Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miscellaneous Lagniappe

** Last Saturday I wondered about what happened with that fantabulous NPR radio program called Jazz Profiles. Today, I re-checked the website and noticed this message:

Jazz Profiles is not currently offered on a weekly basis. We will occasionally present archived programs as they become available.
Damn! That's a huge, crushing blow to me.

** Beautiful day today. The Arts Market of New Orleans was packed and people were of good cheer. My B-2/3 threw lots of pots. We saw lots of friendly people. And we had a great time. Hopefully, you had a chance to be part of the fun.

** Tomorrow, I'm off to DC for a couple of days to rub elbows with US Dept. of Education Title VI program officers and other Title VI NRC (National Resource Center) representatives as we attend a technical assistance conference in preparation for the next round of Title VI NRC grants.

** Thoth parades in exactly three weeks. As many of you may know, I ride in Thoth. I'm pumped. Last week, we received our float loading instructions and float assignments. If you want to know where I'm riding this year, send me an email.

** The next Random NOLA photo posting will have to wait until I return from DC. But I will get one up sometime in the middle of next week.

** I'm pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow in the Superbowl. I've loved the Steelers ever since they knocked off the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game in 1974 on their way to their first Superbowl victory. If they win tomorrow, they'll once again be able to claim the unshared title as the franchise with the most Superbowl victories (6). I have a theory about favorite sports teams. I believe that in most cases, favorite sports teams are of two types: (1) the "hometown" team, and (2) the dominant team at the moment of awareness of the sport. For me, that would mean I wold be a fan of (1) The New Orleans Saints and (2) The Pittsburgh Steelers. Which I am. But it also applies to other sports, too. In baseball, I am a fan of the Cincinnati Reds (Johnny Bench, Joe Morgon, Pete Rose). In basketball, I am a loyal Boston Celtics fan (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Danny Ainge, etc.). I think the theory also holds true for despised teams, too. These despised teams tend to be the main rivals for my historical favorites. For instance, as a Steelers fan, I loathe the Dallas Cowboys. As a Celtics fan, I loathe the Lakers. I would also bet that, more often than not, Cowboys and Lakers fans who loathe the Steelers and the Celtics, can probably trace their preferences back to the days when they first tuned in to the Sports and followed them seriously. I'd be curious to hear if that theory holds true for the rest of you. Anyway ... Go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MBH Pottery

My better two-thirds (B-2/3) has her pottery kiln firing up as I write this and will once again be setting up shop at the Arts Market of New Orleans. This market, which features mostly hand crafted artisanry pieces and requires a review of one's work by the Arts Council of New Orleans to ensure that it meets the market's artistic standards, takes place usually on the last Saturday of every month at Palmer Park on the corner of Claiborne and Carrollton Aves. This means that this Saturday, January 31, is the next market.

My B-2/3 will be there not only displaying and selling her wheel-thrown functional pottery, but she'll also be setting up her wheel and throwing pots, which she's been doing since the November 2008 market. If you venture into this market, please do stop by and say hello. My B-2/3, whom you can see at her wheel here, is very sociable and gregarious, not to mentioned talented and lovely. I'm sure she'd love to meet you and talk pottery and books.

Lately, I've been helping her mind the booth; but I do have to make sure that my little flowers follow their Saturday routines (ballet practices, coffee shop visits, treats from the Whole Foods bakery, etc.) So, given that I'll be stepping in and out of the market at specific moments throughout the day, I might miss you if you stop by. But stop by nonetheless.

I know I'm biased, but my B-2/3 makes some fantastic pottery pieces. Just about all of the bowls, plates, mugs, platters, vases, teapots, etc., that we have and use in the house are made by her skilled and loving hands.

Come by and check it all out!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Suffering and Blog Commenting

I'm practically incapacitated by a debilitating head cold, and so I haven't had the energy or will to think about putting up some postings of substance. And I need to shake this thing before the weekend comes, when I'll be making a work-related trip to the DC area. As I rest in bed this morning, I'm putting up this posting just to say that I've switched off the "comment verification" feature in the comments section. Although it has been helpful in keeping out comment spam, it has been a burden and a disincentive for others to leave comments. I also think that the multiple verification steps have also deceived some into thinking they've posted a comment when, in fact, it didn't go through. So, in an effort to make things easier, I'm loosening up the comment process. But if comment spam becomes a problem once again, I'll probably reinstate it. Happy commenting!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Random NOLA

I've decided to set up a Blog posting category that I'm calling Random NOLA, which will feature a photo that I've taken from places around the city of New Orleans that make up a part of my day. They won't be pre-arranged. And I'm going to try to make them pictures of inconspicious scenes, but potentially identifiable to the attentive native. In other words, don't expect to find pictures of the Superdome or the St. Louis Cathedral or other such easily identifiable places. Where possible, I'll also try to keep street signs out of the picture, too. The goal is not only just to share a brief, random part of the path of my day, but also to see if true NOLA-philes can figure out exactly where in the city this scene is located. So, without further ado, here's the first "Random NOLA" Photo in what I hope will be plenty more to come. Give it your best shot and put your guess in the comments section:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Whither the NPR Jazz Profiles Podcast?

WTF? I absolutely love NPR's Jazz Profiles series. I gather that it ran orginally from 1995-2005, which should mean about 500 or so weekly episodes (if all episodes were originals and not repeats). But the podcast appears to have disappeared! As you can see at the website, there have been weekly updates for only about a year-and-a-half, which simply can't be the measure of the full original series. There simply has to be more. For instance, Bix Biederbecke is an early Jazz icon, but there is no podcast show for him. Nor is there a show on Johnny Dodds or Chick Webb or Coleman Hawkins. And I simply can't imagine that these legends of Jazz would be excluded from the series. But the podcast updates stopped this past December 24. There's been nothing since. And nary a word about it on the website. I wrote to NPR asking for some explanation, but haven't heard back from them. What gives? If anyone knows what's happened to the podcasting of this wonderful series, please leave me a comment. And, for those of you Jazz aficionados who weren't aware of this series, you absolutely MUST check it out. It's truly fantastic.

PS: WTUL bumped me from the Jazz Program DJ schedule. Bummer. That's what happens when there are only 7 Jazz Program slots per week and a slew of undergrads who want those slots and have preference for them. I was developing a bit of a following on my Thursday night Jazz Show for WTUL. And I think I had a pretty awesome show format. But so it goes. I still have a Thursday morning Classical Show, which I enjoy doing; but my heart is with the Jazz. By the way, if you ever want to listen to a great radio station, you can tune in to WTUL via internet livestreaming anywhere in the world where you can find a high-speed internet connection. The website is You can link to the live webcast from the home page. Check it out. The Jazz Show runs daily from 6-8pm, and the Classical Show runs Mondays-Fridays from 6-8am.

Word of the Day: Netflixing

Netflixing - The act of visiting and fishing around for a good movie to watch instantly on the PC.

And this is what I am about to do!

Obama and the Post-Racial Narrative

Oyster over at Your Right Hand Thief has put up a very interesting posting on the recent Atlantic article by Hua Hsu titled "The End of Whiteness?" and which explores race and identity in the Obama era. Even though the title has that question mark at the end, Hsu's article is kind of counterintuitive in that you expect it to be some celebration of the end of racialized identity politics in America. But, in fact, Hsu doesn't quite make that case. He points to things like the rise of NASCAR and the popularity of country music and the McCain/Palin campaign's cultural version of John Edwards's "Two Americas" theme (i.e. Culturally and racially homogenous rural Viriginia of the South and the interior of the state is the "real America" as opposed the multicultural and racially heterogenous urban Virginia of the northern part of the state which is, by contrast, NOT the real America.) that all point to a persistent, if obfuscated, "whiteness" identity narrative that exists alongside persistent non-white ethnic and cultural identity narratives. Hsu thus seems to argue we're definitely not at the end of racialized identity narratives, but that we have crossed some kind of bridge in which such narratives are becoming blended and appropriated across racial divides. That's an interesting perspective. It somewhat dovetails with mine, but not entirely.

For my part, I like to think of this whole subject not in terms of bridges to cross, ends/beginnings, or racial/cultural blendings in an inexorable process of appropriation and assimilation. That all seems so linear and staccato and has an air of the inevitability of racial/cultural identity loss and/or reimaginings beyond race. Hsu's conclusions seem to give some opening to the specious arguments that many conservatives are making that an Obama Presidency means we have arrived and that racism is thus dead. Such arguments are just silly, as is that other conservative meme of desiring a "color-blind" society in all aspects of life. I do agree with Hsu's claim that we cling to racial identity markers; but, unlike Hsu, I don't see this as inherently problematic. I don't think it's necessarily some bridge that needs to be crossed. I have thought for a while on this subject and I have come to the (tentative -- I'm still pondering --) conclusion that we can and will live in a kind of circular world when it comes to race and identity. In other words, we don't need to cross lines to get to some ideal "post-racial" world. We don't need to subvert racial/cultural identity markers either to some kind of blended multicultural identity framework represented by post-racial left-leaning cultural relativists (i.e. the "Bill Clinton is the first 'black' President" line of thinking), or, alternatively, to some kind of non-racialized and "color-blind" identity framework cynically (and absurdly) espoused by conservatives who think that being non-racist means erasing race (as opposed to racism) completely from the process of social relations and individual identity formation. In fact, I think we don't even need to get "post-racial" at all to live in a world of mutual respect and understanding irrespective of race.

I believe that race has significant positive meaning to people. [And the fact that we can do nothing about our race, why shouldn't we find some positive meaning in that? That's better than hating ourselves for it, or simply ignoring it altogether as if it isn't part of us.] Because of that, I am leery of the "post-Racial" narrative that may sacrifice this positive for some other elusive a-racial end. I also hold that there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with giving some kind of positive meaning to race as important to individual identity as long as (and this is the BIG qualifier) this meaning doesn't include diminishing, devaluing, or discriminating against others because of their race or the meaning they ascribe to their identity because of their race. For instance, I don't believe that a black person expressing "black pride" necessarily means "hating whitey" -- or even vice versa. [Of course, it can mean that, which is something to deplore and reject as racist; but that's not what I'm talking about when I talk of giving "positive" meaning to racial identity.] In essence, identifying blackness or whiteness or brownness as meaningful in a cultural sense, much like identifying left-handedness or maleness or Southernness or urbanness, etc., as being culturally meaningful, and even expressing this meaningfulness, can be just fine. In fact, the plurality inherent in a diverse society where all kinds of differences (not just racial difference) can be celebrated and can be independently meaningful in the context of equality, and not diminished by the process of crossing lines or bridges, or by ignoring the obvious, can be enriching to one's own cultural identity. We are all of us essentially self-constructed identities because of our immutable characteristics -- all of which have given some meaning to our identity. We are white or black, male or female, gay or straight, left-handed or right-handed, urban or rural, bald or hairy, red-headed or blond -- and to deny that this has cultural significance and meaning is to deny identity completely. But the kicker is that we have to respect this difference and not see it as a threat to our own identity such that we feel the need to squelch this difference or to construct hierarchies as to the value of this difference through repression, oppression, and the many "ism" forms of social/political/economic discriminations. As long as we can do this -- as long as we can respect and not be threatened by cultural expressions of identity associated with race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., we can have a world that is not post-racial, but a world that celebrates race (among other identity markers) without all the nastiness. And that's a world I'd much rather live in than either a "color-blind" world or an "everyone is everything" world. I'd much rather live in a world where I can be happy for those who find pride and meaning in being black, or being female, or being gay, and even want to celebrate that pride, even if I could never really share in that pride in the same way for lack of that identity marker in myself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Did Krauthammer See the Same Inauguration I Saw?

Washington Post opinion columnist Charles Krauthammer's recent piece gives us yet another lesson in how far out of touch neo-cons are with the new American order and how their patronizing mindsets have led them to misread everything about Obama and the majority of Americans who supported him. His column is an example of stubborn and misguided projection. If only Krauthammer could be humble enough to see that he is the "puzzled" one when it comes to Obama, and not the rest of us.

In his column, Krauthammer expresses a kind of grudging admiration for Obama. But his admiration is a strange kind. Krauthammer thinks the inaugural address was kind of a dud, and he seems to have liked this about the speech; but Krauthammer also argues that this "flat" speech left his supporters uninspired and "puzzled." I don't know what inauguration speech Krauthammer saw, but I found it Presidential and inspiring. Of COURSE it wasn't a campaign speech. The campaign is over and Obama is now speaking the language of governing, not the language of campaigning.

But let me get down to a couple of the specifics in Krauthammer's piece that have to make one wonder about Krauthammer's capacity for clear-headed analysis. First, there's this:

When candidate Obama said "it's not about me, it's about you," that was sheer chicanery. But now he means it, because he really cannot part the waters.
Let me suggest that it was only "sheer chicanery" in Krauthammer's mind because he refused to ever entertain the possibility that Obama meant what he said both before and after the campaign. Furthermore, Obama never thought, nor did he ever say or even imply, that only he could "part the waters." From the start, Obama's campaign was never about him and always about us. Obama never claimed perfection. In fact, of all the candidates in the race, only Obama had the courage and the frankness to admit that his administration would not be perfect and would make mistakes. Obama, in spite of the silly conservative meme of Obama as "The One" or "The Messiah," was always down to earth, humble, and aware of his falliblity. In short, there is nothing new in Obama's sincere and earnest claim that this election and this moment was about us and not about him. And there is also nothing new that Krauthammer was part of the cabal that constructed the completely unfounded narrative that Obama was a egotistical fraud who only wrapped himself in the cloak of humility and deference to us, the people. And now, when Krauthammer actually deigns to believe in Obama's sincerity, he thinks it's pedestrian and tame. Granted, he thinks that this is a good quality; but, still, it's the "damning with feint praise" sort of good. What really chaps me, though, is now that Krauthammer finds himself coming around to a grudging admiration of Obama, he has to make it seem like his conversion is only possible at the expense of our (i.e. Obama supporters') disappointment and befuddlement. Krauthammer just can't bring himself to think that we were actually on to the Obama he is now starting to like, and that we still are jazzed about our President. If Krauthammer had asked me, I'd have told him that there was nothing disappointing or puzzling at all about Obama's inauguration speech; that there was nothing strange at all about Obama's reaching back to George Washington and our founding fathers for reference and inspiration. Obama always had this about him. It's nothing new to those of us who saw the truth about Obama from early on. That's one of the very reasons I liked him so much then. And why I continue to admire him as much now (if not moreso) than then.

It's like Krauthammer was seeing Obama upside down and now that Obama appears right side up, well that must mean that the world around Krauthammer has turned aright by joining him in his upside-down view, instead of Krauthammer himself turning rightside up and joining us!

I was talking about this with my better two-thirds, and we both marvel at Krauthammer's claim that Obama disappointed us with his speech. Notice that Krauthammer provides not even a single concrete reference to a person who might have expressed such disappointment. It is pure projection. And I would bet dollars to doughnuts that if he actually asked any Obama supporter how they felt, I don't think he'd find a single person who would affirm his claim. Everyone, and I mean everyone, that my wife and I spoke with about the inauguration and the speech found it no less inspiring and no less majestic than any of his campaign speeches. It was all there. The only thing different was that we have the confidence of a governing President behind it now.

Second, there was also this illustrative piece in Krauthammer's piece:
On the issue of race, he was even more withholding, and admirably so.
I read that and I thought: "Huh? Where the hell has Krauthammer been?" The fact is that Obama assiduously tried to stay away from "the issue of race" throughout the entire campaign, being drawn into this issue only reluctantly and primarily by folks like Krauthammer himself. If ever a black candidate tried to downplay his race in a campaign, Obama did it. So, then, it defies common sense to think that in his inaugural address, when there's no conservative pounding him over the head about his relationship to the black church or demanding that he express his thoughts on Louis Farrakhan, that he would all of a sudden make race a central feature of the moment. Krauthammer clearly expected Obama to raise the subject of race and the significance of his blackness to the high heavens in tones reminiscent of MLK, Jr. But, really, the rest of us weren't expecting this at all. Seriously. Obama didn't need to pound his chest in this regard. We all know of the significance of the moment given the history of race in our country; but I don't think it ever crossed our minds that his inaugural address would be anything but the seriousness of governing in this momentous and difficult time -- as any other President's inaugural address would be in this context. It was Krauthammer who apparently wanted and expected the BLACK President, while the rest of us wanted and expected simply a President. Yes, the significance of his being our country's first black President wasn't lost on us, but really we just wanted a Presidential inaugural address, not a "black" inaugural address.

The whole column by Krauthammer has a tone of surprised patronization towards the people who saw in Obama that which he couldn't see. And now that he has to come to grips with this fact, Krauthammer can't bring himself to join in with us simpleton "hoi polloi." Let go of it, Krauthammer. Yes, Obama is the kind of President even Krauthammer can admire. We already knew that. And there's no shame to Krauthammer to model a bit of that Obama humility in recognizing that fact.

[NOTE as of 9:30AM on Saturday, Jan. 24: I had more to say on this subject, so I amplified, added, and edited my original posting somewhat, which I put up last evening. The overall argument, though, is unchanged.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Today is a great day for my country.

I'm proud to have participated in and to be witness to this moment.

God bless America. God bless President Obama.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tennessee Democrats Mount a Coup

This is a riot! The GOP finally won a slim majority in the Tennessee State Legislature and were looking forward to having one of their own control the State House Gavel as Speaker of the House for the first time in forty years. BUT ... lo and behold, the Tennessee Democratic Legislators pulled a crafty quick one and made their own nomination of a GOP State Congressional Legislator to be Speaker of the House. The end result: All 49 Tennessee Democrats voted for this renegade GOP nomination against the GOP's chosen candidate. 49 Tennessee Republicans voted for the chosen party guy. And the tiebreaker vote was cast by the renegage GOP legislator for himself, instead of for the party's chosen one, thus putting himself in position as House Speaker. And get this ... to show his appreciation to his Democratic supporters, and to exemplify his bi-partisan credentials, he then returned the favor and voted for a Democrat as Speaker Pro-Tem, thus ensuring her election! So, what should have been a GOP takeover of the Tennessee State House of Representatives ended up as a peaceful Democratic Coup! You gotta love it! Here's a YouTube clip of a news report of the session. It's friggin' priceless:

Needless to say, that renegade GOP legislator is toast within the party. But, heck, he probably was another one of those GOPers "with the resume of a Democrat" anyway!

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Thought on the End of the Bush Presidency

I'm still alive. I'm still married. My kids are fed and shod.

I guess that counts for something.

Is it enough to say one survived the absolutely disastrous fiasco that was the Bush Presidency?

I suppose one "conservative" way to look at this is that I managed to keep my life and my family afloat in spite of the Bush government's best efforts to torpedo it.

I'm so glad that Obama will be taking the oath of office in three days. But, damn, Bush left one ginormous heaping pile of excrement to deal with. It would take superman himself a generation to dig us out of that mess. We must always remember that over the next 4-8 years when evaluating Obama. I'm sure Obama will do some great things; but correcting the failures of the past eight years is a miracle that I'm not so sure even Jesus Christ could accomplish.

Helena Moreno Attends English-Speaking Union Tea

In Nell Nolan's social scene column in today's Times-Picayune, I noticed that Helena Moreno, erstwhile Democratic candidate for Louisiana's Congressional District 2 seat and Spanish-speaking Latina of Mexican descent, attended a Christmas Tea sponsored by the New Orleans chapter of the English-Speaking Union of the United States. Not knowing much about this organization, my first inclination was to think that this group might have some kind of linkage to the nativist "English-only Movement" supported by such groups like U.S. English, for example. Had that been the case, it would have made for a very interesting commentary on Helena Moreno's attitudes regarding her other native language of Spanish. However, it seems that the English-Speaking Union is an apolitical organization that just tries to foster community among the English-speaking peoples of the world. Nothing wrong with that. And even though some of the members might be English-only advocates, the organization seems to steer clear of this. So, what does this posting mean? Nothing more than a bit of curious interest on my part.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anh "Joseph" Cao: Resume of a Democrat, Part II

I think I'm going to run this "Resume of a Democrat" thing as as series over the next two years when discussing Cao. I've said before and I'll say it again, Cao is no GOP rightwinger. We're barely into the new Congress and Cao is already exhibiting his "Resume of a Democrat" proclivities.

I was quite pleased, though not surprised in the least, to read this in today's Times-Picayune:

New Orleans Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao parted company with the other Republicans in the Louisiana delegation Wednesday, voting to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program for the poor, a prime Democratic legislative goal.

It was the second time since Cao was sworn into Congress last week that he found himself voting contrary to the other five Republicans in the Louisiana delegation. Last week he supported another Democratic initiative intended to improve the prospects of women pressing wage discrimination cases in court.
Here's what Cao himself had to say regarding his votes:
"Well, first and foremost, I do believe that children, especially children of indigent families, should have access to health care, and I believe that we, as a governing body, have the duty to take care of those children who are in need and do not have access to health care."
Cao's Social Justice progressivism is quite evident in this comment. Pay particular notice to the fact that Cao doesn't distinguish between "legal" and "illegal" children of indigent families. He's simply concerned with mitigating the suffering of innocent human beings, regardless of legal status or national origin. His sense of justice and concern for the well-being of the poor and marginalized doesn't end at the border or isn't predicated on the "proper" birth certificate. You gotta love this about Cao. He's concerned for all people. And his conservative supporters, who hailed him as the future of the GOP not some 2 months ago, are probably chafing at their gushing over Cao earlier. The fact is Cao has NEVER been the kind of conservative that the GOP has painted him as being. From the moment I first heard Cao talk about issues of importance to the Latino community at a candidate forum I played a part in hosting in late October, I was convinced that the man was much more a progressive on issues that mattered to me than most elected Louisiana Democrats! Cao may have the "R" behind his name for whatever reasons, but the man's heart aligns with progressive liberalism. Resume of a Democrat, indeed! More, please!

Shifting focus now, but staying with that same Times-Picayune article on S-CHIP legislation is this piece of garbage spewed from the mouth of Jefferson Parish Republican and Louisiana Congressional District 1 Representative Steve Scalise:
"I am disappointed that some members of Congress are attempting to make it the law of the land for illegal immigrants to receive federal health benefits."
But as the article goes on to point out:
The bill bars federal funds from being used to provide benefits for people who don't lawfully reside in the United States. But Scalise said without better verification procedures, fraud is likely.
Scalise is a mean, coldhearted ass. A pure unmitigated anti-child jerk. What kind of heartless bastard would deny an innocent, poor, and suffering child access to state-funded health care simply because this child isn't a legal citizen of the U.S. I am always astounded, jaw-droppingly dumbfounded, at the utter inhumanity and uncharitableness of these supposedly "family-values" conservatives. Let Scalise wrap his callousness in some appeal to legalism, the fact will still remain that his position is a godless, heartless, and cruel one. I get sick that Jim Harlan didn't defeat this joke in the last election. Feh! A pox on you, Scalise!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama and NAFTA: Free Trade to Fair Trade

One of the issues I've paid some attention to since the Presidential campaign has been the position of the candidates on Free Trade Agreements. In spite of his rhetoric to reassess Free Trade Agreements and renegotiate them, Obama has always been somewhat vague and non-committal when it came down to policy specifics on what such reassessments and renegotiations might look like. And so I've wondered where he would fall out in the end.

Well, I'm still not completely sure of what an Obama trade policy might look like, but it seems like when it comes to NAFTA, Obama seems to be tilting more towards converting this particular Free Trade Agreement into a welcome Fair Trade Agreement.

Laura Carlsen, of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, has a great rundown of what Obama's recent meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon means regarding the future of NAFTA. And her take is uplifting to Fair Trade Obama supporters like me, who don't oppose "Free" Trade in principle, as long as there is fairness and equity built into the process and as long as the trade really is "Free" in its larger dimensions, particularly as it relates to trade in labor.

Carlsen concludes her excellent analysis with the following:

The Obama statement from Jan. 12 indicates the president-elect will stand firm on renegotiating NAFTA. It may no longer be a question of "will he or won't he." To confront the crisis and establish mutual well-being in the region, the debate must move quickly now to "how and when."
And that's an encouraging thought.

[Crossposted at Cuaderno Latinoamericano.]

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Authoritarianism and the Archdiocese of New Orleans

As a Catholic, I am just sickened and appalled at the way the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in New Orleans, and in particular the Archbishop, has handled the peaceful efforts by displaced parishoners at St. Henry's Church and Our Lady of Good Counsel to try to save their churches.

From the very start of this whole situation, the Archbishop has handled it very, very poorly. And now the Archbishop is using the secular police force to threaten and strongarm people who are doing nothing more than sitting in the buildings, keeping vigil, and praying. It's madness. It makes me want to become a Protestant, where the parishoners decide on their community's fate and the status of their churches.

What kind of pastor does this to his flock, even if he thinks the flock is misbehaving? The Archbishop, whose pastoral leadership has always been suspect in my eyes, and whose post-Katrina leadership has been especially appalling, has done more damage to the integrity and stability of the Catholic Church in New Orleans than ever.

If he thinks he had no choice to behave as he did because of a lack of resources to support these parishes, I can promise you he's just ensured that the Archdiocese will now have even that much fewer resources. I, for one, will not tithe to any Archdiocesan parish anymore. I'll give my money now exclusively to individual priests or to the religious orders.

More on this later ... I'm just too angry and hurt to say any more at this time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Obama Stimulus Jitters

Is it just me, or are any other Obama supporters feeling a bit jittery about the magnitude and scope of the stimulus package that's currently being discussed in Washington and promoted by Obama?

I can understand the allure of a "New Deal" kind of stimulus movement; but the difference between 2009 and the 1930s is that we're much more stretched on credit now and, I think, approaching the breaking point. I sure hope Obama has a plan for fiscal solvency and sanity built in to this stimulus package proposal. And it wouldn't hurt if Obama did a little bit of spending cuts in the wake of his proposed tax cuts to offset the strain that this stimulus package will place on our already overmaxed national debt.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Co-Ed Catholic Youth Retreats

I was recently looking through some old papers and letters from my adolescent years and I came across a slew of correspondence from people whom I met at a 4-day event known as the Catholic Leadership Institute. I have to say that I was most sincere in my participation in this event way back when. And I think most of the other teenagers there were as well. Of course, we had a lot of feel-good Catholic theology and the goals were well-intentioned. But what I really remember from this retreat was a bunch of hormonal teenagers engaging in all kinds of emotional bonding. And all the letters that I still have from the folks I met during those days mention absolutely NOTHING about faith, religion, and theology, and focus almost exclusively on emotional bonds and romantic silliness.

My verdict on such things as the Catholic Leadership Institute for youth: BAD, BAD, BAD IDEA.

I read through some of those letters with the benefit of 20+ years under my belt and what I see are sexually, emotionally, and psychologically confused kids. The most insidious part of all this is that it was wrapped in the legitimacy of Christian spirituality. There's nothing wrong with co-ed Catholic leadership retreats for teens, but it's probably wise not to have them as overnight things and they certainly shouldn't engage in activities that consciously and purposefully bring out raw emotions. Candlelight "sharing" sessions at night. Touchy-feely "ice-breaker" activities.

Now, I'm all for teenagers having some kind of camp fun, and even engaging in the headiness of camp romance and emotions; but not wrapped in Catholic spirituality that comes out of a tradition of repressed guilt about sexuality.

If anybody else has had one of these experiences, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.