27 December 2003

The general is coming 

Wesley Clark will make two stops in Louisiana on Monday. According to the AP report these are fundraising stops only, so don't expect General Clark out meeting and greeting the riff-raff in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. If you want to party crash you can find him at the Back Ballroom at Juban's Restaraunt in Baton Rouge at approximately 12:20 pm. Later he'll be appearing at the Lakefront Airport (he couldn't even get the Kenner airport?) in NOLA at about 2:45 pm.

Show him your love, and ask him how he expects to win southern voters without actually meeting any real ones.

Louisiana in Washington 

The T-P and The Advocate give up pieces of the front page to their Washington correspondents this morning.

The Advocate takes a look at failed Senate candidate-cum-professional moralist Tony Perkins. In the story we discover that the Family Research Council doesn't really care at all about families, rather they care about the Family Research Council:

Perkins' chief goal is to restore the council to the national prominence it held through the 1990s, when well-known council president and eventual presidential candidate Gary Bauer operated it.

Bauer's departure three years ago and the exodus of one of the council's chief targets, President Clinton, resulted in a drastic reduction in donations to the nonprofit organization, Perkins said.

Okay, okay, Perkins does actually have some things to say about gay marriage, but I really can't stand the jerks in these "family values" organizations, so I selectively quote a little bit. Perkins was a real one note player in the Senate race before losing miserably in the primary, so this type of gig is probably a good one for him. I hope the FRC continues to languish anyway.

Meanwhile T-P reporter Bill Walsh wonders what will become of centrism in Washington without John Breaux in the Senate. I wonder the same thing, but for now I'll defer to the editors over at TNR, who think it's time for Democrats to instill (subscription only, but you can get a teaser that pretty much suggest the whole argument wihtout signing up for anything) a little party discipline.

26 December 2003

Apples not falling too far from trees here 

It looks like poor administrating isn't only a problem with the OPSB anymore.

Louisiana education officials have failed to submit their dropout rates to the feds in charge of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Frankly, I'm all for a little civil disobedience against this troubled "accountability" bill, but this looks more like state failing to put its act together and submit all the information required by law. Fortunately there is no money attached to this. I also wonder if this isn't the first step in trying to find a way to doctor up their graduation and teacher certification rates so the state can make up numbers claiming they are doing better than they are in educating our children.

The longest yard 

With Christmas just behind us, my local papers aren't really trying very hard to find news. I imagine things will get back to normal after the weekend, but for now I'm stuck linking to stories about intramural football leagues in Louisiana correctional facilities. I'm not quite sure why I found this story so interesting, but it struck me as worth the trouble of posting a link. No word yet whether or not Cecil "the Diesel" Collins is participating.

The editors of the Baton Rouge paper also send out a resounding "who cares?" to the recent news that QEII acknowledged and sort of apologized for the deportation of the Acadians two and a half centuries ago in what has come to be known among Louisiana folks as le grand derangement.

Okay, "who cares?" doesn't really describe their attitude to the apology. Rather they take a somewhat contrarian approach to the whole idea of politicians apologizing for things that happened a hundreds of years ago. Curiously, the paper uses the example of the Irish potato famine and Brit Prime Minister Tony Blair's very public apology for the British inaction in the face of the island's crisis in the middle of the nineteenth century. Their argument seems to be that the imperial rulers in London didn't have any ethical obligation to do more than they did, so Blair's apology was no more than a cynical ploy to appease an interest group. Here are the editor's words:

The government did what it could, although some scholars argue it might have done more. But it opened the ports of Ireland to shipping, overturning tariff rules, and subsidized the importation of American corn to Ireland. Unfortunately, Ireland had few and poor roads and no railways. Extensive distribution of even free food would have been impossible.

Perhaps more of an effort was possible, but that is not likely. Yet long after the event, the tragedy of the deaths in Ireland remains an emotional issue between the Irish and the English. The apology by Blair served today's politics, but probably not an intellectually rigorous concept of ethical judgment.

"Some scholars" seems to be a real dismissal of what I believed was historical consensus that the British government failed to act with the proper enthusiasm for its "barbaric subjects" in the emerald isle. I can think of one book off-hand that has been critically well-received and from what I was led to believe when I read it withstood the process of peer-review. It certainly doesn't pretend that the British government did everything it could to help the Irish. But this is only a secondary concern I have with what the editorial argues.

My main concern is the suggestion that we needn't bother ourselves with holding our forbearers accountable for their actions in the past because "they didn't know any better." Here are the editors again:

If one is making a moral judgment about what happened a long time ago -- even a few years ago -- one must consider a key question: Did the perpetrator know, or could he reasonably have known at that time, whether his action was morally suspect?

This statement would be correct if it changed "what happened a long time ago" to "a person from a long time ago." An action doesn't become moral or not by the consensus of the people around the time. That consensus may acquit the perpetrator, but it doesn't make the action any more or less right.

In the light of hindsight governments do have a responsibility to "apologize" for the things they are responsible for. In the cases where the action may not have been considered "wrong" at the time, the actual people responsible need not be condemned, but the act itself should be accounted for. The acknowledgement of past failings is an integral part of the social contract in that it builds trust between governments and the men and women who are served by them.

I guess I'm dragging on now. Sorry about the long post after nearly a day of nothing at all. Hopefully I'll find some more news to talk about as the day goes on, but we'll see.

25 December 2003

Merry Christmas from the Associated Press 

While Americans are still dying in Iraq, this is the kind of news that the AP manages to get out on the wire during Christmas.

I'll quote this great line from the story because you can't tell if they're talking about the fraternity members or the racoon:

Erratic behavior can be a symptom of rabies in an animal. . .

Lots of eating for me over the next few hours. Enjoy your holiday.

24 December 2003

Merry Christmas. . .  

and all the rest of the "merries" and "happies" that you're used to. I could bore you this morning with links to stories around the state, but there really isn't much in the papers today. So instead I'll just wish all those readers out there plenty of happiness and joy as the new year approaches.

To get you excited about the season, here's TV critic Danny Heitman's reaction to the news that TNT is once again playing a twenty-four hour marathon of the best Christmas movie ever.

And if you're really desperate for links to some very local news, The Advocate has been running a very good series of stories over the last few days about the way contracts are handed out by the Lafayette City-Parish government. This is the conclusion of that series. Kevin Blanchard and others have done some fine reporting. This kind of work out of the Acadiana Bureau of The Advocate continues to show up the one daily paper that is actually published in Lafayette. Keep up the good work guys.

23 December 2003

Run away! Run away! 

Louisiana residents, run for your lives. We are hereby in a "state of emergency."

Throwing money away 

That's apparently what the Orleans Parish School Board is doing these days.

The federal government, through the Dept. of Education, reclaimed $1.7 million from New Orleans Public schools after the board failed to allocate the money in a proper amount of time.

The people at the OPSB seemed non-plussed about the whole thing:

Ellenese Brooks-Simms, president of the Orleans Parish School Board, called the loss unfortunate, given the district's financial problems and serious academic needs.

. . .

"When we leave money on the table that means some children are not being served," said Johnson, who oversees Title I and other federal and state grant programs for the district. "We want to make sure that doesn't happen again."

. . .

Stuart Piltch, managing partner of Compensation and Benefits Consulting Services, issued a report in April that found administrators routinely failed to promptly deposit millions of dollars in checks, missed out on grant reimbursements by filing applications late, and frequently overpaid employees.

The school system in New Orleans would be a real comedy of errors if the stakes weren't so high. The men and women in charge of things out there are most of the time both inept and corrupt. I don't really have anything more to say about this.

I am Spartacus 

First things first this morning. Before I head out to try and finish my Christmas shopping I had to make sure I passed on this amazing true crime story. It seems that a Baton Rouge man quite brazenly posed as NHL all-stars throughout LA, MS, and TX taking out loans and securing credit cards with the kind of lines that are appropriate to professional athletes with loads of cash.

Roenick has played in six All-Star games. He's known for his speed, passing and finishing skills -- and, now, apparently, his credit line. But if authorities are correct, Lachney wasn't satisfied with Roenick's credentials alone.

According to detectives involved in the investigation, Lachney also passed himself off in similar fashion as St. Louis Blues left wing Keith Tkachuk and New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch.

Tkachuk -- the first American-born player to lead the NHL in goals -- has represented the United States in the Olympics three times. Leetch was captain of the U.S. team in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and was named most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1994.

When Lachney was arrested July 8 after leading Louisiana State Police on a 5- to 10-minute chase outside Tioga, authorities say, he was carrying Louisiana driver's licenses in the names of all three of those NHL players. Lachney is being held in the Vernon Parish Correctional Facility and has pleaded innocent to the charges.

So the man is no Frank Abagnale, but this seems like a great story for some enterprising writer. Lachney allegedly went so far as to call the homes of the athletes whose identities he pilfered, talking to wives and family members, sometimes imploring them to activate credit cards he already had his hands on. Talk about ballsy.

Chick tracts 

One of the reasons I love Scoobie is because of the copious links to Chick Tracts.

My first exposure to this not-exactly-innocuous bit of propaganda came when I was a senior in high school over at LHS, a Lafayette public high school. This story will seem like a fabrication, but a number of students who had this teacher can almost certainly vouch for it.

We knew our physics teacher as "Doc" Ledet (pronounced "luh-day"). He wasn't a PhD., but for some reason that's what people called him. He studied astro-physics at the University of Kansas and spent quite a bit of time teaching at UL, which was still USL while he was there. As a side gig he was also a preacher for a local evangelical congregation. While he was teaching us he also worked to get a book published which apparently proved mathematically that Earth is exactly as old as the Bible says it is. I don't know if the book was ever published.

So that's Ledet. Now little old Ricky Prado is a Catholic, just like a whole bunch of south Louisiana kids at Lafayette High School. And like lots of seniors in high school who are slightly rebellious and about an eighth as smart as they believe themselves to be, I didn't think much of religion one way or the other (not to say that one couldn't come to this position reasonably at an older age, I just don't think most high-schoolers can really come to thoughtful conclusions about religion). At any rate, I was a prime target for "Doc" Ledet's proselytizing on the sly.

So one spring morning I walk over to my desk to find "Last Rites" and "Are Roman Catholics Christians" just sitting there. To my surprise other Catholics in the class also found the same little comic books waiting for them on their desktops. There were other students who found different tracts more appropriate for their various situations. We pretty much universally laughed them off and didn't really think too much about it.

Of course if the wrong kid got one of those on their desk in a public high school, I can't imagine the legal ramifications for the school district. I think Ledet spent a couple more years at the old high before moving on to other things, but I don't know how he got away with half the crap he did while he was there. I guess he just didn't give a shit because he was doing the Lord's work.

I don't think I ever saw another Chick tract until I started reading Scoobie's site, and now I'm constantly reminded of all the fun times I had making fun of Ledet's silly attempt to convert us. Thanks for the laughs Scoobie.

Update @ 12:51 am: Okay, that LHS website still has Richard Ledet listed as a faculty member, so I guess he's still there. Also, this looks to be the same Richard Ledet with his own website advertising some Bible College of some sort.

22 December 2003

enough all ready 

I spent a lot of time in the car this afternoon listening to sports radio, and I'll be damned if I didn't have to listen to Jim and Hokey on WWL-870 rebroadcasted on every sports talk show from L.A. to Bristol, Connecticut. Then Carville leads off Crossfire's "Political Alert" section of the show with clips of the spectacular play and devastating miss. Carville called it the curse of Marie Levaux. I don't think it takes all the bloviating though. Buddy D gets to the point with his web poll over at Nola.com

Thanks to brother Prado for the poll question, who will fortunately get to miss most of the NOLA reaction to this debacle when he leaves for the colder and less-friendly environs of New Jersey on Tuesday.

What a mug? 

This really isn't important, but Nico has posted the all-time worst photograph ever taken of John Kerry. He looks a little like a sitcom Dad.

Gannett and why I hate the way they design papers 

Click here. I'd like to burn all newspapers that print interviews of the "Q&A" variety. I'll admit this probably doesn't bother most people, but it's a real pet peeve of mine. If you can manage to interview someone, spend the time to turn it into reporting instead of just mailing in the transcript of your interview. Jeebus almighty. At least twice a week The Advertiser prints this kind of shite.

A redeeming feature of the Gannett Louisiana family is political analyst and reporter John Hill. Today he tells us a little bit about Chris John and David Vitter, who he describes as a "conservative Democrat, and an ultra-conservative Republican." Before you Republican readers out there start screaming "bias," you should take a look at the way the two candidates are rated by a whole host of interest groups that Gannett provides at the end of the story.

Vitter was rated 100% by both the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition in 2002. I challenge you to find two more conservative groups than that that are actually influential in Washington. John rates 46% and 58% respectively from these two groups. Will Vitter's politics--pleasing to the white-flight crowd in Jefferson Parish that has elected him to Congress over the last decade--be too much for the state as a whole? I sure hope so. I was with Hill initially thinking that this race has a chance to shape up like the governor's election, but I think I've refined my thoughts on this a little bit.

I do think Jindal really managed to fool a lot of people into thinking that he wasn't a typical Republican candidate. That somehow he brought new solutions to state problems to the table. I believe this really appealed to lots of voters who may have otherwise been turned off by some of his ties to the far right side of the GOP. Contrast that with Vitter, who looks a lot more like Suzy Terrell. They are uncompromising GOP supporters rarely willing to stray from the party line or release their grip on the teat of groups like the ACU and Christian Coalition. Meanwhile John is a moderate who "switches party lines to vote for what's best for the state of Louisiana." It's a dynamic that would really favor John in a general election.

I don't really think Ieyoub can bring that sense of independence from the party that John can, and I still don't know jack about Kennedy, so I won't talk about him just yet. Of course it's way too early to get heated up about this Senate race. With the exception of some candidates declaring their intentions over the next few weeks, nothing will really happen until probably July or August. The papers and the bloggers are desperate for another campaign though.

Southern line 

Bruce Alpert, the T-P Washington correspondent, wonders what the south has in store for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.

It doesn't seem like anyone is very optimistic about Dean's chances in Louisiana--or any other southern state for that matter--except our junior Senator and political consultant and Kenner native Donna Brazile. In fact chameleon Mary Landrieu sounds like a Democrat again. This is what she says regarding Dean's chances in LA:

Landrieu disagrees. She senses growing vulnerability for the president even among some independents and Republicans who strongly supported him in 2000. She singled out Lieberman and Clark for praise, but she said it would be a mistake to underestimate Dean, who has built "a strong grassroots campaign" and articulated effectively the "failed economic policies of this administration."

"While I disagree with his position on the efforts to topple Saddam Hussein, I don't disagree with him that the president did not have a good plan for the post-conflict, or a plan to pay for it other than to have our grandchildren pick up the tab," Landrieu said.

It's always good to get the national talking points in print back to the folks at home. As for me, I'm not too optimistic about any of the candidates being able to carry Louisiana over Bush next year. I think Clark is obviously the most attractive candidate, but I have very little confidence in his ability to run an effective campaign to even win the nomination, much less the presidency. I certainly don't think the DNC should simply write off the south. There's something to spending your money and time wisely but that doesn't mean simply ceding an entire region to the other party. At least I'll be able to talk about a Senate when the time comes. Hopefully Bush won't have coattails next year, but we'll see about that.

21 December 2003


What else is there to say?

Update @ 8:35 am, 12/22/03: Jags running back has this to add. What a dick? "Thank God for that kicker," said Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, whose season-high 194 rushing yards -- the second-highest total in Jaguars history -- were lost in last-minute theatrics.

Senate news 

The editors at The Advertiser make the case for Chris John today without quite going so far as to use the Acadiana congressman's name in the editorial. I don't have any problems except the actual author's constant use of mainstream as a synonym of moderate. Mainstream is more frequently used as acceptable. If mainstream only meant centrists that would leave most of our Congressmen out of the river altogether.

Ieyoub is still making signals that he wants to run for that Senate seat. In this morning's Advocate (print only on this story) he's quoted expressing thanks to all the supporters who have emailed him urging him to run. It's still too early for me to make a prediction either way, but he certainly is doing the things that people do when they want to run for office.

Finally, here's a story about the lucrative options John Breaux has now that he isn't hampered by the bonds of public service. Have fun getting rich Senator.

Only a couple of months too late. 

I don't know who wrote this story about Governor-elect Kathleen Blanco's upbringing, but I wish there were more writers out there like this during the actual election. If you're at all curious about Blanco, then you should definitely check it out. Here's an interesting tidbit about Blanco's family:

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that Blanco apparently never heard the disturbing story of her revered Uncle Ozenne, the burly, dapper sheriff who charmed the little Babineaux but terrorized New Iberia's blacks.

In spring 1944, as recounted by historian Adam Fairclough, Ozenne's deputies - and according to the central victim's account, Ozenne himself - rounded up, beat and expelled from New Iberia prominent members of the town's tiny black middle class.

They had tried to form an chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Ozenne was having none of it. Several black doctors, a former insurance agent and a schoolteacher were severely beaten, driven out of town by deputies and dumped by the roadside.

It was long before the Civil Rights Movement. But the incident was so brutal, the U.S. Justice Department felt compelled to investigate even then.

This is the kind of reporting I was begging for during the election, instead then we got profiles that really didn't look beyond the candidates' voting records. Better late than never, I guess.

Read this post 

I don't have a thing to add to this, but you should read the whole thing. Here's a taste of what Kevin Drum was cooking earlier today.

It's all part of a broader plan to cut taxes on dividends, cut taxes on capital gains, and cut taxes on savings. Put it all together and you're cutting taxes on all forms of invested wealth. Add in the decline in corporate tax rates over the years, and before long the only thing being taxed is income from working people. Stir in cutbacks to the social safety net, which rich people really don't need, and you have a conservative paradise.

Remember this the next time a Republican accuses a Democrat of waging class warfare. Remember who started it.

I guess I'll hit the sack on that note.

The question is. . . 

With two expat acadianians back in the heartland, should we have a blogger reunion?

That leaves Michael to get back to New Iberia. I can think of a few places, but most of them involve heavy drinking. Can you handle it?

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