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13 March 2004

Plodding along 

This would normally be the space I'd use to roundup the weekend political news in Louisiana, but there's so little of it today I won't waste yours or my time. You should click on the links on the right to get your daily dose if you need it.

I would like to point out Scott Rabalais' column about the collapse of the LSU basketball team and what it means for their tournament future. Regular readers of my ramblings know I'm not exactly LSU's biggest fan. However, I've generally liked their coaching staffs and other people associated with the LSU athletic department. First off is Skip Bertman, who I think is probably single-handedly responsible for the explosion of college baseball talent in this area. He understood that LSU could only benefit through regular competition with tough in-state opponents, so he filled his schedules with regular meetings among smaller state schools. This led to some interesting rivalries and helped to raise the profile of baseball around the state. I think that's a good thing.

Then there's Nick Saban, who I can't help but like despite the fact that every bone in my body stands opposed to LSU football and everything it represents. He's generally a no-nonsense, no excuses coach. He's taken LSU for everything they're worth and he's done it mostly on his terms. Now if only he'd leave the university for the NFL I could finally be happy. Dale Brown's tirade against the NCAA and the Tiger Athletic Foundation upon his retirement was enough to gain him lots of points in my book too.

But then we look at John Brady, current coach of the basketball program and the whiniest whiner that ever did whine. He has been making excuses for his team's poor performance since day one. At first it was the constant reminders to the media that he was being hamstrung by NCAA restrictions. Now he's blaming his troubles on an injured player, who he recently dismissed from the team. In response to questions about the NCAA tournament selection committee, Brady basically said "not my fault":

"Everybody has an opinion on that and what the (NCAA) selection committee is going to base their choice on. Is it the whole season, RPI and strength of schedule? Or can you hold a team accountable for what happens to it that's out of its control?"

I can't tell you much I love to see LSU coaches, who have every single advantage in the world when it comes to fielding winning programs, bitch and moan about how they're not the ones responsible for a team's trouble. Keep it up, Coach, I hope you're in your job for years to come.

Consistency 

You have to love the Bush administration's complete lack of it.

Headline from the AP:

US warns NKorea to stop exporting dangerous weapons or face world action

Meanwhile our "ally" in the "War on Terror" saw press like this not too long ago.

From Rogue Nuclear Programs, Web of Trails Leads to Pakistan

Justification for the war on Iraq: "We must stop the world's most dangerous regimes from securing the world's most dangerous weapons" (or something to that effect). My own slogan for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign: "Don't believe the hype".

12 March 2004

Time-killing Game of the Week 

Seafood Friday edition. I don't know what it is about Insaniquarium that had me playing all weekend, but it's worth passing along to any faithful readers out there who'd like to pass a few minutes. Keep your goldfish alive for as long as you can to earn money and buy stuff. Watch out for aliens. The game saves automatically (feed it cookies).

CajunBot update 

CajunBot was among fifteen qualifiers for tomorrow's $1 million race through the Mojave Desert during the DARPA challenge. Twenty-five robots were invited to compete in this week's qualifying, but only fifteen managed to make it through to tomorrow's million dollar race.

Unfortunately CajunBot couldn't make it through the mile long obstacle course, due to some problems with God knows what, but apparently the little engine that can showed enough promise to sneak through to the money match anyway.

If you want some interesting reading you must check out the CajunBot weblog. It's updated multiple times daily, and the guys writing it are pretty funny even if I don't know a damn thing about the technical jargon they're throwing around most of the time. Here's what they had to say about their obstacle course run:

We went into QID Round II with the modified strategy. CajunBot loved this strategy, for we could see it doing Louisiana two step around the course. In its own merry way, it meandered around as though unaware of any bumps, walls, or other obstacles.

For those who are not familiar with Louisiana two step, its a beautiful and uplifting dance. Typically a large group of couple dances around the dance floor weaving around, often turning 360 degrees, sometimes bumping into other couples.

CajunBot did several 360 degree turns, and as it approached the parked van, it figured it seem to have decided to ask it to dance.

That turned out to be a poor timing for dancing, for DARPA does not permit two vehicles going around the track. You can dance around the track, the policy goes, but you must dance alone.

It was around 1pm when this happened. With this performance, we were clearly out of the race. However, the final whistle had not yet been blown. It was time to put on the Ragin Cajun hat and go for it again.

Within an hour we were back on the track, this time our strategy was to revert CajunBot to a slow and thoughtful pace, just like the other vehicles. Its a shame, but social norm (DARPA rules) and peer pressure does come in the way of fun.

Our QID round III was around 2:30pm.

CajunBot could sense it was the final round too. This was not the time for charming the crowd or the van parked on the route.

...

The bot was very clear from the wall, there was nothing blocking it.

As the official checked around, he sensed the bot lurch, attempting to move.

The official got on the radio yelling 'Bot out of control', 'Bot out of control', and ran to his truck parked about 100 feet away. All the radios were buzzing. There was a lot of commotion. The official yelled on his radio 'diabling bot,' 'disabling bot'. Within a matter of seconds CajunBot was taken out of its thoughtful travel and put to a stop.

I can sense CajunBot thinking "Its hard to live in an adult (DARPA) supervised world." You're penalized for being reckless and fast, you're penalized for charming and frolicking, and you're penalized for being thoughtful and slow.

In the next hour we will have DARPA's decision.

In the end they were ranked seventh out of the fifteen competitors. Hopefully they'll have great luck and favorable conditions in the race tomorrow.

The First Plague 

Somehow I'm absolutely positive this is all George Bush's fault. I'm sure before November someone (Richard Perle?) will come looking for the first born male children.

Ahh, Liberalism 

I have to say that last night I managed to stumble through the Slate piece on George Soros, the Wonkette/Gawker review, and the usual tripe served up by Mickey Kaus (which I can't bring myself to cut out of my net reading). At any rate, I'm reading this trying to figure out what has become of the liberal media, and then I click on over to read the 2millionthweblog (may require some scrolling to "mk: professional asshole") and find that Michael has already summed up all the things I was thinking about the web magazine in the first place. Thanks for that.

Free Advertising 

Damn cheap books available at the Lafayette Public Library's main branch. They're $1/inch for hard cover and $.50/inch for paperback, though prices can go up to reflect demand. They do this twice a year, and even if you go at the last minute there are usually some gems waiting for the person who's willing to look for them. The sale ends on Sunday at 4:00 pm. If you're in the area, you should check it out, and it generates a little dough for a system that isn't exactly one of the big priorities of our city council or the current city-parish executive administration.

Special Session day 4 

File this special session under, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try some time, you might just find, you get what you neeeeed!" The legislature passed a five-year renewal of the taxes Gov. Blanco preferred to make permanent. That's not the perfect outcome, and it certainly won't solve the problem Blanco supposedly set out to solve (Louisiana's volatile bond-rating), but at least it takes this off the table for the next five years and hopefully encourages the legislature to work on more productive projects.

Though there isn't any hard reporting on it, Scott Dyer suggests the Governor may have played some hard-ball with legislators who were, as usual, using the renewal to cash in their chips.

Rep. Tommy Wright, D-Jena, who was opposed to a permanent renewal, but wound up voting in favor of the five-year compromise.

When Wright pulled up at the gate outside the Governor's Mansion on Thursday, he tooted his pickup's horn and told reporters: "I'm going to bring home the bacon for my district."

Upon emerging from the mansion about 15 minutes later, Wright acknowledged that the meeting had changed his mind.

Asked how much bacon he had secured for his vote in the meeting, Wright said: "I don't think I got enough (bacon) for pancakes, or even for a good breakfast."

For some reason, I don't think this guy is being humble here.

And in some more good news, Sen. James David Cain's proposed changes to the oft maligned Stelly Plan have been thrown off the agenda for the Special Session for the second time in a week. The link is to a very brief and probably incomplete description of the procedural rules that allowed Sen. Pres. Don Hines to shut down Cain's proposal again.

Non-required reading 

If you've been reading the Times-Picayune lately then you've probably seen something about the excess bodies donated to science eventually finding their way into the hands the Army, who in turn blow them up in land mine experiments. Tulane has emerged in the center of this controversy in New Orleans, having hired a broker to handle their unused cadavers. Of course, the problems Tulane is having are nowhere near the trouble UCLA can expect, where the head of the university's body donor program was arrested for allegedly selling body parts.

The T-P has another front page report today on the unfortunate circumstances, this time taking a personal approach in contacting some family members of former donors. In an industry that relies so heavily on the trust of potential donors and their family members, these stories could be terribly damaging.

11 March 2004

Pan-Abbevillism 

From the department of very local tom-foolery, comes this story out of a Lafayette broadcaster about a veterans group in Abbeville causing a ruckus over a pan-African flag flying in an Abbeville cultural center.

LaBorde took a poll of fellow veterans in Post 4158. They agreed the the Pan-African flag needs to come down. The flag and its colors represent different things to different people. For some, it symbolizes the struggle for African unity. For others, its a banner of the black liberation movement. That's what bothers the veterans in Abbeville.

"It advocates their goal and thrust is to overthrow the government and create a black country on the north American continent," says LaBorde.

The best part is their offer to buy a Liberian flag to fly in the cultural center in the tri-color's place. These guys are clearly paragons of cultural understanding. This whole report (and this post too) is much ado about nothing, but it's always fun to point out stupidity in the ranks.

Theocratic thug watch 

St. Tammany Parish officials must be having a bad day. First I read about animal control officials there who were forced to seize over 100 dogs from a single residence after

About 60 more mixed-breed dogs were found Wednesday in wooden crates with little ventilation in the home's sprawling back yard, said Brent Robbins, director of animal services for St. Tammany Parish.

Workers also found two puppies that had died recently and the skeletal remains of at least four others, he said.

"These animals were living in the most deplorable conditions imaginable," Robbins said. "We found some of them sitting in their own waste more than a foot deep."

And now I find out a parents group--apparently led by a Baptist preacher (who would have thought?)--is demanding that school board officials shut down Fountainebleau High School's recently formed Gay/Straight Alliance. Unsurprisingly, the parents are worried about those damn homos trying to convert their straight children. Hell, I bet they're even teaching them that they should think about experimenting in some hard core bestiality before giving marriage a try.

Though the club's intentions sound noble, some parents said, they worry that the goal is to advance a national homosexual agenda.

"They accomplish this by gaining a foothold in our nation's schools through the establishment of student-led clubs to propagandize legitimacy for the homosexual lifestyle," said Scott Lester, one of four parents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting.

Unfortunately there seems to be legal precedence for shutting down the club, though the school board is appropriately scared of a possible ACLU response (those damn secularists!) to shutting down the school's Gay/Straight Alliance.

I looked for the club's website, but all I found was this op-ed piece from the Covington News Banner from 2000. It looks like St. Tammany residents have been concerned about the evils of the Gay/Straight Alliance for quite some time. Take a gander at this bit:

Basically, the clubs are attempts by delusioned teens to fuse gay and heterosexual lifestyles and mind-sets - if such a thing was possible. The only thing that will be spawned out of such a heretical alliance is the sinister proselytizing of straight kids. To put it plainly, gays exist not to further the existence of mankind, but to promote the damnable offense of sodomy. And parents should make no mistake about it: straights do not proselytize, gays do. And their primary mission in life is to proselytize youth. They have no other conceivable way of continuing what they think of as the human race unless by in vitro impregnation.

It's clear then that gays eagerly seek acceptance of their so-called gay-straight alliances in the hopes they can recruit border-line homosexuals to their ranks. There is no acceptable proof that the act of being gay is an inherited tract [trait?]. In fact, just the opposite is true and the evidence is irrefutable that many border-line straights slipped the traces through carnal emulation.

Ok, champ. I'm convinced. The last thing I want is for more "border-line straights" to slip the traces. These are the people that possible US Senator David Vitter has been pleasing to the tune of something like 75% favorability ratings for the last decade.

Quote of the Day 

meta edition

The San Diego Union Tribune described the visual spectacle of Britney's latest show as "what might happen if Penthouse magazine were edited by Beavis and Butthead."

Lyrics from one song include: "I don't wanna be a tease; will you undo my zipper please," and, for the first time, I finally believe she actually DOES write her own songs.

From Chris Rose this morning, where he addresses, as usual, a host of local and not-so-local happenings.

More taxes 

This will probably be the way I start most days until this session is completed. Today's surprise is that the two most interesting things I read this morning were letters to the Advocate's editors. Unfortunately they don't post these online, but if you pick up today's print edition somewhere take note of the letters from fmr. Gov. Mike Foster and Vic Stelly.

Stelly's letter addresses Sen James David Cain's tax proposals which would reinstate excess federal itemized deductions on taxpayer's income. Stelly says that he never intended to prevent lawmakers from doing this otherwise he would have added it to the language in the amendment he helped to write. However, he doesn't come out and endorse the proposal because of a lot of concerns about the state budget and spending priorities routinely agreed upon by legislators and the state administration. The T-P editorial board also sizes up Cain's disingenuous proposal, noting that everyone knew the tax swap wasn't revenue neutral, and that the fact that it would increase revenue was one of the main reasons anyone supported it in the first place. Consider this blunt language from their editors:

The thing is, it's no surprise that income tax revenues are expected to grow over time. And Sen. Cain knows that. In the weeks leading up to the 2002 vote on the constitutional amendment that put the tax changes in place, the senator and then-Rep. Vic Stelly debated the merits of reducing state sales taxes and increasing income taxes.

Rep. Stelly said then -- and not for the first time -- that income tax revenues were expected to grow over the years. In fact, that was one of the benefits of the change, he argued. The income tax would grow with inflation -- and, presumably, as jobs are added and salaries increase. The extra money would be enough, he hoped, to pay for mandated increases in education spending that were on the horizon.

...

In its analysis of the Stelly proposal, the Public Affairs Research Council found that the vast majority of taxpayers would get a tax break because of the sales tax reduction.

Sen. Cain and other opponents of the Stelly plan don't talk about the sales tax reduction and its benefits, though. They're the ones who are being misleading, not Vic Stelly.


I'll let them have the last word on that. Meanwhile, Gov. Foster takes on one of his pet peeves, those temporary taxes which the new Governor is trying to make permanent. While Foster doesn't come out and explicitly endorse Blanco's proposal, he does say that lawmakers need to make a decision about these taxes one way or another. He says in no uncertain terms that the constant need to renew temporary taxes in every fiscal session is crippling the state's bond rating and making it increasingly difficult for the Louisiana economy to grow by any significant measure. This comes on the same day that Blanco has hit her first stumbling block in the legislature, and you can bet that stumbling block is over making those temporary taxes permanent. Foster also alludes to lawmaker's resistance to making these taxes permanent. They love to use them as a bargaining chip every time the taxes are up for renewal. One lawmaker on record against making the tax permanent misleads people with this remark

Odinet said he can't support Blanco's proposal to make the tax permanent because he has four oil refineries in his district that use huge amounts of utilities, and they hope to eventually get rid of the tax.

The fact is that taxes can be repealed with a simple majority in both houses. They don't need to go to the people, and they aren't locked up tight by strange procedural rules. There is no reason for legislators to believe that a tax made "permanent" is set in stone until the end of time. However, it does take it off the agenda every other year, and prevents lawmakers from using them as leverage for their own agenda. It's time for this business to stop, and it's nice to see that Foster is still concerned about it in his retirement.

10 March 2004

Damfalessons 

Two things every reader of Damfacrats should take to heart. If necessary make them a mantra:

Lawsuits are good
&
Get over John McCain

Candidate websites 

You can check in on the two remaining candidates in District 45 at their websites. Oddly enough, the two winners were the only ones who actually included a web address on their campaign signs. I'm sure this says something about the power of the Internet in political campaigning, but it's beyond my ability to fathom. Oh well, without further ado,

Buzz Durio
Joel Robideaux

And if you want a lesson in nuance, go check out where candidate Durio stands on "The Tough Issues" (that's actually pretty funny, trust me, click on it).

Holy hair clippings! 

Any football fans recognize this guy?

Not sure? Click here.

What they were meant for 

Personally, I can't wait to see where these fellas are going to take this website. The more updates the better as far as I'm concerned.

And by the way, I don't think anyone else has noticed this, but have you seen that George Bush is a big hypocrite who has been selling overnights in the White House and Camp David?

God Bless Scalia 

The Supreme Court justice was in New Orleans yesterday to give a speech to the Louisiana Organization for Judicial Excellence. He didn't address the controversy surrounding that high profile trip he took down this way to go duck hunting with VP Dick Cheney, but that didn't stop him from making incendiary comments about the bench on which he plops his fat ass a few times a year.

"It is literally true that the U.S. Supreme Court has entirely liberated itself from the text of the Constitution," Scalia said at a conference Uptown on the merit selection of judges.

...

[T]he Sixth Amendment, he said, gave defendants the right to have an attorney -- but it never meant for the state to have to pay for it. The courts made up "a brand new meaning," he said.

Jaysus. I don't know what to say about this. In Scalia's world justice is better served when people who can't afford lawyers simply don't get to have an attorney.

Coincidentally, a report was released yesterday saying what? You guessed it, Louisiana's public defenders are woefully underfinanced and generally incapable of serving their clients to the best of their ability.

Quote of the Day 

From a story about Blanco's budget finding much less resistance than all of last week's bluster from legislative Republicans and various business interests suggested:

Now, state law pours anything more than $750 million in state oil and gas revenues into the state's "rainy day" savings account. The bill would raise that threshold to $850 million.

...

"It's raining," said Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles. "We need the money."

Yeah, I'll second that.

As a side note, I'll say that Blanco seems to be handling these lawmakers like a real pro. Legislators sounded every intention that they would fight certain portions of the budget tooth and nail, but when it came down to it they have mostly rolled over for the budget. It's still early in the special session, but things seem to be proceeding without a hitch for the governor.

Meanwhile, some jerk at PoliticsLA.com rails on about Kathleen Blanco as the "twin sister" of Gov. Mike Foster. In a series of slippery slope arguments about the evils of "big government", and a very cynical view of Blanco's intentions with the recent Health Care Summit, "Then she holds a healthcare summit, parading people’s suffering, not for their benefit, but for her own...Come one, come all, share your disease, remind us how much better off we all are than you," Jeff Blanco sounds like a man deranged; much worse than my favorite columnist at the increasingly partisan (was that possible?) website.

At it's most base level, at least there is an argument. So he doesn't think government can create solutions to the debilitating problems that have been crippling this state for decades. Look hard in that column for a suggestion anywhere as to how these problems should be addressed. Who else is trying to ensure that Louisiana's poorest residents have available health care? Who else is proposing a way to better educate Louisiana's youth? Even the conservatives in their frenzy for vouchers want the government to pay money to private schools. If not government, then who? Jeff doesn't seem to care. [hyperbole alert]I guess he thinks Louisiana would be better off if the poor in this state were to continue living only marginally better than their third world counterparts.[/hyperbole] Hell, anything's better than the evil government stepping in to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.

Censure 

Remember Mike Baer? He's the LA Senate sec. who sent the dirty emails out to the entire capitol building. Initially Senate President Don Hines couldn't do much about it besides reduce his responsibilities. Op Ed columnists around the state rightly called foul on this since the result was less work for the same money.

Well it only took two days into the special session for the Senate to address this problem in SR 8. It calls for a thirty day suspension without pay, compulsory apology to the residents of Louisiana, and the possibility that his duties could be further restricted by the Senate President.

Oddly, in the closed door session where Baer's fate hung in the balance, the Senate allowed Baer's family to watch the proceedings. According the Advocate's coverage his wife was eventually asked to leave under the gaze of the sergeant-at-arms. Apparently she was directing accusations at certain members of the Senate who were calling for the secretary's dismissal of politics beyond issues that happened within the legislature. Consider this ominous ending to their report:

Debbie Baer intervened with some senators on her husband's behalf, making phone calls to try to rally support.

"She was personally affronted by the whole situation," Mike Baer said.

Mike Baer said his wife, an attorney, believes the attack on him has more to do with a lawsuit "involving two people on this (Senate) floor" in which opposing counsel is Baton Rouge lawyer Lewis Unglesby.

Mike Baer did not name the two senators he referred to, but Marionneaux has worked out of Unglesby's law office.

This seems like a man clutching at straws to me, but it certainly does open the door for a load of questions for these lawmakers. Of course, when you're the Senate secretary, I imagine that you pretty much hold the key to all kinds of unflattering relationships, deals, and the like for most of the lawmakers in the state. In fact, considering the kinds of things Baer probably knows about all these Senators, it's a wonder they are being so hard on him.

Election results 

In the shocker of the night, John Kerry won some delegates from Louisiana. He ended up winning 70% of the vote, though that only accounts for just less than 112,000 voters. Drop-out candidate John Edwards managed to capture some delegates too with a cool 16% of voters. Somehow Bill Wyatt managed to grab 4% of the primary vote from the GOP.

In the 45th district, we have these results.

1,165 19% Denice Comeaux-Skinner, R
708 12% L.T. "Butch" Dupre', R
1,850 31% Steven G. "Buzz" Durio, R
1,622 27% Joel Robideaux, O
652 11% Beverly Broussard Wilson, O

So we have a runoff between Buzz Durio (I voted for a winner) and Joel Robideaux. Tomorrow I'll try and contact the candidates by email to see if I can't manage an exclusive Timshel interview. I imagine my Lafayette reader(s) (Mom? Sis?) will find it very informative.

09 March 2004

Good for something 

Al Franken was at LSU and I didn't know a thing about it. Michael was there, and you can read about it at 2millionthweblog (don't call it a blog).

I guess I'm glad I hadn't heard about this, otherwise I may have considering skipping out on the Cajun's twentieth win of the season to see the event. Tonight the Cajuns guaranteed themselves a slot in the NCAA tournament. It was an ugly win, but they got the job done, and that's all a not-even-mid major fan can hope for. Right now the likely opponent for them is NC State in Orlando, though you can never know for sure with these things.

Minutiae 

I can't tell you guys how happy it makes me that Atrios is now using spoiler protection/invisible text over at Eschaton.

For a minute I thought I was reading the message boards over at TWOP.

[spoiler]I can do it too, hee, hee.[spoiler]

Tauzin has cancer 

The doctors and Tauzin are confident with the prognosis, but I'd be terriried if I found out I had a "rare form or intestinal cancer." Timshel prayers go out to the Congressman, who I've been kicking around since I started this website. It's not the Prado way to wish health problems on people though.

...link

I heart N.Y. 

Too bad about this.

Reminder, my beloved Cajuns are taking on the Privateers of UNO tonight on ESPN2 at approximately 8:00 pm CST(it could be delayed should previous games go on longer than expected). Don't be confused by the giant towel design in the center of the court with WKU written on it, they are only the hosts. Although if you look hard enough, you may see Western Kentucky's crazy orange blob of a mascot hanging around.

It takes three to mark a trend 

disillusioned bloggers with big-time traffic

Jesse
Tbogg
Scoobie

It's time for us small timers to pounce on their directionless readers. Matt, I'm looking at you here.

Interesting 

Foster can't seem to let go. I don't know what truth there is to this kind of political insider gossip, but jaysus, if it is, Mike Foster is incorrigible. From last week's (but posted yesterday) LA Weekly "Inside Political Track":

Some had considered the President of the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women a potential fourth candidate for State GOP chairman, but Jessie Morton decided against a run. This surprised many in the RSCC.

As head of the most powerful constituency in the State Republican Party, Morton would have been hard to beat. No one knew if she had an alternative reason for her decision, until now.

The Louisiana Weekly has learned that former Gov. Mike Foster has asked Morton to run for mayor of Franklin, Louisiana -- the governor's hometown. Sources reveal that Foster urged Morton to choose the executive post in the small Acadiana town with its antebellum mansions and sugar plantations, so he could have a voice in local affairs in his retirement years.

This looks like it could easily be myth-making stuff, but it isn't hard to believe either.

3rd District News 

Hunt Downer, the man who would be the GOP front-runner, has decided not to run for Billy Tauzin's soon-to-be empty seat in the House (see press release here, .pdf). On the state level, the GOP has been pushing Downer ever since he switched parties. They tried to whittle down the gubernatorial field to promote his candidacy before Jindal jumped in, and now they have pinned all their hopes on him in LA-3. Now a variety of Republicans are eyeing the race, including Tauzin's son, who formed an exploratory committee yesterday.

Frankly, I think this is probably a blessing in surprise for the Republican Party. I am decidedly unimpressed with Hunt Downer as a candidate. He made a pitiful showing in most of the debates while running for Governor last year, and he doesn't seem to have the stomach or the balls for running a federal campaign. The news reports and his press release don't mention the political machinations that led to this decision, but I wonder if the national party didn't step in to quietly shove Hunt out of the race in the hopes that a better candidate could come forward.

Landrieu a Star 

Stephanie Grace has a good column today about Mary Landrieu's chances of being on the Presidential ticket next year. Right now no one really believes that her chances are very good, but there is no question that her profile in the national Party is rising. It started with her 2002 thrashing (okay, I'm allowed to overstate when I want to) of witchy woman Suzy Terrell and by proxy George W. Bush, and has continued in the desire by party insiders to promote her version of moderated liberalism. She has been a good soldier in the party over the last seven years in office, but doesn't look to have sold out her own political beliefs or the interests of most Louisianians. Of course there is a question of whether she could be a full-time forceful advocate for the decidedly more liberal John Kerry, but that doesn't always stop ticket moderation.

Something Grace doesn't mention (or Kos for that matter, where in this post he talks about his desire to see our junior Senator on the ticket) is that Louisiana has the advantage right now of having a Democratic governor, so in the event of a Kerry/Landrieu presidential victory, Kathleen Blanco could appoint a Democrat to take over the last four years of Landrieu's term. This would prevent the opportunity of a GOP Senate seat pickup. Kos also speaks of a complete lack of national security cred, but isn't Landrieu on the Armed Services Committee?

Anyway, I'm with these people that Landrieu probably is pretty low down on the list of possible Veep selections, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun to speculate about the possibilities.

Round one to Blanco 

The first major political test for Kathleen Blanco went off without a hitch as her tax proposals made it through the House Ways and Means Committee with overwhelming approval and got what looks like an endorsement from LABI president Dan Juneau on the delayed phase out of those troubling taxes on manufacturing purchases and corporate debt.

Blanco's tax swap received a major shot in the arm when Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Dan Juneau testified in favor of the bills eliminating the corporate franchise tax on debt and the state sales tax on machinery and equipment.

"I don't think ever has a governor taken such positive actions toward eliminating two very big disincentives for economic development in the state of Louisiana," Juneau said.

Juneau said the state has lost 1,200 jobs in the past five years at the same time that thousands of Louisianians have tried to find jobs.

"When there's a net reduction in the job market and you're looking for a job, you have a few choices -- you can stay unemployed, you can be underemployed, or you can go someplace else to find work, and way too many have gone someplace else to find work," Juneau said.

To be sure, the legislature still has to vote on this, but Juneau's testimony should help these legislators to get with the program. It looks like Blanco was smart to push for bills now that would guarantee the phase out would being in fy 2005-06, that way LABI and other business interests didn't see the phase out as an empty promise, rather it will be written into the law now, but only enacted later.

And an extra victory for the forces of good in the state came when Senate President Don Hines threw out Sen. James Cain's bill that would repeal the Stelly tax swap. The bill was thrown out on the grounds that it couldn't be included in the agenda provided by the governor for the special session. Legislators will have to wait another year before they can bring up the Stelly Plan because of our even/odd year rules on what lawmakers can address when they are in session, and by then voters will hopefully be used to the difference in income tax because of the swap and have learned to live with it.

going to the polls 

I'll be one of the few people in Louisiana who actually takes the time out to vote today. With ballots across the state mostly meaningless, voters have very little reason to haul themselves out to their precinct headquarters. I, however, have three Republicans and two "independents" to choose from in the race for Jerry "Luke" LeBlanc's old seat in the state House. I've followed the race about as closely as one can considering our local newspaper refuses to print more than a three or four page A section and probably only employs two or three full-time news writers. These independents don't sound much different from the Republicans running, so I'm left in a bit of a lurch. On the advice of some people I respect, I've decided to vote for Buzz Durio, a Republican lawyer running for the seat.

I could digress into a long post with a bunch of links to local news about how important it is to vote anyway, but the fact of the matter is that unless you have a race for local positions, it really doesn't much matter one way or the other if you vote. There are some party leadership positions being decided, but only very rarely does the average voter even know who these people are anyway. It doesn't do much good to go in and pull the lever for random names, but that's your right, so if it's what you want to do go ahead and knock yourself out.

08 March 2004

Victory 

My Cajuns won in the semifinals of their conference basketball tournament tonight, which means they are now one game away from the NCAA Tournament. Watch nationally tomorrow night on ESPN2.

Sorry about the slow posting today. It's been a busy one.

New Senate candidate 

Scroll way down this link to find out that state Senator Arthur A. Morrell from New Orleans plans to throw his hat in the ring this Thursday.

More later (tomorrow? maybe not until he actually announces) on how having a black Democrat in the race might affect the politics of the next election, and what it means for the possibilities of the Democrats holding on to John Breaux's seat in the US Senate. As a preview, I'll say it won't make much of a difference.

Promotions dept. 

Help a brother out.
Wisconsin lacks blog readers,
for BFOP Haiku.


Update @ 2:00 pm:
Advertisements kill:
a lesson in maintenace
learned the hardest way.

just kidding on the square, if there's money to be milked from these things, go for it.

Untapped electoral potential 

Yesterday the Advocate ran a groundbreaking story on "Hog Dog rodeos" where dogs and feral pigs meet in epic grudge matches. The fights are promoted by a pair of mouth breathers from East Feliciana Parish.

The arena where the fights occur doesn't look much better than a pavilion at a second-rate city park, but that hasn't discouraged the event's organizers or fans of the festival. I wouldn't have cared much about this story, except now it appears to have legs. The AP has picked it up and added that it could be shut down because of health code violations at the concession stand and the health problems associated with the untreated hog waste at the site.

But how could they shut down what might be the underground cultural phenomena of the deep south? What could be more fun than watching wild pigs go toe to toe with dogs? I know, I know. You're thinking that you don't want to watch because they've cut the pigs tusks off, and that it's not really a fair fight if the pigs can't gore the dogs. At least when cowboys try to ride bulls they have to avoid the blunted horns. The dogs clearly have an unfair advantage.

But you don't understand. People don't want to eat the dogs. It just wouldn't be as much fun to slaughter a couple of losing mutts after the festival and then roast them on a spit. These pigs are fighting for their lives though. It's a Darwinian struggle for survival that not even the best of reality television programming can capture. And besides, these pigs are menacing. Look at the evil emanating from their eyes. They can't wait to root through rural dwellers' trash cans and feed bins. Running wild in the woods just isn't enough to keep these scavengers happy. They like fighting the dogs in a pen. It's their only shot at glory.

link to removed image

The Baton Rouge reporter ensures us that these "rodeos" are occurring across the south, which leads me to wonder when "hog fight cousins" will gain the electoral significance of "NASCAR dads." I'm sure we'll see reams of newsprint on the swing group within the week.

Thanks to the Advocate for providing pictures to an absolutely captivating story.

Who could have known? 

It doesn't take a political expert to figure the turnout for Louisiana's Presidential primary tomorrow isn't going to be very high. But that hasn't dashed the hopes of "novelty" candidate Bill McGaughey. The Minnessota Democrat has been criss-crossing Louisiana because it's the only state he could qualify in. He's desperate for all the state's delegates and a voice at the convention.

If you think you missed McGaughey during his whirlwind tour around the Pelican State, think back: If you saw a 60ish, ruddy-complected, red-haired fellow decked in thrifty clothes, a short, fat circa ‘70s tie that stops a foot short of his belt buckle, carrying a forest green tote bag stuffed with papers, well, that may have been him.

McGaughey is a Yale-educated, former classmate of Joe Lieberman who once took a class with the hero of Louisiana literature, author Robert Penn Warren. He hates free-trade agreements and bunks at Motel-6. I don't know what it is about this guy, but I wish I'd have met him. Oh well, I've actually got a reason to vote tomorrow with our election of a representative to the state House, so maybe I'll pull the lever for the guy since Kerry's going to win anyway.

Budgets and taxes 

The only thing that happened with regards to the special session between the stories I linked to yesterday and those I'm about to send you to was a speech where Kathleen Blanco said exactly what her opponents and supporters said she would. Namely, she'd like to start the phaseout on corporate debt and manufacturing purchases with her next budget, but only if legislators will consider making some other eighteen year old "temporary"taxes permanent. LABI and many Republican legislators are just as unhappy about this in today's paper as they were in yesterday's. Go figure.

link...
link...
link to "news analysis" by AP writer Alan Sayre which is probably more worthwhile than the previous two links.

07 March 2004

Sunday reading 

It's not surprising that the special legislative session slated to open this evening and the requisite tax issues that need to be settle would dominate newspaper coverage today. At issue is Blanco's call to make certain "temporary" taxes permanent and her decision to delay the phase out of taxes on corporate debt, machinery purchases, etc. The stories largely focus on whether or not the final budget will look anything like the one Blanco sent to the legislature just a couple of weeks ago. Unsurprisingly the business lobby and scores of political columnists are squarely opposed to the budget. They want the phase outs to begin immediately, and they are mostly opposed to transforming the temporary taxes into permanent ones. Marsha Shuler, who probably has the best report on the impending session, notes that they make these demands without much in the way of suggestions for covering the subsequent revenue loss. In the end, the budget probably won't look much different from past documents. You can read other accounts here and here. You can read the editors of The Advocate's call for immediate phase outs of corporate franchise taxes here, and take a look at Carl Redman's somewhat more balanced look at what Blanco hopes to accomplish here.

Of course, business taxes aren't the only thing that's important in Louisiana. The T-P's Gordon Russell has an amazing story about the ethically very questionable connection between State Senator Francis Heitmeier, a Democrat from Algiers, and the Bally's Belle of New Orleans riverboat casino. Heitmeier sponsored multiple bills that successfully slashed Bally's fiscal responsibility to the state, and within a week of one bill's passage saw his brother secure a contract from Belle's to provide crew members for the boat. Both sides fervently deny any allegations of wrongdoing, though the circumstantial evidence and the history of gaming industry politics in this state should give most readers pause when taking the principals at their word in these matters.

But who cares about the big stuff? In Baton Rouge there's a short article about the two sides involved in the proposed state legislation that would make it unconstitutional to marry gay people. Legal arms of groups like Focus on the Family reveal their true position as instigators of discrimination by challenging even the domestic partnership ordinance in New Orleans, which really doesn't do much other than ensure that gay couples will have the right to see each other in hospitals and receive very limited partnership benefits by insurers and in estate management.

And in the purely political news, Gerald Shields briefly profiles LA-3 candidate for Congress, Democrat Charlie Melancon. He's getting out in front of this game very early, and is positioning himself as the front runner before there is even an officially open seat.

Read up and then proceed to enjoy your Sunday. Don't forget that the new season of The Sopranos begins tonight.

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