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?!


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.