Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slow Down but not That Much

I read an article in the news yesterday about the Police in Connecticut pulling over a driver for going too slow. Yes. You read right; for going too slow. So for those of your slower drivers out there who believe that driving below the speed limit in the passing lane is your right as a tax payer, be warned, you may be getting pulled over in the near future too. Now granted not everyone drives as slow as this guy was. He was doing 5 MPH in a 40 zone; add to that the fact that he was high on PCP and was driving without a license so for all intents and purposes, he was in trouble even before he left.

Now what does this have to do with driving speed? Well I think it highlights the fact that contrary to what many people believe, if you do drive slow enough, the police will take notice and will take action as well. I've been driving for over two decades and if there's one thing that I have found to be most dangerous is drivers who insist on driving at or below the speed limit in the passing lane or continue to be impediments to the flow of traffic just because they believe that they have the right to drive at whatever speed they desire. I remember discussions with some of my co-workers who believed that it was 'green' to keep cars going at the speed limit and to slow things down to make it safer and while that is true, people's concepts of what exactly is appropriately slower varies from person to person.

I have been known to drive at the speed limit (I know that may shock some of you) when I'm not in a particular rush but I've found more often than not, even the slowest of traffic on most major roads in the country are moving faster and so as to not stand out, I generally keep pace with the rest of traffic after seeing how the weather conditions are. After all, I have confidence in my driving skills but not to the point where I think I can drive a rear wheel drive sports car on ice without suffering any mishap. So then many people as why is it wrong to drive slow?

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, as long as your desire to slow down isn't endangering other vehicles on the road. When merging into traffic do your best to gauge the speed of the traffic you are joining. Don't automatically assume that the traffic will slow down to accommodate you. Keep pace with traffic or at least try to do so, at least that way you will reduce the chances of being rear-ended by someone going a bit faster and not expecting to find a vehicular island in the road ahead of them. And finally if you think that it will keep the police from hounding you after a night of drinking or drug usage? Think again. There's a driver in Connecticut who thought that and is now thinking up better ideas in prison.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yoga Is as Yoga Was

I read an interesting article by Aseem Shukla regarding the origins of Yoga and how many people and practitioners of this ancient art tend to forget the origins of the art or choose to overlook it. It seems that over the past five years or so, yoga has gained popularity, much the way many things Asian has over the same period of time. Whether it is interest in yoga or in Indian food and culture, knowledge of historically Indian practices have become rather mainstream these days. What Shukla points out however is that many groups tend not to emphasize or even mention the origins of the art of Yoga for whatever reason. Mostly, he contends, to disassociate it from Hinduism.

Shukla points to the American Yoga Association's position on the matter in which they state that "the common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries...The techniques of Yoga have been adopted by Hinduism as well as by other world religions." Now while I agree that Yoga may not be a purely Hindu practice in origin, it's wrong to insinuate that it isn't linked to the religion. After all, if it was something that was associated with all the major religions of the world (and after all, most religions did sprout from the same general region of the world) then why did no one else practice it? I'm sure scholars and supporters of this stance can probably list a hundred reasons why they can prove that yoga has no Hindu connection but I would contend that it was Hinduism that helped perpetuate it and then spread it to the rest of the world.

After all, if it wasn't linked to Hinduism in some way, shape or form, then why do many classes begin and end with the traditional Hindu greeting of "Namaste" which essentially means I acknowledge the presence of the Divine in you? Sure you can argue that that's because it is now more or less part and parcel of the popular practice of yoga associated with Hinduism but if it is truly not part of that religion then why bother saying it? You could do like some groups do and say that it is a Christian practice, or a Jewish one or even an Islamic one but then are we reinventing history or just taking the convenient view of it?

I don't believe there's anything wrong in acknowledging the origins of certain practices. After all, understanding the greater context of how something came to be benefits our world view as individuals. To put it another way, I have discovered so many older musical artists just by listening and reading interviews with modern artists who cite the older ones as their influences. In doing so you understand how music came to be what it is today and you appreciate the way in which older sounds have evolved into newer ones. By similar analogy, if we choose to acknowledge the link between Yoga and Hinduism, are we really doing anything wrong? Are people falsely afraid that they will somehow betray their own religion by doing so? If that's the case then they already have problems as their own faith in their religion is on a shaky foundation.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Misguided Fools

I have a deep respect for the men and women in our armed forces. While those of us who sit back here comfortably in our homes every evening can relax, we musn't forget that it's because of our brave soldiers that we have the right and the freedom to do it. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment and not everyone agrees that soldiers should be respected but what the 70 to 80 congregation members of the so-called "church" known as Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas are doing at any and all events they can join across the nation is disrespecting anyone they feel they have the right to.

Now regardless of whether you support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or not, one thing that can't be denied is the fact that our soldiers are serving their country with honor and as such, when they have lost their lives, they deserve a degree of respect when they are finally laid to rest. However, the congregation from Westboro, led by their Pastor Fred Phelps, has been protesting the funerals of soldiers stating that their deaths are the result of God punishing the United States (and in turn it's soldiers) for the acceptance of gays in the military. Now I'm sure the sane among us are probably wondering what the real connection between the two things is and for what little knowledge I possess in my small brain, I'm unable to decipher it.

I find it despicable that Phelps, who as a priest and head of a church is expected to spread the word of God which I think most theologians will agree is one of compassion, yet Phelps chooses to spread words of hate at every given opportunity. They arrived to protest at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder in Westminster, Maryland. Although they had sought permission to be in the area, their antics were so disruptive that Snyder's father sued the Church for mental distress and anguish. However, given that our Constitution allows for gatherings and protests of this type, the court ruled against Snyder and in turn ordered him to pay $16,500 to recompense the Church for their legal fees. Supporters of Snyder and his family raised the money but the fight continues and now it has gone to the Supreme Court to determine whether groups like those from Westboro Baptist can protest.

I don't know how the Court will rule in this case but I think that this is beyond the laws and comes down to simple human decency. How can anyone even consider this shameful act to be within the realm of human decency? If you believe that God is punishing the country for their stance on things you feel go against God's Will then why don't you do us all a favor and savor the fact that you will be saved when the time comes and the rest of us will suffer for it? What unnerves me about many religious fanatics (and that's how I'd classify Phelps and his congregation... many of whom are his children and grandchildren) is that they use God and religion to spread hate. It's a sad and terrible thing and rather than using religion to spread a positive message or offer support, by figuratively spitting in the faces of the families of those whose loved ones have given their lives to their country, they are having just the opposite effect.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Muppets Deal with War

I learned a lot from "Sesame Street". I learned my alphabet and numbers by watching and was already a step ahead of a lot of other kids by the time I was in pre-school. I guess the fact that they combined music and silliness to help convey their lessons made it easier to retain what they were trying to teach us. To this day I can still remember some of the sketches that the Muppets and their human co-stars put together. But now, they are stepping up and helping kids learn about more than just the things they need to do well in school. They are helping kids deal with loss.

Given that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been raging for nearly a decade now, it's not necessary to say that some kids have unfortunately been left without a parent due to death in wartime. As such, the Pentagon, in cooperation with "Sesame Street" has worked to produce a special which will air on PBS stations nationwide tonight. Entitled "When Families Grieve" it's meant to help kids understand how to deal with the loss of a parent and to understand what it means to them and their families. Though I haven't seen any clips from the show as yet, I can imagine that it will teach the lesson in the way that only the Muppets and "Sesame Street" can.

It's sad to think that such lessons need to be taught to kids. Some might argue that it's necessary given that the war continues and more time will be needed before all our troops come home. Yet I think it's a good thing that such efforts are being made for kids to help them deal with these trials and tribulations. No matter how hard I try, I can't imagine the difficulty that some kids must be dealing with and how much hardship their surviving families must have to deal with after the loss of a loved one. To some it may seem a bit childish to have Muppets talking about such serious things but I've seen that for kids, sometimes that's the best way to get the message across. Not through an authority figure like a parent, but from someone childlike, like them.

Hopefully there will soon come a time when parents won't have to turn to the Muppets to discuss such topics because all our troops will be home to be with their families. One can only hope. In the meantime, I applaud the Muppets and the leaders at the Pentagon who agreed to this move in wanting to help take a serious message to kids and to help them realize that things will get better with time and love.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Holy Forgiveness

A long time before I was born, the Beatlemania craze swept the world and for many, it was the end-all-be-all of musical existence. It seemed that you couldn't go anywhere without seeing, hearing or reading about the Beatles. They were literally everywhere and you could not escape them. Their popularity was so far reaching and universal that many realized that people, especially the youth of the world, knew more about the Fab Four than they did about anything else. Put in that context it's easy to understand why John Lennon said that (at that time) the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

Now as you can probably imagine, that didn't go over too well with those more in tune with the religious persuasions. In fact the Vatican denounced the Beatles following John Lennon's comment back in 1966. It's sad to think that Lennon's comment was taken in the wrong context. Knowing what I know about the Beatles and about John Lennon, I'm sure the statement was meant to convey his feeling that due to unexpected popularity, people seemed to be more interested in hearing the Beatles than they did their preachers at church on Sundays. He probably wasn't wrong. I mean I think the trend continues today; how many times do you hear kids these days complain about having to go to church on Sunday?

Some might argue then that the responsibility of the Beatles should have then been to act as spiritual guides to get others to believe in religion more than they did rather than inadvertently encouraging them to turn away. But as is often the case with such statements, it was taken in the wrong context and for over 40 years the Vatican had continually denounced the statement as being blasphemous. But now the Vatican suddenly declared that they no longer banned the music of the Beatles and they have even spoken the praises of the groups numerous hits. I guess maybe they rediscovered the great music of the group along with so many others this year with the re-release of their entire record collection and with the release of the game "Rock Band: Beatles".


Monday, April 12, 2010

Imitation Isn't Always the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Now I have been known to do impersonations and imitations of people I know or have worked with in the past. It's good for a chuckle and a nice way of breaking the tension when people are working hard on something that has them stressed out. And although I do believe in the adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I don't believe the Republicans had that in mind when they selected Michael Steele, the former Democrat turned Republican from Maryland who looks to now be on the verge of leaving his current post of Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Personally, I think it's about time that the Republicans realized that they had hitched their wagon to someone so obviously unsuited for the role and position.

Being a former resident of Maryland, I followed the news closely when Steele was elected as the first African-American Lieutenant Governor of the state. It was not too long after that that he resigned from the Democratic party and joined the Republicans stating that he felt he was being exploited by Democrats or that he was not being given the freedom that he wanted to be effective in his role. Be that as it may, I couldn't help but feel that there was nothing more than posturing in the decision to make him the Chairman of the Republican National Committee a few short months after he joined the party. I mean it's one thing to be the chairman for your state or for a district, it allows you to test the waters (so to speak) before suddenly joining up to lead. But this just seemed to be a response to the fact that the Democrats were beginning to promote Obama in his run up to the Presidency.

So am I to understand that the Republicans could find no one else more qualified to take the Chairman's position at that time? That Steele had such overwhelming qualifications and support in Maryland that he would help lead a revolution across the nation leading to more people turning to the Republican Party? Or perhaps they figured one African-American is as good as another. Perhaps that's being very unforgiving but I was and still continue to be at a loss as to why Steele was given this position in the first place. Now he seems to be determined to do his best to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that he is unqualified and ill-suited to hold the position.

Take for example the recent revelations that he authorized the expenditure of thousands of dollars at an adult club in Los Angeles for supporters of his party. Is that how Republicans wish to see their money spent? On strippers and drinks at a bar? Clearly not. Now of course Steele has backpedaled and indicated that he is getting the money back from the organizations that he footed the bill for, yet the damage is done. Republicans within his own party now come forward and claim that he's not doing a good job for the party and that he should step down so that someone more qualified can step into his place. I agree.

While I'm not a member of the Republican Party I'm supportive of this suggestion because I'd hope that the Party realizes that it isn't about race, color or sex of the person holding an office, but their inherent ability to do the job. When Hilary Clinton was a front runner for the Vice President's position and then was passed over for Joe Biden, the Republicans did what they thought all women wanted, and that was for a woman, any woman to be on the Presidential ticket. Enter Sarah Palin. I hope that before the next elections the Republicans realize that they have another Michael Steele in Sarah Palin.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

To Honor the Confederacy or Not?

Governor McDonnell of Virginia is certainly not wasting much time in making sure he makes changes that many of his constituents want. What has he done you may be asking? Well McDonnell recently publicly (and therefore officially) declared that April would be known as Confederate History Month in Virginia. For a number of years, Confederate History Month has been recognized unofficially all across the South however it hasn't been recognized by state leaders for a number of years since many are afraid of what supporting the Confederacy (and therefore the Confederate flag) means for many people.

Now arguments have been made that the Confederate flag isn't necessarily a racist symbol. Although it was the rallying flag of the states which seceded from the United States of America during the Civil War, many contend that it isn't a racist symbol. Never mind that one of the leading causes for the decision to secede was the fact that the government was pushing the Southern states to end slavery and many saw this as the government overstepping their bounds and subsequently led to the war between the states. But that's not what McDonnell chooses to commemorate the Confederacy for. Rather he'd prefer that people remember it as when Virginians stood to defend their homes and the Commonwealth. Never mind that it was due to the fact that they didn't largely agree with the intervention of the federal government into the affairs of the state which did include the issue of slavery (a population of 500,000 that made up nearly a quarter of the population in Virginia at the time).

I find it highly suspect that McDonnell makes this declaration now considering the fact that there is growing support for the Tea Party movement and rallies against the Federal Government. I may not agree with everything that the Federal Government is doing right now but when has anyone ever approved of everything the government is doing. Let me tell you that during the eight years that Bush was in office, I didn't really agree with much and I can tell you that despite his claims that he was helping me (I like to think of myself as an average American), I didn't get any benefit from his tax cuts or from his student loan schemes or any of the other dozens of things he did for the 'average citizen'. I definitely don't count myself among the upper strata of society nor am I rolling in dough but even though I didn't agree with much Bush did (or didn't do) I never once called for secession from the United States.

Now that Obama is in office, I don't expect that many will support everything (or in some cases anything) he does but I find it reprehensible that people are talking about seceding from the country as a means of avoiding the Obama administration. Doesn't anyone else find this growing movement to be a little disturbing? I mean I know that not everyone should blindly agree with what the government does but people are starting to take it a little too far. More and more often these days I feel that this country is changing, and it isn't all for the better. People are so resistant to change that they seem to be taking us back in time rather than forward. We need to grow up as a country rather than revert to the old ways that never really got us anything.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Here We Go Again

Four months to go before we get to the preseason and already the Redskins are making big news. I waited a day or two to let the news sink in before writing but then I figured I might as well write something about the news that Donavan McNabb, the heretofore quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles and longtime nemesis of the Washington defensive line. After a few rumors about where he may end up, McNabb surprised many when he announced that he would be coming to Washington. Undergoing contract negotiations now, it is still not a certainty that he will be the starter or that he will even be kept on but if the past is any indicator of how the coming season will go, then we might as well cinch up our seat belts because the ride is likely to be very bumpy.

Now I don't mean to imply that McNabb isn't a good pick. On the contrary, I think he's a great quarterback and though he's not as good as he was a few years ago, I think he's still got the tools to be a good leader for the Redskins. After all, if Brett Farve (who is as creaky as they come when it comes to quarterbacks) can play so well then there's definitely hope for McNabb with the Skins. However, this isn't the first time the Skins have drafted a player starting on the downward part of their career. Again, that's not to imply that McNabb is lacking anything that could help him play effectively, but the difference is the team he is playing with. Contrasting Farve with McNabb we find that McNabb in Philly had a lot more targets (that too effective and relatively consistent ones) who helped him execute plays. Combine that with an agility that isn't to be found with very many QBs when flushed out of the pocket and you have a deadly weapon.

But now that he's a touch slower and the fact that Washington doesn't currently have quite as many targets as Philly (or all the teams that Farve has played on save for the Jets) means that it may be harder for him to play at the level that he is expected to play at. Perhaps I'm wrong (and I would certainly love to be wrong in this case) but I think what Washington needs is a bevy of players who can catch and who can run the ball when needed. And most of all they need an offensive line that will give the QB (whoever it is) enough time to execute the plan they have. It doesn't do anyone on the Skins any good if the QB is constantly sacked or rushed to make a play. McNabb has certainly made plays out of nothing when he's been forced to run but then by the same token, so has Jason Campbell (on those rare occasions when the stars align) but he still isn't up to that level. So then perhaps McNabb can help groom Campbell (if Campbell is kept on).

After all, after several losses in DC where Campbell has been booed, McNabb (who has been in that situation since he was drafted in Philly) would often seek Campbell out to offer him words of encouragement. Perhaps McNabb's presence in DC will be somewhat akin to how Darrell Green groomed and guided Champ Bailey (before he departed for Denver) and how he helped elevate his gain through his experience. It's well worth seeing if it comes true. All that I truly hope though is that we don't expect miraculous results right off the bat. We've changed our coaches, players and other personnel more often than NASCAR drivers refuel and it hasn't led to much. What I hope is that McNabb isn't pressured into becoming the one who all the team's hopes are pinned on. It is supposed to be a team so hopefully that philosophy will come through. The Skins certainly need it. I just don't want to see yet another season go by which starts of with tremendous hope and then ends with we fans looking forward to next August even before September is over.