Thursday, December 31, 2009

Helena Moreno Candidacy Update

Well, Helena Moreno has decided not to run against Karen Carter Peterson and Irma Muse Dixon for the Louisiana State Senate District 5 seat:

Former television news anchor Helena Moreno, now communications director for businessman John Georges' mayoral campaign, indicated Tuesday that she was considering the Senate race.

On Wednesday, Moreno said she will remain on Georges' staff but would seek Peterson's 93rd District House seat if it becomes available.
Communications director for John Georges and an ardent Batt Girl. Hmmmm. Tells one a lot.

If Moreno runs for Peterson's 93rd District House seat, I won't have the chance to vote for her as I don't live in that district. But if she does run for this seat, I will still be following her campaign closely.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Helena Moreno To Run for the LA State Senate?

In this morning's print edition* of the Times-Picayune, under Frank Donze's byline, we learned that Helena Moreno is pondering a run for the seat of resigning LA State Senator Cheryl Gray Evans (Louisiana's 5th Senate District seat). If true, then Moreno will be competing againt Karen Carter Peterson (and possibly Irma Muse Dixon).

Moreno, whom I consider to be a Republican wrapped in the clothing of a Democrat, is currently not likely to get my vote.

Why not? Well, not only is she a Batt Girl, supporting Republican Jay Batt in his bid to rejoin the New Orleans City Council, when there is a perfectly competent Democrat in the running, but her behavior at a Congressional forum left much to be desired. She showed up 15 minutes late and got up and left right in the middle of the event.

Helena Moreno was a big disappointment to me, especially since I am someone who would like nothing more than to see local Latinos much more engaged in and involved in local politics. Suffice it to say that she wraps herself in her Latina identity when it is convenient, but exhibits almost no interest in public policy issues that are important to the Latino community. In fact, all anecdotal evidence points to her aligning with politicians and movements who are hostile to progressive policy positions important to the Latino community.

At least I can have some influence on Moreno's chances in this electoral contest, since I am a resident in this Louisiana Senate District and will at least have the opportunity to vote in this election. I won't declare myself absolutely and decisively opposed to a Moreno candidacy at this point, but she has a much higher threshhold with me to win my vote and to win the endorsement of The Huck Upchuck than do the other potential and declared candidates.

And I WILL endorse someone. So, I would advise Helena Moreno, if she ever happens to come across The Huck Upchuck and if she cares at all about my vote (and my ability to influence other voters in this Senate District, such as it is), that she should make a conscious effort to prove to me that she's not a Republican in Democratic clothing, that she is actively attentive to the broader Latino community and its civic activists, and that she will be an advocate for policy positions important to the full range of the Latino Community.

* Note: The online version of the Times-Picayune is nearly impossible to navigate. Although I did find the first half of the relevant article by Frank Donze online, the second part of this article which included the reference to Louisiana's 5th Senate District race was nowhere to be found.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Parking Ticket Blitzes

The Huck behind the Upchuck is quoted in a recent Times-Picayune article about the recent parking ticket injustices that the City's parking ticket gestapo has visited upon the city.

What was left out of the story I told to the reporter, unfortunately, was that the parking ticket gestapo specifically targeted the Palmer Park Arts Market precisely at the very moment that the arts market was ending and the vendors were breaking down their booths and loading their stuff up on their vehicles. It is precisely at this time when vendors need to drive up their vehicles around the park close to where their booths are set up in order to load up their wares and display equipment. It would be as if the parking ticket gestapo showed up around dismissal time at a local school and started ticketing anyone temporarily parked in the streets while waiting to pick up their kids.

Yeah, folks do park illegally during these brief moments of time at the Arts Market (sometimes even double parking with their hazard lights on); but how else do you expect people to unload and re-load their wares and equipment? Is it too much to ask for a smidgeon of common sense and understanding in these moments?

I should also add that the place where I was parked on Carrollton at the Arts Market on Sunday at around 4pm was in a zone where the sign (albeit a faded one) read: "No Parking Anytime: Except on Saturday/Sunday."

I did make the "conspiracy theory minded" comment, but it was more in the context and spirit of a lighthearted joke to the reporter than it comes across in the article. I do believe, though, that just about every person in the city believes that the parking ticket gestapo issues tickets pretty indiscriminately, which leads many to also conclude that the issuing of tickets is not done as a means to enforce the law as a matter of principle or out of a sincere concern for public safety, but primarily as an expedient means to generate revenue for the City when the coffers get low.

Although City of New Orleans Public Works Director Robert Mendoza denies that the end goal of parking ticket issuance is to make money for the city, this direct quotation from Mr. Mendoza seems to undercut this denial:

"Parking enforcement and regulation is about understanding the value of that curb, recognizing it as a city asset and making full use of that asset," he [Mendoza] said.
If thinking about the "value of that curb" as an "asset" to make full use of does not imply an end goal of making money for the city out of this asset, I don't know what is.

The Decline of the Saints

First, who can be all that upset with the Saints. They still are at the top of the NFC and are very likely to win home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They'll still end up, regardless, with the best regular season record the franchise has ever seen.

But ...

Just when the Saints should be peaking, they appear to be falling apart. The defense seems incapable of stopping the run; and the offense is just not able to muster the same firepower that they did at the beginning of the season.

If Minnesota loses tonight, then my advice would be for the Saints to rest up all their starters and get ready for the playoffs. They should just write off next week's game against Carolina and broadcast to the world that they are writing off the game.

In this way, another loss won't be all that difficult to swallow.

However, if Minnesota wins tonight, then the Saints need to play to win next week.

If the Saints can't find their MoJo again, they are bound to lose their first playoff game in the Superdome.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Video and Song Classics for Christmas Eve

Nat King Cole's live rendition of "The Christmas Song" which he, above anyone else, made a recognizable classic:

Bing Crosby with his classic rendition of "White Christmas":

The Cocteau Twins with their haunting and beautiful rendition of "Frosty the Snowman," just because I like it:

A Thought For Conservatives as the US Senate Passes the Health Care Bill

"Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance -- where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks -- the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. There are many points of detail where those wishing to preserve the competitive system and those wishing to supercede it by something different will disagree on the details of such schemes; and it is possible under the name of social insurance to introduce measures which tend to make competition more or less ineffective. But there is no incompatibility in principle between the state's providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom."

From Chapter IX of conservative intellectual Friedrich Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom.

What we need to remember is that the Senate's version does not include a public option, instead allowing 30 million currently uninsured American citizens to have access to affordable private insurance. These uninsured are currently subidized by the taxpayer anyway through reimbursements to hospitals and physicians for the much more expensive emergency room hospital care that the uninsured currently receive when they get sick.

American Dad and his Brazilian-American Son Reunited

I am glad that father and son are reunited. It is only right that the bioligical American father of a young boy whose Brazilian mother had died have the right to raise his son. Neither the Brazilian grandmother nor the Brazilian stepfather have a more legitimate claim to raise this young boy than the boy's biological father.

The whole case harkens back to the Elian Gonzalez controversy, in which the Clinton Administration's Department of Justice had to mount a clandestine operation to return Elian Gonzalez to his father, who wanted to bring Elian back with him to Cuba. Regardless of what we think of the Castro regime, I always maintained that what was best for the boy was for him to be with his father. And so I supported the Clinton Administration's actions with regard to Elian Gonzalez for the same reason that I support the current transfer of this young boy to his American father.

One notable difference is that the kin of Elian Gonzalez in the U.S. refused to abide by the legal decisions that awarded custody of Elian to his father, making the clandestine action necessary; but the Brazilian family of the young man who is currently the subject of this custody battle accepted, albeit grudgingly, the judicial decision of Brazil's Chief Justice of the country's Supreme Court. And though they turned the boy over in a way that sought to maximize publicity and exposure, a way that they argued was a manner of protest at the decision but which was unnecessarily traumatic for the boy, they still, in the end, peacefully turned him over to his father.

It was the right decision and the right thing for the Brazilian family of this boy to do.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

High School Lip Dub Wars

I found this lip dub techno war between Seattle's Shorecrest and Shorewood High Schools to be fascinating and ingenious. The first clip is the original challenge by Shorecrest to its rival Shorewood. Once Shorecrest "served" Shorewood the challenge with a lip dub of Outkast's "Hey Ya," as the author of the MSNBC article linked above wrote: "Shorewood responded by popping open a can of 'Hall & Oates' whoop-ass; its own lip dub set to the '70s hit 'You Make My Dreams Come True.'"

Watch them both. For my money, Shorewood won this lip dub face off. But more importantly, the mastery of technology and the creativity of these kids gives me hope that not all is lost in our youth. Watch them again and see what you think:



Monday, December 21, 2009

License to Kill?

For one New Orleans resident, at least, all it takes for the Po-Po to be justified in shooting to kill is the Po-Po's perception of a threat. That's it. Read it to believe it:

Re: "Law and disorder," Page 1, Dec. 18.

A the time of Katrina I was a New Orleans police officer working in the city. The recent series of articles about police shootings after Katrina was some of the most biased tripe that I've ever read.

Any individual -- citizen or police officer -- placed in a position where he perceives a threat of death or great bodily injury to himself or others is allowed to use deadly force to stop that perceived threat.

In every instance cited in the series, law enforcement officers used the force necessary to end the perceived threat. The fact that Monday morning quarterbacking revealed that the threat might not have been what others perceived it to be is irrelevant.

Individuals act with the information they have. Perceived life and death situations do not allow someone to second-guess what another's motives may be.

As far as a follow-up investigation to a shooting, all one really needs to learn is: Was there a perceived threat? Did you stop that threat using the force you felt necessary?

Obviously, others may not perceive the threat the same way. Their thoughts on the matter are not germane.

A seven-minute interview of an individual involved in a shooting would answer all the basic questions. Further questioning and investigations usually only explore the mechanics of the situation for reconstruction purposes and provide conflicting views of what others perceived.

I wonder whether someone confronted by an individual who says "give me the cash or I'll blow you away" would be considered justified in shooting the individual if they did not see a gun. I, for one, would shoot that individual until the perceived threat was ended.

What would a reporter perceive if he saw me pull out a gun and shoot an individual who just appeared to be standing in front of me? In the cited instances in the articles, every police officer reported a perceived threat from an armed individual!

Harry O'Neal
It's one of the most fascist rationalizations of the abuse of authority and a disturbing justification of an unchecked and unaccountable use of deadly force that I have ever heard expressed.

Really, according to Mr. Harry O'Neal, if a kid holding a lollipop gets shot by a cop, the cop is in the clear as long as the cop perceived a threat from an armed individual. Does Mr. O'Neal not believe that police officers should be held to account for their actions precisely because they wield the badge and the weapons, and behave in the name of the people? Doesn't Mr. O'Neal believe that police are specifically trained not to shoot at people without verifying that the threat is real as opposed to simplying perceiving a threat in the recesses of his imagination?

Does Mr. O'Neal not understand the license he gives to officers when he says that all that matters is the cop's opinion on the subject and that the truth is irrelevant and secondary to the cop's opinion? I'd ask Mr. O'Neal two questions: (1) Does he think a cop can ever abuse his authority and kill another person without proper cause? (2) Does he know a cop who has killed another person who ever said that he didn't perceive a threat? I'd bet anything that the answer to the first question is "Yes" and the answer ot the second question is "No." But the irony is that in Mr. O'Neal's world, that combination of answers is impossible. It is impossible because Mr. O'Neal believes that a cop who kills because he claims simply that he perceived a threat always kills with proper cause. In fact, Mr. O'Neal argues that even if it is revealed post-facto that the perceived threat was not a real threat after all, that makes no difference. The truth is irrelevant. All that matters is what the cop perceived -- even if the cop "perceived" a kid holding a lollipop as a thug holding a gun.

I suspect Mr. O'Neal is blind to the fact that he is basically arguing that any cop who shoots another person in cold blood has to account to no one other than his own perception. I propose, however, that citizens who pay the salaries of their law enforcement officers have every right to question whether the perception of threat that a cop says led to his shooting a suspect is legitimate or not. I do not accept that just because the cop says so, then it must be so. If it were Mr. O'Neal's lollipop-holding son on the deadly end of an enounter with a delusional trigger-happy cop, he wouldn't be so disposed simply to accept that the killer of his son gets a pass just because he perceived a threat. It's folks like Mr. O'Neal who let men with guns give the middle finger to the rule of law.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Who Dat Nation Weeps

The Saints had no more miracles left. I tell you, they have to play better than they have been at the end of the season if the Superbowl is to be in their future.

Even still, now we can put the pressure of an undefeated season behind us and just relax into winning football games.

Maybe this is what the Saints need.

Let's hope.

Who Dat?!?!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proletarianization of the Elites and the Sarah Palin Phenomenon

Jonah Goldberg, Editor at Large at the conservative National Review Online (NRO), has an interesting piece on Reality TV and the decay of American culture. I actually find myself largely agreeing with Goldberg on the point, but then, again, I am what Goldberg and many other conservatives would probably call an effete liberal intellectual -- no matter that I come from a very working-class, blue collar family. What I find interesting about Goldberg's piece is that it serves as a very critical commentary precisely on the Sarah Palin phenomenon, even though I don't think Goldberg himself is aware of this critique. Take this critical passage from Goldberg's piece:

British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.

It’s not all bad news, to be sure. The elite minority’s general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs. As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.” A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass — or people with underclass values — are forbidden. A corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.

Long before the rise of reality shows, ecumenical niceness created a moral vacuum. Out-of-wedlock birth was once a great shame; now it’s something of a happy lifestyle choice. The cavalier use of profanity was once crude; now it’s increasingly conversational. Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.

Reality-show culture has thrived in that moral vacuum, accelerating the decay and helping to create a society in which celebrity is the new nobility.
I'm pretty sure that many Palinite conservatives would see Palin herself and the Palin phenomenon as one that represents the corollary fallout to what he calls "ecumenical niceness": Palin and Palinite conservatism represents "old fashion notions of decency" that are now fair game for a vicious assault. But anyone who looks more expansively at what underlies Sarah Palin's popularity and the Palinite movement would notice that it is really one that seeks to make "harsh judments of the underclass - or people with underclass values" verboten. In other words, any criticism of the cultivated anti-intellectualism, the utter lack of curiosity about the world, and the overall ignorance of "real Americans" is nothing more than elite snobbery. The Palinite movement is one where wearing one's ignorance on one's sleeve is a badge of honor.

How can one not look at the GOP's embrace of Joe-the-Plumber this past Presidential campaign season as a direct representation of the conservative upper-class trying to be like the lower-class? Of course, the conservative upper-class elites fool themselves into thinking that what they really are embracing is the fundamental goodness of "real America." But what I see are the conservative elites (i.e. witness just about any Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity show) cynically and intentionally stoking the lower-classes and romanticizing their lower-class values such that the conservative lower-classes actually look with disdain on things like a university level-education, a white collar job, articulate public speaking, etc. And yet it appears that Goldberg himself agrees with Toynbee that such a phenomenon indicates a society in decay.

And there is no better manifestation of this than Sarah Palin. Listen to how her supporters describe her appeal. They say she's a "real" person. She connects with the "common" person (which is shorthand for the non-elites). They tend to either dismiss as irrelevant, or actually glory in the fact, that Sarah Palin doesn't read newspapers or travels abroad or barely got a college degree. And though the whole "out-of-wedlock" birth with Bristol Palin is presented by Sarah Palin as an unfortunate occurrence that will make life harder for Bristol and her son, there is no "shame" reflected here. Maybe disappointment. But not shame.

Jonah Goldberg puts forward the idea that a society where celebrity is the new nobility is a sign of that society's moral decay. I ask: How does the Palin phenomenon not serve as a perfect example of this? And it's the Palinite conservative movement that is actively promoting this as a value. Worse, though, is the fact that it is the conservative upper-class elites, which Goldberg clearly represents, who are nurturing and even glorifying the Palin phenomenon. In essence, if we make the connection Goldberg would have us make, it is the conservative upper-class elites themselves who are both celebrating and hastening along, through their embrace of the Palin phenomenon and their encouragement of the Palinite movement, that which contributes to the moral decay of our society: the proletarianization of the elites. And it's not just the reality shows that are encouraging this, but also, I'd say, the Fox News talking heads shows led by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity as well as the histrionics of the National Review Online that Jonah Goldberg himself oversees.

Jack Bauer vs. Santa

Santa may be on the rough end of this meeting, but guess who wins out in the end?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fisking a Christian "Christmas jihadist" Revision of "Twas the Night Before Christmas"

OK. So, I received in an email from a well-meaning person the following re-interpretation of the classic Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas." In the spirit of taking on the Christian "Christmas jihadists" who think along these lines, I am now going to fisk this poem:

Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
If there's a Christian who is not praying, then I'd say that's the fault of the Christian himself. In this country, we are still free to pray as we see fit. In fact, there's a Catholic church directly across the street from my house, and I see Christians going in there every single day to pray. Of course, the implication that the author of this revisionist poem is trying to convey is that there is some external force out there somehow preventing Christians from either praying or taking a stand. I defy any Christian who engages in prayer or who even circulates this poem to prove it with actual evidence.
See the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - though no one could say.
The PC Police have "taken away" the reason for Christmas? I pity the Christian who believes this. It's the sign of an insecure and shallow faith. As I said when I responded to the person who sent me this poem through email: Isn't the reason for Christmas always the birth of Christ, regardless of whether people say this out loud or ram it down another's throat by force? Is faith such a fickle thing that the mere debate regarding state sanction of promoting the story of the birth of Christ is enough to take away the "reason for the season"? Well, hell, I guess there's just no point in being a Christian anymore, given that Christians no longer have the belief that Christmas celebrates Jesus' birth thanks to this phantom PC Police. Seriously, I have to say that it sounds pretty foolish for someone to say that anyone, much less this unidentifiable entity known as the PC Police, have taken away an individual's rationale for celebrating Christmas. Does the person who wrote this into the poem actually believe that he no longer has any reason to celebrate Christmas? No, of course not. What this person is really trying to say is that he laments not being able to force his faith, or have the state acquiesce to forcing his faith, onto others.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
Utter crap and lies. Heck, my own children sing about shepherds and wise men and angels and "things" all the time. And I don't know of a single school administrator or teacher who tells kids they can't sing Christmas carols. They just don't sing it in their public school classrooms because, you know, they sit next to Jewish and Buddhist and Muslim and Atheist kids and not everyone celebrates Christmas, and they don't go to public school for theological indoctrination. And, you know, my kids don't seem to mind all that much that they don't sing Christmas carols during the school day. They certainly don't come home complaining that their teachers don't make them sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful." They come home complaining that their teachers made them practice their spelling and made them learn their multiplication tables instead. And I'm glad about that, because that's why I send my kids to school. See, this is what kills me about the Christian "Christmas jihadists." They presume that because they can't do what they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want, the presumption is that they are prohibited from doing such things at all, anyplace. Instead, they claim "persecution" not because they are tortured for practicing their faith, but rather because they can't force their religion down the throats of everyone around them. In fact, tonight I'm taking my kids to their church (I'm Catholic, but my B-2/3 is Baptist, and my girls are growing up in my B-2/3's church) where we are all going to sing Christmas carols. [NOTE: My B-2/3, "Better Two-Thirds," is, of course, my wife.] And last year, we actually went around the neighborhood of the Church singing Christmas carols to anyone who cared to listen. About two weeks ago, my youngest daughter, who sings in the New Orleans Children's Chorus, had a Christmas concert where they sang all kinds of religiously-themed Christmas songs. And one can turn on the radio the day after Thanksgiving and hear people singing Christmas songs 24-7 for an entire month!! Anyone who claims that he can't sing Christmas carols is a lying liar who lies. And anyone who demands that his kids need to sing Christmas carols in "public" school has a warped sense of what public schools should be about. If people want their kids to sing Christmas carols, then they can sign their kids up for the local chorus like my wife and I did, or they can send them to schools where singing Christmas carols is part of the deal.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a "Holiday".
I am always astounded at the utter lack of charity contained in this mantra, which I hear a lot from the Christian "Christmas jihadists." I'd like anyone who professes to live a Christian life and who hopes to manifest the Christian example to tell me what is intrinsically wrong with wishing not to hurt peoples' feelings or what is intrinsically negative about wishing people a "happy holiday"? What harm does it do to any Christian, and the fundamentals of his faith, to wish someone a "happy holiday" so as to avoid any offense to the person on the receiving end whose belief systems he does not know? By all means, if you know someone celebrates Christmas, wish him or her a "Merry Christmas." If you are unsure, what harm is there in simply wishing that person a happy holiday? These Christian "Christmas jihadists" act as if someone's "happy holiday" greeting is akin to being cussed out. Sheesh!
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
What? Aren't the Christians who celebrate Christmas the ones who engage in such crass consumerism at this time of the year?
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now, I don't know about what the person who composed this poem sees out there in the retail world during this time of the year; but retailers still market Christmas with a vengeance. And, in fact, it's rare to see anything at all being promoted to celebrate Ramadan and Kwanzaa. But, hey, even if retailers were to abandon Christmas for other religious holidays, that still has nothing to do with any individual's right to practice and celebrate his own religion. It amazes me how much these Christian "Christmas jihadists" measure their faith (and their freedom to practice such faith) by how retailers choose to market and sell stuff during the Christmas season. But I guess when you have certain segments of Christianity promoting this Prosperity Gospel voodoo, it's no wonder that faith for these people is so wrapped up in such materialism. And I have to laugh at the fact that anyone would be truly intimidated by the words "inclusive, sensitive, and Di-ver-si-ty." I find it equally ironic that someone feeling so intimidated by words would be proposing the very use of words to intimidate others. It's like the person is saying: "Hey, if you get offended by the words "Merry Christmas" -- too bad! I'm not only going to force you to hear them, but I'm also going to try to get the state to promote my faith wherever you show your face. So, take that, you multicultural twit." Nope, no use of words with the intention to intimidate others, right?
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
Notice that every single politician or pundit mentioned here and throughout is recognized as a liberal or a Democrat. This is nothing short of a bald-faced piece of ideological propaganda that seeks to politicize Christmas and make it a partisan issue. I don’t think Christ would approve of using his birth and life as a partisan commentary.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
Again, I have to wonder what is it about the faith of these people that makes it so fickle. What kind of faith's very life depends upon having Wal-mart put up a "Merry Christmas" sign? Notice how these Christian "Christmas jihadists" never assume responsibility or ownership of their own faith. Instead, their faith is somehow at the discretion and whim of the behavior of someone or something else! They see faith as something that not only can be taken from them, but can be done so simply by having a Wal-mart not put up a "Merry Christmas" sign. How pathetic is that?
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
not Happy Holiday!!!
Folks, Christians, please do not listen to this joker. Here is a person who thinks that some people celebrating "Winter Break," sipping on a Starbucks (WTF?!?!?!? Is that some kind of dig at effete liberal urbanites?), and disposed to give a cheerful "Happy Holiday" greeting is somehow engaging in an evil, sinister act. No, my good Christian faith-mates, do not listen to this crank. I doubt Christ, the so-called "reason of the season," would look askance at kindness, charity, and sensitivity to the feelings and beliefs of others over something as innocuous as how you express a cheerful greeting.

It is finished! Now, I will put the killjoy Christian "Christmas jihadists" out of my mind and go about having a jolly, happy holiday in the way that I like to. I wish the same for you. Happy Holiday!

Mixing the Christian "Christmas jihadists" with the Prosperity Gospel

... and you get something like this:

The story smacked of religious bias during the Christmas season: An elementary school allegedly suspended a second-grader, it went, and required the boy to undergo a psychological evaluation after he drew a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.


She [Julie Hackett, superintendent of Taunton Public Schools] said it was unclear whether the boy -- who put his name above his stick-figure portrait of Christ on the cross -- even drew it in school.

"The inaccuracies in the original media story have resulted in a great deal of criticism and scrutiny of the system that is unwarranted," she said.

She said the boy's drawing was seen as a potential cry for help when the student identified himself, rather than Jesus, as the figure on the cross, which sparked the teacher to alert the school's principal and staff psychologist.


Amid the flurry of media attention, the boy's father held court today at his girlfriend's apartment here, demanding the school district compensate him for his family's pain and suffering.

"It hurts me that they did this to my kid," Chester Johnson, the boy's father, told the Globe. "They can't mess with our religion; they owe us a small lump sum for this.''

The dude's apparently more concerned with cashing in than with what it might mean that his son identified himself as the crucified stick figure. And let's not even get into the moral side of what kind of message this father is giving to his son by "holding court at his girlfriend's apartment." My question here is why isn't this "religious" dude with his son's mother? I wonder what his "religion" might have to say about that. All it takes for this dude to find out who is really messing with his religion is a quick look in the mirror, because I don't know of any Christian religion that looks kindly upon divorce, separation, or shacking up with the new girlfriend. Now I'll concede that maybe I'm reading too much into Chester Johnson's presence at his girlfriend's apartment; but I somehow doubt it.

Anyway ...

I hate the damn Christmas wars and I despise the Christian "Christmas jihadists" who wage holy war against secular kinds of expressions of good cheer much, much more than I am bothered by anyone who dares to express any kind of discomfort with state-promoted Christmas messages.

It's these Christian "Christmas jihadists" who are the ones who ruin the festive mood for everyone. If they can't impose their own religious version of seasonal good cheer on everyone else, then, by God, they're going to be hell bent on making sure the world witnesses their fury during Christmas. (And how Christ-like is that?)

I recently received a forwarded email of a right-wing Christian "Christmas jihadist" re-interpretation of the classic Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas." I'm going to fisk this revised poem in another blog posting, and then I'm going to forget about it and not let these Christian "Christmas jihadists" ruin my holiday cheer.

Blue Christmas Tune and Video

No, not the Elvis Presley version of Blue Christmas.

Rather, The Pogues & Kirsty McColl:

[H/T: Chris Bodenner at Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish"]

Monday, December 14, 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, though my B-2/3 will only be out there for the Saturday market day. She's been hard at work all month and has added significantly 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 good for both days, though the earth might still be soggy; but that won't deter us! Of course, 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!

The Rain, My Lord, The Rain

I have never seen so much rain outside of a Hurricane in my life. Just discovered that one part of the first floor/basement of my house floods when we get 3 inches or more of rain. I have discerned that this is due partly to a faulty drainage system on the side of my house. As soon as the rain stops and we dry out a bit, I'll have to fix this.

I hate rain.

I really, really hate rain.


If we were to go months without a single raindrop, I wouldn't mind at all.

Now why it is that I live in the sub-tropics of New Orleans if I loathe rain so much only God knows.

Quien Dat?

Quien Dat? Quien Dat? Quien dat dice que va a conquistar a los Santos? Quien dat? Quien dat?

Highlights here.

This is a charmed season for the Saints. It really seems like they can't lose no matter what.

Interesting story in the Times-Picayune about some Saints Fan Icons and a new calendar featuring twelve of these characters whose sale proceeds will go to charity.

One item of note: The character known as "Da Pope" is my mother's brother, in other words my uncle. The story calls him Lionel "Da Pope" Alphonso. We simply call him LJ. Here's a bit on LJ from the story:

Lionel "Da Pope" Alphonso of Violet has been praying for the Saints since 1987.

"The real Pope came to New Orleans and did a youth Mass in the Superdome, and we won the next game," he said. "So I decided the Pope should be at every game."

Alphonso, 62, rebuilt his home and his business after losing them both to Hurricane Katrina, and through everything he endured after the storm, he never lost his faith in New Orleans or the Saints.

"I had quadruple bypass surgery, and two weeks later I was sitting in the Dome," he said. "I'll be at the Super Bowl when we get there."
I'm reluctantly revealing my roots out in Da Parish. Yes, half my extended family hails from Chalmette, dawlin' -- but all I can say is Thank God my folks had the sense to escape that sink hole. Sure, there are some decent folk out in Da Parish; but it's really like a foreign country out there, whose residents live in relative isolation.

Let me tell you a true story that captures what I'm getting at. And remember that St. Bernard Parish is only about 5-10 miles from downtown New Orleans. For my brother's wedding, which took place some 15 years ago, some of my relatives from Da Parish were invited to the wedding ceremony and reception. Well, some of these relatives, having never really ventured beyond Da Parish all that much, managed to get on the I-10 heading west and were halfway to Baton Rouge before realizing that they had maybe gone too far and missed one of the many exits to downtown New Orleans. Needless to say, they missed the ceremony, but managed to make it to the reception! And this is not the only time this kind of thing has happened.

But this is neither here nor there relative to the story of Da Pope. Rest assured that we're all proud of Da Pope and are happy for him. And let's hope that his blessings on the Saints keep coming!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Constitutes Racism?

I have once again been bantering with some conservatives over at Right Wing News about the subject of race and racism. No need to get into the specific details of the conversation, but my discussion over there did cause me to ponder a hypothetical situation related to race and I do want to throw out a couple of questions for readers of The Huck Upchuck to hear what you have to say.

Here's the hypthetical (which is not unimaginable and probably, in fact, happens with some regularity): You are a white person who is out shopping for a Barbie doll for a little white girl in your family (let's say granddaughter, daughter, niece, or cousin). You know for certain that this little girl really wants a Barbie doll, and you will not go home without one. You arrive at the local department store to find that all the white Barbie dolls have been sold, but there are still a few black Barbie dolls on the shelves.

Here's the question, in two parts: (1) Do you grab a black Barbie doll and purchase this as your gift, or do you head back to the car and head over to another department store in search of a white Barbie doll? (2) If you decide to pass on the black Barbie doll and search elsewhere for a white Barbie doll, does that make you a racist?

I have my own thoughts and answers, but I'm gonna sit on them a bit so that I can hear from you first.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Anthropomorphicgenic Global Warming (AGW) Skeptics Really Think

Over at the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan posed a question for AGW skeptics.

Later, Sullivan posted the reply of one of his AGW skeptics readers to the question.

I think Sullivan's reader's reply is characteristic of the thinking of AGW skeptics and quite revealing, actually.

What it seems to me that Sullivan's reader is really saying is not that he or she questions whether global warming is man-made, but simply that it doesn’t matter one way or another. I find it a bit odd that this person would recognize that global warming is occurring, accept it as part of the evolutionary process, and then pretend that humans have no discernible part in this phenomenon by our actions. What? Are we not participants in this evolutionary process? Furthermore, are we incapable of knowing or figuring out what causes climate change? Most importantly, are we not, as rational, intelligent beings, in the exclusive position to be able to respond to this process, either to speed it up or slow it down, based on what we do know?

Of course, advancing a policy position with regard to the environment requires making a conscious decision as to whether this global warming phenomenon, which Sullivan's reader acknowledges to be happening, is something that is a net plus for our world, a net minus for it, or simply unimportant enough to even worry about. What is Sullivan's reader’s policy position? Well, I think it’s instructive that there is none, since he or she essentially believes that it’s pointless to fight against evolution.

It strikes me as somewhat of an apocalyptic approach that basically discounts the human capacity either to damage our environment on the one hand, or to mold and shape our physical environment for the better on the other. And that just strikes me as absurd. For this reason, I think AGW skeptics are lazy cynics. They are cynics about the human capacity to impact such daunting things as global climate change; and they are lazy because they don’t even want to try.

Is This What Passes For Fiscal Conservatism?

When I read Stephen Ohlemacher's article on the Federal Congress's recent tax package, I came to a section where I had to do a double-take. Sure enough, what I thought I read was, indeed, actually what I read. It was this:

President Obama supports the tax package, including the tax increase on investment managers and the crackdown on international tax havens.

Democrats argued in favor of the tax increase, saying Wall Street financiers shouldn't be taxed at a lower rate than workers making less money.

Republicans argued that the tax increase would reach far beyond Wall Street, hitting real estate investment funds across the country. Instead, Republicans said, the tax breaks should be financed by federal borrowing, increasing the budget deficit.
I thought Republicans were chastened about deficit spending and are basing their whole opposition to Obama's fiscal policy largely on the expansion of the federal debt. What gives? Is this something that Republicans actually said? Or is Ohlemacher just making all this up?

Ignatius O'Reilly Move Over

You ain't got nuthin' on this Lucky Dog vendor:

The two wrestled. While struggling to keep the blade at bay with his left hand, Gant elbowed and punched his attacker's body and face with his right arm and hand.

Gant sensed the robber lose his balance. He reached for the man's crotch and lifted him up, still holding onto one of his arms with his left hand.

Gant then slammed the robber face-first off the curb, gashing his attacker's forehead wide open.

"He definitely messed with the wrong Lucky Dog guy," said Joni Mount, Gant's girlfriend and fellow vendor.
Only in New Orleans. Only in New Orleans.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

From the Archives: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Heat Miser/Cold Miser Song

Remember this from the Classic Rankin/Bass Production, The Year Without A Santa Claus? It was (and remains) one of my favorite Christmas cartoon experiences of all time. This particular YouTube clip nicely matches the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy version of the tune with the actual scene from the original film. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Top 10 Christmas Movies

I've run this in years past, and I'm running it again now. Nothing has surfaced since last Christmas to warrant a change in my rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mitch Landrieu For Mayor?

Hot Diggity! I think Mitch Landrieu took a cue from the Saints and their improbable last-minute heroics to snatch one from the Skins, and appears to be making his own effort to snatch the Mayor's race from an already crowded field.

Landrieu has got to be the front-runner for the job.

And I have to say that I like Landrieu. I really like Landrieu.

He's calm, poised, with lots of executive experience.

He's smart and well-liked. (Except for those Couhig conservatives who just can't seem to get beyond the Landrieu name.)

I have to say that Landrieu's entrance in the race pretty much transforms the entire dynamic completely.

Where that leaves the rest of the field, who knows? All I'm sure of now is that they're all scrambling to reposition themselves. Mitch will draw his support most significantly from the voters who would be leaning towards Jeff Georges and Leslie Jacobs, and even from the voters leaning towards James Perry.

I bet now we're likely to see either Georges or Jacobs pack it in before they spend too much of their own money on a fruitless campaign, and Perry likely to drift more towards the black voting constituency, though he's going to run into trouble here with Ed Murray, who is more of a black New Orleans machine candidate.

But who knows for sure? Man, it's getting interesting!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who Dat?!?!?!?!

You just have to check out the highlights reel to believe it: Link.

I have to say, I turned off the radio when the Skins were up by 7, at the Saints 3-yd-line, with about 3 minutes left to play in the game.

Then I went downstairs to commiserate with my B-2/3, and she couldn't believe I gave up. She exhorted me to keep the faith with the team.

I remarked, the only way the Saints even have a prayer is if the Redskins miss the field goal and then march downfield and score a TD.

My B-2/3 just looked at me as if to say: "There you go. It ain't over 'til it's over."

So I flipped back on the radio. Suisham missed the Field Goal. And my heart skipped a beat. Then Drew Brees worked his magic and all of the sudden, the game was tied. And I almost had a heart attack.

And then when the Saints recovered that fumble during overtime, drove down to the six-inch line, and kicked the winning field goal. I did have a heart attack.

I'm still incredulous. 12-0! Who Dat?!?!?!?!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Obama and the Apparent Turn in the Economy

It appears that there are some consistently strong signs that the recession has peaked and is now turning a corner. Moreover, it looks like the economic recovery may not be a jobless recovery after all.

I'm always leery of these kinds of reports, as I think they tend to be premature in terms of what they mean for any kind of economic pattern. And they often fluctuate wildly. I'm even more leery of attributing any recovery (or downturn, for that matter) to any single individual President, as I think market and economic conditions are by and large out of the control of any one person. Now I know some would disagree and would argue that the Bush Administration's economic policies led to the economic collapse and recession and that Obama's policies have mitigated its effect and may now be leading us into a recovery. But I still generally do not hop on such bandwagons -- even if any of them might be true.

But what I do hold to is that he who presides over the realm owns the blame or the praise, rightly or wrongly, for any economic trends and realities that occur during his watch. So, if the economy really is in a clear and continuous recovery and rebound phase (and, again, I'm leery about the solidity of this claim), Obama must get the credit.

Sarah Palin Is A "Birther"

Meaning, a person who supports the "freaky conspiracy theory" that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and is therefore not eligible to be President.

I guess I should be surprised, but I'm not.

Compare the two: Barack Obama versus Sarah Palin.

Barack Obama has consistently said that Sarah Palin's family is out of bounds and has never even entertained, much less given credence to, the conspiracy theories out there that question Sarah Palin's parentage of Trig, her Down-Syndrome baby.

But here's another thing: Sarah Palin has claimed that she has proved that she is the mother of Trig by providing Trig's birth certificate to the public. Now I have zero doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin is Trig's mother, and I don't need to see a birth certificate to believe it. But the fact is that Sarah Palin has not, to my knowledge, ever provided Trig's birth certificate to the public as proof of her parentage of Trig. On the other hand, Obama has released a copy of his birth certificate, which has been repeatedly and independently confirmed as accurate by the Hawaii state officials that oversee such records, and which has been corroborated by a newspaper listing of Obama's birth in Hawaii. And yet Sarah Palin apparently doesn't believe her lying eyes!

It seems like every day we get re-confirmation of Sarah Palin's utter unseriousness and bald-faced mendacity. I'm not surprised by that, but what continues to astound me is that some smart conservatives seem to have no problem with this clown becoming President of the United States.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

LAGO Conference

If you are interested in scholarly research on Latin America, please take note of the following conference: Space and Identity: The Politics of Expression in Latin America

This is a Conference completely planned and organized by the Latin American Studies Graduate Student Organization (LAGO).

The Conference kicks off tomorrow afternoon and continues through the afternoon on Saturday.

I'll be chairing one of the first two sessions tomorrow afternoon.

There will also be a Pachanga in the Patio following the first panel session. A Pachanga is just another word for a fiesta, and there will be music, food, and drink in the Jones Hall Patio.

All are invited and hope you can make it.

Is Palin "Going Rogue" on Her Book Tour?

The short answer: No.

Her book tour has been so tightly scripted and managed that it appears she's being "handled" much more so by her publicity team than she ever was by the McCain campaign.

In a recent report, we learn that there's some internal banter among the tour organizers about disallowing foreign press and in making Palin's tour an "English only" kind of thing. Fine. She'll turn the world against her even before she starts learning about them. And she'll turn even non-English speaking American citizens against her.

But that's an aside here.

The real story to me is her absolute refusal to let even English-speaking reporters and journalists have access to her -- even simply to report on the event, much less to ask her any direct questions.

She may be gun-shy of a potentially critical media, but if she can't take the heat of the press even now, how will she ever be able to mount any sort of campaign for national public office? Not only does it strike many as a sign of pettiness and weakness, but I think it is even politically ill-advised. Her silence is letting the press control the narrative about her. How is she planning to answer the growing chorus of even rock-ribbed Republicans and conservatives who have said that the book is nothing more than puffery and contains a lot of fabrication?

She wants all the trappings of a public and political life, but none of the challenges. I always thought she was essentially ignorant, uncurious, and unserious. I still think that. But I also used to think that she was at least confident and self-possessed. Lately, though, I can't help but think that she's more and more petty, vindictive, and weak.

In addition to finding her brand of rightwing populist nationalism so distasteful, I'm also finding her shtick to be increasingly petty and tiring. It's really kinda sad and pathetic, in a way. And I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Who Dat Nation!

The folks in the City of New Orleans are beside themselves with the incredible performance and run that the Saints have put together so far. Here's to the Saints! Who dat!?!?!?!

More here.

Blogging Self-Nudge Update

Way back on August 1, I was inspired by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's book Nudge to engage in a little experiment. I called this experiment a blogging "self-nudge." The idea was to set up a scheme to motivate myself to try to blog more regularly. Well, it has been four complete months and I have so far succeeded in the challenge. I have to say that I am a bit surprised by this, albeit pleasantly so, given that I have been full throttle into a very busy semester. If I can meet my blogging goals during the busiest times of the year, I'm confident that I can continue with it at any point during the year. And I would expect that during moments when the demands of my job ease up a bit, it should be even easier to meet or exceed the blogging goals that I have set up in my "self-nudge." So, I'm pretty happy and content with my arrangement.

What I am probably not the best judge of, though, is whether or not the quality of my blog has suffered any. I will rely on my few readers, dedicated though some of them are, to give me feedback on this aspect of my self-nudge. I know that I have put up some blog postings that I might call "throw-away" postings: short comments or simply links or video clips without much, if any, detailed or thoughtful analysis. But I do think that I have put up probably many more thoughtful postings in a month than I might have done anyway; and I also think that there is something to be said simply for the discipline of taking the time to put up at least a little something on a pretty regular basis on my blog.

In any case, I am proud of this accomplishment and will look forward to future blogging. The one thing I can say for sure is that there is very much something true about Sunstein's and Thaler's idea of the "nudge." I would encourage anyone who struggles to exercise the necessary discipline to stick to a resolution to give the idea of a "self-nudge" a try. If it's structured well, I think you'll be surprised by the results.