Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Lagniappe: Giving Thanks - Reflecting on the many blessings in my life, I have much to give thanks for. I am thankful for faith, which brings inner peace and a sense of purpose, if nothing more. I am thankful for my own family ... my wife and two lovely daughters. They are thanksgivings every day of the year. My life would be utterly empty without them. I am thankful for my extended family. We stick together no matter what. Political preferences aside, we are always there to support one another. This is a rare thing among families these days. I am thankful for my health and for the good health of my family. I am thankful for friends and colleagues who make my daily grind not that much of a grind at all. I am thankful for this country, where it is possible to pursue happiness and achieve dreams. There is so much to be thankful for. And it's good that we have a day to reflect and give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - It's not often that you hear the winning team talk about racial hate-speech on the field. But some LSU Tigers are saying just that about the behavior of some of their adversaries on the Ole Miss Rebels football team. Seems like the good ole' boys from Mississippi are taking their cues from the example of Sen. Trent Lott when it comes to race-tinged talk on the gridiron.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Lagniappe: The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage - As a liberal who supports gay marriages for all the right reasons, I must say that David Brooks' op-ed in the New York Times on the subject is quite impressive. His argument in support of gay marriage reiterates what I have said in other places about my willingness to accept civil unions that provide equal benefits under the law to gay couples which marriage does for heterosexual couples as the lesser of two good options. Though I can live with civil unions, I still think that gay marriage is the preferred and better course of action between the two.

For example, on a recent blog comment board I wrote:

Civil unions are fine, and ... I can accept them as satisfactory from the purely legal perspective of providing the same access for monogamous gay couples to equal and non-discriminatory rights and benefits that accrue to heterosexuals trough marriage. The good is not the enemy of the better. But this solution is still an incomplete and partial one in my mind. Why? ... Because I don't think monogamous gay couples should be denied the special grace that I believe comes with marriage. Civil unions are less than marriage, and there is simply no good reason in my mind to deny monogamous gay couples this grace - especially when there is absolutely not one shred of concrete evidence that allowing gay couples to marry would in any way harm the world and the people in it.
After making this post, I recevied a follow-up question: "Why do you think civil unions are worse than marriage?"

I responded:
For two reasons: first, those who oppose gay marriage but support civil unions are differentiating the value of one relative to the other - with marriage being somehow more valuable than civil unions. Otherwise, why wouldn't people just have civil unions instead of marriage, or why even make this distinction? This leads me to the next reason, which is the more important of the two: marriage brings with it a special and privileged psychological and emotional relational element to the parties involved and with the larger society that civil unions wouldn't. People of faith might call this special element "grace." If given the option for a civil union or a marriage, each affording the same legal benefits, what would you think couples are more likely to choose? I think marriage. Why? Because there is an added societal value to marriage as an institution that provides more than just legal benefits. This is what the whole fight is really about, is it not? And I can't see setting up a "separate but equal" (which, as we know, is certainly separate but never really equal) societal institution that condemns gay couples to what would essentially be the second-class institution of the two.
This is essentially what Brooks is saying when he talks about marriage as "contingency," and he should be applauded for it. [Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for alerting me to Brooks' column.]

Blog Banter - League of Liberals Blogger Anarchy Xero is posting on the rising U.S. death toll in Iraq. It's worth a look.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Double Victory in Guatemala - Although now almost two weeks past, there is good news on two fronts in the democratic transformation of Latin America. Ex-Dictator General Efraim Rios Montt was handily defeated in the first round of the Guatemalan presidential elections. He didn't even muster enough votes to finish in contention for a run-off. In an apparently clean democratic election, Guatemalans voted decisively in large numbers to say "no" to the man responsible for the worst ethnic genocide in Guatemala's recent history. But the added bonus is that General Rios Montt, by running for president, had to abandon his position in the federal legislature which deprives him of immunity for prosecution for human rights abuses. Now, it appears that Rios Montt will have no way to avoid answering in a court of law for the human rights abuses his administration perpetrated on the long-suffering Guatemalan Indian communities. For another good take on this, see this report by the Chicago Tribune's Hugh Dellios for more details.

Blog Banter - The patricidal Lyle Menendez enjoys all the legal rights and benefits of marriage - minus sex - (and so does his new wife) while serving a life sentence in prison. Once again, Andrew Sullivan uses this absurdity to drive his point home in a scathingly convincing way about the injustice of restricting marraige exclusively to heterosexual unions.

Kinkfishery and Kingcakery: More on Race in Louisiana Politics - Jarvis DeBerry has a very sensible column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on how the race issue flowed through the recent gubernatorial election in ways that corrupted ALL groups - black, white, whatever. He gets to the point:

So you had some black people who seemed to be counting on a racist response because they thought it would help their candidate win, some Jindal supporters convinced that the "nonwhite" label harmed their candidate and some xenophobic residents pleased with what they think was this paper's gaffe for using that label in a headline.

No wonder racism is still with us. We seem incapable of living without it. We seem to call upon it if we think it will suit our purposes.
It's a very good column. Read the whole thing.

Lagniappe: Markey's Mark - The New Orleans Jesuit High School Blue Jay Football Team's Chris Markey just keeps on posting incredible numbers. For three weeks running now, this phenom has had 300+ offensive yards to his credit. The boy's almost a 1000 yard rusher in just three weeks! As a Blue Jay alum and former football player myself, I just had to comment about this kid's performance. He's perhaps the most impressive HS player I've seen in Louisiana HS football since I've been following the sport. Kudos, Chris; and good luck to the Blue Jays as they make the run for the state football championship.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Lagniappe: Shock and Awe(ful) - To all my liberal friends out there, I apologize if the following offends you; but I just can't seem to write off the disappointment and outrage I feel at what conservatives are calling the collusion memos. I understand that this is coming out of a decidedly conservative and partisan organization, but Senate Democrats are not contesting the authenticity of these memos. The following is a comment that I posted on the comment board of this blog post of Conservative Blogger JunkYardBlog.

Don't get me wrong: I am a fierce critic of conservatism and a die-hard defender of liberalism, and I will continue to be so; but I've just got to be morally and intellectually honest and speak out on this matter, which has really, really disappointed me. Read Mr. Preston's blog first, and then consider this, my comment:

Again, I am stunned. This is not an arsenal, it is a nuclear explosion.

This kind of politicking is intolerable. The Democrats have a lot of explaining to do, and no hemming and hawing and diversionary tactics. Either they admit that this is the dirty politics of Washington, which all politicians play (which still doesn’t justify it in my mind); or they admit that they are crass opportunists not really interested in nominee qualifications and borderline racists. (I say borderline because I just scanned the memos and didn’t find where the recommendation was made to block Estrada specifically because he was Hispanic - but I don’t doubt it’s there given the awful tenor of the memos.)

Bryan, you say “live by the leak, die by the leak” and you are dead on 100% right. But one of the worrisome implications here is that this is normal politics as usual in Washington regardless of party affiliation - it’s just that leaks bring this nastiness to the surface.

This makes me want to advocate for 100% transparency in the course of politics - that nothing, and I mean nothing, not even for “national security” reasons, gets shielded from public scrutiny. I know this is an unreasonable position and probably even unwise, but shenanigans like what the Senate Democrats are doing here make me feel this way.

I am horrified. This is not what I expect out of liberalism. Perhaps I am too much of an idealist when it comes to the nuts and bolts of politics; but I think I have a healthy appreciation for pragmatism. This whole situation, however, does not seem born out of pragmatism, but rather absurdity.

Do all politicians behave this way in private when “confidentiality” is supposedly secured? Is there no integrity left in politics?

But in spite of my outrage and disappointment with this, I can assure you that this won’t shake my faith in liberalism as the right vision for America.
I would most certainly welcome anything liberals can tell me about this incident and these memos that would salvage my respect for the behind-the-scenes behavior of these Democratic Senators and their staffers in Washington.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Blog Banter - Andrew Sullivan is right on and in top form regarding the Massachusetts Supreme Court's 4-3 decision in support of gay marriage.

Kingfishery and Kingcakery: Grace on Blanco - Stephanie Grace of the New Orleans Times-Picayune weighs in on the Blanco victory for the Louisiana Governorship. Some relevant pieces of her column:

Consider the similarities [between the 2002 Landrieu and 2003 Blanco campaigns]: Like 2002, Louisiana was the last state to go to the polls in a year marked by a string of Republican triumphs. Like 2002, the Republican candidate seemed to have a corner on the momentum for much of the race. Like 2002, the Democrat struggled when she talked conservative, but thrived when she switched gears and played up differences with her opponent and her opponent's party. [Emphasis added.]

Last year, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was the one facing a tough battle, and she started her primary campaign against three well-known Republicans by emphasizing her centrism and frequent support for President Bush. The tactic didn't get her the majority she needed to avoid a runoff, so Landrieu, who presumably figured out that voters looking for a Republican were going to just vote for the Republican, started emphasizing issues that would motivate her own base. [Emphasis added.]


Blanco and her backers also stepped up their portrayal of Jindal as extreme on social issues such as abortion and gay rights, a strategy aimed at getting the moderates and liberals who were drawn to his energy and resume to reconsider. [Emphasis added.]Jindal's well-oiled campaign finally faltered and didn't do enough to counter the barrage.
As I mentioned before, Democrats should always remember that winning Democratic candidates in this State emphasize their liberal credentials and work to motivate the base. Shifting rightward is a sure-fire strategy for failure in this State. The Democratic Candidate for the Presidency next Fall should remember this. ... And I predict and guarantee that WHEN Hillary Clinton runs for President in future elections on the Democratic ticket, she will handily win Louisiana's electoral votes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Lagniappe: The Kiss of Death - Whenever New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin makes an endorsement, put your money on the opposite pick. My howler of the week: Some New Orleans Saints fans held up signs at the Superdome before the Saints/Falcons matchup this past Sunday which said (paraphrased): Mayor Nagin, please support the home team and publicly endorse the Falcons!

Kingfishery and Kingcakery: Mayor Ray Nagin and a Lapse of Ethics - Black Democratic Mayor of New Orleans not only crosses party lines, but also engages in questionable uses of public funds in doing so:

Tuesday November 18, 2003

By Frank Donze
Staff writer

Did Mayor Ray Nagin step over an ethical line by using City Hall's Web site to post a copy of his endorsement speech for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal and a subsequent letter explaining his decision to cross party lines?

Nagin's staff doesn't think so.

But a reading of the state law addressing how tax dollars can be spent on politicking appears to raise questions.

The applicable section of the Constitution says "no public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization."

Nagin spokesman Patrick Evans says nowhere in the speech or the letter did the mayor tell anyone to vote for Jindal, who lost to Democrat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco in Saturday's runoff.
"So many people were asking about the mayor's decision-making process, posting it on the Web was just an efficient way to disseminate that information," Evans said.

But if the mayor never said, "Vote for Bobby," the message he gave in his Nov. 3 speech was unmistakable. Throughout it, Nagin heaped praise on Jindal, citing his "intelligence and credentials" and his "track record of accomplishments and success."

"This is what I found," Nagin wrote: "Kathleen Blanco has no specific plan for improving the future of New Orleans. She had no plan for Charity Hospital, where I was born. However, I was very impressed with the details and thought that went into Bobby Jindal's blueprint for New Orleans and Louisiana."

Nagin staffers said the message was directed to members of African-American church groups, traditional Nagin supporters and citizens who contacted the administration with questions about the endorsement.

A copy of the letter appeared on the city's Web site about 10 days ago and remained there Monday.
Original story linked here. And I thought Nagin was supposed to be rooting out this kind of corrupt behavior.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Kingfishery and Kingcakery: Bobby Jindal and the Race Factor - Jeffrey Gettleman has a follow-up story on the Louisiana Governor's election. What peaked my interest was how the story ended. Here's the final few sentences:

"Up until now, no one in the Indian community has really been interested in politics," said Bhavna Pandit, a marketing manager from New Orleans. "But Bobby's got people thinking it's good to have a voice, it's good to strive for more than just financial security, it's good to become a player in this country."

Most Indian-Americans are Democrats, including Ms. Pandit.

"But that doesn't matter," she said. "Bobby is one of us. And blood is thicker than water."
I wonder ... does this mean Republicans will take votes based on racial preference rather than ideology? Do the reasons for the vote matter, or is it just the fact of the vote that counts no matter how it is won? Based on GOP tactics in the past few statewide elections, I'd say the latter. Very interesting, indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Kingfishery and Kingcakery: Democrat Kathleen Blanco as Governor - Today is a glorious day! First off, today is the Lord's Day. Second, the weather in the Big Easy was perfect. Third, we're celebrating the LSU football team's thrashing of Alabama as the Tigers begin their homestretch run towards the National Title. Fourth, the Saints even their record to 5-5 and score a thrilling, come-from-behind overtime victory over the hapless Atlanta Falcons. Fifth, a Democrat has retaken the Louisiana Governorship, held by the GOP for the last 8 years. While all of these events make today a special day, I want to focus on the last item a bit and share with you some of my post-election analysis of Blanco's victory.

The most comprehensive coverage of the post-Election news in the Louisiana governor's race can be found in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. For the main story of the day, click here. For another locally-originating story, check this out. Of course the national press has reported on this as well. This is how Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times reports the outcome; and this is Lee Hockstader's take on it in the Washington Post. In the Conservative Press, the Washington Times has posted this report written by Robert Buckman.

In my opinion, Katahleen Blanco's victory is a sweet win. The Conservative press has chosen to emphasize Blanco's relatively conservative positions; and even some ultra-progressive liberals (see the discussion thread at Lib-Blogger Atrios's Posting on the Blanco win) are talking about Blanco's victory as a hollow win for liberals. As a progressive liberal, I celebrate Blanco's win and I think her win bodes well for a variety of reasons.

First, one must think of Blanco's victory as a death blow to the Louisiana State GOP. After Mary Landrieu's stunning Senate win in last Fall's election cycle, the Louisiana GOP has been reeling. And with Blanco's victory over Indian-American conservative Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana State GOP has gone down for the count. Even if Blanco turns out to be nothing more than a conservative Democrat indistinguishable from any Louisiana Republican, that still does not compensate for the fact that the Louisiana GOP hasn't been able to push and sell its own candidates successfully. Furthermore, the Blanco win brings the Governorship back to the Democratic Party after 8 years of Republican stewardship. This has tons of potential positive implications for other aspects of politics as well -- for instance, the Governor's powers of appointment to Congressional Vacancies before terms are completed means that any such necessity will result no doubt in a Democratic appointment. Furthermore, Blanco's chances for moving into John Breaux or Mary Landrieu's Senate seats have just improved. While these are all good things for Democrats both statewide and nationally, Blanco's victory is good news for Democrats in other ways as well.

Let me comment on the discontent among some progressive liberals about their feelings on Blanco's relatively conservative platform. I think this discontent is misplaced for one very, very important reason. Kathleen Blanco was only catapulted over the top not by drifting to the Center, but by tilting towards the liberal Democratic base. This was a lesson Blanco learned from Mary Landrieu's campaign last fall. Let's not forget that Mary Landrieu had positioned herself in the Senate primary race as a compromiser and as someone who was able to work with President Bush on issues important to the President. She emphasized her support for Bush's tax cut program and she emphasized other points of convergence beteween her and Bush. But this approach left a lot to be desired, and Mary Landrieu was only able to mount a successful come-from-behind run-off campaign against her GOP challenger (Suzanne Haik Terrell) by abandoning this "collaborative" stance, firing her campaign leadership, and hitting back hard against the GOP establishment by firing up her liberal base. Landrieu won BECAUSE she abandoned her moderate credentials and emphasized her liberal ones. She did not win because she was a relatively conservative Southern Democrat, but rather because she refashioned herself in the run-off as an oppositional liberal. Blanco followed this same pattern. And, in fact, one could easily argue that Blanco only managed to gain the last-minute advantage because she emphasized the liberal side of her positions (i.e. in favor of abortion to protect the mother's health, social justice in health care reform, etc.) rather than trying to be GOP lite. So, the lesson to be learned is that Democrats win in Louisiana by being liberal - not by being conservative. This fact should not be lost on the Democratic nominee for the Presidential race next fall ... and I would even venture to say that Louisiana is not alone in this regard in the South. I suspect that Democrats in the South would fare better in electoral contests, the more they emphasize their liberal credentials.

The next point I'd like to make is that National GOP firepower does not work in Louisiana. Landrieu won in spite of the entire weight, force, and presence of the national GOP on behalf of her competitor in the run-off election. Louisianians don't particularly care for their politicians to be stooges to National Party leaderhsip. For this reason, Jindal was smart not to bring in national GOP firepower; but it wasn't enough to catapult him beyond only minor inroads into the traditional democratic base -- particularly the black voter base.

This leads me to another not-so-savory point about Louisiana politics. An election pitting the white woman against the minority, dark-skinned man simply does not enthuse the race-conscious and patriarchal mentality of the white conservative (republican and democrat) Bible-belt rural regions and white-flight suburbs of New Orleans. I think these folks stayed home today, as evidenced by the fact that Blanco picked up significantly more of the white vote in conservative regions than one might have expected, while retaining more than 90% of the black vote. Sad to say, but I think race conscious conservative (either Republican or Democrat) Louisianians who did go to the polls today, in all likelihood went with the white woman as the lesser of two evils. Jindal put up high numbers in the more enlightened and less race-conscious conservative white suburbs of the state's major cities, but it wasn't enough to offset the more traditional race-conscious areas of white rural Louisiana, who tipped the balance in favor of Blanco in just the vast majority of rural Parishes in the state. (See this analysis of race in the election results.) For results divided by Parish votes, see this breakdown. By my count, Blanco won 52 out of 63 Parishes; and in at least 3 or 4 of the parishes she lost, she lost by only a couple hundred votes.

I'd also like to point out that this run-off election was merely a follow-up of last month's elections in which a Democrat won the Lt. Governor's race with an outright majority in the open primary; and Democrat Charles Foti handily defeated Republican (and failed Senate candidate) Suzanne Haik Terrell for State Attorney General.

All of this bodes extremely well for liberals and for Democrats - not only in Louisiana, but nationwide. And let's also not forget that this is the last major election until next year's Presidential Race. Democrats should ride this momentum. And Bush, Rove, et. al. should take note.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Liberal Lighthouse - In The Times-Picayune, Steve Kelly's editorial cartoon for Nov. 14 says it all ... At a press conference stand GW and Bremer. GW announces: "In a fundamental shift on Iraq policy ..." Bremer concludes: "We've decided to have one." click here to view it. Update 11/16/03: Well, the link only works for the current day's cartoon, so if you didn't have a chance to look at it on 11/14, you'll just have to imagine it.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Sobering report from the moderate Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald. Bush is not only losing Latin America, he's taking you and me and the country's reputation down with him.

Liberal Lighthouse - "If they need help filibustering themselves, we'll be glad to pitch in." Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, as Senate Republicans began 30 hours of narcissistic blowharding through the night Wednesday on President Bush's blocked judicial nominees.

Lagniappe: Roy Moore for Senate! Roy Moore for President! Roy Moore for God! - Kicked off the bench, Alabama ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore is cocky and defiant. And conservatives have the audacity to say that the fringe "loony" left is taking over the mainstream of the Democratic Party. I have yet to see the rightwing bloggers weigh in on this subject. Until they reject Judge Roy Moore and purge him from the GOP, why should Democrats worry about what the left thinks of Michael Moore or Al Sharpton who, in spite of their faults, don't carry nearly the weight of authority over lives and the administration of the rule of law than does Roy Moore? This has got to be an embarrassment to the rational right.

My favorite little tidbit in this article:

Many of Mr. Moore's supporters were outraged that an unelected panel had removed an elected justice.

"They're undoing a democratic process here," said Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. "It smacks of third-world countries. It smacks of dictatorship."
Yeah, Patrick ... and defying the rule of law and declaring yourself above it certainly doesn't smack of third-world dictatorship. Hugo Chavez would blush.

Lagniappe: League of Liberals New Blog Showcase - Check out League of Liberal blogger And Then...'s thoughts on the rhyme and reason for the Senate Republican sleepover - full of pillow fights, puff makeovers, and giggly moot court sessions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Lagniappe: All Saints' Day - In an appropriate follow-up on Gertrude M. Jones's incredible obituary, Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie tracks down the family of Ms. Jones and gives us a follow-up of her story. She's not the radical lefty one might have expected. It's nice to reaffirm that decent, hard-working people have such firm convictions and can prove to Conservatives that one can be a solid American and still think Bush is just bad for the U.S.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Lagniappe: Haunting Bush from the Grave - Check out this obituary published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on October 2, 2003.

Word has been received that Gertrude M. Jones, 81, passed away on August 25, 2003, under the loving care of the nursing aides of Heritage Manor of Mandeville, Louisiana. She was a native of Lebanon, KY. She was a retired Vice President of Georgia International Life Insurance Company of Atlanta, GA. Her husband, Warren K. Jones predeceased her. Two daughters survive her: Dawn Hunt and her live-in boyfriend, Roland, of Mandeville, LA; and Melba Kovalak and her husband, Drew Kovalak, of Woodbury, MN. Three sisters, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, also survive her. Funeral services were held in Louisville, KY. Memorial gifts may be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office.
All I can say to Ms. Gertrude Jones is: YOU GO, GIRL!!!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Daniel Drezner has a relatively informative little piece at The New Republic Online concerning Latin America's threatening position to globalization and free trade regimes. He is fairly optimistic, but I should mention that resentments to "unfair" free trade regimes run high. Trade not only has to be mutually beneficial, but it also needs to be perceived as somewhat equitable in terms of the distribution of these "mutual" benefits as well.

The "Weak" in (National) Review - Can anyone wade through Bill Buckley's latest piece on NRO, in which he takes up the theme of illegal immigration, and tell me what in the heck this man is trying to say?!? His piece asks the question why can't we enforce illegal immigration laws. And for the life of me, I can't find the shred of an answer.