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03 January 2004

Out of the loop 

This is probably one of those trivial things that lots of people who read this knew already, but it's news to me that in the state of Utah one of the ways the state executes criminals is by the firing squad.

Now there's a bill to ban the practice. Unfortunately, making capital punishment "more humane"--while most certainly necessary--usually only serves to make people more comfortable with a power that no humans or governments should have the right to wield over an individual.

And here I was thinking we lived in the twenty-first century.

What? 

Can someone explain what this means? Is it a mistake that this is published online?

Update @ 4:43 pm: I'm worried the story might disappear, so here's the entire "report" cut and pasted from the AP newsflash over at NOLA.com under the headline "AP Kills Limbaugh Painkiller Story"

(AP) — WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Please kill the story Limbaugh-Painkillers, V9991. Rush Limbaugh has not been charged with doctor shopping.

A kill is mandatory.

Make certain the story is not used.


and again @ 4:51 pm: okay, it makes sense now. It looks like my quickness to assume nefarious goals on the part of the AP blinded my ability to read the words on the page. The key sentence up there is obviously "Rush Limb. has not been charged. . ." This looks to be along the lines of a correction or note to an earlier story which just made its way online by accident.

One in and one out 

Two more possible candidates for the seat to represent District 45 (that's my district for you folks that care) in the statehouse have made their final decisions.

Consolidated-Councilman Marc Mouton is out and CPA and private businessman Joel Robideaux is in. I don't know much about either of these fellows, although the story mentions that Robideaux is a registered independent. Marc Mouton is not my councilman, so I've never cast a vote for or against him before.

Still unsure of her future is school teacher and Democratic Central Committee member Melinda Mangham. Every time a story is written about this race her name is mentioned, but I don't think she's been on the record either way about it yet. I still think Baton Rouge would find a force to be reckoned with if she throws her hat in the ring. It looks like it's time for me to send her another email.

Other candidates in the race are local lawyer Buzz Durio, who may or may not be the father of a girl I went out a few times with in high school, and Denice Skinner, who I'm still trying to learn about. Both are Republicans.

Tragedy 

I can't get the images conjured by this story out of my head since I read The Advertiser this morning. It's absolutely tragic. What are children doing playing around the interstate anyway?

Foster redux 

John Hill files his own work on the Foster legacy in the Gannett papers today. It's a pretty impressive--and at times quite harsh--look at Foster's eight years. It's also one of the few times that I've read a reporter and actually found that he changed my opinions about someone.

Last week I posted on some other pieces which considered the Foster legacy, but I was more than willing to give the outgoing governor the benefit of the doubt because of the great inroads he made with regards to education and the beginnings of tax reform. Hill calls into question Foster's dedication to other problems that continue to face Louisiana. The question remains though, is Louisiana better now than it was then? I still think the state is a better place. Now comes the damning with faint praise part...

Primaries just around the corner 

It's well past my bedtime right now, but I'd be remiss if I didn't send everyone of the twelve or so people who stop in to read this old site to take a look at this post by Kos.

There's not much to it, but it's the reason that Howard Dean and Wesley Clark are the only contenders for the Democratic nomination. As Tony Kornheiser would say, "that's it! That's the list..."

02 January 2004

College Football 

I don't know why I haven't been gloating all day over USC's victory (unsurprising to anyone who isn't hopelessly lost in their devotion to LSU or Oklahoma) over Michigan yesterday. I guess I'm willing to wait until the Tigers actually lose to really let out my yawps.

All these bowl games can get pretty tiresome. I've always been a bigger fan of the NFL playoffs anyway. That doesn't mean I haven't been watching today, though. The Cotton Bowl was a lot of fun today. Watching the Rebels also reminded me of this piece written for Slate a few days ago. I'll admit to a bit of an affinity for the Ole Miss Rebels. My mom is from the area, and there's always the Manning connection that is burned into my consciousness as a Saints fan. Oh well, the Slate piece discusses what it's like to root for a team when they haven't been very good, they have an embarrassing history, and they still use symbols of the Confederacy. College sports fans will find it well worth the time, and anyone else with a passing interest in unchecked devotion to a college you never went to (that's the thousands of LSU fans in Lafayette who are flying the damned flags from their cars) should also be able to relate.

Economic Development 

State Farm and Governor-elect Kathleen Blanco have made a commitment to gather on Tuesday next week to hear Blanco's pitch to keep the insurer and its jobs in Monroe.

Blanco continues to sound like a pie-in-the-sky optimist w/r/t this State Farm affair. Here she's quoted:

"I would like nothing better than for State Farm not just to keep the current jobs in Monroe, but to transfer even more of its operation there, and I intend to tell that to Chairman (Ed) Rust and (senior vice president Mary) Bitzer."


I'm too lazy to look up when I said this the first time, but I'm convinced this can't work out for the woman who isn't even governor yet. She's made a huge deal in the press about convincing a company to stay that has already made up its mind to leave the state. As the governor she should certainly be involved in this process, and she should do whatever is reasonable and within her authority to prevent employers from jumping ship, but these things are best handled privately. Failures are always more spectacular and better fodder for critics than successes are for supporters. Also, a high profile failure before the administration even finds its sea legs could damage her ability to govern indefinitely.

The Advocate editors have their own words of caution for the new governor this morning. Their message is basically "don't give away the farm." I certainly do share their sentiments. It's unfortunate that our domestic mega-corporations wield such enormous influence over state politicians who are willing prostitute their states' interests in order to bring in the odd factory. It is possible to go too far to bring in the all important jobs necessary to help a states economy. Louisiana is at a crossroads now, and it seems like it's up to Kathleen Blanco to send us in the right direction. I think she's the right person for the job, but I don't know how much success she'll have in Monroe next week.

Fortunately the state has a good paper over there in Baton Rouge. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of problems with The Advocate, but when their editors aren't fantasizing about the future of the dirtiest city in the state I tend to agree with their politics. This editorial is part of the reason why.

Update @ 9:07 am: Atrios is also discussing the consequences of economic development as it relates to his neighbors in Pittsburgh.

WWJBJD? 

Are you curious what former Senator J. Bennett Johnston is up to? Wonder no more. Gerard Shields mails another one in from Washington for The Advocate. This is exactly the kind of hard-hitting journalism I've come to expect around the new year. I wonder how long it's been sitting in a folder on his computer waiting for him to be hung-over enough to submit it to his editors.

Preaching hate 

That asshole Fred Phelps (this really is his website. you may not want to take a look if you're at work), you might know him if you read a lot Tbogg, has decided to come to Louisiana to "protest" abusive clergy and the lesbian mother along with the ACLU at the heart of the latest controversy to strike the Lafayette area.

The story from the Advertiser is a refreshing since local ministers sent out a resounding "Fuck you" to Fred Phelps and his "church." One Baptist pastor likened Westboro Baptist Church to the KKK, which is probably about as apt a comparison that you could make. It was disappointing that the most influential Baptist in Acadiana stayed off the record on this one, but I give a lot of credit to his counterpart at East Bayou Baptist Church for taking a clear stand against the hateful rhetoric of Phelps' group.

31 December 2003

Happy New Year 

I'm blogging at you from my brother's computer here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I want to wish everyone a happy and safe party tonight as you ring in 2004. I probably won't post very much tomorrow, but it won't be too long before I'm back at the Prado home base. So don't fret in my absence.

Until then enjoy this fun website. [sarcasm]It's exactly what I have in mind for the upcoming Timshel redesign.[/sarcasm]

Whudathunkit? 

City assessors in NOLA are drastically undervaluing property that they and/or family members own.

Statewide, less than 2 percent of the properties owned by assessors or their families were undervalued. But in New Orleans, nine of 19 properties, or 47 percent, were viewed by the commission as underassessed.

In most cases, the assessor complied with the commission's recommendations. But two assessors, Arnold and Mauberret, took different approaches.

According to tax commission officials, Arnold said his roll already is complete and that he will wait until next year to revalue the three properties in his Algiers district: his own home and the homes of two sons, including state Rep. Jeff Arnold.


The most surprising thing in this story is actually how well the rest of the state's assessors perform their jobs.

The Grand Finale 

Brett Barrouquere puts out what looks like the final piece in a series on clemency and Governor Mike Foster. This is about a man who was pardoned two years after his death, to the great relief of his family and surviving friends.

This is another one worth the read. Barrouquere took a subject that lots of people probably aren't interested in or don't care about and made a good series out of it. Unfortunately, this piece was buried on the last page of the A section in a fairly large edition of the morning's paper, so I figure a lot of people will likely miss it. Not my readers though. Take a look when you get the chance.

Prediction update 

A couple of days ago I made the bold prediction that Nick Saban would be announced as the head coach of the Chicago Bears as early as the Saturday following the Sugar Bowl.

The T-P piggy-backs from an ESPN report that I can't find that Saban has already contacted a coach who might work on his staff if he were to go the NFL. There's more in the story that tries to dampen rumors that Saban is leaving for the NFL, but we'll see for sure soon enough.

Top tens 

Unfortunately only those who buy the print edition of The Advocate can take a look at their top ten local stories of 2003. Fortunately for you guys, I've got a computer and the time to type out their top ten, so here it is.

1. Alleged serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was arrested in Atlanta in May.

2. Kathleen Blanco becomes the first women ever elected to the office of governor in LA.

3. LSU plays for national title

4. E. Baton Rouge Parish settles a 47 year old desegregation case

5. Louisiana sends its men and women to fight in Iraq

6. Space shuttle Columbia wreckage spreads over parts of Louisiana

7. The Pennington team at LSU gets groundbreaking patent on a drug treatment for cancer.

8. A Baton Rouge gunman uses a kindergartener as a human shield while firing off rounds at police

9. The giant Atchafalaya accident that killed five people.

10. A January fire in Baton Rouge kills three children.

I don't have too many quibbles with this list. I'll grudgingly accept that LSU football team is probably about in its proper place, though I still can't figure out why my hometown paper has put meaningless AP stories about the Tigers on the front page for what is now four days in a row.

I also would have moved up the accident on I-10 at the Atchafalaya bridge up to around five or so, everything else would drop down one place. But that's just me.

30 December 2003

It's about damned time 

I never really thought John Ashcroft had any business overseeing the men involved in this investigation in the first place. Anyway, it's about time he recused himself, but now the question is who is Patrick Fitzgerald?

First, he was appointed to his current position by the current President Bush, so there is an immediate conflict of interest there. This was of course the main concern that most people had with Ashcroft leading the investigation. How can you honestly investigate an office that appointed you? Why is Fitzgerald any better than Ashcroft?

His testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in October of this year speaks to a strong commitment to the Patriot Act, and while this might not mean too much on its surface, he has some interesting things to say about the need for the break down of the "wall between law enforcement and intelligence." I don't what this means about how he'll look into the possibly felonious leaking of an undercover CIA operative, but maybe a little more digging will reveal a clearer picture. You can see more about his commitment to the Patriot Act in the Common Dreams article

There is some good news that partisanship didn't hamper his investigation against now indicted former Republican Governor of Illinois George Ryan. Also, local writers in the Chicago area seem to have a lot of respect for him, but will his concerns about "contributing to terrorism" trump his commitment to justice, as they seem to have done in this case described by law.com. I don't quite know what to make of the legal issues there, but it looks like Fitzgerald might be a pushover for suppressing important evidence that "threatens national security."

After about an hour now of searching around the Internet for information about US Attorney Fitzgerald, I'm no closer to any read on how he'll handle the investigation. I have lots of general news about him, but I can't put a judgment together. But you guys know how it goes, I link, you decide. Have fun.

General summary 

Here's the coverage of the General's visit to Baton Rouge yesterday. You can read the Advocate account or watch the report by Baton Rouge's Manship television station, WBRZ.

Unfortunately I can't find any coverage of the event in New Orleans, but I'd say it's a safe bet that it wasn't too different from what looks like a fairly successful stop in Baton Rouge. Anyone there that has their own account?

No surprises here 

In an AP story that seems to have been picked up by all the major papers around the state, we learn this morning that Louisiana has the highest gonorrhea rate in the nation. Apparently we also find ourselves in the top ten among rates of two other unnamed sexually transmitted diseases.

Most interestingly, Louisiana has reduced their rate of per capita syphillis infection over the last few years through very aggressive pursuit of anyone who has had sex with other syphillis sufferers.

I'm not someone who would ever defend abstinence only education, but the reporter who wrote this story has a true Nedra Pickler moment with these lines towards the end of the story:

[T]here’s no question that many Louisiana residents are having sex without the protection of condoms or monogamy, he said.

The state has pushed abstinence as the only message about sex which should be given in schools.

However, many teenagers apparently either are ignoring the message or aren’t being told: Louisiana perennially is one of the states with the highest rates for teenage pregnancy and motherhood.


I always forget the name of the fallacy that assumes two events in proximity are the cause and result of one another, but this seems to fit the bill there. It also seems like extra snarky writing, which I usually don't have much of a problem with, but I feel like I have to point it out.

Following up 

After yesterday's post about Foster and clemency for violent criminals, the same reporter follows up with a look at the pardons Mike Foster did make.

29 December 2003

1st Amendment in trouble 

[snark]Let it be known that The World Almanac was the first casualty in the Patriot Act's war on freedom.[/snark]

via Drudge

New additions 

There are more liberals living and writing in Louisiana than I know what to do with. I don't know why I haven't been reading Chris Mooney over at Intersection, but after being directed there by Calpundit, I'm ready to make it a daily stop on my tours around the blogosphere. I would request more local politics please, Chris.

Also, welcome Damfacrats to the blogroll. Mary (put down Final Fantasy for five minutes and put some posts together, the Prado family misses you!) has been a reliable linker to their offerings, but it's only been in the last few weeks that I've been making regular trips there. Now I can't get enough.

With the new year on the way I'm planning some design changes to Timshel, so keep your eyes peeled. At the very least the blogroll will be alphabetized and organized into something resembling order. For now you'll just have to accept it the way it is.

Goodbye Dick Jauron 

The Chicago Bears fired head coach Dick Jauron today. I don't post a lot about sports on this site unless it's about the Saints or general LSU bashing, but there has been a lot of talk about the Chicago being a natural place for a certain LSU Tigers head coach to get a gig in the NFL. So this leads me to my first prediction for 2004. Nick Saban will be named head coach of the Chicago Bears by the Saturday following the Sugar Bowl. Happy trails, Nick.

New year, new laws 

Laura Maggi has a report on the new laws that are slated to go into effect with the new calendars for 2004.

The law that is most concerning is the one that will allow insurers to raise their rates up to ten percent without approval from the state Insurance Rating Commission. The law is touted as necessary to bring more insurers into Louisiana. There's a lot of logic to that position. Louisiana has seen companies flee the state over the last decade because their profits aren't big enough to justify coverage. Unfortunately the rating commission is one of the only barriers to price-fixing in the insurance game, and you can bet the first thing that happens with the existing auto and property insurers in Louisiana is a big rate hike right at the beginning of 2004.

According to the story the only person who can reject these increases is the Insurance Commissioner, right now Robert Wooley, who said the law was all about "taking politics out of the process." Of course, if you remember those commercials during the campaign, Wooley was taking plenty of dough from the insurance companies for his campaigns, so I don't think he'll be too interested in putting a hold on their ambitions. Oh well, that's why I didn't vote for anyone in that race.

Bunkie Business 

Adam Nossiter has been writing up a storm lately. Today he puts together a profile of the man who will most likely be serving as the next president of the Louisiana Senate.

Reading this you'd think Don Hines was an angel sent from heaven to watch over the poor farmers of Bunkie. I generally find Nossiter's reporting top notch, and after spending some time reading about Hines I'm pretty satisfied with the choice Kathleen Blanco has made with him, but jeez, let's have some balance here from the AP. There's got to be some things out there that aren't flattering to the "country doctor." I guess I'll just have to wait for something hateful from Jeff Sadow.

Update 

For those of you in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas who aren't tied down with silly things like work, the Wesley Clark events are open to the public after all. Commenter Cory is going to be there. I would like to see the man I think has the best chance of defeating that unelectable, miserable failure of a president, but the weather is looking pretty nasty in my neck of the woods, so I'll have to depend on others for a full report of the gathering.

Serving time 

During the last few weeks there's been quite a bit of ink spilt over Mike Foster and the lack of pardons he's granted over his eight years in the governor's mansion. Today the Baton Rouge paper gets into the act.

Reporter Brett Barrouquere finds that even Foster's supporters think the whole system is unfair. Violent criminals have all but stopped even applying for hearing before the pardon board, because the members were appointed exclusively from victim's rights groups and enforcement groups. Needless to say those groups aren't exactly receptive to the appeals of the men and women convicted of violent crimes.

I imagine that standing up for the rights of convicts is a pretty thankless task, but I've always thought you can't truly take the measure of a society without seeing how even the most disreputable outcasts are treated. The criminal justice system is the most obvious place to look, but unfortunately our justice leaves a lot to be desired.

There's a scene in "The Farm," the documentary about life for a few inmates at Louisiana's state penitentiary in Angola, that this report called to mind. A man has his interview with the pardon board, but before he even gets into the room the camera pretty much shows the panel deciding that they won't grant him his full hearing. When they invite him in they have already made their decision, but give the man five minutes or so to make his case. Then they tell him no and send him on his way. He never had a chance. That's just the way Foster wanted it. I think that's wrong.

28 December 2003

Credit where it's due 

I normally don't read Smiley Anders, but his "Fair and Balanced look at 2003" really is pretty funny.

The Sugar Bowl and the economy 

NOLA businesses are whetting their lips for the financial windfall that is the Sugar Bowl. Economist extraordinaire and UNO Chancellor Tim Ryan warns off over-exuberance though, suggesting that LSU fans won't spend as much money as AP #1 USC fans might have since they would have traveled and spent more money over a weekend in local hotels, restaurants, and bars.

Okay, he doesn't mention USC anywhere in the article, but it's implied. I swear.

There are two good stories about the possible impact of the Sugar Bowl on the state this morning. You can find them here and here.

The Advocate's story is best only because they give me the news that Abita is doubling its production for the next two weeks to accommodate LSU fans, who "party like nobody else," [President of Abita Brewing co.]Blossman said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us."

Seriously though, this really is the happiest place on earth.

So much news today 

Political junkies will have a field day today with the newspapers around the state. Everyone is looking at Mike Foster's legacy as his term proceeds through its final days. The reviews are at once mixed and consistent. I won't bore you by recapping them since you can read them on your own.

Chris Fink from The Advocate

Ed Anderson from The Times-Picayune

and even AP Louisiana politics man Adam Nossiter gets into it, although he takes a somewhat different approach. (oops, I can't find this one online yet. It was in the "All AP" Louisiana year in review in the "Acadiana" section of The Advertiser this morning. I'll keep looking for it).

These pieces are filled with good writing, so make sure you take the time to read them. My own thoughts on Mike Foster are somewhat conflicted. My worst criticisms of his governorship are about his personality, which I've found tiresome since I started reading about him in newspapers. However, I really don't have too many complaints with the way he has governed. His commitment to education in this state has been unmatched. He bludgeoned the legislature into submission regarding the Stelly plan and successfully campaigned to the people of Louisiana to show the necessity of tax reform. Of course I don't think these things have gone far enough, but they're a start, and I don't know how many other governors could have done that.

Of course the real question to consider is whether or not Louisiana is better off after eight years of Mike Foster. I'd say that things definitely feel better. Louisiana health care is still in crisis, and the state's budget is a mess, but there is a sense of optimism for the state among the people I run around with. Smart young people are taking advantage of TOPS and going to school in the state instead of leaving at the age of eighteen never to return outside of holidays and funerals. Foster's rejection of corruption and commitment to the state's future can be credited with at least some of this optimism.

There is definitely a long way to go, but Mike Foster hasn't been part of the problem, which is better than a lot of our politicians over the last God-knows how many years. I'll admit that's a pretty low bar, but Foster has raised it pretty substantially. Now I just hope he stays retired.

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