Friday, December 26, 2008


Today is my 46th birthday. I'm just saying.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

Last Christmas was one of the worst days of my entire life, for reasons I don't care to revisit. DW and I decided to try something different this year.

We took a hotel room in Alexandria, Louisiana, where we put up a small Christmas tree and laid out the kids' presents underneath it. We brought them over individually on Christmas Eve to open presents and play. That way, T could make his WalMart rounds and A could eat at Subway.

A, as usual, ignored the Christmas tree and the presents underneath.

T got the added bonus of watching DW have a Zen experience with the beanie cranes at WalMart. She became one with the machines and was lifting plush toys left and right--and doing it with her non-dominant hand, to boot. T was jumping up and down with joy.

After we returned T to school, DW and I motored up to Natchitoches, Louisiana (50 miles NW), to view that town's fabulous Christmas lights. When I was a kid, we drove through Natchitoches every year shortly before XMAS on the way to Baton Rouge from our home in Oklahoma, and I could see the lights all set up and ready to go. But it was too far from our grandparents' house for my parents to be bothered with driving us back up to see the lights at night. So I finally got to see them, something I highly recommend.

We went by our kids' mini-group home Christmas morning after they attended mass and opened their Santa Claus presents, which appeared mysteriously while the kids were at church. We had a nice visit, then drove back home. The kids' school provided them with a tasty looking Christmas lunch, but DW and I had our own arrangements fall through. DW made a Christmas dinner of truck stop nachos, and I had a can of Spaghetti-Os with sliced weenies. So much better than a repeat of the same meal we had a month ago.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the Night's Plutonian Shore

I dreamt last night that a collaborator--someone I didn't recognize--and I had written a law review article exposing corruption at the highest levels of government. Yeah, yeah, I know, a law review is a most inappropriate venue to break the news of a scandal. But what can I say? It's a dream. Anyway, my coauthor and I were rather proud of ourselves. We must have been members of the law review, as we were showing a small group of professors a completed copy of the article.

Instead of being shocked, dazzled, or impressed, one of the professors completely ignored the text and started looking at footnotes. "Your font is all wrong," she said, and she also helpuflly pointed out numerous perceived Bluebook citation and style errors. I know that book reasonably well, but I don't remember whether or not the professor was correct. I was e little hurt by the criticism, particularly as nobody gave a hoot about the scandal we had uncovered.

Dreaming about the Bluebook. Yikes. I suppose next week I'll have a dream where I tiptoe through the entire Oxford English Dictionary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now he's reduced to telling lightbulb jokes?

Your humble correspondent heard an awesome lightbulb joke on Numbers a few weeks ago. Turns out the joke has been around for a while.

Q. How many existentialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. Two. One to screw it in and one to observe how the lightbulb itself symbolizes a single incandescent beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld or endless absurdity reaching out toward a maudlin cosmos of nothingness

I came across a list of excellent lightbulb jokes online last night, to wit:
Q. How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Three, but they're really one.

Q. How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Two, one to hold the giraffe, and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools

Your working boy has never originated a lightbulb joke he can recall, but it's never too late to try:
Q. How many Mormons does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Nine. One bishop to seek inspiration as to which worthy priesthood holder should be extended the lightbulb calling; two counselors with whom the bishop discusses his lightbulb selection, and who confirm the bishop's inspiration; one quorum leader who must be consulted to determine whether the member in question can be freed up to change the lightbulb at the appropriate time; one ward executive secretary to phone the ward member selected for the lightbulb calling, asking him to meet with the bishop and giving no reason why; one gossipy spouse to speculate with her visiting teaching companion over a lunch of green jello about her husband's qualifications for that open lightbulb installer position, but possibly for that crinkly Victoria's Secret catalogue she found under his side of the bed; one scary, heavily armed ward member who insists to anyone who will listen that he has received direct inspiration that he will be called to change the lightbulb; the newly called and set-apart lightbulb changer who was so nervous on Saturday night about his mysterious Sunday morning meeting with the bishop that he OD'd on Nyquil, causing him to drop the bulb on the floor of the cultural hall, shattering it to bits; and, finally, another church member with vast experience in the construction trades, who mysteriously appears at the base of the ladder, coaxes down the failed and emotionally devastated would-be lightbulb installer, climbs the ladder, and inserts a lightbulb he found in the supply closet

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Boys and Our Toys

I've been viewing photos of my new nephew, Manhattan Sam, on his gentle parents' blog. I see that gentle reader Bill is introducing his son to the computer at a very early age, albeit to watch television. Good job! I was reminded of one of my favorite baby pictures of Toby. Anyhow, will this:

lead to this:
(yes, I really was that slim)
and to this?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Holy Corruption, Batman!

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested for, among other things, attempting to sell Barack Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate. Wow, they're as bad as we are! ETA--"we" is Louisiana. Come to think of it, even we're not that bad anymore.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Good Books

The TLS books-of-the-year edition is out. Alas, mine usually makes it here a couple of weeks late. I suspect that the print edition will have recommendations from many more reviewers than the online edition offers. I used the best books list to pick up a couple of excellent books last year; perhaps I'll do the same this year.

Or maybe I'll just wait for the next Stephanie Meyer vampire novel to come out. Confession--I've actually not read any of Meyer's books, though DW has, and three of them are in the bookcase on my side of the bed. We saw Twilight and Quantum of Solace on successive days last weekend. Surprisingly, I thought Twilight the better of the two. Love Daniel Craig as James Bond, but, man, Quantum is just plain dull.

Hell Freezes Over, Much Like the $90K in Bill Jefferson's Icebox

I was surprised by this story in this morning's Times-Picayune:

Indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson suffered what may be the final blow of his storied political career in the most improbable way Saturday, when an untested Republican opponent took advantage of Louisiana's new federal voting rules -- and an election delay caused by Hurricane Gustav -- to unseat the nine-term Democrat.

With the upset victory, Anh "Joseph" Cao, a eastern New Orleans attorney who fled war-ravaged Saigon as a child, becomes the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. He will represent a district that was specifically drawn to give African-Americans an electoral advantage and one in which two of every three voters are registered Democrats.

Jefferson, the first African-American to represent Louisiana in Congress since Reconstruction and a force on the local political stage for three decades, finished a close second among four general election candidates after beating back stiff challenges from within his own party during earlier rounds of voting.

His defeat came on a day of abysmally low turnout, which political pundits had predicted could be Jefferson's undoing despite his demographic and political advantages.

Ironically, had Gustav not postponed the voting schedule one month, the general election would have been held the same ballot as last month's presidential election, when high turnout among African-American voters likely would have carried Jefferson to a 10th term.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana's 4th Congressional District, Republican John Fleming, a physician from Minden, won the seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Jim McCrery, a Republican from Shreveport.

The two races, both delayed because of Gustav, were this season's last contests for the U.S. House of Representatives. Saturday's results mean Louisiana bucked the national trend and wound up with a congressional delegation of six Republicans and a single Democrat. Three Democrats represent Louisiana in the current Congress.

Speaking to supporters Saturday night at Palace Cafe on Canal Street, Cao, 41, made reference to Jefferson's earlier victories this season -- and to the legal problems that undoubtedly contributed to his downfall.

"I know he went through two previous primaries, and that must have been hard," Cao said. "But tonight, the people of the 2nd District have spoken. We want a new direction. We want accountability, and have it."

Cao made direct reference to his improbable political ascent, seeming as astonished as anyone else.

"Never in my life did I think I could be a future congressman," he said. "The American dream is well and alive."

Though he was a relative unknown before this race, Cao was flanked Saturday night by a number of local political power brokers.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Metairie, introduced him to screaming supporters. City Councilwomen Jackie Clarkson and Stacy Head, both Democrats, were in attendance, along with former TV news anchor Helena Moreno, who was defeated by Jefferson in the Democratic Party runoff. Several GOP party leaders, including former City Councilmen Jay Batt and Bryan Wagner, also joined the crowd.

At Cao's side was his wheelchair-bound father, who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison camp during that country's civil war. In his closing, Cao offered thanks to the local immigrant community, and he made a special plea for peace in the country of his birth.

"I'd like to thank my Vietnamese community," he said, "and I'd like to encourage young Vietnamese in this country to work peacefully for a free and democratic Vietnam."

Meanwhile, at an Uptown art gallery, Jefferson, 61, a Harvard-educated attorney and former state Senator who was raised amid dire poverty in Lake Providence, La., said he thought voter fatigue contributed to his loss.

"Over three elections, I think people kind of ran out a little bit at the end of, I guess, the juice it takes to keep on going," he said. "There were three very difficult elections and on Nov. 4, a lot of folks thought we already won.

"I'm sure that if we poll, somewhere out there in the 2nd District is a vast majority of people who support our campaign and who, had they voted today, would have expressed it," he said.

Speaking to about 50 supporters who gave Jefferson a standing ovation when he entered the room, Jefferson thanked his family, labor leaders, local ministers and African-American voters, whom he praised as the "bedrock" of his political base.

"I'm so very grateful to each and every one of you, folks who are here and folks who are out there, for the warm embrace that you have given me over the years," he said.

Jefferson's demise resulted in part from Louisiana's return after 30 years to a closed primary system. As the only Republican to qualify for the general election, Cao spent September and October meeting voters, honing his message and raising money.

Meanwhile, Jefferson had to fight off six well-known challengers who together raised almost $2 million in an effort to unseat him in the Democratic Party primary and runoff, which were open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

With his name appearing for the first time on Saturday's ballot, Cao was able to reach out to voters who supported the Democratic also-rans, as well as about 50,000 voters, most of them registered Republicans, who were forced to stay on the sidelines during the Democratic Party races.

As predicted, there was a dramatic drop-off in turnout Saturday compared with the Nov. 4 election that featured Barack Obama, now president-elect.

Last month, nearly 164,000 Democrats and independents in the 2nd District cast ballots. Even with the universe of voters expanded Saturday to include all registered voters, only 66,846 showed up to the polls.

In a rare radio interview in advance of the general election, Jefferson had expressed concerns that his base of African-American supporters might assume that he had won re-election last month and stay home Saturday.

Cao, who came to the United States when he was 8, holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Baylor University and a master's degree in philosophy from Fordham University. After a stint as a Catholic seminarian, he earned a law degree from Loyola University in 2000.

Married with two daughters, he now runs a law practice in Venetian Isles specializing in immigration.

Cao took an interest in local politics after his home and office were swamped during Hurricane Katrina.

His first bid for public office last year, when he sought the open 103rd House District, was inauspicious. Running then as an independent, he finished fifth in a six-candidate field.

Cao said he began eyeing a run for the 2nd District seat shortly after a Virginia grand jury indicted Jefferson last year on charges of bribery and public corruption following revelations in 2005 that FBI agents found $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer and linked him and several relatives to a wide-ranging bribery scheme.

Counting among his backers Gov. Bobby Jindal and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, Cao attracted solid support from local, state and national Republican organizations. He raised almost $90,000 from a slate of party operatives, local executives and members of the Vietnamese community. He also pumped $70,000 of his money into the campaign.

Hoping to pad his war chest further, Cao joined the Republican National Committee and the state GOP last month in filing a lawsuit challenging a decades-old cap on the amount of money the groups can spend on coordinated advertising efforts. As of late last week, the suit had gone nowhere.

Cao maintained a generally cordial tone during the campaign, limiting his criticism of Jefferson to questions about the congressman's effectiveness and ethics and rarely mentioning the criminal charges.

However, as election day neared, the National Republican Congressional Committee stepped in with a series of harsh mail pieces and an automated telephone call to voters that highlighted the allegations of money laundering, racketeering and bribery and labeled Jefferson as "crooked."

Organizers of Cao's campaign denied having a hand in the attack.

On election day, the Cao campaign launched a surprise, last-minute offensive with a pair of automated phone calls urging voters to pull the lever for Cao. The messages were recorded by Moreno and former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick. It was both supporters' first foray into the general election campaign.

Though Jefferson will pack up his Capitol Hill office, he will remain in the news: Originally scheduled to begin last week, his trial is likely to start in early 2009.

Also in the cross-hairs of federal prosecutors are Jefferson siblings Betty Jefferson, the Orleans Parish 4th District Assessor, and political consultant Mose Jefferson, who were indicted last year on charges that they conspired to loot more than $600,000 in taxpayer money from three charities.

In a separate case, Mose Jefferson was indicted on charges that he bribed the former president of the Orleans Parish School Board.

Those trials are set for early next year.

Jefferson's defeat also marks the latest and most severe blow to the Progressive Democrats, the Central City-based political organization that he founded.

Among Jefferson allies who have been forced from public office since news of the FBI probe into Jefferson's dealings broke are: Renee Gill Pratt, the congressman's former legislative aide who lost her seat on the City Council; close ally Eddie Jordan, who was forced to resign as Orleans Parish district attorney; and Jefferson's daughter, then-state Rep. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, who lost a bid last year for the state Senate.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yip yip yahoo! Nephew Sam is a-born in New York City

A big puddle of congratulations to Gentle Readers Bill and Karen, whose first child was born last night. They named him Samuel, and Manhattan Sam no doubt will be the root-toot-tootin'est hombre east of the Pecos and the Hudson.