Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gracias, Mexico!

This I wasn't aware of. I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised:

The State Department confirmed that nearly every offer of equipment or expertise from a foreign government since the April 20 oil rig explosion would require the U.S. to reimburse that country.

The offers reveal a hard truth about the United States' international friendships: With the U.S. widely regarded as the world's wealthiest nation, there is a double standard regarding foreign aid after a crisis, especially with offers from relatively poor countries.

U.S. disaster aid is almost always free of charge; other nations expect the U.S. to pay for help.

"These offers are not typically offers of aid," said Lt. Erik Halvorson, a Coast Guard spokesman. "Normally, they are offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government."

Only Mexico, with wide swaths of poverty among its population, offered the U.S. anything for free. It said it would give the U.S. government some containment boom. BP separately purchased 13,780 feet of boom and two skimmers from Mexico in early May, according to the State Department.
Que Viva Mexico! For all those cranks who think Mexico is nothing but a problem for the United States, think again. We have a good friend in Mexico. We should be grateful.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Politics of SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings

I've often wondered at the political impacts of SCOTUS hearings on the legal propensities of SCOTUS nominees. What we most often see in these hearings are, on the one hand, Democrats lining up to grill, criticize, and oppose Republican presidential nominees to the court and, on the other hand, Republicans lining up to grill, criticize, and oppose Democratic presidential nominees. I guess that makes logical sense at one level, but it entrenches a kind of politicized outcome at another level. What I mean is that, given the way nominees by one ideological wing of our political system are treated by the other ideological wing in the confirmation process, it is no wonder that these nominees may end up falling out in favor of court decisions that line up with that wing that made it possible for them to be in the SCOTUS in the first place. All the rhetoric of judicial neutrality notwithstanding, it's only human and only natural for someone to want to lean towards pleasing those who believe in them, compliment their competency and abilities, and support them. Likewise, it is only human and only natural for someone to want to lean against those who criticize them, publicly question their worthiness and competency to be a good judge, and oppose them. Thus, the confirmation process only seals and cements a kind of ideological non-neutrality that everyone claims to be against. It seems to me that it would behoove Senators to abandon partisanship in SCOTUS nominee hearings and give respectful due deference to nominees in order to ensure the impartiality that they seem to so desire. I say this because I think Republican tactics and strategies to mount an opposition to Elena Kagan are only likely to push Kagan, who seems to be the most moderate choice they're likely to get from a Democratic President, towards a more leftist judicial philosophy. Why would they want to shoot themselves in the foot that way?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Returned from Guanajuato

I had a wonderful trip to Guanajuato, Mexico. The city is simply beautiful. It's relatively small, very European in its design, and has a colorful colonial charm. The streets are much narrower than many other Mexican cities such that there seems to be just one winding one-way maze of a street that works its way through the town. It has a series of underground tunnel roads that also help the flow of traffic. What this means is that big, massive vehicles like busses or tractor-trailers simply can't navigate the streets. And this makes for a nicer pedestrian experience around the roads. The architecture is stunning and the people are extremely friendly. In short, Guanajuato will now become a fixture of my summer visits to Mexico.

One of my favorite parts of this visit was staying in the B&B/Hostel "La Casa de Dante" (which I recommend to anyone). The breakfasts there were super-fantastic. Check out the creativity and the scrumptiousness of the meals we had there:

Saturday Morning: Chilaquiles (perhaps the best I've ever had) and a fruit appetizer in the image of the Mexican flag

Sunday Morning: Cochinita Pibil and a fruit appetizer in the shape of a bird

If I have the time and the inclination, I'll post more of my thoughts on Guanajuato in another post. For now, just let the yumminess of the Comida Mexicana suffice as an appetizer to the Guanajuato experience!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Off for the weekend to be a tourist in Guanajuato, Mexico. Traveling with some friends. Will be my first time there. I've heard some wonderful things from people whose opinions I respect, so I'm looking forward to it. And I'll get to see some mummies! How exciting! Pictures when I return.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Veracity Stew

One of the best new blogs coming out of New Orleans is Veracity Stew. It is not only aesthetically pleasing in design, but it's got great local and national coverage and commentary. I just found out that one of my friends is co-owner and co-editor of this new blog. The folks at Veracity Stew make a great addition to the local NOLA blogosphere and should be welcomed by one and all among the local blogger community. I've already exhorted my friend to attend Rising Tide V, so as to get more plugged in and involved. Check out Veracity Stew and welcome them to the community. The more local voices in the blogosphere, the better!

Banned Again from Right Wing News?

[UPDATE THE SECOND: Thursday, June 24, 2010: 5:45pm CST: After posting the last update, I sent an email to the blog owner explaining the situation. He very promptly and kindly wrote back asking a few questions and letting me know that he had no knowledge of any ISP blocks of me or the ISP that I'm using. I replied, thanking him for his quick response, and gave him some of the information he asked for; and I presume he will be checking into it. It could be something on my end, but the problem still persists. When I'm in my room, I can't post comments; but when I'm accessing the site through another ISP, I can post comments. One thing I'm thoroughly convinced of now is that there was no intentional ban/block going on -- at least as far as the blog owner himself is aware of. And that's all that matters, really.]

[UPDATE: Thursday, June 24, 2010: 12:35pm CST: I'm happy to report that I am able to post comments at Right Wing News at another location with a different ISP. Therefore, the only logical conclusion I can draw is that some overzealous moderator blocked comments coming from the ISP that I am using in my apartment/room here in Guadalajara. What is a bit unsettling is that the comments that I posted under my usual moniker via that ISP were very mild. It does make me think that someone at RWN has a happy "trigger finger" in banning mildly critical commentary when it comes from a source with which they may not be familiar. What I wish had happened is that the person who blocked this ISP thinking someone had maybe hijacked my account would have at least written to me seeking clarification. As it stands now, with the ISP in my apartment/room blocked, the place where I most regularly access the internet is now off limits to commenting on RWN.]

Not sure if I'm having a bit of blog banning deja vu, or if it's just a browser issue here in Mexico; but I can't seem to be able to log into, nor am I apparently able to post comments to, the conservative blog Right Wing News. I find it strange because I was able to do so just a few days ago; but seem not to be able to now. A few years ago, also while I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, I was banned from Right Wing News. Nothing I've posted in the comments this year even approaches any kind of bannable offense. And I frankly care much, much less now than before, simply because I don't find myself drawn to the site as much as I used to be. And I imagine that, with the blog's new comment management program, the reason for my inability to log on to the site and post a comment to it is probably much more innocuous. It could be that the ISP from which I am accessing the internet, since it's from Mexico, was flagged as suspect. And, of course, I don't usually post from Mexico, so maybe someone at RWN who is tracking these things is under the impression that the user name under which I normally post comments has been hijacked by an unfriendly person from Mexico. It seems to me that this would be very easy to do through the new commenting system at RWN, so I wouldn't blame an over-vigilant moderator who doesn't know that I'm currently in Mexico. Oh, well... I plan to take my laptop to another location where I can access the internet via a different ISP, and we'll see what that brings. Otherwise, I'll just have to wait until I return home from Mexico to truly test out whether the ban/block applies to my account at RWN or whether it's just someone blocking an unfamiliar and foreign-originated ISP from commenting. Honestly, my criticisms at RWN so far this summer have been so mild that I can't believe it would have warranted any banning or blocks. It could also be that my use of a new browser (Safari), which I've started using instead of Internet Explorer since I recently made the switch from a PC to a Mac laptop, when coupled with the foreign ISP location, raises even more questions of legitimacy. When you add all those things together, maybe some moderator over there at RWN thought it all seemed too fishy and moved to block access to RWN's comment system for the ISP that I'm using. Anyway ... I'm making no accusations just yet. I'm just noting something interesting. Let's see how it plays out.


The State of Jalisco in Mexico is famous for being the home to Mexico's best-known libation: tequila. In fact, there is even a town named Tequila, which is considered the birthplace and home of Mexico's biggest tequila producers: Jose Cuervo, Sauza, Herradura, Don Julio, etc. The town of Tequila is about a 2-hour bus ride from Guadalajara, and every summer I plan an excursion for my Tulane group to visit Tequila and get a sense of how culturally significant this alcoholic beverage is to the Mexican national and cultural identity.

Tequila, the town, is a quaint little place, full of colonial buildings and a kind of sleepy, provincial atmosphere. It's very friendly, but of course caters to the heavy tourist traffic that passes through the town. We do our part to keep the local tourist economy in Tequila hopping.

As usual, our group traipsed about the town and took the tour of the Jose Cuervo factory located right in the heart of the downtown area of the city.

When you disembark from the bus, you need to walk down the main street towards the downtown area, which stretches about 5-6 blocks from the bus depot to the central town plaza. Once you reach the main plaza, the first thing you notice is the Tequila Cathedral:

Then, if you walk through the plaza in front of the cathedral to the adjacent plaza, and then head across this plaza towards the left corner, you will come up to the Jose Cuervo factory:

Tours of the Cuervo factory run just about every day of the week, every week of the year, every hour on the hour. Our group took an early afternoon tour. Some of the things you get to see on the tour include the raw materials (i.e. the "pineapple" core of the agave cactus, from which tequila is made):

As well as the ovens in which the agave cactus "pineapples" are cooked and juiced, the juice fermented and distilled, and the distilled tequila poured into wooden casks and aged. The results are three kinds of tequila: blanco (aged from14 days to 3 months); reposado - or rested - (aged from 3 months to 1 year); and añejo - or mature - (aged from 1 year to 3 years). Of course, the best tequilas are those that are produced exclusively from the sugars of the agave cactus. And only those bottles of tequila that say "100% de agave" can claim this purity. One can also purchase "mixed" tequilas, which are tequilas that are made with 51% sugar from the agave cactus, and 49% sugars from other sources (cane, corn, etc.) These "mixed" tequilas will not say "100% de agave" on the label. The pure 100% de agave tequilas are best for sipping straight up, and the mixed tequilas are best used in the making of mixed drinks like margaritas. My favorites are the 100% de agave añejos. You really haven't had a smooth tequila until you've tasted a good añejo. And once you've tasted a good tequila, you'll realize at once that if you have to down a tequila shot quickly and follow it up with a lick of salt and a chomp on a lemon or lime slice, then you are drinking the rot-gut stuff. A good tequila goes down smoothly with hardly a trace of a harsh and bitter aftertaste. But to demonstrate the differences in the kinds of tequilas, the tour offers a tasting - called a catado - at the end. And here we have a 100% de agave "blanco" tequila (on the left), a 100% de agave "reposado" tequila (in the middle), and a 100% de agave añejo (on the right):

And the tour ends with a nice cool margarita, and other refreshments:

And everyone goes home happy and with fond memories of a pleasant experience, not to mention a much more sophisticated tequila tasting palate!

Latin America and the World Cup

In perusing the World Cup matchups and results to date, I find it interesting to note that of the 32 teams that made the World Cup, 7 teams hail from Latin America. That's almost 25% of the teams in the tournament. Quite impressive. But even more impressive is the fact that if things continue along the path that is currently in place in terms of group leaders and likely qualifiers to Round 2, 6 of these 7 teams will be moving to the next round. That's 6 out of 16, or about 38% of the teams. And every group that has at least one Latin American team in it, has a Latin American team currently in the first place spot. And of the two groups that feature two Latin American teams, one group (Group A) is sending both Latin American teams to the next round (Uruguay and Mexico). The only disappointment from the Latin American region is Honduras, which is currently in last place in Group H, which is currently being led by Chile. I think this is an incredible testament to the quality of Soccer in Latin America this World Cup season. Let's see how the region fares in the subsequent rounds. And if you add the US to the mix as part of the Western Hemisphere's representation in the World Cup, it only adds to the impressiveness of the achievement.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Soccer Wins Group and Advances

I'm not usually a soccer aficionado, though I have nothing against the game. And when I do watch it, I can get into it. But being in Mexico during a World Cup, or La Copa Mundial as they say here, means that one cannot avoid getting sucked into it. It is omnipresent. So, today, I tuned in to the 80 plus stations on Mexican cable television to watch the US versus Algeria in a make or break game. And the game could not be found. About 6 stations, though, were carrying the England versus Slovenia match. That's fine for 3 or 4 stations, but all of them???? Not a single showing on regular Mexican cable of the US versus Algeria match? What gives? Well, I have my theories, but I'll leave them aside for now.

So, I had no choice but to watch England play Slovenia. And I must say that England deserved to win. They dominated Slovenia from start to finish. And England did win 1-0. But what created much anxiety for me was watching England march towards victory all the while getting periodic updates of Team USA's inability to score against feeble Algeria. But then there was a miracle. Just as the extra injury time period ended in the England/Slovenia game, giving England the win and a secure place in the next round, the news flashed on the screen that the USA, in the extra injury time period of its own match with Algeria, had scored a goal. Incredible.

The television broadcasts in Mexico of the end of the England/Slovenia game panned out over the faces of the Slovenia fans as the news had sunk in that, all within the span of a minute, their previously first-place team had not only lost to England, but had fallen to third place in the group with the US's last minute win over Algeria. They were stunned and crestfallen. I felt for them. But not too much, as it was clear to anyone who watched the US/Slovenia game that the US clearly scored a winning goal that was nullified by a referee for no apparent reason. Too bad for Slovenia; but great for the USA!

The outcome of today's matches means that the US finishes first in its group and thus will be matched up in the next round against the second place finisher in Group D. What is interesting is that if Mexico continues its winning ways (which is unlikely, as they play an extremely strong Argentina) and if the US does also, we could very well see a US/Mexico matchup in subsequent rounds. I think the US has a good shot at making the quarter finals; but Mexico's road is much more difficult.

Even the Mexicans I talk to here in Guadalajara are basically conceding the next match against Argentina. And that is surprising, if you ask me. I know there is hope against hope that Mexico will defeat Argentina; but realism seems to be carrying the day in this country, with recognition that Argentina has the better team and should win. But, since I have a fondness for Mexico, I'm gonna be pulling for the "Seleccion Azteca" to pull off the upset. And I think they can do it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thought of the Day: Sarah Palin, "Mama Grizzlies," and the Nanny State

You know, the more I read about the so-called "Mama Grizzlies," who are politicians like Sarah Palin that supposedly defend their cubs fiercely and unreservedly, the more I begin to wonder about the meaning of this meme as it relates to the notion of the Nanny State that these Palinite conservatives would seem to oppose. These Palinite female politicians, "Mama Grizzlies," seem to be embracing the notion of a mother bear and the defense of her helpless cubs as a part of their political platform. I see a contradiction here with the anti-Nanny State mantra. Think about it ... here we have female conservative politicians in the mold of Sarah Palin declaring themselves to be the right candidate because they know how to keep their helpless charges protected. In the political realm, what does this mean? Does this mean that their constituents need their political assistance? Does this mean that their constituents are helpless to take care of themselves without their Mama Grizzly? In fact, the whole Mama Grizzly meme wreaks of the whole idea of Nanny-ism. If someone picks on you or if you're down and out, don't worry, Mama will take care of you!

Rising Tide V Conference

Read this, and register now.

Oil Hurricane?

Empire Earned imagines and determines: "Oh Sh*t"!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

La Copa Mundial

In Mexico, as in most places throughout the world these days, time comes to a standstill during the matches of the World Cup. I must say that, even though I am not particularly a soccer aficionado, I can't help but be swept up in the excitement. Here in Mexico, everyone is abuzz with Mexico's strong performances so far. A 1-1 tie in the opener against South Africa, and a solid 2-0 victory against highly touted France. This means that if Mexico either wins or ties in their next game, they are almost sure to advance to the next round. The US is doing pretty well, too, with a tie against both Slovenia (whom the U.S. would have beaten were it not for a blown call that cost the U.S. a late goal) and a surprising tie against heavily-favored England. This leaves only Algeria to play against the U.S. And if the U.S. wins that game as expected (or even it it ties), it, too, is likely to proceed. So, needless to say, I'll probably be commenting about the World Cup over the next few weeks, as it is permeating the environment here.

Guadalajara - Week 1 Summary

At this very moment last week, I was getting off the plane in Guadalajara, Mexico, and beginning the process of entering the city through the regular immigration and customs process. So, I've had exactly one week with feet on the ground in Guadalajara. And it has been a very good first week.

After getting settled in to my room at the Casa Internacional, I relaxed, went shopping, and reviewed for the upcoming week. Monday morning, I was up bright and early to walk to the CEPE, the division of the Universidad de Guadalajara where our program takes place, and participated in the first day's orientation. Here is the Tulane group getting oriented to the CEPE:

The next few days we spent getting acclimated to the academic schedule at the CEPE and the students were mostly adjusting to their homestays.

Thursday was our group tour of the historic Centro de Guadalajara, where we saw the usual sights: the Cathedral, the Palacio de Gobierno, the various Plazas, the Hospicio Cabanas, the Mercado Libertad, and a few other sights along the route. After that, we went to the Restaurante La Chata, one of my favorites in Guadalajara, for some great Mexican food. Here's the group outside of Restaurante La Chata after our dinner:

We ended our first week yesterday with our group excursion to the city of Tequila and a tour of the Jose Cuervo factory. More on that in a separate post.

On the whole, a very good, though exhausting, first week. Only four more to go. The time flies by.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Huck Upchuck Makes The Daily Dish

Every so often, I send Andrew Sullivan an email commenting on a post of his or sending along a bit of information I think he would appreciate. GIven that he receives hundreds, if not thousands, of emails per day, I almost never get a mention on his excellent and extremely popular blog, The Daily Dish. So, when I send him something that I think is good, but which in all probability will never see the light of day there, I also generally tend to put it up on The Huck Upchuck, too.

Well, all this to say that I recently sent Andrew Sullivan this, and it ended up getting a bit of a featured spot on the Daily Dish. Normally, I would gloat and say that this is pretty cool; but in this case, I'm a bit reluctant to do so because what does it say that the thing I sent Andrew Sullivan that gets posted on his blog has to do with fart suppressing medication! Oh, well ... Ya take what ya can get!

Art and Guadalajara

One of the nicest things about being in Mexico is the tradition of public art, specifically wall mural art on public buildings. It's a post-revolutionary notion that art should not only be public and available to all people regardless of income level or class status (as opposed to hidden away in some gallery that may require an entrance fee), but also educational and informational about the country's history. Consequently, one can go just about anywhere in Mexico and see gorgeous and massive murals that are artistically stunning and also representative of Mexico's history and its national heroes. One of the city of Guadalajara's native sons is Jose Clemente Orozco, one of Mexico's "big three" post-revolutionary muralists (along with David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera), so his art can be found all over. Yesterday, I took my group on our regular tour of Guadalajara's historic district, where we had a chance to see some of the Orozco murals. Here's one image of Mexico's main independence figure, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, that appears in the main stairwell of the state Palacio de Gobierno, where the state legislature used to meet:

This is just one little section of a huge mural.

There are also many Orozco murals in the impressive Hospicio Cabañas, which we got to see, also, but which I don't have pictures of.

We'll be taking a trip to Mexico City towards the end of the program where we'll have the chance to see some of the great mural artwork of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, too. But the legacy of the Mexican muralist movement has produced a wonderful, expanded culture of public wall art. And, if you look for it, you can find it in the most mundane places. For example, the wall on the building of the corner of Avenida Enrique Diaz de Leon and Avenida Niños Heroes has a contemporary, life size mural that I see regularly on my walks to and from the place where I am staying:

You can't really see the inscription for this mural in this picture, so I took a closeup shot of it:

The idea of public art in Mexico, captured best by the the muralist movement, is not just limited to wall murals. It also can be seen in the multitude of sculptures and monuments that one comes across everywhere. Sometimes, the contrasts between artistic traditions and contemporary daily living make for a very interesting visual reality. For instance, in this photo below you can see a sculpture of a person I assume is a notable Guadalajaran literary figure and poet (and who is presented as a gawking old codger) whose backdrop includes a "Ladies" garment store. When you look straight at the sculpture from directly in front of it (which appears on Avenida Chapultepec), the superimposition of the visual imagery of the Ladies garment store above the sculpture makes for a rather humorous sight -- an image of a lady in scanty, sexy clothing, seated in a somewhat provocative position, and looking down on the gawking old poet -- thus adding a whole new dimension to the impact of public art. I leave you with this visually contrasting image for your consideration:

Mexico is such a rich and interesting place!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Random NOLA

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. I think this picture may be a bit tricky to locate for those not directly familiar with the scene, though there should be enough hints in the picture to allow for an educated guess. Give it your best shot and put your guess in the comments section:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Advertisement Fail!

I was relaxing in my room in Guadalajara, watching an episode of "House" on Mexican cable television, and lo and behold a voiceless advertisement comes on the screen that I found simply incredible. Cheezy background porn music, and a naked couple sitting in what appears to be a jacuzzi hot tub. The jacuzzi bubbles are going in full force. Then the woman slowly gets out of the tub and brings the man still sitting in the jacuzzi an as yet unidentified pill (one thinks that maybe it's an upper or some ecstasy or some other aphrodisiac drug) and a drink. As soon as he downs the pill, the bubbles stop, and the box of Luftal medication appears on the screen at the end of the spot with the words "Elimina los gases," all the while the cheezy porn music is still blaring. It was then that I fully realized with some horror that what was being pitched as a hot and sexy soft porn jacuzzi scene, was actually an advertisement for medicine to control farts. Talk about a romantic thrill killer. What I guess was supposed to be the message -- "Don't let intestinal gas kill your romance" -- had actually the opposite effect. It associated the medication with an instant sex buzz killer -- in other words, the death of sex, not its salvation. When I saw this ad on TV, I just had to hop up immediately and see if I could find it on YouTube. And there it was:

Oh, Mexico! Gotta love this country!

Etheridge the Boor


No excuses for this boorish and illegal behavior. Dude should not only resign, but be prosecuted for criminal assault and battery. And the Democratic Party should publicly disavow him. Liberal Democrats who try to spin this away come across as tribalist fools. And I say this as a proud liberal both embarrassed and angry that Etheridge shares my party affiliation. What Etheridge did is really unconscionable. Even if the students don't file charges, the local DA should prosecute anyway. The Democratic Party should definitely withdraw its support for Etheridge in the upcoming election. However, if that doesn't happen (and shame on the Democratic Party if it doesn't) and if Etheridge loses in November, I say good riddance.

Monday, June 14, 2010


First day in Guadalajara. The picture below shows all of my group in front of the place where they will be diligently learning Spanish and all sorts of other good subjects through the CEPE of the University of Guadalajara. As usual, today was a busy and exhausting first day. We started off the day at 9:00am, though I decided to walk to the CEPE, and so I was out the door by 8:00am (it takes me about 40 minutes to walk briskly from my place to the CEPE). We began with a brief orientation during which the wonderful staff of the CEPE went over all the essentials with the students, then the students were subjected to their oral language examination and course placement meetings with the CEPE professors, then we ventured out as a group to get acquainted with the area of Guadalajara around the CEPE. I'm glad I ventured forth with the students because there were some important changes to the way Mexico does certain things that I'm glad I discovered on the first day. I learned (and so did the students), that Mexican banks are no longer permitted to exchange dollars for pesos. There are now specific money changing businesses (called Casas de Cambio) where currency exchanges have to take place. And while there are plenty of bank branches around, there are much fewer Casas de Cambio around. So, we found the closest Casa de Cambio and did a little money changing. Good information to have. We next learned that setting up a cell phone in Mexico requires not only buying a new chip to insert in the phone, but also going through a new process of mandatory cell phone registration with the Mexican government. Another important thing to know. After our little stroll, we made it back to the CEPE where we were treated to a welcoming lunch of delicious tacos, agua de jamaica (or horchata), and some live mariachi music. By the time that was over, and I had visited with all my Mexican friends and colleagues from the CEPE, I headed back to my own little room at the Casa Internacional and did some program related work there until now. For the rest of the evening, I'll be relaxing and reading. So ends the first of many days in Guadalajara. The picture below is the Tulane student group on the program, standing in front of the CEPE, right after our morning orientation and right before we went on our excursion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Off to Guadalajara, Mexico

Tomorrow I leave for Guadalajara, Mexico. I'm actually looking forward to the trip very much. It's been two years since I was there last. Last summer's trip was the victim of the Swine Flu epidemic. Remember that? Seems like centuries ago.

Anyway, this year we're on. I'm taking a group of Tulane students down with me and I'm looking forward to acquainting them with all the wonderful things Mexico has to offer.

Once we get settled in, I hope to pick up the pace of blogging while down there; but we'll see. One thing I'm particularly looking forward to is Guadalajara's version of the Po-Boy. It's called the "torta ahogada."

Hasta pronto!

Friday, June 11, 2010

In Defense of the Phrase: "I Could Care Less"

I seem to be fighting a losing battle in attempting to explain why the phrase "I could care less" is perfectly correct English grammar in the context in which it is normally used. Here's how I see it. When someone uses this phrase, we know from common sense exactly what this person means -- namely, that this person doesn't give a whit about whatever is being discussed. So, using this clear meaning as the baseline for figuring out the grammar, the next question should not be whether the grammar is correct, but actually how the phrase represents correct grammar. And how it's correct is by recognizing it as the elliptical clause that it actually is. An elliptical clause is one in which some words have been left out of the clause, but the meaning of the clause is clear enough by its logic, in spite of such word omissions, in order to be able to discern what the missing words are. Thus, when someone says "I could care less," what he is clearly saying, and what everyone knows him to be saying, is essentially "(As if) I could care less (than I already do, which is not at all)," or simply "(As if) I could care less."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Random NOLA

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:

Why I'm an Exodus Catholic, Ctd.

When the official publication of a Catholic Archdiocese (in this case the Archdiocese of Boston) publishes vile and homophobic trash like this, how can any person who claims to advocate for basic Christian charity and kindness NOT be disgusted and disappointed?

It would be one thing if this piece were nothing more than the opinion of a single individual; but when it is explicitly endorsed and published by the official Catholic Diocesan newspaper, it takes on a whole new meaning in terms of the official sanction of the institutional church. I simply cannot be part of an institution whose leadership endorses this kind of garbage.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Random NOLA

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:

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Am LatiNola

LatiNola beat back the reactionary forces in the state of Louisiana that undergirded HB 1205. A reminder of who is LatiNola:

Rising Tide Conference

Just a heads up that a group of NOLA bloggers is once again planning to launch the 5th annual Rising Tide Conference this coming August. It's still early, but mark your calendars and save the date. More information can be obtained here. I'll be there and I encourage you to try to attend, too.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Going to Guadalajara

I'll soon be making my annual pilgrimage to Guadalajara, Mexico, with a group of Tulane University students. I missed last summer because of the swine flu scare, so it's been two years since my last visit to Mexico. I'm very much looking forward to going to the land of tacos and tequila. I hope to do some solid writing while there. And I expect I'll be doing a fair bit of Mexico-blogging, too. Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Mom

My lovely mother turns 60 today. God bless and keep you, mom. Your number one son sends you his love and gratitude!

Stray Bullets in the Attic

Life in New Orleans sometimes means that you have to contend with stray bullets falling from the sky. The following bullet fell from the sky and went through the roof of our house about three feet from the head of my youngest daughter's bed.

Fortunately, it just pierced the roof and didn't go through the ceiling. I found it after noticing a growing water stain on the ceiling in my daughter's bedroom. My wife thinks that it goes as far back as New Year's Eve, with some yahoo firing a celebratory round in the air. What these fools fail to acknowledge is that what goes up, must come down. Just another reason to advocate for some kind of stronger gun control, or some more stringent enforcement of gun laws.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Krewe of Dead Pelicans

We always find a way to turn a colossal tragedy and a serious protest into something colorful and redeeming. I know the folks in this picture. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade...

The Sweet: Fox on the Run

Heard this song playing in the supermarket today. Thought I'd put it up on the blog. Here it is:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My HB 1205 Testimony

I never did get to deliver it, because it was clear at the hearing that the bill was going to fail after the first round of the Committee's questioning of Rep. Harrison, who authored the bill. And that was fine by me, since the whole purpose of my testimony was to kill the bill. But since I didn't deliver my testimony then, I'd like to publish what I would have said here on The Huck Upchuck. Here it is:

Testimony of James D. Huck, Jr., Ph.D.
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thank you Mr. Chairman and Committee Members for giving me the opportunity to testify before you this morning. My name is James Huck and I am a Board Member of Puentes New Orleans and an administrator and professor at Tulane University in the Latin American Studies department.

I would like to testify in opposition to HB 1205.

But I would also like to make clear that my testimony does not, in any way, represent the position of Tulane University nor the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University with regard to this bill. I am speaking only for myself as a private citizen whose work within the university context and within the community has informed my opinion.

My opposition to this bill comes out of both principled and pragmatic concerns.

In terms of principle, I oppose this bill out of a concern that its main purpose is to target not those who are in violation of current immigration law, but primarily those law-abiding citizens whose lives may intersect with undocumented immigrants in the context of community service.

Citizens who take an interest in serving their fellow human beings out of a sense of neighborliness, civic responsibility, or simple kindness should not be dissuaded from serving their community, however that community is constituted. This legislation, regardless of its intent, will dissuade such behavior. It will create a society grounded in fear and uncertainty where doing a good deed like giving shelter to an undocumented relative in dire straits who shows up unannounced on your doorstep, runs the potential risk of financial penalty or prison time. How could it not induce anxiety about doing the right and moral thing? In fact, that is precisely this legislation’s point. And imagine the heartbreak this situation may pose. What would you do? Would you turn away such a relative? Or would you invite that relative in, knowing that if your charity is discovered, you could pay a hefty fine or spend time in jail?

At another level, this legislation runs counter to the values of community service and civic responsibility that we should want to see much more visibly in citizens. We should not want citizens to disengage from the realities of their communities out of fear; but to engage them in a spirit of collaborative civic-mindedness. Of course, you are all probably well aware of these philosophical and moral arguments; but I would like to just point out at the practical level that this legislation throws the baby out with the bathwater. There seems to be very little thought given to the potential practical and residual damage to the State of Louisiana, damage that will have direct negative impacts on the economic and social health and well-being of the state, its citizens, and its institutions. Let me focus on the practical effects of this proposed legislation in the area of higher education, which comes directly out of my own experience.

A few facts:

(1) Tulane University has received more than 40,000 undergraduate applications for admission this coming Fall. Preliminary data seem to indicate that this represents the single largest application pool for a private University in the entire United States. I hear repeatedly from prospective students and parents that Tulane’s commitment to community service and the incorporation of a public service graduation requirement is a unique attraction of the University. The fact is that a significant number of Tulane students undertaking community service work for local community organizations who likely serve undocumented populations. What do you suspect will happen to these student service learners if there is even the hint of the possibility that such community service may place such students in jeopardy of violation of the law that this bill seeks to codify? If this bill becomes law, what do you think institutions like Tulane will feel compelled to do in order to protect its students from even the remotest possibility that their community service – their community service – of all things, may place them in jeopardy of fines and criminal prosecution?

(2) Just off the top of my head, I can tell you that two undergraduate Honors theses, at least one Master’s term paper, and one doctoral dissertation, just this year, came from research that involved engagement with and interaction with the Latino population, many of whom I am certain were undocumented. If this bill passes, what do you think would happen to this research and scholarship if there was even the remotest possibility that such interaction with the undocumented migrant population may result in heavy fines or prison time?

(3) Tulane University is currently partnering with the Hispanic Apostolate to provide classroom space for its ESL program, which has also served as a public service placement option for hundreds of its undergraduate students over the years. What do you think would happen to this partnership if there were even the remotest possibility that the provision of space for an ESL program that may serve an undocumented immigrant population could be construed as the harboring of such undocumented migrants?

What we might see is a precipitous fall in student interest in Tulane, not out of a lack of appreciation for the value of a Tulane education, but out of a fear that the community service portion of their education might get them in legal hot water. What we might see are institutions like Tulane retracting its resources from service to the community for fear of running afoul of this law or for fear of subjecting its students to the possibility of running afoul of this law.

And I could go on, raising this very same point about community service projects at high schools and elementary schools that may place students, teachers, and counselors in contact with a population that poses risks for them. My point is that this proposed legislation will have far reaching consequences that transcend just the goal of curbing illegal immigration. It penalizes charity, it conditions neighborliness, and it disincentivizes civic engagement. It cultivates both suspicion of our neighbors and fear of doing good by them. It makes us run away not only from one another, but also from our communities as they happen to be constituted.

Being frustrated with the Federal Government’s insufficient response to the immigration situation of our country is understandable, but to use law abiding citizens, their civic proclivities, and their inherent goodness towards their neighbors as bait is not the appropriate response. Nor is threatening to punish citizens and civic-minded institutions themselves for their inherent goodness and their civic engagement. I respectfully submit that HB 1205 is a bill that does all of these things. It is a bad bill, and I urge all Committee members to vote against it. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

"It's just a pipe."

From this article in the Times-Picayune:

Making his way to the BP table, Slidell resident John Sconza said he wanted to know why BP engineers haven't considered simply jamming something into the leak to plug it.

"It's just a pipe," he said.
I've been wondering the same thing. Could it be this simple? One has to assume that there is some good reason why this isn't possible; but, if not, I'd wish someone would explain why not.