Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Myth of America's Decline

There has been much written of late about America's decline.  There seems to be hysterical nostalgia for the 'good old days'.  Frank Rich writes thoughtfully about the topic in the latest issue of 'New York', the magazine, in a piece entitled, "Mayberry RIP".

Rich points out that the declinist panic is nothing new in America.  He refers us to political scientist Samuel Huntington who points out, in the Journal of Foreign Affairs recently, at least five other decline panics in recent decades. The first being the Sputnik moment of 1957, then the economic rise of Europe and Japan in the late sixties, the OPEC oil shock of the 1973, and a cornucopia of woes of the 1970s (Watergate, defeat in Vietnam, and the Iranian hostage crisis).  He then reminds us of the celebrated peace, booming economy and surpluses during the Bill Clinton years, only to be followed by the tech bubble burst and market crash, soon to be follow by 9/11.

Rich seems to feel much of the decline hysteria revolves around a sustained and rabid opposition to President Obama, a culturally 'different' President.  Intertwined is a new concept coined by 'the right' as 'American exceptionalism' which, in the eyes of  'the right', is a concept to which this 'different' President does not seem to subscribe.  The 'American exceptionalism' idea is actually a proxy for patriotism, as coined by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, of course, a concept used to plant doubts about the President, a concept, bought into by the less thoughtful 'far right' in America only, who are already predisposed to dislike the President.

I leave you with Rich's closing thought as he ties his theme of the declinist panic into the Mayberry theme:

"Lost in all our declinist panic is the fact that the election of an African-American president is in itself an instance of American exceptionalism—an unexpected triumph for a country that has struggled for its entire history with the stain of slavery. “Only in America is my story even possible,” Obama is understandably fond of saying, knowing full well that as recently as the year of his birth, 1961, he would not have been welcome in Mayberry, let alone the White House. That his unlikely rise has somehow been twisted into a synonym for America’s supposed collapse over the past four years may be the most disturbing and intractable evidence of our decline of all."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Great Worship at First Baptist Church - Greensboro NC

Sometimes I am more struck than other times with worship themes.  This morning I was particularly struck with the theme, and scriptural basis, for the sermon by the gifted servant, Interim Pastor Dr. Mike Queen.  For me, the somewhat familiar Old Testament passage spoke in a unique way to the issues and challenges of the day.

Micah 6: 6-8 

6With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  8He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

"......To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Old Soldiers Shaking Hands

Great image of two old Civil War soldiers, one blue and one gray. It was taken in 1913 at Gettysburg during the 50th anniversary reunion of the battle. Looks as though there could still be some bad blood between them. Wonderful, historic photo.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Southern Roots" - NASCAR in Greensboro

There are many things which can legitimately claim association with the label "southern roots"..........pecan pie, magnolia trees, story telling, college basketball, country music, beach music, Sunday school, baseball, mountain dew, on and on. But few activities are more closely related, or more instantly related, to the term "southern roots" than old-time stock car racing.

Above is an great image of a stock car race at the Greensboro Fairgrounds dirt track in 1948. The Greensboro Coliseum Complex now sits on the old Greensboro Fairgrounds property. As a youngster, I can recall being taken to a few dirt track races at The Fairgrounds in the early 1950s by an uncle. Great excitement! And "southern roots" indeed.  I haven't been back to auto race since.  I hope to someday.  

Mt. Hood, Oregon - A Dormant Volcano

Earth's crammed with heaven,
\And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Love Thy Neighbor

Abe Lincoln Portrait

Extraordinary portrait of extraordinary Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Historic Tax Rates on the Top Tax Bracket

No, I do not think the trend will lead to a Great Depression II as the graphic suggests.  I do think it is interesting to chart the rate on the top bracket historically.  Simply returning to the Clinton era rate of 38% on the top bracket would reduce the current national deficit by approximately one-third.  Makes sense to me.  If low rates on the top bracket was a jobs creator as we are told by conservatives, we would be awash in jobs.  Of course, we are not.

After the November election, my guess is we will get serious about this option, as well as many others, in a concerted effort to get the national deficit under control.

The Howdy Doody Show

Now this is a great picture. This is my good neighborhood friend Mike Warner (I hope he is still my friend after this post) with Howdy Doody. Howdy Doody was a children's TV program which ran on NBC from 1947 to 1960.  It was a pioneer program in children's TV as well as color TV. It was produced at NBC in historic Rockefeller Center in Studio 3A.

I remember the show well and it was a joy for kids in the 1950s.  I would date this picture in the early 1950s.  It appears Mike may have been on the show.  I will have to check with him on that. Thanks Mike!

Hypocrisy in Sports and in America

I never cease to be amazed at our society's hypocrisy around athletics and sports at all levels. Youth sports are said to foster sportsmanship and team play, yet we see parents bicker among themselves, and Dads press their children to uncover that aggressive side of the child. As we have seen at North Carolina, college Presidents turn a blind eye to abuses in their programs for fear alumni might not fill their coffers if the football program doesn't get to a bowl game or the basketball team doesn't make the NCAA tournament.

There is the issue of admission of college athletes of questionable academic ability who can win games. We pay coaches millions of dollars a year without any oversight. There's the fact that college athletics is a multi-billion dollar operation, as evidenced by the new BCS football national championship playoff, while players  are often unable to afford to a blazer for away trips or a meal beyond a fast food restaurant.

But the area of hypocrisy that galls me most is the simple conflict between what we say we treasure, what we say is important to us, versus where we spend our money, how and where we spend our time. We are all guilty.  The whole question revolves around our values, around what we say we value as a people and a society, versus what we do.

At the heart of nearly all issues in America is money. We are capitalists, flat and simple. What we say we value, good schools, strong churches, public safety, programs to uplift those who can't make it in our system........none are revenue generators. Therefore, in America, they suffer.  So it is with us capitalists.

But obviously, in spite of our hypocrisy, in spite of the conflict between what we say and what we do, in spite of our shortcomings, in spite of what amounts to our problem with public integrity, we've built a great nation............a nation with the highest standard of living, for the most people, in the history of the world.  But, no doubt, we can do better.  Each of us needs to do self-examination, to do our part more honestly and effectively.

The Fareed Zakaria Show and America's Bright Future

The Fareed Zakaria show on CNN Sunday afternoon, July 8, was once again excellent.  There was a five-person international panel discussing the potential shift in power among nations during the coming decades.  Fareed's book, "The Post American World", is also an excellent discussion of the topic.

The simple conclusion of the last speaker on the panel is that the future of America is very bright.  This observation was based on the discovery and conversion of shale oil into fuel on America's road to energy independence, the increasing flow of manufacturing jobs back to America based on the growing cost of overseas production and shipping, and the near certainty that after the election in November there will be both a will and a desire on the part of the American people to tackle the budget deficit and the national debt.

These are very encouraging indicators.  I, too, have confidence in the initiative, creativity, resilience, and responsibility of the American people. Despite the continue unresponsiveness of our political process and the unwillingness of leadership to work together across ideology for the common good, America is well- positioned, I believe, despite the "doomers and gloomers", to catapult into the mid-21st century as the world's economic and cultural leader.

I feel strongly that America needs the continued leadership of Barack Obama and the addition of more moderates in Congress willing to negotiate, collaborate, compromise, and cooperate to help achieve results, but America will move forward in any event........either with, or in spite of, Washington. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Fascinating World of Blogging......... and The Power

I never cease to be amazed at the potential power of blogging.  My blog, as you see, is a blogspot blog, the google blog service.  As a result, I am able to track statistics regarding the leading nation sources of my blog visitors as well as the number of visits.  Yesterday, alone, I had visitors from Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, China, the UK, and the U. S.  That was a normal day.  Two years of blogging has resulted in over 25,000 hits or visitors.

Page views by browser type for this past week included Internet Explorer, Foxfire, Chrome, Safari, Mobile.  Page views for the week by operating system included Windows (181), Macintosh (37), Ipad (14), IPhone (18), Linux (27), and Android (4).  Referring sites included Google, Bing, Yahoo, News Google, and Stumble Upon.

I am able to track keywords used in the searches as well.  Some leading keywords in searches this week were "good old days", "Archie Bunker quotes", "Cape Cod Home of Lucius D. Clay", "Babe Ruth", 'Abe Lincoln death photos", "Eisenhower political memorabilia", and "Boar and Castle Restaurant - Greensboro NC".  And, of course, I am able to track my most visited posts, which this week included "Those Good Old Days - No thanks" (over 1000 views all-time),  "Greensboro War Memorial Stadium Memories", Supreme Court Decision on HCR", "Poker Playing Presidents", "A Political Family - The Carvilles", and "Curt Flood and Marvin Miller - Two of the Most Significant People in the History of Sports".

To be able to share that which is important and entertaining to me with the world is satisfying.  It is important and fascinating.  I encourage you to consider your own blog.  I encourage you to read a variety of blogs.  Links to a list of blogs and websites which I recommend are here on my blog (in the right-hand margin).  The opportunity to be in "community" and dialogue with God's world is important.......it's actually part of "The Great Commission."  As I put the word "faith" in the search bar of "ThePoint", my blog, I am amazed and pleased with the number of blogs posts which appear.  Put in politics or baseball and it's likely off the charts!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIP Andy Griffith.....A Great, Great North Carolinian

It's a sad day in many ways, but the happy, happy memories abound.  For a kid of my generation growing up in North Carolina, it got no better than Andy.  My favorite movie growing up was "No Time For Sergeants" (by a long shot), my favorite TV show was 'The Andy Griffith Show", my favorite actor was Andy Griffith.  Andy made you proud to be a North Carolinian.  He was 'one of us.'  He was talented, funny, intelligent, respected, wholesome, the absolute best.  It is a bitter sweet day, as I reflect back over the full, productive, entertaining, meaningful life he lived.  'Thank you, Andy', seems so understated.......but thank you, Andy Griffith......RIP my good, good man.

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