Michael Denton

Enjoys living below sea water, eating road kill, and complaining about how bad astro turf is in comparison to what LSU plays at home.

The Academy Awards and Deception

I had hoped to be able to write a post discussing the merits of most of the movies up for “Best Picture” before this Sunday, but my 3 month old made going to a movie in theaters most difficult. While I saw Inception, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and even Winter’s Bone, I didn’t think I could write something without seeing King’s Speech or True Grit, both of which I am very eager to see.

Nevertheless, I was amused to see that after Colin Firth won the award for Best Actor that facebook lit up with a few statuses from female friends that were very pleased that “Mr. Darcy” won. If you don’t know, Firth played Mr. Darcy in the epic BBC adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. This ignorance would also require that you are a) male and b) have never been in a relationship with a female.

I thought this was interesting that people immediately associate Firth with his fictional character. I’ve one the same thing myself. For example, when in Saving Private Ryan the (spoiler alert I suppose) fake Saving Private Ryan is revealed, I exclaimed “oh wow! That’s Capt. Reynolds!” referring to Nathan Fillion’s role as Capt. Mal Reynolds in “Firefly.”

I bring this up because while all of us if pressed would acknowledge that Firth is not really Mr. Darcy and that Fillion is not really Capt. Reynolds, I think there is a level at which we truly believe that these people are the characters they play. This is a remarkable accomplishment. Even though we know that they’re not, even though we know the actors are trying to deceive us, we are in some sense deceived. We don’t act out against it; instead we celebrate the accomplishments. Those who fail to deceive us either through unconvincing performances or trite dialogue are regarded as terrible actors.

This is important because when acting was used as a counter-example in the Lila Rose undercover debate, I thought it was mischaracterized. Before you leave, don’t fear-this is not another Lila Rose debate post. Continue reading

What Would Bush Have Done?

As I watched the situation in Egypt descend into chaos and violence, I started to think about how Bush would have handled these situations. Bush’s foreign policy was predicated upon a belief that America had a duty to spread democracy. I wonder if Bush would have been more quick than the Obama administration to side with the protesters. Although I appreciate that the US has a very delicate situation here, I wonder if now we’ve acted too late and not presented the positive pro-democracy face we could have to the people of the Middle East.

I also wonder if we need to reevaluate our appraisal of Bush. After all, Bush was mocked for believing that bringing democracy to Iraq would help spark the fire of democracy in the Middle East. While I still think the Iraq war did not meet the requirements of a just war, it is hard today to say that Bush was completely wrong. We’ve already seen Iran’s people rise up (though they failed) and today we see the people of Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan protesting. I don’t know if they’ll be successful, and I don’t know how much our presence in Iraq has helped or hurt democracy in the Middle East.

But it does seem clear that the Middle East is seeking more and more to be democratic and that the United States may need to rethink its strategy and partners not only to improve its image in the area, but more importantly help the Arab people secure a free and democratic government.

Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional

In the second ruling of its kind, a Florida judge has found the provision mandating individual health insurance to be unconstitutional. Even more interesting to me is that the judge found that the provision was inseparable from the rest of the bill, so that the whole bill is unconstitutional.

The first part may not be that important, as the Supreme Court will have the final say. However, it will be interesting to see what happens with the separability issue. I wonder if Obama will be encouraged by this ruling to start working with Republicans to put many of the positive/popular aspects of the plan (like not denying people with pre-existing conditions) into law such that they are not dependent on the individual mandate. If not, Obama is risking his legacy on getting a majority of Supreme Court justices to believe that’s it ok for the government to mandate people buy something with no way to opt out. That seems to me to be a very dangerous gamble, and considering the political capital Obama’s used on this reform, it would be wise for him to try to preserve what he can and keep as little in the hands of the judiciary as possible.

State of the Union Immediate Reaction

The president has just wrapped up his speech. Some quick thoughts:

  • I think it was better to not have everyone sit according to party.
  • I know we had this emphasis on a “new kind” of SOTU. I’m not buying it. To be sure, it had a theme which was good. But in the end, just “we can do it! Remember after Sputnik!” isn’t much of a theme, leaving us left with what the SOTU always is: a bunch of presidential policy proposals, or as Chief Justice Roberts put it, a political pep rally.
  • Very glad he addressed the BP oil spill. Oh wait…
  • He talked about the old world where hard work kept your job but that that world is gone. Could we at least give a thought to figuring out if we can restore that world before we forsake it? Or are we doomed to Wal-Marts?
  • I want to know how he’s going to simplify the tax code and the federal government. Good ideas, but the devil is in the details.
  • Not subsidizing oil companies is probably a long over-due reform, but good luck getting it through, especially since Obama has been so unreasonable with the drilling moratorium
  • Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school, but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success? Shouldn’t we be looking instead to figuring out how to make four-year institutions more effective and less costly?
  • On illegal immigration, I had hoped to hear more than just how illegals who get an education ought to be allowed a path for citizenship. I suppose with the climate no more can be said, which is very sad in itself.
  • Why didn’t we spend all this money on the infrastructure 2 years ago when we needed immediate jobs? Now we have debt and no infrastructure; we’ve missed our opportunity and with the deficit I’m suspicious of too many infrastructure building programs.
  • I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.
  • If someone could ban the cheap shots to random Americans stuck in the Chamber for those brief snap-shots, I would vote for them regardless of what they do.

Those are my thoughts at the moment. What do you think?

Is Mr. Smith in the Tea Party?

Now that college football season is over, Tito is going to make me write real posts again.

There was an interesting post a few days back from Stanley Fish comparing Palin’s vision of American to Frank Capra’s, particularly as embodied in his classic film (and my favorite movie) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The movie *spoiler alert* involves an young idealistic Boy Scout leader who is nominated to the Senate because the powers that be, including a sitting Senator and a large businessman, believe he can be easily manipulated to serve their interests. Mr. Smith stumbles into the corruption and attempts to expose him. His enemies mount a successful smear campaign for them, causing Mr. Smith to have to filibuster both to save his seat in the Senate and to expose the corruption. This is where Fish (who also mentions some other Capra works) comes in:

In each of these films the forces of statism, corporatism and mercantilism are routed by the spontaneous uprising of ordinary men who defeat the sophisticated machinations of their opponents by declaring, living and fighting for a simple basic creed of individualism, self-help, independence and freedom.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It describes what we have come to know as the Tea Party, which famously has no leaders, no organization, no official platform, no funds from the public trough. Although she only mentions the Tea Party briefly in her book, Palin is busily elaborating its principles, first in the lengthy discussion of Capra’s Jefferson Smith and then, at the end of the same chapter, in an equally lengthy discussion of Martin Luther King. These two men (one fictional, one real) are brought together when Palin says that King’s dream of an America that lived out “the true meaning of its creed” would be, if it were realized, “the fulfillment of America’s exceptional destiny.” A belief in that destiny and that exceptionalism is, she concludes, “a belief Senator Jefferson Smith would have agreed with.” (In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself became a believer in American exceptionalism the first time I visited Europe, in 1966.)

Exceptionalism can mean either that America is different in some important respect or that, in its difference, America is superior. Palin clearly means the latter:

I think however that the idea which Fish ascribes to Palin, namely that Mr. Smith stands for a lot of ideas of the tea party, is wrong. Continue reading

Cotton Bowl Discussion

Since this site has so many fans of the Texas A&M Aggies and the LSU Tigers on it, I figued it’d be fun to have a chat about their upcoming game. To get stuff started, MJ (Aggie fan & alum) and I (LSU fan & alum-not sure if anyone noticed I’m an LSU fan) exchanged 5 questions about the upcoming game. Go beyond the jump to see the discussion and be sure to comment & trash talk (in a Christian charitable way, of course) in the combox!

Continue reading

Bowl Pick’Em Update

As we head into the New Year’s Bowls, I thought you’d like an update on how our pick’em contest is progressing.

Green is for a correct guess, red for a wrong one. Bold is for games in which there was disagreement.

You’ll notice a most amusing trend: on the ones in which our contestants were unanimous, we’ve been mostly unanimously wrong! Only our picks of Boise St. & Oklahoma St. have survived! I am most glad that Jay saved LSU from that category by picking the Aggies!

Everyone is very much still alive, as Jay & I are tied with 9 point, Jagneaux has 8, and dave and opinionated Catholic are  not too far behind at 7.

As for the bowls themselves, they’ve been quite entertaining. Unless of course, you’re a Tennessee fan in which case you probably ought to accept that in the year 2010 our Lord decided that he hated Tennessee Volunteer football. You may have similar feelings if you hate the “No-Fun-League” penalty on Kansas State that cost them the game.

So while you reflect on 2010, continue to enjoy the bowls & the contest! And go Carolina Panthers!

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

I am a big supporter of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Unfortunately, the policy the Senate repealed on Saturday wasn’t the policy I wanted to see repealed.

To be sure, DADT as applied to gays in the military was eventually going to be repealed, even if it was a prudent attempt to prevent relationships within a unit that could endanger lives. I’ll let the military people decide about that. But we should understand what DADT really banned: it banned gays from openly discussing their homosexuality in the military.

So now that homosexuals have won the right to discuss their homosexuality, I wonder if they will be willing to repeal the social policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that is currently applied to Christians who want to discuss their Christianity.

How many times have Christians been told that their religion needs to be kept to themselves? I’m not merely talking about the political sphere here, though to be sure that applies. I’m also talking about every other area: social media, work, art, etc. Even in sermons, priests and preachers are criticized if the homily is too controversial or too Christians. Faith can only be discussed among small groups of like-minded believers in whispers as if the Church was an underground resistance movement. If the faith is to be brought to a broader audience, Christians have been reduced to trying to sneak their faith “through the gate” as CS Lewis described.

If religion is going to cease to be something people just do in the privacy of their homes & churches on Sunday and become a real and revitalizing part of American life, then the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as applied to Christians has to be done away. After all, if homosexuals (as they argued) cannot truly be themselves unless they can openly discuss their sexuality, why do we have the idea that Christians can be (and indeed must be) Christians while not openly discussing their faith?

Sadly, I imagine the forces behind Saturday’s repeal are among the most avid advocates of the DADT policy as applied to Christians.

TAC Bowl Pick’em

There’s still time to get in your picks for the Bowl Pick’Em game here at TAC. To encourage you, Jay Anderson & I have provided you with our picks & our comments about each bowl. Dave Hartline as well as commenter Nicholas Jagneux have also sent in picks, which I’ll show at the end. Again, your picks are definitely appreciated and we’ll take them until 1 o’clock CST tomorrow (when the New Mexico Bowl starts).

But first, another reminder to repeat “Leaders” and “Legends” to the nearest Big 10 fan you know.  Whatever dignity the Big 10 had is gone…ouch.

So let’s talk about the bowls! Continue reading

Catholicism and College Football

No doubt many of you spent the weekend ignoring family and holiday festivities and perhaps even food & drink in order to study up on the all the bowl games so you can make your picks for the TAC Bowl Pick’em contest. But it occurred to me that while we at TAC have talked a lot about who would win the most games, we never discussed who ought to win those games.

A few months ago, we discussed how the New Orleans Saints were the team that all good Catholics ought to cheer for. After that post, I had a lot of feedback thanking me for providing this guidance but also wondering if there could be some guidance on the college level. Take this email for example:

Dear Michael,

I am a twenty-something in West Virginia whose hobbies include making parody blogs and using political terms I don’t quite understand. I have hated football for some time, believing it to be anathema to my own beliefs. However, after reading your post I realized my hatred of football was a product of my own fascist tendencies.. However, there are no pro teams in West Virginia but there is a college one; I would prefer to cheer for a college team but require your guidance to know who to root for.

Or this one :

Dear Michael,

I am a Cowboys fan living in Ohio. However, after your post I find my heart step by step being moved by what can only be the Holy Spirit to cheer for the Saints. I could hardly help myself from letting out a hearty “Who Dat!” after Malcolm Jenkins stripped the ball against my former favorite team on Thanksgiving. I pray that God can grant me the faith to bleed black & gold. But this is not enough, as I have started to examine my college allegiances. Is there a college team out there that can inspire my soul the way the Saints do?

There were many many emails like this, almost as many emails as there are people who honestly think the executive order has the legal effect Bart Stupak claims it has. So for these few months, I have been discerning what the standings of many college football teams are in the eyes of God. Continue reading

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