Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Legacy of Breitbart

Check out this surreal story:

I sat there watching this interview and could not believe that this was actually real. Is it really true that an Assistant Attorney General would be able to get away with this and still retain his job as someone ostensibly charged with the fair representation of the rights of all citizens in his state? And the Attorney General is not firing this guy? What gives? Here we have a public sector employee, someone who works in the Attorney General's office, essentially engaging in stalking, harassment, and all kinds of other egregious and legally-questionable behavior. Under different circumstances (say similar targeting an individual behavior based on racial or sexual characteristics), I could actually see this Assistant AG charged with investigating and prosecuting exactly the kind of stalking and harassment that the Assistant AG himself is engaged in. More and more, we see the fruits of what passes for Christian conservatism these days as it creeps into the halls of political power.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Taio Cruz: "Dy-no-mite"

Another catchy pop tune my kids listen to all the time. The tune grows on you, even though the video is pretty lame. Anyway, here it is:

Bonus: Flo Rida's "Club Can't Handle Me" -- I like this one better. Very Black Eyed Peas-ish. What makes the video cool is that it's got a little bit of capoeira in it:

Plaquemines Parish BP Spill Compensation Shenanigans

Plaquemines Parish Council Chairman (or should I say "Yahoo") Don Beshel, and a Republican I should note, has come up with an outrageous form letter that he's encouraging all Parish residents to submit to the BP Oil Spill claims adminsitrator for financial compensation because folks either have to pay higher seafood prices at the supermarket, or they actually now have to go to the supermarket to buy seafood that they could get previously directly from fishing themselves. [Click here to see a copy of one of these absurd letters.] Hell, by that measure, everyone in the damn world ought to be able to file a compensation claim against BP because the prices of fish are going up in supermarkets. And 4,000 people sent in this form letter seeking to cash in. It's crap like this that really ticks me off. And knowing the political/ideological proclivities of this Parish, I'd bet gobs of money that a majority of the folks submitting these fraudulent claims would generally pass themselves off anti-entitlement conservatives. I noticed the same thing post Katrina when many, many people that I know personally to be anti-entitlement and pro-personal responsibility conservatives (when it comes to such things as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.) all of the sudden themselves become the strongest voices of entitlement grievance because they were under-insured (or simply not insured) against hurricane damage and flood losses. So many of these erstwhile anti-entitlement conservatives, when it came to having to assume personal responsibility for their own gambles, looked to point the finger anywhere else but at themselves for their losses -- and then expected (and sued) anyone and everyone they could, whether it be insurance companies or FEMA, to get what they were "entitled" to. It really disgusts me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama and Internet Wiretaps

If there is one area (beyond his indefensible unwillingness to spend political capital to push for the end to DADT) where Obama roundly and rightly deserves heaps of criticism, it is in the area of executive authority and his apparent willingness to embrace the Bush/Cheney notion of the "unitary executive." This idea basically posits that the US President has the authority to violate civil rights with impunity, to do so under the claim of national security, and to reserve for itself the right to define what constitutes a national security threat. Obama has been almost as bad as Bush in his embrace of this notion and in his unwillingness to restore some kind of balance and check on unbridled executive power.

The latest manifestation of this disappointing trend in the Obama administration is the push to expand the government's ability to more easily wiretap internet communications. Here's the Obama administration's lame defense of this move:

"We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts," said FBI lawyer Valerie E. Caproni. "We're not talking about expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."
Yeah, that's a comfort. The Obama Administration is content to use "existing authority," as if that is some kind of justification. What the Obama administration glosses over is that the "existing authority" is reprehensible. It's what Obama campaigned against and what those of us who elected him thought he would bring back into some kind of balanced alignment. We wanted him to restrain an unchecked executive authority and not make use of it himself, under the justification that the guy preceding him did it, too. Sad, pathetic, and reprehensible. Obama, we expected better of you.

Kavalier and Clay, Pt. 2

Well, I finished Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It was a very good read and a well-written story. I certainly think it deserves its accolades and awards. That said, I also have to say that it didn't rise up to the hype in my mind. I would rank it as one of my better reads this year, but I wouldn't put it in my top 20 all time favorites. It's good, but it doesn't have the hallmarks of a classic. The one thing about Chabon that I do think is quite extraordinary is his ability to craft a creative story concept. The whole idea of comic book writing and the frame of the idea of "The Escapist" as a comic book superhero to parallel the life of Josef Kavalier is pure genius and pure fun. And Chabon is an equally superb narrative storyteller. You can see the same genius at work in The Yiddish Policeman's Union, where the story concept of a post-World War II temporary Jewish homeland in Alaska as opposed to the Middle East was also quite creative and intriguing. Nevertheless, Kavalier and Clay ended with a whimper. Chabon just lost the narrative steam in the last part of the story, and I gathered that he just didn't quite know how to wrap the story up. Still a good read, though, and one I'm glad I invested the time in. Next up, and I've already started it, is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. Let's see if this one lives up to the hype.

The Saints Lose

And they deserved to. Sure, everyone plays at the top of their game when facing last year's champs; but there were so many player mistakes, poor coaching decisions, and all around lethargy, that the Saints were fortunate even to have had the chance to win the game in overtime.

Forget Garrett Hartley's missed chip shot field goal in overtime. I don't blame him. These guys miss a few now and then. What I can't understand is the decision made by Sean Payton to actually kick a field goal on first down at the Atlanta 10 yard line. I've never understood the willingness to give up the momentum and three whole downs to try to punch the ball in for a sure score. It's a sign of a lack of confidence in the offense. What is there to fear besides a turnover, which is as likely to happen as a missed field goal? And if you go three downs and don't get the TD, you still have the exact same chance to win it with a field goal on 4th down. Just a poor coaching decision, if you ask me.

Oh well ... at least now the hyper-Who Dat-ism can dissipate and we can go back to a more regular, normal life here in New Orleans.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Anti-Islam Bigots on the Texas State Board of Education Strike Again

These fundamentalist Christian yahoos on the Texas State Board of Education are playing the victim card yet again in a thinly-veiled expression of anti-Islamic bigotry. The claim this time is that school textbooks give an imbalanced picture of Islam versus Christianity and claim that this imbalance paints a relatively positive picture of Islam and a relatively negative picture of Christianity. And this is absolute bunk. Let's just get down to some facts:

A national poll released earlier this week by the Angus Reid polling firm found that a narrow majority of Americans holds a generally unfavorable opinion of Islam, with 45 percent saying it is a religion that encourages violence. By contrast, only one American in 10 believes that either Christianity or Judaism "encourages violence,” the poll found.
To which one can only say with some irony to those bigots in Texas: "Yeah, with statistics like these, it's clear that people educated in this country are coming away from their schooling with an overly rosy picture of Islam (just a mere 45% Americans think of Islam as religion that encourages violence) and an overly negative picture of Christianity and Judaism (because of that excessively high 10% of Americans who think these religions encourage violence)." Do these bigots not think Americans are smart enough to see the wool that they are attempting to pull over our eyes? Do they think Christianity and Judaism in this country are more reviled and that Islam is more embraced here? These people are simply nuts. To them, 45% of Americans holding such a negative view of Islam (a religion that encourages violence) is not enough, and yet 90% of Americans holding a positive views of Christianity/Judaism (religions that do not encourage violence, i.e. religions of peace) is too little -- and that this somehow is the product of an imbalance in textbook coverage? Get real. If anything, this paints a clear picture of imbalance in exactly the opposite direction.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

David Vitter Demagogues the DREAM Act

For the life of me, I can't understand what could motivate David Vitter to be so viciously and aggressively opposed to the DREAM Act. All this Act seeks to do is to provide a path to regularized immigration status and an opportunity for legal permanent residency for undocumented migrant youth who were brought to the US before turning 16 years old and who have met a slew of other conditions. Many of these youth came to the U.S. at such an early age that the only country they know is the United States. These youth are fully assimilated, speak English fluently, have been educated in U.S. Schools, and have been models of civic responsibility. Some have even put their lives on the line in defense of the United States by serving legally in the US armed forces. For nearly all of them, the choice to come the United States was not made by them, but rather by their parents. Essentially, they are about as innocent of any intentional wrong-doing that can be imagined, are being punished for the "sins" of their parents, and are still forced to live in the shadows of an illegal immigration status. These young people are here and they are for all intents and purposes essentially U.S. citizens in every way that truly matters. How anyone can equate the DREAM Act as an insidious back door amnesty deal for sneaky border-crossing criminals is beyond comprehension; and such opposition has got to be motivated by nothing short of intentional malice. It's disappointing that it would have to be one of my State's Senators who is falling all over himself to be the lead voice in oppositional demagoguery on this issue. And it's reprehensible and shameful behavior on his part.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Spread of Tea Party Statism

And we've hooked another one. Here's Renee Ellmers, a Tea Party-endorsed, Palinite Conservative running for a seat in the federal Congress in North Carolina to replace incumbent Bob Etheridge (who, incidentally, is no favorite of mine since he pulled his bullying shenanigans on some Breitbartian shock-troop new media acolytes), declaring that, if elected, she will tell the "terrorists" (i.e. those behind the Park51 project near to ground zero: "No, there will never be a mosque at ground zero." Watch the authoritarianism (if not totalitarianism) at work:

Now, some might say: "Well, she didn't say explicitly that she would use the force of government to prevent these American citizens who happen to be Muslims from exercising their liberty to construct a house of worship wherever they want." To which I would reply: "Get serious." Here's a woman running for Congress, in a campaign ad, declaring that she will never allow the building of a mosque at ground zero in New York -- which isn't even the constituency she represents and which, by Tea Party conservative standards of federalism, she should have no business demagoguing in the first place! (At least Paladino, the Tea Party-backed GOP candidate for governor of New York, can make the argument that since the Park51 project is in New York, he would be within his Constitutionally protected right as the chief executive of the government of New York, to use state power to squash the liberty of American citizens to build their house of worship in his state. What constitutional claim, even by conservative "don't tread on me" Tea Party standards, does Ellmers have to defend her liberty-squashing position?)

Let's be honest and clear here: the ONLY purpose of this ad by Ellmers is to get elected to office on the promise that the power of holding this office (and voting to send her to this office) is precisely the thing that would ensure carrying out this liberty-squashing campaign promise. And to those who still aren't convinced about the implications of Ellmers campaign promise in this ad, I'd ask you to simply consider this: If someone followed up and asked Ellmers "Sounds good! Let's send those terrorists a strong message! So, how exactly, Ms. Ellmers, are you going to deliver on this promise?" What would she have to say? It would have to be something along the lines of "well, by electing me, you'll give me the power and the chance, as a government representative, to craft, sponsor, support, and/or vote for legislation (because that's what her job would be) that would prevent this from happening." In other words, state-sponsored authoritarianism.

The creep of real anti-liberty authoritarianism (or at least the disturbing roots of it) spreading out among the increasingly more emboldened of the Tea Party candidates. And it's like a domino effect: the more emboldened they get, the more this underlying agenda comes out, no only expressed as the personal opinion of a free citizen but also as the promise of an elected government official in the exercise of their official duties as they see it.

David Vitter and the DREAM Act

I'm too tired to say too much on this right now, but I can't tell you how angry and disappointed I am at the moment with David Vitter's mean-spirited, cynical, and irrational crusade against the DREAM Act, which is a bit of legislation that seeks to create a path to citizenship for high school and college age non-citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents upon meeting some very reasonable conditions such as earning a high school diploma, serving 2 years in the military, be of a certain age, have resided in the United States for a certain number of years, and have stayed clear of any trouble with the law. David Vitter's pandering to the worst elements of the xenophobic anti-immigrant crowd would lead him not only to punish innocent young people whose only life that they know may be in the United States, whose assimilation is fairly complete, whose existence in the United States was not something they even had any control over, and whose accomplishments in the United States have been exemplary, but also to advance a policy that drives even more people to a life in the shadows of illegality. It's just reprehensible.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Federalism, States Rights, and Liberty

Thinking on a comments exchange with one of my readers (Eric), I have been pondering the whole idea of federalism and states rights as it relates to liberty. Although I have some sympathy for the idea that the closer one gets to the local, the more effective and efficient politics can be and the more control individuals can exercise over their own affairs, I am wondering how States Rights advocates draw the line between the Constitutional provisions for the breakdown of authority between federal and state governments and the notion of liberty as a guiding principle. Let me try to explain what I mean in greater detail ...

It seems to me that we have the principle of liberty which should transcend any kind of division of authority, whether that authority is the federal government, the state government, or even the local municipal government. And yet we have a constitutional division of authority and power that only speaks of state governments versus federal governments without really any regard to the principle of liberty. In other words, irrespective of the universal principle of liberty which would seem to transcend any exercise of power by any governmental authority, whatever power that the Constitution does not explicitly afford to the federal government in terms of dictating the conditions under which citizens can live, markets can function, and state force can be applied, is afforded to the governments of the individual states. This presumes that either the federal government or the state governments have the power under the Constitution to rule over its citizens, even if this ruling is to constrict liberty, as long as the power to do so fits within the proper division of powers afforded in the Constitution.

Thus, where the federal government doesn't have the right to dictate policy, the states do. Many states rights conservatives often argue that the Constitution, where it limits the federal government, does no such thing to state governments in their reserved powers. Take, for instance, gay marriage. I often hear from states rights conservatives the idea that if state governments decide to discriminate against gay people when it comes to affording the rights and privileges of marriage, they have the authority to do so. Perhaps an even better example is abortion. The argument goes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned as an un-Constitutional exercise of authority by the federal government and that the issue of whether to permit or outlaw abortion should be kicked back to the states, where state governments get to make the final binding decision on the matter. And that's where the argument tends to stop. Many states rights conservatives are willing to accept the power of state governments to enact and enforce legislation that would constrain freedom as a matter of deference to state power afforded under the federal Constitution. Hence, individual liberty or freedom can be duly constrained in one state while it can be advanced in another state. So the notion of the principle of freedom and liberty becomes relativized according the whim of state governments as opposed to being recognized as a universal concept. Theoretically, one can have liberty to smoke marijuana in California, but not even have the freedom to drink alcohol in South Carolina, much less smoke marijuana. It seems clear to me in this sense that California would be a state that is advancing liberty relative to South Carolina, and yet states rights conservatives are often willing to accept the right of South Carolina to constrain liberty in this way. This relativism that sacrifices the principle of liberty on the altar of states rights creates a slipperly slope whereby more pernicious constraints on liberty can be justified -- racial discrimination, gender discrimination, etc. This is why many liberals see the states rights argument often as code for the ability to justify the constriction of liberty. Through this, my friend Eric can argue (and correct me if I'm misunderstanding your position, Eric) that a candidate for governor in New York who would seek to use the power of the state through eminent domain to forcefully prevent the construction of a mosque near to ground zero may be a rotten autocrat for holding this position, but that this is a matter for the state and its residents to decide, so that if this candidate were to be elected governor and were to exercise this power, well then that's New York's business and who are we in the rest of the U.S. to meddle in New York's affairs, even if this exercise of power constricts freedom?

I'm not sure I've expressed myself so clearly here, but I think what I'm trying to say in a nutshell is that there is an inherent tension between the states rights argument as commonly presented by many conservatives and the notion of support for a universal principle of individual liberty. This is why we get candidates like Christine O'Donnell talk about defending the sacrosanct notion of individual liberty, and yet still hold that some authority forcing a dress code or a dance code on people is still tolerable and legitimate under the Constitution and the reserved powers it grants to local authority.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Michael Jackson and the Moonwalk

I never realized it until tonight, but Michael Jackson's "moonwalk" was nothing but a rip-off of much, much better dancers who preceded the King of Pop by some 30-40 years. Watch this:

More Thoughts on Christine O'Donnell

So, she's "dabbled in witchcraft." I guess it could have been worse. She could have "dabbled in Islam." Think about the existential crisis this would have engendered among her social con supporters. From Maher's politically incorrect show:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Puritannical Christine O'Donnell Dabbles in Witchcraft

I thought it was bad enough that this woman has been a moral crusader against masturbation and thinks that lying under any circumstances is morally wrong, even to protect a Jew from the Nazis; but now we hear from her own mouth that she dabbled in some witchcraft. Yeah, that's gonna sit well with her Christianist supporters! What the Tea Party is producing in terms of Senate Candidates gets weirder and weirder. Although I watch with some degree of horror at these unfolding events, I must also admit to a kind of morbid curiosity to see what government would be like with these wackos in office.

I think that this November will witness some GOP gains in the House and Senate, just because of the mood of the country and the struggling economy; but I'm really beginning to think that when we wake up on the day after election day, we're going to witness much less of a conservative takeover than the pundits are now predicting.

Coconut Cinnamon Walnut Pralines

OK. Did a little candy making with with this kids this evening. One of my favorite sweet treats. Here's the recipe:


2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
2 Cups Refined White Sugar
2 Cups Evaporated milk
2 Cups Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Shredded Coconut Flakes
1 Tblsp Butter or Margarine
1 Teasp Vanilla Extract
1 Teasp Cinnamon Extract
1 Pinch Salt

Cooking Instructions:

Mix brown sugar, refined white sugar, and evaporated milk into an appropriately sized sauce pan (I'd say 4 quarts or larger). Cook over medium heat until the firm ball stage (240 degrees on a candy thermometer), stirring often. Once the mixture reaches the firm ball stage, turn off the heat, let sit for 2-3 minutes to cool some, then add the pinch of salt, the tablespoon of butter/margarine, and the teaspoons of Vanilla and Cinnamon extract. Stir for about a minute until the salt, extracts, and the butter/margarine are smoothly blended into what should be a creamy mixture. Then add the walnuts and coconut flakes and stir until evenly mixed (about another minute). Then, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture onto a pre-arranged wax sheet in 3-4 inch (somewhat circular) patties. Let harden and cool for about 10-15 minutes. Then eat! WARNING: Do not undercook the sugar mixture, or else you'll just get a gloopy, sticky mess. Makes about 18 decent sized, thick pralines the way I spoon the mixture out. Yum! The Squirrelly Girlies loved them. And if you really want to get creative and increase the sugar overload, you can crumble one of the cooled pralines over some Vanilla ice cream!

Herencia Hispana Festival

Taking a group of students to the Herencia Hispana Festival at the New Orleans Museum of Art tomorrow. If you want more information on the event, you can click here. It promises to be fun and entertaining. If you want to celebrate the Hispanic Heritage of New Orleans, and if you are in town, come out and join the fun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If It Looks Like a Duck, Walks Like a Duck, and Quacks Like a Duck

... then it IS a duck.

Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Jan Brewer, and now Christine O'Donnell. And I could add a fair number of men to the list, too. But the sense of victimhood, unaccountabilty, religious fundamentalism, and disturbing social mores about the proper role of authority in dictating proper moral behavior that guides the whole elan vital of these right wing neo-populists is worrisome.

Some might say: show me where they constrain freedom in what they actually have done, and not what they say motivates how and what they will do. And I say: is it worth putting into office these folks who look, walk, and quack in a particularly troublesome way when it comes to imagining the application of their social con rhetoric to the creation and implementation of policy, simply because they haven't done anything so blatantly noticeable yet in the policy arena that would reflect the values they claim motivate their political orientation and then waiting to see if they actually are the ducks they seem like they are?

I don't think true freedom-lovers would look at these kinds of neo-populist right wing politicians with wacky social conservative agendas that are decidedly freedom crushing and think that it's worth the risk that they might not behave like ducks once in office.

The trend of these kinds of socially-conservative, morally judgmental, and accountability-avoiding victim-identity-politics playing power seekers winning Republican Party primaries has got to be disturbing to many fiscal conservatives who are socially libertarian. Really, they might spout off the standard small-government, fiscally conservative boiler-plate rhetoric, but when you look at what these candidates themselves seem to indicate is what truly underscores their conservatism (that is their social/moral/religious convictions), what do you think will win the day when statism in the promotion and defense of their conservative social agenda comes into conflict with their supposed commitment to small-government, fiscal conservatism? Do you really think Christine O'Donnell would vote against legislation that seeks to create a new government program to promote anti-masturbation campaigns on the basis of some small-government conservative rationale? All you need to know in seeking an answer to this question is to just look at the walk, talk, and quack of Christine O'Donnell, and then recognize it for what it is.

Tea Party Leviathan

I think it is instructive to hear Tea Partiers hurl out as some menacing threat to politicians the trope that "the sleeping giant has awoken." I have been thinking about this kind of rhetoric coming out of the Tea Party, and I am becoming more and more convinced that this meme is less about the enlightened liberalism of John Locke who saw the state as an engine to bring about freedom and more about the medieval fear of Thomas Hobbes who saw the state as a monstrous and oppressive leviathan that needed to be tolerated as a necessary evil to keep a minimum of individual rights protected from the predations of other individuals. The "sleeping giant" reference I see as really being about rustling up the leviathan -- or at least calling for some of its dormant tentacles to get back into gear -- to render some kind of harsh justice against the direction of its predations. It's not the leviathan they actually seek to avoid in principle, but a leviathan that seems to have shifted its gaze on them, the wrong people, the "real" Americans, and needs to resume its proper role of preying on the other, "non-real" Americans. They may not like the feeling of being tread upon, but they certainly seem willing to do a bit of treading on others. And their push to "take back America" -- by which one can only mean harness the leviathan of the state to their own ends even if it means doing so at the expense of the liberties of another -- is rooted in a kind of fear. A fear of the leviathan as they perceive it to exist, not a fear of the leviathan itself. Put Sarah Palin in the Oval Office and watch the leviathan redirect its tentacles back at those in this country who need to be kept in their place.


I've been thinking a lot about how I would characterize my liberalism as it relates to other ideologies, and I have to say that a debate that emerged some weeks ago spurred on by a posting from Matt Yglesias some while ago in which he basically differentiated between his small-government tendencies at the local level, coupled with his recognition of a more actively-involved, bigger government at the national level, resonated with me. Here's the crux of Yglesias's point concerning might might be called his liberaltarianism in the form of an example:

Don’t think to yourself “we need to regulate carbon emissions therefore regulation is good therefore regulation of barbers is good.” Think to yourself “we can’t let the privileged trample all over everyone, therefore we need to regulate carbon emissions and we need to break the dentists’ cartel.”
There is a sense, as Yglesias said, that liberals think that the proper role of the state is to protect the freedoms of the little guy over the privileged big actors. This is where I think many small-government conservatives misunderstand the motivations of liberals. It's also what annoys me, too. Because I think there is an appropriate role of the state in constricting the ability of the privileged to manipulate social structures and institutions (and to harness the power of the state) to preserve that which maintains their privilege and constricts the liberty and opportunities of the marginalized -- i.e. that subsidizing student loans making it more affordable and possible for larger numbers of the less affluent to gain an education and thus improve the likelihood of their success in the marketplace, or that having the state ensure basic health care coverage for all, especially the most vulnerable, actually enhances freedom because it removes structural impediments that keep the downtrodden down -- many conservatives would consider me a socialist/communist/anti-individualist whatever. And this couldn't be farther from the truth. And it especially annoying when some of these very same conservatives go to extremes to argue that the legitimate exercise of state power is in preserving the structures that maintain privilege for a particular kind/type of person (i.e. a white Christian heterosexual) and constrict opportunity/freedom for a marginalized minority. For true small-government, liberaltarian-leaning conservatives, there are points of convergence with liberals that should form the basis for collaboration and compromise; but this never seems to be sought after. I wish it were.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cherry, Cherry, Boom Boom

Lady Gaga:

What???? Can't I like a little bit of nice, vacuous, cotton candy pop music every now and then????

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Birthday to SG the Younger

Today is Squirrelly Girlie the Younger's 8th Birthday. She was born at 11:55pm on the night of September 10, 2002. Five minutes before the first anniversary of that tragic event we now simply refer to as 9/11. One thing is for sure: SG the Younger is a wonderful gift and blessing. She is one of the nicest, sweetest, and most sensitive young girls I know. There is not a mean bone in her body. We all love her tremendously and wish her the best birthday she could possibly imagine. I know we did everything we could today to make it so.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Well, I'll be back at the radio station this semester spinning tunes. The great news about this, though, is that I've once again reclaimed a Jazz slot. I'll be back to hosting my regular Jazz show on Tuesdays from 6-8pm CST. WTUL live broadcasts online via, so tune in sometime. I'm very much looking forward to sharing more of my passion for early jazz. Chick Webb and Coleman Hawkins, get ready to be resuscitated!

Fun for Friday

Fireflies! (My kids love this tune from Owl City.) Enjoy!

Geaux Saints!

Well, the Saints just defeated the Vikings in the heralded rematch opening game of the season. This puts the Saints one game ahead of the Vikings and keeps the Saints undefeated!

In spite of my strong Who Dat credentials, I have to say that the whole hullabaloo leading up to this game has been intolerably excessive. I was dumbfounded that the New Orleans public schools let school out early today in preparation for the game tonight. Both my kids came home from school today with absolutely no homework because their teachers didn't want to distract them from the Saints game by saddling them with homework. Go figure!

People, people, people ... it's just a friggin' game. Fun, sure. Exciting, sure. Great for New Orleans, sure. But in the big scheme of life, this game tonight is pretty insignificant. At least not significant enough to shut the city down and declare a partial holiday. Not if my opinion matters, anyway.

But what are you gonna do? I almost embraced the heretical position of wanting the Saints to lose tonight (just tonight!), so that we could all go about our business normally for the remainder of the season. But I couldn't bring myself to want that. The only thing one can (must) do is to chant: Who Dat!?!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Exercise and Concentration

As I suffer through my morning exercise routine of stationary bicycling, I think of a lot of things. My mind races. And this morning, my mind pondered the following question: Why is it that when I exercise I can have intense powers of mental focus (either on a work task that needs to be addressed, rehashing an event from the past, formulating responses in my mind to blog postings I disagree with, concentrating on the rhythms and instrumental arrangements of the music I'm exercising to, etc.); and yet still be unable to focus my mind on what I would consider to be similar kinds of mental activity such as reading.

As much as I would love the distraction of being able to read a gripping novel, magazine, or some other engaging print media when I am exercising, I just can't do it. That kind of mental activity I seem to be incapable of sustaining. In fact, I would say that attempting to read and exercise at the same time induces a kind of heightened physical discomfort. And yet I see people at the gym all the time who pedal the stationary bike or run the treadmill and read at the same time. Makes me wonder if there are different parts of the brain that do different kinds of focusing and stimuli processing such that physical activity can interrupt the functioning of one kind of mental focusing activity but not another. In other words, why can I rehash a the complexity of a blog discussion thread in my head (and even add new ideas or thoughts to the mix) for extended periods of time when exercising, and yet can't sustain the mental focus to read through even a paragraph of printed text while doing the exact same exercise?

Random NOLA

Re-posting, because no one got it and I wonder if many people even saw it. So here it is again ...

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:

Sarah Palin, Koran Burning, and the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Sarah Palin has put up a Facebook posting expressing her opposition to the Koran book burning stunt being proposed by a Christian church in Florida. Her opposition to this Koran book burning seems like a noble gesture, but it's anything but. It's a qualified statement of mild opposition that uses the occasion cynically to try to demagogue the "Ground Zero Mosque" project ever more by making a kind of moral equivalence between the "insensitivity" of the mosque builders and the "insensitivity" of the Koran book burners.

The title of her Facebook posting is the following: "Koran Burning Is Insensitive, Unnecessary; Pastor Jones, Please Stand Down"

So, by calling on Pastor Jones to stand down, and then by linking Pastor Jones's call for a Koran book burning to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, Palin positions herself to claim a moral perch upon which to argue that she is being an equal opportunity critic of two expressions of "insensitivity." If she calls for Pastor Jones to stand down, well, by golly, isn't she justified in calling for the Imams behind the "Ground Zero mosque" project to stand down? How noble of her!

Pshaw! I say: How disingenuous and cynical of her.

She starts off the posting with this paragraph:

People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation – much like building a mosque at Ground Zero.
And then she ends her brief posting again with mounting an equivalence between the construction of the mosque near ground zero with the Koran book burning.
In this as in all things, we should remember the Golden Rule. Isn’t that what the Ground Zero mosque debate has been about?
To which I answer ... NO, NO, and EMPHATICALLY NO! The Koran book burning is not simply "insensitive" and "unnecessary" (as the title of her posting claims) -- it is intentionally destructive, demeaning, and hateful. The construction of the ground zero mosque is nowhere near in the same category of intent. Opposition to the Koran book burning is not about "The Golden Rule" (because what intentional harm are the mosque builders
seeking to do to Americans in the building of a house of worship and an interfaith community center? What are the mosque builders doing unto others that they would not accept being done unto themselves by others?)

I would hope that everyone is against the Koran burning stunt not because it is "insensitive," but precisely because it is an act of intentional violence, destruction, and debasement. The book burning actively seeks to do harm! It actively seeks to destroy! It actively seeks to debase the foundations of another religion! Try having a group of radical Islamic fundamentalists in the United States engage in an intentionally vicious public Bible burning and see if people like Palin think of this as nothing more than something that is simply "insensitive and an unnecessary provocation."

What is disingenuous about Palin's disavowal, and that of other conservatives, is the equivalence that is being made between the perceived "insensitivity" of the ground zero mosque builders and the "insensitivity" of the Koran burners.

Let me state unequivocally right here and now: There is no equivalence, so conservatives should stop making it so.

In fact, making such an equivalence is rather consciously insidious. By equating opposition to the construction of the mosque as coming from the same motivation as opposition to an intentional burning of the Koran, the goal is to make mosque building next to ground zero and Koran burning in Florida as parallel expressions of "insensitivity." It ignores any evaluation of intentionality of the acts themselves. Let me characterize this distinction in two ways. First, the mosque builders themselves have said their intention in building the mosque is to foster greater harmony between Islam and the other religions that are practiced in our country. Their intention is positive and constructive (as represented in building a place of worship and interfaith community programming). The intentions of the Koran burners are clearly negative and destructive. They are being intentionally inflammatory and intentionally hateful. Second, let's look at the root of opposition to both the ground zero mosque and the Koran burning. My understanding of opposition to the ground zero mosque is its location, not the act of constructing a mosque itself. So if the mosque were moved some "respectful" distance from the site of ground zero, then presumably opposition to it would dissipate. But a Koran burning could happen anywhere in the U.S. and opposition to it would, one presumes, remain. As I mentioned previously, a fairer comparison would be if a group of radical fundamentalist Muslims engaged in a provocative Bible burning in the U.S. as a statement about Christianity. And we can certainly see the difference between the "insensitivity" of that kind of action relative to the construction of a mosque near to ground zero. So creating a kind of equivalence between the building of the mosque near ground zero to that of burning the Koran is absurd on its face. And those like Sarah Palin who can't oppose the burning of the Koran without making such an equivalence are just engaging in more anti-ground zero mosque demagoguery. It makes her pretend equanimity stand out as hollow and cynical, and only confirms her as the morally vacuous demagogue she is.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

We have did ... I have did ...

Watch this embarrassing Palin-esque performance by the sitting governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, a Tea Party favorite. Notice what happens to her composure and her grammar when she has what one might call a "senior" moment:

It's cringeworthy. And what is her response? Of course, it's the media mistreatment, victimize-the-beseiged-momma-grizzly, "gotcha"-politics defense: Since the mean ol' media is out to get poor little grandma governor Brewer, there will be no more debates.

Who else cops this defense? Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and now Jan Brewer, that's who. Supposedly tough as nails momma-grizzlies crying foul when their own pathetic inadequacies surface. Why do these so-called fierce momma grizzlies expect to get away with even simple accountability to the people they want to claim to represent? I'll tell you, these ladies are doing more to present a picture of incompetent and almost wacky female politicians who hide behind a clearly overexaggerated, if not altogether false, representation of victimization. And the sad thing is that these women get all kinds of sympathy from victim-identity-politics conservatives who think that these ladies' incompetence and poor performances must be the fault of the big bad librul media wolf. What male public official or candidate would ever be allowed to get away with such behavior? And yet these women are being hailed as some kind of new, true, conservative feminism. All I see, frankly, are cowards who hide their inadequacies behind their gender and scream victimization at the slightest approach of a challenging question. I don't know about other parents of young girls, but I do NOT want my daughters taking their cues from such pathetic, weak, and pseudo-aggrieved female role models. That's not to mention the god-awful atrocious grammar in public speaking.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Kavalier & Clay

Finally got around to starting the Michael Chabon novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Everyone I know who has read this book simply raves about it. So, I picked this book as my selection for one of my book clubs. I'm about 220 pages in and I love it. I've read some of Chabon's other stuff and have enjoyed every book I've read of his.

My next book, which I've had at the front of my list for a while now, but just never took the plunge because its length seems a bit daunting, will be Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. This book has come highly recommended to me from a couple of people whose opinions I really respect. So, it's time to take the plunge into it ... as soon as I finish with Kavalier and Clay!

Beginning of the Semester Breather

Phew! Just finished the second full week of the Fall Semester at school. Today was the last day of student class grasshopping, otherwise known as the dreaded "add/drop" process. Finally have my teaching and standing meetings schedules for the semester worked out (mostly), such that I can really start to get into a rhythm with the semester. I'm grateful for that. For now, although it's only two weeks in, I'm ready for the Labor Day holiday! A welcome breather.

Material Girl at the Freret Street Market

Tomorrow is Saturday, and it's the day of the Freret Street Market. There are lots of great arts, crafts, and local food to be had at the Freret Street Market, so I encourage all in the area to take advantage of what should be a lovely day to peruse the goodies and vendors at the Market.

And though Michele Benson Huck Pottery doesn't participate in the Freret Street Market, a very creative and talented artist who works with fabrics and makes incredible designs does have a booth there. If for no other reason, you should go out to the Freret Street Market to check out this artist's work.

The name of the shop is Material Girl, whose proprieter is the talented Lori Norvell. As Lori says on the Facebook page for Material Girl, she specializes in "Eco-Chic Accessories." She even takes special orders. Check out the link above to Material Girl, look at the fabulous, creative, and colorful designs and creations to be had, and treat yourself to one of these hand-made gems.

At the last Freret Street Market, I got a couple of things for my squirrelly girlies, and they love them. And it's all very affordably priced. (Heck, I'd even say they're all underpriced, but Lori loves the idea of people simply enjoying her stuff that she'd rather make her things as affordable as possible so that as many folks of all economic situation can have something from Material Girl to take home, than to go home empty-handed simply because of price.

Check it out! You won't be disappointed.