Influence Peddling

This clip from a Politico article titled Lobbyists on pace for record year is a bit disconcerting:
Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government — and that’s with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Given that information the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to roll back campaign-finance reform is doubly troubling. According to this wiki entry:
Influence peddling is the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favors or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.
I wonder if anyone really questions whether influence peddling exists in our nation's capital.. or possibly it is just the cynical few (like yours truly) who see government as a breeding ground for the marketing and peddling of influence. I wonder if those "conservative" justices on the high court have a clue about this sort of influence in DC? If so why would they overturn legislation that limited this sort of influence?

I wish that I could be naive on this but I just cannot.

iPad Mania

Of course not everyone is so excited.. these folks are not impressed

Everything to Someone

Two years ago Ann and I were at a crossroads of sorts. Her dad had just died.. she attended the funeral in a wheelchair.. life was becoming increasingly difficult as the realization of her disability was setting in.. then on Saturday January 26 I read this GK Chesterton quote:
"Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?"
The quote seemed to go through me.. it rocked me.. it gave me so much clarity.. it was as if God was beginning a dialog with me about priorities. My life changed that day as I began focusing on how I could be everything to my wife. That summer I retired from pastoral ministry and began ministering full time at home. I think that it is so easy to try to please everyone.. Bill Cosby once said this:
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
My life has changed a lot in the last two years.. in a sense it has been simplified a bit.. my thinking seems to be a bit more independent.. I do not feel that I have to please everyone.. I can be myself a bit more.. maybe even a little authentic. I think that sometimes we have to change our focus to change our life.. not that it is easy. :)

Happy Birthday Kansas!

Today is the 149th anniversary of Kansas' statehood.

Pro-Life Fringe Lunacy

I am troubled of late by the circus that is ensuing in my state at the trial of alleged murderer Scott Roeder. Consider this clip from a piece by a TV reporter who is covering the trial:
In the front of the Sedgwick County courthouse Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and one of the leaders of the Summer of Mercy, called out fellow pro-life leaders for their lack of support for Scott Roeder.

"Notice how few pro-life leaders are here, it's because some of them are horrified about what happened. But it's also because some of them are terrified to be consistent with their own logic and their own rhetoric," Terry told reporters.

But as Terry spoke passers by like Rex Morley couldn't help but yell back.

Morley says he's anti-abortion but calls those like Terry fringe lunatics.

"What a spiel, I can't believe that these people really believe that's its right to kill a man for doing what the law allows him to do," said Morley.
There is a rumor floating that one-time pro-life Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline might be testifying at the trial. I am sickened and saddened that pro-life politics might be introduced in the defense of a man who allegedly murdered a person in cold blood in church.

On the positive side most sane pro-lifers recognize the antics of glory-hound Randall Terry as more of his well-known grandstanding.

Simple Answers

I love the wisdom of Ziggy. This one speaks to our desire for simple answers to complex issues. Don't you get tired of people speaking in clichés as they ignorantly regurgitate something they heard on the radio or TV? An no.. don't be browsing my old posts looking for some examples of this behavior.

Anywho, it reminds me of something Einstein once said:
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
I think that simplicity is a good goal when we are communicating complex ideas to children.. it is a good idea when developing user interfaces to complex software systems.. but it is a very poor idea to homogenize complex issues to a black/white, true/false and yes/no terminology. What do you think? Anything come to mind?

Bemoaning the Empty Nest

Adolescence is perhaps nature's way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.
-Karen Savage and Patricia Adams

When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they're not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They're upset because they've gone from supervisor of a child's life to a spectator. It's like being the vice president of the United States. -Erma Bombeck

Helping your eldest to pick a college is one of the greatest educational experiences of life - for the parents. Next to trying to pick his bride, it's the best way to learn that your authority, if not entirely gone, is slipping fast. -Sally and James Reston

I really miss those days when my teenagers ignored me and thought they were smarter than me. I also so miss all of the melodrama. But mostly I miss being younger. -Kansas Bob

Learning to dance in the rain..

This beautiful story showed up in my email inbox this week. I just had to share it ...

It was a busy morning, about 8:30 , when an elderly gentleman in his 80's arrived at the hospital to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am.

The nurse took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.

The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health.

He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late.

He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, 'And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?'

He smiled ... As he patted my hand and said,
'She doesn't know me ... but ... I still know who she is.'
I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, 'That is the kind of love I want in my life.'

Life isn't about learning to survive the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

Native American Proverbs

If you visit my blog much you know that I am a collector and lover of quotes. Today I thought that I would share a few proverbs from Native Americans. Drink in their wisdom..

Our first teacher is our own heart.

A good chief gives, he does not take.

White men have too many chiefs.

There is no death, only a change of worlds.

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

Those that lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

A brave man dies but once, a coward many times.

Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way.

They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.

Don't be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts.

Most of us do not look as handsome to others as we do to ourselves.

Poverty is a noose that strangles humility and breeds disrespect for God and man

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand.

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.

How Scott Brown took Teddy's Seat

In an interesting piece in the Daily Beast Nicolle Wallace, former director of communications for the GW Bush White House, speaks to the reasons why Scott Brown was victorious in the Massachusetts senate seat election. In her words "Scott Brown won for a variety of reasons".. here are a few of her reasons why he did..
  • He is scrappy, accessible, humble and hard-working. The pickup truck helped. So did his young, energetic daughters.
  • He didn’t back away from the issues that are of the greatest importance to Republicans.
  • He wasn’t intimidated or distracted by the white noise that emanates from Washington about how Republicans can’t simply run “against” something; they need to be “for” something. Scott Brown proved all the wise men (and women) wrong on that front by running as “41.”
  • He was for the important things: jobs, tax cuts, less government, and a strong military.
  • Brown ran as an unapologetic supporter of waterboarding and an opponent of granting rights and privileges to enemies during wartime.
  • He allowed voters to like Obama. For Republicans to win in November, they will have to acknowledge the personal appeal of both President and Mrs. Obama.
Wallace ends her piece saying..
Perhaps the secret of Brown’s appeal to the independent set is the simple fact that he knows who he is; he hasn’t been focus-grouped or scripted or insulated from the people he represents.
Firstly.. I do know that the seat was not Teddy's.. calling it "the people's seat" was one of the things Brown said that I think helped him win the race. Another thing that Wallace did not say was that Browns democratic opponent Martha Coakley didn't run a very good campaign.

All that said I do think that I agree with Wallace on a few points.. Brown does seem to know who he is and what he believes in. In hindsight I think that the main thing was that he came across as an independent running on the GOP ticket.. I feel that this attracted moderate democrats and independent voters.

Lastly I think that voters did weigh in on Brown as the 41st GOP senator.. I may be wrong but I think people have grown weary of a non-collaborative effort by the congress.. and having the 60 Democratic senator super majority has not presented an image of bipartisanship.

Wallace (and I) may be off on this assessment. Why do you think Brown won?

Audi e-tron II Concept Car

According to CNet - Audi drew praise when it showed off its e-tron electric concept car in Frankfurt last year, and just three months later the company has a second e-tron on display at the Detroit auto show. The new concept car differs substantially from the previous e-tron, with smaller dimensions, less overall weight, and a new look. Audi isn't too concerned about confusing people by using the e-tron name for two different cars, as Audi wants e-tron to be its brand for electric cars, much as Quattro is its brand for all-wheel-drive.

Where the earlier car had motors powering all wheels, the new e-tron gets only two motors, each turning one rear wheel. An algorithm decides how much power to send to each wheel depending on sensor input, correcting oversteer and understeer during cornering. Given the electric power train, the power steering uses an electro-mechanical unit.

The two motors driving the wheels, along with the 880-pound lithium ion battery, give the car 204 horsepower and 1,955 pound-feet of torque, getting the e-tron to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The 45 kilowatt-hour battery also gives the car a range of 155 miles.

In My Humble Opinion

I love the interactions of my friends on Facebook.. unlike most blog posts FB posts are generally very brief and so easy to respond to with a comment.. and more people seem to read and respond to those short quips. Here is a quip that I offered yesterday:
Bob is wondering if an opinion is ever humble. In my humble opinion they are not.
I got a few responses.. thought I would share them:
  • Yeah, because if we consider our own opinion to be humble, then we are judging ourselves to be humble and that isn't really humility.
  • Humble or not, sometimes these opinions are right on the money!
  • I consider a humble opinion to be one that you are willing to change if proven wrong.
  • Perhaps the truly humble opinion is not only offered with a willingness to change if proven wrong, but with the expectation that it will be proven wrong.
  • In my opinion, opinions are what they are, opinions. Doesn't make anybody right or wrong. We all wear our own "sunglasses" that filter our opinions. Facts are facts and I think they are opposite of opinions. But of course this is just my opinion. So in that case it is in my opinion that everyone is right!
  • All opinions should be offered tentatively, with the expectation that we could very well be wrong. Of course, opinions often are those ideas that work best for us and are made in light of our own individual experiences, likes, dislikes, etc. - so it is very possible that two differing opinions could be right!
  • Just what is an opinion? An opinion is a physical phenomenon consisting of a specific electrical path in the brain and involves neurons, dendrites and firing synapse. A person may hold an opinion he believes can be verified absolutely by logic; yet it may be completely false.
I do see some validity in the idea that an opinion held lightly might be a humble one.. possibly it is all about how tightly we hold onto it and how open we are to the idea that the opinion could be wrong. Just my humble opinion. What is your opinion on humble opinions?

These are the Comments that try Men's Souls..

My fellow blogger and Kansas Citian (and onetime KC Star columnist) Bill Tammeus has recently opted out of the comment moderation business with this note:
At least temporarily, I've reluctantly decided to stop allowing readers to leave comments on this blog. You're welcome to e-mail any comments you have to in response to the blog's content each day. But for now you won't have the opportunity to leave comments here for others to read and respond to. Why? Well, the main reason is that the cost/benefit analysis I've done tells me it's not worth it any more. First, it takes too much of my time to moderate the comments. I have many other projects and responsibilities beyond this blog, so moderating the comments is reducing the time I have to work on those. And, frankly, only about 20 percent of the comments in the last year or so ever contain anything fresh or in any way responsive to what I'm writing about that day. (Feel free to think you are the source of those good comments; maybe you are.) Instead, the comments section has largely turned into a platform for uncivil discourse between and among people who don't respect each other and who endlessly repeat theist or atheist arguments that would try the soul of any lively college sophomore. I'm tired of it to the marrow. I reserve the right on occasion to reopen the comments section (you'll know by looking for a note about it at the bottom of that day's posting). And I reserve the right to change my mind about any and all of this. But for now, I'm closing comments. Thanks for your understanding. Oh, and if by making this decision I have freed up for you some time you'd otherwise spend leaving comments here or reading them, you're welcome. Use the time well. Bill.
If you are interested in seeing why Bill has come to this decision take a look at the comments on past posts at Bill's 'Faith Matters' Weblog.. it was even crazier before Bill started moderating comments.

So I was wondering.. for you all who have a blog.. what has your experience been with comments? Have you found the need to moderate comments or use word verification? I no longer allow anonymous comments but don't moderate or use the word verify feature. I'd be interested in knowing the specifics of any problems that you have had like rough percentages of spam or inappropriate comments.

And if you are interested in my comment policy just click on the Comments tab above.

Remembering Martin

To celebrate the day I thought that I would share a few quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.. sometimes I forget that he was first and foremost a Christian man.. many of these quotes reflect the beautiful heart of a very young man..

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.”

Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

It is just a few minutes before the first playoff game of the weekend and I thought that I would jump in and make a few predictions.. but don't bet on my picks.. I'm pretty ignorant of the team strengths and weaknesses.. and this is pretty rushed. Even so.. here are my picks:
  • Saints beat the Cardinals.. I love Kurt Warner but don't think New Orleans will let him score like the Packers did last week.. Drew Brees will do OK.
  • Colts beat the Ravens.. I think Peyton Manning will come ready for a tough Baltimore defense.
  • Cowboys beat the Vikings.. Dallas seems to be the team to beat.. they are on a hot streak.. of course I would like to see Brett Farve go to the Super Bowl again.. gotta root for the geezer.
  • Chargers beat the Jets.. my brother is rooting for New York (has been since they came to town in the 60s) but I like San Diego.. my son went to high school with kick returner Darren Sproles.. I'd like to see him play a few more games.
Let me know what you are thinking.. even if you disagree

Navigating the Emotions of Imposed Change

A note from Kim Allen replete with this graph popped into my email inbox last week.. I thought that I would share some of her message with you:

"Let's face it. Just about the only people who like a change are wet babies! For the rest of us, a change is rarely welcomed. Change of any kind, personal or professional, is one of the most common sources of stress.

Change evokes a series of emotional responses that, left unmanaged, can eventually take a toll on health and performance. The question is not will you adjust to change. Yes, you eventually will. The real issue is how long will it take?"
I mostly resonate with Kim's assessment but have to wonder if it is a perspective of a person experiencing change who is content with the status quo. Many times in my life change has been something that was welcomed.. when things are not going well most of us want change of some sort.. maybe that kind can be described as positive change.

I think that the graph above does a pretty good job of depicting the cycle of emotions involved in change that is imposed on a person. It reminds me of the grieving process described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I can so relate to the downward slide from "worry" to "loss of control" to "depression". I can also relate to these recovery phases of the cycle:
  • Exploration: At some point the reality of change sets in and I have had to search out ways to cope and adapt to the life changes.. this has been particularly difficult in dealing with the changes imposed by disability.
  • Discovery: More than anything I think that my discovery has been mostly internal. Change often helps us to discover our need to make changes in our thinking and our world view.. and it is quite difficult for some of us older dogs.
  • Adjustment: Old habits are so hard to break.. sometimes adjusting to life changes have required me to cycle through the emotions and adjust my reactions to the changes that I see as negative. Real adjustments and lasting personal changes take time.. and often that process can be so frustrating.
I have to admit that I feel pretty unqualified to give advice on change.. I feel that most of it has been imposed on me and I have not adjusted well. But maybe this is really the heart of life.. finding a way to live in a world that so often seems hostile to our dreams, expectations and desires.. maybe life is all about dealing with change?

Thanks so much for listening. I would love to hear your story of how you navigated through the emotions of life changes. Please share a few words of your story in the comments.

Where is God in the Haitian Earthquake?

I think that this video presents a good response to the question of God and the earthquake.

Judge Not!?

This idea of judging each other is a oft misunderstood concept. I really liked this Facebook comment by my friend Brian:
I find that people tend to be unrealistic with this teaching of "not judging". We judge all the time. Judging is necessary and good in some circumstances. It's part of being human, BTW, it's most often given as advice when someone doesn't like the conclusion that you've come to.
I like that Brian acknowledges that we judge all of the time. It is necessary to make judgments concerning many issues.. really.. most decisions involve some sort of judgment.. most judgment is usually needed. Even judging people's actions are often necessary.. when a person commits a crime most countries have a legal process of judgment to determine guilt usually based on evidence.

But I think that there is a judgment that is not needed.. it is the sort of judgment that is not based on logic or anything rational. When I think of this kind of judging I think of this quote:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation were they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
In this Dr. King hits the heart of what it means to "Judge Not!" We err when we judge people based on stereotypes and superficialities. We are simply not equipped to judge a person's motives.. people are way too complex.. and we are way too ignorant to make judgments of their heart. With that in mind I thought that I would offer a few quotes that speak to this:

"Do not judge and you will never be mistaken." -Jean Jacques Rousseau

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." -Mother Teresa

"It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes." -Sally Field

"We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division."
-Henri Nouwen

Kudos to Conan!

Just in case anyone has missed it.. I know some of you could care less about television.. and late night entertainment.. the NBC Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien has issued a statement saying he will cooperate with NBC's plans to move him to the midnight slot.. of course it would be 11:05pm here in the midwest.. following a new show that Jay Leno would do at 10:35pm. Here are a few excerpts from Conan's statement:
People of Earth:

In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Kudos to Conan! I gotta believe that either he or Leno will go to Fox and compete against each other and Letterman in that time slot. For the record I'll probably watch Jay for no other reason than he makes me laugh more than the other two. Who makes you laugh the most?

Traveling by Air - Thanks Osama!

Last week I traveled by air for the first time in 5+ years. Things are different these days.. you have to take your shoes off.. so annoying.. on the way out I got frisked like a criminal.. what a pain.. all because of terrorists.

What is the most annoying part of getting on a plane for you?

Putting it in Park

A cute story adapted from one I found in my email inbox:

Joe pulled into the crowded parking lot at the local shopping centre and rolled down the truck window to make sure his Labrador Retriever had fresh air.

She was alert and checking out the folks walking around the lot. Joe wanted to impress upon her that she must remain there.

So he walked to the curb backward, pointing his finger at the car and saying emphatically, 'Now you stay. Do you hear me? Stay! Stay!'

The driver of a nearby car, a pretty blonde young lady, gave Joe a strange look and said:
'Why don't you just put it in PARK?'
LOL.. Guess that is the way that I am feeling after a week in New Jersey mourning the passing of my Mom. I am ready to put it in "Park" tonight

Where's Bob?

I got a phone call early on Monday morning from my older sister telling me that my mom had passed away. Mom would have been 94 in May so the news was not too unexpected. The aftermath of that call has been a flurry of travel arrangements, travelling to New Jersey and being with my family. Hope to catch up with you later.

ESPN? Really? Guys Rule Cable!

With all of the stuff in the news these days about HGTV and the Food Network being pulled from Cablevision.. and Fox and Time Warner Cable duking it out over an increase in charges.. I thought I would look around for what other networks are charging cable companies. The following is an unofficial list of the per subscriber fees that networks were charging cable companies in 2006:
ESPN $2.91 [$3.26 in 2007]
Fox Sports $1.67
TNT $0.89
Disney $0.79
Fox News $0.75
USA $0.47
CNN $0.44
Nickelodeon $0.41
TBS $0.39
FX $0.35
MTV $0.29
CNBC $0.26
Discovery $0.25
ESPN2 $0.24
Family $0.23
Lifetime $0.23
AMC $0.23
Golf $0.23
TCM $0.23
A&E $0.22
E! $0.20
Spike $0.19
History $0.19
Speed $0.18
SciFi $0.17
Bravo $0.16
TLC $0.16
BET $0.15
MSNBC $0.15
Cartoon $0.15
VH1 $0.13
Comedy $0.11
Court TV $0.11
The Weather Channel $0.10
TVLand $0.09
Travel $0.09
HGTV $0.08
Animal Planet $0.08
Food $0.07
CMT $0.05
ESPN over $3.. really.. I didn't think guys watched that much TV?! I always knew that this stuff cost but had no idea that the sports networks cost the much. Who would have guessed that ESPN charged SO much more than everyone else. Also interesting that Fox News charges five times what MSNBC charges. Maybe venues like and need to expand into the sports and news venues

The Comedy channel seems a good deal. Which channel do you think is worth the money?

Wild at Heart in 2010

One of my ongoing life goals is to be wild at heart.. a phrase that I picked up a few years from a book that John Eldredge wrote.. a book that I never finished. The 10 points in this image illustrate a bit what it means to be wild at heart.. of course it is a bit silly to have rules about being wild.. consider these as a few suggestions.. they are elaborated on at this site.. here are a few clips from it with a few of my comments:
  • Know who you are, by forgiving who you're not. Who we are is important. Don't change "you" for someone else or to fit what you think someone wants you to be.

    There is something freeing about being comfortable in your own skin and not feeling a need to "fit in" to the expectations that other have of you. Living from my heart has been a freeing experience for me.

  • Treasure your dreams. Work at keeping your dreams alive while waiting for the opportunity to weave them into your current situation.

    Dreams have been a tough aspect of this for me in this season of my life.. most of mine have come to pass.. dreaming new dreams has been a challenge.. I am wanting to dream again in 2010

  • Know the difference between anger and wild. The difference is important because it can direct your behavior for your own good or to your detriment.

    Really difficult one for me.. this past year I have wrestled with anger in its many forms - bitterness, disappointment and frustration have all been draining and de-motivating forces in my life.

  • Contribute to others' well-being. It isn't all about yourself. It is about you as part of humankind, as part of the amazing place we call Earth. You have an obligation to treasure the life you have and to respect the lives of others.

    I love this aspect! In a sense I think that if being wild at heart does not encourage others then I have to wonder if it is really being narcissistic at heart
I think that this phrase from the article is very descriptive of the essence of the message:
Wild is knowing who you are, what you want and striving for the freedom to enjoy the adventure of life. Wild is unlocking cages that prevent you from becoming who you are fully and making a full contribution to the world.
A wild heart is a free one.. my hope is that this year will be a freeing one for me and for you as we continue to embrace and live from our heart.