Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cao a bunga! 

Joseph Cao defeats William Jefferson.

I got to give credit to local Republicans. This was a once in a generation opportunity, and they took advantage of it. They actually mobilized, quickly, FOR a candidate in a low turnout election (instead of inventing some triple bankshot, strategic, mindfreak reason to vote for the worse Democrat [read: Nagin, Jefferson] with the hope of some unlikely future scenario playing out in their favor.)

Congratulations to Professor Cao, who demonstrated that any election is winnable.
Update: Credit goes to Jefferson Parish voters, who made the difference. (Dollar Bill won comfortably in Orleans Parish.)

Also, be sure to read E's reflections, analysis and future outlook.

In the NYT, Adam Nossiter covers the story without noticing any racial angles. (Just kidding. Predictably, Noz begins with the racial stuff in sentence two and continues on from there.)

CNN accurately describes Cao as a "community organizer". Heh. Yes, let's make sure the GOP doesn't forget that fact.
Sadly, my man Shawn Barney lost the State Senate contest in District 3. But his campaign fought hard to make it 45-55%... and I'm sure he'll be back again soon.
Even worse, Fleming beat Carmouche in LA -04 by 356 votes. Uggh. That one hurt.

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Bricks are Heavy, though 

Joejoejoe sent me this delightful video of the Diagram Brothers' song "Bricks". It "joyously celebrates the trivial". Watch it, it's short. (Unlike H & O they really "did it in a minute".) Thanks, joe...

A joyous celebration of the untrivial by the Diagram Bros is here.

*, **


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Friday, December 05, 2008

Shawn Barney for State Senate 

After doing an interview and taking calls on Jeff Crouere's Ringside Politics radio show this morning, it's very clear that GOP Congressional candidate Joseph Cao doesn't know anything about the Family Research Council, who endorsed him. A caller named Daniel asked him about the troubling FRC endorsement and Cao stumbled and bumbled around, and said he didn't seek the endorsement, and didn't indicate that he knew anything about the FRC.

The Gambit Weekly didn't endorse Cao over Dollar Bill Jefferson largely because of fears generated by the FRC endorsement, so you'd think that Cao would've diligently researched the FRC after Gambit's (curious) write-up. Responding to the Gambit's non-endorsement, I said that "it's entirely possible that Cao doesn't know anything about the history of the Family Research Council", and after hearing Cao's radio interview, that certainly appears to be the case. Granted, in terms of local politics, there's a definite "babe in the wilderness" quality to Cao, which YRHT (probably prematurely) endorsed. However YRHT stands by its endorsement of Joseph Cao over William Jefferson for Congress.

I enjoy reading The Gambit on a weekly basis. Oftentimes there are good articles, stimulating commentary, and interesting scuttlebutt. Plus, every fortnight you can count on a great political comic. Any weekly that publishes articles by Jeremy Alford that are prefaced with my favorite Nietzsche quote is fine by me. [That quote, the summation of Nietzsche's insightful piece on the origin of knowledge, really tickles my gonads. In brief, the idea is that the truths (of untruth) are not necessarily beautiful and helpful and good-- they're often difficult and harmful to life. Most of us live by use of errors that seem helpful, and we rename these shortcuts "true". Nietzsche wonders to what extent can we recognize errors for what they are, and incorporate the "truths of untruth" into a robust, more aware life?]

So I don't want it to seem like I'm going out of my way to slag on the Gambit, but I do have another criticism involving politics and New Orleans' alternative weekly. First, at the outset, I want to reiterate my endorsement of Shawn Barney for State Senate. I think he's a "fresh face" with "new ideas" and all that happy stuff. I think he would be a good political leader, and I very much respect his late father's life of service and civil rights advocacy. I think Shawn Barney is a class act who will carry his father's example forward in a positive way.

The Gambit chose to endorse J.P. Morrell over Shawn Barney for State Senate. That's not an outlandish decision. I don't agree with it, but I can understand it. However, what I don't understand is why Gambit political columnist Clancy Dubos recently made an incendiary implication about Shawn Barney coordinating with William Jefferson for political purposes. It's a false implication, and I thought it was hitting a good man with a cheap shot. Dubos wrote:

[Rep. William Jefferson is] delighted to see the special election in state Senate District 3. Word has it he encouraged Barney to stay in that contest even though Morrell is a decided favorite. Any turnout boost in black precincts helps Jefferson, who got a reprieve, for now, from his scheduled Dec. 2 trial date.

"Word has it"... eh?

Clancy's assertion makes it sound like Barney was considering dropping out, but that William Jefferson said something to Barney that encouraged him to stay in the race.

Well, "word has it" that this is totally false. "Word has it" that Mr. Dubos did not contact anyone from the Shawn Barney campaign for a comment on this charge. In fact, "word has it" that J.P. Morrell is the one peddling this false conspiracy theory to anyone who will listen, even though it is completely untrue.

Here is the Barney campaign's official response:

Barney for Senate Campaign Responds to Morrell Smears

Morrell Growing Desperate

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- November 23, 2008 Today, Barney for Senate Press Secretary Zach Hudson issued the following statement regarding the J.P. Morrell Campaign's smears in this week's Gambit Weekly:

At a time when his district lies devastated and our economy is in shambles, J.P. Morrell is smearing Shawn Barney to distract the voters from the fact that Morrell represents more of the same. It is an absolute lie that Congressman Jefferson convinced Shawn Barney to stay in the race for State Senate District 3 despite Morrell's endorsements by the old political establishment.

Mr. Morrell is scared because despite the fact that the status quo is supporting him, his increasingly desperate campaign to protect his family's dynasty is not resonating with voters.

Morrell is out of touch, therefore he is resorting to dirty tricks to hide from the voters of District 3 the fact that his only accomplishment while in office was his vote to give himself a 200% pay raise. Shawn Barney is a fresh face with new ideas who has brought millions of dollars in private redevelopment to District 3, while creating over 100 jobs in the metro area. J.P. Morrell may be a self described avid video game player, but he is not a serious candidate for public office.
Vote Shawn Barney for State Senate.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Mind reels 

"Why are we [opening a restaurant in] New Orleans? Whose idea was this, Aquaman?"

-- (slightly altered) quote from Comedian Carlos Mencia in 2006

Ashley Morris-- a former comedian himself-- decided to make cordial contact with Mr. Mencia after hearing similar post-Katrina jokes:

Here's an email I sent to Carlos Mencia, after viewing a clip where he slammed New Orleanians:


After your remark about New Orleans culture and rebuilding, I can only hope that an earthquake kills your entire family. Then, maybe, you'll be "preserving your culture" in Kansas or something.

Welcome to our world, bitch. If the federal levees had been built properly, then I may still enjoy your comedy. As it is, you insulted us, and the only way you can feel our pain is by having your family die.


Cold, but passionate. Unbelievably, he responded

Some of my family did die in some of the hurricanes in central America in the past. That is why I preserve my culture in USA, thousands of miles from the eye of the storm. Telling you to move far from danger is not fucked up on my part. I actually want to save lives.


He's honest, and I believe this is sincere. But he just doesn't get New Orleans.

Carlos Mencia appeared in a Super Bowl commercial in February 2008, and I felt the odd need to speculate wildly about a fleur de lis sweatshirt he was wearing in the ad. I wondered if the fleur de lis meant that Mencia changed his mind about New Orleans, and was perhaps a belated show of solidarity.

Shockingly, that wildass speculation might've been correct. New Orleans Citybusiness reports that:

Carlos Mencia, a comedian whose show “Mind of Mencia” airs on cable channel Comedy Central, will open his new Latin restaurant downtown Friday.

Suavé Latino Bar & Grill is on the first floor of the Pelham Hotel at 200 Magazine St. It will open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday and around the clock Fridays and Saturdays.

Sauvé’s menu is a blend of Mexican, Caribbean, Central and South American dishes, mostly served as tapas and bocaditos, with seafood and breakfast dishes.

So. The man who was telling New Orleanians to "move far from danger" because he "actually wanted to save lives" is now opening a restaurant in New Orleans. But why would Carlos Mencia invest his money in a (hopefully tasty) restaurant here, and give us one more reason to stay in this deathtrap, unless his "mind" had changed significantly?

One wonders what prompted such a change.

Update: Apparently I overlooked Ian McNulty's post on Mencia's new venture at the Gambit Daily blog.

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Making States 

My friends, be careful what you wish for. As far as the political prospect of getting "2 more Dem Senators forever" out of D.C. statehood, the Republicans may have a Texas-sized trump card in their back pocket. (A card which FDR's Veep John Nance Garner threatened to play back in 1930.)

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Monkeyshines: an experiment in fear 

Jeffrey posts a fascinating chronology of the various times when monkeys escaped from the Tulane Primate Center. He implies that these security breaches might be a threat to civilization as we know it, and anyone who has seen Monkey Shines (in the theater) would have to agree.

Speaking of movies and the interblogs, do y'all remember the Dapper Danger blog? Remember that month when it was the most famous Nolablog of all? Good times. *Sigh*


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To my many conservative friends... 

Your Barack Obama commemorative plate needs are so taken care of this holiday season.

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SLAP me silly 

The New Orleans Levee December print issue is out and has an amusing article I wanted to share:

A recently repaved stretch of Cadiz Street in Uptwon has resulted in 13 deaths, 10 from local drivers caught off-guard by a smooth road and three from shock over a New Orleans street being repaved. Numerous people have been injured.

Mayor Ray Nagin immediately ordered police to begin investigating who repaved the street between Magazine and Tchoupitoulas streets and called upon Crimestoppers to offer a reward.

"We can't have rogue progress being made upon our citizens at this tipping point of ongoing planning for our recovery," the mayor said. "I am calling on whoever repaved this street to rip it up and return it to its previous moonscape."

I very much like the phrase "rogue progress".

Here's a somewhat related item to which Jeffrey linked.

One group is so fed up with crime in New Orleans, it's getting ready to take crime fighting into its own hands.

The group calls itself Southern Louisiana Anti-Crime Patrol, or SLAP for short. Its members want to put a dent in crime by hitting the streets in their own cars, with their own video cameras, and catching criminals on tape.

It's a new way of fighting crime that the group's creators say will help police officers catch criminals.
The New Orleans Police Department released a statement saying it "does not condone any citizen without law enforcement training to engage criminals in any circumstances."

Then how the hell do they expect citizens to conduct business at City Hall?

Pardon me. I meant to say that since New Orleans' hideous crime rate is more of a water treatment issue than a law enforcement matter, shouldn't SLAP's attempt at "rogue progress" be aimed at the Sewerage and Water Board?

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Street Tile update 

The street tiles on "BIRCH" street that Entergy destroyed still haven't been replaced.

Ashley Morris was outraged about this just before he passed on, and it pisses me off as well.

Seven months ago, a spokesman for Entergy addressed the issue in a manner that further irritated me, stating:

[The destroyed] tiles will be replaced, and were in the process of being replaced before the article [about Ashley Morris] was written by Mr. Rose [on April 16].
The discovery and restoration of the tiles was spurred by our employees doing their job well -- inspecting the work of subcontractors -- and would have been completed regardless of who "reported" the story.

Again: eight months after Entergy's tile replacement "process" began, the "restoration of the tiles" has yet to be "completed". But Entergy took pains to emphasize that the street tile "restoration" would have been completed regardless of whether or not Ashley "reported" the story.

Every time I read the tense and tone of those sentences... my skin crawls.

The "OAK" street tiles were replaced after my first street tile post-- sheer coincidence, no doubt! So maybe this second update will "coincidentally" precede the restoration of the destroyed "BIRCH" street tiles. But please understand that I'm quite open to the fact that Entergy's restoration process has already begun and "will be completed" regardless of any public complaints or reports that I or anyone else might make.

I just hope I'm alive to see this completion.

FYYFF, Sinn Fein

Update: American Zombie has more on Entergy.

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Holy Cao! 

A favorite Harry Caray quote:

"There's a high foul ball... and it lands right in that woman's Busch!"

Anywho, da Paper wrote an overglowing profile on Dollar Bill Jefferson's Republican challenger, Joseph Cao. Weeks ago, YRHT (probably prematurely) endorsed Cao, but many prominent political nolabloggers remain skeptical of Mr. Cao, which is fair enough. I don't know everything I'd like to know about him either, but I believe I know enough to endorse him over Dollar Bill. On Sunday, Da Paper felt similarly, and endorsed Cao. However, the city's top alternative weekly chose not to endorse Cao over Jefferson, or anyone else for that matter.

I found the rationale behind their non-endorsement to be a bit thin and curious.

[Rep. William Jefferson's] leading opponent, Cao, strikes us as a Republican analogue to Obama — a self-made man with a fascinating history and an impressive determination. His time in the Jesuit seminary, his work with immigration law, and his service to New Orleans' Vietnamese community all demonstrate the marks of a man who can embrace nuance and various points of view.

So far, so good.

But in our conversation with Cao, he was too nuanced. On topics such as embryonic stem-cell research, he preferred to treat controversial social issues like abstract philosophical questions.

Cao gets philosophical. Heaven forfend!

More troubling to us is his enthusiastic endorsement by the Baton Rouge-based Family Research Council, the ultra-conservative organization headed by former state Rep. Tony Perkins. In 1996, Perkins paid David Duke more than $80,000 for his mailing list of bigots; as late as 2001, Perkins was addressing the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. When asked about this endorsement, Cao claimed not to know about it, a position we found hard to believe, as it's listed on his campaign's Web site. While he's clearly the most intelligent candidate in the race and has an admirable record of service, Cao's equivocation on social issues does nothing to dispel our fears that he will take a hard right turn in Washington.

Let me say at the outset that it's entirely possible that Cao doesn't know anything about the history of the Family Research Council, and didn't realize it was on his web site. Aching for any semblance of a "win", national elements of the GOP have coalesced in support of Cao's campaign. The last few weeks have no doubt been somewhat overwhelming for the candidate. And I believe none other than Greg "Muppet" Meffert re-designed Cao's campaign web site. To be sure, these are not untroubling developments. However, using a guilt-by-association dig on Cao is a bit much. Cao to FRC to Perkins to David Duke... I mean, c'mon! What are we supposed to conclude here, that Cao is in bed with bigots? And is the Gambit Weekly only going to endorse Republicans who either don't get the FRC endorsement or who reject that endorsement? When precisely did this policy commence? [Update: In the comments, Kevin Allman points out that the Gambit has a new editor. I should've noted this.]

Anyway, to explain Cao's ignorance of the FRC endorsement, I can easily imagine a phone call between Cao and Muppet going like this:

Ring Ring

"Hello, this is Joseph Cao."

"What up, bro? It's Greg Meffert, your new tech-guru. I don't want to go over your head with geek speak, so I'll make my Cao for Congress web site status report a model of shortness and sweetness. The bottom line is that your new web presence is almost finished and I'm going to transfer the content from that old site and put any new endorsements on the front page. Sound good? It's gonna look wicked coo-- "

"Yes, but just please itemize your invoice. [Overpriced dollar amount] seems like a lot to pay for a new site."

"Aw, don't worry about nothing, dude. You're working with a professional. I always take care of my peeps and cross all the eyes and dot all the teas, just ask Ray Ray. "

An uncomfortable silence follows, so Meffert puts on his sales hat:

"Mr. Kay-oh, I'm sure you understand how important it is to invest in successful new paradigms to move this campaign to a new level of forwardness, right?"

"Uhh, yeah, sure. I have to go to a campaign event."

"Alright. Later days, my brother from another mother. Meff out."

Cao hangs up, and mutters "Who recommended that douche?"

In sum, the Gambit Weekly wouldn't endorse Cao over Dollar Bill Jefferson because Cao's excessive "nuance" worried them that, once elected, Cao would tack "hard right" on social issues. Surely Cao can't be any harder "right" than Gov. Jindal or Steve Scalise, whom they previously endorsed in other elections. But against an (allegedly) corrupt Congressman, fears about Cao's potential "hard right" ideology somehow entered the forefront. Cao might[!] be too "hard right", and is therefore too risky to endorse over William Jefferson.


Here's how I see it: if Cao somehow wins, he will be under incredible pressure to perform heroically in order to (somehow) win re-election in two years. That's the political filter through which I analyze the situation. So, if Cao votes "hard right" with meaningless oppositional votes in a Democratic Congress, he'll ensure his status as an ineffectual one-term political aberration. Hint: no candidate wants that.

But there's plenty of evidence that Cao is not a trojan horse of the far right, and is instead a moderate or progressive on many issues. The environment is one example. Cao led the opposition of the landfill in N.O. East, and having had his house flooded twice, he is mindful of the importance of coastal restoration. Most revealing of all, Cao's willingness to express progressive illegal immigration views on the campaign trail indicates that he's not merely a complaisant GOP tool. (Being a sensible moderate on illegal immigration is a huge "no no" in today's GOP.) Cao doesn't strike me as a partisan who is willing to thoughtlessly adopt hard right talking points simply to get elected. But don't take my word for it. In an important and informative post, Huck Upchuck reviewed Cao's performance at a candidate forum that took place about a month ago. Here's an extended quote, but please read the whole thing:

The questions posed to the candidates at the forum dealt with immigration reform, language access, health care, housing, and education. As an immigrant himself for whom English was, and is, a second language, Joseph Cao's answers to just about all of the questions posed were extremely progressive -- I thought even more progressive than [Democratic candidate] Helena Moreno's answers. Cao supports comprehensive immigration reform and he does not think a security first policy is appropriate as a rational and feasible and even humane approach to the issue; he supports the DREAM act that would allow undocumented children of immigrants the rights to temporary (and perhaps permanent) legal status; he supports legislative initiatives that would provide access to information and documents in the native languages of non-english speaking peoples; as a lawyer himself, he has an impressive knowledge of federal immigration and citizenship laws; he supports bi-lingual education and was personally instrumental in establishing a language immersion public charter school in New Orleans east in the Vietnamese and Spanish languages; and he projected a commitment to the principles of social justice in ways that one would simply not expect of a Republican.

Regarding that last "social justice" bit, I want to highlight a snippet from the aforementioned overglowing profile of Cao in yesterday's T-P. This really speaks to me:

Cao's entrée into politics followed what he called a "faith crisis" during his time at Jesuit seminary in the early 1990s.

After witnessing dire poverty during mission trips to Mexico and Hong Kong, he questioned how a loving God could abide such misery. After much contemplation, Cao concluded: "God does address the issue of human suffering by sending good people" to alleviate it.

The resolution led to him leave the Jesuits and pursue another path to social change: politics.

Now, I've struggled with the problem of evil co-existing with an omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipowerful Godhead. Intellectually, it stands unresolved for me, and is a strong argument against our organized metaphysical comforts. (To put it charitably.) I think it's an important philosophical problem with which all serious believers should struggle. However, if you think an immigrant who grew up in Saigon in the 1970's and who has seen "human misery" up close and personal, is suddenly going to change his core values because some fundagelical GOP puppetmaster lectures him on the evils of the fascist "gay agenda" and why comprehensive immigration reform only appeases the great unwashed Mexican invaders at our borders... well, that's too much for me to swallow. In other words, I'm very willing to bet against that.

And I haven't even discussed Cao's opponent. How "hard right" would Cao have to go to make him less preferable than Dollar Bill? What's the dealbreaker here-- an inconsequential anti-choice vote on an abortion issue? Really? That's why the Gambit can't endorse him as the preferable alternative in this election?

[An aside: in their non-endorsement, the Gambit Weekly says Cao is "clearly the most intelligent candidate in the race". That's not so clear to me. In fact, I'd be very reluctant to take that bet. I'm sure Cao is incredibly intelligent, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if William Jefferson had a higher IQ. Make no mistake, Jefferson is a damn smart man. Problem is, he's a greedhead.]

So where are we at? I expect Jefferson to get re-elected and to have his day in court, and be found guilty on some charges, and have to resign his Congressional seat in disgrace. Knowing that a very desirable challenger is waiting in the wings for this eventuality, I suppose I could get "strategic" in my thinking, and vote for Jefferson with my ultra-preferred candidate's future in mind. But these sorts of cockamamie "strategic" political rationales are dangerous and infectious. Basically, they're an elaborate cop-out; a slippery slope to idiotic political decisions... and excruciating political results. [Update: and the Gambit Weekly rightfully pointed that out, as well.]

A lifelong liberal Democrat, I'm comfortable in my endorsement of Joseph Cao for Congress.

Update: some slight improvements in clarity and composition have been made to this post since its initial publication.
Update #2: The Weathers Report has a fever...

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Thanks holiday music channel! 

Explaining why "Mommy was kissing Santa Claus" to an inquisitive* 4-year old enrapt in the yuletide mythos is an unexpected challenge.

* is there any other kind?


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Monday, December 01, 2008

"Not yet." 


Tomorrow, I'll post a very special (but belated) Jindal Thanksgiving post at First Draft.

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"They kept shopping" 

In the previous post I mentioned how "disturbed" I was by the notion of someone happily trading gold for gasoline.

I finally read a detailed account of the pre-dawn Black Friday stampede at Wal-Mart that cost an employee his life. I honestly can't decide what the single most disturbing thing is about this hideous story, so I'll highlight key words and phrases that struck me:

Police investigating the case of a Wal-Mart worker trampled to death by frenzied shoppers in New York on Friday say it will be difficult to identify the suspects in order to lay criminal charges.
Temporary worker Jdimytai Damour, 34, was one of about a dozen people taken down by the stampede at a Valley Stream, N.Y., store on Friday morning as about 2,000 people rushed through the doors at 5 a.m.

[Apparently when 5am rolled around the store managers thought it would be a good idea to have the employees form a human chain to slow down the hordes of shoppers entering the store.]

A metal portion of the door frame was... reportedly crumpled like an accordion. When police attempted to help Damour, a number of officers were jostled by customers -- some of whom had been lined up since 9 p.m. the night before to take advantage of the sales.

Damour was taken to hospital and later pronounced dead. At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries.
Even shoppers, who continued to flock to the store just a day after the brutal incident, said they were disturbed by the details.

"It felt a little freakish," customer Ellie Berhun, 48, told the Daily News newspaper.

"Some man lost his life because a VCR was on sale? Please. It's just too sad for words."

[Please, for the love of the few things in this world that still make sense, please, please, PLEASE tell me this man didn't lose his life for because a VCR was on sale. Tell me he at least died for a discounted Chinese DVD player. Please.]

Witnesses said that shoppers continued streaming into the store as Damour lay on the ground, stepping over his body.

One woman said shoppers were acting like "savages."

"When they [officials] were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling 'I've been on line since yesterday morning,"' said Kimberly Cribbs. "They kept shopping."

Simply put, a temp Wal-Mart greeter who (I assume) was instructed by management to stand in front of an onrushing crowd was trampled to death, and the people who killed him were permitted to purchase their sale-priced Chinese DVD player [again, do NOT tell me it was a VCR if you want me to stay sane] and check out.

Update: Perhaps Wal-Mart can turn lemons into lemonade and find some new marketing synergies between itself and the new Watchmen movie.

"Save Money. Live Better (than a trampled temp)."


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That's a lot of oats 

Am I the only one who is disturbed by the Cash4Gold ad featuring a customer who is delighted to have sold his gold jewelry for $400, which, he explains, "can buy a lot of gas"?

To, in effect, happily trade a commodity like gold for a commodity like gasoline is such a disturbing notion. Think about how well gold has held its value throughout the ages... now imagine you lived four hundred years ago and economic circumstances forced you to trade some gold for several months of horse feed-- would you be delighted?


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