06 September 2003

Saddam Hussein hates America 

Almost two years after all those Saudis crashed planes into two of our major symbolic monuments, way more than most Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was behind it.

The results of this WaPo poll suggests more about the failure of media in the post 9/11 world than anything else. I don't have a whole lot to say because I'm so disgusted with the idea that most Americans don't know better than this:

Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The main reason for the endurance of the apparently groundless belief, experts in public opinion say, is a deep and enduring distrust of Hussein that makes him a likely suspect in anything related to Middle East violence. "It's very easy to picture Saddam as a demon," said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University and an expert on public opinion and war.

Keep in mind that Dana Milbank included this in his lede:

Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this.

Maybe Mr. Milbank should explain to the American people that during the run up to the war Mr. Bush and the senior officials of his administration actively encouraged Americans to believe that Saddam was involved in the events of 9/11/01.

The results of this poll absolutely disgust me. These results do nothing but prove that propaganda in the twenty-first century is just as effective as it was fifty years ago. Honest men and women have a duty to the American people to expose this dishonesty at every step. I hope this blog helps everyone to do that.

05 September 2003

Bad news for the job market 

A study by the New York Fed forecasts bad news for the millions of Americans (including me) seeking work. The Washington Post has the story. . .

Most past recessions have been followed by a rapid recovery of jobs, as companies that laid off workers during the downturn brought them back when business picked up. But a growing body of evidence suggests that this recession and recovery are different. Large industrial companies with such cyclical employment policies account for just 21 percent of the workforce, down from 49 percent in the early 1980s, according to the Fed study.

Now, even as the economy has slowly expanded over the past 20 months, businesses have stepped up automation, sent jobs overseas and produced more while employing fewer people.

Can you take one guess what President Bush's plan for creating new jobs in an economy that has permanently eliminated them? You got it! Take those temporary tax cuts that haven't done a thing about employment and make them permanent. That way the government won't be able to pay for the services that all those unemployed folks will be needing in the coming years or invest in the infrastructure that could immediately create new jobs. It makes perfect sense to me. I'm sure we'll be right back on track any day now.

Jindal has a huge war chest for the coming months, but just a hair less than Ieyoub 

PLEASE SEE UPDATE Bobby Jindal has more cash on hand and raised more money during the last reporting period than any other candidate. This bodes well for the Republican as he comes closer to securing a spot in the possible runoff, where money for new television ads will be a necessity. He also reports this money not having lent himself any cash from a personal account, which says impressive things about his ability to fundraise.

The Advocate reports the numbers in this morning's edition. The big loser appears to be Buddy Leach, who has loaned his campaign "$1.83 million during the two-month period and raised only $57,000 in contributions. Leach also led the pack of seven major candidates in spending. He reported spending $1.5 million in July and August." He may find that he misses the runoff at great personal cost, but there's still a long way to go.

Blanco, while not having much cash on hand, has already spent over $1 million, although it is likely that much of the spending is for air time and ad production that has not appeared yet.

Still though, Jindal has a solid advantage over his rivals at this point in the money game, and it will be interesting to see how he spends it over the next month, or if he hangs on to it for the runoff.

Update @ 2:55 pm: According to the Times Picayune, actually Ieyoub has more cash on hand than Bobby Jindal. He didn't report his financials to the state ethics board early enough for the major papers to get it to press in the this morning's edition. Obviously this is good news for Ieyoub. It also makes the first sentence in this post incorrect, sorry about that, and consider this a correction. I'm guessing that Ieyoub hasn't spent much for his campaign yet, but he'll have to start pouring out the cash soon if he want's to get his poll numbers up in time for Oct. 4

Daily candidate profile updates, when will it end? 

Two more new profiles today. Here's the Advocate on Randy Ewing and Gannett news on Att. General Richard Ieyoub.

I'll make a couple of quick notes about both candidates. The Ewing piece quotes Don Cravins in reference to Ewing's term as Senate President. After Cravins and some of his colleagues blocked one of Ewing's pet projects,

Ewing stripped Cravins and others of their seats on the powerful Finance Committee. Cravins and Campbell also lost committee chairmanships.

Ewing said at the time that those senators blocked his reform efforts and tried to "put together a coup" to unseat him.

Nonsense, Cravins said. He and the others suffered because they crossed Ewing on Riverwood.

I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of what happened with these legislators, but the heavy handed wielding of power has always made me uncomfortable, and it appears that Ewing has no problem with it. In a state where the governor has as much power as Louisiana, voters should be wary of this behavior in a candidate.

The Ieyoub article mentions that he wants to bring NASCAR to Louisiana, because of how lucrative it has been for other states in the South. The author implies that this proposal has interested other candidates for governor. After my earlier post regarding how much the gubernatorial candidates hate the Saints, I wonder how long they'll be able to talk about subsidizing the construction of a race track before they see their lack of policy consistency.

04 September 2003

This calls to mind some proverb about reaping what you sow. . . 

France and Germany are not happy with the draft UN resolution which would generate greater UN involvement in Iraq. This is being reported by all the major news services today, but I'll link to theWashington Post article because of one particular quote:

Also at stake are commercial interests, some analysts said. The postwar rebuilding of Iraq is likely to be lucrative, and to encourage other countries to share the dangers and the risks, the United States would also have to be willing to share some of the private reconstruction contracts.

I think this is of particular interest, because if the US won't back off of these no-bid rebuilding contracts it damages our credibility in regards to our priorities in Iraq. Bush may have to make a very tough decision in the coming weeks. Is it more important to him to secure Iraq by bringing in the UN (an almost undeniable necessity for a stable Iraq), or pay off corporate buddies with middle eastern oil and construction wealth? I'm hoping for the former.

As far as reaping what you so goes, I refer you to this daily kos post. My only quibble is that I think France, Germany, and the rest of UN security council owe it to the Iraqi people to put aside their anger over the Bush administration's insolence and pony up in the Middle East. However, there is no question that better leadership in the White House would never have left our country in this situation.

Good news for the Piazza d'Italia 

No matter what you think about the plaza, restoring it has to be better for the city than leaving that blighted space untended for another twenty years. That's why I thought this was good news in the Pic.

I'm too young to remember what the Piazza d'Italia looked like in it's heyday, but I'm well aware of the controversey surrounding most postmodern architecture, so I know the restoration will be a sore spot for many. When I was at Loyola I took a class called the Urban Form, and a requirement of the course was a driving tour of the city with commentary by our professor on the development of the urban spaces. Along the way we stopped at the Piazza, and since that day it has served as a constant reminder of how a once great city has fallen.

At the very least, there is a desperate need for urban renewal in this area for the reduction of crime, economic development, and the general welfare of downtown New Orleans. I don't see how this could be a bad thing, if people don't like the way it will look when they complete it, they don't need to go down there.

Update @ 1:55 pm. Here are some pictures of what the piazza should look like. I still can't find any of when it was at it's worst state of disrepair, if I do I'll post the link.

Gubernatorial candidates hate the Saints 

Well, not really, but none of them seem particularly interested in subsidizing the costs for a new stadium, according to this article from the Pic. I guess this isn't particularly surprising, considering many voters in the state are openly to the very presence of the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana, not to mention the terrible budget problems the state has. Hunt Downer's response seems to typify the candidates feelings on the matter: "Get the money from the city of New Orleans." Actually, he said, "if the citizens of the greater New Orleans region propose a locally funded plan to build a new stadium, not dependent on state dollars, the state should not thwart such an effort."

I'm glad that the state doesn't plan to interfere with a New Orleans investment into a new stadium, unfortunately if the state can't afford to help the Saints out, I doubt the city will be able to put anything together any time soon. Look forward to New Orleans being passed over on more NCAA final fours, superbowls, and the like over the next fifteen years. I'm sure state won't miss the revenue, and the NOLA economy sure doesn't need it. . .

Two new candidate profiles 

Hunt Downer is profiled by the Advocate's Chris Fink and Randy Ewing gets the daily creampuff from Gannett reporter Mike Hasten. Give them a read if you're interested in knowing a little more about who's running for governor.

Blair can't get out of the kitchen 

According to this article in the Washington Post things could be getting even more unpleasant for Brit Prime Minister Tony Blair pretty soon. After a difficult spring and summer for Blair, it looks like he won't be getting any fall reprieve. More of his intelligence officials are jumping ship. The key quote:

Jones said his staff's concerns were by and large ignored and not reflected in the final draft of the document, in a process he called "very unusual."

The other witness, a chemical weapons consultant identified only as "Mr. A," was more scathing. He said the dossier had mistakenly focused on an Iraqi plant producing phosgene, a chemical that can be used as a poison gas but is also used in plastics and pesticides, despite the fact there was no evidence Iraq was using it for weapons. It was, he said, "a stupid mistake for the British to make."

An e-mail sent by Mr. A to Kelly after the dossier was released on Sept. 24, 2002, said that another unnamed official had conceded "they were grasping at straws" in focusing on the phosgene plant, which Mr. A's e-mail called "another example supporting our view that you and I should have been more involved in this than the spin-merchants of this administration."

All the evidence turned up by these Parliamentary investigations suggests clear spinning by Blair to bring Britain into the war, when will the American people finally open their eyes and bring the same heat to President Bush?

Update @ 12:29 am, NY Times includes this quote from Mr. Jones' testimony, "I asked him, 'What do you think of the dossier, David?' . . . He said he thought it was good." This doesn't really change the thrust of either article, but it does show some agreement by the officials with the assesment provided to the public.

The leg bone's connected to the thigh bone 

William Saletan has a very thoughtful column today on the execution of anti-abortion murderer Paul Hill. His piece explores the fundamental illogic of the death penalty, which Saletan somewhat tepidly supports anyway. I've said earlier that I'm against the capital punishment in all cases, but no matter what your position this Slate piece merits attention. I'll post one quote and leave it without further comment.

People are threatening to kill officials in Florida for killing Paul Hill for killing John Britton for killing unborn babies. And if they fulfill those threats, you can be sure that they'll be killed, too.

I've long defended the death penalty in principle, if not always in practice, on the grounds that some people do things so awful that they simply deserve it. Their guilt voids their right to life. But this chain of killing gives me pause. The word "innocent" keeps popping up in the Hill saga, each time as a basis for saying that it's OK for us to kill them but not for them to kill us. Babies are innocent, but Britton is guilty, so it's OK to kill him. Britton was innocent, but Hill is guilty, so it's OK to kill Hill. Only once in this story has a jury determined guilt, and that verdict does merit particular respect. But the longer the chain of killing gets, the harder it is to spin complex theories about why one party is guilty and the other is innocent, instead of just saying it's wrong to kill.

03 September 2003

Josh Marshall proves he's got the best blog on inter-neocon conflict 

Earlier I linked to a Washington Times article regarding the poor planning of the Iraq invasion by the Pentagon. I wouldn't have revisited the post so quickly if I hadn't remembered a TPM post I read earlier this morning.

Josh Marshall suggested that the committed neocons in the administration are fighting mad about Donald Rumsfeld's experimenting with the American defense capabilites, and are worried that his refusal to send more US troops to Iraq is screwing up their crusade for US global imperialism.

Could this leak--a clear attempt at discrediting Rumsfeld's Pentagon--be the opening salvo in the coming war between the neocons and the downsizers? I don't really know, but the fact that the Washington Times was the first to get their hands on the report suggests that the person who leaked it is a conservative with an ax to grind. Anyway, here's to watching the hawks devour themselves, buen provecho!

Clark says he's a Democrat 

On CNN's Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff Gen. Wes Clark all but announced he would be running for President. He did say for sure that if he runs he'll do so as a Democrat. I expect that he'll tell everyone he is running on Sept. 19, where he is scheduled to make a speech in Iowa.

I've been avoiding Presidential politics on this blog since I've started, because I haven't completely formed my opinions about the Dems in the race. I will say that Clark is a very attractive candidate as a person, but who knows if he'll be able to win an election. . .

I'll link to the transcript when CNN puts it on their website.

Update @ 5:33 pm, instead of linking to the transcript, I see Kos linking to this story from the AP. Who knew I'd be scooping the AP when I started?

Is anyone really surprised of this? 

Reuters is reporting that hasty planning by the Pentagon war chiefs led to an invasion that didn't take into account the necessary means to secure peace after the imminently successful combat operations.

A "brutally honest" report prepared for the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff blames post-war unrest in Iraq (news - web sites) on hurried, inadequate planning before the invasion, defense officials said on Wednesday.

The reuters story piggy-backs from this Washington Times piece whose author claims to have received a copy of the highly classified report. Before you read the next quote I'll refer you to two rationales Bush imparted to the country in the months leading up to the war. 1)We need to prevent Iraq from distributing WMD to terrorists and 2)War is a last resort, Saddam has shown that all other options to disarm and contain him are uneffective. For the sake of argument let's assume that Bush really believed that Iraq was in posession of chemical and bio weapons and was coddling terrorist orgs like Al Qeada. Now try and make sense of the next quote from The Washington Times:

The report, prepared last month, said the search for weapons of mass destruction was planned so late in the game that it was impossible for U.S. Central Command to carry out the mission effectively. "Insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission," the classified briefing said.

. . .

The report also shows that President Bush approved the overall war strategy for Iraq in August last year. That was eight months before the first bomb was dropped and six months before he asked the U.N. Security Council for a war mandate that he never received.

If WMD were such a concern why would they wait until the last minute to figure them into the invasion's plan? Is it possible that WMD were an afterthought only figured into the invasion to justify it to the American people? Did the pentagon planners know before hand that WMD weren't really a concern, and is that why they wouldn't have included it in their original planning? This piece leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Hopefully our distinguished press corps will decide to start raising them to the men and women at the highest levels of government.

New Poll out from Southern Media and Opinion Research, Inc. 

Southern Media and Opinion Research, Inc. released their newest poll today. I can't link to The Advocate's story, because it doesn't seem to be online, but here's Laura Maggi's from the Picayune.

The Advocate helpfully notes that this poll was conducted before last week's candidate forum, so it doesn't reflect any change in opinion which may have occured as a result of the debate. The analysts seem to believe that the data says it's still anyone's race with the exception of Jay Blossman, who has the highest negative ratings and the lowest support of any of the candidates.

The two candidates with the most momentum are clearly Jindal, who has positioned himself within a hair of Blanco, and Buddy Leach, who has passed the stagnant Richard Ieyoub.

With 35% of the electorate still undecided, though, these numbers could change dramatically.

Those poll results aren't really surprising, but it was nice of the NOLA paper to provide the results of the other polls conducted by SM&O:

Democrat Mitch Landrieu led the pack in the lieutenant governor's race with 35.3 percent of those polled, followed by Republicans Melinda Schwegmann at 11.3 percent and Clyde Holloway at 10.7 percent. Republican Kirt Bennett had 2.1 percent. Almost 39 percent of voters were undecided in that race.

A poll on attorney general paid for by Democrat Charles Foti showed the Orleans Parish sheriff in second place with 33.8 percent, while Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell, the elections commissioner, was at 41.4 percent. About 25 percent of voters were undecided.

The results of the survey on insurance commissioner, paid for by Republican candidate Dan Kyle, showed the Republican at 36.3 percent to Democrat Robert Wooley's 23.9 percent. Almost 40 percent of voters asked about the race had not yet selected a favorite candidate.

With so many undecideds it is very difficult to make predictions on these races, althouh Landrieu and Terrell have good reason to feel pretty comfortable about their positions in their respective campaigns. It will be interesting to see how the impending editorial endorsements affect these numbers.

I started this; now I have to finish it 

The papers in my driveway provided two new candidate profiles this morning. The first is a Blossman profile from The Advocate's Chris Fink, and the second is from Gannett writer John Hill on Hunt Downer. I'll post these links without much comment, since neither candidate really has much chance to make it into the runoff. The Downer piece is typical of John Hill: no substance and typical fawning over Downer's military record. He also talks about Downer's well publicized party switch after organizing LA Democrats for Bush and his subsequent visit to the white house. I said good riddance then, and my position stands.

I have no comment regarding Blossman. He's a useful foil for Democrats and Republicans. Gov. Foster said it best, "he's a sick little man."

Don't ever say I'm not fair and balanced 

I'm feeling bad about linking to two Blanco profiles, so here's one about Jindal from Tuesday's Picayune. I don't know how I missed it earlier today, but hey, it happens.

This appears to be pretty good work and it addresses most of Jindal's soft spots. What bothers me is that it seems to take for granted that Jindal's work on health care policy has saved the state health care system. Don't tell that to the men and women seeking care at LSU health sciences center hospital in Lafayette, though, where clinics are routinely shut down, and some RNs are forced out to make room for the RNs with seniority from Lake Charles, whose hospital was shut down not too long ago.

When Jindal arrived at the health department, it had a $400 million shortfall and he had an agency's reputation to rebuild.

He began by beefing up the department's fraud-fighting capabilities while laying off about 1,000 of the 13,000 employees.

Although a few of his more ambitious plans were defeated -- such as a proposal to charge co-payments to Medicaid recipients and eliminate the Medically Needy Program -- most were approved by the Legislature.

While Foster gives full credit to Jindal for rescuing the agency, others contend it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. "A blind pig finds an acorn every now and then," said Jack Finn, president of the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans. "He walked into a room full of acorns. There was a lot of low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked."

The best criticism they can muster is from someone who basically says anybody could have done it. Where's the perfunctory paragraph exploring the results of Jindall's health care overhaul? Don't the current health care woes say something about Jindal's ability to produce results? If I were a Democratic candidate (or another Republican), I'd probably be spending a lot of time talking about laid off nurses and the poor quality of care lots of patients are receiving in the lsu system's hospitals.

If I were Jindal I'd be worried about quotes like this one too:

If you sat down and you tried to create somebody to run for governor, it would be a young person with a lot of energy and a really high intellect with enough experience in government to understand it and enough integrity to run it dead-straight," said Foster, who has said he'll use his own campaign money to help Jindal. "That's what this guy is."

But Jindal's close ties to Foster might also prove a liability. "My biggest concerns about him is that he'll be controlled by Mike Foster," said C.B. Forgotston, a New Orleans lawyer and Foster critic. "I haven't enjoyed the last eight years, and I don't think the state has prospered, and I don't want to go through the same old, same old."

Louisiana has a long and sordid history burned deep into the electorate's subconscious (how's that for super-pseudopsychology?) of governors term-limited out of office installing their boys into the mansion. I don't buy this charge, but Jindal needs to do everything he can to stop it from sticking to him, or it could seriously hurt him.

Anyway, I'm not voting for him, but don't say I don't try to present you with everything.

02 September 2003

If only they'd known where to find their backbones a year ago. . . 

We can look forward to Senate Dems making a big push in favor of labor and education over the course of the next session. The talk coming out of the Senate sounds good to me. Here's the story in the NY Times.

But these are the key grafs:
As the Senate began debate on a $137.6 billion spending measure for labor, education and health programs, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said he believed he had the 60 votes needed to pass an amendment that would block the overtime proposal. But, he added, "I think it's going to be close."

Other Democrats, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachussetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, plan to introduce amendments that would increase education spending by more than $10 billion. On Wednesday, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader, has scheduled a news conference to talk about education and workplace issues.

. . .

Mr. Daschle said, "There's a starkly different set of priorities in the two parties. As we come back, that's going to be very much in evidence."

The Times also quotes Arlen Specter saying something about nasty partisanship, but that charge won't fly if Harkin manages to get his sixty votes to block the overtime bill since he'll need some Republicans to get it done.

This definitely seems like good news for us wandering Democrats. This gins up the base and reminds the rest of the country that education and labor are Dem issues. These proposals will also force the Republicans to choose sides on political issues that can expose them for their destructive, anti-middle class agenda. Let's hope voters remember a year from now.

Warning: Gross over-simplifications ahead! 

The now defunct consortium behind the VNS has agreed to release their exit poll data from the 2002 midterm elections. I imagine there are lots of political strategists who can't wait to get their grubby hands all over this data, but I predict that the reasons voters had for making their decisions in 2002 will have very little similarity to what guides their voting behavior in 2004.

At the very least maybe we'll finally get the answer to the already tired debate that has hounded Democrats since Sept. 11, "do you perform better at the polls by distinguishing yourself from Bush and his foreign policy [call this the Dean approach] or by conceding the foreign policy debate to Bush and simply trying to talk about the economy and civil liberties [call this the Lieberman approach; everyone else falls in between]." There are surely some races that merit very close attention from the VNS data, perhaps the first being the Landrieu-Terrell runoff. It will be important to know what it took for a Dem to defeat a well-funded Republican opponent in a southern state, and any helpful info from those exit polls should be studied by Democratic strategists.

Of course, I think that Terrell was an almost comically inept candidate without any original vision or mission that guided her candidacy, and this probably resonated with the public. The mere fact that Landrieu had to get a little tough with such an empty candidate probably tells us something about the political makeup of Louisiana. Alas, it never hurts to know for sure, so good luck to the people who get to read all those exit polls.

Good news for some of my death row readers 

A federal appeals court overturned the death sentences of over one hundred cases in Idaho, Montana, and Arizona. These overturned sentences were initially imposed by the judges who presided over each case, thus depriving the accused of their rights to due process. You can take a look at the the story here at cnn.com.

Since I'm still new to the blogosphere I'll take this opportunity to state my unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all cases. The imposition of state execution by a judge without the consent of a jury of the accused's peers is a particularly egregious extension of state authority, so I'm happy to hear that the Federal court overturned these sentences. The law seems to be on the side of the Federal court in this case, since it specifically cites a 2002 Supreme Court decision which looks pretty cut and dry:

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 found the practice of judges sentencing inmates in capital cases to be unconstitutional. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the 7-2 majority that: "Arizona presents no specific reason for excepting capital defendants from the constitutional protections extended to defendants generally, and none is readily apparent."

Welcome back NFL 

Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" on espn.com is a reason to look forward to each new NFL season. TMQ finally returned a few weeks ago, and this week he gives us his all poetry predictions for the upcoming season. This is what he has for the Saints:

Yearly, balloon bursts:
try Hindenburg as logo?
The New Orleans Saints.

Forecast record: 8-8

Can't argue much with that. . .

Ask and ye shall receive 

After yesterday's post about soft candidate profiles I wouldn't have guessed that The Advocate would be following with their own report. As expected from the best paper in the state, they do a better job covering Blanco, but these pieces always feel like fluff. The story doesn't seem to be online, but the general theme was that Blanco is a squeaky clean family gal with lots of experience in public service. The Advocate, through the mouth of Blanco critic Don Higginbotham, questions whether Blanco can cut the mustard in a tight race and even in the governor's mansion if she were to win.

Then they get to the somewhat sexist charge that follows Blanco in every campaign, once again it's Higginbotham, " 'I think [Raymond Blanco] wants to be governor. He's power hungry'."

That charge doesn't really merit discussion, but I suspect Chris Fink was desperate to find someone to go on the record, also no matter how scurrilous they are charges that have been levelled at Blanco since she entered politics, so The Advocate has no choice but to give voice to them. Anyway this piece is much more useful than yesterday's, but I don't really care for candidate profiles, maybe I'll stop spending so much time on them in this blog.

(Full disclosure: Blanco has been an acquaintance of my family for a long time. We attend the same church and Raymond and my father have been colleagues at the University of Louisiana for many years.)

Update @ 11:11 am to correct author's name and fix some grammar

More dead in Iraq 

CNN reports two dead in Iraq today, the result of the bombing of a humvee, while The Guardian's homepage says "Two huge explosions reported at a police station near the Iraqi Interior Ministry building in central Baghdad." It's unclear what the extent of the damage is, but it never looks good. I'll update when I wake up tomorrow.

Update @ 9:37 am, It was two separate blasts, one on Iraqi police targets leaving an Iraqi dead and injuring many more, the other against an American Humvee leaving two American dead, perhaps one more injured.

Oxymoron alert! 

"Right to work" laws in Louisiana have made it pretty hard for unions to gain any footholds in this state, but good news for organized labor is on the way for n. Louisiana residents. It seems that the UAW and the Teamsters are on their way to Ai-Shreveport and Intier Automotive.

Spokesmen for United Auto Workers and for Teamsters Union No. 568 say they plan to spend the coming months and years getting contracts with Ai-Shreveport, Intier Automotive, A.G. Simpson, Kace Logistics and 13 other suppliers.

"I look forward to organizing each and every one of them," Teamsters president Robert Watts said.

. . .

"We simply want our workers to get a good wage for an honest day's work in a healthy environment," said David Kitterlin, president of the local UAW 2166.

Ai-Shreveport, which will employ 180 by 2004, assembles engines and transmissions and adds other components for GM's new product line, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. Intier Automotive employs 125 and produces the instrument panels for the pickups.

If this happens it may only be a small victory for organized labor in Louisiana, but it has the potential to make quite a difference for workers all over the state who have been seriously neglected by employers and the statehouse for too many years. A left field prediction: trial lawyers may fight this since they have been enriched by offshore oil field accidents for the last thirty years; labor unions have the potential of guaranteeing payouts to these roughnecks, and I can't imagine Morris Bart and his ilk being to happy about that.

01 September 2003

Fortunately I live in Louisiana. 

If every gubernatorial candidate profile is as soft as this Blanco story on the front page of our local Gannett paper, I don't know how I'll vote against any of them. It's a good thing I live in a state where casting multiple votes used to be commonplace. The author quotes Blanco's sister, husband, a "close friend," and one Republican pollster who can only manage to muster a "she's the front runner" type quote. It's hard not to appreciate the nose Gannett publishing employees have for hard news.

Update @ 10:48 pm for minor editing

You take the good, you take the bad. . . 

In what can only be good news for Iraqi self rule, the governing council has assembled a cabinet. It's not surprising that many are scared to assume their posts with the recent targeting of high profile Iraqis who cooperate with the occupying forces. Hopefully the military and civilian leadership there will straighten this kind of stuff out before it's impossible to find anyone to work with us:

Some who attended the meeting said the Iraqi council members told Mr. Bremer that they had become obvious targets for assassination attempts and that some of them were not being properly protected. One council member warned that several of his colleagues could be killed.

. . .

Officials of the occupying powers here have said they are providing security to any council member who has requested it. But some members say the Americans have ignored their requests and left them dangerously exposed.

. . .

Dr. Raja Habib Khuzai, a Governing Council member, said today that she had been pleading for days with American officials to provide her with cars and bodyguards, but that so far, they had failed to respond. In an interview, Dr. Khuzai said her brother had volunteered to become her bodyguard, along with three other men who have no training. She said she was paying them out of her own pocket.

I can only imagine the fear that new cabinet members must feel for their lives. Hopefully Bremer and crew will get their acts together and find a way to support the safety of these Iraqi patriots, but I fear there won't be much until we get more troops who are trained for this kind of work into Iraq.

Register to Vote 

If you want to vote for a Democrat in the Oct 4, 2003 Louisiana races the deadline to register is Wednesday Sept. 3, so get on the ball, those interested in voting for Republicans can register any day after the 3rd, that way your vote will be as likely to be counted as a black Floridian.

Need another reason to hate political chat shows? 

It may not be the best idea to kick off a blog by talking about the 2000 election, but when all is said and done I want to be on the record expressing contempt for the political media culture. In this case I'm not angry about a particular bias for or against either candidate, rather I can't believe how useless political chat shows are.

Thanks to a tropical storm in the Gulf I spent the weekend inside my brother's beach house on the Texas coast reading the July 2003 issue of Texas Monthly. I was disappointed to read this article by Wayne Slater (free registration required), a Texas print reporter who covered the Texas statehouse before being called up by most of the major television news shows to talk about George Bush. The article itself reads like a primer for obscure bloggers' pundit fantasies, with stupid suggestions for sounding good when you finally get that gig on Face the Nation or ABC's This Week with George S. But beyond the silliness I found one quote a bit distressing:
It's best not to think up a long list of clever lines in advance, either. But part of being a pundit is offering up, supposedly in an offhand way, a throwaway quip. For example, whenever I'm asked about foreign policy these days, I will inevitably say that George W. Bush knows there are electoral votes in Paris, Texas, not Paris, France. When I was on Meet the Press during the 2000 Republican primaries, I was asked why Bush was distancing himself from the rest of the GOP field. What I said was, "Why join the Dalton Gang when you're doing just fine as the Lone Ranger?" I came up with that line that morning, while I was brushing my teeth. I knew it was a success when I said it and David Broder started laughing.

You have to know who you're supposed to be. Am I the guy who thinks Bush is dumb? The guy who knows Bush's history in the National Guard? The guy who can explain Bush's faith? They'll let you know; they'll say, "We want you on to talk about whatever." Understand your role and fit into it.

This really just demonstrates the vacuity of television journalism. I don't know what paper Slater comes from in Texas, and I don't doubt that he is a fine journalist there, but there's something wrong with television when the best way to get invited back is to make Broder laugh with throwaway lines that don't demonstrate any journalistic value whatsoever.

Things have only gotten worse on tv since the 2000 campaign and Fox's continuing rise up the ladder of twenty-four hour cable news dominance, but these silly articles are important to understand the way journalists think when they get on these programs. Of course the best discussion of television political chatdom is probably in Eric Alterman's less popular book, Sound and Fury, which if you haven't read yet you should either buy now or get to your local library.

Why Timshel? 

I'm no linguist and I certainly don't know how to read ancient Hebrew texts, so I'll defer on the definition of Timshel to John Steinbeck, a favorite author of mine. The main characters in East of Eden come across the word while trying to make sense of conflicting translations of the chapters of Genesis which deal with God's commandment to the descendants of Cain. The translations have God (a) promising that "thou shalt conquer over sin" or (b) suggesting that "thou must conquer over sin."

Adam, the father in this novel, is trying to come to grips with his own past and the future for his children, so he and his manservant Lee become engrossed with discerning the truth behind the verses in Genesis. To make a very long story short, Lee and his buddies from the world of Chinese expat academia (who knew there was such a thing in early twentieth century America?) spend years studying ancient Hebrew and make their own translation of the relevant chapter. They discover that Timshel is best translated as "Thou mayest."

Adam sees the beauty in this new translation almost immediately, since he sees in the words the truest expressions of personal freedom and how it liberates all mankind from sin. On his death bed Adam tells his son, who is indirectly responsible for his brother's death in battle overseas, "Timsel!"

Timshel is the title of this blog because I believe in the challenge that Steinbeck expresses in his novel. This blog is mostly about politics, though, so my challenge is to politicians, pundits, bloggers, et al. to put aside demagoguery and partisan ideology and commit to advancing the interests of a shared world population. I'll try to live up to my own challenge by exposing hypocrisy and untruth where I see it. There is nothing more important to political discourse than honesty and access to information, so as long as these are in short supply, I think I'll have a lot of material for this blog. I hope it's interesting to any readers I pick up along the way.

Of course, this is still a personal journal, so I'll be talking about plenty of other things that interest me, among them are state and local politics from my hometown, Lafayette, LA; the New Orleans Saints, who are disproportionately responsible for my moods for three months out of every year; and the University of Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, not to mention some good ole fashion LSU bashin'.

I welcome correspondence from readers who feel inclined, just click on the contact link on the right, so here goes nothing. . .

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