Monthly Archives: March 2012

Seventies Movies Tonight: Foul Play, Airplane and Smokey and the Bandit

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elHoRhGrTiE

Well after a couple of weeks of nothing but seriousness I decided to give myself a break from the real world and retreat to the 1970s. Well, I didn’t drag out a Leisure Suit or start playing the Bee Gees or anything like that but I decided to drag out some 1970s comedies. First up was Foul Play starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase; next the slapstick classic  Airplane starring Robert Hedges, Julie Hagerty and a cast of all-stars including Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves and even Kareem Abdul Jabbar and finally Smokey and the Bandit starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason.

Sometimes I need these kind of nights. I wrote yesterday about things that trouble me and yes they still do, but to maintain some sense of sanity I need to break away and clear the brain housing unit.  Baseball does this a lot for me but alas it is not yet the regular season and not much is on although I could tune in to the MLB channel and maybe catch a Spring Training game or speculation and analysis of the coming season.

But tonight I needed to laugh and laughing is good for us and that is in the Bible, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there is a “time to laugh” of course there are other verses in the Bible that make laughter to be a bad thing and I don’t think that the Apostle Paul would approve of my taste in comedy. However after Paul’s shipwreck he might have gotten a kick out of Airplane, but then maybe not. But Karl Barth the great Swiss Theologian once said that “laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” and I think that he was right and that if we can find things that allow us to laugh, even at ourselves that it is good for us.

I love comedy and lover to laugh and movies like these never get old to me and watching Airplane was even more enjoyable after having spent some time on a flight simulator for the MV-22 Osprey on Thursday afternoon.  I was able to take off and land without crashing. I want to go to flight school.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzRJWy-3_Dc

I love Foul Play and I think a lot is because that it was filmed in San Francisco.  Airplane though is special because of all the one liners, puns and parodies of things that I grew up with in the 1970s that make it so funny to me.

After I watched the movie once I went back and watched it with the commentary by Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker.  Watching the movie with their comments made it even funnier because as many times as I have seen it I noticed more things that I had missed in previous viewings.  Likewise I found out things that I never knew. I guess that the most interesting was that the part of Roger Murdock played by Kareem Abdul Jabbar was originally written for Pete Rose but Rose had to turn it down because it was filmed in the summer.

So I guess that means that I watched Airplane twice tonight and because of that I am not going to watch Smokey and the Bandit. Oh well it was fun and I am still laughing.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Troubled by Events Here and Afar…But at Least I can Watch Baseball Tonight

Remnant of an Army 

I have had a hard time sleeping this week. There have been two things on my mind. One is the situation in Afghanistan which I think is much more dangerous than anyone wants to admit and which bears a terrible resemblance to the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) which ended very badly for the British as well as the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1988.)  The events of the past couple of months in that “graveyard of empires” should trouble anyone.  We are finding just as the British and Soviets that Afghanistan is ungovernable and that our “control” of the country and the stability of the government that we prop up is a fantasy.  American and NATO troops are being killed by the Afghan soldiers and police that they are training and attempting to help control the country. It is so dangerous for our troops located with Afghan troops that we have had to institute force protection measures that can only further detract from our ability to both wage the war and transfer the prosecution of the war to Afghan forces.  To remember the words of Charles Metcalfe who headed the British administration of India prior to Lord Auckland who launched the First Anglo-Afghan War “We have needlessly and heedlessly plunged into difficulties and embarrassments not without much aggression and injustice on our part which we can never extricate ourselves without a disgraceful retreat which may be more fatal in its consequences than an obstinate perseverance in a wrong course.”

Many of my friends are serving in Afghanistan now and I fear for their safety should things go even more badly than they have been. Unfortunately that is very possible. Our southern supply route through Pakistan is still shut and supply convoys are being attacked with more frequency and violence.  I am just wondering when an entire Afghan unit will turn on an isolated NATO post or group of advisors as happened to the Soviets in March 1979 at Herat where 50 advisors and near 300 dependents were brutally killed when the Afghan units there mutinied and provoked a brutal Soviet response and the Soviet invasion. The Afghan troops were led by Captain Ismail Khan who now serves as a cabinet minister in the Karzai government.

I am also troubled by what I see happening in this country regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin. I am troubled that those that seek a full investigation are being called “race baiters” and worse and that some in the conservative media and politics are openly using materials produced by White Supremacist groups such as Stormfront, a Neo-Nazi organization and website in order to destroy the reputation of a dead teenager.  Likewise I am troubled by those in the New Black Panthers and Nation of Islam that are calling for revenge and or putting a bounty on the life of the man that shot Trayvon, George Zimmerman.

I am bothered by so much about this case and its aftermath that when I tried to start writing it all down I had to quit.  I will probably come back to it at a later time but all I want to see is that someone fully investigate the death of this kid. Too many things from the actions of Zimmerman at the site in ignoring the police by pursuing Trayvon.  I wonder why people defending Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground don’t at least in the absence of any evidence to the contrary at least give the dead kid the right to have stood his ground when he felt threatened by a man who was following him. But the police reports don’t match up with other evidence and the man who claims that he was brutally beaten barely looks tussled by the event when filmed entering the police station barely 40 minutes later. All I am saying is that I am bothered by lots of things about this case and the one that is most bothersome a re-emergence of the the spirit of Jim Crow racism that seems to permeate a lot of the discussion even in allegedly “Christian” discussions on Christian websites. I know that there are racists in every race and country but this is a something that has been part of our history since before our Independence. Just when you think we are over it it shows up again in all of its hateful ugliness.

Tonight I have put on the replay of the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners game that was place this morning (US time) in Tokyo.  At least that is not troubling and I got to do something really fun today that I will write about tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Birthdays Baseball the Liturgical Year and Friendship

I like my birthday the only problem is that it does not fall within the regular season and almost always falls during Lent.  It still falls during Lent this year but thankfully was not a Friday so I had a very nice steak at a local restaurant but it almost made the regular season this year since the Oakland and Seattle Mariners open the regular season in Tokyo tomorrow. Of course I can’t get or find what channel it is going to be televised on and even if I could I would be on my morning commute and in the regularly schedule hospital Board of Directors meeting.  Nonetheless I do home to find something maybe even a replay of it sometime tomorrow after work.

Like I say last night today was my 52nd birthday.  I kept it under wraps in the weeks leading up to it at work because I typically don’t like a big fuss made about it. Judy ordered me a personalized Baltimore Orioles jersey which I hope to get soon and that is all I really wanted.  I also wanted to do something exciting like walk through an exclusive gated community in a hoodie but forgot that here on the Outer Banks that everyone wears a hoodie, which means that despite the overwhelming number of fashionably well off people that live in my town that most of them must be potential gang members and criminals.  That took all the excitement out of it so I canceled those plans.

The really cool thing today were all the calls and messages that I got from so many people today and last night. My mom and brother, my cousin Chadd who pastors a Baptist Church in Huntington West Virginia while serving as the chaplain to the local rescue mission, my dear friend Father Jose Bautista-Rosas who served with me in Iraq and put me up for the first couple of months that I was stationed in this area. I have lost count of the number of friends from across the spectrum of my life on Facebook who posted very kind words and wishes on my page, I think around 150 or so and I am trying to send a personal thank you to each of them.  I am very grateful to have so many people from so many different backgrounds and parts of my life that still remain in contact with me.

After work and dinner I came home and was greeted with great gusto by Molly my faithful Papillon-Dachshund mix. It is always nice to come home to that and take her on her walk to the beach and deer hunting expedition. She didn’t see any deer tonight but about went ballistic on an unsuspecting cat that happened to be in the neighborhood. She scared the hell out of that cat and of course that made her day.

So with all that in mind I close out a quiet and nice birthday.  Thanks to all that have sent me well wishes, offered prayers for me and in spite of different political or religious views remain friends.  That is the real test of friendship, that you can remain friends with people, care about them and have room to disagree without destroying respect, friendship or relationship.

 

Peace my friends

Padre Steve+

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52 Years: Musing on Life and Civil Rights in 2012

Trayvon Martin and Emmit Till

Well about this time of night some 52 years ago my mom was deep into a very long day of labor at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland California. 52 years and it doesn’t really seem that long but it is. When I was born Dwight Eisenhower was President and his Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy were preparing to run against each other for the Office of President.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists like Medgar Evers were campaigning for the rights of Black Americans and others and would lose their lives in doing it within a few years. In that time Blacks were violently attacked even in church, the 15 September 1963 Street Baptist Church bombing. Just 6 years before I was born a 14 year old boy named Emmit Till was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His killers backed by a surge of popular support were acquitted of the murder and a few months later confessed to the murder unable to be prosecuted under double jeopardy. Blacks did not gain legal protections enjoyed by whites until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When I was a teenager my home town of Stockton California desegregated its schools. I am proud to be part of the first class at Edison High School that completed all of its high school years in that environment.  I remember those times fondly and my friends there are all my “Soul Vike” brothers and sisters.

I know this is a weird start to a birthday article but I never believed that I would see racism become fashionable again.  But then I should have seen it coming because it has always been there maybe just under the surface but still there.  Back in 2009 I was attacked and threatened by a White Supremacist in response to articles about world War II and a baseball game on this site.

So when I started reading responses of certain media and political figures to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman it struck a chord. I have been following the case online and have read a good number of posts by people “defending” Zimmerman by making the most racist and hateful comments maligning the dead kid and those that have the nerve to make this killing an issue.

No one is perfect and I am not calling for a mob approach to justice that would condemn Zimmerman without a full and impartial investigation and if need be a trial. However that being said if no one bothered to raise Trayvon Martin’s death the story would be buried deeper that Trayvon.  Without the actions of some nationally known activists and media personalities Zimmerman would never be forced to account for his actions that night in which he killed Trayvon. Zimmerman is said to have allegedly killed in self defense despite defying police who told him not to pursue or confront the teenager and the police at the minimum did a terribly inept investigation and at worst were complicit in a cover up that now may involve leaking material to a local reporter that they believe is helpful to painting the dead kid in a negative manner.

That bothers me. It reminds me of what I have read of reaction to and defense of the murderers that killed Emmit Till.  If Zimmerman did nothing wrong and if Trayvon Martin actually attacked him first a thorough investigation would have left no doubt. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but he may never even face trial based on the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law.  I just don’t get the convoluted arguments that self defense trumps even a fair and thorough investigation of of a man that used a gun to kill another. But now all we have is the trigger puller’s account to rely on and the stultifying spin of his defenders who seem more intent on killing the victim once again than they are on finding out what really happened. The Sanford Police have probably ensured that will never happen by not doing the ballistics, gunpowder residue and other normal procedures that would show what happened. That is not justice.

I was perusing a Christian blog which the matter was being discussed and I think that what I read there was the most discouraging as people professing to be Christians were in the lead trashing the life of a dead kid and making comments on race, African Americans and civil rights that if they were said about White Christians that would be decried in the right wing press and blogosphere.

I wonder at times how far we have come.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Minnie: Our Newest Addition

Padre Steve’s household has been joined by a new member. She is Minnie, or Minnie Scule. She is an 8 week old Papillon puppy. At two pounds she is rather tiny but she is funny, cut and sweet. Molly is adapting pretty well.

All for now I’m tired.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Killing Trayvon: The Power of Fear and Racism

Trayvon Martin and his Killer George Zimmerman

By all accounts George Zimmerman is nothing more than a vigilante and thug, a self-deputized “Neighborhood Watch Captain” who may well get away with the cold blooded murder of a teenager.  A teenage who was unarmed and returning to where he and his dad were visiting was killed by a man who despite being told by police not to intervene got out of his car and provoked an altercation that left an unarmed teenager dead.

The killing of Trayvon Martin sends chills down my spine for a number of reasons. First is the pre-meditated way in which it occurred. Zimmerman was conducting his own armed patrol of his neighborhood. When he spotted Trayvon walking he called 911 because he thought Trayvon who was black and wearing a hoodie looked suspicious. The 911 operator let him know that police were on the way and not to pursue the teen. Instead Zimmerman left the safety of his vehicle, got out of it, accosted the teen and put a bullet in his chest. The Sanford Florida police did no investigation outside of taking the killer’s word that it was self defense.

George Zimmerman was a habitual caller to 911, nearly 50 calls in a little over a year. In the latest call leading to Trayvon’s death he can be clearly heard using the term “f***ing Coon” a derisive term for blacks.  I would dare say that the killing was racially motivated. Saying that however will have some say that I am “pulling the race card” as if somehow pointing out the obvious is a crime. Racism exists and there are racists amount all ethnic groups, but in the United States historically blacks have been the victims of it.

The shooting has provoked uproar and even Tea Party Republican Representative Allen West and Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have condemned it and demanded a full investigation. Protests and marches are being organized with good reason. George Zimmerman was not even booked. Even a police officer would be investigated for a shooting and placed on administrative duty until the situation was fully investigated but Zimmerman is still walking free with his gun.  Had Trayvon Martin killed Zimmerman there is no doubt that he would be in jail regardless of the circumstances.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who signed the “Stand Your Ground” legislation into law in 2005 said today that “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance…. Stand your ground means stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.

Some conservative commentators have blamed the victim for his death. Geraldo Rivera said that Trayvon’s hoodie was to blame for his death as much as Zimmerman. Say what? I don’t think that it is illegal to wear a hoodie the last time that I checked. Sean Hannity posited that it might be a “tragic accident” but why even offer that explanation when the killer ignored the police and acted on his own to provoke a confrontation?  In regards to hoodies in cool weather I almost always wear a black Baltimore Orioles or San Francisco Giants hoodie. Does that mean that I am more likely to be a criminal?  I think not but then I am not an African American teenager. However I wear hoodies all the time but the dirty little secret is that Trayvon Martin was black and as we all know the equation: Young Black Male+Hoodie=Criminal Thug that deserves to die; at least in the minds of some people.

President Obama did what any parent should do in regard to this and for him it is personal. On a day where a spectator at a shooting range where Rick Santorum was practicing yelled out “pretend it is Obama” the President said remarked that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. Of course Newt Gingrich called Obama’s comments “disgraceful.” Newt Gingrich is an ass who will do anything he can to make the story about him when he is being trounced by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum who both by the way condemned the shooting and called for an investigation.

Racism is at play in this and African Americans should be incensed about how the Sanford Police department handled this killing. The killer is free. The victim dead. The parents of the victim were not notified and Trayvon’s body was not released for three days.  Some have said that Zimmerman was “Spanish speaking and had black friends.” Well that does not not mean that the killing was not racially motivated, the fact that Zimmerman was calling him a “Coon” on the 911 tape is indisputable evidence.

I don’t live in some “white liberal dream land” when it comes to crime. When I was 19 my wife and I along with her parents were held up at gunpoint by two black men in our home town of Stockton California. I had a gun at my head and Judy had her glasses ripped off by the other assailant and ground into the parking lot. I don’t think that violent criminals should go unpunished or that people should not maintain a sharp eye and or not be able to defend themselves when actually threatened.

But that does not mean that I think that young black men are all potential armed robbers. I live in a racially mixed neighborhood with many black neighbors. A couple of years ago there was a series of break ins and robberies in the neighborhood that brought about the formation of a neighborhood watch.  Some of the criminals were black and eventually the burglary ring was broken. However that being said I cannot simply assume that a person is a criminal based on their race or how they dress.

When I am in town I am part of our neighborhood watch. However for law enforcement purposes I am a civilian. If I see something that I think is suspicious I call the police. I don’t take the law into my own hands. Being part of a neighborhood watch doesn’t give me or anyone the authority to take the law into our hands.

It really is that simple. George Zimmerman exceeded any measure of authority that he had under the law. He decided that he knew better than the police and ignored their guidance not to pursue the victim. The fact that he was given a pass by the Sanford Police under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is unconscionable.  Stand Your Ground was not designed to provide someone a license to kill. Zimmerman was not threatened. He took the initiative, ignored the police 911 operator and provoked a confrontation in which he killed an unarmed teenager while mumbling racial slurs on the 911 tape.  Zimmerman the vigilante pursued and killed a teenager who posed no threat to him and who was trying to avoid a confrontation.

Jeb Bush is right. The “Stand Your Ground” law provides no cover for Zimmerman who I view as a cold blooded killer. At the same time if charged Zimmerman deserves his day in court no-matter what I think which is far more grace than he gave to Trayvon Williams.

That my friends is premeditated murder motivated by racial prejudice and enabled by a law that gives a pass to anyone who claims that they “feel threatened.” It is a crude form of racially motivated vigilantism and it was not a tragic accident nor it was not the fault of the victim for wearing a hoodie.

Justice needs to be done in this and hopefully the attention that has been brought to this case will shake us from our complacency about the power of racially motivated fear that empowers men like George Zimmerman to kill kids and claim that they are the victim. There is something unjust about such a situation and I have to agree with the great civil rights activists that if there is not justice there can be no peace. Trayvon Martin is dead at the hands of a vigilante. His killer is free.

When will we ever learn?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Collaring Sean the Bounty Hunter: Sean Payton and Saints Hammered for Dreadful Practice

Sean the Bounty Hunter Payton (Getty Images)

“Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Today National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell hammered the New Orleans Saints for conducting a bounty hunting operation from during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, former Saints and now St Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for half of the 2012 season. A $500,000 fine was also leveled against the Saints who lost two draft picks. Player suspensions have not yet been announced by the league pending the review of the findings by the NFL Players Association.  It is expected that a number of Saints defensive stars may get suspended and fined.

The fact that the Saints were engaged in this was bad enough. However after reports surfaced following the 2009 season the team was warned and told the league that it had stopped the practice after Saints owner instructed Loomis to stop the practice. Well Loomis, Payton and Williams were stupid enough to lie to the NFL, make their owner look stupid and have been quite justifiably punished for their actions.

Football is a game of speed and violence. It is that fact that makes it popular with fans. Football at any level is not a game for the meek of heart and by nature is a game of violent hits.  The NFL and for that matter all football leagues have rules to mitigate some of the violence to lessen the chance of severe injuries to players but fundamentally it is a game of somewhat regulated gratuitous violence. Those that play the game understand this and to try to take all violence out of the game as it is the restrictions and penalties for hits that go beyond the normal expectation of the sport are already strong.

However the problem was not the violence that it inherent in the game it was the the fact that the team paid bounties to defensive players to intentionally and with deliberate forethought injure opposing players.  If anyone in the non-sporting world outside the NFL paid employees to injure or harm opponents in business, academia or anywhere else they would not only lose their job they would probably be charged with a crime.

Sports’ Illustrated’s Peter King discussed the 2009 NFC Championship Game detailed some of the transgressions:

“On Saturday nights during the 2009 NFL season, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the lightning-rod leader of a feisty unit, would stand in front of his men holding white envelopes filled with cash—bonuses for their performances the previous week. As Williams called up player after player, handing them envelopes with amounts ranging from $100 for a special teams tackle inside the opponents’ 20-yard line to $1,500 for knocking a foe out of the game, a chant would rise up from the fired-up defenders:

“Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!”

Many players would do just that, to beef up the pot and make the stakes bigger as the season went on. The NFL alleges that by the time New Orleans reached the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings on Jan. 24, 2010, the stakes had risen to the point that middle linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma personally offered a $10,000 bounty to any player who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. (SI’s attempts to reach Vilma were unsuccessful.)

Over four quarters that Sunday at the Superdome, Favre was hit repeatedly and hard. The league later fined Saints defensive linemen Bobby McCray and Anthony Hargrove a total of $25,000 for three separate improper hits, and NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said the Saints should have been flagged for a brutal high-low mashing by McCray and defensive lineman Remi Ayodele in the third quarter. Favre suffered a badly sprained left ankle on that play and had to be helped off the field. On the New Orleans sideline, Hargrove excitedly slapped hands with teammates, saying, “Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!”

An on-field microphone directed toward the sideline caught an unidentified defender saying, “Pay me my money!”

In a game where players are injured on clean plays sometimes ending their careers, where many active and retired players are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury, concussion syndrome and where it is not uncommon for players with head injuries to develop forms of early onset dementia for a team to actively solicit its players to injure opponents is despicable. Sean Payton may be a great coach as far as the game is concerned but neither he nor Gregg Williams should be allowed on the sidelines again.

For players to go after opponents hard in the course of a game is not the issue but to intentionally attempt to injure an opponent and to be paid a bounty to do it is beyond the lines. The decision by Roger Goodell and the league is the right one and it is just. Payton, Williams and Loomis used a bounty system to injure opposing players and lied about it to the league.

That may seem to be a harsh assessment on my part but it is fitting. The league will have to see just how many players were deliberately injured by the Saints during the years in question and undoubtably some of the affected players will file legal action against the Saints for their injuries. Those that think only of Sean Payton losing his 7.5 million dollar salary miss the point. The practices that he condoned and his subordinates executed cost injured players pain, suffering and money, especially those that were not able to fully recover from them. I think that Payton is lucky that no one has filed criminal charges against him.  Even Police Officers and the Military operate under law and can’t do this kind of thing. As for the rest of us if we paid employees to intentional harm others to further our business or give our company or organization an edge we would go to jail.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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