Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

When I was a callow youth in high school, I dabbled in many things. I dabbled in baseball. I dabbled in basketball. I dabbled in football. I dabbled in track and field where I dabbled, briefly, in the pole vault. My father would not allow me to dabble in golf because he could not abide the notion of a left handed golfer. In retrospect, I should have heeded his warnings about the damn game. I would be better off today.

I dabbled in literature. I actually thought I understood T.S. Eliot at 17. I dabbled in writing but, alas, I had no talent for it. I dabbled in music. I sang in assemblies. I still get shit about it. I dabbled in algebra, physics and chemistry. I dabbled in coming up for plausible explanations for my shitty grades in these disciplines.

I dabbled in booze: mainly beer and malt liquor. I dabbled in wrecking cars and nearly wrecking cars. I dabbled in sneaking out of the house at night to go running around with my buddies. It is a wonder I didn't dabble in pushing up daisies.

I dabbled in girls. Specifically, I dabbled with Terry, Cindy, Judy, Myra, Polly, Susan and a bunch of others. I wouldn't read too much into this by the way. I attempted to dabble with Lisa but being the sensible type that she remains to this day, she would have nothing to do with me. And pretty much still doesn't.

I dabbled with religion. Although I took on the Yoke of Christ at the suggestion of the Methodists, I attended services run by the Baptists, the Nazarenes, the Church of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ. There were no Presbyterians or Episcopalians in Southwest Little Rock. Indeed, the latter denomination was banned by local ordinance. So I didn't get a chance to dabble in those belief systems. And although Laura Stolzer was, and is, a Piskie who attended Trinity Cathedral downtown she wasn't too snooty about it. Laura's now in Jonesboro. They don't allow Episcopalians there either.

I dabbled in politics. I ran for Student Council and was destroyed. I gave a speech on behalf of George McGovern in civics class and was beaten up in bathroom by a hood named Dennis something. He was a hood but a socially conservative hood. He's probably doing talk radio these days.

Yes, as a young high school student I dabbled in many things. But I never dabbled in witchcraft unlike the Republican nominee for the seat in the goddamn United States Senate in Delaware.

And if this Tea Party madness gains further ascendancy in national politics, I may dabble in taking the New Zealand bar exam.

Where I intend to move.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My "Got Too Much To Do" Feeling

Between the day job, duties to tend to at Women and Children First and the beginning of the new Miracle League season I ain't had no time for bloggery this week. So there won't be the usual offering tomorrow.

Go Vanderbilt!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

It doesn't seem possible that 9 years have elapsed since the cowardly attacks on innocents in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon. But it has. I was at work when I first heard the news of the attack. The first word I got was that a cropduster had plowed into a building in NYC. I didn't know what the hell was going on up there but I knew that a cropduster was not likely to be involved in an incident in Manhattan.

A lot has happened in the last 9 years. 2 of my buddies went to Iraq. One went to Afghanistan. They all made it back thank God. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast. A black man was elected President. The Saints won the Super Bowl. And coalition forces are leaving Iraq to pretty much continue the experiment with democracy on its own.

Where are we at after 9 years? Hard to say. Al-Queda, while still capable of spasmodic lethality, is a shadow of its former self. However, the Taliban in Afghanistan is resurgent. The government there is completely and utterly corrupt. The Taliban, for all its misogynistic brutality, is considered to possess a certain morality that the political leaders do not. Which is perverse when you consider that they murder children and medical workers. Afghanistan, as Kipling knew, is a considerably tough nut to crack.

Oh that Uncle Sam could wave a wand and completely eradicate them both from the planet. But it's complicated. And we Americans don't like complications. Especially in an election year.

These are fearful times. And fearful times produce irrational responses. As the World Trade Center rebuilds-finally-a furor ensues over the plans of an Islamic congregation to build what they refer to as a cultural center near there. This has been extravagantly referred to by some to as the "Ground Zero Mosque" and it has been the subject of virulent discourse on the Internet and talk radio.

Me? I'm conflicted. Gettysburg is hallowed ground. A commercial center that has a strip joint and a tattoo parlor in closer proximity to GZ than the proposed Islamic center is not so much. Besides, to be insulted by this is to brand all Islam as the enemy. This ignores the fact that Islamic people died in 9-11. They serve honorably in the armed forces. And Islamic employees of the Pentagon, which was also just as much attacked on 9-11 and therefore just as hallowed a patch of ground, are provided space there in which to worship.

But while it would be wrong to tar all of Islam with the same brush I can't help but think that the leaders behind this project have developed a tin ear when it comes to concerns expressed by representatives of some of the families of people that perished in the attack. While the presence of a mosque in the vicinity would not offend me in the slightest, I did not lose a wife or brother there. Surely, people of good will can come to some compromise based on a mutual understanding of common desires and concerns.

I would hope that, if anything, the last 9 years have taught us that 1.5 billion adherents to Islam do not walk in lockstep and that the Taliban is no more to that faith than Terry Jones is to Christianity.

The world is a complicated place. I'm not so sure we have learned that lesson in 9 years.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due

It seems like the entire sane world has condemned Florida Pastor Terry Jones and his plan to torch Korans in order to commemorate 9-11. Calls for the good Pastor to stay his Bic Butane came from the President, the Secretaries of Defense and State and General Petraeus who felt that this action on his part would inflame the Muslim world.

But of all the statements issued by the politicians of this country, the one that hit the nail on the head came from, no lie, Sarah Palin who said, " Book burning is antithetical to American ideals. People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation."

An unnecessary provocation. Perfect.

But I have a question for the hot blooded Muslims that promised to take to the streets, who issued death threats against Pastor Jones and vowed to bring "death to America" if Jones went through with his plan. I would hate to be so insecure in my faith that I could be threatened by some jackleg preacher in Florida who presides over a congregation of FIFTY PEOPLE! OK. So that's not a question. But you get my drift.

But wait! There's more. The good people at The Smoking Gun have gotten hold of the Dove World Outreach Center's Academy Rulebook which you can view on the jump:

I ask these same "death-to-America-types" what makes them think that a loon like Jones represents mainstream America or Western Culture even? He was a nobody until the Internet sent his scruffy visage around the globe. And he will be a nobody when this blows over.

Jones has agreed not to torch any Korans because he says the folks in New York have agreed to move the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." We may not be completely out of the woods yet because this "agreement" comes as a complete surprise to the Muslim leaders up there.

Launching Hellfire missiles at a terrorist training camp is a necessary provocation. Some white trash preacher proclaiming that Jesus would burn Korans is an unnecessary one.

Good for you, Governor Palin.

Monday, September 06, 2010

My Labor Day Feeling

There has been all kinds of back and forth on the Internet concerning the much ballyhooed "Restore Honor" rally put on by Fox TV commentator Glenn Beck. And I have read a lot of it seeing as how I have been too sick to do much of anything else since last Friday.

One of the more thoughtful observations that is making the rounds is an essay written by a Jesuit priest named James Martin in which he discusses Beck's accusation that President Obama subscribes to "liberation theology" which makes him automatically a "Marxist." You can read Father Martin's essay at the jump:

I enjoyed the essay for no other reason that it caused my mind to go back to my happy days as an undergrad back at that known laboratory of Communism Hendrix College in which we discussed "liberation theology" and other schools of thought in Dr. Christie's classes. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of this stuff I had actually retained.

The Catholics refer to the "preferential option for the poor." The Methodists don't put it exactly that way but this is just semantics. Where the Catholics and the Methodists are on the same page is that we are both "do-gooders." Whether that comes from a theology of social justice or just the right thing to do misses the point. Marxist it is not.

But I think all of this hand-wringing over this "Restore Honor" foolishness misses the point as well. Beck is a cipher. A product of his time just as Father Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith were products of their's.

Neither Father Martin nor myself know whether President Obama knows the first damn thing about "liberation theology." Neither does Beck. What Beck does know is that calling Mr. Obama a racist cost him advertisers. So he'll just call him something else that is equally unprovable.

But I do know this: Beck believes that God has called him to lead America "back" to it's lost values. OK fine.

Look around you. Poverty abounds. The Earth has recently been plagued by disasters both natural and man-made. The nursing homes are filled with lonely people left to die by their lonesome in some cases. Good people are visited with lousy breaks. You get my point.

And yet God decides to make a cameo appearance in human history for the limited purpose of anointing the likes of Glenn Beck as His official spokesman and catalyst for America's revival?

Do you Tea Party types actually believe such piffle?

Enjoy your Labor Day.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

13 guys.

That's how many players Arkansas native Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels left behind when they boarded the plane for Atlanta Friday to face the LSU Tigers.

13 guys.

The trouble started with questions about whether a couple of players violated the "extra benefit" rule when they allowed a former player to purchase tickets for them to travel to California-I think it was California- to work out with him at a gym out there. Then it turned out that the gym was owned by the former player's agent. Who is close to assistant football coach John Blake. And once the dots got connected red flags were seen whistling up the flag poles all over Chapel Hill.

The problem with any sort of investigation, at least from the perspective of the investigees, is that once suspicious types start digging around Lord knows what is going to unearthed.

Here, what got kicked up is that a number of Tar Heel players are suspected of having a tutor perform school work for them. Even more interesting is that supposedly the same tutor was retained by Davis to work with his own kids. This led to 13 guys being suspended until the NCAA and UNC sorts all of this out.

13 guys.

Davis says he didn't know anything about the allegedly illegal work the tutor was doing with the players. And I suppose this is possible although it certainly looks as fishy as all get out especially when you consider the apparent fact that the tutor in question supposedly worked with Butch's children in his own house. I would be more inclined to believe him if there were only one or two guys involved. The tutor? She hasn't said a word. According to my buddy out there, her name hasn't been disclosed yet.

But it's not just one ot two guys. It's 13 guys. How can that many people be involved and somebody in charge not know something?

The hell of it is that Butch Davis has a reputation for being squeaky clean. Or had. After all, he was hired by the University of Miami specifically to shut down the party at the U. Which he did. Now this.

It is a good thing for Davis that folks in North Carolina don't care much about the oblong spheroid. Football is just a diversion until hoops season begins. But I predict he won't survive all of this because North Carolina is a real school. With academic integrity and everything. A scandal involving what appears to be academic fraud on a systemic basis in the athletic department undoubtedly is not amusing to the President Tar Heel.

Because 13 guys is a lot of guys screwing around for nobody to know about. I bet that folks in Norman and Auburn are even aghast.

13 guys. I mean, really!