Sunday, May 21, 2023

Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appears at a railroad crossing on Houston's Kirby Street

I subscribe to the Houston Catholic Worker, the official newspaper of Casa Juan Diego, the Catholic Worker Hospitality House in Houston, Texas. My copy arrived in the mail yesterday, and I was disturbed to read that someone had stolen Casa Juan Diego’s ancient food delivery truck. Fortunately, the police recovered the vehicle, but thieves had removed the cargo box leaving the truck naked down to its frame.

I first saw that delivery truck in 2003 or 2004 while teaching at the University of Houston. I was driving down Kirby Street when I stopped at a railroad crossing so a train could pass. While waiting in my car, I saw the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe rising out of the traffic ahead of me. I was startled and instantly thought that I had been privileged to see an apparition of Mary, who has appeared from time to time in places like Fatima, Lourdes, and the little Irish village of Knock.

Staring intently, I realized that the image of La Virgen Morena had been painted on the rolling steel door on the back of the truck. After the train passed by, I caught up with the mysterious vehicle. I looked over and saw two ordinary men sitting in the truck cab. I spied nothing that would explain why the Virgin of Guadalupe was painted on the truck’s cargo door.

I could not get this seemingly trivial incident out of my mind, and I mentioned it to John Burke, a Catholic friend of mine. John said the truck belonged to Casa Juan Diego, the Catholic Worker homeless shelter and food pantry just off Kirby Street in West Houston.

I had an unpleasant job at a local university at the time and looked for ways to escape from vicious campus politics. I volunteered to help haul food from the Houston Food Pantry to Casa Maria, Casa Juan Diego’s food distribution site located in one of the barrios of southwest Houston. Every Thursday morning, I joined a group of volunteers who traveled in Casa Juan Diego’s food delivery truck to help load and unload four tons of donated food to Casa Maria. Occasionally we would stop at a Mexican food wholesaler, picking up several hundred pounds of rice and pinto beans.

This volunteer work was a blessing to me. I was doing something useful for at least a few hours every week. As a result of my vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Kirby Street, I was introduced to the Catholic Worker movement and the writings of its founder, Dorothy Day. I also learned about the seven corporal works of mercy, which form the mission statement of the Catholic Worker movement.

Perhaps most importantly, I came to know Mark and Louise Zwick, who founded Casa Juan Diego and devoted their lives to assisting the poor, particularly the undocumented Latin American immigrants who reside within the sheltering folds of a welcoming and generous metropolitan Houston. Someday, Dorothy Day will be canonized by the Catholic Church, and I believe Mark and Louise will be canonized as well.

In the meantime, the Catholic Workers of Houston have replaced the stolen cargo box. Soon, they will paint a new image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the rolling backdoor of Casa Juan Diego’s venerable food delivery truck, thereby invoking the protection of the Little Brown Virgin, the Patroness of the Americas.

 Listen and understand, my littlest son, let nothing frighten and afflict you or trouble your heart … Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow? 





Friday, May 19, 2023

Blue Plate mayonnaise rolls out a new label and gets at least one new customer. Meanwhile, Budweiser loses its fan base

Liz Faul, who writes for my local newspaper, reported a charming story about Blue Plate mayonnaise, made by a New Orleans company that's been in business since 1927. As Faul’s story explains, Blue Plate recently rolled out a new label that will likely attract new customers.

Why is the New Orleans mayonnaise company named Blue Plate anyway? The name refers to Blue Willow plates, which were popular in the South in the 1920s. Blue Plate's version of the plate features depictions of a pelican, a river steamboat, and Magnolia blossoms. These words appear across the top of the label: “A New Orleans family tradition since 1927.”

I love the new label, and as soon as I finished reading Liz Faul’s story about it, I told myself Kraft mayonnaise, you are dead to me.

What makes the Blue Plate mayonnaise label so appealing? It's because it seeks to bond with its customers. The label reminds grocery shoppers that the mayonnaise is made in New Orleans, America’s foremost food city. The Blue Willow plate design, with its images of a pelican, a steamboat, and magnolia blossoms, signals that the company is proud of its regional heritage.

Compare Blue Plate’s new label with Budweiser’s disastrous advertising campaign designed to make the company appear woke by putting a transgender influencer’s mug on its beer cans. That harebrained scheme cost Bud Light about a quarter of its customers in just a few months.

Insulting corporate customers is like cheating on one's wife. The relationship may survive, but it will never be the same. Several of my Louisiana relatives were loyal Bud Light customers until they saw Dylan Mulvaney’s endorsement of their favorite brew. I don’t think any of them will ever drink a Bud Light again.

Bud’s boycotting customers are not transphobes or homophobes. They’re just people who like to drink beer and associate beer with bowling, fishing, golfing, and watching football games on television on Saturday afternoons. And when they're relaxing with a brewski, they don't want to talk politics.

And Budweiser knows that. If you look at vintage Budweiser advertisements in old magazines, you will see nostalgic scenes picturing people having a good time in casual settings. And when they’re having that good time, they certainly don’t want to be virtue signaled by their beer company.

What will my relatives drink now that they’re boycotting Bud Light? Maybe they’ll switch to Modelo, a Mexican beer company that promotes itself as a beer for fighters.

This Bud's not for you, you transphobic son of a bitch.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

God bless people who work at useful jobs

Millions of Americans don’t work. Some are unemployed and looking for work; others simply refuse to look for a job. In fact,12 percent of men in their prime working years aren't in the workforce and aren't looking for work. Millions of healthy men are living off relatives, surviving on government benefits, or working side hustles in the underground economy and not paying taxes.

Millions more have jobs but are not doing anything useful. I spent 25 years in higher education, and I can tell you that many professors have retired on the job. These professors don’t do research, teach their classes poorly, and don’t show up at their offices except for mandatory office hours (maybe six hours a week). Hardly any university schedules classes on Friday, which means that a large percentage of university faculty members are working four-day weeks.

All across the national economy, we see Americans doing nothing more than pushing paper around. People in the advertising game are blitzing us with inane commercials for products we don't want or don't need. The gaming industry is promoting gambling, which is a pernicious and addictive pastime,

Thankfully, millions of Americans are working hard at jobs that need to be done. I suffered a stroke last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I dialed 911, and six EMS professionals showed up at my location within five minutes, despite the fact I had given them an incorrect address. I was able to unlock the front door even though I was partially paralyzed, but the 911 dispatcher assured me that my rescuers were willing and able to break down the door to get to me,

Those people work hard and are well-trained. My EMS team got me to a hospital in time for me to receive a time-sensitive drug that limited the long-term damage from my stroke.

Now I am in rehab, working with a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist. All my therapists are highly skilled young women who are enthusiastic about their jobs and full of energy. They assure me I will make a full recovery and walk again.

Our economy is changing drastically, and many college students are taking out loans to get an education that will not lead to a good job. A bachelor's degree in the humanities, liberal arts, or social sciences is a dead-end degree. A young person taking out student loans to get a degree in these soft disciplines may be committing financial suicide.

Most young people want a satisfying career in a field that pays well. Most of them seek work that is useful and meaningful. Today, smart young people don’t go to college to get a liberal arts degree. Instead, they choose majors that offer a clear path to a well-paying job and a satisfying career. 

I am grateful that some of these intelligent young people are choosing to work as first responders and healthcare workers. Our society needs them. I'm not sure it needs humanities professors.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Biden says white supremacy is the nation' s biggest threat. Where are those white supremacist rascals?

President Biden spoke at Howard University‘s commencement ceremony a few days ago, where he told his audience that "white supremacy" is the nation’s biggest threat. I’m not buying it.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is a majority-Black city. Our mayor is African American. Our police chief is African American. Our school superintendent is African American, and African Americans are well-represented on the municipal council and the school board.

 Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge has an African American president. The LSU law school recently appointed an African American woman with impeccable academic credentials as its new Dean.

Are there white supremacists in Baton Rouge? Probably, but they keep well hidden. If President Biden knows where they are, I wish he would point them out to me.

Everyone agrees that the United States has a shameful racist past. As late as 1955, an African American boy was lynched in Mississippi by a racist mob. Even today, I’m sure there are pockets of virulent racism throughout the United States.

Nevertheless, the nation has come a long way since the Supreme Court desegregated public schools in 1954. The nation elected its first African American president in 2008, and our current vice president is a Black woman.

I was deeply offended by President Biden’s remarks, which can fairly be described as race-baiting. It certainly was not a helpful thing to say to a mostly Black audience.

President Biden’s shameful speech reminds me of a passage from Solzhenitsyn’s novel, Cancer Ward. The trouble with Stalinist Socialism, one character observed, is that you can never hate enough. You can never say I’ve hated enough. From now on, I’m going to love.

Just as the soulless bureaucrats of Stalinist Russia constantly searched for more people to vilify, more people to denounce, and more people to ostracize, Biden constantly searches for more ways to divide Americans rather than unite us. He is like the wealthy planters in the Reconstruction South, who pitted poor Whites against poor Blacks and, thus, kept both groups from prospering.

But perhaps I am giving President Biden too much credit. We all know the President simply reads what is put in front of him when he makes a speech. Perhaps it is President Biden’s speech writers who are the hate mongers, and not the President himself.

Mildred and Richard Loving

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Get smart before you go to college because you might not get smarter while you're there

 I had a stroke last month, and I spent three weeks at a rehab center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During my time there, I was treated by several gifted occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists.

All my therapists were young women in their twenties. Every day I was inspired by these therapists’ competence, energy, and optimistic spirit.

Why did these women choose therapy as their occupation instead of gender studies or sociology? Why were they spending their days teaching elderly people how to walk and feed themselves instead of working as a government bureaucrat?

This is what I learned. The women who choose to become physical therapists and occupational therapists selected their vocation early, and they planned their college studies to reach a specific goal.

One young woman, I’ll call her Laura, told me she was awarded a state scholarship for her undergraduate studies, which she received based on her high school GPA and her score on the ACT exam. This scholarship award was good for four years, but she managed to graduate in three years, which allowed her to use her scholarship money for the first year of her graduate studies. she finished college with no debt.

Laura had to take out loans to finance her master's degree program in physical therapy, but she lived frugally and only borrowed $22,000. When the COVID crisis hit, the Department of Education put a hold on student debt collection. Unlike most student debtors, Laura kept on making monthly payments during the whole time of the COVID moratorium. She told me she reduced the amount of her debt from $22,000 to $17,000 during this time.

Unfortunately, I might say tragically, millions of college students do not pursue their vocational goals with the same discipline and clear-mindedness that Laura displayed. They see college as a time to party, to drink, and to engage in casual sex. They see student loans as a way to live a lifestyle they could not afford with their parents’ limited financial resources. They choose their academic majors carelessly. Perhaps they major in sociology because they heard it is an easy major. Maybe they choose a major like gender studies or ethnic studies in order to nurture a sense of victimhood.

When these hapless fools graduate from college, they learn that there are no jobs for people who graduated in the humanities or the social sciences. They realize they have no job skills at all. They can’t solve problems, they can’t write coherently, and they lack the people skills to be successful in the workplace.

Thank God there are still young people like Laura, who understand they have a responsibility to become productive citizens, and they have a desire to do something useful with their lives, even even if the job involves the unglamorous work of teaching an old man to walk, talk, and feed himself.

Not everyone can major in gender studies.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Why are universities opening campuses in Washington, DC? Bedause that’s where the money is

 Someone asked Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber, why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is," he replied.

If you were to ask the elite universities why they are opening campuses in Washington, DC, you would get a similar answer: Because that’s where the money is.

As reported in a recent issue of Inside Higher Ed, more than 40 American universities have opened campuses in the nation’s capital. For example, UCLA established a branch campus in DC at the cost of $50 million. It celebrated the event by flying the UCLA marching band to Washington, which must’ve cost the University a few additional bucks.

Carol Folt, UCLA‘s president, described the new outpost as the “Trojan Embassy,“ as if the university is a nation unto itself. So many universities have placed campuses near Dupont Circle in Washington, that the area has been described as “a kind of Embassy Row for non-local higher Ed institutions "

Why are so many universities setting up shop hundreds of miles from their flagship campuses? College leaders articulate all kinds of high-minded motivations. Some told Inside Higher Ed that their institutions “are increasingly looking to establish or fortify bases for developing relationships with policymakers and grant writing government offices. UCLA’s president said she hopes the new campus will help UCLA “play a larger role in shaping federal policy “on a wide range of issues.

Another higher education spokesperson explained the universities’ presence in DC this way: “Between what’s going on in the political realm and what’s going on in the grant making world, it is becoming more competitive to get this federal funding, and these are huge parts of these campuses’ revenue streams…. They believe if they’re only planted in one spot, they’ll have less of a voice "

Or, as Willie Sutton might’ve put it, the universities are in Washington, DC, because that’s where the money is. Like crack addicts, American colleges are hooked on federal money, and they want to be closer to their supplier. Or, to use another analogy, the universities have become a bunch of hookers lined up on Pennsylvania Avenue—whores who will turn any trick for cash.

The colleges will say that their District of Columbia presence benefits students. In Washington, higher education leaders argue' students can learn the art of politics, policymaking, and grant writing.

I disagree. Washington, Like most American metropolises, is an increasingly dangerous place to live. Why would any student want to take out student loans to live in an expensive, crime-ridden city teaming with venal lobbyists, sociopathic politicians, and unelected bureaucrats who believe they have the divine right to tell Americans living in flyover country how to live their lives.

Moreover, a college education becomes more expensive with each passing year. Why should students pay for branch campuses in Washington, DC, which mainly exist to feed college leaders’ pathological hubris and grandiosity?

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

I’m bored: Let's go to war with Russia

Peter, Paul and Mary, the iconic folk singers from the 1960s, sang several songs protesting the war in Vietnam. “Where have all the young men gone?” they sang. “Gone for soldiers, every one.” And then the refrain: “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

Apparently, the answer to that question is not yet because our government is resolutely pushing the United States toward war with Russia.

So far, Ukraine is doing the fighting and dying in its year-long conflict with Russia, sustained by American weapons, technology and military expertise. Ukraine appears to be holding its own, but it would be a mistake to believe that Russia will simply give up and abandon its imperialistic ambitions to annex a portion of its western neighbor. Certainly, in my opinion, Russia will never surrender Crimea.

The American mainline media is fond of describing Russia as a regional power with an incompetent military and unstable leadership. I’m not sure that’s true.

Napoleon thought he had defeated Russia when he captured Moscow in 1812. In Napoleon’s mind, all that was left to do was wait for Russia’s military leaders to admit they had been beaten and formally surrender.

But the Russians never showed up to surrender. Instead, winter set in, and a cataclysmic fire burned down most of Moscow.

Rather than spend the winter in a burned out city, Napoleon decided to march his troops back to France. That’s when the Cossacks showed up. Russian cavalry harassed the French army on its long retreat and Napoleon lost ninety percent of his troops before he reached safety.

During World War II, Hitler invaded Russia in the summer of 1941 and drove the Russians back across a broad front. The Nazis made it to the outskirts of Moscow but they never captured the city. The Germans besieged Leningrad for 900 days but the Russians refused to surrender, although one million Leningrad civilians died from starvation during the siege.

Are there any lessons to be learned from history? I think there are. Russia may appear to be on the verge of defeat in its war with Ukraine, but that’s what Napoleon and Hitler believed when they picked a fight with Russia.

But what do I know about military strategy and geopolitical affairs? After all, I’m just a retired professor who lives smack dab in the middle of flyover country.

That’s a fair point. On the other hand, what do the bozos in Washington know about military strategy or the tangled history that connects Ukraine and Russia? Apparently, not much.

The witless diplomats and policy wonks who are recklessly pushing our country into war with a nuclear power probably think it’s fun to muck around in eastern European affairs. Who knows? They might get a lucrative book contract out of this fracas or a teaching gig at Harvard.

But what is their goal? Is it to weaken Russia or is it to weaken the United States?

I, for one, do not favor baiting the Russian bear. I do not want my children or grandchildren to suffer or die because some fools in Washington have no idea what the Russians are capable of.