Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Lagniappe: Where y'at, man? - Well, I've been AWOL from the Blog for a couple of weeks. End of April/Beginning of May is hell-time for college professors (and college students, too, to be fair!). I'm sure to return to the fray with more regularity probably by mid-May at the latest. Stay tuned and come back every so often to see where I am with this thing. Peace.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Lagniappe: Responsibility for 9/11 - After sifting through and thinking about all the information that is out there concerning the Bush Administration's response (or lack of one) to the perceived al-Qaeda threats emanating up through the intelliegence bureaucracy, I have come to the conclusion that, when you sort through the piles and piles of rhetoric, there is really nothing there to pin on GW. Listen, I'm a die-hard, pacifist, unapologetic left-leaning liberal. I'm voting for Kerry in November. And I don't have any fondness for Bush at all. None. I will be elated when he joins his daddy as a one-termer. But I like to think that I'm fair. And when it comes to responsibility for 9/11, there's enough blame to go around for everyone. It is unfair to single out the Bush Administration. Sure, I believe, given the benefit of hindsight, that the Bush Administration could and should have done things differently. But, I can't really find fault with the Bush Administration's handling of the intelligence it had. I'm sure that intelligence briefings on terrorism always portend ominous things and that the information Bush had was, in many respects, very much consistent with the tone of other types of similar briefings and reports. Who would ever have suspected such an attack on the U.S. of the magnitude of 9/11? For the life of me, I can't see how the Bush Administration could have known this. Bush should be blamed for 9/11 about as much as Clinton should, which is really not much at all. It is just one of those tragic, unfortunate, wake-up calls from the way we conducted anti-terrorist intelligence gathering business. I don't think the same mistakes will ever be made again, or at least I think any President worth his salt will do his best to see that it doesn't happen again. What is important, I think, is to stop looking for blame and to start working on fixing the holes in our system that made it possible. It is as unfair to blame Bush, or Ashcroft, as it is to blame Clinton, or Gorelick. Liberals can and should oppose Bush on his ill-advised policies of the past that led us to war with Iraq and that threaten civil liberties. Liberals can and should criticize Bush for his penchant for secrecy and vendetta-like character assassinations of his critics, even his Republican critics. Liberals can and should question the wisdom of Bush's tax cuts and his unwillingness to curb spending. Liberals can and should question Bush's Iraq strategy and its utter failure. But Liberals, true American Liberals, should not blame Bush and his administration for 9/11. There's just nothing at all in the evidence to indicate any single person, administration, or bureaucratic entity is to blame. 9/11 just happened. It's tragic. Maybe things could have been done to prevent it from happening, maybe not. We've all got to get beyond seeking blame where there is none, or recognizing that we all share in the blame if blame has to be assigned. Liberals, in spite of the temptation to want to lay on Bush's shoulders the crushing weight of responsibility for 9/11, should, in this one matter, just lay off.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Racism in LA Electoral Politics - Do you think Louisiana is beyond the issue of race in its electoral politics? Think again. As Stephanie Grace reports in the Times-Picayune, the white Democrat woman candidate for governor beat the conservative Republican man of color because the folks who had a penchant for voting for David Duke and usually support more conservative candidates opted for the white woman against the dark man -- even though the dark man was clearly the more conservative of the two. In certain parts of Louisiana, apparently race matters much more than ideology in voting behavior. Sad.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Lagniappe: Bush Admits His Ignorance - As this AP news report indicates, Bush, declaring that he would have done anything within his power to prevent the 9/11 attacks had he known they were coming, is planning to tell the 9/11 commission that he really had no clue. Duh! Of course, Georgie. What person in his right mind who knew such an attack was likely would just turn away from it and do nothing? That's not the problem, nor the issue, Mr. President. The real issue is WHY DIDN'T you know? Did you close your ears and eyes? Were you distracted by Iraq to hear the warning bells of your anti-terrorism security teams? Did they themselves somehow fail to gain good intelligence warning of such an attack? These are the important questions. Why won't you answer them?

Lagniappe: WoT Bush Watch - From President Bush's April 2, 2004, speech on Strengthening Economy and Job Training. Opening statement:

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. I wish Dan had said, a friend of longstanding -- (laughter) -- as opposed to "an old friend." I knew him when he lived in Texas. You've got a good one running Marshall University here. He's a fine fellow. He's doing a fine job. (Applause.)

I'm proud to be back in Huntington. We're going to have an interesting discussion about how to make sure people have an opportunity to get the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. That's really what we're here to talk about. We're going to talk about how to make sure everybody's life is optimistic and hopeful, as this economy of ours grows and changes. [Emphasis added.]

A perfect place to do so here is at this community college, and I'm so honored to have been invited. Thank you for opening up your fantastic facility, and thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk.
How nice, we're going to be talking about good old bread and butter issues. But, wait, first we need to discuss 9/11, the War on Terror, and Saddam Hussein, just in case anybody missed it. Even before Bush gets into the stated subject of his speech, lo and behold, we hear:
And then, as we were recovering from the recession, the enemy hit us. They attacked us. And it affected us. It affected our way of thinking, for starters. See, when most of us were growing up, we thought oceans could protect us, and we found out that wasn't the case. We found out that America could be harmed by people who hate what we stand for. We suffered for those who lost life. I vowed then and there that the best way to protect America was to get on the offense and stay on the offense and bring people to justice. (Applause.) We resolved, as a nation, not to allow terrorists to cause us to lose our optimism and our spirit. That's what we resolved. And we still have that spirit and resolve, by the way.

And then we found out we had some corporate citizens who didn't tell the truth. That affected our economy. It kind of shattered our idealism about people in positions of responsibility. We passed tough laws, by the way. We're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America. There will be consequences if you lie to your shareholders and your employees. (Applause.) But it affected us. It was a hurdle we had to cross. It was a challenge to our economy.

And then, as you know, I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Let me tell you -- (applause.) One of the important -- one of the important lessons of September the 11th, and it's important for people to understand, is that when we see a threat, we cannot let it materialize. That's an important lesson. I saw a threat -- I looked at intelligence and saw a threat. The United States Congress looked at the same intelligence and it saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it saw a threat. People were worried about Saddam Hussein because of his past behavior. Remember, he had used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors and his own people. I remembered the lesson of September the 11th as I looked at the data. I had a choice, either to trust a madman or defend the country. Given that choice, I'll defend America every time. (Applause.)

We've still got hard work in Iraq. The reason we do is there's killers there who want to shake our will. They want the American people to forget what it means to promote freedom. They want us to retreat. See, a free Iraq is an historic opportunity. A free Iraq will change a neighborhood that needs to be free. A free Iraq will make the world more peaceful. But a free Iraq is something that the terrorists fear. They hate freedom. They can't stand the thought of a free society. So they're willing to kill. And they're trying to shake our will. But they don't understand this country. We will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. (Applause.)
When will the irrelevant reference to the WoT ever end? Probably never. It's all Bush has.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Sins of the Catholic Voter - Recently, the Catholic Archbishop of the New Orleans diocese went on a campaign to criticize Catholics who happened to vote for a pro-choice candidate for public office. Essentially, Archbishop Hughes called into question the moral integrity of such Catholics, and offended these faithful members of the Church by contending that those who voted for pro-choice candidates should refrain from the sacrament of communion because of their sinful, base voting behavior. Of course, Mary Landrieu, a devout Catholic Democratic Senator, is one of these pro-choice candidates that Alfred Hughes so despises. But recently, in the Archdiocese's own newspaper, The Clarion Herald, none other than Moon Landrieu, Mary Landrieu's father and a former mayor of New Orleans, wrote a brilliant letter to the editor showing the absolute lack of logic in the Archbishop's position and even the hypocrisy of this selective emphasis on voting for pro-choice candidates. Moon Landrieu's letter can be accessed online here. But it's such a good letter that I need to reprint it in full for you in this blog:

There appears to be no shortage of devout Catholics who rejoice in denying the saving grace of Christ in the Holy Eucharist to those of us who have allegedly sinned by voting differently than they did. Quite orthodox, but not very Christ-like.

I am not surprised, but I am curious as to how they voted and how they justify receiving Communion because not one major presidential or gubernatorial candidate in my memory passes the test of acceptability on all the following issues: abortion, physician-assisted suicide, homicide, the destruction of human embryos in artificial fertilization, stem-cell research, cloning, artificial insemination, contraception, adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, divorce, capital punishment and preemptive war.

I am not referring to the personal moral beliefs of the candidates, but rather to their positions with respect to the criminalization of these sins.

It would be interesting to know how the church hierarchy voted in past elections. We know Archbishop Hannan actively supported Edwin Edwards over David Duke, who claimed to be pro-life, but clearly neither of them met the test.

President Bush? On abortion - he favors exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother. Remember - no exceptions. He also flunks the test on most of the other life issues. Pro-life? Hardly!

I have never met a politician who is for abortion, and I have never met one who is willing to put a woman in jail for taking a morning-after pill after being raped, nor have I met one recently who is willing to make a crime of adultery, pre-marital sex, contraception, or divorce. That does not mean they are for those sins. If you should find a candidate who is perfect on criminalizing life issues, and that candidate also meets your concerns on poverty, environment, race, peace and justice, by all means vote for him or her, but I doubt that you will find one.

The Louisiana bishops supported a bill in the Louisiana Legislature that provided exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, even though their lobbyist was called a baby killer by those who insisted on no exceptions. The United States bishops opposed a United States Senate amendment that would have made illegal all abortions after viability except where "the continuation of a pregnancy would threaten the mother's life or risk grievous injury to her physical health." In both instances, the bishops were faced with difficult political choices. I trust that they did not sin.

We live in an imperfect, pluralistic society in which voters, too, are faced with difficult choices. A vote for an imperfect candidate that is not intended to reward or further the imperfection, but rather is intended to advance the good that the candidate offers in preference to another candidate, surely cannot be sinful. If the archbishop is correct, the only safe thing for a Catholic to do is not to vote, but then the failure to do one's civic duty is also a sin.

Go get 'em, Moon. Let's see how the single-issue anti-abortion Catholic voters respond to this.