Saturday, February 05, 2005

I Singe the Body Electric! 

"Abu" Gonzales, as he's come to be known, was recently confirmed with the help of Senator Landrieu.

In the dark humor that has become so popular in Baghdad these days, one recently released Abu Ghraib detainee [said], "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house!"

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Taste the grilled pompano before you call this "excessive" 

Getting someone to camp out on Bourbon Street for three days, in the cold rain, to save you a spot in line for lunch? ...Yeah, we do that here. Da Paper explains:
Tuesday at 3 p.m. place-holders started showing up outside the restaurant [Galatoire's] to stand in line so their well-heeled patrons can enjoy trout amandine and souffle potatoes Friday during the celebrated pre-Fat Tuesday fest.

The Carnival lunch-line ritual began earlier than ever this year.

"It's a record," said Arnold Chabaud, maitre d' at the Bourbon Street restaurant. "It's always been Wednesday afternoon, but it's started early."
In the 200 block of Bourbon, nearly a dozen people had formed a temporary colony that featured blankets, sleeping chairs and ice chests. They were struggling to ward off the early-evening chill, but weren't complaining: A couple said the long, uncomfortable wait would fetch at least $500.

"I'm unemployed, and I've got time," said Brad Gooch, 28, who said he regularly holds a spot for Galatoire's customers on major holidays. "I don't mind it. The money's good. It's like being paid to party."
Chabaud said the sidewalk ritual is set in motion by Galatoire's waiters, who want to ensure a table will be waiting for some of their favored customers.

"Management doesn't approve of it, but they do it," he said. A few of those on the sidewalk said waiters hired them.

As tourists strolled past on Bourbon, some stopped to ask about the odd collection of blankets, wool caps and people.

"What is the point of this?" one man asked.

"People pay us to sit here, save them a table for Friday lunch," said a 21-year-old college student who declined to give her name.

"Friday lunch?" the man asked. "You're kidding me, right?"

The Old Regulars will be in rare form at Galatoire's on Friday, enjoying a wilder version of what's been called the "the last great legal pleasure of our time".

Update: The Times-Pic updates the condition of Dr. Albright, 69, who was allegedly pushed from behind by a 28-year old tourist from Dallas, and cracked his head on Bourbon Street outside Galatoire's. Albright has finally regained sustained consciousness, and now is recovering at Touro. Criminal charges of 2nd degree battery may be upgraded. Background here.
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"All of the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation." 

Jeffrey at the almost always entertaining Library Chronicles should be your first source for eyewitness Carnival recap*. He's been braving the elements all week watching parades... mad props to him and his stalwart coterie. Tonight it's just too damn cold to watch the parades; either that, or I'm too damn sober. Weak, I know, but I'll be there for Le Krewe D'Etat tomorrow.

Even better, it looks like my friend Johnathan has use of a condo on St Charles which will permit me to enjoy Bacchus and the Super Bowl simultaneously. Oh, I'm such a lucky dog. Then Lundi Gras and a Quintron afterparty which might just blend into Fat Tuesday without the pesky interruption of sleep. Oh, hell yeah! And this degeneracy has Lovely's blessing, to boot!

If you can suggest a better place on earth right now, I'm all ears.

Here's an inspirational Carnival quote via Blake Pontchartrain:

Major James Creecy wrote of Mardi Gras in 1835:

All of the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation. Men and boys, women and girls, bond and free, white and black, yellow and brown, exert themselves to invent and appear in grotesque, quizzical, diabolic, horrible, strange masks, and disguises. Human bodies are seen with heads of beasts and birds, beasts and birds with human heads; demi-beasts, demi-fishes, snakes' heads and bodies with arms of apes; man-bats from the moon; mermaids; satyrs, beggars, monks, and robbers parade and march on foot, on horseback, in wagons, carts, coaches ... in rich confusion, up and down the streets, wildly shouting, singing, laughing, drumming, fiddling, fifeing, and all throwing flour broadcast as they wend their reckless way.

Flour power at its finest... perhaps I should dress as a "demi-oyster" this year.

* YRHT has in its possession controversial photos that may explain the characterization of Governor Blanco as Stripperella (See Jeffrey's post). Developing.... (literally).
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Publius at Legal Fiction has a fine post on "partisan epistemology".

Also, if you need action, Punditbook has released its lock of the year.
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Iraq Christians blocked from voting 

In a brazen and nearly unbelievable move, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headed by warlord Masoud Barzani has prevented voting by Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) Christians of the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq.

Ballot boxes were kept from perhaps a quarter million Christians, Turkmen and other minorities. Juan Cole notes a report claiming 150,000 Christians protested the disenfranchisement in Nineveh province alone.

The U.S. has not stood by Iraq's Christians, and no one in Iraq loves democracy more than they do. Presiding over the political and cultural death of the Assyrian Christian community would be a hideously ironic achievement for the Bush administration. Almost as ironic as the long-suffering Kurds oppressing minorities in their own province... did they learn nothing from their treatment under Saddam? Shameful, all of it.

Over the months I've followed this story here and here.
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Those democracy-hating Democrats 

Yesterday we learned that Iraqi terrorists were holding an action figure hostage, and used a Down Syndrome child as a bomb. With apologies to Hairy Fish Nuts, those are bonafide signs of "desperation" in my book.

That said, let's make a few things abundantly clear:

Democracy is good. How to best encourage it is another matter. Where it ranks as a foreign policy priority in a time of terrorism and loose nukes is also up for debate.

High participation in a democracy is good. (For example, Spain had over 80% turnout just days after a coordinated Al-Qaeda train bombing in Madrid. Many on the right disparaged these voters as cowards, even though Spaniards had overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq war from day one. Apparently, they made the "cowardly" choice to replace the Aznar administration, which purposely delayed the release of important facts about a national tragedy in order to limit their political risk.)

Comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam have limited value (so far). However, they both share the characteristic of being ginormously expensive.

Everyone agrees Saddam was a vicious tyrant. (Ted Kennedy was railing against the Reagan/Bush administration's tacit support for Hussein in the 80's, during a time of massive Kurdish and Shia killings and oppression. I was a member of Amnesty Int'l back then and was aghast when such gross human rights violations were dismissed by our government, who refused to even levy sanctions.)

Of course Saddam Hussein had WMD's. (We have the receipts to prove it. But that was fifteen to twenty-five years ago. He used them on Kurds and Iranians-- much more so than he reported. The war in Iraq was sold to the public on the basis of Saddam's threat to our security. He would still be a toothless, deluded caged tiger if we decided to pursue other priorities (loose nukes, al-qaeda, N Korea, Iran, port security, coastal restoration, Medicare, health insurance...etc).

A democratic Arab world would be super. Iraq's elections were an important step toward this distant goal. Everyone is happy they went smoother than expected. Regrettably, the right has made this some sort of filter of winners and losers, between Dems and the GOP, between red and blue. Funny, the indelible voting ink looked purple to me.

I'm open to the possiblity that Bush may be right, that he'll somehow achieve most of his high hopes. At this moment, I still believe his policies are dead wrong both strategically and philosophically, and I suspect the results of his risky decision-making (both foreign and domestic) will become fairly obvious by the end of his term. I'm not sure I'll ever forgive his administrations' sales job on the Iraq war, nor its decision in the Spring of 2002 to pull Special Forces hunting Bin Laden out of Afghanistan and send them to Iraq. But none of that means my heart isn't lifted by the sight of relatively free elections. Hell, in my own small way, through Amnesty International, I was working for enhanced freedom in Iraq back when Dubya was going on drunken rampages in restaurants. Unfortunately, his father only paid attention to Hussein's atrocities once they could serve his political ends.

The Iraq cake is in the oven, folks, and we're watching it bake through the window. It looks better than it did a short time ago, it's rising, but the proof is in the taste. And, from what I've seen of the chef and the recipe, I'm pessimistic about how it will turn out. That doesn't mean I'm hoping for it to taste like shite, but I'll be surprised if it's palatable. The chef is serenely confident it will be delicious. So good, he claims, that the cake will even improve the taste of other nearby desserts... We'll see.

No matter how it tastes, everyone in so-called "red" and "blue" America will have to eat it.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"Warm me up some crabs" 

Down in the comments I noticed that New Orleanian Michael Liuzza, who made it through to the next round on American Idol, responded to my post from last week which briefly mentioned his authentic style. He responds:

just wanted to thank you for your support. god bless all of you, i'll be home again soon, warm me up some crabs.
michael vincent liuzza

You're very welcome, Michael. I like your voice, and am quite sure "you know what it means to miss New Orleans". Congratulations once again on making it to Hollywood. The very best of luck to you, from your fans at YRHT.

Michael Liuzza, 22, is an Archbishop Shaw High School graduate now attending LSU. In an interview with Da Paper, he said "I was born and raised on Bourbon Street. That's how I came about. It was a money-struggling, loving family full of music."

Who's up for a boil in Mr. Liuzza's honor?

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Driving Mississippians Crazy  

I must admit, when I'm driving in New Orleans and see a vehicle with a Mississippi license plate, I don't ready myself for a display of driving excellence. Granted, New Orleans is screwy enough to navigate even by the locals, who (in general) drive horribly on their own without tourists complicating the mix. But I've learned how to acclimate myself to the New Orleanian driving predilections: the hatred of turn signals, the running of red lights, the braking for potholes...etc I've learned to account for all these predictable patterns. But an out of towner is an unknown quantity. Especially when they're unfamiliar with the conditions in Crescent City... who knows what they might try to do?

So the other day I was cruising the Central Biz District, with my Ramones turned up loud on the stereo. Slowing to a stop, I noticed a rusted old blue van chock full of Mississippians in front of me. I swear, it looked packed to the gills; like some impoverished township had used it for a makeshift tour bus. Oh great, I thought. Better give this one a wide berth.

So the streetlight clicked to green and the van just sat there. Didn't budge. The brakelights were bright red, like the driver was insisting on sitting there for a while, and this continued for several more long seconds. Normally I'm patient to excess, and will wait a good while for tourists to figure things out. I probably use my horn maybe twice a year in these situations. (Yeah, I'm a regular ambassador for the city that way.)

But that day I was in a hurry, and my adrenaline was up from the car's stereo. So I flattened the horn-- I mean I slammed down on it for all its worth. Just blaring, loud and proud. No chirpy little roadrunner "Beeps" from my Buick, either. The boys in Detroit (if nothing else) still make full, rich sounding American honkers, and mine was thundering.

To my shock, the Mississippian magic bus STILL DIDN'T MOVE an inch. The brake light didn't even relent. So now I feel my pride is at stake here, and I'm emboldened by the line of cars waiting behind me. I got a responsiblity to them too, I think. So I supplement the horn's continuing blare (now about 15 seconds long) by simultaneously revving the Buick's engine and motioning the international sign for frustration.

Then I start yelling insults ending with phrases like "you illiterate inbred mouthbreathers!!!" AND STILL no movement. "WTF is you're problem!! Are you blind!!" I yell in exasperation.

Then an emergency vehicle I hadn't noticed crossed the intersection, lights flashing-- probably racing to save someone's life. And after it passed, the van of Mississippians carefully accelerated away.

Ew. I must say I felt low that day. Real low. David Bowie Low.

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Monday, January 31, 2005

No friction, no thought 

If a student said something like this back when I instructed philosophy courses, I knew I wasn't doing my job (my emphs):

"I felt like his book just confirmed what I believe," Mr. Bush said in an interview on Thursday in the Oval Office.
Mr. Sharansky's book ["The Case for Democracy"] a White House must-read that Mr. Bush has been recommending for months to friends, his staff and a parade of recent interviewers, was a leitmotif in Mr. Bush's Inaugural Address on Jan. 20 about ending tyranny. According to the president, its themes will also be part of his State of the Union address this week.

"That thinking, that's part of my presidential DNA," Mr. Bush said. "I mean, it's what I think it's a part of all policy. Yes, it'll be in the State of the Union. It's in the Inaugural Address." In short, he concluded, "It is part of my philosophy."
"I think it's an important book and I think people ought to read it," Mr. Bush said in the interview last week, repeating his now-constant endorsement. "So it's a confirmation, I guess, is the right word."

As I've mentioned before, the late Professor Renford Bambrough believed that "without friction, there is no thought". As you've seen, that has remained a motivational signpost for me ever since, because Philosophy's moorings were in conversation, not in memorized, "dead" conclusions. (For more, consult Plato's dialogues.) Bambrough was a student of Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose Philosophical Investigations is a masterpiece of accessibility and provocation. Please read it, or Plato, or Hume, or Nietzsche or at least something with which you you don't already agree. That's called thinking and learning.

Tragically, nearly every report about the president indicates he hates the friction of thought, which frightens me to no end. How long ago did he stop learning new things? When did he start? I'd be tremendously relieved if I heard of an episode where the President's thinking faculties were engaged rather than soothed.

(H/T Tbogg)
As a counterpoint, I'll link to George Will, who finds a way to interpret the inaugural as a version of his own views rather than the neocons. Good luck on that journey, George. He relates Bush's new version of "soulcraft" to an old book of his, which I haven't read, but I'll bet it addresses Will's favorite formulation from Pat Moynihan:

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Will tentatively proposes that Bush is harnessing both of these horses to his flying chariot.

If you've already got enough friction in your mental life, then take a break this Lundis Gras and party with me at One Eyed Jack's with cult-hero/organist Quintron and Miss Pussycat. Since it always rains for Orpheus, I promise you a wet dionysian unity on the dance floor afterwards.

Think. Lose yourself! Then think again.
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Crazy like a... 

From the Sunday T-P's occasionally interesting "Briefing Book" section (my emps):

President Bush's war on terrorism took center stage momentarily during the State Bond Commission's discussion Tuesday of a proposed sugar mill. During the panel's hearing on Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom's plan for the state to build a sugar syrup mill in Bunkie, Secretary of State Fox McKeithen, a commission member, suggested that fuel prices might rise so high that sugar in Louisiana could be profitably made into the gas-additive ethanol. "If George Bush continues to start wars in the Middle East, the price of gasoline may go to $10 a gallon," McKeithen said. "And I'm a Republican, but if he goes and jumps on one or two more of those countries, there's no telling what the price of oil's going to go to. I think it's artificially high now, and it could go a lot higher, because now he's struck in Iran, and we're not going to get out of Iraq in my lifetime. All of that is something that we need to take into consideration." If corn growers in Midwestern states can make money growing their crop for ethanol production, then Louisiana farmers should be able to scrape by growing sugar, he said. "These here Cajuns down here, buddy, can live on anything."

"Bush start wars...$10 gas... Now he's struck in Iran[?!]... scrape by... Cajuns... live on anything"... HUH?!?

Could the media ask the always perceptive Secretary of State to unpack his comments just a bit? Pretty please?
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Like ice in a urinal trough during Happy Hour 

(AP)-- In east Africa, the storied snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are vanishing. In the icebound Alps and Himalayas of Europe and Asia, the change has been stunning. From South America to south Asia, new glacial lakes threaten to overflow and drown villages below.

In the past few years, space satellites have helped measure the global trend, but scientists such as Rajendra K. Pachauri, a native of north India, have long seen what was happening on the ground.

"I know from observation," Pachauri told a reporter at an international climate conference in Argentina. "If you go to the Himalayan peaks, the rate at which the glaciers are retreating is alarming. And this is not an isolated example. I've seen photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro 50 years ago and now. The evidence is visible."
[Lonnie Thompson, one of the world's foremost glaciologists, adds:] "What we see in the Andes is happening in Kilimanjaro and in the Himalayas. We've just been in southeast Alaska, and 1,987 out of 2,000 glaciers are retreating there"...
Update: Sobering visuals here via Brad DeLong and Boing Boing.

The preface to Hemingway's "The Snows of Kiliminjaro" reads:
Kiliminjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai "Ngaje Ngai," the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

So whatever happened to that curious cat, anyway? After being frozen so tantalizingly close to the "House of God" for so many years, did he eventually thaw out and tumble down the mountain? Seems like he deserved a better fate than that...

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