Start a High School Food Pantry – #faithbasedliberals

High School Food Pantry

High School Food Pantry

Why should you care about starting a high school food pantry? It’s a good way to become a faith based liberal. Even without the election fiasco, government continues to shrink. Giving teens an additional nutrition boost is a good idea. While a basic way to help fight hunger is to donate to your local “big” food bank (Second Harvest, here in Southern Louisiana), this is an area where we have to go further. So, the big food banks do their jobs well, making sure families get assistance. Thing is, kids need more. Every parent of teens knows they eat. No, that’s not right. They EAT. The hormones kick in and your fridge gets emptied. A food bank can give a the families they serve so much. If a family had more than one resource to turn to, maybe the teens won’t go hungry.

How it works

Feeding America describes the idea of a high school food pantry:

School Pantries take place at a consistent location within a school’s campus. They have set distribution schedules and offer ongoing food assistance services. The pantry may have a permanent set up within a school or may operate through a mobile distribution rotation that brings food to a school campus.

So, starting a food pantry isn’t hard. So, I’ve linked to a few articles in the sidebar on making this happen. This is your start towards being a faith based liberal. While it’s easy to run with this, you can stay in your comfort zone. Sure, you or someone you know needs to kick this off, but everyone else can kick up money and Kraft dinner weekly.

New Orleans angle

The challenge of any food bank is to stay stocked. It’s easy in a large school with a diverse student body. There are all sorts of ways to get teens to part with the cash they’d usually spend at Starbucks. It’s also easy for a teen to say, “Mom, can you pick up two or three things for our food pantry?” on a weekly basis. Make this a project for a service club at a school.

What about areas where there’s less economic diversity? New Orleans is a great example. Thousands of middle-class kids go to private schools, while the student bodies of public schools have a significant percentage of kids living in poverty. The food (and cash) needs to move from the private/Catholic schools into the public schools. If a private school could adopt a public school, establishing and sustaining a food pantry there, wealth gets transferred. We start sall. Maybe we even stay small. It’s not about government.

It’s faith based liberals. Social Justice Warriors.

Starting a Food Pantry

Feeding America explains the concept

Food Bank of Delaware’s considerations when getting started

Food Bank of Iowa offers some thoughts


USAvMEX at The Pub for Football Friday


USA vs Mexico!

YatPundit’s Pub is all about The Beautiful Game

USAvMEX tonight! We’re fans of Association Football here at YatPundit’s Pub. Specifically, we follow and support two soccer teams: Arsenal Football Club, that wonderful North London side that wears red. My sons support the team from Manchester, UK, that also wears red, so there’s a lot of banter about when they’re home or we’re on the phone. That’s as it should be when folks are passionate about their side.

Soccer always improves my mood when it comes to whatever else is going on in the world. In the aftermath of Tuesday, that’s important. This weekend is what’s known as an “international break” in the club season. The national teams compete about once a month as they move forward in qualifying for the World Cup. The next World Cup Final tournament will be in the summer of 2018, in Russia. Each continent has a federation that oversees competition for the spots in the final tournament for their countries.


Here in the North America, that federation is the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF. US Soccer’s Men’s National Team faces Mexico tonight, in their quest for a spot in WC2018. Columbus, Ohio hosts the match. Since 2001, Team USA has not lost to Mexico when they’ve played in Columbus.

As they say in politics, the “optics” of playing in Columbus are awful. The reason is simple: there are very few Mexico fans in that city, when compared to other cities, like Los Angeles, Dallas, or Houston. This is one of those occasions where USA supporters don’t care about optics, because we want the win. I’m all about having USA-Mexico friendly matches in the warmer cities where there’s a big Mexican/Mexican-American population. It makes money for US Soccer and sells a lot of bad stadium beer.

This game, though? Vamanos, USA!

YatPundit’s Pub #2 – Dealing with anxiety and stress


YatPundit’s Pub – Day 2 of Trumpworld

yatpundit's pub

Entrance to the Labyrinth at Audubon Park

Our second pod from YatPundit’s Pub. Today, some thoughts before I walked the Labyrinth, then some comments on mental health and taking care of our people.

The Labyrinth

yatpundit's pub

The Chartres Labyrinth at Audubon Park

We’re fortunate to have a Chartres-style labyrinth here in New Orleans, located uptown, at Audubon Park. If you’re not familiar with labyrinths and their applications, Veriditas, the Labyrinth project, has a great getting-started page that will help orient you. One of the things I try to do when I go out to Silicon Valley to teach is to go into San Francisco and walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. I prefer the outdoor labyrinth there. So, take a look at Veriditas and their work, and if there’s a labyrinth near you, perhaps it will help you eject some of the anxiety and stress in your life.

Taking care of friends

Anxiety and depression are all around us since Tuesday night. It’s important we take care of friends and family. The group that worries me most are what I call “social media self medicaters” – folks who have serious issues with anxiety and/or depression, but aren’t seeing anyone for it. They come onto platforms like Facebook and try to talk out their issues, but that can backfire. Facebook can be a dark and scary place for some people. Therefore, we don’t need our friends who already have issues talking to people who will exacerbate their problems.

This is a challenging situation, since it’s hard to simply tell someone to stay off social media. Also, a lot of folks right now have legitimate concerns, since crazed conservatives are making up wish lists of things from the last eight years that they want to undo. Same-sex marriages and Obamacare are high on most of those lists. This crap isn’t something our friends need in their lives.

Take care of your people!

NOTE: In the pod, I mention an incident in Lafayette, Louisiana, involving a Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The young woman has admitted to the police she fabricated the story.


Dear white people: don’t tell people of color it’s going to be OK

white people

White People can become blinded by their privilege

Hey, White People! Don’t tell them it’s going to be OK. It’s NOT going to be OK for them. Your white privilege will protect you from the worst of the social policies of total Republican control.

Your nonwhite friends? Not so much. Don’t apply your white view of the world to their situation.

Take Action

  • Here’s what to do. Tell your nonwhite friends that you will:
  • Listen to them
  • Take them seriously
  • Treat them with respect
  • Offer understanding

At a minimum, you can do these things. These actions won’t pull you out of your aura of whiteness that protects you in the United States.

Go Further

Still, you should go further. It’s possible to drop your psychic shields and bring your friends into your aura of whiteness. You can:

  • Walk with them out to the parking lot after work
  • Go out for happy hour
  • Invite them into your home for “game night” – bring them into your circle of friends
  • Set up play-dates with their children and yours
  • Stand by them when some of your friends abandon you for being inclusive

It’s not all that difficult. Safety is one of the greatest concerns nonwhite folks have. This is like the old Chris Rock sketch about how not to get your ass kicked by the police. One of the tips was “get a white friend”. BE the white friend. BE the colleague that goes that extra step in the workplace. Your #whiteprivilege is a tangible force. It can be channeled for good. For example, Muslim women shouldn’t be walking alone at night. There’s been an uptick in incidents such as these attacks on Muslim women on college campuses. These cowards are less likely to attack a group. Be part of the group.

Drop the shield

The ultimate thing you can do for your nonwhite friends is to drop your aura of whiteness entirely:

  • Stand and march with nonwhite folks to protest abuse of civil rights
  • Get between nonwhite protesters and police
  • Shield non-Christian coworkers when they pray
  • Call out other white people when they abuse nonwhites

Yes, these actions could put you at risk. They’ll reap incredible benefits, however.





YatPundit’s Pub – Podcast #1 – Aftermath


YatPundit’s Pub brings the podcast back, and we’re going to talk about a lot of things. The Pub will run 15-30 minutes, Monday thru Friday.

YatPundit’s Pub

It’s right here. We’re at the bar at Tujague’s. Maybe we’re at a table at The Bulldog on Canal Blvd. It’s wherever New Orleanians get together to talk.

One important point–it’s the “liberal” side of the bar. It’s the table in the corner where the Democrats gather. Don’t think for a moment it’s not, even on the days when politics isn’t the subject.

And we’re off!

Election Aftermath

Today we discuss the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s Presidential election. Three segments:

  • Where we are today, and up to 20-Jan-2017
  • Immediate thoughts on what we need to focus on for the first two years of the next presidency
  • Long-term future: We need to be “Faith Based Liberals” and rebuild progressive local government

I’m not going to get into recriminations, blame, etc. It didn’t do any good to go there in 2000, and it’s not going to do any good now. The place for that discussion is when we talk about the long term. Progressives need to work to re-build our presence in government at the local and state levels. That’s where the Clinton-versus-Sanders, the Liberal-versus-DLC, the beliefs of the Democratic Party come in. We’ll get there. It’s the things we should talk over a beer. Or two.

So, YatPundit’s Pub isn’t going to be all politics. We’re going to talk about food, drink, and cultcha! It’s what you expect when you sit down at the table with your beverage. Hopefully we’ll get others involved to chat about these things, so it’s not just me ranting. My day gig (computer training and consulting) still involves a bit of travel, and the pod won’t stop because of that.

While pub conversations will vary, one fixed subject here in the pub is going to be “Football Friday”. We’re going to talk about soccer. If you’re a fan of The Beautiful Game, and you grow weary of me talking about Arsenal Football Club, let’s get you on the pod and we’re have some proper banter.




The Faith Based Left

The Faith Based Left


The Faith Based Left must stand up. Religious conservatives did this, we can do so as well.

Here’s how pros do things. You lose, you take a shower, have a drink, and get ready for the next game.

The Faith Based Left

So, as Jed would say, “What’s next?”

The left must accept that, for the next few years, we’re not getting anything out of government. SCOTUS goes back to 5-4, most likely with a replacement for Scalia that’s worse than Scalia himself. For the next two years, government is in total control of the Republican Party. We have to accept that fact and do what we can to mitigate its impact.

How do we do that? We need to become a faith-based community. What is our faith? That the United States of America is better than the vision the Republicans have for the country. There are a number of things we now cannot rely upon the government to support/nurture/fix:

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Criminal Justice
  • LGBT Rights
  • Poverty

These are just five areas right off the top of my head. Traditionally, we Democrats would use government to improve the position of all in these and so many other areas. That’s not happening now. We won’t have the federal government to help. We’re going to have to do them ourselves.

Fleshing out an agenda

Education. While liberals have always supported public education. We need to accept that funding for public education isn’t going to improve. Time to adopt the initiatives of the right, such as homeschooling.

Health Care. ACA is gone, count on it. So, maybe they’ll work something out on pre-existing conditions, but even that may go. We need to look to private solutions, community clinics, and other non-governmental solutions. We do it in the third world, we need to apply what we do well in our own country now.

Criminal Justice. The for-profit prison industry has been a disaster, and that’s not going to change with even greater Republican dominance of government. Public/Indigent defenders are barely funded as it is now. That’s not going to improve. Liberals are going to have to take the right to an attorney into the community. We need to nurture and support legal assistance clinics and private indigent defense practices.

LGBT Rights. Liberals need to do what religious conservatives did in the 1980s, infiltrate and reclaim local government. We know most gains in this area will get rolled back at the federal level, so we have to work from the bottom up. Elect school boards The Left must become a faith-based communitywhose members encourage diversity and tolerance. It starts now.

Poverty. We have to feed our communities. The government just isn’t going to do it.

These are thoughts off the top of my head after a very rude awakening this morning. We need to make it all happen.


The right to counsel and Gideon’s Trumpet

right to counsel

Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis

Right to counsel

These days, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination are things we pretty much take for granted. it wasn’t always so. Gideon’s Trumpet is a book about a major legal case that was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1963. The case involved a man in Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon. A court in Florida refused to appoint legal counsel for Gideon, because Florida law at the time only allowed for court-appointed defense lawyers in capital cases. Gideon was convicted of burglary, and sentenced to five years. After submitting a hand-written petition to the US Supreme Court, that body took up his case. That resulted in a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in Gideon’s favor. He was retried and, with the help of counsel, was acquitted by a jury after an hour of deliberation.

In 1965, Author Anthony Lewis wrote a book about Gideon v. Wainwright, the case. The book became a TV-movie in 1980.


There was a time, right around when my younger sister was born, that we were “between houses.” My parents wanted to buy a lot and build a house, so they decided to sell our house, and we lived in an apartment complex for a while. One of the things that I liked about apartment living was the bookmobile. The library came to me rather than the other way around, so that was a fun thing.

One of my dad’s friends was a librarian and drove the bookmobile. While I picked stuff to read, Mr. Jim would regularly choose a book for me. He checked it out in my name, and put it in my hands, on top of anything else I’d picked. Gideon’s Trumpet was one of those books.

The book fascinated me. The legal principles weren’t all that hard for a fifth-grader to comprehend. Lewis presented the background of the story, offered an interesting portrait of Abe Fortas, the attorney appointed to represent Gideon before SCOTUS. (Fortas went on to become a Justice himself.) I love pomp and circumstance. Lewis’s descriptions of oral arguments before the court were fascinating. The decision was landmark.

All defendants have the right to counsel. It’s a Big Deal, and it resonated with ten-year old me. I watched all the cop and lawyer shows on the teevee. I went on to join the debate team in high school. The notion of going to law school crossed my mind.


I didn’t forget that concept. It’s one of those things that stuck with me, through the years, just like the times when a friend who is an attorney would point out that bail is not punishment. Bail backs up a promise to appear for trial.

Other than traffic tickets, I’ve been fortunate to have never needed defense counsel in a criminal proceeding. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and others in my life who have been in that position. When I taught high school, one of my students was accused of murder in Jefferson Parish. I was 23 at the time. The case sent me reeling. There wasn’t much I could do, as I wasn’t directly involved, yet it still tore at me. He had representation. Still, the case was very upsetting for me.

There have been other cases, other people, who weren’t so fortunate. The idea that capital cases happened where lawyers slept through trial, and their clients ended up executed was incredibly disturbing.

Every defendant should have competent defense, even if, no, especially if their crimes will put them on death row or they will face life imprisonment. I knew this when I was ten. Clarence Earl Gideon made that much of an impression on me.

Bypassing JFK and/or ATL on British Airways

Bypassing JFK and/or ATL on British Airways

British Ariways

A British Airways Boeing 777-300 is arriving at London Heathrow (LHR) (image courtesy Lasse Fuss)

British Airways to LHR

It’s been decades since any airline offered nonstop service from New Orleans to London. British Airways announced that direct service, MSY to LHR, is to start next spring:

The airline will provide year-round service to London’s Heathrow Airport starting March 27. The 10-hour flights will depart New Orleans on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 3:40 p.m. central time and arrive at 7:40 a.m. London time. Passengers will travel on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, which holds 214 passengers: 154 in economy class, 25 in premium economy and 35 in business.

This is a big boost for Louis Armstrong International Airport. It means more jobs, as New Orleans becomes a point of entry from the UK. Passengers coming from Canada clear ICE before departure.

B787 Service

British Airways

All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner (courtesy Spaceaero2)

British Airways plans to operate Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” jets for their MSY-LHR service. The B787s replace the current BA fleet of B767s. The Dreamliner is a wide body jet, like the 767s and 777s. Thirty-five business class seats means a lot of potential for frequent flyer upgrades. I’m not sure if BA works their upgrades like Delta, but if you have status and you’re in a “premium economy” seat, you’ll be the first to get upgraded. It’s always a pleasant experience to arrive at the airport and find out you’ll be sitting up front.

Paying Customers

Getting an upgrade from coach to “up front” is nice, but it’s not what the airline wants. The airline wants paying customers in those thirty-five seats in business class. That’s why San Jose got BA service to LHR last year, instead of MSY:

The London flight is the culmination of several years of talks between British Airways and local business and tourism leaders. Last year, the airline chose to add a daily London flight to and from San Jose, Calif., instead of New Orleans, a blow to local lobbying efforts.

So, this is perfectly logical. Many of the Silly Valley companies allow their employees to book business class on flights more than eight hours. Those SJC-LHR flights no doubt are filled with full-fare passengers up front. Don’t rule out MSY as good business potential for British Airways, though. In these days of telecommuting, tech-industry employees can avoid the high cost of living in the bay area by living in a more appealing city like New Orleans.

Bottom Line to the Road Warrior

A nonstop from New Orleans to London is a long flight, about ten hours. Some travelers like the idea of getting comfortable, having dinner, then sleeping for eight hours or so, waking up at Heathrow. Others would rather fly the hour or so to ATL, or three hours to JFK, and have a shorter long haul flight across the ocean. Being able to clear ICE in New Orleans is a significant trade-off. It will be interesting to see if the flights increase in popularity, and more days are added to the schedule.

Oh, and if your return plans include staying at an airport hotel near Heathrow Terminal 5, be sure to check out the The White Horse, on Bath Road. It’s been around since 1601.

Orleans Parish Prison is not a place for teens

Orleans Parish Prison

Inmates exercising at Orleans Parish Prison (Bart Everson photo)


Suicide at Orleans Parish Prison

Seventeen-year old Dexter Allen is in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility in Gretna. In the city, the incredible mess that is Orleans Justice Center took another life. What makes this particularly sad is that this latest jail suicide was a juvenile.

Jaquin Thomas was pronounced dead at University Medical Center at 10:11 p.m., OPSO spokesman Philip Stelly said, after using a mattress cover to asphyxiate himself in his cell. The teenager had been jailed inside the Orleans Justice Center since his July 28 arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder and aggravated burglary, records show.

No Place for teenagers

Any suicide or attempt is a sad affair. Worse yet, locking up a teen in this prison is a terrible thing. Yes, he was charged with second-degree murder as an adult. That’s a serious situation. Jarvis DeBerry nails it, though, in his article on the suicide:

Jaquin was suspected of committing a crime more serious than Jerde’s, but if jail was considered inappropriate for the 21-year-old, it should have been considered the wrong place for the teenager. Charging a child as an adult does not magically transform him into an adult. It does not make that child any less vulnerable when thrown into a facility with people who are bigger, older and more hardened criminals.

Jailing teens in an adult prison is wrong. Still, it’s not a good idea to toss an alleged murderer into a juvenile facility. Teens accused of much more minor crimes are totally different. There has to be a way to balance this. Perhaps isolating serious juvenile offenders in one type of facility or the other.

Read the full article–Jarvis compares the situation Jaquin Thomas was in to that of a twenty-one-year old Tulane student. He demonstrates what #whiteprivilege gets you these days in New Orleans.


Dexter Allen’s Very Bad Day transforms him from thief to slave

By all accounts, Dexter Allen was a petty thief, prior to April 22, 2015. That was the day that things went very bad for him. His profession, if you will, was “door pulls” – popping the door handles on cars on the street. If a car was unlocked, Dexter would then jump in, removing any valuables he found. It’s not particularly easy work, since most folks lock their cars. The ones that don’t usually don’t leave much behind.

Dexter Allen: Simple Burglary to Murder

Dexter Allen and Haraquon Degruy

Dexter Allen and Haraquon Degruy (image courtesy WGNO-TV)

On the evening of 22-April of last year, Dexter got a surprise while he was rummaging through a white Toyota Highlander in the U9. The owner came back to the SUV, opened the door, and found Dexter in the driver’s seat. They claimed Dexter pulled out a pistol, took her keys, and drove off. He moved up in the world, advancing from petty thief to carjacker. That crime led to a string of burglaries and, before midnight, a double homicide that took the lives of my brother-in-law and nephew.

Dexter’s very bad day led to an even worse one for him on Monday, when he was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and twenty-one counts of burglary. His actions on the night of 22-April-2015 have led him to what likely will be a sentence of life in prison next month. The convictions were the climax of a 5-day trial before Judge Raymond Steib of the 24th Judicial District. I was there for most of it, and I come away with very mixed emotions.

Was justice served?

I feel confident that it was in the case of the State of Louisiana v Dexter Allen. Still, I was concerned. The murders of David and Nick Pence were high-profile. They are so for two main reasons: The victims were white and were killed in their home in the suburbs. This wasn’t a the-blacks-are-killing-each-other crime. It also wasn’t a if-you-go-into-new-orleans-you’ll-get-shot crime. New Orleans came to the Pence home, in the form of Dexter Allen and his girlfriend, Haraquon Degruy.

It was the sort of crime that lights up every local news outlet. It was also the sort of crime that the cops need to solve post-haste. The murders happened on a Wednesday night, and the Sheriff was standing before the press the following Sunday, telling the worried white people of East Jefferson that the case had been solved and arrests had been made. Part of me was relieved, but then, there was lingering doubt in the back of my mind. It wouldn’t be the first time a black man was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a petty thief ends up doing time for a murder he didn’t commit.


I harbored that lingering doubt for a year and a half. As much as I wanted closure for my sister and my niece, along with Dave and Nick’s friends, it was important that the price would not be too high. Every bit of common sense I had told me the detectives of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office got the right guy. The JPSO crime scene technicians meticulously documented the scene and collected all the evidence. Fingerprint evidence from down the street put Haraquon Degruy in the neighborhood on the night of 22-April.

The detectives then engaged the services of the US Marshal’s Fugitive Recovery Task Force in New Orleans to pick the two suspects up. The arrests led to the recovery of numerous items stolen in “door-pull” burglaries on the night of 22-April-2015. They also recovered a CVS drugstore card my sister had in her purse.

Down to a plastic card

That plastic card was the link to the Pence home. Dexter saw Beth Pence’s purse on the counter in the kitchen, through the side door of the house. The state claimed that Dexter went in to do what he does, petty theft. He took the purse, but then found David asleep in his easy chair in the den. As ADA Rachel Africk said in her closing yesterday, she’ll never understand why Dexter had to kill Dave. Those shotgun blasts are why Nick came into the den from the living room (where he was playing a video game).

Dexter freaked out and then killed Nick as well. Fortunately for Beth, she didn’t come into the den from the bedroom right away; Dexter had already left the house, heading back to the SUV with Beth’s phone, iPad, and the purse with that CVS card.

The problem with all of this is that of all that stuff taken from the Pence home that night, all that showed up was the CVS card. No phone. The iPad was not recovered. No purse. Just a plastic card. Easy to drop one of those into the back of a seized vehicle.

Sure, the DNA evidence established that the odds the person who held the shotgun was not Dexter were one in one hundred billion. As JPSO’s DNA analyst said, the evidence doesn’t tell time, and nobody could say for a fact Dexter held that shotgun in the Pence home.

Circumstantial evidence

JPSO had the car. They had recorded video surveillance that put the car on Clifford Drive. License plate camera photos of the SUV leaving Metairie after the time of the murders existed. They had DNA from the shotgun. What ADAs Africk and Seth Shute didn’t have was direct evidence. Every piece of evidence in this case was circumstantial, and that presented a problem. If all the evidence is circumstantial, then the prosecution has to prove that no other possible theory for the crime is reasonable. It meant that defense counsel Jerome Matthews had the chance to put forward an alternate theory of the crime, in the hopes that he could sway three of the twelve jurors. (Louisiana only requires ten jurors out of twelve to vote to convict.)

ADAs Africk and Shute did their jobs. They laid down a tight timeline, from 2350 to 2356 on the night of 22-April-2015, walking the jury through those minutes. The entire trial was about laying down the foundation for their version of those six minutes. It worked; the guilty verdict was unanimous. Dexter Allen will now spend his life in prison.

No more doubt, but a lot of sadness

Hearing DA Africk’s closing and DA Shute’s rebuttal convinced me that they got it right. Mr. Matthews tried to poke holes in the prosecution’s timeline, but it was too short and tight. I’m glad Mr. Matthews did a good job of trying to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the jury. I didn’t buy it, and neither did the jury, but it satisfied me that Dexter Allen got an adequate defense. I’m sad though, that now he’s going to be a plantation slave at Angola. I don’t know if there was any hope of rehabilitating Dexter, but that’s not going to happen in a Louisiana prison.

At least his next really bad day won’t involve taking other innocent lives.

NOTE: Opinions in this piece (and throughout this blog, in fact) are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinions of other members of my family, or friends of the Pences. 


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