Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lagniappe: Keeping the Christ in Christmas - What does it mean to keep the "Christ" in Christmas? One hears it a lot these days. At the very basic level, I think when folks say this they intend two things: (1) to protest in some way the hyper-commercialization and materialism of the season at the expense of the religious meaning of the holiday; and (2) to attack a perceived "politically correct" attitude that questions whether government promotion of the religious symbolism of the event violates the principle of the separation of church and state.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think these two intentions undergirding the phrase are somewhat misplaced -- at least for me. On the one hand, they both seem to come out of a confrontational or reactionary motivation. They're both rather scrooge-like and embittered motivations, if you ask me. They certainly are not celebratory motivations.

For me, the phrase bears a positive, celebratory meaning, as well as a moral challenge. First off, whether the ACLU protests the exhibit of a nativity scene on public property shouldn't have any bearing on whether I am keeping Christ in my Christmas. Keeping the Christ in Christmas means that I need to make sure that what is front-and-center for me during Advent is Christ, and not some distracting preoccupation with what City Hall or the ACLU is doing. And second, if I keep Christ front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season, I should be obligated to keep the "least of my brothers" front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season also.

So, for me, at the end of it all, the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means that I should strive to exhibit my solidarity with the poor and dispossessed of this world all the more forcefully and to work towards a justice for them worthy of God's becoming flesh in the birth of Jesus and worthy of Jesus' life-long embrace of the marginalized. That's what the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means for me. What does it mean for you?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lagniappe: Maryknoll - New Orleans: Social Justice Network Blog - If you are interested in Social Justice and Progressive Catholicism, check out this new blog that I set up as part of a Public Discipleship group to which I belong. It's called "Maryknoll Affiliates - New Orleans: Social Justice Network." It's a multi-member blog, and so you should see over time postings from other members of the group. I look forward to hearing from you over at the Social Justice site as well as here at my own personal website. Oh, and by the way, any time you come across some interesting link or story that pertains to issues of Social Justice, please let me know and I'll link to it from the Social Justice Network blog.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Lagniappe: Bushisms - If you ever want to laugh so hard you'll wet your pants, just visit Jacob Weisberg's Complete Bushisms column at Slate. One of my recent favorites:

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."— [George W. Bush,] Sept. 6, 2004, Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Go get 'em, cowboy!

Liberal Lighthouse: Kaplan on Rumsfeld ... "What a leader of men." - Well, I'm back in the saddle. Election mourning period is officially over. Lot's to write about. I'll start with a reference to this piece from Fred Kaplan at Slate. Kaplan writes:

Donald Rumsfeld gave every grunt in the Army a good reason to hate him today.

At a cavernous hangar in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the secretary of defense appeared before 2,300 soldiers to boost their morale before they headed off to Iraq. During a question-and-answer period, Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a unit that consists mainly of reservists from the Tennessee Army National Guard, spoke up to complain about their inadequate supply of armor.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson asked, setting off what the Associated Press described as "a big cheer" from his comrades in arms.

Rumsfeld paused, asked Wilson to repeat the question, then finally replied, "You go to war with the army you have." Besides, he added, "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up."

Such a leader of men.

Rumsfeld's answer was, first, unforgivably glib, reminiscent of his shrugged line about the looting in the days after Saddam's fall ("Stuff happens"), but more shocking because here he was addressing American soldiers who are still fighting and dying, 20 months after Baghdad's fall, as a result of Rumsfeld's decisions.

More than that, his answer was wrong. If you're attacked by surprise, you go to war with the army you have. But if you've planned the war a year in advance and you initiate the attack, you have the opportunity—and obligation—to equip your soldiers with what they'll need. Yes, some soldiers will get killed no matter the precautions, but the idea is to heighten their odds—or at least not diminish them—as they're thrust into battle.
And the party continues. I wonder ... Is GW Bush still looking for WMDs under the furniture of the White House?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Lagniappe: The New Post-Election Map of North America

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Lagniappe: Spinning RealClearPolitics - As many of you poll watchers are probably aware, RealClearPolitics is a conservative leaning site that gathers national polling data (as well as state and local polling data) and tallies an average of such polling data to indicate the favored candidate. This "meta-poll" averaging methodology has consistently indicated that George Bush maintains a consistent, though small, lead over John Kerry. In fact, George Bush has NEVER trailed Kerry in any of these daily tallies. Consequently, as you might imagine, many conservative bloggers and pundits often refer to RealClearPolitics for some "comfort" and reinforcement in their hopes of a Bush victory.

However, there is an interesting trend in at least one aspect of RealClearPolitics' poll tracking and averaging methodology that portends bad news for George Bush. And it's the trend that never gets mentioned or analyzed at RealClearPolitics, but the one trend that is perhaps the most relevant and likely to predict the outcome of the election. What is this trend? Let me explain ...

In addition to averaging national polling data, RealClearPolitics also breaks down this polling data by state and uses these state polling averages to work up an state-based, electoral college vote-mapping scenario. It is ultimately this state-based, electoral college vote-mapping scenario that should garner the most attention, because that's how presidents are determined, after all. Furthermore, RealClearPolitics has been mapping its state-based averages daily for a while. As of today, their website lists these daily average since September 21 up to today. And because of shifts in these averages, adjusts its electoral college mapping predictions accordingly. So, in other words, as the race dynamics change in each state, the results force the folks at RealClearPolitics to adjust their predictions of who each state will go for.

Here's where the troubling trend for Bush comes into play. If you look at these trends, you'll see that RCP's (RealClearPolitics) state-based poll averaging methodology has George Bush's predictable (according to their averaging methodology) electoral college vote lead dwindling from a high of 291 in late September to a low of 227 as of today - a dramatic loss of 64 likely electoral college votes. And as this number declines, so too does George Bush's margin of victory in national polls decline (from a high of 5+ percentage points in late September to a thin 1-2 percentage points as of today). But, while the former trend shows Bush losing critically at the state-level and in electoral college votes, the latter trend shows Bush just slightly dipping at the national level, but still always ahead.

Conversely, RCP's state-based, poll averaging methodology shows John Kerry's predictable electoral college vote tally consistently in the range of 200+, with a high of 228, but, with the exception of a one-day low of 189 (October 21), never dipping below the 200 mark.

Electoral votes not allocated to either candidate by RCP come from those states whose poll averages fall within a margin of "too-close-to-call."

All of RCP's daily tallies and electoral vote allocations are supposedly based on a consistent and objective standard of measuring state polling data. Let's assume that its method is fair and objective. Given that assumption, what do we know?

Well, what we know from RCP is that Bush has experienced a significant and consistent decline in battleground states, so much so that states once considered by polling averages to be in his corner are now either toss-ups or trending towards Kerry. Kerry, on the other hand, seems to be holding his own and, if not gaining states out of the toss-up category, at least not losing the states that lean his way to the toss-up column as George Bush has done.

In a nutshell, Bush's once solid footing in battleground states has been consistently slipping and eroding, and thus the electoral votes of these states are now up for grabs. And Kerry's footing remains the same, with more of the previously Bush-leaning toss-ups now his for the taking. It is this trend, heading into the elecion booths today, that should have the Bush folks worried. And, even though RCP, given its pro-Bush leanings, doesn't comment on this trend, we Kerry-supporters have RCP to thank for such hopeful and good news.

Lagniappe: FOX News - Fair and Balanced? - I report, you decide: Is FOX News really "fair and balanced"? Check out the following Headlines:

Oct. 30, 2004 - FOX News Election Poll: Bush 47, Kerry 45. (Bush shows a 2 point lead.)
Article Headline: "10/30/04 Poll: Bush Up By Two Points Over Kerry"

Nov. 1, 2004 - FOX News Election Poll: Kerry 48, Bush 46. (Kerry shows a 2 point lead.)
Article Headline: "FOX National Poll: Voters Split"

Fair and balanced my a**! Kerry/Edwards!!! (Hat tip to
Andew Sullivan.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Lagniappe: Kerry, Bush, and the "Life" Issue -- A Note to Catholic Voters - Where should the pro-life vote go this election? Andrew Sullivan gives perhaps the most rational explanation for voting for Kerry on this issue. He writes:

The Church hierarchy, of course, distinguishes between abortion and the death penalty. Abortion is always wrong. The death penalty is almost always wrong. The "almost" is very small - Rome has come extremely close to saying it is wrong in all cases, and certainly believes it should be restricted to a tiny number of cases where the alternative could be disastrous. Now compare that to Bush's own record. He has signed more death warrants than almost any man in the country. As Texas governor, he showed absolutely no qualms about giving the nod to hundreds of deaths; in fact, he bragged about it. In one case, he even joked about it. He is far closer to the evil of the death penalty than Kerry is to the evil of abortion. And he has shown in his statements on the issue far more glibness than Kerry has ever revealed in the case of abortion. I should say: I think Kerry's support for partial birth abortion and his extreme backing of everything the pro-choice movement wants is troubling. But Bush doesn't get a free pass here. And I'd have more respect for pro-life, pro-Bush Catholics if they averred at least some discomfort with Bush's ease with this particular culture of death.
I've added the emphasis in the above citation because I think it provides a comparative context in defense of the morality of voting for Kerry. If we have two candidates who cannot distance themselves from the evils of abortion and/or capital punishment, then "human prudential judgment" requires Catholics to either abstain from voting altogether in this election or voting for the lesser of two evils, which in the big "pro-life" picture requires a vote for John Kerry.

Lagniappe: Vote for Life - Vote Kerry/Edwards - Read this heartbreaking letter from Brooke M. Campbell, whose brother, Ryan, was death casualty #832 in Bush's misguided war in Iraq. How can anyone with a conscience vote for Bush after reading this? A month before Ryan's death, Bush thought he was being funny when he joked about not having found WMD in Iraq. This C-rate, pathetic excuse of a leader has got to be removed from office. Gof forbid, if Bush wins the Presidency, I will NEVER support him, NEVER "rally behind him," NEVER! (Hat tip to Michael at 2Millionth Web Log for this poignant story.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Liberal Lighthouse: Alan Keyes vs. Barack Obama - Perhaps the best introductory paragraph to an article that I have ever read. I laughed from one sentence to the next. Here's Tom Franks from The New Republic:

In the Illinois Senate race, Barack Obama leads Alan Keyes by a margin so wide (over 50 points, according to one poll) that a debate between the candidates must--almost as a matter of science--help narrow the campaign. But that would be to underestimate Alan Keyes. As people know, Keyes is candid, eloquent, and intellectually consistent. He argues rather than spins, allowing his logic to take him where it will. He panders to no (earthly) constituency. And he may well have pulled off the impossible last night: lowering his poll numbers even more. Obama is an unconventionally gifted politician, but even an incompetent one--let's go farther, actually: even a dolphin or trained seal--could have done better last night than Alan Keyes. All Obama had to do yesterday was play the Earthling card; Keyes took care of the rest.
Read the whole piece. It's a classic.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Lagniappe: Celebrating the United Nations - Most Americans know of the existence of the United Nations, but very few know much about the organization. For instance, it may come as shocking news to many people that the United States has set aside Oct. 24th as "United Nations Day." If you want to learn about the United Nations more completely, you can visit the UN website by clicking here. But a better site for US Citizens to check out is the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNAUSA). Their website can be accessed here.

The good number of United States citizens express either ambivalence or even outright hostility to the United Nations as an organization. And this comes primarily out of a very limited understanding of the United Nations in its POLITICAL role. We hear about the Security Council and most of us can recognize the name of the UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan). And we have probably also read about or heard about UN peacekeeping operations or, more recently, UN Security Council battles over the situation in Iraq. But this is simply a tiny fraction of what the UN is all about. What I would encourage reflective people to do is to make a distinction between the "politics" of the UN and the "on-the-ground" work of the UN.

The UN is the single most important agency that undertakes massive and coordinated efforts world wide to battle discrimination, poverty, hunger, displacement, health crises and any other daily life issues that affect the world's most marginalized and ignored populations -- a group that, in fact, sadly, makes up a vast majority of the world's people. One quick look at the organizational chart of the United Nations will give you just a surface-level sense of the magnitude, reach, and impact of the United Nations in the world today. Let me list some of the UN agencies whose works are not only critical to the health, happiness, and well-being of many of the world's dispossessed, but also without which there would be no effective protections or help for the poor and marginalized of the world. For example, there are the myriad of agencies strictly dedicated to humanitarian affairs. Among these are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which protects and provides a living space for those people who have no "home" on the globe. There's also the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children & Armed Conflict and the office of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Some other critically important UN Agencies include the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO), which is the main agency coordinating the UN's impressive Economic and Social Development Programs. Included in this broad umbrella category are institutions like the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme among many, many others.

Needless to say, as you can very well see, the United Nations is not primarily dedicated to issues of war and peace, though certainly this forms an important part of its work. Instead, the United Nations is prinicipally dedicated to helping people, saving lives, and making for a better world for those who live in the most troubled of circumstances.

Many states in the United States have their own particular events and festivities planned in celebration of UN Day on October 24. Please check out the United Nations Association of the United States of America to find out what's going on in your own area. And then join in and become a part of celebrating the good work that the United Nations undertakes.

To look at the United Nations another way, try to envision a world in which the United Nations doesn't exist. How would starvation in Africa be dealt with in the absence of the United Nations? How would the AIDS epidemic worldwide (or the SARS epidemic) be managed without the United Nations? How would peoples displaced by famine or war survive without the United Nations? Who would care about the health and well-being of the world's marginalized and dispossessed if it weren't for the United Nations? We take for granted the presence and the work of the United Nations after almost 60 years of its existence, much like we take for granted the Social Security system of the United States which has saved innumerable lives from destitution and death. In spite of the many failings and weaknesses of the United Nations, the world is undoubtedly in better shape than it would have been without the UN's existence. Anyone concerned with social justice and the fight against global poverty and hunger should embrace the UN, warts and all, as the best chance the global community has of dealing with some of the world's most pernicious problems. I encourage you to do so, and I leave you with a quotation by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to inspire you: "...keep in mind what the UN is, the UN is us. It isn't a separate organization that exists separately from its members. It is a creature of its member states...." (Sec. of State Colin L. Powell, 10/1/04). Indeed. The UN is us. It's successes are ours, as well as its failures. We should do no finger-pointing at the UN unless we're willing to assume responsibility for it ourselves. And we most certainly need to do our part to make the United Nations what we want it to be.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lagniappe: O'Reilly and Sexual Harrassment - I'm not a fan of blow-hard Bill O'Reilly of the FOX network. And I think O'Reilly could very well have a phone sex fetish and could very well be a sexual harrasser. ... But I do have to say that I find his accuser's claim that she was forced to have PHONE sex against her will to be incredible. Who is ever forced to have a phone conversation, any conversation, much less one about sex, against his/her will? Why didn't she just hang up?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Editorial on Cuban Academics at LASA - The New Orleans Times-Picayune takes a stand for the free exchange of ideas. Good for the Times-Pic.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Liberal Lighthouse: Andrew Sullivan on the VP Debate, again - This is what pro-War, libertarian/conservative pundit and blogger Andrew Sullivan has to say about the debate:

Maybe, of course, we're all hopelessly biased--and debates are so subjective as to make objective analysis impossible. Maybe my initial unfiltered response was distorted by my expectation that Cheney would win easily, by my watching the debate with a bunch of college students, or by what I'd eaten beforehand. But in the critical battle for the middle ground in this election, it seems to me indisputable that Edwards gained territory for Kerry last night.
Read the whole article here.

Liberal Lighthouse: Jay Nordlinger Take on the Debate - I call this one "Liberal Lighthouse" because Jay Nordlinger's "unvarnished" post-debate evaluation is more a critique of Cheney's debate failures rather than a promotion of the things that made the "debate" a draw as he claims. After reading this piece, one gets the impression that he calls it a draw because he needs to put the most positive spin on a failed performance, and the best he can do (and still be honest with himself) is to call it a draw. The most intellectually honest liberals and conservatives all seem to be saying that BOTH the Kerry/Bush debate and the Cheney/Edwards debate are decisive victories for the Democrats. Good news for Kerry/Edwards, hopeful news! A momentum switcher and an fourth-quarter run that is both exciting and encouraging. Bush/Cheney, on the other hand, seems like a campaign much akin to the New Orleans Saints with a fourth-quarter lead of 21 points that gets whittled down to a tie ball game and is decided by whether the opponent can connect on a 30 yard field goal as time expires in regulation. Oh, that sinking feeling in the gut that we Saints fans know. I imagine this is how it feels to be a Bush/Cheney supporter this morning.

Liberal Lighthouse: Saletan and Sullivan on the Edwards Triumph - My gut first reaction was that the debate was a draw, with victory tilting toward Edwards if it tilted anywhere. However, I am heartened by how some pundits I respect on both the left and the right have so graphically described an Edwards triumph. William Saletan, of Slate, writes a piece that argues that Kerry cleaned Cheney's clock. And Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog immediately after the debate the writes that the debate was a car-wreck for Cheney and that Cheney was the road'kill. Strong stuff. Looks like the Bush/Cheney ticket is in trouble. Perhaps the next four years will be one of those moments in Cheney's illustrious government career that he'll have to look for another private-sector, Halliburton job until the GOP next regains power.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Liberal Lighthouse: Bush/Kerry Debate Quote of the Day - From Andrew Sullivan:

No president who has presided over Abu Ghraib should ever say he wants to put anyone on a leash.
Yep, that's right. Andrew Sullivan. "Wait a minute," you say ... Andrew Sullivan?!?!?! Jay Nordlinger?!?!?! ... Liberal Lighthouse?!?!?! What is the world coming to?

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Cuba and the War on Terrorism - What is one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter. ... No, it's not what you think. As the Latin American Studies Association prepares for its upcoming conference in Las Vegas, we learn that all 61 Cuban academics who had applied for permission to attend this conference were denied visas. Here's New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz to explain in a piece aptly titledTerrorists welcome - if they're anti-Castro:

Let's see if we can make sense out of this: On Tuesday, Washington denied visas to a number of Cuban scholars - I repeat, scholars - who had been invited to participate in an academic conference in Las Vegas.

Yet, in what amounted to a suspension of the war on terror, a few weeks ago, Pedro Remón, Guillermo Novo Sampol and Gaspar Jiménez - three Cuban-Americans with long and proven ties to terrorist activities in this country and abroad - were given a celebrity welcome to the U.S.

Terrorists yes, scholars no? It doesn't make any sense.
Read the whole thing to get a sense of the lunacy and inconsistency (what does Bush call it? Mixed messages?) in the War on Terror. If you want to read up on any of these thugs and the kinds of terrorist acts of violence they have perpetrated over the years, just do a google search on any of the names. You'll be mind-boggled.

How can anyone take Bush seriously in his prosecution of the War on Terror when such unscrupulous murderers receive such a welcome in the United States. What was it that Bush said again about his administration's view of countries that harbor terrorists???

Lagniappe: Bush Debate "Strategery" - Just a random thought ... Many have said that Bush's debate strategy is rooted in setting the performance bar dismally low so that when Bush gives even a mediocre performance, it looks like he shined compared to expectations. I've been wondering if Bush's abysmal first debate performance is part of this "strategery" -- I mean, the only direction Bush can go in debates two and three compared to this last one is up, right?? But I have to say that if this is so, his "strategery" is about as boneheaded and buffoonish as is the word "strategery" itself. In this case, the rhetoric becomes the reality.

The Weak in (National) Review (Or should I classify this as a "Liberal Lighthouse" post?!?): Nordlinger's Zingers - The Bushies must really be sweating when one of their most stalwart supporters, Jay Nordlinger, of the National Review concedes that Bush handily lost the debate -- so much so that, as Nordlinger says, if he were to base his own vote only on the debate, he would have to go with Kerry. In his own words:

I thought Kerry did very, very well; and I thought Bush did poorly — much worse than he is capable of doing. Listen: If I were just a normal guy — not Joe Political Junkie — I would vote for Kerry. On the basis of that debate, I would. If I were just a normal, fairly conservative, war-supporting guy: I would vote for Kerry. On the basis of that debate.
Read his whole piece. Boy, it really is one of Nordlinger's zingers, and a surprising one at that.

Liberal Lighthouse: Bumper Sticker of the Day - No one died when Clinton lied.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Lagniappe: Discovered!! - Well, well, ... it seems that some of my friends who also double as the graduate students that I advise at Tulane have discovered my blog! Hey, chic@s, now that you've found me out, I expect you all to leave me some nice comments -- and even some challenging critiques in the midst of the heaps of praise and plaudits you're sure to throw my way.

Just know that I'm not attempting to hide anything -- I don't post anonymously (I think it's cowardly to do so) and I've set up the blog to be easily found via a simple Google search of my name. And I kind of like the fact that you all can get to see perhaps a different (or less cautious) side of me. Just another vehicle to humanize me even further.

But ... Now that I've got some new fans, I expect the dialogue to kick up a notch (as Emeril likes to say). You may be on to me, but I'm also on to you!!! And if you don't chip in your two cents every now and then, I'll be extremely disappointed.

Let the blog fun begin!!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Lagniappe: The Complexity of Archbishop Hughes and the Simplicity of Jesus Christ - Recently, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes wrote a pastoral letter on Catholics and political life. Naturally, as one might expect, he starts his letter off with a New Testament scriptural reference. He relates the Gospel story of Jesus responding to the efforts of the "Pharisees and Herodians" to catch him in a bind by asking him if it were lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. You know, the whole "give to Ceaser what is Ceasar's, but give to God what is God's" dictum.

Then Archbishop Hughes launches into a lengthy missive on how good Catholics should act politically and what should be the moral stance of Catholics with regard to their public obligations as good citizens.

Again, as one might expect, Archbishop Hughes focuses on the primacy of the defense of life as the single most important concept that should guide Catholic civic life. Abortion is wrong, and should be opposed unequivocally, he says. So is euthanasia, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research, etc. But when it comes to war and capital punishment, Hughes contends, he gives comfort to those Catholics who support the taking of life through war or capital punishment by painstakingly explaining the ethical wiggle room that the Catholic Church allows regarding these anti-life activities. Hughes uses some high-faluting rationalization he calls "human prudential judgment" to justify support for such anti-life activities.

What I find so ironic and sad is that Hughes is, essentially, acting just like those word-parsing and language game-playing Pharisees and Herodians he refers to in the opening lines of his letter. I've got one thing to say to Archbishop Hughes: Jesus's message concerning life was much simpler than his "human prudential judgment" cerebral parsing. When, on another occasion, these same pharisees, these tricky experts in Church doctrine and Church law, these experts in high-faluting theological rationalizations, tried to trip up Jesus with the same mental games regarding the identification of the greatest Commandment, Jesus' reply was simple: "The greatest commandment is this: love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself." Pretty damn simple and clear to me. If Archbishop Hughes wants to pretend to be more like the Jesus he supposedly represents, I don't see how he can claim that this simple mandate in any way, shape, or form, permits for the killing of one's neighbor in war or by capital punishment. If this is how Hughes interprets the mandate of "loving one's neighbor," then he's god one sick understanding of the meaning of love. And that's a shame, because we have the greatest example of love in the very Jesus Christ himself. What did Jesus do to show his love? He didn't kill, or support killing, or even try to rationalize killing under the special circumstances of "human prudential judgment." No, he just gave up his life. He let himself BE killed. That's the simplicity of the Christian example when it comes to the subject of LIFE. The theologically complex Archbishop Hughes ought to keep this more in mind.

Liberal Lighthouse: Bush Lies - You know you're in trouble when the pro-Iraq War editors of The New Republic call Bush an outright liar with regard to this war's current reality.

All politicians stretch truth to present accomplishments in the most appealing light. What President Bush has told the country over the past week about the deeply troubled Iraq occupation, however, is different. While an increasingly strong insurgency murdered 250 Iraqis last week, he portrayed the occupation as gliding to success. Last week, Bush told the Manchester Union-Leader, "I'm pleased with the progress." The template the administration is using for its portrayal of Iraq is the one the Johnson administration perfected during Vietnam: To win reelection, Bush is lying."
Read the whole editorial. It's blunt and it's true.

Lagniappe: Bush, Leadership, and Credibility - Does George W. Bush ever listen to himself? This from Bush: "You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility." I wonder what Dubya would say if anyone took out the word "Iraq" and substituted, say, Germany, France, Russia, Mexico, Chile, and practically every other country of the world. My best guess is that Mr. Unilateral and Anti-Sensitive would say something like, "I don't need the approval of France, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Chile, etc., to be the leader this country needs. In fact, the true sign of a leader is precisely when he questions the credibility of his allies if what they are saying deserves question." The denseness and stupidity of this President is embarrassing and pathetic.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: The Anti-Family Marriage Amendment - As one of the 22% of Louisianians (and, by the way, one who is a happily married heterosexual) who voted against this abominable amendment, I must admit that I was absolutely stunned speechless when I saw the election results.

This is not the Louisiana that I know and have known my entire life. Louisiana is a state that has felt poignantly the pangs of discrimination and has made tremendous strides to overcome the barriers to full civil rights for its citizens. I thought that having a woman (Democrat) and an Indian-American man (Republican) as the run-off candidates for governor last fall was a sign that this state had reached some new threshhold with regards to beating back the legacy of racial and gender discrimination that defines the state's past. But this recent vote on the anti-family constitutional amendment regarding marriage gives painful pause.

However, being a proud Louisianian and unwilling to abandon my (naive?) belief in the fairness and humanity of my fellow Louisianians, I still want desperately to believe that the majority of the people in this state don't really want what this amendment signifies. The only explanation that I can think of to rationalize this depressing election result, and still keep up my spirits somewhat, is that the people of Louisiana were purposely confused about the issue. I don't think Louisianians fully understand the implications of this vote. From the people I know (genuinely good people at heart) who expressed some sympathy for this amendment, the feeling is that this vote had nothing to do with civil rights and was simply more like the harmless expression of support for a resolution endorsing traditional marriage. I know for a fact that there was very little education of the electorate about the full discriminatory nature of this amendment and its far-reaching legal ramifications. In fact, what little attention was paid to this amendment here in the local media outlets basically viewed the whole process as a sympathy/non-sympathy vote on the idea of marriage more than a fundamental alteration of the state's foundational guiding charter.

When the impact of this amendment hits heterosexual unions not covered under the definition of marriage as defined by this amendment (and, believe me, there are a lot of "shacking up" situations and non-traditional heterosexual partnerships in this state), then folks are going to wake up. But I know that this is a weak rationalization. And though it makes me feel a little better, a little hopeful, it still can't beat back the depressing funk that I've been in since I read the newspapers Sunday morning.

The only consolation that I have is the certitude that the march towards civil rights for all people is inexorable and will bear fruit in the future. And I remain certain that, one day, gay people will be able to marry in the state of Louisiana.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Ivan the Terrible - Writing from Houston. Managed to get the family onto safer ground to weather out Ivan. Couldn't bring the house with us, though we did carry our pictures. What a worry! Keep the Gulf Coast in your prayers.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Lagniappe: Here's a Funny! - Five members of a Christian prayer group sat around one evening after their weekly meeting having coffee and eating cookies. The subject turned to politics and the upcoming Presidential election. After a while, it became clear that each of the five friends had a different political party affiliation. There was a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Socialist, and a Constitutionalist. Each argued passionately and heatedly in defense of his party's platform and with firm conviction in his political ideology. Furthermore, each claimed that the core principles of Christianity, which they all espoused faithfully, supported his own position. Thus religion mixed with politics, and the discussion went round and round with not one of the friends conceding any ground to the others. After a while, when the debate seemed frustratingly hopeless, the friends decided to do what they always did when confronted with such difficulties: they would offer the debate up to God in prayer in the hopes of receiving His divine revelation and resolution. On this solution to wrapping up the debate, all could agree. So, the friends gathered in their prayer circle and raised up their hands and voices to God in prayer. After about ten minutes of earnest praying, a burning bush appeared in the middle of the prayer circle. Nestled in the center of the burning bush was a stone table, in which the following message was seared:

"My beloved and faithful children, your positions are all equally valid in My eyes."
(signed) God, (D-Paradise)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Lagniappe: The Zell Miller/GOP Convention Conundrum - First off, let's get it straight out in the open. I'm no fan of Zell Miller.

BUT, as a Democrat, I must say that it tickles me to no end that one of my own fellow card-carrying party members is being touted as the GOP's best offering to the Republican Convention. Sure, lots of GOP notables have spoken, but no one has elicited the swooning praise given to Miller by the multitude of GOPers commenting on the Convention -- not McCain, not Giuliani, not Schwarzenegger, not even Cheney. If a Democrat delivering a speech at the Republican GOP is the best the GOP can put forward, what does this say about the GOP lineup? It would be supremely ironic if the general consensus is that Miller, a DEMOCRAT, was the best thing going at the REPUBLICAN Convention.

I guess I should be proud that we Democrats are so impressive we can carry the weight of TWO parties these days.

Blog Banter: The Honest Conservative's Take on Zell Miller - Read this:

Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
From Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish for September 2, 2004. And there's more, too. Go read it. The whole thing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Lagniappe: Purple Heart Mockery at the GOP Convention - To all you honorable soldiers who sacrificed blood and limb for this country, the GOP Conventioneers have something to say to you and your Purple Heart(s):Bush For President: War Hero And you think they care about your sacrifice?

Lagniappe: Bush Admits his connection to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth From Andrew Sullivan's blog:

P.S.: I loved Bush's comment yesterday about the smear-ad: "I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us. I wasn't so pleased with the ads that were run about me. And my call is get rid of them all, now." "Us"?? I thought Bush had nothing to do with it.
Let's remember that Andrew Sullivan is no friend of Kerry, either; but at least he's honest enough to call it like it is.

Lagniappe: Bush the Dunce - I'm sure GW will recover from the gaffe, but it strikes me as typical of everything the man represents. I mean, really, on the eve of the GOP Convention, in the midst of people praising him as the only man capable of leading this country in the war on terror, GW publicly and with full confidence declares unequivocally and firmly that ... what was it, now? ... oh, yeah ... we will NEVER win the war on terror. Even assuming GW just had a momentary slip of the tongue, and didn't really mean what he said, what kind of person would make such a royal goof up at the most inappropriate time. Worse, what kind of American would vote to elect this incompetent person to another four more years? We need a dunce like GW leading us against the war on terror about as much as we need another cockroach in New Orleans. Puh-lease.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Lagniappe: What is it about Serving in Vietnam on a Swift Boat near the Cambodian Border? - So, in the heat of war and in the complex fluidity of events and recollections that was the Vietnam War, John Kerry's claims to have been in Cambodia at the precise instant he claimed to be may not be accurate. Kerry, though, is convinced of his being in Cambodia during his service. It appears that one John O'Neill is equally as confused about his recollections of his whereabouts while serving in Vietnam. John O'Neill is recorded as saying he was in Cambodia during his service, but which he now claims was not true. Appears O'Neill is lying with impunity. Apparently his recollection some 30 years later is more accurate than his comment made within a couple of years from the actual events in question. What's the truth? Who knows? Fact is, I give O'Neill a pass because his mind was probably as muddled and shaped by the craziness of Vietnam as was John Kerry's. They both probably have some selected or exaggerated memories that stray somewhat from actual events. I would imagine this to be the case for all combat soldiers. The problem is that when Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claim to be representing the "truth" that they themselves contradict makes the group seem like a bunch of vindictive blow-hards. This will do nothing but bite Bush in the rear as the glow of their reghteousness comes under further scrutiny and the discrepancies of "truth" become more and more revealed along with their connections to the Bush Campaign. I want the Swift Boat Vets to come on strong, so that Bush can fall all the harder.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Lagniappe: Kerry and the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" - I've been thinking about this group's activities and wondering a lot about their motives and feelings. I can understand why many of Kerry's fellow combatants wouldn't really care for Kerry and even see him as "unfit" to serve as Commander-in-Chief. It's because Kerry had the courage to break military discipline and defy "loyalty to the insitition at all costs" in protesting and exposing that which was morally reprehensible about what went on in Vietnam. Many of Kerry's swift boat colleagues, like the majority of us, are more comfortable with obeying the "truth" of loyalty, than the "truth" of shame. This simple fact - that Kerry has the courage to question a decision-gone-bad (i.e. the Vietnam War) and to take a stand in protest of it - makes Kerry consummately fit for command. I don't want a leader so blinded by hubris and pride and unfaltering "loyalty" to his "comrades in arms" that he refuses to reasses and admit mistakes and problems. It is very, very possible that going to war in Iraq was morally and politically the WRONG decision for the United States and its citizens (regardless of how much good has come from it for others). But once on the path of war, it becomes very difficult for anyone who put us on this path (and through which much blood has been shed and lives lost) to admit it as a mistake. But sometimes it is necessary to admit our mistakes so that they don't become compounded out of sheer cowardice to do so. Kerry is a man who will fight a just war, and who will not hesitate to put American lives on the line; but he is also a man who will have the courage to admit if and when such a decision was a mistake and to prevent the continued unnecessary loss of life. I WANT this kind of person as a Commander-in-Chief. I don't want a drill sergeant or a "Yes" man. I want a responsible leader. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth would be wise to reflect on this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Lagniappe: Blogging from Mexico - From the land of tequila and chilaquiles, I send you all my greetings. Mexico City is wonderful, as usual. I'm having a productive, and fun, visit. Talking to my friends here about their own political situation in Mexico, I am informed that this country's next presidential elections seem wide open and, perhaps, ripe for chaos. It appears that all the main parties and their leadership is fragmented here or caught up in scandals. This means that there is no clear favorites at this point for 2006 elections for President. I see this as the growing pains of true democracy in Mexico, but Mexicans need to stay true and firm to the democratization process. There is a lot of public disillusionment here right now about the political system; and Mexicans are accustomed to not putting much hope into reform efforts. If the country survives the next presidential election with a peaceful transfer of power, then I will begin to believe that the internalization of democratic reform in Mexican political culture is taking shape.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Lagniappe: Gone, Back, and Soon to Go Again - Apologies for the absence of any postings over the past few days. My lovely wife planned a "mini-vacation" on the spur of the moment to a resort hotel in Mobile, Alabama. We were at the Grand Hotel (Marriott) on Mobile Bay and we did nothing but have fun and relax for three days. No television, no radio, no computers, and only the USA Today for news. Needless to say, I've been out of the loop a bit; but it was a great trip ... time well-spent with the wife and kids.

Now that I'm back in town, I have one day to pack for a week-long research/writing trip to Mexico. Off to the biggest city in the world for one week of uninterrupted writing on my book project (a history of Mexico and Mexicans in New Orleans) with the only distractions being an evening tequila or two in the hotel bar. As you might imagine, blogging will be light to non-existent over the next week or so. Then, as the fall semester begins to kick-off at the end of August, what with welcoming a whole new crew of graduate students, I'll probably be unable to blog with much regularity then, too. I'll give it the old Blue Jay/Hoya/Green Wave effort, so do check back; but don't hold your breath for in-depth analysis of anything. Hasta pronto!

PS: Congratulations to my younger sister who just gave birth to her first baby, a daughter, Kayla, 6 lbs, 13 oz. Mom, dad, and baby are all healthy and in excellent spirits,though naturally tired. The extended family grows by one, with the balance tipping in favor of the "fairer sex!"

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Lagniappe: "Results Matter" Catalogue, continued - Even the ultra-conservative, pro-Bush Washington Times reports that U.S. firms are experiencing punishing sanctions from the EU because of certain U.S. export subsidies that the WTO has ruled against. Result: A projected $36 billion tax bill to be paid by U.S. exporters to the EU over the March 1 - September 1, 2004 time period. Remember, Bush said it himself: "RESULTS MATTER."

Lagniappe: "Results Matter" Catalogue - You know, I've been thinking that I should hold Bush to his own campaign theme. Everytime I see some "results" that the Bush Administration seems to have produced or its policies have influenced, I'll pass the news along to you. If you come across any such "results," please pass them my way so that I can reference them or post them.

Let's start with this lovely bit of news concerning the airline industries. Seems like the Airlines are poised to shed their pension plans (instead of reducing CEO salaries). The impact: (1) workers who have invested their retirements in Airline pension plans are looking at an uncertain retirement future; and (2) if the Airlines do shed their pension plans, then the U.S. federal agency that insures pension plans against precisely this kind of eventuality, will have to cover the bailout bill. This means that, like the Savings & Loans Scandals of the 1980s, the U.S. taxpayer will be footing the bill for the failure of the free market to regulate incompetence, greed, and fraud. All on the watch of Bush. Remember, Bush said it himself: "RESULTS MATTER."

Lagniappe: Perfect Bush - Let me tell you what I think sums up the idiocy of George W. Bush and the delusional world he must live in. A couple of days ago, Bush made a speech in which he called on the U.S. citizenry to look at actual, conrete "results" as a basis for evaluating his accomplishments in office versus that of his opponent for the Presidency, John Kerry. The article I read on the AP Newswire Webpage indicated that this theme will be prominent in the next phase of the Bush campaign. So, "results" ... Hmmm ... And on the same day, in an article published by the very same AP Newswire referenced on the same webpage as the piece on Bush's "results" speech, there was an article discussing how the Office of the President had just announced a revised deficit projection of circa $450 billion, a record federal deficit in U.S. history!!!!! Bush wants us to look at "results"?!?!?!?!? I'd say a record deficit of $450 billion is quite a "result" for evaluating the fiscal profligacy of his administration and by far enough reason in and of itself to warrant voting Bush out of office. How idiotic can the man be??? And we haven't even touched upon the "results" of the Iraq War and its abysmal aftermath. People! Wake up and take off the blinders!! This man is not fit to lead this country. He is a joke.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Louisiana Lib-Bloggers - There are many folk out there who think of Louisiana as a conservative backwater, firmly and squarely in the pockets of Bush and the GOP. But, I've got some news for them. Louisiana is a blue-dog state -- fiercely independent and connected at the gut level to core liberal principles. Louisiana is the land of Huey Long and Edwin Edwards and John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston and Cleo Fields and Kathleen Blanco. Louisiana is the land of progressive partying and a strange kind of live-and-let-live tolerance for all shades and stripes of people and lifestyles. Louisiana is the land that went for Clinton twice and has never had a GOP Senator in modern times. Whether or not Bush wins the state this November, there are some sharp liberal Louisiana-rooted minds out there. And all you have to do is check out the blogs of my new-found Louisiana Lib-Blog Community to see what I'm talking about.

For instance, there's YatPundit, who is an accomplished writer and artist, who, when he has the time, writes some great stuff on his blog. He's been taking it easy this summer on the blog, but rest assured that when he gets it going again, it's gonna be good.

There's also osyter of Your Right Hand Thief blog who always represents what I think is best about pure liberalism in that he keeps an open mind and a balanced perspective, constantly encouraging and welcoming critical thinking that both blends well with his own liberal perspective and also challenges it at times.

Right up there with oyster is Michael who publishes the 2Millionth Web Blog. Michael is the Louisiana Lib-Blogger with the sharp liberal wit and with the less-forgiving keyboard for misleading conservatism. Since I like to spend time drudging around the rightwing blogosphere raising cane against stubborn wingnuts, I find Michael's blog to be a refreshing reminder of the more in-your-face, unapologetic liberalism that I need to re-sharpen the edges of my liberal core after it gets inevitably dulled and blunted by the relentless pig-headedness of unthinking conservatives.

Others who claim allegiance to the great state of Louisiana (and which influence their web blogs) include: timshel, looka [great for Louisiana music, culture, and cuisine], and Ian McGibboney. They're all great, all quite different, all liberal, and all pure Louisiana. Check them out regularly, and rest assured that you'll be hearing more about them and their commentaries in my own blog postings.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Bush, Cuba, and the Florida Vote - It's becoming more and more evident that Bush "ha metido el pato" (stuck his foot in it, so to say), in Florida. I see this misguided step on Bush's part as a gift to John Kerry. But, John Kerry needs to take it and run with it. He hasn't done so, yet. Don't wait, Kerry. Get down to Miami and open your mouth about your Cuba policy. Even though I'm completely for ending the embargo against Cuba entirely, I understand the sensitivity of this position in Florida. But Kerry has a shot to appease both the anti-Castro Cuban crowd AND move in a more liberalizing direction with regard to the U.S.'s Cuba policy. All Kerry has to do is simply express support for Cuban Americans and their families in Cuba, and promise to not prevent family-to-family contacts and the continuation of inter-cultural exchanges, and he'll win more of the Miami Cuban-American vote than any Democratic presidential candidate could have hoped for. He just needs to make his presence known and felt in Florida. Go to it, Kerry! Don't wait! The time is ripe for picking that Florida orange for his electoral college fruit basket.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Lagniappe: Misreading Liberals - Just a quick comment ... I've been reading a lot of the conservative press and punditocracy's reactions to the energizing atmosphere and brilliant speeches at the Democratic National Convention. (and doesn't it always seem to be a much funkier party at the Democratic Convention than at the more stuffy GOP conventions? Anyway ...) What I've noticed is that conservatives want to paint this as a fraud. Here's what I imagine goes through the conservative mind: "Now, how can that exciting, resonant, and unified Democratic Party that is rearing its multicultural head really be the hateful, divisive, race-baiting, security-soft, foreign-policy dereft, anti-patriotic group of people that Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney have told me defines liberal identity?"

This contradiction baffles honest, reflective conservatives. And, the fact is that bitter conservatives can't hide or acid-coat this exhilirating display of true, unified liberalism. So, what do they do? The only thing they can ... call it a fraud. Well, I've got a shocking revelation for conservatives (especially those who study Thomas Kuhn and know his premise behind the structure of scientific revolutions): if phenomenona considered exceptional happen more regularly, then one needs to reconsider the "exceptionality" of this phenomena. In other words, in plainspeak, whenever conservatives say that some liberal is not really a liberal, I note it and count it. When the number of such cases mount, I begin to wonder whether conservatives will ever realize that the "exception" in their minds is not really an "exception" at all, but rather the NORM about liberal democrats that they cannot admit to themselves. And that the fringe behavior they so often like to consider the liberal mainstream is, precisely, nothing more than fringe.

Let me set the record straight: Liberals at the Democratic Convention aren't acting as frauds at all ... They're acting as liberals!!! Bill Clinton was pure Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter was pure Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama was pure Barack Obama. Al Sharpton was pure Al Sharpton. John Edwards was pure John Edwards. And I'm sure that John Kerry will be pure John Kerry. What the world is seeing (and what conservatives cannot get their minds around) is that the Liberalism of the Democratic Party of this Convention is the Liberalism of Democrats all over the country at all times. No matter what people say, a majority of Liberal Democrats are devout religious folk; Liberal Democrats are, at core, patriotic pro-United States citizens; the vast majority of Liberal Democrats are not socialists/communists; Liberal Democrats have pride in their homeland and want it defended and protected as much as the next person. In short, Liberal Democrats are PRECISELY that which is on exhibit at the Convention. If conservative Republicans (and even cynical liberal Democrats) want to call it a fraud, they have a right to do so. That won't change the fact that they're delusional and wrong.

The Weak in (National) Review: An NRO Writer Unwittingly Concedes Louisiana to Kerry/Edwards - Michael Know Beran has a piece in today's National Review Online in which he disparagingly compares Edwards to Huey Long. Given that Huey Long is still such a mythical figure of admiration among Louisiana residents (in spite of his personal arrogance and bombastic populism), I think equating another Southerner (Edwards) with the colorful legacy of his fellow Southern Louisiana predecessor, he just might have done the Kerry/Edwards ticket a favor in Bush-leaning and GOP-trending (but majority still Democratic) state of Louisiana.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Going Mental: Are Honest, Self-Reflecting Republicans Closet Liberal Democrats? - Is it just me or am I really witnessing a kind of ideological and intellectual meltdown among Republicans? Or are conservatives finally realizing that the liberalism of the Democratic Party and its platform is really the true American way? I mean what does one make of the fact that conservatives are explaining the Democratic Convention and its rising stars (all at one time or another branded too liberal for mainstream America) as more to their conservative liking than even Bush conservatives? Consider this ... Peter Bienart of The New Republic has argued convincingly [Subscription required to access the article] that the Democratic Convention line-up is reflective of the liberal wing of the Party (as opposed to the more moderate centrist wing). Bienart, a liberal himself (albeit a pragmatic one), claims that this should make Democrats "squirm" in discomfort because of the image it will project nationally of the unapologetic "progressive" left wing of the Democratic Party, potentially alienating more moderate/conservative independent and swing voters. When you look at the Convention Speaker line-up, you can see that he's got a point: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, even Al Sharpton. On the other hand, Bienart argues that the GOP Convention line-up features speakers not at all in line with what the Bush Administration and traditional right-wing conservatism represents: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki (and only gudgingly added true conservatives like Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback to the list after some internal nudging).

So, according to Bienart, what we have here is a Democratic Convention line-up of featured speakers that caters to the liberal base of the Democratic Party and a GOP line-up that markedly doesn't cater to the conservative base of the party.

But, to listen to conservatives who are analyzing the Democratic National Convention, you'd think Bienart had it bass-ackwards!! According to folks like Andrew Sullivan, the Democratic Convention is nothing short of a conservative Convention! But Sullivan is often dismissed by the conservative right, so what does his opinion matter. The critical question is what are the true conservatives saying about the convention? Well, essentially, the same thing! For example, the National Review Online has a series of commentaries on the Democratic Convention. Predictably, the NRO pundits, on pure principle, try not to say too many good things about the Democratic Lineup. But there is this somewhat laudatory piece by Henry Payne on Michigan's telegenic Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm. And there's also Jack Geraghty's tribute to Barack Obama, about whom even NRO's curmudgeonly Jay Nordlinger had this to say:

About Barack Obama: He has huge presence, and it would be no surprise if he appeared on a Democratic presidential ticket one day. He is a first-rate speaker, in part because he doesn't let himself be managed by applause, and he doesn't speak too slowly. That is the curse of public speaking — slowness. Idiots are forever telling speakers, "Slow down!" They are almost always wrong.

Anyway, Obama's was a quite patriotic speech; it also offered little in the way of policy substance — no abortion, no real economics, no real foreign policy, etc.

Interestingly, he said that we must not have a blue America and a red America, a white America and a black America — we should have one America.

Hallelujah! But he should tell it to the Democratic party! (Of course, that's what he did.) For years, Democrats have specialized in racialism, in "identity politics," in Balkanization. We Republicans are the party of E pluribus unum (a slogan Obama cited). Especially pleasing was Obama's rebuke of those who hold that "a black youth with a book is acting white." Again, I hope he didn't imagine he was speaking for Republicans' benefit.
Quite interesting, wouldn't you say? But there's more. There's Roger Clegg's comment on NRO's blog, "The Corner," in which he comments on Barack Obama's speech:
Barack Obama gave a fine speech, but it was not a speech that reflects the current Democratic Party. It celebrated America as "a magical place"; it did not bemoan our racism and imperialism. It professed that this black man "owe[d] a debt to those who came before" him; it did not call for reparations. It spoke of an "awesome God"; it did not banish Him from public discourse. It admitted that black parents, and black culture, need to change the way black children are raised; it did not blame or even mention racism. It quoted "E pluribus unum" and translated it correctly as "Out of many, one"; it did not misquote it, as Al Gore infamously did, as "Many out of one." Most of all, the speech celebrated one America, "one people," and rejected the notion of a black America, a white America, a Latino America, and an Asian America--a notion completely foreign to the multiculturalism that now dominates the Democratic Party.
Tellingly, the title of Clegg's posting on NRO's blog is "Right Speech, Wrong Convention." And even this was preceded by Rich Lowry's quip on Obama:
That seemed a textbook example of how to use resonant Biblical rhetoric to make a very effective American political speech.
And Kathryn Jean-Lopez's claim that "Dems scored a homerun with Obama as their keynoter. Forward looking, eloquent, red meat, Florida dig, spirited, personal history--he's got it all." [NOTE to KJL: Barack Obama is not an outside ringer for the Democratic Party, brought in just for the show. He IS the Democratic Party.] It's quite interesting to hear such wingnut conservatives talking so nicely and admiringly about a man who, as Jack Geraghty notes in his column linked above:
While those on the right might rejoice at an African-American leader whose rhetoric is cooler than Jesse Jackson's and whose politics are closer to the mainstream than Rev. Al Sharpton, his voting record is likely to be indistinguishable from that of the Congressional Black Caucus. In the Illinois state legislature, Obama voted against a partial-birth abortion ban, for gun control, and for tax hikes.
In fact, Obama's uncontested liberal political record seem to place him squarely in the camp of those progressive, hard-core liberals that Bienart references in his article cited above. As Noam Scheiber, Bienart's colleague at The New Republic wrote in May, 2004:
When Obama entered the Senate race in January 2003, he quickly dispelled any suspicion that he might attempt to replicate Wilder's strategy for appealing to moderate whites. He was unapologetically liberal, outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq war, and proud of the progressive legislation he'd passed in the state Senate. His campaign touted his role in passing a bill intended to reduce the rate of wrongful executions by requiring homicide confessions to be videotaped and another designed to crack down on racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of individuals they searched. Obama also claimed credit for extending the life of a state-sponsored health insurance program for children and emphasized his efforts at creating a job-training program for unskilled workers.
So, someone tell me, please, enlighten me, please: what is going on with conservative Republicans these days? Are they really so enamored of the strength of true, unabashed leftist liberalism that they want to appropriate it as conservatism? What Obama or Granholm or Dean or Carter or Gore or the Clintons represent is not an ideological "makeover" as the GOP is spinning it, but rather a reflection of the true meat and mettle of the Democratic Party - a party of true principles and true diversity/inclusion (and that also means room for ideals that "conservatives" think only they should hoard). They're not glossing over their liberal credentials. They're wearing them on their sleeves! This IS the Liberalism of the left!! Let it sink in. I ask again: Are Conservatives really closet liberal Democrats? Or are they just losing their marbles and preparing themselves for the inevitable letdown sure to come to the GOP on November 2.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Lagniappe: The Democratic National Convention Impresses! - When Andrew Sullivan gushes with such uncharacteristic praise about anything connected to official Democrat Party Politics, you know rightwingers, in spite of their naysayer spinmeisters, need to be very, very privately worried about Nov. 2.

I can imagine Bush and Rove sitting in front of the TV watching the events: In spite of his dismissive smile, Rove's fair cheeks and moist brow betray his worry. And Bush, refreshingly unable to keep from wearing his emotions on his sleeve, with his face pale and the corners of his mouth twitching, has that blank deer-caught-in-the-headlights look of utter helplessness.

Sweat, boys, sweat!

Blog Banter: The Huckupchuck and the JunkYardBlog Go Head to Head on Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Troop Morale in Iraq - Friends, I've been engaged in an interesting debate/discussion with Bryan Preston of the JunkYardBlog. Bryan posted a piece titled "The Traitor's Poison Starts Its Work." This posting discusses the impact of Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 on troop morale. Read the whole piece. The main gist of the posting was Bryan's rather self-congratulatory pat on the back for accurately predicting the negative impact that Moore's movie appears to be having on troop morale. In the comments section of this piece, I take issue with Bryan not on the accuracy of his prediction, but on his assigning full responsibility (and even blame, if you will) on Moore for this result. My first comment on his posting was the following:

Bryan - You sell the intelligence of our soldiers short. Are they not capable of distinguishing lies and exaggerations from their own experiences in Iraq? Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. If these soldiers are on the front lines and really know the truth about things, why would Michael Moore’s movie mean anything to them. I imagine that Moore’s movie resonates with them because they see parallels between what Moore presents and what they experience and think of for themselves. Just like I can read Ann Coulter’s Treason and know it for the “trash” it is, so too can soldiers watch Fahrenheit 9/11 and know it for the “trash” it is. Instead of harping on the need to suppress the “lies of Michael Moore” why don’t you instead harp on the need to educate soldiers in the “truth”? What ever happened to that most conservative of values called individual responsibility for one’s own thoughts and ideas? Again, you do a disservice to the intelligence of soldiers by implying that they are unable to rise above and see through propaganda for themselves. Act like a conservative, would you? And stop whining about how Michael Moore is responsible for soldiers’ minds and thoughts rather than the soldiers themselves.
Bryan responded accordingly:
Jimmy, why do you always play these games of moral equivalence? I bring up Moore, you bring up Coulter, ad infinitum.

When did Ann Coulter make a film depicting enemy propaganda in the middle of a war? There is no correlation between a freelance writer, as often as not shunned by the side she cheers for, and Michael Moore. You’re either a liar or willfully obtuse to make such a comparison. I honestly don’t know which describes you.

One more time. I. Was. There. Those who have never been in the military simply don’t appreciate the crucible of pressure that it is. They don’t understand how sheltered life in the military, especially on the front lines, can be—and by sheltered I mean from the multitude of information sources available to the rest of us. They also don’t understand, because they never bother to try, just how young and inexperienced (in the ways of the world) the average soldier, sailor, airman and Marine truly is. Most of them are away from home for the first time in their lives, having never been to college and having never been exposed to the left’s poisons. They’re idealists, most of them. And put into the hell of war, some of that idealism naturally gets shattered just by the horror they see and live. They have lost friends, may have been wounded themselves. They have missed the births of their first children, and spent a year away from everything they know. They want to understand why.

And along comes Michael Moore, crafty propagandist that he is, and explains it all so plausibly. He tells them in so many words “You went to war for a lie. Your friend died for nothing. It’s your own President you should hate, not that Iraqi over there with the AK-47 pointed at you.” And we offer our troops nothing to counter the lies.

It’s unspeakably cruel to treat them this way, but you don’t care at all about them, do you Jimmy. You don’t care about anything but your narrow and precious view of morality, a morality that allows you to sleep well at night in your pacifist’s den because these troops are bleeding and dying for you.

Yes, our troops are intelligence—the most intelligent fighting force ever built. But they are young and idealistic, and scorched now by the tribulations of war. And on their way home, Michael Moore greets them to tell them that it was all for nothing.

A generation ago, propaganda such as Moore’s fell from the lips of one John F. Kerry, and it helped destroy America’s resolve. We spat on our returning soldiers, and called them baby killers.

We didn’t learn anything from that experience, and we won’t learn anything from this one either. We still mistreat our soldiers.
Before I even had a chance to read and address this first comeback, Bryan added to his initial comment with a follow-up which reads accordingly:
Jimmy, Rhiannon,

Your reactions to this post have proven something to me. I made a prediction—that Moore’s film would disrupt military morale. I took some criticism when I made that prediction, mostly from people who just don’t understand what it’s like to be a junior enlisted in today’s military. That prediction has been proven right—the article linked in this post was written by a soldier in the 1st Infantry, serving in Iraq, and he says that what I predicted is happening. And he didn’t even know I’d made the prediction, so you can’t argue that there’s some kind of collusion going on.

Yet rather than process that truth and deal with it, you attack me and criticize my prediction. Which turned out to be prescient. Why?

Because you refuse to see what’s right in front of your face. You have your understanding of the world, and nothing, not even a contrary truth, can shake it. That has been the hallmark of your entire approach to the war, and not just you individually, but you as members of the left. You refuse to see the truth—that America has dangerous enemies that want to kill us, through no fault of our own. If we let them, they will hand us more 9-11s with numbing regularity. Yet rather than help us defeat them and stay safe, you criticize your own countrymen. You just refuse to see and accept the truth.

I’m convinced you’re unreachable. You won’t know the truth when it blows up your own city. And if we listen to you, that’s exactly what will happen.

If I’ve misread you, explain to me why you’re taking shots at me for this post—which is about a prediction of mine that has borne out—but not the Palestinian car swarm post or any of the other posts here. Why this one, the only one that definitively proves me right and you wrong about something? Why?
[NOTE: Rhiannon is another person who left a critical comment on this discussion board.]

My response was the following:
Bryan - Where in my post have I claimed that you were wrong about your prediction that morale would be negatively affected by this movie? I didn’t. I readily admit that you are right about the end result. The whole purpose of my post was to question your assigning Michael Moore the full, 100% responsibility for this drop in morale. The facts are the following: (1) Michael Moore is a well-known propagandist. Any soldier who sees his movies would (or should) know this. It is to be expected that his movies would be biased. When I saw the film, I was perfectly capable of knowing that this film was biased and that there were certainly other sides of the story that were not represented. My brother, who is a very right-wing conservative, calls the movie a “fiction” (even though he hasn’t seen it). And even assuming that it is a fiction as exptected, why would someone who doesn’t believe its veracity let it affect their own morale. It could only affect morale negatively if viewers buy into it as the truth, or if it resonates with their own experiences or preconceived notions. (2) Soldiers have a choice (I assume) to see the movie or not. I assume that soldiers, like the rest of us, know full well that the movie is critical of the war and the military in a biased way. Soldiers also know that they are in the pressure cooker and that they are homesick and that they miss their loved ones even before they see the movie. Why would they subject themselves to something that would exacerbate their already difficult situation? I repeat … it is not Moore that is to blame for soldiers’ morale. (3) Since the military is an institution of obedience to authority, why were soldiers on duty in Iraq permitted to see this if its effects on morale were so easily predicted. It was not Michael Moore’s decision to show the movie to soldiers, was it? I rather think that it was shown to soldiers because they wanted to see it for themselves.

You want to assign blame for the negative impact on military morale because soldiers see Moore’s movie on Moore himself. It would be one thing if Moore’s movie were force fed to soldiers against their will. It wasn’t.

That’s my beef with your posting. It’s not with the truth of your prediction that Moore’s movie would negatively impact morale. I agree with you and think you are right. My beef is that you think Moore is 100% responsible for this, when I think that the soldiers (all rational adults, capable of discerning right from wrong, fact from fiction, bias from truth) that choose to watch the movie, and their superiors who allow it to be shown to their soldiers on active duty in Iraq, and even the situation of their daily reality in the midst of war that they can relate to the content of the movie — these must also all be accorded some responsibility for the decline in troop morale after viewing this movie as well.

I like to think that soldiers and their superiors are smart enough to be discerning about the bias and the impact that Michael Moore’s film will have. I don’t watch porn flicks and I don’t let my daughters watch movies like the Terminator. Guess why? Because I know that these movies will affect my (and my daughters’) sensibilities and values in ways that I object to. Do I blame Linda Lovelace or Arnold Schwarzenneger (or the directors/producers) because they made these movies? No. If I or my daughters see such things, it is because I want to see such things or permit my daughters to see it. The blame and responsibility, ultimately, is with me. And on this point, Bryan, I wholeheartedly agree with conservatives. Responsibility lies with the individual for their own actions, not with someone else and what they say or do - and certainly not with Michael Moore.
This is currently where the discussion stands. I'll keep you posted and informed of any subsequent exchanges that we may have. It just strikes me as ironic that conservatives typically emphasize individual responsibility when it comes to personal behavior, often times chastising minority group leaders for laying the blame and pointing the finger elsewhere for problems that plague their communities and families and societies. Also, most conservatives extol the virtues of minimal government intervention in the dissemination of information and personal opinion, as biased or as controversial or as misrepresentative as it may be. The contradictions between these traditional conservative positions and the reactions of supposed conservatives like Bryan Preston to Michael Moore's film expose the inconsistencies of thought that often plague rightwingers so caught up in their own little world of warped logic and self-righteous, unidimensional patriotism.

UPDATE: 7/28/2004 3:30pm CST: - Here's the latest exchange between me and the JYB on this subject (citations come from the same comments board linked above. Bryan Preston responded accordingly to my last posting:
Dealing with Moore is pretty simple, actually. If he were shunned by both major parties as a lying pariah not fit to be seen with in public, that would send a pretty powerful message that his tactics, smears and lies are outside the bounds of acceptable political discourse. But that isn’t what is happening. The Democrats lined up a bunch of spinners to lobby the MPAA to lower the film’s rating, and have all but given it their official seal of approval. DNC Chair MacAuliffe espouses Moore’s wacky Afghanistan war theory, and they put him in the presidential box next to Jimmy Carter at the DNC convention.

They have embraced him and his poisons. That sends the wrong message, and puts AAFES in a bind. As I’ve written before, AAFES is in charge of Army and Air Force military theatres. Since F*** 9-11 is embraced by one political party and either ignored or disparaged by the other, AAFES could legitimately be accused of political censorship if it decided not to run the film in its theatres. Just imagine what the Democrats would do with that story—”Bush censors film; keeps military from seeing his dirty laundry” or whatever. It would be THE AD for the Dems this year, even though Bush had no role in “censoring” that piece of trash. So AAFES runs the film, because it has no choice but to run it.

Jimmy, Moore’s poisons are being fed to our troops indirectly by the party you support and want to put in power. All they would have to do is cut their support for him, but they won’t because they risk losing the hard left Naderite vote and that’s a segment they know they can’t win without—so they keep Moore in their fold in spite of the damage he is doing. Contrary to what you say in comments on another post, I don’t believe most Democrats are willingly or knowingly helping the enemy, though I do believe Moore is. But in helping Moore, who is demonstrably helping the enemy, who is your party helping? And who is your party hurting?

The Democrats have made some awful choices in the past year, and one of your worst was to choose to embrace Michael Moore as a legitimate voice for your party. Our troops are paying for that choice.
Here is my reply:
I understand your sentiments, Bryan. But, again, I go back to the question of personal responsibility. Our troops are not paying for the choices of anybody’s but their own. Heck, they’re even not paying for Bush’s “choice” to send them into harm’s way. They are grown-up people who chose for themselves to join the military with full knowledge of the risks that are entailed. They are also fully capable of “choosing” to marginalize and ignore Moore and his film if they want to, especially knowing what kind of propagandist and what kind of politics Moore professes. It seems to me that you so badly want to assign blame for the loss of troop morale to anything else that completely absolves the soldiers, their superiors, and their civilian leaders within the administration for any share of the responsibility in this disheartening quandary we find ourselves in. And Moore is the most obvious target. I don’t know what the military teaches about leadership, but I would imagine that one of the characteristics of leadership is rallying and maintaining troop morale. Moore’s movie certainly hurts that process, but there is responsibility to be shared all around, including personal responsibility by the soldiers themselves as well as responsibility by the Bush Administration for the way it has, in my mind, mishandled the impact of war and its aftermath on the psychological well-being of the soldiers and their families. Just because Moore doesn’t act more responsibly doesn’t mean the Bush amdinistration or the soldiers themselves don’t have to.
I'll keep you updated as long as there is something to update.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Going Mental: "Activist" Judges and the Gay Marriage Debate - As of late, I have been participating in an interesting debate on another blog's comment board. The subject, essentially, is the judiciary's role in the gay marriage debate - and whether judges that rule in favor of gay marriage rights and clearly against majority public will are nothing more than "activist" judges who are "legislating from the bench." I have some thoughts on this subject that I'd like to post here for your perusal and comments.

First, let me start with an observation: conservatives tend to incautiously and incorrectly throw out the term "activist judges" when the judicial system works against what conservatives would like to see decided.

I think popular will does have an important role to play in the process of establishing legal norms that guide our society. This is most clearly reflected in the electoral process through which popular vote determines legislatures and executives. But this does not apply to the judiciary, at least not completely. In our system judges are nominated by the executive and confirmed by the legislature. This is where the "public's" role over the judiciary ends, and for good reason. Once on the bench, such judges ideally function independently of either other branch of government so as to be as impartial as possible arbiters of the law. Sure, judges come in with preconceived bias, but the pressure to "decide" cases more subjectively based on political (as opposed to legal/constitutional) considerations would be much greater if judges were always subject to popular sanction once on the bench.

Furthermore, I make the point again: judges are not on the bench to cater to majority public will. In fact, judges are essentially on the bench for precisely the opposite reason: to protect constitutional rights of individuals against the tyranny of the majority when necessary. Sometimes majority public will is in accord with protecting the constitutional rights of individuals. In such instances, judicial decisions are rarely controversial. But, sometimes majority public will is at odds with the constitutional rights of individuals. And it is during such moments when judges have to be "unpopular." And, thank God, our political system allows them to be "unpopular" without recrimination. The movie "Amistad" comes to mind.

I think the most important issue here in the question of gay marriage is that our disagreement is not with "activist" judges who "legislate from the bench" -- but rather with our individual understanding of marriage in the context of basic, fundamental, inalienable human and civil rights. Some of us (and I would count Andrew Sullivan among this group) see the legal and moral issue of marriage as a critical component of civil liberty and human rights ... to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Others don't see it this way, but instead tend to consider marriage (and even the state-protected legal benefits that come with marriage) as a privilege and not a basic, fundamental civil right. And thus the privilege of marriage can be restricted to certain types of relationships (i.e. heterosexual and monogamous and non-incestual) without the question of discrimination against one's human rights ever being at issue.

All that said, the point is that the courts aren't "legislating" marriage from the bench. They are interpreting the constitutionality of the restriction that limits marriage to heterosexuals. Perhaps this will open the door to the other restrictions on marriage (i.e. that they be monogamous and non-incestual). But that is altogether another issue. [As an aside: I see polygamy and incest as questions of choice, whereas I see homosexuality as not a question of choice but as an integral and unalterable part of one's identity as a human being -- a distinction I think the courts will draw as well when it comes to considering incestuous or polygamous marriage as an issue of constitutional and civil rights.] Judges and the courts will deal with this if and when it arises. But rest assured that the same deliberative process will be at work, with judges determining the constitutionality of such restrictions.

Finally, I reiterate: judges that rule in favor of gay marriage are not forcing gay marriage on anybody. Nobody is being forced to reconsider their marriages. And our children who will marry in the future will not be forced to marry anyone they don't love and aren't willing to make such a commitment to. In fact, personally, I see extending marriage to monogamous, non-incestual, homosexuals as strenghtening the institution of marriage, not weakening it. Because I see it this way, I wonder how can anyone who is pro-marriage be against this?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Liberal Lighthouse: Fahrenheit 9/11 - I just saw Michael Moore's film. I don't claim to be a big fan of Michael Moore. He is an instigator and to me he seems completely uninterested in entertaining a critical reflection of the merits of ideologically opposing arguments. BUT, I must admit that I was terribly affected by his picture. No doubt it was a biased take on 9/11 and all its related subjects; but I think it is a must see piece of propaganda. In fact, I would put Moore's film up against any right-wing propaganda film on the same subject and would bet any sum that Moore's film will be the more representative of some of the seedier sides of the Bush Administration. I will say that I think it is unfair of Moore to impute some devious and malicious motive to Bush, especially regarding the reaction to the events of 9/11 as they were unfolding. Bush honestly seemed stunned like the rest of us, stunned into temporary inaction. Human, but understandable. Certainly not sinister, as Moore tries to convey. But that was only one very small part of the picture Moore presents. There are bigger issues about the Bush Administration's basic philosophy of governing and its approach to dealing with terrorism and its rationale for the Iraq war that merit serious and thoughtful and critical consideration. I don't think conservatives, on the whole, are willing to grapple with the seedier sides of the motivations and the selling of the war on terrorism and the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But there is no doubt that they exist; and all Moore does is to expose them, albeit in his own biased, slanted way. But give me Moore's bias to chew on rather than the willful blindness and cultivated ignorance of conservatives in probing this issue.

In fact, I've heard conservatives who have had the guts and courage to at least see Moore's film criticize its bias and take issue with its cinematic quality as a documentary film experiment; but I've heard very few conservatives take issue with the main critiques of the film. The best I've seen is simply a claim that Moore tells only one side of a complex situation; but rarely do conservatives (except the most intellectually dishonest among them) deny the kernels of truth to his take.

All in all, a very powerful film and one all Americans should watch. Believe me, if the video is released before the election, I will purchase it and hold as many viewings as I can for family and friends before the election. It is a very, very convincing argument against another four years of the Bush/Cheney/Rove conservative agenda.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Cuban Americans and the 2004 election - If John Kerry is smart, he'll focus on Florida's Cuban-American community and wrap that state up. It's all he needs to win, and the fruit is ripe for the picking. George Bush, pandering to a fringe elements of anti-Castro hardliners, has alienated even some of his erstwhile allies in the Cuban-American community in Florida. As Ryan Lizza has written, if John Kerry can kick it up a notch in his attentions and pretensions to George Bush's ill-advised crackdown on Cuban Americans' connections to family in Cuba, then he'll win Florida, and thus the entire election, handily. Can Kerry play this card correctly? I think so. All he has to do is open his mouth more, and I'm sure that whatever comes out, short of an outright love fest with Castro, will be seen as signs of a welcome attention to this community that feels maligned by Bush.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Lagniappe: Why, Sandy, Why?? - ... and in an election year, too.  Sheesh!  Whenever I read a story like this, my cynicism in the entire political establishment runs a notch higher.  Berger is a crook and a fool.  It seems so patently clear that he was trying to thwart the 9/11 Commission's work.  He needs to be held fully accountable, including criminally accountable, and the leadership of the left needs to step up and disavow this man.  His excuses ring hollow, and would, in fact, be laughable if they weren't so sad and pathetic.  As a lefty, saying that I am very disappointed is an understatement.  I am on the edge of being outraged and angered by the damage this man will likely cause to the Democratic chances to recapture the White House and the Congress this coming November.  Shame on you, Sandy Berger.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Lagniappe: Back in the Saddle Again - Hi, Folks!  I'm back from my wonderful 5-week experience in Mexico.  Though I love Mexico and think it is a beautiful country with beautiful people, I am happy to be home.  There is no place like home; and, for me, home is the great old U.S. of A.  Living abroad for an extended period of time brings a person to two important revelations: (1) the U.S. is a great place to live and be a citizen and (2) there is a wide consensus outside of the U.S. that our attitude as a country towards other countries is bombastic and arrogant.  Whether one agrees with the latter or not, it is absolutely essential for U.S. citizens to leave their cocoons of ignorance and recognize this reality and figure out how to deal with it.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lagniappe: Kerry and the Inquisition - Seems that theoconservative rightwingers want to bring back the Inquisition. It's just one step removed from creating a theocracy. As a catholic, this is just nutso. And people complain about Islamic fundamentalists wanting to bring the world back to medieval times. Sheesh! (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Lagniappe: Saludos desde Guadalajara y Feliz Dia de los Padres - Well, here it is ... father's day ... and I'm sitting at a terminal in Guadalajara, Mexico. Been here for almost exactly a week, to the minute. It's been a good week and my charges are all off to a good start with their summer programs. I had a great moment this morning as I opened the father's day presents my sweet little girls wrapped for me to take on my trip. I waited until today to open them, as I promised. What was wonderful about it was reading the cards and imagining the stories behind the pictures on the homemade gift wrapping paper that my daughters drew for me. And the best news is that they will be joining me here in a few short days.

Although I am a Mexico City person, I can honestly say that I am becoming very, very fond of Guadalajara -- especially the people here, who are some of the nicest and warmest that I've met in Mexico.

I have had almost no time to keep abreast of current events in the world, and so have very little to say about such things at this time. It is good to take a break from this every so often and to get a little enjoyment out of life unclouded by the darkness of our times.

If you know of any good restaurants or sights to see in Guadalajara or its near vecinities, please don't hesitate to drop me a comment or an email. For those of you who are planning a visit, the "must visit" restaurants are El Abajenyo (by the Minerva) and La Chata (in the historic district). I'll try to post more as the opportunities present themselves. Hasta entonces!