21 August, 2010

What I Wish President Obama Would Say About Religion

I don't think President Obama is a Muslim. In fact, despite his insistence that he's a Christian, I suspect he's an atheist and that he's not the first atheist to occupy the White House. And, because I paid attention in 9th grade Civics and in Doug Miller's Poli Sci class at "State", I believe in separation of church and state and that nowhere in the US constitution does it say that that US Presidents must be Christians or even theists.

What they must be, however, is Validator-In-Chief. No, not because the constitution says so but because the US electorate is narcissistic and wants to see its own reflection in its presidents.

I like President Obama but I'd like him a lot more if instead of pandering to the majority religion like previous presidents have done he would tell us all that a president's religion is none of our business and that if we don't like it we can all just kiss his half-black ass.

I'm saying all this, of course, in response to recent polls that reveal that large numbers of Americans - especially on the right - think President Obama is a Muslim. If you spend a large part of your day watching or listening to the various news/talk sources as I do, you know that everybody's buzzing about Pew and Time polls that suggest many Americans still don't believe that President Obama is an American citizen and that many believe he is a Muslim.

First of all, people lie to pollsters and use them to make political points. When, for example, a pollster asks a racist conservative about President Obama's religion, the answer given by the racist conservative is not a reflection of what the racist conservative really believes, it's what game theorists call a "strategic" answer rather than a "sincere answer". "Strategic" because racist conservatives know that convincing Americans that President Obama is not like them will hurt his re-election bid. Convincing the narcissistic electorate of a candidate's  "otherness" is key to defeating him or her. That's why US presidential candidates always exaggerate their Christian-ness. After a brutal campaign in which his Catholicism was an issue, John F. Kennedy, the president whose opponents tried to beat by suggesting that, if elected, Kennedy would be taking orders from The Pope, famously said that one of the inconveniences he would now have to suffer as a result of winning was that he'd have to start attending church regularly. Even if a majority of Americans aren't regular church attenders, Americans want to see their presidents attending church.

Another thing about polls: respondents use polls to answer questions the respondent wishes the pollster had asked but didn't so when a pollster asks an Obama hater if he thinks the President is a Muslim, he or she may answer "yes" simply to express his or her general dislike for the president because charging The President with being a Muslim in a country that thinks its presidents should be Christians is approximately the same thing as saying you hate the SOB.

I squirmed and felt almost as uncomfortable as President Obama apparently did as I watched a brief clip of Obama reading from his notes and affirming his faith in Jesus Christ as his redeemer and Substitute. I didn't catch where The President was when he read this carefully-worded statement that, I suspect, had some input from evangelical advisers, but instead of saying something that I don't think he believes I wish President Obama had torn up his notes, looked into the camera and told a narcissistic, misinformed, bigoted American electorate that a deity who cannot or will not forgive sinners unless someone dies is not a deity worthy of worship. I wish President Obama had said that he's real sorry that so many Americans apparently flunked 9th grade Civics and have been misled and deceived by their preachers and by Fox TV and by Rush Limbaugh but America was not founded by evangelical Christians in the 1600s but by Deists and freethinkers in the late 1700s - non-evangelicals who disobeyed the book of Romans by committing treason against an earthly government that, according to Paul, was a minister of God and a threat only to wrongdoers. This nation's founders, it seems, were either unaware or were in disagreement with the Bible on this point, it seems, and I wish President Obama had pointed this out.

I wish President Obama had said that what America needs is not a Validator-In-Chief or a religious test for presidential candidates but for the American people to take a refresher course in 9th grade Civics.

18 August, 2010

Thank God For Religious Hypocrites

I'm glad Christians and Muslims practice a sort of diluted version of their religions for it is only by practicing something less than a pure Christianity or Islam that members of those religions can peacefully co-exist with American Democracy and our separation of church and state. If Jesus actually said "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" then he clearly implied that, there are things that do not belong to Caesar and that if the two realms ever have a conflict of interest, the religious man serves God, not Caesar. Christians who take seriously the words "My kingdom is not of this world, if my kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight" refuse to fight in earthly military wars for earthly masters. Imagine if all Jesus' servants refused to fight for earthly masters? Who would go to war to fight the unnecessary and senseless wars of old men who send young men and women off to war without even a declaration of war by Congress?

Islam, practiced in its purity, demands death to non-Muslims and war on people who don't submit to Islamic rule. Thanks to Charleston Gazette editor, James Haught, I can refer readers to a web page that documents Islam's war on rivals of all kinds including countries that try to separate church and state. (see http://www.wvinter.net/~haught/Koran.html) 

In other times and places, integration of church and state was the norm. It still is in many nations. There's a reason for this: Running a country where citizens and voters and even elected office holders may practice any or no religion complicates things. Running a country is much easier when there is a state religion and when government law and religious law are one in the same. It's simpler. 

It is only by subordinating the kingdom of heaven to the kingdoms of this world that Christians and Muslims can ever live in peace with one another.  So every time you meet a so-called "moderate Muslim" who hasn't declared jihad on you, be thankful for compromisers and hypocrites. If not for hypocrites and compromisers who practice a diluted form of their religion so they can acquire material goods here on Earth rather than stockpile rewards in the next life, you couldn't get to work in the morning because of all the car bombs and exploding jihadists.

And since everybody else has weighed in on this, allow me: President Obama had to defend the Muslims' right to build a community center near ground zero because, as much as it may annoy members (and panderers) of the majority religion, this nation does not have a state religion and only those who disagree with its founding principles or flunked 9th grade Civics think it's OK to discriminate against people who practice unpopular religions - even religions that, if practiced in purity, are a threat to America.

Thank God for the smorgasbord believers who don't practice all that jihad or all that Old Testament smiting and slaughter of unbelievers and infidels. Imagine what a mess America would be in if religious people actually practiced what their holy books tell them to practice.

16 August, 2010

My Online Strategy: Deeper, Not Broader

When the self-described "marketing geniuses" and "social media gurus" say you need an "online strategy" what they usually mean is that you need to spam and annoy as many people as possible through as many social media platforms as possible. While they may have degrees in communications or marketing, they have managed to do so without gaining any empathy for other humans. There's nothing "social" about a strategy like that. It is, in fact, decidedly antisocial and even misanthropic.

My "online strategy" is to put the "social" in social media. I am using online media to identify and start a conversation with the people who share my beliefs, values and interests. These are the people with whom I am most likely to have actual friendships. People who share my beliefs, interests and values are the people most likely to read my blog, refer business to me, recommend me and introduce me to their friends.

As my friends and regular readers know, I belong to a lot of Linkedin groups and I use these groups to "take the pulse" of other users of social media. Many of my blog topics come from Linkedin groups discussions. I recently quit a lot of large Linkedin groups and went in search of groups whose members share my values, beliefs and interests. I even quit a Linkedin group called "Relationship Networking" - which I originally joined precisely because of its name - because the people I was meeting there didn't seem to have the foggiest idea what "relationship networking" means. I quit all groups whose members have little in common other than geography. Charleston Area Alliance. Generation Charleston. Create WV. Create Huntington. I quit some huge groups - groups with several hundred thousand members like "Linked:HR" and "Executive Suite" because, for the most part, members of those groups seemed to have scrubbed their profiles of all but the kind of information people put on their resumes. 

I joined smaller beliefs-based and values-based groups. I formed such a group (see my August 15 post on "How To Join Linking Liberally") and I am in negotiations to become the group owner of another beliefs-based group. 

The self-described marketing geniuses and social media gurus don't seem to know that their strategy of annoying as many people as possible as often as possible through as many social media platforms as possible would be a great way to sell the maximum number of cold beers on a hot day but isn't the best way to sell the kinds of services that most social media users are selling: professional services of one sort or another. Selling more Pepsi than Coke is largely a function of displaying Pepsi on the most end caps, getting Pepsi on the most shelf space, getting Pepsi in more vending machines and getting Pepsi syrup into more restaurants. When you're thirsty and you order a cold drink you aren't forming a relationship with the drink or the people who sell you the drink, you're simply quenching your thirst. You may never again see the waitress who brought you the drink, you may never meet the driver who delivered the syrup and you may never know the salesman who sold the account. At the "retail" level where thirsty customers order a drink, selling the drink isn't about relationships at all. But lawyers, architects, virtual assistants, website designers and even marketing gurus need to establish positive online relationships and positive online brands in order to use social media to build revenue and most of the social media marketers don't seem to understand that you don't sell a professional service or create an online brand the same way you sell cold drinks.

Make no mistake about it, when you need to hire a website designer, architect, lawyer, virtual assistant or marketing dude you are entering into a relationship and you have to like, respect and resonate with the person you hire. I don't resonate with, like or respect people whose social media strategy betrays an insensitivity and a lack of understanding of and empathy for other people. I don't want to be associated with them. I sure don't want them near my clients or friends.

And I'm not interested in having more shallow, superficial relationships. My online strategy is to use social media to identify and start a conversation with people with whom I am most likely to have a meaningful relationship, to get closer to the people who share my values and beliefs. 

15 August, 2010

How To Join Linking Liberally on Linkedin

Creating Linking Liberally on Linkedin is consistent with my belief that I should do what I can to get all liberals to “come out”, let their liberalism show and be easily found by other liberals who want to network with them. Creating Linking Liberally reflects my “online strategy”. See my August 14 post.

First, be recognizably liberal. As the only owner, moderator and manager of Linking Liberally, I personally approve each new member and if I don’t know you and cannot detect your liberalism on your Linkedin profile, I will either reject your membership request or ask you for some liberal bona fides.

Joining Linking Liberally is easy if (1) you and I are first-level direct Linkedin connections or if (2) You send me your email address. 

If I do not have your email address and we are not direct, first-level connections you can still join Linking Liberally on Linkedin by going to your “groups” field and typing “Linking Liberally” and clicking on  Linking Liberally.

07 August, 2010

Richard Florida's "The Great Reset" And Other Books Briefly Reviewed

My friends and blog readers expect me to tell them what I’m reading so here’s another in my occasional series of brief book reviews.

Books I Just Finished:

Let me start with a book I hope leaders everywhere are reading, The Great Reset by Richard Florida. Florida explains why this “recession” is not really a recession at all, but a “reset” – a fundamental change in the basic elements or components of our economy. Certain industries are vanishing. Certain jobs are going away and never coming back. Jobs with familiar-sounding titles aren’t what they used to be. According to Florida, this “reset” should be compared to “The Long Depression of 1873”, not the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. Elected officials, educators, executives and other leaders who are going to have to spearhead the appropriate responses to this economic and social reset would be wise to read and recommend The Great Reset. I said “spearhead the appropriate responses” to this great reset because Reset is not all doom and gloom and low-wage jobs, reduced home values and spent retirement accounts. According to Florida, such resets have occurred before and are followed by periods of great innovation. Florida has advice for mayors, city planners, educators, lenders, financiers, investors and others who will be part of the changes that are coming.

Game Change by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin and The Politician by Andrew Young. When I read these two books I violated my rule against reading books about political campaigns but I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t put them down. Game Change is an insightful account of the 2008 race for the presidency and the nomination races that preceded it. The Politician is top John Edwards aid, Andrew Young’s account of the rise and fall of his former boss who infamously carried on a reckless affair with Reille Hunter during his 2007-2008 quest for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Those of you who are Elizabeth Edwards admirers may dislike her more than you dislike John Edwards after you read Politician and Game Change. Neither John nor Elizabeth Edwards were ever what they appeared to be, it seems.

I also recently read Peter Singer’s One World, Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Sam Harris’ Letter To A Christian Nation and may comment on them in a future post if readers ask me to.

Books I’m Still Reading:

T. R Reid’s The Healing of America, David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s Switch and Rahm Emanuel’s The Plan.

05 August, 2010

My Phone Conversation With Dr. Ken Hechler, Candidate For "The Robert Byrd Senate Seat"

A few days ago I sent a letter to Dr. Ken Hechler asking him where I could buy some "Hechler For Senate" bumper stickers. I wanted to pass them around at the next meeting of Living Liberally where many of our members said they'd rather elect a 95-year-old Democrat than a much younger man who will probably switch parties (from Democrat to Republican) if we elect him to "the Byrd Senate Seat". Yesterday I got a call from Dr. Hechler who informed me that his campaign doesn't have bumper stickers. He encouraged me and the Living Liberally tribe to feel free to print our own "Hechler For Senate" stickers.

I asked him if he could send me the Hechler campaign's official bumper sticker artwork or the official Hechler campaign logo.

Dr. Hechler informed me that his campaign doesn't have an official logo or artwork.

The Hechler campaign also doesn't seem to have a website.

Let's review: While the Hechler "campaign" has a legendary former Congressman and WV Secretary of State as a candidate, the Hechler "campaign" doesn't seem to really have a campaign.

Dr. Hechler, if, as the media says, you're only "running" to draw attention to the issue of mountain top removal, then just keep winking and nodding and smiling and letting others define you, marginalizing you because of your age, but if you are serious about giving West Virginia Democrats a choice between Republican Light and a real Democrat, then hire a campaign manager, start raising money, put up a website and challenge Joe Manchin to a series of debates - which you'll win.

If Joe Manchin won't debate you, hold the debate anyway with an empty chair where the empty suit would be sitting if he weren't afraid to get his DINO butt kicked by a 95-year-old man.