Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oyster on Jindal's Fiscal Insanity/Hypocrisy

Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief has an excellent, but long posting on Bobby Jindal's "proud" support of a pork-laden, budget-busting farm bill all the while claiming to be a fiscal hound-dog. You should read the whole posting by Oyster because it's such good analysis of the insanity of the man who appears to be headed to the Louisiana Governor's mansion. But to give you a representative sample of Oyster's analysis, here's what I think cuts to the chase:

Rep. Bobby Jindal was among the 19 Republicans who voted for this monstrous $286 billion Farm Bill that provides welfare for farmers. Jindal said he was "pleased" and "proud" to support the measure, which would raise taxes by billions to pay for food stamps, incentivize illegal immigration, subsidize ethanol, broaden the Gulf Coast "Dead Zone", and distribute checks to wealthy corporate "farmers" like ExxonMobil, Chevron, International Paper and Caterpillar.

You can imagine the outrage among Louisiana's conservative bloggers at Jindal's betrayal of party and principle. Here's a small sampling of quotes from the resulting firestorm:
*crickets chirping*

It's puzzling. I would have expected someone in the blogosphere or the media to comment on Jindal's vote for the farm bill. Doesn't it seem odd that just a few days after Bobby Jindal declared war "against out of control government spending", he "proudly" supported a $286 billion welfare bill to corporate farmers? Isn't there a natural tension there begging for commentary? It practically writes itself, I think.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

OK. So, I stayed up late last night (Monday, July 23) and finished the book. I thought it was great.

And I'm ready to discuss. BUT ... only in the comments, where anything and everything can be discussed.

For anyone who hasn't read the novel yet, but intends to do so, PLEASE do not go into the comments section unless you want to have the book spoiled for you.

PS: For the next couple of weeks or so, I'll keep this post always rolling to the top of the blog.

Obama and Latin America

Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald interviewed Barack Obama a day before the CNN-YouTube debate where Obama took some heat for his answer to a question as to whether or not he would meet with Hugo Chavez (among other world leaders who are hostile to the United States). In this interview, Oppenheimer asked Obama the same basic question that he answered during the CNN/YouTube debates. His answer then offers some clarification of Obama's position.

Oppenheimer explains:

I was not terribly surprised when Sen. Barack Obama said in the Democratic presidential debate Monday that he would sit down with Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez if elected president. He had told me so a day earlier -- and much more -- although with a very important caveat.

In a wide-ranging interview on foreign affairs, and Latin America in particular, the Democratic presidential hopeful criticized President Bush's foreign policy as excessively "based on the dislike of Hugo Chávez." And he told me that he would not only sit down with the Venezuelan president "under certain conditions" but would travel to leftist-ruled Bolivia -- Venezuela's closest ally in South America -- at the start of his presidency.

"We've seen our influence diminished in the world," Obama said in the Sunday interview. "We've seen an inability to recognize constructive opportunities with countries that may be leaning left, but that are trying to do the right thing by their people. That is a fundamental difference that I think will be reflected in an Obama presidency."

What would he do? I asked.

"The starting point is to rebuild the alliances that have been frayed in the past several years, to travel early to key countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, but also Bolivia -- countries where the assumption is that we don't have common interests. I think that we do."

A day later, at the CNN-YouTube Democratic Debate, Obama raised eyebrows nationwide when he responded affirmatively to a question on whether he would be willing to meet -- without preconditions -- in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Asked the same question at the debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton seized the moment to portray Obama as a rookie on foreign affairs, saying that she would not hold such meetings right away because "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."

In our interview, the senator from Illinois had been a bit more cautious. When I asked him whether he would meet with Chávez, he had said, "Under certain conditions, I always believe in talking. Sometimes it's more important to talk to your enemies than to your friends."
Personally, I think Obama's position is the correct one; and he shouldn't shy away from it. He should embrace it, clarify it, and run with it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here's Something for Sunday

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

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

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: Focusing on the "Bad" about America

I can't tell you how many times John Hawkins, owner of the Right Wing News blog, has harped on about how "negative" liberals are about America and how we only see the "bad" in and about our country, and never the good.

Well, imagine my surprise to see John Hawkins asking his own readers, in all seriousness, to "Suggest The Worst People, Places, And Things In America". I guess it's o.k. for Rightwingers to complain when liberals point out those unsavory things that are present in our country; but when conservatives do it, it's fun! As John Hawkins exhorts his readers:

Well now, I'm thinking about doing some writing on the subject and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what you think are the worst people, places, and things in America.

After all, I'd hate to miss any good ones.
Good ones, indeed!

Come to think of it, John Hawkins traffics in and profits by what he thinks is "negative" about America. That's pretty much all he writes about: if it's not the evils of liberals and Democrats, it's the corrupt squishes on his own side of the aisle. When will Hawkins say something nice about this great country of ours?

But, that's neither here nor there. The hypocritical irony is that Hawkins and his ilk, while complaining about liberals doing it, likewise profit by attacking (and even hating) parts of America and Americans, so his call for more "good ones" about what's "worst" in America shouldn't be all that surprising. In fact, it's quite par for the course.

Gonzalez versus Beauchamp

You know something is screwy with the state of politics in this country, and the divisiveness of our political dialogue, not to mention the myopia of the right wing punditocracy when this country's chief Law Enforcement Official, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, has clearly perjured himself, and the top story that causes rabid rightwing frothing at the mouth is a real, live, fighting US soldier's unflattering story about guys making crude jokes about a female soldier disfigured by an IED, about coming across a children's burial site and wondering if it's one of Saddam's mass graves, and about a foolish soldier sadistically hunting down and rolling over Iraq's street dogs with his Bradley fighting vehicle (the veracity of all of which still have yet to be disproven). I mean, we're talking about the Attorney General of the United States himself committing perjury! The guy who's supposed to be vigorously prosecuting folks for doing such things! Doesn't the irony of that strike anyone as stunning?!?! And yet we get reams and reams of insignificant minutiae about Beauchamp's love life, dating timelines, and wedding plans from the Rightwing blogosphere in their quest to tear down a U.S. soldier fighting on the front lines, all the while we get ... hear it? ... yes, that's right, NOTHING BUT SILENCE, on the Attorney General's CLEAR perjury.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Confidential to President_Friedman

President_Friedman, if you're still visiting my site on occasion, I want you to know that I noticed your gesture in Q&A Friday at Right Wing News, solitary though it was. Thanks.

Wingers Turn on a US Troop

I read this article written by a US Soldier, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, currently on active duty in Iraq, for the current edition of The New Republic when it came out in print. (I'm a TNR subscriber.)

At the time, I found it disturbing, but not unbelievable.

However, the Rightwing blogosphere has gone berserk over this story, challenging both its factual accuracy as well as whether such seedy stories can even be possible within the U.S. military. For a sample of the apoplectic head-popping, see here, here, and here.

I'll wait until the investigation by the military into the incidents described by Scott Thomas Beauchamp before I make any judgments on his claims, but I want to pose a couple of questions to my readers out there who have any kind of military or combat experience:

1) How unusual is it for fellow soldiers or commanding officers to turn a blind eye towards stupid behavior from soldiers like chasing dogs with a Bradley instead of reporting such incidents to the proper investigative authorities?
2) How cruel can soldiers be to one another regarding gross bodily disfigurements caused by IEDs?
3) How unbelievable is it to imagine anything what Thomas describes as completely outside of the realm of the possible within the military?

As I said, I found what Thomas wrote to be disturbing, but I certainly didn't put such behavior beyond the realm of the possible.

Then again, I've never served in the Military nor have I been in Iraq during the war, so my understanding of what is possible or even believable is conditioned by what I read in the news, hear from friends who have served there, or see on the news.

I would appreciate any honest thoughts from folks with such experience, but NOT on the specific veracity of Beauchamp's particular claims. Rather, I just want to know if it is foolish of me to think that such things are even within the realm of the possible.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Buddy Bolden Blues

Now this is what I love! I'll be playing a version of this on my radio show this Sunday. Too bad we're no longer live-streaming because the version of this I'm planning to spin off the vinyl is awesome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ya Basta!

I found this commentary by Miami Herald Journalist Andres Oppenheimer to be not only illustrative, but also a bit worrisome. Why? Because Andres Oppenheimer is not usually a "fight-back" kind of guy when it comes to ethnicity-based social movement. The fact that he feels alienated to such a degree really drives the point home that the damage done by the recent immigration legislation debate and the animosities towards Latinos that it has unleashed are very real and very problematic for our civil society. Here's how he concludes his piece:

My opinion: The National Council of La Raza and its sister institutions are doing the right thing with their "Ya es hora!" citizenship drive. But they should also launch a nationwide "Ya basta!" campaign to identify, name and shame those who systematically bash Hispanics.

If anti-Hispanic sentiment is allowed to keep growing, we will soon have an underclass of 12 million immigrants that will feel not only frustrated by not having a legal path to citizenship but increasingly insulted by the mainstream media.

And social exclusion mixed with frustration can be a dangerous cocktail, as we've seen in the violent 2005 riots by Muslim youths in the suburbs of Paris.

The time for Hispanics to say "Ya basta!" is now, before it's too late.
Now there are some who would take issue with Oppenheimer and say the real motivation behind opposition to the immigration legislation debate is about illegality and not about ethnicity. But it's hard to swallow this when you have anti-comprehensive immigration reform folks who let their shields down and describe any vote for such reforms as a vote for "Mexico" as opposed to a vote for comprehensive immigration reform. Such descriptions belie the fact that what motivates the anti crowd is not only an anti-illegal immigrant position, but an anti-illegal Mexican (or Latino) immigrant position. If the point were really and truly border security and control from ALL illegal migrants, why single out Mexico in such a way?

Personally, I think Oppenheimer's reaction gets more at the underlying anti-Latino sentiment behind the entire anti-illegal immigration movement. And, from what I've been able to observe, I think he's probably right.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wendy Vitter Revisited

Temporarily surfacing from Harry Potter-dom, I wanted to point you all to this article that appeared in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune as its front page cover story. It's a positive piece on Wendy Vitter. For all I know, she is exactly the way the article presents her. Here's a section of it:

In their choreographed pas de deux, David Vitter was sober and contrite as he expressed regret for violating the public's trust. Wendy Vitter was defiant as she assumed the role of her husband's chief apologist and defender -- a performance that was all the more striking for the stunned and sad look that inhabited her face as her husband spoke of confession and marriage counseling.

"Last week," she said, "some people very sympathetically said to me, 'I wouldn't want to be in your shoes right now.' I stand before you to tell you very proudly, I am proud to be Wendy Vitter."

This newly famous political spouse oscillated Monday between the two roles that have defined her adult life: the stern prosecutor who fearlessly faced down the cameras and the traditional wife who swallowed her pride, stood by a tomcatting husband and spoke "as a mother" in asking the news media to move off her lawn and leave her children alone.

That dual persona -- intrepid woman, steadfast wife -- was on display down to the way she dressed. Wendy Vitter appeared not in a modest suit, but in a flattering wrap dress that some saw as having a leopard print. She stood taller than her husband in a pair of low heels. She also wore a "journey of life" pendant, with a column of diamonds each larger than the next, symbolizing how the bonds of love grow and deepen over time.

Although Wendy Vitter predicted years ago that she would act more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary Clinton if her husband strayed -- "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me," she said in 2000 -- observers who watched her statement last week said she never ceded an inch of her dignity in standing by the senator, whom she called her "best friend."
I still can't help translating her behavior in defending and promoting the career of her husband as a bit of a betrayal of her family, especially her children. It strikes me that there's some Hillary Clinton-esque ambition in Wendy Vitter's persona that would account for her willingness to risk her children's emotional well-being knowing what she did about her husband's indiscretions, the hypocrisy of this when stacked up against his vocal "family-values" agenda, and the unforgiving relentlessness of the media in today's environment in uncovering and exposing such hypocrisy.

She seems to be a good person; and I do feel sorry for her and for her children. She let her ambitions perhaps get the better of her in this instance and made a mistake that, perhaps, she now regrets.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Co-Ed vs. Single-Sex Education

I understand the value of same-gender schooling; but it has to be at the right moments in human development and for the correct reasons. I think that same-gender elementary schooling makes sense as little boys are just trying to play catch up to little girls in terms of social maturity and development. It makes even more sense because little boys couldn't care less about little girls, and vice versa, during these early childhood years. And I'd say the same for same-gender colleges, where young women and young men who have presumably learned from and matured through the pains and joys of adolescence, can make a conscious choice to put themselves in a learning environment unencumbered by the raging hormones of adolescence and who can concentrate with confidence on Aristotle, Austen/Auden, and Atoms.

But, as someone who went to a same-gender, all-male high school, I can tell you that boys and girls who are in the process of self-discovery and acute sexual awareness need to be around each other in an academic enviornment where the life of the mind and the raging hormones of the body can find a respectful and balanced co-existence. In High School, my buddies and I read Homer in the original Greek, we learned chemical compounds together, and we discussed existential philosophy and the meaning of life, all the while not realizing nor caring that our female counterparts could do the same, whom we thought of only at lunch or after school, and not in the realm of the intellect, but in the social and physical realm that was driven almost exclusively by our raging hormones. We did not have a gender-balance during the most formative hours of our days to temper our intellectual, social, and physical awakenings, and the relationships between them.

I came out of High School very well educated, and even sensitive, by most standards, but also relationally stunted in some ways, which I realized with some shock during my first semester at co-ed University. Adolescence is an experience that happens only once in life, while Calculus and Kierkegaard can be learned and experienced at any time. High School should be -- no, it has to be -- the time when one's discovery of his or her physical and emotional identity as a man or women (i.e. adolescence) in relation to the other gender is part and parcel of the life of the mind and the body. One should not get to college thinking that men are mindless sex-crazed brutes, or that women are mindless sex-toy barbies, without really having had the chance to experience whether these stereotypes are true. And I believe that no matter how many books one reads in High School or how many opposite-gender teachers one has in High School, one will miss an irretrievable and crucially important moment in one's personal development if one goes through adolescence without having opposite-gender peers sitting next to each other in the classroom, flirting with each other, perhaps distracting each other from the books at times, and challenging each other's ideas.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vitter, Vitter, and more Vitter

All my readers who aren't regulars of Your Right Hand Thief ought to be! Especially if you're interested in the Vitter Scandal. Oyster, the proprietor of Your Right Hand Thief, has a post up in which he features the ruminations of one of his commenters. I think all those sympathetic to the GOP and to family values ought to read this post, which makes a very persuasive case why the GOP ought to hold Vitter accountable instead of embracing him as the prodigal son. Kudos to Oyster for staying on top of all the different aspects of this Vitter scandal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Off the Bookshelf and On the Reading Table

Here's what I'm reading these days:

Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

Michael Chabon. The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Bill Kirchner, ed. The Oxford Companion to Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

What I will also be reading this coming Saturday:

J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.

Yes, I know, I know. I am, indeed, a proud Harry Potter junkie.

Anyway, your thoughts on any or all of these works are welcome. And I'm also always open to some good recommendations.

Vitter Senate Speech on Marriage

I thought that this speech made by Sen. David Vitter, and apparently delivered on the floor of the Senate on June 6, 2006, deserves to be transcribed in full. A quick internet search didn't turn up the written transcript of this speech, and so I thought it would just be easier for me to transcribe it myself. It is rich with irony, particularly the pride that Vitter takes in being one of the folks approached to promote the Federal Marriage Amendment during his stint while a member of the House, possibly also during the time when he was actively engaged in behavior that made a mockery of his own marriage.

Here's the transcript:

Thank you, Mr. President. I stand in strong support of this proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to uphold and affirm traditional marriage. Several years ago, when folks focused on the health of marriage and the upbringing of children, from around the country, gathered to begin to attack this threat and this problem, they came to the Congress with the idea of proposing a Constitutional Amendment. And they went to certain members of both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats (I was in the House at the time), and I was honored that I was one of the four House Republicans, (there were eight House members in all, four Republicans and four Democrats), who these leaders approached to be original co-authors of this sort of Constitutional Amendment. I immediately agreed, and I've been very, very involved in the debate and the fight ever since then. And I'm very happy to bring this work to the Senate with so many other leaders, like Senator Allard who's been leading the effort here for some time.

It's a very important effort, Mr. President, because marriage, it's often said, but it's very, very true, and it is worth repeating: marriage is truly the most fundamental social institution in human history. Now, think about that statement and the significance of it: the single-most fundamental social institution in human history. And certainly, we should not rush, as we are at the present time through activist courts, to radically redefine it after thousands and thousands of years living under the traditional definition.

Now, Mr. President, often here in the Senate we get very wrapped up in our debate and our laws and our proposals and our government programs, and we think so much is changed by that, so much hinges on that. And yet, what is so much more important and more fundamental are those enduring, hopefully enduring, social institutions like marriage, community, church, faith communities. We need to realize just how central those sorts of institutions are, and how important they are in terms of influencing behavior in our society, good behavior and bad behavior.

When we look at so many of the social ills we try to address here in Congress with government programs and proposals, serious social problems, like drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and the like, perhaps the single biggest predictor of good results versus bad results is whether kids come from a stable, loving, nurturing two-parent family - a mother and a father. That doesn't mean that you can't have success raising a child in other environments, in a struggling one-parent household, [it] just means that the odds are so much more stacked against you when you move to that other sort of environment. And so, I think it's very appropriate, and well-overdue, that we focus here in the Senate on nurturing, upholding, preserving, protecting such a fundamental social institution as traditional marriage.

A lot of folks here in Washington don't get that, don't fully understand it. But I can tell you real people in the real world, certainly including in Louisiana, do. They get it. And that's why two years ago, in 2004, we [passed?] a state constitutional marriage amendment in Louisiana to uphold traditional marriage; and we passed it with 78% of the vote. Folks in Louisiana want those values upheld, they don't want them redefined radically by activist courts, particularly people in courts in other states like Massachussetts. And make no mistake, that is what is happening; and that trend would have an impact not just in isolated states like Massachussetts, but throughout the country, as marriage is redefined by liberal activist judges and others. And so the people in Louisiana, and a solid, solid majority of people around the country, want us to address this issue nationally through a Constitutional Amendment once and for all. That's why I strongly support this effort.

I want to thank the Senator from Colorado, and others, again, for leading this fight in the Senate. I was proud to help lead it in the U.S. House when I was there. I am proud to join other allies here on the floor of the Senate.

And again, rather than focus on these new government programs, new little ideas that we run to the floor of the Senate with every day, let's take time to remember and focus on truly significant, enduring social institutions, which are the greatest predictors, the greatest factors, in terms of encouraging good behavior and success, discouraging bad behavior and failure. This is the way we can have the most impact on those problems we debate endlessly, like drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and the like.

I urge all of my colleagues, Mr. President, to join us in this effort. And I predict, that while we may not reach the two-thirds vote that we ultimately need, with this vote this week, that we will make important progress. We will pick up votes since the last time the Congress voted on this issue in 2004. And I'm one small example of that progress because my election in 2004 meant that this vote went from a "No" vote of my predecessor, John Breaux, to a proud "Yes" vote of the Junior Senator from Louisiana now. I look forward to casting that vote. I urge my colleagues to rally around enduring, positive social institutions that are so essential for the health of families, kids being brought up, and, indeed, our entire society. With that, Mr. President, I yield back my time.
Watch the clip. Look at Vitter's body language. Listen to the emphasis he places on certain words and phrases when he speaks. And then make of it what you will in light of recent events.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Culpability of Wendy Vitter

New Orleans blogger, Kimberly Marshall, aka dangerblond, made a comment on one of oyster's recent postings on the Vitter scandal. dangerblond wrote:

Wendy Vitter could have put the kibosh on any or all of it a long time ago if she was that worried about the kiddiwinks. Sometimes when you hitch your wagon to a star, my girl, it becomes a super-nova and blows up right in your face.
I thought this was an excellent point. And it got me thinking that, in one sense, Wendy Vitter bears as much culpability and responsibility for what is happening to her family as does her husband, Sen. David Vitter.

Think about it: Wendy Vitter was apparently apprised of her husband's indiscretions some time ago. She admits it and has apparently "forgiven" her husband for his indiscretions. I think it's natural to assume that Wendy also knows that her husband's affairs were not the product of a moment of weakness with one of his former sweethearts or with a long-term friend, but with at least one, if not more than one, paid-for-hire prostitute.

Now maybe Wendy Vitter found it in her heart to be forgiving of her husband and even to work to recommit to their marriage. That's admirable. But surely she must have known that this "sin" would wreak havoc on her children if it ever found the light of day. As a parent myself, I can imagine that, if I were married to such a prominent politician, all sorts of scenarios would have passed in front of my eyes the moment I discovered that my spouse was engaged in such seedy sexual affairs. I would have imagined the embarrassment and shame on my kids faces the first time they would have to show their faces in school after their parent's sexcapades were aired in public.

These kids are no doubt going to be terribly scarred by this episode, even if everyone around them shows them nothing but kindness. And what did Wendy Vitter do when faced with these scenarios that surely must have crossed her mind? Instead of demanding that her husband remove the family from the public spotlight, she hopped on the David Vitter for Senate bandwagon. And as dangerblond has so vividly put it, the super nova blew up in her face. But what needs to be added to this is the fact that the super-nova also blew up in her children's faces, too.

Taking a rationalization out of the pro-torture Republican handbook, a handbook that Vitter voted to support time and again in Washington, David Vitter AND Wendy Vitter knew that they had a "ticking time bomb" scenario on their hands. And they must have known that this "ticking time bomb" would take out some innocents very close to them if it ever exploded. And what did they do? They didn't defuse the bomb. No, they took a risk and ran with it. And the "collateral" damage caused by its explosion was their children. That's almost unforgivable. And though David Vitter is ultimately responsible for building that "ticking time bomb," Wendy Vitter is also responsible for letting the clock on this "ticking time bomb" wind down to zero. It's shameful and reprehensible what both of these people did to their children. I don't know how they can look their kids in the face anymore.

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 17, 8:36PM CST: Schroeder points to another perspective on this theme.

My Lovelies

A man could not be luckier or happier.

More Vitter, Pt. 2

Schroeder at People Get Ready takes a fresh look at the Vitter scandal and brings up some important aspects to this whole affair that are being overshadowed by the sordid and salacious side of the scandal. Check it out. And while you're at it, Schroeder will update you on the latest with the New Orleans DA office.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers of The Group News Blog and thanks to blksista for referencing The Huck Upchuck. I hope you find what you're looking for and come back for more!

Done with RWN Banning Issue

OK, so it's been more than three weeks since I've been banned by RWN. I've not heard from Hawkins. Unless I hear from Hawkins about why I was banned (and I don't expect to), I won't be commenting on this subject anymore on my blog.

That doesn't mean I won't be commenting on the content of his blog through the "Warrantless Blogtapping Program" category I've set up; it simply means that I am putting to rest the whole banning episode.

It is what it is and that's all there is to it.

If anyone wants to discuss this matter with me, I will be happy to do it via a private email exchange or in the comments section to this post. My email address is: huckupchuck@hotmail.com.


Monday, July 16, 2007

More Vitter

Well, he surfaces ... and with his wife. And Wendy Vitter pulls a Hillary instead of a Lorena Bobbit. Boy, who can be trusted to tell the truth in this family?

Anyway, Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief has the latest, as well as a thorough summary of the entire seedy affair from its origins long ago until the present. There is no better source than Oyster on this scandal. Keep his blog bookmarked and read it daily.

Right Wing News Banning Update

So, I am finally returned back home from my trip to Mexico and I go to the office this morning for the first time in a long time. I fire up my computer and get to work -- and there was a lot of it (work) waiting for me. So it wasn't until my afternoon break when I decided to see what Hawkins was up to for today.

But, lo and behold, my workstation computer is forbidden access to Right Wing News! I had to chuckle. Apparently, I guess Hawkins must have first tried to ban the IP address of my workstation computer from accessing RWN just before I went to Mexico. Only I wasn't aware of it because I wasn't using my workstation computer once the IP address was banned until today. I mean, I can't even read RWN from my workstation computer now! How 'bout 'dem apples!?!

I find it humorous because, obviously, I have access to the internet via other IP addresses. And in the days of pretty much universal wireless access in coffee shops and other public spaces, not to mention internet cafes and other public workstations with internet access, this method of banning is almost useless.

So, I guess because banning one IP address didn't work, Hawkins simply terminated my entire account at RWN. Oh, well...

I still really am dumbfounded as to what I might have said or done to elicit such a hostile reaction and all-out internet guerrilla warfare from Hawkins. I mean, really, all he would have had to do was to ask me not to post anymore, and I would have respected his request. But to try to prevent me from even reading his blog? That's going a bit far, don't you think?

Now, maybe there's another reason to explain why I am forbidden to access Hawkins' site from my workstation computer. But I can't fathom what it could be. I thought: hmmmm, maybe some malicious virus had infested my workstation computer and it was sending out "comment spam," so he shut off communication with my workstation computer IP address. I don't know much about these things, but this thought did cross my mind. But I doubt this is the reason, because why then would Hawkins shut down my registered account at RWN, thus making it impossible for me to post comments via any other IP address? Now that I think about it, maybe Hawkins thought my continued posting even after having my workstation IP address cut off was my attempt to circumvent his ban, and thus he shut down my entire account. Who knows? But you would think that he would at least send me an email warning me, or informing me that I've been banned, or something. But I got nothing.

Now as for other possible explanations for why I can't access RWN from my workstation computer, I've gone through them all. But none of them holds up as possible. For instance, I can pretty much access any other site on the internet from my workstation computer, so it can't be that my employer is restricting access to Hawkins' website. And the fact that other computers in my office that have unique IP addresses can access RWN seems to indicate that the problem is uniquely connected to my workstation computer's IP address. I have no choice but to assume that Hawkins just banned my workstation computer's IP address on his end.

Why is Hawkins going to such extremes here? It baffles me. I mean, if Hawkins is really that put out by me, I wish he would just have the cojones to say it. And as I said before, if he had just simply asked me to stop posting on his site, I would have stopped. Sheesh!

From the Archives: What Does God Know?

I wrote the following some three-and-a-half years ago on this blog, but thought it was good enough to post again. It's as relevant now as it was then and still reflects my beliefs on the subject. I've edited the original slightly just to correct some minor spelling and grammatical errors. Enjoy!

What prompts this post is a discussion/friendly debate that I had last night with my brother, who is visiting from Berkeley where he is studying towards his Master's Degree in Theology. (By the way, my brother is a member of the Society of Jesus, a catholic religious order more commonly know as the "Jesuits." My brother is not a priest, but rather a religious brother.) In any event, the discussion we had last night centered around the question: What Does God Know? This is a question that has been discussed around the dinner table at my home many evenings. So much so that my 5-yr-old daughter has memorized my pat answer to the question. Before I give you my answer, I should let you know that both my brother and my wife (not to mention my daughter, who is inclined to side with them) do not agree with me on this issue. So, what is my answer to that interesting question? Well ... I say: "God knows that which is knowable." Seems fairly inoccuous; but its implications are critical, because it implies that there are certain things which God simply cannot know.

I don't believe God knows the future of human behavior. I don't believe God knows from the moment of our birth what our life actions will be and whether we are destined for heaven or hell or purgatory or whatever. I believe that God is omniscient, but only in term of what is knowable in the context of my faith in the notion of free choice. If God knows our destiny, how is it that we have any choice or freedom at all? Now, my wife and brother say that we cannot understand the mystery of God's omniscience coupled with the existence of true free choice because we think as humans do, and not as God does; but I argue that even this position is the product of a human thought process that leads one to the notion of mystery and faith. My belief is that we can only know and understand things through the prism of our humanity and our human faculties, and so we must rely on our best efforts to lead us to understanding. For me, this means that we must rely on our faith, informed by our reason. And my reason informs my faith that God knows the infinite possibilities of our choices, but he does not know (and does not compromise free will by thus knowing) what it is that we will choose in those moments of our life.

Because, if you buy into the notion that God knows our choices, and where we will be, the possibility of redemption through an act of free choice is not possible. We either have the ability to turn from evil and repent from sin at any point in the eternal existence of our soul (even after death), or we have no choice in the matter. If God knows from the moment of our creation that we are destined for heaven or hell, then how is it that we are free to choose either the path to heaven or to hell? In a sense, it is already chosen for us because it is predetermined.

My brother argues that God is always with us in the context of our choices, and I don't disagree; but being with us and being in full knowledge of the infinite possibilities of choice does not mean that God knows which of those possibilities we will choose.

Let's move to some examples. We humans may not know if life exists on other planets in other galaxies; but if such is true, then God certainly knows it, since he is the creator. God knows all things that can be known. He knows what will happen to the arctic penguin when the leaf falls from the tree in the tropical rain forest. God knows how the bird's chirp in Louisiana affects the sleeping patterns of the Prime Minister of Japan. All of this, I believe, is "knowable" because it doesn't affect human free choice and free will. However, if I get drunk at a New Year's Eve Party and make the mistake of driving home afterwards in bad weather, does God know that 10 minutes later I will drive into a tree and break my back? If I have free will and free choice, He can't. Why? Because it presupposes that within those 10 minutes, my ability to exercise free choice is no longer operational. I can't believe this. Why is it not possible for me to get into the car, drive for five minutes, realize that what I am doing is dangerous, and pull off into a parking lot to call for a cab or to sleep off the drunkenness? Of course, it IS possible for me to choose this.

Now, my brother would say that God is with me at every instant and every fraction of an instant and so is knowledgable of my choice as I make it. In other words he knows what I am going to do when I do it. But this still begs the question: who makes the choice? Something must come first. Is the choice and God's knowledge of it at the moment of choosing one and the same? It can't be, because then it is not fully free. I must make the choice distinct from God's knowledge in order for it to be fully my own free choice.

So I always end with the compromise: God is omniscient. He knows all that which is knowable. I don't pretend to define that which is knowable; but I do believe that God cannot know the unknowable. I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Well, I made it home safely. Now, no sooner do I have a chance to kiss my wife and kids and crash out of exhaustion, I am back at my DJ duties at WTUL - New Orleans, which is 91.5 FM on the radio dial in the New Orleans area. I do an early Sunday morning (3-6am) progressive music show (only for the Summer!) and the Sunday, 6-8pm Jazz Show.

It's GREAT to be home. More later!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Going Home

In about 12 hours I will be leaving

after a 5-week stint here and going back to

where I'll reunite with my family, sleep in my own comfy bed, and drink a cup of Community coffee in the morning while poring over the print version of "Da Paper"!

It's been a good five weeks in the beautiful land of the Mexica; but I'm happy to be going home.

UPDATE: Saturday, July 14, 2007, 3:42PM CST: Now I'm here, safely through customs and immigration. God willing, in a few short hours, I'll be home.

Vitter Scandal Update

Well, apparently the New Orleans Times-Picayune has been contacted by and has interviewed one of David Vitter's "escorts," a woman who went by the name of Wendy Cortez, but whose real name is apparently Wendy Yow.

Here´s a shocking selection from this Times-Picayune piece:

Yow characterized the senator as a good man but said she was perturbed that he portrayed himself as a politician who would bring moral authority to his office when he was using her services on the side.

Her former boyfriend Tait Cortez, contacted by The Times-Picayune, said he has seen several photos of Wendy Cortez and Vitter together.

Tait Cortez, who works in construction and often travels to compete in weekend rodeos, said he dated Wendy Cortez for several years in the late 1990s and lived with her for more than a year. The couple never married. Her relationship with Vitter, which Tait Cortez claimed went beyond the brothel business, contributed to their breakup, he said.

"She said she gave exotic massages," Cortez, 40, said. "That's when the trouble (between us) started."

Towards the end of a waning relationship in the summer of 1998, Wendy told him she was an "exotic masseause," Cortez said.

"She told me she had clients lined up; high-dollar people, lawyers, politicians, golfers," he said.

While unpacking boxes following the couple's move to Alabama in 1998, Tait Cortez said he found photos of a smiling Wendy at a formal affair, wearing an evening gown, alongside a man he described as a "city slicker" wearing a suit. In another photo, that same dark-haired man appeared with Wendy at a waterfront party, he said. The man was wearing shorts and a t-shirt next to Wendy in a bikini, Cortez said. "She had his hand on his crotch," Cortez said. "They were smiling."

Cortez said the photo stung him. It was "more sexual" than any others, and he felt that Wendy and the man exhibited more than a business relationship, he said.

"She said it was a client of hers," Cortez said. "She said it was David Vitter, a politician."
Yowza! Still, I´m taking all this with a grain of salt. I want to hear what Vitter has to say.

As usual, Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief is all over the story and has the latest. A big hat-tip to him for pointing me to all these details.

While there still exist some inconsistencies in the details, the situation is looking all the more grim for Vitter.

Where are you, Vitter? We need to hear from you before this thing gets way beyond your control to manage.

Bush´s Justice Problem: "Scooter" Libby vs. Genarlow Wilson

You know, many on the right wing have applauded Bush for commuting "Scooter" Libby's sentence so that he doesn´t have to spend any time in jail while he appeals his perjury conviction. The argument that is most often given is that Libby was subject to a blatant miscarriage of justice, even though the process itself worked as it should have.

Yet, most of these same folks are aware of the miscarriage of justice perpetrated in the case involving Genarlow Wilson, a Georgia honor-roll student who is behind bars for having had consensual oral sex with a 15-yrs-old girl when he was only 17-yrs-old himself. And yet, I don´t recall hearing the same people defending Bush´s commutation of the Libby sentence also demanding a Presidential pardon for this young guy who was clearly wronged. In fact, many conservatives recognized the injustice of this case, and generally criticized as flawed the system that produced this outcome, but nonetheless were content to allow the system to work the problem out for itself. There was no call, as far as I know, for Presidential override of the system like there was for the Libby case. In general, people were very deferential to the principle of the rule of law in this case, all the while criticizing the system as flawed.

The unfortunate perception that we are left with is that Libby, because he is a crony of Bush and because he happens to have a career in government, deserves this kind of Presidential intervention to rectify an injustice but that Genarlow Wilson, because he´s just a kid in Georgia without connections at the White House, somehow doesn´t. And even conservatives have picked up on this imbalance and seeming unfairness when they express disappointment that Bush commuted Libby´s sentence while Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, whom many conservatives consider to be law enforcement heros, remain, in their view, wrongly incarcerated.

The problem with the Bush commutation of Libby´s sentence is not that it is illegal or unconstitutional, but that it damages public confidence in the rule of law and reinforces the notion that the justice system serves the politically connected. And that damage is all the more profound when the originator of this damage is none other than the chief law enforcement officer of the country.

As Andrew Sullivan says:

One rule of law for connected neocons; another for the rest of the country. Get angrier. And get rid of them.
I couldn´t agree more.

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: Banning as a "Badge of Honor"?

John Hawkins reports at his blog, Right Wing News, that he might have been blackballed by the White House from participating in a "blogger teleconference." He runs through a lot of possible reasons, one of which is that maybe he was just too tough on the White House, thus wearing out his welcome there. In fact, he prefers to think of this as the real reason because it makes him seem oh-so-important and oh-so-principled! It also makes the Bush Administration and Tony Snow appear like a bunch of wusses who can't stand the heat from a little ole' blogger like Hawkins.

Hmmmm. I can't help but wonder ... Is Hawkins subconsciously giving me some sort of hint? Regardless, maybe I should take it as such. Until I hear otherwise, I will just assume that I have been "blackballed" from RWN simply for being too tough on Hawkins, who simply just couldn't stand the heat from a little ole' commenter like me. And it's something to wear as a "badge of honor."

I have to admit that it is an interesting approach ... though it wouldn't reflect all too well on Hawkins now, would it?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Vitter Scandal Plot Thickens

But only a little bit. This breaking news seems to confirm that Vitter was, indeed, in contact with the DC Madam:

A phone number for Sen. David Vitter, R-La., appears at least five times in the billing records of what federal authorities say was a Washington call-girl operation, the first just four months after he was sworn in to the U.S. House in 1999 and the last on Mardi Gras 2001.

Under pressure earlier this week, Vitter acknowledged committing a "very serious sin" and that his number showed up in the records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who has come to be known as the "D.C. Madam." An attorney for Palfrey has said Vitter's number was found once in the records, but a search of the documents by The Times-Picayune turned up four more calls to a number once registered to Vitter. The attorney said that clients also used phones in hotel rooms, so that not all the numbers can be traced to the callers.
However, the good news for Vitter, if you can call it that, is that, unless allegations of more recent misconduct surface, he is unlikely to face either prosecution for a criminal act of solicitation, given that the statute of limitations has passed for when these incidents seem to have occurred, or even an Ethics Committee investigation because the transgressions occurred during Vitter's stint in the House of Representatives, where he no longer serves.

But the damage done to his reputation may not be insurmountable. That remains to be seen. Eventually, he will have to face the music and his public. Fortunately for Vitter, but unfortunately for the state of Louisiana, Louisianians tend to forgive their corrupt and fallen politicians quite readily and also tend to re-elect them over and over again, too, until they are finally locked up in jail.

David Vitter (R-LA): It Was Gay Marriage Made Me Do It! Honest!

I have to say, this piece by satirical blogger "Jon Swift" is a classic. This paragraph pretty much captures the essence of the satire in a nutshell:

Though it is very magnanimous of Vitter to accept responsibility for his transgressions, is he really to blame? After the Hollywood left redefined marriage, it must have been a very difficult and confusing time for him. The failure of the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment must have taken a severe toll on him as he struggled to figure out what marriage really is if even gays can do it. As he grappled with the issue, is it any surprise that he found solace in the embrace of a disinterested paid companion?
But the entire piece is great satire. Read it all from start to finish.

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: Some RWN regulars are asking Hawkins to come clean on why he banned me from commenting.

Every other week, John Hawkins, owner of the Right Wing News blog, has a thing he calls "Q&A Friday" in which, via a regular blog posting, he asks his readers to pose questions in the comments section on any subject of their choice and out of which he will choose a select handful to respond to. I have to admit that this "Q&A Friday" idea of Hawkins was a stroke of genius. Seriously. His readers give him interesting ideas for content and he gives his readers a chance to compete for a prime mention on his blog. It's a win-win situation and it undoubtedly helps to keep his blog traffic up, especially on Fridays and over the weekend. And, in fact, he even, on occasion, had selected a couple of my questions to answer. But that was some time ago when I was still in his good graces.

His 69th "Q&A Friday" posting is now up. And, as usual, it is generating a nice round of questions.

It's been more than two weeks now since I was banned from commenting at Right Wing News, and some of the folks that I have come to know at RWN over the years are taking the opportunity in this round of "Q&A Friday" questioning to ask Hawkins why he might have banned me.

I don't think Hawkins will answer, nor do I suspect he will rescind the ban, nor will I ever try to get around the ban; but I appreciate the efforts of those who are trying to find out why it happened.

I should say that I also have no illusions. Eventually, after some time, folks will just stop asking him why, and everyone will move on to debating the current issues of the day, or to other things altogether. Heck, I'm sure even I will find myself distracted by other things and moving on with my life. It's all part of the way life goes. But I take some solace in knowing that some people will remember this as a troubling and uncharacteristic bit of behavior by Hawkins, and that this little bit of cowardice (I don't know how else to describe Hawkins' refusal even to respond) will also always be a part of what Hawkins himself will have to live with. Not that it will prick anyone's conscience all that much, because it is pretty insignificant; but it will always be there for those of us who will remember it.

But, Hawkins may surprise and respond yet! So, I keep a bit of hope alive as long as there are those at RWN who keep asking. And today they are asking. I'll keep you informed if anything comes of it.

Also, if any of my liberal blog-mates decide to check out Hawkins' site, and to leave a comment or two, feel free to be critical of the ideas and the content, but please also be respectful. There are some good folks who patronize that blog who deserve such respect and kindness.

UPDATE: There is an interesting debate going on at RWN about my banning. Since I can't respond there, my only recourse is to do it here. But let me preface my comments by saying that I have not been able to post anything at RWN for the past two weeks or so. Anything that happens at RWN is NOT my doing, except insofar as those who can still post there want to make me part of the discussion. Now, that said, let me try to address some of the comments there.

First, to soberannie: Two weeks ago you complained about my referencing commentary at RWN, wondered if it constituted plagiarism, and then said how uncomfortable you were with my doing this. Yet now you seem to be the mouthpiece of The Huck Upchuck at RWN. Please answer me this: How is what you are doing now with the content of MY blog any different than what you were so uncomfortable with my doing some weeks ago? Not that I mind your mentioning my blog content. I appreciate the traffic it will generate. But it does make me wonder about an apparent double-standard you seem to be practicing.

Second, to kingfisher: I thought my "Warrantless Blogtapping Program" category was clever, even if a bit corny! I'm disappointed you don't like it. But, I'm not going over the top with it, no more than Hawkins does with his somewhat regular "DU Thread of the Week" or his "DailyKos" postings. Why, just over the past day or so, Hawkins saw fit to comment on a Cindy Sheehan posting at DailyKos. It's just that, in my case, the subject of my own gauge of the pulse of right wing blogging is Right Wing News. I guess if the DU or DailyKos can be such a regular source of blog content for Hawkins and RWN on the state of the "lefty" blogosphere, why shouldn't RWN be a regular source of blog content for me on the state of the "rightwing" blogosphere? And I don't exclusively post things about RWN. In fact, most of my postings since I've re-invigorated my blog have had to do with other subjects, most prominently and recently the David Vitter scandal. And for you and others, if you want to know why I reference Right Wing News fairly often, it's really primarily not out of anger at being banned. I've made my peace with that. I've even made peace with the likelihood that I will probably never know why I was banned. Truly, the reason I reference RWN is because it is the only way I know how to try to engage all of you in debate since I can no longer do it at RWN. Hawkins didn't just cut me off from his blog, he cut me off from all of you. But, don't worry. I'm sure that, over time, I will either lose interest in tracking RWN, or will simply not have the time to dedicate my blog to tracking RWN and the engaging discussions that you all are having in the comments.

Third, to trenchraider: It's not so much anger that I was banned (though I was stunned and disappointed at first) as being completely at a loss as to why. In your case, you were able to reach some kind of closure by learning why it was you were banned, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to tell us the story of it. In my case, I simply don't know and remain baffled. And it seems that many of you are baffled, too. Even if Hawkins says: I banned him because I think he's a jerk, or simply because I wanted to, that would be something. It would put it to rest. As of now, there's just nothing. And saying nothing is Hawkins' prerogative, too. But nothing just keeps the mind wondering and seeking some kind of explanation.

More Vitter Vitty-O

Join the cause to save Vitter's Manhood!

Vitter Vitty-O

This TPMtv: Vitter Va-Va-Voom! piece is priceless. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One Reason for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Comprehensive Immigration Reform opponents will have to live with the current broken status-quo system which allows for things like this to happen:

Assistant District Attorney Mike Vough said Friday he was forced to drop the case because a key witness, Cesar Ariel Jacquez, had been inadvertently deported, and two other important witnesses had credibility issues.

Police found the murder weapon in Jacquez's apartment, and Jacquez would have testified that Cabrera and Romero gave it to him after the homicide, Vough said.

Prosecutors traveled to the Dominican Republic last month, but could not persuade Jacquez to return to the United States to testify.
The case in question involved charges of homocide levied against two illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic and resulted in the mayor of the Pennsylvania town where the murder took place pushing through an ordinance that would penalize landlords who rent to illegals and businesses that hire them. The ACLU did not defend the two accused, but did challenge the legality of the resulting ordinance as a violation of current law which places the creation and enforcement of immigration law in the hands of federal authorities and not municipal authorities. Read the story for more details.

But what I want to point out about this whole situation is that the deportation of the prosecution's star witness in accordance with the enforcement of current immigration laws made it impossible to prosecute the two men charged with the murder. When you have an immigration law enforcement and criminal justice system working at odds with one another, that must surely be undeniable evidence that some kind of comprehensive immigration reform program, and not just a border security program, must be tackled together. One might argue that a tougher border security system might have kept the accused out of the country and thus possibly prevented the crime from occurring in the first place, but the fact is that we have to contend with the reality in which we live. We cannot ignore it. And to do so means that these two accused not only will get to walk, but will also likely find their way back to the Dominican Republic and likely will never be brought to justice.

The David Vitter (R-LA) Scandal Updated

This David Vitter (R-LA) scandal is getting into some weird territory. Diaper fetishism?!?!? Not sure what to make of all this; but one thing is for sure, it definitely ain't good for David Vitter (R-LA).

As I said in a comment elsewhere, this story sure is getting legs ... nice, curvaceous, and silky legs.

Result: David Vitter (R-LA) is toast and he has no one but himself to blame.

Watch the Republican establishment try to spin this away by laying blame on the Madams for outing David Vitter (R-LA), and by trying to downplay David Vitter's (R-LA) own responsibility for his behavior, all the while they avoid David Vitter (R-LA) like the plague.

Methinks David Vitter (R-LA) may be headed for the stud farm! That is if he hasn't suffered the Lorena Bobbitt/Wendy Vitter "circumcisectomy"!

Oh, and did I forget to point out that David Vitter claims to be a conservative, family-values, Republican Senator from Louisiana? Wouldn't want to forget that bit of info now, would I?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Breaking the Vitter Scandal

Gotta give the props where and when it´s due. New Orleans blogger Oyster, of the Your Right Hand Thief blog, has been on this subject for a long time now. Oyster has a great and thorough and witty round-up of his own breaking investigative work on this subject as well as of other related breaking news and commentary on the scandal that is currently making the web rounds. Check it out and give Oyster the love he deserves for being a truth-exposing pioneer of Vitter´s "sins" and the hypocrisy attendent to it thereof!

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: When Conservative Republicans get caught with their pants down with a prostitute, somehow it's always partly the Ho-Mama's fault, too.

Ya gotta love it. John Hawkins of the Right Wing News blog has a post up about the DC Madam and U.S. Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) having been caught in the crotch-hairs -- umm, I mean cross-hairs -- of her professional "escort" service. Now David Vitter is somewhat of an aside in his posting, but this is precisely part of the problem I have with this posting by Hawkins. Hawkins doesn't defend Vitter; but his whole posting is designed to focus the attention on the DC Madam and criticize her efforts to try to save her own skin by releasing the phone numbers of her clients. Here's how Hawkins ended his posting in this PS:

PS: If Palfrey's mother is alive, I bet she's really proud of what her daughter turned into: a professional pimp/whore who's dragging thousands of people's lives through the sewer before she goes to jail for what will hopefully be an extremely long sentence in a very unpleasant prison.
So it boils down to one bad person: the DC Madam.

Forget the fact that those "thousands of people" whose lives are being dragged through the sewer actually CHOSE to make use of her services. Don't you think that, at some point, it is all fair play that those who engage the services of an illicit prostitution/escort service have to pay the consequences for the choices that they made? Whatever happened with that good conservative value of pointing the finger of blame at the very people who made the DC Madam's business thrive? Without them, there is no DC Madam. Yet, to listen to Hawkins, it's as if the DC Madam's publishing of her clients' phone numbers is committing a transgression much worse than those who made use of her service, some of whom, like David Vitter (R-LA), made a mockery of his marriage and his family in the process.

Politically, David Vitter will surely pay some kind of price for his behavior. Personally, if this juicy little tidbit from his wife is true, I wonder if he's already paid another very heavy price for his "sin":
Asked by an interviewer in 2000 whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he'd had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

But I digress ... Back to point: the Hawkins strategy of pointing the harsh finger at the DC Madam, and saving his empathetic comments for the adulterous john, is just not very conservative, is it?

Now, some of the RWN commentariat are trying to rationalize this and spin this away. I guess I can understand the need to do this to try and save face. But let's just take it as the spin that it is. One commenter, my respected rival StanW, writes:
This is guilt by association. It is also guilty until proven innocent. We do not know if this person actually participated in the service, did an inquiry, or was just "in the list".

What this is, is a classic liberal tactic. Smear a person by accusation and supposition. *IF* he is guilty of a crime, rub him with pork chops and throw him to the wolves. But until that is proven, neither he nor anyone deserves to have their name dragged through the mud by a whore!

Posted by StanW
July 10, 2007 11:02 AM
Another commenter, RWNReader2, a fellow New Orleanean with whom I have sparred often, writes the following:
Whatever you think about Vitter's personal failings, the morality of his actions, etc., there are a few facts to consider:

(1) The list is an "old" list, and represents info from the past. There is a real difference someone faces when caught "in the act" so to speak, vs facing something from their past that they have already made peace with.

(2) Vitter is out in front of this, saying the right thing - he's not making excuses.

(3) There will be a senate race in Louisiana next year, and it will not be Vitter who's up for re-election. Thanks to Katrina, Landrieu is extremely vulnerable - in fact she's politically dead - and La. republicans (and N. La. dems for that matter) that might be tempted to run against Vitter will first be tempted to run against Landrieu.

(4) Louisiana's most popular Republican, Bobby Jindal, will be Govenor of the state at the time, and will not likely run against him.

In other words, don't count Vitter out.

Posted by RWNReader2
July 10, 2007 11:18 AM
So, the spin goes like this: Vitter himself admittedly "sinned," trashed his marital vows in the process, and embarrassed his family. But it's old news (as if it were a youthful transgression of his college years!), so that makes it not-so-bad. And at least he admits this and accepts responsibility for it. That's got to count for something, right? He hooks up with a prostitute and trashes his marriage, but it's somehow better because he admits this? If he really wanted to come clean and admit this as an act of contrition, why did he wait until the incontrovertible evidence became public to do so? Really, all this now tells me is that he only "admitted" his "sins" when the unassailable evidence of his complicity and "sinfulness" became public. In other words, he is reacting to bad news. He is certainly not "out in front of it." Yeah, he is owning up to being an adulterous whore-mongerer. And there's supposed to be something admirable in that? What's the good conservative explanation for that one, I ask?

And, I would say to those like StanW who want to believe Vitter is innocent until proven guilty: What do we make of the fact that Vitter is not only not denying the accuracy of these charges, but is actually admitting that there's some substance to them that is not at all favorable to his position? That's a head-in-the-sand argument. It just doesn't fly.

In the end, Vitter has lost whetever claims he may have had to any kind of moral authority on the sanctity of the institution of marriage, the dignity of proper sexual relationships, and a respect for family. And for Hawkins to cast more aspersions at the DC Madam than he does towards Vitter and his like is not only misplaced, it is very out of character for someone who claims to be part of the party of moral superiority and individual responsibility.

Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, Hooker Hustler

Wow! Another Republican moral crusader, Sen. David Vitter, is caught with his pants down. And you're damn right I'm going to mention at every opportunity that he's a conservative Republican. And isn't it also interesting that when the "sin" occurred, David Vitter represented the same Louisiana Congressional District as his immediate predecessor, Bob Livingston, another moral crusader Republican who also got caught with his pants down. What is it with these folks? They get on their high horses about family values, the sanctity of marriage, and the moral decay of a secular, liberal America -- and yet they hypocritically plumb the depths of depravity themselves. And then they have the gall to chalk it up to their very "human" sinfulness and expect some empathy and forgiveness. I'm sorry, but I find it hard to be so empathetic and forgiving of their human frailties on such matters when I know that people like Vitter would be the first to pound anyone else with the moral hammer for having an adulterous affair with an upscale prostitute.

I know that I'm not perfect and that I have my own "sins" to contend with; but I can assure you that adultery and romping with prostitutes are not part of them.

I am a liberal Democrat male happily married for 14 years now to a liberal Democrat female. We have two lovely children. All in all, I'd say we are a very happy and well-adjusted family. My wife and I are both Christians who took our vow of marriage seriously 14 years ago and plan to keep it that way. Suffice it to say that our marriage has not suffered the indignity of adultery. And, personally, my own set of values would never lead me to play footsies with prostitutes. If I can avoid adultery and live my marriage vows faithfully, certainly I can expect David Vitter to do it.

And yet it is I, the liberal Democrat, who supposedly belongs to the party and the ideology of moral relativism and depravity. It is I, the liberal Democrat, who belongs to the party and ideology that supposedly doesn't embrace traditional values concerning marriage and family. Sheesh! Gimme a friggin' break already!

All I can say to the "Honorable" Senator is: Cry me a river, David Vitter, R-LA. But don't ever, ever speak to me about the sanctity of such things as marriage and family. And don't ever pretend to hold the moral highground over anybody. From my perspective, you've lost the right to do so.

If you really want to get a sick feeling in your stomach, watch Vitter describe the sanctity of marriage and defend the FMA. For considering marriage the single most important social institution in human history (and that's how Vitter describes marriage in his speech), he sure has a strange way of (1) showing respect for this all-important institution and (2) being a positive role model regarding it.

UPDATE: Apparently, there was some prior reporting and evidence of Vitter's adulterous indiscretion with a prostitute, which managed somehow to fly under the radar screen at the time. Well, not any longer. [Hat tip to Schroeder at People Get Ready for pointing to this October 2004 Salon.com story.]

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: A Conservative Summation of the 2008 Presidential Primary Races

John Hawkins, owner of the Right Wing News blog, is back from his brief vacation and has his own round-up of the 2008 Presidential Primary races for both parties.

In general, it is a fairly good summary, I think, of the conservative take on the races. But, I also think it has the expected conservative "oversights" and "blindness."

For instance, Hawkins tends to present a more hopeful and wistful analysis of a potential Fred Thompson candidacy, and the man hasn't even entered the race yet. Also, he discusses Newt Gingrich who is almost definitely not likely to run. And yet, there is no mention at all of Ron Paul, who has some surprising resiliency both in fund raising and in maintaining a stable polling position among the 2nd tier GOP hopefuls. Now, granted, Hawkins didn't mention any of the second tier candidates, including Duncan Hunter, for whom he consults; but Ron Paul is not your typical 2nd tier candidate. He's a spoiler of sorts, and would merit consideration, I think, for the same reasons that Newt Gingrich would merit consideration.

I don't think Ron Paul has a shot at winning the GOP nomination; but I do think that his libertarian leaning supporters are likely not to vote for any of the GOP frontrunners in the general election for two reasons: (1) Because all of the front-runners are establishment GOP politicians, which Paul supporters tend to disdain; and (2) more importantly, because the GOP establishment and the front-runners themselves have treated Paul so shabbily and dismissively already in the primary such that Paul's supporters, who tend to be almost fanatic in their devotion to the man, may take his mistreatment more personally and give the other candidates the middle finger in a general election.

That's one glaring oversight in the Hawkins analysis. Another problem is that Hawkins doesn't afford the GOP race the same kinds of pessimistic considerations as he does the Democratic race. To me, at least, the most obvious example of this is his explanation of how primary race campaigning may translate into general race campaigning. For instance, Hawkins says about the Democrats:

If Edwards drops out, you have to figure that most of his support would move over to Obama, since in many ways, they're such similar candidates. It's also worth noting that although Hillary has a strong lead at the moment, it's not an insurmountable lead, and while she is very well known to the general public, Obama is not. What that means is that Obama has more room to grow. Combine that with his fund raising numbers and I suspect that this will turn out to be much more of a horse race on the democratic side than people are anticipating. That's bad news for Democrats because it likely means a race to the left in the primary that will be difficult -- in the YouTube & blog era -- to simply reverse once the general election comes around.
That's a fair assessment as far as it goes. But what I would take issue with is how he thinks a "race to the left" in the primaries might be difficult to reverse in the general election. My reaction to this notion is simply that a "race to the left" in the primaries doesn't require much of a reversal in the general election. And even if it did, it won't be that hard to do because that's kinda what always happens. Of course, in spite of Hillary Clinton's sometimes positioning as a moderate, all three Democratic front-runners are already considered to be more left-leaning to begin with. So, I don't see how the primary race could go much more to the left than it already has. If there is any primary race that has been more stuck in the center and likely to shift in the direction of the extreme, it is the GOP race.

Furthermore, the Hawkins assessment doesn't take into consideration that moderates and independents are leaning towards the Democrats because of a strong disaffection with the GOP these days. So a "race to the left" in the Democratic primaries will be much less of a determining factor in the general election than Hawkins wants so desperately to believe.

Now, outside of the aforementioned, another important omission in the Hawkins take on things is that Hawkins doesn't seem to think the same analysis applies to the GOP. He doesn't talk about the GOP's inevitable need to "race to the right" during primary season and the "reversibility" of this for the general election. In fact, he probably thinks a "race to the right" isn't such a bad thing at all. But it has the same, if not more, risks as a "race to the left" would for the Democrats. In fact, when you think about it, it seems even more relevant for the GOP than it does for the Democrats. For instance, if Thompson enters the race as the "conservative" candidate, watch how much the top three GOP front-runners (the Rudy McRomney cabal) shed their RINO credentials even more than they already have tried to do and tilt even harder to the right. Also, the fact that the GOP base feels so unloved by the GOP establishment following the Immigration bill fiasco, the need for a "race to the right" to recapture and reanimate this base is all the more relevant. Finally, I don't see how such an inevitable "race to the right" will be any less difficult to reverse in the general election than a "race to the left" would be for Democrats. In fact, I think it will be objectively harder for a GOP candidate who tilts right in the primaries to reverse course in the general election to recapture the imaginations and votes of a moderate center that is already fed up with what is perceived as an intransigent, secretive, and abusive rightwing establishment in the White House.

So, that's my evaluation of the Hawkins assessment. Again, I can't say Hawkins isn't generally giving what might be considered a fair take on the race from a conservative perspective; but I do think it suffers from the natural inclination of a conservative to put some kind of sugarcoating or positive spin on things for conservatives that just might be more wishful thinking at this point than a real, objective analysis.

PS: Still no word from Hawkins on why he banned me from commenting on his site.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back from Mexico City

And exhausted. But it was a great trip. More tomorrow, now for some desperately needed Z's." (Photo of the Mexican Flag from atop Chapultepec Castle with downtown Mexico City in the background.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

On to Mexico City

In a few short hours, and for the next three days (until Sunday evening), I'm taking a group on a long week-end excursion to Mexico City (photo below of the Palacio Nacional in the Zocalo),

where we'll be visiting places like the Palacio de Bellas Artes (photo below),

the Piramides de Teotihuacan (photo below),

and the Basilica de la Virgin de Guadalupe (photo below),

among many other sites, including Chapultepece Park, which is where Los Pinos, the Mexican "White House," can be found. So, if you want me to bring a message to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, just leave it in the comments section and I'll see what I can do about a personal delivery! ;-)

In any event, it's always a fun trip. Busy, but fun. My group will be staying in the Hotel Maria Cristina, which is right off the main avenue, Reforma, in the heart of downtown Mexico City. I highly recommend the Maria Cristina for its location, its comforts, and its prices. It's not your typical high-rise tourist hotel, but it's very cozy and has a very local feel. Moreover, it has a great courtyard and bar, which serves, I think, the best Margarita in Mexico City. However, the Maria Cristina doesn't have wireless internet access (or at least it didn't used to the last time I was there) and, even if it did, our schedule is so busy that I probably wouldn't have much time in front of the computer anyway. So, the short of it is that, though I may have a few spare minutes to check on the comments, you probably won't be seeing any new posts from me until I return from Mexico City this coming Sunday.

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, USA!

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

**3D Animated Flags--By 3DFlags.com**

Right Wing News Banning Update

I am just returned from an evening out with some friends and colleagues and only just became aware that a bit of a debate has been taking place in the comments to this guest posting at Right Wing News. It's a pretty long comment thread, and the relevant discussion takes place later in the thread, so you'll have to scroll down pretty far along to see this exchange.

I appreciate all the folks who are coming to my defense; but, since I am not able to speak for myself there, I just wanted to address a couple of the points that a few of the commenters there have made suggesting possible reasons for my banning.

First, the question has been raised about my possibly being banned for "stealing" content. I have done no such thing, either before the banning or afterwards. On the one hand, my blog had been pretty much defunct until the banning. So, I know that plagiarizing content can't be the reason for my being banned. Also, I take issue with those who think my recent referencing of the commentary and postings at RWN is plagiarizing content. For people to suggest this means that they have no idea what either plagiarism means or what the critical intellectual process entails. But, aside from that, it is the only way that I can think of to still be engaged in the discussions taking place at RWN. And there's no harm in referencing this discussion by reposting bits of Hawkins' postings and bits of the commentary on the comment threads. In fact, it would be improper for me to discuss RWN and discussions taking place on comment threads there without referencing this material. And Hawkins himself generally doesn't seem to mind when Rush Limbaugh or some other media outlet or pundit references the content of his blog. If I were to post things verbatim from Hawkins' website and then pass it off as my own, that would constitute plagiarism. What I am doing doesn't even come close. Everyone's ideas or comments that I reference are properly attributed to the person who said it. The ownership of this intellectual property still belongs with the originator of it.

Second, people re-post both blog entries, news articles, and commentary quite regularly on their blogs. There is nothing "creepy" about it, which is what one of the RWN regulars had to say about it.

For one, there is this common practice in the blogosphere called "fisking" in which entire postings or commentary made by one blogger or columnist reappears in other blogs, almost always without the permission of the original author to reprint it, in which the blogger takes apart and criticizes, sometimes sentence by sentence, the "intellectual property" of others. As long as proper reference and citation is made to the author of the original materials, and the source through which this material is published, this is perfectly proper. And this applies not only to blog commentary, but also even to academic research and publication. How would students be able to write their research papers if they had to contact the author of every source text for permission to reference their work in their papers? In fact, there are entire blogs that are dedicated specifically to tracking the goings on of other blogs. The one that leaps to mind at the moment is the old (and now seemingly defunct) Sully Watch, which tracked Andrew Sullivan. And there's the eloborate Moore Watch which tracks Michael Moore. Again, there is nothing improper or "creepy" about this.

For two, the practice of rehashing the comments made by others in comment threads on other blogs for the purpose of illustrating a point is quite common, too. Hawkins himself does this with regularity when he cribs selected comments from posters at the DU or DailyKos in order to mock them or to make a particular point about them. And many other bloggers make such use of the public commentary of others for similar reasons. Again, as long as proper attribution is given to the source of these comments, there is nothing improper about it. In fact, one of RWN's regulars, Christopher_Taylor, has a fantastic blog, Word Around the Net (which everyone should check out, by the way), whose main premise is to see what commenters are saying around the net in various different discussion threads about the topic being discussed.

I encourage any and all to read everything I write on the subject of my banning from RWN, to weigh it, and to make up their own minds about it. I don't have the right to be a commenter at RWN. Let me make that clear again. Who gets to comment on RWN is purely Hawkins' prerogative to decide and I unequivocally respect his right to do as he sees fit for whatever reason he chooses, or even for no reason at all. It's his baby. But, by the same token, no one will take away my right to react on my own blog to anything and everything that is publicly available for my review. If you have a problem with the things I write about or how I write about them, you are welcome to come to my blog and leave as many comments as you want as long as you follow the two simple rules that I have outlined here: (1) No vulgar or obscene language; and (2) No threats of any kind to anybody for any reason.

One final comment: Apparently, someone recalls that it is Hawkins' policy not to respond to queries about why one gets banned. Well, I have to say that I missed the thread where this was determined; but if it is true, then Hawkins needs to update his FAQ page, which states the following about comments:

Are There Any Rules About Posting Comments?: Yes, please don't flame excessively, use an exceptional amount of vulgar language, call anyone a "towelhead," "raghead," or "wetback," continually post off topic material, spam, use racial or gay slurs, libel anyone, troll, make threats, or challenge anyone to fight.

In short, don't be a jerk.

If that won't work for you, I'll delete your posts and ban your IP. If you are banned and genuinely don't know why, email me. If you know you were doing something mentioned above and you are banned, please don't try to get around the ban. Do everybody involved a favor and find somewhere else to post where they appreciate what you have to say.
When I discovered I was banned, this is where I went to see what to do. And unless I am misreading something, and because I truly have no idea why I was banned, I emailed Hawkins asking why, just like he instructs one to do. If he really doesn't answer such questions, that's fine. That's his right. But I would suggest that he shouldn't mislead people by inviting them to email him with such queries.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Bush and the Rule of Law

Andrew Sullivan sees the Libby sentence commutation as just the latest in a long string of Bush Administration disdain for and abuse of the Rule of Law. Sullivan writes:

We now have a clear and simple illustration of the arrogance of this president. Tell the American people the core narrative of this monarchical presidency: this president believes he is above the law in wiretapping citizens with no court oversight; he has innovated an explosive use of signing statements to declare himself above the law on a bewildering array of other matters, large and small; he has unilaterally declared himself above American law, international law, and U.N. Treaty obligations in secretly authorizing torture; he has claimed the right to seize anyone in the United States, detain them indefinitely without trial and torture them; his vice-president refuses to abide by the law that mandates securing classified documents; and when a court of law finds a friend of the president's guilty, he commutes the sentence.
People with any shred of conscience know the game. And it ain't likely to play too well in Peoria. In fact, as Sullivan also points out, it already isn't.