Thursday, May 27, 2010

HB 1205 Is Dead

Today was a good day. The omnibus immigration bill in the Louisiana House of Representatives, HB 1205, is dead. The author, after facing a serious grilling from his fellow committee members, "voluntarily deferred" his bill, with the full knowledge, confirmed publicly by Committee Chairman Cedric Richmond, that it will not be brought up again this legislative session. Even though I had testimony prepared, I didn't even have to testify. Victory. Thanks to everyone who wrote/phoned to legislators, put up blog posts, and otherwise made your voices heard. They listened. We prevailed.

I'd like to thank House Judiciary Committee Members Edwards, Leger, and Connick, for their thoughtful comments and clear, unequivocal opposition to this bill as it was written.

I'd also like to give a special acknowledgment to Committee Chairman Cedric Richmond, who spoke eloquently about the troublesome provisions in this bill as it related to the civil rights of underrepresented minorities. Richmond also deserves recognition for the conscientious and diplomatic way he handled the hearing. He made sure that those of us opposed to the bill and willing to testify against it were acknowledged. I have always been favorably inclined towards Cedric Richmond, especially ever since I saw him, along with law enforcement officers, take on the gun lobby two years ago by trying to limit, if not ban, the sale of assault weapons. Today, I was immensely impressed with his professionalism, his knowledge, and his measured consideration and thoughtfulness in running the Committee hearing today.

I have a couple new favorite legislators in Baton Rouge, with Cedric Richmond leading the pack. Unfortunately, my own Representative, Walker Hines, has been a disappointment to me on this matter. He was noticably absent at the last Judiciary Committee hearing when HB 1205 was on the schedule; and he was nowhere to be found today. I have written to Walker Hines multiple times about this bill, and he has ignored the last few messages I sent to him, which is unusual because Hines has always been very responsive, even if to tell me that he disagrees with me. I wonder what's up with Walker. I have counted on him as an ally in this cause, and have exhorted him to exercise some leadership. And he has been nowhere to be found. I like Walker and have generally been impressed by him. In fact, I initially was a harsh critic and supported his opponent in the last election; but he won me over to his side over the last two years and I have become a converted supporter and general advocate of his legislative initiatives over the past two years. But I can't hide my growing disappointment in his absence and lack of leadership on this issue. It is giving me some pause and sobering my enthusiasm for him. [UPDATE: I have just received an email from Walker Hines. He had a great and more than satisfactory explanation for his absence today and assured me that he was adamantly opposed to the bill and was ready to run into committee if needed for his vote against. He was tending to other important legislative business and knew that the bill was already doomed. (It makes sense that they would have inside beads on such things.) So, turn the dial back up on Walker Hines!]

Anyway, since I didn't get to testify (which was fine, because my testimony's sole purpose was to convince the Judiciary Committee that the bill was bad and to vote against it and thus kill it), I will be posting up on the blog in the next day or so the official testimony that I prepared for the occasion, just for the public record. Be on the lookout for that.

For the moment, though, HB 1205 opponents should take a moment to celebrate a fine accomplishment with the death of this bill. Bravo! And well-done!

Monday, May 24, 2010

HB 1205 In Front of the LA House Judiciary Committee

Well, the official weekly schedule is now available and the Louisiana House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for HB 1205 for this Thursday. The Committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30am and HB 1205 is second on the agenda.

The mobilization is now underway to encourage and recruit folks to attend the hearing in opposition to the bill.

If you want to watch the hearings, you can tune in via the Louisiana State Legislature's website, which livestreams all hearings.

Sarah Palin, the Gulf Oil Spill, and Faux-Conservatism

I remain constantly amazed that Sarah Palin somehow continues to carry the mantle of conservatism around this country. With regard to the Gulf Oil Spill, Palin is demagoguing the Obama administration's response to the efforts by BP to handle the gulf oil spill. Her complaint? That Obama is too cozy with BP, which is preventing the administration from getting more directly and precipitously involved in mitigating the disaster and in handling the crisis. And, yet, the Obama administration's response has been decidedly conservative, so much so that he's taking some heat by activist liberal environmentalist groups for not asserting government authority even sooner and more forcefully.

The Obama Administration's reluctance to push BP aside seems to have as much to do with a recognition that it is BP, and not the Federal Government, that possesses the capacity, knowledge, and experience to deal with this. It seems to me that the Obama administration is promoting a responsible position with regard to its involvement in mitigating the crisis. It is a position that is actually quite conservative. In fact, it appears to be even too conservative for Sarah Palin, who is supposed to be the very face of conservatism.

I'd like to know from Sarah Palin what her response would be? If she were President, would she be demanding a precipitous federal intervention in the process, pushing BP aside?

I think Palin's response is rich with irony. And it exposes her unconservative populism. She's supposedly not only the pro-industry "drill, baby, drill" cheerleader, but also the anti-government intervention conservative. What gives? And why do conservatives continue to support her?

Governmentalizing the Gulf Spill Response

There is a growing chorus among observers of the Gulf Oil spill that the Federal Government should be more directly involved in managing the Gulf oil spill. I have to admit to some feelings along these lines myself.

However, I wonder about the ramifications of doing this. First off, is the federal government in any better position to try to remedy the problem, either in terms of shutting off the well or in cleaning up the spill? I'm not sure.

Second, I always have to remind myself that this disaster is in absolutely no way connected to any natural event nor any malfunctioning of any construction or equipment under the direct supervision of the federal government. In this case, the disaster is caused by property that is exclusively owned and managed by private entities. Would federalizing the response, and thus pushing aside the responsible private entities, minimize the liability of these private entities for their role in the whole mess? I'm not a specialist on maritime law, but it doesn't take a specialist to imagine that once liable parties get muscled aside, the responsibility and financial obligations would seem also to be shifted, too. And I wonder if that is advisable. If BP, Transocean, and Halliburton can be muscled aside without creating any significant liability to the taxpayer and with making sure these private entities keep the mitigation and cleanup dollars coming from their bank accounts, then I'm listenting. But I imagine it's just not that simple to push the private entities to the side and keep the money from their own bank accounts flowing.

The Times-Picayune has expressed my concerns quite succinctly:

But Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, reiterated on the Sunday morning talk a message he's been sharing almost since the disaster struck April 20: Industry, and not the federal government, has all the resources to deal with the leak 5,000 feet below the sea and as it comes toward land.

The fear is that if Obama federalizes the response and supplants BP, not only will it be more difficult to get the company to pay for the response efforts, but the federal government may not have the capacity to get the job done.
In the case of Hurricane Katrina, you can argue that the devastation and destruction of the City of New Orleans was caused either by the Hurricane itself, or by the negligence of the Army Corps of Engineers in maintaining the levee system. In either case, the federal governement would have been the principle responsible party. The same is not true of the Gulf oil spill. And so I'm just as frustrated by the apparent inability or unwillingness of the private entities responsible for the spill to fix it, and want to see more drastic action taken, I'm just not convinced pushing the federal government to take over and take charge of the situation is warranted.

I just hope that everyone knows that if and when any government becomes involved in this way, the up-front money to fund its efforts will be coming directly from taxpayer pocket books, and it will be lengthy litigation that will force the likes of BP, et. al., to pony up reimbursements for such taxpayer expenditures. And if Barack Obama or Bobby Jindal were honest, they would make sure the costs of this to the people of the United States and the State of Louisiana are clear. In a time when the Jindal administration argues that fiscal belt tightening has meant the gutting of our state public university and college educational system, the Jindal administration better be forthcoming with where it plans to finance its "going rogue" takeover. Jindal grandstands about daring the feds to arrest him for "going rogue," but I want to know where Jindal would be getting the money to fund his "send in the cavalry to save Louisiana" populist grandstanding.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quote of the Day: Rand Paul on "Accidents"

Rand Paul said:

"And I think it's part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it's always got to be somebody's fault instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen."
Rand Paul needs to know that, yes, sometimes accidents happen; but when these accidents involve man-made equipment or human error, it's also always somebody's fault.

More Texas Board of Education Shenanigans

I don't think there can be any doubt that what is motivating the reform of the Texas public education curriculum is bald-faced ideological bias. In fact, the conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education are making absolutely no efforts to hide this:

McLeroy [a conservative Republican member of the Board] believes the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed after years of Democrats controlling the board.
So, he's just going to skew it in the other direction! Even if one accepts that the curriculum has represented an ideologically leftist position, does that then justify going in the other direction? Should ideology even factor into the debate? Where is the discussion about trying to be as neutral as possible in representing facts? Shouldn't that be the discussion instead of trying to present knowledge in any ideologically skewed direction? If there is a clear ideological bias in the curriculum towards the left, then by all means remove it, because it shouldn't have a place in the curriculum. But don't then try to do the same thing, only replacing liberal bias with conservative bias!

Read the article and check out some of the ludicrous aspects being debated here. One effort made by a clearly Obama-hating Republican on the Committee was to insist that Obama be identified by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama. Clearly, since this requirement applies to no other President (do these textbooks demand reference to the middle names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc.), the intent of this effort is purposefully to try to use Obama's middle name as an anti-Islamic smear. I mean even some of this dude's fellow Republicans on the Committee were embarrassed by this effort and by their colleague's clear motivations and intentions in making this proposal.

Another one of my favorite absurdities involves reference to labor leader Dolores Huerta:
The board rejected a renewed effort to include labor leader Dolores Huerta as an example of good citizenship in third-grade history classes. Huerta, who worked alongside Cesar Chavez for farmworkers' rights, was removed from the list in January amid concerns that she was affiliated with socialists.
Even if Huerta was "affiliated with socialists" (and is there some crime in that worthy of excluding her from history?), shouldn't any evaluation of her inclusion in curriculum have to do with the significance of her work as a citizen? What's next, removing references to Martin Luther King, Jr., from the curriculum as an unworthy example of "good citizenship" because he "affiliated with" socialists and radicals? Maybe Texas can remove the Bushes from the curriculum because the Bush family has had cozy relationships with those radical, terrorist-funding Saudi royalty. See how absurd this can get once ideology replaces some measure of objectivity in developing curriculum? Sheesh!

Rand Paul's Patriotic Inconsistencies

Rand Paul has made some vexing statements on what kinds of speech are "un-American" (by which I interpret his meaning to be speech consistent with the values of freedom in America).

As many are by now aware, Rand Paul has gotten himself into a bit of a hullabaloo over some comments he made regarding the applicability of civil rights non-discrimination policies to private entities. He defended his position in this way:

On Wednesday, Paul expressed support for the act's provisions banning discrimination in public facilities, but he had misgivings about extending the same requirement to private businesses — then or now.

"Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?" he was asked by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.

"Yes. I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form," Paul said at the beginning of a lengthy answer in which he likened the question to one about limiting freedom of speech for racists. "I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things freedom requires."
Now the way I read Rand Paul here is that, although he abhors racist speech (and by parallel racially-motivated discrimination by anyone, including private entities), he accepts one's right to be so as part of what he would claim is the "American" value of freedom that should protect such abhorrent speech. I think that's a pretty fair assessment.

And yet ...

When commenting on the "free speech" of Obama and those in his administration who would use such freedoms to criticize BP for its role in the massively destructive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Rand Paul thinks that such commentary is reflective of behavior that is decidedly "un-American":
Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul said Friday that President Barack Obama's criticism of BP in the wake of the Gulf oil debacle sounds "really un-American."

Paul, already facing a backlash over remarks earlier this week about civil rights legislation, criticized the Obama administration for declaring it will put its "boot heel on the throat of BP." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs used similar language shortly after the spill.
Sounds to me like there is a bit of a double standard going on here. And I certainly think that one could argue whether a President attempting to defend the interests of American citizens and the health of our country's physical, natural environment, against the uncontestable failure of a private corporation's operations, is truly an "American" response, and just the opposite of a "really un-American" thing. I think one might be able to say accurately that the vilification of, and discrimination against, Americans because of their race is "really un-American," but Rand Paul seems to think doing so represents the fine tradition of free speech in America. The short of it is that Rand Paul prefers to spin the positive side of an ugly thing in this instance, and yet prefers to spin what he thinks is an ugly side of an arguably positive thing in the case of the Obama Administration's tough approach to BP. Now maybe one could say that Rand Paul would say Barack Obama has the right to sound "really un-American" in his criticism of BP, and so there is no inconsistency there. But then I would have to say that Rand Paul's associating the U.S. President with behavior that he calls really un-American, is rather really un-American, too. Sure, Rand Paul is free to essentially call the President "un-American," but then he probably should subject himself to his own criticism about how "American" he really sounds in doing so.

Even still, I think Rand Paul should get himself and his priorities clear on certain things. He appears to want to go to bat for the freedom of racists to be racists, but then wants to levy criticism of the President for using strong language to hold an oil company responsible for an "accident" that occurred on its watch and through its property, an "accident" of immeasurably tragic consequences for this country and its people. As I see it, there is an inconsistency of rhetoric and attitude here that seems more driven by personal and ideological preference than by principle.

UPDATE: Oyster (I guess that would be Oilster by now?), has some relevant thoughts on this subject. To give you a taste of what to expect, the oily bi-valve writes:
The original Tea Party revolted against a monarchy that assisted a British company attempting to flood the colonial coast with unwanted tea.

And now the darling of the current Tea Party says it's "un-American" for the U.S. President to criticize a British company that has flooded the American coast with unwanted toxic "tea".
Go get 'em, Oyster!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

HB 1205: More from the Front Lines

Read this from the Executive Director of Puentes.

Note at the end that Lucas informs us that HB 1205 is likely going to be considered next Thursday, May 27, at 9:00am in Baton Rouge at the State Capitol. Mark this date on your calendar now and reserve the morning for the trip to Baton Rouge. It may end up not happening (or maybe not on this date), so I'll keep you informed along the way; but it looks like this date is the most likely. And I trust that Lucas has been informed by reliable sources about the House Judiciary Committee Schedule for the upcoming week.

See y'all there!

Why I'm an Exodus Catholic, Ctd.

It's stuff like this that really ticks me off:

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had "right heart failure," and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was "close to 100 percent."

The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion. But there was a complication: She was at a Catholic hospital.

"They were in quite a dilemma," says Lisa Sowle Cahill, who teaches Catholic theology at Boston College. "There was no good way out of it. The official church position would mandate that the correct solution would be to let both the mother and the child die. I think in the practical situation that would be a very hard choice to make."

But the hospital felt it could proceed because of an exception — called Directive 47 in the U.S. Catholic Church's ethical guidelines for health care providers — that allows, in some circumstance, procedures that could kill the fetus to save the mother. Sister Margaret McBride, who was an administrator at the hospital as well as its liaison to the diocese, gave her approval.

The woman survived. When Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted heard about the abortion, he declared that McBride was automatically excommunicated — the most serious penalty the church can levy.
Here's a nun, who is an administrator of a Catholic hospital, faced with an impossible situation, and who ended up giving consent to an abortion procedure that all medical evidence indicated was necessary to save the life of the mother, and the Bishop of this Diocese declares this nun to be excommunicated. And yet pedophile priests and child rapists are not only allowed to remain in the Church, but they are protected, defended, and shuffled around in a gross cover up of much worse "ethical" abuses of Catholic doctrine, not to mention criminal behavior, by the very hierarchy that this bishop constitutes and represents. It's sickening. How can any Catholic not have serious, serious doubts about the moral authority of the church and not acknowledge the rot at the uppermost levels of the institutional hierarchy and leadership of the church.

The Wonderful Confraternity of Jesuit High School of New Orleans

First, Fr. McGinn, let me wish you a good morning! And let me assure you that this posting will only have nice things to say about JHS.

Second, I just want to give a big shoutout to the Class of '86 gang who gathered for lunch today at Commander's Palace. What's cool about our class is that we get together 3-4 times a year for lunch, and everyone of our classmates is invited and welcome. I don't know if other graduating classes do this, but I'm very glad ours does. I always enjoy this camaraderie.

Since the subject of my blog came up at lunch today, I figured my classmate buddies in attendance might check out The Huck Upchuck. And since there is a healthy variance of ideological positions among our group (though I may very well be the most outspoken lefty among us), the joke is that one must be careful what one says (especially among the ideologically conservative among our group) lest it appear on The Huck Upchuck as part of some vicious and snarky diatribe and get someone in trouble!

Rest assured that I take those lunches as a sacred trust and would never betray our confidences. Besides which, all ideological differences aside, there is not a better bunch of guys in the world to hang out with. Just fantastically good guys, with hearts the size of Texas. And I would break partisan ranks in a heartbeat, without a second thought, and with absolutely no regrets whatsoever, to defend and affirm my Blue Jay brethren. So, I salute my Jesuit Blue Jay confraternity. Y'all are awesome!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rand Paul's Primary Victory in Kentucky

OK, folks. Hold your hats. What I am about to say may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn't.

As much as I find Rand Paul's social conservatism to be appalling and disturbing, and as much as I find his isolationist foreign policy positions to be naive and dangerous, I have to say that I'm a fan of his refreshing candor on fiscal policy. I sympathize with his concern for our debt load and our deficit-driven fiscal policy. I worry about the growing imbalance in our national budget. And I have said on any number of occasions on this blog that the big make-or-break item for the Obama presidency will be Obama's ability to bend the debt/deficit curve downards. But what I find most appealing about Rand Paul's fiscal conservatism is its refreshing honesty that any serious deficit hawk who loathes the prospect of raising taxes must put deep budget cuts in popular GOP spending items like the military squarely on the table along with entitlement programs. I may disagree with many of the ingredients in Rand Paul's recipe for regaining some fiscal sanity in our country, but I agree with his central emphasis on the need for attention to sane fiscal policy ideas and his frank acknowledgment that the mainstream conservative approach to fiscal policy is dishonest and farcical. So, if Rand Paul wins the Senate seat in this generally safe GOP state, I am secretly relishing the thorn in the GOP's side he will likely play in the Senate; and I am secretly hoping that some of his honesty on what needs to happen to seriously tackle the fiscal madness of our federal government will chasten the irresponsible and unserious players from both parties in the fiscal responsibility game.

Now, that said, I need to qualify my comments by saying that my own recipe as a liberal deficit hawk, if I can be called such, is very different in the particulars than that of Rand Paul. And I'll mention a few of these differences in a moment; but I would say also that on the fundamental fiscal goals of the need for balanced budgets, manageable debt, and defecit-spending controls, Rand Paul and I are not that far apart. However, here's where we differ. I am realistic enough to recognize that if I want spending on certain social programs like universal health care, social security, medicare/medicaid, I have to support revenue generating policies to pay for them. And if this means tax increases, then so be it. Like just about everyone, paying taxes is not my most favorite thing to do; but I'm happy to do so to pay for the things that I think government should be doing. Rand Paul and I would most certainly disagree on this particular; but I'm fairly certain that Paul would at least respect the seriousness of tax increases as at least a responsible approach to our shared fundamental fiscal goals, if not a preferred or desirable approach. I'd also probably disagree with Rand Paul on what programs should experience budget cuts and how deeply these cuts should be, but I would agree with him that budget cuts are an important aspect to fiscally sane policy. We'd agree on deep military cuts, but disagree on deep cuts to certain entitlement programs. In budget balancing policy, he'd probably prefer to shrink government more than I would, and chafe more at raising taxes than I would.

Whether or not Rand Paul's fiscal orientation is worth the price of having to live with his regressive social conservatism or his foreign policy unseriousness is another question altogether, which is probably why I still much prefer his Democratic opponent in the general election; but among the GOP options in the running, he would have been my preferred choice.

So, there it is. A rare moment where I'm more likely to be challenged and criticized by my fellow liberal compadres. But ... what can I say? It is what it is.

Texas, School Texts, and Historical Revisionism

Texas social conservatives on the State's board of education are attempting to push through a mandated revision of school textbooks that are clearly imbued with ideological bias.

Among the recommendations facing a final vote: adding language saying the country's Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and including positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the GOP’s Contract with America.

Other amendments to the state's curriculum standards for kindergarten through 12th grade would minimize Thomas Jefferson's role in world and U.S. history because he advocated the separation of church and state; require that students learn about "the unintended consequences" of affirmative action; assert that "the right to keep and bear arms" is an important element of a democratic society; and rename the slave trade to the "Atlantic triangular trade.”
First, what does it mean to include "positive" references to anything? Why not just teach facts and let the "positive" or "negative" dimensions of them surface accordingly. The need to spin things implies that they need spinning, that they can't stand on their own merits. And the spinning of things also implies imbuing history with a non-neutral ideological character. How would anti-abortion conservatives like it if Roe v. Wade were presented with a "positive" reference as opposed to a factual and ideologically neutral reference?

Second, why would anyone ever try to "minimize" the role of one of our founding fathers in world and U.S. history strictly because of his thinking on one particular issue? It seems to me that we ought to take Thomas Jefferson as he is, and not whitewash him to fit a particular ideological agenda on a controversial subject. But the absurdity of the movement to restructure a curriculum according to an ideologically driven agenda, as opposed to a factual agenda is no more evident than in the ludicrous effort to call the Atlantic slave trade the "Atlantic triangular trade." Huh? What the heck does the "Atlantic triangular trade" mean? That the trading of geometrical shapes took place in the Atlantic? That Atlantic trading followed a triangular trade route? Sheesh! The Atlantic slave trade is a friggin' historical reality. But I have no friggin' clue what an Atlantic "triangular" trade is!

If nothing more, what we see here is evidence of a movement not dedicated to objective truth in education, but to historical revisionism cloaked in political ideology. It's sad and disturbing. Like the whole upset over "ethnic studies," this story demonstrates again what I think is a last-gasp convulsive reaction, rooted in fear, to the inevitable and unstoppable evolution of American culture and identity away from a particular homogenous mythology. The culture and identity of America ain't what it was 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. And no amount of revision to school textbooks is gonna change that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SB 67 - Government Mandates Use of E-Verify System

SB 67 is another piece of immigration legislation, sponsored by Louisiana State Sen. Danny Martiny, that requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system to determine an employee's legal status.

I've got no problem with this legislation in principle; but I do think that this legislation has serious implications for businesses that folks in the business community, especially small businesses, ought to be aware of.

First, the bill establishes a technology mandate for the establishment and operation of a business. It requires employers of any size either to institute a technolocigal capacity to participate in the E-Verify system in-house, or it requires employers to assume the added expense of sub-contracting the E-Verify task to an outside provider.

Second, the bill requires businesses to police the compliance of their sub-contractors. This may pose an impossible burden on businesses. The question that pops up in my mind is how does a business certify that a sub-contractor (and any sub-sub contractor) is E-Verify compliant? Is it simply enough for a business to rely on a subcontractor's claims of compliance in a contract agreement? If so, I fail to see how this would be any different that an employer's ability to rely on the claims of its own individual employees' compliance with legal status. How does a business "verify" the compliance of a subcontractor with the E-Verify system?

Third, there is evidence that points to a less-than-perfect accuracy rate in the E-Verify system's ability to determine one's legal right to work. This raises a philosophical question: is it better to unfairly punish even a certain, small percentage of those legally able to work because of a false verification outcome, in exchange for excluding a higher percentage of undocumented workers from the U.S. labor market; or is it better to guarantee that all individuals legally qualified to work are able to do so by not instituting a punitive verification system and thus allowing undocumented workers to participate in the U.S. labor market, too.

Again, I'm not opposed to mandating some kind of verification system for employers; but it is worthwhile to consider the punitive and potentially discriminatory impact of such a system on the business community and the legal labor market, as well as on the undocumented worker community.

Monday, May 17, 2010

HB 1205 Update

Well, well, well ... Rep. Harrison's Proposed Substitute for HB 1205 is now available for review. And it's actually worse.

Whereas the previous version at least had an Affirmative Defense provision that qualified the "harboring" and "transporting" sections of the bill, the new version, as far as I can tell in my reading of it, has done away completely with any kind of Affirmative Defense provision. Although the original Affirmative Defense provisions were unconvincing and problematic to many of us, at least some kind of effort was made to try to give some recourse to nonprofits providing humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants or to attorneys representing undocumented migrants. Now, there's not even that. It seems to me that Harrison's new language represents a clear and unabashed slap in the face of charitable nonprofits and immigration lawyers who work with undocumented immigrants out of a concern for basic human dignity and well-being, not to mention a sense that even undocumented immigrants have the right to some kind of legal representation without creating the threat of criminal prosecution against their lawyers simpy for doing their job. This proposed substitute bill does, I think, comment negatively again on Rep. Harrison's character. It makes him now seem not only angry, but also vindictive. And it's also yet another tactical mistake, because any nonprofits or immigration lawyers who may have been assuaged by the Affirmative Defense provision will now have to join the full ranks of the opposition to this bill if they want to protect their interests and continue their work.

But I have come across something even more telling about Rep. Harrison. Here's a guy who is proposing a bill whose fiscal impact on the State's budget is estimated to be upwards of 6-7 millions of dollars annually.

And yet this very same guy is the author of House Concurrent Resolution 25 (HCR 25), submitted in the very same Congressional session, which reads, in part:

WHEREAS, each new area of government spending tends to become entrenched and grow exponentially in future budgets in perpetuity; and
WHEREAS, such growth imposes increasing budgetary demands that lead to more and greater taxation; and
WHEREAS, tax revenue is money taken from individuals by government and cannot therefore be available to each of them for use according to their own individual needs; and
WHEREAS, compelling arguments against overly burdensome taxation have focused on the ability to maximize tax revenues and thereby contribute to greater government growth; and
WHEREAS, the true virtue of lowering the tax burden imposed upon citizens by government is that it expands individual liberty and thereby allows for greater economic growth; and
WHEREAS, maximizing liberty is a more desirable societal goal than maximizing tax revenues and government growth.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby memorialize the Congress of the United States and other state legislatures to pledge to return government to its proper purposes and to reverse its encroachment into areas best served by private individuals.
I ask you: is there a fundamental contradiction in what this guy advocates and believes? So it seems to me.

Thought on Arizona's Ban on Ethnic Studies

This ban is, literally, the "ethnic-cleansing" of knowledge. How damn scary is that?!?!?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

James Perry Opposes HB 1205

A few days back, I posted a blog entry that asked both James Perry and Helena Moreno where they stood on HB 1205, and I invited each of them to send me an email with their answer. I heard back from James Perry. Still waiting on Helena Moreno. Here's what Perry had to say (note that I lost much of the formatting of Perry's email blast in the cutting and pasting process, but the text that appears below in the forwarded message is verbatim from the email blast that Perry sent to me):

I'm opposed to the bill and have been actively working against it. Below is the email blast my organization did regarding the bill back in April.

James Perry

Begin forwarded message:

From: GNO Fair Housing
Date: April 20, 2010 4:44:10 PM CDT
Subject: Voice your opposition to anti-immigrant HB 1205!


The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) opposes House Bill 1205, "Louisiana Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2010," because it is likely a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The bill will increase racial profiling and discrimination on the basis of national origin in the state of Louisiana. Please call Representative Harrison at 800-935-2081 today to express your opposition to House Bill No. 1205!

Among many other problematic provisions, HB 1205 would make "it illegal to harbor, conceal or shelter undocumented persons in the state of Louisiana." According to the bill, first time offenders will be fined up to $1000 or imprisoned for up to 6 months. A subsequent conviction may include a $2000 fine and/or 1 year in prison. In order to prevent legal liability, landlords may be required to illegally profile tenants or face the risk of criminal prosecution. Courts have deemed such profiling and housing discrimination to be illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act.

The HB 1205 approach was previously ruled unconstitutional. For example, in 2006, the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania adopted laws similar to HB 1205 that criminalized landlords and employers for knowingly or unknowingly renting to or hiring undocumented people. The City of Hazleton was sued over the ordinances, and in 2007 the Court declared the Hazleton ordinances at issue unconstitutional and enjoined the City from enforcing them.

HB 1205 is also opposed by Puentes, a New Orleans based advocacy organization. Puentes raises additional concerns that HB 1205 would make it illegal to transport undocumented residents and require local and state police to verify the immigration status of anyone they arrest. Puentes argues that such requirements are illegal and require local and state police to engage in enforcement outside their jurisdiction. You can read Puentes' analysis of some of the other provisions of HB 1205 and find out how to get involved with efforts to stop the bill here.

You can read the text of House Bill 1205 here.

For more information about the Hazleton ordinances that have been struck down in Federal District Court, check out this video.

Then, call State Representative. Harrison at 800-935-2081 today, and tell him that you oppose House Bill No. 1205!

Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center
404 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 596 -2100
I'm impressed, and I couldn't agree more with Perry's advice on what to do about HB 1205. I should have known this already, especially since Perry's position has been partially informed by the advocacy on the issue done by Puentes-New Orleans; but I'm grateful to James Perry for filling me in nonetheless. If opposition to HB 1205 is important to you and if you will be heading to the polls to vote in the upcoming election, keep this in mind. If I lived in that district, and if the voting were held today, I'd be voting for Perry.

It Feels Like Rain

Commit to Stand Against HB 1205

If you are on Facebook, oppose HB 1205, and might be able to make a trip up to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge sometime over the next week or two, and especially if you are a Louisiana resident, please consider joining this Facebook group. And invite your friends and colleagues to join, too.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Random NOLA

Resurrecting an old blog posting category ...

Here is my next addition to Random NOLA, which is a blog posting category that features a photo that I've taken from places around the city of New Orleans that make up a part of my day. They won't be pre-arranged. And I'm going to try to make them pictures of inconspicious scenes, but potentially identifiable to the attentive native. In other words, don't expect to find pictures of the Superdome or the St. Louis Cathedral or other such easily identifiable places. Where possible, I'll also try to keep street signs out of the picture, too. The goal is not only just to share a brief, random part of the path of my day, but also to see if true NOLA-philes can figure out exactly where in the city this scene is located. So, without further ado, here's the next "Random NOLA" Photo. Click on the picture to enlarge it. Give it your best shot and put your guess in the comments section:

Eugene Robinson Nails It On Arizona's Ethnic Studies Ban

For anyone outraged at the State of Arizona's recent efforts to ban "ethnic studies" in its schools, this editorial by Eugene Robinson is an absolute must read. I mean, Robinson just eviscerates this mean-spirited effort. Read the whole thing all the way through -- many times. But this little snippet is a gem all by itself:

Arizona's top education official, Tom Horne, fought for the new law as a weapon against a program in Tucson that teaches Mexican American students about their history and culture.

Horne claims the Tucson classes teach "ethnic chauvinism." He has complained that young Mexican Americans are falsely being led to believe that they belong to an oppressed minority. The way to dispel that notion, it seems, is to pass oppressive new legislation aimed squarely at Mexican Americans. That'll teach the kids a lesson, all right: We have power. You don't.
Good thing there's no "ethnic chauvinism" in Horne's postion, right!?!?!?

As someone who teaches in and works for a Latin American Studies program at a Title VI National Resource Center on Latin America, I'd add one other little note to Robinson's critique: Arizona's ban on "ethnic studies" is an assault on intellectual freedom. It's anti-intellectual. It is knowledge censorship as bad as, if not worse, than book banning. There is absolutely nothing inherently treasonous or anti-American or any other gross exaggeration of the pursuit of knowledge in the study of different races or ethnicities. Hell, what's next? Banning Jewish Studies? Even from a conservative/libertarian perspective, one should find this effort absolutely repulsive for its patronizing and freedom-squashing and culturally-homogenizing intent. What? Do they think that students are incapable of thinking for themselves? It's 100% pure, unmitigated nativist fascism.

HB 1205 Update

Now that I've got Commencement stuff behind me, I can give a little time and attention to HB 1205 [Click here for the full text of the bill.] and my recent experience in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana State Capitol this past Thursday where I went with a strong contingent of about 40 people or so to register opposition to and to testify against this bill.

The Judiciary Committee commenced its hearings at 9:00AM and it wasn't until about 38 minutes into the Committee hearings for the day that HB 1205 came up for consideration. If you want to see the video archive of the Judiciary Committee hearings, click here. If you want to skip to the moment when HB 1205 was called up, go to the 38 minute mark. Here you can listen to Rep. Harrison, who authored the bill, voluntarily defer the bill and give everyone a lecture on how this bill is being misunderstood. The whole span of the Committee's attention dedicated to HB 1205 lasted about 4 minutes. Watch the clip from the 38 minute mark until the 42 minute mark to get it all in. As you listen to this 4 minute segment, I would ask that you note a couple of things: (1) Rep. Harrison never mentions the purpose and target of his bill. Listening to him speak, with the exception of a reference to the Arizona legislation, you would hardly notice at all that the bill is about illegal immigration. Read the bill closely, listen to Harrison try to explain this bill, and then compare for yourself whether what Harrison claims matches up with what this bill tries to do. Personally, I think Harrison is being vague and dishonest. He declares that the intent of this bill is to get the Federal government to do its job; but what he doesn't say is that the bill actually makes no mention of the federal government, doesn't target the federal government, and doesn't even indicate what the federal government's job is. It is a bill that tries to get the state to usurp the federal government's job. In that sense, it is exactly like the Arizona legislation, even if it is different in the particulars. His little bit of grandstanding, without giving those of us who showed up any opportunity even to question or challenge his deceptive representation of the bill, is a pretty pathetic abuse of the hearing process. In essence, he got an opportunity (and one presumes as much time as he would have liked) to mischaracterize his own bill, to mischaracterize what we who oppose the bill actually think is problematic with it, and to try to craft his intentions with the bill in the most positive light possible -- all without having to face any kind of challenge or criticism of his pontifications. (For this little bit of procedural shenanigans, I also hold Cedric Richmond to account, too; for Richmond, who was chairing the hearings at the time, let this happen.) [UPDATE, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 4:10PM: Upon reflection and acknowledging the way these hearings are conducted, I don't think Richmond should really be taken too much to task. As anyone will note who attends these hearings, it is customary for Committee Chairs to give some latitude to fellow Committee members in commenting on and moving forward legislation that they have authored. I think Richmond was acting well within the practices of the legislature. As was Harrison, too. He took a bit of license with his comments; but it was brief and not overly abusive of his privileges.] (2) Speaking of Richmond, I do think it was clear that he also was caught off guard by the controversial nature of this bill and perhaps that may explain why he got snookered procedurally by Harrison in terms of letting Harrison have his say officially in front of the Committee and denying anyone the chance to rebut or respond. To get a sense of how our presence played out, listen to the last half minute or so of the clip. From the 41:30 minute mark to the 42:00 minute mark. Once Richmond thanks us for coming, you can hear the seats of the chamber snap up. If it weren't for that little bit of audio, one would never have any idea of how impressive a presence our group was in that hearing room. Even Cedric Richmond, in an unguarded moment, can be heard on the microphone at the end of the clip murmuring something like: "Jeez, this is controversial, isn't it?"

So, make what you will of that moment. A telling moment, if you ask me. But the best part of the story was yet to happen.

After our contingent left the hearing room, we all congregated in the hallway right outside the room just to discuss what our next steps would be. And while were were there, even before we had the chance to really start our conversation and say our good-byes for the long ride back home, Harrison made a boneheaded tactical error. He came up to the entire group (and remember that he sits on the Judiciary Committee himself, and so had to actually leave the ongoing Committee hearings to do so!) and confronted us. Granted, it took him some courage to approach our large group; but his anger and frustration at the showing we made caused him to say some things that came across as quite patronizing, offensive, and aggressive.

Before I mention some of these things, you should know that in our group were some of the most knowledgable, dedicated, and aware members of the scholarly, religious, and activist community who have many years of experience working on immigration issues and working with immigrants. The Director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute was there, the Executive Director of Puentes-New Orleans was there, the Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Services for the Archdiocese of New Orleans (and former Director of the Hispanic Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New Orleans) was there; the Director of Adult Education for the Hispanic Apostolate was there; and a good number of other people with extensive experience working with the Latino population were there. This was not a bunch of rabble rousing loudmouths holding up placards and chanting protest slogans, but a group of intelligent and experienced folks with serious concerns and a lot of data to share on the impacts of this proposed legislation. So, what did Harrison say to this group of people?

(1) He basically called this group ignorant and unstudied on his legislation. He even had the gall to imply that we didn't really understand the legislation and that we needed to study up on the legislation and the issues surrounding it. Regardless of what he meant to convey, his comments along these lines basically insulted just about everyone in our group.
(2) He told us that our showing up at the hearing was unfair to him and he chided us for not communicating with him previously about the bill (as if all we had to do was to get together and help him write a bill that we all thought had no place being written in the first place). He was visibly upset that we showed up in such force and numbers. He was apparently caught off-guard by this and got angry. In fact, one little tidbit of information that I haven't mentioned yet is that right before Richmond called up his bill, Harrison went up to Richmond and apparently asked him who had shown up in opposition to the bill (because we all have to sign little cards indicating the reason for our presence before the session started) and we could see Richmond whispering to Harrison as he waved his hand indicating that the entire left side of the hearing room was filled with us. But to come up to us and to essentially tell us we were out of place in showing up because we didn't have the courtesy to warn him in advance of our concerns and intentions to show up, now that took some chutzpah! And it conveyed to every single person in our group that he had no desire nor inclination to want to let us have our say in this public setting. He came across as the worst type of politician who believes that his little domain in the State Capitol, among his little legislative/politico fraternity, has no business being defiled by, you know, us citizens!

Of course, a few of us tried to respond to his rants, but I won't go into these responses. Suffice it to say that it was tense. He was perhaps a bit too aggressive and confrontational in tone and spirit (and some of us responded in kind). It wasn't an ugly exchange, and we all (including Harrison) kept our cool, but it was uncomfortably tense.

But I can assure you that the one definite outcome of his approaching us in the manner he did (and which was tactically a mistake on his part) is that (1) he conveyed to us that our numbers rattled him and (2) that he poured gasoline on the fire in the bellies of all of us to show up the next time with each of us bringing two or three sympathetic friends and colleagues in tow.

Had he just left us alone, we may have been just deflated by having made the trip only to be dismayed by the procedural delay. But instead he made our trip seem meaningful at the same time that he essentially challenged us to gird up for a fight. Rest assured, we'll be ready. He had to deal with about 40 of us last Thursday occupying half of the seats and one whole side of the hearing room. Next time, he better be ready to speak to a standing room only crowd of opponents.

Oh, by the way, he still hasn't responded to my email letter. If and when he does, rest assured that I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Question for Helena Moreno and James Perry

I initially thought that I would stay out of the Helena Moreno/James Perry runoff election for Karen Carter-Peterson's old seat in the Louisiana State House of Representatives. And I'm still gonna hedge a bit by not issuing any kind of endorsement. But it dawned on me that whoever occupies this seat will have a vote on legislation that I consider directly important to my well-being and the well-being of many of my colleagues and friends. So, in the spirit of perhaps getting a little bit of clarity from the candidates on some current legislative initiatives in the House, I'd like to pose and open question for both Helena Moreno and for James Perry:

Where do you stand on HB 1205, otherwise known as the Omnibus Anti-Illegal Immigration Bill? Would you vote for or against this bill as it is currently written?
And if you care to elaborate on the reasons for your position, I'd be happy to hear them. Just send me an email at or post your answer in the comments section.

Letter to Rep. Harrison, Author of HB 1205 in the Louisiana Legislature

This morning, I went to Baton Rouge to testify against HB 1205. The author of that bill, Rep. Harrison, noting the significant opposition represented at the hearing, moved to delay consideration of the bill. So, I didn't get to testify. However, after we vacated the Committee hearing room, and while standing in the hallway outside of the room, Rep. Harrison approached us and we had a very tense encounter. I'll have to fill you in more completely on this encounter later, as I am a bit rushed at the moment. One of the things that came out of this encounter was a request by Rep. Harrison that we give him the courtesy of communicating our thoughts to him on the bill between now and when the next public hearing on it will be. I obliged him in this request. What follows is the email that I just now sent to him:

Dear Rep. Harrison:

My name is Jimmy Huck and I was a part of the group this morning that came to stand and testify in opposition to HB 1205. First off, I would like to express my thanks at your willingness to engage us. Even though it was a bit tense, you did not have to approach us. But you did. You made the effort, and I appreciate it. I am also writing because you invited us to be in contact with you and to express our thoughts on the actual bill itself. I am happy to take you up on this offer.
As I mentioned in our exchange this morning, I am a Tulane University professor in the Department of Latin American Studies. I don't speak on behalf of Tulane or my department, but only for myself. My own opinion comes from having dedicated almost my entire adult life to studying, research, and publishing on Latin American affairs; and I have been a careful student about the issue of immigration and immigration reform, since this subject affects many of the people with whom I associate both professionally and personally. I have coordinated conferences on the subject, I have spoken on a variety of panels as an expert on local Latino affairs, and I have been actively involved at the community level in advocacy work regarding immigration and other matters of importance to the local Latino community. I only mention this to you so that you will know that I am actually quite knowledgable of the issue and very much aware of its full dimensions. Some of your comments this morning seemed to imply that we were somehow ignorant of the subject, especially in terms of the impact of undocumented immigrants on the state's economy and its public finances, and that we thus needed to study up on the subject. I have to say that this implication came across as very patronizing. I can assure you, we are not a bunch of rabble-rousers, and are much more knowledgable of the subject than you presume. The fact that many of us did not contact you about the legislation when it first emerged should not come as a surprise. First, you are not my elected representative. In fact, I would imagine that you are not the elected representative of any one of us who were present. So, naturally, any contact we might make with the Legislature regarding any piece of legislation would be through our duly elected district representatives, especially legislation that we oppose and want no part of. Second, you are operating under the false premise that I agree with the core purpose of the bill (that the presence of undocumented immigrants in Louisiana is a problem that needs to be solved), and that it is only a question of tinkering with language that divides us in finding a solution to this supposed problem. As far as I go, this is not the case. I, as well as many of my colleagues, do not think this is a bill that should even be considered by the State Legislature in the first place. So why would you expect me to have contacted you to work together in crafting this bill when my opposition is to the very existence of such a bill? Third, while I certainly understand that the demands of time preclude you from talking with every single constituent who has a stake in this bill, I do believe that it should be incumbent upon you, as the bill's author, to at least try to seek out some guidance or advice from those with specialized knowledge of the subject, both among those who would support the bill and those who would oppose it. It's something that I would imagine forms a part of your legislative due diligence. Fourth, your indication this morning that we were somehow out of place in showing up at an open, public hearing on your bill to express our opposition and testify against it, was, frankly, quite astounding. Is that not precisely what these hearings are for? You spoke about the need to represent the best interests of the state and its citizens. I agree with you. And let me assure you that I believe this is precisely what I, and my colleagues, were hoping to do this morning in opposing this legislation. I will continue to oppose this bill in any form, not because I doubt your good intentions, but because the same spirit that forms the motivation for your good intentions leads me to do so. Sometimes, folks just disagree. And on this matter, we disagree. The legislative process, by guaranteeing open hearings and inviting public participation, provides for the resolution of such disagreements. I will do my small part to make the case to persuade your fellow legislators that this bill has no business in the Louisiana State Legislature and is bad for the state, and you can do your part to persuade them otherwise. The chips will fall where they will. We were not out of place this morning. On the contrary, we were in exactly the place we needed to be; and it is a place we have a right to be in a free, democratic society.

You can certainly gather from the note some of the things that came up in this hallway encounter. I'll try to relate the story more specifically later. For the moment, though, I'll leave you with this: instead of 40 folks in the Committee hearing room, Harrison better expect double or triple that amount next time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Pretty awesome:

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are scheduled to perform in New Orleans at the House of Blues on Tuesday, June 15. I'm bummed that I won't be in town to see them. But you should definitely plan to go!

And to see how talented the Carolina Chocolate Drops really are, compare the above performance with the one below. Notice particularly how the instruments have changed hands with no discernible compromise in performance quality. This is one multi-talented musical group.

Testifying Against HB 1205

Heading up to Baton Rouge tomorrow morning to testify against HB 1205 in front of the Louisiana House Judiciary Committee.

This Omnibus Immigration bill is the Louisiana version of draconian anti-illegal immigration legislation. Again, what shocks about this bill is that it potentially targets and threatens law-abiding citizens for essentially being kind or doing good deeds. Of course, the bill's proponents would never admit this, but the language in the legislation is purposefully vague enough such that this intention is clear.

Anyway, my planned testimony tomorrow focuses less on the philosophical or moral reasons for opposing this legislation (I'll let the Catholic Church lobby tackle that aspect of it), but more on the practical implications that such legislation is likely to have on colleges and universities. If I do get to testify, I'll put up my testimony in a separate blog posting.

As for the rest of you, I encourage you to read the bill and then contact your state representative, especially if he or she is on the State House Judiciary Committee, and express your opposition to this legislation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Big Oil's Clever Collusion

So we learn:

On Tuesday, in the same hearing room, executives from BP and two oil services companies exchanged blame for a Gulf of Mexico rig accident that occurred despite similar assurances that technological upgrades had made offshore drilling perfectly safe.
Of course they did.
At both hearings, BP America President and Chairman Lamar McKay said the failure of the "blowout preventers" owned by rig operator Transocean, had to be considered as a possible cause.

Steven Newman, CEO and president of Transocean Limited, said the blowout preventers "were clearly not the root cause," suggesting they might have been damaged from debris from cement barriers installed by Halliburton just before the accident.

Tim Probert, Halliburton's president of Global Business lines, said the company had followed BP directions, and noted that the drilling contractor "used seawater for the final cement plug," which some industry officials said is unusual.
How tidy. The colluders in crime all point the finger at one another. One can imagine the hidden smirks and winks behind the pretend gravity of their somber finger pointing. It's almost enough to make a person think that these slimy bastards planned this circular blame game from the outset. They're all cowards. Here are three companies all acknowledging that something went terribly wrong, that they're all clearly implicated (I mean, where else does the buck stop?); and yet their circular finger-pointing confounds anyone one of them truly owning up to the responsibility for this disaster of epic proportions.

They disgust me. I mean I can't properly express how disgusted I am with these slimy, shifty, cowardly, pathetic excuses for corporate honesty, decency, and responsibility. Not only are these slimeballs in full CYA mode, but they are colluding in this.

Monday, May 10, 2010

500 Miles

Just because I'm thinking about it:

Thought of the Day: The Anti-Elite Elite

Have you noticed how "tres chic" it is among the conservatve hoi polloi to condescend towards anything that approaches exceptionalism? The word "elite" is a dirty word among this crowd. It's the new anti-elite elitism. Heck, even conservative elites have to pretend that there's nothing more admirable than mediocrity and that there's nothing better than being the average Joe the Plumber. In a very ironic way, it's the conservative version of Marxist egalitarianism. In short, to the anti-elitist conservative, to be demonstrably superior in any way to the average American is, essentially, to be anti-American.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To my own mother, Mary, who had 6 kids within a 7 year period (and all by the time she was 24 years old), and who still is an amazing woman, I wish much love for Mother's Day.

To my wife, Michele, who keeps our family afloat in so many ways and who is just adored by our two lovely daughters, whom she keeps healthy and happy, I also wish much love for Mother's Day.

And to all mothers, everywhere, who give life and who nurture life, I wish you all much love and solace on this day.

Sarah Palin and the Dumbing Down of America

I have been reading a lot lately about how Sarah Palin's appeal is due to her ability to connect with "real" America and how she is just like so many other average Americans. I agree that Sarah Palin's appeal is because of this. However, what I can't understand is that people actually think this should be the hallmark of a leader. It's the dumbing down of America. We speak of America's greatness, and yet Sarah Palin's appeal is precisely for the opposite. She's not great; she's average. She's not impressive, she's ho-hum. She's not thoughtful or curious, she's actually vacuous and devoid of ideas. She's not even inspirational in any meaningful way; she's just happenstance celebrity. I challenge anyone to point out anything about Sarah Palin that represents anything even remotely accomplished that a parent would want her daughter to imitate. Sarah Palin is no role model for my daughters.

Let's try to think of this in a different way. When people say that they feel drawn to Sarah Palin because she is like them, don't you think you ought to know a bit more about who these people are who make this claim? Who is it that Palin appeals to and why? Are these people who live dysfunctional lives? At another level, I find it problematic that people who are drawn to Sarah Palin convey in their support for her that they want their leaders to be a "normal person" just like them. What does this mean when we recognize that of us are not very extraordinarily skilled in leadership, or knowledgable enough about complex matters, or psychologically prepared enough to endure in such a stressful and demanding job. Is that really what we want in a leader? Mediocrity? Sarah Palin's celebrity is because of her mediocrity. That's just pathetic, if you ask me, and is quite the opposite of what this country promises.

I know some very self-absorbed, ignorant, and troubled people who think their lives are "normal." They think that their lives are as "real" as it gets -- especially because they haven't had an easy life (even though it's a life they made for themselves). Yes, yes ... I know ... call me elitist; but I believe that being leader of the free world requires someone extraordinary, not someone ordinary; and the reality is that very few of us have what it takes to be President. I include myself in that number. I think there is a lack of imagination when people are drawn to someone as a leader not because of anything special about that person's abilities that transcend the average; but precisely because of that averageness. I also think that there is something very pedantic and even narcissistic to think someone worthy of leadership because they are like "me." I, personally, want my leaders to inspire me to something more, greater, better than what I think I am capable of or what I am accustomed to.

In fact, of the many conservatives I know, the ones who like Sarah Palin are people, even ones who are salt-of-the-earth good people, whom I would never, ever want to hold any position of authority over the public trust. Of the many conservatives I do know who are smart enough to recognize that extraordinary ability is actually desirable in a leader, almost none of them support Sarah Palin for any kind of authority in governing.

I come from a very humble background. Neither of my parents got a high school degree. They eventually earned their GEDs, but their formal education stopped there. Thank God my parents didn't ascribe to the attitude that I find undergirds much of the support for Sarah Palin, else I wouldn't have been encouraged to get all "elite" by going to a good university and aspiring to something beyond a career as an electrician, which is the family trade. In fact, the attitude of the Palinites is one that has its own elitism -- one that snubs its grubby "real America" nose at the American dream of becoming part of an elite. If you distinguish yourself from the "average" American, however that is defined, then you are one of those snobby elites who think they are better than the "average" American. It ascribes success outside of what Palinite America defines as success as "elitism." I just think it's plain jealousy at the success of others. How else can one look at the story of Barack Obama and think that his story is not as much the quintessential story of the American dream as any other. And yet the Palinites despise Obama because of his success and his abilities. They call him elitist because he resists the Palinite embrace of the dumbing down of America. Palinites can have their "Joe the Plumber" America. I prefer an America that recognizes the value of "Joe the Plumber" America, but sill aspires to something greater than that.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sarah Palin as a Spice Girl

Bible Spice!

Came across that in some blog comment section.

Gotta love it.

Making the rounds is Sarah Palin's latest buffoonery tweet:

Gulf: learn from Alaska's lesson w/foreign oil co's: don't naively trust- VERIFY. Livelihood affected by spill?Don't sign away remedy rights
Some facts: (1) Alaska's lesson w/foreign energy companies involve Sarah Palin's pipeline contract with TransCanada. (2) Alaska's biggest environmental disaster involving an oil compay was ExxonMobil's Valdez spill. ExxonMobil is a US-based company. (3) Sarah Palin's going "nativist" with British Petroleum. So much for her commitment to our "allies." (4) Sarah's hubby Todd worked for 18 years for British Petroleum. Long time to hitch one's wagon and family livelihood to such an untrustworthy "foreign" company. (5) Trial lawyers are salivating at her stance that folks shouldn't "sign away remedy rights." How's that for some tort reform advocacy?

The woman is absolutely pathetic. Breathtakingly pathetic. Shockingly pathetic.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Coach Jack Hebert, RIP

Coach Hebert, who passed on peacefully at age 82, was an institution at Jesuit High School.

What I will remember most about Coach Hebert was that he was the best damn Geometry teacher in the entire city of New Orleans. And I'd put him up against any high school geometry teacher in the country.

He was an old-fashioned teacher. He was strict and he believed in the value of memorization. In Geometry, where knowlege of postulates and theorems is the bread and butter currency of the field, memorization is a worthwhile endeavor. And Coach Hebert drilled this stuff into our heads. I remember for the first time absorbing the purity and beauty of mathematics in Coach Hebert's honors geometry class.

The other thing I remember about Coach Hebert was his dedication to sports. He was a great coach and an avid fan. Long after his retirement, Coach Hebert could be found at Jesuit Baseball games regularly with his scorecard and stats book. I often wondered whether he enjoyed scoring baseball games more because he loved the geometry of tracing the diamond and the algebra of calculating batting averages and earned run averages, or because he simply loved the game itself. I suspect it was a combination of both.

He was a good man who had a significant impact on many young lives. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Coach Hebert.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Immigration Policy

My friend and colleague, Martin Gutierrez, has a sensible and thoughtful letter to the editor in the Times-Picayune. I, personally, am probably a bit more liberal in my attitudes towards our immigration and border policy; but I have an enormous amount of respect for Martin and his position is one that I can work with.

Congratulations to Latin American Studies Award Winners

Today was my department's annual Spring Awards Ceremony. I just want to publicly congratulate all of our various award winners. Nice ceremony and fun reception afterwards. I consider myself fortunate to be surrounded by some very smart, talented individuals.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Dedication On the Eve of the Landrieu Era

Damn, that's some good soul. This is what I love about New Orleans and what makes this city the best damn place in the world.

To Start Off the Month of May: Playing for Change

This is old news, but it's still cool nonetheless. And a reminder every now and then never hurts: