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17 April 2004

Robideaux wins 

I'm surprised by the result considering the fact that Buzz Durio had the weight of the Republican party behind him. This only further irritates me that the Democrats didn't find anyone to run for this seat. See the results here. Roughly five thousand votes cast in a district with more than 20,000 registered voters (I think the number is closer to 30,000). Talk about turnout.

Saturday Roundup 

This will be a mostly local edition, but before I get to that I'll hand out some quick links to the statewide business. First the Advocate runs a big story about Governor Blanco's proposal to make state negotiations with potential businesses in secret. Considering the length, there is surprisingly little new information to find, but if you're interested in the story it's still a worthwhile read, if only to find out where your lawmakers and certain interests groups come down on the issue.

Also out of Baton Rouge is a story about fundraising for the Senate and US House races that are coming this fall. The shocker here is probably out of my own House district, where Republican doctor Charles Boustany has raised a boatload of cash for his candidacy. The same goes for a surprising total from fmr. Judge Ned Doucet, who I didn't think was a serious candidate, but he's sitting on quite a haul anyway. The paper also reports that Jindal has done very well for himself in the first district, despite nasty rumors from people like Bigshot that Jindal was going to make himself a candidate for the LSU chancellorship. Never believe the hype.

The Pic reports on a bill's advancement that would extend the hours teenagers aged from 16-17 could work at night. The restaurant lobby is pushing hard for the legislation that would allow teens to work until 1:30 am on school nights instead of the current 10:00 pm requirement. The Pic informs us that the AFL-CIO doesn't support the bill, but won't work against it either. This strikes me as a bad move by the legislature for a few reasons, but it's not like I could get up in arms about it. That shouldn't stop anyone else from screaming about it though.

And we're electing a representative in Lafayette today. I've written myself blue in the face about the lack of choices we have in this one, but what's done is done. I'll be voting for Buzz Durio, but frankly, I don't care if wins or loses. Neither candidate represents my values or politics, and neither shows any hint that they understand the challenges facing this state. However Durio seems smarter and perhaps more sincere than the independent Joel Robideaux, so I'll be casting my vote for a Republican. Durio has also spent considerable time talking about the problem Lafayette has with traffic, and if he focuses all his time on the issue while in the state House, he could end up making a difference. I'll be holding my nose when I pull the lever. C'est la vie.

And in one of the strange instances where the Lafayette city council does something good enough for me to link to, officials have apparently scrapped their plans for a soundwall along Camellia Blvd. in favor of a "green zone" which looks suspiciously like a park. If you're from Lafayette you're very familiar with the controversy that has surrounded the construction of the new bridge over the Vermillion River. It hasn't ended with the completion, as residents have been using the paper to whine about everything from speed limits, to "the sound", to red lights. Not living in the neighborhood, I find it very difficult to believe that the noise is bad enough to require a wall at the cost of taxpayers, and this green belt should manage to buffer the sound while still providing a diversity of uses. It's a good idea and will be well worth the money. Links here and here.

I'm off to vote now, y'all come back now.

16 April 2004

Time Killing Game of the Week 

War on Terra' edition. Hope everyone finds this to their liking. Ten challenges, some of which are very difficult. Keep playing to improve your score on the various challenges. I believe it's based on some British spy drama.

Newsworthy 

The Brits discover what we here in Louisiana have known since Bienville landed ... Squirrels are for eatin'.

JC!? 

Wasn't this bs dispensed with a long time ago?

Resolutions 

I usually find congressional resolutions pointless and a little bit arrogant, but I'm all for the state calling the Bush administration out on it's bait-and-switch "No Child Left Behind Act."

Ethics Bill 

A bill only slightly more strict than the one Blanco proposed made it through a House committee yesterday. It would also ban fundraising during all sessions, not just non-election year sessions. It includes all statewide elected officials as well. You can read good reports on it here and here.

...a note to the Advocate, you avoided popup ads suggesting subscriptions for so long, why start now?

I'm very much against this 

Cleo Fields has sponsored a bill to allow private foundations to supplement public school superintendent salaries. It appears to be a naked attempt to find a way to pay more to Rudy Crew, a candidate for the top education job in East Baton Rouge Parish. I expressed my displeasure at this happening on the college level at LSU, though at least there is some precedent for that in higher education.

Public elementary and secondary schools have an even greater need for autonomy from private interference though, and this bill--should it pass--would open the door for all kinds of trouble in the future.

My other problem is the assumption that seems to pervade our state (and probably most of the rest of the country) that there are these "superstar" administrators out there who will come in and save the day if you just throw enough money at them. Mark Emmert was a big beneficiary of this idea, and while he certainly made the most of his time at LSU, he also benefited from a major change in the way the state viewed and prioritized higher education. I'd be willing to bet there are a thousand people out there who could do the job Emmert did at LSU for about a quarter of what he was paid. Now Baton Rouge, still high off the Emmert train, wants to approach public school education the same way they managed Emmert's tenure at the university.

It seems to me that the school system would be much better off extending their search for cheaper candidates than they would by ceding public control of their schools to the private foundations that would inevitably want a say in matters once they start paying the superintendent's salary.

Alma mater news 

Posting may be fruitless today as I'm still experiencing whatever problems I noticed yesterday. I hope people can manage to see new entries, but who really knows how these things work?

Loyola named a new president yesterday. Kevin Wildes is a Jesuit from Georgetown University. He's relatively young and has served on Loyola's Board of Trustees for quite some time now. If he brings the same energy to institutional advancement that Fr. Knoth carried--and hopefully none of the now well-known baggage--Loyola will have a fine president.

You can read his column from "The Hoya" here. His politics are played close to the vestments, but his writing speaks to a general thoughtful nature. But you can judge that for yourselves.

15 April 2004

Something's wrong 

I don't know if it's my browser or bad blogger business, but I'm having all kinds of trouble with this weblog today...

Update @ 6:31 pm: umm, I'm pretty sure the problem is with blogger. Oh well, I'm just glad it's not me.

Mwah! 

More great graphics from the KLFY-TV crime division. This one is for a story about a child porn sentencing in Kaplan.

Notice the three images juxtaposed in sinister fashion: children's toys, handcuffs, and the barely visible camera lens. What will become of the children!?

Missed this 

I don't know how I missed Jim Brown's column this morning suggesting that fmr. Rep. Kooky Cooksey is having second thoughts about challenging Rodney Alexander in the fifth district, but there you go.

Jim Brown is turning into an invaluable source for inside news in Louisiana politics each week. Last week he suggested Roemer was looking into the Senate race just before it became common knowledge among the entire state press, and now he's telling us that Cooksey may not have the heart for another campaign. Add to that some critical words for everyone's favorite Supreme Court justice, and I'd say it's a must read. You know what to do...

Jonah's just precious 

Leave it to one of the self-proclaimed intellectual leaders of the right to attempt a book about fascism denying its rightist roots solely by research gleaned from Corner readers.

Prudie Voyeurism 

Every week the letters get better and better at "Slate's Dear Prudence". Take a gander at this one:

Through electronic spying, my siblings and I discovered our 80-year-old stepfather is having an incestuous relationship with his 60-year-old daughter (from a previous marriage). We also found out that the daughter believes my stepfather is a millionaire (he isn't) and has altered his will to leave everything to her. My stepfather visits his daughter every weekend, where they have sex with each other and other swingers take pictures and actually post them in online photo albums. Our mother now knows about this and has decided not to confront him, as she is afraid that in the ensuing mess she will lose everything (house, stocks, etc.) to him and lawyers. My siblings and I don't know whether to respect our mother's decision or take matters into our own hands.

Concerns about estate entitlement and infidelity aside, I think there are some very good questions we could discuss in this space. The important one is clearly what on earth this presumably older person is doing spying on an eighty year old stepfather. Also, it must be some sophisticated surveillance to have gathered so much info about the old man and his sixty-year old daughter/paramour. The next questions are of a more general nature about the morality of father-daughter incest. Without getting in to religious prescriptions and natural law, the two biggest objections generally concern the dangers of conceiving a child through incest and whether or not a daughter or son can truly consent to sex with a parent. That seems to be out the window considering the advanced age of the daughter in question. It would be disingenuous to say that she can't make a decision for herself in this matter. Here we also have the added bonus of whether or not an eighty year old man whose faculties are failing him can actually give consent to his daughter. I think you could set up an entire ethics class around this single letter. WOW! discuss...

Stelly 

It's tax time, so it's not surprising that Louisiana residents are beginning to complain about the Stelly tax swap. John Hill has a good story in the Gannett papers about it this morning, though this headline in the Shreveport rag doesn't really characterize what the story says.

It's not surprising the people who aren't happy about the tax swap are upper income filers and--get this--gamblers who aren't allowed to count their losses as a deduction. To be sure, itemized deductions can be filed on federal returns, but the Stelly plan prevents people from filing for the same deduction twice. The elimination of the sales tax was meant to ease the burden of taxation on Louisiana's poorest residednts. It's called progressive taxation, and I wish whining Louisiana tax-payers would get over it. We voted for it, and as John Hill reports:

The data won't be in for months, but all indications are that the so-called Stelly Plan is doing what it was designed to do: ease the tax burden on the poor and raise it on higher-income persons.

Sometimes it's important to state the obvious.

What's wrong with us? 

A Pic story about more data from the SMO&R, Inc. poll that we've been looking at for the last few days says that nearly two thirds of state voters favor a federal amendment banning gay marriage. I'm not surprised that a majority favor the amendment, however the overwhelming support is very distressing. I've been giving my fellow Louisianians way too much credit for social tolerance in the last few months.

Considering the sentiment among voters, I shouldn't be surprised by the positions of the candidates to represent my district in the state House, but their comments do make me wonder if these people will take a stand on any principle whatsoever. Consider Buzz Durio in this morning's Baton Rouge paper:

Another proposal that could come up this session is sending a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages to voters.

Louisiana already has a law in place that says the state does not recognize same-sex marriage, even if the marriage occurs in a state that allows it, but that law can be undone by lawmakers without a vote of the people.

Durio said he doesn't think the constitutional change is necessary, but that he would vote for it if it comes up.

"We do have a good statute already," he said. "Constitutional amendments have been used by the Legislature to avoid responsibility of tough issues."

So he's against it, but he'll vote for it, and why? To avoid responsibility on a tough issue. I guess he gets points for honesty on that one. Jayzus, what's wrong with us?

Trust Us 

That's what our state legislature is telling us if this bill which would make state "economic development" negotiations with companies seeking deals with the state secret. Two stories from the major state papers discuss it this morning (sorry, the Advocate's isn't online), and their editors would be wise to start the opinion train rolling on this sooner rather than later. The House Governmental Affairs committee unanimously approved the legislation yesterday, and it should move to debate within the next few weeks. Blanco calls it a top priority for her administration.

"At some point, the citizens of this state have to trust the people who hold these jobs to do the right thing," said Rep. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans.

Among other things, the bill would let the government shield travel and entertainment records associated with wining and dining company executives they are wooing.

Redman cited a situation when travel records revealed that a DED official was taking frequent trips to Europe with little or no economic development success to justify the expense.

Perhaps the state should give residents a reason to trust the government in these matters before assuming it for themselves. I'm not opposed to deals and tax breaks for companies considering moving in to the "gret stet", but anytime legislation pops up that would shield government activity from public scrutiny, voters should be wary. Especially considering our state's reputation for shady practices and ethical lapses. The threat of public outrage is often the only deterrent for men and women in government who might otherwise be inclined to their own interests or perhaps as often inclined to plain stupidity, as was the case with The Football Network, which should have provoked outrage from all quarters when the state was first making its deals with the now nearly defunct cable network (sorry, that was before Timshel's glorious birth).

256th Activated 

The Lafayette based National Guard brigade has been on alert for at least a month now, so it's hardly surprising that this activation occurred. They'll be off to Fort Hood on May 13 for training, and then probably to Kuwait for more field training in the months to follow. My local rag devoted it's entire A section to coverage of the activation. That doesn't surprise me either, but if you're looking for news of anything that happened in the rest of the state yesterday, you're better off finding another paper. Angela Simoneaux for the Advocate's Acadiana bureau had a piece too. Fortunately they left it at that.

More crime 

Normally I wouldn't post a link to a story like this, but it involves a guy a graduated from high school with, so I thought I might pass it along. The story's main focus is on Jim Brush, a Florida man who is being tried on federal piracy charges for distributing bootlegged music across the country. He admitted to selling the bootlegs to one store in Lafayette (Toys, the now bankrupt store once owned by our town's own ripoff artist Dave Hubbell).

The story goes on to discuss the involvement of one William Pritchard, proud graduate of Lafayette High School and producer of probably thousands of bootlegged CDs over the course of a couple of years. The federal prosecutor expects to file charges against Pritchard and the others implicated soon. A very close friend of Ricky Prado actually testified in front of a grand jury a couple of years ago in regards to Billy Pritchard, and I have it on good authority that Pritchard netted as much as $200,000 in one year producing and distributing his bootlegs.

I guess I don't have much more to say about this, but there is little question that these guys ought to be punished to the full extent of the law. What they did goes way beyond "file-sharing". They were producing copyrighted music on the cheap and then ripping off people all over the country with doctored CD cases designed to look like the real product from the record companies. Hubbell has been doing this for years. Back when I was a freshman at Loyola another good Prado friend made the mistake of giving a tape with the first six episodes of South Park to Pritchard or someone he knows, and he eventually found multiple copies of the tape on sale for a small fortune at Hubbell's store. In other words I'm all for the harsh prosecution of these guys.

Raising Money 

Hell, Atrios says Thursday is John Kerry day, so I may as well pass this email along from a local Democratic Party listserv.

There will be a fundraiser for Sen. John Kerry at:

The Foundry
333 St. Joseph St.
New Orleans, LA.

Donation $1,000 & $2,000.00.

There will be food, music and hobnobbing with Senator Kerry. Dress is
casual.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
6:00 - 9:00 pm - Gala in New Orleans
Contact: Bradley Becnel
(504) 606-3941
bbecnel@johnkerry.com

If anyone can actually afford to give that much to Senator Kerry, you should feel free to shoot me an email, and I'm sure we can work out a way for you to "sponsor" Timshel. Attractive women unhappy with their empty lives--or just searching for some company--are especially welcome.

14 April 2004

Interesting 

I'll do my own part in a little viral marketing of a new Amazon.com search engine, A9, released to the blogs first; the press will get it later.

I'm sure people who know more about the Internet will have plenty to say about it, but at first look from my untrained eyes, it's okay by me.

The most important thing, clearly, is that searches of "ricky prado", "timshel", and "crawlingwestward" all turn up hits to this site first. Nothing else really matters if you ask me.

via ericbenson.com

Google search phrase of the day 

Lots of people have stopped by today searching for information about "'loyola university' vomit sorority" or variations on that theme. You're looking for the tri-Phis and you can find out more about them here.

Great headlines dept. 

I saw this one in the paper this morning, but I didn't post on it for a variety of reasons. However, now I've decided it's so stupid it warrants the Timshel treatment.

Louisianans "literally terrified" over economy

Read the AP story, and they don't revisit the quote where Pinsonat calls voters "literally terrified". You can read more about the poll here at Bayoubuzz.com, once again, I don't see the word terrified anywhere in the results or in the questions. So voters aren't "literally terrified" about the state's economy. To be sure, they're very concerned; perhaps at levels higher than many pollsters have ever seen. Language is important, and this is just stupid.

Huzzah 

Saints 2004 schedule is out, and it doesn't look too bad. The non-divisional road schedule includes chumps like Oakland, Arizona, and San Diego, though non-divisional home games may be a bit more difficult. Now it's just two more weekend until the draft.

Ch-ch-changes 

Louisiana residents may or may not be aware that currently there is really no open container law in this state at all as long as you're willing to carry a passenger with you as you chug a beer or sip on a daquirri. Well, things are changin' for the future in this state.

Members of the Senate Judiciary C Committee unanimously approved the compromise legislation, which applies the open container ban to passengers as well as drivers.

As part of the agreement between alcohol lobbyists and the bill's supporters agreed to prohibit any municipality or parish government from having tougher open container laws than the state's which imposes a $50 fine. However, the bill does allow local governments to impose court costs in addition to the fine — a provision designed to avoid opposition by lobbyists for parishes and municipalities.

To be sure, it's got a long way to go to become law, but the alcohol lobbyists have signaled that it's not worth the fight this year. I have mixed feelings about this affects me, but I'm sure it's a good thing for the state of Louisiana. The less drinking there is around automobiles the better, but there is a certain amount of nostalgia most folks have for the way Louisiana has rebelled against the puritanical forces of the insurance industry in our somewhat backwards alcohol laws.

What is this? 

Since the deconstructor site seems to be a little off kilter, I'll just cut and paste this post from PoliticalWire.com:

Deconstructor notes the White House website "used to contain a file named 'bullshittosatisfypeople', although sadly it no longer seems to be available, nor does Google have a cache of it. I was hoping for some much-needed insight into just what the hell it is the administration has been up to lately."

There's no doubt in my mind that the White House has a file with this title somewhere in their archives. I remember turning in a paper once to fortunately easy-going professor with the title "brain diarrhea good enough to pass this class". I was using it as a place holder and didn't notice it after at least a second draft and multiple proofs. The result was an awkward conversation with the prof and a "B" that probably would have been an "A". I've known many other people with similar stories, though rarely have they been caught. I don't even want to think about some of the file titles a lot of my floppies contain.

More Vitter in Lafayette 

Richard Burgess and Elona Weston take a decidedly different approach than my own, but if you're interested you can read about Vitter's little event in Lafayette from a real reporter here. Weston looks at the way the same rally went down in Lake Charles.

Working It 

State lawmakers were very busy yesterday. The House Transp. committee approved a bill that would make NASCAR prestige plates available to residents, though it appears that the bill was intended to find a loophole that would allow veterans plates, which have been held up due to the court case involving anti-abortion tags. I'm sure most readers, including this one, will probably share a resounding "who cares?" to that news.

And after yesterday's warning by Jerry Luke LeBlanc not to go buck wild with new spending just because oil and gas prices are climbing, the Appropriations committee heard testimony from higher ed officials that they would need at least forty million dollars in order to maintain current levels of service. They specifically mentioned that the legislature might find the money in new oil and gas revenues. Oops.

And ugh, I don't have anything to say to this:

The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works gave its blessing Tuesday to a bill that would name U.S. 190 in Tangipahoa and Livingston parishes the "Ronald Reagan Highway." House Bill 7 by Rep. Michael Strain, R-Covington, now heads to the full House for debate later week. Strain said U.S. 190 from the Mississippi River in East Baton Rouge Parish to the Mississippi line in St. Tammany Parish would bear the name of the former president if the bill becomes law. If the bill dies, U.S. 190 from the river in Baton Rouge to the East Baton Rouge Parish line and from the St. Tammany Parish line to the Mississippi border still will remain named for Reagan.

I'm surprised they didn't try to attach some amendment to it stating that because it would be named after the greatest President in US history it deserves special attention as far as monetary appropriations go. You can't put anything past these Reagan worshippers.

Finally, a House committee endorsed a proposal that would raise the maximum fines for companies that violate our already weak environmental regulation. So it turns out our lawmakers actually do good sometimes.

Terrell Can't do Anything Right 

You'd think after the backlash against her during her all negative, all the time campaign for Senate in 2002 against Mary Landrieu Suzanne Haik-Terrell would have changed her approach in the 2003 campaign for Attorney General versus Charles Foti. We know now that the only change was to let outside groups do it for her. That didn't work either, but now the out of state GOP group that produced the worst of the spots is facing charges and possible fines by the state of Louisiana for failing to file proper documentation for their political advertising.

State Board of Ethics lawyer Maris LeBlanc said the board alleges that the Republican State Leadership Committee failed to register as a political committee and failed to file campaign finance disclosure reports required for the Oct. 4, 2003, primary election.

The law requiring such disclosure is intended to let voters know which people or interests are financing election campaigns before they vote.

The group, which has no known links to Republican groups in Louisiana, still hasn't filed a report.

I love the no known links business. Whatever.

District 45 Forum 

It took the runoff candidates for the seat to represent my district in the state House three weeks to realize that the only way to win when both candidates agree on just about every issue is to impugn their opponent's credibility. You can read about the forum sponsored by the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce here and here.

I'll only note that I received the phone call two days ago from the Robideaux campaign explaining why I shouldn't vote to send another lawyer to the legislature. The strange thing was that it was a live voice and not a recording; I tried to engage the caller after she finished her short spiel, but she hung up before I could get the first word out of my mouth. It's no big deal to me, I was just going to try to have a little fun.

This whole fight seems pretty silly. According the reports, Durio managed to question Robideaux's fitness for office by reminding the attendees that it was accountants who were responsible for the Enron and Worldcom debacles, among others. Jaysuz, I can't wait until this election is decided on Saturday.

Nonagenarian crime 

The staff writers at the Advocate were busy yesterday, which is going to make for a lot of posting on my part this morning, but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't point out this somewhat amazing story about a continued investigation against a 92 year old career scam artist in the French Quarter.

It's front page news in today's T-P because four police officers were reassigned to desk duty after being implicated in the probe. Consider the final notes about Mitchell Schwartz in the story:

"You look up career criminal in the dictionary and there's his picture," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. "We have complaints about this guy going back to the 1940s."

On the 1976 drug conviction, Schwartz could have been sentenced to a maximum of 180 years, but his attorney pleaded for mercy based on his advanced age.

"They've been using the old-man excuse since he was 64 years old," Goyeneche said. "You look at this guy and you think he should be in the old folks home, but he's supposedly pulling in a million dollars ripping people off."

The guy has been arrested for everything from sodomy to drug distribution, and I'll give you one guess which Louisiana governor pardoned him in the middle of a sixty-year sentence back in 1984. One police officer was quoted saying he thought the guy was dead.

After reading about two transvestites carjacking a woman and her children in Baton Rouge in the paper this morning (alluded to in a comment by Michael yesterday) I thought I'd have my strange Louisiana crime story for the day, but this one takes the cake.

13 April 2004

9/11 Commission 

I haven't been watching the hearings because I find them mind-numbing, so I didn't notice the return of "evil-biology". Fortunately Jesse and Greg both noted it's triumphant return.

Meanwhile, Wonkette ripped off Michael's idea for Bush press conference fun, because it's impossible that anyone else could have independently thought of a drinking game to accompany the event. Wonkette should at least give credit where it's due.

Big Changes 

NOLA middle schoolers are in line for some major upheaval as eleven of their failing schools are being shut down over two years. The affected students will end up attending one of many k-8 elementary schools instead of a middle school. I guess literally giving up on a school is one way to approach the failing ones. The story doesn't mention the outstanding physical plant problems that are likely to develop at the new larger elementary schools, but I'm sure that all those factors--among many others--were taken into consideration when officials made this decision. There is no question that only the most creative and "out of the box" approaches can solve the problems festering away in New Orleans. I hope this works. It's hard to imagine things getting worse because of it.

Terrible... 

Write a post about the shocking number of rape incidents around the country and I guess I shouldn't be surprised to read a story like this one about a Covington high school.

Vitter Rally; Primary sourcing 

So I swung by the Vitter announcement this afternoon to get a look at the Congressman in action on the campaign trail. The event was scheduled for noon at Lafayette’s downtown Parc Sans Souci (“without a care” for you non-francophones) and it nearly started on time, which is pretty impressive for any campaign event, if you ask me. I arrived at about 11:45 to get a lay of the land. I noted that the free pizza and soda would have been a lot more appealing to Lafayette residents in the early spring if they had substituted boiled crawfish and beer, but these are Republicans after all, and everyone knows they don’t know how to have any fun.

The place was littered with the blue and gold balloons that are the Vitter campaign colors—a surprising departure from the typical red and blue color scheme campaigns traditionally use. It’s a bold choice, but if Vitter’s speech was any indication, the Congressman is all about bold decisions. A couple of children approached your humble correspondent and offered me a Vitter sticker, but I decided that I didn’t want any pizza, so I didn’t think there was a need to pretend I was there as an actual supporter of the Congressman. Instead I pulled out my notebook and acted like I was a professional reporter, not just some yahoo with a website and an ego the size of Montanna.

At about the same time I recognized my former professor and Republican candidate for the 7th District Congressional seat that is being left open by Vitter’s Senate rival Chris John. I said hello to Dr. Thibodeaux and asked him how his campaign was going. He expressed optimism about the race, but I didn’t tell him he was on the record, so I won’t mention all the comments he made about the “hotties wearing the Buzz Durio stickers.” Strike that. On further reflection, my note about Durio hotties is almost definitely my own observation and not Dr. Thibodeaux’s. My notes are a mess of quotes and poor handwriting, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Four years of alcohol abuse in New Orleans isn’t any good for my short-term memory, either. He did ask me why I wasn’t closer to the pavilion where the event was set to take place, and I told him I was only there for my own edification, not as a supporter. He seemed impressed by my command of the English language, but disappointed that I didn’t share his enthusiasm for David Vitter.

As the television crews from KATC and KLFY were setting up, emcee Ernie Alexander stepped up to the podium and told us that Vitter was about a minute away. He asked for as many supporters as possible to stand on the steps behind Vitter as he made his address, so that the television cameras would get a good shot of people supporting the candidate as he made his address. It took a bit of convincing, but the result should have been to his liking. I’d say in the end there were as many people behind David Vitter as there were in the crowd behind and around the television cameras. The total was probably something close to two hundred, but I really don’t know how to estimate crowd sizes, so take that with a grain of salt. I can assure you that at least a quarter of the total were children most definitely not registered to vote. I would have asked some parents why their kids weren’t in school, but I remembered that public schools are off for Easter this whole week. I imagine half of the kids there would have had just as much fun at school were it not for the Papa Johns and soda, which usually aren’t available at school.

I decided that now was the time to move a little closer to the action. I ended up leaning next to a tree about a hundred feet away from the podium, behind most of the crowd, but easily near enough to hear everything. I staked out my place and prepared to take some more notes when I noticed a man who could probably only be described as homeless weaving his way through the crowd. He wore a green coat (it’s chilly today in Lafayette) and a matching green John Deere mesh cap. I don’t think he was sporting the trucker cap because they’re hip this year. As he made his way near the table with the free pizza a kind Vitter supporter handed him a slice and tried to move him along as politely as possible. I figure the free slice is about as much benefit the old man will get from a Vitter candidacy, but that’s probably a cheap shot.

As I wrote this the speakers began blaring some Zydeco I didn’t recognize. Vitter’s giant bus pulled up alongside the park and he exited with his wife, children, and some campaign staff. I have no idea why the few people who were actually on that bus needed so much space, but when you’ve got the kind of money for a campaign Vitter does, you may as well splurge on things. Ernie Alexander noted his arrival, Vitter and family shook some hands and then stood on the steps in front of the throng of supporters and the pavilion. From here on out things got very boring.

It began with a prayer led by Charlie Buckels (Treasurer of the LA GOP), then the presentation of colors by Buzz Durio’s Boy Scout Troop. Then Ernie Alexander introduced a man by the name of Frank LePerry (phonetic spelling—I didn’t get a press kit), who was there to “testify” as to why he supported David Vitter. I didn’t really listen to what he said. It was something about how Vitter would be good for Louisiana, blah, blah, blah. He did say he worked for a company called C&C Technology. The company’s name reminded me of C&C Music Factory, which I suspect is about the closest Vitter will come to any kind of connection to African-Americans in the whole campaign. Although the lone black supporter at the rally may have something else to say about that, but of course I didn’t talk to her, so I don’t really know. She was old enough that she probably doesn’t know who C&C Music Factory is anyway.

Next we heard from Wendy Vitter, the candidate’s wife. She’s very pretty, but I can’t tell you much about what she said after she promised us that, “I know what my husband does from the time he gets up in the morning—it ain’t pretty—to when he goes to bed at night and in between the two.” I immediately began thinking snarky thoughts about what she might know about the “long-term affair with the prostitute” story Chris Tidmore keeps pushing in his Louisiana Weekly column. I even made a note of it in my book, but that diversion prevented from paying any more attention to what she said. I’m sure it was good stuff, though.

Finally David Vitter came along. In reality it was only about ten minutes after the thing got started, but in the time it’s taken my to write this, it feels like the whole event lasted two hours. The themes of his speech were very clear. He’s a fighter with a BOLD, POSITIVE, CONCRETE, and SPECIFIC vision for Louisiana. He hates cronyism and corruption, and made his career fighting those things. He stayed out of the culture war stuff, but assured as that he would “fight for Louisiana values” in Washington. He wants to fight to make the Bush tax cuts permanent (big applause line), and more specifically he’s going to fight John Kerry and Ted Kennedy every step of the way as they try to raise our taxes. He also said he’s been fighting the pharmaceutical companies (he has?) and more importantly the trial lawyers (biggest applause of the day) in order to stop the rising costs of health care. He also said he would demand that judicial nominees get an up or down vote from the Senate no matter whom the President is (more big applause for that one). His whole speech lasted about fifteen minutes. It was the standard red meat for red-blooded conservatives. He must have said bold and fight about six hundred times, though I didn’t really count.

I was surprised that the only time he actually mentioned Bush was to say that he opposed the President’s position on CAFTA and his immigration policy. As he walked off the stage, we were serenaded with the sounds of Sammy Haggar and Van Halen’s “Right Now”, which is probably the most cliched campaign song of a generation. I figured with all the fighting Vitter would have preferred “Eye of the Tiger” or something else, but you can’t get everything you want. I booked it out of there, because I was starting to feel some sprinkles falling from the sky, and I had my baptismal rites renewed in the Easter mass on Sunday, I didn’t need it done again today.

More Stuffed Public Health and Safety News 

A headline from the nether regions of the B section in this morning's Advocate:

Report: At least 1 in 8 La. women have been

This probably belonged where the editors put if for a number of reasons, but that doesn't make the story any less disturbing if there's truth to the report. The study the group did was based on national research and "synthesized" from Louisiana census figures from 2000. The news came as part of a conference at my fair city's Stuller rape crisis center yesterday.

By the accounting of the report, 13.1 percent of Louisiana women have been raped at some time in their lives, compared to national average of 13.4 percent. States in the Midwest had the highest incidence of rape, according to the survey.

Some parish estimates pulled out of the survey include:

· Of 163,000 women living in East Baton Rouge Parish, more than 21,000 probably have been raped.

· Of 72,000 women living in Lafayette Parish, more than 9,500 have probably been raped.

It would be good to know more about the pair of national surveys the group based their research on. Questions like "what constitutes forcible rape?" are important to have a better understanding of what these numbers mean, but anyone with a conscience shouldn't be able to read this and simply dismiss it.

District 45 announcement 

For any Lafayette readers, the runoff election between Buzz Durio and Joel Robideaux is slated for the weekend, and according to a note in my local rag, though the announcement didn't make it online, there will be a forum for the two candidates sponsored by the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce at the Petroleum Club tonight at 6:00.

I suspect this will be the last meeting of the candidates between now and the election, so if you haven't seen them in the flesh this could be the last chance. If you've been reading Timshel, [sarcasm]you're well aware of how inspiring these two are. I certainly can't wait to cast my vote on Saturday.[/sarcasm]

Calm Down 

Jerry Luke LeBlanc warned state lawmakers not to get too excited about the revenue picture because of rising oil and gas prices in the country over the last few months. Normally the rise in prices would be a well to tap by legislators seeking revenue for our awful budget problems, but LeBlanc said that the rise in revenue from oil will probably be evened out by drops somewhere else as it has always done in the past.

The story should serve as an instruction to lawmakers about the importance of writing budgets not dependent on windfalls from inconsistent revenue sources like oil, gambling, and retail sales. But hey, that's just me. They're the professionals (part-time professionals, I mean).

Vitter, happier, more productive 

David Vitter gets to the second leg of his announcement tour today with stops in Lafayette and Lake Charles. Here's an account of his Monday stop in Baton Rouge by John LaPlante. Frankly, it's a study in contradiction and hypocrisy, which shouldn't surprise anyone who is familiar with GOP politics over the last decade. He rails about spending, demands making the budget-busting tax cuts permanent, but won't say what spending he would specifically cut, meanwhile he promises to increase spending in Louisiana. Will David Vitter say anything to get elected? You bet he will:

U.S. Rep. David Vitter says Congress can make all the current temporary income-tax cuts permanent and still move toward a balanced budget by slashing spending.

Vitter, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Monday he will propose major spending cuts himself, but did not identify any cuts.

Meanwhile, the Metairie Republican promised to protect and expand federal spending for Louisiana.


What's his job program? More tax cuts. Specifically, making permanent the repeal of the estate tax, among other cuts, which I'm sure are a real strain on the job market. Surprisingly, Vitter comes out against CAFTA in that proposal as well, but that's not exactly a tough position to take in Louisiana. The rest of his proposal seems to call for more defense and security spending, and hoping that translates to new jobs in Louisiana. With the exception of the CAFTA position, it's the standard Republican fare for growth. You'd expect more from a Rhodes Scholar. Oops, Bobby Jindal is one too, and he didn't offer much more than Vitter in his last campaign.

Polling the President 

Among other things... The T-P and BayouBuzz.com discuss a poll conducted by Southern Media and Opinion Research, inc. on behalf of the lobbying firm Harris Deville and Associates and seven television stations across the state (CBS affiliates?). The news is good for the incumbent who has a comfortable lead over John Kerry at the present time. Of course, the poll was conducted from March 17-19 and 22-28, so it's already old and it's over a very long period of time.

Blanco's early approval and favorable ratings are very high, though many voters say they haven't made up their minds. This is hardly surprising, as most new Governors (or any elected executives, for that matter) tend to get high marks in the first few months in office.

The distressing number for this Kerry supporter, is that despite Bush pulling a bare majority of respondents Kerry only managed 37% with Nader not really being much of a factor at less than 2%. There is little doubt in my mind that the Bush team so far has treated Louisiana like a swing state, but I don't see that in these numbers. Lots can change in the seven months between now and the election, but if Kerry has a chance here, his work is cut out for him.

New Gaming Chief 

There's a lot to talk about it today, so we'll jump right in with yesterday's resignation of gambling regulator Hillary Crain. Yesterday he resigned from his office as chairman of the gaming board, because he knew that Kathleen Blanco wanted to replace him with someone else. The two articles I read about the resignation note that Crain was almost universally praised for his honesty, but advocates on both sides of the table disagreed about his effectiveness. Gaming industry officials said he was too slow to approve licenses and anti-gambling advocates complained that there was too little regulation. Sometimes making neither group happy can be a sign that one is a fair broker as far as state regulators go, but I don't know enough about his tenure to make a judgment one way or the other.

The story from the Advocate gives me further pause about the Blanco administration. In Crain's resignation, he laid out one of his problems with the transition:

During an impromptu press conference Monday, Crain said he contacted Blanco's executive counsel Terry Ryder earlier this year and offered to sit down with anybody who was interested to go over all major issues that were pending before the board.

Crain said one reason he made the offer was to size up the Blanco Administration on several key issues to see if he wanted to work with them.

"Until I sat down with someone and found out what their direction was in this whole area, I didn't know whether I was interested in continuing to serve (on the board)," Crain said.

Crain said he never heard back from Blanco's office.

"I never had any communications whatsoever with the governor's office as to this job, the process, what's pending, or anything else," Crain told reporters.

This is suspiciously reminiscent of what former DOTD chief Kam Movassaghi said upon his resignation from the Transportation and Development dept. a month ago. Need a reminder:

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

...

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

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

The new Governor doesn't have any obligation to consider the agenda of officials she doesn't intend to keep around, but it certainly doesn't speak well for her governing philosophy to simply leave these guys hanging on the vine indefinitely while she tries to figure out what to do with them. In both cases Movassaghi and Crain were left in charge of a major department in state government, but in the lurch as far as any direction from the Governor. Just because specific agencies aren't priorities to the new administration doesn't mean they don't deserve attention anyway. I hope this is the last story I read like this one.

Blanco plans to appoint former appellate judge H. Charles Gaudin to the empty chair on the Gaming Board. He is from good old Met'ry.

12 April 2004

Post deleted 

I didn't like the way it turned out, sorry if you were coming back to it, but it is down the memory hole. No nefarious goals on my part, I just didn't like the picture of myself, and decided it was too early to introduce my dear readers to the real Ricky Prado.

Ouch 

The big dogs have been spending time talking about the G. W. Bush legacy to our armed forces today, but one manages to do it in a concise enough way for me to link, quote, and forget about the issue in its entirety until something else comes along and tickles the Timshel fancy. Kevin Drum on the war in Iraq:

A few months ago I asked a war supporter (Armed Liberal?) a question: From his point of view, which is worse: not going to war at all, or going to war and screwing it up? I suspect we're about to get some spectacular confirmation that the latter is indeed worse. Thanks to the Bush administration's arrogance and unwillingness to make realistic plans on the ground, America's ability to credibly project power will probably be lower next year than it has been since the end of Vietnam — and that's not due to ANSWER protests or speeches by Ted Kennedy. This is George Bush's national security legacy to the nation.

Thanks a lot.

Why does polling data continue to show that most Americans believe dear leader to be "strong on defense"?

What's happening in Lafayette? 

My normally quiet little hamlet has erupted in violence lately.

Lafayette's 5th murder in a week

I assure you all that the recent confluence of a number far-flung Prados in Lafayette had absolutely no bearing on any of these terrible events.

Did I miss this or is it new? 

I didn't know anything about a Bush press conference scheduled for tomorrow night. Did I miss this news over the weekend?

It's sad that a President meeting with the press for direct questions should be a national event which warrants breaking into regularly scheduled programming. These affairs should occur frequently enough that the whole country doesn't go nuts speculating about the motives behind them or what questions he might possibly face. Alas, we live in a world where our President has almost zero accountability to the media or the regular Joes around the nation that they attempt to speak for.

Update @ 3:46 pm: further evidence supporting the point above: this bs from drudge about Fox's debate on whether or not to air American Idol instead of "THE PRESS CONFERENCE". Barry's point in comments about the meaningless of the conference anyway notwithstanding, in a world where our President had any desire to actually communicate his message to the public, this press conference would be so routine that media outlets wouldn't be clamoring about what to do in the first place. It would be treated like any other conference with McClellan or some other administration tool.

Slow day 

Sorry, but I just can't find anything to talk about today. Maybe I'm losing my touch. Until I find something better to discuss, this quiz is only for the hippest of readers.



I am Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force!! Let's Jam! You don't really care about anything other than a good beat and having fun. Master Shake is really mean to you, but you don't let it bother you too much. You just want to make people happy!

Which Aqua Teen Hunger Force character are you??

Incidentally, ATHF begins airing twice nightly Sunday through Thursday at 11:00 central beginning next weekend. So much for any attempts to get to bed earlier.

Following Up 

Last week I discussed (can't find it online, is it possible that this was just a random discussion at a family function this weekend? Yes, it is possible) some numbers from a Board of Regents audit of Louisiana universities and the number of graduates in "underperforming" programs. If UL administrators are to be trusted, those numbers were so unbelievable because they weren't exactly correct. The graphic included with the story (finally the Advertiser has started including the graphics in their print edition in their online incarnations) clears up some of my own questions. Take a look at it for yourself if you have the time.

Continuing Series... 

Our budget stinks edition. Mike Hasten writes about the programs on the receiving end of the cuts associated with they drying up of federal "Temporary Assistance for Families in Need" dollars. The governor and her administration have been reminding us about this shortfall at least since she campaigned, but people are still shocked by just how much is going to have to be cut or completely scrapped due to the loss. In her campaign, Blanco made Pre-K education the priority program for the state to fund when they were forced to take over the programs, but the Pre-K education is expensive enough (and the state poor enough) that very little money is left for some other worthwhile programs. You can read about them at the link above, but you may find it depressing.

Is this a joke? 

Last week I noted that the Advocate was hiding the shocking data that listed Baton Rouge as the second highest per capita AIDS infection rate of any cities in US. Editors managed to stuff two stories on the matter into the middle and back of the A section. If anything, the story's placement indicated how little the paper's editors thought of it. Now things seemed to have changed. I suspect that when people glean this editorial from this morning's paper that they will likely be seeing the news for the first time.

Speak frankly about HIV risk
The leadership in Baton Rouge ought to be alarmed by the incidence of new cases of AIDS in our community. We tied for second in national data about cases per capita, and that is one of the top-10 lists that no community wants to be on.

As always, better late than never, but maybe whoever wrote this particular editorial should make the same suggestion to whichever of their own editors decided to hide this news from the paper's readers in the first place.

Back in the Saddle 

It was nice to take the day off from this diversion yesterday, but now I feel like I'm so far out of the loop I have no idea what happened in the world over the weekend. Such is life I guess.

The AP's Adam Nossiter isn't pleased with Blanco's image over substance approach to governing the state of Louisiana. He makes some good points, but I'd like to say that this is probably unfair:

Blanco promised little. She can't now be accused of inconsistency. Earnest and conscientious, her lengthy kickoff speech to the Legislature was stoked with eye-glazing "management" details (as an aide described her plans) but short on vision.

That's not why she was elected anyway. Voters went with her in November not so much because of what she said, but because of who she was.

Or rather, who she wasn't: as a persuasive new academic study suggests, some Louisianans just couldn't get over Bobby Jindal's skin color.

Race trumped all, according to the statistical analysis by two Hamilton College political scientists -- even the Indian-American's ultra-conservative views, which should have locked in north Louisiana votes he lost to Blanco.

As the study Nossiter references above notes, there isn't a question that race played no small factor in the election of Katleen Blanco to the state's highest office, but that doesn't mean that this study can't be overemphasized as well. The fact is that Kathleen Blanco received more than 730,000 votes in the election on November 15, 2003. The vast majority of these votes Blanco won by old fashioned, smart, determined politics. Race may have been a deciding factor in the minds of a few Confederate-wannabes on the north shore and its environs, but that hardly means that the larger swath of the electorate decided on Blanco because they believed in her commitment to issues that we care about.

In fact until Bobby Jindal went on a massive talk radio negative advertising blitz in the weeks coming out of the primary election, Blanco had one of the highest favorable ratings in the state, and I doubt that was because she was white. People wanted to vote for her, and just because race led a few people by their noses to the polls her entire mandate shouldn't be impugned.

But in case you want some evidence that the larger point of Nossiter's column might be right on, consider John Hill's lede to an article in the Gannett papers today:

The only legislation resulting so far from Gov. Kathleen Blanco's health care summit really does very little but has two very big goals:

The article goes on to discuss the importance of federally funded private health clinics, but doesn't discuss the actual legislation that would spur their growth. At any rate my quote is only meant to show that Nossiter actually has a point in his criticism that Blanco could be perceived as an image before substance type of Governor. I think Nossiter may want to explore the immediate changes in the tax code pushed by Blanco, and her ethics proposal, while certainly not extensive enough, is only meant to be a first step. The fact is that it's too early to make the kind of judgments of a Governor's term that Nossiter is making in his column. He may prove prescient, but I have more faith in Blanco than that.

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