The topic of this week’s Stateside was going to be the weird conversations that perfect strangers strike up with me. What is it about me, I wonder, that someone in the post office will ask me as we leave if I believe in UFOs and then walk with me to the bus stop to explain that ultraviolet photographs taken by MIR cosmonauts showed that space station surrounded by them?
And then there was the guy on the bus a couple of Sundays ago who asked me in an accusatory tone, “Are you a CHRISTIAN?” To which I immediately replied—as always when accused of something—“NO!” Turns out he was being ironic. I’d just offered someone whose bus pass didn’t work the money for their fare. Well, I wasn’t doing it because I’m Christian but because other people have done the same for me.
We ended up having a philosophical discussion about Jesus and the Bible, and my inquisitor said as he left the bus that I was like Job for denying the existence of God. That’s not actually what Job did, but oddly, within a fortnight, my hands were covered with burns because I got into a baking jag and kept accidentally touching the cooking rack or the stove door. Is the universe playing word games with me or am I just too daft to buy an oven glove to replace my oven cloth?
Anyway, it was going to be a lighthearted column—that is, until I read the results of Saturday’s election for who will represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Reading the results—Republican Anh Cao, who is a Vietnamese American, won—a conversation someone struck up with me a couple of weeks ago, which I’d forgotten about, suddenly came back to mind. The conversation went something like this:
“What did you think of that news item last night about the Vietnamese women seeking reparations from the U.S. Government for having Agent Orange dropped on them during the war in Vietnam?”
“I didn’t see it,” I replied.
“Those people killed our boys and young men and now they want compensation? It’s outrageous.”
“Didn’t the government pay out compensation to the servicemen affected by Agent Orange?” I asked, trying to recall whether that was just the NZ government or the US as well and steer the conversation in another direction. That question went unanswered in the ensuing angry comments about the Vietnamese.
The relevance of that conversation to Saturday’s election result in Louisiana is that the person who began it was an African American. Now, that’s just one person’s opinion and she obviously isn’t a voter in Louisiana. But by my reckoning I’ve spent a couple of thousand hours over the past five years commuting by bus from a predominantly black community through areas of Oakland that are predominantly Asian, and it’s my first-hand observation that in general there is no love lost between those ethnicities in everyday life.
(As if to assert that such an attitude has no place in an Obama world, the day after the Louisiana election, the President-Elect named a Hawaii-born retired general of Japanese descent as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Then again, the announcement was made on the 67th anniversary of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor and, also, General Shinseki is most remembered for his testimony to Congress before the invasion of Iraq that far more troops would be necessary than Rumsfeld said would be needed.)
Back to Louisiana. How did a Republican of Vietnamese origin win an election in a district where, according to the stats on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, registered voters as at November 30 broke out like this: Total: 258,925 + 114,358; White: 64,700 + 49,333; Black: 175,791 + 54,498; Other: 18,434 + 10,527; Registered Democrats: 181,146 + 66,021; Republicans: 23,072 + 18,238; Other: 8,735 + 30,099?
The two figures are from Sheets 26 and 36 of the SoS spreadsheet because CD2 includes Orleans Parish and a part of Jefferson Parish, which is the order I’ve listed them in. The (at time of writing, unofficial) election results for CD2, broken out by parish, are here. It’s worth also going to the precinct-level stats because they show the absentee voting, which in the two parishes are: Democratic candidate: 1366 + 151; Republican: 800 + 398; Green: 94 + 3; Libertarian: 34 + 14. No provisional ballot results had been posted as at 2 pm Louisiana time on Sunday.
According to the local paper of record, the Times-Picayune, “Cao, a soft-spoken attorney from Venetian Isles, managed his unlikely win by taking advantage of remarkably low turnout in heavily black neighborhoods, as well as strong support from local and national GOP groups.”
So, one explanation for the result might be the exceedingly low turnout of voters in District 2: 18.47 percent in Jefferson Parish; 17.66 percent in Orleans Parish, which includes Venetian Isles). Perhaps Democrats thought that despite his problems with the law, nine-term incumbent William Jefferson would win anyway.
Opponents of third parties might say that if the Green and Libertarian votes had all gone to the Democrat, then he would have won. That’s true, but an unlikely combination, and the combination of Dems plus Greens would not have numbered more than Reps plus Libertarians.
Perhaps it was simply that people of all political stripes were keen for change, especially if it meant tipping out someone who was charged with corruption. Or it might have been the voting machines, AVC Advantage touchscreens, demoed here on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website. Whenever the words “unlikely” and “remarkably” are used in the mainstream media—and even the candidate is surprised by his win--it should throw up a red flag to look a bit more deeply into what happened.
::And one more bizarrity::
ABC’s Saturday Night Movie was “Grey Owl,” which is based on the true story of an English teenager obsessed with Red Indians who moved to Canada and ended up—by virtue of his ability with the written word—being toured around the country and the world as an Indian savior of the wilderness. A newspaper reporter who knew the truth, which Grey Owl readily admitted to him when confronted by it, didn’t write about it until after GO had died.
I mention this in the context of the challenges to Obama’s “natural born” status, which prompted the following response to a posting on Ballot Access News about how the Supreme Court is handling those challenges:
December 5th, 2008 at 9:45 pm
Warning, the Marxists are trolling all the sites to use our info against us. So listen up marxists from the Kos and DU - we learned from YOU. If you think we are going to allow this fool, this muslim manchurian candidate to be KING of this country without a fight on each and every political move, you are crazy. (Yet we know you are!)
We will define him. We will fight each piece of legislation, each plan each word he says - we have become radicalized (politically) in a way that will become your nightmare.
So hello Daily Kos people. As you eat your popcorn watching us ‘explode’ over King Obama; don’t choke when in the end he is in front of a grand jury defining, the defintion of ‘birth’.
(Please, dear Universe, do not send this sore boil to a bus route near me!)