Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tiller's Murder by Domestic Anti-AbortionTerrorists: A Problem of Conservatives

Most people following the trial of Scott Roeder, who killed Dr. George Tiller in cold blood in an act of domestic terrorism, know that Roeder was convicted for his act and will serve at least a minimum of 25 years in prison. I applaud the verdit.

However, this article is worrisome in that it shows how angry Roeder's supporters are and how much more likely we are to see even more acts of deadly domestic terrorism against abortion doctors in the future.

Let's just forget the fact that everything abortion doctors do is within the prescribed limits of the law. No matter what these anti-abortion terrorists think, there should be no outrage at the application of the rule of law to those like Roeder who kill abortion doctors in cold blood or who attempt to kill them. The fact is that their own personal morality, even if they think it justifies breaking the law, should in no way allow for an exception to the consequences for breaking the law.

I, for one, have a moral objection to war. Does that mean I should be justified in front of the law for killing soldiers who kill others, innocents included, because of my moral code? Should I expect to get some kind of exemption from the law that criminalizes the cold-blooded murder of soldiers simply because I oppose their killing others in the context of war? The short answer is: No way. If I want to kill soldiers because of my beliefs, I better be willing to take the punishment for doing so. And I certainly shouldn't be surprised, much less outraged, at the punishment I would get as prescribed by the law.

Anyway ... I want to leave you with this final comment on the matter: I would bet any amount of money that every single one of these anti-abortion extremists, those who think it is acceptable to kill an abortion doctor in cold blood, are conservatives (or at least self-identify as conservatives). I'd also say that a vast majority of them, if they had to identify with a political party, would characterize themselves as Republican. Let's chew on that for a while, shall we?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama vs. Congressional Republicans

This is why I admire and respect Obama. He faces down the GOP on their own turf and he methodically and intelligently breaks down and dismantles the empty partisanship of the GOP. And he does so in a way that demonstrates his clear command over, and impressive detailed knowledge of, the issues. He comes across as a serious leader committed to governing, while the GOP comes across as politicians less interested in co-governing and more interested in political grandstanding. How anyone can listen to Obama and think this man is the Muslim, anti-Christ, baby-killing, communist destroyer of all that is good and noble about America is simply delusional and hopelessly caught up in their own little ideological cocoon. Watch the whole exchange:

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The Cocoon of Ideology

I was thinking about the whole James O'Keefe situation and his apparent disconnectedness from any sense of right or wrong when it comes to pushing an ideological cause. His worldview is so distorted and disconnected from mainstream common sense and balanced critical thinking that I really think he perceives that the rightness of his ideological worldview, when buffeted and applauded by an uncritical, adoring cocoon of like-minded ideologues, justifies any behavior he might engage in. And I should say that I don't think this is the exclusive domain of the cocooned rightwing. There are a fair number of cocooned leftwing ideologues who think and behave likewise. In part, it's because of the unreflexive ideological polarization of our political culture, but it's also been entrenched and nurtured by an insular, but omnipresent ideological media -- ranging from talk radio to bloggers/twitterers/facebookers to alternative online media clearinghouses like Drudge, WorldNetDaily, and the Huffington Post.

The constant and circular reinforcement of the absolute certainty of the moral righteousness of their thinking and behavior leads these uncritical militants to do the crazy things they do. I'm not sure what can be done to counter this, but I think it is ultimately bad for our civil society and our political culture. Part of the reason why I am drawn to engage with the rightwing of the blogosphere and the new media is not only to "know the enemy" but also (and primarily) to constantly keep my own self from getting sucked into the ideological comfort of leftist groupthink.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Copyrighting and Trademarking the "Who Dat" Slogan

Word going around town these days is that folks who are selling stuff that has the phrase "Who Dat?" on it are being told to cease and desist by certain entities who claim proprietary rights over the phrase and any revenues generated from its usage.

I say to those entities: Screw You! If I were selling anything with the "Who Dat?" phrase on it, and if I were told to cease and desist under threat of a lawsuit, I'd tell that person to bring on the lawsuit and be prepared for a countersuit for punitive damages.

There's not a court nor a jury in this city that would ever recognize anyone's claim to own the "Who Dat?" phrase. First off, the phrase has been in the public domain for ages. Second, it belongs to Saints fans. We say it, we popularize it, we make it valuable. There's not an entity out there who can say they own the phrase because they invented it or created it. It's pure public domain stuff. Anyone creative enough to use it and profit from it, I say good for them. This is an instance where the rapaciousness of corporate greed (and the seediest, most pernicious side of capitalism) overreaches and sucks the very freedom out of community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Conservatives have become used to the idea that their ideology allows them to break the law. Because their ideology is above the law. Just ask Cheney."

-- Andrew Sullivan, commenting on rightwing hack nutcase pimp-impersonator James O'Keefe's brazenly criminal attempt to wiretap U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's phones.

The Lunacy and Criminality of the Unhinged Fringe Rightwingnuts

Remember that guy who posed as a pimp to bust ACORN? Well, now the dude is engaging in a bit of Watergate criminality of his own. This nutjob is taking the law into his own hands (and actually violating the law) by engaging in a surreptitious effort to wiretap Senator Mary Landrieu's phones. He and his cohorts in crime, thinking that they are engaging in some kind of college prank, are falsifying their identity, posing as telephone repairmen, all with the intent to break into and wiretap the phone lines in US Senator Mary Landrieu's offices.

I blame the damn Patriot Act and its legitimization of warrantless wiretapping for encouraging these punks to break the law. After all, if you break the law in service of some self-defined higher political good -- even if it is ideologically motivated and driven by a clear partisan agenda -- then not only will all be forgiven, it will actually be rewarded with fame and money. Hell, if the US Government can torture people to extract information, what's the big deal in wiretapping someone's phone to extract information. Where are the civil libertarians in all this.

And what's the punk's reaction? Apparently it's a Mel Gibson Braveheart moment (or maybe a Joe Wilson moment), only this time it's not "FREEEEEEDOM" or "YOU LIE" that is the clarion call at the moment of being oppressed by the state, but "TRUUUUUUUUTH"!!! The guy's a deluded publicity hound who will apparently join the parents of the Balloon Boy in hare-brained schemes to garner some attention. I'd like to know who is funding this crackpot's operation.

And you know something else? The damage to this guy's credibility will serve, in a way, to vindicate the claims of ACORN that this guy's methods are not only unfair, but also criminal.

If the rightwing wants to embrace this kid, go for it. He's yours anyway. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sour Milk at the Tea Party

I couldn't help but chuckle with smug satisfaction at the disintegration of the Tea Party movement. It was a cynical movement built upon rage against the machine to begin with; but this latest fiasco will only hasten the demise of a wannabe social movement. Sure, there will be fragmented bursts of local Tea Party frenzy every now and then, but as for making it a national movement with legs? Forget about it. Now, every Teabagger associated with the movement (or at least the Tea Party Convention in question) -- and this includes Sarah Palin, whose exorbitant speaker fee is an outrage against the very sentiments of fiscal frugality and average-Joe accessibility that the Tea Party movement supposedly represents -- is forever tarnished by the fraud and controversy it has engendered. If I were a politician facing the wrath and ire of a Teabagger at a town hall meeting, I would patiently sit through the rants and then get up and ask if they would rather that I protect the public trust according to the example of the Tea Party Nation as reflected by the Tea Party Convention. And then I'd watch their veins pop as they try to explain how that Tea Party is not this Tea Party. And then I'd just smile and say: "Oh, really? ... Interesting ... Next question."

Teen Pregnancies

On the rise. One question: Bristol Palin ... cause or effect?

Saints Going to Da Show!

Saints going to the big show? I must be dreaming. Who woulda thunk that falling down the rabbit hole to wonderland would be such a nice feeling. Surrealicious. Someone pinch me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yaaaaaahhh Whoooooo Aaarrrrrggh Daaaaattt?!?!?!?

Geaux Saints!

Just to give folks a sense of things in the Big Easy about the Saints game today ...

All of the major sections of the Sunday print version of the Times-Picayune (except for the Metro Section -- wassup wit dat?!?) had a front page story on the Saints and the Who Dat Nation.

It is true what "they" are saying out there: New Orleans will be awash with tears one way or the other this evening.

I hope they are tears of joy!

Saints 38, Vikings 21.

The two keys to victory -- and they're both defensive: (1) Pressuring Brett Favre; and (2) Containing Percy Harvin -- both on returns and from making receptions as a WR.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Please Wear Your Bicycle Helmets!

I know the temptation to just hop on your bike and ride around with the breeze blowing through your hair is almost irrestible; but please always put on the bicycle helmet.

I have just spend a very stress-filled and worrisome weekend with a close acquaintance who was riding without a helmet and was hit by a car. He was thrown fifteen feet through the air and ended up with in the hospital emergency room. He was extremely lucky because, incredibly, he only suffered a serious concussion and a number of pretty ugly and bloody abrasions. 90% of his abrasions were on his head and face.

The ER Doc told me that it was a miracle that he didn't die, given the force of the collision and the nature of his fall. Even more incredible was that he suffered no broken bones, no skull fracture, no brain-swelling or bleeding, and no internal injuries. Just a nasty concussion and some pretty serious scrapes and bruises. He is now at home resting and recovering well. He should be back to normal activity in a few days.

But the fact is that had he been wearing a bicycle helmet, he might have been able to walk away from the accident with just some minor bumps and bruises and a bit of a fright. The lesson: Buy a helmet and wear it. Always.

The Indecipherable John Georges

I don't know about most observers of the New Orleans mayoral race, but I am finding John Georges to be increasingly unintelligible and off-his-rocker in this campaign. We all know that Georges went on a tirade against the very popular and very effective US Attorney Jim Letten, apparently only because Letten is a Republican. Hell, even I support Jim Letten, because he's done a great job of prosecuting corrupt politicos of whatever partisan stripe. But after his rant got Georges into some hot water, the man just did an unbelievable 180 degree about face and said that he was just joking about Letten and actually supported his continuation as US Attorney. And this is coming from a man who only recently joined the Democratic Party after a much longer stint as an Independent/Republican.

The latest vexing thing to come out of Georges's mouth is this choice bit responding to a question on how the mayoral aspirants in the current race voted in the last, 2006 Mayoral race pitting Landrieu against Nagin:

"Believe it or not, I supported Mitch," he said. "But I voted for Ray because at the end of that campaign, I wasn't satisfied with Mitch. At the very end of the campaign, of course, I listened to Rob [Couhig]. Rob's a smart guy. And he said go with Ray. So I voted for Ray."
Try to wrap your mind around that statement. He supported Mitch but didn't support Mitch. And what changed his mind was that the Republican candidate in that race (and who is currently running again in this race!!!) told him to vote for Nagin. And he did!!! Without question!!! Makes one wonder who, really, would be running New Orleans City Hall in a John Georges administration. Would Rob Couhig be running the show as shadow mayor? Sure seems possible, doesn't it? Regardless, it shows an incredible absence of leadership, independence, and principled conviction in the Georges campaign. The man is such the cynical chameleon, it seems, that knowing what he really envisions for New Orleans and what principles are guiding his candidacy is nigh impossible. I'm not even sure the man has any convictions or guiding principles. Tangentially, it makes me wonder what influence his media contact and communications director, Helena Moreno, has in shaping his message and in getting it out there. Maybe that's the task of a campaign manager; but Ms. Moreno has aligned herself with a candidate whose communication skills leave a lot to be desired, and that just can't be good for Moreno.

Meanwhile, with a slew of important endorsements behind him, it sure looks like Mitch Landrieu is running away with the race, and may even win in the first round out of a crowded field, which would be something indeed. I'm still leaning towards Mitch, but I am not ready to make a solid endorsement as of yet. The thing is, James Perry continues to impress me, and I just can't and won't throw in the towel on Perry. Although it's still a long shot and requires some extra convincing of me on the experience front. Not only does Mitch have good presence and a wonderful communication ability, but his extensive experience and knowledge of the workings of government is almost an insurmountable advantage in my book. But James Perry could still could get my vote and my endorsement if he can translate more convincingly his non-governmental leadership experience to an effective governing leadership capacity. Perry certainly has the charm, the disposition, the attitudes, and the values I want in a candidate (but so does Mitch); but he's got to push that little extra bit to challenge Mitch on the experience and knowledge front.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Racism, Birtherism, and Basketball

The All American Basketball Alliance is proudly calling for a new segregationist culture. Apparently, this group is consciously and purposefully setting up an all white basketball league. Why? No reason than it just doesn't like non-whites and can't stand the thought of shooting hoops with them. Good God Almighty. What has this country come to?

And, yet, the most illuminating thing about this whole bizarre thing is how the anti-Obama birther movement is intimately linked to the All American Basketball Alliance's mission. Read this statement from the All American Basketball League:

"Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league."
These people are nuts. And I bet every single one of the league organizers, players, and supporters identifies as an anti-Obama birther and a movement conservative.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fallout from the Brown Win in MA

Here's an interesting summation and evaluation of the Brown victory in Massachusetts. Grim news for Democrats. But there was this little tidbit in the article that I wanted to address:

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama has an opportunity to strike a more bipartisan approach.

"The president ought to take this as a message to recalibrate how he wants to govern and if he wants to govern from the middle we'll meet him there," he said.
That's pure b.s. Obama has been "governing from the middle," so to speak, since he came into office. So much so that he's ticked off the hard left. The Republicans, to a person, perhaps with the singular exception of my own House Rep, Republican Joseph Cao, have refused to even consider meeting Obama anywhere near the middle. My gut thinks it's time for Obama to tell the GOP to piss off, to go balls-to-the-wall left populist, and rabble rouse the left in preparation for an epic fight with the tea bagger right. Tit-for-tat and screw any efforts to compromise. Force the "Blue Dog" Democrats and the RINO squishes to take sides once and for all and to let the chips fall where they may. It's a recipe for a kind of civil war, but my irrational side takes some kind of solace in this notion. Left wing rage for right wing rage. And I think the left wing wins if this beast is unleashed. Albeit at great cost to the decency that this country stands for. My brain, though, tells me that Obama has forged the correct path in these trying times and that he should just keep cool and do what he can to govern as effectively as he can with those Republicans and Democrats willing to work with him. It is a compromise solution that absolutely no one likes in the gut, but which is perhaps the only way to really save the decency of this country. I'm trying to let my brain guide me, but the pull of the gut is strong.

Monday, January 18, 2010

From Depression To Rage - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

If you are as disgusted by the cynical nature of what passes for the "patriotic" rightwing these days, you must read this commentary from one of Andrew Sullivan's readers.

I glide around my world trying to understand what the current GOP and conservative movement's purpose is, and all I come up with is not a single productive suggestion about how to solve any of the current problems facing us and our world, but rather a singular focus on destroying Obama and taking down the country in the process.

Conservatives and their frenzied tea-bagger nihilism are Gollum-esque in their behavior. In their pursuit of their "precious" vision of the United States, they would rather see the country fail so miserably if it brings down the un-American, socialist-fascist-nazi-joker Muslim traitor in the White House than work with Obama to try to make this country better.

The country was on a precipice of unimaginable collapse a year ago and their response: let's not work with Obama to get us off the cliff, but rather let's just plow into Obama and take us all over the cliff all the while smiling contentedly on the descent into the burning hell of Mount Doom in the smug satisfaction of having recaptured their precious.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Andrew Sullivan Rates Obama's First Year

Andrew Sullivan evaluates Obama's first year in office. And gets it just about pitch perfect, if you ask me.

Who Dat?!?!

The Saints demolished the Cardinals in the Dome. They finally look as if they have recovered their offensive mojo. Highlights here: Link. Reggie Bush had the game of his career.

Now I hope that the Vikings beat the Cowboys today, not because I'm scared of the Cowboys, but rather because I detest the Cowboys and can't bear the thought of the Cowboys possibily going to the Superbowl. Of course, I think the Saints will be at the Superbowl, but if they have to cede that to another team, I'd much prefer that other team to be the Vikings.

Anyway, WHO DAT?!?!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Haiti: Rush Limbaugh is a F$%&ing A$$

Part of the transcript:

This will play right into Obama’s hands — humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community — the both the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It’s made to order for them.
To which I say at the top of my lungs: FYYFF!

This is the worst play of the race card I've heard in a long time. For Rush, the US Government, which happens to be led by Obama, sending immediate assistance to a country in which perhaps 100,000 people have died in a horrible tragedy, is nothing more than a ploy to gain some race-hustling credibility. And yet the only person making the US Government's response to a humanitarian crisis caused by an unexpected national disaster a racialized event is Limbaugh. I had very little respect for the man before. I have none now. Piss off, Limbaugh.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The long-suffering people of Haiti are facing yet another unimaginable natural disaster and the ensuing human crises.

I haven't written anything about this yet because I am so saddened and feel so helpless that writing about it almost seems fruitless. That, and I'm not quite recovered yet from the paralysis I felt upon hearing the news and seeing the massive destruction to the infrastructure of Port-au-Prince and the loss of so many innocent lives.

Haiti is a country that has had a significant presence in my line of work. I have met and befriended numerous Haitians over the years. I have studied Haiti's people and culture. I have had my students study and learn about Haitian life and culture. In fact, this semester my students in one class will be reading Edwige Danticat's first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and will be watching Jonathan Demme's documentary film titled The Agronomist about the great Haitian radio figure, Jean Dominique. In another class, we'll be reading Paul Farmer's Pathologies of Power, which features Haiti as an important case study of his thesis of structural violence.

May God bless and be with the Haitian people in this sad, terrible tragedy.

Obama's Outrageous Defense Appropriation

I was just mind-boggled and dumbfounded at Obama's $709 billion Defense Department budget appropriation for next year. That's not to mention the recent request being formulated for an additional $33 billion on top of that for the Afghan and Iraq wars.

Can this be correct? $742 billion in total defense expenditures? Almost three-quarters of a trillion dollars on bombs, guns, and violence? WTF?

That's almost as much as the cost of the current Healthcare Reform bills, which the Obama administration and the Congress have tried to make as defecit neutral as possible.

As I've said before, 2010 is the year where one of Obama's absolute top priorities needs to be to get a handle on the federal budget deficit and begin to bend that deficit curve downwards. A Defense Department budget for 2010 of $742 billion is NOT a good start down the road to dealing with this priority.

Obama just needs to take the heat from opportunistic Republicans who will call him soft on defense for cutting defense spending, and revisit this absurd Defense Department appropriation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Senate Filibuster on Healthcare is Now Essentially an Empty Threat

Most people who talk about the loss of any Democratic/Independent seat in the Senate to a Republican (and this is possible in the Special Election in Massachusetts to fill deceased former Senator Ted Kennedy's seat) before the final vote on a healthcare reform bill speak as if this represents the deathknell for health care reform due to that pernicious and oft-abused filibuster power. But many of these people also fail to realize that once the Senate passes a bill, then if that bill isn't altered and the House passes the already approved Senate version by a simple majority, the bill never goes back to the Senate for another vote of that Chamber. Nope. It would simply go from the House to Obama's desk for his signature.

Now that's probably not the ideal scenario as members of the Democratic caucus in the House would have to accept the Senate's version whole hog (and let's remember that they've already been prepped to understand that any major modifications to anything of substance in the Senate version may cause the 60 vote coalition to fracture in the Senate, so there's already very little room to maneuver in the House/Senate negotiations on the final bill); but I can almost guarantee that the House Democrats would rather have the Senate's version than no version; and even the House Democrats most unsatisfied with the Senate bill would never allow Republicans to gloat that they were able to kill any health care reform proposal so painstakingly secured over the past many months by virtue of any successful GOP Senate filibuster made possible by a freak off-cycle election turnover. In fact, I'd say that even if the Senate Democratic Caucus maintains its 60 vote margin, but someone from that caucus like Lieberman or Nelson or Landrieu gets cold feet after their first "yes" vote, the House could basically undercut even the backtracking of one of its own Senate caucus members to basically pass what's already been approved by the Senate and keep the bill away from the fickle Senators.

So, the short of it is that the Senate has blown its wad on the filibuster. We already have a health care reform bill that made it through the Senate. As long as the House can stomach this version with a simple majority vote, the deal is done.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Helena Moreno and The Huck Upchuck

On the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2009, Helena Moreno communicated with me via email, presumably in response to this posting that I had composed earlier that morning. I only today noticed her email. I don't check the email account associated with my blog as regularly as I probably should (and I have been recently distracted by knee surgery and class prep for the upcoming Spring Semester); but I regret that I did not see this email before now, especially since I posted on Dec. 31, 2009, a brief follow-up to the previous day's posting.

I have just responded by email to Ms. Moreno. I won't go into too much detail about our exchange, but I do want to say a few things.

First, Ms. Moreno's message was very positive and amicable. I appreciated that, especially since most of my posts about her have generally been fairly critical and unflattering.

Second, Ms. Moreno clarified for me that her early departure from the Congressional Forum I had a part in organizing in October of 2008 was due to a personal family emergency. This is an understandable and very forgivable reason for leaving. And I told Ms. Moreno in my reply email to her that I would note this clarification on my blog. I just wish I had known this at the time.

Third, Ms. Moreno defended her Democratic Party credentials. I have repeatedly criticized Ms. Moreno as a Republican wrapped in the clothing of a Democrat, though it would be fair of me to note also that Ms. Moreno has, indeed, worked for and supported Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party over a long period of time. There is something to be said for that. But I also noted to her that her support of Jay Batt makes raising questions about the extent of her support for progressive liberal values and Democratic Party principles a fair thing to do.

There were a few more things we communicated about, mostly about Latino affairs, but I will perhaps get to them at a later time.

Let me conclude by noting that, in spite of the fact that my disappointment and emotions have caused me to declare my untractable opposition to Ms. Moreno in the past, I conveyed to Ms. Moreno that I will promise keep an open mind about any future candidacies she may mount and that I do hope that it might be possible for me to be an advocate of hers down the road. And I sincerely mean that.

I do appreciate that she thought enough of my opinions to reach out to me, and to do so without resentments and in a positive spirit. And that means something to me.

At the very least, I know she reads my blog!

The Jefferson Parish Scandal

The political class in Jefferson Parish is so inbred that I find it extremely hard to believe that the Tim Whitmer/Tim Coulon/Aaron Broussard scandal doesn't affect/infect the whole political class. I'd bet everyone on the Jefferson Parish Council and throughout the ranks of the Parish Administration have some scandal skeleton that will surface once the information floodgates and the plea-bargaining begins.

This is only the beginning.

But I find the irony so rich that the conservative suburban bastions of St. Tammany and Jefferson Parishes, filled with folks who wear their anti-corruption ethical integrity on their sleeves, and who sneer self-righteously at the presumed corruption of New Orleans' liberal politics/politicians, are getting their comeuppance. Maybe now, the letters to the editor of the Times-Picayune that come from Kenner or from Mandeville will be a little less smugly self-righteous when it comes to hurling judgments on New Orleans urbanites.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Message From Louisiana's Own Tabasco Hot Sauce

Freakily, Creepily Charming:

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

BLOG UNDER SURVEILLANCE: Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish
Issue: Andrew Sullivan's Over-the-Top Criticism of Obama for Obama's Response to the Undie-Bomber Incident

Andrew Sullivan comes down hard on Obama for not immediately firing anyone for the Undie-Bomber incident. I admire and respect Andrew Sullivan, and think he's the best national blogger out there; but I think he's way over-reacting here. So, I wrote him a letter. This is what I said:

Dear Andrew - I can understand your anger at Obama's unwillingness to fire anyone because of the Undie-Bomber incident. Fire anyone at this moment, that is. I think you need to cut Obama some slack here. Think about it. Not only is it true that Obama has recognized the failure and has personally accepted responsibility for it, but it is also equally true that he has not left his subordinates completely off the hook. What you failed to print from Obama's remarks were the two sentences in the paragraph directly preceding that particular quip you noted. These sentences read: "All of these agencies -- and their leaders -- are responsible for implementing these reforms. And all will be held accountable if they don't." Seems to me that Obama is forcefully and unambiguously telling his subordinates that they screwed up, that he's taking it on the chin for them, and yet he's willing to give them the benefit of the doubt to get it right the next time or they're gone -- no ifs, ands, or buts. Think about it, Andrew. I know there is no margin for error with these kinds of things; but a leader that affords a second chance is the kind of person I would want to work for. The kind of person that can make government more effective. Furthermore, not only would I want to work for such a person, but I'd try to go above and beyond not to fail again and wouldn't hold any grudge if I did fail again and got axed. A cut-throat blood-letting that you seem to expect would simply ossify inefficiencies and prevent innovations out of fear of reprisal. Even though we are dealing with a situation where mistakes just can't be made, it is important to remember that we are, and always will be, still dealing with fallible people. I believe it would be the same regardless of who is in power or how competent are the people responsible for such things. Even the best of us slip now and again. Obama is not protecting "big brother." He is simply being someting bigger, and better, than "the decider."
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan posts a letter from another reader that basically captures the sentiments of my letter, but Sullivan still refuses to back down in his criticism.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

This Season's Defining Moments for the Saints

In today's Times-Picayune, the editors gave their list of the top 10 defining moments in the Saints season. There was one moment that was notably absent, and would certainly have made my top 10 list:

Jonathan Vilma's 4th down stop against the Falcons in Week 14 during the Falcons last drive to try to tie the game and send it into overtime.
(The highlight is at the 3:12 mark in the clip.)

Vilma's stop assured the Saints of their best regular season record as a franchise with 13 wins. And it was their last win of the season. Without that stop, the Saints may be at 12-4 and having to go to Minnesota for the NFC championship game on the road to the Superbowl.

Prediction: Alabama vs. Texas

The Times-Picayune's James Varney lists some predictions from around the country on tonight's college championship game between Alabama and Texas.

My prediction: Alabama 24, Texas 10. I don't think it's going to be close. I think Alabama will take an early lead and Texas will never get close.

I would like to add that I support the idea of a college playoff series. It's a shame that the two undefeated teams from non-BCS conferences don't get a chance at the big prize. We've already seen how non-BCS conference teams can hang with the big boys and even defeat them, which has actually happened multiple times over the past year when an BCS conference team and a non-BCS conference team have been paired up in one of the BCS bowl games. Such teams should have a chance to compete for the championship, and the BCS as it currently is designed simply will never allow for that possibility. And that is an injustice.

Year End Review of the Obama Administration's Performance

I didn't think to link to this previously, but Andrew Sullivan posted a piece right before Christmas giving his own end-of-year review of the Obama Administration. In his own words, Andrew Sullivan remains "extremely bullish on the guy."

His thinking pretty much jibes with my own, so if you read his piece you can get the basics on my thoughts. I'll only add a couple of things that particularly stood out to me:

(1) I was, and continue to be, very impressed with Obama's level-headedness and cool temperament. This was a year that was about as heated and divisive as I have ever seen it, with Tea Partiers railing and ranting, with the birther crazies refusing to go away, with racist-joker-hitler-stalin references to the Obama's character legion, with gun "enthusiasts" bringing loaded weapons to places where Obama was speaking, and with Obama haters rudely taunting and jeering and disrespecting him (even in the halls of Congress), and he never once took the bait. The man was cool as a cucumber, and all it did was make the fanaticism of his critics look foolish. And in spite of all the rotten fruit his critics tossed in his face, Obama still aggressively advanced a very ambitious agenda.

(2) Obama's pragmatism in terms of picking his battles, recognizing the possible, and making compromises, although it many times frustrated and even angered me, always seemed like the smartest path in hindsight. In the worst economic climate in recent memory, Obama achieved. And that he did so is impressive in its own right.

He still has a long way to go, but I still have high hopes. I really believe that once Obama gets Health Care reform behind him, he will get down to a lot of other issues that I care about: ending DADT, following through on ending the Iraq occupation and the Afghanistan war, giving attention to coastal erosion problems and their solutions in my neck of the woods, etc.

What I think his biggest challenge for 2010, and what he HAS to do, is develop a credible strategy for bending the debt curve downwards. This will be tough, but not impossible -- and I think Obama will do it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Post-Facto Christmas Video

I forgot to link to my all time favorite Christmas video and song, which I usually do. Don't know how I missed it this year. Unfortunately, the YouTube embedding is disabled, but the link is below. Better late than never:

Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) performing "Christmas is All Around" from Love, Actually

Mayoral Race Thoughts

I haven't commented on the New Orleans Mayoral race in a while. But a lot has happened in the past couple weeks. The biggest news is the withdrawal from the race of State Sen. Ed Murray. He was perhaps the best known and leading black candidate in the race. His departure, I think, makes it very likely that our new mayor will be a white male, something the city hasn't had since the 1970s: either Mitch Landrieu or John Georges. Not that this should matter, but the reality in New Orleans is that it usually does and thus it is a pretty big deal. I think Murray's departure benefits primarily Mitch Landrieu, as he and Murray have similar political careers (i.e. are established and experienced politicians). They also probably have the most likely crossover appeal to their voting constituencies, not to mention well-established name recognition. So, this makes Mitch the favorite. The one caveat I will throw out here is that James Perry could fill the gap with the black community left by Ed Murray's departure. However, Perry has relatively very low name recognition with this community, and doesn't appear to have the funding to promote himself. But, Perry does appeal to a certain segment of the young urban professional white community, a fair number of whom crave a tech-savvy political outsider -- all of which Perry is.

But I haven't seen much movement in the Perry campaign, so I'd still have to go with Landrieu as the favorite, with John Georges (and his deep pockets and appeal to what conservative Republicans there are out there) as the next in line. Polling seems to indicate this ranking, and my intuition tells me that this polling is right. However, I'm still not fully committed to anyone. I'm leaning towards Landrieu heavily, but I do like James Perry, too. We'll see.

The Miracle of the Nerve Block Pain Ball

Yes, that's what the doctors and nurses call it. I had the option to take just general anesthesia alone or to take the general along with a local nerve block anesthesia. I took both. It has been nothing short of miraculous.

I first need to mention that I have already had knee surgery some many years ago and still remember the experience. What I remember most from that experience of going under the knife was that I found myself groggily awaking from the general anesthesia then by chanting (more like moaning) over and over: "It huuuuuurts. It huuuuuuurts." I also vaguely remember being rolled over on my side in the recovery room and getting a shot of some opiate pain medication to shut me up.

This time, I just woke up with a slight headache from the anesthesia feeling otherwise pretty darn good and I said: "I'm alive! I made it! What time is it?" (new surgery as a middle-aged man with kids and a keen sense of mortality, new anxieties, but I digress ...) It happened to be just a mere three hours since they put me under and I felt ZERO pain. ZERO, ZIP, NADA. I was incredulous. How could that be?

Well, it was the local nerve block anesthesia that I had consented to in addition to the general anesthesia (which still got me sick while being rolled out of the hospital). What's even better about the local nerve block, which I'll describe a bit more in a minute, is that they let me take it home, in a manner of speaking. In other words, I'm still feeling ZERO pain, even more than 15 hours after the surgery took place.

Here's how the nerve block works: the anesthesiologists insert a tiny catheter into the leg (the catheter is no larger than fishing twine) and set it up right next to the femoral nerves (there's apparently a cluster of nerves in the groin area controlling certain areas of leg sensation. It's pretty cool how they locate this spot. They first use some kind of ultrasound to actually locate the nerve, then they insert the catheter and set it up next to the nerves. Then, to test whether they're close enough to the right nerves (such that the numbing medicine will work on the right part of the leg) and yet avoid penetrating the nerve, they stick a tiny electrode through the catheter and send a small pulse of electricity which stimulates the nerve causing certain leg muscles to twitch. When they get the right muscles twitching, they know they're in the right spot. Then they pull the electrode out and hook the catheter up to the numbing medicine. Now here's the great part. They give me a big dose to really numb up the leg right before surgery; but then they fill up the nerve block pain ball with enough medicine to maintain the nerve numbing for up to three days. And I get to take the ball home with me and even can adjust the distribution dosage of the medicine depending on my pain tolerance threshhold ability when the original high dosage begins to wear off. After the medicine is gone, I myself can just pull out the catheter (which they assure me is painless) and toss the used ball in the trash. For this reason, I have felt no pain all day. Now, I should mention that some people also get a second pain ball which controls the hamstring and calf muscles through the psiatic nerve. The process for this is the same as for the femoral nerve. But I didn't get this because the Doc probably thought I wouldn't need it given the type of surgery I was undergoing. However, they did locate this nerve cluster in my leg and give me a single dosage just before surgery, though they didn't insert the take home pain ball for it. So, the result is that I can still contract my hamstring muscle a bit and have some feeling on the underside of my leg.

The concept, though it was never explained to me this way, is like going to the dentist to get a crown, a filling, or a root canal. Anything that might require the jaw nerves to be numb. In such a case, the dentist usually injects a small amount of nerve-deadening medicine in the right part of the jaw and certain parts of the mouth, face, and jaw get all numbed up for a few hours. Then it wears off. With the leg, though, the dosage is higher and lasts longer. But the best thing for me is that, unlike the opiate pain meds, it doesn't affect the rest of my body and keeps me from feeling nauseated. That's what I usually suffer from the most and I am so glad that my nausea has been very short-lived while the general anesthetic was wearing off. My hope is that as the nerve block wears off, the pain will be tolerable enough so that I can avoid taking too much of the other pain meds.

All this said, there are still some drawbacks to the technology, though I think as of now that the benefits outweigh these drawbacks. Nonetheless, I know I have to be conscious of them. First, the nerve block deadens sensation in the entire leg, which means that not only do I feel no pain, but I also feel no leg. Thus I know that when I get up on my crutches to walk around, I have to be particularly careful in terms of knowing where my leg is at all times. And even though the leg is in a pretty sturdy stabilizer, I still have found my foot being dragged on the floor and had no sensation of it. So, essentially, if I'm not careful, I can stub my toe, twist my ankle, or worse and not ever feel it or know it until the nerve block wears off. Second, I know all too well that pain serves an important purpose. It transmits rules, so to speak, about how to naturally respond to the injury. It tells us when we need to rest an injured body part, it tells us when we need to seek the care of a physician for an injured body part, it tells us how the healing process is progressing and if something seems wrong with the healing process, etc. I have none of those. (For example, one practical concern along these lines that I currently have: I have no clue if my knee immobilizer is strapped too tightly and cutting off circulation to my foot and lower leg. Thus I have to constantly watch my toes to make sure they aren't turning blue.) Third, I have instructions to ice my knee for 24 hours. And I have had an ice pack on my knee since I got home early this afternoon. But I have no clue if the cold of the ice is really reaching down through all the bandages and clothing to affect the swelling like it should. I just have the ice pack taped on to the knee and hope it's working like it's supposed to. Fourth, and this is perhaps the most important drawback, is that I know in my mind that the pain will come. However, I have become accustomed to feeling no pain and so I might be lulled into a false sense of hope about what life will be like after the block wears off. The resulting pain could be unbearable (for which I do have a pain medication prescription), or it could be tolerable. Regardless, though, it's there and I'll feel it. And I can see how someone might be very upset with the doctors when that pain arrives. I can imagine the following questions coming from a patient like me: How can they keep me so pain free when the pain should have been at its worst and yet let me suffer with the residual pain? Why didn't they tell me how painful it would actually be? Why can't I get more of the nerve block? Etc.

In any event, as long as I keep the pain reality of my surgery front and center and try to be realistic about it, I think the nerve block pain ball is well worth getting.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Knee Surgery Tomorrow

The Huck behind the Upchuck will be having his left knee's defunct ACL surgically repaired tomorrow. I'll post as often as I can (and I still plan to meet my obligations under my Blogging "self-nudge"), but blogging may be sporadic over the next week as I contend with the pain (and the pain medication!) following surgery.

I have to say that I have a pretty high pain tolerance threshhold, and I really don't like the side effects of pain medication, so my inclination is to try to put up with as much of the pain as possible and work through it as rapidly as possible.

We'll see how it goes.

Wish me (and my poor, long-suffering left knee) well.

Saints Update

Well, the Saints have finished the regular season not with a bang, but a whimper. Even though I actually recommended that the Saints rest their starters and throw in the towel on the Panthers game, I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it is true that the Saints will be well-rested and their key starters mostly healed up for their first playoff game in two weeks. And I guess that is a good thing.

But ...

There is a bit of listlessness about the way the season ended on a 3 game losing streak. And I worry that having rested the starters and thus losing the Carolina game, this kind of losing momentum will simply not be overcome for the playoffs. The Saints will not have a winning finish to provide them any kind of momentum moving forward into the playoffs.

I'm sure the fans will be pumped and excited in a few weeks, but there is no doubt that the mood here has cooled quite considerably from three weeks ago.

Finally, having played ball myself, I know that there is a lot to be said for playing to win each and every time you get on the field. Playing to rest is a recipe for laxity, which I hope the Saints and their playoff bye week can avoid.