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10 January 2004

Doing juvie 

A commission set up to study the juvenile justice system proposes that the new Governor should put the director of the juvenile facilities directly under her purview instead of counting on the state corrections secretary to handle the overview of the juvenile prisons. Read about the commission here and here.

I don't know if the creation of a whole new state agency to handle youth issues like homelessness, neglect, and crime is necessary, but there is no question that this is a good thing for the adult and youth justice systems to be separated. The juvenile facilities in Louisiana have been coming under fire for many years. The children sent there become hardened criminals; they are often the recipients of terrible abuse by their guards and fellow inmates. It's a system that is currently broken, so drastic action is important for anyone who wants to improve the situation. Unfortunately this isn't the kind of thing that is usually made a priority by governing officials, so as often as commissions are set up to study a problem their proposals are just as often ignored or shelved until further notice.

More on Appointments 

The state papers cover the Blanco cabinet appointments this morning. Here are the reports filed by reporters from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Lafayette. There isn't a whole lot of new information in any of these stories, but I guess they are necessary reading if you want to know who will be running the state government over the next four years.

No soup for you! 

I would love to see a parish priest actually turn away a lawmaker who requests communion at the mass.

Bishop Raymond Burke of La Crosse (you may remember a certain football team that used to have their spring training there) cited Vatican doctrine, canon law and teachings by the U.S. bishops in an announcement telling diocesan priests to withhold communion from such lawmakers until they "publicly renounce" their support of abortion rights.


Besides the fact that I don't agree with the Bishop's position, I'm somewhat revolted by the way he intends to use the Body of Christ as a bludgeon, when everything I've ever been taught about the faith is that the eucharist is for saving souls.

09 January 2004

Prediction update 

The T-P has a story about Saban and the Bears today. My updated prediction is that Saban will be named head coach of the Chicago Bears by next Saturday. Writer Triplett calls it a long shot. Look for Saban to be offered over $5 million a year by the Bears. It will be impossible to turn down.

Louisiana stuff 

The AP posts some background information on five major appointees to cabinet positions by Governor-elect Kathleen Blanco. Anyone know anything about these people?

Come back 

I haven't posted a time-killing game of the week in a while, and the b3ta.com newsletter had some good ones this week so there will be two.

The first seems perfect for a certain blogger who has been neglecting her computer for some time now. However, if shooting cats like clay pigeons makes you uncomfortable, I'd avoid this one.

The other game is for the somewhat mechanical minded, which might be why I found it such a chore at first. Now I'm hooked. Go check it out. The directions are simple, use the robot arm to grab the spring. Arrow keys move individual arms around joints.

Have fun.

Ripping off "Primary Colors" 

James Carville was in New Orleans with big shot Hollywood writer Steve Zaillian to scout locations for another silver-screen adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's novel, All the King's Men.

I'm not too excited by this, since I'm really looking forward to the production of Confederacy of Dunces, but filming movies adapted from great novels about Louisiana is always fine by me.

All apologies 

Sorry about the lack of posting last night and this morning, but some dear friends came in from Houston last night to stay with me before they spend the weekend in New Orleans. There was partying and the requisite zombie-like morning after. But now we're just back from lunch, they've departed for NOLA, and I'm ready to blog again.

The biggest story I saw today has to be the poll showing that most Louisiana residents surveyed believe that the Patriot Act doesn't go too far, and that George Bush was right to take the country into war against Iraq. The question about the Patriot Act was, "In the fight against terrorism, have Americans' freedoms been restricted too much, about right, or not enough?" A majority responded that freedoms have been restricted the right amount, but frighteningly more than 20% of respondents believe we haven't gone far enough. Democratic candidates take note: civil rights abuses due to the war on terror is not an issue that will mobilize Louisiana voters. I'd like to see how the rest of south would respond to this question.

Most voters also think we did the right thing by going to Iraq, but only to the tune of 53%, with as many as 8% who either weren't sure or refused to answer. 39% answered no we should not have invaded Iraq. That eight percent is probably pretty easily switched back and forth between both positions depending on the circumstances around the time of the poll, but I can't know that since there is no tracking data for this survey.

08 January 2004

A little early 

I'm all for optimism, but things are getting ridiculous over at Kos.

Lafayette Dean Fundraising event 

This does not constitute an endorsement of Howard Dean, but I'm on the mailing list of the local meetup group and I got this email today. This is the text in full:

Several of the theatre artist Dean supporters are planning a fundraising event for his campaign (as individually we cannot afford to donate financially)...We will do minimally staged readings of two powerful works on Friday February 6th, Saturday February 7th & Saturday February 14th. We will begin at 7:30 PM. The event should last from 30-40 minutes and will take place at BEYOND FLOWERS , 800 Jefferson St, Downtown Lafayette. The owner of BEYOND FLOWERS has made it clear to me that he does not share his political beliefs publically, but that he will allow us to use his space.

Please spread the word and get as many people there as possible...we will not charge a specific donation fee, but will ask people to donate what they can.

The two pieces to be performed are EVENING LIGHT: A PRAYER-RANT by Cody Daigle, award winning local playwright and Dean supporter, and ONLY WE WHO GUARD THE MYSTERY SHALL BE HAPPY by Tony Kushner, Pulitzer-Prize winning & former Lake Charles resident. Kushner's piece centers around Laura Bush as she reads to the ghosts of 3 dead Iraqi children.

Hope to see you there...Thanks for spreading the word...


A note about the Dean meetups. I went to my third meetup for Dean last night. Each month there have been a few more supporters than the month before. I've been going mostly as to satisfy a curiosity that I've had about what kind of people in Lafayette were active enough to support a presidential campaign this early in the game. I could be wrong about the way I judge the people there, but what seems to be the common denominator among the folks there is that Bush must go and Dean has been the only one to really gather up those folks and try to find a way to put them in a room together. There are apparently Clark meetups in Lafayette, but I tried to go to one two months ago, and I didn't see anyone there.

The meetups themselves are pretty boring affairs. Yesterday we spent what must have been thirty minutes watching videos of Dean and the Iowa headquarters. Then we watched a video of Al Gore endorsing Dean, which I had already seen anyway. The only substantive thing we've done at the last three meetups was write letters to Democrats in Iowa, NH, and last night New Mexico. I imagine that this gets people to feel invested in the outcome of the primary, but from the sentiments I hear there, I don't think these folks will have much of a problem voting for whichever Democrat ends up winning the nomination.

The most surprising aspect I've found at these meetings is that I'm among the younger people there. It looks like most of the folks are around their forties, and there's even a couple there who appear to be well into their social security entitlement. You can watch some video of last night's meetup over at KATC.com if you're really interested in what the group looks like. I'm briefly panned over when they do a couple of group shops, but I tried to keep my head down because the camera's lights were so damn bright. The two people interviewed are the host (an enthusiastic middle-aged woman who will be traveling to Iowa to canvas the state on the nineteenth, and one of the few people there younger than me, who will fit into the stereotype that most Republicans around here probably have of Dean supporters (he's in a punk rock band from somewhere in the outlying towns), but has been at the meetups since the first one in Lafayette.

The reason I link to that news report is because at this stage in the game it's important to remember how truly insulated as web-stalkers really are. The reporter who went out to the meetup (Julie Kelly, who is pretty and good at what she does, but really creeps me out for some reason) is from Vermont and knew all about Howard Dean, but had somehow never heard of the meetups until yesterday. I was shocked by that. I don't know though, maybe you guys aren't. Anyway, if you want to watch the report you need a windows media player and have to click here then scroll down to the meetup link. I can't link directly to the video for a variety of reasons, one of them being that I'm lazy.

This is sad 

The director of the Louisiana State Museum is retiring. James Sefcic was in charge of the Cabildo, the Old Mint, and others in the New Orleans area.

I don't know much about the politics and conflicts between the director and the new governor, but it's a shame. Sefcic is almost solely responsible for the effort to rebuild the Cabildo after it caught fire in 1988. He's been dedicated to the preservation of the history so important to the French Quarter area (and other areas of the state, though I know less about his efforts there) over his tenure, and New Orleans will miss him.

Polling Bush in Louisiana 

I've been expecting the Advocate's year end polling to wrap up for the last two days, but each morning I'm surprised with new issues. Today the focus is Bush, and though the headline and analysts say that Bush gets good marks from the state, they don't seem that great to me.

Without the helpful pie charts provided by the print edition of the paper it's hard to explain all the numbers, but from what I could tell from them was that just under half of the respondents gave Bush a C, D, or F when figuring his grade for the last three years. Bush couldn't get a majority of respondents to say they approve of the way he has handled Iraq. The writer makes a big point to say that the poll was taken before capture of Saddam Hussein, but nationally that didn't help Bush that much, and I don't know why it would make a bigger difference in Louisiana. I imagine that as long as we have affairs like last night when 35 soldiers were injured in a mortar attack, and this morning when I turned on the computer to find that a Blackhawk crashed killing nine people that Saddam's capture won't make a lick of difference to the people who are honestly concerned about what's going on in Iraq.

There's an even split as to whether people approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy, and not even forty percent approve of the way Bush handled the corporate scandals that plagued the first two years of his presidency. The place where Bush is the strongest is on "handling Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations." 55% approve of his handling of that situation. The most distressing numbers are the high percentage of Democrats who approve of President Bush with a lot of these issues. But Louisiana has been a state for a long time now where a fair portion of its Democrats are donkeys by name only.

Long story short, if I were looking at these poll results I would have optimism that the right Democrat could come down here and defeat Bush for the state's electoral votes next November. It would take some work, but the payoff is worth it. Shields quotes a bunch of people that say Bush would have to come down a lot to be defeated. This is true, but given the right issues he is vulnerable. I'm eternally optimistic, though.

Landrieu comes to Lafayette 

Not the Senator, but her younger brother and Lt. Governor-elect Mitch Landrieu. Here's an account of his address to the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. I link to this story because I like Mitch Landrieu a lot, and it's a shame that he's stuck in the most meaningless position in state government. Fortunately the Lt. Governor's office is a great place to go to really get your name known around the state. You travel constantly meeting with leaders all over Louisiana and there aren't a lot of ways to screw things up with scandal or spectacular failures. He's young and the office could be a stepping stone to a position where he could make a real difference in this state.

7th District news 

Tucked into an Advocate story about newly selected Lafayette Parish School Board President Mike Hefner we get the news that the man who served the last term as President declined his nomination because he intends to run for the District 7 Congressional seat if and when Chris John formally declares his candidacy for the US Senate.

There's no followup to this news in the Advocate, but credit my local paper with getting it done right this time. They put together a story about John building an exploratory committee and managed to include news about possible candidates to replace him. So far only Don Cravins has formally declared, but Thibodeaux will almost certainly run for what will be his fourth bid for the seat. The last time Thibodeaux ran was 1996 when he missed a runoff with Chris John by something like eighty votes (scratch that, it was thirteen votes, see results here).

I complained about Thibodeaux (who was a professor of mine in a UL classroom last spring) during the Sharon Huff imbroglio, but generally I've liked him even though I really don't agree with his politics. He's certainly sounding different now than he did in class last year, though:

“We’ve got situations in this country, like seniors having to choose between buying prescription medication or groceries, but we’re spending $87 billion in Iraq,” Thibodaux said. “We’ve got roads crumbling, but we’re spending $87 billion in Iraq. We’ve got schools leaking and falling down, but we’re spending $87 billion in Iraq.”


He also mentioned something about term limits in the story, I guess he's still stuck on the Contract for America that most conservatives abandoned when what would have been their limit finally came up. Anyway, the stuff about Iraq is surprising because from what I remember in class he seemed like as big a supporter of the Iraq war as the next Bush supporter. Now he sounds a little like Dennis Kucinich.

I like Don Cravins a lot. I don't know if he can carry the district given the demographics, but I would vote for him for lack of a better candidate. However the seventh district is a large one, stretching all the way across southwest Louisiana, and the primary isn't until November, so I fully expect to see more people announce for this race. When Congressional seats open up people really come out of the woodwork to run for them.

Update @ 9:25 am: more on the John exploratory committee here at NOLA

07 January 2004

Someone thinks like I do 

A recent Yahoo search for "saban leaving lsu bears 2004" sent a lucky soul to Timshel for the first time. My prediction is looking a little off, but only on the time frame. I still believe Nick Saban will be the next coach of the Chicago Bears. As always, time will tell.

There have also been quite a bit of page views from a Saints fan out west searching for information about Kathleen Blanco attacking the Saints. If you read this friend, I can assure you that while our Governor-elect hasn't said she'd shell out the big bucks to keep the Saints here the way she's dropping the dough all over State Farm Insurance right now, she hasn't come out and been against the Saints either. I don't have the patience to search my archives right now, but I believe the official position of her campaign (as most of the other candidates' campaigns for that matter) was that she wouldn't give more subsidies to the Saints than what they send to the state in generated revenue in a given year. I wish it were more, but it could be worse. We could have a governor from Shreveport who would try to make the Cowboys the official NFL franchise of Louisiana.

Fair and Balanced 

via Ken there's this bit of photo fun with the Democratic candidates for president. It starts off pretty slow, but stick with it for the payoff. Especially the surprise appearance by Dave Chapelle.

Time to suscribe to The Nation 

On Monday I followed MWO's lead in wondering if there were any Democrats out there who actually supported Joe Lieberman in the presidential primaries. Apparently they all work at TNR.

I suppose I would have gotten this in the mail in a few days, but reading Atrios got it to me quicker.

$200,000 

That's how much Orange Alert cost the city of New Orleans in overtime pay for police. To be honest, that doesn't sound like a lot of money to me, especially since the city will most likely be reimbursed by the Dept. of Homeland Security for the extra costs. But that's only overtime pay for city police. The cost to state could start to get pretty dicey considering the activation of the national guard during the state of emergency, paying state police ($100,000 in overtime according to the story), etc. Admittedly I hadn't really thought of the cost in dollars of homeland security until I saw this article. Now I'm pretty interested. Later tonight I'll do some research...maybe. It would be a lot easier with Lexis/Nexis, but it will just have to be google and yahoo for me. For now I'm definitely out of here.

What a dick? 

I'm usually a bit of a wet rag when I see the rich and famous whine about how hard it is for people to hound them for pictures and autographs, but if there is any truth to what George Harrison's doctor allegedly did to him on his deathbed, it is absolutely beyond any hint of common decency. TPM linked to it first, and here's the whole story.

Two weeks before Mr. Harrison died at age 58, the suit said, the doctor took his children to the Staten Island house where Mr. Harrison was struggling with his deteriorating condition. It said he had Mr. Harrison listen to the doctor's son play a guitar, placed the guitar in Mr. Harrison's lap and asked him to sign it.

"Mr. Harrison, who was weak and exhausted," the suit said, "resisted and said, `I do not even know if I know how to spell my name anymore.' Dr. Lederman reached out to hold Mr. Harrison's hand to help him write and said, `Come on, you can do this,' and spelled out Mr. Harrison's name for him beginning with the letter "G" and continuing to spell the entire name, 'E-O-R-G-E H-A-R-R-I-S-O-N."

The suit said the doctor had refused to turn over the guitar and two autographs Mr. Harrison signed on cards for the doctor's daughters. It also said the doctor had promoted himself with network television appearances and in interviews with national publications.

I knew I'd find it eventually 

Michael may not like it, but I've been searching for this thing all day, so here it is. This isn't an endorsement of Rodrigue art by Timshel. I'm pretty indifferent to the whole enterprise, but a promise is a promise. Thanks to katc for including this on their webpage so I could steal it.


John forms exploratory committee 

The news that Congressman Chris John has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for John Breaux's nearly open Senate Seat is hardly surprising to regular readers of this site. It's not quite a declaration to run, but it surely won't be long before he makes it official. Strangely enough the annual "What I've done for you lately" newsletter for Louisiana 7th Congressional District arrived in the Prado mailbox today, so I've got some reinforcing good news about Chris John the day before I'm going to see his name in the paper as a possible Senate candidate. It's as if they timed it or something...

Seriously though, that newsletter may has well have been sent by a Republican. There's no chance that they'll paint John as some "tattooed, belly-button piercing, latte drinking, tax-hiking, so and so" when he's up against David Vitter. He plays up his vote for the awful prescription drug plan and HR 1036, which is a bill that supposedly stops "frivolous lawsuits against American gun manufacturers that are back-door attempts to promote gun control." According to the newsletter he even introduced HR 1036 in the first session of the current Congress. Don't get me wrong, I'm going to vote for John barring the entry of some unnamed super-Democrat that can look like a moderate but really get liberal on us with his/her votes. But I really hope that this is going out to everyone in the district as a courtesy of the Congressman and isn't meant for people on the DNC mailing list who live in his district. I tend to think it's the former, but who can be sure these day.

Over at politicsLA.com Jim Brown pens a column considering the possible candidates for the race. He's got good reason to predict a small field in the primary election. State politicians just don't want to run against US Congressman. They bring in such huge warchests into the race that it's nearly impossible to get a leg up, especially in a year after a lot of big donors have been shelling out the dough to help get a Governor and other statewide officials elected. He's got a good point there, but he seems to be keeping his fingers crossed for a wildcard candidate:

There is one potential candidate that has both congressmen worried. He's never run for office before. If he does decide to make the race, he could be favored from day one. Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard is receiving calls from a cross section of potential supporters to consider the race. Bernhard is the founder and CEO of The Shaw Group, one of the few Fortune 500 companies in Louisiana . He was Richard Ieyoub's finance chairman in the recent gubernatorial race and presently heads up Governor-elect Blanco's transition team. If he runs, Bernhard will have the best of both worlds. Because of his political relationships with a number of elected officials, he can quickly build a statewide organization. Both Congressmen are well-known in their district, but have little name recognition and organization in other parts of the state.

Besides his own political resources to put into the race, Bernhard is well-connected to the business community in Louisiana as well as having the ability to raise money through Shaw contacts throughout the country. He will also have the advantage of being able to lump both Congressman together and run against the Washington establishment. A lot of Louisiana‘s problems come from being short-changed in Washington, and Bernhard can lay the blame on those who are serving there now.


I won't pretend to know anything about Bernhard, but past aside you've got to grant Jim Brown as a pretty knowledgeable insider as far as state politics go. A factor Brown doesn't discuss that I find curious though is whether or not Bernhard could get the support of the Governor whose office he is now building. I imagine that Kathleen Blanco is carrying a pretty serious political debt to John Breaux right now for all the help the Senator gave her in her recent election. He sent his man Bob Mann down to run her campaign when it was falling apart during the middle of October, and then he lent his stature in television commercials and on the stump for her. Things don't come free in politics, and Breaux has made it pretty clear that Chris John is choice for this seat. Brown doesn't consider this, but I suspect it could mean a lot for Jim Bernhard's future and his ability to really put together a statewide organization.

Click this for Chris John's congressional website and here for Vitter. Vitter's really is much better.

Liars 

via Pandagon, we learn some more about lying producers of Mel Gibson's crucifixion movie, "The Passion."

The Pope had reportedly praised the movie,, but Vatican spokesmen say it never happened. Who do you believe?

I wouldn't have linked to this, but just the other night I was talking to a friend about the movie, and he said "well, the Pope said it's alright." Popes generally don't make endorsements of artwork, so when it happens Catholics tend to take it very seriously. Of course this didn't happen (or the producer was speaking out of turn, or more likely the Pope is so old he slept through it and had a dream about the Passion and "that is as it was."), so we can start a whole new controversy about the movie. I hope not to say anything else about this movie until I get a chance to see it.

You know you've hit it big... 

when you get your own Blue Dog painting.

Oh well, I intended to have an image of a Kathleen Blanco/blue dog portrait stolen shamelessly from The Advertiser, but it appears they didn't actually post the picture anywhere online. Unfortunately, cutting the picture out of the newspaper and taping to my computer screen would only allow me to see it. See more George Rodrigue artwork here.

More district 45 news 

The Advertiser had a blurb today about Jerry Luke Leblanc's preparation for his new job, but what interested (and distressed) me was the part tacked on to the end about possible candidates to fill his old seat in the statehouse. As far as I can tell this is the first time Melinda Mangham's name wasn't mentioned as a possible candidate for the office. Still no Democrats have declared their candidacies.

Meanwhile her husband was mentioned rather prominently in a story about the commission to study a possible loop around Lafayette (doesn't appear to be online at 2theadvocate.com It's in the Acadiana section of the print edition sold in Lafayette though). It was a perfect opportunity for some press synergy.

$33 Million to State Farm 

Governor-elect Blanco made her pitch to State Farm yesterday in a last ditch effort to convince them to keep a presence in Monroe. That's $33 million for 1,200 jobs. Frankly, I haven't really been able to form an opinion on this one way or the other yet. I've said before that I'm not against smart subsidies and incentives to encourage private sector growth, but I don't want to see the state give away the farm. I don't know the ins and outs of this deal, so I can't really make a judgment about it. Over ten years the money doesn't sound like it's a lot, but making a habit of rebates and subsidies for every old business that considers leaving would leave the state as broke as any other major spending effort if their aren't alternative sources of revenue for the state budget found pretty soon. I suspect that there is a lot more to be written as this situation develops, so I'll leave it at that for now.

The state hates LSU as much as I do 

A couple of days ago in a post over Ken Wheaton's place, he lamented that I and other USC supporters didn't have much to say regarding his gloating over LSU's Sugar Bowl victory and their supposed national championship (scroll down to "Feh"). In comments I mentioned that I would have been glad to respond but was dejected by the LSU victory. I wanted to write that the national championship would be bad for the state because Chancellor Emmert would use it to justify further diversion of state higher ed. funding into LSU coffers and away from other universities around the state.

Well, according the Advocate's public opinion survey, it looks like the rest of the state doesn't want to see that happen either.

Some 78 percent of those questioned said they oppose more funds for LSU's main campus to boost its academic rating if that takes money from other colleges and universities and state services.

Only 17 percent of those quizzed said they would favor such a move. Another 6 percent said they do not know or declined to answer.


Unsurprisingly the people who were most supportive of putting all the state's eggs in one basket were the least educated ones, who also happen to be the LSU football team's biggest supporters (okay, football really isn't mentioned here). Also unsurprisingly Chancellor Emmert and LSU board of supervisors president Roger Ogden whined that the question was biased. They suggested that people would want to give more money to LSU if you just didn't tell them that you'd have take it away from other schools in the state. That's the same logic of our federal budget process under the watch of the GOP: give to the rich by taking from the poor, but just don't tell them what's happening.

Update @ 9:30 am: by the way, we already know that Emmert takes his cues from the GOP anyway. Witness the USC is the Al Gore champion comment he made in the aftermath of the victory (permalinks seem to be bloggered right now, scroll down to And the dingbat award goes to if the link doesn't take you to the right place).

Easy as 1,2,3 

Education seems to be a theme today. I'll kick my links off with this story about school accountability programs.

Maybe someone can correct me on this, but it looks like the story says nothing more than that Louisiana gets an "A" for effort. Consider this quote:

An Education Week report assessing state school systems nationwide gives Louisiana its highest score - 98 - on efforts to improve schools and student performance through testing and remediation to improve scores. The report also ranks the state among the top five in efforts to improve teacher quality but gives lower marks in other categories.

"It's great news," Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard said of the accountability assessment. "We were in the top five last year and now we are No. 1."

[emphasis added]

From what I can gather from the account, to do well on the "Education Week" report you have to institute all these "accountability" measures that seem to be in vogue around (and or now federal law I guess) the nation. I presume that school systems that would try other measures to improve education wouldn't do so well with their grades for "Education Week". Also, there doesn't seem to be any focus whatsoever on results in this report. It doesn't matter if "accountability" demonstrably doesn't work, only that you institute the reforms. Surely concrete school performance and achievement will follow, the story assumes.

Of course, I could be wrong, and this was just a poorly written story unclear about what the study said, but Mike Hasten has proven to be a pretty clear writer in the past, and I don't know why he would have gotten it wrong this time.

The reason I linked to this in the first place is because The Advocate published more results from their year end survey of public opinion. This time they look at state education, and guess what they found! The people most affected by accountability measures and in the greatest need for better education (black kids in the cities) are indifferent to the program--not even mustering a bare majority that believes the programs work. The people most commonly describing the program as effective are from north Louisiana and Acadiana, just where the schools were better to start off with.

I know that public opinion surveys have very little to do with any measurement of reality, but at least it shows the radical disconnect between an unexplained report card that ranks Louisiana first in the nation in some undescribed accountability index and what the people who are actually in the schools feel like. The fact is a pretty fair amount of people in the worst schools in the state don't feel like their situation is improving any, meanwhile politicians are patting themselves on the back for making them "more accountable."

06 January 2004

No. F'ing. Way. 

I can't believe this story. Some things are so shocking they belong in their own category over at Yahoo News. I guess you could title it "Items sure to be picked up by drive time radio shows and repeated by late-night comics."

Speaking of Mardi Gras 

Today is the "twelfth day of Christmas," also known to Catholics--among others I suppose--as the Epiphany. A quick look at that last link will show that the historical basis for January 6 as the day to celebrate the discovery of the newborn messiah by the magi isn't exactly strong, nevertheless here we are. I'll be celebrating with my parents, sister and bro-in-law and the nieces, one of which will win an etch-a-sketch animator when she bites into her king cake and finds a tiny plastic baby. Then we take down the Christmas tree and I load up on the strawberry candy canes my dad bought mistakenly instead of the standard peppermint canes.

So what's the point? The Epiphany is also the first day of the Carnival season. So it's time to party. Let's have fun this year.

More Hobbits 

To the person who found this site while searching for "elijah wood comes to new orleans for mardi gras", you'll be excited to learn that Frodo isn't the only Hobbit who will be riding in parades this year. It looks like Merry Brandybuck, in disguise as an actor named Dominic Monaghan, will be around too. He's been named as a king of Orpheus, the parade run on Monday nights right through the heart of the Garden District.

My sources in Hollywood (okay, my friends who work in the movie business who will hereafter be referred to as sources in Hollywood as far as this site is concerned, a source met Samwise himself just a few weeks ago) tell me that there will be more Hobbits hitting the state of Louisiana for Mardi Gras, although I can't find any actual news sources to confirm this bit of gossip. It looks like it will be an LOTR reunion of sorts, if that doesn't overshadow the LSU half-championship I don't know what does.

The real neocon agenda 

Now it all makes sense. It looks like the whole Iraq adventure was ginned up by the Jewocons to distract the USDA while Mad Cow disease was introduced into American beef cattle in order to promote Kosher beef.

I'm glad I don't have to 

TPM and Bob Somerby both take on David Brooks's ridiculous column in today's NYT.

Now if you disagree with Bush, not only are you fueled by an irrational hatred, but you're also an anti-Semite. I was really looking forward to more on Zell Miller, but I guess it will have to wait. This is worth it.

Polls 

The Advocate appears to be finishing up its annual year-end public survey series. The writing is never exactly compelling in stories about polls, but the information contained in these stories really is quite fascinating.

The paper has three stories about the polling conducted by Loyola Inst. of Politics Director Ed Renwick, two of which focus on public opinion of health care in the state. These stories leave little doubt in my mind that the health care issue definitely pushed Kathleen Blanco over the top in the November runoff for Governor.

The first story looks at the overwhelming support (up to 87% of respondents) for the state's charity hospital. The reasons diverge, but that's hardly the point. Renwick believes the poll shows that even if the charity hospitals are taken out from under LSU Health Sciences Center control and given over to local governance they will remain open. This is good news for a variety of reasons, although I still think the system is in serious need of reform.

Fortunately the other story tells us that voters are growing more receptive to the possibility of a tax increase in order to cover the health needs of Louisiana residents. The total stands around fifty percent. That doesn't leave me optimistic. From what I understand about polling on taxes, many respondents are willing to say on principle that they could support a tax for a specific proposal, but when the time comes and interest groups get involved support is easily eroded.

The last story is about general issues that face Louisiana and how the public feels about them. Crime and drugs are the most serious according to respondents, but surprisingly race relations, which had fallen as a concern between 1995 and 2001 now seems to be back on the rise. I suspect that the gubernatorial election in which race was an issue just below the surface may have had something to do with that. Also, the condition of public schools and health care continues to decline. These are considered the domains of the poor, so in urban and some rural areas that's pretty much synonymous with black.

You know the deal. These stories are pretty good, so go give them a look when you get the chance.

Local business 

For any readers interested from the Lafayette area, Lafayette's new City-Parish President Joey Durel was sworn in yesterday. You can read about the event here and here. As usual the Baton Rouge coverage of Lafayette politics is better than our own paper's. Kevin Blanchard continues to do fine work over at The Advocate's Acadiana bureau, although there isn't much to this story. The real reason I'm even linking to these stories is to rant a little about how awful the Daily Advertiser is.

The A section of today's paper consisted of seven pages. The front page had three pieces of writing turned in by regular staffers of the paper (not Gannett writers whose pieces are generally picked up by the rest of the Gannett papers in the state) all of which were about the festivities surrounding LSU's Sugar Bowl victory. This is only mildly upsetting because after more than a week of every-day-front-page-coverage of LSU football, I've grown used to it. Two other stories on the front page were stories off the AP wire about consumer debt and the Mars landing. The three LSU stories were all continued on page 3, the AP wire reports were concluded in the space granted on the front page.

Page 2 is completely dedicated to AP wire reports about national and international news. Most of the stories run no longer than five or six column inches. This is the news I get online, so it don't read it anyway, but it doesn't bother me that it's there. Page 3 is the rest of the three LSU stories and--get this--two more pieces of original writing about what? You guessed it, more LSU. So now we've got five of the seven total stories in the A section of the paper about LSU, and the game wasn't even played yesterday.

Pages 5 and 6 are the one editorial the paper could manage to squeeze out, syndicated columnists whose writing is about four days old by the time the paper carries it, and letters to the editor, which with the Advocate's committed presence in Acadiana are rapidly becoming the only reason to read this newspaper.

Page 7 is the back cover of the paper, and it has two new AP stories which almost no one will read because of where they are placed.

Meanwhile you have to go to the B section for any hint that a new City-Parish president was sworn in yesterday or that the school board is in the middle of a not-yet-legal battle over the appropriateness of using outside counsel. It's a story that could mean quite a bit of money for the school board and might have some pretty serious implication for the board's future decision-making abilities, but apparently it's just not important enough for the front page, because people would rather know how busy local stores were selling LSU paraphernalia Sunday night.

Talk about your priorities.

05 January 2004

Ahead of the game 

Kos picks up on something I noticed a few days ago.

The only logical assumption I can make from this is that any day now my traffic will skyrocket to Kos-like proportions when people notice that I'm the only blogger truly on the cutting edge...

Wired 

An AP story informs us today that drinking coffee regularly can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This seemed like good news. I drink a fair amount of coffee, and any kinds of things that I do that are good for my body and that I enjoy are great as far as I'm concerned. But how many people really drink this much coffee?

Compared to non-coffee drinkers, men who drank more than six eight-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee per day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, and women reduced their risk by nearly 30 percent


Okay, I'm sure lots of folks drink that much coffee, but doesn't consuming that much caffeine in a day affect your heart pretty adversely after a while. The story doesn't go on to mention anything about that. For now I think I'll just stick to my regular intake of joe and risk the greater chance at diabetes. My head literally reels at the thought of that much coffee.

MWO 

It's nice to have the Horse back, even if they do drive me crazy about half the time I check in to their latest updates. They're trying to name the media whore of the year, and it will likely be a Herculean task considering the behavior of the press corps in the runup to our little adventure in the Middle East.

However the part that struck me was way down at the bottom of the page where the horse writes

We are beginning to wonder whether there are actually any Democrats anywhere who support Joe Lieberman in the 2004 primaries.

. . .

If you exist, we would like to hear from you. Your names will be kept strictly confidential.


I can't name a single friend or family member, of which there are numerous Democrats, who has even had a kind word to say about Lieberman since this race started. Is Lieberman's complete depth of support based only on name recognition? That seems likely considering the people I run with, but my experience is far from typical. Any of the few readers out there considering voting for Lieberman in a primary. I write that fully expecting to hear the sounds of crickets chirping.

I wanna talk about me 

Blogging is perhaps the most perfect expression of solipsism to be found on the digital block these days. NRO's The Corner is like hyper-blogging, since there is rarely even minor discussion of substantive issues or news, and posting generally consists of only the first thought out of the tiny little minds of NRO staffers when they're not working on a column or shilling their latest book.

So when Jonah Goldberg complains about a presidential candidate's supposed loss in the self that Goldberg discerns through his own feelings about the candidate, I thought my head would explode with the philosophical and paradoxical implications. It's like staring into a full length mirror with a second full length mirror behind you. I'm probably the only person in the world who finds this funny, which would be appropriate considering the nature of this post. Maybe my head really will explode.

When Kerry says this is the "most important election in a generation," don't you get the sense that he thinks so because this is the election he's in?

Sully is right 

Via Andrew Sullivan, we get a look at this Time photo essay of "life on the Crawford ranch."

Sullivan says, "Could Time have helped the White House more than with pictures like these?" The answer is most assuredly "no!"

I don't have anything to add to that. I can't believe people believe in this man's supposed sincerity...

Plan B not necessary 

I guess my worries the other night were unfounded, Britney's getting her marriage annulled. My dreams of being the kept man of a pop star from Louisiana are still alive.

More info please 

I'm frightened by this story in the T-P. It seems that the report leaves out some essential "W's" associated with newspaper writing. A fire burns under the street on what could be the busiest French Quarter day of the year outside of Mardi Gras, prompting the closure of a street that really is right in the thick of things as far as the Quarter goes, and the T-P prints staff reports with no discussion of the cause of the fire or how serious it was. C'mon guys, if it wasn't serious don't print a report. If it was, then give us the whole story.

The morning after 

The state papers I spend a good part of my mornings with are particularly unsatisfying today. For obvious reasons the whole Louisiana newspaper business looks like a real one note enterprise. I doubt the Saints would see this kind of coverage in the unlikely event that they ever found themselves playing in a Superbowl in the Superdome.

I won't say anything more about it.

I will point to a couple of articles of note, though. First, it seems like I've been giving Louisiana voters too much credit for social moderation. If this poll about homosexuals and rights is any indicator, Louisiana voters are just as conservative as the rest of the bible belt. The most surprising aspect was the overwhelming opposition to "gay marriage" (you'll have to read the story to understand why I put that in quotes) in the Baton Rouge area. I know that area encompasses some towns that straddle the fence between suburban and rural who would naturally be more conservative, but I'm surprised that there aren't more city dwellers in Baton Rouge proper who would be at least a little receptive to the idea. With those kinds of conservative values the folks at The Advocate can forget about being Austin, TX east of the Mississippi River, and maybe shoot for something like Midland, TX east of the River. It's just more feasible. There's lots more discussed about the data. In the process Ed Renwick gets the Capt. Obvious award today for this quote from the story, "the marriage thing is controversial because they see it as between a man and a woman."

Unfortunately, I can't find a piece by Melinda Deslatte online that was included on the opinion page in The Advocate. She's an AP writer who occasionally publishes analysis of Louisiana politics. This morning she looked at the challenges facing the incoming governor, and I can assure you, they are immense. Anyway, if you get the print edition take a look at it.

In fact, as I look online at the Baton Rouge rag, there seem to be lots of missing stories, not just the AP stuff. Normally I can find those things, but today they seem to have been withheld. I hope this is a consequence of a late print due to the Sugar Bowl and not a signal that they are reducing the number of stories that they'll post. I also wanted to link to a Gerard Shields story about a woman from the LA who is now an active DC political jack-of-all trades and VIP, but it's not there either. I guess I'll see what's up in the next few days.

The last political business is a story about Blanco working it at the Superdome last night by Louis Rom.

04 January 2004

reaction 

LSU proved their worth tonight. I'm obviously very upset by the results, but there is no question that LSU should have been playing in the BCS National Championship game. Unfortunately, even more questions surround why Oklahoma was ever invited. We'll never know who would have won the real game that matters.

Enjoy your victory LSU fans, players, and coaches. Please spare New Orleans any riots.

Boomer Sooner 

This is about as dumb as they come, but my commitment to Oklahoma compels me to link to this bit of audio.

Okay, don't say I'm not fair and balanced.

Giving away the farm... 

and the schools, and the hospitals, and everything else for that matter. The city of New Orleans is really getting screwed by the developers in charge of converting the NOLA World Trade Center into a hotel. Here's a great piece of reporting from T-P Real Estate writer Greg Thomas.

I'm reluctant to cut and paste quotes from this story because you really should read the whole thing, but in case you don't feel like clicking over there, consider these figures:

Sisung will invest $333,000 in cash as equity in the hotel, and the present-day value of that investment when the hotel opens will be $35.8 million, more than $100 in value for every dollar invested, according to the crime commission's private review of the deal.

Not bad for the former Jefferson Parish school superintendent's first foray into commercial real estate development.

. . .

In addition to questioning the returns to the investor group, the report also hammered the hotel deal because it will get a tax subsidy, which will deprive local tax-dependent agencies, such as public schools, of billions of dollars over the 99-year term of the deal.

The tax break, in essence, allows the hotel to collect the usual 13 percent room tax that hotel guests pay, but instead of sending that money to local governments to use, the hotel may use that money to pay off $40 million in bonds that will help to build the hotel.

"A central part of this deal (is the subsidy in which tax money) would be diverted from public use into the pockets of the developers," wrote Martin R. de Laureal and Rafael Goyeneche, the crime commission's chairman and president, respectively, in their Sept. 30 report to Nagin.

"We note that this deal, which was assembled as almost a fait-accompli under the prior administration, certainly has the appearance of political cronyism," they wrote.

. . .

Ronald Guidry, a former commissioner of the Orleans Parish Sewerage & Water Board and a longtime ally of former City Councilman Troy Carter, would convert a $159,600 investment into a share of the hotel property worth $9.8 million, the MCC reviewers say.

Guidry said the return is not enormous, given the risky nature of a hotel. "It's like any other high-risk venture," he said.

Among other investors are Virgil Robinson, a banker with Dryades Savings and Loan and chairman of the Downtown Development District, and the Rev. Marshall Truehill, pastor of the first United Baptist Church and chairman of the New Orleans City Planning Commission.

Each will invest $53,200. The present-day value when the hotel opens will be $3.3 million each, Asher concluded.


These quotes really can't do the whole shocking story justice. Just go read it.

Cutting through 

If you can manage to wade past the Sugar Bowl muck, there are actually a couple of interesting stories around the papers this morning.

I probably won't be posting too much today, so I'll try to put all the relevant links into this one handy post. First take a look at the lack of confidence Louisianians have in the economy. The poll, commissioned by the Advocate and conducted by pollster Ed Renwick, suggests that the folks in LA also aren't too happy with the way Bush has handled the economy despite the surprising growth over the last two quarters. Anyone with half a brain could tell you that most folks in Louisiana aren't seeing any of the largesse that is usually attached to a growing economy (is anyone these days?). We still have a shrinking job market, and the middle class folks in the state are working for employers who continue to reduce the amount of health coverage they'll supply. The economic growth doesn't mean jack to a lot of the men and women who are living paycheck to paycheck, which is quite a bit of the people in this state.

And don't think that the way Louisiana voters feel about Bush won't matter when it comes time to elect the next president. The AP reminds us this morning that Louisiana has voted for every president since 1960. We rejected one Bush in 1992, maybe it's time to make it two.

Finally, I usually don't like interviews that are printed verbatim in newspapers. They strike me as a fairly lazy way to fill space, but this exit interview with Governor Mike Foster really is interesting. I assume it's the long form of the interview that John Hill conducted with Foster to put together his Foster legacy piece which ran in Gannett papers yesterday. The interviewer cuts through a lot of the typical b.s. that Foster tries to sell to people who don't know better and manages to force him into real answers. You know what to do...

GO SOONERS! 


Weep... 

It looks like it's time for "plan B."

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