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07 February 2004

Weekend reading 

The biggest story in Capital city politics this weekend is probably about Charles Foti's appointment of Les Bonano to run his investigation division. Bonano was denied a gaming license a few years ago because of ties with another promoter who had alleged connections with organized crime. Bonano also spent time under the employment of a video poker company whose operator was prosecuted for extortion in connection with the Edwin Edwards trial. For good or ill, there's probably more to this story, but if I were working in state government after the shakeup of the Edwards trial, I would do my damndest to avoid cozy relationships with anyone that deep into the gaming industry. Every one who comes out stinks. Foti would be wise to avoid characters like this in the future. To be fair, the story doesn't mention that Bonano has been a relatively successful promoter outside of Louisiana (which a google search will reveal), and his denial here by the gaming board could have been as much about politics as it was about any real concern that he might be a criminal element.

Also in the papers, the "T-P's" John McQuaid takes a frighteningly long--but worthwhile--look at the MPAA lobbying job that John Breaux's name has been coming up with lately. One highlight from that piece is the use of "uber-lobbyist" in the lede. That would have been enough to link to on its own.

In 1st Congressional news, Republican state Sen. Tom Schedler made it formal that he's running for Congress yesterday. For those counting that makes three Republicans (Jindal, Schedler, and Steve Scalise) and one Democrat (a Metairie construction worker? named Michael Armato) running for the seat.

In the spirit of truly hard-nosed investigative reporting, the folks at the Daily Advertiser let us know that Iberia Parish--birthplace of the new Governor--loves their native daughter.

And finally, the editors at that paper in Baton Rouge that I love so much wonder why Bush is prepared to spend billions on space exploration when the Louisiana coastline is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Now make sure you click on every link, I expect a two page report on my desk tomorrow morning.

Holy Queen of Sheeba! 

What happened at Tbogg? This is literally the first blog I ever read (I can't even remember how I got there now), so it's shocking to see the staple yellow with strange rocks banner now disappeared. I'm sure the content will be as funny as ever. Other Tbogg fun facts: He was the first and only major traffic blogger to link to my humble website. In retrospect he couldn't have passed on a post about those crazy cops in Opelousas, but I'm thankful to him anyway for the few, the proud, the regular ten or twelve folks who visit this website.

Since I know how to do it now, here's a picture of those kooky anti-terrorism forces protecting St. Landry Parish from the evildoers. Since they're from his part of Louisiana, maybe Ken has something to say about these folks.


06 February 2004

Time-killing game of the week 

This is a classic text adventure very loosely based on Treasure Island. It's all about pirates, and if I know one thing, it's that everyone loves pirates. Enjoy it. You can save your progress, which is important if you plan to kill a lot of time playing.

Where's the outrage/celebration? 

I'm surprised there's so little talk about what a special day it is today. Ronald Reagan celebrates his 93rd birthday and no one is talking about it. The LSU College Republicans have been celebrating all week. What with the prayer breakfasts and the letters from Nancy Reagan, I bet it's not much different from Mardi Gras.

I've been neglecting you all along 

Where has this website been all my life? There is all kinds of interesting speculation here, and it looks to be a lively read for supposed insider info about state politics, though I don't know how reputable it is. Consider these nuggets about David Vitter:

Just days after Vitter dropped out of the race for Governor in June of 2002, The Louisiana Weekly published allegations that Cortez, a known prostitute, claimed that she had an 11-month affair with Vitter, a state representative at the time.

The story became public after Vincent Bruno, secretary of the Republican Party of Jefferson Parish, alleged that Congressman David Vitter had engaged in an extramarital affair. In what was a high-stakes political battle between some of the most prominent members of the Louisiana Republican Party, Bruno charged that a prostitute, who stated her name to be Wendy Cortez, allegedly confessed to him to having a paid sexual relationship with Vitter.

Three separate and independent sources, including WDSU-TV reporter Richard Angelico, confirmed Bruno's allegation stating that Cortez also recounted to them the details of her alleged affair with Vitter. After the initial story was published, a two-month search uncovered Cortez's whereabouts.

She confirmed the allegations about her to this newspaper and stated, "I stand by my comments" to Bruno and all that the affair occurred.

Supporters of Vitter flatly deny Bruno's charges. They accuse him of having political motivations, and question the veracity of Cortez's story.

"I know it's not true. I don't give it any credence," said Jim St. Raymond, political consultant to David Vitter.

The Vitter campaign is surely denying the allegations, but I find it pretty strange that the Republicans would line up behind a guy with this skeleton in his closet. They seem to have annointed him as their man for the Senate, but if these accusations become part of the political consciousness I wonder if they won't jump ship for another candidate.

7th Congressional shaping up 

State politicians are starting to line up to replace Chris John, whose Congressional seat will be open as he runs for the US Senate. Today LA Sen. Willie Mount, a Democrat from Lake Charles, announced her candidacy for the seat.

The other two candidates who have made the most noise are Don Cravins and David Thibodeaux.

Cravins is a Democrat lawmaker representing Arnaudville and Thibodeaux is a Republican school board member (former President of the LPSB) from Lafayette.

You can take a look at a map of the Louisiana congressional districts here (that's a .pdf). The district stretches from Lafayette Parish to the Sabine River border with Texas. It mostly stays along I-10, not reaching farther north than St. Landry Parish. This area is regularly considered swing voter territory in statewide elections. However it is worth noting that all the parishes encompassed by the 7th District went to Blanco in the last election with the exception (and considering the voters represented in Lafayette Parish, it's a rather big exception) of Lafayette, Blanco's home parish. You can count on Lafayette trending considerably more towards a Republican than was represented in the Blanco election. The question is whether or not a Democrat can gather enough votes from the rest of the district to pick up a win.

At the moment I don't have a dog in this fight, though I'm inclined towards Don Cravins because I know more about him. It's worth pointing out whether a black candidate can win in this district, but I have faith in southwestern Louisiana voters to look past a candidate's race.

The candidates don't appear to have web pages operating yet, but you can look at their legislative pages by clicking on Mount and Cravins. David Thibodeaux doesn't appear to have much of a web presence either, but I can tell you that if you google his name that none of those things about Branch Davidians have anything to do with the possible Congressional candidate.

Shreveport 

As part of New Years resolution to give more time to areas of Louisiana north of I-10, I've been reading things like The Shreveport Times and The Monroe News Star more regularly. Unfortunately since these are both Gannet newspapers, most of the content of the front page is nearly identical to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. That's not really the point today, because I really just want to direct folks to the picture of this preacher who is getting the chance to send his congregation to an advance screening of Mel's The Passion of Christ. This guy looks absolutely frightening. The photographer must have decided to take the most evil looking shot of the man of God that he could compose. Just go see it for yourself.

Apocalypse Now 

or yesterday in this case, but we survived. Anyway, I thought this was a cool picture of the impending doom taken over Lafayette yesterday.



"Courtesy" of The Daily Advertiser.

Sometimes they get it right 

I don't have to be critical of the editors all the time. There's worthwhile reading at the Advocate editorial page today after all. In this case they're cheering on Jimmy Carter's statements regarding the evolution controversey in Georgia's school system. They call the oponents of the very word "evolution" fanatical and extremist. I expect the letters to pour in to their office this week.

More Health and Hospital woes 

The Governor is proposing a $20 million emergency relief packagee for the state hospital system. This money won't begin to address the all the problems with Louisiana's charity system, but should allow beds at some of the state's bigger hospitals to remain open to treat Louisiana's uninsured. It looks like it's supposed to be temporary relief until a full plan can be worked out at the Health Care Summit set to begin in early March. Unless a way to pay for and promote better insurance for Louisiana citizens is found at the summit we can look forward to these emergency relief packages from now until the end of time.

Regarding my last post, I don't know how politicians so opposed to taxes ever expect to deal with the problems facing Louisiana. Reducing taxes across the board has never actually raises revenue in government budgets. His lord and majesty Ronald Reagan proved that. It's one thing if you're against government spending for things like health care, education, and other public needs, but don't try and sell me a bill of goods that spends billions and cuts everyone's taxes. It just doesn't work. And if you're against the taxes then explain how you expect the millions of uninsured and undereducated Louisiana citizens to have access to these necessities. That's the charge to keep, because most polling shows citizens believe that the government ought to be in the business of making things like health care affordable and education better. If you can show me a way to do it while reducing taxes for all of God's children, then I'll be the first to convert, but I haven't seen it done yet, and the arguments aren't convincing.

Clarification 

I was looking back through my archives for another post and was surprised to see that one of the Republican candidates to represent my district (45) in the state House, Denice Skinner, responded to a post about her position on the Stelly Plan. In the interest of fairness, I'll post her response in full. You can see my original post here. And you can look at her permalinked comment here. This is what Ms. Skinner had to say:

I noticed that you didn't agree with me about the Stelly Plan. I had hoped my position was clear in the paper. But, in case is was not, I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify. I want to eliminate the portion of the Stelly Bill that increased our state income tax but I want to keep the portion of the Stelly Bill that reduced the amount of sales taxes we pay. Stelly was marketed as trade off, but it was not. A working family would have to spend approximately $30,000 in groceries a year to save enough in sales taxes to pay the state income tax increases that Stelly requires. I hope this clarifies my position about Stelly.

First of all, let me say that if this is indeed Ms. Skinner, I appreciate you stopping by the site to try and clarify your position, although I do believe that I understood your position as it was presented in the paper. I still don't agree with it though. The Stelly Plan leaves a lot to be desired, but it is the first step to a more progressive tax code in this state. I'd love to see further reduction in the sales tax and a tweaking of the income tax portion, but a full on repeal of the income portion would surely destroy our already busted budget. I'm very wary of politicians who run campaigns making promises against the Stelly Plan. It's important to the future of our state.

Good luck in your campaign, but you're unlikely to find a vote from Ricky Prado. I hope you'll keep reading anyway.

Louisiana editors just don't get it 

For the second time in a week the editors of one of my papers have written an editorial explaining why it's too bad that Billy Tauzin is leaving the House. The Advertiser's editors even had the indecency to call the complaints about Billy Tauzin a "partisan squabble" because "no one is charging that he broke any laws." That sounds like a pretty low standard for our public officials, but hey, who am I to criticize?

The fact is that it wasn't only Democrat's busting Tauzin's chops on his connections to PhARMA while he was pushing and shaping a prescription drug benefit; it was also non-partisan good government and watchdog groups. I personally don't think that it's okay to trade away respect for the office and your constituents for pork every now and then, and these newspapers won't convince me that it's okay either. Calling it a partisan squabble belittles real charges against Tauzin's commitment and respect for the people who continued to elect him.

05 February 2004

Choke, sputter, faint... 

Matt Lavine definitely earned himself a spot on my daily reading list, which seems to be growing quite a bit today. You should have been there a long time ago.

update @ 11:44 pm: Oh yeah, and Lisa too, who has some strong feelings about why she's not interested in coming on back to our fair state anytime soon. To each his own (or her own in this case) as far as I'm concerned, but it sure would be nice if smart folks like them were calling Louisiana home instead of "where I used to live". I also can't say I blame ya'.

More anonymous reader letters desired 

Jaysus, The Nitpicker is picking nits about the character of John Kerry and Tom Delay since all the hay is being made around the right coast of the web about Kerry's "Do you know who I am moment?". He has the goods on Tom Delay:

Mr. DeLay recently revealed how he felt about rules of general applicability. When he tried smoking a cigar in a restaurant on federal property, the manager told him it violated federal law. His response, according to The Washington Post, was, "I am the federal government."

I'm sure Jonah will start publishing letters from concerned readers that have had similar experiences with DeLay any day now.

Oh well 

Why I'm not in Crowley this morning.

Update @ 12:50 pm: here's the AP account of the story I meant to bring to you first hand. Clearly not much there.

Civil Service Appointment 

I guess I don't know what "civil service" means, but I find this a little weird. In an otherwise innocuous story about some "high paying DED jobs," author Scott Dyer informs us that:

Unlike rank-and-file civil service workers, these 17 workers all serve at the will of the governor.

I suppose this happens all over the country, but why bother having the state Civil Service Commission involved at all?

Lafayette Catholics safe from predators 

Or maybe not. Lafayette and Baton Rouge have big stories about the $24 million spent by the Lafayette Roman Catholic Diocese to settle sex abuse cases from 1950 to the present. The report was released by the diocese early because it apparently shows that no cases have been reported since 1984, meaning that Lafayette is an area that Catholics can be proud of. One critic says "not so fast," though:

Jarrell, flanked by Msgr. Russell Harrington, diocesan chancellor, and Msgr. Richard Greene, diocesan spokesperson, said he and other local church officials are unaware of any children victimized since 1984.

“That doesn’t sound right at all,” said the Rev. Tom Doyle, a Roman Catholic priest who testified for victims in more than 700 clergy sex abuse cases filed against the church in the United States, Israel, Ireland, England and New Zealand. Doyle helped uncover the Gauthe scandal in the Lafayette Diocese in the 1980s.

Doyle’s experience here led him to co-author “The Problem of Sexual Molestation By Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner.”

The book, released in 1985 and referred to as “the manual,” listed recommendations to the U.S. Catholic church leaders on how to correct the sex abuse scandal nearly 15 years before the subject regained national media attention.

Doyle said Wednesday that he reviewed the John Jay questionnaire sent to individual church dioceses and questioned the study’s over-reliance on self-reporting by bishops.

“It asks the bishops to report on themselves. That’s like asking someone to do their own IRS audit,” Doyle said. “Sure, there’s pressure on the bishops from the mainstream press and the public to be honest. I don’t want to second guess the report before it comes out, but I don’t think the bishops will be as open and honest as many hoped.”

The Gauthe scandal referred to in the above quote set off the first wave of panic, though much more low key then, about abuse by priests and other members of local churches. It was a national scandal then, but bishops were still pretty adept at keeping these things close to the frock. Not so anymore. Anyway, this Doyle has a good point about the holes in this report that has been released to the media. However, the idea that the Lafayette Diocese would be more in tune with the moral imperative to protect parishoners from this type of abuse isn't as far-fetched as Doyle makes it out to be. The fact that the area had already been through the scandal would hopefully have led them to be more proactive in protecting the flock. The problem as always is that because of their record, you really can't trust the Church in this matter right now. All the studies in the world won't make people forget about the shocking revelations over the last few years.

More money please 

I missed this in yesterday's Picayune, but since I was talking about the boy's club, it's important that I pass along report on this study that says:

Louisiana had the second most dramatic gap between women's and men's wages in the nation in 2002, a Tulane University researcher says.

The survey of all 50 states and the District of Columbia shows Louisiana women who worked full time in 2002 earned an average 65.2 cents for every dollar earned by men. That's well below the national average of 72.7 cents in the same year, said Beth Willinger, director of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University.

Louisiana is forty-ninth in the nation, falling from forty-eighth six years ago, though the gap did close in value, but only negligibly. Wyoming is the worst and Washington DC is the best.

The report isn't without some good news for women languishing in the state of Louisiana

Women can start their own businesses, Willinger said, an option that an encouraging number of Louisiana women are taking to heart.

Women own about one-fourth of the businesses in Louisiana, putting the state at the 25th spot among all states and the District of Columbia in that category.

These studies tend to have a very wide variation on how they describe the causes of the gender wage gap, and without looking at it in detail it's hard to make any judgments about its validity, but it definitely jibes with what most people sense looking around at the state of the Louisiana workforce.

Chutzpah 

That's the only word I have to describe this convict who is suing a Baton Rouge federal prosecutor and judge every time they use his name, because he copyrighted it. It looks like some flaws in the legal system allow him to demand liens on their property by virtue of the fact that he is suing them. It's obviously despicable, but it's hard not to admire the brazenness of such a strategy.

showing off 

Yesterday I said:
It's not the right time for it now, but at some point this state is dying for another constitutional convention.

And today I read:

Voters could have the chance to approve a new state Constitution in the fall of 2006 if a bill filed for the March 29 legislative session becomes law.

House Bill 13 by Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, calls for a constitutional convention to begin Aug. 9 at noon at the state Capitol with the 144 legislators as the only delegates.

This really isn't very surprising. These bills proposing a constitutional convention come up every other year in Louisiana. And there are some pretty big problems with the HB 13. The idea of a constitutional convention whose only delegates are legislators is a bad one. Legislators have too many political considerations that could adversely influence their ability to make tough decisions, so it's good to have people who are elected specifically to draw up the constitution. They do their job and don't come back. This won't stop people from using the occasion to further their own careers, but at least everyone there doesn't have to think about being reelected. That way has some drawbacks to, because it costs a lot of money to have all those elections and to pay new officials for their work. Like I said yesterday, it probably isn't the right time for this, but it's going to have to happen sometime soon.

04 February 2004

Threatening the voters 

Kos put together an interesting post about Dennis Hastert threatening Kentucky voters with harmful policy if they have the gall to elect a Democrat to the House. Democratic candidate Ben Chandler seems to be taking it all in stride, and is still leading by as many as ten points in some polls.

I wasn't blogging then, but Louisiana pol junkies might remember that there was an implied threat that Suzy Terrell ran on in the 2002 Senate election once the Republicans regained control of the Senate, but before the runoff. Mary Landrieu then used Terrell's constant crowing about her connection to the Senate Majority Party and Bush to slam her on sugar policy and other policy positions that would hurt Louisiana. It was a big mistake by the Terrell campaign, and let's hope it will be a big mistake by the Republicans in Kentucky too.

In our own forthcoming Senate race, we'll see one of the typical Republican automotons in David Vitter try and claim some sense of independence from the Bush administration, but it's unlikely his record will be able to give any evidence of it. Vitter has been in the most conservative district in the state for his entire career, so it's a safe bet for him to side with the Republican party most of the time. Hopefully this will come back to haunt him in November.

Speaking of that Senate campaign, Crowley's current favorite son (sorry John Breaux, you'll be losing that title now that you're retiring. At least it's not Edwin W. Edwards any more) will be making his intent to run for Senate official tomorrow on the steps of the Acadia Parish courthouse tomorrow morning. If the weather clears up a little between now and then, yours truly will be making the short trip down I-10 to get a first hand look at the spectacle.

Goodbye jobs 

It looks like the $33 million promise wasn't enough to keep State Farm's operation center in placid Monroe. The insurance company plans to close it's doors by the fall of 2005.

I wasn't very optimistic about this deal actually convincing the State Farm execs to change a decision that they had already made, but that doesn't mean that I can't be disappointed that yet another major employer is leaving the state. It's just another reminder about how far we have to go. Here's Blanco's reaction:

"It's certainly an unfortunate decision, and I certainly share the disappointment of the people in northeast Louisiana," Blanco said at an afternoon news conference in Baton Rouge

Hopefully the legislative session will bring her more success.

Remember your source 

Looks like Drudge is trying to stroke the liberal hopes a little bit that CIA director Tenet is going to make a big speech tomorrow trashing Bush and defending the CIA intelligence capabilities. Look for more obfuscation and little substance from the CIA director. He's played it middle of the road from day one, and he won't stick his neck out either way tomorrow. That's just my worthless opinion, though. All I mean to say is that people concerned about Bush's lack of commitment to the truth probably shouldn't get too excited by Drudge's "developing" stories.

Sharpton almost back 

[sarcasm]It looks like I may have someone to vote for in our March 9 primary after all.[/sarcasm] Al Sharpton's campaign has filed suit to get on the Louisiana ballot.

The whole story of his inability to get his check in on time is a bit of a comedy, but from what I understand, courts generally rule in favor of the candidate in these matters so long as it's not prohibitively expensive and fair to other potential candidates who might have been left off the ballot (there are none in this case).

Unsurprisingly, McKeithen took a typical Tucker Carlson cheap shot at the candidate:

McKeithen said he was disappointed Sharpton's campaign couldn't correct its problems in time to get him on the ballot.

"I was looking forward to his candidacy because he is such an entertaining figure. He's certainly the most entertaining among the Democratic candidates," McKeithen said.

IOW, "I wish I could have let the minstrel show come into town; those darkies sure are funny."

LA budget news 

Gov. Blanco told health care providers yesterday that the state hospital system wouldn't be asked to bear the brunt of the budget cuts this year. This is grand talk, but it's unclear how she expects to spread the cuts around considering how many budget priorities are enumerated as amendments to our state's constitution. I hope she can do it, but she didn't go into specifics in this address, and governors have made this promise before. It's not the right time for it now, but at some point this state is dying for another constitutional convention.

More reasons to like the new gov 

Marsha Shuler has an interesting piece about Kathleen Blanco's remarks to the Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus this weekend. You should really read the whole thing, but I'll try and get to the things that I'm so impressed with by my selective quoting abilities.

"Mary [Landrieu] kept pestering (then-Speaker) John Alario for a caucus room," Blanco said.

Alario said there were not enough women lawmakers to justify an office with taxpayer-funded staff.

They needed to be at least 10 strong.

Blanco tried a little humor to push their cause along, gathering up roses from a Camelot Club outing and giving one to each of about two dozen male lawmakers, who got feminized names and induction into the "Hall of Dames."

Among them was Alario, who joked they could have a bathroom meeting place.

The point was made, Blanco said.

"The next year we got a room."

...

"There are no real issues that are not issues that affect women.

Blanco said a lot of male lawmakers wanted the pro-tem jobs in the House and Senate. "But I thought it was important to make an early statement and a strong statement" about the confidence she has in women.

Both No. 2 leaders in the House and Senate are female.

"I don't think I'm going to regret it," she said.

This doesn't seem like much, but I like that Blanco is unapologetic about her desire to see women achieve more influence in state government. It's easy to forget in today's day and age that a boy's club mentality is very much alive and well in this state. You need look no further than former Gov. Foster's remarks on his radio show to understand how little respect many of the older politicians in this state have for female lawmakers. The only way to push this bacwardness by the wayside is to give women a higher profile in the state, and Blanco is ready to do that.

Oh yeah, and she's already criticizing President Bush, which is nearly always a way to endear yourself to this humble blogger.

Justification for resignation 

With the MPAA eyeing John Breaux as their new frontrunner for their lobbying arm, it looks like Breaux is finding more cover to justify his early resignation from the Senate. Especially with the high-profile fall from grace that Billy Tauzin is in the middle of right now. Breaux, though the conflicts are very different, could say that he doesn't feel that it's fair to the Louisiana people that he should be involved in negotiations for a very big lobbying job when he's supposed to be representing the people (it would be the right thing to do anyway). Then Blanco could appoint her (or Breaux's) handpicked Democrat early enough for him to get a big leg up on David Vitter. This probably won't happen, but a guy can dream.

Following up 

Here's another story that gives more information than the weak AP accounts I'm used to reading in the afternoons and evenings. This one is full of more information about the "scarf-pulling teacher" at a Jefferson Parish high school. The student claims to have endured quite a bit of teasing about her ethnicity from the day she walked into the class, and finally pulling the hijab was too much to take.

Sitting in Wes Mix's 10th-grade world history class at West Jefferson High School in Harvey, Maryam Motar said she had become used to the "jokes."

First, there were the times when she said her teacher thought she was of Indian descent and called her "Little Curry One."

Then came jabs about how Motar, an Iraqi, hailed from a Third World country, she said. Thursday's tease, the 17-year-old sophomore said, was about how she would "bomb us" if she ever went back to her country.

Motar said the final straw came Friday as Mix was passing out tests. After pulling back her religiously mandated head scarf, or hijab, Motar said Mix told her, "I hope God punishes you. No, I'm sorry, I hope Allah punishes you."

Motar said the teacher later told her, "I didn't know you had hair under there."

There's no word about any tests snatched out of hands in this story, but the teacher is looking more boorish than he did in the first place. Also, notice a big difference between this story and the now forgotten lesbian mom story in Lafayette. In this one the school and school board took immediate action to rectify a situation that was obviously disrespectful and possibly discriminatory, and from the looks of the T-P account, everyone is happy and no one seems ready to call the ACLU.

More on Tauzin 

The T-P has more on the Rep's forthcoming retirement. There's a little background information about the health problems, though not much of any substance.

John Maginnis takes the occasion to ponder what three open Congressional seats will mean to the future of the Louisiana DC delegation. I'm a bit surprised he doesn't mention Rodney Alexander's seat as well since the GOP is essentially treating it as if it's open. There's no question that the 1st district will be a safe one for the Republicans, but at this point it's hard to forecast the 3rd and 7th districts. They could really go either way.

03 February 2004

Billy Tauzin done 

Rep. Tauzin resigned from his committee chairmanship and "has agreed to step aside from any committee matters involving the pharmaceutical lobby." He cited medical reasons. He says that he has not decided if he will resign his seat in the House before reelection. It probably depends on how much money PhRMA is really offering him. I hope Billy Tauzin isn't as sick as he lets on, but I sure won't miss him, no matter how much money he delivers to Louisiana. See a related post here.

Update @ 9:51 pm: It appears Michael was on top of this one a few minutes before I was. Sorry, nothing interesting here either, just passing along the news.

Jeebus 

From the dept. of "if it's about a Louisiana school, it must be about intolerance":

A teacher at a suburban high school was removed from his classroom because of accusations that he yanked off a Muslim student's head scarf and allegedly told her, "I hope God punishes you."

...

The alleged victim, Marym Matar, 17, told The Associate Press that the alleged incident occurred Friday as Mix was giving a test in his 10th grade world history class.

Matar said Mix had a habit of tossing test sheets at students, with the tests often scattering on the floor.

"I never thought it was my obligation to pick it up from the floor, so I snatched it from his hand," she recalled. Soon after that, the teacher allegedly pulled back her scarf, or hijab, and said, "I hope God punishes you — sorry — I hope Allah punishes you ... I didn't know you had hair under there."

Cheers to the principal, who seems to have taken swift action dispensing with this teacher to the school board.

Love letters 

I think I had a conversation with my sister a couple of weekends ago about how much she loved Wes Clark Jr. If not, it was with someone else. Anyway, she ought to like this bit of commentary from the general's son. To put it delicately, he's not very happy. See for yourself.

"It's a dirty business, filled with a lot of people who are pretending to be a lot of things they're not." The press never looked at his father's record, he says. They didn't treat the other candidates fairly either. Howard Dean got unfair coverage, he says. So did John Edwards. So did John Kerry. So did everyone.

...

"If the president had gotten fair coverage, he never would have gotten elected in the first place," Clark says. Has the media done a poor job of getting his father's message out? "It's not the media's job to get his message out. The media's job is to sell advertising."

...

"It's all horse-race questions," he says. "My favorite was Dad wearing a sweater in New Hampshire one day. Maybe he was wearing a sweater because he was cold."

But why has the president gotten positive coverage while the Democrats have gotten negative coverage, in his opinion? "It's about access. You know that you'll be denied access if you actually cover things honestly." He follows this with a recommendation that we go work in Hollywood if we don't understand how the political press works, because they need good storytellers in Hollywood, too.

Look for this to confirm the suspicions of those on the right that the Clark family is full of loons. Reading all of this, I might be inclined to agree, but this guy does work in Hollywood, and he's never pretended to be a politician, so he may as well have at it. His father may want to be more careful about his words. But here's a hint for any potential politicians out there: whining about why your team lost--no matter how true--usually doesn't play well in the public. Two words of proof are Woody and Jenkins.

I agree 

After some internal debate Yglesias asks, "Can we Say the President is Stupid?"

He seems to come down on the side of "most assuredly!"

Kennedy in 

State Treasurer John Kennedy makes his intentions to run for US Senator from Louisiana official today by filing with the Federal Election Commission. Last week I suggested that the polling data showing John Kennedy a point behind Chris John should give him pause about his name recognition. As a statewide official he should poll better than that among Democrats. Now he's got at least eight months to get those numbers up. I don't know much about him, but I'll give him plenty of attention at Timshel. David Vitter is the only other official candidate at the moment. Chris John hasn't filed yet, but it's almost a certainty that he will before long.

Guest post alert 

Go see me make my debut at the Swing State Project, though you should all be reading it anyway.

Can the Orleans Parish School system ever get anything right? 

I guess not.

Oh Hell No! 

Tucked into a story about some bills being filed for consideration in this year's state legislative session is a little blurb about House bill 7. Write your representatives and tell them to vote against it. Why?

Strain also filed HB 7 to name all of U.S. 190 from the Mississippi River in East Baton Rouge Parish to the Mississippi line in St. Tammany Parish "the Ronald Reagan Highway."

Apparently parts of the highway are already known as "Ronald Reagan Highway." That's probably more appropriate than having the whole thing named after him anyway. You could now more accurately say "he's a few reflectors short of a full highway." It could become a big state joke.

Coastal restoration 

Despite yesterday being "America's Wetland Day," it looks like President Bush's budget writers weren't too interested in providing money for any major restoration projects along our depleting coastline. That's hardly surprising considering how important it is to get that missile defense system up and running, but it certainly is disappointing.

The only reason for optimism comes with some language in the budget where the federal government takes some responsibility for the troubles now facing our coastlines. The depletion has been a result of

the Army Corps of Engineers' channeling of the Mississippi River for shipping and the construction of flood-control levees along the river to protect residents of cities such as New Orleans.

It also places part of the blame on private industry's canal-building for oil and gas development, and on natural subsidence and sea-level rise.

It looks like Governor Blanco's limo meeting with Bush didn't go as well as she wanted it to. Maybe instead of talking to him like one executive to another she should have given him the Mr. Bill pitch. That would probably have been a better way to get his attention.


Money and politics 

The big stories in the paper today all put the focus on money and the political process. Gerard Shields has more about the controversy surrounding Billy Tauzin's relationship with PhRMA. It seems that multiple watchdog groups are calling on Tauzin to step down from his committee chair while negotiating with the pharmaceutical manufacturers representatives. I can't imagine why.

Shields also takes a look at how much money members of Louisiana's DC delegation have raised over the last year. Vitter leads the pace, having raised $436,373 last year.

The largest contributions to Vitter's campaign were $5,000 each by the American Bankers Association, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Good Government of America political action committee.

If you're as curious as I am about the "Good Government of America" pac, you'll just have to read this without satisfaction. I can't make sense of who they represent. It seems that very many PACs have rather deftly used Good Government in their names. Open Secrets could probably give you a little more information about them, though my search wasn't very helpful.

Chris John doesn't fall very far behind Vitter in fundraising. He took some money from the National Beer Wholesalers too, so I know both are equally pro-beer companies. That's reassuring.

Mary Landrieu falls well to the back of the fundraising dollars last year. That's hardly surprising. She was in the first year of her second term, and the six year Senate terms mean she doesn't have to worry about paying for her next campaign just yet. All the money involved with these people out to give us pause about the future of our republic though.

Finally, Chris Fink gives us a look at a story that's been banging around the papers the last couple of days. It seems Mike Foster will be getting nearly $90,000 a year in retirement benefits from the state. I don't know if anyone is shocked by this, but judging by the play it's received in the papers over the last two days, it seems someone is. People, elected officials get retirement benefits. It doesn't matter if they're rich or not. That's the way the world works.

02 February 2004

Kausphiles 

Er, not exactly. Eric Alterman questions Mickey's priorities over at Altercation today. Meanwhile, Josh Marshall asks the question anyone who has been reading Kaus for a sustained period of time has wondered about before:

Going back over the last decade, name me the Democratic president, presidential nominee, or primary frontrunner whom my friend Mickey Kaus has not diagnosed with a ‘character problem’?

Unsurprisingly, the folks at The Corner love the supposedly liberal blogger.

I should have known 

I probably should have seen this coming, but the Jake Delhomme queries are already starting to get weird. First there's "naked Jake Delhomme" then the incessant searches for "pictures of jake dellhome wife."

If only Carolina had won, I'd be getting thousands of hits today.

Who knew? 

Kathleen Blanco signed a proclamation making today "America's Wetland Day" in the state of Louisiana. She wants folks to learn more about our wetlands, so I'll do my part and link to these fine resources:

The Office of Coastal Restoration
The American Wetlands Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana
Louisiana Wetland News
US Geological Survey Fact Sheet on LA wetlands
LA Coast
LA Tech resource center

Don't say I don't know how to Google.

Jonah Goldberg, plagiarist 

Andrew Sullivan at 1:30 this morning:

A KERRY BACKLASH? I fear it's far too late to stop the Massachusetts bore from winning the nomination. But I have yet to find a single Democrat who's actually enthusiastic about the pompous, do-nothing, faux-populist, Establishment blow-hard with the Vietnam obsession.

Jonah, at 9:45 this morning:

I think it's probably too late to stop Kerry from getting the nomination. But here's a little tidbit that may end up being Bush's greatest advantage. No one likes John Kerry. I've now met a fairly wide assortment of liberals, Democratic activists, reporters, scribblers etc over the last year -- in green rooms and at cocktail parties. And while none of my conversations were on the record, I can report that there's an astonishing amount of animus towards John Kerry. Lots of reporters just hate the guy.

Senate speculation 

The new editor of politicsLa.com engages in a little bit this morning. Here's a hint, he can't contain himself over the prospect of a Vitter win. He gets off one line that I'm not sure what to make of:

That means Senate leadership will remain Republican and they could give a flip about our liberal New Orleanian and a freshman Democratic counterpart.

Read this paragraph to mean—if we want our share of the largest federal give away since Abraham Lincoln—vote Republican.

I honestly don't know what this means, but I think he's comparing pork barrel politics to the emancipation proclamation. By all means, go read the thing yourself and let me know if I'm wrong, but I've come to expect anything from the original commentary produced over at that website.

In the column he also manages to repeat the Kerry Botox charges and says the Senator's hobbies include "riding around in fancy cars and playing with his wife's billions." The only other presidential candidate Lyles mentions is John Edwards, who he calls a "manicured soul." Once again I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, but if this is the kind of vapid commentary that's due to come out of politicsLa.com under his editorship, it may be time for me to take them off of my "Daily Reading" list.

News roundup 

Frankly, there's not much news to round up this morning. My papers were thick on Super Bowl coverage and thin on everything else. The Lafayette rag helpfully notes that Nonc (that's Cajun for "uncle" for the uninitiated) Nutria probably wouldn't be seeing his shadow thanks to the cloudy skies and rain this morning. So get out your shorts and t-shirts, spring is here.

There is a profile of Eduardo Aguirre by Gerard Shields that's worth reading. He's the man in charge of implementing Bush's new immigration proposal, a Cuban native, and an LSU grad. I wouldn't link to this story except that I wonder if Aguirre's experience as a White House policy architect is anything like John Diiullio or Paul O'Neill when Ron Suskind will start calling, because I can assure you that no matter what happens with Aguirre, Shields will never mention him again.

Update 

It's a good thing I'm not a betting man (see previous post).

btw, I must have seen about a hundred Truth ads advocating that I not smoke cigarettes, so what the fuck does CBS mean when they say they don't run advocacy ads?

01 February 2004

Fearless Superbowl Prediction 

Unless I'm bashing LSU fans hopes of immortality, I usually avoid sports predictions. I can't avoid one today. I'll say that I'm rooting for Jake and the Panthers, but I don't see them winning. It will hopefully be close going into the final minutes but Jake will finally fail to bring back the Panthers in the final drive of the game. Pats 17-Cats 10. If the over/under is anything more than 35 points I would bet my student loan payments on the under.

Since when do pavillions cost so much? 

There's interesting reading today out of The Advocate about state funds going to an unfinished project in East Feliciana parish that cost taxpayers upwards of $200,000 in the form of rural development funds approved by the Foster administration. These funds are only slightly more accountable than the urban development funds that state newspapers and good government advocates hate so much.

My only problem with this story is that there isn't an effort by the reporter to show why this project is a typical example of the way these funds are used. My gut tells me that it most likely is typical, but there is nothing in the story to verify this. Just click here.


Why bother? 

Last night I showed you that the editorial voice of the Baton Rouge paper doesn't care about lobbyists and their influence on our legislators as long as they're bringing in the bacon, but today they have a big front page story about members of the Louisiana congressional delegation going on trips on lobbyists' dimes. In 2003 lobbyists spent well over $200,000 sending the lawmakers and their families to some fantastic vacation spots (and some not so fantastic vacation spots--Nigeria, anyone?).

John Breaux was the quickest to jaunt off with lobbying groups. Frehsman Rep. Rodney Alexander didn't get any vacation time in 2003. Unreported in this story is that this weekend he is wrapping up a trip to Libya. It's not clear from the reporting I've seen who paid for the trip, but you can bet it's not coming out of his travel allowance.

Of course I think this deserves front page coverage, but given yesterday's editorial, I'm not sure why it's there.

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