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20 March 2004

Saturday Roundup 

There are only a few things to call your attention to this morning, so I'll keep this one short. The biggest news out of Baton Rouge is that LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert will probably move on to take the job as President of the University of Washington, his alma mater. I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole matter. Readers know my distaste for all things LSU, and I'm generally skeptical of anyone who has received the near universal praise of media and business types for the last few years. I don't mean to diminish what he has accomplished during his tenure. There is little doubt in my mind that LSU has come a long way over the last half a dozen years or so. However the way many have put Emmert on a pedestal as the driving force behind all this seems like evidence that Emmert is at least as skilled a politician as some would say he is an administrator. I won't bother to address the problems I see with private foundations like the Tiger Athletic Fund kicking in big portions of his salary, which has been one of the few things Emmert has faced sustained public scrutiny for during his employment by the state (though he eventually con[ned]vinced them and other private groups into nearly $500,000 a year--is any chancellor worth that much?). Oh well. Here's an easy prediction to make. You can expect some editorials by people from the Advocate and the Pic lamenting Emmert's departure in the next week or so. Then, soon after LSU finally makes a hire (which could take a very long time as these things go), you'll start seeing stories in the same papers about problems at LSU and people trying to pin the blame on Mark Emmert. (more here too)

Well, that was longer than I thought. Nothing much to say about this story. It's just an interesting one about Bayou St. John in New Orleans being a dumping ground for car thieves and insurance cheats. Also, I never knew that cars burned up on the side of the highway are usually the result of people scamming their insurance companies too. I guess you learn something new every day.

And here's a story about online voting at the local University. They've been letting students vote from their home computers there for a few years now, and this year received complaints about improprieties by students. For some reason, the state's commissioner of elections (an employee of the Secretary of State thanks to the fine work of former elected official Suzy Terrell) was questioned about it, and said UL or any other school shouldn't offer online voting.

For the record, I'm glad Mr. Martin is so adamantly opposed to online voting of any sort (he even makes a point to mention the importance of paper trails). While this online voting at UL bares little resemblance to touch screen voting at individual precincts, the central fact that votes are sent through the ether to be counted up by a central database should be a concern of people who want to maintain the integrity of elections. However, I think it might be good for colleges and universities to experience all the trouble of online elections. It's a good lesson for younger generations to see just how unsafe this way to vote is.

Have a good day.

19 March 2004

Time-Killing Game of the Week 

Better things to do edition. From the fine people at B3ta.com we are directed to this fantastic racing game. Each level is more pointless than the one before it. And as their link suggests, it may well be "the worst flash game ever." At least the music is good. You be the judge.

If you want another game no less stupid but perhaps a little more challenging, help the good people of Earth defend our planet from invading alien nuns. It's extremely difficult, but I'm sure an enterprising reader can "flip" the game.


Ha, ha funny 

I'm glad that Eric Alterman has been posting letters from the WingNuts lately. I wish I got enough traffic to get emails like this one.

Altman, where do you get off saying that the war on Iraq was not about terrorism? Rather than accuracy you spew lies (along with Rep Waxman). Why do you not recall or identify the threats and plot to assasinate the 1st Bush as acts of terroism?

The natural progress for Kerry's socialism agenda is on to fascism, which will result in the demise of our democracy and freedoms.

Talk about your non sequiters.

Ugly 

That's about the only way to describe a 32% shooting performance and fifteen turnovers to boot. NC State didn't play particularly well either, and the Cajuns couldn't capitalize on any opportunities. The refereeing was poor but not beneficial to one team or the other. That was just an all around sloppy game for basketball fans to watch. If NC State doesn't pick up their play on Sunday they'll be heading home soon too. Final Score: Cajuns 52 W'Pack 61.

The Cajun baseball team has Harvard coming in to town this weekend. At least I'll be able to watch them beat up on some nancy-boy Ivy Leaguers.


Tourney Time 

If posting is a little lighter than usual today it's because I'm more concerned about the University of Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns NCAA Tournament appearance.

You can watch the game for yourself on your local CBS affiliate at 11:15 CST. Today all my morning papers were trying to get in on a little Cajun loving. Now it's no surprise that the Advertiser (website appears to be done right now) would front their sports page with a story about the Cajuns, but count the Advocate and the Picayune among the folks ready to hop aboard Cindarella's train.

Sheldon Mickles unfortunately reminds us of the devastating 2000 tourney loss to Tennessee, when Brett Smith and the rest of the Cajuns got jobbed by a referee's whistle in the last thirty seconds of a game that they had led most of the way through. Instead of attending a Spanish class at the time I was busy breaking things in my dorm room. A friend reminded me last night that the final stats of that game listed 28 free-throws attempted by the Vols to a paltry five by the Cajuns. But Coach Jesse's using the game to motivate the fellas on the team, and what Cajun fan doesn't hope it works?

Meanwhile Ted Lewis' report for the New Orleans paper is a little condescending to UL fans. That's not surprising coming from that "big-city newspaper", but it's a little disappointing nonetheless.

My good friend Mark is probably on the road from Tampa to Orlando at this moment getting pumped up for the game. Maybe if we're lucky the Cajuns will pull down a victory and I can commission a first-hand account of the weekend from him.

That leaves only one thing. Predictions:

The first score is what my brain tells me, the second is what my heart says. Both are valid.
Cajuns 62 75
W'Pack 70 69


Enjoy the game.

Strange 

If you were a newspaper editor in Baton Rouge and a reporter handed you a story about a jury awarding the state of Louisiana more than $80 million because Chevron Oil systematically defrauded the state of oil revenues for twelve years, would you put it on the front page? Would you use a banner headline?

Not if you're an editor of The Advocate.

I'm not sure why they stuffed this story on page 2-B, but there you have it. I don't know if I'm missing something here. I'm sure Chevron will appeal the case, but I don't know that I've read much of anything about this case over the last few weeks, though it appears to have been happening right under our noses. You know the drill. Go see it for yourselves.

Vouchers 

There is a host of bills on tap for the next legislative session that would introduce private school vouchers to students at failing public schools. Unsurprisingly the New Orleans Archdiocese is a big proponent for them. Reporter Laura Maggi explains why any voucher push is tough task thanks to education committee members' ideological oppositions and likely opposition by the governor.

I've been pretty ambivalent about this whole issue in the past. I think creative experimentation in the way our government at every level approaches education is usually good because the current system is broken so badly. However the more I see stories about vouchers, the less and less I think they could even be effective in much of anything besides reducing the amount of money available to the worst schools. In the end how many children could benefit from vouchers in a given community? In New Orleans there are fourteen schools listed as "failing". Is there enough money to provide every student in all fourteen schools with a private education? Could private schools even accommodate the flood of students who would come knocking on their doors? Of course they couldn't.

Then you're left with thousands of students who are left in a public school where the state has essentially decided "we give up." We're going to take a specific dollar amount away from you for each student who is accepted into a nearby private school and the rest of you are just going to have to deal with it.

I probably don't need to mention the problems with vouchers just becoming a conduit for the government to pour money into religious organizations either.

Sigh, like I said, the more I read about vouchers and the more likely they become state law as local schools continue to deteriorate, the more convinced I'm becoming that they probably wouldn't do much good.

18 March 2004

More Passion... 

But the real one this time.

I went over to the smoking gun tonight because Drudge told me that Donald Trump was looking to trademark "You're Fired," and this incident involving a couple fighting over the movie caught my eye.

the Davidsons left the theater and began debating the movie, which led to an argument about "the mentality of each other's parents." Melissa, 34, then "jumped on Sean, and they started fist fighting." While she suffered injuries to her left arm and face, her 33-year-old husband "had an alleged scissor stab on his hand and his shirt was ripped off."

That sounds like my kind of relationship.

The Passion of the Yeast 

Gueydan woman goes nuts and believes she sees Jesus in the cake she baked in the shape of a cross.

Mitzi Louviere says "you see the knee bending here, and then the feet. You can almost see the head of a nail here."

She says the image she saw sent chills up her spine.

Wednesday morning, as she began preparing baked goods for the St. Joeseph altar at her church, she says she was stunned at the appearance of Jesus on her gingerbread cake.

It didn't take long for her to pick up the phone and call Father Michael Guidry looking for answers.

"We shouldn't go around looking for miracles, but when something happens I think it's just a confirmation of our faith and he still thinks about us and he's still there," Father Guidry tells KATC's Candice Gale.

The word is spreading quickly around Gueydan and for those who've seen the cake, it's nothing short of a miracle.

"He told me it's a blessing. Everything's ok," Louviere says.

You can see the cake for yourself Friday at the St. Joseph Altar at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Gueydan.

I've spent the last hour looking at the picture of the cake on KATC's website and I don't see anything. I'm sure it's just the lighting and not the fact that the entire town of Gueydan has gone insane.

More LA-3 

According to the AP state Senator Craig Romero announced his candidacy in nearby New Iberia this morning. He's the first GoOPer to announce, though there are reportedly a whole host of Republicans considering bids, including Billy Tauzin's own son. Here's his legislative home page.

PoliticsLA.com is also reporting that Charmaine Caccioppi (don't ask me how to pronounce that one?) a
50-year-old self-described "conservative, centrist, John Breaux Democrat" says she knows that this race is really about the balance of power in the United State House of Representatives but that she has seen a lot of bi-partisan support.

Another quote they attribute to her sure makes her sound like a candidate, so I'd count her in too. I don't too much about her (iow I don't know a thing about her), but you can read a brief bio here.

Guilty Pleasures 

I'm only mildly embarrassed to admit that I'm a regular weekly reader of Slate's "Dear Prudence". It's a great read because of the people who often write who are either in the most f-ed up of relationships and don't realize it or the folks who are looking for the advice giver to help them justify their terrible behavior. Whatever the case, I can't get enough of it. This letter is great:

I am a man in my late 20s married to a wonderful lady in her mid-30s. We have a 2-year-old. I work in a large office building and will often go to lunch with my co-workers. For the last three months or so, I have been going to lunch everyday with a very attractive (married) younger lady. We would go once a week, then twice, now it's everyday. I am very attracted to her, and I know she is attracted to me. We have also gone out to dinner and to have drinks on several occasions. We have fun, and I have even taken my son with us on those occasions that we meet on weekends. We have had no sexual relations, but have held each other. I have no plans to leave my wife. Please help; is this an affair?

Um, yes. Yes it is.

Dear God, 

Jaysus, I don't know how I missed this one.
Go see what Lisa has to say about it. Sorry, Lisa, I would have had a comment, but I still can't get my browser to pull up your comments.

Scalia denies recusal request 

No surprises here. There is a "thou dost protest too much" feel to the whole twenty-one page memo that Scalia issued to accompany his decision not to recuse himself from a disclosure case regarding Dick Cheney's energy task force documents. My feeling would be that if it takes twenty-one pages to explain why you can decide a case impartially then you probably can't. Scalia does say that he was never in any intimate setting at the hunting camp ("we were never in the same blind") with the veep, though he doesn't mention the fact that he flew down this way on Air Force 2 with the Dark Lord from Wyoming.

Osama Rumors 

CNN is fueling them right now. Pakistan military has surrounded what they believe is a "high value target." Let's hope they get him.

Update @ 3:40 pm: Not anymore. CNN and everyone else are saying it's the number two guy in the organization, but I don't know how many times I've heard Blitzer speculate, "well if you find one the other one can't be far away." Of course, no one cares enough about Zawahiri to justify non-stop coverage so it appears the "Osama has to be close" angle is existential justification.

Prescience 

It seems I must have been channeling some deep Polish resentment when I reminded you guys about President Bush lying to Polish journalists and their viewers yesterday.

Today the Polish President said Washington misled him in the run up to the war. Here he is blasting the administration:

Aleksander Kwasniewski said that his country had been "taken for a ride" about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in the strife-torn country.

"That they deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride," Kwasniewski said Thursday.

Oops.

Peeping on the neighbors 

Political Wire linked to this fantastic little tool to get an idea of how the people around you (and who they are) are giving to the Presidential candidates. In my zip code John Edwards did very well; Howard Dean got some dough; and George Bush did alright. No contributions to John Kerry are listed just yet, but I'll keep checking in as the campaign continues.

Update @ 9:59 am: searching for celebrities is fun too. Oddly, Ben Affleck the actor (2401 Main St. in Santa Monica) gave $2,000 to Wesley Clark, but Ben Affleck the writer (2401 Main St. in S.M.) gave only $1,000 to Dennis Kucinich. Presumably Affleck is making more money as an actor and that's why his writer persona could only afford half the maximum individual contribution.

Raises 

State lawmakers are pushing for a 48% raise in salaries. Whenever lawmakers at any level of government push for raises there is without fail a chorus of whining from those who support them. I'm not opposed to seeing elected officials get a few more bucks thrown their way. Ensuring that officials are well compensated can take away some of the temptation of impropriety and I believe that most of them are hard-workers. But jaysus, 48%!? I don't care how long it's been since there has been a vote to increase the salary, show a little restraint here. Lawmakers just passed multiple tax renewals because of a serious budget crisis.

It's called public service for a reason. And this silly argument that "if I worked at this level in a multi-million dollar corporation" doesn't fly either. If a legislator wants that kind of compensation then he should leave the public sector. Lawmakers and government executives aren't supposed to get rich on the job.

Compromise 

Lawmakers in the House and Senate managed to forge a compromise with a little help from Gov. Blanco to pass the phaseout on business taxes that has been the subject of so much debate over the last few weeks. The final bill will provide for the seven-year phaseout initially proposed by the governor which would be shortened to six-years if state revenue reaches a certain trigger. The compromise should please the Governor. In the end she hardly gave anything up.

It will be nice to stop posting links to stories about tax bills soon.

TFN 

via PoliticsLA.com I got to read this lovely account of the buck passing and keystone cops-like economic development teams that handled the sweetheart investment deal with the soon-to-be failed Football Network. Here's my favorite part:

Louisiana Economic Development officials say they are optimistic TFN will launch a successful comeback.

An independent expert says that is unlikely.

Rich Hanley, director of the graduate program in communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said much of the programming TFN planned, such as second-tier college games and high-school matches, can't draw a national audience.

Hanley said outside experts would have quickly seen flaws in TFN's plan. He conceded that TFN officials do indeed have a wealth of experience in sports and entertainment.

"But you still need to do the hard work at looking at the numbers," he said.

It didn't take an outsided expert to note any flaws in TFN. In fact most people with a high school diploma and any time ever spent in front of a television set could see that this venture wasn't going anywhere. I explained why back in December without the benefit of any business class since high school "Free Enterprise."

There is a lot of very interesting and inflammatory news in the report above. The state looks to have thrown money away for reasons that no one will cop to. State economic development officials won't take any responsibility or offer any suggestions and private third-party investors say it was the state's fault. No one knows. All because some people in Baton Rouge probably thought, cool, a football network.

New 3rd District Candidate 

The only man officially in the race to represent LA-3 is a Democratic state Senator by the name of Reggie Dupre. Scores of others have expressed interest and a few have exploratory committees, but only Dupre, who made his announcement yesterday, has made it official. Considering his district it shouldn't be surprising that he's another candidate opposed to the results of free-trade agreements on south Louisiana agricultural industries.

Here's a look at the press release announcing his candidacy, and here's his legislative home page.

Back in Black 

That's better.

17 March 2004

Surprise! 

A headline off the NOLA.com AP wire:

Louisiana lawmakers take dim view of ethics proposals

I'm shocked.

Required viewing 

via TPM by way of the 2millionthweblog.

Obviously preaching to the choir here, but this is a very effective ad. It's really too bad that there's not more of the President himself doing this instead of his underlings, but the wider audience that sees and recognizes the endless dissembling by members of this administration the better. I can think of commercials showing Bush twice relating to reporters that "Saddam never let the inspectors in." Or that time he told the Polish interviewer (thankfully not disappeared from the White House website yet) that "we already found weapons of mass destruction" (regarding those infamous "mobile biological factories" aka eighteen wheelers).

In case you forgot:

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.

Our President and the people he has staffed around him are unabashed and shameless liars. When someone can explain to me why I can trust a man who seems chemically imbalanced against honesty regarding the most important challenges facing our nation today I'll be the first one to run to the polls and pull the lever for George Bush.

WTF? 

A kid can build a nuclear reactor in his backyard but can't spell "caution"!?

At school, he was a poor student and terrible speller (the wall of his potting-shed laboratory carried the admonition: "Caushon"). His occasional claims of chemical and, later, nuclear research were dismissed by parents and teachers as attempts to get attention.

And so it was that with ingenuity and supplemental information from letters to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 17-year-old David gathered and refined - mostly from household products - enough radioactive material to make a crude breeder reactor in his backyard.

It was small and would never create an appreciable amount of fissionable fuel, but by the time David disassembled the runaway experiment in 1994, his Geiger counter was detecting radiation from several houses away.

Read more in a 1998 Ken Silverstein article here or buy his book about the affair here.

link via Arts and Letters Daily

Get Well Soon 

Early indications by doctors suggest that Congressman Billy Tauzin's surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his intestine (specifically the duodenum, which is a fun word to say despite the awful context) was successful.

I make no apologies for the fact that I detest the somewhat questionable relationships he's developed with lobbyists over his career, but I'm sure that he's a decent man, and there is no doubt that he's loved by his family and constituents. Therefore the official position of Timshel is prayers for Congressman Billy to fully recover and enjoy a long and happy retirement back home in Chackabay.

Baer's Fate is Sealed 

Senate Resolution 14, calling for the election of a new Senate secretary, passed overwhelmingly today. All but five of the present Senators voted to adopt Paulette Irons' resolution. Have fun in the private sector Mr. Baer.

Chris John Loves Cock fighting 

It won't be a surprise to anyone that I think this story about Chris John's poor rating by the Humane Society will probably help him capture the hearts and minds of Louisiana voters in his bid for the Senate later this year. In fact, he'll probably wear his worst-in-the-government rating as a badge of honor in the next election. The low number is the result of continued votes against any federal laws that would make it harder for Louisiana to continue pitting cocks against each other in the battle for good and evil.

Unfortunately that story doesn't mention John's stance on those hog-dog rodeos I discussed last week, but I suspect the Congressman is all for them.

Imagine That 

From the "some things never change" department, former New Orleans officials are in trouble for "mismanaging" millions of dollars in federal loans and grants. Tony Soprano handles HUD money better than these guys. Maybe they need a lesson in Goombaism

Highway to Hell 

Kam Movassaghi resigned from his post as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development yesterday (he was a Foster appointee) and used the occasion of his resignation to blast the Blanco administration for not fully realizing the importance of his agency.

To be sure parts of this look like a whole lot of whining on the former secretary's part for not getting enough time with the new governor to advance his own agenda for DOTD. However Movassaghi is right to draw the public's attention to an underfunded agency largely ignored by politicians and the press. Also Blanco's insistence for an early start with the Health Care Summit and the need for this month's special session most likely drew her attention away from making permanent decisions regarding the agency. So much of the criticism of her handling of this issue is warranted.

And here's a bit of worried speculation on my part. Consider this bit from Patrick Courreges' report on the matter:

Movassaghi, who is resigning April 1, said Tuesday he's only been able to speak with Blanco for about half an hour, around the time of her Jan. 12 inauguration.

...

In his letter to Blanco, Movassaghi wrote that a lack of communication with Blanco has hurt him and the department.

"Several times, through (Chief of Staff) Andy Kopplin, I have tried to no avail to get a sense of your thinking," Movassaghi wrote. "Being in limbo has caused great hardship on me, my family, the staff at DOTD, and the national organizations that I lead."

Can you tell me that doesn't sound like the description of Paul O'Neill's early interaction with President Bush as described by Ron Suskind in The Price of Loyalty ?

Happy Trails 

That's for beleaguered Senate secretary Mike Baer, who continues to suffer fallout from his sexist and possibly racist email barrage to legislators and their staffers. It appears that a well organized group of lawmakers will stop at nothing to see the secretary booted out of the state's legislative offices. You can read about it from Marsha Shuler or AP reporter Melinda DeSlatte

At this point offended lawmakers haven't been satisfied by restrictions on his duties, a month-long suspension without pay, and a year-long probation. And things are looking bad for him when even people who have supported him in the past are essentially turning their backs on him:

State Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, who was absent when Baer was censured, said he favored the resolution calling for a new secretary election.

"Mr. Baer is not the victim in this scenario. He has created the situation that brought this into debate," Dardenne said. "He's embarrassed this body."

If Baer had been working for a private business, Dardenne said, "a discussion like this would be swift and it would be sure," with Baer out of a job.

Sayonara, chump.

Editing Award 

It's hard to take the political analysis seriously over at PoliticsLA.com when they try to round up a race but begin by talking about the wrong district. For the record, they're talking about LA-7 there. It's an otherwise good run down of the men and women looking for the seventh district Congressional seat, but the constant referrals to the third district are wrong and make them seem a little out of it considering they get more traffic than any other political website in the state.

Update @ 9:30 am: oops, it was fixed even before I could finish publishing my post. Good for them.

Gun control 

It's unlikely that these bills are going anywhere once the regular legislative session begins, but a few important ones regarding the sale of firearms have been filed in the House by NOLA state Rep. Cedric Richmond. These bills would close the gun show loophole on background checks; ban the sale of assault weapons beyond the September expiration date on the federal ban; require the registration of all handguns with the state; and create a ballistic fingerprinting database for all guns sold in Louisiana.

I'm no big advocate of gun control, and there is little doubt that it's a touchy subject in a state that once had "Sportsman's Paradise" on the license plates, but these measures strike me as reasonable ones to prevent criminals from getting their hands on the most dangerous weapons while also assisting law enforcement to catch the perpetrators of gun violence. I imagine the assault weapons ban would be the hardest bill to pass, but the NRA and other lobbying groups have been so successful in stopping even the legislation described above in so many other states that I'm not holding out much hope for the passage of any of these bills.

On Sunday the T-P penned an editorial supporting the creation of a "firearm-free zone" within a 1000 feet of any parade route. Hopefully the editors will put the weight of their paper behind these measures as well. Last year there were 257 murders in New Orleans with as many as 90% involving firearms. We don't need to ban handguns or firearms in general, but we should take sufficient steps to make it more difficult and more risky to use them in the commission of crime.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 

Now stop pinching me. This is a Timshel preemptive strike on green beer. If you want to celebrate Irish culture drink something black instead. For one day only I've traded the Saints black and gold color scheme so that I can help all my dedicated readers realize that green is an unnatural and annoying color. In taking green as the primary color on the weblog, I'll hope that you'll not bother with drinking anything green in your celebrations tonight. And remember black is better.

Hitting the Big Time 

Can you really call it The Washington Monthly when the most featured writing on the website comes from a guy blogging out of his California home? I guess so. Today Kevin Drum makes good on all his hard work. He deserves it, so from here on out it looks like I'll get my Calpundit fix over at a DC rag. I wonder if this move is the real reason Friday cat blogging came to such an abrupt halt late last month.

16 March 2004

Popcorn Workers Lung 

This link is for my many friends who have worked at movie theaters over the years. Armstrong Lamar, it looks like you have a lot of money coming your way. Get that nagging five year cough checked out immediately. Yeah, yeah. It's about microwave popcorn, not movie theater popcorn and then only for the people who worked in the processing sector. Details, schmetails. Get yourselves lawyers and let them sort it out.

Troubles 

Blogger seems to be a real p.o.s. today.

Weeping... 

Sometimes I read The Daily Howler and I wonder if there is any point in reading print journalism at all.

Booo! 

Bill would ban all restaurant smoking Current state law already gives municipalities the right to ban smoking where and how they see fit (though it exempts restaurants that serve alcohol from any smoking bans), and the bill sponsor's reasoning seems a little shaky to me:

Badon said his constituents want smoke-free restaurants where they are not subject to second-hand smoke.

He said his bill would not ban smoking "in the neighborhood bars" where food is not served.

Why should someone in Shreveport be subject to the whims of voters in New Orleans concerning smoke in restaurants? I'm much more sensitive to concerns about occupational safety than I am to a few annoyed voters in New Orleans who want to be able to eat without the hint of tobacco smoke in the air. If lawmakers want to close the loophole that exempts nearly every restaurant in the state from anti-smoking laws that some communities may decide to pass, that's fine by me. However, this particular bill would go much farther than that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these people who think smokers have "the right" to light up anywhere and everywhere they choose. And there are some obviously huge concerns about the cost of health care in Louisiana and the possibility that reducing non-smoker's contact with second-hand smoke could hopefully reduce the long term costs of treatment for things like asthma, emphysema, cancer, and a whole host of other health problems linked to second-hand smoke.

Is that enough right now to justify a state law banning cigarette smoke from restaurants? I don't really think so. It's probably easier for communities to pass these resolutions on their own time. Lafayette has already passed anti-smoking ordinances for public buildings and it hasn't seemed to cause any problems here. I suspect there would be an inordinate amount of grumbling if there were ever a law passed banning smoking in bars, but other cities that have done this too and the grumbling usually stops pretty quickly.

All this is to say that with the whole gamut of obstacles facing the legislature at this moment, the last thing the state needs is to be caught up in what would probably be an endless fight over something as trivial as where people can smoke cigarettes. The debate would doubtlessly go on for a disproportionately long time. Lobbyists would get involved. It would be ugly and pointless.

Of course none of this has to do with the fact that I still haven't managed to quit smoking.

More Health Care Woes 

Just when you think things are looking up, you read something about the chances that the federal government might withhold upwards of $750 million in funding for Louisiana's uninsured. To be sure, it's the state's fault for some "creative use of funding" as DHH officials have been diverting some of the funds for their intended use in the state's charity hospital system to "other health care areas." This story made news in early January, but it seems to have been way off the radar screens over the last several weeks. Considering the controversy surrounding Louisiana's charity hospitals and the recent Health Care Summit it would be nice to see some reporting suggesting just what officials mean by "other health care areas," but I'm willing to believe that this story has a ways to develop. Right now it's hard to come to any conclusions as to whether state health officials should have been diverting money away from hospitals, but considering their troubles it's difficult to imagine many situations where taking money away from them as a good thing.

Special Session BuSiness 

The Blanco tax proposals seem to be moving there way through the legislature with few potential obstacles left in the way. The only snag is James David Cain's most recent attempt to attach income tax deduction guarantees (part of his ongoing war with the Stelly Plan's reform) to a central piece of the governor's legislative agenda:

Cain's bill now says Blanco's proposed renewal of sales taxes on business utilities could only take effect after Cain's reinstatement of the tax deductions begins.

However, Cain's bill doesn't actually call for the reinstatement of the deductions.

At the moment there isn't a great chance of this amendment to even come up for a vote, but if it does it could jeopardize future lawmaker's ability to renew these utilities taxes which Blanco initially called to make permanent. To compound the problem, Cain has no new bill that would actually implement his tax reductions, and couldn't even address the issue again for two years when we are scheduled to have a fiscal issues legislative session. I think this falls firmly into what I've heard certain commentators refer to as "fiscal irresponsibility."

15 March 2004

Brainwashing 

It looks like those "Hollywood elites" (read JEWS) finally got to Mad Mel. Maybe Sean Hannity will do a week long deprogramming of the "rare conservative voice in Hollywood."

That's two Drudge posts in one day. Two too many if you ask me. Time to find new sources for news.

Busy, busy, busy 

It's been a long day today made much worse by standing in line at the local Cox office for an hour listening to customer service reps and customers talk to each other as though they were using different languages. I may get some posts out later this afternoon. As always, click on the blogroll for the musings of people more skilled than yours truly.

Armageddon 

Call Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. Okay, okay. I know the difference between "orbiting the sun" and "on a collision course with Earth," but this press release from NASA is still strange.

NASA Schedules News Briefing About Unusual Solar Object

The discovery of a mysterious object in our solar system is the topic of a listen-and-log-on news briefing on Monday, March 15, at 1 p.m. EST.

Dr. Michael Brown, associate professor of planetary astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. will present his discovery of the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun. He and colleagues made the discovery as part of a NASA-funded research project.

Could this be that extra planet I've been hearing about since I was a little kid, or have astronomers already confirmed that? It's funny that I feel like I know less about our solar system today than I did when I was twelve years old. I guess we'll know soon enough.

via Drudge

Slowly but surely 

Martha Carr inks a piece on the steady progress of road-work under the Nagin administration in New Orleans. I'm not C. Ray Nagin's biggest supporter by any means. Admittedly I haven't lived in New Orleans during his term, but it seems that among his supporters he's admired way out of proportion to what he has actually provided the city. However New Orleans roads are a task likely unmatched even by the standards of the Augean Stables, and if Nagin's administration is really making progress there I'll be the first to congratulate him.

Primary Opponents 

Considering the cost of the election and the piss-poor turnout, it's hardly surprising that election officials and other politicians would prefer to see us either move the Louisiana primary up or cancel it all together in the future.

Secretary of State Fox McKeithen (perhaps proving he is from Louisiana and a Republican) said he'd prefer politicians make the decisions for the people, that would save us the trouble of these wasteful election. I like this idea:

“The most sane thing I can see,” she said, is a proposal to have regional primaries and for the elections to rotate from one region to another. Four primaries would be held two weeks apart so candidates would have a chance to visit each region of the country.

Frantz said that the idea “has been laying around for a long time” and has been published in American government textbooks.

I don't think it would be a tough argument to defend to say the way we're doing things now doesn't work in a way that primaries were intended to (to allow the widest selection of voters to pick their candidates). Mostly that has been due to party officials would prefer to have the ability to pick their candidates, so they've front loaded primaries, making voters secondary to raising money from big ticket donors. I'm for more progressive elections in every aspect. That means giving more voters the opportunities to select a candidate, not less. I'm not sure that the regional primary would change that, but I don't see how it could be worse than the current system.

"Other Opinions" 

That's the title the Lafayette Daily Advertiser once or twice weekly runs other newspaper' editorial opinions underneath. I've never quite understood the reasoning behind it. It seems to me like it's free (hell, they probably pay a fee for the right to reprint it) advertising for the competition, particularly since they so frequently use T-P editorials. The other problem is that it can easily be misconstrued as the editorial opinion of the Advertiser. They are printed in the same column under the opinion of the paper, and even when you see the label it still looks like it could be endorsed by the newspaper.

And that's what I was thinking when I read this bit from the Florida Times-Union:

If the TV commercials that debuted last week are any indication, Americans can expect George W. Bush to run the most positive, uplifting presidential campaign since Ronald Reagan sought a second term 20 years ago.

...

Bush may be accused of cheerleading for the nation, but a few cheers are due. The terrorists have been beaten back so decisively that most Americans say national security no longer is one of their primary concerns. The economic slump, which began a year before he took office, has been reversed and expansion is under way.

Bush's commer- cials stand in stark contrast to John Kerry's relentless attack ads. One, for example, recently insisted Bush had removed 200,000 veterans from health care. No veteran benefits have been ended under Bush. In fact, spending for veterans benefits has increased by 27 percent.

As I read the first paragraph I truly expected this to end up as some sort of ironic joke being played on readers. There's nothing like calling the 1980 campaign uplifting considering it's decidedly not uplifting kickoff event in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Alas, I kept reading and it just got worse and worse.

Sigh. I guess they were lucky they didn't print this the same day Bush released his own round of attack ads against John Kerry, although they only missed that by a few days. I'm sure it wouldn't have made a lick of difference to them. As I was looking for this piece at their website I had to wade through the muck of their archived editorials going back to March 9 (which is a lot more taxing than you think considering the material), and I was really shocked by the brazen, thoughtless trumpeting of GOP talking points. It's as if their editors are simply cutting and pasting the latest email from Ed Gillespie and printing it.

I have all kinds of problems with the editors at my local paper and other papers around this state, but I can't express how lucky I feel now that I've looked the Times-Union over. Jaysus.

14 March 2004

Sunday Reading 

I'll be pleased when this special session is over, because I can assure that if you've found reading about these tax bills over and over again boring, imagine the way I feel writing about them. Ugh.

So to get it over with, the Advocate editors will have the last word on Sen. James David Cain's efforts to make some fundamental changes to the Stelly tax plan. There conclusion is right on:

We think Cain's SB22 is at best a distraction and at worst represents a retreat in Louisiana's efforts to create a fair and responsible taxing system. The Stelly Plan was a step in the right direction. We hope lawmakers will think long and hard before joining the Cain defection.

So that's that.

In Congressional race news Gerard Shields lets us in on fmr. Rep. John Cooksey's desire to go back to Congress. He would run against the freshman barely-a-Democrat Rodney Alexander. I don't know if Cooksey has even set up an exploratory committee, but he sounds like a man who wants to run, and there is no question that the GOP is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him hoping to entice him into the race. For the record, I'll say that I kind of like John Cooksey. There's no question that he has made some terribly stupid comments in the past ("towel-heads with fan belts wrapped around them" anyone?), but when he was running for Senator in 2002 he certainly seemed considerably more reasonable than the woman who eventually represented the Republican Party in that race. In debates he exhibited an independent streak which seemed to express his reasoned reflection on the problems facing Louisiana and the rest of the country rather than blind party loyalty. All this is meant to say that if I lived in his district I might consider voting for him, or at least I wouldn't be too upset if he won. As Maude says, "he's a good man, and thorough."

In the 3rd district two more candidates are making the appropriate noises signaling that they're running to succeed Billy Tauzin. Add to Charlie Melancon Billy Tauzin's lobbyist son (who would have thought Tauzin's son was a lobbyist--shocking!?) Billy Tauzin, III and Democrat Damon Baldone. Both candidates said they wouldn't run for the seat if Hunt Downer sought it, but since he passed on the campaign last week, these two have decided that they will likely throw their hats in the ring. And as if Downer is some sort of king-maker (does anyone remember how poorly he did in the gubernatorial election?) candidates are desperately seeking his support.

And add Louisiana shrimpers to the growing list of Louisiana industries unhappy with US trade policy. That makes sugar producers, catfishers, crawfish farmers, rice growers, and shrimpers all opposed to increasingly unpopular free trade agreements. That's just about the entire area of Louisiana around and south of I-10. It's the most populated area of the state and the biggest "swing district" for state-wide races. I imagine someone interested in capturing LA's electoral votes might want to start pandering to these groups as soon as possible.

And the funniest thing I've read all week is The New Yorker's "Back Page" by Paul Rudnick. It's called the "Gospel of Debbie" and it relates the musings of a teenager enamored with the hunky J.C.

Everyone is just getting so mean. They’re all going, Debbie, he is so not divine, Debbie, you’ll believe anything, Debbie, what about last year when you were worshipping ponchos? And I so don’t trust that Judas Iscariot, who’s always staring at me when I walk to the well and he’s saying, hey, Deb, nice jugs, and I’m like, oh ha ha ha, get some oxen.

Go read the whole thing.

Rubbing it in 

This post is mostly meant to flaunt the wonders of Lousiana to the ex-pat residents of Blogiana. Tonight I went to a crawfish boil with quite a large group. All of them were very local (by "very local" I mean from the towns outside of Lafayette), but only about fifteen of the thirty or so people there actually ate anything. So of the hundred and thirteen pounds purchased by our host, we probably peeled nearly thirty (pre-peeled weight) for post boil cooking.

The point of this whole post is to say that the Prado freezer is now the proud carrier of nearly two and a half pounds of home-boiled, peeled crawfish. I'm already licking my chops over the visions of etoufee and/or bisque.

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