken at any of the anti-Obama events this year.

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It’s beginning to look (and sound) like a broken record.

I can’t stress this enough: what we are witnessing is fear and its offspring: hate (in the form of bigotry). I do believe some are there out of a real concern for this country’s future and not just because they don’t like the color of our President’s skin. But because they are only “armed” with what they hear, they don’t realize they are protesting against their own best interests. Whatever freedoms they think they are losing are not in jeopardy. The so-called “out-of-control government spending” that they are protesting has been going on since the 1980s.

Reagan cut taxes on the top 2% and the deficit doubled in his eight years. Here’s his reasoning:

George H. W. Bush had to go back on his “Read my lips – no new taxes” statement and raise taxes during his term because the Reagan deficits were “out of control.”

In his 1992 debate, George H. W. Bush discusses the recession – obviously Reagan’s economic policies did not work. You also see why Bill Clinton won the election.

When George W. Bush came into office, we were operating with a balanced budget and a surplus. We were also reducing the debt.

Here’s some charts for you visual learners like me. 🙂

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One reason for Clinton’s economic policy success was “Pay-Go” (new spending had to be paid for and could not be added to the national debt). It was, unfortunately, allowed to expire in 2002.

It’s doubtful that anyone in the pictures above has done any of this research. They instead chose to be fearful and angry. What’s more pathetic is publically elected officials who will not stand up for what they know (at least I think they know) is the truth about these issues. They allow the misinformation to continue to divide us, because it’s more important to them to be re-elected than it is to bring this country together. Three of them spoke at the gathering. 

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There is a subtle underlying theme through all of these events starting to creep into mainstream media that is disconcerting. It’s the lack of respect for our legitimately elected President. Not his policies – him. Many of our citizens will never believe that a black man deserves to be President of the United States. Former President Jimmy Carter brought this thought to the forefront in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams on September 15th

I hesitantly agree with some of what he said. My hesitation comes not from disbelief of his words, but from a desire to not attract more disrespect for President Obama.

And while I do believe there is racism in the afore mentioned events, I do not want to leave you with the idea that I think everyone that attended is racist. The issue is in desperate need of serious and thoughtful discussion, but I’m concerned that even the most constructive conversation may be twisted into dangerous dialogue. This is when a lack of curiosity morphs into something far more harmful.

I pray this period of our nation’s history is not marked by something that I’ve lived through too many times before.

Dangerous dialogue, indeed.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

* Ed Shultz, 09-15-09

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JUST GET IT OVER WITH

September 12, 2009

 

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Is the Republican Party trying to commit suicide?

There is no other way to explain what most of us watched during and after the President’s speech on healthcare to a joint session of congress and the American people.

The “You Lie” outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was, of course, deplorable.

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Any publically elected official who can’t show respect for the office of the President of the United States does not deserve to be sitting in that chamber.

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Yes, he apologized. But let’s face it, there’s no real way to apologize for being classless. His apology only came after party leaders told him to man-up. I realize a political party can’t be held responsible for every member’s actions, but they can make sure he doesn’t receive any support in the next election. They also could have denounced his actions in the rebuttal. Whoops. Never mind. That was pre-taped. (Another stupid move.)

Speaking of the rebuttal: why on earth would you pick Rep. Charles – call me “Lord” – Boustany (R-LA)?

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Obviously, the party didn’t research him any better than McCain researched Palin.

A simple Google search would have yielded enough negative information to give most leaders pause.

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Boustany actually tried to buy the title “Lord” from a couple of conmen in EnglandWhen he realized he got scammed, instead of just letting it go so it wouldn’t become public, he sued them! He has hauled in $1.25M from Health and Insurance Industry. He was a “Birther.” He’s been sued 8 times for malpractice. He co-sponsored the end-of-life consultation portion of the current bill in the house (HR 3200), saying that it was a good idea – then backed-off when things got heated. Surely, the Republicans could have found someone with less baggage.

Let’s don’t leave Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) out. He could be seen texting nearly every time the camera went to him.

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Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, wrote an article highlighting the events that took place on the floor while the President was speaking.

Add the “Tea Parties,” the “Birther” Movement, the “Deather” Movement, the “Socialist Indoctrination” of our children, the ministers that believe (“according to the Bible” no less) that President Obama should die, and the staged town hall meetings on healthcare, to the above events, and you have a party that is not only shrinking, but is on a path to self-destruction.

Why prolong the agony?

Take the pills, lie down, and get it over with.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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YOU GOTTA LAUGH, OR YOU’LL CRY

September 12, 2009

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I can’t believe I’m even writing about this.

The President gives a “pep talk” to our students, encouraging them to stay in school, work hard, behave and follow their dreams. Most of us heard these words growing up – from our parents, our teachers and yes, our Presidents. Somehow, this simple, traditional address to our children, has been turned into “Socialist Indoctrination” by the loonies in the Republican Party.

The “additional” materials were a guideline for students to be able to follow what the President was saying – hardly propaganda or indoctrination.

This “man-on-the-street” video is interesting, showing a UPI reporter asking questions

Here’s some of what our President had to say.

Even Laura Bush praised Obama for his speech.

I don’t know if this little blip of an “outcry” is stupidity or bigotry, but it is certainly politics at its worst. If it was only coming from the talking heads on radio and television, it would not be unexpected, but coming from publically elected officials in congress, it is what President Obama has previously called part of the “Silly Season.” He is being kind.

In closing, I couldn’t resist sharing these comments from NBC’s “Newsvine” blog.

Sometimes, this is too much fun.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO

September 12, 2009

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The depth and breadth of my Christian understanding exceeds that of most church goers. I was a volunteer, a team leader, a musician, and ultimately the administrator for my church. It was a rewarding, albeit, exhausting time in my life. Being “on the inside” of church operations allowed me access to information and knowledge few will ever have. I will never forget the experiences.

Our minister did far more than give messages on Sunday morning. She was as much a teacher as she was a pastor, always lifting people up, never judging anyone, and often putting her own well-being on the back burner to be there for others. Growing up, I assumed all ministers behaved this way.

Wow! Was I ever wrong.

Meet Rev. Wiley Drake and Pastor Steven Anderson.

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Watch and listen to what they have to say about the death of the President of the United States.

Then of course, there are those who would follow through with action.

Fueling these fires are many who hide behind fictitious names like “Sleek1978” spewing their hatred. Here’s what was posted after Pastor Anderson’s sermon:

“Well Mr Pastor ….the whole ARAB WORLD support you and Amen to your prayer…Americans: this presedent is hijacking your country and the world to bring about the demonic agenda of the NWO ..be prepared America the micro chip is coming to you soon as it has been implemented in 3rd world countries as a test on pets now in united arab emirates and the RFID will be inforced by 2010,The NWO will not spare your blacks nor whites,its all planed folks and their plan is in action..which side youre on?”

Isn’t it interesting how little this person knows about our country’s language and its grammar?

Our nation is changing – for the better. But change never comes without discomfort. What is being revealed, now that we have our first man of color as President of the United States, is the truth about where and with whom the hatred, anger and bigotry rests in our land. This too, shall pass. These elements of our society will fade away over time. Those of us of the Christian faith will denounce the teachings of “false prohets” and move on.

There was a time, a couple decades back, when I would have been angry and writing hateful words of my own in retaliation to what you’ve seen and heard here. Now, I do my best to adhere to the teachings of our Way-shower.

“…forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

These words have saved me from experiencing much anguish.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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REMEMBER WITHOUT FEAR

September 11, 2009

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September 11, 2001 was a day of uncertainty and yes, fear. None of us knew what was happening. We all remember where we were.

From my 2001 web page entry

I am up at 7:30 this morning. I make sure Kenny has everything for his day at school. He leaves the house at 7:50.

“He’s lucky” I thought. “All he has to do is hop the fence in the back yard and he’s on school grounds.”

I cook my usual 2 egg sandwiches and eat breakfast while watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” that I taped last night. Around 8:30 I pour a cup of decaf and head for the office. God knows I have plenty to do.

Around 8:50, Lonna calls from her office. “Hi sweetie.”

“Hey. What’s up?” I ask.

“Have you got the TV on?” she asks, with a certain uneasiness in her voice.

“No. Why?” I reply, puzzled by her tone and the call.

“A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

“Oh no” I gasped, reaching over to turn on the 5″ black and white TV on my desk. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. “When did this happen?”

“Just a couple of minutes ago. They think we’re under attack by terrorists.”

“Dear God, they’re probably right. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess. I need to get back to work…if I can. I just thought I’d call to tell you.”

“Yeah…huh…okay” I mumbled. I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiny screen. “I’ll talk to you later, honey. I…I love you”

“Love you too.” she said, then hung up.

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In order for our country to once again be the beacon of peace and hope around the world, we must remember this day, without fear.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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LOONEY LANE

September 9, 2009

I was at my Dad’s house September 5th to watch the Ohio State / Navy game. (OSU has some work to do!) As I have mentioned before, there are many Republicans in my family. It’s all they know, and I for one, have no intention of trying to change their minds. They’ll figure it out eventually – hopefully in this life. If not, there’s always the next one. 🙂 

One of my family members happened to mention the “sudden change” in Glenn Beck. “I used to love his radio show and when he was on CNN. Now, I don’t know what’s happened to him. He’s really out there!”

What happened to him, my beloved, uninformed, FOX-News-watching, Limbaugh-loving, family member, is a black man was elected President of the United States.

Since Beck started going “really out there,” his show is losing sponsors. I am not suggesting that he will lose his show, because the publicity he receives from his insidious statements all but guarantees his place on FOX News – and ONLY  FOX News. Here’s what upset the sponsors back in July:

Ads were pulled in droves. By mid-August, twenty sponsors asked that their products not be promoted during Beck’s show. Here they are:

1. Wal-Mart 
2. Best Buy 
3. CVS Drugstores 
4. Allergen 
5. Ally Bank (part of GMAC!) 
6. Broadview Security 
7. Re-Bath 
8. Travelocity 
9. ConAgra
10. GEICO
11. Lawyers.com
12. Men’s Wearhouse
13. Proctors & Gamble
14. Progressive Insurance
15. Radio Shack
16. Roche
17. SC Johnson
18. Sanofi-Aventi
19. Sargento
20. State Farm Insurance

Here’s more information on the sponsorship pull-out.

Beck making ludicrous statements should not surprise anyone. What is surprising, sadly, is the number of people who STILL believe what he, and others like him, say about our President.

Why is “the noise” getting louder and more ridiculous? The number of “believers” is diminishing. As the audience continues to dissipate, the noise will increase – but only for a while. It may take a few more decades, but eventually, there will be an implosion of this “shock” media genre. Ultimately, attrition will come to bigotry.

Can you imagine our country not allowing women to vote? No Social Security? No Medicare/Medicaid? No interstate highway system? There too, will come a time, no doubt long after I’ve left this earth, when people will read about this era, unable to imagine our country ever tolerating the likes of Glenn Beck in our media.

It’s my dream – let me enjoy it.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – The original photo I used to create the title graphic was taken by yours truly while on vacation at Seabrook Island, SC, at the end of August. My wife and I were in Charleston on a carriage ride.

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UNCLE TEDDY

September 4, 2009

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My mother’s second oldest brother was the Patriarch of our family. Successful in business, politically savvy and a true philanthropist, he spoke with the authority of a mob boss and the business intellect of a high-powered real estate mogul. (The only thing missing was a Cuban cigar.) Only he knew what he didn’t know. To us, he knew everything you needed to know on any subject. I once asked him how he came to know so many people in public office on both sides of the political aisle. He said, “I contribute to both parties equally.” This gave him access no matter who was in office. Hmm.

He was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and yet, I remember him being irritated when Reagan reduced taxes for the top 2% income earners in the country – a category that most certainly  included him. “It’s a mistake,” he said. “Wealth does not trickle down.” Pulling out the bank roll in his pocket, he continued, “It stays right here.”

That’s right, my rich Republican Uncle was willing to pay more taxes to help those less fortunate. That single statement taught me quite a bit about how to “size up” those seeking public office.

I now closely follow the words of those who use their good fortune to help “…the least among us…” When a person of wealth is willing to give back through a higher percentage of their income going towards taxes to help our country provide opportunity for those with little or no means, I’m all ears. This was Ted Kennedy. Born into extreme privilege, he most certainly could have maintained a low profile, away from public scrutiny. But that was not his choice, and I for one, am very grateful.

Up until the mid-90s, I knew very little about the senator. Oh sure, I knew what everyone else knew: younger brother to John and Bobby; son of Joe and Rose; Massachusetts Senator since 1962; a womanizer and heavy drinker in his early years; the car accident on Chappaquiddick Island and the plane crash that nearly killed him.

Kennedy’s legislative achievements are easy enough to research. He was the co-sponsor of over 2500 bills and penned 300 personally. Here’s a list. As you read – or skim – through it, imagine where the country would be without this legislation. There is not one American alive whose life has not been improved by at least some of these laws. 

But the Ted Kennedy that I didn’t know until very recently was the man, the husband, the brother, the uncle, the grandfather and great grandfather. As I listened, these past few days, to the different stories by those who knew him, it is very obvious that he was the Patriarch of his family. I recognized the hug of a grandchild, the laugh with a sister, the handshake with a nephew, the pat-on-the-back of a brother-in-law and the acknowledgment of a job well done by a niece. He was whatever the family needed him to be, whenever they needed him. I also learned he became a prayerful man in his last 15+ years.

It is highly believed that his second wife, Vickie, helped Ted deal with the “demons” of his early years: the death of his oldest brother in WWII, the car accident on Chappaquiddick Island that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, while married to his first wife, Joanne, who was pregnant at the time; the mental disabilities that led to a lobotomy of a sister who was later institutionalized, the assassinations of two brothers and the death of another sister just recently.

As I watched him work his way onto the Senate floor a few months ago, to a cheering crowd of Senators and well-wishers from both sides of the aisle, I wondered then if he would see his largest legislative dream come to pass before he passed.

I certainly hope he sees it pass from wherever he is now.

You served us well, Uncle Teddy.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com