Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jindal High Jinks

You know, I have been pretty blasé about the Governor's race and not even all that exorcised about a Bobby Jindal victory. I can't say that I have been even remotely persuaded that Jindal would be a governor representative of what I think are in the best interests of the State of Louisiana; but I at least wasn't animated to go out there and raise a ruckus about him. I haven't even thought to be a critical voice on my blog ... until now.

The reason for this lies in the behavior of some of his apparent campaign staffers to squelch even the basic right of Louisiana citizens to hear and see and document Jindal's comments and public events where Jindal speaks on matters of importance to all citizens, not just to conservative Republican citizens.

You want to read a bit what I'm talking about here, try this story on for size. It is incredible that non-confrontational individuals, citizens of the State of Louisiana, peacefully attending a public event featuring someone who wants to be this citizen's governor, and without any inappropriate clothing or signs that would distract or disrupt the event in any way, would be thrown out of the event. And it is simply intolerable that Jindal would support this behavior.

Here's another story, with video footage, of a similar kind of behavior.

It just shouldn't be this way in a free society. Period.

And Jindal's now enlisted another person actively in the column against him now.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Jena Six

Well, I've been pretty quiet on the blog, not because of a lack of interest in keeping it up, but simply because of a lack of time to dedicate to it. I'll keep posting as time and energy permits.

I thought that the whole situation in my State's town of Jena deserved some commentary from me. What do I think?

Well, from my perspective, it is hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that there is an inequity in the administration of justice that tracks along racial lines. Critics of the movement in support of the Jena Six try to make this an issue of a simple and clear-cut case of assault and that justice should be meted out to the six black students accused of assault in accordance with the law. They argue as if the racial tension and the context of racial discord surrounding this event should have no bearing on the prosecution of this case. They even go so far as to divorce the whole noose-hanging episode from the assault that is the basis for the prosecution of the Jena Six, saying that one is not even connected to the other.

However, even if you do divorce the two episodes and keep them as separate cases, it is hard not to notice that the noose-hanging behavior resulted in a kind of leniency within the criminal justice system that is at odds with the significance of the act. We all know that hanging nooses on trees in the rural south amounts to a clear death threat targeting a particular group of people only and exclusively because of skin color. The fact that it is a death threat should be enough to warrant detention and prosecution. If a person calls in a bomb threat to school or writes an anonymous note threatening to kill a teacher or a fellow student, the consequences for being caught in such an act are severe. What is a noose hanging if nothing more than a death threat? The fact that it is racially tinged is also significant because it stokes the flames of historical black/white antagonisms that can lead to the violent encounters like the ones that the Jena 6 are entangled in. I hear critics of the Jena 6 arguing that the noose-hanging incident is irrelevant to their behavior, but we all know that it is not. I also never hear critics take up the noose hanging episode as a matter of justice and independently critique how that incident was handled by authorities. If the six black boys hadn't assaulted the one white boy, not one critic of the Jena Six would be addressing the noose hanging episode and calling for the harsh administration of justice for white kids who did this. I am convinced it would be a death threat of the most vile kind gone ignored. As I see it, this simple disassociation by critics of events that are clearly interrelated in the whole dynamic of life in Jena these days is, in my view, more evidence of the inequity in how justice is both discussed and administered in this country with regard to racially-charged issues.

I don't defend the violence of the Jena 6. In fact, I abhor it as I do all kinds of violence. There should be punishment meted out to these kids, just like there should be punishment meted out to any person who assault another, whether it be the result of a barroom brawl or a playground fistfight. But the fact is that we do not treat all assaults the same in this country, and the Jena Six case just highlights that often times the different ways assaults are treated are conditioned by race, with the harsher consequences being reserved more often for the darker-skinned.

As an example, it is a damn travesty that the local prosecutor did not bring charges against the white kids who issued death threats in their noose hanging antics against black people by citing that there was no law upon which to base such a prosecution. First off, if he saw the noose hangings as a clear death threat, he'd most certainly have a case. And it tells us something that he didn't see the noose-hangings as the equivalent of a concrete death threat. And second, if his argument is technically correct in that the law has to specify exactly what constitutes a death threat punishable by arrest and prosecution and that noose hanging is not mentioned a specific death threat warranting such a response, then the travesty is that this isn't codified in law. Either way, it shows an inequity in the system of criminal justice that tilts against people strictly and exclusively on the basis of race.

That is what I, and I think most people, see in the Jena Six situation. It is not a question of letting kids who do something wrong skirt and escape responsiblity; but rather it is making sure that skin color doesn't matter at all in how we hold kids accountable and responsible for their bad behaviors.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is Greenspan a Liberal Now?

Alan Greenspan has confirmed what is obvious to everyone except Bill Clinton-hating conservatives: Bill Clinton exercised a fiscal and economic policy that was responsible, prudent, and effective.

I wonder if conservatives suffering from Clinton Derangement Syndrome will start calling Greenspan a liberal now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

Well, now that the Fall Semester has started, I have once again foisted blogging onto my students. They are required to put up postings on the blogsite Cuaderno Latinoamericano. Check it out and leave some comments there for them. It always amazes me that these students, who can text message on their phones like it's second nature and who have very elaborate MySpace and/or Facebook pages, have very little experience with or exposure to blogging. This is my little effort to get them to build up some interest in the medium and to learn a little about the region we are studying in our class. I hope you visit the Cuaderno Latinoamericano and encourage these students in their foray into the blogging world. Hasta pronto!

Monday, September 10, 2007

An impolitic left

The leftist political action committee, has a controversial new advertisement attacking Gen. David H. Petraeus by calling him General "Betray Us."

First things first: I am an anti-war advocate, and I'm not a Petraeus fan. Let's be clear about that.

Second, if you criticize Petraeus for not providing a balanced and unbiased accounting of the war, fine. If you call him a misguided dupe of the GOP political establishment, OK. If you claim that he is a GOP mouthpiece driven by partisanship and not by objective analysis of the war's progress, I'm with you.

But ...

If you call Petraeus a traitor, you're on your own.

It's ad-hominem character assassination at its worst, and liberals shouldn't accept or tolerate it. Period.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Where's Huck?

I'm currently here through the weekend for this reason. Always a fun time! I'll report back to the blog when I return.

Update: I gave the wrong link above for where I am. I am actually in Montreal, not Quebec City. I've updated the link accordingly.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Reflections on the Larry Craig Incident

I have to say that I find myself feeling sorry for Sen. Larry Craig. I must admit that I even feel badly about how he has been railroaded at one level.

For instance, I think it is absurd that what he did was cause enough not only for his being arrested, but also for his feeling the need to cop a guilty plea for a crime. What he did might have been seedy and unseemly, but I think it should never have been a cause for being arrested.

Where I do think Larry Craig bears some blame is not in what appears to be his Clinton-esque denial of being gay and engaging in a seedy gay pick-up routine in a public bathroom, but rather in that his public anti-gay rhetoric has reinforced a social stigmatization of gay lifestyles and encounters that has made it possible to criminalize behavior that should have never been criminalized to begin with.

A man or woman would never be arrested for non-verbal public flirtations intended to test the waters of a possible sexual encounter with a member of the opposite sex. Furthermore, I don't think it likely that even if a man or woman were arrested under similar circumstances for such a non-verbal heterosexual flirtation or proposition, this man or woman would be so publicly ashamed that he or she would plead guilty to a crime just to try to make the whole embarrassing situation go away.

This is what I think: Larry Craig has very profound internal conflicts about his sexual identity such that he believes he has to live a schizophrenic lifestyle and to do so in a state of denial about it. But Larry Craig did not commit a crime in that airport bathroom. He should never have been arrested in the first place. He should never have felt the need to plead guilty to any charge of criminal wrongdoing for what transpired. And he should certainly not have been run out of office for this.

It's a shame and a travesty that what he did actually might have been an arrestable offense in America. It shouldn't be. It's a shame that he felt so badly about having been exposed as engaging in gay flirtations that he pled guilty to a crime. He shouldn't feel so guilty and badly about his sexual preferences and how he conveyed his desire for sexual intimacy to another grown adult in such an inoccuous way. It's a shame that instead of a polite "not interested" from the object of his flirtations, which would have probably ended the encounter, he got a trip to the police precinct and a criminal booking.

Yet, it is also part of the tragic story of Larry Craig that his publicly condemnatory attitude towards gay sexual orientation and his support of an anti-gay social policy agenda made such things possible. It is tragic that Larry Craig played a part in making up the bed that he ended up having to sleep in himself, a bed that shouldn't have ever been made up to begin with.

It is hard for me to go to bat completely for Larry Craig precisely because of his vocal opposition to and vilification of the gay lifestyle in terms of his legislative and social policy agenda; but had he been more understanding of the marginalization of gays or even just simply silent about the topic out of respect for the human dignity of gays, I can say unhesitatingly that I would be defending him without reservation.

Even still, I don't think he deserves the treatment he is receiving. It's excessive and unwarranted. His career and his reputation are ruined simply because he engaged in gay flirtation, something that should have never been deemed criminal in the first place.

My Early (Very Early!) Lenten Sacrifice

Apparently, I am just not a decent person and go too far when it comes to leaving comments on conservative blogs. So, I'm giving them up, starting now. It's not really worth the unintended grief and hurt feelings I apparently cause and the resulting anxiety I feel because of that.