Saturday, December 24, 2011


The potential positive and peaceful influence of Christmas was always apparent to me even when I was a wee, optimistic and naïve lad. Even now in my optimistic and naïve maturity that potential is more obvious. Potential by its very definition is always there though now seems to be ever fleeting in a world engrossed with selfish, disposable, obstructionist even suicidal agenda (my way or the highway). The great irony is that the Middle East - fountainhead of that peace is now more than ever the venue for those who would perpetrate violence against the world to include even their own people.

That potential peace does not now appear to extend to Washington, DC either where civility and common sense have all gone up in smoke. We may not be setting IEDs or literally blowing each other up, though some folks claim that’s already happening metaphorically. Surely, our critics here and abroad are correct in their assertions that we have seen better days and are starting a steep decline to mediocrity and ultimate obscurity.

Not even the prospects of Christmas could initially convince House Republicans to timely cooperate with their compromising Senate like signs. Only when the realization that their latest obstructionist strategy would result in game-ending political disaster did House Republicans capitulate by passing a last-minute tax cut extension for an estimated 160 million American workers along with further unemployment benefits for millions more laid off workers. The Republican epiphany was prompted by their constituents, The Press, The White House and their own party. Methinks that we are finally seeing what Speaker Boehner and his fellow House Republicans are all about. We need remember this submission was their white flag – a surrender - and not of their own doing. It was a deliberate strategy backfired. Bottom line: there has been no peace (or progress) on Capitol Hill this year. The prospects for 2012 look even bleaker. No doubt the Republicans will try and spin this one – big time.
So much for peace and goodwill towards Men…

Back in the Middle East we usually by this time of the year see declarations of cease-fire – a brief truce - in war torn areas, a respite from hostilities and optimistically a platform by which a long lasting peace can be negotiated. It’s happened before, but we haven’t seen that this year… Everybody’s hunkered down in their corners looking for weaknesses in their adversaries to exploit.

We understand that since, “the world will never move to the rhythm of a choir singing Silent Night”, we will need another miracle to match that singular one over 2000 years ago. Christmas – the winter solstice – should be a time of reflection, contemplation and understanding just as it was for the ancient Celts and most everyone else thousands of years ago. The miracle we need is absolutely huge - one where everyone will see the potential good in collaboration - a mutual respect and trust where we can all start working together for the common good.

If not, that miracle might be the “modest proposal” offered by a frustrated, confounded and always objective Bob Schieffer, native Texan and CBS’s Chief Washington Correspondent who while also serving as anchor and moderator of Face The Nation has witnessed first-hand the ongoing Capitol Hill Drivel. Schieffer recommends (with tongue firmly in cheek) that a separate though empowered Congress whose members will only serve for one year before returning home (our original concept), come up with the solutions to our current policy deadlock. The existing Congress will be allowed to continue to assemble and deliberate any issue they so desire, without pay or the ability to create any legislation. Toothless, then as now, we can see that their only value (then as now) would be entertainment. The Greeks called it tragedy

Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay! Please pray and work for the Communion of Man and remember that Christmas is 365 days a year. Your donation to your local food bank and the Children’s Miracle Network will allow you a very earthly state of grace and help a lot of folks.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I just watched PBS station KERA-TV in Dallas, Texas offer up their annual Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) Christmas special. Smart as always KERA was using this special as part of their annual fund raising effort. I saw this program several years ago and remembered it well - TSO’s 1999 The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. You see, I remember because it featured then lead vocalist Daryl Pediford singing his incomparable and seemingly personal Music Box Blues. If you haven’t seen the extraordinary TSO before, this is a must - especially if you like Mannheim Steamroller.

Though Daryl Pediford died tragically and all too young in 2004 he made this Christmas 2011 season special for me just by his presence on the television. His singing was a generous gift to all that saw and heard him. He delivered his songs with such emotion and passion you lived and understood every word and nuance, let alone his superb vocals.

TSO guitarist Chris Caffery eulogized Pediford as, “a rock and roll Bing Crosby” and that fits OK for me though perhaps more rhythm and blues... If more folks had the opportunity to hear and appreciate Daryl’s Music Box Blues that song would soon achieve Christmas Hall of Fame status. It’s already that for me and at least one record company includes it in their album of the top 100 Christmas Songs of all time.

Mind you, this is not your traditional “European style” Christmas song – after all it’s the blues. The song can probably be sung and appreciated any day of the year. While it sadly reflects a modern loss of relationship, it talks of the constancy of love and hope all wound up in that music box gifted on a Christmas past.

So, Diamond Daryl, thanks from all of us for bringing and sharing your gift and spirit. We offer a link to Vimeo’s offering of Daryl’s Music Box Blues. This is dedicated to musicologist Austin and his passion and love of Jazz and the Blues. Enjoy...

Happy Holidays, Aye

Ned Buxton

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The Big East Conference just announced to the whole world that SMU, Houston, San Diego State, Central Florida and Boise State have now joined a league formerly mostly comprised of schools in the northeastern United States, well OK East. Navy, and two schools yet to be determined (Air Force declined) are expected to follow shortly for football only. God only knows what’s going to happen to the basketball program – the main motivator for the formation of the Big East which is now in survival mode.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is just the tip of the iceberg and no one is pretending anymore – it’s all about money, that big elusive automatic qualifying BCS ticket and national exposure with athletics seemingly driving academics. Now as for that automatic qualifier (AQ) for the BCS? Well, that’s not even guaranteed as the landscape of college football will surely change as contracts lapse, new ones are negotiated and the whole BCS system comes under even greater scrutiny. Having said that, the Big East does not appear to have strengthened their hand in football and unless there are some dramatic changes in fortune, this is a last gasp exercise in futility.

The good ole boy network is alive and well and the Deans, Chancellors and Presidents of our great Universities like SMU’s Gerald Turner (one of our bright spots) are scrambling to pay the bills and increase their exposure. Turner commented on SMU’s move to the Big East, “Coupled with our steady rise academically and athletically, we are in a good position to continue our rise among national universities.” Does Gerald mean that the ultimate success of SMU depends on what athletic conference they belong? No, Toto we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

That certainly appears to be the lay of the land for our major universities who feel this move is critical to their survival. Exactly what do San Diego State (SDSU) and Rutgers have in common? Well, absolutely nothing - up to now. SDSU was only invited to placate Boise State who wanted to link with another western school. And why does Boise State want in the Big East? The only reason is to secure a berth in the BCS, period. And what if that goes away?

However naïve, I have always believed that rivalries among those institutions that compete in the same geography and based on academics and that indispensable sense of Alma Mater (ie the 12th Man) are the necessary ingredients of great colleges and universities and a quality post-secondary experience. That those universities have successful athletic programs are the gravy on the biscuit. If you saw the 112th meeting of US Military Academy (Army) and the Naval Academy (Navy) today on the gridiron then you understand.

Many schools are now more of a means to an end for and unto themselves and there is no visceral sense of loyalty, fraternity - being part of a special Family. My anthropology genes are kicking in as I even evoke kinship as a major part of that paradigm. When we talk about our schools conversations seem to be limited to athletics not that Ole Miss was able to attract Dr. Daniel DiBardino who joined the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s congenital heart surgery team, moving here from the University of Michigan Medical School. Then there’s Dr. Jorge Salazar… but you get the idea. There is life after football.

For those colleges and universities thrust onto the national landscape and prompted to engage this conference merry go round, the challenge is now even greater to focus on academics. The great irony in a goes around-comes around world is that those small schools that comprise the Ivy League, New England Small College Athletic Conference and other like organizations may be the last bastion of a superior quality higher education. They may have always been as they are now - merely the best and not so ironically, where the game of American football started. Then, as now, they had the whole school environment and experience placed in a proper perspective.

To this day the Ivy League and schools like Amherst and Williams prohibit athletic scholarships. Their concession is that athletes will be admitted as students and, “awarded financial aid only on the basis of the same academic standards and economic need as are applied to all other students.” This would seem to guarantee that students will go to these schools for an education and not as a stepping stone to the NFL.

The point here is that the game started conspicuously as the opportunity for recreation and to solidify rivalries and relationships with other universities – all without the benefit of scholarship on that field of honor. It was the love of sport and, yes, Alma Mater.

Say goodbye to those “backyard brawls” and the traditional football rivalries that have made the game of college football special. College athletes in the Big East will now be required to travel thousands of miles to compete against conference schools. Fact: the University of Connecticut is 2,600.27 miles from Boise State University. Yikes! Potential dollars or not, as a parent I would certainly balk at those prospects. The academic life for the student athlete can’t help but be substantially compromised –and surely not enhanced.

Prepare yourself for more changes and know that in this circus atmosphere - the sky is falling. Think I’ll stick with the SEC who mostly seems to have their act together. Of course, I also have my personal favorites - Brown University or Williams and Amherst Colleges until they bolt – Nah

So what is the Big East going to call itself now? One person suggested the National Football League but was reminded it was already taken.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Our first reaction when we heard about the so-called “Occupy Movement” was here’s more senseless, disjointed and irrational gyrations from wide-eyed liberals out to save the world – more of that, here we go again anarchistic crap. It has turned out to be all that and more because of its lack of focus, direction and some violence and vandalism. But there is, however small, an undercurrent of foreboding - the old “have vs. have not” paradigm that harkens us back to not so kinder and gentler times that seem to be upon us once again – if they ever left. So, this is not a new issue, rather a continuation of one that democratic societies have had to deal with since their inception.

To many, the Occupy Movement is a modern Woodstock and party with a sinister beat. Their mission and goals have been poorly articulated with most coverage revolving around Occupy’s right to camp out here or there on public property and to disrupt business activity – ultimately both losing propositions. This writer had to delve deeply to ferret out their goals and suspect that most other folks won’t expend that kind of effort. FYI – Wikipedia does a good job.

It has been almost comical to hear proponents of the movement waxing eloquent about the seismic effect these protests have had on our society? Don’t know what planet these folks are on but the effect has hardly been negligible. They have mostly mobilized law enforcement and city sanitation crews that have had to monitor, eventually arrest law breaking protesters and then the indignity of all indignities - clean up after them, all at taxpayer expense. That effort hasn’t been easy considering the group’s poor behaviors with protesters using public parks and sitting areas as latrines. Yes, lots of doggie bags were used in the clean-up and come spring we’ll find out just how much grass they killed.

Lots of folks converged on these occupy sites including the homeless and party goers looking for food, sex, drugs and a good time. It would appear that in some venues and to the chagrin of Occupy security, the “fornicators and poopers” have hijacked the movement. The Dallas Occupy’s pro bono and frustrated attorney, Jonathan Winocour is quoted as scolding the group – directing them to, “Stop partying and start protesting. The opportunity is yours to waste.” Good though unheeded advice. Eat drink and be merry is alive and well in Occupy.

As for effect on the public - pollsters report that around half of all Americans say they have heard of the Occupy Movement, though most of the public don't have an opinion about the movement, positive or otherwise. It’s been a very benign experience evoking mostly apathy among the populous. The Occupy protests are part of a larger network of demonstrations throughout the world where the "we are the 99%" protest the rising costs of health care, the mortgage crisis, the exponentially increasing national debt and the burdensome influence that large corporations have on our country and planet, among others. Credible issues all, but their answer is to block the flow of capital and stop commerce? Nuts…

I remember well the Civil Rights Movement and even the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s which were successful (1968 notwithstanding) because of better organization, a coordinated articulation of goals and a cause embraced by the many. Two of these three don’t exist here. Agree or not, you understood their objectives.

We will agree that the Occupy Movement has created the opportunity for a continuing dialogue on the issues but there is no new consensus or headlong rush to right the wrongs created by the irresponsible behaviors of the few. We put a huge band aid on the problem in 2008 and 2009 that allowed our survival but now appears exacerbated by the current political gridlock which has paralyzed our government. Protest that…

Recent surveys reflect that the gap between the have and have nots (the disparity of wealth between the top 1% and the rest of us) is growing to absurd proportions. It certainly appears that some who occupy the domains we call Wall Street and the boardrooms of the world’s largest corporations continue to earn irrational wages and dividends by manipulating an already volatile stock market or exploiting the planet’s natural resources to our collective detriment. Having said that, many more (the great majority) earn their huge salaries and dividends honestly. The big Occupy issues we surmise are that international/transnational corporations are pulling all the strings now with profit at any expense their business model and the ever evolving First Amendment debate.

The Vancouver-based, not-for-profit Canadian anti-consumer agency Adbusters Media Foundation seems to be, sorta, providing the inspiration for the Occupy demonstrations around the world. While local protests clamor for their five minutes of fame, the media doesn’t appear to be buying into it more than just the day’s news as they too perceive Occupy as an event that’s attracted the vagrant, homeless, party animals and space cadets in our society along with a few very righteously motivated and indignant whose overall numbers might be approaching a very vocal 1% - nowhere near their 99% claim. That’s sad because while some of their issues are credible, few seem motivated to join the cause. They might as well be protesting sun spots. Ghastly things those sunspots

Free Speech and Right of Assembly aside, Occupy pushes the boundaries of common sense and constitutional law. No one will dispute the right of this or any group to demonstrate and express their views. Hunkering down, however, with the avowed intent to “stop the flow of capital in the United States” and disrupting businesses while still expecting accommodations by the tax paying public is a huge stretch. That Occupy was being allowed to camp out for even one night in public areas without the benefit of utilities and sanitation is a huge leap and deserves our extra scrutiny. Indeed, many cities continue to bend over backwards to accommodate the Occupy protesters though we feel concerns over public safety and security will eventually trump these nocturnal protests.

Some advice to serious Occupy activists – if you haven’t already lost confidence in the system - get engaged in the process, educate yourself on relevant issues, boycott (don’t disrupt) companies you feel violate good business ethics and planetary imperatives, contact your representatives and lodge complaints and effect changes from within. If you don’t like your representatives’ performance – vote them out. Learn the real difference between rights and entitlements and don’t deny me my rights while declaring yours. Limit your protests to daytime/light hours and address “private functions” at other appropriate venues. Other than that with your very bad start you will always be on the outside looking in.

Happy Holidays.


Ned Buxton