Sunday, November 29, 2009

The City of New Orleans Parking Ticket Gestapo Strikes Again

We were having such a great Arts Market weekend. Sales were brisk. The weather was perfect. Everyone was happy.

Until right at the end, when it was time to pack up the set-up and head home.

That's when the City sent out the parking ticket gestapo, in full force, to engage in a bald-faced money grab by capitalizing on a situation that the victims of this money grab simply could not avoid.

It's like this... The Arts Market meets the last Saturday of every month. In November and December, they extend the Market for two days, and include Sundays in the mix. They even hire out security to watch over the booth setups overnight on Saturday since many of the artists return the next day.

The Arts Market is located in Palmer Park, which is a public park located on the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues. Since the park itself is fairly small and is located in the midst of a cramped urban space, there is only street side parking around the park. And there are about 120 artists who put up booths. At 4:00pm, when the market officially ends, the artists pull up their trucks, vans, trailers, cars, etc., around the edges of the park closest to where their booths are set up. Vehicles are not allowed to pull into the park. So, even in the best case scenario, an artist will have to break down his or her setup and lug it all at least 50 feet. That's the best case scenario, for artists whose booths are closest to the street edges of the park and who are able to park on the street closest to their booth. The majority of the artists have to go much farther than 50 feet to load up their vehicles with their tents, tables, art pieces, shelves, etc. Some even have to lug their stuff 70+ yards from their booth space in the park to their vehicles parked on the street. And remember that we're talking about 120 artists, all trying to break down and pack up their stuff at the same time. And that's not to mention the thousands of people who go to the Arts Market to purchase things and who also need to find parking.

Needless to say, there are many vehicles encircling the park, and many even double parked at closing time where space permits. Everyone is always very patient with one another and is very accommodating as each tries to navigate the difficult and laborious task of breaking down and packing up. It's actually a very efficient process, since the artists have done this plenty of times and can usually have their booths broken down, packed up, and gone within 1-2 hours.

Of course, it's worth mentioning that this is an event promoted by the City through the Arts Council of New Orleans.

And what does the City do during this time. They orchestrate a friggin' invasion of the parking ticket gestapo right at closing time to try to maximize the number of parking tickets they can dole out and revenue they can capture. If someone is parked temporarily in a spot where parking is usually prohibited during the work week, the parking ticket gestapo will be writing him a ticket. If someone is double-parked with her hazards on while she is pulling her stuff from her booth space to her vehicles on pull carts and dollies, the parking ticket gestapo will be writing her a ticket.

I know that the City is facing a budget shortfall and is scraping for sources of revenue, but does the Mayor cut back on his obscenely expensive taxpayer-funded junkets across the world to help mitigate the budget shortfall? No Sirree! The SOB sends out the parking ticket gestapo to the friggin' Arts Market on a Sunday afternoon, right at closing time, to punish the very people who are actually driving an economic engine that is a source of revenue for the City. Sheesh! It's almost enough to drive me to become conservative. Really, I'm not averse to paying my fair share of taxes. Hell, I'm not averse to paying an even greater share of taxes from my prosperity. But sending out the parking ticket gestapo to slap what is, in effect, a one-time punitive surcharge at a moment when there is absolutely no way to avoid it (I mean, the artists HAVE TO pack up their stuff and cart it away once the market ends!!! What the hell else can we do?!?!), is just insulting. It is the absolute worst kind of bald-faced, cynical, manipulative, bad-faith abuse of authority and vicious preying that there is. (It's also a disturbing trend. What City Government treats people participating in a 102-yr-old tradition that seeks to benefit the Spina Bifida Foundation of Greater New Orleans by issuing them a parking ticket on Thanksgiving day for parking where they have always parked for this event?)

Well, I'm not going to stand for this. It has to stop.

Yes, I got a parking ticket for parking my pickup truck on the street curb close to where my wife's Arts Market booth was set up. It's a place where I have always parked it every month over the past year when we've had a booth at the market. But I'm planning to contest this ticket. If possible, I plan to show up at the hearing, where I will hopefully try to lay out the obvious and purposefully malicious intent of the action and try to explain the injustice of it -- at least as I see it. We'll see what comes of it, if I can make it downtown to the hearing. Of course, in the event I make it downtown for the hearing, I'll be fully prepared for some administrative twit to tell me there's nothing to be done and to pay up, with an added penalty of some unspecified, but surely godforsaken, amount simply for deigning to protest and take up his time, because that's how Ray Nagin's administration seems to like to treat its citizens. But I just can't and won't let it slide.

My City Council representative, Stacy Head, will be hearing from me. As well as City Councilmember Shelley Midura, in whose district this affront has occurred. And the Times-Picayune will be getting a communication from me, too.

It's outrageous and disheartening; and it's no wonder people get disgusted with the treatment they receive from municipal government and end up shaking the dust from their boots as they leave the city for more hospitable places.

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Epiphany about Modern Conservatives

Maybe plenty of others have figured this out already, but I think I've finally put my finger on the thing about modern conservatism that most bothers me: that sense of self-righteousness and proprietorship over the concepts of freedom and liberty. I started to think about what mantras conservatives embrace and really gave careful consideration to them one by one.

First, there's the idea of limited government. The notion that the smaller the government and the more it keeps its nose out of the affairs of individuals and their relations with others, the better. My reaction to this conservative mantra is that while I probably differ considerably over the degree to which government has a legitimate and important role to play in the public sphere, conceptually I don't think I disagre that much at all with the idea of limited government. And I can see how this idea of limited government is connected to the ideas of freedom and liberty, but the way some conservatives talk about our current government as some kind of threat to freedom and liberty I think is way overblown. Regardless, the upshot is that I can deal with conservatives who identify this mantra as their driving motivation for being conservative.

Second, there's the idea of low taxes, balanced budgets, and fiscal sanity. Frankly, I don't know of anyone who has a great love of taxes, nearly all Americans understand the value and need of living within a budget (even if some of us have difficulty doing so), and everyone I know in this country doesn't want to see us go bankrupt. So the fiscal side of conservatism I can definitely understand; and, in fact, I even find myself generally closer to conservative orthodoxy on the fiscal side of things.

Third, there's blind patriotism and military hawkishness. I guess I consider myself to be as patriotic as the next person, but I do think there can be an exaggerated and dangerous nationalism that patriotism brought to the extreme can mean. And there are those among the conservative population who I think express a kind of distorted patriotism that will rally behind just about anything done in the name of the national interest. I have to admit, these conservatives make me uncomfortable. Not because I am uncomfortable with patriotism, but rather because I am uncomfortable with a hard edged nationalism cloaked as patriotism which has room for only a narrow idea of what it means to be American and a citizen of this country. On the military hawkishness side of things, I can understand those who rally behind a strong display of military force, especially when the nation appears to be threatened by an external enemy. And even though I would personally prefer to test diplomacy and peaceful resolution of disputes and dialogue and treating even our enemies with a measure of human dignity, I generally don't find fault with those who prefer a more robust military and are more eager than I to use this military.

And there are some other issues that define conservatism these days that I won't get into now, but which don't really bother me all that much. I may find some of it annoying, and some of it misguided. Or I may recognize that some vocal elements of conservatism (such as the theocratic Christian fundamentalists who would love nothing more than a fusion of church and state) to be a fringe (albeit a loud one) within the conservative family. These I can just dismiss as irrelevant to the more defining elements of conservatism.

But what really rubs me the wrong way about conservatism is the tendency among conservatives to talk about freedom and liberty as if only conservatives really represent these values. It irks me because we liberals are, I'd say, perhaps even more committed to freedom and liberty than conservatives. But the difference is that we liberals tend not to speak of these things as if they were the exclusive privilege of our ideology. Modern conservatives, who speak of freedom and liberty as if they are constantly under assault by liberals, just because we express our own different priorities and values about life and government, would like nothing more than to see our freedom and liberties, that is the freedom and liberties of us liberals to pursue our own agendas, to be constrained and limited. I find this attitude to be insulting and even antithetical to the very notions of freedom and liberty themselves. Whenever I ask a conservative to demonstrate to me exactly where his or her freedom and liberty is constrained, I mean really constrained, the only semi-palatable answer I can get has to do with taxes. Outside of that, there is nothing we can't do within the bounds of generally acceptable law. I get up in the morning, and I really can do whatever I want (within the law) as long as I am willing to accept the consequences. I can go to church. I can go to work. I can NOT go to work. I can eat a ham sandwich. I can drink a beer. I can go ride bikes in the park with my daughters. I can go have breakfast at a local diner with my dad. And I can write this blog posting. In short, the freedom and liberty we have in this country is astounding. And it is preserved, protected, and promoted by conservative AND liberal governments and citizens alike. So, when conservatives project a notion that freedom and liberty belong to them, that they are the ones who exclusively protect and promote freedom and liberty, they couldn't be farther from the truth. When conservatives hurl out the charge that liberals and the Democrats are assaulting liberty and freedom, they couldn't be more wrong. And when it comes to freedom and liberty, I can assure you that I could never be a party to a movement that seeks to take such values, values that define all Americans, and use them to bludgeon another simply because we may have a political disagreement about some policy. It just dawned on me that when I hear conservatives complain about the loss of freedom and liberty because of us liberals, that is what disgusts me about modern conservatism. And I could never be (and I wouldn't ever want to be) a part of a movement that sees any American as somehow illegitimate and a threat to freedom and liberty simply because of their ideology or their party affiliation.

Thanksgiving Injury Update

Well, I guess I had a nice Thanksgiving, as far as it goes. The food was good. So, too, the company.

But when I stepped outside to toss the pigskin with my nephews, I must have made an odd twist or something, because my bum left knee went out.

At first, I thought it was just a residual dislocation that sometimes happens since I blew out my ACL some 5-6 years ago, and which I never had repaired through surgery. But when the "dislocation" didn't slip back into place and when the pain started to well up, I knew something else was going on.

So, my Pops brought me gimping to the ER where I had some X-Rays done. No bone damage and the bone location looked fine according to the doctor; but he surmised, given the real looseness of my knee joint and the pain location, that I probably added an MCL tear or sprain, if not a meniscus tear, to the blown out ACL.

Now, I'm wearing a knee brace, hobbling on crutches, and taking Advil for the pain. But the pain isn't too bad as long as I keep the knee slightly bent and elevated. The hospital doesn't do MRIs for non-life threatening injuries, which I can understand; so the doctor told me that my next step is to see my regular doctor, get a referral to an orthopedist, and see what turns up.

My suspicion is that I will most probably need to go under the knife. It's probably about time that I considered that as an option.

Here I am, just a tad over 40 years old, and with a seriously messed up knee. I can trace the problems with my left knee to a little league football injury some 30 years ago. I was hit square in the knee with a helmet and my knee distended backwards. Ever since then, I've always had problems with it. Surgery in high school to remove a loose piece of bone that had died off and was floating around in there. Then the ACL blowout playing softball some 5-6 years ago. And now this.

At least the Turkey was good!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MBH Pottery at Palmer Park Arts Market this Weekend

Well, it's once again that time of the month when my lovely bride will again be out at the Palmer Park Arts Market setting up her booth to sell her pottery. This weekend, the market runs on both Saturday and Sunday, from 10am-4pm. She's been hard at work all month and has dramatically added to her inventory of pieces. So, if you want to support a great cause and pick up some wonderful pieces of handmade, high quality pottery as wedding gifts, birthday presents, Christmas or Hannukah gifts, or any other kind of gift, please do come out to the Arts Market this coming weekend at Palmer Park on the corner of Claiborne and Carrollton Avenues and look her up. Not sure which booth number she's been assigned, but you can find out where she is at the information booth. MBH Pottery or Michele Benson Huck Pottery is what you should look for. The weather looks fabulous for both days, and Michele will also be doing live demonstrations at her pottery wheel, so please come out, enjoy the market, and stop by to visit Michele to see how pots are thrown!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Preliminary Thoughts on Leslie Jacobs for Mayor of New Orleans

It has been a week since I had the chance, along with a number of other NOLA bloggers, to meet with Leslie Jacobs, to hear her out on her vision for the City, and to offer some suggestions to her as she geared up for her campaign. I have pondered that meeting, have given it some measured consideration, and am now ready to offer up some commentary.

First, I should start by saying it's too early for me to declare any endorsement for any candidate. So, although I find Leslie Jacobs to be an appealing candidate at one level, she is only one of a number of candidates I find appealing for different reasons at this point.

Second, unlike fellow NOLA blogger Leigh C., I don't think Leslie Jacobs is at all scared of the enormity of the task facing the next Mayor. In fact, I thought Jacobs not only was confident and composed, but had faced the beast of the job that will oppress the next Mayor, and had come to peace with it and was ready to embrace the task. This is not to say that Jacobs did not acknowledge the challenges facing the next Mayor. She most certainly did and was realistic about it (which is refreshing, if you ask me); but she appeared comfortable facing the prospect of assuming that responsibility.

Third, along with being at peace with her decision to run for this thankless job and take up its difficult work, she was unhesitating (and I would even say aggressive) in declaring that she would spare no expense to run a full-throttle, all-out campaign. She clearly wants the job and is committed to the campaign.

Now, moving on to a bit of analysis of the content of the meeting, I would like to concentrate on two things in particular (and leave the rest of the evaluation of the meeting to others who were there). The first thing, which I consider something that quite impressed me positively, was her sincere and honest openness to the thoughts and ideas of those of us who were present. The nature of the event was less a Q&A session with a mayoral candidate (though she did, for the most part, answer questions when asked), and more of a collaborative conversation. She did not once come across, in my view, as that typical egotistical politician type who can talk your ear off with all the great ideas he or she has and how wonderful the future will be with him or her at the helm of government. And I felt comfortable enough to throw out a few of my own campaign platform ideas to her by way of some things to ponder and think about. And Jacobs really seemed genuinely interested in hearing such suggestions from all of us who were present. In short, she was real, approachable, collaborative, and engaged. And that is a far cry from our current Mayor, not to mention some of the other declared candidates in the race. So she has that going for her. I also think her progressive credentials are solid, and I am generally supportive of her work in the realm of educational policy and her involvement with the educational reform and charter school movement. So, she's an attractive candidate for me, and one that I will be following closely over the next weeks and months.

But I can't say that I was 100% satisfied and pleased with everything that took place at the meeting. And this leads me to my second focus area, which represents a criticism of sorts as much as a recommendation for conducting herself in the future of her campaign. When questioned about her positions on some of the hot button social issues of the day, such as the pro-life/pro-choice and gay marriage debates, she seemed reluctant to reveal herself and actually punted altogether on the gay marriage question. Her argument was that these issues are really beyond the scope of the job of Mayor and so she didn't see the need to complicate her campaign with stances on issues that were unrelated to the job. And at one level she's right on this point. However, what disappointed me is that she acted the politician when she didn't need to. Frankly, I have my own opinions on this subject and it would have been good, simply in order to know her better, to hear her opinions on them. Precisely because I know that her positions on these issues aren't directly pertinent to the job, makes her revealing them ultimately harmless -- at least when it comes to my vote. I would have no problems voting for a person for Mayor with whom I may have a disagreement on these particular social issues. And, likewise, I would have no problems rejecting a candidate for Mayor who agreed with me on these issues, but who also didn't pass muster on issues more clearly related to the running of the City. What her response to these questions did was to make her seem a bit uncomfortable in her own skin on sensitive social issues. And that's just not what a candidate should want to project to any audience at any time. My advice to Jacobs would be to answer such questions matter-of-factly and honestly, and then move casually on to local issues of substance that the Mayor can control and influence in the running of the City -- like repairing the streets, fighting crime, and improving the efficiency and honesty of municipal government. Outside of this lapse into "politician" mode, Jacobs came across well to me.

But I'm not sold. Yet. I'm open to her candidacy, as I remain open to other candidacies. I will be watching closely and will lay it all out when the time comes. I like her as a candidate and am glad she entered the race. I think she brings some good (even if controversial) experience in education, an area in which perhaps the next Mayor can attempt to exercise a bit more leadership. And all the other dudes in the race could use some competition from a strong, female voice.

UPDATE: Tuesday, November 24, 2009: 12:30PM -- Editilla is all over the Jacobs campaign for its seeming ambiguity regarding laying the blame for the "flood that destroyed the City" at the feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and instead seems to not want to disassociate itself from the common, but wrong, representation that the devastation wrought on the City was directly related to the natural phenomenon known as Hurricane Katrina. While I think Jacobs agrees with Editilla on the point, Editilla is correct to note that Jacobs has not corrected the record. Jacobs should fix this, and any delay is simply not good politics. Editilla will make sure of that!

Palinite Brilliance on the Book Tour

I was at a very nice social event recently and was hanging out with some of my buddies from High School. Smart guys. Well-regarded physicians, even. The conversation turned to politics and someone, I can't remember if it was one of my buddies or one of their spouses, declared that he or she would rather have Palin be President than the "Socialist" currently in office. At the moment, I let it slide. But I will say, now, that anyone who really and truly believes that Palin would be better than Obama, in my mind, is not a mental midget, but, worse, is a mental minus. By that, I mean has negative intellectual capacity. I truly have utter contempt for anyone who thinks Palin is a serious, intelligent leader. She's an embarrassment. Heck, I'm not even Republican, and I get embarrassed for her sometimes. And her supporters are by and large vacuous idiots. Compare that clip above with this one:

Notice that in the clip above, the interviewer is clearly a conservative who is trying to get this young man in a gotcha moment. He badgers this young man incessently. And his questions get more and more specific. And this young man, in the end, completely disarms his interviewer with his composure and with his intelligence. Now in the first clip where Palinites are interviewed, even if you assume that the interviewer is seeking to conduct a hit job on these Palin supporters, he asks very basic, simple questions and it's the Palinites who are the ones who bury themselves. And it's no wonder, because Palin is exactly the same way.

I challenge any conservative to find any Palin supporter who can speak about Palin's policies in such specific and effective ways as this young Obama supporter does. They can't. Why? For two reasons: (1) There ARE NO POLICIES to speak of; and (2) They are so ignorant that they not only can't recognize that Palin has no policies, but they also don't care about policies. In their minds, being smart or prepared is elitist and is thus to be rejected as somehow not "real" America.

I'm going to be very politically incorrect here, and demonstrate my "librul" elitist snobbery in the process, and state unequivocally and unapologetically that Palin and her movement cultivate the idea of vacuous idiocy as "Real" America. I exhort my conservative friends to please help me understand her appeal to thinking conservatives beyond the "she's-not-Obama" mantra. On what constructive or positive basis do even marginally-thinking conservatives, much less critically-thinking conservatives, embrace this woman and the movement she leads?

Yeah, yeah, the left has its own imbeciles -- the kind who might think that Michael Moore or Al Sharpton are good candidates for President. But, thankfully, that fringe of the left is paltry.

But, my thoughtful conservative friends, you guys have to WAKE UP and get a grip on your own Republican Party and conservative movement! Save it from the Palinites, please! Let me be blunt: the ignorant masses of the rightwing are "going rogue" and robbing the GOP and the conservative movement from you right under your own noses. Worse, they are corrupting any kind of respectable and thoughtful conservatism that exists. William F. Buckley, Jr., would be horrified at the Palin phenomenon.

I watch the Palin movement and I just stand agape, stunned, at the descent of conservatism into the intellectual gutter. Help me make sense of it, please!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Geaux Saints!

The long-suffering, yet ever faithful fans of the New Orleans Saints are walking around stunned, but jubilant. It's simply inconceivable that the Saints would ever be undefeated this far into the regular season. Today, the Saints improved to 10-0 with a commanding 38-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This sets up a show down next week, in Monday night football, with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Geaux Saints! Who Dat!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: Hawkins AGAIN Plays the Race Card

Conservative Blogger John Hawkins once again argues that blacks are racists and whites are not because 89% of black folk approve of Obama's job performance, whereas only 41% of white folk approve of Obama's job performance. Hawkins notes the seemingly large discrepancy between the two percentage statistics as some kind of evidence of his delusions about black racism and white "colorblindness" in America. It prompted Hawkins to ask:

We're incessantly told that white Americans are racist, but given how high Obama's approval numbers are amongst black Americans, doesn't it seem likely that percentage wise, there are a whole lot more racist black Americans than white Americans?
This is a common theme of Hawkins and demonstrates yet again his disingenuousness and his schizophrenia about race. And I just can't let this confused and misguided soul spew his nonsense without some kind of sensible rejoinder.

Hawkins wants to claim that the significance of the difference in Obama's job approval ratings according to racial classification is because black folks are racist in favor of a black President. He never once tries to investigate whether there is any data to confirm what he implies. But I have to ask: What's to say that this disparity is due primarily because white folks are racist against a black President? Is there any evidence to get to the bottom of this claim?

Well, I don't think there can be any clear evidence one way or the other short of asking people why they approve of a particular candidate's job performance and whether race is a factor in their determination. But I do think there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to suggest that race is less a factor for black people than for white people in evaluating Obama's (and any other President's) job performance. Moreover, I would propose that it is primarily political party affiliation and ideology that explains the patterns of job approval (as well as voting percentages), even when correlated to race. For instance, it is no secret that black voters heavily favor Democratic politicians and have always, whether such politicians were white or black, voted for and approved the job performance of such politicians. It is also no secret that white Democrats favor and approve Democratic politicians and their job performances in equally high numbers, regardless of that politician's race. The same might be said for conservative black folk and conservative white folk in their support for and approval of the job performance of conservative politicians, regardless of the race of such politicians. However, where there may be a slight correlation between race and job performance approval ratings or electoral preferences, the circumstantial evidence, such as it is, would indicate that its the white population that seems to be more influenced by race than the black population.

What is this circumstantial evidence? Well, let's just start with a comparison of job approval ratings for Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama along the racial matrix. Black support for Clinton and Obama in terms of job approval ratings are surprisingly fairly consistent. For instance, a 2001 poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post revealed the following:
Views of Clinton are deeply divided along political and ideological lines. Ninety-three percent of Democrats approve of his job performance; this dives to 32 percent of Republicans. Eighty-six percent of liberals approve, compared to 44 percent of conservatives; and 90 percent of blacks approve, compared to 59 percent of whites.
The current polling information that Hawkins references in terms of job approval ratings for Obama according to racial classification indicates that 89% of black people approve of Obama's job performance while only 41% of white people approve of Obama's job performance. Assuming that the data Hawkins references is accurate (and it's hard to know this because Hawkins doesn't provide any link to the source for these numbers), the evidence suggests that positive job approval ratings for a white President among blacks is nearly identical to the positive job approval ratings for a black President among blacks. Conversely, positive job approval ratings for a white President among whites (59%) is some 18 percentage points higher than positive job approval ratings for a black President among whites. So, it seems obvious to me that if you want to make the race argument as it applies to Presidential job approval ratings, the variance correlated to race in terms of Presidential job approval statistics would point to movement primarily among whites. This data would tend to debunk the notion that it is blacks who are basing approval ratings on race. The real story, then, is not in the high black job approval rating statistics for Obama (because black job approval ratings for Democratic Presidents are consistently high regardless of race), but in the lower white job approval rating statistics for Obama compared to Clinton.

[ASIDE: I'll even go further and suggest that liberal white Democrats, who generally constitute about 40-42% of the national white electorate, are the white voters less likely to abandon or qualify their support of a candidate's job performance. So, that 18% difference between Clinton's positive job approval rating among whites and Obama's is more than likely due to the movement of conservative white Republicans who could appreciate "Bubba" Clinton, but who just can't muster any support for "Hussein" Obama. Of course, that's a generalization that can't be supported by the evidence, but it makes intuitive sense to me.]

Now that's just looking at job approval ratings according to racial classification. What if we turn to the evidence of voting patterns according to racial classification? Does this tell us anything different than the data about job performance ratings about racially motivated preferences? In short, no.

Take a look at voting data broken down by race for the past nine Presidential elections dating back to 1976. This is what we get:

1976: 83% of blacks voted for Carter against Ford
1980: 83% of blacks voted for Carter against Reagan
1984: 91% of blacks voted for Mondale against Reagan
1988: 89% of blacks voted for Dukakis against Bush
1992: 83% of blacks voted for Clinton against Bush
1996: 84% of blacks voted for Clinton against Dole
2000: 90% of blacks voted for Gore against Bush
2004: 88% of blacks voted for Kerry against Bush
2008: 95% of blacks voted for Obama against McCain

That's an average of 87.2% blacks voting for Democratic Presidential candidates. And even if you take out the Obama year, the average is still a high 86.4%. That aligns closely with the 89% approval rating that Obama currently enjoys among blacks, and which John Hawkins references as some kind of evidence of racism among blacks.

So, what can we conclude from this? Well, in short, we might be able to say that, yes, Obama did appear to get a slight bump in the election that could be attributed to race. But we'd also have to recognize that his high levels of support among the black community are not all that much higher than other Democratic Presidential candidates over the past 30 years, all of whom were white. And certainly the 89% job approval rating Obama is currently receiving among blacks fits very much within the range of black support and approval of Democratic candidates regardless of race.

Regarding John Hawkins, all there is left to say is that he's once again wrong on the merits. He suggests and implies black racism because he can't seem to get beyond Obama's skin color. And what he points to as proof of this is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of black or white support for any Democratic candidate. In short, it is his obsession with race and with Obama's skin color that is distorting his impressions of things and making him, ironically, guilty of perpetuating the very identity politics that he claims to lament.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Palin On Iran ... No Iraq ... No Iran ... Huh? ... Screw It. You betcha! Wink, wink!

How anyone can take this farce seriously as the potential leader of the free world is beyond me. Watch the clip below. What's most disturbing is that Palin doesn't even have a clue that she's an absolute dunce.

If it were anyone else but Palin (and perhaps Dick Cheney), Hannity would be all over Palin's gaffe. But he doesn't even have the integrity to correct the record, even in a nice way. The deferential fawning that Hannity seems congenitally unable to resist with regard to Palin is sickening, especially for someone who fashions himself a serious political commentator and journalist.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TUCLA Conference

The Tulane Undergraduate Conference on Latin America (TUCLAS) is taking place this Saturday. We in the Stone Center for Latin American Studies are proud of our smart, talented, and dedicated Senior majors. And their presentations represent the culmination of a scholarly endeavor that started for many of them some 3-plus years ago. If you get the chance, come by and check it out. The event is taking place in Jones Hall in rooms 102 and 108. There are three sessions with two panels in each session. The first session starts at 9am. The provisional schedule is as follows:

VII Annual Tulane Undergraduate Conference
on Latin America (TUCLA)
Saturday Nov. 21, 2009 Jones Hall 102 and 108

Session I 9:00-10:45

Theme of Exchange
Panel Title: Contact High: Cultural Perspectives on the Global, the Local and the Spaces In-Between
Jessie Hawkins, “Gringo Shaman: The Commercialization of Shamanism in Peru”
Ashley Coleman, “Los de atrás vienen con ellos: Sonic Politics, Cultural Resistance, and a New Space for a Puerto Rico Libre in Calle 13’s Reggaeton”
Lana Butner, “Grey Area: The Façade of Racial Homogeneity in Costa Rica”
Aaron Feingold, “Breaking the Habitus: Mizik Rasin and Haitian Grassroots Agency”
Discussant: Prof. Mauro Porto, Department of Communication

Theme of Creativity
Panel Title: Democracy as a Work in Progress: Rethinking Representation in Latin America
Michael Murray, “Corruption: The Myth and Mystery of the Chilean Exception”
Ashley Rhodes, “The 2009 Democratic Disruption in Honduras: Delegative Democracy or Dangerous Precedent?”
Allison Bakamjian, “Chile’s ‘Penguin Revolution’: Student Responses to Incomplete Democracy”
Brenna Horan, “Human Rights Advocacy in Authoritarian Chile: The Critical Role of the Catholic Church (1976-1990)”
Discussant: TBA

Session II 11:00-12:30

Theme of Encounter
Panel Title: Entre lo público y lo privado: Recent Trends in Environmental and Economic Policy
Annalisa Cravens, "The Mexican Environmental Condition: Policy Enforcement, Industry and Infrastructure"
John Coffee, “The Role of the State in the Creation and Growth of Brazilian Ethanol Production”
Robin Baxley, “Microfinance: A Viable Means of Development Even in Times of Crisis?”
Discussant: TBA

Theme of Nation
Panel Title: Knowledge and Other Dangerous Things: The Politics of Literacy in Contemporary Latin America
Meredith Soniat du Fossat, “Cuban Literary Production during the Special Period.”
Lauren Elliot, “The Word is our Weapon: Reading the Zapatistas through Paulo Freire and bell hooks”
Christine Sweeney, “Politics to Pupils: The Role of Governments in the Classroom in Argentina”
Discussant: Prof. Rebecca Atencio, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Lunch Break 12:30-1:15

Session III 1:15-2:30

Theme of Identity
Panel Title: Beyond Tolerance: Gender, Sexuality and Power in Latin American Society
Annie Robinson, “Transvestite Visibility in Buenos Aires: Progressive Port or Machista Metropolis?”
Ereeni Roulakis, “Intertwining Realities: A Holistic Feminist Vision for Aymara Rural Migrants”
Kelsey Torres, “Larger than Life: Honor and Shame in the Argentine Tango”
Discussant: Prof. Elizabeth Manley, Department of History, Xavier University

Theme of Welfare
Panel Title: Cultural Prescriptions: State Responsibility in Health Care and Human Rights
Chelsea Cipriano, “Wronged: The Government's Role in the Lives of Guatemalan Street Children”
Amy Brown, “Milagro o Muerte: The Fate of Pregnant Women in Rural Peru”
Phillippa Chadd, “Morality in the Way of Care: The State Response to HIV/AIDS in Argentina”
Discussant: Prof. Laura Murphy, School of Public Health

Monday, November 16, 2009

From the "Now Why Doesn't It Surprise Me That This Happened At Wal-Mart?" Files

Checkout line scuffle. Yeah, yeah. I know. I'm just being the "pretentious elitist liberal" that conservatives like to say about folks like me. Call the Sarah Palin "Real America" victim hotline.

Football as Dogfighting: Are the NFL and We Football Fans Culpable for Michael Vick?

In short, I think so.

From Kyle Turley, former Saints lineman, in a gripping and disturbing article in The New Yorker magazine:

I remember, every season, multiple occasions where I’d hit someone so hard that my eyes went cross-eyed, and they wouldn’t come uncrossed for a full series of plays. You are just out there, trying to hit the guy in the middle, because there are three of them. You don’t remember much. There are the cases where you hit a guy and you’d get into a collision where everything goes off. You’re dazed. And there are the others where you are involved in a big, long drive. You start on your own five-yard line, and drive all the way down the field—fifteen, eighteen plays in a row sometimes. Every play: collision, collision, collision. By the time you get to the other end of the field, you’re seeing spots. You feel like you are going to black out. Literally, these white explosions—boom, boom, boom—lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter.
Malcolm Gladwell's entire piece in The New Yorker magazine (H/T to tonobero for bringing this article to my attention) makes a persuasive case that the frenzied fanaticism of the sport of football is so wrapped up in and glorifying of the violence of it, that football players are conditioned to playing the sport like a mad dog in a dogfight -- desperate to please their fans, coaches, and team owners -- that not only to they play to physically crush their opponents, but also to push their own bodies to physical limits that cut years off their lives and permanently damage the functionality of their brains. In essence, the Sunday football games are nothing more than a ramped up dogfight, with players regularly getting carted off the field with injuries, sometimes severe, until the final seconds of that 60 minute contest tick off the clock and the spent teams, winners and losers alike, hobbling and limping off the field.

Yeah, yeah ... I know that the difference is that NFL players are free to choose this for themselves and that they can simply walk away from the game whenever they feel like it. Even still, what bothers me is that the NFL and its fans could pretend such outrage and shock at Michael Vick for his dogfighting transgression, and not even reflect upon even the slightest parallels between the "sport" of professional football and the "sport" of dogfighting. From Gladwell's article:
“I was not aware of dogfighting and the terrible things that happen around dogfighting,” [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell said, explaining why he responded so sternly in the Vick case. One wonders whether, had he spent as much time talking to Kyle Turley as he did to Michael Vick, he’d start to have similar doubts about his own sport.
The scientific evidence is indisputable. What the vicious, violent, collision-demanding sport of football does to the brain is horrendous.

For his article, Gladwell consulted with Ann McKee, a brain trauma specialist who runs a hospital neuropathology laboratory. Through her study of the brains of former football players, she, among all people, knows the tragic consequences of football to the quality of life that players will have to suffer once the sport has long forgotten them. Yet, McKee also embodies the cultural paradox about the sport that defines our culture. As Gladwell notes in his article:
McKee is a longtime football fan. She is from Wisconsin. She had two statuettes of Brett Favre, the former Green Bay Packers quarterback, on her bookshelf. On the wall was a picture of a robust young man. It was McKee’s son—nineteen years old, six feet three. If he had a chance to join the N.F.L., I asked her, what would she advise him? “I’d say, ‘Don’t. Not if you want to have a life after football.’”
So, are we football aficionados partly responsible for Kyle Turley and for Michael Vick? In a very real way we are. We glorify the sport that destroys them. We pay the big money to see them perform and it's that big money that lures them. And we expect them to sacrifice themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally for the team.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ray Nagin's Thank You to NOLA

I remain absolutely stunned by Ray Nagin's attitude towards the City of New Orleans in his final days. Once again, Nagin is jetsetting around the world on the taxpayer's dime. This time it's to Merida, Mexico. I love Mexico, but Nagin has absolutely no business going there. Furthermore, his itinerary clearly shows that the trip has absolutely no business attached to it and is exclusively a fun junket at the taxpayer's expense.

I'm just sick of the man. I don't think I've ever seen a Mayor so brazenly and unashamedly give the big middle finger to the citizens of New Orleans. I knew the man was an arrogant and dismissive twit, but it's utterly, gobsmackingly shameful what he's doing. How does the man live with himself?

I hold Rob Couhig solely responsible for this affront. Couhig knew what Nagin was and yet couldn't fathom a city run by Mitch Landrieu, so he threw his support to Nagin, delivering enough of the City's delusional conservative Republican base into Nagin's corner. I blame Couhig and every single one of Couhig's supporters who cast their lot with Nagin the last time around. Look what you gave to this city. Pathetic.

Friday, November 13, 2009

District 10-5A Football

On the first weekend of the LHSAA football playoffs, I think it merits noting that every single one of the five Catholic League teams (District 10-5A) -- Jesuit, Rummel, Brother Martin, Shaw, and Saint Augustine -- made the State High School Playoffs.

Every. Single. One.

I think that says volumes about the strength of the Catholic League in Louisiana High School football.

[UPDATE: November 13, 2009, 11:48PM: The Jesuit Blue Jays won their first round playoff game against the Airline Vikings by a score of 27-7. This sets up a potential and probable second-round showdown between Jesuit and their District rival and No. 1 seeded Rummel Raiders, who play the No. 32 seed tomorrow in their first round matchup. Jesuit lost their regular season game to Rummel in a close game decided in the final 2 minutes by a score of 21-14.]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beck Logic

And this is the guy that is now the voice of reason and logic among conservatives and one of the movement's revered leaders? What a joke!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

20 Pickle Pie

Just for fun, here's a blast from the past from Sesame Street. I don't remember watching this as a kid, but I do have fond memories of watching this on the computer over and over and over again with my first born some 10 years ago on a Sesame Street interactive CD:

As a bonus, here's yet another one that I particularly liked from this CD:

What a jewel that Sesame Street was (and is)!

Busting out the Thanksgiving Poetry

My youngest daughter, now in the the second grade in a local public school, pulled out her "poetry" collection from her kindergarten years. And by poetry collection, I mean poetry they were given to recite, not exclusively poetry they composed themselves.

Anyway ... we had a nice chuckle revisiting again the following Thanksgiving poem often recited at this public school:

Our Turkey Gobbler

Our Turkey Gobbler feels so sad,
He stands around and moans.
Tomorrow there will be nothing left
But just his poor, old bones!
This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving poems.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Right Wing's True Feelings About Anh "Joseph" Cao

Rep. Cao, I sure hope you are paying attention. As a liberal Democrat who almost always votes Party-line, know that I voted for you and I still think well of you, even though you have disappointed me on a number of votes since you took office. I'm still even open to voting for you again in 2010.

But you crossed over the line on your recent vote on the Health Insurance Reform proposal with the folks on your side of the ideological divide. Did you really think folks on your side would cut you a little slack, like I and many others did and still do on the Democratic side of the ideological divide? If you did, think again. As many of your erstwhile, sensible, moderate GOP colleagues have come to find out, if you cross the reactionary wing of your party, you consign yourself to perpetual and unforgivable heretical status. Furthermore, the racist bigots you align with are coming out now that you have given them no more reason to be nice to you. Here's one example:

RT @RightBloggerPat: @AnhJosephCao You Bastard piece of shit fuck! GO BACK TO Saigon, South Vietnam where you fucking BELONG GOOK! #TCOT
[H/T: Matt Yglesias.]

Is this what you want to be a part of? Come over to the Dark Side, Cao! I think you'll find out actually how much "light" there is on this side.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Oyster: Couhig is the "Duke of Dithering"

Oyster over at Your Right Hand Thief has a blistering and crushing piece on Republican Rob Couhig's indecisiveness about his running for Mayor. And Oyster's annointing Couhig the "Duke of Dithering" is fantastically clever and hilarious, especially since, as Oyster notes, Couhig labelled Mitch Landrieu as the "Prince of Vacillation" when Landrieu was taking his time in mulling over whether to run for Mayor against Nagin the last time around. Read the whole piece. I think Oyster is in top form in this posting.

I just wanted to add my own two cents of disgust with Couhig that is rooted in the last Mayoral election. Here's the story of my disgust with Couhig. In the last Mayoral election, Couhig placed a robo-call to me asking me as a Georgetown alum (Couhig is also a Georgetown alum, who must have gotten my name and number from the Georgetown alumni database), to support his candidacy. He didn't make any other pitch than loyalty to the Hoya network in asking for my support. In fact, if I remember correctly now, the tone of the message was presumptuous in that it took as a given that Georgetown alumni here in New Orleans would automatically be partial to Couhig. I took offense to Couhig's email because I would bet any amount of money that Couhig voted against Bill Clinton in both the 1992 and 1996 Presidential elections, in spite of the fact that Clinton was a fellow Hoya alum, too.

I will never support the pretender wannabe "Duke of Dithering" because of this. And Oyster's piece merely confirmed me in my decision.

Rightwing Cafeteria Catholics and the Health Care Reform Bill

I'm not necessarily one for having religious faith inform decisively one's public policy positions in a system rooted in separation of Church and State; but for the rightwing theocratic blowhards who make faith a sine-qua-non for their politics, it is illustrative that Cao is the ONLY Republican Catholic in the Louisiana delegation who truly adhere's to the Catholic Church's positions on the issue.

It's not well-publicized, but the Catholic Church has ALWAYS supported universal health care. And with publicly-funded abortions amended out of the bill, rightwing Catholic pretenders like Steve Scalise have NO EXCUSES for voting against the bill.

Scalise is as much a "Cafeteria Catholic" as any other. In fact, he's worse, because he, like many rightwing theocratic blowhards, wears his Catholicism on his sleeve and pretends that his faith is central to informing his public policy positions. When it comes to his Catholic credentials, Scalise is a fraud. (And I'll bet any amount of money that Republican Catholic Senator David Vitter will do just as Scalise did and vote against his Church on the Senate's version of the health insurance reform bill.) Scalise is entitled to his ideological stance against the health insurance reform bill, and I'm sure most of his constituents (many of them rightwing Cafeteria Catholics themselves) oppose the bill; but he should never be taken seriously ever again if and when he pulls out the Catholic card to speak either for or against any public policy initiative or piece of legislation.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Anh "Joseph" Cao Does It!

He is the ONLY Republican in the Federal House of Representatives to vote for the House Health Insurance Reform bill. And Louisiana Democrat Charlie Melancon voted against it.

And I called it.

Good for Cao.

Message To Anh "Joseph" Cao and All Catholic Legislators on Health Care Reform

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has endorsed the recently amended House Health Insurance Reform Legislation. They are convinced that the current amendmentment to the bill on the abortion question clearly and satisfactorily satisfies the Catholic Church's official, unwavering opposition to abortion. This means that not only do Catholic Legislators like Cao, Vitter, Melancon, etc., no longer have the abortion issue to hide behind, but they also are now faced with actually opposing their Church on the substantive question of health care reform as a moral imperative, a position the Catholic Church has always supported.

As Andrew Sullivan so bluntly said:

It's important to note what the theocons will never mention. Catholic teaching very, very strongly backs universal health insurance as a moral imperative.
Let's see the "Cafeteria Catholics" of the right wing spin this.

Message to Anh "Joseph" Cao: I'm watching you very, very, very closely now. Your vote on this will be a make it or break it for me in terms of considering you as a viable candidate in the 2010 elections. You have absolutely no moral reason to oppose the majority will of your constituents on this issue by voting "No" on the current reform bill, and every moral reason to vote "Yes."

The Hasan Question for Conservatives

To all those conservatives going ape-sh** crazy about the Muslim shooter in the Fort Hood incident, because he's a Muslim, I'd like to ask what would you do if you were President?

The dude was psychologically disturbed. Do his actions, even if they were motivated by his warped interpretation of Islam, require an aggressive state response focusing on Islam?

Conservatives should be careful, because there have been many more deadly rampages and cult massacres of innocents in this country by Christians. And the anti-Muslim hyperventilating rage conservatives seem to be irresponsibly engaging in and stoking now has its counterpart in the Muslim world with regard to anti-Christian hyperventilating rage.

I ask again, conservatives, what would you do? Concrete recommendations, please.

Korean Cover of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

This Korean Band, Eugene of Flower, covers probably the most difficult song from one of my all-time favorite bands. And they're awesome! Check it out:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Being Liberal and Being Fiscally Responsible Are Not Incompatible

A common myth in our political culture is that on the economic front conservatives are fiscally responsible and liberals are fiscally reckless. The truth is that the difference between modern conservatives and modern liberals has more to do with smaller government attitudes (conservative) versus bigger government attitudes (liberal). Fiscal sanity has very little to do with it. For instance, I would say that I am not opposed to bigger government, as long as it is still a solvent government.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Predictions on the Louisiana Congressional Delegation and the Health Care Bill

I could be very wrong in these predictions, but I figure I ought to lay them out anyway. As it stands now (and this is subject to change as the bills themselves change), this is where I see the Louisiana Delegation voting on the Health Care bills currently working their way through the federal Congress.

Anh "Joseph" Cao, who is a Republican representing the heavily Democratic Louisiana 2nd Congressional District, is likely to support the bill. He may be the only Republican to do so. I say this because I think the compromise on the abortion question, which has been Cao's sticking point, should give him enough cover to assuage his honest moral concerns over the issue. And I think he knows that, unless he switches parties, which is more and more unlikely between now and next November, a "No" vote on the health care reform bill will doom his re-election prospects. Conversely, a "Yes" vote on an issue that is very important to the constituents of his district, is likely the best avenue for Cao to improve his chances for retaining the seat as a Republican. So much depends on whether Cao wants to have another term; and I think he does. So, therefore, I think he votes for the bill.

Charlie Melancon, who is a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, ironically, I think will go against his Party and vote "No" on the bill. There are enough Democratic seats in the Federal House of Representatives that a handful of Blue Dog Democrat defections is not likely to alter the final vote tally in support of the bill. Also Melancon is challenging David Vitter for a Senate seat, so he needs the cover of a "No" vote to have an important wedge issue he can use to buffet his credentials against Vitter in a state where a majority of the population opposes the Democratic Health Care bills. I happen to think Melancon supports the health care reform bills, and will be content to see the reform become a reality, even though he'll vote against it. It's pure political expediency, which is not all that admirable; but if Melancon hopes to defeat Vitter, and I want Melancon to defeat Vitter, then this vote is a necessary compromise. But I will also say that if it comes down to Melancon's vote as the deciding vote on passage (thought I think the odds of this happening are very long ones), I think Melancon will opt to vote for the bill and sacrifice his chance at the Senate in order to pass this important piece of legislation.

Mary Landrieu, Louisiana's recently re-elected Democratic Senator, will end up voting to approve the measure. This is perhaps the most important vote in the Louisiana Delegation, because it's crucial to end a likely Republican-led filibuster. And even though Landrieu has expressed reluctance about the public option being included in the bill, she's giving indications that recent tinkering with the bill is addressing her concerns. In effect, she, too, is building cover for her "Yes" vote in an electorate that tilts against a "Yes" vote. But the clincher is that Landrieu is not up for re-election for another five years, and by that time, anything she does now she can either effectively backtrack from or embrace then, depending on how the reform proceeds in its implementation and what the preliminary effects of the reform turn out to be. Given all this, I think Landrieu is a solid "Yes" vote.

The rest of the Louisiana Delegation, all disciplined, party-line, anti-Obama Republicans will vote "No."

So the final tally will be two "Yes" votes (one from the Republican Rep. Cao, and one from the Democrat Sen. Landrieu); and 7 "No" votes (one from the Democrat Rep. Melancon, one from the Republican Sen. Vitter, and five from all the remaining Republican Reps. in the delegation.)

Louisiana's Racist Justice of the Peace

Keith Bardwell has resigned. Frankly, it's embarrassing to Louisiana that it didn't come sooner. And yet we still don't know what David Vitter's official position is on this situation. What can be said about a man like Vitter, in a position of authority who can demonstrate leadership on this issue, but instead who just sits back and does nothing? A coward too afraid speak out against it and thus complicit in it. That's what Vitter is: a coward and collaborator via silence.

And to be fair, on the subject of marriage equality for gays and lesbians, Obama is no different than Vitter. Obama is cowardly and complicit in perpetuating discrimination, too. I remain extremely disappointed, and in fact growing moreso, at Obama's failure to exercise even nominal leadership on a subject that so many see as a matter of fundamental civil rights.

Thoughts on Yesterday's Elections

So the GOP picks up the New Jersey and Virginia Governorships. Good for them. I hope they enjoy it. And I'm sure you'll see red meat conservatives speak about these victories as if that's what they were focusing on all the time.

But we all know better. We all know that it was New York's 23 Congressional District race that was the true litmus test for hard core conservatives, who tea bagged a moderate Republican favored by the State GOP for the more hardline conservative Constitution Party candidate. In this usually reliable conservative district, voters chose the Democrat. Why did Hoffman lose to Owens, turning yet another long-time red district blue? Two words: Palin, Beck. While the National GOP has some encouraging news to grab hold of with the phyrric victories in New Jersey over the very unpopular Corzine and in Virginia over the horrible campaign of Deeds, the rump conservatives who hoped to coopt the GOP by making NY-23 a referendum on the future of the party and the strength of the Palinite wing of the conservative movement must be a bit shocked and disheartened.

Personally, I think NY-23 is relatively meaningless in terms of predicting any national electoral trends; but I do think NY-23 will take the wind out of the sails of "rogue" conservatives. In other instances where "rogue" conservatives have made symbolic stands against the GOP establishment, principally in Florida with the primary battle between the candidacy of the Beck/Palin movement choice of Marco Rubio and the candidacy of the establishment GOP's choice of Charlie Crist, Rubio must be very worried by the NY-23 outcome. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Rubio asks Palin and Beck to stay away and keep their mouths shut. Especially Palin, since she seems to be poison for the electoral fortunes of the GOP. True die-hard conservatives will play down NY-23; but I will rest easy tonight knowing that the Beckolytes and Palinites will be more down about NY-23's loss than happy about the NJ and VA wins.

The one truly heartbreaking electoral outcome for me is the apparent defeat of the pro-marriage equality position in Maine's popular referendum on the matter. If Obama had possessed the courage simply to offer verbal support for marriage equality there, the outcome may have been different. But Obama did nothing. How disappointing. If there is a silver lining there, though, it's in the fact that the long-term trend is all uphill for the marriage equality movement. It's time will come.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Two Grown Women Steal from a 9-yr-old Girl

Link. Now why doesn't it surprise me that this happened at a Wal-mart? Yes, yes, I know. I'm elitist. Call Sarah Palin.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Geaux Saints!

I lost in all three of my fantasy football leagues this week, but it just doesn't matter because the Saints won and remain undefeated. The irony is that I will lose in one of my leagues by about 5 points because I had Drew Brees, but my opponent had Pierre Thomas. So, if Drew Brees had thrown that last touchdown pass to anyone other than Pierre Thomas, I would have won my fantasy game. So, I'm bummed about that, but still happy that the Saints won.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

If you are in the New Orleans area and want to check out some Day of the Dead festivities, come on down to the US Mint at 400 Esplanade to take part in a celebration sponsored by Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Louisiana State Museum, and the Mexican Consulate of New Orleans. There will be lots of family-friendly activities this afternoon, from 2-4pm, including a Mariachi band, folkloric dancing, food, and, of course, the Day of the Dead altar. All this will take place in the outdoor courtyard, Barracks St. side, of the US Mint. See you there!

UPDATE: Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009, 6:08pm: Back home from the Day of the Dead festivities. It was a lot of fun. The whole family had a nice time. Hope you made it.