Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards

Pretty classy of him to end his campaign where he started it, here in the N'awl. I wish him well. Sometimes his class warfare rhetoric I found to be a bit much, but I always liked him at the gut, personal level. He was my preferred candidate in the 2004 primaries and I remember being happy that he was picked by Kerry for the VP slot. I thought he made the ticket stronger, and, actually, was the better part of that combination.

Now the question is whom will Edwards endorse, if anyone? My feeling is that he'll eventually throw his support behind Obama. But regardless, I think that his supporters are much more likely to break for Obama than for Clinton.

Nevertheless, Edwards, in my opinion, has nothing to be ashamed of or regretful of how he conducted in his campaign. He generally kept it positive, and certainly made it more interesting than it would otherwise have been.

I have a feeling we're not done with Edwards yet. And he's not done with us yet. And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Immediate Deportations?

NOLA Blogger Oyster has an interesting set of citations from Hillary Clinton and John McCain that paint them as mass deportation advocates. Forget about the fact that Clinton and McCain's comments are so downright shocking in their mean-spiritedness and their dictatorial tone. Rather, pay heed to Oyster who makes the excellent point that the gist of their sound-bites, i.e. massive deportation, is simply pie-in-the-sky policy wishful thinking. And a nasty bit of wishful thinking at that. Which makes their pandering all the worse because everyone with any shred of common sense knows that what they are suggesting as policy is a logistical impossibility.

But I want to add another little twist to this whole matter. For instance, in the New York Sun article that Oyster links to regarding Hillary's comment, and in the Meet the Press transcript that Oyster links to regarding McCain's comment, there is a notion that illegal immigrants who are guilty of a crime need to be instantly and immediately deported. The fact is that local law enforcement officials would have conniptions if this were policy. On the one hand, they'd never be able to prosecute such people charged with a crime and thus bring a measure of justice to the victims. I imagine that the woman Hillary Clinton was addressing was probably not too keen to hear that there would be "no legal process" to hold an illegal immigrant accountable for his crime, and that the punishment for the crime would be a one way ticket home at the taxpayer's expense. And then there's the fact that local law enforcement officials who need illegal immigrants as witnesses around which to build their cases not only are NOT willing to send these people home immediately, even those who commit no crimes directly themselves, but would rather break the law themselves to illegally detain illegal immigrants and imprison them without charges or recourse, simply because they are important to prosecuting a criminal case. Have Hillary and McCain not heard of the St. Tammany Six?

Monday, January 28, 2008

David Bowie for President??

Who else for the "Change" President? Oh ... he's a foreigner, isn't he? Oh well ... still a pretty cool YouTube, no?

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Matt Forte: Where's The Love?

Can't let this slip under the radar screen. Slidell native and Tulane University star halfback, Matt Forte, earned overall game MVP honors at the Senior Bowl in Hawaii. Congratulations, Matt! You've done Louisiana and Tulane proud! Good luck in the NFL.

Big Dog Brought to Heel

I like the Big Dog (that would be Bill Clinton, by the way). Less so in recent weeks what with his somewhat unseemly stumping for Hillary. But, still, I think of him as a sharp cookie, a great orator, and a damn fine President (when he could keep his "willie" contained). But, man, this little gem from Slate's John Dickerson has got to hurt:

[Hillary Clinton] Campaign aides thought that while columnists might disapprove, Bill Clinton was effective in pushing the idea that Obama had gotten a free ride from the press. But after South Carolina we might see Bill Clinton suddenly dispatched to solve some new crisis in a country with no satellite trucks and no cell towers.
Ouch! Heel, Big Dog, heel!

Barack Obama in SC

May be one of his best addresses yet:

Damn, that man can speak! But what I love about Barack Obama is that he never sheds his commitment to progressive ideas and policies. He makes no apologies for his liberalism. In fact, he makes liberal ideas something that is appealing across all ideological lines. What he represents to me is a leader whose appeal to unity is not to moderate his liberal policy ideas to attract conservatives, but rather convince conservatives that their hopes and goals are well-served by liberalism. He is not convincing to conservatives because he approaches them in terms of ideology, but rather because he can convince them to approach him in terms of ideology. And if anyone doubts his progressivism because they think that anyone who appeals across ideological lines simply can't be really progressive, I would encourage you to check out his policies. He, in fact, may be the most progressive of the three front runners. He has been consistently opposeed to the Iraq War from the beginning. He doesn't just give lip service to ending the demonizing of gays and lesbians, he has specific policies to end it. He doesn't just say that he's against the entrenched powerbrokers within the DC Beltway, he actually has conditioned his campaign to minimize the influence of such powerbrokers. Check out his record. It is solidly and consistenly progressive. Check out his policy proposals. They are detailed (even wonkish), but clearly progressive and liberal. All in the best meaning of progressivisim and liberalism, which is a meaning that believes that we all of us are progressives and liberals -- regardless of party identification. This was a big win for Obama. The magnitude of the difference is striking and just makes it all the more clear that he is a viable candidate. Example: Obama's vote count in SC was more than what McCain and Huckabee, the GOP's top two finishers in SC, combined were able to muster. (H/T: Andrew Sullivan)

Obama, 2008!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where's Huck?

I'm still here, just trying to keep the head above water at work. It's always busiest the first few weeks of the semester. One needs to get classes going, prepare lectures, orient students, do lots of small, but important administrative tasks relative to the beginning of any new project, which is how I view every new semester.

Besides, too, Mardi Gras comes early this year. Feb. 5 to be exact. And I ride in the Thoth parade, which means that when I have any free time these days, it gets consumed by the Mardi Gras agenda - getting throws, visiting float dens, preparing to ride, and even trying to soak in a few other parades in the meantime. It also usually means extra parties and more out-of-town guests to entertain. But, I'm not complaining. It's a great time of the year. I, for one, very much enjoy it.

As usual, I will have some of my students pick up work on another blog site that I use more as a pedagogical tool than for any other reason. So, if you are ever interested in Latin American affairs, and feel so inclined to see how a group of novice student bloggers take up the challenge of blogging, you should check out this blog. It's called Cuaderno Latinoamerican, or the "Latin American Notebook."

I'll try to pick up the blog posting pace as the semester gets more into a rhythm. Maybe I'll have more to say on the Democratic Presidential Primary race following the South Carolina primary election tomorrow. I have some in-law relatives in South Carolina, so I'm getting a bit of an inside peek at what's going on there. Of course, my hope is that Obama wins decisively and thus picks up some good momentum heading into Super Tuesday -- Mardi Gras day, for that matter. But we shall see ...

Until the next time, amig@s.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Barack Obama's Latest Greatest

From his speech/sermon titled The Great Need of the Hour, delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, today, Sunday, January 20, 2008, the day before MLK day:

It's not easy to stand in somebody else's shoes. It's not easy to see past our differences. We've all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart - that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don't think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others - all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face - war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.
It's another masterpiece. Read the whole thing. I haven't come across a video of Obama delivering this speech/sermon; but I can only imagine, just from reading the text of the address, how much more powerful it must have been to hear it delivered in the way that only Obama can. If anyone has a link to a clip of Obama delivering this address (even if only an audio clip), I would be much obliged if you would share this link with me.

Now ... I was born the year MLK, Jr., was killed, so I have really no personal connection to the vibrancy of the Civil Rights era in its heyday; but I can't help but imagine that the emotions and the inspiration that I draw from Obama, and his message of unity and of hope, must be what many felt listening to Dr. King. In many ways, I think Obama transcends even Presidential Politics. I am convinced that, win or lose this primary, Obama will have transformed our society just for having participated. God bless him for giving all of us this gift.

The First Campaign Manager?

Not sure what to make of this, but while at Church this morning, the pastor of my parish, in the context of the weekly scripture readings which focused on the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, spoke of the political primary campaigns currently underway in the U.S. Now, my pastor didn't exactly use the terminology of Campaign Manager to describe John the Baptist, but it seemed to me that the picture he was painting of John the Baptist's example as it related to the current political environment in the United States sure sounded a lot like that of a Campaign Manager of sorts, albeit for a different kind of campaign. I must say that the thought rather intrigued me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inside the Academy Beltway

This week, we started classes. As usual, I'm consumed by the moment of getting this new semester off the ground. Consequently, I haven't had much time (nor much energy, frankly) to stretch beyond the confines of the Ivory tower (at least in ways that aren't directly related to my work as an educator).

So, I confess to being completely out of the loop on the Jindal inauguration. Not that I mind it so much, since I am completely unenthused about his impending reign. I wish the man well and I hope he delivers positive things for Louisiana. I can even muster up some hope that he might just do so; but I am certainly not emotionally invested in his administration.

On the national front, the Obama/Clinton rivalry is kinda in a breather space. Not much of note, I think, going on there. Even the "putting the race card to rest" moment didn't strike me as all that attention worthy. Perhaps that is because I am in my little bubble.

But there is also always the excitement of the start of a new term. And that's nice. It gives me energy of a different sort in a different way.

I'm teaching a new course, too, which adds to the excitement. The title of the course is "Social Justice in the Americas." It's a course that is heavily invested in the integration of community service and classroom learning. My students and I will be knee-deep in an exciting project called "LatiNOLA Votes," which is a voter registration drive targeted towards the metro New Orleans area Latino citizenry. Our community partner is an organization called Puentes, which is run under the auspices of the Hispanic Apostolate of the Arch-diocese of New Orleans. I'm working with some great people who have seemingly boundless amounts of energy and a commitment to community action, organizing, and service that is both impressive and humbling. In my standard introductory course on Latin America, I'll have some students working with the ESL program at St. Anna's Episcopal Church on Esplanade Ave., and other students working on labor rights and wage claims with the Interfaith Worker's Justice Center on Canal Street.

So that's where I am currently. But, I'm also very much thinking about Mardi Gras, too! I ride in the Thoth parade in a few short weeks, and it's always a highlight of my year. If you don't know already, the Thoth parade rides on Sunday, Febrary 3, in the late morning. We're scheduled to start rolling down our unique Uptown route at 11:00-11:30am (can't remember exactly when, at the moment). If any of you reading this plan to be out at Thoth on Sunday morning (and do a Rain Dance to keep the bad weather away!), especially if you'll be out with your kids (Thoth is a very kid-friendly parade), drop me an email at huckupchuck-at-hotmail-dot-com and I'll give you my float details and position.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Thinking politically in higher education is difficult for both practical and conceptual reasons. As a practical matter, it runs against the grain of academic cultures. Conceptually, thinking politically differs from other approaches to cultural and institutional change. Indeed, conventional approaches disdain politics.

"Practically, thinking politically means building political coalitions or alliances, and this requires recognizing what different political perspectives, interests, and disciplines have to offer. It means building extensive relationships across silo cultures. It means turning hidden, privately felt discontents into objects for public discussion. It means developing public leadership through experiences of public work, cooperative, successful effort with others. It means learning to share credit and public recognition. It means creating space for reflection and collective evaluation. Yet all these steps go directly against the grain of the free-wheeling individual entrepreneurship, disciplinary turf wars, argument culture, hierarchies, and competitiveness that both structure and fragment academia."

Harry C. Boyte, Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004): 141.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sudoku Junkie

Yes, I have to admit it. I am a Sudoku junkie. I have played this game so many times that I pretty much know all the tricks to figuring these suckers out, even some of the most challenging puzzles.

It's to the point now where I don't even do the Monday through Friday Sudoku puzzles in the Times Picayune. And when I hunch over the weekend newspapers which contain the supposedly most difficuly puzzles, it is my firm practice to do the puzzles without making any kind of notations of possible number combinations in the corners of the puzzle grid squares. I'll only write a number in one of the grid squares if I'm sure it's the correct number.

The most challenging puzzles I have come across are contained in the New York Post's "Fiendish" Sudoku Book. Some of these "fiendish" puzzles have, indeed, stumped me.

In any case, if there are other Sudoku junkies out there who know where I might find another source of challenging puzzles, I'm very open to recommendations.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Salvation of Souls

As a liberal Catholic Christian, I sometimes find myself engaged in theological discussions with other Christians over a wide variety of topics. A frequent topic of discussion is whether or not non-Christians have access to heaven, or eternal life with God, etc. Or whether non-Christians, unless they convert, are subject to eternal damnation. I just don't understand the arguments of those fundagelicals who would say that non-Christians are not as worthy or meritorious of heaven as Christians. I always wonder how do these fallible humans claim to know the mysteries of God? Nevertheless, since many of these folks also speak so highly of C.S. Lewis, I often resort to the words of C.S. Lewis to try to convey the basic position that I hold, which is one that embraces non-Christians as equally privileged members of God's family and that allows for non-Christians a place in heaven. Specifically, in the final installment of the Narnia Chronicles series of C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, I point to Emeth's story of his meeting with Aslan, who is the Christ figure. Emeth, a Tarkaan who had worshipped Tash, Aslan's evil opposite, all of his life, tells of his encounter with Aslan:

But I said [to Aslan], Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. ... I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.
This simple rendering captures it all for me. It makes perfect sense. But it should come as a warning to those Christians who seek to do violence against, or to engage in acts of destruction and harm against, their fellow humans -- no matter how much they may disagree with their fellow humans.

From the Archives: Advice to Young Conservatives Getting Ready for College

Since most colleges and universities (including mine) are gearing up for the Spring semester, I thought I would re-post something I wrote previously. Here 'tis:

As a college professor, I would like to say to young conservatives (and, really, to all young people) about to embark on the "liberal brainwashing" that is college. Take heart! Just think that if colleges and universities really were the big brother boogeyman liberal indoctrination machines that Rush Limbaugh would have you believe, there would be much fewer conservatives, independents, and libertarians with college degrees out there.

The fact that many young conservatives not only survive college, but also come through it perhaps with a more informed conservative conviction, is proof positive that college is good for both liberals and conservatives (and even independent and/or apolitical folk, too!)

What is scary to folks like Rush Limbaugh is that college encourages critical thinking. College bombards you with information and data and then challenges you to digest it, make sense of it, and to argue in defense of the conclusions you reach from the critical thinking process with those who come to different conclusions when digesting and thinking on the same information and data. And please know that having what you believe challenged by others is not an assault on your being. It is an invitation to study, think, and argue back.

Folk like Limbaugh are afraid that if you think critically you might become liberal. And they call it brainwashing if, in fact, this happens. Well, let me just tell you that critical thinking is not something to be afraid of. Sure, it may (and probably will) change your view the world; but how it does so is wide open and is ultimately up to you.
I'd only add the following advice to young liberals: Don't think you are immune to having your liberal views challenged, too. And if you find yourself in an environment where your liberal views are more shared and more espoused by your peers, don't let the comfort of such an environment cause you to become complacent. Always question your views critically and be open to opposing ideas. And never ever manipulate an environment tilted more towards liberal viewpoints to demean or marginalize an intellectual rival. Remember that you will almost certainly find yourself at some point in your life in the minority and, perhaps, on the defensive on some issues. Think of how you would want to be treated by your intellectual rivals in such a context, and then offer that courtesy to others.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Substance of Barack Obama, Part I

You know, I am tired of Obama naysayers claiming that Obama is nothing more than an establishment politician who is not a true progressive on the issues and who lacks specific and concrete plans and policies for governing as a progressive liberal President in ways profoundly different than the ways of previous Presidents or than the ways proposed by his current Democratic opponents. So, to take up the challenge of showing just how wrong the naysayers are, and how their criticism of Obama is as insubstantial as they claim Obama's positions to be, I'm going to be featuring the concrete and specific plans and policies Obama has outlined that prove he is truly the candidate of progressive change on the substance of issues. So, without further ado, here's Part I of The Huck Upchuck's Substance of Barack Obama series:

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - That abomination of a policy, implemented during the Bill Clinton presidency, whose effect is to require gay soldiers either to live their lives in the closet, or to kick them out of the military simply for coming out. The progressive change position on this issue is simple: to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Here's Barack Obama on Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

As president, I will work with Congress and place the weight of my administration behind enactment of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which will make nondiscrimination the official policy of the U.S. military. I will task the Defense Department and the senior command structure in every branch of the armed forces with developing an action plan for the implementation of a full repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And I will direct my Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to develop procedures for taking re-accession requests from those qualified service members who were separated from the armed forces under Don't Ask, Don't Tell and still want to serve their country. The eradication of this policy will require more than just eliminating one statute. It will require the implementation of anti-harassment policies and protocols for dealing with abusive or discriminatory behavior as we transition our armed forces away from a policy of discrimination. The military must be our active partners in developing those policies and protocols. That work should have started long ago. It will start when I take office.

America is ready to get rid of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. All that is required is leadership.
Not only is it specific and concrete in detailing how he will end this policy, but he even has a plan to bring openly gay soldiers back into the military.

Now, here's what Hillary has to say on Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
Hillary knows that courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice – the traits that define our men and women in uniform – have nothing to do with sexual orientation. She's concerned that the military is discharging people with critical skills, including desperately needed Arabic language skills. Hillary believes that this is a matter of national security and as president, she will address it.
She'll "address it?" That's it?!? Nothing more need be said.

As for John Edwards, well he apparently supports ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but I couldn't find any mention of this policy on his Campaign website, much less a concrete plan for dealing with it. He has a lengthy section on the military, but doesn't even mention this issue. And, of course, we all know that Edwards is the only one of the Democratic frontrunners who personally opposes gay marriage on moral grounds, even though he says he is against the FMA.

In the end, who's not only the most progressive candidate among the three Democratic frontrunners on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but also has the most concrete and specific plans for implementing his progressive policy?


Say It Ain't So, Obama!

Obama's campaign seems to have taken an unpleasant turn. I agree with oyster. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad move. No need for such desperation, Obama. No need for slinging such mud, especially this kind of mud. Don't descend to the depths of identity politics. Please!

Explaining New Hampshire

Speaking simply out of nothing more than pure conjecture, my guess (or wishful thinking) in looking at the numbers is that the NH independents have clearly indicated a preference for the Democrats in the general election. I say this because the total numbers of votes cast for the Democrats far outstripped those cast for the Republicans. The Democrats received about 55% of votes cast and the Republicans only 45% of votes cast. This in a state where registered Democratic voters constitute 26% of all eligible voters and registered Republicans constitute 30% of all eligible voters.

Now, my reasoning is that if independents trended towards the Democrats so significantly, then it seems to me that independents would likely be more open to any of the democratic frontrunner candidates overall and more concerned about who the Republican candidate would be, propelling them to opt for making sure a frontrunner candidate in the Republican party would be more to their liking and inclination: i.e. McCain. So, I think some independents likely to vote for the Democrat in the general elections peeled off to vote in the Republican primary today for McCain. And given Obama's appeal to more independent voters, these peel off votes for McCain likely cost Obama at least a couple of percentage points against Hillary. Probably not enough to really call into question Hillary's good showing, but perhaps enough to have one a really close squeaker.

Just some thoughts. And here's another ...

I think the Obama/Edwards tag-team at the NH Democrat debate really makes it likely that, should Edwards pull out of the race, he'll throw his backing behind Obama. And this would sink Hillary for sure.

Furthermore, although Edwards might not want to do a VP repeat, should he be open to that possibility again, an Obama overture to Edwards for the VP slot in the general would really, I think, solidify the potential for a real mandate victory by the Democrats in November. Having Edwards on the ticket would put the South in play for the Democrats, and it would certainly make Louisiana viable given what I think is strong support for Edwards here as many perceive him to be the only national candidate (of either party) to have truly paid attention to Louisiana's post-Katrina situation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Obama Transcends Even In Conceding

I tell you, I just watched Obama give what apparently was a concession speech in New Hampshire; but listening to him speak and the manner of his speaking, one would think that America won, even if he didn't. The man is perhaps the best orator I have witnessed in modern times. Only Bill Clinton can even approach it. I tell you, the Republicans have nothing on the Democrats in terms of the ability to give fantastic public speeches.

I have to say that I had a bit of that empty feeling in my gut seeing the returns come in favoring Clinton. And then I watched Obama talk. And that feeling dissipated. And I even began to think that should Hillary take the nomination in the end, it will still all be good in the end for America.

Obama is the real deal. And I look forward to his battling it out with Hillary in the weeks to come.

I am becoming more and more certain of one thing: the Democratic Party is back, it is invigorated, and it is renovated. Whether he wins or not (and I'm still convinced he will win it all and win it big), Obama has radically changed the terms of our politics and the Democratic party's path to victory in November.

Huckabee, Coffee, and Obama

Hot damn! I just loved this story:

By Associated Press
January 08, 2008 7:47 AM
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Mike Huckabee gave it his all this morning to sway one voter — even pouring coffee for him — to no avail.

Outside the Brookside Congregational Church, Huckabee waded into crowd to greet voters on their way into the polling place.

He ran into Joe Legay, 70, and asked who Legay who was voting for.

"I'm independent," Legay said, ducking the question.

"So I have one more chance, what can I do? Can I pour you coffee?" Huckabee asked,then poured him a cup of coffee from a doughnut shop coffee container. "Where else than in New Hampshire does a candidate come out and personally pour coffee?"

Then again, he asked Legay how he would vote.

"I'm independent so I have to be quiet," Legay said, apparently not wanting to hurt Huckabee's feelings, because as Huckabee moved on, he told a reporter he was voting for Democrat Barack Obama.

"My suggestion is that if he makes it, then Edwards should be his vice president," Legay said.
Emphasis mine. Good for you, Joe Legay!

O'Reilly's Stirring Defense of the Constitution

A few posts back, I wrote about FoxNews mouthmook Bill O'Reilly's stalker-like obsession with Barack Obama. Well, O'Reilly is now claiming that his pathethic, jerkish behavior was absolutely necessary to defend the U.S. Constitution. Click here for the Crooks and Liars story on this, and make sure to look at the video.

Now, where was O'Reilly and his stirring defense of the Constitution argument when Lamar White Jr. reported a similar incident where folks presumed to be affiliated with Bobby Jindal's campaign attempted to "block the shot" of a Louisiana citizen's efforts to videorecord Jindal's speech? Here's the clip of that incident:

Can you imagine what O'Reilly would have run on his show had the folks being blocked in the above clip pulled the same kind of stunt O'Reilly did at the Obama rally.

O'Reilly sure is a piece of work, is he not? And he's one of the darlings of FoxNews. Where's the integrity of that pathetic excuse of a network when it comes not only to dealing with the completely unacceptable, atrocious behavior of O'Reilly, but also to dealing with his smug, pathetic, and disgusting little attempt to defend his indefensible thuggery by wrapping it in the U.S. Constitution? Most networks would fire their staff for engaging in such shenanigans. The least FoxNews can do is apologize. But I'm not holding my breath. After all, it is FoxNews.

Obama and Kenya

Time magazine's Joe Klein brought something up about Obama that I think provides a very telling and admirable aspect of Obama's character and fitness for the Presidency. I'm reposting what Klein had to say in full, because I believe it's worthy of repeating in its entirety:

One of the more extraordinary stories of the Obama campaign has been playing out behind the scenes over the past week as the candidate has been working on a daily basis to try to calm things down in his father's homeland and his grandmother's home, Kenya, where a contested election has led to riots.

On January 1, two days before the Iowa caucuses, Obama left a message for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to Robert Gibbs, Obama's Communications Director, Rice called back "as we were driving from Sioux City to Council Bluffs on January 1. They talked about the situation and Rice asked Obama to tape a Voice of America message calling for calm." Obama taped the message on January 2, after a rally in Davenport, Iowa. He said, in part:
"Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation, now is not the time to throw that strong democracy away. Now is a time for President Kibaki, opposition leader Odinga, and all of Kenya’s leaders to call for calm, to come together, and to start a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them. Now is the time for this terrible violence to end.

Kenya’s long democratic journey has at times been difficult. But at critical moments, Kenyans have chosen unity and progress over division and disaster. The way forward is not through violence – it is through democracy, and the rule of law. To all of Kenya’s people, I ask you to renew Kenya’s democratic tradition, and to seek your dreams in peace."
On January 3, the day of the caucuses, he had a conversation with Bishop Desmond Tutu, who had flown to Nairobi to see if he could begin negotiations with the factions. In the days since his Iowa victory, Obama has had near-daily conversations with the U.S. Ambassador in Kenya or with opposition leader Raila Odinga. As of late this afternoon, before his rally in Rochester, N.H., Obama was trying to reach Kenyan President Kibaki.

I haven't been able to talk to Obama directly about this--he is sort of busy right now--but it does seem noteworthy that, in the midst of the most amazing week of his life, Barack Obama has found the time to do a some diplomatic scut-work. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of this sort of thing if he wins the nomination and is elected President.
I was wondering about what Barack Obama must have been thinking about the recent events in the land of his father. On the one hand, I am pleasantly surprised to know that he has been so actively engaged with the issue at this time. On the other hand, I'm not surprised at all to discover that he's doing this, and doing it without fanfare or the expectation of recognition for his engagement. Let me make one final remark on Klein's closing comment. Klein ends his posting with this sentence:
I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of this sort of thing if he wins the nomination and is elected President.
Emphasis is mine. I take issue with Klein's statement on one particular. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of this sort of thing from Obama whether or not he wins the nomination and is elected President. That's the kind of person Barack Obama is.

You know, thinking on it a bit more, I'm doubly impressed with Obama because he could have thrashed Hillary at the New Hampshire debate on her criticism of him as someone who talks a big game about "change," but doesn't act on it. By pointing to his efforts to try to help Kenya through this difficult moment in this midst of his own all-consuming campaign, he could have exposed Hillary's claim for the lie that it is in one fell swoop and could have embarrassed Hillary in the process by asking what she had recently done outside of campaigning to work for positive change in the world. If that's not being an active agent of change, I don't know what is. If that's not "governing with prose," so to speak, I don't know what is.

Two final points: (1) The fact that Obama didn't bludgeon Hillary with this example at the NH debate speaks volumes as to Obama's classiness and superior character. (2) The fact that Obama is simply doing this at all, much less doing so under the radar and without fanfare and during the most critical part of the primary campaign season, is testament to his leadership ability worthy of a President.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

More NH Democratic Debate Reax

I don't know what debate The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder saw last night, but his assessment strikes me as way off the mark (pun intended!). Unlike Ambinder, I certainly saw some "New Hampshire Ice" replacing "Iowa Nice." Now, this crowd's reaction [see the YouTube clip below] to Hillary's performance is more reflective of what I saw last night and represents my thoughts on the debate immediately after watching it. As many of these people mentioned, Hillary went negative (as one person said, she got "vicious") on the "change" motif and took it as a personal attack when she really didn't have to. What is also stunning is the degree of shift in voter support away from Hillary towards Barack. Methinks Hillary is toast in NH. Watch the whole thing.

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Saturday, January 05, 2008

NH Democratic Debate Performance Assessment

How'd they do? Well, here's my two cents:

1. Edwards - I thought he was impressive. Clearly passionate and with just the right balance of seriousness and humor. His weakness was harping on the class warfare angle. He makes an effective impassioned plea, but I think it's too divisive a position.
2. Obama - Cautious and, surprisingly, less inspirational than he can be. I think it was clear that he, as the frontrunner with momentum, came in prepared to have to defend himself against attacks while being careful not to make any mistakes. He handled himself well against Hillary, not allowing himself to be too nonplussed, defensive, and put out by her attacks. And Obama should buy Edwards a steak (or, better yet, perhaps give Edwards a VP nod!) for being his best surrogate defender against Hillary. Edwards did the dirty job of hitting back hard against Hillary when she went on the attack, and this allowed Obama to be spared the indignity of descending to the negative space of having to bite back. Edwards allowed Obama to basically take the high ground and yet still have his back covered.
3. Richardson - In his position as a long-shot candidate, he seemed the most relaxed and also made great use of his underdog position to be the one to mediate the barbs among the top three and to even take the high ground of advocating civility in the exchange. He came across as very informed and with good administrative experience, especially on energy policy (no surprise there); but he just didn't do or say anything to elevate himself beyond his status as a potential VP pick.
4. Clinton - She was best when she stuck with her positions on policy and god-awful when she sought to go after Obama or Edwards, which was, unfortunately, much too often in this debate. Her attacks came across as vindictive, mean, and especially desperate. You could feel her defensiveness and panic, and that she sensed the prize of the nomination slipping out of her grasp. She responded to the "change" motif of Obama and Edwards as if it were a personal attack. And surely, Obama and Edwards are utilizing this motif to differentiate themselves from Hillary; but, by God, the change motif is not something she needs to get so personally defensive about.

My ranking with grades:

1. Edwards - B+
2. Richardson - B
3. Obama - B-
4. Clinton - C

My favorite moment had nothing to do with any candidate response, but with the debate moderator himself. As a university professor myself, I got as much of a laugh as the audience did at the absurdity of his comment that a husband and wife team of college professors would have a combined income of over $200,000.

I guess it's a good thing that I think all of these Primary debates are basically worthless outside of entertainment value and have negligible impact on voting behavior, since I'm an Obama supporter and I think Obama didn't perform all that well. I think the stump campaigning is where victory gets made, and Obama is unrivalled in this regard.

Bill O'Reilly's Obama Obsession

Does Bill O'Reilly have such an obsessive crush on Obama that he's worse than a petulant, screaming, and obsessed Britney fan, on the verge of requiring a restraining order? Sure seems like it. What a small, mean, petty man! And this is one of FoxNews' "best" and most popular blowhards. Sure says a lot about O'Reilly and the network he represents.

My NOLA Cuisine

New Orleans is famous for its food, and deservedly so. I've eaten in many places across the globe and I still have yet to find one place that, on the whole, compares to the food one can get here.

Sometimes I sit around and ponder what would be the best food combinations for each meal of the day. What follows is The Huck Upchuck's dream menu, with some alternatve options, for the day.

Cafe-au-lait from Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter
Croissants from La Boulangerie Bakery on Magazine Street
Huevos Rancheros from the Bluebird Cafe on Prytania Street
Pecan Waffles from Camellia Grill on Carrolton Ave.

Option 1:
Crab Fingers in Butter/Wine Sauce from Mandina's on Canal St.
Fried Oyster/Shrimp Half-n-Half Po-Boy from Crabby Jack's on Claiborne/Jefferson
Cornbread from Dunbar's (formerly on Freret St., now serving in Loyola's Law School Cafeteria)
Lebanese Iced Tea from Mona's Cafe on Carrollton Ave.

Option 2:
Fried Onion Rings from Liuzza's on Bienville
White Beans and Shrimp over Rice from Cafe Reconcile
Side Ceasar Salad at Ignatius Restaurant on Magazine
Frozen mug Rootbeer at Frostop's on Claiborne

Option 1:
Frozen Margaritas at Vera Cruz Restaurant on Maple Street
Grilled Garlic Shrimp at Lola's Restaurant on Esplanade Ave.
Carnitas, Beef, and Chorizo Tacos at Taqueria Corona on Magazine St.
Cup Custard at Galatoire's Restaurant on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter

Option 2:
Apple Martinis at Galatoire's Restaurant.
Baguettes with Garlic Butter at Lola's Restaurant on Esplanade Ave.
Fried Grits at Jacques-Imos Restaurant on Oak Street
Turtle Soup at Commander's Palace Restaurant on Washington Ave.
Green Salad at Reginelli's Pizzeria on Magazine Street
Cinnamon Smoked Port Tenderloin at Peristyle Restaurant on Dumaine Street (Peristyle Chef Tom Wolfe used to have a fantastic Double Cut Pork Chop at the now defunct Wolfe's of New Orleans Restaurant on Pontchartrain Blvd. in Lakeview)
Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce at Commander's Palace on Washington Ave. (The absolute best damn dessert in the entire universe. Honest to God. No kidding. Seriously.)

I could put together probably 10 more complete menu lists. There's so much good food I'm leaving out: Pimm's Cup at Napoleon House in the French Quarter, the Alligator Sausage Po-Boy at Ignatius, The Bacon and Cheese Omelet at Camellia Grill (and its Grill-warmed Pecan Pie), the Crawfish Etouffee at Mulate's, the Central Grocery's muffuletta, etc., etc. But I think the above list is pretty darn good. If you follow any of the options listed above for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in any one day, you'd be about as close to heavan as one can get on earth.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Harlem Reacts to Obama Win in Iowa

I found this brief post by a blogger in Harlem on the reaction to Obama's victory in Iowa at a pro-Obama gathering there to be really poignant. Here's the first few paragraphs:

I went to a pro-Obama gathering in Harlem last night to watch the Iowa Caucus, win or lose, black history was going to be made. Where else would I go?

The place was packed, resting on the floor was one of those types of murals you see on fading brick walls all over Harlem and New York City, they show Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X, Biggie and Big Pun, with the sunbeams radiating off of a single figure...and there was Obama, hand outstretched, face frozen in thought.

A man in a fur coat with diamonds in his ears and an Obama sticker on his chest brushes past a pinstriped lawyer fastened to his blackberry. A teacher and mother sits glued to the television, her hands gripping the collar of her coat. Another woman who remembers America 50 years ago watches Obama's victory tells me she's never seen anything like this in her entire life. Someone says, "Doesn't he look like a president?"
The rest is just as powerful. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Iowa Victors: Obama and Huckabee

Some thoughts on the winners of the Iowa caucuses:

Huckabee had a good night, but I don't think he has any legs to stand on beyond that victory. Why do I think this? Well, I have this habit of doing round-ups of the conservative blogosphere and they despise Huckabee. They're not just lukewarm to the man, they are disgusted by him. They recognize his charisma, but they see him as a Jimmy Carter-esque big government fundagelical. They also think he's got a slimy side to him as well. Just read this posting and especially the comments following it at a well-known conservative blog, and you'll see what I mean. And you can find this kind of thing on prominent conservative blogs all over the conservative blogosphere (not to mention prominent conservative talking heads, like Limbaugh and Hannity, who also despise Huckabee). In short, the conservative "base" would rather be waterboarded than have to support Huckabee in the general election. So, if he makes it through the nomination process and gets the nod, which I sincerely doubt, he'll be crushed by Obama (or Edwards, or even Hillary!).

As for Obama's victory, a couple of thoughts. First, unlike some others who are skeptical of an Obama candidacy, I've never seen the negatives about Obama that would warrant such skepticism. He has always impressed me and it surprises me that so many people have such a much higher threshhold of proof of ability and competency for Obama. The great thing about Obama is that he'll meet and exceed this higher threshhold. The way I see it, Obama has always been a blue chip starter but who has been treated like a walk-on scout teamer. Second, if his race was the questionable issue, white-bread Iowa should have put this decisively to rest.

And speaking of race, I wonder if John Hawkins of Right Wing News will look at the results of the white Democrat caucuses in Iowa and re-evaluate his claim that white Democrats are racists. Seems like white liberal folk have no problems voting for a black candidate.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: The Hypocritical Race-Baiting of John Hawkins

Conservative blogger John Hawkins of Right Wing News has yet another revealing post on racialized politics. Yet what it reveals is something completely different than what Hawkins thinks it does. It reveals that Hawkins is a race-baiter with the best of them, one that would make even Al Sharpton blush. In fact, I think it's even worse for Hawkins because he hops on his high horse and pretends that race doesn't matter to him given that he's such a good conservative when it clearly does. I call BS. I'm going to expose this race-baiting fraud and I'll prove it with a good fisking of his latest piece of mental sewage, a fisking which this nitwit so richly deserves. [Aside: Before I jump into the meat of the fisking, let me just point out to you that everytime Hawkins posts something about racial difference, it's almost always in the context of playing the race card himself. Hawkins almost never talks about race dispassionately and without calling liberals racists. That simple fact alone makes him as much a race-hustler as any other race hustler I know.] Now ... on to the fisking ...

In this piece, Hawkins ponders why the "netroots" doesn't like Obama. He claims there's a "Simple Explanation" - they're racist. His evidence? Liberals sometimes vote for white people. Heck, by that measure, what does that make him?

Let me slice and dice his posting piece by piece. First, he starts off by citing a piece by Stephen Spruiell over at the National Review Online. In this citation, Spruiell ponders the question as to why "liberal bloggers (a.k.a. the netroots) have such a problem with this guy [Obama]?" Hawkins responds:

He [Spruiell] goes on to essentially say that they don't like him because he's picking up "conservative frames in very unhelpful ways." This is far too charitable and obviously not true, because if it applies to Barack Obama, it certainly would have applied tenfold to guys like James Webb and Jon Tester, both of whom were ardently supported by the netroots in 2006 even though they were, ideologically and rhetorically, significantly to Obama's right.
First off, Hawkins is comparing apples to oranges. The "netroots" supported Webb and Tester because they were running against even more conservative Republican opponents. And control of the Senate hung in the balance. Just like Hawkins will support whomever the GOP nominates this November because he will consider that person better than the alternative, "netroots" liberals supported Webb and Tester.

I guarantee you that if Obama wins the Democratic Nomination, you'll see the "netroots" liberals who are currently supporting other candidates "ardently supporting" Obama against any of the current crop of potential GOP candidates. If Hawkins thinks that the netroots liberals will not rally behind Obama and will stay home this November if Obama is the Democratic candidate, he'd be a certifiable fool. Furthermore, what is clearly true, from all indications, is that Obama is appealing to GOP moderates in ways that distinguish him from the rest of the Democratic field. Obama most certainly can frame issues important to conservatives in ways that resonate across all ideological perspectives. All you need to do is to listen to Obama speak on the subject of faith and politics to know this is true. So, it is Hawkins who is engaging in some uncharitable wishful thinking. So why does Hawkins make such a clearly boneheaded claim? Well, to get to the real point of his posting, as the rest of his posting will show, it is nothing more than to race-hustle and to play the race card. Hawkins continues ...
I would offer up a simpler explanation: the netroots is very liberal, very white, and there are lot of them who just don't trust a black man to be President.
Change the word "netroots" to "rightroots" and the word "liberal" to "conservative" in the above sentence, without any kind of evidence beyond the expression of this opinion and you Al Sharpton. But it gets worse. Watch how race then becomes central to Hawkins' line of thought:
It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Roughly 90% of blacks vote Democratic, but there are only a handful of blacks representing majority white districts. Why? Because liberal whites won't vote for them.
Well, I'm thinking about it. And what Hawkins' statement tells me is that he makes race the exclusive explanatory variable for voting behavior. He says that 90% of Blacks vote Democratic. Why do they vote Democratic? Could it be because the Democratic Party represents positions on Health Care, Labor, Wages that are important to these voters? No siree! They vote Democratic because they are black. You'd think Hawkins, being the color-blind person he claims, wouldn't patronize black folk in this way and explain their vote for Democrats exclusive on the color of their skin. But it gets better, doesn't it? He immediately goes on to say that the reason there are only a handful of blacks representing majority white districts is because liberal whites won't vote for them! Gosh, darn! You'd think that all the white folk in "majority white districts" are all "liberal whites." Go figure! I wonder whom the "conservative white" voters in "majority white" districts are voting for? The "black" candidate? Maybe it's the white conservative voters who won't vote for black candidates and make them their elected representative. I'm sure Hawkins would bluster and defend himself by saying: "well, if there were a 'black' conservative running for office, his race wouldn't matter." And it wouldn't ever dawn on him that the fact that he needs to speak of the likelihood of a black conservative candidate running for office in the hypothetical says something about race and conservative voting patterns. Furthermore, Hawkins doesn't even consider the possiblity that a white liberal voter who votes for a white candidate over a black candidate is doing so because the white candidate better reflects that voters interests on matters of policy. Hawkins, in his own twisted logic, apparently believes that white liberals simply must vote for a black candidate for no other reason than that candidate is black! And I ask you, who is being the race hustler here? Well, if you're not sure of the answer to that question, Hawkins' next comments will clear it up and leave no doubts ...
How can it be George Bush has a much more impressive record of appointing black Americans in his cabinet than "the first black President," Bill Clinton? Simple -- white Democrats are a lot more racist than Republicans.
And so we arrive at the nub of it. Hawkins exposed. Unadulterated and raw and ugly. Out with it, Hawkins! The measure of racism is determined by the number of blacks appointed to a cabinet. Forget qualifications. Forget ability. Just line people up and take note of skin color. And the "racist" is the one with the fewest blacks in the lineup. Yep. For Hawkins, it all boils down to skin color apparently. How "unconservative" is that? And notice Hawkins has expanded his racist claims from "white liberal netroots" to "white Democrats" generally. Apparently, I (a white Democrat) am a lot more racist than David Duke (a Republican). And why am I a lot more racist? By Hawkins' measure, Not because I engage in racist behavior. No, Hawkins doesn't even qualify his charge of racism on the basis of behavior. He just links it to skin color and party affiliation. I am a lot more racist only because I am a "white Democrat." Oy, vey! Moving on ...
Why do you think that the Republican Party -- which has had essentially the same position on racial discrimination for more than a hundred years, "The law should be colorblind" -- doesn't support programs like Affirmative Action and racial set asides while Democrats do? Part of it is because those programs discriminate unconstitutionally against white people. But, another big part of it is simply that white Republicans believe black Americans are just as capable as whites and don't need special help, while Democrats believe that blacks are too incompetent to compete with white people without getting a helping hand from the government.
Yeah, Hawkins. If you think blacks are as "capable" as whites, why don't you trust them to vote in accordance with their best interests? Or do they have to be "conservative" blacks who vote for the GOP in order to be as capable as whites? And if the Republican Party's position is a "colorblind" one, why are you, Hawkins, so caught up with color yourself?
The truth slips out every so often -- and not just when Joe Biden or Robert Byrd make the mistake of saying what they really think. White liberal Democrats are much more likely to make race based attacks on blacks who make them angry than their counterparts on the right. That black conservative is an Oreo, he's an uncle Tom. She's an Aunt Jemima. That black guy running for President might be a coke-dealing Muslim (Silent subtext: You know how THOSE PEOPLE are. Do you really trust ONE OF THEM to do a white person's job like the Presidency?)

That's not to say that there aren't any racists on the right, because there certainly are, but as a general rule, Republicans are -- and have been -- considerably less racist than Democrats since the founding of our parties all the way to the present day.
The truth does, indeed, slip out. And the truth that has slipped out here is that Hawkins is a race-hustler. If this whole piece isn't a race-based attack on white Democrats who makes Hawkins angry, I don't know what it is. The whole point of this piece is to make people like me out to be a racist simply because I am a white liberal Democrat. Maybe I'm missing something here, but I fail to see a distinction between a white liberal Democrat saying "that black conservative is an Oreo" and a white conservative Republican saying "that white liberal Democrat wants to keep black folk illiterate and on the plantation." And this whole piece is also very patronizing towards blacks, too. It presumes that the 90% of black people who vote Democrat aren't "capable" enough to see how the white liberal Democrats are keeping them down. In Hawkins' mind, these poor, unfortunate black folk are nothing but brainwashed dupes who can't discern the truth -- at least without the helping hand of white conservatives.
The Democrats have just managed to turn their weakness into a strength. Instead of discriminating against blacks because they think they're inferior, they support giving them special race based privileges because they think they're inferior. It's a position that a liberal and a Klansman, who are and always have been mostly Democrats, could both agree on.
Go home, Hawkins. We've learned a lot about you and race. Take your racialized politics somewhere else.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

NOLA Bisonheads

Have you ever noticed that many local guys in New Orleans have thick necks and huge heads in proportion to the rest of their body? It's rather unique to New Orleans guys and comes, I think, from too many beers and fried oyster po-boys.

In any event, some of my buddies and I identified this phenomenon as the "Bisonhead Syndrome." Let me give you a lesson in how to sight a Bisonhead on the streets of Greater New Orleans. First, you must carefully study the contours of the original Bison Head - Jowly, fleshy, and disproportionately large, thick, and heavy from the shoulders up. To wit:

Among the NOLA herds, here are some prominent and fairly recognizable Bisonheads.

Recent Gubernatorial Candidate Walter Boasso:

Local actor and talk radio personality John "Spud" McConnell:

Local Police Chief Warren J. Riley:

One might also point to recently deceased Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, disgraced former New Orleans Councilman Oliver Thomas, and even New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as having their bouts with Bisonhead Syndrome. Now don't get me wrong. I find a certain endearing quality to the NOLA Bisonhead herd, especially since I have a tendency in this direction myself. I've got nothing against Bisonheads. I just wanted to point out the phenomenon and perhaps get you thinking the next time you happen to be out and about at the various New Orleans watering holes. The more you pay attention, the more Bisonhead sightings you will have.

Why You Should Vote For Obama

Here's the inspirational reason:

And here's the intellectual reason. Andrew Sullivan's conclusion to this piece sums up this intellectual reason nicely:

Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.

We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.
Read the whole thing.