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28 February 2004

Predictability award 

Christopher Hitchens doesn't like much of anything these days, but his review of Mel's "The Passion..." goes beyond even his normal vitriolic level. The movie is not only anti-Semitic (of course!) but add "deeply repressed homoerotic fantas[y]" and "brownshirt psuedomasculinity." Beat that Cajun/atheist Ken.

Blanco writes the Times 

The governor wrote a letter to the NY Times published in today's edition. Here's the letter in full:

Having just returned from a trip to Iraq, I can attest to the critical needs of that country. The destruction of Iraq's wetlands is certainly worthy of the United States help you chronicled (front page, Feb. 21).

Ironically, however, the Bush administration and the Republican-led Senate will not demand the same urgency of action to save coastal wetlands at home. Each year, Louisiana loses 25 to 35 square miles of coastal marsh, largely because of federal activities. And yet in their rewrite of the energy bill, Senate Republicans killed spending provisions addressing Louisiana's coastal loss, while our residents have done just the opposite — dedicating state dollars to a federal-state restoration effort.

Congress has begun restoring the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Everglades, and now we're restoring Iraq's wetlands. National leaders should address an environmental and economic crisis more significant than any of these: the loss of "America's Wetland" in coastal Louisiana.

I don't know about the "ironically, however" construction, but that's fine because the message is loud in clear. She's a feisty one, and I like it. Budget be damned!

Saturday roundup 

It's mostly budget news in the state papers this morning. Most reporters find that the legislators think it's a pretty fair budget, though criticism most definitely comes from business lobby over aforementioned phase-outs. The strongest criticism comes from the editors of the T-P.

She says she will ask lawmakers to pass a bill to phase out the taxes at some future date, with no change in the 2004-05 fiscal year. When the phaseout might begin or how long it might last are a mystery.

The reason for the delay, she says, is that the state's finances are too precarious. The state's finances are no more precarious now than they were in August or October or January. They are exactly what they were expected to be.

That makes it difficult to understand why the governor has suddenly decided that the state can't afford to do what she promised again and again to do.

This is certainly a valid criticism, though the editors offer very little practical solutions for how her office could balance the budget without these taxes aside some vague allusion to the notion that in the past deficits have "somehow magically disappear[ed] during the budget process."

Like I said yesterday, these taxes ought to be phased out, but not all at once or before the state is ready to make other arrangements to cover budget priorities. I hope that will be my last word on this until the legislature actually begins its next session.

In other news, state agencies and lawmakers alike are furious at the Bush administration and the OMB for refusing to release a comprehensive study on coastal restoration and protection projects. The document's publication was initially scheduled for release in October of 2003, but OMB has been delaying in order to look at shorter term alternatives to projects supposedly deemed viable in the report. The state has decided to release their own summary of the findings of the study and should do so in the next month.

And in some really big news that seems to have been flying under the radar lately (I think I mentioned it last week, but haven't talked about it since), "retirement boards" have really fucked the pension fund for thousands of state employees. They've essentially wasted over $500 million in high risk investments over a period of a few years. It's surprising that I haven't seen any editorials about this debacle yet. Maybe when the legislature actually takes action we'll get one.

Locally, it looks like the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival could see a major shakeup this year. For as long as I can remember there were two festivals; a "predominantly" black festival and a "predominantly" white festival. This year the city is considering shutting down the Afro American Crawfish Festival. The organizers owe the city money and their ability to accommodate the growing crowds is inadequate. Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to attend knows this is a self-segregated party. Hopefully Breaux Bridge officials can find a way to consolidate the festivals instead of simply shutting the black one down, which seems like a p.r. nightmare no matter how you look at it. It might be a matter of semantics, but sometimes gestures and symbols can stave off a lot of future problems.

Finally, pitcher Kevin Ardoin tossed one of the great games in UL history last night. After giving up a hit on his third pitch of the game to the first batter, he managed to retire twenty-seven straight. It doesn't sound like much, but that's one mistake from a perfect game. He appears to be the staff's ace this year, and will surely be a joy to watch as the season goes on. So Lafayette area baseball fans would do well to check the young man out. And if softball's your thing, then it wouldn't hurt to check in on Brooke Mitchell, who threw her fourth no hitter of the season yesterday (admittedly a more common occurrence in softball), and continues to shine as one of the nation's best pitchers. That's my plug for Cajun sports today. I don't give too many of them, but you'll have to deal with when I do.

27 February 2004

Foregone conclusion dept. 

As I said this morning, LABI wasn't going to let this budget through without putting in their two cents (ironically near the same contribution they would prefer to make to the state budget) about Blanco's proposed tax swap. It only took a few hours for them to get to it. You can read about it here.

Time Killing Game of the Week 

Classic edition. It's Pac-Man, enjoy. If old school arcade games are up your alley, then try Dugout too.

Wow 

I thought I was mean in my little inter-blog spat a couple of weeks ago, but Jesse's readers really are going to town on this poor guy. Some of the comments are amost unforgivable. Seems like bad karma if you ask me.

Budget and miscellany 

Read about it here. Lawmakers seem pleased, but as usual early numbers rely quite heavily on "uncertain funds." At least the cuts are spread around a pretty wide field.

Oh yeah, my truck stop hooker friends who are reading should take note that a pretty nasty serial killer may be on the loose.

A thundering herd 

That's what you can expect from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry when they manage to respond to Kathleen Blanco's budget, which is scheduled to be released today. Yesterday she proposed a tax swap which in its essence breaks her campaign pledge to immediately begin phasing out certain franchise taxes facing businesses. I'm not a budget analyst or anything, so I don't know the immediate effects of something like this, but as much as I hate LABI's influence on policy in this state, the burden on businesses is too great, and it is preventing growth. However, budget priorities of health care and education require significant revenue to come from somewhere, and until there is further progressive reform of our tax code, business will bear the burden of social program costs.

Vitter in trouble 

I don't think it will be trouble getting out the black vote when the time comes for the next Senate election. They seem to really hate David Vitter.

I'm not going to pretend I know whether or not Vitter's aggressive pursuit of "political corruption" in New Orleans is motivated by racism, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I will say that the black community in the metro area has been upset with Vitter for a very long time, and Vitter's district isn't exactly concerned with the needs of black voters. Hell, most of the people that live in LA-1 moved there to get away from the darkies anyway. Vitter is doing the right thing by trying to start a dialogue, and hopefully the coalition that came out so strongly against will take him up on it.

No s-? dept. 

Here's a headline from the morning paper:

BESE's outgoing chief: Funding crisis facing La. schools

With the kind of administrative skills it takes to make that kind of observation it's a wonder he's the "outgoing chief."

Much ado 

The papers make a very big deal about Tauzin cutting off negotiations with PhRMA, and it looks like some of them mistake Tauzin's intentions by suggesting that he won't ever accept a job lobbying for the drug industry. Fortunately the T-P seems to get the story straight by showing that Tauzin has only cut off talks until he actually retires. They state very clearly that he hasn't "ruled out" lobbying on behalf of the industry. So the truth is that this story is meaningless. The chances are that he's already hashed out most of the terms of any future employment by the group anyway. That he has cut off talks now means nothing if he plans to go work for them in the future. The damage is long done. They were courting each other while Tauzin was putting together a "prescription drug benefit." New developments in this case are unimportant.

Cha-ching 

There's so much news to talk about today that I really don't know where to start. And when in doubt, the best thing to do is talk about the best running back in the NFL, Deuce McAllister.

It seems that Dulymus was involved in some sort of fight at a Bourbon Street dance club. The extent to which he was involved is in question, though the Saints say that he was trying to mediate the altercation but ended up getting dragged into it. Reporter Jeff Duncan tries to suggest that the Deuce may have been injured in the fight, but there is absolutely nothing in the story to suggest he may have been hurt other than the fact that he was in a fight at all.

Next time I'm in New Orleans I'll be rolling down Bourbon Street starting fights with every third guy in the hopes that Deuce will try to "mediate." I wonder if the people involved asked for his autograph.

26 February 2004

Drudge funny too 

the big headline over there right now is "Rosie weds 'wife' in San Fran". The quotes on wife were a nice touch. Don't ask me why I found it funny, because I can't quite explain it...I wonder if famously gay Drudge was invited to the wedding.

Anyway, won't be able to watch the remaining Democrats duke it out around the roundtable tonight. They always seem to have debates when I have a basketball game to attend. Has anyone else noticed how the format changes drastically for nearly everyone of these things? I heard CNN talking about it this afternoon, and they described a "free-form discussion around a table." I wonder if George Stephanopoulos (sp?) will be there with George Will.

crude humor? 

You got me, but even if it's unintentional this guy has the funniest blog title I've come across yet. Tbagged: as invasive as it is tasty. Way gooder than bad. Jeez, if Mary gets some freaked out referrals for "naked furniture" than this guy must take the cake on random google searches. I'll admit to not looking too much at the site, but he appears to be a reasonable lefty with all the standards on his blogroll.

More gay marriage 

It looks like Louisiana is doing its damndest to be the most hostile environment to gay couples in the entire country. Not only has our legislature already passed laws banning the state from recognizing gay marriages that might occur in other states (Hawaii anyone), but they're working on an amendment to make sure this state never allows gay marriage, and they would now like to propose a meaningless resolution that begs the federal government to pass a "Federal Marriage Amendment."

A rep from a Louisiana gay rights group makes the correct observation that for a state whose last gubernatorial election was about almost nothing else other than stopping outmigration and attracting new business, it's pretty stupid to alienate a whole class of people who might be tempted to work and live here because of the state's (to non-natives New Orleans is the state) supposed tolerance for cultural freedom.

Of course maybe that's the whole point of the bill. For too long the mechanics of state politics has been New Orleans versus the rest of the state. Maybe this is to prevent New Orleans from becoming an even greater mecca for the GLBT community, which we saw could be a pretty powerful interest group in city and state politics just in the last gubernatorial election. Unfortunately they're probably not strong enough to stop the further erosion of their rights in the state government. To make things worse the rest of the legislature can look at the polling data and be frightened off of sticking up for what's right. Sigh, I'm starting to sound like Andrew Sullivan on this issue; it's time to find something else to talk about.

Bills on the floor 

The T-P has a report on some new bills in consideration for the coming legislative session. The story is worth taking a look at if you want to know what's on the table this spring. HB-49 strikes me as a worthwhile effort. If ex-cons can't vote, then they should certainly be required to at least register their felony status when applying for licenses to lobby our state agencies. Not to say they should be forever banned from lobbying, but it seems reasonable to make the whole process more transparent to the public.

On the other hand HB-48 looks like another shot across the bow for anyone who might make the unfortunate choice to attempt to raise the state's revenue with new fees or fee-hikes. Balanced budget amendments to the constitution are one thing, but requiring a super majority just to raise fees would make it nearly impossible to regulate new industries and services that spring up naturally as society progresses. It's an awful idea, and hopefully it won't even make it to the public, but considering all the amendments that we're constantly voting on, I suspect we'll see this one on the ballot come November.

There are a few other bills discussed, but those are the only ones which struck me as particularly important. As always, check the link for yourself and come to your own decisions; discuss amongst yourselves.

Expats should read this 

Chris Rose is hilarious today. He describes celebrating Mardi Gras in Los Angeles, a hostile environment if ever there was one. Doctor in the morning; posting in the mid-morning. Until then...

25 February 2004

No mas 

At the risk of scourging a dead horse, I intend to make this my only/final statement regarding "The Passion of the Christ" on this blog until I either see the movie or go deaf from the ranting.

First of all, we should all be able to agree on at least two things before I get into this. If you can't agree with me here, you may as well stop reading this post. The first is that William Donohue is a know-nothing blowhard. Anything he says should be immediately ridiculed and then dismissed so that honest debate can move forward. The second is that many minorities and majorities alike can be overly-sensitive when they sense they are being attacked.

So with that aside, I'll just lay down my thoughts about this controversy, and then I'll be lucky if I never have to talk about it again. First of all, I'm very suspicious of Mel Gibson's motives in making this movie. One thing, he's a big-time Hollywood producer, so by definition he's a money-grubbing Jew businessman with very limited interests. I've found that people whose first interest is enriching themselves through the movie business generally have very little concern for things like truth or honesty, whether that be historical, biblical, or even artistic. There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but when a movie producer starts making claims about the spiritual power and truth of a movie enmeshed in controversy, I don't have a lot of reason to take them at their word.

My other suspicion is that Mel Gibson's church isn't just one that's different from my own, rather it's defined itself by opposition to the people who are the worldly stewards of my faith. At the center of this opposition was the Catholic Church's second Vatican council, when among many other things the Catholic Church "absolved" the Jewish people for any responsibility they may have had in the events portrayed in this movie, namely Christ's crucifixion. I'm all for ecumenicism, and I truly believe that we have more to learn about our faith through the aggressive study and meditation on where faiths diverge, but I'm not sure that an ecumenical approach requires me to endorse some none-too-bright movie star's attacks on the teachings of my Church.

As for anti-semitism, I guess that debate is purely academic until I get a chance to see the movie. I will say that considering Mel's old man and some of his own musings on the subject of Jews through history, that there is a lot more reason to be suspicious of what this movie has to say about their responsibility for JC's death. The fact is that the Catholic Church I know teaches us that humanity itself is responsible for the death of Christ. The gospels as a whole portray this message quite clearly. By focusing on the Passion alone, that message is obscured due to the direct culpability of certain pharisees and some screaming "mobs". The Passion with no context is not "the whole point of Christianity" as Ken suggested today (scroll down to "the passion"). Christ's suffering means nothing without his message and resurrection. They mean nothing without the guiding power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of God. They mean nothing without the Word expressed throughout the Bible and by its adherents. Mel Gibson's "Passion" tries to reduce all of Christianity to the twelve final hours of JC's life. That's why Holy Week in the Catholic Church consists of way more than just one mass on Good Friday where the congreation, pastor, and lectors recreate in the Passion. Rather the Church's most Holy day is Easter, which celebrates the culmination of God's promise in the resurrection.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I'm sorry I had to get so serious on you guys about this. I'm still reserving judgment on the film until I see it, but like I said from the beginning, I'm very suspicious of the whole enterprise.

He just lost my vote 

Chris John has said he would support the Federal Marriage Amendment if it comes to the floor of the House. Jaysus. I usually forgive Louisiana politicians for taking moderate to conservative positions on social issues. I understand the state we live in isn't as liberal as I want it to be, but I honestly can't bring myself to vote for someone who could see this amendment as a good thing. That leaves John Kennedy, who is still a bit of an unknown quantity as far as I'm concerned. He "can't be reached for comment" regarding this, but we'll see what he says about it in the future.

I'm usually not even a single issue voter, but I believe this is the kind of issue that is an indicator for what values a person has. If Congressman John is supporting it for political reasons, then he should be ashamed of himself for willingly supporting discrimination just to win votes, and if he actually believes in this amendment then he's a backwards facing homophobe.

Homos 

The topic of the day for a whole wealth of reasons is obviously gay marriage and the Marriage Amendment endorsed by soon-to-be ex-President George Bush. Unfortunately not online is a story in the Advocate which named Baton Rouge Republican Richard Baker as the cosponsor of the proposed amendment. The story directs us to their end of the year polling data they compiled. In this case the story was on social issues. Here's my post on the poll when I first read about it in their pages, though the link to the actual story seems to be dead...oops, here's the link to the poll.

The poll report brings up the suggestion that the gay marriage question may be a problem of framing, and that opinions sometimes change dramatically depending on how the question is asked, but the voters in Louisiana seem pretty committed to an anti-gay marriage position. Of course this poll says nothing about how voters would respond to an amendment which guarantees the further discrimination of gay people, so we are only left to speculation on that issue.

Helpfully the Shreveport Times, who didn't have to devote multiple pages of print coverage to Mardi Gras in today's edition, prints a story about what it's like for a gay couple to live in Shreveport married in nearly every aspect but for the state of Louisiana and the federal government to recognize it. They don't seem too concerned about a Marriage Amendment, but they certainly don't seem to believe that their lifestyle is somehow threatening to marriage. The irony--which I'm positive I've seen noted elsewhere--is that this couple is probably more of a threat to the "institution" by preventing them from marrying because by forcing them to find other legal arrangements similar to marriage they can serve as an example to other couples who might not care to see their union go before a priest or justice of the peace.

Anyway, the whole point of this post was to say that Richard Baker is a dick for cosponsoring the amendment.

24 February 2004

Lost in space 

First I'd like to make a note of thanks to the Mardi Gras gods for keeping the skies of Lafayette dry for our celebration today. The rain, which had been holding off all morning and afternoon, finally began to fall about an hour ago. After a pretty crazy weekend I took it easy today. I saw my nieces parade around their neighborhood with about ten other kids on bikes and in wagons at the first annual Krewe of Arlington Dr. parade. After that we walked down to the main parade route to watch the Lafayette King's Parade. It's amazing how putting a four year old on your shoulders can help you rake in the throws.

Not long after that it was back to la casa de Prado to spend out the rest of my Mardi Gras dozing on the coach and dreaming about whatever they were talking about on CNN.

Uninterrupted sleep was a necessity after a long weekend of revelry in New Orleans. As my brother kept reminding us, the heart and soul of our group's Mardi Gras--who is a school teacher at a New Orleans Catholic school--really organized a great event this year. He kept us up to date with an itinerary; made sure kegs and crawfish were purchased; repainted our Mardi Gras cart; and even sacrificed his privacy and space to put up what must have been at least six people in his apartment with his wife. So even though he can't read this at his school because of blocking software, I should mention a special bit of thanks to my friend.

With that out of the way, it's great to be back to normal. I can't say how out of the loop I feel after avoiding anything other than print and television news for five days. So after I take care of some morning errands it will be back to blog grind for me.

Note that this entry was created over two days for no reason other than computer troubles.

Back in Lafayette 

Parades today, posting back to normal tonight or tomorrow. Enjoy the last day of preparatory celebration for Mel's "The Passion".

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