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07 May 2004

I'm Out 

I'm headed out the door for New Orleans in a few minutes. It's going to be bachelor party night kicked off with a load of fried seafood at Deanie's this evening in the Quarter followed by who knows what with who knows who going who knows where. Whatever the case, there won't be anymore blogging for me today. It also means I'll miss the Jambalaya celebration for Senator Kerry at the Governor's Mansion tonight, but I'm counting on reading Michael's site for a full account of the action tomorrow morning.

In the meantime here's the Time Killing Game of the Week, called SuperMouse, a game suspiciously similar to a certain Nintendo franchise. Have fun and don't forget to wish your moms a happy Mother's Day this Sunday.

More Gay Hatred 

An anti-bullying bill advanced to the floor of the Senate despite opposition from--you guessed it!--anti-gay groups.

Kathleen Benfield of New Orleans, director of the American Family Association, said the law already requires local school boards to adopt anti-bullying rules.

Benfield also said Irons' bill closely resembles recommendations pushed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other gay advocacy groups. She said it would convert Louisiana's anti-bullying law into an anti-discrimination measure to aid gay, lesbian and transgender students.

IOW "If our kids are punished for beating up and harrassing gay kids they'll be forced to tolerate their abnormal lifestyle." Tolerate this, Ms. Benfield.


Black Pastors to Kerry: 

Apologize!

A group of black pastors in Louisiana want John Kerry to apologize to "the entire African-American community" for linking same-sex "marriages" (their quotes, not mine) to the Civil Rights struggle.

First of all, they should probably get their facts straight. John Kerry is on record opposing same-sex marriage, so I doubt that he has linked it to the Civil Rights struggle, or he'd have one hell of a time explaining why he opposes it.

Presumably these same black pastors will ask the same of Martin Luther King's widow, Coretta, who has actually voiced support for marriage and not just civil unions.

Things we'll never know 

Blanco is getting flak from the New Orleans Archdiocese for supposedly reneging on her support for a failed voucher bill. Rev. William Maestri, spokesman for the archbishop, said they were led to believe in a meeting with the Governor that she would support the extension of current voucher programs up to the third grade. Catholic schools around the state stood to make a windfall should this legislation have passed, so their disappointment at its defeat is likely stinging. In press accounts of the debate, it was never clear where Blanco stood on the expansion of current voucher programs which deal only with pre-K. Blanco supported these pre-K programs as a staple of her campaign, and she hasn't gone back on that in the early workings of the legislation. It certainly wasn't clear in the press where Blanco stood on the expansion, but once the legislation got rolling the administration pretty clearly lobbied against it.

We'll never know what happened in a meeting between the Archbishop and the Gov., but considering our budget mess and the clamor around the state for the importance of public school funding I really that Blanco would have expressed more than a passing interest in the expansion of voucher programs which would divert public money away from public schools.

By the time this meeting occurred (a March luncheon in which Maestri and staff briefed Blanco on the bills) Blanco would have had no reason to voice her support. It was clear the budget required belt-tightening and with state teachers agitating for a pay raise they weren't going to get, there was no way Blanco could have politically justified taking money away from them to divert to private schools. It looks like a case of the white whines from the New Orleans Archdiocese, but I suspect this is a question we'll never know the answer to.

Kerry in Baton Rouge 

There's surprisingly little coverage of John Kerry's visit to the Governor's Mansion today in the state papers. The only bit online I could find was this Gerard Shields report about the larger strategy of the Kerry campaign to bring the fight to Louisiana through advertising and a regular slate of appearances here in the Bayou State. It mentions tonight's rally only in passing.

It is worth pointing out an awful report by John LaPlante on the fourth page of the A section in this morning's Advocate. I wish I could send you directly to it, but you'll have to get a print copy if you really want to see it. I hesitate to call it a hit piece, because it's just as likely lazy journalism conducted almost entirely through reading press releases. Whatever the case, if this is the man directing the newspaper's capitol bureau, then I don't have a lot of faith in the future for what I believe to be the best paper in the state. At issue is a lengthy section during the second half of the report. I'll quote that bit in full, because I don't want you to think I'm leaving anything out, sorry if I include some typos since cutting and pasting isn't an option in this one:

Republican former Gov. Mike Foster, who has kept a low profile since leaving office in January, surfaced Thursday to criticize Kerry as bad for Louisiana.

"John Kerry has been a senator for 19 years and has opposed gun owners' rights every step of the way," Foster was quoted as saying in a news release from the campaign of President George W. Bush.

Foster did not return calls seeking comment directly.

Bush and Kerry are expected to be nominated by their parties this summer and face off in the Nov. 2 election.

Bush has scheduled his own visit to Baton Rouge on May 21--a commencement address to graduates of LSU

U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, issued a statement accusing Kerry of trying to mislead Louisiana voters by saying in one of his ads that he cast the deciding vote for a bill to create 20 million jobs.

Baker said that's an apparent reference to former President Bill Clinton's tax bill in 1993.

Baker said in the statement that Kerry might think some voters believe that "the largest tax hike in history" was good for this country, but Louisiana people just ain't gonna buy it.

[LA Dem Party executive director Derek] Wooley said voters who attend the event tonight "can see Sen. Kerry for the good leader that he is. he fought for his country in Vietnam, he won numerous medals, he served with distinction in the Senate for years."

Kerry travels to New Orleans tonight so he can address the graduating class of Southern University in New Orleans on Saturday morning.

Let me say that if Wooley's statement is a direct response to the criticisms leveled by Mike Foster and Richard Baker, then I take this all back, and LaPlante has done his job just fine. I can't fault a reporter for quotes that I just don't like, but it's hardly clear that Wooley was even given the chance to respond to these criticisms which seem to be simply lifted from press releases issued by the Bush campaign and their surrogates in Louisiana. There isn't any sense from what he says that he's addressing them. It seems more like LaPlante called up Derek Wooley to talk about the rally, and when press releases came to his office criticizing John Kerry he did his own cut and paste work.

I'm not going to bother with Baker's insane charge that anyone should be unhappy about Kerry's vote for the Clinton tax package of 1993, which spurred one of the greatest economic booms and the largest surplus in our nation's history. However, it's unfair to the candidate if Kerry's campaign or the Louisiana Democratic Party wasn't allowed to refute charges that are simply faxed on over to the Advocate's politics desk. If that's what happened, LaPlante is showing that not only does he have a hell of a problem with originality--which I pointed out on Sunday--but he may also want to think of taking a few more classes at the Manship School of Mass Communication over at LSU.

Jayzus! 

I go out for a few hours to play cards and come home to find Josh Marshall has blown my mind with new information about "the emerging Abu Ghreib scandal." He brings up such blasts from the past as Gen. Boykin, Guantanomo Bay, and who knows what else. Just click on over and read all his posts from eight o'clock tonight and on.

06 May 2004

Sweet Jesus! 

How much do I wish I lived in New York this weekend? PacManhattan sounds like something a bunch of stoners with cell phones came up with, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. Ken, I'm begging you to give us a full report on this.

Call Usher! 

I swear I could just sit around all day waiting to post the graphics included with the stories running online at KATC. I think I must have a secret friend over there finding the most ridiculous and/or provocative photos just to have some fun with me. It gets better today, here's the file photo for the news that a legislative committee advanced that anti low-riding pants bill.
thong, tha-thong, thong, thong!
Call the FCC! Indecency! The horror!

And so it begins 

You just knew some enterprising lefty blogger would do this sooner or later.

Rumsfeld Resignation Watch

I suspect Ezra will be watching for a long time. If Bush would have simply done this earlier and on his own accord he could have looked very good and probably would have gotten some praise for acting swiftly from even my little corner of the lefty universe. It's too late for that now. A Rumsfeld resignation will make Bush look weak, and if there's anything we've seen about this administration it's that they'd rather look corrupt and stupid than weak.

Typical Republicans 

Apparently George Bush doesn't mind watching LSU confer thousands of degrees on a Saturday to a bunch of nameless graduates, but he can't find the time to watch either of his own two daughters walk across the stage. The shame!

I'll try and be there for you, Jenna. Sorry, Barbara. I don't think my kind is welcome at Yale.

via Drudge

Faster than lightening! 

President "I don't respond to polling data" finally gets a clue.

Better late than never, but he should have done this when he spoke on Arab television, and not to some random middle eastern King. His "sorry for the humiliation suffered" construction is a bit of buck-passing as well, but maybe the symbolism will be stronger than the language itself. The US absolutely must find a way to reassure the people in Iraq that what happened there is unacceptable, I know a good way.

Ineptitude 

As usual, good Howler today:

Has the Bush Admin done anything in Iraq which wasn’t grossly misstated or hopelessly bungled? This week, we were told that neither Rumsfeld nor General Myers nor Bush himself had managed to read the Taguba report. Once again, we’re asked to believe what defies belief. And the press keeps pretending it’s possible.

Yes, it is the Administration’s screaming ineptitude that the pundit corps refuses to see. From the start, they said that Bush had surrounded himself with a highly capable group of advisers. But this hopeless group got played for rubes by Ahmed Chalabi and his gang of cronies, and their current refuge, as always, is ignorance. We were told that Condi Rice had never heard of airplanes as missiles. This ludicrous statement defied belief, but the press refused to challenge her on it. And oh yeah: Why hadn’t she known about objections to the WMD intelligence? She hadn’t read the whole NIE, we were told. Your pundits pretended this made sense. Now, once again, we’re asked to believe that no one had read this report.

For our pundits, it’s hard to acknowledge the obvious truth—a truth that has nothing to do with ideology. If we take them at their word, the Bush Administration is inept beyond belief, incompetent on a world-class scale. A letter writer from Tucson can see it. But Washington’s pundits still hide beneath desks. They’re timidly tip-toeing toward this truth, wondering if they dare to see what is right there before their very eyes.

'nuff said. Unfortunately, Prudie's a snore this afternoon. I guess it's too much to ask for the humorous misery we usually get from her letter writers.

Cockfighting continues 

As mentioned in a comment by Barry in a post below, Louisiana will remain as one of two states in the country with legal cockfighting for at least another year. The House Agricultural committee killed the bill by a vote of 9-5. Apparently supporters of the ban were surprised they got even five representatives to support the bill in committee. It seems the public pressure for a ban changed some minds, but in the end it wasn't enough.

Cloning and Stem Cells 

I don't know if it's a coincidence that on the same day a House committee advanced a bill that would criminalize human cloning (a bill which drew opposition from some groups because of concerns about the ramifications for stem cell research currently ongoing in the state) the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge released news of a major breakthrough in their stem cell research.

Presumably, researchers cloned stem cells extracted from human fat and found a way to convert them into growing bone cells.

Gimble extracted human fat through liposuction, identified and extracted just the stem cells and multiplied them in the lab. He attached the growing stem cells onto a chip of artificial bone and implanted the chip under the skin of mice for six weeks.

After removing the bone chip, Gimble found the stem cells had converted to living human bone cells and had begun to grow on their own.

I'm assuming that multiplying cells in a lab means cloning them, but it would have been nice had this been written by a science writer instead of a business reporter. That may have cleared up any confusion. At any rate, it says a lot about the power of stem cell research, and knee-jerk bans on all forms of cloning could put a real crimp in the work they're doing at the Pennington Center. Hopefully this issue will receive more debate in the House than did the bill currently sitting on Kathleen Blanco's desk that would allow psychologists to begin prescribing drugs.

To the candidates: 

Jim Brown is very good today at PoliticsLA.com, sounding like a fiery populist that could have made a run for governor had some high-pro legal issues not gotten in the way if you ask me. Anyway, he has some advice for the presidential candidates today. I don't know the accuracy of the data he presents about the rate of return on federal taxes we send to Washington, since I've seen similar and conflicting numbers, but his overall message is right. Consider this bit:

So what are the issues that will resonate with Louisiana voters? There are several.

Put the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of Louisiana's wetlands at the top of the list. Unfortunately, neither candidate has given any meaningful support to this important issue. The New York Times last year (1/11/03) editorialized of how Bush has undermined protection for wetlands. And when Kerry was attacked by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for favoring oil interest over wetlands, his campaign said he was talking about Louisiana, not Florida. (The WashingtonPost-4/2). Not much to cheer about from either camp.

Both candidates play to environmental concerns in Florida. "No drilling off the Florida coast," says Bush. Just do it in Louisiana. Kerry's comments mirror the President's. Our wetland losses far outpace any other place in the country. We are looking for strong concern and assurances that major funding will be forthcoming.

Make a commitment to revisit federal funding formulas that dramatically short-change Louisiana. Our state is at the low end or bottom of the totem pole when it comes to formulas involving federal highway funds, federal reimbursement for nursing homes, medicare funds, and royalty income from offshore oil and gas production. We don't want anything special. Just an equal share.

He goes on from there, but his message that winning here means addressing local concerns is right on. I don't think the population here trusts either candidate to really grasp the issues that are important to Louisiana. Bush probably has an advantage on the kinds of divisive social issues that he will push as an undertone of his campaign. By this I mean gay marriage, abortion, anti-affirmative action, and the rest of the GOP social agenda. Kerry's challenge will be to remind Louisiana voters that as much as they may care about those issues, the Republican party on a national level really hasn't done anything meaningful to address them in the past and they won't start now. They are too important as campaign issues and the country is too divided about them to allow for any movement either way. However, there are things that a President can do to address concrete realities of life in Louisiana, and Jim Brown lays these out in his column.

Snark attack! 

If I know anything about Austin it's that the drug culture is one of the city's main draws for the young people who flood in to work at coffee shops and dream of one day attending the University of Texas. If Austin 6 really wants to recreate Austin, TX on the Mississippi, they'd be better off using their drug problems as part of a larger marketing strategy.

More from the inbox 

The Lafayette Democrats group is really getting organized about this gay marriage ban, and this seems a little more productive than trying to load the vote on a silly web poll, so I feel a little better about posting it.

If the state doesn't want
us here, FINE! We don't want our money here. The "Come Out & Move Out" Campaign is one to inform the elected officials about the possible ramifications of this bill, and encourage the LGBTQ community and its supporters to make it happen.

Many people have stated intent to move out of the state if this passes. We would like to encourage this. We encourage the LGBTQ community and its supporters to leave the state if this amendment passes, and take your tax dollars with you! This state relies on tax revenue from all citizens, even the ones which this amendment attacks, so why put money into a state that doesn't want to treat you as an equal citizen. We should take our tax dollars somewhere else!

Our website http://www.GayLouisiana.com will be a complete source for information about this bill, the senators supporting it, and the campaign to "Come Out & Move Out!"

"It's Time To Stop Sitting Back and Saying `OH WELL' and Start
Yelling `HELL NO!"

"Come out and move out" sounds like a good idea to me. Making Louisiana voters understand just what this amendment says about an entire class of citizens is important, and it's impossible to blame any self-respecting gay person for moving out should the ban pass. By tying it to the tax dollars and contribution the GLBT community makes to the state they will hopefully reinforce the harm this ban could do to Louisiana. It would give a new meaning to the word "out-migration".

More problems at the Advertiser 

Considering that about three quarters of my local rag's newsgathering means running stories off the AP wire, you'd think the editors there would be abreast of what the AP reports on a regular basis. You'd think this would be especially important with regards to news out of our state legislature. I guess that's too much to expect from a newspaper that can barely manage to put ten pages together for its A Section, though. Today they run this editorial:

A bill to require motorcyclists to wear helmets may emerge from this legislative session. It has cleared the House Transportation Committee by a 10-3 margin. The Daily Advertiser opposed the successful move by former Gov. Mike Foster to do away with a previous law requiring the protective headgear. We fully support reinstating the requirement.

...

We urge the legislature to again make helmets mandatory for motorcycle riders.

Now I don't disagree with the sentiment expressed here, but maybe someone should have told the editors that the bill sputtered in the House yesterday when it fell eight votes short of passage. It's not like this happened after they went to press; it was on the wire as early as 4:30 pm, and I managed to mention it in passing in a post late yesterday afternoon.

The editorial voice of your paper doesn't have any power when it comes up literally "a day late and a dollar short."

From the inbox 

copied and pasted without comment, you know where I stand on this.

KATC is running a week long expose on Gay Weddings and Gay Couples - they are doing a rather good job, but we need some help.

For the next 20 hours they are running an online poll - "Should the Louisiana Constitution be amended to ban same sex marriages?" - Please log on and VOTE NO at www.KATC.com. It is in the middle of the page on the far left.


05 May 2004

More great graphics 

This time they were attached to stories about the failure to pass a motorcycle law in the state House and the passage of a car porn ban. Maybe you can guess which is which.
what's that in your hand?get that out of my teeth

No Surprises Here 

LSU gets an early Christmas present from ESPN.

Kerry in LA 

from a press release:

The Louisiana Democratic Party announced today that U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) will be the keynote speaker at a Jambalaya Jamboree hosted by the Louisiana Democratic Party on May 7, 2004. The Jambalaya Jamboree will be a ticketed event held at the Governor’s Mansion. Doors will open at 4:30 PM.

The Democratic Presidential candidate will address Louisiana families about issues facing our state in this upcoming Presidential Election.

“I am very excited to be able to host this event for the Louisiana Democratic Party and the eventual Democratic Presidential Nominee,” said Governor Kathleen Blanco. “We are thrilled that Senator John Kerry is making Louisiana and Louisiana families a top priority in his campaign for President.”

“We are happy to welcome Senator Kerry to Louisiana for the third time in the past month,” said Mike Skinner, Chairman Louisiana Democratic Party. “John Kerry has shown his commitment to Louisiana and in turn we will show our commitment to him by carrying this state and electing him as our 44th President.”

The Louisiana Democratic Party will be hosting a sign making event with volunteer’s tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 PM.

To obtain free tickets to the Jambalaya Jamboree, or to volunteer, please contact the Louisiana Democratic Party at 225-336-4155.

Don't forget that Kerry will be addressing the SUNO commencement the next day at UNO Lakefront Arena.

That didn't last long 

One day after the 'nets went down in another year of playoff flames, their general manager resigned and announced his intention to retire from basketball. Happy trails, Mr. Bass, maybe you can find us a new coach before you sever all ties with the Hornets.

BFOP alert! 

Awful puppy abuse, no word on whether or not Dwayne Pettit is a Republican.

Jesus Christ 

Get your heads out of the sand, assholes.

Look, there's no doubt those prisoners were humiliated. There's no doubt that in a democratic society, we want to hold our forces accountable for their abuses. We want to set a higher standard for ourselves than the Arab nations do. But the media is floating this story into creating a Big Quagmire Picture, where America is an imperialist country, an oppressive force with zero moral authority. Moral equivalence is running rampant. The media's concern for our democratic accountability can lead to an imbalance of outrage. How does what happened at Abu Ghraib under American control compare to what happened at Abu Ghraib under Saddam? The media don't want to ask that question.

We invaded a country by claiming to have the moral authority to overthrow a ruthless dictator. In one of his most brutal prisons (probably filled to the brim with those famous rape-rooms that our fine President loves to remind us of) our troops and mercenaries paid by our government are now known to have tortured Iraqis. There is no imbalance of outrage. We expected nothing more of Saddam than what we knew him to be: a murderous, ruthless, tyrant. Ours is a nation founded on the principles of freedom and justice, and any future ability to wage war in a turbulent world will be judged on how well we conduct ourselves in this one. Liberating armies don't torture and humiliate prisoners of war if they expect to have any moral or real authority in the aftermath of an engagement.

The past is dead in Iraq. All that remains is the United States and the legacy we leave to the occupied.

Quick Hit 

Sorry about being (relatively) long-winded this morning, but some things can really get stuck in my craw. Anyway, Nosey has another good post today, this time about the controversy surrounding Michael Moore's new film. I'm pretty conflicted about Moore's commitment to honesty in his filmmaking, but if Disney is seriously considering censoring his latest in order to guarantee their access to tax breaks for Disneyworld sitting in the middle of Jebland, then there's a serious problem.

Term Limits Here to Stay 

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would end term limits yesterday. In a bill that would have required a super-majority for passage (it would have been a constitutional amendment) the Senate voted against 25-14.

Way before Republicans brought back the zeal for term limits with their 1994 Contract for America, they were a progressive cause celebre attached to the widely held belief that incumbency breeds corruption. That term limits are inherently anti-democratic and punitive to even the good legislators was considered an unfortunate side effect of good government legislation. We live in a different world today, where thanks to the Internet, television, and greater revenue for news gathering, the business of governing is more transparent. I've stated my opposition to term limits in this space pretty frequently, even though I had little confidence that they were going anywhere any time soon in this state. The fact is that there are better ways to root corruption out of the political process than simply forbidding legislators from holding office for longer than a set time. In fact, it probably breeds more complacency in the root causes of corruption, because the electorate can rest easy that a crooked politician won't be around for too long.

If legislators want to truly address the problems of corruption they will support stronger ethics laws; make the functions of government more open to the public; and--here's the big kicker--finance elections publicly. By making money less important to getting elected, politicians will have less incentive to solicit the donations and kickbacks from corporations and interest groups who don't have the best intentions in mind for the entire population. Term-limits don't address those issues, they only mean that every twelve years we'll have someone else who will pander to and do favors for a different set of special interests.

More Health Woes 

Executives to the Louisiana Public Hosptial System spoke to House Appropriations Committee yesterday to warn about the effect of currently proposed massive budget cuts. Opinions on the matter ran the gamut from Chicken Little protestations about closures, layoffs, and the inability to train doctors to Pollyanna predictions that this always happens and it will just work itself out in the budget process. The biggest danger facing our public system right now is the possibility that they will turn in to nothing more than emergency rooms operating out of giant hospital buildings. This has already begun, as out-patient clinics are routinely shut down and beds are removed. Increasingly it becomes more difficult for patients to seek preventative care through the public system because of long lines and shorter hours of availability, so that they don't ever see a doctor until an illness has come to a head and immediate action has become necessary.

This is a dangerous situation in Louisiana considering that nearly twenty percent of our state's residents are uninsured and depend on charity hospitals for care. So far Blanco's administration has not been aggressive enough in addressing this issue. She definitely ran on health care as a major issue in her campaign. At the very least she impugned Bobby Jindal's ability to reform the system in a way that would guarantee the state's worst off citizens would be okay. Consider that very memorable commercial in which a Republican health care official stated that Jindal would be bad for the state because of his poor record in charge of DHH. There is little that can be done in this session besides some budget tinkering, but Blanco owes it to the state to take the initiative on this issue sooner rather than later. Her administration will be judged on whether or not she can adequately address the continuing misery in the DHH and our charity system. (read another report about the hearing here)

News isn't all bad, though. In Baton Rouge two clinics are opening for the "poor and uninsured" with the help of $650,000 in federal grants. God only knows how far that relatively small amount of money will go towards keeping two health centers open, but it's a start. Opening off-site clinics for uninsured residents is an admirable goal, but two in Baton Rouge won't make up for the dearth of care available around the rest of the state. Poor citizens seeking out-patient work in Lake Charles and Alexandria are still driving to Lafayette for care, which means they usually aren't even bothering. And as a major clinic is threatened along with eighty layoffs at our own hospital, it's likely that the few who do make the trip from Lake Charles will find themselves directed to Baton Rouge. Eventually we may as well start encouraging our poor to move to Texas and Mississippi if they want health care.

More Gay Marriage 

The Senate committee handling John Hainkel version of the anti-homo amendment passed it yesterday with the only opposition coming from Sen. Cleo Fields and Sen. Kip Holden. The five Senators in favor were Art Lentini, Bob Kostelka, Reggie Dupre, Nick Gautreaux, and Craig Romero.

Apparently there was more ridiculous fear-mongering about the repurcussions of recognizing that homosexuals have right with a statement from Baton Rouge minister Tommy Middleton, he predicted that:

widespread acceptance of homosexual unions would lead to the "collapse" of society, public schools and freedom of religion, eventually resulting in "a tidal wave that will ultimately drown us."

from another report on the ban, this was included:

It would lead to the collapse of the public school system, he said, because parents would pull their children out to avoid having them taught acceptance of the lifestyle. The Social Security system would fail trying to pay benefits to same-sex partners, he said.

Now I guess this is better than saying God will strike us down with a category 5 hurricane, as our friends told us yesterday, but it has just as little basis in fact. Maybe these parents could benefit from a public school stystem that teaches "acceptance of the lifestyle." Ugh, I've made it easy for you to contact the above legislators to express your disapproval with their focus on this issue by posting links to their email addresses. If you'd rather thank Cleo Fields and Kip Holden for fighting the good fight, you can do that too. Maybe it will encourage them to be more vocal in their opposition when the bill hits the Senate floor.

04 May 2004

Local TV Wars 

Both KATC and KLFY are claiming credit for breaking news first, consider their teasers for this story about an Acadiana murder being connected to alleged Baton Rouge serial killer Sean Vincent Gilles:

KLFY

As Eyewitness News was first to report on Monday, a suspected Baton Rouge serial killer has admitted to murdering an Acadiana woman.


KATC

Suspected serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis has admitted to more than half a dozen murders of women in the Baton Rouge area. As KATC first reported, Baton Rouge investigators have connected Gillis to the murder of a Lafayette native.

It looks like KATC had this story first, as their website still contains all of the stories posted yesterday, one of which is about a possible connection between the murder of a Lafayette woman and Sean Gilles. KLFY's only story from yesterday is about Gilles, but it's off the AP wire and doesn't include any news about Lafayette.

Now I don't really care about any of that, what I really wanted to post is the graphic included in this KATC pickup of a Reuters story about a man baiting his wife in order to murder her with a bubble bath. Of course their graphic is a woman who couldn't look happier enjoying her bath.
what, me worry?
Is this from some old soap commercial?

What's up with the quotes? 

An AP headline about the Gore cable news network:

Gore launching 'nonpolitical' cable network for young adults

Can't we just take him at his word?

Fair and Balanced 

This story isn't online, but I came across it in the Advocate this morning and it's been bugging me ever since. A long story about the problem with funding for indigent defenders contained this lede:

The two alleged Baton Rouge serial killers "will walk amongst us again," because if they are found guilty, some state or federal appeal court likely will overturn their convictions as unconstitutional, two public defender experts said Monday.

That sentiment was raised and seconded after a meeting of a task force investigating the state's system for representing Louisiana's poor in criminal cases.

I certainly see the wisdom in substantially increasing the funding and resources available for public defenders, but I would be remiss not to call them on this kind of claim, meant to play on the public fears regarding two high profile serial killers from the Baton Rouge area who have been arrested in the last year. While their argument that inadequate oversight and allocations for defense attorneys can hamper prosecutor's abilities to make convictions stick, it's not exactly fair to simply throw around a claim like the one made above. They're fighting the good fight, but this kind of language is wrong no matter how worthy the cause.

Awful 

Justice was delayed for too long in this case. It almost makes me feel better that similar incidents seem to be in the past for us backward Louisiana folk.

Good catch 

Nosey makes one w/r/t this NY Times story about the possibility that the Bush administration violated federal law when they ordered a Medicare official to withold information from Congress regarding a bill's cost last fall.

These jerkoffs in the Bush administration have avoided accountability for any of their actions for going on three years now. Nosey asks if anyone thought this issue would go away, but considering the track record of the press and the current Justice Department I wonder why anyone doubted the administration's attempt to get away with it.

Huzzah! 

John Kerry definitely feels like he has a chance in Louisiana, targeting this state among others with his $25 million ad blitz scheduled to begin today. The latest poll of Louisiana in the Presidential election didn't look too good for Kerry, but for the Senator to include this state in his ad buy signals that he doesn't think it's worth writing off just yet.

The ads will run through May 27 and are part of the single-largest purchase of airtime yet this year by either presidential campaign. Kerry also is spending about $2.5 million this week to continue running 30-second spots that outline his priorities. Overall, the buy is large enough that the TV industry estimates the average viewer in each media market will see one of the ads 15 to 17 times.

The Kerry camp's decision to include Louisiana and Colorado in this round of advertising is a bid to expand the roster of possible battlegrounds.

...

Besides Louisiana and Colorado, the Kerry ads will air in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.


You can view the ads here.

Ed Renwick, who conducted the last poll putting Bush well ahead of John Kerry in statewide opinion, believes that Kerry isn't out of it, and you have to figure that he's got a good handle on the data. Whatever the case, it's good news, and Kerry can't hurt himself by attempting to counter the Bush campaign's early blitz to define Kerry as some flip-flopping liberal monster. I wouldn't mind seeing some attack ads against Bush, but it seems like the Kerry camp is content to let groups like Moveon and others handle that for now.

As an aside, my brother is moving to Massachusetts in the late summer and we were talking about the possibility of him keeping his Louisiana voter registration until after the election since his vote would be more important to John Kerry in Louisiana than it would in Kerry stronghold Massachusetts. Anyone know about the legality of something like that?

Update @ 9:59 am: Liberal Oasis has more on the Kerry ad buy and on the ads themselves. It's good stuff worth reading, which is usually the case with LO.

Blanco in Houston 

Read accounts of her sales trip here and here. I hope these international oil and gas conferences are loaded with alcohol and good food, because I can't think of anything more boring than hobnobbing with energy industry CEOs all day and arguing over who loves President Bush more.

New Coach 

Most of you probably don't give half a damn about the fact that UL has selected a new basketball coach, but for the few of you that do, here's an article about Oklahoma State assistant Glynn Cyprien. He's a Jesuit High boy who played his college ball in Texas. He eventually attended Southern University, presumably for an MA, and then began his coaching career, which has taken him from Texas, to Las Vegas, and finally landed him here in Lafayette with quite a few stops in between.

I won't deny that I was rooting for former Cajun and current LSU assistant Butch Pierre, but he took his name out of the running sometime last week, and given this column about him from today's Advocate, I wonder if LSU isn't preparing to name him their head coach. John Brady can't have much time left over there.

Thanks Angie 

From comments to yesterday's post about Catholic Democrats, Angie directs us to this column in the National Catholic Reporter. Good stuff even if it does run in some circles justifying Kerry's stance on abortion. The kicker here is that despite his rhetoric George Bush doesn't have any real goal of curbing abortion (nor do most "good Catholic" pols) so why get bought off by them if you're a bishop in the Catholic Church?

With Allies Like These 

Supporters of a state constitutional ban on gay marriage hit Baton Rouge en masse yesterday, and this is what they had to say about it:

"Sodomites have a right to marry, just not to one another," Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in New Orleans told the cheering crowd at the State Capitol.

...

According to Shanks, God views gay marriage as an abomination and, unless Louisiana bans it stronger, God might visit a calamity on the state worthy of Noah.

"One Category 5 hurricane coming up the river would take care of all Sodomite marriages -- along with ours and our churches'," he said

...

We call on our lawmakers -- and especially the Black Caucus members -- to be strong and courageous as you give priority to this matter and do all that is in your power to protect historic marriage," Wooten said.

Disasters "heaped upon" Louisiana's black community occur because "a lot of our legislators are not on the side of God and His moral laws," Wooten said.

Our friend and the bill's sponsor Steve Scalise was there, and frankly legislators who give bigoted groups like this one the time of day ought to be ashamed of themselves. It's not that there isn't a legitimate argument to be made for this ban, but the men quoted extensively by the Advocate aren't making it. Their brand of hate and intolerance shouldn't have a voice in the halls of our state capitol. Yet Scalise apparently endorses their views by meeting and engaging them. The same goes for the Rev. William Maestri, the spokesman for New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes, who was also there and was quoted by Chris Frink. How can moderates respect the arguments against gay marriage (and in this case civil unions, and simple anti-discrimination laws) when the people making them associate with bigots and rubes?

The Advocate's editors rightly come out against the ban in this editorial, though I wish they could have used more forceful language. Rather their argument seems to be that the fight is premature because we already have plenty of laws on the books preventing gay marriage that aren't likely to be overturned any time soon. It's one of the many arguments against the constitutional ban, but they make no mention of the troubled group at the center of the support for this amendment. You can't get everything you want, I guess.

You can also read an AP account of the rally here.

03 May 2004

It's Official... 

I now love Texas.

Just when I get back... 

Blogger seems to be down for the count tonight. Sorry about the long delay between entries. If you can read this, John makes some very good points in comments to my post on hog-dog and cockfighting.

A word to the wise 

Given their size and the fact that you need only work on one side, painting shutters takes considerably longer than you might think. The worst part is probably getting all the little nooks and crannies created by the little slats of wood running across them.

Advice:

The old saws about pride of workmanship and self-reliance notwithstanding, home improvement tasks are quite unfulfilling. When it's possible you shouldn't feel guilty about enlisting the service of professionals. When it's not, I fully endorse getting a few beers into friends and/or family and impressing them into the work.

Deadbeat Dads in the Crosshairs 

This looks good, but admittedly I know absolutely nothing about the effectiveness of this legislation that would criminalize refusal to pay child support while making the load a little lighter for poorer fathers. According to the report middle-class dads will see a hike in the amount they pay, but this kind of attitude by one legislator seems to miss the point:

"My problem," said Rep. Ronald Johns, R-Sulphur, "is it seems like its the middle-income person who is always taking hit."

If middle-income fathers are benefitting right now from a lower responsibility than they deserve because the calculations haven't been updated in fifteen years, then it's not like they're taking a hit. Child support payments don't go to the state to be divvied up by legislators; from what I understand they are sent directly to the affected child (or perhaps more likely the child's custodian). Legislating that they take on a more reasonable responsibility isn't like they are being targeted as the financers of poor and wealthy children. What I mean to say is it's not like this is a tax where the revenues are redistributed, it's a means to determine what a father owes his progeny.

I may have this all wrong, though. Feel free to correct me.

Hogs and Cocks 

AP man Kevin McGill has a good bit of analysis about the strange situation in which our legislature will likely outlaw the hog dog rodeos I've discussed before but not even get a chance to debate a cock-fighting ban. It shouldn't be surprising that money is at the heart of it. Cockfighting is supposedly a multimillion-dollar industry while the hog mutilation racket just doesn't draw the same crowds or investment. He also informs us of a law on our books that I didn't even know existed. Apparently animal cruelty statutes in Louisiana specifically exempt fowl from the definition of an "animal".

I call it strange because from what I've read the hogs involved in the "rodeos" have it considerably better than gamecocks, who are generally killed or damaged beyond repair in cockfights. The level of cruelty, if we want to bother to get into this kind of moral morass, is almost definitely worse for the roosters pitted in deathmatch.

Sigh, like I said from the beginning, this debate is suited for the third world, not a state trying to move beyond its backwards image as a haven for crazy Cajuns and redneck yokels. The more I read about the surprisingly powerful support for cockfighting at the expense of the popular will of Louisiana residents, the more angry I become about the whole situation. We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting this practice continue. It's not one of our "cultural colors" that we should wear as a badge of honor. That's what crawfish boils and Frog Festivals are for.

Blanco takes it on the road 

Poor thing; she's going to Houston. I don't have a lot of faith in the effectiveness of these recruiting trips, but she said it best herself with this statement:

Whether Blanco's trip can do anything to change the trend is far from clear. "It might be too late," she said.

But, she added, there is only one way to persuade executives to change their apparent course and move more jobs to New Orleans. "If you never ask, (their answer) will probably stay 'No' for a long time," she said.

Obviously Louisiana has a long way to go before it becomes "business friendly." This is especially true with the energy industry, which Louisiana politicians have been soaking for decades in order to pay for all kinds of popular initiatives. Now they've up and left and that they don't show a lot of interest in coming back despite a load of reforms should give you a hint of the strained relationship between the state government and industry executives.

Hopefully this will change in the future, but it's going to take more than a trip to a conference in Houston to get the job done.

They cover politics... 

Gannet writers put together a couple of stories about Louisiana's federal politicians in today's edition. The big story is a poorly done piece about Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, with a big focus on Louisiana's favorite daughter Mary Landrieu. Here's the lede:

If Judie Brown has her way, Sen. Mary Landrieu never would be able to call herself a Roman Catholic again.

The founder of the American Life League, a nonpartisan Catholic organization opposed to abortion rights, Brown has been lobbying bishops around the country to deny communion to Catholic politicians who favor keeping abortion legal - such as Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat.

Just to dispense with the idea that the American Life League is a nonpartisan organization, why don't you take a look at their issues page, which conveniently leaves the death penalty or issues of war and peace out of any discussion regarding "life issues". I suppose that I should start a group saying that as long as Judi Brown supports politicians who support the death penalty--particularly Governors who preside over more executions than any other American executive in history--she shouldn't be able to call herself a Catholic.

I really don't think it's necessary for me to outline the hypocrisy of this position in this space. Atrios has been at it most of the week, and he's done a fine job of it. However, this issue is becoming a big one for no real reason in this Presidential election, and it seems to be trickling down to the state and local level, so it's important to point it out. Catholic Democrats are under assault for recognizing that America is not and should not be a theocracy. The men and women who are leading the charge do so from a position that is logically and morally untenable. Catholic Democrats would be wise to stop crawfishing from perfectly reasonable policy positions and go on the counteroffensive against these disingenuous charges.

The other story out of the Gannett papers is about the realm of political punditry favoring the Democrats in our next Senate election. The consensus seems to be that Chris John wins against David Vitter. The matchup between conservative Democrat versus ultra-conservative Republican seems to favor the more moderate candidate. Presumably the political analysts give Arthur Morrell no chance of getting through the first round at all. He's a black Democrat who supported Howard Dean in the presidential nomination campaign, so he probably couldn't find a lot of support in any possible runoff matchup.

02 May 2004

And by the way 

I spent most of yesterday thinking it was April 31, so I didn't note that it was actually May Day, and what good would a lefty blog be without making a shout out to the world labor movement? Anyway, have a happy belated May Day, and never forget the Haymarket Massacre, the inspiration for the day in the first place.

Also, thanks to Richard P. and Mary, who both informed me of some rather well-named participants in this year's Kentucky Derby, including longshot horse, Pro Prado (way out of the money) and jockey Edgar Prado, who rode Birdstone to an equally uninspiring finish. No relations to either the horse or the jockey, but it probably requires me to reiterate that Ricky Prado is a pseudonym, folks. I understand the confusion, and maybe I haven't made it clear enough, but I didn't want anyone to go around thinking this guy was actually a real person.

Sunday Reading 

I guess there's a lot to link to today, so I'll try to make as quick work of it as possible. In the T-P reporters and the editors take a look at New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as the mid-point of his first term in office approaches. Unsurprisingly they present a mixed bag. Nagin is a mayor who so far has failed to live up to the expectations created by his somewhat insurgent candidacy, but has avoided the scandal and corruption that has characterized past New Orleans politicians. The editors present a picture that almost seems out of touch with the reporting on the front page. Consider this note from their opinion on the mayor:

The irony of the mayor's situation is that he is the one who defined his administration as one of grand vision and ambition. If people feel as if they haven't gotten what they were promised -- and some people clearly do feel that way -- it is in part because the mayor set such high goals for himself. This is the man who has talked about selling the airport to fund construction projects and merging the criminal and civil sheriff operations, among other far-reaching ideas. He has yet to follow through.

In addition, Mayor Nagin has not been well served by some top aides. While he has made needed changes in his team, there still are weak spots. One of the most obvious weaknesses at this point is in communications, and the mayor can't afford to let that problem continue to fester. If the public doesn't understand what the administration is doing, the mayor is doing himself a disservice.

The editors go on to note the rising crime rate and problems with corruption in the police department that have exploded onto the front pages of their own paper over the last couple of months. They essentially give Nagin a pass, though as far as I can tell he has done little to address these problems during this time period. To blame his problems on not being political enough and self-serving aids seems like a head-in-the-sand attitude about the problems facing his administration's responsibility for the future of Louisiana's cultural and economic capital.

In the real capital city things weren't too busy, but it's worth it to point out this story out of the Gannett papers about the debate surrounding the first bill from the regular session to make it to Governor Kathleen Blanco's desk. She has yet to make a decision about whether or not to sign into law a bill that would allow psychologists to prescribe drugs to their patients. It looks like there are some fairly powerful lobbies opposing the legislation, including the Louisiana Medical Association, but that it was passed so easily and with so little debate leads one to wonder just who managed to fast-track it in the first place. The fact that it was written and introduced by House speaker Joe Salter probably has a lot to do with it, but reporter Mike Hasten doesn't make it clear who the bill's principal backers in the private sector are. I imagine it's the group of psychologists who have spent thousands on psycho/neuropharmacology classes, but can this group of men and women be large or powerful enough to shape legislation that quickly? Is it a national group investing dollars lobbying Louisiana hoping that it will spark legislation in other states around the country? There is probably quite a story begging for an enterprising newspaper man out there, but considering how close the deadline to sign or veto is, we probably won't find out in this state. As a cynical aside, note that I am completely ignoring the possibility that the quick passage of this bill has anything to do with it being good policy.

And let me be careful with my words here, as I don't want to accuse John LaPlante, the Advocate's Capitol Bureau Chief, of plagiarism, but can you note any difference in the ideas presented in his Political Horizons column printed on this morning's op-ed page and this column inked by AP man Adam Nossiter on the very same opinion page on April 12? I don't ask for much from a paper who published a big story about their being named Louisiana Newspaper of the Year for a variety of categories (this story doesn't appear to be online, sorry), but couldn't we at least get some originality for the man who is in charge of editing the paper's coverage of the capital?

And to continue a little Advocate bashing, how silly is this front page report that "Baton Rouge shouldn't fault itself because two accused serial killers have been uncovered here in the past year"? Penny Brown Roberts ends up penning a pretty interesting story about the data surrounding serial killers and the regions where they have thrived, but the headline and lede are nonsensical. Does anyone really believe that Baton Rouge compels deranged men to commit multiple murders? They better make sure the folks from Austin 6 get on that one lickety split.

Jeebs, I don't know if I can go on...

Anyway, Bill Decker, my favorite columnist in my local rag, comes out against the LUS proposal to get in the cable and Internet business. He speaks of the danger in a public company using the government to leverage the private businesses that are in the same racket. In my very humble opinion this is about the only legitimate argument against the proposal, however, it's not like this is anything new in the game of utility providers. By a public utility getting involved it can help to send a signal that access to electronic information like cable and the 'net is an essential service, like power and clean water. The public has an interest in maintaining cheap prices and access to even the poorest residents, and if that means stepping on the toes of private businesses who have so far failed in their responsibilities to the public, then that's an unfortunate accident. Call it socialism if you want to, but so far the "free market" hasn't benefited us lowly consumers too much in this regard.

Sigh, that's about it for now. Read and discuss. There will be an oral exam tomorrow.

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