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17 January 2004

Out the door 

I'm on my way to Houston this weekend to visit some family, and if I'm lucky some friends too. I don't know if I'll have any time or access to post while I'm gone, but at the very best any posting will be sporadic. As a thought to leave you with before my Monday return I'll let you in on an argument I had with some friends last night. It was about Ricky Jackson's place in the pantheon of great linebackers. I, of course, said that Ricky deserves to be in the hall of fame, while one of the guys I was arguing with kept baiting me with taunts of "Ricky who?" while singing the praises of a drug addict (Lawrence Taylor) and a criminal (Ray Lewis). Anyway, we never settled our differences, but when I was looking for information about Ricky I found this picture. I bet the poor schlub who is about to get laid out could tell my friend the answer to "Ricky who?"



Hypocrisy in Baton Rouge 

Let's get this straight. The state agreed to put up $30 million over several years to help ensure that the Total Football Network could succeed. The company is not currently broadcasting, it only employs twenty people, and it can't make it's payroll for past services. Now it appears that they want to go back to the state economic development leaders for more cash.

Louisiana taxpayers have about $4 million invested in the operation so far: $1.25 million as the state's equity interest in the venture, $1.7 million in studio equipment owned by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and $800,000 in tax credit payments for creating jobs.

The tax payments go to Bon Carré, a business venture on Florida Boulevard that is supposed to contain TFN's studios.

One furloughed TFN employee said this week that his layoff has been extended to Feb. 9. Temporary hotel charges for workers who moved to Baton Rouge were supposed to be paid by the network, he said. Those charges have instead gone to employees.

Andy Kopplin, chief of staff for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, said TFN officials want to meet privately with state economic development leaders before they answer questions from the state Bond Commission.

Now I could be wrong about this, but from my search of the Advocate archives the editors still haven't weighed in on the TFN debacle and the money that tax payers have essentially thrown down the drain, yet every time the profitable Saints come to ask for some help (right now to the tune of $3 million in state funding) the Advocate editorializes its venom against owner Tom Benson. Double standards abound. Every time there's a story about this networks failure, I'll bring up the hypocrisy.

Catholic politicians to Arhcbishop Hughes: 

Piss off, asshole! Okay, there wasn't much of a reaction, but all said they'd be taking Communion anyway.

Economic Development 

I find the secrecy behind the courting of this unnamed company very disconcerting. This morning the Advocate mentions a large company scouting sites for a 1,200 employee call center. Perhaps because there's so little known about the company the Baton Rouge reporters don't spend much time on it, but the Shreveport Times (that's where the company is scouting locations) gives us a good rundown of the process. It turns out that the Shreveport folks in charge of economic development know as little about the company as we do:

Four company officials, going strictly on a first-name basis, talked with city leaders, educators, bankers, retailers, students and others during their visit. They interviewed officials at General Motors and managers of existing call centers. They were shown four existing, available sites of at least 100,000 square feet each, as well as open tracts that could handle construction.

And they did it all without ever letting on exactly who they were, although Mayor Keith Hightower did say they had come from the Northeast.

...

Chamber and city officials and others have done their own speculation and research in an effort to identify the firm, including numerous Internet searches on Fortune 50 companies - without luck. The Fortune 50 list includes numerous firms that could use large call centers, from banks with credit card clients to communications companies with wireless customers. Texas-based Dell Computer, which is No. 36 on the list, said recently it is taking some call center jobs from India and moving them back to the United States.

I don't know if I really believe that city officials honestly don't know what company these guys are working for, but how hard would it really be to find out? Isn't that what reporters are supposed to do? At any rate, it seems to me that state officials (and the public) have a vested interest in knowing who wants to set up shop in our borders.

I imagine that officials in Shreveport and all over the state (Blanco showed up to meet with them in a blackhawk helicopter) are bending over backwards (hopefully not giving kickbacks) to these "scouts," so I wonder how much potential there is to defraud officials desperate for economic development. Like I said, it's disconcerting and a little hard to believe that the Governor herself doesn't know what company these people represent.

16 January 2004

Pickering installed 

Bush used a recess appointment to install Charles Pickering on the Federal Court of Appeals. The timing of the appointment (MLK Day weekend), which wasn't lost on Atrios, obviously wasn't lost on US Congressman from MS Bennie Thompson either.

"It is quite unfortunate that the president has chosen to seat Judge Pickering only days before the nation celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson said while on the federal bench in south Mississippi, Pickering sought to "limit minority voting strength and to stifle the rights of women — counter to everything Dr. King and the civil rights movement were all about."

Credit the Democrats for doing all they could to prevent this extremist and likely bigot from taking a seat on a federal bench. Unfortunately they can't stay in session twenty-four hours a day, and President Bush used that to his advantage. Also unfortunately yelling and complaining about judicial appointments really isn't much of a winning political issue for either party. Talking about them does little more than cajole the base into action. Most people will probably never know what an SOB Pickering really is.

Time killing game of the week 

I've been addicted to this game since shockwave became popular on the Internet however many years ago. It's called Blix. The rules are simple, make the balls go into the baskets before time runs out. When your eyes start to hurt it's time quit.

Instilling orthodoxy 

The archbishop of New Orleans has a suggestion for the politicians in the archdiocese:

"When Catholic officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the Church and should not partake of Holy Communion," Hughes wrote.

This seems a little more reasonable than telling the priests in your diocese to withhold the Eucharist, but it's still hard to imagine this doing anything more than making liberal Catholics further alienated from the Church. Also surprising is that this charge to stay seated during Communion seems to be directed only at politicians and not at private citizen-Catholics who are pro-choice. I can't quite grasp why they're different, but at least I'm still welcome. I'll have to put that city-council seat I've been eyeing on hold if I want my weekly wafer, though.

Hooray! 

Swing State Project is back. Let's all hope that Louisiana is a state that warrants plenty of coverage over there.

Following up 

A couple of days ago I had a post suggesting that Jonah Goldberg didn't get a pretty obvious joke that was implicit in the Liberal Oasis Bush in 41.2 seconds parody. Today Spittle responds at Salon.com (it's worth the free day pass, so watch the commercial).

It's about time 

The Advocate editors take a few more days than I would have expected to chide Democrat John Corzine for trying to narrow down the field of candidates for John Breaux's seat in the US Senate. On Tuesday I opined that the who idea of the DSCC trying to narrow our field would be a bad move politically. It seems the editors think the same thing, but they do it with more words and better writing. Go see it for yourself.

Also out of the Baton Rouge paper is the warning from Will Sentell that Kathleen Blanco shouldn't be underestimated. This sounds a lot like the columns I've read suggesting that Bush wants people to think he's stupid because he can gain an advantage on them that way. I always thought those columns were ridiculous. Sentell isn't suggesting that Blanco cultivates this persona so she can throw people off; it's more the case that people just think she's a lightweight. I tend to think that the Gov. just can't speak well in front of cameras. It gives her a vulnerable look that I don't believe reflects the abilities she has proven to have over her past in public life. I hope I don't sound like I'm turning backflips there to make excuses for a politician I like, while trashing a politician I don't like for having the same attributes... I guess it's my prerogative.

Bush in NOLA 

There were three big stories about Bush's visit to NOLA yesterday, and as far as I can tell, the Pic is the only paper that mentions what was surprisingly about 150 demonstrators. They burned President Bush in effigy, and all they got in coverage is a paragraph that is lost between Bush grabbing two thousand dollars a piece off of around seven hundred donors and Kathleen Blanco kneeling before the almighty one for federal help for our state's budget.

Watching the news coverage of this event makes for an impressive study about the way Bush's message filters so well into local media. Both Baton Rouge and Lafayette (papers and television) assigned reporters to talk about local religious groups who use federal dollars for charity. It's the kind of "hey look how great this works with this group coverage" that press secretaries couldn't hope for. The Advocate is helpful enough to include the info about local religious groups in its main story about the presidential visit. My local rag actually turns a critical eye to the practice, but the lone ACLU spokesperson they quote is hardly sufficient to rebut the army of pastors and priests they call out to tout the program in the local pages.

I was surprised to find that Advocate polling shows voters divided fairly evenly over the question of federal money being issued to religious organizations. About 45% say they don't want it, and 46% say they do. The rest of the percent is split between people who say it depends and the people didn't care or wouldn't answer. If I were polled I would have answered that it depends, and I'm a little surprised that more respondents didn't answer the way I would have. I guess polls aren't know for being able to register complex opinions.

Don't forget, Blanco was in the limo with Bush. You can read about what they talked about here. Have fun.

Disappointment 

I generally like Louisiana politics AP man Adam Nossiter a lot. I think he's sharp, fair, and diligent. But this story on the AP news wire is as low as they come. A national study on political corruption ranked Louisiana second among the most corrupt states in the nation, and this is the way Nossiter ledes his story:

Some will cry foul, and others will cry not foul enough. Louisianians know this: you take the good, and the not-so-good, regardless — as long as you're No. 1.

That's why an announcement scheduled for Friday in Washington, D.C. will be seen as a cruel blow by many here: Louisiana is not the most corrupt state in the nation.

In a state where crookedness has long been seen as less a political liability than dullness, some will no doubt find shame in this sudden fall to grace.

Nossiter belittles the people in this state who have been working for decades to fight corruption and the voters who have been seduced by corrupt politicians. If he hates Louisiana so much maybe he should go cover Mississippi politics. They found themselves on the bottom of this list. I challenge Adam Nossiter to find two people who will go on the record as disappointed that Louisiana is less corrupt than another state.

15 January 2004

A word to the wise 

If you ever need to pour a slab bigger than about 30 ft2, make damn sure you know what you're doing before you start. Also, if you hire people to do the work and you think the estimate they give is too good to be true, than it is. Finally, if a concrete company ever tells you that the next truck available is yours, count on about a two hour wait. I'm absolutely done for. Working with concrete is not fun. Sorry for the light posting today.

Thanks 

Atrios gives us a helpful look at Dennis Miller past and present and in the process points the hypocrisy of conservative "I can't believe he said Hitler" spin.

Trains 

Interesting story about the questionable future of Amtrack in New Orleans in the T-P this morning. This is one of Michael's pet issues, so I'll just link to the story and turn it over to him:

Last year, the Bush administration unveiled a plan to break up Amtrak, officially known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp., and privatize all lines except the heavily used Northeast routes. Under the plan, the lines would continue to be supported by some federal subsidies but financial responsibility for the rail lines would gradually shift to the states.

To fend off such proposals and win continued federal support, Amtrak must prove it is viable and continue the financial turnaround already under way, he said. The rail company will also need support from cities such as New Orleans that rely on Amtrak's long-distance lines for rail service.

For the record, I rode the Sunset Limited back from L.A. to LA one summer, and I never had a more pleasant trip. I understand why more people don't use the long distance lines considering the time commitment, but Amtrack would do well to market the service better. These trains are like luxury cruises compared to most airlines, and they have plans set up to allow you to take long vacations traveling from city to city along the line at your own convenience. Michael talks a lot about high speed rail, and he's absolutely right about the necessity of this service for the country, but if we can't even maintain the viability of the long-distance lines there won't ever be an incentive to build the interregional (?) rail.

Searching 

There's not much state political stuff in the Louisiana papers this morning. I expect we're rolling up on a real dead zone here, but I'll do my damndest over the next few weeks to post on what is there. There's always the Democratic Party primaries...

Seriously, right now Louisiana papers are concerned with crime, punishment, and big bank deals. Oh yeah, that guy who's squatting in the White House is in town this morning too.

This inspires me to stare blankly at the computer screen. Suddenly I feel like I have no opinions I haven't already registered somewhere down the line in this blog. Hopefully something will happen soon.

14 January 2004

Watch their heads explode 

State Republican leaders are likely to throw fits over Senate President Don Hines' appointments to committee chairmanships. If Nossiter is to be trusted (and he is) then some of these selections are pretty questionable. But I don't think I have to explain to you guys how little I care what the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry thinks of these appointments. It's good to know that Don Hines doesn't care either.

I'll give Mike Foster one week before he throws his two cents in.

(See the whole list of appointments here)

No standards 

If the winning moveon.org ad can't pass standards and practices at CBS than what the hell else can?

I remember a Smirnoff Ice commercial that ran damned near around the clock that not-so-subtlely suggested oral sex (view it here). This is absolutely ridiculous.

link via Kos

It's still Timshel 

If you're noticing a slight change in the Timshel design, it's not an accident. Initially I planned on downloading a whole new template, but that was a little bit more work than I was interested in. Instead, this is the result. The blogroll still isn't organized quite the way I want it, and who knows how long I'll leave the colors the way they are, but for now it's a tribute to my favorite football team.

I still like the color scheme of the jellyfish template, which you can view at Mary and Michael's weblogs, but I was getting tired of switching back and forth between our sites and taking a few seconds to realize it. If anyone notices any problems with the sidebar, or if things aren't displayed for some reason or another please let me know in comments or by email. The last time I played with the template I ended up having to go to blogger for support because I screwed things up so badly. Hopefully I did it right this time.

More on Bush 

It looks like hecklers won't have to pay $2,000 to make fun of Bush. They'll all be down the street at Lee Circle toppling a makeshift Bush statue. This is kind of silly (and maybe counterproductive what with all the faux outrage over "anti-Bush rage"), but if it actually goes off I'll be very surprised. Large scale protest against Bush himself are probably easier to pull off in London than they are in the middle of conservative Louisiana. I'll be surprised if there are more than a hundred or so people who make it out there.

Link by way of Jeffrey.

More local stuff 

Lafayette is considering installing cameras at some intersections as part of a study group so the state can learn the effectiveness of cameras in accident reduction. Let me say that I'm all for this. If cameras make people drive more carefully, then that's fantastic. The story about this in the local paper does give me some concerns, but they seem manageable.

Chapel Hill hired a private company to operate its system. The company reviews photographs of the alleged violators and determines which are actually enforceable violations. After town employees review the photos, tickets are issued by the company.

From each $50 civil penalty, the private contractor receives $48, and the town receives $2, Neppalli said. In return, the contractor provides the cameras and maintenance for free, he said.

“The privatization of law enforcement: not a road we should be headed down,” Hill said. “Red-light camera companies are interested in profits, not safety.”

I think this is probably the most important objection to the idea. It's easily solved, though it might be prohibitively expensive, but the story doesn't mention the costs that would be inovled. Anyway, private companies could be left out of the loop if states or municipalities invest in the technology and operate it themselves rather than source it out to private contractors. I'm not too worried about the supposed infringement on privacy. Public roadways are a major public safety issue, and privacy rights don't trump public safety in most cases.

Another concern I had when I first read about these red-light cameras is that they're unfair to people who get caught in the middle of the intersection as a light changes from yellow to red. I don't know how effective these are, but apparently that's not supposed to be a problem:

Tony Tramel, Lafayette’s director of traffic and transportation, said electronic enforcement of red lights is designed to ticket motorists who enter an intersection as late as two or three seconds after the light is red, not those who get caught under the light as it turns from amber to red.

“Those are the people we’re really concerned about,” he said. “If you don’t run red lights, then you won’t be affected.”

Of course if a private company is getting paid for every ticket, then they would be encouraged to take pictures of more license plates, not less, so there's another problem with private handling of the cameras. That's not to say a city police department wouldn't do the same thing, but at least they have more public accountability than some unknown corporation operating a thousand miles away. This is exactly the kind of story that will get a lot of attention in Lafayette. I expect hundreds of letters to the Advertiser in the next week, which will lead to daily front page stories. I guess it's better than two straight weeks of LSU on the front page.

District 45 news 

The special election to replace Jerry Luke Leblanc in the state legislature has been set for March 9. There are still no Democrats announced in the race, and this is the second time in a row that a story has mentioned the election and failed to mention Melinda Mangham as a possible candidate. It looks like my drafting efforts are failing miserably. I need to step up my efforts.

The first day 

In her first full day as Gov. Kathleen Blanco organizes a candlelight vigil and recognizes this year's MLK day as an official state holiday. Good for her, but probably more important than these events are Governor Blanco's comments regarding the budget, which are realistic given the problems in this state but not exactly reassuring:

"We're going to try not to impact the important programs negatively. It's going to be difficult," Blanco said.

Blanco said she hopes the federal government will provide additional health-care dollars to wash away some of the state's red ink.

"I don't like to base a budget on 'ifs,' but I think we've learned to do that quite well in Louisiana, and we always have Paul Revere coming in saving the day with some kind of money or another," Blanco said.

But Blanco said she intends to work toward a balanced budget, just in case the cavalry doesn't show up to save Louisiana's budget.

The state has been counting on last-minute federal dollars and the renewal of all kinds of temporary taxes to balance its budget for too many years now. Unfortunately further tax reform (I'm not talking about Club for Growth-style tax reform, but real progressive tax reform that prioritizes property and income for taxes and not basic goods and services) isn't in the cards anytime soon, judging by the latest polling data on the state. That doesn't mean Blanco can't start the ball rolling on a campaign to educate the public on the need for it. She has the bully pulpit now, and she can use it in ways that Mike Foster wasn't willing to.

Kennedy to Run for Senate 

Apparently the DSCC attempts to whittle down the field of Democratic candidates weren't very effective. In a politicsla.com column today, Jim Brown breaks the news that Kennedy is definitely going to run for the Senate seat John Breaux will retire from. Brown says Kennedy called him to let him know that he was running last week, but wouldn't announce until February. Why would Kennedy essentially announce his candidacy in a column by a convicted felon? Is he just floating this news out there to see if it's a good idea? Wouldn't it have been easier to call a columnist at an established newspaper?

Oh well, I have lots of questions about this, but I figure the answers aren't too far off.

One thing I don't understand at all about Brown's column is the inclusion of these quotes next to each other. Does anyone know the significance of these? Are they supposed to be inspiring? You be the judge.

"There are many terrible things about his case. The fact that the relentlessly bad behavior of the law enforcement authorities – the use of unreliable witnesses, the illegal withholding of exculpatory material, the refusal to acknowledge clear evidence of innocence – is so ordinary. This sort of thing goes on all the time."
Bob Hebert
The New York Times

"Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society."
Rush Limbaugh

Peace and justice to you and your family.

Jim Brown

That's just odd.

Look who's coming to Louisiana 

El Presidente is making his way to New Orleans on Thursday "to tout his faith-based initiatives and urge Congress to dislodge money for more of them."

Welcome to our humble abode Mr. President. Why the sudden interest in faith-based initiatives aftey they've been stalled for nearly two years?

Bush's visit comes five days before his State of the Union address, in which he will outline his priorities for the year. Towey said the president will be "clearly signaling" in his remarks Thursday that he will pursue his faith-based program in 2004.

...

Rich Masters, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Bush is using his faith-based initiatives as an election-year political strategy. By targeting African-American churches, Masters said, Bush is hoping to attract black voters, 90 percent of whom generally support Democrats, or at least to reduce their opposition to his candidacy.

Good luck with that, W. If you really want to get time with the president you'll have to pay $2,000 to see him afterwards at a fundraiser at the National D-Day Museum. If I were rich I'd go the fundraiser and heckle.

13 January 2004

Mad cow in NOLA 

Not the disease, but the cow that kicked over the lamp and started the Chicago fire. Okay, more likely it was arson, but there seemed to be quite the blaze in New Orleans' Ninth Ward this evening. Here's the full text of an AP report filed around ten tonight.

New Orleans firefighters battled five blazes this evening and it appears they were all set intentionally.

The fires all happened in abandoned buildings in the city's lower 9th Ward.

Fire Captain Norman Woodridge says the fires are suspicious because none of the houses had electricity or gas that may have sparked an accidental blaze.

I guess there will be more on this tomorrow.

Search term of the day 

To the person who reached Timshel searching for "husband sloppy seconds", you may want to refine your search a little bit. I get the feeling I'm not what you're looking for.

As usual, Jonah doesn't get the joke 

AH LIBERALISM: THY NAME IS NUANCED PERSUASION [ Jonah Goldberg]
Warning: this site uses excessive potty-mouth and extreme stupidity. But its super-classy creator does provide his email address.


That's the extent of Jonah's post linking to LO's humorist Mark Spittle's fake Moveon.org Bush in 30 seconds video. Jonah apparently doesn't realize that Spittle was making fun of the lack of nuance in the moveon ads.

Here's a taste of what Spittle says in his own description of this commercial:

I misunderstood the rules, however, and didn't realize that the resulting film was supposed to last 30 seconds... I thought that was the amount thought one was supposed to put into it.


So much for taking the "oxymoron out of hip conservative", Jonah.

Touchdown! 

I don't know whether to be outraged, mystified, or grateful for how helpful Louisiana State Troopers can be. I'll have to see if I can just hitch a ride with the troopers between here and New Orleans the next time I want to spend a night out in the Big Easy.

LSU fan alert 

This is a no b.s. real shocker. Everything I ever heard about LSU QB Matt Mauck was that he would either stick around for his last year of eligibility at LSU or go ahead to dental school. Now the AP is reporting that he will enter the NFL draft. I've been underestimating LSU all year long, so I'm sure none of you will be surprised when I say that Mauck won't exactly be a hot commodity at draft time.

It's possible that he could enter the draft and only make a decision to play based on where he is drafted, with dental school always in the front of his mind. Whatever the case though, eligibility rules say if he gets an agent to represent him in the draft he won't be playing football for the Tigers next year.

Equal standards 

The 2 millionth weblogger wonders why we hold Saddam accountable for his actions in 1988 and 1991, but not our current president.

I like where you're going with this, but fortunately as a society we tend to be more forgiving of drunks, liars, thieves and failures than we do of murderous tyrants. Of course, forgiving someone isn't the same thing as electing him to the highest office of the supposed moral and democratic beacon of the entire planet, so I still feel your flow.

Leading the charge again 

Kevin Drum doesn't know what to make of the Sullentrop piece in Slate last night either. His commenters have some ideas, quoting a fray response by Sullentrop which doesn't really answer all my questions, but here it is anyway:

I was obviously too oblique, given the number of readers in the Fray (and my inbox) that have objected to this piece. My point was simply that Wesley Clark's statements aren't being treated like Howard Dean's statements.

Perhaps it's because Dean is the front-runner and therefore his statements are receiving a higher degree of scrutiny. (That's my guess, by the way.) Or perhaps it's because Clark's supporters are right, and the fact that he was a general inoculates him somewhat from this kind of criticism.

Is Clark really the "electable Dean," or does he just seem that way because he's being judged by a different standard for now?

This explanation doesn't quite do it for me. It still seems like Sullentrop goes above and beyond the call of duty to take Clark's statements and fix them into indictments of Clark's supposed wacko nature. RP and Michael in comments to last night's post both implied that Clark's words were pretty much common sense concerns to most voters with a head on their shoulders, and somehow Sullentrop turns them into lunatic conspiracy theories (which, if we're talking about equal standards, the press has already put that one out about Clark).

Update @ 4:06 pm: more proof that I'm on the cutting edge here, or that all Democratic bloggers think alike (whatever you want to believe), TPM takes on the Sullentrop piece too.

What is Kaus talking about? 

Over at Kausfiles, Mickey tosses out this aside regarding Wes Clark's candidacy (scroll way down):

Gut Prediction: Wesley Clark is to 2004 as Gary Hart was to 1984--a candidate who's appealing on first look and who makes a big move in New Hampshire, but who the voters ultimately decide is just too weird. .. 3:25 P.M.


For those with longer political memories than mine, maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong. But wasn't Hart the insurgent and frontrunner up until his little trist on Monkey Business with Donna Rice? Didn't voters abandon him because of marital infidelity and not because he was "too weird."

Nagin crawls home 

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin isn't groveling in his congratulations of Kathleen Blanco, but his ill-advised endorsement of Bobby Jindal certainly won't help him curry favor for the city of New Orleans with the governor's mansion any time soon.

Bayoubuzz also helpfully posted a transcript of the Governor's inaugural address. It's not exactly Lincoln's second inaugural or anything, but it spells out the priorities of Blanco's administration and is worth a look.

Atrios is funny 

Look carefully at the title and the picture. Then email the White House and ask why the veep isn't being investigated.

John looking to be "back door man" 

In a story that unfortunately isn't online at 2theadvocate.com Gerard Shields, the Washington correspondent for the paper, reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pressuring Democratic hopefuls for John Breaux's open Senate seat to drop out in favor of one candidate. Shields doesn't report that the DSCC has made a decision on who that candidate is, but it's hard to imagine any one other than Chris John since he has the war chest and the support of Breaux.

Shields also reports that Chris John has already been making the rounds to state Democrats and asked them drop out. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell was understandably peeved that Chris John approached him with the request that he not run. On the DSCC Campbell is quoted, "I don't know that they can tell people in Louisiana how to vote."

You'd have to be naive to believe that this kind of back door dealing doesn't go on in every campaign, but when Washington Democrats start getting involved in the winnowing of our field of contenders, Louisiana voters get pissed off. This story was on the back page of the A section this morning, so I doubt too many people even saw it, but it can easily turn in to a bigger story than that. Also, I like what Chris John represents, but his name doesn't carry enough weight around this state yet to be able to get away with going to some of these other candidates and telling them that he's the man for the Senate. He's a congressman from Crowley, and most people around Louisiana haven't even heard his name yet. If he's been up to this he's more likely to cultivate enemies in his own party than he is to coalesce support around his candidacy. I hope this is the last I hear about this, but I suspect there is more to come.

Poverty 

The T-P has a shocking story this morning which among other things claims that forty percent of New Orleans children live in poverty. A Catholic organization conducted a public opinion survey about poverty in conjunction with Poverty in America Awareness Month (AKA January).

The results are at once eye-opening and unsurprising:

Most respondents estimated between 1 million and 2 million poor people live in the United States. The actual number is 34.6 million, about 12 percent of the nation's population, said Vitillo.

...

In 2002, the ranks of the poor increased by 1.7 million from the previous year, he said.

...

[I]n surveys that asked respondents to rank problems facing society, "government/politics" was listed as the No. 1 issue for the general public, while low-income respondents ranked it 16th.

Low-income respondents ranked "unemployment/jobs/low wages" as the No. 1 concern while the general public listed it as 19th in importance.


To recap, there are a lot more poor people than most people realize, and no one really cares enough to do anything about it. Whatever happened to the bleeding hearts?

The day after 

Every paper in the state has at least two stories about the inauguration on the front page of their A sections this morning. The first is invariably about the historic aspects of swearing in a woman, and the second deals with the message of her address. I suppose I could spend my time linking to them all, but you guys can always just click on over to the links on the right.

To make your lives easier I'll go ahead and link directly to the Advocate's two big stories of the day: history and progress. Hopefully with all the hooplah of inauguration over we can finally see what happens when Blanco gets down to governing. The above story reports that Blanco wants to solve the state's health care problems within her first 100 days. That's quite a goal. I'm wishing her the best.

12 January 2004

Sullentripe 

Chris Sullentrop is doing Fox News' work for them with this bit of misrepresentation at Slate. Frankly I don't know if this is just an instructive piece designed to show us how spin doctors can completely change the meaning of a politician's statements, or if his little summaries are really what Sullentrop thinks Wesley Clark means in the "overheard statements in New Hampshire."

Consider this piece and tell me what you think is wrong with it. The bold words are Sullentrop's summary and it is directly followed by the Wes Clark statement (also printed in the Slate piece).

Bush was "warned" about 9/11? "President Bush didn't do his job as commander in chief in the early months of his administration. He was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden, yet on the 11th of September in 2001, the United States had no plan for dealing with the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. There were good CIA officers and FBI officers and everybody doing what they'd been taught to do, but the essential leadership process of putting focus on the resources of the United States, and giving these agencies a real target and a mission, it wasn't done. At least, I think that's what the evidence will show if we ever get the results of this presidential commission, and if they've asked the right questions." (Jan. 6, McKelvie Middle School, Bedford.)


He means to show that Clark, like frontrunner Howard Dean, makes verbal gaffes too, but you really have to stretch on that last piece to believe that Clark said Bush was warned about anything other than the fact that Osama was a danger, which just about everyone in the country knew thanks to the bombing of the USS Cole. Also, extended discussion of those gaffes even after Sullentrop's spin only reinforces the things that Clark was saying in the first place, which is detrimental to Bush, not Clark. Read the whole thing. Most of his examples aren't much different than that one.

For all the reasons to protest in front of a church... 

The Westboro Baptist Church assholes, led by the King Asshole Fred Phelps, chose to picket Lafayette's First Baptist Church today because they don't hate fags enough. They did this to gear up for a picket line in front of Ernest Gallett Elementary School. You may remember Ernest Gallett as the school that punished a seven year old for saying the word "gay" in line. This begs the question, why does Westboro picket the school? They stuck to the punishment, what have they done wrong in Phelps' eyes. Would they prefer that Ernest Gallet hand over the little boy to be raised by the chumps at Westboro? Fuck those guys. Check in to katc later if you want a video of the report on the "protest." Keep in mind that these bigots traveled about a thousand miles or more just to come down here and spread their hate.

Curb your enthusiasm 

I haven't received the issue with this profile in the mail yet, but after seeing a link to it over at Altercation I decided I'd post one myself. This link is as much for my brother as anyone else, but we're in agreement that Curb Your Enthusiasm is among the funniest shows on television, although I was disappointed in last night's episode after a very promising first episode of the new season.

Sigh, here's the New Yorker profile of Larry David for all you fans out there.

New legislators sworn in today 

Sen. Jody Amedee, D-Gonzales.
Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi.
Sen. Sherri Cheek, R-Shreveport.
Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans.
Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville.
Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport.
Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe.
Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa.
Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville.
Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport.
Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma.
Rep. Karen Gaudet-St. Germain, D-Pierre Part.
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles.
Rep. Cheryl Gray, D-New Orleans.
Rep. Mickey J. Guillory, D-Eunice.
Rep. Jalila Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
Rep. John La Bruzzo, R-Metairie.
Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville.
Rep. Charmaine Marchand, D-New Orleans.
Rep. Michael Powell, R-Shreveport.
Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Franklinton.
Rep. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero.
Rep. M.J. "Mert" Smiley, R-St. Amant.
Rep. Don Trahan, R-Lafayette.
Rep. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Baker.

Inauguration 

I haven't been able to find an AP account of the inauguration yet, but I'll give you a quick impression of what I saw on television.

Kathleen Blanco speaks French about as well as she speaks English when she addresses large television audiences.

When you are introduced to speak but the emcee doesn't know that you're Secretary of the Treasury John Kennedy, you probably want to think twice about a bid for the US Senate.

The priest who gave the blessing is from Our Lady of Wisdom (the Catholic Church which services UL) was much better in this forum than he was at the Christmas mass I attended, where he butchered a song which was so forgettable that I've already forgotten even its basic message in lieu of a homily.

If you missed the ceremonies you can watch a rebroadcast on your local Louisiana Public Broadcasting station at 10:00 pm tonight.

Update @ 4:22 pm: Surprisingly the AP filed "quotes and notes" from the inauguration activities that aren't much different from my own, just more comprehensive. Go have a look. Still no straight news account, but who really needs that anyway?

football watch 

Slate's sports nut looks at the evolution of the facemask in football over the years. He has loads of links to great facemasks in history. It's actually pretty funny, but he could have contrasted the wide open kicker helmets with what is probably the most intimidating facemask in NFL history. (I can't find a picture of it, but anyone who remembers the monstrous contraption that protected Ricky Jackson's mug knows what I'm talking about).

Sugar could be an issue in 2004 

The Central American Free Trade Agreement and the sugar bartering that has come with it could still be on the table during the elections next year. Some have argued that this single issue defeated Suzy Terrell in the 2002 Senate race, and while it didn't really come up too often in the gubernatorial election, both candidates were at least forced to pay lip service to the issue.

According to the story linked to above, sugar industry insiders believe that CAFTA won't be allowed to come to a vote before the elections in November which will probably mean that Chris John (or whatever Democrat faces David Vitter in the Senate runoff [assuming the runoff includes a representative from both parties]) will have quite a club with which to beat down his partisan Republican opponent. Also, a smart Democratic candidate for president could use this issue to his advantage when he comes down to Louisiana to try to steal the state out of Bush's vote-grubbing paws. If the guy who is quoted so extensively in this article keeps telling Louisiana's sugar producers these kinds of things for the next year, there will be a serious interest group just waiting to be exploited by a good candidate.

Melancon said the Bush administration actively worked to lull the congressional delegations of sugar-producing states, such as Louisiana, to sleep on the issue last fall.

Beyond that, Melancon said, the Bush administration hoodwinked U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, by telling him sugar trade would not be a part of the CAFTA negotiations.

...

"I think they lied to him. I think Billy Tauzin got used," Melancon said

...

He also said he is not surprised that the calls for help to Bush himself went unanswered.

"I don't think the president has a clue. I don't think he cares," Melancon said. "I think the White House decided we were a giveaway."


Get that guy on the payroll.

Inauguration Day 

The papers are stuffed with stories about new legislators, new leadership, and of course the Governor. I suggest clicking over to the links of the Louisiana papers over there on the right and giving them all a good look through. I will point out three stories in particular. The first is John Hill's account of the private mass said by the Blanco family priest at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. John Hill shows off his writing skills and you get a good understanding of why people seem to love Kathleen Blanco so much. I think she's probably incapable of alienating people.

The other two stories are out of the Advocate and are profiles of the new legislative leadership. Senator Hines has gotten most of the press due to the somewhat public maneuvering by John Hainkel. So while there isn't a lot of new information in Marsha Shuler's brief "getting to know you" piece, it's worth a read as a refresher on who the next Senate President is. However Will Sentell's profile of incoming Speaker of the House Joe Salter is fantastic. Maybe I just didn't know much about the man, but I found this piece interesting and instructive. One thing that has surprised me is that while Hines has taken all the criticism for being a "populist" a look at these profiles side by side present not just a Senate President but also a speaker who appear to be fairly liberal (by Louisiana standards that is). Taken together, all the inauguration hooplah stories, the profiles, the well-wishing by editors around the state, etc. can get pretty tiresome, but the press gets tired of stroking the egos of politicians pretty quickly, so I'm sure news will heat up before too long. For now enjoy the honeymoon.

Update @ 9:11 am: here's a schedule of inaugural activities and list of the requisite road closures for anyone interested in either attending anything or avoiding the inconveniences.

11 January 2004

Our Coastlines are Officially Saved 

In what is surely the most important piece of activist news in papers all around the country today we learn that Mr. Bill, of SNL fame, will be the official claymation spokesperson for Louisiana's rapidly depleting coastlines.

Mr. Bill is set to become a key figure in an educational drive by Louisiana aimed at teaching people — and especially children — about how fast Louisiana is being stripped of its coastal marshes and swamps.

The campaign will be launched next summer with Mr. Bill and a gang of “Estuarians” — Salty the Shrimp, Eddy the Eagle, and others — talking about the shrinking coast.


This will surely go down as one of the greatest and most effective educational campaigns in the history of environmental protection. It will literally blow that loser Smokey the Bear out of the water.

Late roundup 

Sorry for the lack of posting today, but I felt like taking a day off. It's too bad for you guys, because there was all kinds of great stuff in the papers today. I'll get to that in a minute though.

First I should mention that it looks like my prognostication powers don't extend beyond picking the winner of Louisiana gubernatorial elections. As Ken helpfully pointed out in comments to an earlier post, my prediction of Saban going to the Bears was wrong. He'll be staying put at LSU for at least one more year.

Look forward to more useless predictions as the year progresses. Back to politics, though. I'll only link to the stories which have to be the conclusion to the year end polling taken by the Advocate. I've been thinking that this series would finish up every day for the last three or four, but they always surprise me with new and interesting surveys. Today's reports let us know that Louisianians don't think Edwin Edwards should be pardoned by a pretty hefty majority. This news shouldn't be surprising. Edwards was a blight on the state, and most people realize that. The loudest voices are usually the ones who want things to change, but the majority responds to those pleas with silent approval of his incarceration. The results were apparently split along racial lines, but despite Renwick's suggestion that Edwards had long ago lost the support of his fellow Cajuns I was surprised that they were against the pardon by a larger margin than the full sample.

More polling data tells us that voters are in full honeymoon mode with regards to the not yet inaugurated governor. Newly elected officials are often given a bit of a grace period by the public, but the somewhat shocking numbers here point to campaigns that didn't really polarize the voters with destructive rhetoric. Blanco certainly attacked Jindal's health care record, but she didn't spend the campaign attacking his conservatism (though if I had a bully pulpit larger than the audience of this blog I certainly would have), and while Jindal did some preaching to radio choir about evil Hollywood liberals, and anti-Christian Democrats, that rhetoric didn't really permeate the general voting public. Also, there's no question that Blanco's brand of centrism can appeal to a number of the sensible conservatives out there. Hopefully she won't do anything stupid early and blow the goodwill of the state's voters.

[get ready for sarcasm]And I'm shocked--shocked!--to find Louisiana voters don't want any more taxes. This is the most interesting, and the most difficult to characterize because there is so much data presented, of all the poll stories they've published over there in Baton Rouge. Go read it when you get the chance.

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