Sunday, December 21, 2008

...Industrial Robots...

...Lollypop and Tiger...

Anh "Joseph" Cao

DECEMBER 20, 2008
A Vietnamese Republican Wins in the Big Easy
Obama wasn't the only advance in race blindness this fall.

New Orleans
It was around noon one Saturday earlier this month when I noticed a ruckus outside the window of my third floor apartment in uptown New Orleans. Parked across the street was a big red truck with a large group of people on top dancing and playing music. It turned out to be a rolling campaign float for Anh "Joseph" Cao, a long-shot Republican candidate running for Congress in Louisiana's Second District, which encompasses most of the city and a part of a neighboring parish.
Anh 'Joseph' Cao with his daughter Betsy and wife Kate Hieu Hoang.
The group atop the truck, led by a man I assumed to be Mr. Cao -- though from that distance it's hard to be sure -- wasn't dancing but waving at passing drivers, a few of whom offered enthusiastic honks in return. Up the block, people filed into our neighborhood polling place to vote in one of the most overlooked congressional races in local memory. The campaign, which stretched into early December due to postponements caused by Hurricane Gustav, hadn't stirred much interest. New Orleans, like much of the country, was exhausted from the recently concluded "Obamathon." Besides, what chance did an unknown, Vietnamese-born immigration lawyer and ex-Jesuit seminarian have of unseating William Jefferson, an entrenched, nine-term incumbent Democrat?
Granted, Mr. Jefferson's campaign had been somewhat hampered by the fact that he is facing trial early next year on 16 counts of public corruption -- charges stemming from a federal raid that found $90,000 in cash in his freezer a few years ago. But he remained one of the state's most powerful black politicians running in a district that is almost two-thirds African-American and hasn't sent a Republican to Washington since the 19th century.
Watching the festive red truck pull away, I shook my head ruefully at the misguided sense of mission that led men like Mr. Cao to waste their time and treasure on political futility.
Later that evening I went to Mr. Jefferson's election-night headquarters intending to interview his supporters about how he had managed to defeat a broad field of challengers and win re-election despite his extensive problems with the feds (two of Jefferson's siblings and a niece are also under indictment). Mr. Jefferson's pending return to Congress was seen by many as a further stain on Louisiana's already well-tarnished political reputation. That he would be re-elected was viewed as a forgone conclusion following his victory in the Democratic primary.
I mean, Anh Cao? C'mon!
But as the returns came in Mr. Cao grabbed an early lead that he never relinquished. Just after 10:30 p.m., a weary and slightly stooped Mr. Jefferson took to the podium and struggled to explain what had happened to stunned supporters: "I think people kind of ran out a little bit at the end of, I guess, the juice it takes to keep on going."
In the two weeks since Mr. Cao's unlikely triumph, GOP leaders have been crowing about the broader significance of the upset. "The Cao victory is a symbol of what can be achieved when we think big," said Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Well, maybe. But a closer look indicates the result was more a product of fortuitous timing than grand GOP thinking. To start, the Republicans owe a thank-you note to the Louisiana legislature, which adopted a closed primary system in time for this year's elections. That meant that while Mr. Jefferson had to fight a tough primary and runoff just to secure the Democratic nomination, Mr. Cao, as the lone Republican, skated through unopposed to the general election. It also meant that when Gustav forced a mass evacuation of the lower part of the state in September, the general election could not be held until December. So while a huge turnout of African-American voters for November's presidential election helped Mr. Jefferson win the Democratic primary, that support evaporated in the general election when only 18% of eligible voters went to the polls.
The decline was particularly steep in majority black precincts. On election night, Mr. Jefferson said he sensed trouble on the trail when supporters kept asking why he was campaigning since he had already won in November.
Still, the election of Mr. Cao, and that of Gov. Bobby Jindal last year, marks a political sea change in this Deep South state. Just 17 years ago a majority of white voters in Louisiana supported ex-Klansman David Duke for governor. Now Mr. Cao (pronounced "Gow") becomes the first Vietnamese-born citizen elected to Congress, just as Mr. Jindal was the first American of Indian heritage to be elected governor. Their victories carry the same message that Barack Obama's did in the presidential race: We are finally at the point where competence can trump skin color in politics.
Certainly, Mr. Cao's compelling personal story played a part in his win. He fled the Communist takeover of his country in 1975, arriving from Saigon at age eight and speaking no English. He ended up with degrees in physics, philosophy and law. Key also was the support of New Orleans's vibrant Vietnamese community. Many of its members settled here after the war to live in a humid, heavily Catholic, tidal region that reminded them of home.
And over the decades, their connection to the state has grown roots. After Hurricane Katrina wiped out Vietnamese neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, they aggressively rebuilt, refusing to be driven from their adoptive home. It was the destruction of Katrina and the failed government response to it that led Mr. Cao to get involved in politics -- he felt compelled to take a leadership role in rebuilding New Orleans.
Of course, one group's historic triumph is another's historic defeat. The Second District was created in large measure to ensure that Louisiana's black citizens, which comprise almost a third of the state's population, had a voice in Washington. With Mr. Jefferson's defeat, there are no African-Americans in the state's congressional delegation. Many believe that this is temporary and will be reversed in the next election.
But Mr. Cao's fate is now in his own hands. Republican leaders in Congress, eager to show that one of their members can successfully represent a "majority-minority" district, will likely help him become an effective legislator. It's up to Mr. Cao to capitalize on this opportunity and set himself up to run for re-election in two years on a platform of accomplishments. If he does that and wins, his success will say a lot about the future of race relations not only in New Orleans, but in 21st century America as well.
Mr. McCollam, a freelance writer living in New Orleans, is a former correspondent for BusinessWeek and The American Lawyer magazines.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

...Fall 909...

...One More Question...

Question No. 58 in the transition team vetting document for the Obama White House asks that applicants: "Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)"
Question No. 63 asks that applicants "please provide any other information ... that could ... be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect."
For a while there this afternoon, President-elect Barack Obama's immensely talented chief speechwriter, 27-year-old Jon Favreau, might have been pondering how to address that question.
That's when some interesting photos of a recent party he attended -- including one where he's dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he's placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady's chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer -- popped up on Facebook for about two hours. The photos were quickly taken down -- along with every other photo Favreau had of himself on the popular social networking site, save for one profile headshot.
Asked about the photos, Favreau, who was recently appointed director of speechwriting for the White House, declined comment. A transition official said that Favreau had "reached out to Senator Clinton to offer an apology."
Favreau is not the first campaign aide whose online presence has proved awkward.....
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ha ha ha.....


December 5, 2008 --
ORGANIZERS of the Sundance Film Festival insist 2009 is going to be their biggest year yet - an assertion that gay-rights activists will not be pleased to hear.
While the star-studded event announced the 118 movies in its lineup yesterday, activists remain up in arms over the festival's involvement with supporters of Proposition 8, the amendment that passed in California, banning same-sex marriage.
The festival is held every year in January in Park City, Utah, the state that's a stronghold of the Mormon Church, whose elders "organized its followers to support the amendment banning same-sex marriage . . . and encouraged them to give generously to the cause," according to The Advocate. .....
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A sign of a healthy democracy is loud forceful disagreement

in the political discourse.

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