An outsider’s look at the 2012 election – December 2011

30 December 2011

I was originally going to write this post yesterday, following up on my previous look at the upcoming elections from August.  But I decided I’d better do a little extra studying of the present-day situation before writing — and boy, am I glad I did!

I use the words “present-day situation” for a reason.  See, most of my thoughts lately regarding the coming election haven’t been about Obama, Romney, Gingrich and Bachmann — they’ve been about Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Nixon.  I’ve been reading a lot on previous presidential elections — Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (about Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet), Donald Ritchie’s Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932, Theodore White’s The Making of the President series (I’ve finished 1960 and 1964, am still working through 1968, and read 1972 years ago but plan to re-read), Michael Lewis’ Losers (about the 1996 Republican candidates) and of course Heilemann and Halperin’s controversial Game Change.  These books and others, while not perfect, are helping give me some perspective on what’s going on out there, and have led to some interesting insights that I’ll deal with down the road in this space.

But let’s leave the past be for the moment and look to the present — the 2012 GOP contest — as the January 3 Iowa caucus quickly approaches …

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What time is it? It’s movie awards time!

28 December 2011

It’s December 28, 2011.  The next Academy Awards will be held on February 26, 2012.  Which means … we are already well into the awards season!

Now you may be thinking, “whaaaa?  It’s two months away — whaddaya mean, we’re already into it?”  Well, what I mean is, we’re already into it.  Because the Oscars are only the culmination of a three-month-long orgy of the film industry and ancillary businesses patting each other on the back for another year of consistent profits and slightly less consistent artistry.  Plenty of awards have already been given, and numerous groups will be giving out more of them all the way up to the big Academy shindig 60 nights from now.  Heck, the screeners (special DVD copies of film) have been going out for weeks already, and sites like The Wrap and Gold Derby are currently festooned with enough “For Your Consideration” ads to choke Louis B. Mayer (and maybe even Oscar Mayer, no relation).

To date, trophies (real or metaphorical) have been handed out by the National Board of Review (the traditional first-awarders), the New York Film Critics Circle (this year’s first-awarders, as they bumped their announcement up to swipe some glory from the NBR), the International Press Association, and the film critics societies in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Florida, Indiana (!), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, the Southeast, Toronto, Utah (!!!) and Washington, D.C.  And there are plenty more to come as other critics’ group throw in their two cents, culminating in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe awards on January 15.  After that, the reviewers give way to the Hollywood (and elsewhere) guilds and a few independent groups, who’ll be passing out shiny baubles up to the eve of the Oscars themselves.

But already, a few trends have begun to emerge in the voting of the various groups, which give some indication as to who the Academy will nominate, and perhaps even who will win come 2/26/12 …

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Christmas on the down low

27 December 2011

So the Christmas season is winding down here at Chez Anselmeau.  Which in many ways is the best part of the Christmas season.

Now I’m not going to play Scrooge and pretend I don’t like Christmas, because I do.  I love  remembering what God did for us in coming to live among us in the person of Jesus, and how much He loves us that He was willing to be with us dirty apes at all.  I like the talk about peace and joy, and the reminders to give to those less fortunate (I need those reminders).  I enjoy the old hymns and stories — Christmastime is the only season where you get to hear 200-year-old songs on most radio stations, and it’s nice to see Charles Dickens and O. Henry get some attention.  And I enjoy spending time with family (my wife’s family these days, to be precise) and catch up on the year that’s past.

Furthermore, while I know many of them have pagan antecedents, I enjoy many of the secular traditions as well.  We always have a good-sized and very busily decorated tree in the house (a Douglas fir, always — for the price and the smell), and set up other holiday decor besides.  I can’t indulge in my wife’s baking as much as I used to — had to cut back on the carbs to avoid rampaging indigestion — but the season’s first batch of gingerbread is still much anticipated.  And I really, really like buying gifts — even more than getting them!  (This year, it was my daughter Charlotte who hit the jackpot — a 21-speed bike from Mom & Dad, an Snap Circuits electronics set from the grandparents, and a Kindle from her great-aunt and -uncle in Florida.  But she got me a book on the Giants’ 2010 championship season, which was perfect.)

But what makes the days after Christmas the most wonderful time of the season?  Easy.  We have all the thoughts about God and Jesus still in mind, all the decorations still up, all the gifts (which now we can enjoy) … and none of the spectacle.

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On the death of an atheist

16 December 2011

Last night, author and essayist Christopher Hitchens died of complications from esophageal cancer.  He was 62.

Hitchens is not someone whose work I enjoyed — or even respected.  I read a number of his essays and found them to be mean-spirited, insulting, and bereft of logic or evidence to support his assertions.  He was militantly anti-faith — one of his books was entitled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (I wonder how he explained all the hospitals, rescue missions, rehab centers, etc.) — and came across as sort of an atheist “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy.  Some say he challenged people’s faith; I tended to find that he spit on it and considered that a challenge.  (This is what I experienced of him; your mileage may vary.)

So upon reading of his death, I did have the obvious mental picture of Hitchens suddenly finding himself in the presence of the God he had so stridently denied.  Several ideas for Twitter tweets or Facebook statements came to mind, making light of what would seem to be his awkward position vis-a-vis the Omnipotent.  A few times I even typed them out …

… only to delete them, unposted.  Because I realized that there was nothing funny about it.

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Women in ministry: another view

13 December 2011

I was over at InternetMonk.com, reading an article dealing with women ministering in the church — specifically, with one (male) teacher’s statement that women should not be allowed to perform general teaching ministry in the church.  This concept usually goes under the title of “complementarianism” in Christian circles, though it also shows up in Islam and some sects of Judaism.

Now, I hesitate to leave it there, because to give this general theological stance a single name is kind of misleading — there are dozens of differing opinions even among self-proclaimed complementarians as to where the line between what women are and aren’t allowed to do in ministry should be drawn.  To some, no public ministry is allowed for women, ever.  To others, women are not allowed to preach or teach except to other women, or except to small children, or at some church functions but not others, or in hiding where the neighbors can’t see it … and so on.  I saw one report recently where a prominent evangelical leader, in answer to a question of whether it’s OK to listen to female Bible teachers on the radio, said that it’s probably all right … as long as the woman in question wasn’t the guy’s “primary teacher.”  (He left “primary teacher” undefined, so who knows what he meant.)  In regard to women in ministry, there’s a lot of that kind of hair-splitting in Christian circles.

One of the commenters on the article (credit where it’s due) was a fellow who calls himself “Eagle” — an outsider like myself, only more so.  He shared something he’d gotten from elsewhere, that was too pertinent for me not to steal and share with you. Read the rest of this entry »


The NFL coaching carousel, and who’s getting thrown off it

12 December 2011

(Another sinus bug, Thanksgiving, my 42nd birthday, life in general … and I end up gone from the blogosphere for another couple of weeks.  To paraphrase Remy the rat from Ratatouille, “I think it’s apparent that I need to rethink my blog a little bit.”  More on that in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, how about some football?)

Today, the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs fired head coaches Tony Sparano and Todd Haley, respectively.  This follows the Jacksonville Jaguars’ canning of Jack del Rio a couple of weeks ago.  A move like this always seems weird to me — if the season isn’t lost, why not wait until it’s over and see if the current guy can turn it around?  And if it IS lost, the only reason to boot the current fellow is to see if one of your current assistants can be The Man — but how can you tell that in only three games?  I dunno — to me it smacks of an owner trying to appease a fan base (or maybe a player base) that’s seriously disgruntled and out for blood.  “Here, tear this guy apart!”  The Owner says as he chucks the poor guy over the wall to the rampaging barbarians below, figuring that might stall them long enough for him to spirit his family out of the castle to the waiting escape ship …

Anyway, so three coaches gone, with three weeks still to go in the NFL regular season.  And it got me wondering, how many could end up gone by the time we reach the Super Bowl?  I took a few moments to look over the current standings and checked a few lifetime coaching records, and …

… and wouldja believe, as many as twelve?!?
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