Thursday, October 30, 2008

Millsaps vs Belhaven

I was never a big fan of the program they have over at Belhaven. Mixing evangelism and academics never made much sense to me. I always thought learning should be free of any preconceptions, be they religious or social or political so that you could follow the path wherever it took you.

They sure are successful though. Their program is growing much faster than ours at Millsaps. Part of it I think is because college is for young people, and parents always want their children to take the most secure path and maybe they see tying math and science and literature and art to some sort of larger religious purpose as more secure.

Being successful or popular doesn't mean it's the right path though. Sometimes the safer path doesn't travel nearly as far or as high as the one with more risks.

The Belhaven plan wasn't always that popular either. There were times when nobody knew if they could keep the doors open from one semester to the next. Millsaps has had its share of lean years before, but never as bad as that.

In the end, I will always believe that Millsaps offers the best deal possible for the people who can keep up with the challenge. We're not at the top of our game right now but that's just temporary. The time will come very soon when we'll shine brighter than ever.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Not Everybody Loves A Parade

A parade is great if you're in it. It's about half that great if you're not in it, but you have a child or grandchild who is and it's about half of that half if you're just watching for whatever entertainment value the parade might hold. (That figure increases slightly if the parade features multi-million dollar special effects like Disney or young women exposing themselves for plastic beads like Mardi Gras.)

For the rest of the world, a parade is pretty much just and obstacle to traffic and a nuisance. The nuisance factor is exaserbated by the size of the parade (and the amount of traffic it blocks) and the noise and garbage factors.

The trash factor is not negligible. The Mal's St Patricks Day Parade, besides enough beer bottles to open a pub, has in the past left dog shit and dirty diapers in the small space in front of my business, several blocks away from the parade itself. They do a pretty good job of cleaning up, and within 24 hours most of that stuff is gone, but still, if you're not in the parade, it just isn't very pleasant.

Today they had the Jackson State Homecomming parade. They've been having the Jackson State Homecomming parade every year for my entire life. You'd think, by now, everybody involved would have it down to a science. Not so. You never saw so much confusion and mess for one marching band in your life.

The worst part was the traffic detours. The parade stretched from the campus itself to the fairgrounds, which meant it split downtown in half with almost no possible way to get from one side to the other. The detours lead to nowhere, mostly moving you to dead ends or stuck, the wrong way, on a one way street.

Twice I stopped to ask the police officer or homeless person or whoever was directing traffic at intersections how to get around it, and all they could say was "follow the signs". Well, the signs lead to nowhere. Eventually, I was able to cross Capitol street somewhere around The Stewpot and wind my way back up to court street and finally to my destination.

So, I called city hall to find out what went wrong and let them know what they were doing just wasn't working very well. Nobody knew and nobody cared. One lady told me, it was Jackson State and I just had to put up with it. I suppose she was an alumi.

So if you're ever in a position to plan a parade or be in a parade or even just watch a parade, keep one thing in mind. It's great for you, but for the rest of the world who's not involved in your little event, a parade can be a huge pain in the ass.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If Obama Can Do It

It looks like the next president will be a Democrat. I'm pretty much OK with that. The parties are so polarized now that we really need to change colors once in a while so that one administration can check and repair the excesses of the previous administration.

In case you haven't noticed, Obama is a pretty liberal guy. The problem with liberals, is that most of what they want, if it were that easy, would have been done a long time ago. It's much easier for conservatives. Most of what they want is to remove restraints from the rich which is pretty easy to do. Liberals however have to try and figure out a way to make their big ideas work and often that's not so easy.

For instance: Bill Clinton ran for president on the promise of national health care, and he spent the first few years of his presidency trying to get national health care, but in the end, there were so many obstacles and so many challenges to the idea that he eventually had to give it up.

All of those problems with making national health care will be waiting for Obama once he takes office. Problems like that tend to stick around. We could use national health care though, if they can figure out how to make it work.

Jimmy Carter ran on a platform of peace in the middle east, but by the time he was done, Anwar Sedat was dead and our embassy in Iran was under siege. Obama has similar goals, lets hope he has better luck.

Carter also wanted to improve housing for the poor and working class. It's pretty hard to be against that idea. After twenty years though, his plan for improving housing evolved into the sub-prime mortgage disaster. It was a great goal, we were just on the wrong path for getting there.

Lyndon Johnson ran on the idea of a "war on poverty". Who could be against such an idea? It's not like somebody was going to come out and say they were for poverty.

Forty-five years later, a lot of people blame Johnson for creating a near-permanent welfare class that's almost impossible to evolve out of. It took another Democrat, Bill Clinton to go in and roll back a lot of what Johnson tried to do.

One of Obama's plans is to re-strengthen the unions. He says we were a better country when the unions were strong. That may be so, but I don't know how you're going to strengthen the unions without bringing back manufacturing and I don't see how you're going to bring back manufacturing without weakening the unions. So, if Obama wants to bring back the unions, I'm all for it, I just don't see how he's going to do it.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm bagging on the liberals needlessly. What they want to do, we need as a nation. It's just that they face a lot more obstacles to their goals than just the opposition party.

There's only one way to achieve these goals though, and that's to keep trying, from administration to administration, through the years until we eventually do get what we need.

Some of the efforts towards these goals will be misguided though, and in four years or eight or twelve, we'll elect a republican president to roll back Obama's mistakes, just like Obama will roll back the mistakes of George Bush.

That's how our system works. Checks and balances. It's the promise of Democracy and we'll rock along toward the future, even if it is three steps forward and two steps back sometimes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hiding in The Choir Loft

When I was a kid, we went to Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church. That's a pretty long name, but the people there were plain enough, and good minded.

My dad and Grandfather both preferred the eight-thirty service on Sunday Mornings, because it was simpler. Instead of the full choir, they had just one person singing. Usually the same lady from Sunday to Sunday, but sometimes the choir director himself would sing.

The eight-thirty service was held in the chapel rather than the big sanctuary. There were just enough attendees to fill up the little chapel pretty well. As small a crowd as it was, it was still too crowded for my dad though.

What most people didn't know was that there was an almost never used choir loft at the back of the chapel, and every Sunday, we as a family climbed the winding stairs up to the loft so we could attend services quietly, with nobody but the preacher, the organist and hopefully God ever knew we were ever there.

People would tease my dad that sitting up there in the loft, nobody but God ever knew he even went to church. That suited my dad pretty well. He believed that you should go to church, and support your church, but you just shouldn't make a very big deal out of it, and up there in the choir loft was just about as close to not a very big deal as you can get. As a bonus, if he fell asleep during the sermon (which he often did) nobody would ever know.

I think Jesus would have approved of this as well. In Matthew 6, he tell us not to be boastful or loud when we pray, but to do it quietly and in private so that only God saw you. That's the way my dad liked it too. Up in the choir loft, in the back of the chapel where nobody but God even knew he went to church.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Natural Cycle

There has been bad news about the economy lately and, in times like these, many people are worried and afraid. Don't be too afraid though, a lot of what we're going through is natural. We've been through it many times in the past and we always came back stronger.

The economy behaves like a living thing because it is made up of millions of living things and like any living thing, it goes through cycles of expansion and contraction.

Contraction is a disturbing process, but everything I read tells me we are doing the right things to come back form this strong and healthy.

We'd like to think the economy would grow forever and on the news and among economists we tend to call an economy that grows from one quarter to the next "good" but one that doesn't grow or declines "bad".

That's not a very practical way to think of a living thing though. All living things have times when they must pull back to mend wounds and correct mistakes and prepare for the next cycle of growth.

We made mistakes with the housing market and sub-prime mortgages and now our economy needs to pull back to mend wounds and correct mistakes. This is natural and nothing to be afraid of. You could even say it was a necessary thing.

Even in declining times, living things always seek a means to grow and thrive, so will our economy. Even now, people all across the nation are making plans to grow again. We will come back stronger and better than before. We always have.

Have faith in God and nature and believe in each other and we'll come through this healthy and strong.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I hate Voter Registration Drives

I hate voter registration drives.

To be perfectly honest, if you have to go out like a door-to-door salesman and harass people into registering to vote, then I'd kind of rather those people didn't vote.

It smacks of the days when Richard J. Daley had teams going out to register drunks and dead people in Chicago.

Everything should be done to protect people's right to vote, but if they're not going to actually take the steps to do it of their own accord, I say just leave them out. They don't deserve to vote.

Years ago, I actually did this for the Democratic party. Here's how it went.

Knock, Knock, Knock

ME: Hello sir, we're out registering people to vote so you can exercise your precious right to determine your future. Brave men and women fought and died to give you this right. Do you have a few minutes to fill out these forms?

UN-REGISTERED VOTER: Yeah dude, just leave the papers and I'll do it later, I'm watching People's Court now though.

Are you kidding me? That guy should never vote. Ever.

Official Ted Lasso