Sunday, August 29, 2010

Liberals and Pickup Trucks

I've had a pickup truck for about 7-8 years now. And it's one of the best investments I've ever made. As a liberal myself, I have some advice to the liberals who think poorly of pickup trucks, their owners, and a kind of hick culture that is associated with owning a pickup trucks: Think twice about mocking the pickup truck and its owner. Rest assured one day you will be humbly asking some pickup truck owning friend or neighbor for some help moving something around. And he or she will gladly put their truck at your disposal, too. It's partly why pickup truck owners purchase these vehicles, so that they can use it for these moments to lend a helping hand. Today, I helped a friend move a refrigerator from one place to another, and not only did the pickup make the job infinitely easier, it also allowed for about an hour or two of good socializing. Now I need to say that this friend is not the kind of person to go around making fun of a stereotyped pickup truck culture, but I do know that there are those out there who do joke at the pickup owner's expense. It's just that driving around and having a good time with my friend as we moved the refrigerator around made me think about this a bit, and so I wanted to have my little say here.

I can be quite snarky at times when it comes to conservative "red America" culture. And the pickup truck is clearly associated with this culture. And though I think there are some things about "red America" culture that I find silly, the pickup truck is definitely not one of them!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

MBH Pottery at the Palmer Park Arts Market Today

Well, it's once again that time of the month when my lovely bride will again be out at the Palmer Park Arts Market setting up her booth to sell her pottery. The market will be running today, Saturday, from 10am-4pm, even though the weather forecast is poor. In any case, my B-2/3 has been hard at work all month and has added significantly to her inventory of pieces. So, if you want to support a great cause and pick up some wonderful pieces of handmade, high quality pottery as wedding gifts, birthday presents, early Christmas or Hannukah gifts, or any other kind of gift, please get your umbrella and do come out to the Arts Market today at Palmer Park on the corner of Claiborne and Carrollton Avenues and look her up. Not sure which booth number she's been assigned, but you can find out where she is at the information booth. MBH Pottery or Michele Benson Huck Pottery is what you should look for. Of course, as usual, Michele will also be doing live demonstrations at her pottery wheel, so please come out, enjoy the market, and stop by to visit Michele to see how pots are thrown!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Glenn Beck, MLK, and The "Ground Zero Mosque": Where's Beck's "sensitivity"?

Glenn Beck, who has called the first black President of the United States a racist, is now mounting a rally and gathering, of all places, on the anniversary and at the site of MLK, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Let me take a page from his own playbook, and that of other anti-Islamic "Ground Zero Mosque" demagogues like Sarah Palin (who is also planning to attend the event): "You have the right to hold your rally, but that doesn't make it right." Why can't a guy who calls his own President a racist, just because he looks at Obama's skin color and thinks it must be so, hold his rally at another location out of sensitivity to all those black Americans who find Beck and everything he stands for to be repulsive and offensive. The Beckolite, Palinite, fundamendalist, demagoguic wing of the Tea Party is downright disturbing. The seething, irrational anger and bigotry and hate that this wing has a knack for stirring up -- and then runs away from -- really, really bothers me. And I find their unwillingness to acknowledge what their demagoguery does (and, I believe, is consciously intended to do) to be cowardly and pathetic. I get sickened by the state of rightwing fundamentalism these days. It's divisive, ugly, full of hate and rancor, and seething with contempt and animosity for anything that differs from an arcane, traditionalist, cultural/racial/social orthodoxy that just simply doesn't describe our country any more. How do rational, economic, small-government, low-tax conservatives look at this wing of the movement and still find themselves attracted enough to them to find common cause with them? This wing of conservatism is not interested in liberty, small government, individual initiative, etc. They are all about culture wars and will gladly use the big stick of government and the irresponsible practice of frenzy-inducing, fear-based, "mob"-inciting demagoguery, to promote their repressive and viciously intolerant agenda.

The Consequences of Fundamentalist Demagoguery

Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all the other demagogues whipping up anti-Islamic fundamentalist frenzy over the "Ground Zero Mosque," this is the direct fruit of your demagoguery. And it's disgusting. Beware the tiger you have starved, frightened, and then unleashed. Beware the genie you have uncorked from its bottle. The ugly side of America is rearing its head and feels emboldened to do so by your demagoguery.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tiger Rag (For Eric)

The Light Crust Doughboys (from 1936):

Threadheads Records Foundation

A great cause to support, with details below from a friend who is helping to spearhead the cause and who is soliciting votes. Please consider voting for the cause ...

Hey all,

I know I continue to ask - but we are down to the wire and we need to be in the top 10 to receive funding for this project. We only have a few days left in August and it is critical that everyone votes, every day, and sends it out to as many people as possible,

This is a real opportunity to make a serious contribution to helping more musicians in New Orleans have work. This project will generate revenue and keep things moving. All it takes is a single mouse click. If we got 500 people to vote each day for the whole month of august - it is something like the equivalent of donating $3 each time you click your mouse. How cool is that?

Please help us make this a reality. And, for those of you concerned, I have been supporting various projects throughout this contest by Pepsi and have not received a single piece of spam, marketing or other 'crap' from them or other people.

go in, sign in (or register) and THEN vote. to sign in click vote before you do - then fill out the stuff- and once you hear the sound of a can being opened and the pepsi pouring (the sound - not a video) then you can vote. You will get a screen based confirmation that you've voted for the project.


Nine Lives Project
Click on the "Nine Lives Project" link above to be taken to the appropriate website where you can register and vote. Thanks!

Pastor Norvell on the "Ground Zero Mosque"

My friend, and the Pastor of my wife's Church, Rev. Travis Norvell, has an excellent op-ed in the New Orleans Times-Picayune today in defense of the "Ground Zero Mosque":

The American tradition, unlike the European tradition, is not one of tolerance but of mutual respect. Liberty of conscience is a two-way street. I grant you liberty of conscience, and you grant me liberty of conscience. I may disagree with you, you may disagree with me -- that is OK, but we promise not to damage, threaten nor take away the free pursuit of truth from each other.

If I take it away from you, then I have abused both my own pursuit of truth and yours.
Let us all stand firm in our practice of soul liberty. Let us all stand firm in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters, our fellow American citizens. Let the community center and mosque be built, and let our grand tradition of the liberty of conscience prevail.
Kudos to Rev. Norvell! My wife did a great service by being on the Pastor Search Committee that brought Rev. Norvell to New Orleans. And it is also a testament to the fact that even in the "deep south," one can still find a progressive group of "southern" baptists!

Another Thought on the "Ground Zero Mosque"

You know, the more this issue has been in the news, the more I think this can be nothing but good for the cause of freedom and for Islam in America. The uncontestable truth of the situation is that all of America is learning more about Islam in America and about the beliefs and loyalties of Muslim Americans. I have every confidence that as Muslims are brought more into the open to speak about their thoughts on the controversy, the more mainstreamed they will become, and the less threatening they will seem. It's like anything: get to know something better and more regularly, and that thing will become less mysterious and less fear inducing. So, for all the ugliness that this whole controversy has spawned, in the end it will merely serve to undermine the roots of such ugliness.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Levi Johnston, Mayor of Wasilla?

Curioser, and curiouser! This soap opera drama is like the Energizer Bunny ... it keeps going ... and going ... and going ...

Miss Mexico Wins Miss Universe

In my many travels to Mexico, and particularly to the city of Guadalajara, the people often say that the women of Guadalajara are among the most beautiful in the world. Now, there's some evidence to give credibility to the claim:

A 22-year-old Mexico woman won the Miss Universe pageant Monday night after donning a flowing red gown and telling an audience it's important to teach kids family values.

As Jimena Navarrete of Guadalajara walked during the evening gown competition, her one-strap dress billowed behind her like a sheet. Earlier, she smiled in a violet bikini as she confidently strutted across the stage on the Las Vegas Strip.
Good for Mexico. That country needs some good international press.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sharron Angle and Religiously-Based Policy

Here's an interesting story written by a Nevada journalist about a moment some 20 years ago when Sharron Angle used religion as a rationale for preventing a high school football team from donning black jerseys. Angle claims she doesn't remember that moment; but the reporter telling the story was apparently a parent of one of the football players at the time and has very clear memories of this event. Just goes to show that Angle really is not above using religion as a policy bludgeon. From my perspective, all the signs are clearly present in everything that Angle does which would indicate a willingness to use her strong religious convictions as THE foundation for her public policy positions, and using religion as a means to restrict the free expressions of others, even in such a harmless thing as the color of a football jersey.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Big Band Bicycling Playlist

In my previous post, I mentioned my "Big Band Bicycling" playlist in the context of my growing interest in the great early bandleader and drummer, Chick Webb. Then I got to thinking that it would be cool (and perhaps of interest to all of my two regular readers!!!) to actually know what this playlist is composed of. (My wife is a big "spinning" exercise person, and though I know next to nothing about "spinning," I thought that this playlist would make for an interesting "spinning" routine playlist, too.) Anyway ... here's my "Big Band Bicycling" playlist:

1. C Jam Blues-- Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (2:38)
2. Tiger Rag -- Preservation Hall Jazz Band (7:48)
3. In the Mood -- Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (3:34)
4. At the Swing Cat's Ball -- Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (2:35)
5. Taxi War Dance -- Count Basie & His Orchestra with Lester Young (2:50)
6, Christopher Columbus -- Humphrey Lyttleton (4:16)
7. The Sheik of Araby -- Coleman Hawkins' All Star Octet (2:58)
8. Big Chief de Sota (Grand Terrace Swing) -- Fletcher Henderson
9. Swing That Music -- Louis Armstrong (2:51)
10: American Patrol -- Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (3:19)
11: Who Ya Hunchin'? -- Chick Webb & His Orchestra (2:52)
12: For the Good of Your Country -- Count Basie & His Orchestra (3:15)
13: Take the "A" Train -- Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (2:54)
14: Cherokee -- Charlie Barnett & His Orchestra (3:15)
15: Count Bubba's Revenge -- Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band (6:38)
16: Opus #1 -- Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra (2:56)
17: Battle Royal -- Duke Ellington & Count Basie (5:35)
18: (I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo -- Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (3:16)
19: Stompin' at the Savoy -- Harry Connick, Jr. (4:17)
20: One O'Clock Jump -- Count Basie & His Orchestra (3:04)
21: Boogie Woogie -- Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra (3:11)
22: Jumpin' at the Woodside (1938 Version) -- Count Basie & Quincy Jones & His Orchestra (3:05)
23: Sing, Sing, Sing -- Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (8:39)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chick Webb

is my latest fascination in my study of early jazz music. In the morning when I'm riding my stationary bike to what I call my "Big Band Bicycling" playlist, I mark time by the selections on this playlist. And I always find myself eagerly anticipating the selection from Chick Webb and his orchestra that I have on that playlist. It's a great composition and one that is swinging and very uplifting. It's called "Who Ya' Hunchin'?"

Here's a bit on Chick Webb from Ken Burns' outstanding "Jazz" documentary film:

New Graduate Student Orientation

Completed! Phew! It's been an exhausting couple of days, but always very worthwhile, in which my department welcomes the newest additions to our intellectual community of advanced scholars of the region of Latin America. We've got eleven extremely bright, wonderfully talented, and extraordinarily diverse new graduate students. I'm looking forward to watching these newest members of our intellectual community grow and thrive in their academic pursuits. Bienvenido!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Attention College Freshmen: How You Should NOT Approach Your College Career

The Impersonal Internet and Political Discourse

I have to agree with conservative blogger and pundit Conor Friedersdorf, who had some interesting and astute comments about how ideological passions expressed through the impersonal (and sometimes even anonymous) nature of critical commentary on the internet aren't really reflective of the character personality types of the people making the comments. Friedersdorf's comments are made as a partial defense of talk radio listeners, but the examples he uses to make his point really come from an evaluation of his critics who post exceedingly harsh comments online about him and some of his positions. He claims that when he makes the effort to engage even the harshest of his critics in a more personal and direct way (and with respect), these critics generally tend to soften up by being forced to acknowledge (or at least directly confront) the humanity of the person on the receiving end of their harsh critical commentary. He writes:

The whole enterprise [of personally, respectfully, and directly engaging his critics on Mark Levin's Facebook page] was grounded in the assumption that Internet commenters aren't always being real. That is to say, if you read an Internet comments section, and see content that seems like it couldn't have been written by a reasonable person, what's happening is often that whoever wrote the remark wasn't intending to stand behind the literal meaning expressed, so much as engaging in a sort of game where what you do is produce zingers or blow off steam.

It isn't an approach to politics that I like, and it exacts a cost on the rest of us who take a more earnest approach, but I'm paid to engage in political conversations. I tend to hold my colleagues in media to a lot higher standard than people who haven't spent a lot of time thinking about political discourse. They've got other jobs! (Sometimes when I write non-media professionals who've criticized me in particularly harsh terms, they seem genuinely surprised to find out there is actually a human being who writes the stuff that appears under my byline on the Internet.)

Engage the authors of these sorts of comments regularly and you'll find that they're actually a lot more reasonable than their Internet personalities at first suggest, and particularly worth speaking with because they're exactly the kinds of people who don't share my assumptions.
I have to say, as someone who frequents the comment boards of conservative blogs and websites, that this would be my evaluation, too. And, of course, when I think about the people I do know personally (relatives and close friends) who are ideologically polar opposites of me, it is actually the norm that ideological difference doesn't get in the way of friendship, respect, and camaraderie. When you get to know someone in a much more human context, what is actually much more real about life and shared human experience melts away most knee-jerk hostilities to ideological or political positions. Humanity and civility almost always trumps ideological rigidity and rancor.

I have even had the opportunity to meet personally a couple of individuals for whom my ONLY contact and relationship with them initiated in the heady oppositional and impersonal medium of blog comment boards. And these meetings were intended to be social and pleasant encounters - usually going out for a bite to eat or for a drink. Without exception, these individuals, who can be quite persnickety and antagonistic on the blog comment boards, are some of the most friendly, pleasant, reserved, and modest people in person. And when that shared personal moment passes, and we're back to our contact being filtered through the blog comment boards, the tone of our relationship is markedly changed. We just aren't as eager to jump down the other person's throat, even when we vigorously disagree on a point. And it's all because we now have this shared human moment that we can't ever shake. We simply know that who we are as people just doesn't match how we come across on blog comment boards, and that the "real" people we are simply matters more in determining how we relate to each other in any other context from that moment on. I frequently have to remind myself of this when I read very strong criticism of my comments, even ones that are intended as personal, ad hominem attacks. And though I'm not immune to losing myself in the heat and headiness of some exchanges, too, I do think that I have become a bit more circumspect and sensitive to my online behavior towards ideological rivals because of this understanding.

From the Archives: Advice to Young Conservatives

getting ready for college.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rising Tide V Conference

It's coming up! If you are a NOLA blogger, or just want to see what folks in the NOLA New Media community are doing to keep focus on our great city, come to the conference!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Saw the movie last night. What a sad, sad story. For the life of me, I can't think of a more depressing and heartwrenching situation. I was thinking about all the strikes that poor girl had against her, and the more I added these strikes up, the more depressed I got. To wit: A black, 16 year old girl, who is obese, illiterate, and desperately poor. Who was physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically abused since she was 3 years old. Who was raped by her father multiple times over many years. Who gave birth to two children by her own father, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome. And who was infected with the AIDS virus by her father. What other misery can be added to this? And yet, the most tragic thing about that story is that I can imagine that it's not as uncommon a story as one would hope. In terms of the performances by the actors, I thought they were quite good, better than average; though I'm not convinced that Mo'nique's performance merited the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I think the most surprising (and quite good) performances were given by Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey. But it is a movie that lingers with you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Louis Jordan: Five Guys Named Moe

One of the jazz jump music greats:

Added treat: Louis Jordan's "Beware" -- considered perhaps the first precursor to "rap" music:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sloppy Saints? C'mon, Folks! It's Pre-Season!

So, the defending world champion Saints played their first pre-season game of the coming football season on the road against the always formidable New England Patriots and lost 27-24. So what do the Times-Picayune sports reporters have to say about the game? Saints Are Sloppy!. I even read in the print edition this morning that the performance of the Saints was "disturbing."

My reaction: IT'S THE FRIGGIN' PRE-SEASON, FOLKS! Sloppiness rules the roost during pre-season. For every team. And there's nothing disturbing at all about it. It's expected.

I've never understood why anyone gets so invested in a pre-season game. The only folks who ever play with any kind of intensity during pre-season are those who are vying for roster positions. The starters play as if it's just another practice. Which it really is.

Suffice it to say that I HATE pre-season football coverage and analysis.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Thoughts on the Ground Zero Mosque

I have been pondering this culture war situation and I have come to a conclusion about why it has become such a cause celebre among the left. Of course, many conservatives see the left's embracing of the cause as a sign of America-hating Islamophilia and a blatant middle-finger to the families of the victims of 9-11. But I see the left's attention to this issue as springing out of a reaction to the rightwing's clear cognitive dissonance here. Speaking for myself (and perhaps other lefties will share my view), I find myself a bit taken aback by the many clear "exceptions" to conservative orthodoxy that so many prominent rightwingers are espousing in their opposition to the whole project.

First, there is the question of private property rights and the role of any state authority to regulate the use of private property. Here we have a case where the rightwing is demanding some kind of coercion on the part of some civil authority to put roadblocks in the way of private property rights and the freedom of individuals to use their private property as they see fit. This seems to fly in the face of two cherished principles often brandished by the rightwing: (1) the right of individual property owners to do what they want with their own property, and (2) an opposition to the heavy hand of the state in manipulating how private property is managed.

Second, there is the question of freedom based on reason as opposed to coercion based on feeling. I can't count the number of times I have heard conservatives complain about how liberals are guided by emotion and pursue policy based on feelings and the need to be "sensitive" to the feelings of any particular interest group. And this critique of liberals is always contrasted with the idea that conservatives are the opposite: they look at things rationally and let foundational principles guide their decisions as opposed to letting emotion and feelings get in the way. And yet, with the Ground Zero Mosque, we have conservatives playing a kind of politically correct "be sensitive to the victims' feelings" game that would seem to trump any contract and decisions made by individual property owners in terms of what they get to do with their own property. So, the only logical conclusion to draw here is that, on some issues that elicit gut emotional reactions from conservatives, feelings and emotions should serve as the prime motivation for public policy, even to the extent of constraining private property rights.

Third, there is the whole conservative ideal of decentralizing decision-making and authority such that local decision-making should be privileged over federal or national movements. The whole "states rights" mantra that conservatives advance with vigor is rooted in this notion. And yet, when it comes to the actual local community's decision-making authority to determine the suitability and appropriateness of the Ground Zero mosque, many conservatives seem to be abandoning this notion in the hopes of rallying a national force that can cooerce the local community to behave against its will and against its better judgment.

For these three reasons, among some others, I think liberals look at the conservative reaction to the Ground Zero mosque -- and they look at the stridency and militancy and anger in this reaction -- and are simply aghast that so much of conservatism's supposed foundational principles are being ignored. And the fact that this abandonment of foundational principles by conservatives is connected exclusively at what amounts to an anti-Islamic movement, in spite of the fact that Muslims were also victims in the 9-11 attacks and are also members of the American population, leads liberals to think that it's nothing but bald-faced religious (and perhaps ethnic) bigotry at the expense of fundamental freedoms at work in this controversy, and a bigotry that is being stoked and demagogued by many of the so-called leading voices of American conservatism.

It is a moment where the worst stereotypes of conservative bigotry are being revealed as bearing some truth, and where conservative claims of a rock-ribbed, unwavering adherence to particular principles of freedom, private property, and small, unobtrusive government are being revealed as phony.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The New York Times Features NOLA

The New York Times has a great photo feature on New Orleans today in its "Lens" blog. The feature is titled "Ward by Ward, New Orleans Marches Back." The photographer is Mario Tama. Check it out.

Vacationing in Atlanta

For the past few days, my family and I have snuck in one last summer vacation jaunt before the school year kicks in for all of us. We've been in Atlanta since Saturday and have had some fun times. The main reason for our trip was so that Squirrelly Girlie the Elder could visit with some friends she made during her first Baptist Youth Camp earlier this summer. You know how those intense camps can go. So, we mitigated some of the emotionally draining and depressive aftereffects of the experience by promising that we would make this trip to hook up with her new BFFs. And that's what we've done. It's been a very relaxing and good trip so far. One highlight of the trip was our visit to the Atlanta Aquarium, which is superb. Here are some pix of the Aqarium creatures we saw on the outing:

And here's Squirrelly Girlie the Elder with her BFFs:

Another great thing about the trip was that I got to see one of my best, lifelong friends from high school AND college, Iron Man G-beaux-beaux (and when I say Iron Man, I mean it literally -- he qualified for and competed in the Kona Iron Man race. The dude's a hoss!). G-beaux-beaux and his beautiful family live in the Atlanta area and it was great to see them. Here we are:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thought of the Day: Conservatism and the Contradictions of "Definitions" -- Torture and Marriage

What should we make of a conservatism that twists, parses, revises, and otherwise mangles the definition of the word and concept of "torture" in order to justify behavior which would "traditionally" be actually considered torture, a behavior whose purpose is to inflict unimaginable pain and harm, physically and psychologically, on another human being for what can only be called a questionable greater good, and at the same time demand adherence to a "traditional" definition of marriage for the express purpose of denying something that would give immense joy and happiness to another human being and which would have absolutely no discernible impact on its adherents' own ability to experience joy and happiness? It is a contradiction that exposes both the mean-spirited irrationality of this strain of conservatism and the underlying intentional harmfulness and disrespect for human dignity that defines this strain of conservatism.

Friedrich Hayek, Nazism/Fascism, and the Angry Social Cons of the Tea Party Movement

I recently picked up my copy of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, considered one of conservatism's hallowed tomes, and was rereading certain parts of it when I came across the following passage which struck me as having an eery particular relevance to the angry and aggrieved conservative Tea Party movement as filtered through the likes of folks like Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart. What really struck me was the scary parallels between Hayek's characterizations of the origins and purposes of National Socialism (or Nazism) and Fascism with how one might characterize the Tea Party movement as manifested by Palin and Breitbart. Now, I want to be clear that I do not believe that the Tea Partiers of today are like the Nazis/Fascists of the 1930s. I simply found that Hayek's characterization of the origins and motivations of Nazism/Fascism seem to mirror what populist demagogues like Palin and Breitbart represent at what I would consider the fringes of today's Tea Party. See if you don't find this passage by Hayek unsettling in this regard. (Note that what Hayek is doing in this passage is differentiating between what he calls the "older socialism" -- or "labor socialism" -- what I would called 19th Century "Marxist socialism" -- and Nazism/Fascism. To be clear, Hayek believes Nazism/Fascism is the inevitable offspring of the older socialism and operates under similar principles; but he does distinguish them in important ways, as the following passage shows):

The new socialist movement started with several tactical advantages. Labor socialism had grown in a democratic and liberal world, adapting its tactics to it and taking over many of the ideals of liberalism. Its protagonists still believed that the creation of socialism as such would solve all problems. Fascism and National Socialism, on the other hand, grew out of the experience of an increasingly regulated society's awakening to the fact that democratic and international socialism was aiming at incompatible ideals. Their tactics were developed in a world already dominated by socialist policy and the problems it creates. They had no illusions about the possibility of democratic solution of problems which require more agreement among people than can reasonably be expected. They had no illusions about the capacity of reason to decide all the questions of the relative importance of the wants of different men or groups which planning inevitably raises, or about the formula of equality providing an answer. They knew that the strongest group which rallied enough supporters in favor of a new hierarchical order of society, and which frankly promised privileges to the classes to which it appealed, was likely to obtain the support of all those who were disappointed because they had been promised equality but found that they had merely furthered the interest of a particular class. Above all, they were successful because they offered a theory, or Weltanschauung, which seemed to justify the privileges they promised to their supporters. -- pp. 118 in The Road to Serfdom (Pheonix Books imprint of the 1944 University of Chicago Press edition) This passage is the very last paragraph of Chapter VIII, which is titled "Who? Whom?"
Let's unpack this a bit. The Tea Party mantra of "taking the country back" from what they perceive as a socialist "aristocracy" (what is Barack Obama if not an effete, out of touch, community-organizing, labor-union-beholden, wealth-redistributing, Washington "insider" socialist who doesn't represent "real" Americans and their values/interests?) has led to a kind of victim mentality which sees reverse racism at every turn, a hostile mainstream media intent on denying them a fair representation on any matter, and deception and mistrust of Washington "insider" politicians, all of whom just aren't listening to them. I look at the antics of Andrew Breitbart, Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Rush Limbaugh, etc., I watch folks lambast the health insurance reform legislation while clinging to their Medicare/Medicaid entitlements, I see the blanket vilification of Islam coupled with the privileging of the Judeo/Christian religious traditions, I watch many conservatives go to Orwellian ends to redefine the meaning of torture in order to rationalize away their embrace of torture all the while demanding in outraged anger adherence to a singular and intransmutable definition of "marriage" as something that happens only and exclusively between a man and a woman -- so much so that they want it codified in the Constitution! --, and I can't help but think that Friedrich Hayek would be very, very wary of some of the stronger, more irrational impulses of the Tea Party movement, particularly its social conservative agenda.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Night Out Against Crime

A few nights ago, I attended my neighborhood's "Night Out Against Crime" event. It just so happened that the event in my neighborhood took place at the Catholic elementary school that is literally right across the street from my house, so it was very convenient and easy to attend. It also happened that the event in my neighborhood served as the overall kickoff location for what was a city-wide initiative that featured some 200 neighborhood gatherings like the one in my neighborhood. So, I got to see up close and personal just about every major political personality (at the local, state, and federal levels of politics) that have any connection to the City of New Orleans. Of course, Mayor Mitch Landrieu was there along with his Chief of Police Ronal Serpas. Other local politicians included city councilwomen Susan Guidry and Jackie Clarkson. New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro was there, along with his Federal Counterpart, US Attorney Jim Letten. And US LA District 2 Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao was in attendance. Along with a fair number of other folks. All in all quite an event, and I'm gonna put some pictures that I took of all these folks at the end of this posting. But before I do, I just want to make one comment/observation about the event. The event seemed to me to be too staged and too orchestrated. The politicians who got up on the stage to speak went through the standard boilerplate routine of thanking every other politician in attendance and for expounding general platitudes about fighting crime. It seemed like just another "all talk, no action" speechifying and the leadership there just didn't seem to have their hearts into it as one might have hoped they would. And you just knew that every single one of them was going to go to as many other neighborhood gatherings and say the exact same thing with the exact same amount of measured and choreographed "rah-rah enthusiasm." I stood there with my camera wishing that, for once, just one of the many politicians there would break from that tired scripted pablum they feed us and really just give us a frank, honest-to-goodness and heart-to-heart invocation. To put some real emotion and feeling into their speeches. I walked home from the event with my kids in tow thinking that for all the grand display of police and politicians there, that nothing really was going to come of it. It was a nice diversion for a couple of hours, and that was about it. And meanwhile, the bullets would continue to fall from the sky and put holes in our roofs. This was probably the first time that I ever really felt like the life of a politician was both a bore and a waste. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't angry or disgusted or negative about the profession; just kinda unenthused and a bit disillusioned by the malaise and boredom projected by the political leadership under a veneer of what seemed like a forced and strained cheerleading. Anyway, here are some of the pictures I snapped of the event:

Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Police Chief Ronal Serpas

US Attorney Jim Letten

Other Politicians: Jackie Clarkson, Susan Guidry, Anh "Joseph" Cao, and others.

Perhaps the best part of the event, though, was that Squirrelly Girlie the Younger got to meet some Police horses:

Quote of the Day

"Under the logic of the people challenging the judge's fitness to rule on a case involving gay rights because he or she was gay, one would have to find a eunuch to serve on the case, because one could just as easily argue that a heterosexual judge couldn't rule on it either." -- William G. Ross, an expert on judicial ethics and law professor at Samford University in Alabama.

Here's the thing that I find curious about the argument being made by social conservatives that the judge's sexual orientation is a de facto disqualifying characteristic in his ability to be a fair and impartial judge in a case like the Prop 8 one. It is usually these very same conservatives who often trumpet the principle of judging a person's worth in his profession on the merits of his performance as opposed to a personally defining characteristic such as race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Conservatives who argue that the judge's sexual orientation, whatever it may be, in and of itself, is reason enough to challenge his competency to judge over this case, and yet fail to make any mention of the quality of the judge's decisions in any of the previous cases he has heard, are not only being hypocritical but are also resorting to the ugly practice of playing the "gay" card in the game of identity politics much the same way that they often lament and criticize certain liberals for playing the "race" card.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Basil Marceaux - GOP Candidate for Governor in Tennessee

I know that the Democratic Party has its oddballs who run for political office (not the least of which is the Democratic Party's kooky candidate currently running for Senator in South Carolina), but one just can't help being tickled (in a fond, good way) by Republican Candidate Basil Marceaux's campaign for governor. Here's a campaign ad for Marceaux:

[Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan, who I think is a bit unfair to the GOP in his comments on what the Marceaux candidacy represents for the party and its issues.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Currently Reading

For pleasure: Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I've read a couple of Chabon's novels already: The Yiddish Policemen's Union and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and they were both excellent. And I've heard from many folks that The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is numbers of times better. So I'm looking forward to it. I'm about 40 pages in and it's taking me a bit to get into the book, but I can already tell that the writing is superb, even though I haven't fully gotten into the plot line nor the character identities yet.

I've also been a busy bee in terms of other pleasure reading and I think it's time to put up a listing of what I've read recently. I'll get that posting up soon, so be on the lookout for it.

Thoughts on the Overturning of Prop 8 in California

Well, my first thought is not really a thought but a reaction: Yeah you right!

[NOTE: As you might expect, Andrew Sullivan is all over this story with wonderful round-up coverage of the various reactions and musings about this decision and its impacts.]

Now that I've got that out of the way, let me proceed ...

I should start by saying that I have never understood the visceral antipathy to gay civil marriage in terms of social policy. From my point of view, I see allowing gay Americans to get married as a move towards enhancing freedom, ensuring equality, and even strengthening the institutions of marriage and family. I have never felt that my heterosexual marriage and my family unity was in any way undermined or threatened by any loving gay couple's marriage anywhere in the world (or, for that matter, by any unloving heterosexual couple's broken marriage). In fact, I have always contended that if someone's heterosexual marriage and family life was so fragile as to be shattered and destroyed by the abstract legalization of gay marriage, then that particular marriage and family was on shaky grounds to begin with. Furthermore, aren't we ultimately the responsible parties for our own affairs? If we let some other peoples' lives dictate the quality of our own lives, then we've got some serious problems of our own that probably require some professional psychological help. In fact, to the extent that there is some karmic connection between Bob and Joe's homosexual marriage in California with my and my wife's heterosexual marriage in Louisiana, it can only be a good connection. More people making a commitment to the institution in a bond of love means more power to that institution. There is nothing but good that can come out of gay marriage. And if someone just can't get beyond the "yuck" factor, that's just too bad. Go on living your heterosexual lifestyle. No one's gonna stop you.

I do want to address what will be the inevitable criticisms of the ruling. First, for those who decry the rulings of an "activist" judge who betrayed majority will, I want to point out that our system of checks and balances requires judicial review even of majority popular decisions. We do this in order to protect and defend the rights of the minority to full and equal constitutional protections. As A. McEwen writes so bluntly and clearly:

But there is a reason why this country has checks and balances. And there is a reason why people can’t arbitrarily vote on the rights of others without having to defend this vote in the logical arena of courts, where you can’t invoke panic by proverbially yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

In the courts, you must defend your position. And in the long run, you couldn’t.
This is our democratic process. And if those who oppose gay marriage can't mount a convincing argument in support of their opinions in front of the courts that passes constitutional muster, then it just proves that victory at the ballot boxes is not grounded in a logical defense of constitutional rights, but merely an outcome of successful demagoguery grounded in nothing but fear and hot air. So, please, if you don't want to come across as an embittered and sore loser, don't go whining about "judicial activism" or "activist judges." It's just not going to cut it. If we liberal gun control advocates have to suck up a judicial decision that overturns locally-legislated gun control initiatives popularly ratified in free and fair elections (i.e. Chicago or D.C.), then you can suck up this court decision without having to whine about activist judges.

At a personal level, and as someone who believes that there is a particular grace that comes to committed couples through the institution of marriage, I think it is a moral travesty to acknowledge marriage as a grace-filled institution and then seek to deny the benefits of this grace to anyone just because of their sexual orientation. In fact, that would seem to me to be an unconscienable and malicious evil. If you are a religious person who believes in God (and believes that marriage is something sacred), it would be like a stingy faith miser withholding God from someone who is actively thirsting for God. How terrible is that?

I think the tide has irrevocably turned in the United States in favor of gay marriage. It is a foregone conclusion. The question now is simply timing. The big remaining disappointment to me is the Obama administration's reluctance to take a principled stand on gay marriage, which is something that seems so clearly to me as a question of basic civil rights. Supporting gay marriage is simply the right thing to do, and the Obama administration's wishy-washiness about it is very unbecoming, especially when the administration proclaims to be an ally of the GLBT community out of one side of its mouth and yet refuses to embrace the GLBT community's unanimous embracing of gay marriage as the single most important issue facing this community. Obama should come out and directly state that he both respects the court's decision and agrees with it.

But this disappointment aside (and in spite of it), today is a great day for civil rights and constitutional equality for all Americans.

Sharron Angle and the Church/State Fusion of the GOP

A while back, I put up a posting about Sharron Angle in the context of what I called the "new televangelist model of conservative campaigning for political office." One of my respected readers called me out on the linkage between her fundraising efforts and her spiritual beliefs. We debated this point in the comments to that posting, and I made the best arguments I could in defense of my claim.

Now there is more evidence of the church/state fusion guiding Sharron Angle's campaign for public office that I believe makes my original claim about her televangelist fundraising methods even more credible.

Here's just one of Sharron Angle's recent remarks from an interview she gave to TruNews Christian Radio:

And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government. And you’ve just identified the real crux of the problem. I’ve also been endorsed by a PAC out of Washington D.C. and the name of that PAC is Government is not God. And I thought that that was so appropriate because that is really what’s happening in our society and we need to take our country back.
I don't see how anyone can read these comments by Sharron Angle and not think that every action she takes in her political campaign, including fundraising, is imbued with Christianist impulses. Her elevation of Christianity as the foundational principle of government is not only contrary to the beliefs of our founding fathers and a violation of the First Amendment (as opposed to a violation of the First Commandment!!), it is also scary.

Conservatives need to know that there is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian uprising bubbling up in their movement that is as much a threat to the fundamental freedoms we cherish in our society as they may think any kind of bigger government liberalism is among the political left. And I would argue that religious fundamentalism is a much bigger threat to our freedoms than higher taxes or the new health care reform legislation.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bristol and Levi: Wasilla Shore, Episode 2

Will the roller-coaster saga never end? It's sad, really. And I believe this is just another episode in a series that will continue to go on and on, getting seedier and seedier. I'd be more snarky about it, but it's just too tragic at this point. I can't help but feel awful for Tripp. Poor kid.