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13 December 2003

Jan. 12 can't come quick enough 

That's inauguration day here in the "gret stet of Loo-si-ana." I'm waiting for it because today the newspaper in Lafayette printed one of those bizarre stories where the man being interviewed doesn't seem to realize the inherent hypocrisy of his own statements. The story quotes Governor Mike Foster pretty extensively about his distaste with Kathleen Blanco's very public selection of leadership in the state legislature. First Foster says this:

"I guess philosophically I would never have publicly, I never publicly got involved in Senate and House business,"Foster said, sitting behind the massive desk that will display the "Governor Mike Foster"sign for only one more month.

Looking relaxed, wearing a blue polo shirt, and saying he was not going to miss the job he has held for eight years, Foster insisted he was not speaking "critically" of Blanco. But he had critical words nonetheless.

"You never saw me say, this person should be president of the Senate, or speaker of the House, and by the way, I'm going to name the committee chairmen,"the soon-to-be ex-governor said.


Of course I'll discount the fact that Foster tells a bald-faced lie that he was never publicly involved in the selection of statehouse leadership. The funny thing in this statement is the implication that it's somehow worse to be involved in this process publicly. If Foster really had some philosophical commitment to the separation of state powers that would be great, but he obviously only has a problem with it if the public knows about it. I guess it's important that Louisiana governors hide their stick-wielding from the press.

Oops, Foster doesn't really care about that either. As the story goes on, we learn that Foster's real problem is that he doesn't like Blanco's choice for Senate President, Don Hines. He says,

He indicated that his reservations are focused on the appointment of Hines, who has perturbed other conservatives with remarks critical of business. Foster called the appointment of the doctor from Bunkie "a political IOU,"and said that any governor who "tries to be too much in control" of the legislative branch invites trouble.

. . .

But he added that "I've never seen a governor say publicly, this is who I want, and here's what I'm going to do about committees. That's, well, see, I'm not doing this critically, and that's a different style than I'm used to."


So let's get this straight. It's not okay to talk publicly about your choices for the legislative leaders if you're the governor-elect. But if you're the sitting governor and you're about to leave you can say anything you want to influence prospective leadership?

Don't get me wrong, I probably have a lot more respect for Foster than do a lot of others around the state. I think he showed an independent streak that I personally didn't expect from him when he was first elected. His support for the Stelly Plan earns him high marks from me too. But sometimes I think he's living in outer-space with the comments he makes to the press and on that idiotic Live Mike show. I don't look forward to his periodic dabblings in state politics once he retires. I can't stand the thought of him dropping into all the political fights of the day and making his pronouncements to the press which are probably less thought out than the posts I make to this damned website.

Sigh, we'll see what becomes of him when he retires. I hope he just sticks to the plantation in Franklin, but I seriously doubt it.

12 December 2003

Political violence 

Quiddity made a pretty outrageous prediction for the new year in a post over at uggabugga this morning.

We've seen over the last couple of years a vicious political debate. Exhibit A is Ann Coulter's Treason. Democrats are traitors, don't you know. And then there were the ads that tied Daschle with Saddam. And so on.

It's going to get worse as the presidential race heats up. The end result will be whole bunch of people enraged at the Democrats.

So, donning our Nostradamus hat, we boldly make the following prediction:
There will be at least one major act of violence against the Democratic candidate(s) for president.
And we mean life-threatening violence. Like attempted murder.


My first thought on reading this was that Quiddity's been on the drink a little too hard lately. I had a long post planned out with relevant links to plenty of hatred by prominent righties against the liberals in general, but at the end I was basically going to say that all that didn't really mean shit, because crazy people go off the deep end and start shooting without any help from the radio or worthless authors who bill themselves as constitutional scholars.

Then I remembered that a prominent liberal has already had an attack on his life just a few short years ago. You might remember when some anthrax was sent to a certain Senate Minority (majority at the time) Leader's office. That was a sobering thought, and it nearly changed my mind about Quiddity's post, but I'm a stubborn fool.

My guess would be that President Bush stands a far greater chance of violence against his life than any of the Democratic candidates. I don't think it has anything at all to do with the rhetoric that's come out of either side; just that the president is a far better known person, so any one who is crazy enough to want to assassinate a public figure would be far more likely to seize on the President of the US than some relatively unknown Democratic nominee for the office. It's a matter of percentages is all.

I hope we're both wrong, though.

Lighting fires 

I don't care what this story says, I'd be willing to bet a hundred bucks to any takers that this guy doesn't see the field Sunday night.

In the meantime, let's draft Eli



Go Saints.

We sed bad wurds 

Our local "independent weekly newspaper," aptly named The Independent takes what could have been an opportunity for hilarious writing and blows it by getting all serious on me. It takes the scandal surrounding lesbian mom Sharon Huff and her son and prints a series of essays around some truly bad words. The essays themselves are hit or miss in most cases, but if I can link to a letter from an embarrassment like Carl Tritschler I can certainly link to these essays, which are of substantially greater value than Tritschler's ravings.

Budgets and the budgeting budgeters. . . 

The Advertiser prints an AP report on new commissioner of administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc and what he has planned for the upcoming budget process.

This report focuses largely on the heavy problems that the state will face next year when it comes time to piece together enough money to fund all kinds of programs that Kathleen Blanco made promises about during her campaign. LeBlanc relays that no sector will be completely shielded from possible cuts, which would be a big departure from the Foster way of handling the budget considering his commitment to higher education funding. LeBlanc believed that Foster's way made for big problems when he dealt with the documents on the legislative end, and he says he won't subject these lawmakers to the same trouble.

Carl Tritschler, a "prominent" Republican in Lafayette, has a rather different opinion of LeBlanc, which you can read all about in this letter he wrote to the local fish wrap and published in this morning's edition. I don't think anyone who reads this letter will ever take Tritschler's opinion seriously again, but if you do just know that he has been an influential member of the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee and was probably at least partly responsible for their rather short-sighted endorsement of not even also-ran gubernatorial hopeful Jay Blossman. If this doesn't open your eyes to the hapless status of this state's Republican Party then nothing will.

Another important story regarding the budget is out of Baton Rouge, which lets us know that Governor-elect Blanco promised the BESE board to find the funds to maintain LA4, which I posted on a couple of days ago. Blanco and the report were short on details as to where the funding would come from (I think this will be a running theme on this site for a while), but vowed to include dollars for the program nonetheless. Of course it will take more than blind optimism of a manna from heaven like episode to save LA4, but this was a commitment Blanco made in her campaign, and I expect her to keep it.

Louisiana politics in a nutshell 

The state papers provide the news that Sen. Don Hines is wrapping up all the votes he needs and then some to become the next president of the Louisiana Senate. I thought we might get a little battle of political wills between the new governor and current Sen. President John Hainkel once the legislature opened for business next month, but it looks like we'll be spared that fun.

You need look no further than this quote from Sen. Ken Hollis (a Republican from Met'ry) to learn everything you ever need to know about the state legislature:

Hollis said Thursday that he abandoned Hainkel because Hines offered to let him remain chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

"Doc Hines called and asked me to do that," Hollis said.

Hollis said he called Hainkel on Tuesday to break the news.

"He understood. He didn't say he was happy," Hollis said.

"I really look forward to working with the governor on economic development," Hollis said.

Hollis said the chairmanship gives him more sway than just being a senator when he's working on economic development projects such as drawing new businesses to the state, Hollis said.


Talk about loyalty. Jeebus I wouldn't want to be on a sinking ship with this guy.

11 December 2003

Diversions 

In the spirit of that miserable failure, I see Atrios would like to add unelectable to the list of google search terms for President whistleass.

I don't mind helping out, so make sure you click on the links to find out more about that unelectable, miserable failure of a president in the White House.

And if you want to find out more about asshole football fans, just click on the link.

Come back now y'all, y'hear? 

To the fine person who found my site by searching "BASHING LSU," you are always welcome. I'm sorry there really hasn't been enough of it on this site to date, but keep checking in and I'm sure you'll find some more.

I'm going downtown 

I probably won't post much today because I have a busy morning and afternoon ahead of me, but before I go I'd like to discuss this editorial in the The Advocate.

I don't begrudge the editors of the Baton Rouge paper for encouraging investment in and the revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge, but don't pretend that Lafayette's revitalization projects turned the district into anything other than Bourbon Street west. Here's the line:

The idea of an entertainment district is not new for downtowns. Cities across the country have embraced the concept, and there are a host of models from Seattle to Savannah. Downtowns in these cities are safe and vibrant, and -- like downtown Baton Rouge during the weekend -- provide a range of entertainment for children and adults.

In fact, public officials and community leaders only have to trek down the road to Lafayette to see a downtown that has come back from neglect and decay to become a busy late-night entertainment district. The city government invested millions in streets and sidewalks to help make it happen.


Now this is the second time in less than a week that this newspaper has mentioned Lafayette as an example of good growth and development in an editorial (why don't you guys just come down here? start sending your children to UL?). For the most part I agree that what has happened to downtown Lafayette over the last five or ten years is great for the city, but don't mischaracterize it. There is not a "range of entertainment for children and adults." Downtown Alive goes on once a week for roughly twenty weeks every year (and you'd have plenty of parents tell you that isn't really family entertainment, though I'd disagree) and Festival International occurs over the better part of one week in the spring. Aside from those and a few other low-profile events that occur infrequently, entertainment in downtown consists of bar business.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, but the editorial board at the Baton Rouge Paper should realize just what kind of "entertainment district" the Jefferson Street area has become. Particularly when you mention specifically that your own 3rd Street shouldn't "be another Bourbon Street."

10 December 2003

Totally unfathomable 

Are you curious what the largest known prime number is? (that takes a good long while to load, if you're hurried I promise it's not an even number, other than that I can't promise they didn't just string more than six million numbers together and call it a prime number.)

I've used this space to mention my fascination with large numbers before, but this story is just ridiculous. Off the AP wire over at NOLA, I see that a student found the largest prime number to date through the combined power of 200,000 computers.

Fortunately the student hasn't really developed much of an ego after his discovery:

Mersenne primes are rare but are critical to the branch of mathematics called number theory. That said, what is the practical significance of Shafer's number?

"People are going to make posters of it to hang up on the wall," said Shafer, who is pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering. "It's a neat accomplishment, but it really doesn't have any applicability."

As for his own standing in the world of mathematics, "I don't think I'm going to be recognized as I go down the street or anything like that."

He said the method by which the number was found — harnessing many computers together — is more important than the number itself.


(thanks to Michael in disappeared comments from a long ago post I know a little more about that method)

Expressing this number exponentially is the only way I could really manage to put it on this space. Try punching this into your calculators: 220996011-1

The number has 6,320,430 digits

If you'd like to help these folks find the first ten million digit prime go read all about the project here.

Update @ 3:55 pm: I meant to include this in the original post, but it must have slipped my mind. Here's a brief introduction to what number theory is if you're curious.

Mayor to deny Shreveport city employees right to fair representation 

There's some unsurprising anti-union news out of Shreveport this afternoon. The City Council approved in a close vote after months of debate legislation that would allow PACE exclusive representation over it's members w/r/t employee grievances and other issues. According to the report the legislation carefully avoided any language that suggested the union could have any collective bargaining power.

Within minutes of the vote Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower all but promised to veto the legislation. At this time the union members don't have enough votes on the council to override the veto.

I certainly don't know too much about the ins and outs of city politics in Shreveport, but this strikes me as a very unnecessary and somewhat reactionary use of the veto by the mayor. Looking at the report it seems like this legislation really doesn't do much more than recognize PACE's existence. Representation in grievances doesn't often amount to too much, and it gives a morale boost to the city employees who are already very disgruntled about the lack of respect their organization gets from the city. As long as these workers stay organized this issue won't go away for the mayor or the city. It's better to give a little bit when things aren't so bad than to have give away the farm when things really hit the fan.

Of course, I've been to Shreveport maybe twice in the last ten years, so what the hell do I know?

What's next? 

First it was higher education, now it's early education. With the current budget problems facing the state no social service is safe from cuts. Blanco's most consistent promise throughout her campaign was to do everything she could to maintain funding levels for the state's pre-k program with an eye on an eventual expansion of the services aimed at the Louisiana's most needy children.

This morning we learn that the program will almost definitely have to withstand some pretty significant cuts. According to Will Sentell's report most of the current funding comes from federal welfare dollars that won't be available to the state when the next budget is written.

By all accounts the program has been a very successful one for Louisiana children. The basic skills necessary to start on an even level with other students in elementary school are acquired in these programs, and testing has shown that LA4 has largely succeeded in preparing it's charges for kindergarten.

The lawmakers quoted in this piece seem to have a surprisingly high level of optimism which suggests the program can be maintained, but it's hard to see where the money will come from in a budget that is looking tighter and tighter by the day.

So what? 

I guess I'm supposed to be outraged by the news that Louisiana lawmakers are getting six tickets each to the Sugar Bowl gratis from LSU, but I can't work myself up into a frenzy about it.

Considering how much tickets are going for on ebay right now, it really is a pretty sweet deal for the legislators, but c'mon, it's not like they're getting scholarships to Tulane or anything.

Update @ 8:46 am: oops, tickets are not free, but they are sold at face value to legislators.

09 December 2003

This is sad 

Paul Simon's failed presidential bid and Senate career fall outside my political memory, but from what I know he will be remembered and respected as a fine public servant.

Now the question is which Democratic candidate for president will tarnish his death by claiming his posthumous endorsement and attempting to coopt his legacy?

I'm shocked 

This is hardly suprising.

Motivation 

I don't doubt in the slightest that the roads in Louisiana are absolutely terrible. I've driven around the state enough to see just how awful the conditions are, so I'm glad that the two major papers in the state have decided to run stories on it in the last two days. What bugs me is the somewhat innocuous mention of who funds the group that created the study that rated Louisiana third worst in the nation in terms of road condition. Here's how the T-P describes them:

Louisiana has the third-worst road conditions among all states in the nation and its drivers pay a $1.1 billion price tag annually in extra vehicle repairs as a result, according to a study to be released today by a group promoting better highway construction.

The Road Information Program, a nonprofit organization supported by road industry contractors and equipment makers, emphasizes the impact on Louisiana's job market in its report, "The Road to Economic Development in Louisiana."


And from The Advocate:

TRIP's members include highway engineers and contractors, labor unions, insurance companies and manufacturers of building equipment.

The TRIP report ties together several findings reported by TRIP and other entities over the past several years.


Given the nature of the group that made the report it's very unsurprising that the conclusion they reached was that the state needs to raise the gasoline tax and use the money to spend more dough on highway projects. A smart person reading the paper knows that this group (despite being described as a non-profit organization) has quite a vested interest in seeing vast highway projects crop up all over the country, and all the better if it's paid for on the backs of the people who use the highways through the tax of their gasoline consumption. What the group doesn't appear to offer are any suggestions as to how you might the reduce the costs of contracts or the materials to build these precious highways. All I mean to say is that isn't it possible that these findings are overstated and short on suggestions for cost reductions? Neither paper gives more than a passing acknowledgement to the possibility in this case. That's some damn fine reporting if you ask me.

You can see TRIP's website here.

Hunt Whiner 

Buried on the last page of section A in The Advocate (it looks like it's print only) is a brief report by Scott Dyer on Hunt Downer's appearance at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday. It seems Hunt believes he didn't make his way into the primary because of supposed push polling. He's quoted citing one supporter who responded to a poll of the gubernatorial election that omitted Downer's name as a choice among the candidates fighting for spots in the runoff.

You might remember that Downer only received a piddling six percent of the vote on October 4 of this year. All the major polls I remember seeing (Kennedy, S.M. & O.R., Inc., Mason-Dixon) included Downer when they got their samples, so it appears that Downer must be upset about some internal polling that was done by one of the campaigns or an outside polling group that didn't have the influence of one of the more important outfits that I mentioned above.

Now I know that the only way to be a successful politician is to have a certain level of optimism about your abilities that borders on self-delusion. If Downer really believes he was "polled out of the race," his capacity for delusion must have really gotten the better of him. He was at every forum; he had ample opportunities to persuade voters on the trail, but he still came out last among the major candidates in the field. Perhaps far enough back not to be considered a major candidate.

Maybe he should have kept his affiliation with the Democratic Party. . .

Competing theories 

I'm not a scientist, geologist, or engineer, so frankly I don't know shit about why our coastline is disappearing at the rate it is or what the best solution might be. I do know that I just voted for multiple amendments to the state constitution that supposedly guaranteed certain monies for future restoration projects. How well are restoration dollars being used when some theories about the causes of the phenomenon are simply dismissed out of hand?

The argument for not considering Gagliano's theory is that it would mean there is no solution to the problem of coastal erosion. Like I said, I'm no scientist, but even I can see from a very superficial presentation of Gagliano's findings in the newspaper that his theories leave room for ways to slow the rate of coastline depletion. I don't know if he's correct or not, but it seems like a big waste of money to fund projects despite contradictory evidence that you won't even consider simply because you don't like the conclusions. Blind optimism about the uncontrollable forces of nature doesn't have a great track record.

08 December 2003

football on the front 

The Guardian has an interesting review of a new book about the famed Christmas truce along the Western Front in 1914 just after the onset of the First World War. If you're not familiar with the story know that English and German soldiers and their officers stopped fighting on the first Christmas of the war; they climbed out of their trenches; celebrated the day; and--what many people have read about--played soccer in no-man's land.

The truce was held along the entire front. In some places it lasted for weeks before the soldiers began firing at each other again. This new book, Der Kleine Frieden im Grossen Krieg (The Small Peace in the Big War), apparently relies heavily on never-before-seen letters sent to newspapers and left unprinted, newly discovered diaries (including one quite possibly from the German lieutenant who was responsible for the cease-fire), and other documents. The book is supposedly the first to tackle this subject from a German perspective, and it offers some new suggestions as to why the truce was possible at all.

I'm linking to it for a simple reason. I think the history of WWI is considerably more interesting than WWII, but it gets forgotten about because WWII is much sexier on the surface (dictators, genocide, surprise attacks, meaningful air power, nukes, etc.). There were a kind of perfect storm of causes that led to the Great War. All of these culminated in some strange diplomatic maelstrom in the summer of 1914, where you had citizens and politicians of nations across Europe united in a sickening bloodlust. Then the war came in the fall and the world changed forever, or not. Anyway, that's one reason to link to this. More simply, I'm interested in World War I, so other people should be too.

Something else to consider is the idea of something like this ever occurring on a battlefield again given the nature of contemporary warfare. It's even harder to imagine a situation like this in our current adventure considering the vast cultural gulf that exists between the belligerents. Oh well, I found it interesting. If you didn't too bad. Get your own damn weblog.

It's a miracle 

Jeff Sadow wrote a column that I don't find offensive. He only uses the degoratory "Democrat Party" slur once, and he doesn't manage to call blacks slaves or voters stupid for continuing to elect Democrats. Instead he looks into the GOP house and calls for a shakeup of the party.

I'm on the road today, so no posting until the afternoon or early evening. Have fun today.


Blanco already hearing complaints 

Melinda Deslatte writes about the murmurs of partisanship around the capitol in regards to the newly elected governor. The evidence being that all the people she's supporting for the legislative leadership posts are Democrats.

I'm sure that Sen. Hainkel is somewhere behind this characterization of Blanco's choices. He really needs to work the public up into a frenzy that Blanco isn't doing what she promised w/r/t the "big tent" that her administration would be if he wants to gain support for his hold on the Senate presidency. The fight in the capitol should begin in the middle of January. It will be interesting to see what happens in the newspapers between now and then.

Is Blanco engaging in dirty partisanship though? Certainly to an extent. She has to payback the pols who supported her, and the fact is that most Republicans didn't, so that leaves the Democratic party lawmakers. Also it's way too early to level that kind of charge at an administration. That's why it seems clear that someone in the capitol is ginning up these charges to position themselves for a fight. The most likely person for that would of course be John Hainkel.

When did the Advertiser get so snarky? 

Bill Decker is rapidly becoming my favorite columnist over at the local paper. Though he's a little late to weigh in on this gay mommy flap--which already seems to have faded from the public consciousness over the weekend--he pens an excellent piece on how the school has failed the seven-year old. You can read the whole thing here, but the reason I link to it is to present this quote, which will bring me back to Decker's columns week after week from here on out:

While pro- and anti-gay-rights people each try to lure the government to their side, the last thing either group wants is for the government to set itself up as the ultimate moral arbiter. Both sides have too much to lose.

And no part of the government is less suited to the problem than Louisiana’s public schools, which creak beneath the burden of teaching basic literacy.

The four that got away 

Sorry I didn't post much yesterday, but once blogger was up and running I was too damn mad to do much of anything. This is why.



Update @ 7:20 pm: I thought this picture was a better illustration of where the saints went wrong yesterday.

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