Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nagin: "Bring it" 

Yatpundit has an excellent post up titled "Unfounded suggestions of racism are counter-productive". Here are some highlights, but please read the whole thing.

While nobody would argue that there's more than enough palpable racism to go around in metro New Orleans, public officials should be more cautious when making accusations that are essentially unfounded.
Hedge-Morrell's explanation for abstaining [from the vote on open meetings for the mayor's city contract review committees] was typically nonsensical:

In the end, Hedge-Morrell, who is black, said she did not want to vote to fuel more racial antagonism and worsen already poor relations between the mayor and council.

"What is the purpose of dividing our city more than it already is?" she said. "The worst thing I've ever seen is what's going on in this city right now and how polarized the two communities are becoming."
One should always remember that the winners in any "racial polarization" debate in New Orleans are Republicans.
Since the storm, black politicians have nurtured and fostered racial divisions to their own benefit. Even when there are real issues of corruption and poor management in city government, the race card comes flying out of the deck.

The problem with philosophical discussions is that no matter where you start, you always have to go backwards. Same problem with discussions of "race". It's tricky. Let me bypass a number of issues that could be taken up from that quote and AGREE with part of what Councilmember Hedge-Morrell said: the "two communities" in this city are becoming more polarized. This increasing polarization certainly doesn't justify silly votes or racially charged conspiracy talk, but there are surging undercurrents in the escalating power struggle between the City Council and the Mayor, and many of those undercurrents are charged with racial components. This situation could get worse, especially since Councilmembers Fielgood, Head and Midura probably don't have a lot of experience successfully navigating such currents.

Also, please keep in mind that the last time Nagin sought advantage in racial division (to this extent) was during his re-election campaign. At the time, he was fighting for his political life. Over the coming year, I expect there to be a series of blockbuster revelations about the Nagin administration. I'm sure Nagin will do everything in his power to avoid and cloud the real issues at hand in order to prevent these disclosures. And, no, the fact that Nagin might be revealed to be a crook or a thug doesn't mean we should excuse the crookedness and thuggery of the umpteen white mayors and leaders who did similar and/or worse stuff back in the day. But Nagin ran as a reformer, and he was re-elected because he ran against the "politics of the past", so he and his political enablers will get no quarter from me. (Hope that Oreo cookie gag was worth it, C. Ray.) Note: When I say "political enablers" I'm referring to people like the Couhig Conservatives. I'm not talking about open-minded bloggers like Cliff, whose posts about Nagin are important and worth contemplating as a counterpoint to the heated criticisms and unproved insinuations you see about Nagin in the largely white progressive nolablogosphere.

Interestingly, Cliff shares Hedge-Morrell's concerns (as do I), and is pessimistic as to how this will politically resolve itself in the near future:

Everyone is so emotional and divided along racial and class lines now that the next election cycle will do nothing to bring this city together. It’s all going to be a big waste of time because unless there’s someone no one knows about sitting at home preparing the greatest speech since The Gettysburg Address no one person can heal this place.

James Perry, your leadership is needed. Start drafting historic, unifying sentences on cocktail napkins, because New Orleanians fear that the 2010 Mayoral campaign will be fatally "race-poisoned" before it even begins.

Nagin can't run for mayor again, but you wouldn't know it by the way he is already trying to narrow the scope of the race into a crude "us vs. them" dynamic.

Locked in his latest political duel with the City Council over the city's contracting practices, Mayor Ray Nagin took to the airwaves this week to challenge his critics.

And at every turn, the mayor made it a point to aim his harshest words at City Councilman Arnie Fielkow, who is mulling a run for the job that Nagin will vacate in 14 months.
Asked by WGNO anchor Liz Reyes if he thinks Fielkow, a native of Wisconsin, doesn't understand the law, Nagin was blunt.

"I think he's struggling with his role as a legislator," he said. "I think he's not from here. So he wouldn't know the history of the charter and what's going on. And he's wasting our time."

Quizzed about the same topic by KMEZ's morning show co-host, Kelder Summers, Nagin said of Fielkow's proposal: "This is nuts!

"I'm amazed at how deceitful this stuff can be," the mayor said of local politics. "And this transparency thing: Arnie's taken this term and tried to present it like he's getting ready to do something when I've already had a transparent process in place."
And he added that any criticism of that position, particularly from the news media, doesn't faze him.

"I don't care who gets mad," he said. "And these other stations, I want you all to hear me good. I don't mind fighting. I will fight until the last hour that I'm in office. I'm in, 100 percent. So, y'all can keep coming. Bring it. It's OK. And we can keep doing this dance. But at some point, you're going to hurt yourself. And I'm going to figure out a way to get around you, get over you, get through you."

In closing his soliloquy, Nagin offered a word of warning to his supporters -- and another veiled reference to Fielkow.

"Don't be hoodwinked! Don't be bamboozled!" he shouted. "Don't fall for these folk that ain't from here trying to say, 'I'm going for this and I'm going to make it better.'"

Nagin doesn't mind fighting, and wants it brought. Then he warns investigators that they might hurt themselves. Isn't that sweet? And Nagin's got that smug look of serene confidence that he had in 2006, like he's got an ace up his sleave.

Alright, we'll see if he has that same smug look a year from now.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

He really believes this stuff 


In a rational (dream) world [the Louisiana Science Education Act] would be overturned during the upcoming legislative session, despite the vehement resistance of the Louisiana Family Forum. In reality our state will likely squander money and time defending this unconstitutional bill, which will ultimately be thrown out by the federal courts under the (explicitly pro-science) Obama administration.

In the meantime not only will we lose much needed tourist revenues but we will jeopardize vital federal funding for saving coastal resources. Too bad that south Louisiana wasn’t designed intelligently enough so that even the best efforts of the Corps of Engineers and the “drill here drill now” mentality of the state re 1970’s oil and gas production couldn’t have screwed it up.

T-P columnist James Gill:

[The President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology] has declared, "No future meeting of our society will take place in Louisiana as long as that law stands."

"That law" is the Louisiana Science Education Act, which is named for what it is designed to destroy. Jindal signed it last year, clearing the way for creationism to be taught in biology class.
But the voice of reason cuts no ice with Jindal... at least on this issue. He refused to veto the bill last year, ignoring the pleas of [Scientific Groups]... and even his old genetics professor from Brown University.

The force behind the bill was the Louisiana Family Forum, a group of Christian soldiers that few politicians would wish to cross, given that polls suggest a startlingly high number of Americans refuse to accept that mountains of scientific evidence prove the truth of evolution.

Background here. Gill continues, and brings up a point that most educated Jindal supporters either fail to understand or are too scared to contemplate.

While some politicians might kowtow to the forum out of expediency, Jindal does not appear to be one of them. He actually appears to believe this stuff. Darwin or Genesis? You pays your money and you takes your choice, so far as the Louisiana Science Education Act is concerned.

Bobby Jindal and Timmy Teepell are not like Bush and Rove. No. Bobby and Timmy don't meet with leaders of the Fundagelical Right about legislative priorities, and then laugh at them after they leave the room. They don't string the fundagelical right along with "culture of life" talk, and just use them for their votes. No. But, surprisingly, it's not the reverse, either. The fundagelical right isn't using Bobby Jindal to further their political aims. Why? Because he's totally on board! People need to understand that Bobby doesn't "pander" to the extreme religious right, nor is he "used" by "them" because, in his heart of hearts, he is one of them. As hard is it may seem, Jindal really believes in the Discovery Institute pseudoscience just as he believes in the religious pseudo-history of Dan Barton.

Educated Moderate Libertarian Fiscal Conservative Jindal supporter: But, but, but... Bobby's an Ivy League Rhodes Scholar, he's so smart... how could he... I just don't see how he really believes this creationist stuff. I mean, if he actually believed that stuff, what kind of other weird religious ideas does he have? It's scary to contemplate. No, he's just pandering.

Actually he's not "pandering" to them, he's fooling you. Don't feel so bad, he fooled me too for a while. I had assumed that because of his educational background Jindal was too smart to buy into Discovery Institute pseudo-science and Dan Barton pseudo-history. But after finding absolutely no evidence of such intelligence, I had to alter my assumption. Jindal actually believes this stuff. You can take that to the bank. That's why he will never fire Timmy Teepell no matter how badly he screws up, and that's why he'll never compromise on policy involving creationism, abortion, gays, and (I suspect) global warming. (Speaking of which...)

What really irks me most of all is the "critical thinking" trojan horse that encapsulates the Louisiana Science Education Act; the "supplemental materials" that "raise questions" about evolution, for example.

Inserting unprovable supernatural possibilities into the so-called "gaps" of evolutionary theories borders on child abuse. Don't believe me? Then here' s my idea: let me bring my "supplemental materials" to Religion class-- or any other class, come to think of it.

The first supplemental material will be the evil genius scenario. That is, before we can explore any topic, we must first consider whether or not "we" are all just brains in vats. Consider this: you are nothing but a brain, and an evil genius has you hooked up to a supercomputer that inputs all stimuli. Everything you think, see, hear or "do" is actually input from the evil genius' computer. Kind of like the "Matrix". How do you disprove the "evil genius/brain in the vat" theory? More importantly, how does it not perfectly explain everything that is still unanswered in other fields of inquiry? How 'bout my daughter is in your child's class*, and whenever the teacher asks a question she raises her hand and says something like "Everything-- the Civil War, D.B. Cooper, Alpha Centari-- is illusion. This is all just a phenomenological mirage created by the evil genius who has all our brains in a vat. My theory is coherent and seamless. Your theories have gaps, and the gaps in your theory help support my theory... so let's critically discuss this". Is that helping your child's education?

Thx to Noladder for the links.
*not a philosophy class, where such discussions should be welcomed

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So long, Deuce 

Deuce McAllister, awaiting introduction at Superdome, 9/28/08 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)


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Bible + Diaper Fetishist = dangerous combination 

I hate it when this happens.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vague tales from the cryptic 

Dambala writes:

It appears my Manhattan project may be unfolding from the ground up.

Then he provides the pertinent link to a news story that just broke:

Mayor Ray Nagin's 2008 e-mails deleted in violation of records law

What can I say about this? Certainly not as much as I would like.

Let's put it this way: when Dambala uses the phrase "Manhattan project" to describe his work, he is not making an overstatement. This isn't a mere bundle of buried political dynamite, kids. We're talking about the possible detonation of something exponentially more explosive-- a political atom bomb that will deeply impact New Orleans history for decades to come. I mean... this is seriously jaw-dropping. (And I don't mean "jaw-dropping" as in a "surprised gape"; I mean "jaw-dropping" as in your freakin' jaw fell off your face and is laying there on the sidewalk-- that sort of "jaw-dropping"... And how many years would pass before you forgot the time when your jaw unexpectedly dropped off your face? ... Exactamundo.)

Dambala then quotes a commenter who states:

Those emails can be recovered. You cannot delete anything from a hard drive. A skilled forensic person can retrieve them.

Dambala replies:

How right you are [commenter]! If I was a betting man... I would say they have already been recovered.

Well, I'm definitely a betting man, and I know where the smart money is moving on this one. Ask yourselves, who might've recovered the emails? That's a pretty short list. Clearly, someone who knows what they are doing. And what did that person (or persons) uncover in those recovered emails? Something politically atomic, judging from Dambala's metaphor. And I'm here to tell ya that that metaphor is closer to euphemism than overstatement.

Until very recently I assumed that Nagin was just an empty-headed ineffectual clown; a "do-nothing" Dubya, a victor of circumstance who got re-elected because he followed Jim Carvin's directions with uncharacteristic discipline. I assumed that Nagin, despite his (inscrutably) bizarre outbursts and tiffs, was basically too stupid to inflict serious harm. Sure, he'd stand by and act like things were fine while his stricken city died a slow death... and sure, he'd find ways to duke his cronies a million here or there while making public comments about how transparent his administration was... but until recently I comfortably assumed that he was too stupid or incompetent to do something really, truly wicked.

Until recently.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Scientists say "No thanks" to New Orleans 

Liprap and Al R. informed us that the Jindal Administration's support of anti-science creationist legislation has already yielded some (forbidden) fruit.

The Executive Committee of The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology wrote to Gov. Jindal informing him that they would hold their 2011 conference in Salt Lake City instead of New Orleans "in large part" because "of the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula".

The front page of the Society's web site says "No Thanks, New Orleans" and links to their letter to Jindal. PZ Meyers laments that he won't be able to spend five days in New Orleans at the conference with the other 2000 attendees. Prof. Barbara Forrest notes that the Jindal administration and the Legislature were repeatedly warned about the economic damage that would result from this anti-science legislation. So they must take full responsibility for this embarrassing travesty.

Thanks Bobby! Has anyone ever told you that you're really smart?

Update: Thx to the Dead Pelican for linking to YRHT.

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