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27 March 2004

Get a Life Dept. 

Why doesn't this surprise me?

Saturday Roundup 

The big political story today is over at the state GOP, where they will elect their new chairman. The Pic has the best account the "battle for the soul of the LAGOP." Squaring off are supposedly moderate Jon Gegenheimer and the conservative backed Roger Villere. Befitting an election for the person who will run the state's Republican Party, there have already been rampant accusations of dirty tricks. (.pdf, you have been warned).

Chris Frink has more on Governor Blanco's legislative agenda. Add legislative and executive ethics to the short list of priorities as Blanco observes her first regular session of the Louisiana legislature. I did find this strange:

Other bills in her package would limit the public's access to records about business recruitment, change limits on some welfare benefits, further separate the juvenile justice system from the adult prison system, set a system for university tuition increases and allow mediation in more tax disputes.

Blanco wants to change the perception that Louisiana's government is not as open and honest as it should be, said Andy Kopplin, Blanco's chief of staff, in a news briefing Friday

Who could have known that making it more difficult for public oversight of "business recruitment" could help change the public perception that our politicians are not open and honest?

In the interest of keeping it short since I'm away from Prado world headquarters at the moment, I'll leave you with a link to this editorial from the T-P pointing out the continued and pointless discrimination of gays by our nation's military. There's a note of hope in the editorial, but it's message is clear.

More posting later today. Have fun for now.

26 March 2004

Blogger only knows? 

This morning there should have been two posts linking to a couple of stories. I don't know what happened to them between the time I wrote them and hit publish, but they are no where to be found now. I'm sure whatever I had to say about them wasn't that important, but if you're interested in either Senate candidate John Kennedy (not the dead President or the dead President's dead celebrity son) or a judge's decision to allow law enforcement significantly greater power to search private spaces, then you know where to click.

Time-Killing Game of the Week 

Punk Rock edition. Three games to choose from there. If you're trying to kill some time at the office before the weekend begins, this game is most decidedly not for you. If you're trying to kill some time before you get fired, then go for it. I don't quite know what to say about this. The mostly adolescent, misogynist and anti-"conformist" heroes (based on your favorite punks) may or may not be ironic, but if you hate popular music and nineties culture while harboring nostalgia for what we left behind in the eighties then you may find some laughs in the pop-culture references throughout these games.

If you're looking for something a little more family oriented that will help the clock move a bit faster, then try Text Twist.

Daily sludge 

The Pope reminds us that Sunday is about God:

"When Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes subordinate to a secular concept of 'weekend' dominated by such things as entertainment and sport, people stay locked within a horizon so narrow that they can no longer see the heavens," the pontiff said in a speech to Australian bishops.

The story doesn't mention it, but I'm absolutely positive that those whose team celebrates God don't have to feel guilty when we sit down in front of the television come Sundays next fall. Sorry for the NFL fans who don't have teams with names that call to mind the heroes of the Catholic Church. Surely there will be a rash of name changes over the next few months to satisfy our aging Pope. The Redskins can change their name to the not-quite-as-offensive Papists (or if they really embrace the offensive they can change their name to the Cannibals). The Cowboys can become the Inquisitors. The Lions...I guess they're okay, though they may want to consider a reference to Daniel somewhere on the uniform. The Chargers have it easy because they can adopt the name of San Diego's baseball franchise. Any suggestions?

Drudge also helpfully posts a picture of the doormat to Terry McAuliffe's office at the brand new DNC headquarters. Where do I get one of those? Can I make it a button to place on my sidebar?

Update @ 1:47 pm: no copyright mentions on this one, so it looks like a free-for-all on the doormat, now I just need to decided what to link it to...

Anti-Trust 

In what is probably the most important anti-trust case since the feds went after Microsoft, University of Wisconsin students are suing 24 bars in Madison for allegedly illegal price fixing when the bars agreed to eliminate drink specials on Friday and Saturday nights.

This story is very funny on so many levels, because it looks like the University encouraged the bar owners to end the specials in an effort to discourage student drinking. The result was higher prices on alcohol, which sure seems like price-fixing to me. This bit probably sums the whole case up:

The students argue that, by agreeing as a group to end the weekend specials, the bar owners essentially increased drink prices in order to reduce consumption and engaged in a conspiracy that "transferred tens of millions of dollars from UW students and other bar patrons to the owners of the defendant bars."

The Madison-Dane County Tavern League, which is a defendant in the lawsuit and also represents many of the bars named in the suit, criticized the students' action.

"When you combine a student with imagination with a lawyer with time on his hands, this is what you get," said Jon Callaway, a lawyer for the tavern league.


Big thanks to Big Shot for sending me the link to this story. However, since its a Chron. of Higher Ed story, it may not be available to everyone. Just in case here's a story from the Madison paper.

7th District News 

Charles Boustany, Jr. formally announced his candidacy to represent yours truly (and some other people who live in this district too, I guess) in the US House of Representatives. So far that makes quite a wide field for the Congressional seat. Democrats Willie Mount, Don Cravins, and Ned Doucet have all expressed the desire to run (only Doucet has made it official). Also local Republican extraordinaire and school board member David Thibodeaux is in. If you want to see some others who are considering, you might check out this helpful website.

Lafayette residents may find the new candidate's name familiar, but that's more likely because they have elected who I am assuming is his father and namesake as coroner four times.

Whatever the case, you can find out more about Boustany at his campaign website. You might note that Dr. Boustany has been kind enough to include a map of Louisiana at the top of his page with the seventh district highlighted for your edification. If studying that graphic has you thinking that southwest LA is the asshole of the state, I promise you that it's really in Shreveport.

Get a job 

The Pic takes on the legislative pay raise issue today. A front page story and--count 'em--two editorials are the result, and you can bet they're not happy about the prospect of state lawmakers making more money than any of their counterparts in the rest of the south. Check out this former legislator's smug response to that prospect:

A review of the commission's documents and the evidence it examined over the years shows that the commissioners were aware that they were proposing extraordinarily high salaries for Louisiana's state elected officials compared to those of officials in other states.

"What other Southern states were paying was not the only criteria," Weaver said. "Someone has to be first."

Oh, dear Lord.

At some point someone needs to come up with a better justification for these raises than "we could earn so much more in the private sector." Don't get me wrong, I don't want these men and women to be paupers or anything, but it's absolutely absurd to suggest that the state should consider raising salaries up to the levels that have been proposed. The cost of living in this state is well below even many of our southern neighbors. Our legislators have relatively short sessions. For God's sake, they have a constitutional schedule forbidding the possibility of even addressing fiscal and non-fiscal issues in the same session.

Sigh. You can read the Pic's responses here and here.

3rd World Alert 

I missed this story out of the Pic yesterday, but lest there was any doubt why people sometimes refer to Louisiana as the third world of the USA, you ought to take a look at this story about a tent city upcropping in Algiers.

Nearby residents are more concerned about the eyesore created than the ramifications for expelling "a handful of homeless," but no one seems to address the massive public health and safety troubles that can arise from these homeless communities. Consider this:

"Oh, I think I just found their bathroom," Capt. Craig Boudreaux said as he carefully picked his way through the waist-high weeds and trash. "There's a whole cesspool back here."

Piles of beer cans, liquor bottles, a broken exercise machine, discarded mattresses, a Cafe du Monde bag filled with half-eaten doughnuts and fast-food wrappers littered the river's edge.

Without mentioning the crime that are part and parcel of life in these developments, they are also breeding grounds for some of the most destructive diseases and health hazards civilization has known.

There are a thousand questions about the ability of New Orleans to deal with it's homeless problem, but the last thing the city should do is look the other way when these kinds of makeshift shelters spring up. The next thing you know we'll be reading about shanty towns.

25 March 2004

Dilemma 

You guys know my feelings about LSU, but I feel a responsibility to promote whatever new additions there may be to Blogiana (even the honorary citizens), so without further adieu, here's a formal introduction to LSU Student. Certain design choices aren't really to my liking (If you're looking for college colors, could I suggest the vermillion and white favored by Cajun fans), but judging by the links and a brief look around I'd say we can welcome another reliable, sensible liberal to the ranks of Louisiana blogging. Watch out Ken, you may not remember Louisiana the next time you make it back this way.

Coming up roses 

Considering all the problems with NOLA public schools, the last thing they need is to start closing down because the smell literally sickens students.

Neat 

Political Wire's news aggregator is already a great resource. It's all but made it pointless for me to go to the home page for a variety of news sources, but now he's ecnouraging us to almost completely void our sidebars when visiting some of the big daddies of blogging. I suspect the "wingers" and "southpaws" aggregators will prove considerably more bulky than the straight news version, but I'm interested to see how it turns out.

Imagine if Bill Clinton... 

oh never mind.

via drudge

Update @ 5:00 pm: Matt has a Basket Full of Math fun w/r/t Bush's school closing fundraiser.

Prudie alert 

Links to Dear Prudence two weeks in a row; it's time for me to get a life. That's all right, Ken's talking about "The O.C." (scroll down to "Two unrelated items") today...

Moving on, Best. Letter. Ever.

To my shame, and occasional self-loathing, I check out free pornography sites from time to time. (I have never gone further and actually paid to see more.) The other day I came across a porn scene featuring a female actress who, I swear, looks just like one of my cousins. Because the film clip is so brief, I can't be sure this person is my cousin. I'm not sure what my obligations are in this case. This cousin has been through some rough times recently (divorce, custody battle), and I would hate to think she felt she had to resort to porn to make ends meet. Our family has the resources to help her out. To verify her identity, or disprove it (I hope), I would have to pay $5 for a temporary membership. I've never wanted to do this for all kinds of reasons. The most practical of the problems: The charge would pop up on my credit card statement, which, in turn, would be spotted by my wife. What should I do? (And I also worry that I have a minor addiction to porn.)

Get a personal checking account and put it on your debit card, dude. If you do that you're definitely addicted to porn, but at least you'll find out if the star is your cousin. Maybe the levels of sexual deviancy involved between the two of you can lead to some interesting family reunions.

UL stuff 

Here's a story about UL being featured in the Princeton Review's top colleges guide for the first time. Without bothering to enter the debate as to the usefulness of these guides I would like to point out one statement featured in a graphic (unfortunately not online) included with the print version of the story...never mind here it is online.

“The university is often overlooked but leads the state academically in the areas of computer science, education, nursing, and often also engineering. The major hindrance is the great, statewide support for the LSU ‘flagship’ university, and a great deal needs to be done to overcome this.” Battles with LSU came up time and again in students’ comments; writes another, “The school must continuously fight for funds due to the way the state college boards were set up and the general dominance that LSU imposes over all state universities.”

I hate 'em too guys.

Oh yeah 

Amy Wold inks a piece about gay couples in Baton Rouge clamoring for marriage rights. There's very little new to add to the debate at this point, but it's nice to see one of the big state papers give the story opinion page coverage that's not in the form of a syndicated column.

Strictly political 

I got sidetracked by some stuff I usually don't spend much time with, so here's a quick roundup of the Louisiana political scene as it exists in the morning's papers.

Kathleen Blanco's legislative agenda for the regular session looks like it will focus almost exclusively on economic development. That won't include much in the way of increased education spending as the Governor put the kibosh on any hope teachers may have had in a big raise this year. That's not a surprising development. Just before every legislative sessions the Louisiana Federation of Teachers comes looking for a raise, but Blanco made it pretty clear during her campaign that new monies for teachers would arrive later rather than sooner. They do have a reasonable request for a comprehensive plan that would spell out the future of teacher salaries in this state (though they'd probably sound a lot less selfish if they requested a comprehensive plan for improving education since simply raising salaries is hardly the end all to better education).

And it didn't take long, but the Attorney General is looking into the police pension scandal for any evidence of illegality. Officials are talking as though they are ready and willing to open up all the books. I guess they're content to look incredibly inept and reckless rather than there be any suggestion they were breaking the law. That's probably the smart thing to do, but it won't change the fact that taxpayers and police alike ought to want to see their heads on pikes.

Blame the victims 

Here's a new approach. The Advocate editors blame "we the people" for the failure of government which led to 9/11.

Once, foreign policy was far away for Americans, and we did not pay enough attention to it. We paid for that mistake. But we'll keep paying for it in different ways if we try to pin the blame for national shortsightedness on officials who, in both Bush and Clinton administrations, tried to call attention to the terrorist threat.

The fact was that we, the people, weren't interested in listening. And while we hope the commission report will illuminate something about those events, it won't change the reality that national complacency was the principal actor in national tragedy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person to admit that there's plenty of blame to be spread around for how the attacks ever occurred, but is it too much to have asked for a modicum of leadership from the people we elected to protect the national interest. Why would the editors completely ignore Richard Clarke's truly moving statement in the commission yesterday? He was the first person in government to admit what most Americans probably know instinctively.

The editorial seems to hinge on the idea that "there was very little in the way of national will the in retrospect might have...deterred the 9/11 conspirators." The idea seems to have emerged that nothing short of invading Afghanistan would have prevented the destruction of the WTC and the hit on the Pentagon. That is clearly ridiculous. There were ways to remain vigilant without declaring war on the Taliban, and for the most part the government failed us. Terrorism was so unimportant to the Bush administration that they wiped the position out of the cabinet. There were reams of paperwork and reports which suggested that international terrorism was the greatest threat to our nation and our leaders shirked their duty because it wasn't a way to score political points. Instead of blaming the great unwashed for not caring about terrorism, these editors should look at the leadership who didn't bother to help us understand why it was important. That's what leaders do.

Despite what monsters like Pat Robertson like to preach, it wasn't an act of God that caused 9/11. The American government had the power, the intelligence capability, the money, and the technology to prevent large scale terrorism. It is their lack of will at fault, not ours.

Mitigate this 

Oliver Houck (who?) has an interesting column about the possible fate of the law that saved New Orleans' French Quarter from witnessing the construction of a giant expressway that would have run right down Decatur St.

Section 4(f) of the Transportation Act maintained that officials must prove that there are no other alternatives when they build highways through or adjacent to parks and historic areas. I'll let Mr. Houck take it from there:

And so the new bill, in the stealth style that has come to typify Washington these days (this one is called the "Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act"), allows the federal government to waive Section 4(f) for "de minimis" impacts. Impacts are "de minimis" if they are, in the government's view, "mitigated." Voila: We no longer protect, we mitigate.

Do you know what the proposed mitigation for the Vieux Carre expressway was? Railings made of ornate ironwork, with the light poles dressed as lanterns. Consider the mitigation for the Claiborne elevated expressway that blitzed the historic Treme district: cement water fountains, now usually dry and piled with bottles and trash.

Consider the mitigation for I-10 across City Park: concrete benches in the weeds, relatively untrashed, because they are never used. Consider what the mitigation would be if it were decided to run the Tchoupitoulas Corridor through Audubon Park and up River Road: There has been talk of a sound wall to protect zoo-goers from the roar of traffic, perhaps painted with murals. Pictures of endangered species would be a nice touch.

In other communities "mitigation" has worked to curb degenerating effect a giant highway can have on the areas immediately surrounding them, but it usually requires pumping millions of dollars most cities don't have to maintain development, crime prevention, and simple upkeep. Usually the result is more like New Orleans, where any hayseed who's driven through it realizes that you avoid the areas underneath the interstates and expressways like the plague they are. They are a dead zone of economic growth, probably costing the city as much in the fallout from crime, homelessness, and urban decay than the expressways' developments produced in the first place.

Update @ 9:20 am: and of course the reason why 4(f) will see it's demise is because lawmakers care a whole lot more about the pork in federal highway dollars than they do about the specifics of the bills this pork is attached to. Ask the Shreveport residents who woke up to this headline this morning whether they'd be willing to throw away millions of dollars in highway funding in order to protect "historic districts and national parks."

Snark attack 

You've got to hand it to our nation's founders. They appear to have almost nailed it when they wrote the 3/5 clause into the Constitution. According to an Urban League study:

The civil rights group hired the international economic consulting firm Global Insight Inc. to develop an "equality index" to distill into a single measure racial disparities in income, education, health, social justice and civic engagement.

The firm developed a weighted index combining more than 150 variables. Included are rates of unemployment, home ownership, infant mortality, high school graduation, incarceration, average jail sentences, frequency of being stopped by police while driving, military service and whether respondents voted in the most recent election.

Overall, the analysis concluded that African-Americans' status is 73 percent that of white people.

The difference of only 13% expresses an astounding amount of foresight on the part of the document's authors.

Read about the study in this Pic report. It probably won't surprise you.

24 March 2004

Damfareport 

developing...

But seriously, there's some excellent audio provided by the Damfacrats tonight. Click on war criminal Bob Kerrey's takedown of Fox News in particular.

Local Yokels 

Watching the six o'clock local news a few minutes ago I heard this teaser for a story due up after the first commercial break, "Spring is here, which means your kids are playing outside and child molesters are out on the loose," or something to that effect. It sounded like Julie Kelly, who is good at what she does despite creeping me out to ends I can't explain in this blog, decided that child molestation is as natural to spring time as flying kites and playing baseball in the park. Sigh, it was weird. Anyway, here's the report about incidents of child molestation rising in the spring that she was teasing. It's local news scare tactics at their worst. I expect Lafayette parents to get together any day now to commission local Asian cuisiners to build a "sheety wall". Watch out for Mongorians!

A message to California 

Keep your killer plants out of the 'gret stet'.

Louisiana barred imports of any nursery stock from California because the fungus which causes sudden oak death was found in at least two nurseries there.

...

"This disease poses a potentially serious threat to our $155 million commercial nursery industry as well as our forested lands," Odom said. "This quarantine will remain in place until Louisiana determines that relevant California stock has been declared free from Sudden Oak Death disease."

The fungus is related to the type of organism believed to have caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century. It was found on camellia and viburnum plants at two California nurseries that send plants nationwide.

Maybe our nurseries could resell them to Texas shops.

1st District 

Southern Media and Opinion Research polled LA-1 on the upcoming Congressional race for that district as well as the Senate race and the race for President (.pdf, could take some time). I'm not surprised at all that John Kerry and the three Democrats vying for the Senate don't exactly do well there. This is by far the whitest and most conservative district in the state. I am surprised at how well the district has already taken to the attacks on John Kerry leveled by the GOP hit machine. 57% of voters responded that they had either a somewhat or very unfavorable opinion of the Democratic candidate for President.

Also not surprising is that David Vitter's old District is very much lining up to send him to the Senate. They responded to the tune of 71% that they would vote for him in the statewide race. I haven't seen any poll numbers from the 7th district in this race, but I very much doubt that Chris John's constituents will support him with such gusto.

Of course, the big news from this poll is Bobby Jindal's very early, very wide lead in the Congressional race. There's no question that he commands the greatest name recognition, but he's currently leading the field with 65% of respondents saying they would vote for him. Steve Scalise, who I had read was quite a well-liked politician at least from his state House district, is next in line but only managing 6%. Looking at that it's no wonder he's the state rep. pushing this superfluous anti-gay amendment to our state Constitution. It's big time red meat for his district and he'll probably have his name all over the papers during the regular session because of it.

You can look at the cross-tabs and find out more about the poll at PoliticsLA.com.

Meetup 

These things seem so quaint now, but there appear to be Democratic Party Meetups going on around the country tonight. Judging from my inbox, it looks like all the Lafayette Dean folks moved over to the Democratic Party meetups lickety-split. That's all good as far as I'm concerned, but I wonder why these things always have to go on at coffee shops instead of the bars.

GGW 

I'm all for prolonged discussion of the charges Dick Clarke has made against the Bush administration, but his splotchy mug all over the Slate home page isn't nearly as alluring as the picture of the--er--two girls going wild that was bannered across the front page yesterday.

Alma mater news 

The Pic includes a story about a most-decidedly "off-campus" Loyola sorority whose members are facing possible suspension for (if the charges are to be believed) some pretty serious hazing of their pledges.

Having worked for residential life for three years at Loyola, I thought it very unlikely that revelations about what it's like to pledge Tri Phi could surprise me, but it appears I was wrong. The sorority members are being charged with damaging property in retaliation to women who quit the group, forcing pledges to eat their own vomit, and sitting them in bathtubs full of ice and forcing them to drink, among other things.

That's why they were always considered the class of Loyola University.

Required 

This Advocate editorial discusses the problem of economic development that begins and ends with incentive packages for every odd business that comes down the pike looking to Louisiana for a home or threatens to leave the state during hard times. I'm tempted to just reprint the whole thing, but after some gentle suggestions from a certain managing editor of the Baton Rouge paper that putting their photos up on the website is a violation of their copyright, I'll just quote the conclusion and suggest you find your way over there with the help of this link.

We think there is a more than reasonable case for at least freezing at current levels all state money going to incentives and other direct investments in specific businesses. Gov. Kathleen Blanco ought to consider ordering agencies that are trying to be political imitations of venture capitalists to stop digging into taxpayers' pockets.

A more promising way to promote economic development is through comprehensive tax reform and investing in improving Louisiana's manifest deficiencies in education and work-force training.

The new governor and Legislature have committed to reducing two taxes identified by the business community as disincentives to investment in the state. While the tax cuts for business are spread over six years, they will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Can we afford to "target" incentives to companies when this new approach is going to cost the state plenty?

And speaking of photos, does anyone else find it odd that the photo included with the front page story this morning about the LSU football program's White House visit with el Presidente is nothing but a bunch of white people. I think the people in the background are probably Indiana University's national championship soccer program and not members of the LSU football team. That would also help explain why they're so small and frail-looking.

Blanco's Got Skills 

A couple of days ago I linked to an Adam Nossiter column discussing Blanco's somewhat surprising ability push her agenda in the legislature. The recent fallout from the Hebert dismissal could cause the lawmakers to circle the wagons a little once the regular session begins, but there is little question that the special session was a major victory for the Governor in her first big test in the state's highest office.

The Gambit's Clancy DuBos discusses the legislative maneuvering that went into this in much greater detail in his weekly column. It's worthwhile reading that gives Blanco's supporters a lot of reason to be optimistic that she'll be able to keep up the good work as her term progresses.

Thanks to reader Richard P. for the link on this one.

New DOTD Chief 

Read a profile of Johnny Bradberry here. He's spent his entire life working in the oil industry and retired at 54 to explore public service in Blanco's administration. This is just idle speculation, but it looks like Blanco's transition team was holding the DOTD spot for him while leaving former secretary Kam Movasagghi in the lurch while Bradberry worked out his retirement from Conoco, though that's my own speculation because reporter Chris Frink unfortunately doesn't explore the recent blast Movasagghi made to the administration about this department when he resigned last week. It's possible there's more there, but probably not.

How to get good press for nothing 

Here's a strange story about Kathleen Blanco's attendance at the Governor's Westbank Luncheon in Westwego yesterday. The subhead says "Blanco pushes for wider Huey P. Long Bridge."

That's true, but if my memory is worth a damn, I'm pretty sure that a tentative plan and money to cover the costs of widening the bridge had been approved at least as long as a year ago. The story goes on to say that West Bank officials want the governor to help "expedite the process" even though surveying is set to take place this weekend. Now there's no doubt in my mind that it will take a while to complete the massive amount of work that will need to be done to widen a bridge like the Huey P., but this is probably the easiest support for a project that Kathleen Blanco will ever have to make. She'll be able to take credit for something that was in the works before she probably decided to run for governor. That must feel pretty good.

Dismissed Hebert can't let it go 

Yesterday I brought your attention to Troy Hebert, the former chairman of the state House Insurance Committee. Lawmakers from around the state couldn't wait to get to reporters and cry about the mean old Governor who can't keep her hands out of legislative affairs. It seems that yesterday it was Hebert's turn on the soap box.

he compared the actions leading to his firing to those of powerful former Govs. Huey Long, known as the Kingfish, and Edwin Edwards, who is serving prison time.

"We're no longer ruled by the Kingfish. Today, we're ruled by the Queen Bee," Hebert said.

...

Hebert said Louisiana has a long tradition of governors giving the Legislature its marching orders, which he said builds the way for "dictatorship."

He said he learned early on that the measure of people is their ability to "agree to disagree."

"I also firmly believe in the separation of powers," Hebert said. "Although I was not a straight-A student in school, I did not flunk civics."

He said the Legislature should work with, not for, the governor.

He said that, while he never served during the time of former Gov. Edwards, "I don't think even Gov. Edwards played that heavy a hand and played it so blatantly."

Hebert said Louisiana governors can push legislators to act without leaving traces of their tactics.

"Somebody from the administration can put a gun to your head, force you to do something and walk away," he said.

Get over yourself, friend. You may want to consider turning your ire on your fellow legislators who sold you out instead of the Governor who takes advantage of their willingness to "go with the program."

There is little doubt that Blanco intends to use every advantage a Louisiana Governor typically has, but the last people who should be complaining about this are the legislators with the power but without the balls to fight it. John Hill has a good column about this in the Gannett papers this morning.

23 March 2004

Welcome Home 

I don't do this too often, but I have to make a special shout out to whomever got here searching for "suzanne haik terrell dead meat." If you're here because you're happy about her fall from political grace in statewide politics, then you should find a home at Timshel. The only question is why I'm the seventh page listed and not the first...

Minutiae 

This is going to sound like some very useless Saints talk to some of you, but for anyone who may know, I have two questions. First, how in the hell did WUPL (the New Orleans UPN affiliate) get the rights to broadcast Saints preseason games? And more importantly, how in God's green Earth could they have secured ESPN's Ron Jaworski to do color commentary?

Big Shot, I'm looking at you for the answer to this one.

link...

The Hmuan Mnid 

Read this at another blog today.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

This isn't surprising until you take a good look at how totally screwed most of those words look on their own. Despite all the problems with spell checkers ("Louisiana's" is not "lousiness") I guess there are a few good reasons we have them after all.

New Mission 

One of the things I surely don't do enough of is bash Texas. It's by far my least favorite state in the nation. My contempt for most things Texas can be expressed in the derision I hold for a single sign on I-10 near the Louisiana/Texas border that reads "Terrorists, Don't Mess With Texas ... Remember the Alamo." That sign seems to sum up a certain Texas attitude that really rubs me the wrong way. Anyway, none of this is particularly important except to explain why I'm bothering to link to a report that says Houston is a terribly dirty place where city officials have a "reckless lack of concern for public health and the environment."

This animosity has also been spurred by all the promotions I've been seeing for the soon to arrive movie about the greatest myth ever told, wherein the soldiers charged to defend the Alamo fight to the death instead of surrendering and then facing a quick execution at the hands of the Mexican army like they did in real life.

Hagiography 

As promised, here's the entirely uncritical portrayal of Chancellor Mark Emmert disguised as a story about his acceptance of the job at the University of Washington from the generally superior pen of Will Sentell.

The T-P's coverage is more critical (maybe overly so), but considering the first story, reading the two together can give you a decent understanding of the good and the bad that was Mark Emmert.

Amendments 

This is a brief story about some proposed amendments on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. It begins with a note that proposed amendments to the Louisiana constitution are down to 82 from 112 last year. This leads me to wonder if our constitution has finally become so bloated with amendments that legislators simply aren't creative enough to think of any more.

Two amendments I'll vote against if I see them on the ballot in November are the homestead exemption increase to $150,000 and obviously Scalise's constitutional ban on even the recognition of other states who might grant same-sex marriage. The rest I'd have to study up on a little more. Discuss...

Job Security 

There's very little of it in the state House if you decide to vote against central pieces of the Blanco agenda. Democrat Troy Hebert was dismissed by Speaker Joe Salter from his House Insurance Committee chairmanship for voting "nay" on the special session's HB 1, the $160 million renewal on some utility taxes.

I hate to be put in the position of defending our state's strange traditions whereby the governor has her hand in damn near everything that goes on in the capitol. I have a great deal of faith in the wisdom of the separation of powers, and Louisiana governor's have been flouting that wisdom for the better part of a century. However, nothing is more ridiculous than Louisiana lawmakers themselves whining and moaning about meddling governors:

"I think it's a sad day for the House," said Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, who is on the insurance committee. "There's an old saying that when two people agree on something then only one person's thinking."

Unfortunately the Advocate doesn't post their story online, but the whining is ten times worse in their pages.

Rep. Bobby Faucheux [pronounced fo' sho']: "If we need to, just do away with the Legilature and just have a Governor's Office."

...

Rep. Scalise: "There was a lot of talk during the session about 'This is a new day.' This seems to be a sign that the old days are back."

The reason this whining bothers me so much is that the legislative deference to the Governor's office isn't institutionalized; it's tradition. It's decades of political corruption and cowardice that is preventing the legislature from exercising their political prerogative and not some all-powerful, frightening Governor. If they're so concerned they should stop talking and start acting.

WTF? 

In an otherwise absolutely pointless story about both LSU and USC visiting the White House today to celebrate USC's National Championship, there is this odd quote from Louisiana's junior Senator:

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., suggested that Bush go with LSU as the only team certified as national champions by congressional resolution. Landrieu said she and Breaux outfoxed California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to get the first "official resolution" through the Senate.

"He should go along with the official declaration of the Senate," Landrieu said.

Now I didn't know a thing about this resolution recognizing the LSU Tigers as "national champions," so I looked around and found Senate Resolution 288 passed unanimously by the US Senate in January without amendment. Now this resolution doesn't certify an LSU national championship at all. It only says LSU "won the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game." So it's really just a reminder for all the world and eternity that LSU is the proud winner of a disputed National Championship. It does make me wonder what's wrong with Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein that they couldn't get USC recognized as "the only champion" picked by human beings.

Contribute 

Notice the addition of the contribution button to the John Kerry for President campaign. Readers of other blogs probably have come across similar pitches to divert your hard-earned dollars to the Kerry campaign, but they're usually trying to get you to do it their name (sort of). Not this guy. Your donations will go directly to the unseating of the current President.

At the very least I want there to be no question as to whom goes the official Timshel endorsement for the next President of the United States.

Design notes: please tell me in comments if your browser has pushed all the links and/or archives down to the bottom of the blog or if they have disappeared altogether. The last time I did a lot of screwing with the sidebar this happened, and I'm hoping it's not up to the same old tricks. I can see them just fine from my computer, but with each day I come to know how this browser is utterly unlike any other.

22 March 2004

This is kind of good 

The good news is that 20th Century Fox is looking to possibly shoot their upcoming Johnny Cash movie in Louisiana. The state is currently trying to outbid Memphis. The bad news is that Joaquin Phoenix is slated for the role of the Man in Black. Hopefully Reese Witherspoon will steal the show as June Carter Cash.

See pictures of the couple at this site. (Scroll down to "Slideshows" under the June Carter Cash heading)

According to IMDb.com, "Walk the Line" director James Mangold is also responsible for critically acclaimed movies like "Identity" and Girl, Interrupted" among others.

I hope she's not tenured... 

From A&L Daily.

This woman vandalized her own car in some sort of odd attempt to bring the problem of hate crimes to the attention of campus officials. In the end two witnesses stepped forward to verify that she did the dirty deed. This is obviously a great way to advance an agenda.

As for hate crime legislation, I don't have firm feelings about it either way. I'm sensitive to the argument that you can't punish people "for what they think," but we already prosecute by degrees of motivation in murder cases, and I don't see how hate-crime legislation would be much different from that. A solid argument from one side or the other might persuade me.

Uh oh 

I'm having some very strange troubles with blogger today. Going "back" from linked items now returns me to yesterday's posts. "Refresh" returns me to current posts, but I'm a little freaked out by the whole affair. Developing...

Drip, drop 

There's some optimism that the Clarke 60 Minutes revelations will pull the card out of the bottom of the house that is Bush's "tough on terra" reputation, but I'm not convinced of it. However, it's nice to read at least one of his supporters lose faith in the little prince.


More Pension Fallout 

State pension officials defend themselves in this morning's Advocate. For all their talk about a weak market and the need for "active" over "passive" investment they can't defend themselves against the charges that they invested in very risky ventures with little to no research on where they eventually diverted state taxpayer dollars. The only argument they offer that makes sense is that the legislature shouldn't make a knee-jerk, politically motivated reaction that ends up doing more damage to the pension fund than these jokers already have.

Glenn Koepp 

John Hill profiles the Senate Secretary taking over for disgraced Mike Baer. The two men have a friendship spanning decades, but Koepp doesn't exactly seem torn up about getting the new job. If he's good at what he does I suspect this will be the last time we hear from him until he retires.

Hope on the Darkling Plain 

First a quick note on a problem I've been having. I've noticed recently that checking the Daily Advertiser from my usual computer leads to a "400 error" message. After sustained "refresh" clicking or backing up and trying the link again I can usually access the page, but I'm not sure if this is a problem with my rapidly aging version of Internet Explorer or if it's server trouble on their end. This has also happened a lot recently when I click on blogs hosted by blogger. If anyone else is having this problem please let me know so I can figure out if this is unique to my computer.

This, of course, is because I want to direct your attention to the lone voice of reason in the conservative wilderness which is Lafayette, Louisiana. Bill Decker takes on the ridiculous rationale of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in this morning's column in the local rag. He always manages to knock off great lines in his columns and this one doesn't disappoint:

Scalia, widely recognized as one of the greatest jurists of his generation, sounded exactly like a police juror caught taking kickbacks from a gravel supplier.

Scalia used all the classics, starting with the “I’m a Call Girl, Not a Hooker” defense. The hunting trip was such a small thing, Scalia said, that it couldn’t possibly influence the vote of a Supreme Court justice.

In other words, Scalia’s virtue isn’t for sale — not at that price, anyway.

...

Finally, Scalia used the “Oddball” defense — the excuse that’s so far out in left field (or right field, in this case) that it defies rebuttal. Scalia said that during the hunting trip, he and Cheney were never in an “intimate setting.”

Thanks, Judge, for clearing that up. Here’s a new tenet for the canon of ethics: the “intimacy” standard. You can stay on the case if the vice president didn’t send you flowers.

Keep up the good work, friend.

Read this 

Adam Nossiter displays why he gets paid for writing and I'm just a lowly blogger; fruitlessly linking to stories which express things I can never quite manage to bang out on a keyboard.

The strategy -- if that's what it is -- is subtle: Project modesty rather than power, and avoid the appearance of confrontation.

Her method seems synonymous with her elusive ideology. This is a governor who works by inclusion. She talks openly of soothing legislators; legislators sound soothed. She graciously says "please" and "thank you" often. If a broad coalition doesn't want the deal, neither does she.

In other words, the question of what she stands for has been answered, in part. Blanco is for the consensus. It's the apotheosis of the John Breaux method: "I'd always rather have half of something than 100% of nothing," the senator has said.

The piece is an excellent discussion of Blanco's goals and methods during the recently concluded special session. Nossiter makes her out to be a politician considerably more deft than most commentators gave her credit for during the election. I'm not surprised that she understands how to work the legislature since she spent the previous twenty-some-odd years doing it, but this report will probably shock people who thought she was incapable of putting votes together.

Nancy-boy update 

After Friday's unsettling NCAA tournament loss I took solace in the fact that the Cajun baseball team would beat my frustration out of some Ivy League "athletes" from Harvard. Let's just say I wasn't disappointed. In two games the Cajuns batters crossed home plate thirty-seven times while giving up fifteen runs to their opponents. I managed to catch a bit of the game Saturday on television, but watched most of the Friday night beat-down of the Ivy wannabe Michigan Wolverines in person. They mustered six runs while giving up sixteen to the home squad. It was romp city. I feel better already.

Pop Culture Watch 

Rapper kept it real, to his death

It looks like Pic reporter Michael Perlstein or some random headline writer in New Orleans has been spending too much time watching Chappelle Show.

21 March 2004

Umm, 

Yeah, right. For the record, it's not surprising to me that the Fox headline of the same AP story reads "Report: Al Qaeda Has Nukes" while the cooler heads less intent on scaring the ever-living shite out of us headline the article: "Al-Qaida No. 2: We Have Briefcase Nukes".

Sunday Roundup 

aka, in which I link to nearly every bit of reporting and opinion mongering by paid Advocate writers. Today I'll do this with all the grace and style of a hippo in an ice rink.

After months of one revelation after another showing the inept, ill-conceived, and ill-advised state investment in The Football Network the Advocate editors have gotten around to addressing the venture. Any time Tom Benson gets near a governor looking for a few dollars from the state (or donates to the campaign of a candidate) reporters from the Baton Rouge paper are quick file stories calling into question the intentions of the Saints owner. They have published countless editorials denouncing the corporate welfare to a profitable business that generates millions of dollars in revenue to the state and the city of New Orleans every year. Meanwhile the best they can muster in a conclusion to this failed venture is this:

If TFN fails resuscitation and the state sinks no more money into the company, then Louisiana taxpayers might have gotten off the hook relatively cheaply. That is, if state officials learn from the experience.

Those are priorities for you.

The rest of the opinion page is required reading for the folks out in the blogosphere today. Gerard Shields discusses the consequences of Arthur Morrell's entry into the Senate field as a Democrat. His candidacy guarantees a runoff (though I'm positive a runoff was assured just with two Democrats in the race), but it's unclear whether he could win in a two-way race should he consolidate enough of the black vote to get him out of the general election. That's pretty much standard knowledge for anyone who has followed Louisiana politics for a minimum amount of time, but there's some more reporting about Morrell's plan to capitalize on the 'Net'work built by the Dean campaign in his failed bid for the presidency. If I were a Morrell supporter I wouldn't put too much stock in that.

Meanwhile Carl Redman takes on one of his pet issues for the second time in three weeks when he discusses property tax assessment. It's worthwhile reading, but the long and short of is that while the rhetoric out of the Blanco administration is reassuring there are miles to go to make property tax assessment equitable, consistent, and removed from political considerations and influence. I would go farther to say that Louisiana ought to look at not just assessing property correctly, but increasing taxes on different kinds of property. In particular I'd say things like automobiles valued over a certain level, different luxury items, etc. That's just the tax and spend liberal in me, though. Whatever the case, Louisiana lawmakers don't have the option of extorting cash off oil companies anymore and it's time they explored other avenues for revenue. Obviously I don't see citizens clamoring for any of this happening in the near or long term.

Lastly off their opinion page is a piece that's very skeptical of electronic voting Milford Fryer. He discusses the problems in the only two elections that used the electronic machines on March 9, one of which has already been brought to a judge. More stories on this please.

And within months after the problems with state employees' pensions exploded, the Advocate exposes the worst of the worst with regard to state police pensions. If you've got a pension being handled by the state, you'll want to be advised that reading this might not be good for your heart. It looks like they could have done better by giving the money to a high school "Free Enterprise" class and told them to have a class investment project with their billion dollars. It's long, but important. Take your time and read it, and don't worry Timshel will be here when you get back.

But enough with Baton Rouge, let's take a trip a little farther down I-10 to see what the Pic is offering up this morning. Stephanie Grace has a good report about David Vitter taking a seat in far the rear w/r/t the latest round of investigations surrounding NOLA officials because he's scared of looking like a racist in front of the state when it comes time to capture enough votes to win a statewide election.

And among other goings on on Capitol Hill, Mary Landrieu took her entire staff on a retreat to Grand Isle to help reinforce the importance of coastal erosion to them. Frankly, I can't think of a worse place to go on a staff retreat, but at the very least maybe threatening to take them back every year will inspire them to do their damnedest to help divert some money down this way.

That's it for now. I wanted to keep it shorter, but there it goes. Read up. Quiz later.

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