Saturday, September 27, 2008

Feeling for Palin

Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a very thoughtful, empathetic, and moving blog posting in which he, as a black man, really probes the depths of his feelings about how he reads the Palin selection. In short, Coates finds grounds for solidarity with Palin and thinks that McCain has misused and abused her for cheap political points in the identity politics game. It's truly a must-read and Coates has given all of us a very new perspective on the Sarah Palin selection.

I wrote a comment on Coates' blog in response to his posting, and I want to repeat that comment here. This is what I said:

I do have twinges of empathy for Sarah Palin for what McCain has done to her; and I'm even more angry at McCain for doing so. But I always have to remind myself that Sarah Palin is a woman with agency who can certainly take care of herself. It is a fundamental flaw of Sarah Palin's character and her intelligence that, when asked by McCain if she wanted to be his running mate, she, by her own words to Charlie Gibson, didn't blink. She should not only have blinked, but also reflected and said "thanks, but no thanks" to this McCain earmarked career bridge to nowhere. So, my empathy only goes so far. I wish her well, but I want her (and by extension McCain) to crash and burn because I want Obama and Biden to win -- big.

Obama/McCain Debate

Since the Democratic Primary, I've come to believe that Obama is not a great debater in structured debate formats. At best, one could say he's a very uneven performer, I think; and so I worried for him tonight in his debate with John McCain, especially since the subject of the debate was on foreign policy, which is clearly John McCain's strong point.

So, how do I think Obama fared? I thought he did just fine. When I saw how natural, relaxed, comfortable, and willing to engage McCain on foreign policy issues without backing down and assuming a deferential or defensive stance, I breathed a sigh of relief. I think Obama came off as very able to stand with John McCain and to go toe to toe with him. Now, I also think John McCain performed well, too; but then I expected him to do so. But Obama didn't shrink from the challenge, nor did he ever concede the stage. In fact, in some respects, Obama looked more comfortable physically in this engagement: he looked at McCain, he smiled, he was composed, and he was conversational. He just seemed to be more comfortable in his skin more times than John McCain did. Or so I thought. Then again, I am an Obamaphile, so I was rooting for him and tend to see all the good about his performance tonight and can be unwittingly blind to the bad.

In essence, I think Obama posted a big win tonight -- not in terms of the debate itself, per se, but rather in terms of demonstrating a threshhold ability to stand and hang tough with McCain. McCain needed to knock Obama off-balance tonight; but that pesky Obama just wouldn't go down. He fought back. And with grace, ease, and charm.

In essence, I basically agree with James Fallows:

When the details of this encounter fade, as they soon will, I think the debate as a whole will be seen as of a piece with Kennedy-Nixon in 1960, Reagan-Carter in 1980, and Clinton-Bush in 1992.

In each of those cases, a fresh, new candidate (although chronologically older in Reagan's case) had been gathering momentum at a time of general dissatisfaction with the "four more years" option of sticking with the incumbent party. The question was whether the challenger could stand as an equal with the more experienced, tested, and familiar figure. In each of those cases, the challenger passed the test -- not necessarily by "winning" the debate, either on logical points or in immediate audience or polling reactions, but by subtly reassuring doubters on the basic issue of whether he was a plausible occupant of the White House and commander in chief.
Next comes the Palin/Biden debate. I cringe at the thought of it, more out of a sense of pathos for Palin, whom I expect to just be clobbered. But at least the "expectations" threshhold for Palin will be so darn low that there's no way that she can go anywhere but up with even a barely passable performance. Even just surviving the debate without a breakdown will be considered a plus for Palin. And so we move onwards and upwards.

Go Obama/Biden!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Today's Lemonade out of Lemons Moment

As I was sorting through my (mostly junk) mail today, I thought: if there's one silver lining in the whole financial crisis, it's that the junk email from credit card companies (Transfer balances! Use these cash advance checks! Get our credit card and a low interest rate of 3.9% on balance transfers for the next 13 months! etc.,) will diminish. And whole forests of trees will be saved. That's a good thing, don't ya think?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fabulous Forte: Fantasy Football Favorite

Having seen Matt Forte play for the Green Wave last year, I knew he would not only be a starter getting lots of touches with the Bears in his Rookie year, but that his performance would also be outstanding. So I drafted him for my Fantasy Football team this year and put him in my starting lineup. And he has not disappointed.

Here's Double Deuces carrying the Bears offense yet again this week.

Forte stats for Week 3: 27 carries for 89 yards, plus 7 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.

On the season: 73 carries for 304 yards and 1 TD, plus 13 receptions for 105 yards and 1 TD.

Forte is averaging 136 total yards per game. No fumbles.

The man is the real deal.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Deroy Murdock Dishonestly Demagogues NOLA

Like the alliteration in the title? If so, and if you care about New Orleans, that's about all you're probably going to like in the story I'm about to tell you. It's been some three years since Katrina and the rightwing still shamelessly uses the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to try to score cheap political points in the current Presidential campaign.

Here's what Deroy Murdock had to say in a posting up on the conservative magazine National Review's online blog, "The Corner":

Obama and Biden: Wrong on the Bridge to Nowhere [Deroy Murdock]

Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere remains a hot topic in the presidential campaign. Fans and foes of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin continue to debate whether or not she supported the much-lampooned proposal for a link between Ketchikan and Gravina Island — population 50. This PowerPoint presentation offers relevant facts on this issue.

I also highlight the stance of senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden. While the Democratic standard bearers have denounced Palin’s position on the Bridge to Nowhere, their posture is utterly shameful. They specifically voted in favor of the bridge, even when given the opportunity to shift part of its budget to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Their criticism of Palin on this issue constitutes Iditarod-class hypocrisy.

The McCain-Palin campaign should educate the American public on Obama and Biden’s disgraceful votes on this matter. Until then, you can read all about it here, simply by clicking through this PowerPoint slide show. Start spreading the news!

09/19 12:10 PM
First off, take a look at that PowerPoint presentation. See if it doesn't make your stomach turn. What Murdock does with tragic images of the immediate post-Katrina situation in New Orleans is disgusting. Some of those images he shows have absolutely nothing at all to do with the supposed point he is trying to make about Obama and Biden's vote on funding Tom Coburn's Amendment to HR 3058 legislation that sought to shift earmarks for the Bridge to Nowhere to reconstruction of the New Orleans Twin Spans.

He calls Obama and Biden's vote on this particular piece of legislation "Iditarod-class hypocrisy." Well, I have just a few points to make on Deroy Murdock's gross mischaracterizations and shameless false equivalencies between Palin's outright mendacity regarding her position on the Bridge to Nowhere earmark and Obama and Biden's votes on the legislation he brings up.

1. Murdock is purposefully deceptive when he says that Obama and Biden "specifically voted in favor of the bridge [to nowhere], even when given the opportunity to shift part of its budget to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina." Notice that he makes it appear that the vote cast by Obama and Biden was against some direct benefit to the victims of Katrina. The reality is that the Coburn Amendment that Obama and Biden opposed, along with 80 other Senators from both parties [Aside: For his part, McCain didn't even bother to vote on the Amendment, which I guess shows how much McCain cared about supporting efforts "to aid the victims" of Hurricane Katrina!], was to shift funds from building the "Bridge to Nowhere" to reconstructing the Twin Span Bridges connecting New Orleans to Slidell. Sure this helps Hurricane victims in the sense that it repairs a major road that many residents of the area use, but that's a far, far cry from the kind of direct assistance with regard to the more immediate survival needs of victims at that time. It would have beem much better had the resources been sent to help people eat, drink, find shelter, and bury loved ones taken by the storm, than it would to build a bridge. Murdock makes it seem as if Obama and Biden were voting to take emergency food and money out of the mouths and pockets of starving and homeless Hurricane victims, and that couldn't be further from the truth. Murdock is simply dishonest in how he characterizes the impact of Obama's and Biden's votes against the Coburn Amendment.

2. That said, I have to say that I'm not fond of either Obama or Biden's "No" votes on the Coburn Amendment. Nevertheless, Murdock conveniently does not discuss the larger context of this Amendment in the broader funding legislation of HR 3085 under consideration. That doesn't justify Obama or Biden's "No" votes; but it does recognize that there's more context to this than Murdock admits or recognizes. And Murdock conveniently ignores Obama's otherwise impressive record in support of Katrina recovery resources for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. So, say what you will about Obama's vote on the Coburn Amendment, it is clear that Obama's larger record on the Gulf Coast recovery is good -- much better than Palin's record on earmarks.

3. Even still, the point of criticizing Palin on this issue is not because she either supported the Bridge to Nowhere or she didn't, but that she keeps perpetuating a lie about it. Regardless of how Obama or Biden voted on the Coburn Amendment, I don't see either of them lying about their votes or pretending that their votes were anything other than what they were. So there is no hypocrisy there. Obama and Biden are challenging (1) Palin's claim to be a pork-buster and (2) her claim that she said "thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere. Both of these claims made by the McCain/Palin campaign about Palin are abject lies. That's where the problem comes in.

4. I take it that Murdock thinks shifting earmarks from one project to another are just fine and dandy. He paints Obama's vote against the Coburn Amendment as somehow a bad thing in itself. But one has to wonder that if the whole point about critizing Palin's credentials as an earmark opponent is to show courage in saying "NO" to earmark spending, why would Murdock think that shifting funds around from one project to another is fine and dandy? After all, he's supposed to be a small government conservative who should be calling for trimming the fat from federal spending. I wonder if Murdock holds with conventional conservative "wisdom" that the federal government's allocations for Hurricane recovery are questionable allocations of federal resources to begin with. The fact is that we don't hear anything of the sort.

5. The irony is that Obama and Biden, by joining 80 of their fellow Senate colleagues in opposing the Coburn Amendment, made it possible for the monies originally allocated for the Bridge to Nowhere to still go to Alaska for other transportation and infrastructure needs, an allocation which Sarah Palin was only too happy to say: "Thanks, we'll take it." So where's Murdock's criticism of Palin on that front? If Murdock really wanted to criticize "hypocrisy" here, one would think that he'd go after Palin's claim to have said "thanks, but no thanks" for earmarked funds for building the Bridge to Nowhere, all the while saying "thanks, we'll take it" for the same exact money to build a dead end road to the non-existent Bridge to Nowhere.

Regardless of whether one is disappointed in Obama's (or Biden's) vote on the Coburn Amendment, Deroy Murdock has grossly misappropriated the tragedy of Katrina to try to make a dubious claim about Obama and Biden as a means of deflecting from the uncontestable fact of Sarah Palin's continued lies about her attitudes towards the Bridge to Nowhere earmark. As a New Orleans citizen who suffered through Katrina, Murdock's demagoguery of this tragedy as a defense of the indefensible is deplorable. But it's what I've come to expect from the dishonest elements of the right wing. It's all one of a piece with the descent into the muck that characterizes the McCain campaign these days. And it's sad that they'll stoop to that level.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How the Palin Phenomenon Hurts the GOP

You know, I have a tendency to follow certain archetypical conservative blogs. Part of my reasoning for doing so is that one needs to know the opposition well in order to compete with it. Another reason is that I actually enjoy the back and forth debating that I get from it. And truth be told, conservatives, for the most part, are decent people when it gets down to it. Sometimes they can be obnoxious, but then there are many folks on the left who can be equally as obnoxious, too. But still and all, I've not had bad experiences engaging folks in the conservative blogosphere. But that's not what I want to write about ... What I want to say is that my frequenting of conservative blogs, like Right Wing News, Hot Air, and Michelle Malkin, for example, has given me some insight into conservative political narratives. One of the most recent narratives is the supposedly positive impact that Sarah Palin's addition to the GOP presidential ticket has had on the conservative base. And, certainly, Sarah Palin has enthused and energized the conservative base. But ... and here's the kicker ... it has also consumed the conservative base, and particularly the conservative blogosphere, such that all they can think of is Sarah Palin. I guess in part it's also because these folks don't really like John McCain, and would rather ignore or forget him; but they do so at their own peril. And I'd like to suggest that John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin has had the effect of neutralizing and removing the conservative attack machine from effectively challenging the Obama/Biden ticket.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by way of a short, quick test.

What do you think is the outrage du jour among the conservative punditocracy and blogosphere? Is it Obama's dipping into some questionable negative advertising?

You'd think this might be the rightwing punditocracy and blogosphere's focus these days, but then you'd be wrong. No, these folks would much rather make hay and spill endless inkbytes over ... someone hacking into Sarah Palin's Yahoo email accounts. Yeah. I know. An email hacker story? Good grief!

When you go around the conservative blogospher and online media outlets and follow how this story has led to a frenzy of energy and outrage, and when you realize how this is nothing but one big intra-ideological circle jerk over a subject that has arguably absolutely nothing to do with the presidential election, you begin to see how this choice of Sarah Palin has sidetracked and, perhaps, destroyed the GOP and the McCain campaign's grass roots attack machine from any kind of efficacy in conditioning public opinion about the election.

Frankly, I couldn't be happier. And I think this kinda vindicates the strategy by the left liberal blogosphere to go after Palin hard and relentlessly. Doing so has caused the conservative wagons to circle around Palin, whose glow has already faded among those paying attention to the narrative of her continued lying about troopergate, the bridge to nowhere, her pork-busting credentials, her knowledge of the energy industry, not to mention her stunning ignorance about foreign affairs and US foreign policy.

And all the while the conservative punditocracy and blogosphere gets aflutter about email hacking, John McCain's gaffes and mistakes and misdirections and gutter politics get pounded by the Obama campaign's very strong and consistent messages: "McCain, more of the same" and "McCain, Washington and Wall Street Insider."

Now don't get me wrong ... I think hacking Sarah Palin's emails is wrong and lamentable; but, really, that isn't what's going to capture the interests of the average voter. As the U.S. financial sector collapses, as credit markets contract, and as unemployment grows, people aren't going to care one whit about whether some young punk kid, who might or might not be the son of some Tennessee Democratic State Rep., who might or might not be friend of a friend of a friend to someone working in the Obama campaign, managed to hack the Yahoo email account of Sarah Palin. And, furthermore, what's a state Governor doing piddling around with a free and public-domain Yahoo email account in the first place? Gimme a break! It's just not going to be perceived as all that serious a matter, and it will only confirm the relative unseriousness of Palin as a Vice-Presidential selection.

The GOP base is fiddling while McCain burns. And we've got Sarah Palin to thank for both the fiddling and the burning. How 'bout dem apples?

McCain, Spain, and Latin America Revisited

In my previous posting, I discussed McCain's recent "Spain" gaffe. In the comments section to this posting, one of my regular Huck Upchuck readers, Eric (who, by the way, has a fantastic blog called Keepin' It Rural), whose opinions are always excellent and thoughtful, has posted a couple of comments on the topic that offer a different take on this interview, one which sees the interview as a net positive for McCain. Because I found his comments provocative, but also because I think Eric really misreads the significance of this moment as a negative for McCain, I thought I would address his comments in a separate blog posting. Here's Eric's first comment in full:

Of course, it didn't help much that the interviewer spoke poor, choppy, heavily accented English, and a few times couldn't even come up with the words she was trying to use. It is very possible that McCain didn't understand her.

He also might have been confused by the fact that the interviewer said, "Senator, let's talk about now Latin American" and then went on to ask him numerous questions about Spain.

All in all, I thought that interview showed McCain to have a pretty good handle on the Latin American issues that were discussed. I'd be interested to know if Obama could name as many Latin American leaders as McCain did in that interview. I also found his claim interesting that Obama has never in his life traveled south of the American border. If Obama wants to extoll his foreign policy experience, he might start by actuially visiting our neigbors!

If people actually listen to that entire interview, I think it helps McCain more than it hurts him.

Friday, September 19, 2008 8:52:00 AM
Personally, I think the interviewer did just fine. She only stumbled over words when she got flustered because she and McCain weren't on the same page. If English is not your first language and you're talking to someone who appears like he has no clue about what you are asking, it would be natural for the non-native English speaker to get flustered and to wonder if the problem was in her communication ability and not in McCain's comprehension ability. Clearly, the problem was in the latter, and not in the former, at least from my perspective having heard the interview.

Furthermore, it is possible, as Eric suggests, that McCain got confused because the interview was primarily about Latin America and so he just stayed on autopilot when the interviewer shifted to Spain. But, even still, the interviewer clearly identified this topical shift to Spain before asking McCain the question. And the fact that McCain didn't seem to get this, even after being repeatedly reminded that the question had to do with Spain, does not reflect well on the man. If it is true that he got that confused, and stayed that confused, without ever trying to correct the mistake, then isn't that a bit problematic for someone who wants to be President? I mean, really, I can understand a confused McCain saying after the first time: "Oh, I thought we were still on Latin America and I just missed that you were talking about Spain now. Sorry. Here's what I think about Spain ..." But the fact that he didn't do this is not a good sign no matter how it's rationalized.

Second, why this interview hurts McCain rather than helps him is that the audience for whom this interview was broadcast is an audience that clearly can differentiate between Spain and Latin America, and an audience that has a much more nuanced understanding of Latin America than the "I'll meet with leaders who are with us, and I won't with those who are against us" mantra. Hispanic/Latino audiences know that anti-US rhetoric in Latin American politics does not place a country in the "enemy" column (precisely because every single Latin American country has this nationalist tendency, even stalwart US allies like Colombia). And no contemporary Latin American country, even Venezuela, except perhaps Cuba for obvious historical reasons, would ever be considered the equivalent of the "Axis of Evil" countries that underlie the Obama/McCain debate over meeting with foreign "enemy" leaders. McCain wants to lump Hugo Chavez in with Ahmadinejad, and that just doesn't fly. Hugo Chavez may be a megalomaniacal leftist dictator who rails on the U.S., but the reality is that we still maintain formal diplomatic relations with Venezuela, we maintain close trading relations with Venezuela, and Venezuela is still an important supplier of petroleum products to the U.S. There is a productive working modus-vivendi between the U.S. and Venezuela that goes on below the radar screen of charged rhetoric. Anyone who pays attention to Latin American affairs knows this. For all their blowhard nationalist, leftist, anti-U.S. rhetoric, almost all Latin American countries are much more pragmatic and accommodationist in their actual foreign relations with the United States. One would think McCain should know this, especially if McCain is as tuned in to and knowledgable of the region as Eric suggests and as McCain himself likes to project. For these reasons, McCain's whole interview, not to mention his gaffe about Spain, would just bomb with the audience this interview is likely to reach.

As for Obama's lack of interest in Latin America, I have to admit that I agree with Eric's criticism. It has always been a disappointment of mine that Obama seems to be adopting the standard operating procedure with regard to Latin America: benign neglect. And while I remain disappointed by this, I can't say that I'm surprised by it. But let's be clear: I also certainly understand that benign neglect of the region has always had minimal impact in Presidential electoral contests in the U.S.

Here's the problem for McCain in this regard: whereas Obama has not shown much interest in Latin America, McCain has made it a feature of his foreign policy platform. Therefore, expectations for Obama with regard to his knowledge of Latin America are low. Whether or not this is good is another question, but it is what it is. However, for McCain to have made Latin America a knowledge asset for his campaign, and then to seem to get it all jumbled and to appear to adopt a very un-nuanced, rigid, black and white approach to meeting with foreign leaders from the region, throwing the region into an "Axis of Evil" narrative, just doesn't meet the expectations that McCain has set up for himself with regard to the region, nor does it convey to the audience of this interview that he actually does have a "special" understanding of U.S.-Latin American relations that transcends global narratives.

That's why this interview hurts McCain. It makes him seem out of touch and ignorant to the average U.S. citizen who, himself, knows very little about Spain and Latin America; and to those like me and others who pay closer attention to the region, it makes him seem like he has a very shallow and unsophisticated understanding of the region that he claims to know well.

Eric's second comment goes a bit further and tries to argue that McCain actually knew who Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was, but craftily sought to tiptoe around engaging this question for other reasons. Here's what Eric wrote:
You know, listening to it again, when Spain was brought up, McCAin seemed to simply be trying to steer the conversation back to Latin America by skimming the question and then talking about Mexico (our most important Latin American neighbor, and one the interviewer didn't ask a single question about in her litany of Latin America questions). It is clear to me that he knew who Zapatero was, and was trying to chose his words carefully. He was probably simply trying to avoid getting in an entangling coversation about Zapatero's relationship with Chavez, because the question was about his vision for US/Latin American ties, not European/Latin American ties. The interviewer is the one who kept asking if he would invite Zapatero to the White House for a discussion on Latin American affairs.

Friday, September 19, 2008 9:17:00 AM
Did McCain really know who Zapatero was? I'm not so sure of this. If McCain knew who Zapatero was, he could have at least acknowledged this directly by saying something like: "Yes, I know you are asking about Spain, but what's important is that we focus on our hemispheric neighbors and the importance of our region's economic and strategic ties." But he didn't do this. Politically speaking, one just doesn't ignore something one is directly asked about. It's fine for McCain to try to punt and redirect the conversation, but I don't think it is wise to do so by ignoring the fact that the question was about Spain. The impression it leaves is precisely the one that just about everyone, including me, came away with: that McCain just didn't have a grasp on the difference between Spain and Latin America.

And the argument that McCain didn't want to get into an entangling conversation about Zapatero's relationship with Chavez just doesn't hold up and, to me, even further emphasizes that McCain really didn't know who Zapatero was. Considering what one is likely to know about Zapatero and Chavez from popular media, one would expect that McCain would jump at the chance to get in just such an entangling conversation because of that now famous moment when Zapatero chided Chavez for his rude behavior at the XVII Ibero-American Summit last fall, a summit in which the King of Spain told Chavez, literally, to shut up. Now that's red meat McCain could easily chomp on and throw out to his base to make the point he seems to want to make about talking to foreign leaders. I can imagine McCain and Zapatero meeting in Washington precisely because of Zapatero's (and King Juan Carlos's) smack down of Chavez.

The fact is that, even thinking most generously about McCain's interview, the reasons why this reflects so poorly on McCain, reasons which I outlined above in my response to Eric's first comment, still hold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weird Faith: Palin and Jindal - Peas in a Pod

Just came across this article today:

The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witchhunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

In video footage of the speech, she is seen saying: “As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he’s so bold. And he was praying “Lord make a way, Lord make a way.”

“And I’m thinking, this guy’s really bold, he doesn’t even know what I’m going to do, he doesn’t know what my plans are. And he’s praying not “oh Lord if it be your will may she become governor,” no, he just prayed for it. He said “Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that’s exactly what happened.”

She then adds: “So, again, very very powerful, coming from this church,” before the presiding pastor comments on the “prophetic power” of the event.
Where was Bobby Jindal on June 8, 2008 in late 2005?

Seriously, if you thought Bobby Jindal's exorcism experience was strange, this has got to be another one of those weird moments.

But forget about Palin and Jindal ... what does it say about McCain that two of his top VP prospects, one of whom he actually picked, had this kind of stuff in their bag of "experience"?

Spain, the Bane of McCain

As a Latinophile/Hispanophile, I would be remiss in not posting something about the recent gaffe McCain made during an interview with a Miami radio station. During the course of this interview, McCain did not seem to be able to distinguish between Spain and Latin America. He clearly did not seem to know who Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was, nor did he have any sense that Spain was quite distinct from Latin America.

In fact, for a man who made a point of highlighting and buffing up his Latin America bona fides earlier this summer, McCain sure does come across as neophyte when it comes to a nuanced understanding of the differences between European Spanish-speaking peoples and American Spanish-speaking peoples. Kinda reinforces the unfortunate concept that our leaders only give lip service to the Hispanic world and, at the end of the day, just can't seem to get beyond the lumping of more than one quarter of the world's community as "Mexicans" (and if you don't know what I mean by this, you can ask New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin), except in McCain's case the stereotype is that if you are the leader of a Spanish-speaking country, you're either a leftist anti-US zealot (i.e. Raul Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, etc.) or you are a stalwart anti-communist hardline ally (i.e. Uribe of Colombia) in the war against terrorist and drug-trafficking.

Now, to be fair to McCain, he sounded very tired. And in his exhaustion, he could have just gotten caught up in a single trope and stuck with it, regardless of the fact that the context changed and wasn't appropriate for this trope. Nevertheless, even that excuse, as plausible and understandable as it is, doesn't make for good impressions for the person who wants to be the next President of the United States.

Not a good moment for McCain.

[Hat Tip to my colleague Val for clueing me in to this news this morning.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Entitled Tulane/Loyola Brats

In response to this blog posting, Jeffrey goes on one of his classic tears, to which I say, as someone intimately knowledgable of the Tulane student crowd: "Come now, Jeffrey, let's not succumb to the anti-chic chic! There are some decent kids at Tulane and Loyola, and there are some grade-A brats at UNO and Delgado."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Viva Mexico!

Tomorrow, September 15, 2008, Mexican President Felipe Calderon will mark the 198th anniversity of Mexico's independence by issuing Miguel Hidalgo's famous "Grito de Dolores". Miguel Hidalgo can be considered Mexico's founding father. The "grito" reenactment is one of the most symbolic and patriotic expressions of Mexican nationalism. And it's quite a lively event. If you want to get a taste of what the "grito" ceremony looks like, here's last year's Presidential Grito:

If you are in the mood to celebrate Mexico's independence along with the citizens of our southern neighbor, stop in your favorite local watering hole tomorrow evening and make a friendly toast to Mexico with a fine tequila!

The Huck Upchuck Cited in Da Paper

After having spoken with Gordon Russell at the end of last week about my experience in the I-59 contraflow during the recent Gustav evacuation, I suspected I might see The Huck Upchuck in the Times-Picayune at some point. And, lo and behold, here's Gordon's article, which appeared on the front page of the Sunday paper print edition.

Notwithstanding my little mention in the article, I think Gordon did an excellent, balanced, thoughtful, and pretty comprehensive piece. He certainly captured my feelings and the feelings of many others who were angry and frustrated with the process without making us seem like crackpot complainers; but he did also give fair representation to public officials who wanted to explain their side and who seem to want to do better the next time. He was about as objective as one can be in reporting a story and capturing its many sides. Well-done, Gordon.

Now, some of you might even get the chance to see how much better officials and the media actually do perform the next time. Hopefully, Gordon will be contacting one of you for that story update. As for me, unless we're in the direct path of a Category 3 hurricane or worse, I'm still planning to stay put.

UPDATE: Since I expect more traffic from this mention in the T-P, I'm going to do some shameless plugging here. If you are so inclined, please do check out these sites:

(1) Cuaderno Latinoamericano, or the Latin American Notebook, which is a blog that I use as a pedagogical tool to help my students at Tulane stay plugged in to current events and interesting bits of information about Latin America.
(2) LatiNola, which is a local non-profit group that I pertain to whose mission is to try to engage issues of importance to the local Latino community and to encourage this community to become more active and visible participants in the civic life of New Orleans.

UPDATE II: Also, for those who are interested in the blog entries that Gordon Russell cited or mentioned, there's They Lie, which he specifically mentioned and which I wrote while sitting in evacuation traffic, but which is very brief and much more emotionally raw; but the one he cited parts of is titled More Gustav Miscellanea, which is a more reflective posting I did some days after the fact.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

C. Ray Nagin, Mouthmook

Check out Jeffrey's story of an encounter he witnessed between a pleasant and helpful local Wal-Mart cashier and some good-spirited Hurricane Ike evacuees from Texas. It made me angry to think that C. Ray Nagin's abject foolishness could potentially (and very likely) turn even honest, genuine, down home, New Orleans hospitality into a source of frustration and anger for visitors to our fair city. I mean, really, how sad is it that C. Ray Nagin, even indirectly, can make the best of us come off as unwitting fools, and the best in us seem complicit in his incompetence.

Charles Krauthammer: Anti-snob snob

In his most recent opinion piece, Charles Krauthammer goes after ABC's Charlie Gibson not only for being a condescending snob towards Sarah Palin, but also for being supposedly wrong about what the "Bush Doctrine" means. He goes after Gibson as a means to mount a feeble defense of Sarah Palin's excruciatingly painful-to-watch moment in her interview with Gibson. Krauthammer defends Palin by pointing out that Gibson was apparently wrong about the Bush Doctrine being the policy of "anticipatory defense" or the right to engage in preemptive warfare to protect US Security. But Krauthammer is forced to note that Gibson is not really wrong, just that Gibson was referring to one of four stages in what is known as the "Bush Doctrine." If Krauthammer believes that most Americans don't think of the Bush Doctrine in the way that Gibson does, then I would say that Krauthammer is demonstrating a bit of intellectual elitism and snobbery himself. For the fact of the matter is that nearly everyone thinks of the Bush Doctrine as Gibson does -- the policy of preemptive warfare. But I want to comment specifically on Krauthammer's concluding paragraph. Here, Krauthammer writes:

Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it [the Bush Doctrine] is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.
First, Charlie Gibson is not putting himself out there to become our next Vice President and second in line to the most powerful political position in the world. Second, what seems to bother Krauthammer more is that Gibson didn't know all four of the interpretations of the Bush Doctrine that Krauthammer outlines in his article. But what bothers me about Krauthammer is that he seems completely dismissive of the fact, which he directly admits, that Sarah Palin didn't know any of the interpretations of the Bush Doctrine. In fact, it was as if she hadn't even heard of the phrase before. And yet Krauthammer writes as if there is some value in a Vice-Presidential candidates complete and utter lack of awareness of this concept because "at least she didn't pretend to know." If that's not a clear case of "damning with faint praise," I don't know what would be. And, finally, what is Krauthammer's article itself if not his own version of "weary disdain" and his own perfect capturing of "the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes" towards someone who got the most common understanding of the "Bush Doctrine" right. The fact that Krauthammer fails to recognize that most of us think as Gibson does about the "Bush Doctrine," and not as he does, tells us more about Krauthammer's disconnect with any other regular "mother of five" who pretends to "play on his stage."

The Yellow Blog, Tbogg, DailyKos ...

Gotta give Jeffrey his due for being one of the first to think imaginatively about Sarah Palin's "Bush Doctrine" moment in her interview with Charlie Gibson.

Tbogg brings Jeffrey's imagination into visual compare and contrast, thus giving Jeffrey a bit of heartburn for lack of proper attribution for the idea.

But, "openthread" over at the DailyKos rips the prize (and perhaps the ignominy) right out of Tbogg's hands for bringing it all together and leaving nothing to the imagination with this, which, crude though it be, is sure to become a "Beavis & Butthead" cult classic of this election.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Women and Barack Obama

Women of the USA, this is worth a view:

The Rise and Fall of Sarah Palin

The honeymoon is winding down, and the sheen of Sarah Palin is finally beginning to dull. And this is despite herculean efforts by the McCain campaign to keep Palin shielded from even the most basic scrutiny.

Even though I would say her star was fading before she sat across from Charles Gibson for her first interview, it is clear from watching parts of this interview that she's nothing Obama has to worry about. For the first time since she burst onto the national political scene, I actually felt for Sarah Palin. She was so out of her element and so clearly incompetent and unknowledgable about anything related to serious policy issues, both domestic and foreign, that it was painful to watch. Her spontaneity was absent, her discomfort was evident, her complete dependence on memorized talking points was painfully obvious, and even her characteristic folksy charm seem forced and strained. For the first time, I actually empathized with her as someone who had been picked up in a cynical ploy by a campaign whose only interest was in using her to score some cheap political points and whose future career will be utterly ruined because of it. For the first time, I actually felt real contempt for John McCain for using Palin in this way.

It's actually quite sad.

But the good thing is that whatever uncertainty or worry I had about Obama's chances since Palin entered the race have been dissipated. Now, I feel that I can get back to the business of watching and listening to Obama. Now, I feel that I can reignite my excitement for Obama without the worry of a McCain campaign who has made its last desperate pitch and has fallen flat.

Yes, we can! Yes, we will!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What I Wouldn't Wish on My Worst Enemy

(1) This, which I experienced some two years ago for about 2 months and which, thankfully, I have not experienced since; and

(2) This, which I have been experiencing for the last few days and which I hope will end tomorrow following a visit to the Dentist.

It is not so much the intensity of the pain associated with each (which is relatively low intensity) that makes them absolutely horrible experiences. I have a pretty high pain threshhold and can generally stand the level of discomfort that comes with the kind of low-intensity pain of each. Rather, it is the chronic omnipresence and persistence of the pain that comes with each that becomes unbearable. There's just no relief from it.

Personally, I'd rather the one time jolt of pain associated with a smashed thumb, a broken bone, a serious flesh wound requiring multiple stitches, or a severed ACL (all of which I have experienced), than any kind of low-intensity, but chronic and omnipresent pain of inflamed and irritated nerves anywhere in the body.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rightwing Identity Politics

Came across this today:

Now, the women in this clip are all conservative pundits and bloggers who regularly go to great lengths to rail against the "identity politics" of the left. And yet here they are, without any sense of the irony of it all, explicitly playing the same game. I guess they see the value of shared identity markers after all! Notice there are no men in the video. How discriminatory!

Imagine this, though: What would someone like Michelle Malkin say if a bunch of black pundits and bloggers crafted a video montage that used all the same tropes and identity markers wrapped around the phrase "I am Barack Obama"? I don't think we have to ponder this question too hard. We know exactly what these folks would say. In their characteristically crude way, they'd say something like this: "Look at those race hustling poverty pimps playing the race card!"

But let's take this whole "I am Sarah Palin" video at face value. Does this now mean that, for those women who metaphorically claim to be Sarah Palin, even though they really aren't Sarah Palin, they can go around wearing their McCain/Palin campaign buttons and claim in all seriousness: "I am the one I have been waiting for!" Talk about pompous narcissism!

The Cult of Sarah Palin comes to the GOP. Inspiration and Hope have cracked and penetrated the dour frumpiness of conservative killjoys and erstwhile Obamaphiliaphobes who went around (and still go around) pooh-poohing us Obamaphiles for actually liking our candidate and letting ourselves feel inspired and good about things. I think that's a great thing! Now we liberals can go around making fun of their weepy and emotional enthusiasm, too!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Currently In The Fridge/Freezer

Looking for a late night snack, this is what I can find in my ...

Refrigerator: A gallon of skim milk, a loaf of bread, a half-dozen eggs, a hunk of cheddar cheese, an onion, a bottle of white wine, and about 8 12-ounce bottles of water.

Freezer: Ice cubes, some various bags of ground coffee, and some bags of nuts.

Hurricane season stores.

Mrs. Huckupchuck's declaration to me this evening went something like this: I will never again keep anything perishable in the refrigerator/freezer during hurricane season that can't be consumed over a couple of days, max.

And so, for about 3 months of the year, I can no longer expect to find gallon containers of chocolate ice cream in the freezer readily accessible for a guilty pleasure snack after the kids have gone to bed.



Gosh, darn! I'm exhausted! I don't think there is anything worse than being a college professor and administrator and having to return to the office and the classroom after an unexpected weeklong evacuation holiday has thrown off a carefully orchestrated academic program that now has to be completely reconfigured.

And it's all the worse when that reconfiguration involves not only rewriting syllabi and shuffling around assignments, but in reworking collaborations with equally disrupted community partners in setting up community service assignments.

I guess it wouldn't have been as bad if the evacuation had happened after a rhythm had been established and a routine fixed in place; but we didn't even have enough time to start the process before it got disrupted. And now we have to basically start over again completely.

Needless to say, I did not have time to think today with all the classroom visiting and phone calls and schedule coordinating and lecturing that faced me just about every minute. And it's not likely to slow down at least until the end of this week.

I just pray to God that I don't have to restart this all over again come next week!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Palin: Pitbull with Lipstick?

Andrew Sullivan:

Ferraro was being interviewed within four days of being announced. Dan Quayle gave an interview one day after being selected.

We are now on Day Nine for Palin and are told to expect another thirteen before she's ready.

This is a pitbull with lipstick? More like a cowering chihuahua.

Andrew Sullivan also sees the McCain Campaign's shielding of Palin from the press as patently sexist.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quote of the Day

"And why does Sarah Palin's Alaska seem like Alabama with penguins polar bears?" Andrew Sullivan, responding to (and relating to the current moment) a selection from Christopher Caldwell's 1998 Atlantic Monthly article on how Southern Conservative Christians hijacked the Republican Party.

What's the Deal with Cable Service Complaints?

I'm about to reveal my biases here, but so be it. I'm listening to WWL870AM radio, and the programming now is dealing with Cox Cable outages. Now perhaps it's because I have managed to live without any TV in my home for the past 10 years, but I just can't bring myself to have any sympathy -- zip, zero, nada -- for those people who have electricity, water, and telephone services to be complaining to high heaven about their lack of cable. In fact, to listen to folks complaining about their lack of cable kinda disgusts me. What gives? Can people not survive without their 5 million gazillion trash cable TV shows? Really, with hundreds of thousands of people without electrical power to run air conditioners, stoves, refrigerators, lights, etc., the priority should continue to be the restoration of basic utility services fundamental for getting people back into their homes. Cox cable service just ain't that critical. So, please ... all you Cox cable customers sitting in the comfort of your air conditioned homes with your refrigerators stocked and your lights on, count your blessings and let WWL870 provide real public service information to people on matters much more critical to getting home and to survival than to your favorite cable TV mindnumbing garbage.

Spud McConnell and Barack Obama on Gustav

I was driving back to New Orleans this Wednesday and was listening to WWL870 for local radio coverage of the post-Gustav reality in New Orleans. I heard Spud McConnell take a call from Barack Obama. Now I can't find the transcript or the audio clip of this 3-4 minute exchange on WWL870's website; but as soon as I can find it I will post it. Let me just say that Spud McConnell was a grade-A dork during his exchange with Obama. Obama calls to express his solidarity and concern for the people affected by Gustav, and what does Spud do? He uses this moment as an opportunity to bludgeon Obama with a call for more oil drilling. Can you believe it?!?! Remember, now, this is Wednesday late morning/early afternoon. Most of us who evacuated only have scant knowledge about the conditions of our homes, and Spud decides that the most important thing he can talk to Obama about is the need for more oil drilling. It wasn't as if they were even talking about energy policy. Spud just injected a bit of this foolish Republican meme out of the clear blue into the conversation. Spud talks to the likely next President of the United States about the threat of hurricanes and its impact on peoples' lives and homes in the gulf coast, and his preferred subject is oil drilling? Sheesh! What a dork. Spud has no business being on the radio. If anyone can find this transcript, please let me know.

Back Home

Power restored early this morning. A/C and refrigerator up and running. Family's re-settled.

But ...

Bags still packed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

They Lie, Part II

NOLA Bloggers - The following comment was left in the comments section of my previous post entitled "They Lie." I imagine the reporter visited other blogs and left a similar comment; but just in case not, I thought I'd highlight it here:

This is Adam Lynch, a reporter with the Jackson Free Press, doing a story on the government's reaction to Gustav. Sounds like not everything was roses and perfume. Somebody give me a call with their comment if they're not afraid of reporters. My number is 601-362-6121 ext. 8.
I don't really have a strong desire to answer the call. But perhaps someone of you might. If so, please have a go at it.

Thoughts on the McCain Convention Speech

First, I think it was clear that McCain's speech was flat and uninspiring. His timing was off, parts of his speech got swallowed up in the applause, and the enthusiasm level among the delegates there was palpably low. (For instance, NRO's K-Lo wasn't reduced to tears.) If I had to guess, I'd imagine that most of the folks there would prefer the ticket to be Palin/McCain and not McCain/Palin.

Second, the GOP has a diversity image problem. When the few token minorities were shown on the television, it seemed strained and forced -- as if they had to target them instead of just sweeping over the crowds to capture the diversity.

Third, what rather surprised me was that McCain, speaking to the party faithful, basically had to reject this party's past performance. It seemed to me that not only did he have to distance himself from the Bush Administration, but also from the GOP itself. This seemed quite surreal and strange to me given that this was supposed to be a nominating convention for the Republican Party. And the audience was noticably lukewarm to McCain when he said things critical of the Republican Party.

Fourth, McCain's speech (as was just about every other speech I heard) was devoid of any real substantive policy ideas. Occasionally, one would hear the standard boilerplate of conservative orthodoxy (cut taxes, limited government, fighting terrorism, etc.,), but there was nothing of substance provided. And, in fact, the delegates didn't want substance. All they wanted was red meat social conservatism. McCain didn't give them as much of this as other speakers did, which I think explains why most in the audience were so unenthused about him.

I tend to like John McCain at the gut level; but I think he loses the election if it continues to be about him. I suspect that as the next phase of the general campaign winds up, conservatives re-energized by the selection of Sarah Palin are going to want to see more and more of her. There will be some creep to elevate her as the de facto primary force on the GOP ticket. And this is dangerous for the GOP because the more Sarah Palin creeps to the top of the ticket in the minds of campaign observers and average citizens, the more her lack of experience to be President will become more of a legitimate issue. The only thing conservatives have to blunt criticism of Palin's readiness to be President is the fact that she is on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate. So the more that she becomes the de facto primary face of the GOP ticket, the more this argument loses any kind of force. And the more that Palin becomes the face of the GOP ticket, the greater the likelihood the ticket loses. So, from where I sit, the GOP is in a tough bind. McCain can't win the election on his own and he needs to roll out Palin more completely to keep the base energized; but the more he rolls out Palin, the more weak and inexperienced and desperate the ticket seems.

The next two weeks will reveal quite a bit, I think.

Still Without Power

But waiting patiently. Hopefully it will return sometime today so that my family can have a weekend back at home before plunging back into the regular routines come Monday morning.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Giuliani and Public Campaign Financing: Conservative Duplicity

I haven't heard or read anyone else comment on this, but one of the things that struck me in Giuliani's speech was his criticism of Obama for backtracking on accepting public (i.e. taxpayer) financing for his Presidential campaign. He used Obama's decision to not dip into the federal treasury to finance his campaign as a sign of Obama's dishonesty because, apparently, Obama promised to force taxpayers to fund his campaign. Tell me if I'm wrong here, but didn't Obama, with this decision not to accept a hefty government handout for nothing more than running an electoral campaign, ultimately save the taxpayer a significant amount of cash? Isn't that kind of fiscal behavior something conservatives generally applaud? Reneging on a promise (and a debatable one at that) to suck money from the U.S. treasury for such things should be the kinds of "changes of heart" that conservatives embrace. Really, it is not unthinkable that conservatives would naturally seek, as a matter of course and if their fiscal principles are to be believed, to eliminate the fiscal abomination of taxpayers being forced to support the electoral campaigns of candidates with whom they might disagree. I am continually baffled by how recklessly and carelessly conservative "principles" get tossed out the window when it is politically convenient to do so.

GOP Hypocrites?

This was too good to pass up. As to GOP hypocrisy, you be the judge:

Ahem ...

H/T: Andrew Sullivan.

Whither Entergy?

One thing that I can't understand is why Entergy New Orleans won't provide a street by street update of power outages. In today's day and age, I am certain that Entergy, by this time, knows exactly which homes are without power and exactly why they are without power.

How difficult would it be for Entergy to map this out on their website? On the one hand, this would really help support the public officials in their re-entry plans. If people knew definitively that their homes were without power, they might wait that extra day or so that public officials are requesting before returning. Entergy New Orleans does have this map up on their website, but as you can see it is useless to individual homeowners. The only way homeowners can know for sure whether or not they have power is to come in town and check out their homes. Another benefit to posting a street update of power outages is that it avoids the angry and frustrated phone calls that homeowners will be making to the power company, to the media, and to the public officials that this lack of information produces. For the sake of public order and good will, Entergy should do this. It is a simply question of transparency and honesty in disseminating information to homeowners. There is just no reason for us to be in the dark about this subject.

Maybe they fear a larger backlash if this information were to become public. Some might complain about why some areas seem to be getting power while others aren't. Some may complain about discrimination in the prioritization of deployment of teams to restore energy to certain neighborhoods over others. Some may just complain for the sake of complaining. This will in all likelihood come to pass. But I think that they shouldn't fear this so much. They should trust the people. We might not like the information we get, but I'm pretty sure we'll be much more appreciative at least of having this information than feeling like we are being snowed and stonewalled.

Sarah Palin Superstar

Was there anything of substance at all in Sarah Palin's speech last night about the great problems of our day? I heard very little. But not to worry ...

NRO's K-Lo was reduced to tears. It's like she was a teenage girl witnessing a Beatles concert in the early 60s. She writes:

I’ve not cried during a political speech since the pope and George W. Bush met on the South Lawn of the White House earlier this year.
Pull out the smelling salts! K-Lo just might faint. Such transcendence! Superstardom!

The GOP has their superstar. Hopey change-itude comes to the GOP. Forget experience, knowledge, awareness of issues, or even concern for issues: just feel the love.

The Hucks Have Returned

We're back in the N'awl. The house is without power; but fortunately my brother's place in Lakeview has full power. So we can stay close by in relative comfort until we get power restored. That's a comforting feeling. Good luck to all my comrades who returned yesterday or who are returning today. I hope your homes have electricity and I hope your lives get back to normal soon.

What's Wrong with Community Organizing?

Last night, I watched the latter part of the GOP convention. I got to see Giuliani's speech as well as Sarah Palin's speech. I am biased so I guess I'm not a good judge of the quality and effectiveness of the speeches. Trying to be as objective as I can, I will say that I thought they were o.k., but nothing superlative. However, I was in a room full of Republicans and conservatives who really liked both speeches.

But there was one thing about both of these speeches that puzzled me. I don't understand why both Giuliani and Palin viciously attacked Obama for having been a community organizer. I kept thinking: "Don't they know that people, both liberals and conservatives, who are interested in local issues and who are involved in their local communities, are in essence 'community organizers'?" I understand that they are trying to use this as a slap in the face of Obama's "experience"; but what they actually did was to take a swipe at the work of community organizing in general instead of at Obama specifically.

I, myself, am involved in local community work as a volunteer. I consider myself to be a "community organizer" of sorts. Many people I come into contact with, and who are both liberal and conservatives, volunteer at the community level and would probably consider themselves a kind of "community organizer." It can be in the local pro-life Church organization planning a rally against an abortion clinic. It can be developing youth leadership programs. It can be getting involved in Junior Achievement or YMCA programs. It can be assuming an active role in the homeownership or neighborhood association. Community organizing is essentially assuming a leadership role in helping members of the local community come together around shared issues of local concern and deciding what, if anything, to do about them. It is essentially a non-partisan, non-ideological activity of civic engagement. Ideology rarely factors into community organizing. It is issue-based and reflective of the interests of the specific community that is being organized. And yet Giuliani and Palin repeatedly demeaned this kind of work as essentially unimportant and insignificant. By taking a swipe at this aspect of Obama's life experience and work, I think they revealed themselves to be dismissive of that fundamental aspect (and maybe the only aspect) of the everyday person's life in his or her community that gives him a sense of civic pride. "Community organizing" binds people to politics in ways that watching conventions on television can never accomplish. And it is much more real to people. Attacking that can't be a wise strategy. I noticed that Palin and Giuliani mocked Obama's "clinging to guns and religion" line. But by demeaning community organizing, they themselves are mocking an individual's "clinging to community."

If they want to take on Obama's lack of experience, there must be better ways to do it that won't be perceived by the common person interested in civic life at the local level as an attack on their own work within their local communities.

It's a losing strategy. And I think it is a great tactical mistake. Rest assured that the Obama campaign will flip this around and make it appear as if the GOP is cynically demeaning the good work that people with a sense of local civic pride engage in and take pride in. In fact, I got an email from the Obama campaign this morning that jumped on this issue. And this won't be the end of it, I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Gustav Miscellanea

Man, if you are somehow dependent on the national media for information relative to the situation in New Orleans regarding local conditions and re-entry information, you would be experiencing a twilight-zone sense of surrealism. First of all, the national media, once Gustav made landfall and the "excitement" of tragedy dissipated, they moved to the next possible crisis storms: Hanna and Ike. Secondly, all media are making me feel insignificantly invisible. Now I have a newfound appreciation for this:

Let me move on to some more reflection on the I-59 traffic situation during our evacuation. As I said previously, I simply could not believe how the media and the authorities would outright lie about the situation. If they weren't saying how wonderful the contraflow was working and how smoothly things went, they were downplaying the significance of the traffic jam. It took me 10 hours to go from my home in uptown to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. No matter how you try to spin it, a 10 hour experience for what is normally a 1-and-a-half hour trip is NOT -- I repeat, NOT -- a sign of ANY kind of success. But what really rubbed me raw the most was that they couldn't even bring themselves to tell folks the honest truth. It was extremely irresponsible of them to do this. If they had done this, at least people could have tried to look for alternative routes and taken the backroads. They didn't do this. Instead, their rosy picture of the wonderful success of contraflow made it seem to motorists that using the interstate system would be smooth, if sometimes bumpy, sailing. Let me assure you, it was anything but.

What was irresponsible about it was not only that it unnecessarily damaged our future trust in media and public officials regarding evacuation traffic updates, but also that the deception placed peoples lives in danger. People, thinking that contraflow was successful, might have figured they could have easily left later and with maybe a half tank of gas, to evacuate. I can only imagine families with pets stranded on the interstate with a fast moving storm bearing down on them. Talk about a frightening scenario.

If only, if only, if only the media and the public officials would have been honest with us. If they had told us, contraflow is NOT easing traffic on I-59 and to expect a 10 hour delay before reaching Hattiesburg, Mississippi, then at least motorists could have tried to do something else. At least we could have made extraordinary efforts to conserve gas. At least we could have planned driving shift strategies so as to avoid exhaustion on the road. I am very disappointed, not to mention still very angry, that I was deceived in such a stressful and anxious situation. The media and the public officials responsible for advising motorists honestly about evacuation conditions should be ashamed of themselves.

The lesson I learned from this experience and from the dishonesty of the media and the public authorities on this is the following: Next time, do not evacuate.

And this lesson has been compounded by the completely out-of-the blue re-entry strategy. Who knew of this tiered system of re-entry? I sure didn't! Why was this never communicated until even after the storm. As soon as they ordered the mandatory evacuation, they should have informed us at the same time what the re-entry scenarios would look like, including the "tier" system.

For all the accolades that the authorities might be due for a successful warning and evacuation system (though I think it was over-sensationalized, if you want to know the truth), they have significantly botched the afterwards. I didn't even feel this marginalized and helpless and uninformed after Hurricane Katrina.

It is absurd that they will not permit people to return home. They should let anyone who wants to return the opportunity to do so. It is not up to the authorities to save me from myself, only from the hurricane. And now that the hurricane is passed, they ought to get out of the way.

So upchucketh the Huck.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Is there any place where one can go online to find out what the re-entry plans are? has no information that I can find. The City of New Orleans website is as useless as it usually is. Pathetic. All I can get is very uninformative national media coverage.

I did read something in this piece by Bruce Nolan of the Times-Picayune, which had only this to say about re-entry:

Jindal said it is too early to raise hopes that evacuees from New Orleans will be able to return home Tuesday

"It's certainly too, too early to say that it's safe for them to start coming back tomorrow," Jindal said in a news conference at the state's emergency operations center in Baton Rouge.
Nagin said residents might be able to return to their homes within 24 to 36 hours after Monday afternoon, depending on the damage left by the storm.
But I think this is utterly unhelpful. And, furthermore, if they want to have a crush of folks returning all at once, making all of our return trips as unnecessarily painful as the exodus, then wait until later before allowing people to come home. If the situation is as reports indicate, they should let anyone return who wants to return anytime after midnight tonight -- with or without power. Some of us have generators, food, fans, and water waiting at home, not to mention our own beds.

Anyway, my plan is to leave for home tomorrow, passing by some family in Covington before crossing the Causeway and on into the City. What we don't want to have to go through is the indignity of travelling all the way to a certain checkpoint only to be stopped by some young, macho, power-hungry cop, to be humiliated, and then forced to turn back.

Anyway, Tulane is closed until next Monday, so I won't have to worry about an immediate re-transition back to the busyness of the office and the classroom.

But, I did notice this little tidbit in Bruce Nolan's article, which might, if it comes to pass, only exacerbate Jeffrey's headache and make him even more pissed:
Saints officials were weighing whether to move Sunday's home opener against Tampa Bay from the Superdome to Florida.
I hope for the sake of all Season Ticket holders that the Saints don't punish us any more than we already have been for having suffered through this nightmare of an evacuation.