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10 April 2004

Saturday Roundup 

Lazy edition. Sorry about the lack of posting during the afternoon yesterday, but this weekend is shaping up into a whirlwind event of crawfish, beer, and family. That's all fine by me, but it's not exactly conducive to web log posting. You'll just have to bear with me until I can get back on track Monday.

Until then, I'd suggest you go read about Duke's release from prison. He's reportedly still considering running for the first district seat, though I read a few weeks ago that he had ruled it out.

Another important story deals with some criticism of the Treasury property return program. John Kennedy has been criss-crossing the state reminding Louisiana residents to log on to the state's website to find out if they have any money or property that has been lost. Kennedy expanded and marketed the program during his term in office and is very clearly hoping to reap electoral benefits from it when it comes time to vote for Senator this fall. Today the Advocate prints an article about a legislative audit of the program which found it vulnerable to fraud, though it found no instances of fraud. It looks like much ado about nothing, but look for David Vitter or Chris John to use this against him in the campaign. Don't count on any of the beneficiaries of the program to give half a damn that someone else "might have been able" to defraud the state for a fifty dollar check either.

For your last bit of reading, notice that this morning's Advocate editorial echoes my own sentiments about this ridiculous house bill that would make dissolving covenant marriages even more difficult. Stop stealing my ideas.

The last thing I'll mention is a gentle suggestion to people who are close to Lafayette that they might go check out the Lake Martin Bird Sanctuary out towards Breaux Bridge. I just got back from a morning trip out there with a niece and nephew and some siblings, and it was nothing short of amazing. One of the nesting birds there is the roseatte spoonbill--which are in abundance--along with giant egrets. It's literally breathtaking, and it's why I didn't get an earlier post out this morning. If I'm not back tomorrow, have a happy Easter.

09 April 2004

No one start swimming in it yet... 

The Advocate has a good story about the effort to clean up the Vermillion River by a model program the state commissioned for pollution reduction. It doesn't sound like the best work in the world, but the people in charge are accomplishing quite a bit:

The district staff has set up floating booms -- normally used to contain oil spills -- at the mouths of the several cuts and coulees that feed the Vermilion.

Not only do the booms keep the trash out of the river, they also corral floating debris into one area for easier collection, said Paul LaHaye, the district's river project manager.

Workers still must manually pick up each plastic drink bottle, beer can and oil carton, then place them into plastic trash barrels. About 25 barrels a day are collected, LaHaye said.

To speed up the process, engineering students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have developed a large conveyor belt device that will be outfitted onto a barge.

When the conveyor belt is lowered into the water, it can pull up all the trash in bulk, freeing up man hours for other tasks.

Okay, maybe it sounds like the worst work in the world, but hopefully these engineering students will make it easier on them. If you want a look at how disgusting the river is around the collector booms, go ahead and click here, but it's not for the faint of heart.

KKKers Rejoice 

David Duke has been released from federal prison. Let's hope he never returns to public life. That is, unless he decides to run for Congress in the 1st district to show the rest of the state how far out of touch David Vitter's constituents are with reality.

This is interesting 

I'm very much for stopping Dick Cheney in Louisiana, but it's strange that this website is being paid for by the Chris John for US Senate campaign. Granted that it's really nothing more than a couple of links to donate to the John campaign, but why put Cheney's ugly mug all over your fundraising material? It also seems clear that whoever wrote the pitch is very familiar with weblog rhetoric in the reference to the "Cheney-Delay-Rove smear machine". Couldn't they have found someone to operate this on their own accord? The "paid for" notation at the bottom seems to strip it of any authenticity.

Queen Bee 

I'm hardly surprised the Governor Blanco has taken a liking to her new monniker. Everything about her governorship and the campaign leading up to it (maybe her entire political career for all I know) has proven to the state that she is a particularly thick-skinned leader. Now she's taken to wearing bee accessories every where she goes to remind everyone of Rep. Troy Hebert's whining comments from a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, as Chris Frink shows us in the column above, the Queen Bee still can't get a serious ethics proposal through the legislature, and there will be a hundred other proposals from her office which will fall short as her term moves on. Of course all that is fine--it happens to any governor anywhere--but it makes you wonder if the whole thing hasn't gone to her head already. It's certainly happened to some of our previous state executives.

Let it Go 

Mike Baer won't let it go. He's threatening to file suit against the state Senate if he doesn't either get his job back or a severance package worth four years salary. His says his right to due process was violated in his termination.

I don't have any idea how this will turn out, but I hope he doesn't manage to scam any more money out of the state of Louisiana.

08 April 2004

Too funny 

A couple of days ago I mentioned the crappy graphic KLFY was using for their report on a highway death. Today they use similar sh*tty graphics in separate stories about a gun murder and an infant death. The infant death graphic is confusing, because normally the object that accompanies the chalk outline is the weapon rather than the victim. That led me to some flashbacks of old nightmares about the terrible movie version of Pet Semetary.

The reduced size chalk outline also helps remind me that it's a kid, but isn't that one still drastically larger than any baby could be? Forgot what the last one looked like?

Where's your dedication? 

I love Talking Points Memo, but c'mon, Josh Marshall doesn't have to be such a pus.

Lafayette Stuff 

It's a shame that the local weekly, The Independent, rarely updates their website, because Scott Jordan wrote an excellent piece this week about Festival International that I would have liked to link to. The articles tag line is "Although millions pour into community coffers during Festival International, the fest istelf continues to face funding challenges." There's a whole load of good info in there about how the festival stacks up against other parties in New Orleans like French Quarter Fest (roughly 300,000 visitors for the whole festival) and Jazz Fest (maybe that many each weekend).

Our own little fiesta managed to draw as many as 250,000 last year, generating an estimated $15 million into the local economy. But for some reason the Lafayette City Parish government only sees fit to allocate the organization a paltry $72,000 in funds this year. That number hasn't changed much in the last decade despite some major steps forward in the scale of the festival during the same time period. Since Jordan's report doesn't include this I thought it would be fair to note that the city did build multiple permanent stages and parks in the downtown area almost specifically to address the needs of the growing festival, but they are still unwilling to make any more significant financial contribution.

More peculiar is the trouble organizers have had securing greater corporate sponsorhip. To date their are only three major sponsors (Coca-Cola, Cingular Wireless, and Popeyes) and shockingly no major beer sponsor signed on for this years festival, which is only a few weeks away now.

None of this is to say that Festival International is in trouble this year. It will go on as planned, and the organizers say they have no intention of considering charging for attendance at any time in the future, but it's a shame that something as lively and beneficial to the entire community as Festival International should be having so much trouble staying afloat. Even more amazing is that the organization only employs two full-time staffers, who probably do more in the course of a year than most people will do over a lifetime to celebrate French-speaking cultures (among many others) from around the world.

You can check out the Festival's website here. This year's festival will run from April 21-25.

Great News! 

Let's get this straight for any Catholics who might happen by here that aren't from south Louisiana. Those of us down in this neck of the woods don't really understand the concept of Lenten fasting. The rules about meat on Friday during Lent are welcomed here, because it just means gorging on all the fine seafood our peeps pull out of the Gulf coast and the bayous of our state. The concept of the fast as a sacrifice is almost completely foreign to us. That's why we Catholics that live along the I-10 corridor have engaged in the strange practice of actually celebrating the death of our Lord (by those murderous Jews!) with Good Friday crawfish boils. That's also why this story fronting the Acadiana section of the Baton Rouge fish wrap is such good news:

By Wednesday, Sonny's Seafood Market in Lafayette already had orders for about 2,100 pounds of live crawfish for Friday, said Verma Guidry, wife of store owner Sonny Guidry.

"Good Friday is the best day of the year for the crawfish business," she said.

Prices have come down on crawfish over the past month, and many consumers may be able to get retail prices in the range of $1.19 to $1.25 per pound for live crawfish and about a dollar or so more a pound for boiled.

About a month ago those prices were running 50 cents to 60 cents higher per pound.

We Prados are having our own boil tomorrow. I believe my sister and bro-in-law are getting something more than a hundred pounds of the little monsters to feed us all, and I can't wait. While all those churches across the country are taking their last opportunity to see a Holy Week screening of "The Passion", we Louisianians will be pinching tail and sucking head (not in that way), and definitely engaging in quiet self-reflection of JC and how He saved us all from sin.

O' Canada! 

State legislators questioned pharma industry folks (from manufacturers to the pharmacists themselves) about the high costs of prescription drugs in this country. Our state legislators are mad that our drugs aren't as cheap as Canada's, and they ought to be. At any rate, no conclusions were reached as this was just a hearing to mull over the testimony of people involved in the business, but if you're interested you can read about it here and here.

Personally, I'm all for fmr. gubernatorial candidate Buddy Leach's proposal on this matter. He suggested in his campaign that he would commandeer Louisiana National Guard aircraft to fly to Canada to buy up their drugs in hopes that seniors would have better access to cheap pharmaceuticals. Yesterday I lamented the dumbing down of what populism is by our fine press, but Claude "Buddy" Leach understood what the word was all about.

Raises 

After ceaseless political pressure by loudmouths with bigger forums than my own, key supporters of the ill-conceived state official pay-raises are backing off their proposal. It was only a matter of time that this would happen; the raise had become politically untenable. Nearly every story coming out of the legislature lately has had something to do with spending reductions and revenue shortfalls, and it was causing some lawmakers to look dramatically out of touch with their constituents. We'll see if they don't just end up passing the same raise but on the sly by "phasing it in", but this is a good start to a more modest approach to any future salary increase.

2nd District 

Dude, good luck, you're going to need it.

Appraiser launches bid for Congress: Republican to seek seat held by Jefferson
I hope he doesn't plan to spend too much money on this race. I'm almost surprised the Picayune even bothered to report on the announcement of a challenger to Bill Jefferson. He owns that district.

Could it be? 

Jim Brown is suggesting that fmr. Gov. Buddy Roemer is seriously considering a run for John Breaux's Senate seat, and Roemer expects that he could land in a runoff with David Vitter. That would ensure that Louisiana would send a Republican to the Senate for the first time in its non-Reconstruction history. I'm not sure about how Roemer's entrance would really affect the politics of the next election, but it's a monkey-wrench I'd rather not have to consider. Brown says that Roemer plans to make a decision one way or the other by the first of June. Mitigating factors in that decision will likely be his friendship with candidate John Kennedy. Now I would love to see a runoff between Roemer and a Democrat, with Vitter left out in the cold, because while I won't vote for Buddy, I think he's lightyears ahead of David Vitter as far as general thoughtfulness and pragmatic reform goes. However, a Vitter/Roemer runoff is an outcome I just don't want to think about.

Speaking of David Vitter, he got some good press in my local rag for handing out a giant check to a crime lab in New Iberia. There is nothing like delivering money to someone else's district (Tauzin's in this case) in a Senate bid. I wish he would have come to Lafayette if only to see Chris John's reaction.

The Great Cajun Debate 

For years lawmakers and the agricultural commission have been caught up in a fight with sellers of out of state shrimp, crawfish, and catfish to prevent them from labeling their products "Cajun" and "Louisiana Creole". As this debate continues in Baton Rouge this week, one Sal Piazza, proprietor of Cajun Boy products, is caught up in the fight. He is in the unfortunate position of selling Asian catfish under his brand name Cajun Boy, and the Cajuns from my neck of the woods aren't very happy about it. The Pic and the Advocate discuss the debate in the Capitol yesterday.

The second story is actually pretty funny (if not a little distressing) because it really seems that the bone of contention with certain lawmakers and Piazza is not about his product, but that an Italian--gasp!--would deign to call himself "Cajun Boy:"

Rep. Kenneth Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, exhorted his colleagues to pass the legislation regardless of future litigation.

"What this fellow was doing was deceptive," LaFleur said. "Let's let him go fight his battle in court."

Rep. Troy "T.H." Hebert, D-Jeanerette, rose to note for his colleagues that Piazza is a Sicilian name.

"Why don't he just name it 'Italian Boy' products?" Hebert asked.

Martiny said Piazza began using "Cajun Boy" as a nickname some 30 years ago when clients called the salesman "coon-ass" because he was from Louisiana. Piazza started using "Cajun Boy" as a less offensive alternative.

"I don't see his problem," Hebert said. "People call me coon-ass all day."

The legislation now heads to the Senate.

To be sure, there's already a law that would require Cajun Boy products (or any other seller) to label his catfish as a product of another country, so this looks like some harsh legislation to protect the meaning of Cajun rather than another consumer bill meant to ensure that we all know just where our fish is coming from. God forbid people should call themselves Cajuns when they aren't, but this just seems stupid to me.

Um, It's about time 

A headline from this morning's T-P:

Segregation-era laws facing repeal

Laws have been sitting on the books in our fair state since 1958 (I wonder what's significant about that year...) that allow the governor to shut down schools but continue to pay educators when threatened with "a court order requiring a school board to place (in effect) ... a program not consistent with the Constitution and laws of the state." I said a few days ago that symbolism doesn't always mean much, but sometimes they're necessary. This is one of those cases. We've come a long way, baby.

07 April 2004

Tough First Days 

Everybody and their mother has a story to tell about a particularly bad first day on the job, or in school, or where ever, but there probably aren't many people who have ever screwed up as royally as Verl Emrick.

Here's Bruce Egler's initial report on the matter from this morning's T-P, the lede should be sufficient to sum up the entire story.

It took Verl Emrick, hired last week as new executive director of the New Orleans City Planning Commission, less than a day on the job to get himself into plenty of hot water.

During an introductory meeting Monday morning with members of the commission's staff, Emrick angered several of them with a comment they found racially insensitive.

Describing his desire to plunge into the job, he said that "I've got to grab the tar baby by the ears and jump right in," people who were at the meeting said.

You could guess that the result would be this afternoon's news that Mayor C. Ray Nagin suggested that the plannig commission go ahead and find someone else to take over the job. I doubt Mr. Emrick will break a record for shortest tenure as a New Orleans city official, but he's got to be pretty close. Happy trails, chump.

A Note on Political Animal 

I'm glad the Kevin Drum's commentary doesn't seemed to have changed in any significant way since his move from CalPundit to the Washington Monthly. I do wonder how successful a move this has been to increase the Monthly's readership. My guess is that they brought Drum and his wealth of readers to their site in hopes that the new surfers would click on some of their stories on the sidebar. I've begun to treat that sidebar as something no different from the ads on the big blogs like Eschaton and Kos, though, meaning that I pay no attention to them whatsoever. I'm more inclined to read things from the magazine when someone else links to it than when I'm visiting the home itself. Any other readers having the same experience? Sorry if this seems like a completely random thought; I'm not sure where it came from either. I think I was feeling guilty for reading Drum and nothing else, and now I'm hoping that others are doing the same.

Drink Miller High Life 

I already generally avoid Coors products because I don't like the water-like quality of their most popular product, but I'd also rather not help enrich the family that has been almost as generous as Richard Mellon Scaife to the causes of general right wing skull-duggery across the nation. Now the current partriarch, Peter Coors, is running for the Senate seat to replace Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Colorado. In solidarity with the cause of Democrats across the USA, may I suggest a better beer?

update @ 3:41 pm: Kos has more on Coors, calling it a signal that the GOP has given up on retaining the seat. Makes sense to me.

Amen and Halefallujah 

Bob Somerby can be grating in his almost ceaseless ability to repeat his own standard one-liners, but sometimes they're worth shouting from the rooftops. Today's he's discussing a Sean Hannity interviewwith fmr. White House counsel and author John Dean. After providing his own truncated transcript of the conversation he comes to this conclusion:

We’d link you to the transcript, so you could see where this ended, but Fox is too smart to provide such a service. After all, would you want the world to see the record if you insulted the American public interest this way? And here’s a question for all the Fox rubes: Just how dumb do you have to be accept being mocked in this way—by a man who’s paid millions each year to treat you like absolute idiots?

I could die laughing if it didn't want to make me hang myself.

Good Stuff 

Here's an interesting story about the bill to formally recognize MLK Day as a state holiday passing through the House unanimously yesterday. I mentioned that it made it through committee a couple of days ago, but this is a strange story because it discusses a Republican congressman who engaged in a little bit of theater during the passage to suggest state recognition of St. Patrick's Day. At first I thought the guy was just being a jerk trying to point out that "black people shouldn't get special recognition, blah, blah, blah type," but it turns out he was just giving a freshman legislator a hard time as he tried to pass his first bill, apparently a tradition on the state House floor. The prankster is a man after my own heart, though:

Several lawmakers worried about the cost of making St. Patrick's Day into a holiday. They pointed out that Martin Luther King Day has been observed as a state holiday for the past 14 years, and wouldn't cost any extra.

Flavin kept his tongue in cheek through the serious inquires.

"Who cares how much it costs? It's St. Patrick's Day. Everybody's going to have a good time, so we don't have to worry about it," Flavin said.

Flavin suggested the extra costs would be more than offset by the economic benefits of green-beer parties.

Now I don't know about green beer, but if bars sold premium brews like Guinness on St. Patty's day they could really rake in the dough on the markup, and then we could really have a grand old time.

More Budget Troubles 

I meant to include Chris Frink's report on the possibly deepening state DHH crisis in the earlier post on our shite revenue stream, but it got lost in the shuffle. I'm tempted to believe that because the Blanco administration really hasn't prepared for the possibility of the federal goverment stopping millions in payments because of some questionable transfer of funds (not questionable in the shady-illegal sense, but questionable in the misunderstood federal guidelines sense) in the past, that they have it on good authority that the funding will continue. At this point there is no resolution, and considering this kind of talk from Blanco's budgeting chief, there may be reason to be scared:

Without federal approval, the state health-care system is in trouble, LeBlanc said. But he could not put a figure on the depth of that trouble.

"There is no plan B except cutting," LeBlanc said, "fairly serious cutting."

The state health-care system would be saddled with an entire year of spending cuts in the last three months of the current fiscal year, LeBlanc said.

Ouch.

AIDS in Baton Rouge 

Sunday I discussed an AP article about AIDS in Baton Rouge the Advocate decided to stuff into the middle of its A section (sorry permalinks seem to be completely screwed today, scroll down to the Sunday roundup if you missed it the first time). Today they have one of their own writers follow the story that Baton Rouge is ranked second in the nation in per capita AIDS cases and manage to stuff it again, this time even farther back in the A section than the first time and once again don't post the story online (last time I had to go to NOLA's AP wire). Amy Wold covers the story and suggests that the city's decision to go farther than most in documenting AIDS (presumably because they got lab results of some sort) cases could be part of the reason that Baton Rouge comes up so high on the list of cities with AIDS patients.

This should be an important story to the editors of the paper, and they cared enough to send one of their own, but they still seem to be hiding the results from their readers by relegating it to the nether regions of print edition. I hope Wold or some other reporter looks deeper into this story and the state takes note of why their cases may have risen over the last decade. It may not be the number one most important public health issue considering the myriad problems in the state of Louisiana, but it's not something to be dismissed either.

Budget Troubles 

As if you needed more evidence that our state was having budget troubles, the papers point out this morning that a number of other programs are getting the short end of the stick as Kathleen Blanco struggles to keep her campaign promise (and oft repeated in the interim between her election and her inauguration) to maintain existing spending levels in the state's Pre-K program. The programs being shorted include afternoon tutoring and pregancy prevention, and their supporters aren't making any secret of their displeasure. The fact is that our budget stinks, and as this session moves along we'll hear more and more about good programs that we can't afford to continue to fund with any real commitment. This is only the first of many (Actually last week there a few stories about prison funding being the first to go out the window, and I don't anyone is surprised that locked up convicts would be the first to see budget cuts in an economy that is in the tank). I don't know what to say about all this. It's not surprising, just depressing.

Senate Forum 

The candidates met in the basement of the Capitol yesterday to discuss the issues facing us in the next election in an even hosted by some real estate industry folks. You can read about it here, here, and here. Jan Moller's is probably the best one, only because he makes a concerted effort to quote all the participants. Reading Nossiter's account might leave you thinking that David Vitter and John Kennedy were the only two people there. However, I do have a problem with the continued characterization of Kennedy's rhetoric as "populist." Consider this quote:

Kennedy's stance is tinged with populism, with fiery laments about the current economy's jobs-and-budget deficit; Vitter, one of the more conservative House members, is more overtly pro-business.

"Some of my opponents love to talk about millionaires, and `we simply want to increase taxes on them.' But a lot of those folks are the entrepreneurs, the risk takers," said Vitter, coming off a successful, $1,000-a-ticket New Orleans fund-raiser with Vice President Dick Cheney that netted over a half-million dollars.

Kennedy, who once served as Gov. Buddy Roemer's lawyer and has degrees from Vanderbilt and Oxford University, took issue. "I don't think millionaires are the backbone of the American economy," he said. "I think the backbone is middle-class Americans and Louisianans."

and this from Moller's piece:

Kennedy took the most populist approach by sharply criticizing the Bush administration's record on job creation and challenged Vitter's support of the president's tax cuts.

"I don't think millionaires are the backbone of the American economy," Kennedy said. "I think the backbone of the American economy are middle-class people."

Asked how he would craft a national energy bill, Kennedy emphasized the development of alternative energy sources and conservation while blasting the administration for not paying enough attention to Louisiana's coastal erosion.

Paying lip service to the true "backbone of the American economy" is not populism. Journalists over the last few years have defined this term down to meaninglessness. Find me a true populist who would advocate tax rebates to corporations for any reason (even if it were from creating jobs), and I'll find you a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Kennedy is advocating sounder tax policy to create a market that encourages job growth. He's not talking about the old bread and butter of populist job creation like soaking the largest corporations to pay for expanded public works projects and the like. Okay, so that's my rant for today.

Senator Arthur Morrell is playing the Dean role in this election. All accounts are that he is a long shot because he is so short on money, and I don't think the Dean approach to raising it will work so well in Louisiana, but hopefully his rhetoric against the Bush administration will make it easier for the rest of the Democrats to temper their own, but still benefit from the attacks against Bush (and in turn Vitter, who judging by his own quotes in these articles is most definitely running on the Bush record).

Morrell said Congress should never have authorized the invasion of Iraq, and he questioned the administration's original justification for going to war to remove weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be found.

"A little over 600 Americans have died -- for what? A bunch of lies," Morrell said. "In the beginning I had respect for this president, but after finding out what he really stands for, I am ashamed."

I am too, friend.

John is sticking with his campaign theme that he's the one to stay out of this partisan squabbling. We'll see if that's enough to endear him to primary Democrats who may want a more fiery candidate attuned to the polarized electorate, which if my friends are any indication is just as strong here as anywhere else in the country.

06 April 2004

Best Graphic Ever 

It's been a busy day today, so I'm sorry if the posting was a little slower than normal this afternoon. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the graphic that accompanies this story about the vehicular homicide bill moving through its state Senate committee earlier today. What's up with the chalk outline's right arm? It's the other that got run over by the car...

There's nothing better than Microsoft Clipart.

More cockfighting 

Jeez, I say I don't really care one way or the other about an issue, and now I'm posting on it twice in a few hours. I should watch my tongue next time. Whatever. The US Humane Society released a poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Louisiana voters are against cockfighting and would support making it illegal in the state of Louisiana. Cain Burdeau from the AP reports on it here. Now I don't have much reason to trust that this poll was conducted in good faith, but I also wouldn't doubt that the majority of Louisianians find cockfighting detestable. The simple fact is that even the most culturally conservative people view the practice as something more fit for sleazy alleys in third world cities where the great unwashed go to get their rocks off. When they realize that the third world is right here in their own neighborhood it makes them uncomfortable.

Where this gets interesting is that Chris John, candidate for Senate, has been the biggest impediment to federal laws against cockfighting that Congress has known over his last few terms. The Humane Society intends to come into Louisiana and paint him as "the go to guy" for the cockfighting industry. Now if I'm a candidate for the Senate, I definitely wouldn't like to have my name attached to that very often. It's not like David Vitter is likely to come out against cockfighting in Louisiana, but he certainly won't have his name attached to it like he's some big champion of the practice. The result is that John will come out of this looking like some kind of dirty Cajun more suited to work in the Crowley rice patties than to the hallowed halls of the Senate.

Now this is quite a departure from the first time I posted on Chris John and his support for cockfighting, when I suggested that his position would help him with Louisiana voters, but the more I reflect on it, the more I see this as a stupid, and pointlessly wounding position on an issue that he's probably wrong about anyway. The Humane Society isn't PETA. They're more respectable and tend to only take up the fights that actually matter. Why continue to inflame them?


More Landrieu 

Yesterday evening I mentioned a Mary Landrieu trip through St. Martinville, but the story I linked to didn't mention any meeting at the 256th National Guard Brigade's headquarters here in Lafayette. Here's an Advertiser account of the meeting in which Landrieu touted a bill she is sponsoring that would increase benefits and pay to the citizen soldiers. I'm sure that in Landrieu's next election (in the far away land of 2008) this will somehow be used to claim that she is either weak on defense or doesn't support our troops, or more likely both.

District 45 

Buzz Durio and Joel Robideaux met in another candidate forum last night (didn't they know the NCAA men's college basketball national championship was on?) and they still can't manage to distinguish themselves from one another. I would call them "conservative" and "conservativer", but that suggests that one might take a different position on an issue, which doesn't seem likely the more and more I read about them. Here are a couple of highlights:

Durio said he already had bills introduced, through a friend, relating to public access to the Atchafalaya Basin.

On the issue of cockfighting, the two agreed: They won't vote to make it illegal.

"I think it is a unique part of our culture, and I wouldn't do anything to change it," Robideaux said.

Durio said he believes those trying to outlaw cockfighting have an "extreme view of what is and isn't personal prerogative when it comes to animals."

I'm not even sure what that last bit about cockfighting means. I would think the extreme view of what is personal prerogative when it comes to animals lies with those who think they can watch animals abused for their own amusement, but hey, that's just me. It's not an issue I care about much one way or the other, but if he means the exact opposite of my view, I'd say that's a pretty shocking display of values for a candidate for public office. I couldn't find anything about the bill Buzz has supposedly already introduced into the legislature, "through a friend", but I would hope someone at the forum followed up on that somewhat incredible statement.

Sigh, I've said that Durio would get my vote, but each day it's harder to resign myself to voting in this race at all. I wish I could go to the polls and simply pull the lever twice without knocking down a check mark beneath either candidate's name, but the machines force you to make a vote on at least one measure on the ballot, and in this case, this will be the only race to vote. I guess I'll only be able to express my displeasure on the scrolling face of Timshel.

Covenant Marriage 

A bill made it through a House committee that would make covenant marriages even tougher to get out of. You can read accounts here and here (oops, not online at the Advocate). It's heartening to see that the counseling measure adopted in the bill would exempt victims of spousal abuse, but I can't see any advantage of including open ended language about "love" and "respect" in civil legislation. Judges shouldn't be forced to define what these things are, and that will no doubt be the case when partners who agree to these marriages inevitably end up trying to secure divorces. Consider these terms:

The bill also says that partners in a covenant marriage "owe each other love and respect" and each should "attend to . . . the other's needs." It also calls for the married couple "to determine the family residence by mutual consent" and mandates that the management of the household "shall be the right and duty of both spouses."

I understand the reasoning behind this language, but it has the potential to open up a legal can of worms that is very distressing. Courts shouldn't be in the business of defining those terms, but there is no question that they will eventually be asked to.

7th Congressional 

Here's an excellent account of the Don Cravins' announcement inked by the Advocate's Patrick Courreges. It looks like it would have been fun to be a part of it. Cravins and his supporters caravaned something like fifty cars after his announcement in Opelousas and drove on to Lake Charles, where he took his message to the heart of support for what will probably be his toughest Democratic rival, state Senator Willie Mount. She hasn't announced yet, but all signs point to her entering the field, and Lake Charles is her home. I have a feeling that my little district will shape up to be the most interesting Congressional race in Louisiana this year, and this is a great way for Cravins to enter the fray.

Cheney 

Here's the T-P's report. There isn't much there that doesn't rundown the standard attacks on John Kerry: he's a waffler, he's against our troops, he's a tool of foreign leaders, and the rest of the blah, blitty, blah. Cheney did raise an impressive $530,000 for David Vitter, though, and that's quite the haul for a guy who is already way ahead in the money game. By a look at the report, the Veep didn't say word one about Vitter. If that's the strategy in this election--for Vitter to run on Bush's coattails--then I'm all for it. I doubt that will be the case once it really gets into full swing, but it sure does seem like it with Bush coming down to Louisiana to address LSU's commencement in May. For a President whose approval rating is in the low forties, I'd be a little worried about his ability to carry my candidate into office.

The candidates will meet in an untelevised forum today in Baton Rouge.

Please Don't Do It 

I'm hardly the late-night partyer that I was while living in New Orleans, but I'd like to believe that whenever I'm in the city I at least have the option of hitting places like S&J's Christmas Lounge if I ever find myself wandering the streets in the middle of the night. It looks like that one and other bars are the specific targets of a proposal that would limit hours for clubs and lounges that were grandfathered into zoning regulations in residential areas.

The proposal arose from a steady diet of complaints about these old bars in gentrifying neighborhoods. It came to a head in a fatal shooting at Butlers near the river, which eventually went out of business. I'm not quite sure what all the bars on the list are, but people more familiar with New Orleans can probably figure it out for themselves:

Batt's office released a list of several establishments in Uptown residential areas that it said have generated such complaints, including sites on Earhart Boulevard and Tchoupitoulas, Oak, Cherokee, Edinburgh, Apple, Willow and Burdette streets.

I think there are other ways they could encourage these bar owners to take a more responsible approach to curbing some of the litter and noise (and crime too) that is associated with their businesses than simply shutting them down at "a reasonable hour", but I can't blame neighbors for preferring to see them closed.

Not my beat 

I don't usually comment much on the Iraq goings on, but my homepage is set to CNN, and I thought this lede to their story about the Fallujah offensive pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with our little engagement in the Middle East:

U.S. Marines in Fallujah were engaged in intense fighting in an attempt to pacify the city of 300,000.

That's right, intense fighting in an attempt to pacify...Down the rabbit hole we go.

05 April 2004

Missed this one 

Mary Landrieu was in Cajun country today checking in on the vacant Fruit of the Loom plant in St. Martinville. I'm sorry I missed her. Read about it here. And is it just me, or does she look every bit like a daughter of New Orleans in that picture? Is it all in my head?

Getting Results 

This morning the Advocate headlined its main editorial this way:

Polozola should recuse himself

Here's a headline from WAFB this afternoon:

Judge Polozola Recuses Himself From Edwin Edwards' Appeal

I should note that I said the same thing a week ago, and I'm absolutely positive that it was the mighty power of the Timshel opinion which shamed Polozola into his recusal.

Reminder 

The AP wire reminds us that Veep Dick Cheney will be in NOLA tonight raising money for David Vitter at a clip of $1,000 a plate. My invitation must have been lost in the mail, so I'll have to send my negative energy vibes long distance via the Internet. The question is, who are these guys?

A group calling itself "Kerry Crescent," self-described as a "grass roots organization" for Kerry in New Orleans, was planning to protest Cheney's visit here with a "street theater" demonstration featuring a volunteer in a duck costume.

The group said the costume would be a reference to Cheney's duck hunting trip with Scalia in South Louisiana.

This yahoo group seems to be the only Kerry Crescent (besides their organization through Meetup)web presence, but they are an effective press organization if they managed to get an advanced, specific mention in what could be a widely distributed AP story about Cheney's visit to Louisiana tonight. Good luck, guys.

Update @ 4:14: fixed stupid mistake, thanks Richard P.

It's Monday 

That means it's time for the most current weekly Slate feature in which two mob reporters exchange emails about the previous night's episode of "The Sopranos". This week Slate threw a little grease on the fire by introducing a mob lawyer to get in on the conversation. The conversation is ongoing, so I expect a few more updates as the day progresses, but if you take the time to read it, I wonder if you'll pick up on a certain animosity between Jeffrey Goldberg (mob reporter) and Gerald Shargel ("Jerry S." in the text, mob lawyer). Maybe it's just me, but I have the distinct feeling that Goldberg has a particular distaste for the lawyer.

Praying for Small Favors 

Dear Lord, please don't let there be any truth to what I saw at Body and Soul today, and if there is, please--please!--don't let me find out that the Lance Corporal Boudreaux in question is from Louisiana.

via Pandagon

I thought he was already in 

Don Cravins announced his candidacy for US Congress from Louisiana's seventh district (that's mine, it stretches mostly south of I-10 from Lafayette to the Texas border) today. I'd been treating him as though he were already a candidate, but apparently it wasn't official. Here's a brief biographic note about him from the AP account.

A longtime champion of juvenile justice reform in the Legislature, Cravins has taken a leading role in closing the scandal-plagued youth prison at Tallulah.

The fight to succeed John is expected to be spirited, in a district that voted for both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Cravins, who is black, is expected to have good prospects to win a runoff spot in a district that's 25 percent black. However, the district's conservatism could pose problems in the general election.

I have some problems with Don Cravins, but his initiative in shedding light on the problems at Tallulah (it only sounds like Fallujah) in the state legislature is the kind of yeoman's work that doesn't win votes or the kind of praise that diverting millions in highway funding back to your district. He should be proud of that. He's also taken a leading role in other criminal justice matters by agitating for money for re-entry and rehabilitation programs that are rarely considered in our revenue-strapped state. In the end these issues are as important to the future of our state as education and health care, but no one likes to talk about them. That alone is nearly enough to get my vote, but I haven't come to a decision one way or the other about this race yet.

Also notice the bit of bias in the second paragraph up there in the not so subtle suggestion that conservatives won't vote for a black man. If there were some conservative bloggers covering Louisiana politics I'd expect howls of "liberal bias", except that it's true. Conservatives in Louisiana don't trust black candidates. Prove me wrong.

...Yat Pundit noticed the same thing today, except it was in relation to the story about property tax assesment. WTF, did those stories even mention the race of any of the parties involved?

Good Luck 

After all the weekend controversy about Kos and his comments regarding mercenaries, this guy must be trying to rake in the campaign dough. Kos asked for $20,000, but I bet he raises nearly twice that. Hell, I'm broke and I want him to have my money.

Anyone but Archie 

Last week I suggested that Will Sentell was opening up a can of worms he may regret by pointing out the obvious with regards to LSU. This week it's the T-P's Gordon Russell's turn. Consider the lede grafs in this piece on the long-time scandal of property tax assessment in New Orleans:

While the average New Orleans homeowner enjoys a low property tax assessment, a select group of locals gets an even larger break: the people who donate to the assessors' campaigns.

Campaign donors' properties are more than twice as likely as those of nondonors to be valued by assessors at less than their most recent sales price, according to a survey by The Times-Picayune that linked more than 1,000 contributions with property tax records.

Slightly more than half of the donor-owned properties examined by the newspaper were assessed for less than their owners paid for them. By comparison, one in five homes overall is assessed for less than its most recent sales price.

For example, former Saints quarterback Archie Manning has contributed $1,250 to the campaign of 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson since 1998 and also gave to her predecessor, Ronnie Burke. Manning has lived for 22 years in a galleried Greek Revival mansion in the Garden District, where he and his wife raised three sons, including NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning. Archie Manning paid $450,000 for the home in 1982, but 16 years later, Burke valued it at $285,000 -- saving Manning almost $3,000 a year in taxes.

Although Garden District property has appreciated dramatically in recent years, Manning's assessment has risen at a gentler pace. Jefferson bumped it up four years ago to $331,200. This year, she nudged it up another 9 percent. Jefferson still puts the value at 20 percent less than what Manning paid for it.

Manning did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Gordon Russell should be given a Presidential Medal of Freedom for this one. He calls into question a guy who may be the most beloved figure in the whole history of New Orleans. I wouldn't be surprised if the kooks started calling in bomb threats to the Picayune's offices over this bit of reporting.

More on salaries 

I've said my piece on this, but the Advocate takes a long look at the all the ins and outs of the proposed raise for state lawmakers again this morning. This is probably the most comprehensive look at it I've seen anywhere, though the online version doesn't include a helpful graphic that the print edition included. I'm not against raising these salaries on principle, and I could support a more modest compensation, but what the legislature is proposing--and the amount of time and work they are putting into its implementation--is a gross misplacement of what should be priorities in making this state better for its residents.

What's ridiculous is constantly hearing these lawmakers harp on how they have to compete with the private sector in order to lure the best and brightest into public service. As if the raises themselves will be some engine of reform. Meanwhile the areas they have real opportunities to reform, like health care, economic development, and education, are only being addressed in patchwork fashion. Blanco has signaled a tacit approval of the legislative branch on this one, which is a shame because this could be a time where putting the values and priorities she campaigned on could shame the legislature into a more humble approach to their own pay.

It's not all bad 

Despite the problems on the Opinion page, some individual reporting (even when it does come from Gannett serfs) makes the paper worth the cost of the ink. In this case it's Mike Hasten and Marsha Sill's report on some degree programs at UL that are in trouble. Some Board of Regents auditing provided some very surprising numbers about degree programs that just aren't graduating enough students. I was most surprised that UL's Political Science dept. (often the degree of choice for the thousands of kids who want to go to law school after graduation) is on the chopping block because they are conferring less than five BAs a year. I figured that would be a relatively healthy department. The English department, which claims to have seventy students seeking PhD.s, hasn't issued one in five years and are among one of the programs being eyed for cuts (are there even seventy jobs available in this country for a PhD in literature?). Of course, the least surprising is the Philosophy department, which apparently hasn't issued a single BA in five years (I bet you it's been way longer than that, though the study the paper uses just audited the last five years). The cost of keeping the department probably wouldn't be much considering the only employ three full-time professors, who fill their classes with students taking required ethics courses and elective general philosophy courses, but they are on the block too.

D'oh 

Considering some of the writing that often turns up on the Advertiser opinion page it's natural that a few people out there would suspect the editors aren't even bothering to read their own paper, but I don't know how they could have missed the big gaffe they made this morning. Today they managed to publish the same William F. Buckley column about Richard Clarke's big apology to the 9-11 Commission they ran Friday morning. The headline was only slightly altered this time around, but a glance at the two editions seemed to show no other discrepancies (they usually have to clip a few paragraphs off their syndicated columns to make them fit). I know they're trying to break new ground on how to run a newspaper on the cheap over there, but I hope they don't make a habit of simply recycling three day old columns in order to fill space.

04 April 2004

Sunday Roundup (All T-P Edition) 

The state papers worth a damn look at the pending ethics legislation in their Sunday editions. The Pic has a couple of stories suggesting that the Governor's ethics agenda would be ineffective against the kind of under the radar lobbying efforts that have become a staple of Baton Rouge influence buying. To drive this point home Robert Travis Scott reports on measures already adopted by the state PSC that are considerably more strict than existing ethics rules for other state agencies. They are also more stringent than Blanco's proposal calls for. The Pic looks like they're trying to make a boring story a little more controversial here by suggesting that Blanco isn't really going as far as she can with the ethics agenda she has repeatedly trumpeted as a major part of economic development and good government reform, but the people falling short are the Picayune reporters. In Maggi's report she focuses almost exclusively a couple of disclosure laws and completely ignores the rest of the Governor's ethics package, which is extensive. Scott looks at a single state agency that changed their standards and invites the reader to question why the legislature can't adopt similar rules. A moment's thought about the task of acquiring the votes to pass legislation that extensive will reveal the wisdom of Blanco's more modest approach. Whatever the case, the Advocate's reporting by Chris Frink gave a much more revealing picture of Blanco's ethics package. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have the story online this morning for some reason. Their website hasn't been updated at all since yesterday. A look at the print edition includes a very good graphic about all the changes her administration is supporting.

The big story out of the Pic is the entirely unsurprising--but no less incisive--report on the completely FUBARed system of property tax assessment in New Orleans (and around most of the state, no doubt) in which "a two-bedroom condominium on Gov. Nicholls Street [can be] worth more than a vast, three-story galleried 19th century Greek Revival townhouse on Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter." And guess what! Politicians are some of the primary benefactors of lowball assessments. Whodathunkit?

Some other tidbits from their political brief sections include the surprising news that the four announced candidates for John Breaux's Senate seat will be meeting in a forum in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. This seems like it's very early, but frankly I don't really know because I can barely remember the actual campaign for the last open seat in 1996. I was old enough to care, but too young to spend any real time following it. That's life, I guess. You can also see some fundraising news for the candidates in that race here. Vitter and John are leading the pack, but John Kennedy is a solid third in the money wars.

The truly shocking news I read this morning was from this AP article stuffed into the middle of the Advocate. Apparently Baton Rouge is tied with Miami for the unfortunate ranking of second most per capita AIDS cases in the nation. I don't know why this wasn't front page news on the Baton Rouge paper, but I'd say it's a bigger story than the editors are giving it credit for. I suppose that because the reporting isn't particularly extensive that they may not have thought it warranted special prominence in the edition, but it certainly shouldn't have been stuffed into nether regions of the A section. No word on where Austin, Texas is on that list...

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