Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on Honduras

Well, I think it's fair to say that the recent actions taken by the current de facto government of Honduras under the leadership of Roberto Micheletti have exposed the authoritarian and autocratic inclinations of this usurper government. Many U.S. conservatives have supported the Micheletti government following its installation in the wake of the military coup against the controversial, but duly-elected left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya. They have argued that the ouster of Zelaya was constitutionally defensible in the wake of Zelaya's misbehavior (some would argue Zelaya's treason), and that the subsequent Micheletti government were each necessary to preserve freedom and democracy in Honduras. But now that the Micheletti government has unilaterally suspended civil rights and constitutional guarantees by shutting down opposition media outlets and by preventing rights to free assembly, all in the name of "order," its former supporters in the U.S. have now responded with a deafening silence. Since the Micheletti government showed its autocratic nature, there is simply no way that anyone can continue to argue that this government is acting out of a commitment to democracy and freedom. And lest anyone seek to argue that the Micheletti government is the better of two bad alternatives, I would simply point out that as manipulative as Zelaya might have been, he never responded to his opposition by suspending constitutional rights. His opponents were always free to speak out against him, to organize and protest his behavior, and to flood the airwaves and their print media outlets with their criticism. It is the Micheletti government that, when faced with the public expression of opposition in an organized and peaceful, but determined, fashion, resorted to the behavior of dictatorships.

Given recent events in Honduras, I'd like to revisit the whole context of this crisis and offer some of my own opinions which have been germinating for a while.

First, let me starty by suggesting that the situation in Honduras was and is not as clear-cut and black & white as folks either on the left or the right have made it. Here is some food for thought. First, regarding the original claim by the coup supporters that Zelaya was seeking to establish the mechanism for instituting a Hugo Chavez style dictatorship in his own country, I think it is important to note that Zelaya was not specifically attempting to extend his term of office. In fact, what gets obfuscated in the polemics, is that what Zelaya had actually proposed was to insert in the upcoming election a ballot measure that would have been a binding referendum on the Honduran people's opinion regarding support for calling a constitutional convention with the purpose of reviewing the constitution and perhaps proposing amendments to the constitution, one of which would have included the Constitutional provision that limited a President to one term in office. The Supreme Court ruling against Zelaya was that it was illegal for him even to propose a "binding" referendum. So Zelaya then changed the measure to be a "non-binding" resolution. Whether or not one thinks Zelaya was simply playing fast and loose with the intent of the Supreme Court's ruling is another question. (And I happen think Zelaya WAS playing fast and loose. But, hey, that's politics!) However, that said, in a country governed by the Rule of Law, the next step would have been for the Supreme Court to decide on the legality of this "non-binding" referendum. But they never got that far before the coup took place. Secondly, contrary to what is currently circulating among much of the uninformed punditocracy and blogosphere, the Honduran Supreme Court did not order Zelaya arrested and deported. That's simply an untruth. The Supreme Court declared Zelaya in violation of their original ruling and thus subject to arrest and a subsequent trial for this violation of the ruling. In other words, the Supreme Court basically declared Zelaya to be in contempt of court. What the Supreme Court did not do was to authorize any particular authority to arrest Zelaya. It did not call for the military to detain Zelaya. And it certainly did not order, nor did it condone, his unwilling exile from the country under force of arms. That was done unilaterally by the Honduran military with some vocal support by members of the Honduran Congress.

Second, the Honduran Constitution is unclear on who actually IS the proper authority to arrest a President accused of illegal activity and what is the proper way of bringing to trial a President so-accused. There is nothing in the Honduran Constitution that affords the Congress or the military any authority to act in the way that they did. In this regard, the Honduran Constitution really is a badly-flawed document. Neverthelss, the proper way to deal with this lack of clarity in such situations in a liberal democracy is not for the Congress to make a power grab, as it did, in its struggle with the Executive; but rather for Congress to legislate a process whereby a rogue President is brought to trial and formally impeached.

With regard to the formal U.S. government position on the coup, I would say that the position is not one of being pro-Zelaya and anti-Supreme Court, as some critics of the U.S. response have argued, but rather one of being pro-democracy versus anti-democracy. Here's the thing: how "democratic" can a country be considered if there are articles of its constitution that are simply un-amendable? Heck, even the most hallowed articles of the U.S. Constitution are not presumed to be un-amendable. Popular sovereignty (i.e. government of the people, by the people, and for the people), not to mention freedom, requires that no constitutional provision be sacrosanct such that it is exempt always and everywhere, forever, from popular sanction and approval. Imagine if the framers of the U.S. Constitution had written a provision into the document that basically stated that only property-owning white males had the right to vote in elections and that this provision could never be amended or repealed, and that any effort to do so would amount to treason. That is, in essence, what the Honduran Constitution says about Presidential term limits. There is something to be said (and perhaps not all good) about the quality of Honduras's democracy and the nature of freedom under a constitution that cannot be amended in some parts and which parts are thus completely and utterly beyond the scrutiny of the people whom the Constitution serves.

Finally, I would always urge folks to think about what is proper conflict resolution between the co-equal branches of government in a liberal democracy. If we would not tolerate the manner of dealing with our own President in the way that Honduras has dealt with its own President, then there is an inconsistency within our own notions of what constitutes proper democratic governance. And when it is coupled with the idea that Honduras can't be expected to live up to the same standards of democratic governance that we in the U.S. would expect because Honduras is, after all, a third world banana republic, then this inconsistency is also very relativist, not to mention patronizing. We should always expect that our democratic allies would not simply have the military round up the country's President in his pajamas, force him into exile, and install a new government over the course of 24 hours. The question I keep asking folks who supported this coup: Would we tolerate this if it happened in our own country? Or in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia, etc.? I doubt it. And why is that? The answer to this question is simple: we fashion ourselves as people more accustomed to dealing with such crises through a strict adherence to the Rule of Law and never through a reliance on the force of arms, much less through the use of the national military.

In short, if anyone supports a military ouster of a President, a President who was never given a fair trial under due process of the law with the right to mount a legal defense in a legitimate trial in front of a duly constituted jury, however that process might take shape, just because Honduras is a third-world basket case that doesn't know a better way to deal with such problems, then shame on you. We should expect more from our Democratic allies, and not settle for the REAL third world basket case solution (i.e. a military coup) that actually took place.

All this is not to say that I support Zelaya or even that I like the man. Frankly, I'm not much of a fan of his, nor do I think he's operating with any measure of sincerity himself. He certainly has demagogic and anti-democratic tendencies like Hugo Chavez. But, even still, I can't claim to be an advocate of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law if I accept the manner in which Zelaya, who, for better or for worse, was the duly-elected President of Honduras, was removed from office and thrown out of the country.

For a good summation of the case against the ouster of Zelaya on constitutional, and legal procedural grounds, go here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Drew Brees and Target Practice

Here's why the Saints just might make it to the Superbowl this year:

Hot damn!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Football in NOLA - The Rare Trifecta

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's always worth mentioning:

Tulane Green Wave 42, McNeese State Cowboys 32

LSU Tigers 30, Mississippi State Bulldogs 26

New Orleans Saints 27, Buffalo Bills 7

A good weekend for football in Louisiana.

My brief two-bit analysis: (1) Tulane wins against a ranked Division I-AA team. I guess chalking up a victory against any team is a good day for Tulane; but this one is nothing really to write home about. (2) LSU had an impressive goal line stand late in the 4th quarter; but this goal line stand should have been completely unnecessary. If LSU hadn't bungled what should have been a chip shot 19 yard field goal earlier, regardless of whether or not Mississippi State would have scored on its last major drive, the outcome of the game would never have been in question. LSU is lucky to be 4-0. If they don't improve in significant ways, they're gonna get eaten up by the big boys in the SEC. (3) On the other end of the spectrum, the Saints look surprisingly good at this point. They are playing solid, confident ball and are winning decisively.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

Just wanted to take this opportunity to plug another blog project that is now up and running again. Cuaderno Latinoamericano is a blog focusing exclusively on Latin America that involved multiple contributors, all of whom are enrolled, or have enrolled, in one of my courses at Tulane University over the years. It's an experiment in utilizing the blog medium to get students to engage with Latin America on their own terms, for students to make use of blog technology and other current media to explore contemporary issues, culture, society, politics, basically anything of interest to students, that concerns the Latin American region. The quality of the posts vary, but the exercise inevitably enhances student exposure and attention to the region. And that is its principle purpose. Check it out and feel free to leave comments of encouragement or criticism. In doing so, you'll also become part and parcel of the education these students receive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Fruits of Glenn Beck

He and those like him from the anti-establishment, wacko, fringe rightwing nutcases have given birth. I fear this is the first of many such stories. For shame, Glenn Beck, for shame.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zelaya Returns to Honduras

Breaking news has reported that ousted Honduran President, Mel Zelaya, has returned to Honduras and is, apparently, holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

As of this moment, no one knows quite how Zelaya managed to get into the country. I have heard from some of my colleagues who have been reading up on the matter that he supposedly made it to the Brazilian Embassy by his own means and was not shuttled there by any foreign power.

This upsets the whole scenario in Honduras and will complicate the situation tremendously. The "de facto" Honduran government, which deposed Zelaya through a military coup, denies that Zelaya is in the country, yet has already declared a curfew in order to stem the tide of Zelaya supporters from occupying the streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, at night.

How this will end is anyone's guess at this point, but it's certainly an escalation that doesn't promise peace. We shall see ...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thought of the Day: How to Kill Obama's Health Care Reform

The absolute surest way to kill Obama's Health Care Reform plan is for Sarah Palin to come out and endorse it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

LSU vs. Tulane

I agree with John DeShazier:

The guess here is that LSU's athletic quality of life wouldn't noticeably diminish if it played a regular-season game in New Orleans once every three or four years. Its schedule strength isn't going to skyrocket by filling up on in-state opponents who aren't any more likely to pose a threat than Tulane.

And to claim it will enhance the LSU brand by playing North Carolina, or anyone else, at a neutral site or home-and-home is stretching for an excuse.


But more than 100 years and almost 100 games shouldn't go away so quietly. That kind of tie shouldn't be severed, not if the main reason is that one team never, ever wants to go on the road in the series.
As a Tulane employee, alum, and fan, I guess I'm a bit biased; but I'll add one more reason. Almost all of the LSU fans that I know from the New Orleans area (and MOST LSU fans live and work in the New Orleans Area) actually like the Tulane/LSU rivalry, as mismatched as it is these days. For one, even when LSU plays Tulane "on the road" in the Superdome, it gives LSU fans essentially another home game to attend. Most LSU fans in the New Orleans area are also fond of Tulane and like to see Tulane do well (except when Tulane plays LSU!); and playing against LSU is always a boon to Tulane's program, as much as it might seem like a throw-away for LSU. Finally, there are other things, such as tradition and support for Louisiana college athletics and simple rivalry fun for the fans that might mitigate against the purely financial argument that is driving LSU's decision to end the series. LSU might not make as much money keeping Tulane on the schedule, but I doubt it's losing money on the venture either. And it is impoverishing LSU fans, Tulane fans, and Louisiana college athletics in other non-material ways. It should take these other considerations into account. Otherwise, it just makes LSU seem mercenary and will drive Tulane fans like me, who appreciated LSU because it made room for Tulane, to think less of LSU all the way around. And for LSU to risk losing that portion of its fan base, no matter how tiny it might be, can't be good for the school in the long run and in other ways that have little to do with football.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: John Hawkins at Right Wing News and the St. Louis School Bus Beating Incident

I've been a fierce critic of conservative blogger John Hawkins of Right Wing News on many occasions, and especially on his schizophrenia regarding the subject of race. Given that, I think it is only fair and just that I take the time to point out that Hawkins was one of the few conservatives in the very early stages of the breaking story about the St. Louis School Bus Beating Incident who didn't instantly jump on the "racism" bandwagon. When it became clear that the incident was less about racial tension and seemed more about simple grade school bullying, conservatives like Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh, who shamelessly race hustled this incident, were left with egg on their faces for their incendiary race-baiting that they still haven't apologized for or backed down from.

But John Hawkins, to his credit, didn't take the bait. On this instance, Hawkins demonstrated a measure of sanity and restraint that his fellow conservative bloggers and pundits failed to show. I think that deserves some positive recognition on The Huck Upchuck given how often I've criticized Hawkins here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When the Beckolyte Hoi Polloi Speak ...

... they reveal their gobsmacking ignorance:

The section on the "Czar" phenomenon is especially revealing. These people are railing about things they literally know nothing about. It would be amusing if it weren't also so damn terrifying. And as much as I'm reluctant to say this, I am coming more and more to believe that the underlying hostility to Obama is rooted in deep-seated, almost subconscious racism. Especially when stuff like this keeps popping up with disturbing regularity. I have never seen people so afraid and so violently pre-disposed towards a President as I am seeing now.

Kooky is Right -- Rightwing, That Is.

I pity this kid:

Forget the whole thing about protesting Obama's inspirational and non-controversial speech to students. What this kid is learning is how to NOT be a critical thinker. He is, in effect, being subjected to an anti-intellectual brainwashing that is infinitely worse than anything that could ever come out of Obama's speech.

I mean, really, they both admit that there was absolutely nothing at all wrong about what Obama was going to say; and yet this Beckolyte dimwit of a father is instead going to take his son on "a field-trip the WW2 D-Day Museum in New Orleans to recognize the sacrifices of America's fallen heroes and celebrate the last time Americans fought against fascism." And this guy thinks he knows what "fascism" is?!? What the guy is doing is nothing less than fascist brainwashing. You think he's going to teach his son how to think for himself? Think again.

Kooky? For that we need look no further than this lunacy, which, of course, we find on the Northshore. Can't say I'm surprised there, though I do say that the irony of sending his kid to that socialist thing known as public school is still quite rich. And here's another puzzler: for someone whose father will not let Obama have "direct access" to him, how in the world does this kid even know what Obama's ideas are, much less arrive at some thought-out conclusion through independent study that Obama has some "kooky ideas"? You'd think he might have actually been exposed to some of Obama's ideas, as opposed to his father's "filtering" of Obama's ideas. I guess it's no wonder the kid thinks the "ideas" he hears are kooky -- that's because they are his dad's ideas, not Obama's. And on that score, I'd agree. Kooky, indeed.

Anh "Joseph" Cao and the Joe Wilson Rope-a-Dope

Frankly, I, like E, thought that the House Resolution chastizing Joe Wilson for his idiotic outburst was itself pretty idiotic. It just gave Wilson more of a platform to convert his idiocy into the defiance of a besieged underdog. The man made a pure fool of himself when he had his outburst, and that should have been enough in and of itself. The need to try to stomp on the man even more, and in a way that added no value to the progressive policy agenda in Congress, was petty and ill-advised.

But guess who among the Republicans decided to vote in support of this toothless and meaningless Resolution? Yep, you guessed it: Anh "Joseph" Cao.

Now on the surface, being one of only a handful of Republicans to vote for this Resolution might reinforce the "Resume of a Democrat" characterization of Cao.

But I have a different, somewhat more cynical take on Cao's action. Sure, Cao probably does believe in the need for a more civil nature of exchange and preserving a greater respect for the institutions of our government. That fits in with Cao's demeanor at one level. But I'd bet that Cao is also pleased that he has the opportunity to side with the Democrats and to take on his own party on such a relatively meaningless and purely symbolic resolution. The cynicism I see in this is that Cao gets to play up his "Resume of a Democrat" credibility on this matter to his constituency in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District on such insignificant matters as a way to deflect from the fact that on the really important stuff, like Healthcare reform, stimulus packages, and bailout legislation, etc., Cao has been less than stellar in representing his constituency and in supporting Obama.

And though I like Cao, I am not willing to give him a break or pat him on the back on this one. He's got to show some courage in bucking the GOP on some of the tough, thorny, big issues before he gets any true kudos from me for representing the desires and interests of his largely progressive and Democratic constituency. Let's see how he votes on the Democratic healthcare reform proposal when it comes up for a vote.

Fielkow Says "No" to the N.O. Mayor's Race

Arnie Fielkow is out of the running. I think this is probably a wise move at this point. I like Fielkow. I will never forget Fielkow's early and decisive opposition to some hateful pieces of anti-illegal immigrant legislation that were proposed in the Louisiana State Legislature two legislative sessions ago. Fielkow has always been a friend and supporter of Latino causes in the city. And that has very much endeared him to me. But I think his recent waffling about whether to jump into the Mayor's race, even to the point of being unable to decide by his own self-imposed deadline, hurt his chances even before he would have started. It just doesn't look "Mayorial" to be so indecisive about something so important. So, I'm glad he's decided to sit this one out. He may, in fact, have written himself out of the picture completely, given that whoever emerges victorious this election cycle will have the benefits of incumbency to stretch the term to 8 years. And 8 years may be too long for Fielkow. But I still think it's the right move for him, and I respect him for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quote of the Day: Nate Silver on FreedomWorks Teabagger Matt Kibbe's Inchworm

[UPDATE 8/16/10: Apparently, some dude named Peter Boettke recently linked on his Facebook page to the posting below that I made almost a year ago. I imagine he's also the person who left an "anonymous" comment in the comments to this old posting. I would refer Dr. Boettke, and all those who deign to visit my blog from his Facebook posting, to the original posting made by Nate Silver, which is what I'm referring to. Whatever you think of Silver's posting, the part I'm referencing below is quite funny. And I'm just commenting on this. Think of it as a kind of John Stewart or Stephen Colbert moment of sarcastic humor. As to the question of the "political rhetoric in an intellectual dispute," I have no idea what Dr. Boettke is referring to. My posting isn't about an "intellectual dispute." It's certainly not about policy. It's simply about another person's blog posting concerning a factual lie made by Matt Kibbe. Truly, what is "intellectual" about Matt Kibbe's claims regarding the number of people in attendance at the Tea Party rally last September? And as far as Dr. Boettke's complaints about "political rhetoric," all I have to say is that the rhetoric of my blog postings is generally mild compared to what I've heard coming out of the mouths and on the blogs of many Tea Partiers. If Dr. Boettke would like to have a serious policy discussion about "Obamanomics," I'd be happy to oblige. I'll even throw in some choice references to Friedrich Hayek!]

Statistician Nate Silver, commenting on teabagger leader Matt Kibbe's outrageously egregious lie about the number of attendees at the Washington DC teabagger rally, wrote:

But yesterday, someone told a real whopper. ABC News, citing the DC fire department, reported that between 60,000 and 70,000 people had attended the tea party rally at the Capitol. By the time this figure reached Michelle Malkin, however, it had been blown up to 2,000,000. There is a big difference, obviously, between 70,000 and 2,000,000. That's not a twofold or threefold exaggeration -- it's roughly a thirtyfold exaggeration.

The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn't "in error", as Malkin gently puts it. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long.
Nate, Nate, Nate. Now you know that challenging a blustery macho teabagger's manhood is a really serious insult, and may result in some direct "expression" of 2nd Amendment rights. But the worst of it is in the one subtle detail that only a careful observer will catch. Silver's emphasis on the "thirty" in "thirtyfold exaggeration" is not coincidental. As Silver mentions in the title of his blog posting: "Size Matters; So Do Lies." What Silver is telling us, therefore, is that Kibbe's 53 inch penis size represents a "thirtyfold" exaggeration of its normal grandeur which, when you do the math, makes Kibbe's "Mr. Happy" a regular 1.75 inch worm! Ouch! How Nate Silver knows this is another matter altogether; but still ... for Kibbe, that's got to sting.

Hayek, the Rule of Law, the Bush Administration, and Torture

I am brushing up on my Friedrich Hayek these days, and I am reminded of Hayek's chapter on the Rule of Law in his famous book, The Road to Serfdom. Hayek would chafe at the Bush Administration's Department of Justice and the work of the Office of Legal Counsel in drafting bogus memoranda legitimizing (post-facto, even) the arbitrary use of state power in the interrogation of suspected Islamic terrorists. In fact, there is nothing freedom-loving at all in how the Bush Administration usurped popular sovereignty for its own secretive and power-grabbing ends. Think about the following passage from The Road to Serfdom as it may apply to the Yoo and Bybee memos in the Bush Department of Justice, memos which sought to grant post-facto juridical cover from the legal prohibitions against torture and an arbitrary exemption from what Hayek would call the Rule of Law:

The idea that there is no limit to the powers of the legislator is in part a result of popular sovereignty and democratic government. It has been strengthened by the belief that, so long as all actions of the state are duly authorized by legislation, the Rule of Law will be preserved. But this is completely to misconceive the meaning of the Rule of Law. This rule has little to do with the question whether all actions of government are legal in the juridical sense. They may well be and yet not conform to the Rule of Law. The fact that someone has full legal authority to act in the way he does gives no answer to the question whether the law gives him power to act arbitrarily or whether the law prescribes unequivocally how he has to act. It may well be that Hitler has obtained his unlimited powers in a strictly constitutional manner and that whatever he does is therefore legal in the juridical sense. But who would suggest for that reason that the Rule of Law still prevails in Germany?

To say that in a planned society the Rule of Law cannot hold is, therefore not to say that the actions of the government will not be legal or that such a society will necessarily be lawless. It means only that the use of the government's cooercive powers will no longer be limited and determined by pre-established rules. The law can, and to make central direction of economic activity possible must, legalize what to all intents and purposes remains arbitrary action. If the law says that such a board or authority may do what it pleases, anything that board or authority does is legal--but its actions are certainly not subject to the Rule of Law. By giving the government unlimited powers, the most arbitrary rule can be made legal; and in this way a democracy may set up the most complete despotism imaginable. ...

The Rule of Law thus implies limits to the scope of legislation: it restricts it to the kind of general rules known as formal law and excludes legislation either directly aimed at particular people or at enabling anybody to use the coercive power of the state for the purpose of such discrimination. It means, not that everything is regulated by law, but, on the contrary, that the coercive power of the state can be used only in cases defined in advance by the law and in such a way that it can be foreseen how it will be used. -- [The Road to Serfdom, pp. 82-84 of the 1962 Phoenix Books edition. The italicized portions of the text cited above are mine.]
Now, Hayek was writing this with the legislative practices in Germany, Italy, and Russia prior to WWII in mind, practices that basically gave a semblance of legal cover to the dictatorial rule of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. Though he doesn't mention specifically the similar practices of manipulation of the law from within the executive branch of government, I think it is a safe bet that Hayek would have been even more disturbed by the Bush Administration's behavior because its legal shenanigans in parsing the law so as to give post-facto cover to the illegal practice of torture did not even make a pretense to democratic sanction through an elected legislative body, but rather was conducted in secret within the executive itself. In essence, the Bush Administration's behavior was even more arbitrary and dictatorial than what Hayek was even imagining. In fact, I imagine that Hayek would have been shocked and mortified by the Bush Administration's behavior and would have been equally shocked and mortified that Americans claiming to be Hayekian conservatives and advocates of the ideas contained in The Road to Serfdom would defend the Bush Administration's behavior.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Now Anh "Joseph" Cao?

I like Anh "Joseph" Cao. I voted for him in the last election and would even consider him seriously in the next one, strictly on the basis of his progressive attitudes on immigration and language access issues.

But I want Cao to know right now that I simply will not vote for a Republican, no matter how much I like him (or her), given the importance of maintaining some Democratic Party discipline in these trying times when Obama needs it most.

If there is a credible Democratic candidate, and there looks to be plenty to choose from, that person will win my vote over any Republican or Independent candidate, Cao included.

My advice to Cao ... if you want to have ANY chance with voters like me, you better switch parties. And fast.

Joe Wilson's "You Lie!": A Revisionist Interpretation

Joe Wilson has apparently fooled us all. When he yelled out at the President, "You lie!" regarding the President's claim that the healthcare reform measure does not permit undocumented migrants to partake of its benefits, the immediate thought was that Wilson was upset because he was an anti-illegal immigrant reactionary.

But, really, the evidence seems to indicate that he was upset because he is pro-illegal immigrant and found it maddeningly frustrating that Obama, by making such a claim, was refusing to embrace and own up to a shared commitment to providing benefits to illegal immigrants.

Surely, given that Wilson happily voted to commit taxpayer dollars in support of the healthcare of undocumented immigrants in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act, what else can be motivating Wilson's outburst?

Let's compare: the best-known of the healthcare reform proposals out there, HR 3200, contains a specific part, Section 426, which declares that illegal immigrants are not eligible for coverage under the bill. In fact, this particular section of the bill is titled: "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens" and it reads: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." Furthermore, nowhere else in the bill that I can find is there language that mentions benefits specifically intended to cover expenses incurred by undocumented immigrants.

Now, the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act, which Joe Wilson voted for, contains Section 1011, which is titled: "Federal Reimbursement of Emergency Health Services Furnished to Undocumented Aliens," with language that clearly and repeatedly mentions benefits to the tune of $250,000,000.00 for each of fiscal years 2005-2008 that are specifically intended to cover expenses incurred by undocumented immigrants.

So, with such love by Wilson for spending taxpayer dollars on the healthcare of undocumented immigrants in the past, there's only one way to interpret his outburst this time around. He simply fantasized the inclusion of benefits to undocumented immigrants in the current healthcare reform bill because he desperately wanted such benefits to be in the bill, and he just couldn't accept the President's truthful declaration that such benefits were simply not there.

Federer the Magician


Football of the Fantasy Variety

I love football. I grew up playing football since I was 5 years old. In some years, I played for multiple leagues. I even got in trouble during my Freshman year of high school for playing both on the high school Freshman team AND the little league team at the neighborhood playground. Apparently, unbeknownst to me or my family, this was in violation of LHSAA rules and I caused my high school Freshman team to forfeit all the games I played in. I stopped playing competitive tackle football after High School, though I had been in a couple of flag football leagues since then. And even though my bum knees make it impossible now for me to continue actively playing even in flag football leagues, I remain a big fan of the sport. However, I do have to admit that my enjoyment of football these past few years has come not from following the rise and fall of particular teams, whether high school, college, or professional, but rather from the mix and match world of fantasy football.

This weekend marks the start of the fantasy football season in earnest, and I'm very much looking forward to it. I have three teams in three separate fantasy football leagues, and I always enjoy following all the professional games on Sunday to see how my fantasy teams perform.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cass Sunstein and the Myopia of Conservatives

As someone who is familiar with Cass Sunstein's writings and who has read (and discussed) Sunstein's most recent book, Nudge, a collaborative effort with Richard Thaler, I have to say that I find the conservative opposition to Sunstein's appointment as the director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration's Office of Management and Budget to be very puzzling. Sunstein's basic thesis in Nudge was very much coming out of a libertarian tradition that prioritizes the freedom of choice and looks suspiciously on any practice or policy that might compromise choice beyond a fairly innocuous "nudge," whether that practice or policy originates in the state or the private sector.

Conservative columnist and pundit, David Frum, (currently a pariah among modern movement conservatives for his opposition to Sarah Palin and his criticism of the unthinking reactionary conservative bombast of folks like Mark Levin and Glenn Beck) has written an extremely thoughtful piece defending, with a persuasive conservative rationale, the appointment of Sunstein.

Here's part of what he said:

To anyone who knows anything – anything! – about what Cass Sunstein has actually written or actually said, it’s [conservative opposition to his appointment] a travesty and scandal. And ironically enough, if successful, it would have been a travesty and scandal in which conservatives would find themselves the main victims.

Had Cass Sunstein somehow been stopped, the next OIRA nominee would certainly have been less favorable to markets, enterprise, and competition. The next nominee would not have supported John Roberts and Michael McConnell, would not have chaired seminars with the American Enterprise Institute, might not have been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, and very likely would not have shared with conservatives so many of the values that Beck purports to uphold but in fact betrays.
I, too, think Sunstein is better for conservatives, by leaps and bounds, than any other potential Obama administration appointment. If conservatives want to be masochistic, and work to dump Sunstein in favor of someone more radical from the left, that's their prerogative. It just makes no sense to me.

Quote of the Day: On Hayek

"According to the current Republican orthodoxy, Friedrich Hayek was a socialist." Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan quotes directly from Chapter 9 of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, one of the canonical, almost biblical, texts of conservatism. Read Sullivan's whole entry, which focuses on Hayek's defense of the kind of government program of the sort that the healthcare reform proposals of today represent.

I, myself, have been giving Hayek's book a re-reading over the past weeks to try to understand how far "modern" conservatism, the Limbaugh/Bachmann/Hannity/Wilson kind, has strayed from conservative orthodoxy into the realm of the absurd.

More Hayek pearls of wisdom from The Road to Serfdom will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama's Speech to Schoolkids and Republican Rectal-Cranial Inversion

From the annals of contemporary conservative implosion, here's Neal Boortz, conservative Town Hall columnist, frothing over the rightwing's puerile imbecility regarding Obama's speech to schoolkids:

TeamObama must have loved this one. Talk about a hanging curveball. Once the manic inanity started all they had to do is sit back, prepare an innocuous speech for The One, and let the people scratch their heads wondering what in the hell the Republicans were so upset about! Now the next time the right comes up with an objection to some Obama concept, people who last week might have been on board will stand back and look at the Republicans with a jaundiced eye.

This one was so easy for the left I can’t even think of another 300 words to fill out this column. So just move on to the next one. Two steps forward and three steps back. Unless PrezBO really messes up his address to Congress tonight watch for his popularity ratings to rise. Thanks, Republicans! See if there’s some drug available for that rectal-cranial inversion you’re suffering from.
They're falling apart, man. Bashing each other. And I'm loving it. If you do check out Boortz's column, you absolutely must also have a quick read of the comments there. The frothing is legion! If these folks don't calm down, I think we might witness a mass death-by-aneurysm moment.

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan, who marvels at the genius of what he so aptly calls Obama's "rope-a-dope." Now, I'm not so sure Obama is that clever, but the coincidence of this "rope-a-dope" happening the day before Obama is poised to give a major speech on healthcare does raise eyebrows, doesn't it? When conservatives instinctively start frothing about Obamunism up to and following Obama's healthcare reform speech tonight, one has to wonder if sane Americans, fresh off the nuttiness of the recent conservative "sky is falling" chicken little performance regarding the talk to schoolkids, won't look askance at conservative frothing about Obama's healthcare reform proposal. Seriously, all Obama has to do tonight is come across as calm and reasonable on his healthcare reform proposal and the skeptical just might think that the "death panel" screechers on the right really are the lunatics in this debate and that Obama is the sane one. It might be just the edge Obama needs to prevail.]

UPDATE: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 11:00PM: South Carolina GOP Congressman Joe Wilson, who rudely heckled Obama and blurted out "You lie!," just gave Obama that edge. The nuttiness at the Healthcare Town Halls rears its ugly, unbecoming head on national television in the "august" halls of Congress. Joe Wilson, you are a crude hick. Thanks, Joe Wilson, for revealing the true face of the modern GOP to the world. It was a wonderful gift to Obama.

A Few Good Letters

Letter 1:

Re: "Echoes of Bush in health care effort: Older voters show skepticism over plan, " Page A2, Sept. 8. First, everyone on Medicare who opposes health care reform as a socialist enterprise should relinquish all Medicare benefits.

Second, every anti-reform child and grandchild of Medicare recipients should urge their parents and grandparents to give up all Medicare benefits and then personally assume their parents' and grandparents' medical bills.

When both camps do this, then they can take the high ground on health care reform.

Kris Lackey

New Orleans
Amen, Kris Lackey! I couldn't have said it any better.

Letter 2:
"Re: "Obama student address decision is up to principals, archdiocese says," Metro, Sept. 4. As a high school teacher of U.S. government and a James Madison Fellow, I feel an obligation to voice my disappointment in some of our local educational leaders for caving in to partisan politics.

Parents who are worried that their children may be politically indoctrinated by President Obama's speech need to consider the following.

As a teacher, I do not give my students the option of not reading the Federalist Papers, the Bill of Rights or President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, all of which were, in their day, more politically indoctrinating than anything President Obama can say in his speech.

Giving the students the option to disregard a president's address reeks of partisan politics and lacks a genuine motive.

Vanesa Gentinetta

Common sense from a High School teacher more interested in teaching than in politicizing education. And, yes, Ms. Gentinetta, it does reek of partisan politics, indeed. Ronald Reagan can extol the benefits of low taxes to students, but Obama can't even tell them to stay in school and work hard? But I do have one beef with Ms. Gentinetta's letter: there is no lack of a "genuine motive" behind not requiring students to listen to Obama's speech. The motive exists and it's clear. Only it's not a very admirable motive. It's a motive of hate and disrespect for Obama. It's a motive of: "Break his teeth, O God."

Hitler on Obama's Speech to Schoolkids

I thought this was just too damn funny:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

St. Tammany Parish High Schools and Obama's Speech

Part of a transcript of a WWL TV news report I heard earlier today while sitting in the Jury Pool lounge:

Not all schools embraced Obama’s speech, as some were beset with criticism from concerned parents.

All six St. Tammany Parish high schools and Terrebonne Parish schools did not air the speech live, opting to record the speech because it interfered with lunch. Students were given the opportunity to watch it later.
I assume this report concerns only public high schools, because apparently some of the Catholic High Schools showed the speech. Nevertheless, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if all Public High Schools in St. Tammany Parish refrained from showing the speech live. It is the Northshore, after all. Well, to whichever schools didn't show the speech live, I say fie on them. Let them look small, petty, paranoid, and imbecilic.

"Break his teeth, O God."

Words fail:

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

Obama's "Socialist" Message to Schoolkids

Whole thing is right here. Here's some of the choice "socialist" lessons Obama has to share:

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.


And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.


We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.


But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.


That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.


Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.
Holy moly! That secular, atheist, Muslim fundamentalist, Kenyan-born, son-of-a-many-times-divorced-and-remarried mother even mentioned "God" to the kids while they were in school! How dare he coopt God for his nefarious brainwashing purposes?! Call out the good Christian soldiers to prevent Obama from marching our kids off the gulags and re-education camps! Obamunism is poised to pollute our kids' minds! God forbid that Obama usurp the authority of parents!

Seriously ...

This is a speech that one would think conservatives would wet their pants over. What a shame that they're so damn afraid of Obama that their kids are likely going to miss out on this inspirational message.

One thing I know for certain: Obama has once again upstaged the paranoid delusionals among the rightwing. Any rational, sane, honest parent would read this speech and would WANT his or her kids to hear it. And any individuals who persist in their absurd, insane hyperventilations about it will merely expose themselves for the idiots that they are.

Monday, September 07, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird

Today, I took squirrely girlie the elder to see the movie To Kill a Mockingbird on the big screen. The Prytania movie theatre, one of the few neighborhood theatres that has managed to survive the mega movie complexes, is running a Classics movie series over the noon hour on the weekends. It is quite a success. My eldest daughter, who read Harper Lee's novel this summer and loved it, thought the movie was great. I did, too. Of course, Gregory Peck was wonderful as Atticus Finch. But the big revelatory surprise for me was realizing for the first time that the Great Santini, Robert Duvall, played the part of the mysterious Boo Radley. I've seen the movie a handful of times and never once did it register that Robert Duvall played this part.

I once had an idea some 6-7 years ago for converting another local neighborhood movie theatre, the one up on Robert E. Lee Blvd. in Lakeshore (I can't remember its formal name), to one that would specialize exclusively in children's/family theatre. You know, old Disney classics, etc. And then market it for birthday parties and such. And if I had the investment dollars, I might just have done it. I still think it would be a successful venture.

Nevertheless, the Prytania has done a great thing and I was happy to partake today.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Lusher Lions Football

I guess it's admirable that the new Lusher High School has even fielded a football team. But I went to their first game of the season this past Friday night, and the performance was a disaster. For one, the team was out of shape. Second, there was absolutely zero offense. The team had negative yardage on offense. The offense racked up more negative yardage due to penalties than positive yardage adding rushing, passing, and return yards combined. Speaking of penalties, there must have been about 20-25 total just against Lusher. In just one series of downs that I witnessed in the 3rd quarter, there were 2 offsides penalties, 2 delay of game penalties, and one holding penalty. It was absolutely painful to watch. In fact, there were so many penalties, delays, official time outs, etc., that the 12 minute third quarter alone lasted more than an hour. The best performance of the night was the halftime show, which featured the Lusher High School dance club doing a modern dance number. Needless to say, Lusher lost the game by a shut out -- 0 to 34.

What's even worse is that Lusher is in the district that contains John Curtis Christian High School -- the perennial state champion. I shudder at the thought of that game. God bless Lusher for pulling together a football team, but lord help them and help us all.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

TP Letter Writer Misses the Obvious on Obama's Speech to Students

In a letter to the editor in today's Times-Picayune, Ms. Judi McGovern from Folsom on the Northshore in St. Tammany Parish writes the following:

Some of the loudest protests to the Obama "student chat" come from St. Tammany Parish parents and educators. It is interesting to note that not a single St. Tammany school is rated "academically unacceptable."

Could it be that St. Tammany parents and teachers have already taught their children the value and importance of education?
First, that some of the loudest protests are coming from ultra-conservative St. Tammany Parish residents comes as no surprise. The mere mention of Obama is enough to elicit the frothing madness of Northshore conservatives. It was this way before the election and has been this way ever since. Let's remember also that some of the state's most notorious racist hate-mongers like David Duke find a comfy perch in St. Tammany Parish from which to spew their filth. It's in St. Tammany Parish where white supremacist groups thrive and carry out their sometimes murderous mischief. Everyone knows the unvarnished truth about the nature and extent of the ideological leanings of St. Tammany Parish.

But, leaving all that aside, what I would like to ask Ms. McGovern is how having President Obama reinforce the "value and importance of education" that she claims is so successfully imparted by St. Tammany Parish parents and teachers to their own superior youth is somehow bad? You'd think that having this country's President reinforce the values that St. Tammany Parish's extraordinary parents and teachers convey so well is something Ms. McGovern would embrace. Instead, Ms. McGovern thinks a censorious pre-screening of a Presidential address on the virtues of staying in school is recommendable, and says that it is "a sad commentary for a president who has been in office for such a short time to have succeeded in raising so many obvious issues of trust." I think Ms. McGovern ought to re-evaluate her claim. It is not Obama that has succeeded in raising so many obvious issues of trust. I'd say it's the opposite. It's folks like Ms. McGovern, in collusion with the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, who have succeeded in raising the issues of trust where they simply do not exist. Obama has, from the very beginning, extolled the values of family, has exhorted parents to be involved in their kids' lives, has defended the discipline of study and respect for teachers. But, in St. Tammany Parish, Obama could read, without commentary, verbatim from the Bible to students and Ms. McGovern would want to shield kids from it, simply and only because it is Obama doing the reading. The fact is that folks in St. Tammany Parish don't trust Obama because they never have and they aren't even interested in doing so. Ms. McGovern thinks the current controversy is some commentary on Obama; but I think the truth is that it is more a commentary on her. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that Ms. McGovern was never open to placing her trust in Obama. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts she never will be. And it is that which is the "sad commentary" here.

My Advice to Parents Opposed to Obama's Speech on Education to Students

Home school your kids.

Conservative Pansies

A reader at Andrew Sullivan's site had this choice comment about the NIMBY (Not-in-my-backyard) folks who get all apoplectic about transferring detainees from Guantanamo to maximum-security prisons in the United States:

The Republican Party has gone from the party of fear to the party of being afraid. If the left ever acted like pansies about something the way the right has about this, they'd be taken to task and labeled "weak" or "soft".
I thought this was perhaps the most succinct capturing of the irrational thinking behind conservative opposition to the plan for closing Gitmo and dealing with its prisoners. Conservatives are nothing but irrational these days, it seems.

Obama's Education Speech to Students

Again, I am simply dumbfounded, astounded, and increasingly angry at rightwing hyperventilating at the simple mention of Obama.

It's almost to the point that I will refuse to have anything at all to do with such imbecility.

I have never seen a reaction to a President as I have seen by the rightwing to Obama. It's shameful.

This is my message to the folks who think that Obama's encouraging kids to stay in school and work hard is socialist indoctrination:

(1) At this point, I think rational communication with you is fruitless. So I will refuse to engage you in communication about such stupidity. From now on, we can only talk about sports and the weather.
(2) Your attitudes are hardening mine. If you want a war, I will oblige.
(3) You are a paranoid delusional nutcase. Completely irrational, mentally unstable, and intellectually bankrupt.
(4) You are a petty, small, bitter nothing.

Oh, there's so much more invective I can hurl. But it's almost not even worth it. It is clear that I am becoming increasingly angry and maddeningly frustrated, not by a thoughtful opposition to Obama, which I can respect and deal with, but by the damn stupidity and utter imbecility that is behind this current absurd madness. People have just lost their minds. Really, if left-liberals had voiced the same kind of inane nonsense about any conservative President giving such a speech to schoolkids, I would have had the same reaction to them. I would have told them to stop with the stupidity. I would have exhorted such liberals to get behind even the most conservative of Presidents, as it would be at least one area where nothing but good can come of such Presidential leadership.

I am just at a loss for what to say. And I even have a very difficult time wrapping my mind around this behavior. It seems completely senseless. I really can't seem to find the words to convey the incomprehensibility of all of this nonsense. Are there any thoughtful conservatives out there who can explain this rationally to me? Can someone please tell me how having Obama (or any President, for that matter) extol the virtues of education and staying in school is an unmitigated danger to my children?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cal Thomas Is An Idiot. Seriously.

That conservative blowhard, Cal Thomas, wrote a column that appeared on the Op-Ed pages of the Times-Picayune this morning. This column was so gobsmackingly stupid and playgroundish. It actually was offensive in its stupidity. Here's a passage from this piece that was particularly atrocious:

Here is the way I believe it works at liberal universities. Some professors require their students to repeat back to them on test papers and in theses what the professors believe. Unless students hate Republicans, revile George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, renounce God, support abortion and gay rights, they can sometimes expect a lower, even a failing grade. When my wife studied for her master’s degree in counseling, she felt pressured to repeat her professors’ beliefs instead of stating her own. A friend with a Ph.D. told her, “Write what they want and get the degree. Then you can counsel the way you like.” This is academic freedom? It sounds like indoctrination. Why is it OK at liberal universities to tell professors what they want to hear, but not OK at conservative ones to do the same?
Where does one start with such trash? I mean, really, as far as arguments go, it is embarrassingly poor. It smacks of whininess and is something you might see in a playground taunting episode among third grade boys. First, Thomas pontificates on how "it works" at "liberal" universities as if he has any clue what goes on at universities these days. I'd bet he hasn't set foot in the academic culture beyond perhaps giving an invited speech now and then since God knows how many years ago. Here's what I know from actually working in the university academic environment: (1) I would say it is true that a majority of college professors in the Liberal Arts lean leftwards in their personal politics. But I can also categorically state that a vast majority of college professors, whether liberal or conservative in their personal politics, does not engage in any form of ideological brainwashing. And no faculty that I know penalizes any student simply because of a particular ideological inclination. Cal Thomas has bought hook-line-and-sinker into the conservative canard that university education at a "liberal" university (whatever the hell that means) is nothing but an experiment in ideological indoctrination. (2) What dimwits like Cal Thomas absolutely fail to recognize is that this belief is simply not borne out by the evidence. A significant number of conservatives in this country went through "liberal" universities. If the academy were such an indoctrination mill, how in the hell can there be so many college educated conservatives? (3) Another fact that these myopic ideologues like Cal Thomas fail to note is that the "liberal" liberal arts faculty does not a "liberal" university make. The professional schools, the natural sciences, and some of the "pure" social science disciplines even in the Liberal Arts tradition, tend to be populated much more heavily by conservative leaning professors. Does this mean that students are being indoctrinated into ideological conservatism by these professors? No. At least no more nor less than by any liberal-leaning academics indoctrinating students into ideological liberalism. Cal Thomas is just full of crap.

If you still don't believe Cal Thomas is an idiot, take a look at the only evidence he claims supports his "belief": His wife's friend's advice to parrot the professor's beliefs. That's not pressure coming from the Professor! That's pressure coming from a friend "with a Ph.D." who has probably been brainwashed herself from having read too many of Cal Thomas's columns! And is this "Ph.D. friend" a liberal or a conservative? Because if the friend is a conservative, wouldn't that seem to indicate that it's the conservative academic who is perpetuating what Cal Thomas seems to think is more "indoctrination"? When Cal Thomas actually shows me a reasoned, well-argued, well-written, critically-crafted paper or exam that gets a poor grade simply because the professor didn't like the "politics" of the paper, THEN I might think he has a point. And it's not enough for some ideologue who says "Damn the evidence and the science to the contrary, I'm going to argue that the world is 2000 years old, because the Bible says so!" and gets points deducted because there's no critical engagement with the science and evidence that says otherwise. That person earns a lower grade. Not because of any failure to adopt the "politics" of the professor, but simply for shoddy scholarship. In the end, Cal Thomas hasn't produced a shred of concrete evidence, NOT ONE BIT, beyond his paranoid delusions, that expressing a conservative point of view ends in a failed grade.

Finally (and here's where the playground silliness comes into play), Cal Thomas spends his whole time ranting about how horrible liberal indoctrination is and then posits a moral equivalence in which he gives a pass to conservative schools indoctrinating their students in conservative orthodoxies because he thinks liberal universities do it. Let's repeat the question Cal Thomas asks to end his little playground pout. He writes: "Why is it OK at liberal universities to tell professors what they want to hear, but not OK at conservative ones to do the same?" To which I say: "Well, Cal, you tell me? You're the one who seems to have a problem with what you perceive to be 'indoctrination' at universities? And isn't your whole complaint precisely about why it's not o.k., period?" Goodness gracious! What Cal Thomas seems to be saying in this question is that if liberals can get away with doing something "bad," then conservatives ought to be able to get away with doing something "bad," too. Whatever happened to "bad" being "bad" no matter who does it? This little bit of relativism strikes at the paranoid, delusional core of Cal Thomas's stupidity when it comes to the "liberal" university brainwashing meme of an unthinking, idiotic, ideologically partisan, knee-jerk conservatism. It's pitiful and it's actually embarrassing for the man. I hope he would be able to recognize this; but, then, he'd probably point to me as a liberal academic and dismiss it as nothing more than that liberal indoctrination he is talking about. Sheesh!

Oh, and one final point: If students were to write a paper for me in which they "hate Republicans, revile George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, renounce God, support abortion and gay rights" just because, I promise you they wouldn't win accolades for such a thing. No sirree. They'd fail like a Cal Thomas column because there would be nothing at all scholarly or critically thoughtful about such a screed. Maybe they can cry to Cal Thomas about my unfair discrimination, my grade-penalizing tendencies, or my indoctrinating agenda and get some sympathy from him on the principle of it; but they'd still get a failing grade from me.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

FEMA and the Tulane University Library

The good news is that FEMA has come through with a nice chunk of change to help repair the University's main campus library's physical plant infrastructure. [ASIDE: This not only will help maintain the Library's significant collection, but will also help reduce the University's energy expenditures and help to save the environment in the process; for, as most anybody who passes by the library will know, the temporary repairs made to the AC/Heating system have huge cooling and heating seepage problems outside the building. At certain locations on the outside of the Library building, one could find it actually chilly in the midst of a sweltering August day, or one could find it toasty warm in the midst of a near freezing February night. The claim that Tulane was making a valiant attempt to cool down the neighborhood in August is not an exaggeration.]

In the middle of this good news story, I came across this little tidbit which has particular meaning to me:

Joining the books and equipment from the library's basement will be contents of the library's Special Collections division, which had been in the basement of nearby Jones Hall. Those holdings, along with the building's mechanical equipment, were also flooded.
What is of particular interest to me here is the mention of materials stored in the basement of Jones Hall. Although not a part of the Library's Special Collections Division, my own department's historical archives had been stored in the basement area of Jones Hall. In fact, the bitter irony of our story is that, not more than a month before the storm hit, we had just transported all of our archives down into our small basement storage area. When we returned after Katrina, of course everything in our basement storage area was long gone with nary a mention to us from the authorities about what had happened to it. We had all just written off these archives as forever disappeared; but this comment makes me think there is at least a glimmer of some hope that our archives have been preserved, cleaned, and restored. Now that would be a nice silver lining in a story that is already pretty golden.

For all its bungling, FEMA gets some credit (and some redemption -- at least in my eyes) for doing right by the Tulane Library.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Jury Duty

Spent my first day in the Jury Pool Lounge of the New Orleans Criminal Court. I have to say it wasn't all that unpleasant an experience. The folks running the Jury process seem to have the system pretty much down pat, and are very nice and willing to try to accommodate anyone's scheduling issues.

On my first day, I lucked out and didn't even get called up for the Voir Dire, which is the process of questioning a select group of potential jurors for possible seating in a jury. We, the unneeded, were released at 11:30am. I have to admit to being impressed by the whole experience and think that there is some truth to the claim that the New Orleans Criminal Court is "gaining in efficiency." And the free coffee was pretty darn good, too! Thick, black, and flavored with chicory. Just how I like it.

Thinking on what my month in the jury pool might look like, I couldn't help but read with interest a jury handing down a death sentence for a man convicted of murdering five people in a shooting rampage in Central City. I wondered if I might be called to serve in a capital murder case and if I would be selected. Of course, I am morally opposed to the death penalty; but I think I could honestly answer a question on the subject during a Voir Dire session by stating that I recognize that our legal system recognizes the legitimacy of the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for particular crimes. Of course, that skirts answering my own position on the subject, but it would be a true statement and might cause a defense attorney to fight for my inclusion in such a jury and might be vague enough for the prosecution not to object to my inclusion in a jury pool. But, if they ask me point blank about my position, I'd have to declare my moral opposition to the death penalty. Given this, though, my goal would be to get on such a jury and hopefully be able to save a life.

In any event, I should be able to get a lot of reading done while waiting in the jury pool lounge!

Adonde vas, Lee Zurik?

Lee Zurik, local news anchor and reporter for WWL-TV, is ending his run with that station. I remember Zurik from Rising Tide III and found him to be incredibly down-to-earth and with a wonderful attitude. He definitely deserved his Peabody. I count Zurik as a friend and promoter of the blogging community and medium, which is a somewhat rare thing among traditional media types. I wish him well wherever he ends up, even if it is the local FoxNews affiliate.