<$BlogRSDUrl$>

31 January 2004

Advocate editors fail their readers 

I meant to post this earlier today, but there have been some computer troubles and I got caught up in other things.

However, Mary has linked to Timshel as "all over the Billy "Pills" Tauzin story," and the only way I can live up to that is if I make a pretty clear statement about what's wrong with this editorial in the Advocate.

The Advocate editors have a mighty pulpit as the voice of the public in our state's capital, but now that they're given the chance they fail to take a position regarding Billy Tauzin's shameful prostitution of his office and his constituents, they fall desperately short. They used their lead editorial in this morning's paper to discuss the congressman's forthcoming resignation, and instead of taking a position one way or the other regarding his courting by Pharma, this is their conclusion:

Louisiana has a very influential delegation in Congress, with a number of its members having seniority and influence on key committees and in party leadership positions. However, the retirement of two old friends and former law school roommates -- Tauzin and U.S. Sen. John Breaux of Crowley -- will be a substantial blow to the state's clout in the nation's capital.

There's nothing incorrect about this statement. Breaux and Tauzin's retirement will certainly hurt the state's representation in Washington. The editors even manage to address the criticism about the conflict of interest, but their position seems to be "c'est la vie".

They don't say word one about the substantial blow to the public when our supposed servants are actually working hand in hand with lobbying companies on major legislation. They don't talk at all about what a terrible joke the "prescription drug benefit" turned out to be. Louisiana voters might be worse off in the short run because we miss out on some federal pork after Tauzin steps down, but the state and country are better off in the long run without "public servants" who are more committed to making themselves filthy rich than they are to representing their constituents.

The editors at The Advocate spent a lot of time talking about reform in the last gubernatorial election, and they even seemed to take the position that either candidate would be a fine representative of our state because they held the state's interest first. Apparently they really didn't care about reform though. The power of lobbyists in Washington is perhaps the greatest reform issue in politics today, and the men and women that are supposed to be our watchdogs in Baton Rouge just don't think it matters as much as steering a pittance our way with each new bit of legislation. Let us eat cake, I suppose...

Weekend reading 

The Pic breaks down the Tauzin story from beginning to end and takes a look at the life of Luke Petrovich, scourge of Leander Perez.

Over in Baton Rouge, Kathleen Blanco has made some administrative appointments (a friend whose business comes under the purview of the DEQ pretty often tells me that the DEQ head appointment was made under political pressure from the oil and gas industry. Apparently the transition team had made a decision on someone else. Unfortunately I can't verify this in any of the news accounts of the matter, so we'll just have to take his word for it.) Also, AG Foti has already started his crusade against consumer fraud.

And what's probably the most interesting story of the morning is out of Gannett papers and written by John Hill. It seems that Slidell Rep. AG Crowe intends to introduce a bill in the state legislature that would ban any kind of recognition of gay marriage or "domestic partnership" benefits. He says that if a constitutional ban is necessary, then so be it. This story is worth reading to get an early look at the players involved in what will likely be a very contentious debate later this year.

30 January 2004

Sharpton out 

But just in Louisiana. He didn't file correctly for his slot on the primary ballot with Secretary of State Fox McKeithen.

I'll be surprised if he makes it until March 9 anyway, but it sucks to miss out on an opportunity because you screwed up the paper work.

DeSlatte doesn't mention if Sharpton can still qualify with the help of legal appeals are not, and the Sharpton campaign didn't comment.

Time-killing game of the week 

Superbowl edition That's a pretty terrible football game, but it will keep you occupied. Requires shockwave.

If that's too complicated, you can never go wrong with this simple distraction. Fly the helicopter through the cave without hitting the roof, floor, or suspended objects. Waste away the rest of your afternoon with it.

Why Liberal Oasis is the smartest blog in the blogosphere. 

They predict:

GOPers will not hesitate to pluck out, “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation” and say the Kerry way is the failed Clinton way.

This will be particularly problematic if bin Laden is captured or killed before Election day.

How should the Dems avoid this trap?

1. Show your understanding of the issue by candidly assessing the Clinton record.

Acknowledge that he may have been slow the grasp the importance of fighting terrorism early on in his Administration.

But remind voters that later, Clinton made fighting terrorism a priority, stepping up resources.

And he had big successes, like stopping the millennium plot.

2. Then segue into the Clark argument:

While Clinton prioritized terrorism, and urged Bush to continue the effort, Bush put it on the backburner until 9/11.

3. Finally, akin to the Kerry line, say what you would do different than Bush, but avoid the “law enforcement vs. warfare” trap.

“Law enforcement” sounds reactive, like you’re going to wait until the damage is done to only arrest low-level folks.

And clearly, that’s not what Kerry is trying to say.

Sully provides:
Here's the choice we may face in November. It's how John Kerry understands the threat of terrorism:

...

Back to the 1990s or post-9/11 Bush. Law enforcement versus war. It's a clear and important distinction. Let's put it at the center of this debate, where it belongs.

If you're not reading LO you're not doing you part.

Not that I'll be there any time soon... 

but maybe someone can explain to me why St. Bernard Parish should get a Homeland Security grant to photograph the faces and license plates of every single person who enters or leaves the parish. Before I get into this I'll say that I generally don't have a big problem with things like cameras at traffic lights, closed circuit recording in private businesses; etc. But just because there are "only a few access points" leading into and out of a parish doesn't mean that the sheriff should be putting cameras on them. The potential for the abuse of this kind of information is much too great to allow something like this. While drivers do give up a certain right to privacy when using public highways, Americans should feel secure that they can move around the country without public agencies monitoring them. The ACLU is rightly in a tizzy over the proposal.

thanks to richard p. for the tip...

Wooing business 

The governor is involved in another high-profile bid for a manufacturing company that could bring more than 1,000 jobs and an annual payroll greater than $60 million. I hope we get this one, but once again, I have to throw in the word of caution that Blanco doesn't give away the farm to draw the company to our fair state. This is especially worrisome:

The company is concerned about Louisiana's corporate taxes on debt and sales taxes on machinery and equipment used in manufacturing because of the large investment and purchases it must make, the governor said. "It reinforced my understanding that we have to begin the process of eliminating those taxes."

During the special legislative session tentatively set to begin March 7, Blanco is putting the staged elimination of the taxes on the agenda. Thursday, she said she will wait until the last minute to issue the official call in case any legislation that would help nail the company - or other prospects the state is working on - should be included.

Does it bother anyone else that an unnamed company completely free from public scrutiny should have so much control over our legislative agenda? It certainly bothers the hell out of me.

I don't know what this will mean for Gov. Blanco's economic development plans, but it looks like Louisiana's cities aren't ready to shake their dependence on the corporate franchise taxes.

The state's big-city mayors pledged support Thursday for Gov. Kathleen Blanco's efforts to attract more jobs to the state, but asked her not to eliminate the local portion of a tax on manufacturing equipment she wants to phase out in coming years.

These taxes are obviously the source of loads of revenue for the state and many municipalities, but they are a burden that makes it much more difficult to attract large business into Louisiana. Obviously the idea is that a better economy will naturally lead to increased revenue in the state budget, but the changes that the Governor expects are supposed to occur over the course of yeas, not weeks. So until our desired growth occurs, it is up to her and the rest of the economic development folks to find a way to take care of the needs of the state's citizens.

Tauzin fuels rumors 

Here's an interesting story in the T-P about Billy Tauzin's health problems and why he says it's unlikely that he'll run for reelection. He leaves questions about his future prospects open to interpretation.

Tauzin said he has no timetable to make a decision about the pharmaceutical association or any other job. But he explained the factors at play as he considers his future, as well as whether to leave Congress before his term expires in January 2005.

In addition to wanting financial security for his wife, Cecile, and his five children from a previous marriage, Tauzin said his deliberations are influenced by GOP-imposed term limits on committee chairs.

Tauzin said he would be a lame duck if he returned next year for his final two years as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a post he has held since 2001. Tauzin said he has used the chairmanship to help pass major legislation, including the Medicare bill and an energy bill that passed the House but continues stalled in the Senate.

"I feel I've been at the top of my influence and effectiveness and that has helped the state," Tauzin said. "But your power erodes if people know that you are automatically required to give up your chairmanship."

Tauzin is reportedly under pressure from some Republicans not to let his job negotiations linger. Some of his colleagues are fearful that continuing media attention will help Democrats portray the GOP as too closely affiliated with large corporations.

But other Republican aides said party leaders agree with Tauzin that it would be a mistake to leave early enough to allow Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco to call a special election for March 9, the date of the state's presidential primary. With Bush basically unchallenged, many more Democrats are expected to turn out to vote in the primary, which so far includes seven Democratic hopefuls.

Although qualifying for the March 9 primary ends today, Scott Madair, spokesman for Secretary of State Fox McKeithen, said nothing in state statutes prescribes a set time frame for advance notice on a special election. From a practical standpoint, he said, two months' notice is needed to give enough time for qualifying and campaigning.

I wouldn't count on a March special election for that seat, though it would be a lot of fun to see a congressional campaign compressed into a few weeks. One thing is sure, though. Good government advocates will be glad to see Tauzin on his way out the door.

This is weak 

We had to get the asshole that went to LSU?

29 January 2004

Debate impressions 

I've really avoided these debates for a number of reasons, but we're getting to the nitty-gritty now, so I thought I'd share some very brief thoughts about the candidates.

John Kerry He really sounds like a front runner up there. He avoids any risky positions by steering clear of specifics. I trust his liberal cred, but he's doing his damndest to hide it from the voters. I don't buy the pundit cw that has him looking particularly more presidential than the rest of the candidates. I don't know and don't care if he got botox treatments, but he is looking a lot better these days.

Howard Dean The good doctor looks worse every day. His attempts to challenge Kerry were half-assed and ineffective. He looks like he has no drive left. He tried to answer the NAFTA question with a decent response, but his remarks became incoherent. He lost the fight that used to be his biggest attraction. How could Brokaw so conspicuously avoid him when he started asking questions about the Confederate Flag?

Wesley Clark Clark has trouble putting his message together. Early on in the debate (and for some time now before tonight) he's spoken about George Bush politicizing the war on terror. He brought up some specifics tonight regarding the dates of invasion and the presumed date for handing over control to Iraqis, but he can't get the message down to small enough bites for voters to understand. His answers regarding domestic policy were mostly forgettable, but that could be because I was really starting to get bored after about forty minutes into the debate. I still like him, but if he expects to go anywhere he needs to make some drastic changes in his delivery very soon.

John Edwards His answer about creating jobs was absolutely ridiculous. He brought in the old Clinton favorite, "we need to feel the pain..." He expects me voters to believe that he is somehow more qualified to create jobs because he was brought up in a mill village. I really like Sen. Edwards, and I'm sure the "son of a mill worker" theme of his candidacy is pretty effective, but he can't use it in every situation. Talk about why you have the best tax plan to bring back jobs to our economy instead. Let me state it again, though, I really like him.

Joe Lieberman You have to hand it to the Senator from Connecticut for sticking to his guns: pro-war, pro NAFTA, pro Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies. At least he's not calling himself the only mainstream Democrat anymore. He seems to have shifted to more gratuitous uses of moderate and centrist. Whatever? If he makes it through the next week I will be very surprised. I don't remember if he got off one applause line the entire night.

Dennis Kucinich You are secretly my favorite candidate. You don't have to justify your candidacy to me as long as you can be so passionate about single-payer health care and still respect the NAACP boycott against SoCar because of the Confederate Flag. Your NAFTA position seems a little out of date, but that's alright with me buddy. Keep your views on abortion to yourself too.

Al "the pal" Sharpton As usual, the best line of the night, but it was lost because Brokaw started to cut him off. It went something like this "Bush said he didn't need a permission slip to defend the country, well he didn't need a permission slip to steal the election either." I'm sure I butchered that, but who really cares. It was Al Sharpton. He's not far from being an afterthought at this point.

I didn't think there was a clear winner tonight. Dean did no damage to Kerry with his soft attempts at questioning him. Edwards looked like he was a bigger part of the debate than Clark, but I really can't put my finger on why.

So the final tally goes something like this: Kerry didn't do anything to hurt himself or alienate any one. Dean didn't do anything to help himself. This alone could hurt him. Edwards looked like he belonged there, and probably established himself as the third place man in the race despite the barely fourth place finish in the Shire. Clark is treading water and has been for a while. He needs to make a play and this debate wasn't it. Lieberman still sounds principled. Unfortunately he sounds as usual like a principled Republican. He's stuck where he is. Kucinich and Sharpton really are sapping energy from the debate. I think that's too bad, because it probably hurts their reputation among partisans (okay, Sharpton can't really hurt his reputation). Maybe the party can get it's candidates to agree to a polling benchmark to participate in the debates during the next election.

That's it for tonight. Feel free to add your own thoughts.

Prediction watch 

In one of the easier prognostications of the year, I told you to bet on Jindal entering the race for the 1st Congressional District. Today he made it final.

C. Grove's objections notwithstanding, I'm pretty sure Jindal is the early frontrunner.

The horror 

Via a friend and fellow Saints fan we get the unfortunate news that the now infamous "river city relay" was voted play of the year by fans of the NFL.

As Hokey said in an interview later that week, "It's like falling into a barrel of naked breasts and coming out sucking your thumb." Experience the tragedy all over again over here.

Early polling on US Senate race from Louisiana 

Treasurer John Kennedy commissioned a poll of likely Louisiana voters for the US Senate later this year. Here are the results, (.pdf) as provided by PoliticsLA.com.

John Kennedy trails Chris John by a percentage point with 15%, well within the margin of error. Both are well behind Republican Congressman David Vitter, 34% of whom responded that they would probably vote for him. The other possible candidate polled was Democratic operative Jim Bernhard, who took 4%. 31% didn't know or refused to answer. I would think these numbers would be slightly discouraging for the Treasurer, whose statewide status would hopefully have given him high enough name recognition to out poll Chris John. It is of course very, very early, and these poll numbers are essentially meaningless except to give us an idea of where the candidates stand in the eyes of voters before most of them even realize that there's a Senate race on the way. Also, as long as another Republican doesn't drop in the race, Democrats can rule out any fantasies of an all Democrat runoff.

The polling was conducted by Penn, Schoen, and Berland Associates. They operate out of Washington, D.C. and seem to do a lot of polling for Democratic clients.

Ricky Prado hits the big time 

The Internet Movie Database now has a listing for yours truly.

While you're there be sure to check out all the information you can on The Bug Man and filmmaker Mike Miley, who will be taking his movie to a film festival in Japan later this year. He's an up and comer folks.

Enough already 

I'd like to believe this will shut up all the folks on the right side of the blogosphere who say "no one ever said Iraq was an imminent threat," but I'm still attached enough to reality to know better.

First dumb Goldberg, now Hannity 

A while back I posted on how dumb Jonah Goldberg is because he can't get a joke, now it's Sean Hannity's turn. This is from today's Liberal Oasis.

Yesterday, LiberalOasis Executive Editor Bill Scher heard that Sean Hannity was airing the Bush In 41.2 Seconds spoof ad created by Mark Spittle.

Hannity was trying to argue that since LO raises money for the DNC via the ePatriots program, the DNC has a responsibility to renounce the “ad”.

(Earlier in the day, Scher was contacted by the Associated Press on the same matter, making it clear that someone fed both entities this spin. Not clear yet if the AP will run a story.)

So, Scher called in the Hannity program to correct the record, for better or for worse.

Here’s an abbreviated recap.

Scher said, “The ad was a spoof of the MoveOn Bush in 30 Seconds contest,” not a real ad, noting that you couldn’t understand that without first reading Spittle’s introduction. (Spittle explained this in a recent Salon piece.)
Hannity said, “I think you’re lying. I think you’re full of crap.”

A stalemate ensued.

Finally, Scher attempted to score a gift certificate to Hannity sponsor Ruth’s Chris Steak House. He did not succeed.

Hannity is a dishonest prick when confronted with the truth. He pushes his agenda to make Democrats out to be irrational Bush haters and then uses a parody of irrational Bush haters to prove that all Democrats are irrational Bush haters. The speciousness of the "irrational" canard is on display for all to see when the right has to seize on one article by Jonathan Chait, two ads that were made by anonymous strangers and removed from moveon.org's website, and a parody. Screw off Sean.

Saving the coastland 

Call the Estuarians, a panel approved millions in new projects to help speed up coastland restoration. Unfortunately these approvals mean virtually nothing until the money can be found in the federal budget to pay for them.

T-P jumps on the Jake bandwagon 

Three stories on the Pic's front page about Jake Delhomme are a real slap in the face to the Saints organization. Make no mistake that New Orleans folks care very little about Breaux Bridge. If Jake had always played for Carolina then the paper never would have made such a focus of him. I love the guy, but this is getting ridiculous.

The most shameless is the "That's our Jake" headline on the lead story in the collection. These people never cared about Jake Delhomme until he started winning games in Carolina.

Blanco sets her schedule 

Governor Kathleen Blanco will call a special legislative session in March "to repeal some business taxes and perhaps handle a few other matters."

You can bet that there will be a reduction in the corporate franchise tax and some reductions in taxes against business debt. These are obviously necessary reductions, but let's just hope she doesn't prod the legislature to go buck-wild on releasing businesses from all their obligations to the state of Louisiana, which is a distinct possibility. She might also get the ball rolling on the renewal of lots of "temporary" taxes that are the main source of revenue for a starving budget.

She also has two big conferences planned to study solutions to state health care and economic development. You have to hand it to Kathleen Blanco for taking on challenges pretty fearlessly at a time when failure could mean lots of trouble for the future of her governorship. I'm rooting for you.

Baton Rouge police should look in New York 

Is it just me, or does this suspect in a Baton Rouge rape case look a lot like a certain NY Yankees shorstop?

update @ 9:23 am: the picture blown up to giant proportions just doesn't convey the recollection the way the smaller one does. Click on the link, spare me "you think all black people look the same" comments, because I don't.

Rethinking their raise 

A couple of days ago I mentioned the strange power of Louisiana governors to control unruly legislators, and today we learn that the two chairmen at the center of the controversy are turning down their $8,000-a-year pay raises. Chris Fink reports that the legislators had already made up their minds to return the raise, but the announcement didn't come until after a brief conversation with the governor, so she could have given them political cover to say that they didn't need help making the "right decision." Or it could be much simpler than that. For a raise of $8,000 though, this sure seemed like a tempest in a teapot.

I know who I'm voting for 

Lyndon Larouche qualified for the March 9 Louisiana primary election. [sarcasm]He's definitely got my vote.[/sarcasm]

Meanwhile John Kerry hasn't filed with the state yet as a candidate in the primary. That leaves the MA Senator, Joe Lieberman, and Al Sharpton out unless the qualify by tomorrow. Lieberman and Sharpton may as well forget about it, but what's holding up John Kerry?

Seriously though, what's up with the Advertiser web poll showing Al Sharpton as the clear leader among the rest of the Democrats in the field as "the strongest challenger for President Bush"?

28 January 2004

scan-tastic 

I honestly don't know what I'd do with my time if I didn't have Drudge directing me to stories like this one every day. The pictures are the best part.

It's actually an appropriate since my all-time favorite WB show is about to start.

From sea to shining sea 

I deleted a post in this space because the map that was generated by this interesting site was just too damn big. If you're interested, go have fun with it. I got there because I read Begging to Differ.

Engineering better crawfish with better rice 

I'm usually for anything that makes crawfish bigger and better-tasting, but I'm a little wary of products that are meant to increase the amount of bugs in Louisiana.

Steve Linscombe, one of its developers, said that Ecrevisse provides more vegetation than standard rice varieties. He said that the crawfish do not eat the rice or the plant it grows on, but that they do eat the bugs that eat the rice and plants. More vegetation means more bugs, and that means bigger and better crawfish, he said.

Those insects and small water organisms that eat the decaying rice plants make up the bulk of the crawfish diet, according to Ray McClain, an aquaculture specialist with the rice center.

For the record, I'll state that I'm not too scared of bio-engineering the food we eat or the food our food eats. It's a simple, and decidedly unscientific, way to look at it, but people have been doctoring agrigiculture since the birth of civilization. As long as progress happens cautiously and publicly, I don't see much of a problem with it.

Alma mater news 

I haven't had a lot of reason to post news about Loyola since the former President resigned in a cloud of sexual allegations, but now the interim President is screwing things up on his own, so I'll link to a couple of items.

The issue of athletic scholarships has been a contentious one at Loyola since before I was there. The "Athletic Director", Jerry Fernandez, is also the basketball coach, and he's been at the front of the charge calling for scholarships at least since I was a freshman nearly seven years ago. His team is NAIA, and they've stunk even in their lowly Gulf Coast Athletic Conference for most of his tenure. He has always made the excuse that because the team doesn't provide scholarships they can't compete. I don't think he has ever once doubted his coaching ability, though certainly every one else at Loyola has.

Now the acting president has endorsed a proposal that would provide six basketball scholarships (three apiece for men and women) without consulting with the Faculty Senate, who have traditionally been involved in these kinds of proposals. This comes on the heels of the President shutting down a production of "The Vagina Monologues" that was meant to raise money for various women's groups because of concerns about "the play's language."

Without going into a rant about how dumb it would be for Loyola to get into the rat race which is college athletics by turning the wheels on athletic scholarships, I'll say that I'm very opposed to the practice at Loyola. This isn't to say that I don't love college sports, I just don't think Loyola is a school that could benefit in any way from providing scholarships to athletes. An acting president is obviously going to find bumps in the road, but twice now he's made news for acting without much concern for the desires of students and faculty. It's time the Board of Trustees finds someone permanent.

Nagin administration under fire again 

I don't know how this lawsuit will turn out, but it's a good lesson that people should be very careful about what they email. A few days ago I linked to a fairly flattering profile of New Orleans politician Kimberly Butler. She was forced to resign from the Nagin administration (she was the commissioner of administration) for a variety of stated reasons, but she contends in a new lawsuit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it was because she is a woman and a Christian.

The emails she cites are pretty damaging to the administration, and even if her lawsuit fails I don't see how the mayor can justify what some of his top aides were writing about Butler.

Butler claims Nagin's male advisers repeatedly harassed her because she was a woman and a fervent Christian, creating a "hostile work environment" that eventually led to her "wrongful discharge." Evidence of the harassment is included in e-mails that Rice, Meffert, Evans and Forster sent to each other, referring to Butler as a "bitch," a "queen" and "Kimbo," which the complaint cites as a synonym for bimbo.

The foursome also made comments such as, "Why don't you go pray on that," and referred to the act of following her directives as singing "Kumbaya," according to the complaint.

...

Butler's complaint also charges that:

-- Nagin participated in a conspiracy to have Butler removed, as evidenced by an e-mail Forster wrote stating that he had given the mayor 90 days to "do something about her," or he would quit.

...

-- Rice, Meffert, Evans and Forster objected to seeking Butler's approval on decisions because she was female, again evidenced by statements in e-mails such as "She's trying to assert herself again," and "She still thinks she is queen." Additionally, executive team members stated to each other that, "We need to keep her in the pot or her stock rises over ours again."

I don't really know enough to say if that constitutes anything more than a highly charged political atmosphere in a city where everyone in the mayor's office is looking for their own headlines, but there certainly is a lot to suggest some troubling characteristics of Mayor Nagin's staff.

No matter what the result of the lawsuit, I'd say this pretty much eliminates Butler from contention for the mayor's race though. Discrimination lawsuits rarely play well with voters these days. Most people think discrimination doesn't occur anymore, and when minority folks raise the specter of discrimination, most people shut down and figure the plaintiff is playing the role of the "victim". We'll see how this turns out, but I don't see a lot of upside for Ms. Butler in this case.

Signs of decline 

Here's the lead editorial headline from the Lafayette rag this morning:

Answers needed on OWI case involving state representative

I thought it was their job to provide the answers through reporting, not write editorials wondering why the police department is stonewalling. Maybe it's just me...

Daily Blanco post 

Yesterday Kathleen Blanco worked on the future of public education. In one day she convinced Cecil Picard to commit to another four years as head of BESSE, and she recommitted her pledge to find the money to maintain existing pre-K funding.

It's all in a day's work for the new Governor. In the second story up there she even promised to have a word with the Citigroup officials who made the decision to outsource their NOLA call center to India. We still don't have any word on whether or not she convinced the State Farm people to stay in Monroe, but I really doubt she'll have any luck with Citigroup. If I find out she promised them $40 million in subsidies and tax breaks (maybe free phone service?) to hang around I won't be surprised.

Qualifying day 

If you want your name on the ballot for the March 9 presidential preference primary here in Louisiana it's time to get yourself to your local courthouse. Qualifying for the ballot will go on until Friday.

Because the Louisiana primary occurs so late in the season, it is usually a pretty low turnout affair. By the time it's our turn to vote both parties have generally found their nominee. It's still a little bit early to say, but this is a year where there's a chance that our delegates can make a difference. As the above story notes, there's no question that General Wes Clark and Sen. John Edwards hope they're still alive when March 9 rolls around, because other states having their primary are Texas, Mississippi, and Florida.

Qualifying also opens for politicians wishing to campaign in the special election to fill Jerry Luke Leblanc's vacated seat in the State House for the 45th district. To date no Democrat has declared any intention to run for the seat. It looks like a battle of three Republicans and two independents. For one, this district isn't as conservative as others in Lafayette. Also, the mere chance that Democratic voters will be voting disproportionately because of a primary battle should be enough to put a reluctant politician in the race. Unfortunately the party won't field a candidate even though the district has been represented by a Democrat for God knows how long.

27 January 2004

Results 

Kos has the stat you probably won't hear too much about in the papers regarding tonight's New Hampshire primary.

Over 2,500 registered Republicans wrote in a Democrat's name on their primary ballot. I don't know what that means, but I don't think it's a bad thing. I personally know a few Republicans who have said they would vote for a Democrat, "if he were the right one." When I asked what that meant the response was usually pretty wishy-washy. I doubt a few write in votes are really worrying the dungeon master over at the White House though.

Jindal update 

Despite my earlier prediction that Jindal will announce his candidacy to represent LA's first district on this afternoon's Chris Rose show, the politicsLa.com editor says the announcement won't come until Thursday. It doesn't matter which day he announces it, as I said last week, it's a done deal.

Exit polls 

Kos and Goddard both have sources saying a close race between Dean and Kerry, with Clark and Edwards battling for third place. The presidential race keeps getting more and more interesting. It's too bad the winner of the primary doesn't automatically become President.

Also, according to Kos MSNBC will release their exit polls at 3:00 pm central.

"No shit?" dept. 

I hope the consultants who made these conclusions weren't paid too much:

Waterfront should be redeveloped

Jindal on Rose 

You can watch Bobby Jindal make his announcement as to whether he will run for Congress in Louisiana's 1st district on the Chris Rose three o'clock webcast this afternoon. If you don't want to watch, take my word for it. Jindal is running.

Expressions of power 

On it's own this report about Blanco seeking the legislative leaders who provided pay raises for committee chairmen Rep. John Alario and Sen. Francis Heitmeier isn't much of a story. However it's an interesting look at how a Louisiana governor can wield influence over legislators without any real recourse to exercise power.

In a certain book I read, the author describes the governor as an emperor with no clothes, but who wears them well. I'd say that's a pretty apt description of Louisiana executives. I imagine that in any other state in the country, the legislators would tell the governor to screw off if she tried to make any power play on legislative salaries. In Louisiana they get called into the mansion and are expected to justify themselves. It's a strange state we live in.

Understanding Foti 

I really don't get it. I'm all for the Attorney General asking the lawyers on staff to participate in pro-bono work, but then he suggests that they do it on things like child custody cases and divorces.

I'm also all about the AG's office getting involved in consumer protection, but his reasoning behind it seems a little wacko:

(from today's Advocate also not online)In the area of consumer protection, Foti said he's eager to roll up his sleeves and tackle issues such as identity theft, Internet pornography and deceiving rebate offers.

As an example, he pointed to a 16-year-old boy who bought a computer advertised with a $400 rebate, but failed to realize that he needed to send in part of the box in order to qualify for the discount.

"Sometimes that's just what happens to people--they're all excited about getting something, and some rule is set up that no one has informed them about, they just told them they would get a $400 rebate," Foti said.

I just don't get this. Of all the problems with consumer protection the AG has seized on this perfectly natural way to get a rebate from the manufacturer of a product. There's a reason it's called a "proof of purchase", right? I really like Charles Foti, but he's got things clicking around in his head that I just can't grasp.

Prisons 

There are two stories about some pretty major reform of the Louisiana prisons and correctional facilities in today's newspapers. The first isn't surprising to anyone since it was pretty clear that Kathleen Blanco would take the juvenile justice system out of the purview of adult corrections. You can read about it here and here. By itself this reform is hardly a solution, but it is a necessary first step in fixing a system that has problems of abuse and corruption spanning decades.

Unfortunately, the story I find considerably more interesting is buried in the back of the Advocate and didn't find it's way online. State Sen. Don Cravins (a Democrat from Arnaudville) is leading the charge to reduce the population of prisons by sending "fewer parolees back to prison for nonviolent, technical violations of their parole conditions."

Louisiana's prisons are overcrowded and very expensive to maintain the populations. Louisiana sends a higher percentage of it's population to prison than any other state in the country. According to the report 795 of every 100,000 Louisiana citizens are imprisoned right now. Cravins contends that by reducing the number of nonviolent imprisoned criminals, the state could better use the money that is saved to promote rehabilitatian of the prison population.

The first question to ask is what purpose does parole serve if there are no teeth that demand compliance with the terms? Cravins isn't quoted with any suggestion that would ensure parolees would comply without the threat of reincarceration. I'm just a simple blogger, but I figure you could attach conditions like community service, license suspension, extended length of parole to people who violate the technical aspects of the conditions.

Whatever the case, major reform is needed of Louisiana prisons before the state can grow. There are too many people locked up, and too many of them will eventually be sent back to jail because there is no real effort at rehabilitation. Reducing the population would be the first step in freeing up money for this effort. Cravins mentions how hard this fight will be. He's already faced charges of "being soft on crime," and the legislators who support this effort will have the same charges leveled on them. Politics is often a matter of courage though, and Cravins deserves credit for spearheading this effort.

26 January 2004

A brief brush with fame 

Tonight was the official birthday of the Prado pater familias. We had the good fortune to ring in the old man's seventieth year at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

This has become a bit of a yearly tradition for the Prado clansmen left in fair Lafayette, so the experience wouldn't be worth mentioning under normal circumstances. But tonight we had the good fortune to dine with the "first gentleman" of Louisiana, "Coach" Raymond Blanco.

By dining with him, I mean he sat in the lounge with quite a bit of liquor and what was undoubtedly a table full of "good ole boys" of whom no one in my humble family recognized. They puffed on big cigars and seemed to be engrossed in some heavy-duty gamesmanship. Meanwhile the Prado clan was ushered to our table by a very accommodating hostess, who didn't seem to realize she was standing next to the gov's husband. Ray Blanco is a fixture around Lafayette, so it wasn't really surprising to see him, but I have a bit of an unnatural reverence for people in positions of power, so I spent a good portion of the night gawking for no apparent reason. It's especially strange considering the fact that our families have a not altogether insignificant relationship going back a few decades in Cajun country.

Anyway, that's my story. Now I'm off to bed.

I bet Al Gore sent loads of emails... 

While I find this story that President Clinton only sent two emails during his entire presidency a little shocking, it certainly isn't hard to believe.

If only Mike Baer had Clinton's good sense to avoid this blight on humanity which is the Internet he might not be in so much trouble.

Linux, "Prodigy", and Haley Joel Osment 

Read the latest Ad Report Card by Seth Stevenson at Slate. He misses the mark wildly by giving the new IBM/Linux commercials (the little white-haired and -clothed boy who soaks up all human knowledge) an "A-".

I know this is a matter of taste, but this is the creepiest commercial I may have ever seen. Stevenson says it reminds him of the extra-crappy George Lucas early feature THX 1138, but still manages to give the commercial the high marks.

I'd say the commercial is more reminiscent of AI, but much creepier. This is perhaps the worst movie I've seen in the last ten years, so any commercial that would remind me of it makes me extremely prejudiced against the product. The character in the commercial even sports the same blank expression that Haley Joel Osment carries into every picture he appears in. Frankly, that's an expression that helps me understand what motivates men and women who abuse their children. The near total inundation of the airwaves with these ads has caused me to actively root against Linux. So I'd probably go a little lower than an "A-", but that's just me.

Bowing to local pressure for Delhomme content 

The NY Times covers Breaux Bridge and Jake Delhomme in this morning's edition. It's a fairly cliched piece of writing about the small town hero making it, while the whole community rallies around his success. You may as well go take a look at it you're interested. One quote makes me suspicious of the Delhomme family, though:

. The Panthers were losing, 17-0, at halftime when the Delhommes sat down for dinner. Their phone rang. Delhomme's wife, Keri, who was Jake's high school sweetheart, was calling from the stadium with the three words they all waited to hear: "Jake's warming up."

"We ran in the living room, threw the food away and opened the beer," Jerry said.

No self-respecting Cajun family throws food away ever, especially not because they want to watch something on television. That's what tv trays and coffee tables are for.

Kiss and make up 

I'm a big fan of Russian history and literature, and while Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn isn't exactly my favorite author, I found this story about the continuing conflict between him and Olga Carlisle very satisfying in a certain voyeuristic way.

Carlisle was an integral part of smuggling the author's work out of Russia in the 1960s and '70s. Apparently Solzhenitsyn wasn't happy with her work. The result has been decades of essays and two books criticizing each other. Now Solzenhitsyn is gearing up for another shot across the bow. Read it if you want to.

via Arts and Letters Daily.

It's good to be an elected official 

The above is true for a variety of reasons, but the most important one is that you aren't always held accountable for breaking the law.

State Representative Wilfred Pierre (a Democrat from District 44 in Lafayette) was stopped at a routine drunk driving roadblock late Friday night and was arrested, but never booked at the Lafayette jail like anyone else who is issued a drunk driving citation. The representative blew a 0.092 in a breathalyzer. The officers ticketed him but allowed him to leave the scene without actually taking him to jail.

This had the effect of keeping his name out of the public booking record published in the newspaper. The police spokesperson was emphatic that Pierre was not allowed to get back into his car and drive off, but they can't seem to provide any explanation for how he actually left the scene of the "arrest."

Reporter Brittain Quibodeaux also noticed that Pierre provided the police with false information as to his address. He also provided a false address in the paperwork that qualified him for office.

This looks like quite a scandal for Rep. Pierre. I suspect he won't go quietly.

District 45 news 

Brief story in the Advocate about Denice Skinner, who is running for Jerry Luke Leblanc's vacated seat in the State House. She's a Republican running on--among other things--the repeal of the income portion of the Stelly Plan. No thanks Ms. Skinner, I don't care if you did graduate from my high school.

Fischer before and after 

Maybe "during" would have been better than after.

image "courtesy" of WWL-TV


Economic Development 

Melinda Deslatte (seen in print at the Advocate but found online at NOLA's AP newswire) and John Hill have virtually identical columns this morning about the optimism and engagement of the new Blanco administration. John Hill uses his to take a not thinly veiled swipe at fmr. Gov. Foster.

As one keen observer of Louisiana politics put it, everyone got all excited about Blanco’s traveling to Shreveport and New Orleans in her first week in office, but that is only what governors are supposed to do.

Everyone was all excited because it’s been so long since we’ve had a governor who would do it.

I don't have the same disdain for Mike Foster's reluctance to get on planes every other day to "recruit" business, but it's hard not to notice the contrast between the two governors. Given her age and many problems in this state, it doesn't seem likely that Governor Blanco will keep up this frenzied pace, but all of us concerned LA citizens should be excited that she's starting off running.

25 January 2004

Baton Rouge and the "Creative Class" 

The Advocate continues it's futile attempts to make Baton Rouge the "flagship city" of Louisiana in today's edition. A front page story describes the need to appeal to young people, who reportedly are willing to settle for fewer economic activities in exchange for more cultural, creative, and recreational aspects of a city. A related story describes the arrival and exodus of just the sort of couple Baton Rouge economic development leaders are so keen to appeal to.

This story speaks volumes for the uphill battle that Baton Rouge leaders face in this windmill-chasing enterprise:

[E]verything they enjoy about the city takes place within the confines of their property.

Both said they were surprised how little nightlife there is for a university town, saying the north gates of LSU, the Perkins Road overpass area and the Thirsty Tiger, Red Star and Marrazil downtown are about it for them.

"It's not that The Chimes isn't a great place," Kennedy said. "They've got awesome beer, I like the food, it's got a good atmosphere ... Chelsea's is great, too, but that's the (whole) scene.

...

Avid cyclists, Kennedy and Harpe said they wish the center city was more bike friendly, adding they often find themselves braving traffic to cycle around town.

"City Park's neat, but if you don't golf, it's not that cool," he said. "Highland Road Park is pretty neat but I'm not going to drive 20 minutes to go there."

City Park, Harpe agreed, "could be improved so it's not just golf."

Not to be outdone by such easily rectified issues, the editors of The Advocate responded with this editorial:

Make bike paths an election issue

The real kicker--the part of the story that the editors at this paper are loath to acknowledge--is that Baton Rouge has very little character as a city. It's essentially a way station in south central Louisiana. It's not New Orleans, but it's not Cajun either. The city has very little recognizable identity outside of LSU. One consultant that's quoted in the first story recognizes this problem:

Bergstrom said cities in south Louisiana have the advantage of a rich history, an authentic, widely recognized culture and a powerful ethnic identity.

Bergstrom said that in promoting itself to the rest of the nation, Baton Rouge would be wise to team up with Lafayette and New Orleans in touting the assets and sensibilities of the entire region.

I really do wish Baton Rouge leaders all the luck in the world to accomplish their lofty goals, but they seem to be operating under some assumptions that just aren't realistic. Baton Rouge is never going to be Austin, Texas. There's no reason they can't carve out their own niche, but they should stop trying to recreate something that happened under completely different circumstances in a completely different environment.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?