Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!



May your 2012 be the best year ever!

My New Year's Resolutions coming soon.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ironic Times-Pic Letter to the Editor

It is pretty noticeable that 9 out of every 10 letter writers from Mandeville are very conservative.  What always kinda bugs me about this is that these folks on the Northshore depend so heavily on New Orleans for their livelihoods, but are some of the loudest complainers about the city out there.  I understand that their role in keeping the economy of the New Orleans area thriving is just as important as the city-dweller, but I just wish they would at least acknowledge the fact that they benefit from us liberal urban-dwellers and that if they want to abandon New Orleans for the suburbs, they have very little business complaining or commenting about New Orleans and its liberal citizens.


Anyway, that rant above isn't really related to the content of one of today's letters to the editor of the Times-Picayune except that the letter writer is from Mandeville, and so the predictable conservative tilt of the letter is all-too-predictable.

This time, though, the letter writer is complaining about Maureen Dowd's latest column, which was a critique of Newt Gingrich in the typical Dowd style: biting, cynical, and left-leaning.

Suffice it to say that the letter-writer is mounting some kind of defense of Newt Gingrich from the rantings of Maureen Dowd. Fair enough, I guess. But the last sentence of her letter is the ironic kicker:
He's not everyone's choice for president, but none of the candidates deserve the sarcasm and negativism with which Ms. Dowd reports.
Given that the Times-Picayune regularly publishes columns from the likes of Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, and other conservative pundits whose "sarcasm and negativism" in their criticism of Obama make Dowd look mild by comparison, I have to wonder if this letter-writer holds the same view about how Obama is treated by the conservative pundits out there.  I'd bet dollars-to-doughnuts that this letter-writer, given that she writes from Mandeville, thinks Obama deserves whatever "sarcasm and negativism" is lobbed his way.  If this is the case, it only highlights once again the ironic hypocrisy of the rightwing when it comes to Obama.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Saints Running Up the Score on Atlanta: Classless?

Well, I guess it's to be expected that some Atlanta Falcons fans would be complaining about the decision by Sean Payton to let Drew Brees gun for the record on Monday night football by driving for another score with only 3:22 minutes left in the game and the Saints holding an insurmountable 22 point lead.  Was Payton's decision unsportsmanlike?  Not in the least, if you ask me.

First off, I never understood why at the professional level there would ever be something unsportsmanlike about scoring whenever possible.  I mean, these guys are getting paid to play to score and to win.  They have an obligation to their paying fans to play 100% all out for the entire 60 mintues.

Second, putting up points can make a difference to the team in all sorts of ways.  It puts other potential competitors on notice.  It can just suck the life out of the opponent which can give a team a psychological advantage the next time the two teams play.  And the fact is that there's a really good likelihood that the Saints will play the Falcons again in the playoffs when it really matters.  Getting that psychological edge is good strategy for that eventuality.

Third, it does great things for team morale, for fan morale, and for the players to be associated with a history-breaking performance by the team's QB on a Monday night football game with serious divisional and playoff implications.

All that said, I disagree with Duncan on one point.  At the end of his article, he calls for yanking the starters next week once the 49ers outcome is known, all in the interests of protecting the players for the playoffs and for the Superbowl run.  Again, the fans pay good money to see their starters play all 16 regular season games.  Only injury should keep someone out of the lineup.  And the Saints as a team could really rack up an historical season by playing aggressively, with their best talent, and putting up some great team offensive numbers.

Quote of the Day: Rick Perry

Gotta love this "Perryism of the Day" as noted by Andrew Sullivan:

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” governor Rick Perry

Monday, December 26, 2011

Who Dat!?! Geaux Saints! King Brees!

Congratulations to the NFC South Division Champions!

Congratulations to Drew Brees for setting the single season passing yardage record, passing the great Dan Marino, who held the record for 27 years since 1984.

Congratulations to the Who Dat Nation for cheering the Saints on to another outstanding season.

It needs to be said, though, lest it gets lost in the shuffle, that the MVP of this game wasn't Drew Brees, but Darren Sproles.  Congratulations to Sproles and to the Saints Coaching Staff and back office for bringing Sproles to the Crescent City.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Andrew Sullivan on Ron Paul

Andrew Sullivan rethinks and retracts his endorsement of Ron Paul.  What I love about Sullivan is his tenacity, but also his openness in listening to reason and the arguments of others.  He doesn't admit to being wrong often, and he doesn't like to back down much; but he does it when it's called for and when he is persuaded to do so.  It's what happened with his support of the Iraq War; and now it's happening with his endorsement of Ron Paul.  He still leaves the door open for Paul to make things right in his eyes, but Sullivan requires of Paul a meaningful explanation of the vile and racist newsletters published under his name years ago before reconsidering throwing his support back behind the man.

This is why I admire and appreciate Sullivan.  I think he is one of most honest and real thinkers and pundits of contemporary politics and society out there.

GOP Overreach in Congress

With the recent fiasco in the Congress about extending the Payroll Tax Cut, the American People are finally seeing how absurd the House GOP's behavior is when it comes anything having to do with Obama. When even the GOP threatens a tax hike just to spite the President, it is crystal clear that the GOP is not interested in anything other than destroying Obama, even if it means taking down the middle class with it.

When I hear the House GOP try to spin their opposition to the two month extension of the Payroll Tax Holiday, I am amazed at how lame their reasoning is and I marvel at how tone-deaf they sound.

Let's review the facts:

1. The House GOP said they wanted a year-long extension and that the 2-month extension is unacceptable. Well, from the very get-go, that's exactly what Obama wanted. But Obama couldn't get anyone in the GOP to agree on this extension because of disputes over how to pay for it. The ONLY possible solution was a temporary one that was fashioned by the Senate.

2. Speaking of the Senate's bill, it had clear and strong bi-partisan support, so the House opposition to that bill just made the GOP look out of sync and foolish.

3. The fact that the House GOP then had to devise a strategy to oppose the Senate bill without actually, you know, having the damn balls or convictions to actually vote against the bill, really made the House GOP look like it was sacrificing conviction for political expediency and made their efforts thus reek of political opportunism at the expense of political courage.

4. Then there's the provision in the temporary bill that requires the President to make an election year decision about the Keystone pipeline that could have been a wedge issue for the GOP against the President between two of the President's core constituencies: the Unions and the Environmentalists. The House GOP shenanigans completely undercut whatever advantage the Senate bill gave to the GOP in this regard. Now, even though I believe Obama is committed to making an early decision regarding Keystone, the headlines regarding passage of the Senate bill are not about this "victory" for the GOP, but about the caving of the House GOP and the triumph of Obama over them. The House GOP snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, all because of a petulant and visceral hatred of Obama.

5. And no matter what happens, every single Democrat can now add to their campaign arsenal an attack on the GOP as middle class tax advocates. As even Charles Krauthammer has noted:

The GOP’s performance nicely reprises that scene in “Animal House” where the marching band turns into a blind alley and row after row of plumed morons plows into a brick wall, crumbling to the ground in an unceremonious heap. 
With one difference: House Republicans are unplumed.
6. Folks on the left and the right often talk about "Derangement Syndrome" when it comes to opposing a political rival irrationally. Often times, this is nothimg more than a bit of hyperbole to make the other side look bad; but, in this instance, the House GOP really did look deranged in their opposition to this bill and really do looks as if their agenda is driven purely by hatred for Obama, even at the expense of their supposed antipathy to raising taxes under any circumstances.

And the rich irony of all this is that the Payroll Tax really does hit the working class harder that it does the wealthy because of the ceiling that is placed on income subject to the tax. Middle-class families would have their full income subject to this tax, whereas the wealthy would have only a portion of their full income subject to this tax. Taking a pound of flesh from someone weighing in at 120 lbs is going to be a much more damaging and serious excision than taking a pound of flesh from someone weighing in at a "healthy" 450 lbs, who won't even notice the loss much less suffer from it.

Gingrich Incompetence

How can anyone take Newt Gingrich (or Rick Perry, for that matter) seriously when both are so inept that they fail to qualify for the Virginia GOP primary? That's pretty darn huge. It means that even if Gingrich or Perry does well in the early primary states, the knowledge that they cannot add Virginia's delegates to their totals would be enough to keep any serious contender in the race. But above and beyond that, if Gingrich makes such a strategic blunder in the primary, what confidence does that inspire about his ability to manage a campaign in the general election or even to exercise competent leadership as the executive?

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Paddling" A Relic of the Past at St. Augustine

I know that there are many who disagree with the efforts to end the practice of corporal punishment at St. Augustine High School, including many whose opinions on a lot of things I respect; but I think the final agreement to ban paddling as a manner of discipline is the right course of action. I just don't think whipping a kid is a productive way to handle misbehavior. I just hope the St. Augustine community of alumni and supporters will be able to put the controversy behind them and move forward.

Glass Harp Tchaikovsky

I thought this was pretty amazing:

Blue Jay Fellowship

One of today's highlights was the Christmas lunch for the Jesuit High School Class of '86 graduates.  I, along with maybe some 25 other classmates, managed to get together at the Crescent City Steakhouse for a good meal and some great fellowship.

Not many people have good high school experiences; but I can say that high school for me represented some of the best years of my life.  I thoroughly enjoyed high school.  And that experience owes itself in no small part to the gentlemen who were my classmates.

Just about every one of these men are real stand up guys who with boundless goodness.  I am so fortunate  to count them among my friends and to be able to get together with them every so often to break bread and catch up with one another.

Thanks, '86 Blue Jays, for a great afternoon!

Here's a picture of the crew at the restaurant:


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Decline of RWN

One of the conservative blogs that I've been a more-or-less regular visitor to is John Hawkins' Right Wing News.  I started checking out RWN many years ago, when it was just starting out.  At the time, only John Hawkins was writing there, and his blog's look was fairly basic and simple.

John Hawkins himself is a decent writer for the most part.  He has a particular style that I find engaging and easy to respond to.  Now, that's not to say that I agree with Hawkins.  In fact, I vehemently disagree with about 98% of what the man writes.  And sometimes I find his blog incendiary and over-the-top reactionary.  That said, his blog has been a mainstay for my keeping abreast of what this particular rightwing community is saying.  And I've met some really smart and good people in the comment boards over there.

Over the past 6 months or so, I've stopped commenting at that site because of the unabashed censorship of any left-leaning, liberal commenters there.  Maybe it's toned down some since then, but the creep of groupthink there, and the penchant towards growing antipathy towards free expression of opposing viewpoints in comment threads is a shame.  His blog didn't used to be that way.

But that's not the most problematic thing with RWN these days.  I still visit the blog on occasion, though not nearly as regularly as I used to.  Now, John Hawkins maybe writes one or two postings a day.  It's become a kind of rightwing opinion aggregator with a cacophony of voices that make the blog incoherent.

Fewer and fewer people are commenting on the postings there; and, frankly, the blog contributors are not nearly as intellectually interesting and competent as Hawkins was.  If it's not William Teach embarrassing himself with his endless climate change denialist postings on "globull" warming, it's Warner Todd Houston blathering on about the latest obscure incident of some overzealous PC action on the part of some nobody (usually from Illinois).

As the blog's technical and visual structure got more complex and glitzy, the quality of the posting content got weaker and flimsier.  Now it comes across as just a place where rightwing reactionaries can just screech and moan and complain.  There's very little actual provocative thought being generated there by serious intellects.

It's quite a shame, actually.  But so be it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Week of Christmas Lunches

This week is filled with Christmas cheer and with lots of breaking bread with family and friends.

It starts today with a "Cousin's" lunch at Zea Rotisserie Grill on St. Charles Avenue.

Then Friday brings with it a Blue Jay Class of '86 Luncheon at the Crescent City Steak House.

Later on that evening, following a late afternoon Huck family photo shoot, the family will be gathering for a casual early evening dinner at Koz's.

Sometime in the midst of all this eating, I have to do a bit of shopping!

April Brayfield, RIP

May a wonderful colleague and a lovely person, April Brayfield, rest in peace.  She left us much too soon and the world is a poorer place for her absence.

One of April's signature gestures was to hood one of her doctoral students on the stage during the Graduate Commencement ceremony at Tulane, and then pull out her camera and take a picture of the newly-minted Ph.D. right then and there.  It made her students stand out and feel special, and I always thought it was a wonderful, kind, lovely gesture.

She will be missed.

15 Things That Even Conservatives Should Admit

Conservative blogger, John Hawkins, over at Right Wing News, recently put up a posting in which he laid out 15 statements, claimed that these statements are factual and uncontroversial, and then dared Liberals to disagree with them.  Of course, you can take a look at his 15 statements and you'll find that just about all of them are based on his opinion, are highly contestable, and are not really rooted in objective fact.  But, I'd like to throw the challenge back to him and his conservative minions and dare them to agree to the following statements:


1. Guns actually do kill living creatures, including people.  In fact, that's what they're designed to do.
2. There is no persecution of Christians in the United States.  This meme is both a myth and a lie.
3. Waterboarding is torture.
4. Two gay people getting married has zero impact on my own heterosexual marriage and it has zero impact on my personal religious faith.
5. The electoral college violates the one-person, one-vote concept by giving individual citizens in small population states disproportionate representation in presidential elections.
6. Intelligence is desirable and is a virtue.
7. Obama is a natural-born citizen of the United States.
8. The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime.
9. Liberal Americans are patriotic Americans.
10. Most people who voted for Obama did so for reasons other than his race, just as most people who voted against Obama did so for reasons other than his race.
11. Encouraging diversity and multiculturalism is a good thing.
12. Conservative approaches to illegal immigration are antithetical to free market principles when it comes to labor and thus are economically regressive policies.
13. Women not receiving equal pay for equal work is an injustice and thus requires remedy by state institutions.
14. The Obama administration found and killed Osama bin Laden.
15. The United States is a flawed country, and acknowledging these flaws is not treason.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Andrew Sullivan, Ron Paul, and the Future of the GOP

Andrew Sullivan thinks that Ron Paul offers the GOP the only shot at relevance for future generations. Sullivan has endorsed Ron Paul as his pick for the GOP nomination.

Though Andrew Sullivan can be very persuasive, I think he's backing a losing cause.  At root, I think Sullivan knows this; but I think he relishes a Paul/Obama encounter about the future of America in the campaigning for the 2012 Presidential Election.

It would be an interesting spectacle; but Obama will bury Paul.

Christmas Is All Around

One of my favorite all-time Christmas videos from one of my favorite all-time Christmas movies.  This version is the visually crispest one on YouTube, though it comes with some Polish gibberish at the bottom of the screen.  Anyway, enjoy!

Geaux Saints!

The Saints move to 11-3 with two games remaining.  If the 49ers lose to the Steelers tonight, then the Saints will control their own destiny.  If they win their last two games, it's a first round bye and a home playoff game.  Now that we know that Green Bay is not invincible, it's very possible that Green Bay could lose its first playoff game.  If that were to happen and if the Saints win, then we'll have the NFC Championship in the Superdome, too.  That's what I'd like to see.

But ... a bit disturbing still is the fact that the Saints could actually lose their Division to the Falcons.  So much rides on the Saints/Falcons Monday night matchup this coming week.

Regardless, Drew Brees will shatter the single season passing yardage mark.  All he needs is some 300+ passing yards over the next two weeks and he'll have the record.  And I think it's a good likelihood that he'll get that record this week in the Superdome against the Dirty Birds in front of a national audience on Monday night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Deliciousness of Irony: O'Donnell's Endorsement of Romney

This quote is just classic and oh-so-typical of Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell:

“That’s one of the things that I like about him [Romney]— because he’s been consistent since he changed his mind,” O’Donnell said.
Consistent since he changed his mind! And when he changes his mind tomorrow, he'll again be consistent until he changes it next week. Now, fairness leads me to say that I know what O'Donnell is trying to say. She's trying to get across the idea that people can change their opinions about issues and then demonstrate some conviction even about this changed opinion. But the way O'Donnell expresses this, the way she phrases it, makes her sound foolish. It's almost like she is incapable of even seeing the irony of such a statement before she makes it. And when you add this statement to the many other dimbulb, tone-deaf statements she's made, it only reaffirms her image of being a bit of a dunce. And I doubt that's what Romney wants to be associated with.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saints Path to the Superbowl: One Can Hope!

My ideal scenario is that the Saints secure the second spot in the NFC, which would give them a first round bye and a second round home game to propel them to the NFC Championship game, which will also be at home because Green Bay will lose their second round game.

Then the Saints play the Steelers in the Superbowl so that if the Saints lose the Superbowl, I won't be all that upset because I'm a Steelers fan, too.

But if the Saints make it to the Superbowl, and if their opponent happens to be the Steelers, I'm still going to don the Black and Gold Fleur-de-Lis come Superbowl Gameday.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Have the Saints Clinched a Spot in the Playoffs?

The New Orleans Saints (10-3) have clinched a spot in the playoff, even if they lose their next three games.

Here's how it breaks down.

The current NFC standings are as follows:

Green Bay Packers (13-0) - NFC North
San Francisco 49ers (10-3) - NFC West
New Orleans Saints (10-3) - NFC South
Atlanta Falcons (8-5) - NFC South
Detroit Lions (8-5) - NFC North
Dallas Cowboys (7-5) - NFC East
Chicago Bears (7-6) - NFC North
New York Giants (6-6) NFC East

Every other team in the NFC has only five wins and so none of them can catch up to the Saints to displace them for a Wild Card spot.  So of the top 8 NFC teams, six will make their way to the playoffs with either a Wild Card spot or a Division Title.  All the Saints have to do is to beat out two of these teams under any scenario and they are in the playoffs.  So let's see how it works out.

The Chicago Bears' loss today to the Denver Broncos was the critical piece of the puzzle for the Saints. The Bears are in the NFC North Division, so they have no chance to win their division, which is locked up by the Packers.  The best the Bears can hope for now is a Wild Card spot.  But the Bears' loss puts their record at 7-6.  So even if the Bears win out their last three games, that will put their record at 10-6, which would tie the Saints if the Saints lose out their next three games.  But, the Saints beat the Bears in Week 2, and this head-to-head victory gives the Saints the edge over the Bears according to the tie-breaker rules.  So, even if the Saints lose their final three games, they would go to the playoffs ahead of the Bears no matter what the Bears do over the final three weeks.  That eliminates one of the contenders.

The Dallas Cowboys (7-5) and the New York Giants (6-6) are currently playing and are vying for the NFC East Division title.  If the Cowboys defeat the Giants today, the Giants fall to 6-7.  That puts them four games behind the Saints.  So they can't get in the playoffs over the Saints as a Wild Card.  The only chance they will have to get into the playoffs is to win their division.  And the best record they can hope for is a 9-7 records.  If they win their division with a 9-7 record, it will mean that they have won out their last three games and that the Cowboys have lost at least two of their last three games to give them an equal or worse record.  If that's the case, then the Saints will win a Wild Card spot over any team in the NFC East because, even if the Saints lose out their last three games, they will still have a 10-6 record.  Now if the Giants defeat the Cowboys today, the Cowboys would fall to 7-6 and the Giants would rise to 7-6.  That would leave both the Cowboys and the Giants tied for the NFC East Division title, but each would still be three games behind the Saints.  So, in order for either the Giants or the Cowboys to claim a Wild Card spot over the Saints, the Saints would have to lose out their last three games and both the Cowboys and the Giants would have to win out their last three games.  But here's the kicker: the Giants and the Cowboys play again in the final week of the regular season, so it is impossible for both teams to go 10-6!  One team will go 10-6 and win the division, the other team would go 9-7 and fall behind the Saints for a Wild Card slot, even if the Saints lose out their final three games.  Thus the second team of the 8 playoff contenders affecting the Saints chances goes away. And even if the Giants and Cowboys win their next two games and tie in their final regular season matchup, they both would end up with a 9-5-1 record.  One of them would win the division and the other would fail to have enough wins to supplant the Saints for a Wild Card spot, even if the Saints lose their next three games and end up with a 10-6 record, for a Wild Card spot.  So, under any scenario in the NFC East, the Saints advance over one or the other of the Giants or the Cowboys no matter what the Giants or the Cowboys do.

Of course, that reality is likely to be much different than the worst-case scenario I painted above; but even in this worst-case scenario, the Saints still will go to the playoffs.  Geaux Saints!  Who Dat?!?!?

From the Archives: Taking on the Christian "Christmas Jihadists"

I posted this two years ago and it's worth repeating this Christmas season.  Some of the specific details refer to time-specific events that don't apply today, but the overall point is still very much relevant.  I wish the Christian "Christmas Jihadists" would just stop being scrooges about the holiday.  It makes them look both silly and "un-Christian."

************************************

OK. So, I received in an email from a well-meaning person the following re-interpretation of the classic Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas." In the spirit of taking on the Christian "Christmas jihadists" who think along these lines, I am now going to fisk this poem:

Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
If there's a Christian who is not praying, then I'd say that's the fault of the Christian himself. In this country, we are still free to pray as we see fit. In fact, there's a Catholic church directly across the street from my house, and I see Christians going in there every single day to pray. Of course, the implication that the author of this revisionist poem is trying to convey is that there is some external force out there somehow preventing Christians from either praying or taking a stand. I defy any Christian who engages in prayer or who even circulates this poem to prove it with actual evidence.
See the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - though no one could say.
The PC Police have "taken away" the reason for Christmas? I pity the Christian who believes this. It's the sign of an insecure and shallow faith. As I said when I responded to the person who sent me this poem through email: Isn't the reason for Christmas always the birth of Christ, regardless of whether people say this out loud or ram it down another's throat by force? Is faith such a fickle thing that the mere debate regarding state sanction of promoting the story of the birth of Christ is enough to take away the "reason for the season"? Well, hell, I guess there's just no point in being a Christian anymore, given that Christians no longer have the belief that Christmas celebrates Jesus' birth thanks to this phantom PC Police. Seriously, I have to say that it sounds pretty foolish for someone to say that anyone, much less this unidentifiable entity known as the PC Police, have taken away an individual's rationale for celebrating Christmas. Does the person who wrote this into the poem actually believe that he no longer has any reason to celebrate Christmas? No, of course not. What this person is really trying to say is that he laments not being able to force his faith, or have the state acquiesce to forcing his faith, onto others.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
Utter crap and lies. Heck, my own children sing about shepherds and wise men and angels and "things" all the time. And I don't know of a single school administrator or teacher who tells kids they can't sing Christmas carols. They just don't sing it in their public school classrooms because, you know, they sit next to Jewish and Buddhist and Muslim and Atheist kids and not everyone celebrates Christmas, and they don't go to public school for theological indoctrination. And, you know, my kids don't seem to mind all that much that they don't sing Christmas carols during the school day. They certainly don't come home complaining that their teachers don't make them sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful." They come home complaining that their teachers made them practice their spelling and made them learn their multiplication tables instead. And I'm glad about that, because that's why I send my kids to school. See, this is what kills me about the Christian "Christmas jihadists." They presume that because they can't do what they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want, the presumption is that they are prohibited from doing such things at all, anyplace. Instead, they claim "persecution" not because they are tortured for practicing their faith, but rather because they can't force their religion down the throats of everyone around them. In fact, tonight I'm taking my kids to their church (I'm Catholic, but my B-2/3 is Baptist, and my girls are growing up in my B-2/3's church) where we are all going to sing Christmas carols. [NOTE: My B-2/3, "Better Two-Thirds," is, of course, my wife.] And last year, we actually went around the neighborhood of the Church singing Christmas carols to anyone who cared to listen. About two weeks ago, my youngest daughter, who sings in the New Orleans Children's Chorus, had a Christmas concert where they sang all kinds of religiously-themed Christmas songs. And one can turn on the radio the day after Thanksgiving and hear people singing Christmas songs 24-7 for an entire month!! Anyone who claims that he can't sing Christmas carols is a lying liar who lies. And anyone who demands that his kids need to sing Christmas carols in "public" school has a warped sense of what public schools should be about. If people want their kids to sing Christmas carols, then they can sign their kids up for the local chorus like my wife and I did, or they can send them to schools where singing Christmas carols is part of the deal.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a "Holiday".
I am always astounded at the utter lack of charity contained in this mantra, which I hear a lot from the Christian "Christmas jihadists." I'd like anyone who professes to live a Christian life and who hopes to manifest the Christian example to tell me what is intrinsically wrong with wishing not to hurt peoples' feelings or what is intrinsically negative about wishing people a "happy holiday"? What harm does it do to any Christian, and the fundamentals of his faith, to wish someone a "happy holiday" so as to avoid any offense to the person on the receiving end whose belief systems he does not know? By all means, if you know someone celebrates Christmas, wish him or her a "Merry Christmas." If you are unsure, what harm is there in simply wishing that person a happy holiday? These Christian "Christmas jihadists" act as if someone's "happy holiday" greeting is akin to being cussed out. Sheesh!
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
What? Aren't the Christians who celebrate Christmas the ones who engage in such crass consumerism at this time of the year?
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now, I don't know about what the person who composed this poem sees out there in the retail world during this time of the year; but retailers still market Christmas with a vengeance. And, in fact, it's rare to see anything at all being promoted to celebrate Ramadan and Kwanzaa. But, hey, even if retailers were to abandon Christmas for other religious holidays, that still has nothing to do with any individual's right to practice and celebrate his own religion. It amazes me how much these Christian "Christmas jihadists" measure their faith (and their freedom to practice such faith) by how retailers choose to market and sell stuff during the Christmas season. But I guess when you have certain segments of Christianity promoting this Prosperity Gospel voodoo, it's no wonder that faith for these people is so wrapped up in such materialism. And I have to laugh at the fact that anyone would be truly intimidated by the words "inclusive, sensitive, and Di-ver-si-ty." I find it equally ironic that someone feeling so intimidated by words would be proposing the very use of words to intimidate others. It's like the person is saying: "Hey, if you get offended by the words "Merry Christmas" -- too bad! I'm not only going to force you to hear them, but I'm also going to try to get the state to promote my faith wherever you show your face. So, take that, you multicultural twit." Nope, no use of words with the intention to intimidate others, right?
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
Notice that every single politician or pundit mentioned here and throughout is recognized as a liberal or a Democrat. This is nothing short of a bald-faced piece of ideological propaganda that seeks to politicize Christmas and make it a partisan issue. I don’t think Christ would approve of using his birth and life as a partisan commentary.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
Again, I have to wonder what is it about the faith of these people that makes it so fickle. What kind of faith's very life depends upon having Wal-mart put up a "Merry Christmas" sign? Notice how these Christian "Christmas jihadists" never assume responsibility or ownership of their own faith. Instead, their faith is somehow at the discretion and whim of the behavior of someone or something else! They see faith as something that not only can be taken from them, but can be done so simply by having a Wal-mart not put up a "Merry Christmas" sign. How pathetic is that?
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS ,
not Happy Holiday!!!
Folks, Christians, please do not listen to this joker. Here is a person who thinks that some people celebrating "Winter Break," sipping on a Starbucks (WTF?!?!?!? Is that some kind of dig at effete liberal urbanites?), and disposed to give a cheerful "Happy Holiday" greeting is somehow engaging in an evil, sinister act. No, my good Christian faith-mates, do not listen to this crank. I doubt Christ, the so-called "reason of the season," would look askance at kindness, charity, and sensitivity to the feelings and beliefs of others over something as innocuous as how you express a cheerful greeting.

It is finished! Now, I will put the killjoy Christian "Christmas jihadists" out of my mind and go about having a jolly, happy holiday in the way that I like to. I wish the same for you. Happy Holiday!

Final GOP Debate Reaction

I admit to watching the debate. Entertaining at points and mostly vacuous, I thought.

I have a few quick thoughts right now:

1. Diane Sawyer was insufferable as a debate moderator. She droned on and on at times as if she were the expert professor letting her minion students have a shot at demonstrating their nascent, but still developing knowledge.

2. The comments about Israel by some of the candidates I found to be both surprising and unsettling. To me, the thrust of these comments was to give Israel and Netanyahu a kind of patriotic loyalty that sometimes seemed to be more passionately expressed and held than even their patriotic loyalty to the United States. It is clear that these candidates have more loyalty to Netanyahu than to even their own President. And, frankly, there's nothing Obama has done to warrant such derisiveness. Obama has often and unambiguously expressed his unwavering commitment to and support for Israel and Israeli democracy. And contextualizing this support in a broader and more pragmatic Middle East policy is not selling out Israel at all. It's articulating a foreign policy aligned with broader U.S. interests that are distinct from more narrow Israeli national interests.

3. Newt Gingrich is petulant, pompous, and mean. Maybe some on the conservative right wing will love him for it; but I predict, should he be the GOP nominee, that it will turn a lot of independents off in the general election campaign. It will also mobilize Democratic turnout much more than a Romney candidacy would. I think he is just unelectable.

4. The only person who can measure up to Obama is Romney in terms of electability. And I'm pretty convinced that Romney won't get the nomination. Conservatives just don't like him. And his jaw-dropping $10,000 bet offer with Perry was not only tone deaf to the economic hardships of these times, but also generally unseemly. Heck, even Perry was a bit dumbstruck at this moment.

5. Michele Bachmann was so desperate to stay in the hunt that her earnestness just came across as too much of desperation.

6. And watch out for Ron Paul! He could be an underdog upset winner in Iowa.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Honey Badger Mathieu

For the sports blogging tri-fecta today, I have to comment on the presence of LSU defensive back and punt returner Tyrann Mathieu (a.k.a. The Honey Badger) in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

As a lukewarm LSU Tigers fan, I don't really care all that much for what Mathieu's status as a finalist means for the football program overall; but I am really happy for Mathieu individually.

He's a local New Orleans guy who prepped at St. Aug high school.  Anyone from the New Orleans Catholic League who makes it to Heisman finalist consideration makes all the rest of us who played in this league feel proud.

But outside of that, the young man just simply deserved the recognition for his amazing play over the season.  Frankly, his one-man show against Georgia in the SEC Championship game last week, a show which really turned the game around in LSU's favor, was enough in-and-of-itself to warrant a Heisman nomination.

But above all, the fact that he has earned the nickname of the Honey Badger just takes the cake!  I love his exposure at the national level and as a Heisman candidate just for that:



And the YouTube that sparked it all from the beginning:



Heh! You go, Honey Badger! Get that Heisman!

The Hornets and the Chris Paul Trade

Another big news item in the Sports world is the hoopla surrounding the proposed and then nixed trade of Hornets star guard Chris Paul.

My reaction: meh!

Really, I couldn't care less.  For some reason, I've never taken to the professional basketball world.  I don't follow Hornets basketball.  My interest in the NBA is only a passing interest.  And so, frankly, I really don't care one way or the other if Chris Paul stays or goes.  In fact, I really don't care one way or the other if the Hornets stay or go.

So upchucketh the Huck!

Tulane's New Football Stadium

The end of the fall semester and the crush of grading always means a little bit of a drop in the regularity of blog postings, but I do need to catch up to keep up with my blogging "self-nudge".  The good thing is that there are some really interesting things happening.  One of these was the recent announcement by the higher-ups at Tulane of plans to rebuild an on-campus football stadium.  What do I think of this?

I have mixed feelings, but on balance I think I support the effort.  The pros outweigh the cons as I see it.  Let me review my thinking here.

1. PRO: Having a football stadium on campus will undoubtedly go a long, long way to reviving school spirit and a festive campus culture.  That it takes a varsity football program with an on-campus stadium to do this is just the way it is.  But it will do the campus community some good to have a re-invigorated school spirit.

2. CON: There will be a much greater emphasis on football and the athletic program in general which will cut into the attention that much of our academic programming needs.  On the one hand, we keep admitting more and more students, while we also keep thinning the academic resources needed to support the students in both their education and their campus social/living environment.  It is a shame, at least to me, that we can easily raise $40 million for a stadium, but raising a fraction of that for academic programming is like pulling teeth.  This is especially troublesome because Tulane is not a school that turns a blind eye to higher academic standards in order to accommodate a vibrant and competitive Division I athletic program.  And with the hopes that this new stadium will bring for success on the football field, I do believe that there will be significant downward pressure on maintaining high academic standards for the top athletes that having a football team worthy of the stadium will require.

3. PRO:  Again, the unfortunate fact is that the $40 million raised for the stadium is not $40 million that could have been raised for any other purpose.  Some donors and alumni are willing to open their pocketbooks for a stadium and won't do so for other things.  I find this a sad commentary, but it is what it is.  However, where this is likely to make a difference is in the residual fundraising effects.  That $40 million may help to generate more interest in the university as a whole, which might improve fundraising and development prospects in other non-athletic environments down the road that wouldn't have materialized otherwise.

4. CON: No question that the stadium will only be a net plus if it draws people to campus for gameday and other events held there.  This inevitably means a great big headache for the campus and the neighborhood that is already starved for adequate parking space and is already subject to heavy traffic congestion.  The area of New Orleans around Tulane will just not be an easy place for motorists to navigate on game days.

5. PRO: The stadium is also being made available to support high school football and other community events.  Uptown New Orleans and its public schools, not to mention the City's Recreation Department, will really benefit from the use of the new Tulane stadium if access to the stadium will really be as available to them as the university administration has promised.

These are just some of my thoughts.  But I guess it boils down to the fact that I am a football aficionado, and so I can't help but have a soft spot for anything that will make Tulane football more appealing and enjoyable.  The next question is whether or not I'll take the plunge and get season tickets.  I'm thinking yes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

That Other Football Situation

Oh, yeah.  I should probably say something about LSU and the BCS fiasco.

Before I declare my position here, let me just note that I have no real dogs in this fight.

Sure, I'm from Louisiana, so one would expect me to lean in favor of the home state's team.  However, one must remember that I have long-time loyalties to Tulane University, and so my passion for the LSU Tigers is somewhat tempered.

I think it's also noteworthy to mention that I grew up idolizing the "Bear" Bryant at the University of Alabama and was a huge Crimson Tide fan in my younger years.  Though my passion for the Crimson Tide has also waned over the years.  I think it's probably that as the SEC has become so dominant in College football, and as more of the local folks here have become obsessed with SEC football, I've gone somewhat contrarian.  I just think there's something unhealthy about the kind of obsessive attachment to college football that seems to be so pervasive in the South.

As for Oklahoma State, I really have no particular feelings one way or the other.

Anyway, all this is to say that my take on the constitution of the BCS College Championship game has to be understood in this context.  In fact, I think I probably have a pretty dispassionate and somewhat objective opinion.

What I think is that Oklahoma State should be playing LSU for the National Championship, even though I think Alabama is probably the better team when stacked up against Oklahoma State.

I say this because there's something not right about a rematch game when Oklahoma State hasn't had the chance to play either Alabama or LSU.

In conclusion, I think the solution should be some kind of a playoff system at the college level.  I've thought this before and this current BCS fiasco is yet another unexpected and certainly not ideal outcome.

Saints Update

A couple weeks ago, I took Squirrelly Girlie the Younger to the New Orleans Public Library Children's Resource Center Branch and bumped into Jeff from the Library Chronicles, who happens to work there.  As we were checking out SG the Younger's book selection, we conversed a bit about the Saints and I asked him what his prediction for the Monday night game with the Giants was.  He demurred and said he was likely going to make a game day call.

I expressed how confident I felt in the Saints' performance and how good I thought it looked for the Saints going into the final stretch.

Jeff wasn't so sanguine, even though he hoped that I was right.

Well, so far, it turns out that my optimism wasn't misplaced.  The Saints walloped the Giants that Monday night; and won pretty decisively, albeit somewhat ugly, against the Lions this past Sunday.  That's two Conference victories, which will help the Saints should they catch up with the 49ers for 2nd place in the Conference and a first round bye.  At least the Saints are keeping pace with the 49ers and have put some distance between themselves and the Falcons in their own NFC division.

If the Saints win against the Tennessee Titans on the road this coming week, their lock on the Division title will be pretty much secured (even if not a hard lock certainty).

In any case, I hope Jeff is feeling a bit more sanguine about the Saints!  I know I'm feeling pretty darn good about the Black and Gold!

Two Worst Physical Ailments

I've said it before and I'll say it again ... The two worst experiences of pain that I have ever had are (1) toothache and (2) backache.  Two days ago, I threw out my lower back.  Not sure what the heck happened.  I was doing some sanding on the front of my house and after I quit and was relaxing in the easy chair, something must have happened because as soon as I moved to get out of the easy chair, my back had stiffened and gotten sore.  I didn't feel anything snap or pop.  It was just sore.

That was two days ago and it has only gotten worse.  It's such that I can just barely walk.  I think I may have a slipped disc or something along those lines.

I haven't been to see the doctor yet, but I can feel that this is where I'm headed.

What a bad time for this to happen.  It's the last week of classes and final exams are approaching.  Not to mention that the Christmas season is here, which means lots of Nutcracker dance performances to attend.

I hope I can get some relief soon.

Toothaches and backaches.

And I'm dealing with one of those now.  Bummer.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's "Mr. Heat Miser"

A pretty good version of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's version of the song "Mr. Heat Miser" rendered pretty expertly to the original cartoon. Enjoy:

 

9th Annual TUCLA

That's Tulane Undergraduate Conference on Latin America (TUCLA).

Which is taking place pretty much all day tomorrow on Tulane University's campus.

It's always a great event and very exciting to see our senior majors in Latin American Studies present their major research projects from the Capstone Seminar.

More information here.

If you're in the area, have an interest, and can drop by for a session or two, please do: you are most welcome.

But, above all, congratulations to the students for their intellectual achievements that brought them to tomorrow's events.

See y'all there.

Top 10 Christmas Movies

I've run this in years past, and I'm running it again now. Nothing has surfaced since last Christmas to warrant a change in my rankings.

Here's The Huck Upchuck's Top 10 Christmas Movies of all time:

10. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey -- This may not be on par with some of the better full-length feature films that treat Christmas, but I have always adored this little 22 minute Bass/Rankin animated Christmas story. I guess it's thematically of a piece with the classic "Little Drummer Boy" Bass/Rankin animated short, but I like it better because it's not as well known and gives the animals of the Christmas story their moment. And who can forget: "Ears, Nestor!" :-) This is the only Bass/Rankin animated production that I'll include in my list, though there are certainly some more classics in this bunch of Christmas shorts that entertain the little ones every Christmas season. Honorable mentions in this category of "claymation" Christmas classics include The Year Without a Santa Claus, which features the Heat Miser, the Cold Miser, and Mother Nature, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

9. Barbie in the Nutcracker -- Given that I have two young daughters, it's hard not to find room for something like this in the Top 10 list. However, I have to say that this is actually quite a very impressive digital computer animated adaptation of the Nutcracker story. It's the first of these Barbie movies, and I remember thinking how graphically stunning it was at the time. The music and the dancing scenes in this version of the Tchaikovsky-scored Ballet are also quite good. None of the many subsequent Barbie animation movies compares in both production quality and plotline development as this original one. If you can overlook the whole Barbie culture and how it crafts an unrealistic and idealistic notion of female beauty, you can find a little gem of a Christmas movie here.

8. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas -- This charming muppet musical Christmas story from Jim Hensen conjures nostalgic Christmas memories for me. It is filled with all the great Christmas themes of selflessness, love, family, and friendship. It's not as technically slick as some of our modern day animation and muppetry, but it was a masterpiece of its day. I just love the sweetness and wholesomeness of this lovely little story, and the tunes are catchy and fun. Heck, even the bad guys in this story, the Riverbottom Boys Gang, have their own redeeming charm. Another little interesting tidbit to note is that the actors who provide the voices for Emmet Otter and his jug band friends also provide the voices for the characters in the Riverbottom Boys gang. It's fun to try and identify the alter egos in these two groups. Yes, there are times when the puppetry is so noticeable that it distracts from the story, but I am always struck by how few these moments are. For families with kids 12-yrs-old and younger, this Jim Hensen masterpiece should be a Christmas standard.

7. The Nativity Story - While I found The Nativity Story to be a bit superficial and overly simplistic, it is perhaps the best effort that I've seen to portray the nativity story on film with somewhat of a realistic feel, even though I think its pretensions to realism cynically mask what is essentially a romanticized and imaginary representation of history. The script is perhaps the weakest element of this movie, and the plotline is thin and incomplete in parts; and, unfortunately, the scene where a laboring Mary and Joseph arrive at Nazareth and make their way to the manger for the climactic birth of Jesus is so surreal that it almost sinks the realist believability of the whole movie. Nevertheless, it gets my recommendation for effort and for its undeniably impressive cinematography, not to mention the subtle beauty of actress Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary and the wonderful performance of Ciaran Hinds as Herod.

6. The Polar Express -- This slick, cgi animated telling of the classic train-to-the-north-pole story merits a place in my top ten because it is visually stunning cgi animation. The storyline is 100% pure Christmas spirit -- of giving, friendship, and faith. I originally thought that the movie would be too saccharine for me and would wear off after the initial viewing and captivating animation "honeymoon" period. However, I found this not to be the case. Every time I'm in a room and this show is on the TV screen, I find myself drawn to it, less so for the visuals and moreso for the storyline. Most of the kids are slight caricatures, and it really is an unabashed feel-good movie, but it all tends to work in the end. I think this movie will become part of the classic Christmas movie lineup.

5. A Christmas Carol -- Of the numerous versions of this Dickens classic Christmas tale that exist, and that I have seen, the one that I find to be the most moving, best directed, and most skillfully acted is the 1984 version produced for TV starring George C. Scott. What I love about this particular version is that George C. Scott's Ebeneezer Scrooge is so understated. Unlike the Scrooge one sees in almost all other productions, Scott's Scrooge is not the caricatured heartless and unreflective miser that experiences an over-dramatic conversion. Scott's Scrooge is a troubled and conflicted soul, wracked by regrets, who hardens his heart principally as a mechanism of avoiding pain and disappointment. His greed and vindictiveness are not really central to his character. They exist, but they are sidebars to the real roots of his anti-social behavior. And his conversion does not come from fear, but rather from an awareness and eventual acceptance of his brokenness as a human, and that this brokenness is not unique and can be repaired. What I also like about Scott's Scrooge is that his "converted" character is softer, but still retains some of his gruff and troubled edges. In other words, when Christmas day dawns, he's not a completely different and unrecognizable Scrooge, as is so often portrayed, just a more vulnerable and human Scrooge, willing to open up, share, and smile.

4. Miracle on 34th Street -- I prefer the classic 1947 movie starring Natalie Wood as the little girl and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. There is something about the 1940s that makes the telling of this tale of belief in Santa resonate much more powerfully than the more recent 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough. The simplicity of the Christmas message, the lack of pretense in the characters, the absence of a post-modern angst about the meaning of Christmas all make the 1947 movie such a joy to watch. What is interesting, I think, is that this particular movie takes on much, much better the alienation that has come with the creeping materialism of the holiday season than any other modern efforts. It's a refreshing, clean, wholesome and inspiring film. And its relevance to the contemporary Christmas environment is still very much real.

3. A Christmas Story -- One's top 10 Christmas movies list would never be complete without this classic included somewhere in the list. For me, this story ranks up there with the best of them. Maybe it's because I'm a guy and this film is really about little boys at Christmas. Ralphie's daydreams are hilarious, especially his "A+++++++++++" essay daydream. And who can forget the irony of the "You'll shoot your eye out!" admonition that actually almost happens. As a parent, I can't say that I'm thrilled about the fact that Ralphie creates the whopper lie that "the Icicle did it" when his Red Rider BB Gun almost puts his eye out, and then gets away with it! But, hey, what little boy hasn't gone down this path? I do, however, feel obliged to issue a warning to parents, though. This movie is marketed as suitable for Children, but beware that there are some really rough, uncensored moments of strong profanity here. It's a movie that is very much politically incorrect, so some might find some of the humor a bit much. But, if taken in the right spirit, it can make for an enjoyable film experience.

2. Love, Actually -- I just love, love, love this modern British movie. It's not really about Christmas, but it takes place around the Christmas season, and its theme is about the mundane beauty of love. The different vignettes are wonderfully done, and the cast is star-studded and stellar. What I particularly like about it is that not all of the stories have a happy ending, but all of them are about love in the Christmas season. Bill Nighy's irreverent performance is absolutely fantastic, and the proposal scene between Colin Firth's character and his Portuguese beauty is so classically romantic that I can watch it over and over and over again, and never get tired of it. And the fact that I know a bit of Portuguese helps me better appreciate the moment. Oh ... I get all wound up just thinking about all the dramas in this movie. I could go on and on about it. And, though I could have done without the sappy kiddie-crush subplot, even this, with some screening of the some fo the more adult scenes, makes it something even the tweens could enjoy. I should say, though, that there are some adult moments, and not all of the film is appropriate for young people, even tweens. For instance, one of the story lines features two characters who are stand-in doubles for what is apparently a porn film, and their scenes often involve nudity and sexually explicit actions, though the relationship itself is ironically sweet and innocent, which makes the contrast with the porn thing all the more stark. Overall, though, I think this film is just fantastic, and the message of love, in all its complex messiness and varied context, can't be beat. Highly recommended, but with appropriate caution when youngsters are involved.

1. It's a Wonderful Life -- I don't care how cheesy, overplayed, and overdramatized some think this movie is, it's still the best Christmas story out there. And I still get all choked up every time I see that last scene when everyone shows up and showers George Bailey with more money than he could ever need to resolve his dilemma. As an actor and person, Jimmy Stewart is one of the best. And Lionel Barrymore's portrayal of the villain, Henry F. Potter, is more classic Scrooge than Scrooge himself!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What About Chris Christie?

Try as I might to dislike the guy, I just can't.  As far as Republicans go, he's one of the very few who I can honestly say not only doesn't give me the willies, but who is actually endearing to me.



It's this kind of sanity and reason that is all too rare among the GOP these days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Faith, Prayer, and the Opiate of the Masses

I think it was Karl Marx who called Religion the opiate of the masses.  And I've always wondered why that was such a bad thing to say and why people of faith would get so worked up by this Marxian meme.

Sometimes, actually, I find peace in the idea of Religion being an opiate.

At the very least, even if there is no God and even if religious faith is an exercise in self-delusion, prayer and faith provide comfort.

I don't see what's so bad about that.

If prayer and faith provide even a temporary respite from the existential despair that Kierkegaard called the "Sickness  Unto Death," how can that be something unworthy of embracing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What My Kids Are Listening To: "Wobble Baby" by V.I.C.

I admit to liking this, too. Has the feel of a good Sunday football motivator for the city of New Orleans. Reminds me a bit of the "Stand Up and Get Crunk" phenomenon from a couple years ago:

 

Blue Jays State Football Title Hopes Dashed

The Carencro Golden Bears were just too big, too strong, and too fast on offense for the Blue Jay defense. No knocks against the Blue Jays. They played fabulously and admirably. In fact, the Blue Jays played well above what anyone would have expected of them. Hats off to Carencro, and three cheers for the Blue Jays who had one hell of a season and who have nothing at all to be ashamed of.

Dirty War Atrocities in Argentina

Forget the thousands of "disappeared" and tortured.  What, to me, is the most insidious and most evil of the behaviors of the military regime was the practice of killing the parents of newborns and then adopting the newborns in the households of the parent-killers themselves.

For a chilling story, read that of Victoria Montenegro, who was raised by Lt. Col. Hernan Tetzlaff, the man who killed her parents.

And even more shocking is that the Argentine Catholic hierarchy fully supported this family destroying and life disrespecting practice:

Priests and bishops in Argentina justified their support of the government on national security concerns, and defended the taking of children as a way to ensure they were not “contaminated” by leftist enemies of the military, said Adolfo PĂ©rez Esquivel, Nobel Prize-winning human rights advocate who has investigated dozens of disappearances and testified at the trial last month.

Ms. Montenegro contended: “They thought they were doing something Christian to baptize us and give us the chance to be better people than our parents. They thought and felt they were saving our lives.”

Church officials in Argentina and at the Vatican declined to answer questions about their knowledge of or involvement in the covert adoptions.
Why would the Vatican decline to answer such questions? Yet another reason why I'm an Exodus Catholic.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Intellectual Hand Grenades

I had a wonderful time yesterday at my brother's home for the family Thanksgiving.  For one, a number of my work colleagues and some Posse scholars came over to celebrate with the Hucks.  I think everyone had a great time and I am always so proud of my family and how welcoming everyone is to strangers who may be far away from their own families and who may otherwise be spending Thanksgiving day without a traditional Thanksgiving experience.

But, towards the end of the afternoon, I was involved in an interfamilial theological and philosophical debate with my nieces and nephews.  Whereas in the past, my debate competitors were my siblings and cousins and parents and aunts/uncles, this time my debate competitors were the youthful high schoolers of the next generation.  All four of them attend Catholic high schools and are very much committed enmeshed in the basic theological concepts that they are taught -- in a somewhat orthodox and unquestioning manner, if you ask me.

In any event, I decided to stir the pot a little bit and so I brought up the subject of God's nature as an "all-powerful" and "all-knowing" being.  My arguments, which I've given lots of thought to over the years and which I've discussed on this very blog at times, center around the notions of the radical powerlessness of God and the limits to God's knowledge.  It threw these young minds for a bit of a loop, though I was impressed with how thoughtful and critically engaged they were with the topic.  None of them agreed with me, which is fine, but I think I did rattle some cognitive processes.  What I think the Catholic Church needs more of is critical thought and what it needs less of is blind acceptance to "revealed truth" and the very human authority behind such revelations.  I'm all for a little heterodoxy in the midst of a uncritically examined and powerful orthodoxy.  So, let's see where these open gates in the minds of these young thinkers now lead them to.  My hope is not that this examination process leads people away from their convictions, but rather strengthens and deepens them through the full exercise of the critical thinking capacity that God has given to us.

Hope you had a thoughtful Thanksgiving, too!

MBH Pottery at the Palmer Park Arts Market: Tomorrow, Saturday, November 25

Well, it's once again that time of the month when my lovely bride will again be out at the Palmer Park Arts Market setting up her booth to sell her pottery. The market will be running tomorrow, Saturday, November 25, from 10am-4pm. My B-2/3 has been hard at work all month and has added significantly to her inventory of pieces. So, even though the weather looks to be a bit iffy, if you want to support a great cause and pick up some wonderful pieces of handmade, high quality pottery as wedding gifts, birthday presents, early Christmas or Hannukah gifts, or any other kind of gift, please do come out to the Arts Market this Saturday at Palmer Park on the corner of Claiborne and Carrollton Avenues and look her up. Of course, as usual, Michele will also be doing live demonstrations at her pottery wheel, so please come out, enjoy the market, and stop by to visit Michele to see how pots are thrown (and hopefully not at you!)

Go Blue Jays!

The Jesuit Blue Jays square off in the state quarterfinal playoffs against a big Carencro team.  I had the chance to spend Thanksgiving yesterday with my nephew who is a starting offensive lineman for the Blue Jays.  And he went over the Blue Jays game plan with me.  I think it's a winning game plan, but I won't reveal it!  Good luck to the Jays and I'll see them tonight at Tad Gormley Stadium for the 7pm kickoff.

The JHS Class of '86 (my graduating class) is occupying a section of the stadium seats to support the team as an alumni group.  I'm expecting a fine class alumni turnout and showing.  Go Blue Jays!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mitt Romney's Deceptive Campaigning

There is a difference between hard-scrabble campaigning and outright misrepresentation and lying.  Mitt Romney has run his first campaign ad specifically attacking President Obama, and in that ad he outright lies about Obama's positions.  To give you a sense of Romney's tactic, the following clip is an example of what Romney would have to consider to be a fair and accurate representation of his own positions:



Yep, Romney actually said every single one of these things.  But it is offensive to pass off these things out of context to give the impression that this is what Romney actually believes.  Yet, that's exactly the kind of treatment of Obama that is included in Romney's ad.  He should be ashamed of himself.

College Football Playoff System

John DeShazier has a great article in today's Times-Picayune about the logic behind instituting a College Playoff series.  All of the scenarios involving the next few weeks of games in the SEC basically lead to a less-than-ideal outcome for the BCS Championship game.  It could even be that two teams will be playing for a National Championship without even having won their Conference Championship game.  The fact that this is even possible is absurd on its face.  Anyway, check it out.  And then get on the College Playoff bandwagon with me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Illegal Immigration and "Magnets"

I guess it's becoming a conservative meme that the U.S. shouldn't be creating "magnets" that draw undocumented migrants to the labor force of the United States.  I'm pretty sure that these folks think of "magnets" as things like the DREAM Act or Comprehensive Immigration Form.  But these things are not magnets at all -- they're simply responses to the reality that undocumented immigrants are here in our country and that there are strong economic forces that draw them here.

And it's precisely these strong economic forces that are the true "magnet" -- the demand for skilled and unskilled cheaper labor.  And I wonder how these GOP candidates hope to eliminate that magnet! Because if they do succeed in making the U.S. economy a place that isn't the envy of every worker in the world, we'll be in a heap more trouble than we currently are!

This brings me to a comment on Michele Bachmann's absurd reference to that Steve Jobs comment on outsourcing jobs to China.  What makes the outsourcing of such jobs attractive is that these highly skilled workers are coerced by the Chinese government (and the corporate CEOs who have no problem with the Chinese government's authoritarian control over the labor market) to work for a pittance.  If Michele Bachmann gives a green card to all the highly-skilled Chinese software developers and programming engineers to come make their living in the US working for Apple, I promise you these Chinese green card holders are going to demand much higher salaries, which will propel Apple to go right on back to China for cheaper labor all the while we'll have more unemployed highly-skilled green card holders from China who will have to resort to washing dishes or picking grapes, if not waiting in the unemployment lines.

Rick Perry on "Intelligence Failure"

Rick Perry thinks that the Obama administration has manifested an absolute "intelligence" failure when it comes to combatting terrorism?

Well, let's just forget about the fact that Obama took out Bin Laden and swept up the biggest intelligence treasure trove probably in the history of the War on Terror, and, since he brought up the subject, focus on the simple concept of "intelligence"

All I have to say to Perry when it comes to an "intelligence" failure is one word: "Oops."

Ingram, Ivory, Thomas, and Sproles

All four are super-talented running backs and specialty playmakers, and all of them are healthy for the first time this season.  This is a great problem for the Saints to have.

I feel really good about the Saints at this point in the season.  They are one game ahead of Atlanta in their Conference, and have the edge over Atlanta in a tie-breaker having beaten the Dirty Birds earlier in the season.  When they play the Giants on Monday night in the Superdome, they will have come off of a bye week that will have afforded them more than two weeks worth of rest.  Four of their last six games are at home.  They are in the best position to make a sustained run not only for their conference title, but also to challenge the 49ers for a bye week, especially since one of their home games is against the 49ers.

When it comes to the probability of post-season play, the Saints are in a good place.

Super Committee Failure: Win for Obama?

I think so.  Obama can (and is) distancing himself from an unpopular Congress all the while painting the Republicans as intransigent on the revenue side of the "compromise" negotiations.  That can only be good for Obama.  Besides which, his very clear intent to exercise a veto if the Congress tries to weasel its way out of its own impotence by "renegotiating" the trigger is a little bit of brilliance, if you ask me.

Whatever I might think about which side is responsible for the Super Committee's failure, I certainly don't think Congress has the capacity to come up with a compromise.  And now they've boxed themselves into a corner with the default trigger likely to kick in.

Although this means heavy cuts to entitlement programs and the defense budget, we should also not forget that it also means the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

And this is where I think it gets really good for Obama.  I think Obama will campaign as if the Bush tax cuts will certainly expire, and that he will respond to the expiration of the tax cuts by putting forward his own plan that will maintain these cuts for any individual making $200,000 or less (or any family making $250,000) and letting the cuts expire for those earning more than this.  He will also note how far this will go towards reducing the deficit.

In short, the failure of the Super Committee gives Obama plausible cover for steep cuts to entitlement programs in his veto of any legislation seeking to weasel out of the trigger; and that cover gives him leverage to campaign on his willingness to make deep cuts towards controlling the deficit.  Furthermore, by holding the Congress to the trigger, Obama gets to highlight his alternative plan to further reduce the deficit by having the Bush tax cuts expire and championing a stand alone middle class tax cut in its place that will be hard for Congressional Republicans, and the Republican nominee for President, to oppose.

As Andrew Sullivan would say: "Meep, meep!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Abuse of Power

Watch Campus Police at the University of California, Davis, pepper spray a completely peaceful and unarmed group of Occupy Davis protesters on the University Campus.



There's just no excuse for this type of authoritarian behavior.  It was completely unprovoked.  The campus police were never in any danger and were never threatened by these students.  The President/Chancellor (or whatever she's called) should be fired.

But what's even more absurd is the fact that if the police and University administration had just ignored these students, they would have set up their tents for a few days, had their say, gotten bored, and packed up shop.  Now, the university has to contend with a national incident.

Going to see "Grease"

With Squirrelly Girlie the Elder this evening. Performance of the Musical Stage Production is by the Tulane University Newcomb Department of Music and the Summer Lyric Theater.

Squirrelly Girlies on TV

Dancing in "Jingle Bell Rock" for the Children's Dance Theatre.  Squirrelly Girlie the Elder gets a bit of face time.  She's in the white outfit with a white side feather headpiece in her hair (at about the 38 second mark). And Squirrelly-Girlie the Younger is the little blur of yellow in the back row:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blue Jays Win Again

49 to 20 against East St. John High School in the second round of the playoffs.  This puts the Blue Jays in the quarterfinals against either Ouachita or Carencro.  The Blue Jays started off slowly, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter; but then they made a strong statement by scoring 21 unanswered points in the last 8 minutes of the second quarter.  And they carried that momentum into the locker room and on the field for the entire second half.  My nephew Jacob, a junior, had another stellar game as a starting offensive guard. Congratulations to the Blue Jays!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The New Orleans Saints

Are 7-3 and leading their division now by a game and a half.  I have to say that the last 7 minutes of the Atlanta game brought back that feeling that all Saints fans are familiar with, and which Hokie Gajan so aptly put: only the Saints can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

That sinking feeling of games slipping away in the last moments was all too real for all too long.

But, what separates the Saints of the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era is that it dares us to believe the opposite.  Even when momentum shifts and it looks like the Saints will let a game get away from them, there's always the likelihood that these Saints will reach down deep and pull up something to earn a win.

That 4th down stop in overtime is just what we Saints fans have come to hope and believe is possible.

Geaux Saints!  And Who Dat?!

Glee

The entire Season 2 is now available on Netflix instant viewing.  I'm a happy man.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jon Stewart Eviscerates Rick Perry

This was friggin' hilarious:

Electoral College Injustice

This is a great tutorial on how the Electoral College just makes absolutely no sense in a democracy that values fairness . Remember that when the founding fathers of the United States wrote the electoral college into the Constitution, they did so from an unabashedly elitist perspective. That perspective is anachronistic.



The electoral college needs to go.

Blue Jays Go 11-0

My alma mater's football team has won its first playoff game in commanding fashion, defeating Sulphur by a lopsided score of 40-14. I got to go to the game tonight and saw my nephew play. They were impressive. And with the upset victory of the #32 seed against the #1 seed, that puts the Blue Jays, seeded #2, as the favorite to go all the way to the state championship. But that road is never easy. Next week, the Blue Jays face East St. John. It will be a good game. Go Jays!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Number One Hits This Week over the Past 50 Years

Number one hit exactly 50 years ago this week: Jimmy Dean - "Big Bad John":



Exactly 40 years ago this week: Cher - "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves":



Exactly 30 years ago this week: Hall & Oates - "Private Eyes":



Exactly 20 years ago this week: Prince and the New Power Generation - "Cream":



Exactly 10 years ago this week: Mary J. Blige - "Family Affair":



Current number one this week: Rihanna with Calvin Harris - "We Found Love"



If you ask me, early November in the "1's" (2011, 2001, 1991, 1981, 1971, 1961) has been pretty unimpressive for number one songs.

Pope Paterno

I really can't understand the reaction that many Penn State students have had to the news of Joe Paterno's firing. I would have thought that these college kids, if anyone, would not tolerate the privilege of authority in protecting a serial sexual predator and child-molester.

Seriously, once Paterno himself admitted that he screwed up and could have done more, the University had no choice but to immediately fire him.

Here's how I see it: some of the students (including some Tulane students) are arguing that Paterno did what was expected of him by reporting the abuse up the university chain of command and that it wasn't Paterno's duty to do anything beyond that.

In a purely legal sense, that's probably a fair thing to say. But let's remember that Joe Paterno was not just any Joe doing the rote expectations of his job. He was a leader whose reputation exceeds simply getting a pass for doing the bare legal minimum job requirements. In fact, the precise reason why he is given Godlike status at Penn State and why so many people are defending him is precisely because he has, over the years, been much, much more than simply a coach who wins games.

You can't make Joe Paterno a God and give him Godlike adulation when it suits you and then claim that his being human and doing the bare legal minimum in dealing with something so serious like one of his assistant coaches engaging in serial child sexual abuse is all that we can expect. NIX, NEIN, NO! In my mind, Joe Paterno's Godlike reputation makes his firing all the more necessary and pertinent. He failed, in a colossal way, to be the moral rock and public servant that his reputation demanded.

I am of the mind that no man deserves Godlike status and that there is something perverse in the universe when we afford this kind of status to college football coaches such that his firing for such an egregious failing in a much more important realm of life is considered unjust.

Paterno had to go immediately. He did not merit the benefit of a graceful exit on his own terms. He, and college football, are not Gods. The administrators of Penn State did the right thing. End of story. Period.

Charla with Cedric Richmond

Yesterday, I and a group of special Tulane students -- Posse Scholars -- had a casual lunch with U.S. Congressional Representative, Cedric Richmond, at the home of Tulane University President Scott Cowen. Cowen was not in attendance; but I want to thank him for his generosity in making his home available to host this luncheon. As for the lunch itself, Cedric was wonderful. He was an engaging and personable guest who showed interest in the Posse scholars and who answered every question they asked with honesty and without qualification -- questions ranging from the music of Lil Wayne to marriage equality to internship possibilities to little league sports. He was charming, and the two staff members he brought with him were also really friendly and attentive. I won't say that there was any deep policy discussion, and I wouldn't go so far as to say we had any impact at all on his policy positions; but that's not what this meeting was about. It was simply a social event in which our elected Congressman made himself available to a group of students for whom meeting him was a special moment. I know this is what politicians do; but Richmond is good at it and really comes across as authentic and down-to-earth. I really like the man and am pleased that he is my Congressional Representative. Thanks, Rep. Richmond, for this gesture. It really meant a lot to our Posse Scholars, and I thought it was a classy thing to do in general.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Current Crop of GOP Presidential Contenders

I remain astounded at the real vacuousness of the current crop of hopefuls vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Obama in the upcoming Presidential election. In what should be a Republican cakewalk, all we see are clowns at the podium. Really, this Presidential elections are the GOP's to lose, and they are doing spectacularly well at achieving this outcome. Seriously, even if you think Obama is a horrible President, I can't for the life of me see how any one of the current GOP contenders -- with the possible exception of Huntsman (and maybe Romney) -- even have a prayer against Obama. Forget about policy positions, all Obama has to do is to behave stoically and presidentially and he wins the election. I have to say that it is quite sad what has become of the GOP. It's like watching a bad and surreal circus act.

Social Sin and Solidarity with the Poor

In one of my book clubs, we are reading the Franciscan Friar Joseph Nangle's book Engaged Spirituality. This is an online book club and we are posting our thoughts via commentary on a Facebook group page set up for the purpose. In chapter four of this book, Nangle talks about the idea of social sin and how our current global capitalist system has perpetuated an environment in which poverty and inequality are perpetuated in the developing world and from which we in the developed world are the main beneficiaries. Nangle views our global political economy in its perpetuation of poverty and inequality as the manifestation of what he calls social sin. In our online discussion, we've debated our obligations towards solidarity with the poor in the context of our privilege as beneficiaries of this unfair system. I've taken issue with some of the discussion that has, I think, misinterpreted the gospel message of solidarity with the poor as necessitating some kind of revisiting of our privilege as problematic. Here are some of my comments on this issue:

I think we should strive to live like and with the poor. And that's part of Nangle's point in how we should respond to social sin -- we shouldn't seek to ignore it nor to try to justify it. But I do think that Nangle was clear (and I agree with him) that we should respond to social sin (as to all kinds of sin) by acknowledging it and working towards rectifying it without driving ourselves to the point of an unhealthy guilt over it. I think Nangle would be opposed to an unhealthy self-flagellation for our sins, including our complicity in social sin. It's an oppression of guilt that, in itself, can be sinful, too, I believe. We can acknowledge that the comforts of a hot shower, air conditioning in summer, and an occasional indulgence in ice cream for dessert form part of a system that distances us from the reality of the poor and perhaps even perpetuates that system -- and in so acknowledging this fact, try to readjust our lives accordingly. In keepting with Nangle's earlier chapter, that is our solidarity call within the incarnation of Christ as fully human. But there is nothing inherently evil in a better, more comfortable life. In fact, my hope is to work on restructuring the inequities of our system (i.e. rectifying the social sin) such that our brothers and sisters across the world can share in these comforts, too. In other words, sometimes I think our solidarity direction can be backwards oriented in the sense that we think we need to be more deprived and suffering like the poor, rather than trying to have the poor be less deprived and less suffering like we are. Two sides to the solidarity coin.

Blue Jays Go Undefeated

While I was in Guatemala, my alma mater's football team won their final regular season game against district competitor West Jefferson High School in what was apparently a real down-to-the-wire nailbiter: 29-28 with a last second touchdown and a gutsy (and successful) call to go for the 2-point conversion. This means the Blue Jays have ended the regular season 10-0, with a district championship, a 3rd place state ranking, and a ranking in the top 100 high school football teams nationally. My nephew is a starting offensive tackle on this team as a junior. Much to my embarrassment, I have yet to so the Blue Jays play yet this season; but I am committed to see their playoff game this Saturday. My high school class (of 1986) - celebrating our 25 year graduation anniversary this year - is carving out a special space in the stadium for gathering and cheering on the Blue Jays through the playoffs. Congrats Blue Jays!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What I'm Listening To: Firefall - "You Are the Woman"

Blast from the 1976 past. I think everyone knows the words to this classic soft rock hit. Dedicated to my lovely B-2/3:

 

Lunch Meeting with US Congressional Rep. Cedric Richmond

This Thursday, I will have the chance to participate in a lunch meeting with U.S. Congressional Representative Cedric Richmond (Democrat representing New Orleans 2nd Congressional District). I'm looking forward to this event and to discussing with Rep. Richmond the topics of Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the national level, student summer internship possibilities, black/brown relations in the City of New Orleans, and public service/civic engagement initiatives locally. Should be an interesting meeting and I'm grateful that Rep. Richmond is making the effort to meet with some of his constituents.

WTUL Morning Classics Show

Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I have a DJ stint on WTUL, the student-run independent college radio station. We broadcast on 91.5 FM in the greater New Orleans area. But we also livestream over the internet at the WTUL website. For the moment, I am assigned to the Wednesday morning, 6-8am CST, classical music show. I call it the "Breakfast with Brahms" morning classics show. Tune in if you can. Music requests are welcome.

Esquipulas, Guatemala

I've been absent from the blog lately, but not intentionally. I have been for the last week travelling in Guatemala exploring the possibility of an alternative spring break social justice/solidarity experience in Esquipulas, Guatemala. It was a wonderful trip. I'll have more to say later when I can collect my thoughts. One interesting tidbit is that I was there during the country's presidential election. The winner seems to be the Otto Perez Molina, a former military general, who ran on the Patriotic Party platform and promised an iron fist policy against gangs/crime/insecurity. "Mano dura" policy inclinations, plus a military background, is a bit concerning for democratic stability in that country. But the people there in Esquipulas are lovely and I'll be posting some photos of my visit soon.