Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Break and New Year's Greeting

As you've probably noticed, blogging at The Huck Upchuck has been light. I decided to take a holiday break from it. I'll get back to it in earnest in the new year. For now, though, I'm posting just to wish all a Happy New Year! May 2009 be a wonderful, productive, and happy year for you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two Deaths in NOLA

Last week, a good friend of the family, and a long-standing member of my wife's church, Frank "Eddie" Durham passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was a great guy. He taught physics at Tulane for more than 35 years and was an accomplished scholar as well as a novelist and poet. He was a man of science and faith. His novel Cain's Burden was recently published and I had the opportunity to see Frank just last month give a reading from his book at Octavia Books. Yesterday was his memorial service at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. It was a packed audience. We'll miss you Eddie. Rest in peace.

The second death is someone whom I don't even know. I read his obituary in the paper this morning. His name was Harry Anthony Smith. What captured my attention about him was that he was apparently an avid NOLA blogger. I try to keep up with the NOLA blogosphere, but I can't say that I recognized this young man by his obituary description. If any other NOLA bloggers out there knew Mr. Smith, please fill in some more details in the comments. I would like to read some of his stuff, if I haven't already. But what also captured my attention was the fact that Mr. Smith was only 36 years old, and was apparently murdered in what seems like a senseless late night robbery. His murder was reported in the Times-Picayune on Saturday, but I missed it because I didn't have the chance to read Saturday's paper. News of Mr. Smith's tragic death is just another sad commentary on the crime problem in New Orleans. We are all diminished by this death and all the other senseless violence that continues to plague our city. Stop the killing!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy." George Bush.

Now, let's unpack this ten word sentence, because it sure says a lot. To start, let's take the fact that Bush is an unpopular guy. So, one interpretation of Bush's comment is that he did compromise his soul to be an unpopular guy. But let's give Bush the benefit of the doubt on this. Let's assume that he meant that he stuck to his principles, even at the expense of his popularity. What this means is perhaps even worse. When you look at why Bush is unpopular, we can get a glimpse as to that "soul" of Bush that didn't get compromised. Bush is unpopular principally because of the Iraq war. He is unpopular because of his regime's advocacy and practice of torture, not to mention his personal role in carrying out war crimes. He is unpopular because he scoffs and makes jokes about not finding WMDs in Iraq while American soldiers are sacrificing their lives over there supposedly protecting us against a regime with WMDs. He is unpopular because he patronizes the American people and he dismisses any kind of criticism of his regime with a cocky "So what?" in-your-face pseudo macho bravura. So, all of these things that made Bush unpopular are things that are supposedly consonant with his "uncompromised" soul. That's one sick, deluded soul, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Anh "Joseph" Cao: The Resume of a Democrat, Part II

The conservative-leaning Washington Times has a live-chat interview with Cao posted on its website. It's well worth a read. Two of my favorite Q&A exchanges:

Hello, Congressman-elect. I read somewhere that you were interested in joining the Congressional Black Caucus. Is that true? Also, do you think Congress should be more reflective of the diverse nation? Do you think having a more diverse Congress can or will change the course of legislation? Thanks. by Christina Bellantoni
Answer: Yes, it is true. As you know, the majority of my constituents is African-American and I belief that belonging to the African-American Caucus will assist me in working with the African-American Community. And yes, I do think that Congress should be more reflective of the diverse nation, and be more inclusive, and less hostile, to immigrants. I hope that a more diverse Congress will help to encourage and create better "fairness" in legislation. by Anh_Joseph_Cao
Your future colleagues in the House Republican Conference have said you are their future. Was your House race decided on local issues, or is there a broader national message Republicans should learn from it? by Stephen Dinan
Answer: The House race was decided on local issues; however, I do hope that the Republican Party should be more progressive on their stance on certain issues, and be more inclusive of minority groups. by Anh_Joseph_Cao
As I've said all along, I think the Republican Party is in for a shock. Cao's no fundagelical. And those hard right-wing conservatives who are looking at Cao as the best things since sliced bread for the GOP and the face of the party's future are all suffering from Mad Cao Disease. I remain enthusiastic about Cao's election. I do think Cao will seriously consider a switch to the Democratic Party before the next election. But if the GOP does take up Cao as the future of the Party, then I have to say that this would be a welcome change. If so, the future of the GOP is its liberal wing, and that's not a bad GOP to have. However, there was one Q&A that could be worrisome on one level.
I've read that you work as an immigration lawyer. Could you describe the specific ways in which you agree and disagree with the immigration bill that was filibustered in the Senate in 2007? Would you change the bill in any way if you were drafting a bill for the 2009 Congress? by Northern Virginia
Answer: I am sorry, but I am not familiar with the immigration bill filibustered in the Senate. by Anh_Joseph_Cao
Now, if Cao really is unfamiliar with this bill, that is a sign that he really is out of touch and supremely naive. But, the man is an immigration lawyer. There's no way he can be a good immigration lawyer and not be familiar with the immigration bill filibustered in the Senate. Personally, after having listened to him speak precisely on some of the nuances of the immigration issues reflected in this recent legislation, I believe Cao is being purposefully cagey here. I think he very much supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that was filibustered, and I think he would go even further towards a more liberalized immigration policy that emphasized a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country and would reject a militarization of the border advocated by the hard-core, rightwing, anti-illegal immigrant movement. Cao is playing the GOP, though I don't think he's necessarily trying to be deceptive about it. I'm convinced that he's certainly not so naive as some people think.

Bing and Bowie Sing a Christmas Carol

Hooooo-boy! Here's another doozie for the NOLA Blogosphere's Christmas video wars:



H/T to Andrew Sullivan on pointing out this gem. Andrew's running his own "best of the worst" Christmas videos this year. Here's the one he started with. I claim it for my own in our own little local Christmas video war:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shy Cao?

Michelle Krupa wrote a nice piece in the Times-Picayune this past Sunday about Anh "Joseph" Cao's upset victory and how he now plans to appeal across ideological divides in representing heavily Democratic LA Congressional District 2 in Washington, DC. Towards the end of the piece, there's this little gem:

For his part, Cao said he will need "support from everyone" as he heads to Capitol Hill, and even made an open call for resumes from people interested in working for him.
My first thought was, hey, maybe I ought to send him my resume! After all, I am a Democratic blogger who endorsed him publicly. And maybe he could use my expertise and knowledge as an academic who's engaged with the local Latino community! But, of course, I know better. It was sincere and sweet of Mr. Cao to make that gesture, but surely he must know that the GOP will politely, but firmly, crush any kind of bi-partisan collaboration in the consultant/staffing department. Unless Cao really does have the spine to stand up to the GOP, he has to realize that the local New Orleans GOP establishment, having lived in the consulting/staffing wilderness, will not think too kindly if Cao gives a coveted employment plum to a -- gasp! -- Democrat! ... But I was really intrigued by the last two paragraphs of Krupa's piece:
And he asked for tolerance from constituents for what he described as a bashful streak that may paint him at times as ill-suited for the office he secured Saturday.

"I'm an extremely hard worker," Cao said. "But I'm somewhat shy, so if I meet people in the streets and I don't happen to shake their hands, it's not because I'm arrogant or stuck up, but sometimes it's because of my shyness."
It's not necessarily a good thing to admit to shyness in the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics; but I have to say that I find the humbleness and intense sincerity behind this admission of vulnerability to be refreshing. I've shaken Mr. Cao's hand a number of times, and I think he's being a bit modest here about the extent of his shyness; but he's a real human being who is not a flesh-presser and showcase photo-op fake. And I like that about him.

Anh "Joseph" Cao: The Resume of a Democrat

A few short days ago, Freeper conservatives were discussing Cao's surprising electoral victory. In one discussion thread, a Freeper posted this comment:

To: Ghost of Philip Marlowe

Cao soounds like a conservativ and Christian - he worked with the poor - and I believe that gave him credibility with the blacks also:

“Anh “Joseph” Quang Cao, 41, was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, the fifth of eight children. . . At the age of eight, Joseph and two of his seven siblings arrived in the United States . . .in 1990 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

After graduation, Joseph entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), finally arriving in Louisiana for the first time to begin his religious training at Grand Coteau. During his first two years in the Society, Joseph was sent by his religious superiors to various parts of the world to minister to the poor and indigent. Joseph was then sent to New Orleans in 1992 to study theology and philosophy, furthering his training for the priesthood.

He subsequently was accepted to Fordham University in New York, where he earned his Master of Arts degree in philosophy in May 1995. He returned to New Orleans to teach philosophy and ethics at Loyola University. The following year, Joseph left the Society of Jesus and taught at a local parochial school in Virginia.

While in Virginia, Joseph volunteered at Boat People S.O.S., Inc. (BPSOS) to assist poor Vietnamese in their quest for social justice and enculturation and to lobby the U.S. Congress on issues concerning civil and religious rights. He eventually became a board member of BPSOS and served in that capacity from September 1996 to March of 2002. . .

He left Waltzer & Associates to become in-house counsel for BPSOS, opening a New Orleans office seeking social and legal equity for the many refugees in the city. During his time as BPSOS in-house counsel, Joseph initiated programs to help victims of torture and to provide social and cultural developments for poor minorities.

39 posted on Sunday, December 07, 2008 5:11:11 PM by Anita1 ("The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke)
To which, conservative Freeper "Ghost of Philip Marlowe" responded:
To: Anita1

Thanks for the information. But his resume reads like that of a Democrat, IMHO.

42 posted on Monday, December 08, 2008 7:13:37 AM by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Abortion has become little more than the New Left's execution of political prisoners.)
Indeed it does! Indeed it does! That is, if you actually like the resume of selfless people who really, truly, genuinely care for others, especially the less-fortunate, and who put their money where their mouth is regarding standing up against torture and for helping refugees. Begs the question, though, of what kind of resume "Ghost of Philip Marlowe" thinks reads like that of a Republican. Here's what I think: Take out all the really good, humane, and decent things in Cao's resume and throw in some corporate greed, some defense of torture, some fundagelical intolerance, some disdain for ethics, and a lack of education and intellectual curiousity, then, perhaps, Cao's resume might read like that of a Republican -- perhaps like that of ... Sarah Palin!

Of course, we already knew what kind of resume "reads like a Democrat" versus what kind "reads like a Republican." We already knew what kinds of values are compatible with the thinking of a Democrat versus what kinds of values are celebrated in the thinking of a Republican. But it's nice to see a Freeper conservative, in an unguarded moment, basically admit as much.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Childish Christmas

What is so affecting about this one is that it's passed off as a serious pop music Christmas effort:

Christmas Video Wars - Round Two

Here's my second entry:



Hey, Oyster, how's that for showing the necessary will to force unconditional surrender upon my opponents? Do you think that's enough to get me an inside track to be Joseph Cao's military affairs consultant?

Joining the Christmas Video Wars

OK. It's that time of year again. I was wondering who would start it up. It appears that Greg at Suspect-Device has done the honors. Oyster has chimed in. Here's my contribution to the reindeer games:



If you think that's something, you'll be even more captivated by Band Aid 20 - Do They Know It's Christmas 2004. Almost as cringeworthy as Sarah Palin's Katie Couric Interview. Almost.

UPDATE: Wet Bank Guy gives us Eenie-Meenie-Chilli-Beanie. Ewwwww!

Maitri, at VatulBlog, starts out with this and returns a second round of fire with an ecumenical and diabolical greeting from Vern Fonk Insurance. Yowza!

Adrastos has just about ruined Christmas for me with his first rounder: Barbie in "A Christmas Carol". Not ruined in the sense of disgusting devastation (because I probably will find it cute), but ruined in the sense that I, who have two young daughters and who put Barbie in the Nutcracker in my Top Ten Christmas Videos list, will now have to add this new Barbie video to the family collection and watch it hundreds of times and listen to my daughters singing the songs over and over and over again -- and not just at Christmas, but all year round! You can head over to Adrastos's main page for all the updates he's since put forth.

Also, check out what Leigh C. has given us over at her blog "Liprap's Lament - The Line."

Jeffrey chimes in with Crystal Gale, Mechanical Chipmunks, and -- oh, the horror! -- Video Christmas cards from Rudi Giuliani and Mike Huckabee from last year.

And, Celsus, Good God - Literally! He starts us with this set of "inspirational" doozies. And then he digs deep into the vaults, even sending one specifically out to me, with these. Andale, pues! Dios Mio!

And then Greg, who laid the bait and started us down this road to perdition in the first place, rallies with this. Damn's he's good! Who the hell can compete with "Kathie Lee's Hip Hop Christmas"? Maybe, Howie Luvzus's fantabulous, Whamirific entry?

I feel like I've been the unwitting victim of an "extraordinary rendition" to Santa's "enhanced interrogation" instruments workshop. Damn those pointy-eared, devilish elves!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thought of the Day

Courtesy of Mrs. Huck Upchuck, who commented to me the other day that it struck her that, when it comes to superficial manifestations of religion, such as words on a monument or a coin, conservatives are all about aggressive and interventionist government action. But when it comes to living the gospel message of caring for the poor, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc., conservatives want government to have no part in that action. That struck me, too. Frankly, what should practicing Christians want more of: "In God We Trust" on coins? Or food stamps for the hungry?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Today is a Good Day

Today is a very good day for the following reasons:

(1) Anh "Joseph" Cao has defeated William Jefferson for Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. New Orleans now has the distinction of sending the first Vietnamese-American to Congress. I have to admit, though, that I honestly didn't think he would do it; but I did my part to make it happen. I broke party discipline and endorsed him early last month, and I voted for him today. There was a sign around town today that said: "End the Embarrassment." I'm glad to say that we did. And though I have my qualms about Cao on some issues, my vote for him was not just a protest vote against Jefferson, but really also a positive vote for Cao on the merits. I like him on the issues that are important to me. In fact, I got to chat briefly with Mr. Cao (now Rep. Cao!) this morning, as I was sitting in the PJ's Coffeeshop on Magazine Street, where he stopped in for an election day campaign visit. He remembered me from the Congressional Forum that I moderated a while back, and we had a nice, but brief little chat. I wish him all the best in Congress and I'll be rooting for him to do some good things for our wonderful City.

(2) Although I am an Alabama Crimson Tide fan, I take some pleasure in the fact that I called a solid Florida Gators victory over the Crimson Tide two weeks ago. It wasn't as decisive a victory as I said it would be (3 touchdowns), but it wasn't that far off. Florida won 31-20, an 11 point victory.

(3) I woke up today with the lingering memory that yesterday was the last day of classes for the Fall Semester; and all day long I had that bounce in my step that comes with the relief of having completed the weekly lecture/seminar grind of the semester. I've still got final papers and exams to look forward to, but there is a great relief that comes with having a break from the weekly classroom grind.

(4) I had the pleasure of watching my two daughters go through their dress rehearsal for their parts in the Nutcracker Ballet. My youngest daughter is one of the many little mice that scuffle with the Nutcracker's soldiers; and she just looked precious in her little mouse outfit. My oldest daughter, just recently on pointe, is now one of the "older" dancers who struts around with confidence and leadership. She is performing as one of the dolls.

(5) Today was the "Father/Daughter Dance" at my two girls' school. We got all dressed up, made up, and gussied up, and had a great time together dancing, eating, and laughing. It was a special time for me, my 10-yr-old 5th grader, and my 6-yr-old 1st grader.

(6) We decorated our Christmas tree this evening as a family. We listened to Johnny Mathis singing Christmas standards as we did so; and we drank egg-nog, too. What can get better than that?

All in all, a most excellent day!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Amazing!

Check this out:



Nothing Harry Houdini about this. Just pure talent and lots of practice, I suppose.

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Christmas Classic Video

Keeping in theme with my Top 10 Christmas Movies, here's my all time favorite Christmas music video that comes from Number 2 on my Top 10 Christmas Movies list:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Top 10 Christmas Movies

[NOTE: Reposted from last year.]

Here's The Huck Upchuck's Top 10 Christmas Movies of all time:

10. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey -- This may not be on par with some of the better full-length feature films that treat Christmas, but I have always adored this little 22 minute Bass/Rankin animated Christmas story. I guess it's thematically of a piece with the classic "Little Drummer Boy" Bass/Rankin animated short, but I like it better because it's not as well known and gives the animals of the Christmas story their moment. And who can forget: "Ears, Nestor!" :-) This is the only Bass/Rankin animated production that I'll include in my list, though there are certainly some more classics in this bunch of Christmas shorts that entertain the little ones every Christmas season. Honorable mentions in this category of "claymation" Christmas classics include The Year Without a Santa Claus, which features the Heat Miser, the Cold Miser, and Mother Nature, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

9. Barbie in the Nutcracker -- Given that I have two young daughters, it's hard not to find room for something like this in the Top 10 list. However, I have to say that this is actually quite a very impressive digital computer animated adaptation of the Nutcracker story. It's the first of these Barbie movies, and I remember thinking how graphically stunning it was at the time. The music and the dancing scenes in this version of the Tchaikovsky-scored Ballet are also quite good. None of the many subsequent Barbie animation movies compares in both production quality and plotline development as this original one. If you can overlook the whole Barbie culture and how it crafts an unrealistic and idealistic notion of female beauty, you can find a little gem of a Christmas movie here.

8. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas -- This charming muppet musical Christmas story from Jim Hensen conjures nostalgic Christmas memories for me. It is filled with all the great Christmas themes of selflessness, love, family, and friendship. It's not as technically slick as some of our modern day animation and muppetry, but it was a masterpiece of its day. I just love the sweetness and wholesomeness of this lovely little story, and the tunes are catchy and fun. Heck, even the bad guys in this story, the Riverbottom Boys Gang, have their own redeeming charm. Another little interesting tidbit to note is that the actors who provide the voices for Emmet Otter and his jug band friends also provide the voices for the characters in the Riverbottom Boys gang. It's fun to try and identify the alter egos in these two groups. Yes, there are times when the puppetry is so noticeable that it distracts from the story, but I am always struck by how few these moments are. For families with kids 12-yrs-old and younger, this Jim Hensen masterpiece should be a Christmas standard.

7. The Nativity Story - While I found The Nativity Story to be a bit superficial and overly simplistic, it is perhaps the best effort that I've seen to portray the nativity story on film with somewhat of a realistic feel, even though I think its pretensions to realism cynically mask what is essentially a romanticized and imaginary representation of history. The script is perhaps the weakest element of this movie, and the plotline is thin and incomplete in parts; and, unfortunately, the scene where a laboring Mary and Joseph arrive at Nazareth and make their way to the manger for the climactic birth of Jesus is so surreal that it almost sinks the realist believability of the whole movie. Nevertheless, it gets my recommendation for effort and for its undeniably impressive cinematography, not to mention the subtle beauty of actress Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary and the wonderful performance of Ciaran Hinds as Herod.

6. The Polar Express -- This slick, cgi animated telling of the classic train-to-the-north-pole story merits a place in my top ten because it is visually stunning cgi animation. The storyline is 100% pure Christmas spirit -- of giving, friendship, and faith. I originally thought that the movie would be too saccharine for me and would wear off after the initial viewing and captivating animation "honeymoon" period. However, I found this not to be the case. Every time I'm in a room and this show is on the TV screen, I find myself drawn to it, less so for the visuals and moreso for the storyline. Most of the kids are slight caricatures, and it really is an unabashed feel-good movie, but it all tends to work in the end. I think this movie will become part of the classic Christmas movie lineup.

5. A Christmas Carol -- Of the numerous versions of this Dickens classic Christmas tale that exist, and that I have seen, the one that I find to be the most moving, best directed, and most skillfully acted is the 1984 version produced for TV starring George C. Scott. What I love about this particular version is that George C. Scott's Ebeneezer Scrooge is so understated. Unlike the Scrooge one sees in almost all other productions, Scott's Scrooge is not the caricatured heartless and unreflective miser that experiences an over-dramatic conversion. Scott's Scrooge is a troubled and conflicted soul, wracked by regrets, who hardens his heart principally as a mechanism of avoiding pain and disappointment. His greed and vindictiveness are not really central to his character. They exist, but they are sidebars to the real roots of his anti-social behavior. And his conversion does not come from fear, but rather from an awareness and eventual acceptance of his brokenness as a human, and that this brokenness is not unique and can be repaired. What I also like about Scott's Scrooge is that his "converted" character is softer, but still retains some of his gruff and troubled edges. In other words, when Christmas day dawns, he's not a completely different and unrecognizable Scrooge, as is so often portrayed, just a more vulnerable and human Scrooge, willing to open up, share, and smile.

4. Miracle on 34th Street -- I prefer the classic 1947 movie starring Natalie Wood as the little girl and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. There is something about the 1940s that makes the telling of this tale of belief in Santa resonate much more powerfully than the more recent 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough. The simplicity of the Christmas message, the lack of pretense in the characters, the absence of a post-modern angst about the meaning of Christmas all make the 1947 movie such a joy to watch. What is interesting, I think, is that this particular movie takes on much, much better the alienation that has come with the creeping materialism of the holiday season than any other modern efforts. It's a refreshing, clean, wholesome and inspiring film. And its relevance to the contemporary Christmas environment is still very much real.

3. A Christmas Story -- One's top 10 Christmas movies list would never be complete without this classic included somewhere in the list. For me, this story ranks up there with the best of them. Maybe it's because I'm a guy and this film is really about little boys at Christmas. Ralphie's daydreams are hilarious, especially his "A+++++++++++" essay daydream. And who can forget the irony of the "You'll shoot your eye out!" admonition that actually almost happens. As a parent, I can't say that I'm thrilled about the fact that Ralphie creates the whopper lie that "the Icicle did it" when his Red Rider BB Gun almost puts his eye out, and then gets away with it! But, hey, what little boy hasn't gone down this path? I do, however, feel obliged to issue a warning to parents, though. This movie is marketed as suitable for Children, but beware that there are some really rough, uncensored moments of strong profanity here. It's a movie that is very much politically incorrect, so some might find some of the humor a bit much. But, if taken in the right spirit, it can make for an enjoyable film experience.

2. Love, Actually -- I just love, love, love this modern British movie. It's not really about Christmas, but it takes place around the Christmas season, and its theme is about the mundane beauty of love. The different vignettes are wonderfully done, and the cast is star-studded and stellar. What I particularly like about it is that not all of the stories have a happy ending, but all of them are about love in the Christmas season. Bill Nighy's irreverent performance is absolutely fantastic, and the proposal scene between Colin Firth's character and his Portuguese beauty is so classically romantic that I can watch it over and over and over again, and never get tired of it. And the fact that I know a bit of Portuguese helps me better appreciate the moment. Oh ... I get all wound up just thinking about all the dramas in this movie. I could go on and on about it. And, though I could have done without the sappy kiddie-crush subplot, even this, with some screening of the some fo the more adult scenes, makes it something even the tweens could enjoy. I should say, though, that there are some adult moments, and not all of the film is appropriate for young people, even tweens. For instance, one of the story lines features two characters who are stand-in doubles for what is apparently a porn film, and their scenes often involve nudity and sexually explicit actions, though the relationship itself is ironically sweet and innocent, which makes the contrast with the porn thing all the more stark. Overall, though, I think this film is just fantastic, and the message of love, in all its complex messiness and varied context, can't be beat. Highly recommended, but with appropriate caution when youngsters are involved.

1. It's a Wonderful Life -- I don't care how cheesy, overplayed, and overdramatized some think this movie is, it's still the best Christmas story out there. And I still get all choked up every time I see that last scene when everyone shows up and showers George Bailey with more money than he could ever need to resolve his dilemma. As an actor and person, Jimmy Stewart is one of the best. And Lionel Barrymore's portrayal of the villain, Henry F. Potter, is more classic Scrooge than Scrooge himself!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy the day. Savor the feast. Spend time with family. Watch some football. Give thanks.

Friendly Tribute

Today's Times Picayune has a nice Thanksgiving tribute to my friend, David Gallegos, who works for the Advocacy Center of Louisiana. David really is a wonderful person and well worthy of the recognition. I'm glad that Ana Gershanik, the reporter who wrote the piece, thought well-enough of David to write such a nice story about him for Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WTUL-ing

Up early doing a holiday substitute shift at WTUL 91.5 FM. I do a regular classical music show every Tuesday mornings from 6-8am and then a jazz show every Thursday from 6-8pm. If you're ever curious to listen in, you can do so over the internet via live-streaming. Check it out sometime.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Campus Tours

Today, I'm meeting up with my 10-yr-old nephew to give him a basic tour of the University campus and to bring him to Tulane's world famous Latin American Library. He's got a school project on Mexico; and, of course, his first inclination (and that of his parents, too) was to call me as the expert to answer his questions and help him with the project. But my idea was that it would be better for him to get used to doing a bit of library research on his own. And since he's on Thanksgiving break all this week, I figured why not have him come by. When I mentioned this to him, he got very excited, as if he were going on an excursion to the moon. And then it dawned on me that, for him, making a trip to a college campus and visiting the "big" library (what he calls it) IS like going on a field trip to the moon. I don't think he's ever set foot on a college campus.

What struck me all the more is that this is probably a very common reaction by many young kids. College (and the college campus) is a mysterious and maybe seemingly unattainable world. All the more true for kids (like my nephew) whose parents never went to college. Makes it all the more imperative to me to try to work with some of our local public elementary schools to set up "college" days, where fourth through eighth graders can have an early experience with the college environment both to demystify it as well as to make it seem like an attainable goal.

Come to think of it, my parents, who themselves never even formally finished high school, though they put 5 of their 6 kids through college and went to all the college graduations, still are like fish out of water on the college campus. I'm sure there's probably some convincing research on the matter, but I'm certain that the more likely one is from an early age to think of college and college campuses as a regular part of life, the more likely one is to aspire and reach for college.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alabama Crimson Tide versus Florida Gators

I grew up as avid a Crimson Tide fan as ever there was. I worshipped Bear Bryant. Three of my siblings graduated from the University of Alabama. We have Crimson Tide passion in the extended Huck family.

But ...

The Gators are going to maul the Crimson Tide this in two weeks.

That loss that Florida has on the books ... it was a fluke.

I think Florida is hands-down the most dominant college football team this year.

It's not even close.

And I'm not even a Florida Gators fan.

But they will crush Alabama. By more than three touchdowns. Mark my words.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nunchuck Ping-Pong

I fashion myself a decent Ping-Pong player; and so I marvelled at this clip below. I just couldn't believe this when I saw it. It seems authentic, but can it be so?



[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Street Cameras, Crime, Government Incompetence, Civil Liberties, and Big Brother

I read Jarvis DeBerry's column this morning about the New Orleans City Government's incompetence in maintaining and monitoring Street Cameras that were installed with the goal of hopefully cutting down on violent crime in the City.

Suffice it to say that the cameras aren't working and people are getting killed right in front of them.

Even though many have questioned the usefulness of such cameras, the current outrage seems to be directed more at government incompetence in failing to make sure the cameras are working as intended more than it seems to be directed at the whole principle of having Big Brother snooping around neighborhoods.

I think it would be more useful to start framing the issue of non-functional crime cameras once again in terms of Big Brother civil rights violations, rather than perhaps in terms of a potentially good idea bungled by an inept City administration.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

David Vitter and Some More GOP Hypocrisy

Louisiana's Republican Senator David Vitter seeks to prevent President-elect Barack Obama from carrying out his executive duties as Commander-in-Chief by trying to prevent Obama from closing down that stain on the honor of the US known as the detention facility at Gitmo. I have to admit that this really burned me up this morning.

On the CBS show "60 Minutes" Sunday, Obama said closing the detention facility, which has generated criticism from human rights groups in the United States and abroad, is "part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

But Vitter, who chairs the conservative Senate Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus, said it is not in the best interests of the United States to release detainees "suspected of engaging in terrorist activities."

"This is absolutely a path that we should not tread," Vitter said. "The detainees at Guantanamo are housed there because they represent a terrorist threat to America and, as activist judges continue to usurp our security measures through the judicial processes, we should lay the groundwork now to ensure that these individuals are not allowed to enter the United States."
Activist judges usurping our security measures? WTF! How 'bout pathetic activist legislators who continue to threaten our security by seeking to further ruin our badly damaged (possibly permanently so) human rights reputation throughout the world??? Gimme a friggin' break!

Some questions for Sen. Vitter: Where the hell were you when Bush/Cheney carried out the most brazen executive power grab in American history and made the most dictatorial claims of executive inaccountability to ANY other branch of government in prosecuting the War on Terror? What the hell did you ever do in your role as a "check and balance" against abusive executive authority in preventing the Bush Administration from asserting unchecked powers in wartime as Commander-in-Chief, powers to do whatever he wanted to do with impunity not only with prisoners at Guantanamo but with anyone he simply tagged as an enemy combatant? Including torture, indefinite detention, suspension of habeas corpus, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, etc. It's only now, when the prospect of Obama as President exercising his own rights and powers as Commander-in-Chief over Gitmo prisoner detention policy, that Vitter thinks the Legislature should usurp power that Vitter himself believes CLEARLY belongs to the executive.

Hey, Vitter, you want to play Commander-in-Chief? Then get your balls back from the hookers and run for President yourself. You and your fellow Republican legislators, who fell all over yourselves to defend the Bush administration's detention policies from any kind of legislative scrutiny, have ZERO credibility now. Give your President-elect the damn deference YOU argued is rightfully due the office. You sowed the seeds for this, you friggin' cynical hypocrite. It's your Frankenstein. Learn to love it. Learn to live with it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Help Classify The Huck Behind The Upchuck

I've been thinking about where I fall out on the issues of the day and then wondering where it locates me on the ideological spectrum. On balance, I know I'm left of center; but there are some things I hold that some might say place me squarely right of center. Of course, I maintain that all of my positions make me a Liberal -- at least in the classical sense of the term. But, I'd like to get you involved in helping me to figure out my ideological classification. Let me try a little experiment. If all you knew of me were the following items, how would you classify me:

Some Demographic Data:
(1) I am 40 years old.
(2) I am a Southerner born and raised in New Orleans.
(3) I am a white male.
(4) I have a mortgage.
(5) I earn a modest, middle-class, mid-range 5 figure salary.

Some Educational Data:
(1) I attended private school literally my entire academic life.
(2) 70% of my education comes through private Catholic institutions, undergraduate college included.
(3) I am a college professor and administrator in an Area Studies Program (Latin American Studies, to be exact)
(4) My disciplinary formation is mostly in Political Science and International Relations.

Some Social Data:
(1) I am a Catholic Christian who pays close heed to the Social Justice Teachings of the Catholic Church.
(2) I am married for 15 years and am father to two young children (ages 10 and 6).
(3) Divorce is not an option for me. And I think divorce is the primary cause of the breakdown of the family.

Some Issues Data:
(1) I enthusiastically supported Barack Obama for President and am just thrilled that he will be our next President.
(2) I am pro-life in the fullest meaning of the term; but I do not support government involvement in deciding a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy and I certainly do not think that abortion is a criminal behavior and do not consider abortion to be the functional equivalent of pre-meditated murder. I am categorically opposed to the death penalty. I generally tend not to support embryonic stem cell research when adult stem cell research offers similar promises for stem cell research breakthroughs. I oppose killing through warfare. I categorically and unequivocally oppose torture of any kind -- and this includes any kind of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
(3) I support gay marriage and I think of this as a civil right. I think the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military is an abomination and should be instantly repealed in favor of allowing gay people the right to serve openly in the military as a gay person. I think the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment movement are inappropriate and unjust efforts to codify discrimination into our law and our constitution. And I oppose both.
(4) I don't like paying too much taxes. I have a sympathetic orientation to the idea of a "flat tax." But, I also understand and find a certain logic to the social justice and utilitarian arguments for progressive taxation.
(5) I generally think that local solutions to commonly-shared problems among local communities is more preferable to federal government solutions; but I think that the federal government does have an obligation to step in where markets don't or won't perform in meeting the basic needs of individuals, and particularly those individuals most marginalized by circumstance and environments over which they exercise very little control.
(6) I think healthcare is a fundamental human right, and that the state should ensure some kind of quality healthcare for all of its citizens, i.e. universal healthcare.
(7) I am pro-"amnesty," if not exactly pro-open borders, when it comes to immigration policy.
(8) I generally think unions are inefficient and corrupt; but I do believe in the rights and the justice of workers organizing and engaging in collective bargaining to secure greater shares of the profits that come from the fruits of their labor.
(9) I think the concept of "tenure" in academia is overrated and mostly unnecessary to protect academic freedom; but I believe 100% in academic freedom and the preservation of it.
(10) I support public charter schools, but oppose school vouchers that will allow public funds to pay for private school tuitions.
(11) I think the government has no business legislating morality and think the government should respect individual privacy.
(12) I absolutely detest government subsidies and bailouts of all kinds, especially the kinds that lead to new stadiums and concessions for professional sports clubs and their owners.
(13) I support free trade as long as it is fair trade, with fair trade being defined as trade which creates jobs that ensure living wages, which protects the environment, which strengthens labor protections and workplace safety, and which diminishes income inequality.
(14) I think Fidel Castro is a dictator and that Cuba is a repressive state. But I think Chavez, while tending towards expressing an inflated sense of self-importance that borders on megalomania, is essentially a legitimate democratic leader and whose government generally respects the basic freedoms of its citizens, including the freedom to criticize and dissent from the government. I feel the same way about Evo Morales in Bolivia.
(15) I think the Iraq war is a fiasco, that it should have never been waged in the first place, and that it ended up being a cynical exercise in privileging and enriching private defense contractors and subcontractors and big oil.
(16) I am a pretty ardent supporter of Israel, but I recognize that the Palestinian people have rightful claims that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
(17) I believe in stricter gun control measures. And I see absolutely no logical reason for certain types of weapons to ever be legal for citizens to purchase. Among those I would include automatic assault weapons. So, I support an automatic assault weapons ban.
(18) I think affirmative action policies were absolutely just and necessary when they were initiated, but I do think they are becoming increasingly irrelevant and unnecessary.
(19) I don't expect to ever benefit from Social Security; but I do not think that the system should be privatized. I support this and other social safety net programs administered by the government as a matter of justice.
(20) I support free markets, but I do not embrace the notion that markets always and everywhere produce optimal outcomes that benefit all. I believe that the government has not only the right, but even the obligation, as a matter of social justice, to maintain social safety net entitlement programs for those who are disadvantaged and penalized, through no fault of their own, by the free market model.

Well, that's enough to go off of for now. Use this and chime in your thoughts about where you would locate me on the ideological spectrum in the comments section.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on JHS Posting

Last Sunday, I put up a posting about a "mock funeral" supposedly being planned or promoted by Jesuit High School students.

My post came on the heels of what was a very emotional national election after a long, contentious, and sometimes vicious and uncivil political campaign. Because of this, and being caught up in this emotionally tumultuous moment, I perhaps was a bit precipitous in putting up this posting. Upon reflection, I regret having done so -- not because I think an event of the sort doesn't merit some exposure or that JHS and its students merit special exemption from public criticism, but really because I should have taken more time to investigate and find out more details about the incident. I heard something about a "mock funeral" in a passing conversation and, in the passion of the moment, just launched a posting off of that.

Since that time, I have learned more details about the incident and it is not what I made it out to seem. Apparently, it was just one of those passing, silly inside jokes that high school students do. There were no serious plans being laid and nothing sinister at all intended. And, frankly, I remember being a high school student and can well imagine all the foolish pranksterism that I more than likely engaged in, too.

In the end, I let my emotions get in front of my better judgment. No good journalist (and I've never claimed to be one!) would have ever put up a posting like I did without looking into the matter further. In fact, I am as guilty of sophomoric behavior in this regard as I chide the students of being; and I've got plenty more years on them and should know much better, too.

As an alum of JHS, I am proud of the school and value all the good that it offers its students. I should have done better by it. And Jesuit students are still, by and large, consummately honorable, good, and responsible young men. I should have done better by them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Catholicism at the Tipping Point

As most people have probably heard by now, some 54% of Catholics voted for Obama. And many of us have very solid "pro-life" reasons for doing so. But the Catholic hierarchy and the reactionaries among them envision being "pro-life" in a narrow and singular fashion: "anti-abortion." Do they not realize that more innocent, already-born children die of malnutrition and preventable diseases that come with poverty? Do they not know that more innocent already-born children die of the secondary consequences of warfare? Where is the consistency and urgency in protecting these lives? Where is the outrage and the threats of eternal condemnation for those Catholics who vote for candidates who perpetuate unjust warfare, who support capital punishment, who embrace torture?

Sheesh! I've just about had enough of these self-righteous moralizers who circle the wagons around pedophile priests and who turn a blind eye towards the Church's social justice teachings.

Crap like this and this is enough to make me want to simply leave the Church. Feh!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wardrobe to Nowhere

It is just incredible that Sarah Palin feigns wonder at why her $150,000 plus wardrobe became such a hot-button item late in the Presidential campaign:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says she was puzzled by the amount of attention her wardrobe got at the end of her unsuccessful vice presidential run.

In an interview that aired on Fox News Channel on Monday, Palin said she neither wanted nor asked for the $150,000-plus wardrobe the Republican Party bankrolled.

"I did not order the clothes. Did not ask for the clothes," Palin said. "I would have been happy to have worn my own clothes from Day One. But that is kind of an odd issue, an odd campaign issue as things were wrapping up there as to who ordered what and who demanded what."
Seems we've heard this line of argument before. The last time the issue of profligate spending connected to someone or something from Alaska surfaced, it had to do with some outrageous "bridge to nowhere." And just like then, Sarah Palin, Maverick reformer that she is, said "NO" to that bridge to nowhere. Except that she didn't. And even after public outcry over that infamous earmark forced her to back off the project and claim she never really wanted it in the first place and that it wasn't her doing, she still kept the money.

Just like that wardrobe. She says she didn't order the clothes and she didn't ask for the clothes. Maybe that's true. But she sure as heck didn't say "NO" to them! She sure as heck didn't worry about the expense of them! And she sure didn't voice any concerns about it until it was brought out into the light of day -- until that particular "earmark" came out of the shadows. She goes around saying that the most she ever asked for now and then was a Diet Dr. Pepper. But she gobbled up every perq, benefit, and piece of campaign pork that was thrown at her without so much as a blink. Of course, we all know that Sarah Palin is not one to blink at things and likes to "plow through" open doors -- even if it comes across as a gross excess of feeding at the trough of others. If this woman is the future of the GOP, God help the GOP.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Jan. 20 Funeral for America???

[UPDATE: Sunday, November 16, 2008: 8:35AM: Please see my more recent updated posting on the subject.]

A symbolic funeral for America on Jan. 20, the day when Barack Obama becomes officially the 44th President of the United States? Sounds like something Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh might conjure up, doesn't it? But, wait ...

I heard that such mock funeral plans are being laid locally by some very unlikely folks: students at Jesuit High School.

WTF?!?!?!

Now, I am an alum of JHS and I have to say I was shocked to hear this. The JHS of today, at least from what I can tell, is a radically different place as far as politics and ideology than when I was there. In a recent version of the school newspaper, The Blue Jay [which is regrettabley unavailable online], the senior class was polled on their preferences in the Presidential election, and more than 70% of those polled chose McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden.

Listen, I'm all for free speech and for students making whatever kinds of protest plans that they want; but planning a mock funeral for America when Obama is inaugurated? That's just too much. If this ever comes to pass, I promise that I'll personally stage my own little protest at the High School and hold up my own little protest sign on the corner of Carrollton and Banks. And I hope the local press sees fit to cover what would be an embarrassing display of anti-Patriotic "free speech" at the school.

Because I was disturbed by this news, I have thought a good bit about this over the past 24 hours. And my ponderings have left me to conclude two things about this: (1) These students must be shaped by a home environment that is extremely hostile to Obama and which sees politics through the lenses of ideological polarization, which leads to (2): the divisiveness of our politics over the past 16 years that I think has poisoned the well of a unified country.

All the more reason to be grateful that Obama is in the White House. God knows that our country needs desperately to escape the Dick Morris/Karl Rove, Clinton/Bush poles of poisonous politics. And I hope some folks with authority at JHS can talk some sense into the sophomoric behavior of these foolish kids.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Precinct Performance Updates

On election day, this past Tuesday, I gave some data on two Louisiana voting precints: Ward 14 / Precinct 13A, which represented the Tulane University campus resident student crowd; and Ward 14 / Precinct 25, which was my voting precinct. I thought it might be of interest to show you how these precincts turned out.

Ward 14 / Precinct 13A
Registered Voters: 2,889
Total Votes Cast: 1,238
% Turnout: 42.85%
Votes for Obama/Biden (% of votes cast): 931 (75.20%)
Votes for McCain/Palin (% of votes cast): 279 (22.54%)
Votes for others (% of votes cast): 28 (2.26%)


Ward 14 / Precinct 25
Registered Voters: 545
Total Votes Cast: 279
% Turnout: 51.19%
Votes for Obama/Biden (% of votes cast): 217 (77.78%)
Votes for McCain/Palin (% of votes cast): 60 (21.51%)
Votes for others (% of votes cast): 2 (.71%)


How do these precincts compare to Orleans Parish and Louisana State averages? Here's the comparative data:

Orleans Parish
Registered Voters: 278,759**
Total Votes Cast: 146,287
% Turnout: 52.48%
Votes for Obama/Biden (% of votes cast): 116,042 (79.32%)
Votes for McCain/Palin (% of votes cast): 28,041 (19.17%)
Votes of others (% of votes cast): 2,204 (1.51%)


State of Louisiana
Registered Voters: 2,908,342**
Total Votes Cast: 1,959,085
% Turnout: 67.36%
Votes for Obama/Biden (% of votes cast): 781,574 (39.89%)
Votes for McCain/Palin (% of votes cast): 1,148,015 (58.60%)
Votes for others (% of votes cast): 29,496 (1.51%)


**These numbers come from voter registration data in the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office as of 10/17/08. This means that the actual number of registered voters as of election day (11/4/08) was likely somewhat higher, which would make the turnout percentages statewide and in Orleans parish a bit lower; and this would be consistent with the statewide reported turnout rate of about 66%.

Thought of the Day

The difference between conservatives and liberals following an electoral defeat can be summed up accordingly: Liberals brood and make empty threats to leave the country; Conservatives brood and stock up on guns and munitions.

What To Do About LA Congressional District 2

A while back on my blog, when I posted my election recommendations, I hinted at a surprise, party-discipline-breaking pick by The Huck Upchuck for Congressional District 2 -- even if Helena Moreno might have won.

I thought I was going to be pushing the envelope among the progressive NOLA Blogosphere in revealing my choice, but Oyster beat me to the punch! Dang! The early bird catches the worm!

Oyster came out and endorsed GOP candidate Anh "Joseph" Cao. He pointed to Cao's impressive biography as part of the reason to like him. And that's true. I agree with Oyster on this point. But, even still, that's not reason enough for me. I generally take these campaign website biographies with a grain of salt because they always put the best face forward, embellished for effect, on these things. And so, while I was impressed, I was also not fully convinced. Until I had the chance to test Cao directly. Let me elaborate ...

Recently, I was part of organizing a Candidate forum for Congressional District 2. This forum took place on Tuesday, October 28. The focus was on issues of importance to the Latino community. I moderated this forum on behalf of the collaborating organizations who put the event together: Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Puentes New Orleans, and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. Four of the six candidates showed up: Helena Moreno, one of the two remaining Democrats in the race; Anh "Joseph" Cao, the Republican candidate; Jerry Jacobs, an independent; and Gregory Kahn, the Libertarian candidate. William Jefferson, the current incumbent Democratic candidate, did not participate. He simply ignored our repeated invitations. And Malik Rahim, the Green Party candidate, was fighting off an illness.

There's a lot to say about this event; but I won't say too much. The only point I want to make here is that Joseph Cao did exceedingly well as far as I was concerned. The questions posed to the candidates at the forum dealt with immigration reform, language access, health care, housing, and education. As an immigrant himself for whom English was, and is, a second language, Joseph Cao's answers to just about all of the questions posed were extremely progressive -- I thought even more progressive than Helena Moreno's answers. Cao supports comprehensive immigration reform and he does not think a security first policy is appropriate as a rational and feasible and even humane approach to the issue; he supports the DREAM act that would allow undocumented children of immigrants the rights to temporary (and perhaps permanent) legal status; he supports legislative initiatives that would provide access to information and documents in the native languages of non-english speaking peoples; as a lawyer himself, he has an impressive knowledge of federal immigration and citizenship laws; he supports bi-lingual education and was personally instrumental in establishing a language immersion public charter school in New Orleans east in the Vietnamese and Spanish languages; and he projected a commitment to the principles of social justice in ways that one would simply not expect of a Republican. Of course, Cao holds positions that I disagree with, but he was certainly not dogmatic and ideologically rigid in his demeanor and in his stances. He, frankly, struck me as sincere, honest, and very open to many different viewpoints. At a very fundamental level of character and temperament, he came across to me as the conservative version of Barack Obama.

Because I look very closely at candidate positions that affect the Latino and other immigrant communities, Cao's positions impressed me. And his partisan identification just doesn't worry me. I think he will be a fair and good representative of the diversity of New Orleans, I think he will be honest and responsible with the public trust, and I just don't think he will let the lure of the power of politics change what I think is his fundamental humility as a public servant.

So, hold your hats, folks, given the choices we have before us this election cycle, The Huck Upchuck is breaking with party discipline and is not only endorsing the Republican Party candidate,

Anh "Joseph" Cao,

for Congress, but is doing so unreservedly and enthusiastically.

[UPDATE: Apparently something is wrong with Cao's website. Hopefully that will be fixed soon. But the "url" in the links above was correct.]

[UPDATE 2: I just spoke with Mr. Cao and he informed me that he has a new website - http://josephcaoforcongress.com/. I've updated the links above accordingly.]

[UPDATE 3: It goes without saying that my endorsement is strictly my own personal endorsement. It does not reflect the preferences of any other individual associated with the October 28 Candidate Forum, nor does it reflect any official endorsement by any of the organizations that co-sponsored the Candidate Forum.]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

BLOG UNDER SURVEILLANCE: Right Wing News
Issue: John Hawkins' Schizophrenia on Race


I appreciate conservative blogger John Hawkins' gracious congratulatory posting regarding Barack Obama's victory. It must have been a bit painful for him to write, so I give him credit for doing so. However ...

I can't simply let slide what I still see as a conservative myopia and schizophrenia, if not hypocrisy, regarding the subject of race in America. Here's the relevant part of what Hawkins wrote in his posting linked above:

Although I would have certainly preferred to have John McCain in the White House, it will at least be nice to finally see a black American become President. Conservatives have been saying America isn't a racist nation for a long time. This proves we're right. Conservatives have been saying that we don't need Affirmative Action in this country. This proves we're right.
And yet, in his very next posting, Hawkins had this to say about race:
In other words, despite the staggering advantages the Democrats had in this election, including a candidate who undoubtedly drew in millions of black voters who wanted to pull the lever for the first black President and millions of other voters gripped by white guilt, it only led to a shift of about 4% of the American public from the Republicans to the Democrats.
I've written about this before. And it just keeps surfacing. Doesn't Hawkins see the contradictions in his positions? On the one hand, he keeps propagating this notion that America is not a racist nation, while on the other hand explaining Barack Obama's success and victory to racist behavior. Does Hawkins not see that he takes pride in finally being able to "see a black American become President" without noting the irony that it wasn't his vote that helped make this happen? What should one make of that? Doesn't Hawkins recognize that, if it's Barack Obama's election to the White House which is the evidence that we are not a racist country, it stands to reason that the folks who actually voted for him and put him there are the ones that represent the actual proof of this claim? Doesn't he see the irony that when he claims Barack Obama's election as "proof" that conservatives were right that America is not racist, he is essentially saying that this proof is not being provided by conservative who voted against Obama, but rather by those who actually voted in a way that made this happen?

I can't tell you how many times I've left comments at Hawkins' blog defending and supporting Obama without once mentioning (or even thinking about, for that matter) the color of Obama's skin, only to have been accused of being racist simply for supporting Obama. For some conservatives, it is inconceivable that a white person would vote for Obama for any reason other than his skin color. They are fond of calling this "white guilt," and then they have the gall to say that I'm the one stuck on the slavery and Jim Crow past of America because I support the "black" guy! Whatever. Suffice it to say that my experiences on Right Wing News comment boards illustrates this conservative schizophrenia regarding race in America perfectly. ...

You know, I had a kind of epiphany last night when looking at the crowds and the environments surrounding both McCain and Obama's speeches at the end of the evening. Unlike what Sarah Palin claimed on the campaign trail, the "real" America, in all of our wonderful diversity, was on display in Chicago. And just a small, narrow, and fundamentally non-diverse slice of America was on display in Arizona. It was the same at the Conventions. For good or bad, that's just the way it is. But for Republicans, if they don't find a way to harness the growing diversity of America and make some kind of intellectual argument framing this diversity in the context of a principled conservatism, more and more states are likely to be turning blue in future years. Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada -- they're not flukes, but rather a sign of a growing diversity in the context of our national unity. And John Hawkins, for all his sincere effort really to embrace and be part of this diversity in his recognition of the importance of an Obama victory in this regard, is still caught up in the contradictions of a context where race is a recognized, important, and significant aspect of identity, but where this difference is celebrated and not seen as a matter of divisiveness. Hawkins just can't seem to get beyond his "black and white" understanding of race in America. By this I mean that Hawkins can't envision an America that sees and embraces race (and other identity markers, for that matter) as meaningful, but which also doesn't necessarily see discrimination in this. For Hawkins, being "color-blind" means denying race at all levels of social meaning. And yet he himself simply cannot take his own advice and get beyond seeing the meaning in race. So, he's left holding to that schizophrenic practice of being a rhetorically "color-blind" conservative who is never actually "blind" to color and who, instead, always sees something insidious in ascribing meaning to race all the while he does precisely that.

Right Wing News = Wrong Wing Nut

Way, way back in June of 2006 I posed a question to conservative blogger John Hawkins of Right Wing News, which he answered on his blog. Here's the post which contains my question and Hawkins' answer:

Q&A Friday #43: Will Obama Be The First African American President?
Question: "And do you think Obama will be this country's first African American president?" -- huckupchuck
Answer: I'm of the opinion that the first black President is likely to be a conservative Republican who pulls in a big chunk of the black vote without turning off the rest of the country by being in favor of Affirmative Action, reparations, racial set-asides, and all the other noxious black policies Democratic pols seem to feel obligated to support.
I wonder how Hawkins is feeling today about being so wrong back then.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And As It Ends, So It Begins

President-elect Barack Obama.

Powerful, profound moment.

I am so grateful to be alive and to have had the chance to participate in this moment.

I am also so full of emotion right now that I can hardly think.

When the dust settles, we all of us end up in our own little corners of our world, our homes, feeling a bit small and insignificant in the end, carving out a silent space to absorb the full impact and meaning of it all.

It is almost too much to bear.

God bless this great country of ours.

Louisiana Ward 14 / Precinct 25 Stats

This is my Ward/Precinct. Some data:

Total Registered Voters as of 11/2/08: 545

Breakdown by race:
White: 231
Black: 279
Other: 35

Breakdown by Party:
Democrat: 340
Republican: 89
Other/Independent: 116

Number of Registered voters who had already voted by the time I got there at 8:15am: 89

Percent of Registered voters who had already cast a ballot as of 8:15am: 16.33%

This doesn't include the number of early voters.

What this means for the election:

McCain = Toast; Obama = President

Louisiana For Obama! Yes, We Can!

Louisiana Ward 14, Precinct 13 A - 2:15PM Update

This Ward and Precinct is the one located in the University Center on Tulane's campus. Here's the Ward/Precinct Marker:


















Some data on this Ward/Precinct from the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office:

Total Registered Voters as of 11/2/08: 2,889
Total Democrats Registered as of 11/2/08: 1,272
Total Republicans Registered as of 11/2/08: 470
Total "Other/Independents" Registered as of 11/2/08: 1,147

What the lines looked like at 2:15PM, some 4 hours after my first photo:


















What this means for the election:

McCain = Toast; Obama = President

Tulane Students Rise To the Occasion

As a native New Orleanean and a professor at Tulane University who teaches on civic engagement and politics, as well as Latin American Studies, I've been observing Tulane student attitudes towards civic life for the past 7 years. So I think I have a pretty good read on where students are with regard to voting attitudes and behavior. In general, Tulane students, who are generally affluent, have been mostly apathetic (except for my students, of course!); but this year is markedly different. Example: I am also a DJ for the University Radio station (WTUL 91.5 FM) and I do a classical music show from 6:00am-8:00am on Tuesday mornings. When I showed up on campus for my radio show this morning at about 5:30am, I noticed a line of students already forming outside of the University Center, which is the campus student union, where three voting machines were set up and ready to open at 6am. By the time I left my radio show at a little after 8:00am to head to my office for work, the line was still long. I went home to vote [see previous posting] and returned to my office at the University shortly thereafter. At 9:30am, I had a scheduled meeting with a student who told me that he had just come from voting and had to wait in line for about an hour. I was just incredulous. So, I went over the University Center again right after our meeting was over (about 10:00am), this time with my camera in hand, and found the line still stretching down McAlister Drive. (Photo below) It was about 50 people deep, nearly all students, and all in great spirits. I'm attaching a photo of this line. Inside the building, there was another line of about 20 voters, one of whom included one of my students from my 11:00am class! If I had to guess, about 95% Obama supporters. I would have asked the precinct volunteers what was the current tally on the total number of voters since the polls opened at 6:00am, but they looked much too harried to be bothered, so I left well-enough alone. I'm telling you, something unprecedented is happening. I can't wait for the Louisiana shocker that sends the Pelican State's 9 electoral votes to Barack Obama!

The Hucks Send Obama to the White House

The Hucks went together down to the voting station in our neighborhood's local public elementary school right after I got home from my radio show at about 8:15am or so. There are about 7 or 8 precincts set up in the school's cafeteria. The lines were larger than I had ever seen before, except for my precinct, which is among the smaller in the city. My wife and I were able to vote right away. And we each took one of our daughters in the voting booths with us. We proudly cast our votes for Obama. And then I asked someone to take our family picture in front of our voting booth after the deed was done. (See below) Cheesy, I know. But I just had to mark this moment with my family in some way. I know that memories for youngsters fade over time, and I want my daughters to know that they were there and were active participants when history was made.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Anatomy of Rightwing Schizophrenia

John McCain's campaign has been accused of being erratic, disorganized, and dysfunctional. And it has been. It is probably one of the worst campaigns the GOP has run for the Presidency in about 35 years. Indicative of the campaign is the attitude of the Rightwing base. They have also been all over the place, disorganized, and dysfunctional. They have swung like John Kerry's 2004 flip-flops from moments of disgust with McCain, to moments of embracing McCain, to moments of resigned fatalism. Let me show you an example of what I think has been typical of the schizophrenic Rightwing base.

John Hawkins is a conservative blogger who has a pretty popular site called Right Wing News. I have been following this blog for many years now and I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I understand John Hawkins fairly well. Hawkins is also a regular columnist for Townhall.com. Over this past election cycle, Hawkins has been as erratic about McCain as McCain has been as a candidate.

On February 1, 2008, when it looked like McCain might just sneak out the GOP nomination, Hawkins wrote a Townhall column entitled: "Why You're Going To Vote For John McCain In November And Like It!" Granted, Hawkins was being a bit facetious with this title and really showed very little love for McCain in this piece, but his point was that Republicans should hold their nose and vote for McCain as the least bad of the options. He reiterated this position in a follow-up posting on his blog later that same day. And so Hawkins called Republicans to be good party militants, even in spite of all of McCain's recognized minuses as a potential candidate.

Then, not some four months later, on May 23, Hawkins wrote a post on his blog called: Why I Will No Longer Support John McCain For President. In this posting, Hawkins wrote:

Put very simply: John McCain is a liar. He's a man without honor, without integrity, who could not have captured the Republican nomination had he run on making comprehensive immigration a top priority of his administration. Quite frankly, this is little different from George Bush, Sr. breaking his "Read my lips, no new taxes pledge," except that Bush's father was at least smart enough to wait until he got elected before letting all of his supporters know that he was lying to them.

Under these circumstances, I simply cannot continue to support a man like John McCain for the presidency. Since that is the case, I have already written the campaign and asked them to take me off of their mailing list and to no longer send me invitations to their teleconferences. I see no point in asking questions to a man who has no compunction about lying through his teeth on one of the most crucial election issues and then changing his position the first time he believes he can get away with it.

Moreover, I genuinely regret having to do this because I do still believe the country would be better off with John McCain as President as opposed to Obama or Clinton. However, I just cannot in good conscience cast a vote for a man who has told this big of a lie, for this long, about this important of an issue.

That being said, although I cannot back John McCain, encourage others to vote for him, or contribute any more money to his campaign, I'm not going to tell you that you should do that same thing. What McCain has done here is a bridge too far for me, but others may not have as big a problem with being told this sort of lie. That's their decision.

Furthermore, I will defend John McCain when I think he deserves to be defended, excoriate Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton at every opportunity, and I will continue to stand behind the sort of Republican candidates who actually deserve conservative support. But, what I will not do is vote for John McCain in November.
In a follow-up posting later that same day Hawkins explained himself further:
But personally, I think that there has got to be some kind of line in the sand that these politicians cannot be allowed to cross. In McCain's case, he lied about the single most important issue in determining many people's votes, is the Republican Party's nominee only because he told that lie, and now he has publicly shifted positions in a way that reveals he was lying the whole time -- and he did so before the election. Here's a man who has so little respect for conservatives that he doesn't even feel compelled to wait until he's elected to reveal that he wasn't telling them the truth about an issue they care desperately about.

If we're willing to put up with that, is there any line that he can't cross and get away with it? If McCain shifts on a dime tomorrow and says that he's only going to appoint pro-Roe Supreme Court justices, are conservatives just going to say, "Well, I'm not happy but he's still better than Obama." If he decides that the war is too much of a liability for him in the polls and he's just going to pull out like Obama and watch the country collapse into genocide, would that be Ok, too? If those things were to happen, I'd hope the answer would be, "No, that isn't OK with us."

It would be one thing if McCain ran on these issues and won the nomination anyway. At least then, you could say, "I'm not happy, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves because we knew exactly what we were getting." But, when the man doesn't even have enough respect for conservatives to follow through for a few months on one of the key promises he made to get the nomination, what message does it send to other Republicans? How far are they going to go if McCain doesn't pay a price for egregiously lying on an issue that is this important?

That's why, despite the fact that I think having McCain in the White House would be preferable to having Obama or Clinton in there, I cannot support his candidacy. Sometimes, the price you have to pay to keep your side in power is just a little too high.
Yet almost four months later, Hawkins reverted back to his original position. In a September 8, 2008, post entitled: "Why I Am Now Supporting John McCain," Hawkins wrote:
As RWN's regular readers already know, I have been a harsh critic of John McCain for a long time and back in May, I wrote a post called, "Why I Will No Longer Support John McCain For President." That post was widely linked and was probably why I was blackballed from the Republican National Convention.

However, I've been wavering on my "non-vote" in the 2008 election for a while. That's not because I've warmed up to McCain; it's because of my concerns about Barack Obama.

...

Despite the fact that I have a lot of differences with John McCain, I am going vote for him and I would encourage you to do the same. Whatever else you may say about the man, he is capable of handling the presidency and his election will teach the Left more about common decency than any mere words ever could.
And now, when he's not trashing George Will for writing a much milder critism of McCain than Hawkins had done months before, Hawkins is going around telling others why they should vote for McCain, too.

[ASIDE: How's this for some rich irony? Hawkins writes in this nasty little rant against George Will:
I'm sick and tired of these prissy jackasses and Beltway bubbleheads who put a higher priority on getting on the Colbert Report or MSNBC than winning the election.

How did we end up with all these primadonnas and divas in the Republican Party who are looking to get a few extra minutes in the spotlight at the expense of the country and everyone else in the conservative movement?

You're not happy with McCain, Bush, and the Republican Party? Well, join the party, pal. Do you think the last few years have been fun for the rest of us? If you can't act like a professional and suck it up until the election, then you're either in the wrong profession or the wrong party.

Either way, I'm not going to tell you to shut up, but I will tell you publicly that you can kiss my *ss.
Ahem! I wonder if, upon reflection, Hawkins thinks ruefully of himself as a "prissy jackass" for issuing a declaration of his intention not to vote for McCain back in May?]


Anyway, with regard to directing others to vote for McCain, Hawkins suggested in a Townhall column published on October 31, 2008, some Thirty Reasons To Vote For John McCain and even shared his own voting experience with his readers on the same day in a posting entitled: "I Voted Today..." At the end of this post, Hawkins wrote:
PS: Yes, I voted for Palin and McCain and I hope you do, too.
It's no wonder the McCain campaign is schizophrenic, bitter, and dysfunctional. Just look at the state of base conservatives these days as reflected in the anger, dysfunction, and contradictions of John Hawkins and you'll understand why.

Conundrum for Christianists: Jesus on Halloween

This story, about a middle-school boy sent home from school for dressing up as Jesus for Halloween, was priceless. Why priceless? Because of the conundrum it poses for Christianists.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you're probably aware that Christianists have been gnashing their teeth, rending their garments, and lamenting to high heaven the intolerance of school officials towards personal displays of Christianity at public schools. From wearing a cross necklace to invoking the Christian God in commencement addresses, Christians have complained about the persecution of Christian students at public schools by efforts on the part of school administrators to protect the separation of church and state. So, here we have a young boy dressing up as Christ and heading off to school. And what happens? He gets sent home because his outfit was deemed "offensive." But here's the question: Offensive in what way? Was it offensive to church-state separation advocates because it brought Christian symbolism into the school? Or was it offensive to Christians because it was a Halloween costume and mixed Jesus in with all the other ghouls, witches, clowns, and pirates?

I tend to agree with Oyster, to whom I owe a hat tip for pointing me to the story, that this kid should be able to dress in whatever costume he wants to as long as he's not violating public nudity laws (i.e. tarzan costumes and/or speedo swimsuits) or advocating messages of violence or hate (i.e. KKK hoods or NAZI swastika uniforms). In this case, he was well clad and wasn't advocating any hateful messages. So, I say, especially on a day when costumes are encouraged, that he should have been left alone. But I'm very curious to hear whether Christianists who think that dressing up as Jesus on Halloween is blasphemous and offensive would agree. Let's see how many of these god-fearing, righteous folks, who complain about unfairly persecuting Christians for displaying symbols of Christianity in public schools, come to this boy's defense. One would hope so, if these folks really do believe in protecting religious speech in public schools; but I'm not holding my breath.

Whither the Progressive NOLABlogosphere on Obama

Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief has a post up today which explains the lack of visible Obamaphilia on his blog. I have to say that I had, indeed, noticed this lack. But I understand his reasoning completely.

I haven't been so reticent, especially during the primary season, in expressing my support for Obama; but over the past month or so, my Obamaphilia has also been a bit more restrained. My focus, like Oyster's, has been moreso in harping on criticisms of Obama's Republican rivals.

Like, Oyster, I also have some posts up in the draft queue on The Huck Upchuck that I have been just too gunshy to put up until after Tuesday.

I have noticed this cautious and guarded optimism on most of the progressive, pro-Obama blogs that I visit regularly these days. I think we liberals are all quite chastened by the past eight years of wandering in the wilderness and are very much aware of the disappointments that can come crashing down upon us at the very bitter end.

But I will say this, win or lose, the Obama campaign has been absolutely stellar from start to finish. If Obama loses, I think it will be due to the electorate's unreadiness for a man like Obama in the White House -- and I'd say unreadiness because of Obama's age and, yes, his race -- both of which are beyond his control and which he has been masterful in managing to the extent that this is possible.

I am and will be unambiguously proud of Obama and his campaign and will keep my head high come Wednesday morning, regardless of the outcome.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dia de los Muertos


















Day of the Dead in downtown New Orleans. Right outside the famed Cabildo, next to St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a brave Tulane student dances with the Mariachi as part of the day's Dia de los Muertos festivities. In addition to Mariachi music, there is a fabulous Day of the Dead altar on display on the 2nd floor of the Cabildo. You can see the display tomorrow from 2-4pm -- and then get some Cafe du Monde beignets and cafe-au-lait afterwards. Here's a shot of the altar at the Cabildo:




















The weather is absolutely glorious in the Big Easy these days. Get out to the "Quarters" and check it out!