Thursday, October 06, 2005

Katrina's Forgotten Ones

For those of us paying attention to the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, we hear a lot of talk about who among the affected groups has been abandoned and forgotten, who is being left behind, and why. Well, let me tell you what I think about this whole debate ...

I think the whole notion that some gindividual or group is more "forgotten" than others is a pile of selfish b.s. Everyone feels that way. I felt that way because St. Bernard residents were allowed officially to come take a look-see before Orleans Parish residents were. I heard a black female professional from New Orleans East say she felt abandoned because only poor black people in the Superdome and Convention Center and rich white folk in Lakeview and uptown were getting all the attention and coverage from media and public officials. I heard numerous people from Slidell say they were the forgotten ones and that New Orleans was getting all the attention. Folks affected by the breach in the industrial canal thought that they were forgotten amidst all the attention given to the 17th street canal breach and the neighborhoods affected by it. Lakeview residents felt abandoned because they couldn't see their property until a week after the CBD and certain parts of Uptown were given the green light. All who were affected by this, who experienced grief and separation from their homes, feel as if nothing is soon enough and that everyone else has it better. This person's FEMA check came and mine didn't... That person got a $1500 cash debit card from the Red Cross and all I got was a case of bottled water... My next door neighbor got his power restored or his cable connected, but mine still doesn't work... That person's flood or homeowner's adjuster came and met with him at his property to assess his claim, and I can't even get my adjuster to call me back, and we're both insured by the same company, so on, ad infinitum.

It's perfectly understandable that when one feels a loss, it's a very solitary feeling for that person. And the fact is that we from the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama Gulf Coast are ALL in this boat to some degree or another. And when we each have a problem linked to the same source, it is natural that my problem is just as important as the next affected person's problem, so when my problem is not addressed but the next person's is, I feel "abandoned" - and lash out trying to understand why I'm being "dissed." Is it because I am white (as Lakeview's Mr. Forgotston and St. Bernard residents have charged)? Is it because I am black (as Jesse Jackson and Kayne West have charged)? Is it because I am poor? Is it because I live in Kenner and not in New Orleans? Is it because I am just a worker and not a business owner? Why am I being left behind? What is it about ME that causes my sufferings to go unaddressed when others are being taken care of.

But the rational person would know that the FACT is that emotion and not reason is driving these false charges of abandonment. The rational person has to know that there is not a concerted effort to discriminate against anyone for any particular reason. It's a friggin' catastrophic disaster and we're all hurt and we all want immediate attention from someone in authority who will listen to us grieve, who will lament our losses, and who will tell us everything will be all right in the midst of upheaval and chaos. So when someone makes the claim that they are Katrina's forgotten ones, I say "Puh-leeze! Join the club of everyone."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Post Katrina Update

Hi, all. It's been a while since I posted anything here. I've been busy with many other things, including running multiple blogs for my scattered office. In any case, I thought I'd give just a quick update on how I've fared.

First, I've managed to get to my home in New Orleans some 7-8 times now, as of at least a couple of weeks ago.

My home sustained some serious flood and wind damage. It took on 2-3 feet of water in the first (ground) floor level. Fortunately, it is more like a garage/basement area and our main living area is on the upper floor. Still, we had a guest bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom on the ground floor level; and our laundry room, hot water heater, tools, kid's play room, etc., were also on the ground level. Needless to say, we lost a good bit of stuff, not to mention the demolition and rebuilding of the walls we'll have to do and the mold we'll have to content with. But it's o.k. We have good flood insurance (though I am still waiting to meet with the adjuster, so who knows how it will turn out).

I also lost about 75% of my slate shingle roof. One part of the roof which was made of sheet metal (it was over a formerly enclosed exterior porch that had been remodeled and converted to an indoor room) blew off and water seeped down into the room causing the ceiling to collapse and bring with it some mold. But, I'm not all that worried about this, yet, because we have an old seal-tab shingle roof underneath the slate shingles that, although very compromised itself, has kept the water (except in a few isolated spots) out of the main living area of the house. And now that I have a blue tarp on the roof, I think we'll be o.k. in any other rain storms. And, we have good homeowners insurance coverage, too.

My family (wife and two daughters) have relocated for the time being to Chesapeake, VA, where they are staying with my wife's father and step-mother. I'm basically still in the New Orleans area and will plan to rejoin them when I can, at least for short visits if not for longer stretches of time.

We're committed to being a part of a renovated New Orleans. Already the City is showing signs of life, and though it won't ever be exactly the way it was, it's charm will still be around. I can already see it. Hell, the Maple Street Bar is now open again! That's a great sign. I'll try to keep giving regular updates, but I make no promises. Just check back every so often and maybe I'll have something new on there.

To my fellow Louisiana bloggers: hope you made out all right in these storms and I look forward to catching up with all of you via your blogs soon.

Long Live NOLA!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

School Board: ISL Updates? - My daughter attended the Interntional School of Louisiana. I am looking for any contact information or websites that can give us current news on the school, its status, and its future plans. Also, I'm very anxious to find out how my daughter's friends fared during and after the storm. If you know anything, please post it in the comments section or send me an email. Thanks.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lagniappe: Tulane Latin Americanists - I have set up a blog site for Tulane Latin Americanists in order to maintain some type of centralized communication among our Latin Americanist Community. I am calling the blog the RTS Center for Latin American Studies Blog.

On this blog, I will post any relevant information that passes my way. I will also maintain an email contact list there for those who might want quick reference to the non-Tulane email addresses of the Latin Americanist community.

If you want to send me an email, please send it to me here:

Hope you and yours are well. My wife, Michele, and my two daughters, Daisy and Ella Rose, are out of state with relatives. I'm waiting around for a week or two more to see what develops with the situation and particularly with Tulane, before I head out to join them. I am still sticking it out in Abita Springs on the Northshore at my parents house. If for some reason you want or need to reach me by phone, send me an email and I'll reply with the phone number.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lagniappe: Confidential to my Tulane Colleagues - I can be contacted by telephone by ground line service at my parents' house in Abita Springs. I cannot call out to any 504 area code numbers, including cell phone numbers. If any of you have a functional cell phone or access to ground line services, please send me an email to my hotmail account: and I will make contact with you or give you my parents phone number. Take care and hope all is well for all of you.

Lagniappe: Katrina Recovery - First off, we are all fine in the immediate Huck family. We have also heard from most of the extended family, and everyone appears to be fine. Once my wife and I realized that the storm track wasn't likely to change and that Katrina was growing in intensity, we prepared the house for the worst, packed up what we could of valuables, secured what we could, and left for my parents house across the lake in Abita Springs.

At my parents house were my family (wife and two daughters), my brother's family (wife and two children), my two sisters and their families (husbands and children), my paternal grandmother, and a family friend whose husband was away overseas.

One of my brothers who is a Jesuit stayed in New Orleans at the Jesuit residence at Jesuit High School, a solid structure with four floors. We have heard from him and he is fine. He is now out of New Orleans and is being bussed to his community residence in Grand Coteaux, Louisiana, which is near to Lafayette.

Being in Abita Springs was not much better than being on the southshore given that we were about 15 miles west of the eye wall of the hurricane. We spent a very scary couple of hours during the storm's worst; but my parents' house and the convoy of vehicles as well as all of the vital equipment necessary for survival were unscathed.

We prayed about 5 rosaries as a family over a period of 12-18 hours and we are all convinced that God had a hand in keeping us safe.

Thank God my dad is a self-sufficient type, because his house was well prepared. Even though we lost power, phone service, and cell phone service, we turned out all right. My parents house has a 20KW generator fueled by a large propane tank, which had almost 75 gallons of propane fuel in it. It wasn't filled to capacity, but it was more than enough for what we needed.

As for running water, my parents have their own well system, the pump of which runs as long as we have generated power. The house is also equipped with a septic tank and waste disposal system which means that we are able to flush toilets and drain sinks and tubs. And we are stocked with plenty of food. We also have a couple of 5KW gas generators which we use to keep the refrigerator on when we turn off the main generator to conserve our propane fuel.

We have five vehichles at our disposal: two cars and three pickup trucks. All the gass tanks are full and we have about 40 gallons of gasoline in containers in reserve.

Today, Thursday, our ground telephone service has been restored, which allows us to call out anywhere except in the Greater New Orleans area. For this reason, I am also able to make this posting.

Once we realized the extent of the damage and the long time for the recovery, we sent the wives and kids up to family and relatives in various parts of the country. For my family's part, the wife and kids are safely in South Carolina at my Mother-in-Law's house. I was able to speak with them this morning and we are thinking about an intermediate term plan for survival there -- schools for the kids, insurance claims, temporary jobs, etc.

I have still not seen my house in New Orleans and I have yet to see any aerial photographs of my neighborhood. I live in the Fountainbleau area of New Orleans -- very near to the Notre Dame seminary about a half mile off of Carrollton Ave. on Pine Street. If anyone knows what the situation on the ground is in that area, please leave me a note in the comments section.

My area generally does not flood during normal circumstances. We didn't get any water during Hurricane Lily, for instance. In fact, it didn't even rise above the curb suring that srorm. But Katrina is another thing altogether. And I suspect that a part of my house is underwater.

Providing that there has been minimal damage to the house from the winds and falling trees (which is a big assumption since my house was surrounded by some very big, heavy trees), we should be o.k. as far as the flooding is concerned. The good thing about my house is that the main living area was about 9 feet off the ground. Our bottom floor, which served as a basement of sorts, is probably flooded, but I have no idea how high. Even the bottom floor is about 2-3 feet up from the street level, but that probably means very little.

I don't know quite what to say anymore. It is just so emotionally draining and overwhelming. And to hear the stories of looting is almost enough to turn me into a "shoot-to-kill" vigilante justice advocate. (Just kidding!!). Seriously, though, it has been very disheartening to hear of the looting.

But it is true. The devastation is immense. Orders of magnitude above anything anyone anywhere could ever conceive of. And the emotional and psychological trauma done to people, even people from New Orleans who are watching the scenes from a comfortable hotel room or relative/friend's home far away, will require attention and care.

It is just unbelievably sad and stressful.

But, we aren't giving up. We have hope.

I said in my previous post that we were ready for Katrina and that she should bring it on. Well, she brought it on and it brought us to our knees; but I stand by my positive, challenging tone. We'll beat her yet! Thanks for your prayers. I'll keep you updated as I can.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lagniappe: Katrina! - Open letter to Hurricane Katrina: Bring it on, baby! We're ready for you!

Details and damage reports after the storm. For now, over and out!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Pat Robertson, Hugo Chavez, and the Christian Doctrine of Assassination? - The news of Pat Robertson's assinine comment calling for the assassination of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (and his even more assinine joke of a defense/apology of his comments) has been all over the news. I'm coming to it late because work has been all-consuming this past week. Given the recent media attention surrounding this gaffe, there is really no need for me to elaborate more on it except to say Robertson is an ass and an embarrassment to Republicans. Based on the pretty solid denunciations of Robertson coming even from among his fellow Christian conservatives, I think we can thank God that a vast majority of Americans (Christian and otherwise, liberal and conservative) have a better-informed conscience than this "Christian" charlatan. I don't see how people can tolerate this guy, much less support him.

Ex Cathedra: Archbishop Hughes and Fair Wages - As a relentless critic of Archbishop Hughes and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I would be guilty of the sin of omission if I did not cheer the Archbishop for his editorial on the dignity of the worker and the need for fair wages. Best of all is Hughes's clear directive at the end of his editorial that all agencies of the Archdiocese pay their workers at least $1.00 above the current mandated minimum wage. He writes:

The Church's social teaching requires us, as employees, as voters, as parents, as sisters and brothers in Christ, to give serious attention to this critical issue. While no one particular proposal can lay sole claim to translating the Gospel teaching into practice, the proposal to raise the minimum wage is an important way to make concrete the Church's teaching that workers should be able to realize a family living wage. I am, therefore, asking our schools, agencies and parishes to ensure that they are paying full-time employees at least a dollar above the minimum wage.
That's not to say that $6.15 an hour really affirms the dignity of the worker; but it's a clear step in the right direction. And I know a lot of conservative Catholic entrepreneurs in this city of New Orleans who defend as low a wage as the market will allow (and some who even bristle at the very idea of a mandated minimum wage) will be chastened by the Archbishop's words. Good for you, Archbishop Hughes! I'm with you all the way on this one.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Liberal Lighthouse: Raspberry on "Profiling" - A while back, I engaged in a rather interesting exchange with some folks at Kira Zalan's blog on the very subject of "racial/ethnic" versus "behavioral" profiling. You can see the full extent of this exchange here on Kira's comment board for her relevant post. Here's what I posted in my very first comment on the subject:

18. Jimmy | August 9th, 2005 at 9:49 pm

“The profilers are trained to look for signs of suspicious behavior (body language), which provides effective clues of whom to question.”

If this is how profiling is to be conducted, then I’m all for it. By that measure, profilers should be searching people of all races and ethnicities who are acting suspiciously. But there are some potential flaws to this: (1) I would imagine the well-trained terrorists know how to give out the “correct” unsuspicious body language; and (2) innocent folks of particular ethnicities that are most often associated with terrorism might be unable to avoid acting suspicious out of understandable nervousness at being profiled. The result: suspicious-looking innocents will be searched while the cool-as-cucumber terrorists walk by without a second glance.
My comment generated a rather bizarre set of responses because I didn't want to restrict "behavior" profiling to "dark-skinned Muslims" based on the notion that color-blind behavior profiling would do more to protect us from terrorism (and be more fair) than a "color first, behavior second" profiling scheme. In any case, if you're really interested in this exchange, you can read it for yourselves.

But the real reason why I bring this up now is because I just finished reading a column by William Raspberry who echoed the very sentiments that I was trying to convey in the discussion on Kira's blog. Here's the most relevant section of Raspberry's column:
The other, more serious problem is that the pro-profilers are fighting the last war. If someone had stopped 19 young Muslim men from boarding four jetliners four years ago, Sept. 11 wouldn't have happened. Therefore, security requires that we make it difficult for young Muslim men to board jetliners. It's as though white people come in all sizes, ages and predispositions, while young Arab men are fungible.

Random checks at least have the virtue of rendering us all equal. I can talk with any fellow passenger about the absurdity of having to remove my loafers, because that fellow passenger has been similarly inconvenienced. But with whom does a young Arab (or Turk or dreadlocked college student) share his humiliation?

And make no mistake, it is humiliating. Stop me once because someone fitting my description or driving a car like mine is a suspect in a crime and I shrug and comply. Stop me repeatedly because of how I look and I respond with less and less grace.

Am I arguing against all efforts to protect America from terrorism? Of course not. But since Americans look all sorts of ways, a more sensible way of deciding who gets extra attention is behavior.

The profilers say this is just political correctness gone mad. McCarthy puts it bluntly: "Until we stop pretending not to see what the terrorists who are attacking us look like, we may as well give them an engraved invitation to strike again."

Well, we do know what they look like. They look like the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, but they also look like Richard "Shoe Bomber" Reid, John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla and -- don't forget -- Timothy McVeigh.

Profile that.
Profile that, indeed. For my part, I would add to Raspberry's sensible critique that post-9/11 will most likely see terrorists who DON'T fit the racial profile carrying out the next wave of attacks. Why? Because the terrorists aren't stupid. They know that young dark-skinned men who look like they could be Muslims of middle-east origins will have a harder time now getting by security. But they also know that the more that skin-color/appearance becomes the prime measure of profiling, the more likely it is that the terrorist who doesn't fit this racial/ethnic profile can slip by unnoticed.

Raspberry is right that either random searches or searches based on suspicious behavior regardless of race/ethnicity will make it not only more palatable to the traveller but can also help to build bridges of mutual trust between different racial and ethnic groups. And I would add to this that color-blind searches based on behavior or done randomly will also make it infintely harder for terrorists to think that they can use the racial/ethnic profiling preference to their advantage.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Liberal Lighthouse: 9/11/2005 -- Where's Osama? - Michael Tomasky has a powerful piece [subscription required] in the September 2005 print issue of The American Prospect (Vol. 16, No. 9) as we approach the 4th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. For those of you who won't be able to access the full article, here are some of its best parts, starting with its opening paragraphs:

This September 11 will mark the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The media will focus on the ceremonies at the former World Trade Center site, the Pentagon, and other cities and towns around the country that will honor the dead. The Bush administration, meanwhile, will do its best to remind Americans that today’s George W. Bush -- except for the Watergate-era Richard Nixon, the most unpopular two-term president, at this point in his tenure, since scienti?c polling began in the 1940s -- is the same man who led the country through tragedy.

In truth, the anniversary should be the occasion for a thoroughgoing discussion of how America has combated terrorism in the last four years. And on that front, even the disaster Bush has created in Iraq takes a back seat to one overwhelming fact: By the time night falls on September 11, Osama bin Laden will have been at large for 1,461 days.

America vanquished world fascism in less time: We obtained Germany’s surrender in 1,243 days, Japan’s in 1,365. Even the third Punic War, in which Carthage was burned to the ground and emptied of citizens who were taken en masse into Roman slavery, lasted around 1,100 days (and troops needed a little longer to get into position back in 149 B.C.).
Five paragraphs later, Tomasky notes in discussing the Bush Administration's rush to war in Iraq and its abandonment of the hunt for Osama in Afghanistan/Pakistan:
Whatever the apologists say, the truth is simple: The administration held back troops from Afghanistan so that it could send 150,000 to Iraq. That, and nothing else, is the reason bin Laden is still at large.
Then, Tomasky ends his piece by imagining how the right-wing would be reacting to a Gore Presidency with Osama still at large under the exact same conditions and levies a parallel and fully justified condemnation of Bush:
But listen closely to the silence: Outside of magazines like this one and a handful of liberal Web sites, the subject is rarely discussed.

Just imagine bin Laden having been at large this long in President Al Gore’s administration. In fact, it’s impossible to imagine, because President Gore, under such circumstances, wouldn’t have lasted this long. You probably didn’t know, until you read this column, the number of days bin Laden has been at large. But I assure you that if Gore had been president, you and every American would have known, because the right would have seen to it that you knew, asking every day, “Where’s Osama?” If Gore hadn’t been impeached, it’s doubtful he’d have survived a re-election campaign, with Americans aghast at how weak and immoral a president had to be to permit those 2,700 deaths to go unavenged this long.

To be sure, the difference is partly a Democratic failure -- they’re afraid of the right-wing noise machine, pure and simple. That’s a failure of nerve, and it’s an appalling one.

But the moral failure belongs to Bush and his subordinates and their amen chorus of slatternly propagandists and so-called intellectuals, who made great political advantage of 9-11 but spit on the grieving families by pretending that there is no imperative in seeing justice done for their losses. They may be able to control the dialogue, but they can’t control the facts -- and the facts condemn them all.
Let's remember this come 9/11/2005. Thanks, Michael Tomasky, for keeping the light shining on this obvious and sobering truth.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Thomas Shannon, State's New LA Affairs Chief - Andres Oppenheimer introduces the Bush Administration's new chief of the U.S. Government's Latin American policy thus:

Thomas A. Shannon, President Bush's pick to become the head of the State Department's Latin American affairs office, is a low-profile career officer who is likely to conduct a less strident U.S. foreign policy in the region. But, from what some Republicans say, he may speak softly and carry a big stick.

Shannon, whose current job is White House chief advisor on Latin American affairs, was nominated this week to replace Ambassador Roger F. Noriega -- a political appointee -- as assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs.

''We are likely to see a change in style, in favor of greater moderation, multilateralism and quiet diplomacy,'' says Michael Shifter, a Latin American expert with the Inter-American Dialogue, a middle-of-the-road Washington, D.C., think tank. ``He understands the need for a different style to be effective.''
As a student of Latin American International Relations and US-LA Relations, I think Shannon's appointment is a much better and more pragmatic choice to take on this job than either of his two predecessors (Roger Noriega and Otto Reich). Shannon, as a career State Department officer, will understand the nuances of the Latin American reality much better and will certainly be much less ideologically-driven in his approach to the region. Noriega and Reich seemed to have difficulty getting "unstuck" from pre-Cold War mentalities that defined US-Latin American relations. This should not be the case for Shannon.

To the extent that Shannon can keep Bush and the higher ranking foreign policy politicos of his Administration from meddling in his work, I think he could do a decent job in repairing relations and advancing positive connections with the region. But I have to say that the current Rumsfeld tour of Latin America bodes ill for this possibility.

Good luck, Shannon. You're most certainly going to need it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ex Cathedra: The New Orleans Archdiocese, Project Lazarus, and the Metropolitan Community Church - A couple of days ago, the Times-Picayune reported that the Archdiocese was terminating its lease with the Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans. According to the Archdiocese's spokesman, Fr. William Maestri [he's all over the place, isn't he?], here's the reason:

Archdiocesan spokesman the Rev. William Maestri confirmed that doctrinal differences with the Metropolitan Community Church triggered the eviction.

"This particular group blesses gay unions, which we do not support," Maestri said.

After learning of the Metropolitan Community Church's teachings, the archdiocese had to act, Maestri said. Continuing the lease might create the impression that the Catholic church is either indifferent or in support of the teachings of that church, "which we are not," Maestri said.
Now, the Archdiocese can do what it likes with its property as far as I am concerned. But there is something in Maestri's language that rubs me the wrong way. Doesn't anyone find it a bit disingenuous when Maestri claims that if the Archdiocese continued the lease it might create a wrong impression of the Church's stance regarding gay marriage or the blessing of gay unions? I think it is patently obvious where the Catholic Church stands on this issue; and I find it absurd to think that what the MCC (a non-Catholic Church) does on property it leases from the Church somehow would reflect Catholic Church support for or indifference to the practice of blessing gay unions.

The way that I see it, Maestri's rationale is simply a poor excuse for the Archdiocese's uncharitable intolerance of the happiness of gay couples in the context of their committed relationships.

[ASIDE: Archbishop Alfred Hughes used the exact same reason for his refusal to attend Loyola University's Law School Commencement ceremony because the Landrieu family, some members of which supposedly have supported pro-choice legislation, was being honored. As if, by attending a graduation ceremony, Hughes would be confusing the faithful about whether or not the Catholic Church supports abortion. I mean, really, if any Catholic really would have viewed the Archbishop's attendance at the Commencement ceremony in this way, shame on them. I rather think the faithful would have interpreted Hughes's attendance as the "love the sinner" part of the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mantra we so often hear.]

For any truly compassionate person, this rationale offered by Maestri [and the Archbishop] must come across as lame, if you ask me. It's got a not-so-pleasant smell about it, rather like a carton of milk about one or two days past its expiration date; and it makes the Catholic Church look very disingenuous, if not dishonest.

The Times-Picayune's columnist James Gill captures the unseemliness of the Catholic Church's rationale when he writes in his usual irreverent and acerbic way:
The Catholic Church's views on homosexuality are not exactly a secret. There would be no turning a blind eye if a priest were caught solemnizing a gay marriage. The church may have been morally ambivalent on the sexual molestation of children, but it has remained steadfast on the important issues.

But, in all seriousness, Gill's got a point; and the flimsiness of the rationale offered by Maestri in defense of the Church's actions only drives the point home further that the Catholic Church, in spite of its pretenses to love, forgiveness, and charity towards the sinner, really can be mean-spirited to good-hearted people.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Liberal Lighthouse: Pork, and I mean PORK! - We all know that George W. Bush is about as fiscally conservative as Michael Moore is socially conservative. But this example of Pork Legislation [From The New Republic] the size of Mount Rushmore just takes the cake for Republican pretenses to thriftiness:

Don Young's Way conjures images of a quaint little street akin to a "lane" or a "drive," a modest tribute to a beloved public servant. But the planned bridge connecting Anchorage, Alaska, with the sparsely populated section of land across the Knik Arm Channel will be anything but modest. Named in honor of the House Transportation Committee chairman who helped push the project through Congress as part of last week's transportation bill, the two-mile span will rival the Golden Gate Bridge in length, and the $229 million in federal funding approved for it is expected to be just the tip of the iceberg. The bill, in which Alaska received almost $1 billion in pork-barrel projects, also included $220 million for another huge bridge connecting the city of Ketchikan (population 8,000) with nearby Gravina Island (population 50).

Left out of the $286 billion transportation bill, however, was $400 million in funding for another namesake bridge, of sorts, in Washington, D.C. In 2001, the Kennedy Center announced plans for a massive plaza to be built over the Potomac Freeway, which would link the isolated performing arts center with the National Mall. Congress had supported the idea but failed to provide the funding on which the project hinged. According to The Washington Post, Kennedy Center Trustee James V. Kimsey "said he understood that Congress had to make tough choices with the war in Iraq and the president's demand for a tight budget." If he believes that, we know of a bridge in Brooklyn that's for sale. Or, better yet, a couple in Alaska.
NOTE: For the Ketchikan/Gravina Island bridge, that's a per capita expenditure of $27,329. Just let that sink in for a while and try not to get too angry when that homeless person on the street corner asks you for a dollar so that he can eat.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: The Millenium Challenge Corporation - From an article published by the Council on Hemishperic Affairs:

In 2000, the United Nations launched an effort to eradicate worldwide poverty by 2015, adopting eight objectives called the Millennium Development Goals. In 2004, President Bush, in attempting to address these goals, founded the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is in charge of allocating grants to a list of carefully selected developing nations. However, after almost two years of operation, the MCC has accomplished surprisingly little. Founding CEO, Paul Applegarth, who suddenly announced his resignation on June 15, left the post on August 8, and only a temporary replacement, Charles O. Sethness, has so far been selected. Although Applegarth’s reasons for departing the position were to spend more time with his family, Andrew Balls, of the Financial Times, reported that his resignation “resulted from falling confidence within the Bush Administration that the flagship aid programme was fulfilling expectations.” The question now remains whether this new approach to development aid can live up to its lofty goals or if it will end up being just another Bush administration scheme to further its conservative policy objectives in Latin America as well as in other parts of the developing world.
Along with the just about every other promise made by the Bush Administration to support the dignity and welfare of the world's poorest, it's all nothing but empty puffery.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Oppenheimer Report -

"My conclusion: This is a stupid policy, which the Bush administration should ask Congress to change as soon as possible. It is denying Americans the opportunity to know more about radical movements from the people who know them best, and is hurting U.S. efforts to make key friends abroad. If there are not more moderates in the world, it may be because the United States shuns them." Andres Oppenheimer, 8/11/05

Oppenheimer is talking about the U.S. entry-visa policy on former radicals from Latin America who have long ago come to their senses. Read the whole article to find out why his conclusion makes sense.

Ex Cathedra: Msgr. Clark's Fall from Grace and the Problem with Hardline Orthodoxy - Catholic Priest, Msgr. Eugene V. Clark, a hardline voice on behalf of Catholic orthodoxy, has been caught with his pants down in an unseemly adulterous relationship. Click here for the story.

Catholic blogger, Amy Welborn, has written a very moving article about how she, as an Orthodox Catholic, is reacting to the scandal and what it means for the Church and the faithful, and in particular for the Orthodox community that held Msgr. Clark in such esteem and that embraced him as a "voice in the wilderness" for Orthodoxy. Welborn doesn't defend Msgr. Clark, but she also doesn't strike an outraged or condemnatory tone towards the man. Welborn's piece is commendable for its humility; but the fact of its humility is also quite a departure from the cocksure infallibility characteristic of Orthodoxy's advocates and defenders.

In the comments section of her blog, I wrote the following, which represents my thoughts on Msgr. Clark's fall from grace and how it reflects what I see as the preeminent problem with Catholic Orthodoxy as practiced and promoted by its hardline advocates today:

I think the issue, the crushing disappointment, has less to do with recognizing the reality of the failings and sins of our clergy and Church leadership. I think we all are aware of that at a fundamental level. Nor is it really that such failings, when they come to light, are "faith-shakers" for us who are sure of our faith. Rather, it is the hubris and the lack of humility about our sinfulness coming from the "hardliners" (your term, not mine) that rubs the wrong way. Orthodoxy has the aura, whether deserved or not, of being cruelly rigid and unsympathetic, if not even unforgiving.

Some of the faithful who abide by the often difficult road of Orthodoxy take comfort in the stern, unyielding, and uncompromising leadership of the "hardliners" and appreciate when these hardliners take on "heterodoxy" (i.e. the propensity towards sinfulness) with such public vigor and certitude of moral superiority. Often times, it is the struggling "heterodox sinner" who bears the full weight of such "tough love" and is made to feel his sinfulness ever so poignantly by the outspoken and hardline defenders of orthodoxy.

And when one of the hardliners falls, it is not the "hardline" itself that is at issue, but a sense that, perhaps, maybe, the "softies" who are less quick to the "tough love" trigger finger with the struggling faithful need to be given a bit more public weight and validity in the pastoral work of the church.
In light of my recent interest in commenting on the behavior of our local prelates, I sincerely hope that local hardline advocates of Orthodoxy in the New Orleans Archdiocese learn a little lesson in humility from the Clark scandal, especially in terms of the manner in which it throws its stones at members of its own pastoral community.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ex Cathedra: Catholic Church Hypocrisy? - I present, you decide.

In the Catholic Blogosphere (also known sometimes as St. Blog), as well as in the Catholic media, there have been untold expressions of outrage and offense hurled forth from the lips of the Catholic faithful (not to mention the Catholic hierarchy) about the recent Subpoena issued to U.S. Archbishop William J. Levada in the sacristy just before the start of his farewell mass. Archbishop Levada is departing for a new job in the Vatican as ex-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's (now better known as Pope Benedict XVI) replacement at the Head of the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. For some background and the basic nuts and bolts of the incident and its aftermath, you can check out this story published by Catholic News Service. Here's the relevant bit of the story that I want to follow-up on:

Shortly before the Mass, Archbishop Levada was served with a subpoena ordering him to be deposed in relation to clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed by some 250 plaintiffs against the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., which the archbishop headed from 1986 to 1995.

Maurice Healy, director of communications and outreach for the San Francisco Archdiocese, confirmed Aug. 8 that the subpoena had been served in the cathedral sacristy before the Mass, but he criticized the timing of the move.

He said the archbishop, who "walks to work" and is a "very public person," could have been served with the subpoena on several other, less public occasions.

Healy said remarks made by several plaintiffs' attorneys in Portland following the Vatican announcement of Archbishop Levada's new post had convinced him that the lawyers wanted to "seize the opportunity created by his appointment to embarrass the church."

The Los Angeles Times reported that Cookie Gambucci, who served the subpoena, said she told the archbishop she would serve it to him on the altar if he did not accept it before the Mass. Gambucci said Archbishop Levada accepted the subpoena but told her, "This is a disgrace to the church."

Healy said the archbishop was misquoted and had said not to Gambucci but to an aide, "This is a disgrace to the legal profession."
First, let me start by declaring that I believe presenting a subpoena in such a manner at such a time is very impolitic and inconsiderate both to Archbishop Levada and to the Catholic faith community. But when one considers how the Catholic Church and its Archbishops themselves do precisely these sorts of very crass, impolitic, and inconsiderate public publicity stunts to hurt and embarrass members of the Catholic faith community, the hysterical reaction and outrage spewing from the lips and keyboards of Catholics against the Levada subpoena seems to me a bit misplaced and possibly a tad hypocritical. Let me give you the evidence of one particular case, and then you can be the judge.

At recent Commencement Exercises at Loyola University of New Orleans, a Catholic Jesuit University, a prominent local Catholic family -- the entire family -- was honored for its distinguished record of public service. This family, the Landrieus, consists of a former New Orleans Mayor, Moon Landrieu, current U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (Moon's daughter), and current Louisiana State Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu (Moon's son). All are Democrats. However, this Archbishop of New Orleans, Alfred Hughes, publicly snubbed this Catholic family by refusing to accept an invitation to attend Loyola's Commencement Ceremony and issuing a public statement to that effect, simply because the Landrieus were to be honored at this ceremony and he takes issue with what he perceives are the pro-abortion stances taken by Mary and Mitch during their political careers. As the above-linked article in the Archdiocesan Newspaper, the Clarion Herald states:
Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes did not participate in commencement exercises at Loyola University New Orleans last week because the university's law school chose to grant an honorary degree to the entire family of former mayor and state appeals court judge Moon Landrieu, which includes his daughter, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has voted to support abortion rights.

Archbishop Hughes announced May 5 he had decided to decline an invitation to participate in the university's graduation ceremonies because "not all members of the (Landrieu) family have been faithful to the church's teaching regarding public policy" on abortion.
The response to Archbishop Hughes's insensitive and inconsiderate public effort to denigrate and hurt the Landrieu family received mixed reaction, but the orthodox pro-life wing of the Catholic Church praised Hughes for his stand. As one letter-writer to the Clarion Herald stated:
It was disappointing to learn that Loyola will be presenting an honorary doctorate to the Landrieu family as part of the university's graduation exercises. Archbishop Hughes has decided to boycott the graduation because of Mitch and Mary Landrieu's public support of abortion rights. This decision by the archbishop is a powerful affirmation of Church teaching.
Through all this, the Landrieu family kept their dignity and kept their peace; and Loyola kept its honor and principles and went through with their ceremony which honored the Landrieus. Then, not letting the issue rest, the Clarion Herald, published a guest editorial by Susan Mire which sought once again to defend Archbishop Hughes's decision to boycott in a very public and pronounced way the Commencement ceremony which honored the Landrieus and also to issue another condemnation of Mary and Mitch Landrieu's perceived stance in support of abortion. [As if the tastelessness and insensitivity of reopening these old wounds weren't enough, the sickening condescension of Mire toward the Landrieus really made the article nothing more than a pile of spiteful, vengeful garbage.] Here's how Mire opened her piece:
The early days of summer vacation can provide a time for reflection. I have been pondering the ongoing turmoil in our public life regarding Catholic politicians and their public support of abortion.

We had our own situation regarding Archbishop Alfred Hughes' decision not to attend Loyola University's graduation last month because the university honored the entire Landrieu family for its lifetime of public service. Archbishop Hughes received both local and national press, some of it quite unfavorable. The average person might think the archbishop was intolerant.

But my work with women who have had abortions or who are involved in crisis pregnancies has taught me that most people are unaware of the true dynamics of abortion and the mind set of those who enable it to continue.

Archbishop Hughes is engaged in the care of souls. His decision to bypass the Loyola graduation showed his regard for the souls of the unborn, the women and men who have experienced abortion, the Landrieu family and the Loyola family. Yes, he actually cares for the Landrieu family and the Loyola family, as those of us who disagree with them also should care.
There's so much one can say about this piece, and I've already had a bit of a say on this editorial previously. But let me point out something now that I didn't touch upon earlier. When Mire, in her opening salvo, ponders whether people might think the archbishop was "intolerant" in his public boycott of Loyola's commencement ceremonies, I would clarify for her that it was not so much his "intolerance" that was the issue as much as it was his insensitivity and disrespect for the family in taking his complaint with the Landrieus to the public in such a visible way. A good pastor who has an issue with the moral behavior of a member of his flock doesn't broadcast to the world his displeasure without at least attempting to take up the matter with the member first.

Stung once again by this public effort to defend the Archbishop's behavior and to condescendingly reproach the Landrieus as if they were misbehaving children requiring some "tough love," the Landrieu family, via Verna and Moon Landrieu, responded:
Believing that the controversy would fade, we have resisted writing even as articles and letters continue to appear in the Clarion Herald praising the archbishop for his courage in rebuking Loyola University for honoring our family. However, the latest article in the June 29 Clarion Herald by Susan Mire - CATHOLIC POLITICIANS AND THEIR SUPPORT FOR ABORTION - is so erroneous and hurtful that it cannot be ignored.

We believe Ms. Mire is a well-intentioned, devout Catholic. We also know she is terribly wrong when she writes: "... Senator Landrieu and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu have, for whatever reason, consistently advocated for abortion throughout their political careers." Neither Mary nor Mitch nor any member of our family is for abortion or has advocated for abortion.

Hurtful also is the condescending manner in which she assures us that the archbishop cares for "those who have experienced abortion, the Landrieu family and the Loyola family." As further consolation she comforts us with the thought that "God loves politicians, those named Landrieu and others."

After 46 years in politics, we are no strangers to calumny or criticism, but we do expect better from a devout Catholic.

Some believe that the action of the archbishop was courageous. To the contrary, it was unwise, unnecessary and harmful. The archbishop knows us personally from our participation on archdiocesan boards and committees as well as from social activities. Had he simply called us before he issued his public statement and told us that he found our family unworthy of the honorary degree, we would have solved whatever problem he thought he had, with harm done to no one. Instead, he went public (locally and nationally) thereby damaging Loyola, provoking criticism of himself and inflicting serious pain on our family. How sad! The 56 members of our family became collateral damage in an unnecessary ecclesiastical conflict.

As Catholics our faith will survive and we will move on in hope, but we do wonder about the scars left on our 37 grandchildren.
[Emphasis added.]
And here is where we return to the Levada story and the potential hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and its faithful who were so offended by the outrage perpetrated on Archbishop Levada and the Church by the manner of the delivery of the subpoena. From where I sit, I would guess that this subpeona was issued in such a dramatic manner and with such publicity so as to bring attention to the subject of the subpoena: the sexual abuse scandal and the Church's complicity in covering up this moral outrage. And maybe there was the intent to bring a bit of humiliation and dishonor upon Levada in the process, all in terms of taking a stand in defense of the defenseless; but frankly, I don't see how this is any different than what Hughes did (and continues to do through his surrogates) to the Landrieu family.

Let's revisit a piece of the Levada story cited above in light of the Hughes/Landrieu story:
The Los Angeles Times reported that Cookie Gambucci, who served the subpoena, said she told the archbishop she would serve it to him on the altar if he did not accept it before the Mass. Gambucci said Archbishop Levada accepted the subpoena but told her, "This is a disgrace to the church."

Healy said the archbishop was misquoted and had said not to Gambucci but to an aide, "This is a disgrace to the legal profession."
Now, let's just think about this. By my reading, when Levada says "This is a disgrace to the legal profession," one would assume he means that what is disgraceful is not the FACT of his being issued a subpoena, nor really the subject of the subpoena, but rather the timing and dramatic effect of its delivery calculated as a publicity stunt with the intent to embarrass him at a celebratory moment of his and the Catholic Church's life. I wonder if the similar behavior by Archbishop Hughes would receive such strong words. Would Levada look at Hughes and how he treated the Landrieus and say of him: "This is a disgrace to the church"? If he were consistent, he would do just that. At another level, as the aggrieved party to Hughes's impolitic and calculated-to-harm behavior, Moon Landrieu would have every right to follow the lead of Bishop Levada and issue a similar statement to the press that his family's shoddy treatment by Hughes and the manner in which Hughes chose to take issue with the family, a good Catholic family, represented a "disgrace to the Church."

It appears that the Landrieus have much more class and dignity than Levada by not stooping to his level of maligning the "offending" profession, simply because members of that profession did their job in a way calculated to have the most dramatic public and political effect in support of their cause and convictions. If Hughes can get away with such shenanigans as a member of the Priestly profession sticking up for his pro-life principles and be hailed by Catholic faithful as a model of principled behavior, then the officials who resorted to the shenanigans of delivering Levada his subpeona when and how they did should also be hailed by the Catholic faithful as models of principled behavior in carrying out their professional duty to prosecute those religious implicated in the sex abuse scandal and its coverup by Chuch leaders, leaders like Hughes and Levada.

Lagniappe: New Posting Category for the Blog - Given a review of some of my recent posts, I've decided to add a new category for my blog posts: EX CATHEDRA. In this section, I'll comment on topics related to religion, faith, and in particular my faith and church: Roman Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church. Some may consider my choice of category title as heretical given that it is a phrase used to refer to Papal Infallibility. But, what the heck! Its literal translation is "From the Throne" and my ruminations on the subject of religion, faith, and church, though undoubtedly very fallible, can be considered proclamations issued from the throne of HUCKUPCHUCK bloggerdom. Next up, my first posting under this heading.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lagniappe: Media and Missing Persons Coverage - Lately, there have been some to-do's about the Media's preference in its Missing Persons coverage for focusing almost exclusively on white females. I began to think about this and came up with a simple experiment. Try it on yourself and begin with this question.

If you identified off the top of your head all of the missing persons stories picked up by either local or national media that stick in your mind, who would they be?
Feel free to answer in the comments section before reading further, lest you be biased by reading my personal answer to the question.

Now ...

For my part, I can remember clearly Jon Benet Ramsey, Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, the Runaway Bride, Natalee Holloway, the little girl that was found in California with that strange religious fanatic, the little girl up north recently discovered with a sexual predator, a girl in Florida that went missing under the noses of Social Services, and ... I can't remember any more.

Of these cases, only one involved a missing minority, and all were female.

Even though I'm sure I'm missing some people here, I must admit that it does seem very unidimensional. Without attributing any sinister motives or intentions to anybody, it does seem like there is a pattern in the media coverage of missing persons that prefers white females.

Maybe it's a "so what" thing; but it does give pause.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The "Weak" in (National) Review: NRO Editors on Intelligent Design - Well, I'll be! With all the brains (i.e. intelligence) supposedly on display at the conservative standard-bearer National Review, I never would have imagined that I would be reading an editorial that says this:

So a local school board's failure to teach evolution becomes, literally, a federal case: a violation of the Court's version of the separation of church and state.

Whatever the outcome of the debate over evolution, it should be conducted at the local level.
I understand the point here, which is that the editors are taking issue with the courts deciding that the "absence" of evolution in the curriculum is somehow a religious statement in and of itself. But if they aren't teaching evolution in life science classes, then, what are they teaching? One hopes that they are teaching something! But it's the bigger implication underlying this point that astonishes me. If I am reading the editors correctly, they are suggesting that local school boards should be at liberty to decide what to teach in public schools, that there should be no educational standards whatsoever. [In fact, they say as much at another point in the editorial when they write: "There are no national standards that require evolution, or any other subject, to be taught in a certain way in the public schools. Nor should there be."] So that, if the local school board decides simply not to teach evolution, to ignore it altogether, so be it. I can't imagine what the editors of National Review would say if a local school board decided not to teach algebra or U.S. history, or, conversely, if a school board should decide to teach the fundamentals of witchcraft and wizardry or some version of world history predicated on the literalist biblical idea that the earth has only been around for some 4,000 years.

All I can say is that if the local school board in po-dunk city, USA, wants its children to be uncritical intellectual neanderthals, well, I guess, so be it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: TeleBush vs. TeleChavez? - Rep. Connie Mack (R) of Florida has proposed that the U.S. Government create and fund a state-sponsored TV broadcast (similar to TV Marti) to counter Venezuela's TeleSur Network, which was funded and sponsored by the Venezuealn government as a pro-Chavez network in that country. Is this a good idea? Andres Oppenheimer thinks not. Already, the global press is cynically referring to this initiative proposed by Mack as TeleBush, with the not-so-far-fetched notion that this broadcast will be nothing more than a U.S. Bush Administration propaganda machine against Chavez. Furthermore, why would the U.S. want to do this in a country where press freedom and alternative TV networks are still functional? Personally, I think it is a boneheaded move strategically, and will only strengthen Chavez in power and confirm the already-embraced idea of the U.S. as the bully of the Western Hemipshere.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Lagniappe: Bolton Heading to the UN - Well, John Bolton is now Bush's guy at the United Nations, thanks to his recess apointment. For liberal Democrats and sensible Republicans who opposed Bolton, the good news is that, by his own admission, Bolton, as a part of the UN, is himself now "irrelevant."

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Roger Noriega Quits the Bush Administration - Roger Noriega, Bush's Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the State Department, has quit. Noriega simply says it was time to retire after a long career in public service; but some speculation has it that he was too single-minded to do a balanced job for the whole region. Personally, I tend to agree. His obsessiveness with Cuba and Venezuela made him unable to be really effective in other probably more important matters in U.S.-Latin American relations. Word is also that Thomas Shannon, chief of Latin American Affairs at the National Security Council, is Noriega's likely replacement.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Liberal Lighthouse: Casey vs. Santorum - As of July 22, 2005, Rasmussen has Pennsylvania's Democratic Candidate for the Senate, Bob Casey Jr., ahead of Republican Incumbent Rick Santorum, by a double digit margin: 52% to 41%. Personally, I think Bob Casey Jr. will win this in a landslide. Here are my reasons for this assessment:

(1) Santorum, while a reliable social conservative, has some damage repair to do among his own base after having supported the moderate Republican, Arlen Spectre, in the last Senate GOP primary race against the much more socially conservative Pat Toomey.
(2) Santorum, with his outspoken support for a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, has been labelled (whether rightly or wrongly) as an intolerant homophobe. His attitudes and positions on this issue have made him seem unforgiving and judgmental. This hard edge will not sit well with moderates and conservatives who value compassion and understanding if not agreement with the besieged gay minority.
(3) Casey is a pro-life, pro-social justice Catholic who will win over some of Santorum's previous Catholic supporters who vote pro-life, but who also highly value a pro-social justice orientation in political candidates.
(4) Pennsylvania is a reliably democratic state, having elected a Democratic Governor and having gone decidedly for both Gore and Kerry in the past two presidential electoral cycles -- something neither Santorum nor Spectre could overcome for the national GOP; and this fact may not elicit the type of enthusiastic interest by the national Party as Santorum will probably need to have to win in this election.
(5) Casey is a much more likeable and personable individual than Santorum. Casey rubs people the right way, whereas Santorum tends to rub people the wrong way. People either love or hate Santorum; but no one hates Casey.

Friday, July 29, 2005

School Board: Catholic Schools and Tax Dollars - I continue to be amazed at the inconsistencies in the New Orleans Archdiocesan Educational Office's single-minded fascination with State Government as an answer to the money woes of the Catholic school system. It is all the more interesting to me given that the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Fr. William Maestri, pretends to be a social and fiscal conservative. Fr. Maestri is obviously a Republican cleric who constantly criticizes big-government, tax-and-spend liberalism. But he spares no effort to get the State Government to adopt a voucher program that would put more and more money into the Archdiocesan coffers. Although Fr. Maestri speaks of the voucher program in terms of "parental choice" in education, it is also patently clear to me that he's also in it for the money. A recent article in the Archdiocesan Newspaper, the Clarion Herald, in a moment of unguarded candor, highlights this fact:

Among the biggest challenges is finding the money to meet the needs of Catholic education in the inner city. There are 24 inner-city Catholic schools with a total population of about 10,000 students, and many are kept financially afloat by parish giving and archdiocesan subsidies totaling more than $1.5 million annually.

About 60 percent of students in inner-city Catholic schools are non-Catholic, but Father Maestri said the church has a commitment to offer quality education "to people of every race, creed, color, religion, national origin and socioeconomic status."

"Catholic education is a true gift, one that requires constant maintenance and a constant openness to where the Holy Spirit is calling us to serve," Father Maestri said. "Catholic education and the entire state of Louisiana are uniquely joined in an incredible relationship for the common good. Catholic education has contributed mightily to the well-being of our city and state in all facets of life."

Father Maestri said the archdiocese is open to the possibility of taking over a failing elementary school in Orleans Parish as early as the 2006-07 school year. He will meet with state education superintendent Cecil Picard to discuss the details of a possible takeover.

THE archdiocese also will continue its lobbying efforts for a pilot voucher program for students in failing Orleans Parish public schools.
In other words, if the financially failing Catholic elementary schools in the City can't make it in the current educational market, what's the solution? What else: GOVERNMENT! That's right, stop asking other successful and wealthy suburban parishes to subsidize the inner city Catholic Schools and get the State Government to do it. Why rely on private charity and personal incomes to pay for Catholic schooling when the state can do it for you!

If Fr. Maestri were a big government, tax-and-spend liberal Democrat, then I could perhaps understand his fixation on Government as a solution to the financial crisis facing the Archdiocesan Catholic school system. But, he's not a big government liberal. Or at least he pretends not to be when it doesn't serve his company's own financial interests.

Maestri's lobbying of the State for a voucher program rather reminds me of Tom Benson's efforts to get the State to fork over taxpayer dollars to subsidize a losing professional football team in ways that secure his bottom-line profit margins.

Call me a cynical SOB, but it seems to me that Fr. Maestri is not really against Government telling people how to spend their own tax dollars. He just wants to make sure that people can only use these vouchers on educational services and that his company is one of the State's few preferred (but unaccountable) vendors of such services that taxpayers can patronize.

As I said before, if Fr. Maestri were really interested in the best educational opportunities for children, he'd be begging the Catholic High Schools run by religious orders, given their excellent and proven abilities for fundraising scholarships for needy kids and building up endowments AND their financial independence from the Archdiocese, to open up and run feeder elementary and middle schools. But I'm not holding my breath because it would risk putting the non-competitive Archdiocesan schools out of business.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: CAFTA - How the GOP squeezed it out - By arm-twisting and bribing and horse-trading their own vulnerable party mates. What will the fallout be in next year's mid-term elections? I think the GOP will pay a big price for this.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: CAFTA Approved - I generally recognize the potential benefits of free trade policies. However, I am also of the opinion that unregulated free trade does not necessarily improve the quality of all lives, even if it increases overall wealth. I guess you might call me more of a "fair" free trader -- someone who wants more open markets and understands the benefits that can be gained by creating more open markets, but who also wants the benefits to be spread out evenly and fairly among all involved.

That said, I am not at all convinced that CAFTA, in its current formulation, is structured to bring benefits to all affected parties.

The fact that the CAFTA as currently formulated is opposed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, as well as by the Central American Catholic Bishops, is enough to give me pause. Free trade without justice is not worthy of support; and how can justice be present if workers have been excluded from the crafting of the CAFTA.

My two cents. I'd love to hear yours.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Dinosaurs Back in Mexico? - Andres Oppenheimer is hinting maybe so. As a student of Mexican Politics for a long time now, I've often wondered if the Fox victory was part of a long-term political strategy by the PRI to shed its image as an anti-democratic Party but to create the conditions for its return to power without really substantively changing the way the machine operates. I've also been of the opinion that the true test of whether democracy has finally arrived in Mexico will take place in the wake of the 2006 presidential elections, especially if the PAN loses control of the Presidency, as it seems poised to do. Will the post-Fox Mexican political system return revert back to its PRI-dominated authoritarian past? Or will it turn into a PRD-style authoritarianism? In either case, will Mexicans prefer the certainty and security of authoritarianism or the continuation of democratic gridlock and uncertainty? We shall see.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lagniappe: First Iraqi War Vet to Join Congress? And he's a Democrat, to boot. His story via Salon is here and his campaign website is here. Liberal patriotism at its best comparing Hackett, the Democrat Iraq War Veteran, with his Republican rival, Schmidt:

On the issues, the candidates both describe themselves as fiscal conservatives, but on the Iraq war and the so-called moral values questions, they stand in stark relief. Hackett is a critic of Bush's Iraq war policy and believes America was led to war unnecessarily. Schmidt is a strong backer of Bush's handling of the war. ...

Schmidt commends Hackett for his service, but believes Hackett should "stand with the president" by "supporting the Iraqi war effort and our troops that are over there," her campaign manager Joe Braun said. (Through Braun, Schmidt declined to speak with Salon.) When asked to answer that charge, Hackett is blunt: "The only way I know how to support the troops is by going over there." He doesn't hesitate to criticize Schmidt's support of the war: "All the chicken hawks back here who said, 'Oh, Iraq is talking bad about us. They're going to threaten us' -- look, if you really believe that, you leave your wife and three kids and go sign up for the Army or Marines and go over there and fight. Otherwise, shut your mouth."
Ya gotta love it!

[Hat tip to YatPundit.]

The Corner Watch: Derbyshire vs. Lowry - In a refreshing moment of candor on National Review Online's blog, "The Corner," John Derbyshire takes on Rich Lowry. You need to read Derbyshire's whole posting to get the background before arriving to his concluding statement, but this is the somewhat surprising way in which Derbyshire concludes with:

So, were you [Lowry] arguing back in 2002 and 2003 that the main reason we ought to invade Iraq was to kill local jihadis more easily? Was that your rationale, or some large compnent of your rationale, for supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom at that time? If it was not -- if, at some point between spring of 2003 and now, you changed your rationale for our presence in Iraq -- how would you go about persuading an impartial observer that your change of rationale was not motivated by blind loyalty to this administration?
Again, Derbyshire is an avid supporter of killing as many jihadis as possible and he is principally a supporter of the Iraq War, but this makes his blunt question to Lowry all the more interesting. It will be interesting to follow this conversation to see how Lowry responds.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lagniappe: Letter to Fr. Maestri and the Clarion Herald on Parental Choice in Education - Fr. William Maestri, the Archidiocese of New Orleans' Superintendent of Education, has been an ardent and outspoken proponent of "parental choice" in education. This is code for being an advocate for school vouchers. In this editorial, Fr. Maestri praises the passage of State House Bill 613, which paves the way for a voucher program. He considers this Bill to be a "historic victory for children, familes, and education." For a sample of the effusiveness of his praise, read these words by Fr. Maestri:

There are many to commend for this historic victory. Rep. Burns, a freshman in the House, embraced parental choice as if it were his issue for all of his young life. He showed political prudence, patience and a genuine desire to make things better for our children and community.

A true hero and leader was New Orleans Rep. Austin Badon. He dared to put children first. He dared to speak, vote and act on behalf of what is in the best interest of Orleans Parish and our schools. He was not a politician but a true statesman whose courage and conviction were inspiring and instrumental for the outcome. New Orleans is fortunate to have such a leader.

Many members of the Louisiana House of Representatives broke with the old voices who continue to accept failure and lack of opportunity for children. These courageous members dared to think in new ways in order to combat the all-familiar voices of poor education and poverty. They indicated they, in the name of Louisiana, were ready for a new day. Such a new day centers on making things better for all our citizens, especially our children who live in poverty.
Sounds great, doesn't it! Fr. Maestri's selfless devotion to the best educational interests of children seem evident, no? But, as highly as I might think of the cause, I have it on good authority that Fr. Maestri seems to be more interested in boosting the declining enrollments of Diocesan-supported Catholic Elementary and Middle schools, than what is in the best educational interests of the City's poorest children. I have it on good authority that Fr. Maestri is a staunch opponent of having independent (that is, non-diocesan-controlled) Catholic High Schools open up affiliated Catholic elementary and middle schools. Now why would someone supposedly looking out for the best educational interests of the City's poorest children be opposed to such a possibility? Well, my speculation is that it is because such schools would out-compete the Diocesan schools, and that voucher funds, should they become available, would go to the Dominican Sisters or the Jesuits or the Christian Brothers, rather than to the Diocesan coffers.

But, I want to give Fr. Maestri the benefit of the doubt. I want him to prove that he is not really opposed to options that are in the best educational interests of the City's poorest children by openly declaring his position on the creation of such "alternative" Catholic elementary and middle schools. I want him to say that if Brother Martin High School or if Jesuit High School wanted to start up a middle school at no expense to the Diocese in the wake of the creation of a voucher program, he would lend his full support to this option. So, to that effect, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Clarion Herald on the subject. I sent it via email and via snail mail. Here is what I wrote:
Attn: Editor
Clarion Herald
P.O. Box 53247
New Orleans, La. 70153

Dear Editor:

As a product of the New Orleans Catholic School system from grade 1 through college, I applaud Fr. Maestri for his unyielding and tenacious fight for the rights of children to have the best education possible. Fr. Maestri's persistent efforts to lobby the Louisiana State Legislature for a voucher program that would ostensibly help poor children to attend private or parochial schools is a fine demonstration of his resolve. We should all be inspired by his indefatigable fight to provide the best educational opportunities for our City's poorest children.

In the spirit of his example and his commitment to the best interests of our children, I would like to encourage Fr. Maestri to go one step further. And it's an easy step, too, given Fr. Maestri's position as superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese. Why don't Maestri and the Archdiocese encourage the New Orleans Metro area's best Catholic High Schools to open up and run elementary and middle schools? Such schools would be wildly popular, financially secure, and unreliant on the thinning Archdiocesan coffers.

Imagine children going to such fine centers of Catholic education as "Brother Martin" or "Dominican" Elementary Schools, or "St. Augustine" or "Archbishop Chapelle" Middle Schools! With or without vouchers, what a marvellous opportunity for the City's children that would be!

Surely Fr. Maestri's dogged commitment to the best interests of the City's poorest children (not to mention his good, conservative Catholic values) wouldn't be shaken by a little competition between St. Dominic School and "Jesuit Elementary," even if it meant not filling ALL the seats of what would surely become its less-competitive and less-desirable Archdiocesan-run elementary and middle schools? Just a thought from someone inspired by Fr. Maestri's admirable and unselfish commitment to seek the best educational options for our city's poorest children.
I don't expect the Clarion Herald to publish this letter; nor do I expect a personal response from the Archdiocese or from Fr. Maestri. But I do want not only them, but also my blog readers, to know that I'm calling them on the subject. And if you want to call the Diocese and Fr. Maestri out on the subject, feel free to send out your own letter of support as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Citation for Being Too Clean ... Only in New Orleans - I guess being out of the City for six weeks dulls one's threshhold for the seeming incomprehensibility of some of the things that go on here, but, had I been here all along, I still probably would have been as incredulous to read that the City had issued a citation and a hearings summons to a homeowning couple for putting out their trash for pickup a bit too early. I kid you not. The City of New Orleans apparently intimidated some people who were responsible enough, even if a bit too overeager, to put their trash out for collection instead of spreading it around the streets and gutters. I mean, seriously, one quick pass through the French Quarter at any given moment is enough to illustrate the silliness of such action. It's a sad day when "garbage consciousness," especially in a City known for measuring the success of its Mardi Gras by the tonnage of randomly-strewn garbage picked up off the streets, results in an intimidating and costly summons for conscientious citizens. What's even worse, though, is that the City, having refused to even investigate the problem before issuing a summons and citation, got it wrong and apparently intimidated the wrong people! Ay, Caramba!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Susan Mire on Archbishop Hughes and Pro-Choice Politicians - You know, I'm a liberal Catholic that tends not to get too animated by or defensive about the Catholic Church's formal position against abortion. I expect the Church to promote a pro-life position when it comes to abortion. But, I chafe when people speak in justification of the Catholic Church leadership's public behavior regarding the politics of abortion when other issues of "life" -- i.e. capital punishment and war -- engender no such similar public protests by the Catholic leadership in defense of life.

That's why Susan Mire's piece in the Archdiocesan newspaper, Clarion Herald, really offends me. It isn't enough that Mire tries to defend Archbishop Alfred Hughes's political behavior on the issue of abortion [Hughes refused to attend a ceremony held by Loyola University honoring the entire Landrieu family's public service record because U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her brother, State Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, have voted "pro-choice" on occasion.]. No, she feels the need to say that Hughes's very public and very calculated snub was also an act of love towards the Landrieus. (Just the patronizing condescension of this attitude is enough to turn my stomach.) But more appalling is how she tries to canonize Hughes by explaining his "loving" political behavior as an example of true moral leadership and courage. Speaking in justification of Hughes's actions to boycott Loyola University's celebration of the Landrieus, Mire ponders, as if she were in Hughes's shoes (Now, remember, she's speaking of a man who has a not-so-admirable history in the Church sex-abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese):

What if you found out that someone you respected and admired, someone you knew to be generous, concerned for the less fortunate, peaceful and church-going, would regularly go behind a locked door, confer with others, and agree to support the brutal killing of children and the sexual abuse of women? And this plan included sending funding to individuals who prey on women, the natural defenders of children, when they were most vulnerable. Would you continue to defend their good actions? Or would you question them and challenge them?
Change a few select phrases here and there, substituting "the brutal killing of children and the sexual abuse of women" with "the wilful coverup of the sexual abuse of minors by priests," and Mire's questions about whether one should continue defending the good actions of the Landrieus take on a whole new meaning when applied to the "loving" protest actions of Hughes. Instead of praising Hughes for his "principled" stance against the Landrieus, where's Mire's "questioning and challenging" of Hughes? Methinks Mire should take a bit of her own advice, and begin to protest Hughes out of her deep love for him.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lagniappe: Sean Huze's Gripping Story from the Front Lines in Iraq - The Gambit Weekly, a fine New Orleans weekly newspaper, has in its current issue a great story by Eliza Strickland on Sean Huze's experience as a marine on the front lines of the Iraq War when it began in March of 2003.

Sean Huze volunteered the day after 9/11 and, according to his own words, went to war with full faith in George W. Bush's arguments. Although Huze still supports the troops and wants the U.S. effort in Iraq to succeed, he returned from the war feeling deceived by the Bush Administration. Here are some of what I think are the more important pieces in this story:

Don't get Sean Huze started on the subject of yellow ribbons.

"I really have a resentment against these freaking yellow ribbon magnets, I really do," says the former Marine, a veteran of the Iraqi Freedom campaign and a Louisiana native. "It's not the ribbons themselves. But I think people stop there, and that's not real support. A yellow ribbon magnet on the back of your car is not supporting the troops."

So what is supporting the troops? Not sending them to die in battle unnecessarily, Huze says. Providing support for families left behind. Properly arming and equipping those soldiers in the war zone, and making sure they're not stretched too thin. And taking care of returning veterans who bear the physical or psychic wounds of war.

Huze believes the Bush administration has failed on all counts. He also thinks the American public hasn't insisted that its government do better.

Huze left the armed forces in the fall of 2004. When he returned to the United States, he wrote a well-received play about the war titled The Sand Storm: Stories From the Iraqi Front. He also serves as a spokesman for Operation Truth, a non-partisan veterans organization that has frequently criticized the Bush administration for its management of the war and its treatment of soldiers and veterans.

"The voice of the troops on the ground is something that's not reaching America," says Huze, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. "People will listen to a general who can't even tell you what gunpowder smells like, but they won't listen to a private who has had to take a life and see his comrades fall in battle. It blows me away."
Here's another section of the piece where Huze defends the troops ...
Huze's battalion soon came to be called "The Destroyers" by the Iraqi troops who encountered it. They fought battles in Al Kut and Tikrit, and fended off surprise attacks in non-descript towns and on nameless roads. Huze earned his share of commendations for his role, including a Certificate of Commendation citing his "courage and self sacrifice throughout sustained combat operations"; the Combat Action Ribbon; Meritorious Promotion for Corporal; the Presidential Unit Citation; and the National Defense Service Medal.

"We were certainly effective, and we all made it home," says Huze, speaking in measured tones. "So there's something to be said for that. We were also responsible for a lot of carnage. Unfortunately, as in any war, the civilian population pays a pretty heavy toll, especially when we were engaged throughout the war in urban areas. It's not like you're in an open battlefield and it's two armies going at it. All of it was in densely populated areas. You see a lot of things you'd rather not see.

"I've met so many people out here in the past months who'd like to portray the military as a collection of trigger-happy fools who love killing women and children," Huze continues. "It's a disgusting lie to perpetuate. You're in an urban environment, you are taking fire, and you've got tenths of seconds, not even seconds, to make the decision. Mission accomplishment is always No. 1 priority, so you do what you have to do to push on with your mission."
And here's Huze relating his feeling of being deceived by the Bush Administration and of being put off by Bush's arrogance ...
Before long, Huze would discover other ways in which his war experiences had changed him.

"At the time I went to Iraq, I was a sucker like about 90 percent of us," says Huze. "I believed the justifications, I believed what the president said."

Throughout his time in Iraq, Huze says, he continued to take comfort in the rationale for war that he believed the Bush administration had presented: that Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaeda and that Iraq's stockpiled weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat to the United States.

But back at Camp Lejeune, after the glow of his hero's welcome had worn off, Huze began to question those assumptions. On July 2, 2003, a presidential press conference changed his uncertainty to anger. Answering a question about the burgeoning Iraqi insurgency, Bush replied with a challenge: "Bring 'em on." To Huze, it seemed that the president was more concerned about his "Texas tough guy" image than the lives of the troops. "He was surrounded by body guards, while the guys I knew were the ones who were really putting it on the line, who would have to bear the repercussions of his statements," Huze says.

As Huze began to doubt the war, he became more troubled by his memories. If the war wasn't fought for the cause of thwarting terrorism, how could he justify the dead Iraqi civilians the Destroyers had left in their wake? And how could dead American soldiers rest easy in their graves?
Huze, being an actor, put his experiences and his reactions as a soldier on the front lines into a theatrical production that has met with success. It's called The Sand Storm and I hope to be able to see it some day.

Lagniappe: Back in the Saddle - Let's see if I can try to give some more life to this blog. It has been a while since I posted anything ... not because of lack of desire, but just because of lack of time. I've spent the last six weeks in Latin America and was consumed with the affairs of my work and life there. Now I'm back in the Big Easy, enjoying a bit of a Summer break before the next semester kicks in to gear, and propelled by the heaviness and heat of the typical New Orleans summer to keep cool indoors and to ponder more deeply the events of our time.

Some returning thoughts:

(1) I still think Andrew Sullivan is the best all-around independent-thinking, right-leaning blogger in the universe.
(2) I'm not all that worked up about the nomination of John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. I'm not exactly happy about having another conservative on the court, but it could have been worse.
(3) I'm reading the new Harry Potter and I am loving it as usual, though I think it is not as action-filled as I would have liked. My favorite to date is still Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but that may change when I finish the Half-Blood Prince
(4) I'm writing a country study of Mexico for ABC-Clio Publishers and editing their Latin American Country Study series.
(5) I'll be revving up my Cuaderno Latinoamericano blog shortly. And hope to do the same for my social justice blog, Semillas. Anyone interested in participating as a contributor to either of these blogs is welcome to write me and find out what is entailed and expected.
(6) Regardless of what happens to Karl Rove (and I think he's toast, or should be), we now know that the Bush team is just as sleaze-ball, sneaky, and cut-throat as any administration has been. You can call it politics if you want, that doesn't make it any less trashy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Ban on Smoking in Indoor Public Spaces in Louisiana - To listen to conservative talk radio, one would think that individual rights are being trampled on by the looming state legislation to ban completely smoking in public, indoor spaces like bars and restaurants. As a non-smoker, I'm all for the ban for a whole bunch of the typical reasons. Now, those conservative/libertarian types who complain about the prospects of such a ban and argue that it would infringe on the rights of bar and restaurant owners to run their own businesses as they see fit (not to mention the rights of patrons who don't mind killing themselves by inhaling smoke) have a very short-sighted take on the subject. Remember that the airlines went smoke free not because of passenger complaints, but rather because of employee lawsuits -- and the airlines determined that it would be better for business to go smoke-free. I think a general ban on smoking in public, indoor spaces would ultimately serve all constituencies. It would work towards protecting the public health of citizens (both smokers and non-smokers alike) AND it would protect businesses from the debilitating costs of future lawsuits from affected employees. If I were a bar owner who smoked, I would still have a ban on smoking in my place of business in order to protect myself from potentially litigous bartenders and barmaids. From my perspective, this is a good, conservative reason to support the ban.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Lagniappe: The Right-Wing Myth of Christian Persecution in the U.S. - Here and there, I have been trying to debunk the notion circulating among right-wing Christian conservatives that there is a liberal conspiracy in the United States to persecute Christians. Among certain hard-core, right-wing Christians, it is almost useless to even argue the point. But at long last, prominent conservative columnist George Will has written on the subject also, and not only supports what I have been saying all along, but comes down even harder on "the persecuted" conservatives for the cynical victimization game that they are playing. Perhaps, maybe, just maybe, some thick-skulled, right-wing conservative Christians will listen. It's a long-shot, I know; but one can hope.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Fernando Botero and Abu Ghraib - One of Latin America's most prominent, living visual artists, Colombian Fernando Botero, has produced a series of arresting, graphic portraits of the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib. The New York Times has published an article on this new work by Botero. Here's one example of Botero's Abu Ghraib portraits:

[Click here for an enlarged image of this portrait.]

The fact that Botero has considered himself to be an admirer of the United States drives the point home even more of how this torture scandal has damaged the reputation of the United States abroad. It amazes me how oblivious the U.S. public is to the rotten image that our country has crafted for itself across the globe because of the Iraq War and all its attendant nastiness.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Exploding the Cost/Benefits Myth of Illegal Immigrants and the US Economy - The Case of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid - Eduardo Porter has written an excellent, revelatory article in the New York Times about the real contributions Illegal Immigrants make the the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid programs in the United States and the exploitation that they face in never being able to benefit from their contributions. For instance, read this:

Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.
How is this possible, you might ask? Well, employers demand that potential employees provide a Social Security number to prove that they can work legally in the United States. Then, without verifying or checking the accuracy of these Social Security numbers, many of which are fraudulent, employers deduct payroll taxes from the earning of these employees and turn this over, along with their own matching contributions, to the U.S. Government. This money just sits there, adding to the available pool of resources that help to keep Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare solvent. Current and future retirees in the United States will benefit from the contributions that these illegal immigrants make to the system by their hard work, and these illegal immigrants will never see a dime of their contributions in their own retirement.

Not only does this demolish the claim by the anti-immigrant, nativist crowd that illegal immigrants are leeches on the U.S. welfare state, but it also shows, once again, the double exploitation illegal migrants face in our country. They contribute mightily to the local, state, and federal treasuries of the United States by way of paying taxes (and not only payroll taxes, but also sales taxes, and property taxes via rents), but they are facing efforts to exclude them from receiving the benefits that their tax contributions have earned them.

The next time you hear anti-immigrant, pro-Minutemen, xenophobic blowhards bring out this reason to justify their border vigilantism, feel free to mention this little fact to them.

Read Porter's whole article for the full extent and ramifications of this reality. It will give you a new appreciation for the value of the illegal immigrant.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Vigilantes and Being Vigilant - I just loved this little gem from Time magazine about the new anti-immigrant Minutemen border patrol movement led by Chris Simcox:

Simcox bristles at the term vigilante, saying that his group is not detaining anyone but only fulfilling the President's post--Sept. 11 request that all Americans remain vigilant--and, in the process, providing a release valve for popular outrage. [Emphasis added.]
Tell me if I'm missing something here, but how can Simcox bristle at being called a "vigilante" when he apparently describes his actions as nothing more than heeding Bush's call to be "vigilant." The two words aren't almost exactly the same for nothing. I would have imagined that a man seriously heeding the call of his President to be "vigilant" would be proud to be called a "vigilante"!