Thursday, August 31, 2006

Welcome! To my sister Susanna

Susanna has added a blog to the Internet.

She is like me, 'cept she's very liberal, thin, can write a cogent sentence, a woman, and apparently wishes she were a gay man (though not for purient reasons). Despite her photograph on her blog, she's actually stunningly attractive.

Be forewarned, I taught her to swear, and she was a stellar student.

She'll be more inciteful on a bad day than I ever will.

Welcome Susanna!

Hicham Khodr, My Hero


The Camellia Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in all of New Orleans. It has the best omelets anywhere, superior folksy service (customers are greeted by their waiter with a fist-knock), and delicious pecan pie hot off the grill topped with a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. The Camellia has been shuttered ever since Katrina, and no one seemed to even know where the owner or any of the employees were. Now it's been announced that Hicham Khodr, Emeril's restaurant partner, has purchased it and will be reopening it as soon as possible, as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. There have been too many times since we've returned to New Orleans, that we've wanted to go get some really decadent dessert, and been unable to do so, because the Camellia's been closed. I can only hope that the old rickety Mickey Mouse clock is still on the wall above the grill. It's the only greasy spoon restaurant I've ever been to that ALWAYS has a line out the door. Krispy Kremes and beignets are a poor substitute from some butter grilled pecan pie.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina 1 Year Later or Why Trying to Be Like Jesus Is Really Freaking Hard

My own Katrina experiences and opinions, one year ex post facto:

1. My house did not flood. We were blessed beyond description.
2. I only knew one person that died during the floods. Beatrice Gallaway died while evacuating to Houston.
3. I had somewhere to evacuate to, and family that took care of me.
4. I have generous friends that contributed thousands of dollars to aid me in my efforts to help people that did flood.
5. I am amazed, continually, at the devastation that remains after 365 days have passed.
6. I voted for Ray Nagin, but he continually makes me slap my skull at the stupid things he says. He is a good man and I don't think anyone else could do as HONEST a job as he has done. I may be proven incorrect in the future.
7. eBay gave me $1,000 because I was a PowerSeller in a disaster zipcode. I couldn't really believe it. I still despise them.
8. I helped someone clean out their house 10 days ago. There was still flood water in some containers. It's been a year and that damned floodwater is still around. You know it too, because it stinks worse than Provo, Utah on a hot Summer day when the wind is coming from the Southeast and the animal carcass rendering plant is operating at full capacity. Multiply that smell by at least 1.5 billion, and you'll begin to come close to the vileness of the flood waters.
9. You cannot know how great the destruction is unless you see it yourself. The images on television will NEVER equate with how bad it really is in real life. Everyone that's come here agrees. It is almost unbelievable. I imagine Germany and France looked like this after the end of WWII.
10. My church has gone from being about 40% black, 40% white, and 20% Hispanic to 97.5% white. We have 40 people coming (more or less) and only one of them is black.
11. I miss my friends, white, black, Hispanic, whatever.
12. My Boy Scout Troop no longer exists. You cannot charter a troop without at least two scouts. We only have one.
13. The grass in my front yard has regrown on about half the front yard.
14. We have more people living upstairs than ever before. One of them just got divorced. The other day he was drunk, and came home at 6AM on a Saturday with one of his many paramours. I had left Marley's inflatable swimming pool on the yard, evidently where he likes to park his car (there is plenty of other parking), and he got out screaming, "WHERE THE F*** IS MAC? I'LL KICK HIS F***ING ASS" and other such profanities. I was readying myself to go out the door, to confront him, but decided to stay inside, not because of cowardice, indeed! But, because I felt it better to allow his drunken ass to go upstairs, pass out because he couldn't get it up, and then hopefully awaken later with a hangover that would be punishment enough. I thought about saying something to him like, "I don't ever want to hear that kind of language outside of my daughter's bedroom again, or we're gonna have a problem!" I also thought about strategically placing a nail under his tire....but all of these things are wrong, and most importantly not Christlike. Jesus would wait until he were sober, and then ask him something like, "My brother, how have I offended you? Please tell me so I can not do it in the future." Katrina has taught me that there are more important things than possessions, and braggadocchio. I have learned to try and turn the other cheek. Katrina taught me to be more like Jesus. I am not like Jesus, but I'm trying....because in all honesty, it's really really FREAKING hard to be like Jesus. I am a prideful man, and I let petty things get to me. I expect people to forgive me my imperfections, but I hold grudges of the most insignificant slights. Jesus somehow saw past the frivilous insecurities apparently ingenerate in all of us. He had the forgiving heart of a child coupled with the wisdom of a man. I am not Jesus. I have taken his name upon, which is why when the thought arises that it would feel good to go flatten that asshole's tires, I don't ever consider it truly. It's a thought that flashes through my head, but because I want to be a good person, and because I've covenanted with God to keep the commandments, and to try to be like His Son, then I don't do the things that my "natural man" side wants to do. This is how I feel after letting things calm down for two weeks. One thing I've learned with age, never react when you're angry, unless you're sure your anger is righteous.
15. Katrina has taught me that rarely is anger righteous. Anger at the government for botching their job is not righteous because NO ONE could have prepared for the amount of devastation Katrina wrought! NO ONE! It truly beggars decription. Anger at stupid people that didn't evacuate does not take into consideration their circumstances. Not everyone at the Superdome was poor, or dumb, or what have you. Many people were complacent about evacuating. The people that died in their homes most of all. You cannot be angry at the dead, they paid the price with their lives (far too steep). I get angry at people that come back to New Orleans with no jobs, no desire to work, and no means to repair their homes. I want them to go away. I doubt whether this anger is righteous or not. It certainly seems justifiable from my white-male-priviledged point of view, but I doubt it's right. Anger is poison, like interest, and arsenic.
16. New Orleans will look back 20 years from now and lament the loss of opportunity they've had to take a stand now and better their city. Decisions have been made that will negatively affect this place for decades. A once in 400 year opportunity has been squandered in the name of partisan politics and home cooking. I tolerate Nagin. I dislike Chertoff. I utterly loathe Kathleen Blanco. I despise all the Landrieus. I appreciate Bobby Jindal. I agree with Rob Couhig. I respect Jed Horne. The city will become an utter schnithole unless people take a stand now.
17. FEMA trailers in about a year will become a source of massive lawsuits and contention as people too poor to fix their homes clamor to keep the free housing longer than their original contracts. The city will not take the necessary steps to declare homes blighted. Whole neighborhoods will rot slowly into oblivion.
18. The Coastal Wetlands must be restored. Our involvement in Iraq, if four months funding were taken away to pay for wetland restoration, would pay for all of it. Every mile of wetlands takes one foot off the storm surge. New Orleans has lost MILES of wetlands.
19. The Mississippi Gulf River Outlet (MRGO) needs to be closed and filled in permanently. No one uses it anyway. It's a money loser for the government.
20. St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish are quickly recovering because their people have gotten to work and done it themselves.
21. People that claim that God punished New Orleans for being so wicked can kiss my ass. (Matthew 5:45). Self-righteous assholes! Pride cometh before the fall.
22. People talk about how quickly Mississippi has gotten things going again. Mississippi's damage was relatively small compared to the massive and widespread destruction of 80% of a major American city.
23. Louisiana needs a three strikes felony law more than most anything else.
24. New Orleans needs to not fund the public defenders office with parking tickets. With an uninhabited city, and most people not being able to afford a lawyer, the public defenders office has no money and too many clients. Each defender has almost 800 clients.
25. Drugs should be legal.
26. If Tulane offered me a tenure track position, we would stay, willingly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Swearing and getting older

Swearing is something that has dogged me since I was 8 years old. That's when my parents took in a girl named BethAnn McIntyre because she was what we would nowadays call a troubled teen. She told me about the birds and the bees and allowed me to swear around her whenever I wanted. In my teens I worked at McDonald's and everyone there swore (though the F-bomb was rare in those days). When I was a missionary, I still swore, although I quit taking the Lord's name in vain after I was baptized (with only the occasionally rare slipup). When I came back from my mission, I still worked at McDonald's for a season (until I got fired for going to all the 1996 World Series home games rather than going to work). I then worked at Pizza Hut and an internet cafe called "Sybernet [sic]."

Swearing was the nomenclature of Sybernet. Even this one deaf kid would flip everyone off. I absorbed the swears like a sponge. They became a part of me. I could still turn the filter on and off when I was around family or kids (usually), but it was hard to shake around my peers. When I moved to BYU, I had a hard time adjusting to people not generally swearing. I made my roommate Tim Boisvert, a great American, start swearing. At the Pizza Hut in Provo, no one swore, 'cept me. I was a manager. Sometimes the drivers would get lazy and/or complacent. I can remember full well the look of fear in some of their eyes one night when I went back into the back and they were all standing around when they were supposed to be washing dishes. I yelled at them, "If you don't get to work right now, I will F***ING FIRE ALL OF YOU!" The F-bomb does wonders in the right moment among Mormons.

Bicycle riders in Provo, Utah think they own the road. Many of them have just gotten home from their missions across the globe and still think that they can ride their bikes like they are missionaries in the 3rd World. 800 North is the street that runs just south of BYU campus. There is a stop sign for pedestrians and cars alike near the corner of 800 North and Brick Oven Pizza. I regularly would drive down this road to get to a delivery address. The pedestrian crosswalk comes off of a steep hill that the campus sits on. Bicycle riders regularly zip down this hill and DO NOT stop at the stop sign. Defensive driving insists that you assume that the other person will do the worst thing possible, and you should defend against that. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard my driving instructor's words in my ears microseconds before deciding not to proceed through an intersection, only to have someone not stop. In Provo, Winter or Summer, I rode around with my windows down and my two 10" JBL sub-woofers thumping. With my window down, this allowed me to immediately voice my opinion about pedestrians navigation skills. Several times at that crosswalk, I let loose with a "That's how you die you stupid ****ER." Always to their shock. Always stifling any kind of response that they could muster. The swear word held tremendous power to get your point across.

But, that's because people don't swear in Utah. My own wife claims, and I believe her, to have never uttered the F-word. When you don't swear that often, profanity can be useful. When everyone swears all the time, then it becomes commonplace, loses it's meaning, and really does weaken the articulation skills of the user. I suffered from this as a 20 something. When the f-word can function as any part of speech, it has lost all meaning. However, the f-word is still vulgar and offensive, and people know that, in spite of its virtual omnipresence in our culture. Recently, I've heard immigrants use it when trying to buy things in stores. I once had to close the door to my classroom because of a particularly vulgar cell phone conversation happening down the hall. My students regularly let a swear word, even the f-bomb, slip into their conversations, usually when describing George W. Bush. The Wal-Mart in New Orleans is a swirl of poor people yelling MOTHER****ER into their cellphones, in front of their children, in public. I hate Wal-Mart in New Orleans. I hate it oh so very much.

Swearing needs to become less common. I once wrote a letter to the President of Tulane (and he responded to me) that I was offended that a presentation of the Vagina Monologues on campus had used vulgar slogans to advertise their play, by writing them in chalk on the sidewalk. The Tulane student newspaper, the Hullabaloo, is a vile piece of filth that makes the Weekly World News seem like high class journalism (they once had an article called, "The Pros and Cons of F***BUDDIES"). I choose not to read the Hullabaloo anymore because I don't want to read filth. I choose to keep my head down when I walk on campus (sometimes) because of all the messages posted on billboards, and because of the highly immodest clothing that some people wear (as if they were going to the beach or a Victoria's Secret ad shoot). However, when the Vagina Monologues chose to write a vulgar slogan on the very ground I have to walk on to get to class, I cannot avoid the offensive material. I don't mind the Vagina Monologues being performed on problem. If I went to a performance, I would expect the kind of language they used. But they chose to write, on the sidewalk near my building, and on the same path that children in the pre-school walk down everyday, "Got C*nt?" That was too much. Their slogan was dull and uninspired. Vulgarity just to be vulgar is sophomoric. You can't take back a word in public. I never ever let my Boy Scouts call each other "nigga" no matter how many times they told me that it wasn't offensive to them....because I asked them if I used it, would it be okay...when they said no, then I said that no one would be allowed to use any word that someone else wouldn't be allowed to use. Some goes for cussing. Just because a word exists, does not mean that it must be uttered.

In summation, I'll let George Patton, Sr., father to the famous general, speak to us from the past. In 1918, when his son was 34, he wrote him the following letter, here's an excerpt:

Another gift you have developed I really regret and that is the ability to write verse upon vulgar & smutty subjects--That is very dangerous. The very men to whom you read & recite such stuff as your last one will laugh--and apparently enjoy it--but you have really lowered yourself in their eyes--above all it lacks dignity--and you need to cultivate that especially in view of your rank. All my life I have known such instances--and never had it failed in my experience--that the Club wit--who indulges in smuty stuff hurts himself. You may some day want to enter public life--but you must couple with your talent in these two respects great self restraint & sense of dignity--most men have no real sense of humor--& fail to distinguish other matters of this sort from realities & judge on accordingly. All the really big men I have known--abstained from repeating vulgar stories--and all who were facile in speech--cultivate great reserve--or if they sometimes forgot themselves--always suffered for the lapse. I don't want to preach and will say no more but I am sure your own judgement--upon reflection will agree with mine.

Awww damnit kids!

PRAY IT DISSAPATES, even if you don't normally pray, PRAY for everyone in its path; please.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cute Photo of Jack and Me

It takes a special man to wear a lilac guayabera, fortunately, I am that man.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sweet potato pie make me shut my mouth

I'm in Atlanta this week. Mostly because I only trust one dentist in the whole wide world, Dr. Mark Prestwich. Any tooth he's ever worked on, dating back 15 years is still in excellent shape. I finally have dental insurance, so I came to try and max out my yearly benefit allowance in the first month of coverage. I have bad teeth. Very bad.

We also came so that my grandfather, Raymond Vines Buckner, could meet his great-grandson. We've got some great photos of the two of them together. Grandpa will be 94 next month. He's had five heart attacks. He's too weak to travel so he can't come see us in New Orleans. He could go at any moment....just like I've been saying for two decades. He's an orphan, retired military, retired federal government, triple dipper. I'll miss him so badly when he dies, but I have hope and faith in the resurrection.....

We also came to see Paul and Caroline Dunn, and Dr. Johnson. Caroline had a class to attend, sew we didn't get to see her. Paul is coming to NOLA Labor Day weekend ('bout damned time) to bring us a chair that Dr. Johnson gave us. Paul Dunn is a great American.

A kind and dear friend of ours, Sterling Eide, died last week. We didn't bring any church clothes, so it didn't feel proper to attend his funeral in shorts, a guayabera, and sandals. He was a good man. Veteran, husband, father, taxpayer.

Thanks to Tim Boisvert, a great American, for always being our Johnny-on-the-spot and looking things up for us on the internet when we're away from a computer. Tim rocks....but he already knows this....

Feeling odd tonight. I drive around my hometown and it's plum overrun with Yankees. Everywhere. There are deer in my parents' yard now because they have nowhere else to live. I keep having little flashbacks. The other day I drove my the entrance to Paul & Norman's old neighborhood and the crush of nostalgia for when we all lived near each other and saw each other every day almost brought a tear to my eye.....seriously. I miss my friends. They've known me since before I was famous.

Music seems to help......

Monday, August 21, 2006

Name some animals

So, yesterday in Sunday School, Marley's teacher asked her to name some animals. Evidently, she said, "oh man, this is hard........umm Jack, John, umm." Her teacher stopped her to explain that she didn't have to "name" the animals, but just say the names of different types of animals. I love Marley. She was prepared to name all the animals in the world.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sex drive and marriage

Mickelle and I were both virgins when we wed, so I can't speak to a drop-off after marriage, though apparently two children are enough to chill the fires of passion, frozen solid, permafrost, liquid-freaking-nitrogen. I'm beginning to wonder whether there will even be a chance of a third unless we adopt. This post is gonna get me in trouble, but it's not really about us. Read this article.

That article contains some pretty obvious information. However, it was the following headline at that cracked me up:

A woman's sex drive begins to plummet once she is in a secure relationship, according to research conducted by almost every married man on planet earth."

I mean I really laughed out loud, repeatedly at that great headline.

And there's always the classic Simpons line:

Cyrus: Sorry I never called, Abe. I've been too busy with my fifteen native wives.
Grampa Simpson: Fifteen? Boy, that sounds like a lot of sex!
Cyrus: I said wives, not girlfriends.

Mormons can't really respond to this post to verify the data (unless they misbehaved). One thing's for sure, sex and marriage are my two favorite things on earth.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sibling Schadenfreude

I wrote this post earlier, and all of a sudden my browser crashed. Those of you laughing at my misfortune are experiencing what is called schadenfreude. We all know that feeling of glee that creeps up in our souls when someone else has some bad luck. Right now I am so! pissed that my wonderfully original post has been lost to the nothingness of forgotten memories. I'm sure it exists somewhere on my hard drive, but I don't know how to retrieve it. Curse all of you for smiling at my expense.

I remember full well being shocked that I laughed at a scene in the Adam Sandler/Daman Wayans movie Bulletproof when a man is shot in the forehead. The entire audience laughed out loud. Not that nervous laughter that followed John Travolta's famous line, "Aw damnit, I just shot Marvin" in Pulp Fiction, but true belly laughter. A similar scene happens in the George Clooney/ Jennifer Lopez movie Out of Sight wherein a particularly clumsy hit man that is always slipping and tripping, slips and trips and shoots himself in the head, mortally, at a crucial moment in the film, to comic relief. We laugh, and yet we shouldn't...really.

We've all seen those bumper stickers that read something like "My two favorite teams are Georgia Tech and whoever is playing UGA" (the team names are interchangeable). I tingle with delight when Barry Bonds strikes out. When Ignatius Reilly eats so many of the hot dogs that he sells that he feels he must let others know, he attaches a handmade sign to his hot dog cart that reads "Twelve Inches of Paradise." Almost anything worth laughing at in A Confederacy of Dunces is because of schadenfreude. I smile a smile of devilish delight when I read The Satanic Verses as I think how much that book really really really really pisses off terrorists (the book is a work of fiction, and makes no claims at being true, incidently). Jean Genet was an excellent playwright and he understood full well how to employ schadenfreude, causing his audiences to laugh when they should've cried, and to have cried when they should've laughed.

My daughter is not coping well with the addition of Jack to our family. She has gone from bad, to worse, to convincing us that she just might indeed be hellspawn. She has taken to throwing horrible temper tantrums. She will no longer accept punishment. The timeout chair wasn't working, so I started making her stand in the corner. She HATES that, so I think it's working. Only now, when I tell her to stand in the corner, it becomes an Oscar-worthy melodrama. I've started video-taping her tantrums. In her more Sean Penn moments, she runs at me and hits me and tells me to "turn it off" but it usually leads to a quicker calm down. I will not tolerate any sassing from her to her mother, so the videotape is a good way to document what she does, to show her later. Also, I can't wait until she's 16 and has friends over, and I "accidentally" leave the DVD in and turn on the TV while it's running and her friends see her. I'm already planning and delighting in future schadenfreude against my own daughter.

While we all know why we like schadenfreude, neither Mickelle nor I were prepared to see it in our two month old son. Jack smiles gleefully, from ear to ear, almost giggling whenever Marley is crying and throwing a tantrum. He doesn't do it when she's around him normally. But when there's tears, he is veritably beaming with a twinkle in his eye. He definitely takes after his mother.

Okay, submit your examples of schadenfreude.



Most evil:

Friday, August 11, 2006

Oh good grief! Or why Generation X-ers are turning their kids into total wusses.

There's a video on CNN's webpage that interviews the kid's parents and the coach that ordered the intentional walk. I can't get it to link.

Baseball is a game. You will win some, you will lose many more. Pitching to the weakest hitter is the rule of the game. Isolating the kid from failure does him no good. Just imagine if he hadn't struck out! That'd be a Hollywood ending!

Kids need failure. I sucked at football. I played because all the cool kids played. I played because my dad was an awesome football player and I wanted to see if I had any of his talent (none). I played because cheerleaders were hot. My team sucked, and I made it worse. I failed all the time. It did me a world of good. I remember things I miss on tests forever; the stuff I get right fades into the mental mists. My dad told me if I ever got straight A's one semester in high school that he would take me to Cooperstown, NY to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I never got straight A's, he never took me. I came within one B once, but a deal's a deal. I failed, no reward.

I seriously worry about our system, where kids are protected from every possible ill until they are possibly too old to know how to cope with things, because they didn't learn coping skills when it didn't matter.
Case in point:

Ugh, another utahrded name. Romney Oaks. Sounds like a place where the houses are all crowded together and they plant two oak trees by the entrance to the subdivision. People, stop naming your kids by using last names. The world has enough Taylors, Tylers, Carters, Kennedys, Jacksons (sorry Avenas), and Pattons. Although, I have to admit that using last names is better than just making crap up. Imagine being a boy named Kylie!

Utah recipe for naming kids: Take the vowel sound (long a) and a second (long e) and then just make up names using any combination of consonants, spelling can be variable. Watch:


Or just purposefully misspell something to differentiate him from everyone else: Spensyr. Tielar (I swear that one is real).

Imagine if your parents named you "Xione" (pronounced Zion). Making up names with X as the first letter is just wrong. There is a short acceptable list, and XIONE sure ain't one of them. Poor kids named Zyler, Kyler, etc.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Currying Flavor or why Thai & Indian Food is so amazing, and curry is addicting.

So, as I walk home, or climb the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator, all the while thinking how awesome it's gonna be when Paul Dunn has to pay me those $10 for getting to 360 lbs by X-mas*, I begin to think about the food I'm working off. I've got roughly 180 lbs. of excess weight on my body. A pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories. According to a test I had done a couple of years ago, I have to take in 4,200 calories a day to maintain my body weight (I breathed into a device for about five minutes, cost me $50). With my loss of 60 lbs since then, I would imagine that my calorie load would have decreased by 15%, so let's assume that nowadays I need 3,570 calories a day to maintain my weight. You could tie my ass to a tree and not give me anything but water and vitamin supplements, and I could live at current metabolic rates for about 160 days (if only it were that easy, I'd have my jaw wired shut).

So, in order to avoid the tree chaining incident, a la Jose Arcadio Buendía in 100 Years of Solitude, I've been doing the South Beach Diet since January 2005. My weight two days ago was 379.9. No loss to report since my last post, actually a gain of two pounds, but anyway. I had gotten lazy about dieting after having a gastritis attack and a mild gout flare-up, so I didn't do the diet all that well. Now that I'm back on track, I am struggling to not get bored with the same old meals, day in, day out.

That's where the magical world of Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck) comes in. You can go there and get all kinds of crazy tasty foods that you can't get elsewhere (unless you are capable of excreting coins from your nostrils). I want spice and flavor. I've discovered curry. Ahh yes curry. Both verb and noun, curry can mean essentially whatever you want it to mean. Curry is usually a mixture of various spices and chiles. Originally, its potency was a means of masking the smell and taste of rotting meat. Today, it is my way of loving food again. A little curry paste or powder in just about anything makes it come alive. Here's a recipe that I've been enjoying lately.

2 cans lite coconut milk
2 cups brown whole grain Jasmine rice
2 large sweet potatoes
2 large onions
2 tblspoons green curry paste
3 ozs thai fish sauce
chicken, shrimp, or whatever meat in whatever quantity you want to eat.
1 tblspoon basil
15 broccoli florets
1 can chicken stock
2 cups milk (mooo)

Set rice to boil first, jasmine rice, whole grain, takes for freaking ever.
Put the coconut milk in a big pot, add the curry paste, basil, fish sauce and put on medium heat. Chop and dice onions and sweet potatoes, put them in the pot. Bring to boil. Let boil for 10 mins, stirring every minute (use a non-stick pot). Add the meat. Keep boiling. When the potatoes start to break down, the soup will change colors. When the potatoes can be smashed against the side of the pot with the wooden spoon, add the stock, milk, and broccoli. Get it as hot as you want, serve and eat. Serve over rice. It will make you an addict.

The petroleum addiction blogpost is still in the works.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How two old friends propose to cure all social ills in America without civil war.

My response to Norman's comment in my previous post. My responses are in italics.

The poor you will always have with you [...]
--Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:11)

Hey Mac,Thanks for this most thought-provoking post. You clearly have thought about this a great deal. Here are a few points I would make to supplement what has already been said. I skimmed some of the entry, so forgive me if I'm repetitive:First, I think I agree with you that drugs should be legalized, and you are very right to insist that some other drugs should probably never be legalized. The ill effects of crystal meth, I understand, are about a thousand times worse from just a few uses than a lifetime of recreational marijuana smoking. Second, and sadly, you could pretty much substitute the word 'gasoline' for drugs in your post and most of it would be true. For instance a sentence like, "many people die because other people are obsessed with buying drugs" is just as true of those who buy gasoline. I realize that the situation with drugs is different in many ways from the current war in Iraq, but the bottom line is that there are many commodities that people consume, some of them perfectly moral in and of themselves, that can lead to crime and suffering.

I will address gas “addiction” in another post.

Third, I'm not sure that the prevalence of inner-city gangs will disappear in a generation or so, simply because gangs can no longer make money off drugs. I struggle daily (or at least weekly) with the chicken-and-egg-question of why some groups of people, particularly lower class blacks, have trouble advancing in society. Is it because they are mired in self-pity and resentment for what they (wrongly) believe has, and still remains, an oppressive social and legal system?

This is a difficult question. It would involve several cultural trends reversing themselves. We both agree that some sort of substantial investment by society in the education and betterment of the poor, typically minorities, is necessary. Get society to foot the bill for that investment is nigh impossible. The Great Society program is an abject failure. It has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor, and, in essence, enslaved people to a system that benefits them if they do not seek to better themselves. I have seen firsthand young girls in my church explain to my wife how they had it all figured out: get pregnant, get public housing, get set up for life. The fathers face no responsibility. There is no child support if they don’t work or are incarcerated. I’m not saying this is the majority, but in the urban ghetto that was/is New Orleans, it is rampant and widespread. The sense of entitlement is so pervasive here that they are replacing red-lights at intersections in completely destroyed neighborhoods, merely because FEMA is footing the bill. I have to partly place the blame on the black community leaders of the past four decades. They have blamed the system so long, when precious few of the most precocious and vociferous ones have done little but look askance at the problems, rather than looking awry and saying, parents are to blame. I wholeheartedly believe that the family is key to society, and its dissolution only leads to crime, violence, heartache, and divers social ills.

I spent the Summer of 1996 as a contractor with the Atlanta Housing Authority, and there too, I saw full well how the system was useless and essentially allowed people to do nothing and live. Every able-bodied man in this country should either work, study, show proof of independent wealth, or join the military. Hanging out all day and living off your “auntay” is unacceptable. The families have to change things, with society’s help.

I don't know that most people can always find solace in the Good Book while flipping burgers at Wendy's into their sixties. Or is it rather the case that sometimes in a capitalist system some portion of the population, no matter how virtuous, intelligent, hard-working, and talented, is going to have to work really lousy jobs (or be out of a job). As I see it, at least in the near future until the robots take over the planet, society will always need people to do low-skilled jobs that are demoralizing, repetitive, demand no creativity or mental activity, do not get easier with practice, and do not reward the worker for years of service.

“The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty.
The honest rich can never forget it.”
-- G. K. Chesterton

I look at government as existing to protect those certain inalienable rights promised in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. I underline that last one, for though it may seem crass to say so, there is no guarantee of happiness, only that we should be free to pursue happiness. I view happiness and walking hand-in-hand with prosperity, and it is the American Dream to be prosperous, to have abundance. This land is like few others on earth, and wealth abounds. Education is the key to bettering oneself. Education and hard work. Hard work is hard because it means working as hard as one can all the time. When other people do things for you, you get lazy. I constantly strive to teach my daughter to do things. She earns 25 cents a week for making sure the TV and our Mardi Gras lights are turned off every time we leave the house. As she gets older, I will require her to do certain chores. Some will be part of her contribution to the running of the house. Others will be added to what she must do to earn her allowance. When she is old enough, I will encourage her to get a summer job, and possibly a year round job, provided her grades do not suffer. Hard work should be instilled in our children from the age that they can converse with their parents. My father has always taught me to work hard. If someone was paying me, I’d better be busting my butt, otherwise it was dishonorable to accept my paycheck if I didn’t work as hard as I could.

Our government exists to make sure that my hard work isn’t exploited. Government reacts to new technology to regulate its use. Capitalism, in and of itself, is not evil. Evil men sometimes take advantage of workers, hence the need for government regulation (to an extent). Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, “La compuerta número doce” by Baldomero Lillo, or The Octopus by Frank Norris to see why capitalism must have governmental oversight. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think that there will always be poor people in a free market economy. Some people will not accomplish what they should in school; others will not have the mental capacity to rise very high. The system will undoubtedly also lock some people into a “16 tons” type cycle. However, the government already has countless programs for people who want more education. What doesn’t happen is education ABOUT education. Many people don’t know that programs exist. And aside from that question mark wearing Matthew Lesko on latenight TV, no one is trying to educate the poor about how to not be poor anymore. In a great system, the young would fill the service industries that don’t pay well, and as they studied and attained higher education, they could move on to better jobs either with or without the same company. Even jobs like custodians can get better pay. Look at the article on the pay rates for janitors in Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh,10987,1205378,00.html
I worked fast food for 11 years. I know full well how hard those menial jobs can be, but I also know that if you work hard, a fair employer will reward you. I quit Kroger, because Kroger was the worst piece of schnit job I could ever possibly fathom, AND WE HA D A UNION. No raises ever, no benefits, but we got paid weekly!!! (we were supposed to feel grateful for weekly paychecks for $4.25 an hour). Also, raising the minimum wage is not a lasting fix to poverty. The price of goods is directly tied to the amount of currency in circulation. If you give people more money across the board, the price of goods will cancel out the wage increase. That said, making $5.15 an hour with no increase for almost 10 years is just plain ridiculous.

As long as this is the case, there may be a latent, non-malicious, tendency to assign these jobs to classes of people that are perceived to be lazy and less intelligent. And such groups may come to think of themselves as such over time. I am by no means an authority on this question, nor have I read a single book about it. I'm just speculating that if you take away the drug trade from inner-city blacks, they may not all rush out and put in an application at (fill in your favorite demoralizing place of work here).

Like I said, it will take incarceration for some, but if a city like New Orleans said, “We’ll amnesty and free tuition at a community college to any drug dealer that will renounce drug dealing and try to better himself” you know that some of them would take it. Most of them are just stupid kids without decent parents. If my kid were dealing drugs, I would move somewhere else. One thing that would greatly help people would be a change from the mentality that says, “I’m from New Orleans and I’ve got to go back there.” If you’re doing well in Houston or Atlanta, why move back to a slum?

Nothing will ever change unless we can strip people of any sense of entitlement from the government. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the only things we are entitled to. George Washington refused to use government funds to help farmers buy seed after a devastating drought. We now expect the government to bail us out of any situation. I think that FEMA is a good thing, but my point remains that if FEMA didn’t bail us out, the populace would be up in arms clamoring for aid, that isn’t a right, but a blessing.

Not too sound so much like the socialist/communist, but it may take more of a government investment in these minority groups, or some kind of relocation project, to change their outlook on life. I've also toyed with the idea of a society in which only the young people, regardless of race and social status, did the really shitty jobs in America, kind of like military service in the past (and present, in many countries). Then you would have the reassurance that as you got older, say 30, you could go to college and become a lawyer or whatever else you wanted to be. This may not ultimately be "fair" to those parents who can afford to keep their kids free from such labor, but it is kind of fair.

I agree completely. If we all got "drafted" at 22 (after college) for two years and were required to either serve in the military or Americorps or the Peace Corps, in exchange for cancellation of our student loans, how great would our country be?

Finally, what is your deal about the evils of alcohol and (some) drugs? Everyone I know (but you) drinks at least wine and beer, and probably two-thirds of the people I know (don't tell McCarthy) have used, or are currently recreational users, of marijuana (I doubt much else). I have never taken any drugs myself (except alcohol and caffine) and seldom been around people under the influence, but I also don't know anyone who has suffered any long-term negative affects. Most of the people I know who have used drugs are college professors and their mental capacities, ideas, virtues, and faults are on a par with the rest of us. Yes, excessive marijuana can sap someone's ambition, but so can television, overeating, and surrounding oneself with uninspiring people, but none of these is any more 'evil' than drugs or alcohol. Perhaps the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse are more acute, but there are plenty of ways to "use" these substances without ill effects. Millions of people do it every day.
Also, I have never been clear why drug and alcohol abuse are such religious issues for people (unless people just always tend to construe their greatest fears and prohibitions as based in religion). I can't think of a single Bible passage that tells you not to use drugs or alcohol (maybe I'm wrong). If there is, the Catholics don't seem to have read it. There's a lot of stuff about not killing people, but the bulk of your blogs are about the evils of sex and drugs. Why is that? I know that you will say, sex and drugs can lead to murder, but so does a bunch of stuff, like gasoline consumption, and you don't write about that in your blog.

My objection to alcohol and drugs is precisely and entirely religious. I loved to drink. I love the taste of good whiskey. I love Grand Marnier, Chambourd, Stolichnaya, etc. My objection to alcohol is that I avoid anything that even remotely impairs my ability to make choices of my own free will. If I get drunk and do something stupid, I have essentially taken away my free agency and given it to Bacchus. I do realize that many people do it every day, and yet, many people do it to excess every day. I would that it would all go away, but it will not. Rather than kick against the pricks, we should corral its use. Ditto to drugs. Tobacco should remain legal, but smokers should be forced to smoke only in their own homes. Tobacco smoke is horrendous. As far as a Biblical scripture that says not to drink, Romans 14:21 "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." But I subscribe to the counsel of the prophet Joseph Smith, who in 1834 received the following revelation:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833. As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result. The first three verses were originally written as an inspired introduction and description by the Prophet.

1 A Word OF Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the
word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
3 Given for a principle with
promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of
evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
5 That inasmuch as any man
drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea,
pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again,
strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the
body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome
herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with
prudence and thanksgiving.
12 Yea,
flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be
used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All
grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And
these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the
food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments,
shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall
find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall
run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the
destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Finally, I hope that your health is improving!!!your pal,Norman
Gracias, viejo amigo

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Politics of selling "Dealing" drugs or why crime is on the rise again in New Orleans

Even though I voted for him, Mayor Ray Nagin's insistence that he "wants everyone to come home" has produced poor results. The city is fast returning to the crime-ridden hellhole that it was pre-Katrina. Last Sunday morning, I was awakened at 4:30AM by five pistol shots right outside of my home. I called the cops. They never came.

I wish that one, any, elect-able politician would have the scrot to tell people to stay away, to not come back. I’d advocate, strongly, that no able bodied male should be allowed to live here for the next two years, unless he can show proof of work, or financial independence. That’ll never happen, but it’s a dream.

There are vast hordes of teenagers wandering the streets, and their parents aren't here. As these kids fight to establish territories and drug vending areas, they are killing each other and ruining the one chance this city had to make itself better. Which leads me to my next point.

IF YOU BUY DRUGS YOU ARE FINANCING THESE KILLINGS! These kids don't drive Cadillac Escalades by scamming the system. Escalades take cold hard cash. Shame on Cadillac for profiting off the sale of drugs. I remember back in the early 1990s when drug dealers were reportedly spending thousands of dollars on new shoes (sometimes a new pair every day), that one shoe store in Atlanta, or maybe L.A., put a sign up in the window that said something like, "If you sell drugs, don't buy your shoes here." Their business plummeted originally, but they made the right choice, the only ethical and moral choice to not profit off what essentially is blood money. Cadillac dealerships could easily do the same. Shame on them. The killings of five kids back in June that made national headlines and prompted the governor to (thankfully) redeploy the National Guard were remarkable in that 5 young men ages 13-17, living in public housing, were out at 3:30 in the morning driving a brand new GMC Yukon. Their mothers swore their innocence, but how does someone living in public housing buy a $45,000 vehicle?

Again, I reiterate, if you buy drugs you finance gangland activities. You finance self-described bangers. You foster hatred, death, unwed mothers, and new generations of children that see the easy money and power that come from dealing drugs. To quote Mr. Mackey, "drugs are bad, mmmmkay? drugs are bad." And that’s just in the United States. Your money ultimately finds its way to Colombia, where a 30+ year civil war is still going on. Drug monies fund the left and the right in Colombia. In some places under drug lord control, cocaine base takes the place of government issued money. The poppies of Afghanistan get injected into the arms of junkies, and some of that money gets injected into innocents in the form of car bombs; into soldiers via Taliban bullets. It’s not just a clever anti-drug campaign. The Taliban grow poppies because it makes them money to finance their war, and they think nothing of using drugs to “destroy” their enemies. Their enemies pay them for what amounts to a chemical weapon.

But the drug question isn't all that simple. I've thought long and hard about the politics of drug dealing, and I hate the situation. I think that alcohol is a pernicious evil that, while some can enjoy it in moderation, really does so much harm that I would consider myself a prohibitionist, save the fact that Prohibition was a dark time that gave rise to an organized crime wave and vast illicit wealth. Capone and others made millions (when millions were crazy money). Alcohol is the second most used psychoactive drug in the world, second only to caffeine. The government regulates and controls the production, distribution, and sales of alcohol. Organized crime cannot make any money off alcohol unless they steal it. The time has come to face facts.

As long as people keep buying drugs, keep wanting them, crime will revolve around, and get money and power from, drug profits. Untold wealth has been expended in an effort to incarcerate users and dealers, destroy production, interdict shipments, and deal with the secondary effects of a drug policy that produces powerful gangs, broken families, crime galore, and destroys communities. The time has come to make a change.

The public will never support a drastic increase in the penalty for breaking drug laws. Far too many citizens have used drugs to ever win support for heavier penalties. In spite of the best of intentions, for drugs are a dangerous evil, the right has created a system that cannot endure. I believe the definition of madness is to keep trying the same thing and to expect different results. Our current drug policy is madness.

We should legalize drugs. I know that may come as a shock coming from a devout Mormon, and it’s not a decision I’ve reached easily. Allow me to explain.

#1 When Prohibition ended, the decline of the mafia began. If you take the money out of the hands of the criminals, they lose their power. They will no longer be able to enjoy quick and easy wealth that will thumb its nose at the welfare system they so often inhabit. Faced with no easy money, surely some will turn to robbery, but robbers are eventually caught. My hope is that if the gangs don’t have the power stemming from the money that gang members will be forced to earn an honest living. I’d like to think that within 25 years the cycle of 11-17 year olds becoming gang members will end. The current ones will have to be endured, but with the gangs’ attractions ended, new recruits will be difficult. Also, the end to young men standing outside all day would be hastened. This would lead to a decrease in secondary crimes.

#2 The FEDERAL government should set up a system of drug stores where people wanting to use recreational drugs could purchase them. Medical oversight would be a must. Purchases would need to be limited. Private enterprise should be limited or banned. Government oversight is a must, an absolute must.

#3 With legalized drugs, crimes committed while under the influence of drugs should have draconian punishments. Driving under the influence of drugs (including alcohol) should mean mandatory jail or seizure of the vehicle. Something harsh enough that people won’t do it.

#4 People that bemoan the bending of “what’s right” need to see that it’s a fight that they cannot win. For years I held onto the idea that we cannot fall back from evil and yield to it. I look at this as corralling it. I’d rather have people using drugs legally than support the social destruction that making them illegal causes.

#5 Billions and Billions of dollars are taken out of our economy in the trafficking of drugs. No taxes are paid on the sale of drugs. The math alone would show how taxes and money saved from not fighting “The War on Drugs” would benefit the economy, and help the trade deficit. This is said only half tongue-in-cheek. I know it seems evil to focus on this aspect, but if you think it wouldn’t factor into politicians’ decisions, you’re fooling yourself.

#6 I hate drugs and will never use them. Nor have I ever used them in the past. I still think that even with legal drugs, companies, institutions, etc. should be allowed to test employees for drug use, and still be allowed to exclude them based on drug tests.

#7 Some drugs should always be illegal. Those drugs should have punishments so severe, that no one would dare make or sell them.

#8 The government should not have to pay for people to detox, rehab, or anything like it. If you go into rehab on the government’s dime, under my new system, the government should be able to seize assets to pay for your problems. With that said, taxes made off drug sales could be used to subsidize (a small portion) of rehab costs.

#9 The drinking age should be lowered to 18. All the current law does is foster binge consumption. The age to use drugs should be 18. If people can vote, be drafted, and die for this country, they should be allowed to drink or toke. The age to rent a car should always be 25.

I hate that little punks like the kid pictured below can terrorize a city over their control of the drug trade. I want to feel safe in my own home and the current drug policy has made me feel most unsafe.

I find it especially annoying that he's wearing a Houston hat. Look at his face. He's a stupid stupid kid. There will be no rehabilitation for him. The penal system will institutionalize him and he'll have no chance of every amounting to anything in society. I blame his parent(s), his extended family, and most importantly, I blame him.

Since March, I’ve seen several cars with bumper stickers that read, “Thanks Houston” as a way of expressing thanks to our Texan neighbors that took in hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians. A friend of mine told me that the other day he saw a bumper sticker that read, “Go Back to Houston!” That callous attitude is a reflection of the frustration of the hard-working law-abiding citizens of this city.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Marley X. Williams vs. Shirley Temple Black

Since Marley gets told so often that she looks like Shirley Temple, we thought it would be fun to buy her some Shirley Temple movies so she could would now what people were talking about when they told her she looked like her. Little did we know that Marley would fall in love with Shirley Temple so much that she would become Shirley Temple.

Marley doesn't fold her arms when she prays anymore. Now she pushes both of her palms together. She has begun doing that little look askance move out of the corner of her eye and puckering her cheeks that Shirley Temple does. She stands arms akimbo all the time. She taps and stomps her feet. She speaks just like the stylized Hollywood speech of the 1930s and 40s. She talks as if she were Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon. The other day I said "crap" and Marley said, "That's a bad word" not like herself, but like Jennifer Jason Leigh's character in the Hudsucker Proxy. Being around her is like being around Shirley Temple.

Marley doesn't believe that Shirley Temple isn't a little girl anymore. She can't quite understand that she is the same old lady whose photo I showed her the other day. She refuses to believe that little kids get old like that.

Does she look like Shirley Temple?

Yall decide:

Shirley Temple curled her hair. Marley's is all natural!

Genetics Astound Sometimes

I am astounded at how cute my kids are. Is it just because they're mine, or have Mickelle's genes and mine combined to form amazingly cute children? I'm not capable of answering impartially as I love them simply for being mine. Jack is getting cuter each day and is no longer an "ugly" newborn, but a chubby-cheeked infant. He has a horrible case of baby acne, but aside from that, he is starting to win me over to the cute side.