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15 May 2004

Saturday Roundup 

The big news in state politics today is that between the rise in oil and gas prices and refigured totals for the 2003-04 fiscal year, Louisiana has an extra $255 million to play around with. (More from the Pic here) It won't get close to closing all the current budget gaps, but it will help offset some of the more dire predictions that have surfaced about cuts to "critical state agencies and services."

One organization definitely not considered a critical spending priority is the New Orleans Saints. Governor Blanco in no uncertain terms said she wouldn't use money from the general fund to make up the shortfall from the promised hotel and various tourism dollars dedicated to the team this year. At the moment the state is short about $10 million in payments to the franchise. Presumably she will ask the team to renegotiate, but because team officials couldn't be reached, the Pic's reporter doesn't explore the consequences of a failure to come to terms, or even if owner Tom Benson is interested in a new deal. I imagine that Blanco and the state are prepared to default on the payments, but if that happens it would take away any safeguards designed in the last incentive package to ensure the Saints don't move away. I doubt it will get that far this time around, but readers should understand what's at stake.

And in the news of political minutiae, the Chris John campaign responded to the questionable poll released a few days ago with this press release. I noted a little suspicion about the poll, but the John campaign makes it clear that they believe it was only meant to discredit his candidacy, and he pointed to this Pinsonant poll to make the case. There's no question that Vitter should fear a John candidacy more than any other. No matter what I feel about Chris John as a politician, there's little doubt in my mind that he would be the best positioned to carry the seat for the Democrats next winter. So David Vitter and the GOP would have reason to try and paint him as a loser with no statewide political support. Political hack pollsters (not necessarily the independent ones) probably oversell the impact these stupid releases have on campaigns anyway, though. They have to justify the big bucks they pull out of campaigns.

David Duke's release from his halfway house has generated him a little more press, this time from the T-P' James Varney, who calls him a "Nazi enthusiast". If you ask me, that doesn't do him the full credit he deserves, maybe enthusiastic Nazi would be a better characterization. Who knows? It's worth the read anyway.

Finally, I'm linking to Chris Rose twice in the same week, a strange situation for Timshel. He's talking about Tonya Harding this morning, who was scheduled to train with local legend Mackie Shilstone for her upcoming foray into the world of women's professional boxing. As usual, the whole thing is pretty funny, but I thought I'd extract this bit for your reading pleasure:

No doubt there is invaluable marketing potential in an appearance on "The Man Show," on which hosts Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope drink beer and smoke cigarettes as they introduce various segments so juvenile that farting contests would almost elevate the show's intellectual capacity; think "Jackass," but without the funny stuff.

When I talked to Brown, he said the publicity blitz for "The Man Show" would include "100 radio interviews in two days" on the West Coast and that New Orleans was on hold for a week.

Then he asked me for money for an interview with Harding. I said no. Then he threatened to take her story to the "other" daily newspaper in town and, well -- doesn't he have a surprise coming?

And before I go, I figure I may as well pass on the news that state Democratic organizations are organizing an "alternative commencement address" in Baton Rouge to go on at the same time that his lordship is boring LSU students to death with tales of his heroism flying patrols for suicider sea gulls over the Gulf of Mexico during the Vietnam.

we realize that there are other groups and individuals throughout the state that might be interested in joining with us for this rally "United for Change," -- the name of our temporary coalition group for this event -- is working with the LSU Democrats and the Louisiana Democratic Party to secure the necessary permits to peacefully protest and unify on the LSU campus. Dictated by the schedule of commencement ceremonies, we are asking rally participants to arrive at 8 a.m. on May 21. The event should conclude at approximately 11:30. The exact location will be announced early next week. Because we will work to gain the attention of local and national press, we ask that any participating groups show visual material (signs and banners) representing their goals and provide a spokesperson who can articulate their organization's mission. Since we are all interested in furthering our important causes, we ask that violent, insensitive, or negative images not be included in this event.
If you or your group is interested in participating in this important event,please join us at our next meeting at Democratic Headquarters in Baton Rouge,701 Government Street, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 18.

Sean Lane
225-772-6749
memory_of_red@yahoo.com

James Fischer
225-413-4497
Demores02@aol.com

Have a fine weekend!

14 May 2004

WTF!? 

Umm, more information please...

update @ 5:35 pm: ...asked and answered. What a tragedy?

Strike that bit about not being backwards... 

How's this for a headline on a Friday afternoon?

Louisiana's Quality Of Life Is Worst In Nation, Report Says

What state is number 1? That would be the liberal enclave of Massachusetts, land of high taxes and ultra-libs like Sens. Ted Kennedy and the next President of the United States of America, who you and I know better as John Kerry.

Here's a link to a place where you can purchase the Gold Guide for ONLY $135. Maybe next time.

Let no one call us backwards again 

The last two communities in Louisiana without access to phone lines are finally scheduled to receive service. It will still take a year, but um, I guess it's about time. Next thing you know they'll be demanding things like paved roads and health care. The nerve of some people.

Time Killing Game of the Week 

I know you've been anxiously awaiting this week's first person shooter edition. It brings back fun-loving memories of such games as Doom and Duke Nuk'em, except not as fun. The advantage to this over other TKGsOTW is the ability to save, quit, and return later. Also, the game is very difficult if you're using a left-handed mouse, but that's my own dumb fault.

If arcade games from the early eighties are more to your liking, then get a load of this version of Joust, which may have been the second worst game ever made by Atari (the worst undoubtedly being ET*).

Have fun, and I'll be back with more this afternoon.


*of which one critic says "This game was so bad it actually destroyed the life of the Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 had a game where General Custer raped Indians tied to cactuses, and THAT couldn't kill the system."

Good reading 

Ben McGrath from the New Yorker writes an ode to the knuckleball. It's New Yorker length, so it's slightly time-consuming, but well worth it.

Jason Giambi on Tim Wakefield's junk, overheard by McGrath in the Yankee clubhouse: "You're better off trying to hit Wakefield when you're in a drunken stupor." and "I don't know why they don't pitch him against us everyday." [ed. note--except in the eleventh inning of game seven in the ALCS, but that's another story.]

Here's a web home for the knuckleball.

Late's better than never 

I don't know how I missed this one in the morning, but politicsla.com directs me to this story about a HB passed yesterday that would prevent municipalities from counting vehicles among taxable property. It passed the House overwhelmingly, which it needed to because should it pass the Senate it will face the electorate as a constitutional amendment on our ballot next fall.

Tax and finance issues are hardly interesting, and they're not exactly my strength insofar as I don't understand the ins and outs of budgets across the state. However, it strikes me as a bad thing when the state can tell a city what they can and can't decide to levy a tax against, particularly when that something is an automobile. Apparently New Orleans is the only city in Louisiana that charges property taxes on vehicles. As cities grow they inevitably need to find new sources of tax revenue, and automobiles are expensive items the very presence of which require cities enormous expenditures on things like road and bridge maintenance, traffic patrols, lawsuit settlements, lot construction, and the long-term consequences of pollution. The list goes on and on.

Gas taxes, toll bridges, and traffic tickets can only go so far to dispel the costs a city undertakes to deal with the reality of everyday car use. There's no reason car owners should somehow be immune from paying for the consequences of car use.

Now I'll turn it over to Michael, who will regale us with tales of the importance of public transit; a common goal Americans would do wonders to realize before we drown ourselves in the Gulf of Mexico.

What a difference three years make 

This is just funny. Here comes Peter Cottontail, Flip-floppin' down the bunny trail.

Priorities 

Good for Blanco. The state's revenue projectors will inevitably inform the legislature this afternoon that thanks to rising oil and gas prices, lawmakers will have quite a bit more money to spend than previously expected.

Before the legislature goes hog-wild with spending, Blanco communicated in no uncertain terms where the new money should be directed first:

"I believe it is imperative that we exercise strict discipline and fund only our most critical obligations," Blanco said. Those include $20 million for the state's public school financing program and as much as $100 million toward a shortfall in the health-care budget, including the Charity Hospital System and Medicaid.

The state's universities are facing $40 million in new retirement, insurance and pay costs next year that the current budget does not cover. Blanco would make it a priority to use the state's extra revenue to close that gap.

The T-P's Robert Travis Scott does provide the news that the windfall could provide the revenue needed to accelerate the tax-breaks on machinery and capital sales that LABI and other industry lobbies have been wringing their hands about since our February special legislative session.

I imagine that Blanco floated the idea of speeding up these promised cuts in order to cut LABI and the like off at the pass before they can release their own pr campaign demanding the "cuts now." It's a smart move politically and it's good policy. It's nice when the two meet.

It's not all good in Blanco land, though. She hasn't shown any desire to muck herself up in the debate on a minimum wage increase. During the campaign she suggested that it's probably not the right time for a hike in the minimum wage. It looks like she'll leave this one to die on the Senate floor without her support. That's probably also smart politically, but I wish she would show some leadership on it.

LaPlante's report on this is actually pretty interesting. Cleo Fields, who sponsored the bill, seemed as surprised as anyone that after years of proposing the hike, it finally made it to the Senate floor thanks to some procedural maneuvering.

LaPlante does make one big error that might belie his ability to understand the plight of people who are actually on minimum wage. He suggests that the state law would set minimum wage at "$7.15 a hour -- $1 more than the national minimum wage" Actually, the federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, and the state bill would set our minimum wage at $6.15 an hour. This is an important piece of the story that LaPlante would do well to get straight. However, he continues to embarrass himself as the Advocate bureau chief, so I'm hardly surprised he also screws up basic facts.

As usual, there's more reading on the subject at the T-P.

Kerry and Breaux 

Marsha Shuler takes a look at the Kerry campaign strategy in Louisiana in a column in this morning's Advocate:

One thing unified both [the 2002 Senate and the 2003 Gubernatorial] elections -- respected Democratic U.S. Sen. John Breaux, who hit the campaign trail with Landrieu and Blanco.

It's clear that Breaux is a big part of Kerry's Louisiana campaign strategy to win Louisiana's electoral votes on Nov. 2.

Shuler goes on to note the regular invocation of St. (he's gone beyond Sen. down here and moved up to the ranks of Peter, Paul, and the rest of the revered) John Breaux by the Senator from Massachusetts. This next bit is instructive because of what's omitted:

Louisiana, which plays a pivotal role in offshore oil and gas production, deserves a larger share of federal revenue from that production, Kerry said.

"Ask John Breaux if I haven't been saying that for years. It's not a position I've found because I'm running for president," Kerry said.

It's apparent that Kerry is looking to Breaux to vouch for him among Louisiana voters.

That's particularly important when Republicans are already painting Kerry as a liberal whose record is worse than Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy's.

The problem is that so far voters haven't had the chance to ask John Breaux. Kerry needs to have the Senator next to him at all times while he's down this way if he expects to capitalize on his popularity. Merely mentioning Breaux won't sell his candidacy to Louisiana. I have no doubt that when the time comes John Breaux will get a little dirty for John Kerry, but the time needs to start sooner rather than later. Bush's advantage in popularity alone down here means Kerry needs a sustained campaign from Louisiana's favorite son. Hopefully we'll get that before it's late.

Insanely local stuff 

Any regular readers of the Daily Advertiser have come to know darn-near-weekly letter-writer Dailey J. Berard. Today, Timshel reader and sometime correspondent Barry Ingram of Plaquemine catches him in a bit of idea theft.

Apparently Mr. Berard got his letter from this Hubbard column at the American Enterprise Institute.

Unfortunately I can't find Mr. Berard's latest letter to our local paper, so we can't check Mr. Ingram on his charge. However, having read Berard for God knows how long in that newspaper, it's hardly surprising that he might cut and paste a column from someone to pass off as his own work.

In searching I did find another bit of astroturf the Advertiser was duped by. You can see that letter here and here's the Google search which has it showing up all over the place across the USA. Needless to say, I've already written the editors.

Poor Advertiser. They just can't do anything right.

13 May 2004

By the Way 

If you didn't see it in the comments below this post, according to nick, "The Daily Show" is airing their segment from the floor of the Louisiana House on tonight's episode. I believe the "Senior Louisiana Correspondent" is supposed to be Rob Corddry, but I could be wrong about that. Don't forget to turn your televisions on at 10 pm Central to see what all the fuss has been about.

If I'm wrong, don't blame me, blame the comments.

And if you haven't read Chris Rose's column from this morning about the low-riding pants bill, here's another chance.

Senate Polling 

press release from Wilson Research Strategies.

It's hardly surprising that it would show Vitter performing well against his Democratic opponents, but it's hard to believe that John Kennedy could be pulling 24% of voters while Chris John can only manage 10%. If that's the case, it's fine with me. I wonder if John's support for typically conservative causes has alienated his support from Democrats, or maybe it's possible this group just doesn't know how to accurately poll the state.

link via politicsLA.com

Uh Oh! 

The state is more than $10 million short on payments owed to the Saints. Saints officials didn't respond to Mary Foster's requests for comments. According to her report the state can either renegotiate or default.

I look forward to the Advocate's editorial page over the next week or so.

Definitions 

This is what it means to be strong on terrorism.

Huh? 

This came out of nowhere...

Senate committee approves bill to boost La.'s minimum wage

I'll be taking bets as to how long it takes to vote this bill down after floor debate.

Media Bias 

Abu Greib vs. Nick Berg

Forgive me if I take issue with Neal Boortz's (by way of the Instahack) claim that bias is the reason that Nick Berg is already falling off the front pages of the major newspapers (something which I sure hadn't noticed yet) while the Abu Ghreib scandal continues to get front page and major network coverage.

Now I'll take them at their word that Nick Berg's tragic murder at the hands of one of the nastiest men on Earth has gone by the wayside, but there are a thousand good reasons why that might have happened and Abu Ghreib continues to dominate news coverage. The most clear reason is that there can't be many new developments in Nick Berg's murder because it is something that was perpetrated by people we are still trying to identify. The CIA's claim that it was almost definitely Al Zarqawi will probably push it right back into above the fold news again tomorrow. The newspapers have spent the last few days writing the young man's life story and entire family history. Beyond that and who is responsible, what more news can they make up about him?

Meanwhile with the scandal in Abu Ghreib, you have the steady drip of pictures into the media, Congressional testimony and condemnations, and today a Rumsfeld visit to Iraq to visit the prison. Isn't that stuff newsworthy? The fact is that there is simply more news to report about Abu Ghreib then there is about the beheading of one man, no matter how awful and horrible the act was. I guess considering our news media's fascination with murder cases like Laci Petersen, rape cases like Kobe Bryant, and molestation cases like MJ that go on for months with wall-to-wall coverage that a murder of an American citizen in Iraq should be all over the newspaper for weeks on end just because it happened.

And their reasoning that people want such coverage is patently ridiculous:

But on the Internet, where users set the agenda, not Big Media editors and producers, it's different. As Jeff Quinton notes, Nick Berg is the story that people care about:


Right now the 10 phrases most searched for are:
nick berg video
nick berg
berg beheading
beheading video
nick berg beheading video
nick berg beheading
berg video
berg beheading video
"nick berg"
video nick berg

Just because you have millions of people clamoring to watch a beheading doesn't justify newspaper coverage to the extent that Glenn Reynolds and Neal Boortz desire. There are certain matters of taste which prevent news orgs from running sickening murders on television. While there are certainly people who are watching the video (many of whom I read), I don't know that I've heard any of them asking to have it broadcast on CNN. But maybe that's what Glenn and Neal want. Maybe they figure watching a couple of towel-heads murder one of our own that it will stroke the blood lust a little bit, and finally get us all to a point where we practically beg the Bush administration to just go in and nuke the entire Middle East to kingdom come.

Whatever the case, the reason people are scouring the Internet is to watch a video, not to learn about a man. The papers have sufficiently covered who he is, and until there is more news gathered about who it was that committed the crime, it's not as much of a story. If the Internet determined just what news organizations carried all day, there'd be nothing but porn to watch. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saints Tickets 

Blogger seems to be completely out of commission as far as publishing goes, so these posts are for my own benefit until it works again. Anyway, a new Saints season tickets commercial is out, and it's a good one. I'm not sure why they want to remind fans of the debacle that was the Jacksonville contest last year, but it doesn't make the commercial any less funny. Who knows what lurks in the mind of marketing professionals?

See it on a fast Real Player here

or a slower one here.

Thanks to Hristo for tipping me to the commercial.

The Derb 

I usually love to scour "The Corner" to point out the failure of "intellectual" conservatism these days, but Jesse points out something so callous it buries James Inhofe's recent remarks. Here's a link to Jesse's and Derb's post. I looked around "The Corner" hoping it was some kind of out of context sarcasm, but it appears that John Derbyshire really just has his head up his own ass. Let's just say he's more concerned about US soldiers boinking each other than he is about the fact that our countrymen engaged in systematic torture of enemy prisoners.

Good reading 

Jim Brown suggests that Americans outraged at the abuse taking place in prisons halfway across the world shouldn't forget about the horror stories from our domestic facilities.

This is the NY Times piece he refers to.

more from Amnesty USA

The Progressive Review provides a handy comparison chart

The ACLU weighs in

Human Rights Watch has more reading. I suppose I could go on, but this is a good start.

It's about time 

I've been waiting for Chris Rose to weigh in on our silly low-riding pants law, and it finally happened in this morning's Pic. He doesn't disappoint, but I wonder why he didn't address that "The Daily Show's" Rob Courdry was in Baton Rouge last week to produce a segment for the program. I figured he'd have some good gossip about it. Oh well, here's only a piece of the funny:

Now, I'm not trying to be cheeky here. I mean, this would all be funny except for three problems.

1) There have been actual committee meetings in Baton Rouge about this and real legislators are spending real time discussing this and mounds of paper and clerical resources are being frittered away. Of the many kinds of crack available on our street corners, is this the kind we need to spend our efforts eradicating?

2) This law is so patently stupid that even Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have made fun of it. When Bill O'Reilly thinks you're moving backwards down the Darwinian ladder, folks, you're in trouble.

3) It would make it illegal for Britney Spears to ever return to Louisiana.

...

I mean, I realize most states have stupid laws, but most of these cases are comical because they involve ordinances that are 95 years old but were never officially "erased" from the books so they seem so quaint and funny now -- laws that say things like it's illegal to raise llamas in a trolley car or something like that.

Actually, I remember writing a story about strange municipal laws in this area many years ago and I recall one, fittingly, from Westwego (Shepherd's turf) which claimed that the quorum requirements for board of aldermen meetings were to be suspended in the event of nuclear attack.

I know I slept better after finding that out.

There's so much more there.

Quote of the Day 

You have to love it when the supporters of the anti-gay marriage amendment show their true colors on the chamber floor. This fight is hardly over, but opponents can take a few days off for now. It is worth pointing out Noble Ellington's (a Dem. from Winnsboro) remarks during the Senate Debate yesterday.

But Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, said tolerance isn't always a good thing.

"I think maybe tolerance is tearing down the foundation of this country, and the foundation of this country, I believe, is God and church and family," Ellington said.

That's right, because the last thing that God, church, and family want is to foster tolerance. I think Noble Ellington must have missed a few days at Sunday school.

...link, link, and link ... note: in that last story, John Hill suggests that Hainkel could bring the vote back to the floor today, and Hainkel's claiming to have the vote he needs from among the missing of yesterday's debate. The work of bigotry is never done.

Pots and Kettles 

Without arguing about the merits of a river pilot bill that barely cleared a Senate committee yesterday, I would like to point out the strange world where the River Pilot's lobbying arm is described like this:

The state's four pilot organizations--a group generous with political contributions and respected for their political power--opposed SB472 before the legislation was amended by committee chairman Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie

and three major business lobbies like this:

The heads of three of the state's largest business organizations -- the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Chemical Association and the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association -- all testified for Dardenne's bill

The normally impressive Chris Frink takes even more bait from the industry groups which provided him with this information:
One industry group calculated that pilots and their organizations gave more than $750,000 to state political candidates last year.

It's a strange world when LABI, the Louisiana Chemical Association, and the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association can convince a reporter to paint them as David fighting Goliath. I wonder if it's even possible to over estimate the amount of money those three groups contributed to state political candidates last year. However much it was, I'm willing to stake my savings that it was more than $750,000.

The T-P's coverage of this story wasn't so gullible.

12 May 2004

Welcome Back 

Damfacrats returns after settling in to some new digs in the Big Apple. It couldn't have come soon enough.

Good 

I've been waiting all day for the news that the Louisiana Senate fell short of passing a Louisiana hate amendment. Here it is. It was one vote shy of the 2/3 needed to pass.

This doesn't necessarily mean it's dead, but it's going to be tough to make it go much farther. Let's hope the House votes against their version too.

You can see the names of the "yeas" and "nays" here (.pdf).

More headlines 

A misleading one this time...

Terrebonne Fishermen Catch 52 Pounds Of Marijuana

They didn't really catch it in the way Alfalfa may have caught a tire or a rubber shoe in the old "Little Rascals" (or was that "Our Gang" are those the same things?) television show. They found it. How disappointing?

ugh 

Will this rain ever stop?

Offensive nicknames 

I heard some boneheads on a national sports talk radio show last night moaning about Syracuse University tweaking their nickname from "Orangemen" and "Orangewomen" to simply "The Orange". As is talk radio host's wont, they complained about the pervasion of political correctness throughout sports nicknames. Apparently the argument for the change was about the nickname's inherent exclusivity with "men" and "women" attached to the end of them.

[sarcasm]I'm more curious why they don't drop the anti-Catholic "Orange" fetish all together. Perhaps to renew their commitment to diversity and tolerance they could get Nike to redesign a green uniform, and the name wouldn't seems so bad.[/sarcasm]

Seriously, though, there's nothing more offensive than that football team right in our nation's seat of government. How long will football fans let that stand?

Like a flash 

Yat Pundit returns to organize New Orleans bloggers. Hopefully it will be fruitful and well-maintained.

Choose the Headline 

Dumb headlines abound with the renewed legislative interest in anti-cloning bills meandering their way through either chamber of the Louisiana Congress. One is a reference to Star Wars and the other is just a juvenile piece of comedy:

...from the AP "Clone wars continue: Senate panel votes to OK stem cell research"

...and the Advocate "Cloning bills debate keeps multiplying"

I think some headline writer(s?) for the Advocate just won some Louisiana journalism award. I hope it's not for throwaways like that one.

No Respect 

Friend and reader Chris directed me to this bit of comedy from "The Onion" about DC lawmakers getting arrested at an illegal cockfight. He asks the same question I do, where are the Louisiana reps?

I've been saying that legal cockfighting gives the state a bad image to the rest of the country, but if the Onion can manage a story about a cockfight in DC and not mention Louisiana once, maybe that image ain't so bad. The Advocate editors expressed similar sentiments in their edition this morning, but maybe we've been blowing this image thing out of proportion.

Of course there is that whole sadistic, cruelty to animals thing, but it's hard to expect Louisiana residents to go up in arms for roosters when hog-dog rodeos are on the front page every day.

Soon to come 

Welcome Oyster of Your Right Hand Thief, a new resident of blogiana (and one more who actually lives in Louisiana), who was apparently inspired by the new look blogger and jealousy over his wife's ability to create life. The new blogger templates also look great; permalinks seem to work better; perhaps a change for Timshel is in order...

Huzzah! 

I had to go to Shreveport to find it, but congratulations are due to their paper for coming out in no uncertain terms against a state amendment banning gay marriage. It concludes thusly:

The institution of marriage isn't on the ropes because of homosexual unions. The erosion predates the gay pride movement. Society's attitudes toward marital commitment are on display each day on TV and in the divorce records of any local parish or county courthouse. About one in every two marriages fail.

Marriage and the establishment of stable families need societal encouragement. But just as legislating fidelity and commitment would be doomed to failure, so would banning homosexual unions do nothing to decrease gay and lesbian couples.

For now, Louisiana has spoken sufficiently through its state laws about gay marriage: It is denied legal sanction. Amending the constitution is simple overkill and would compound the diminution of a small minority of Louisianans to guarantee no real benefit to the majority.

More like this please.

Good stuff 

John Maginnis, whose column I don't link to enough in this space, has a good one out today about the strange situation in which lobbyists are pleased to see an ethical reform come down the pike. Who knew they'd been unhappy all these years about lawmakers literally extorting cash from them during in-session fundraisers?

The scene is convivial enough, but make no mistake, most of those attending, that is, the lobbyists who came bearing checks, would rather be anywhere else, even with their families.

Legislators reason that in-session fund-raisers are merely practical and convenient. Since they and the lobbyists are in town at the same time, when better to gather for cocktails and contributions? Lobbyists, of course, hate the events for that very reason, for it leaves them with no excuses. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but often a party is scheduled just prior to a vote on a bill vital to some interest group.

There's more there about how the ethics reforms have gotten stronger as the legislation has moved through the House and Senate thanks to lawmakers unburdened with reelection campaigns who finally see the light of ethical reform. All in all it's worth the read, so go ahead see what Maginnis has to say.

Florist licensing 

Who cares? Readers may remember a Rich Lowry column from December that exposed Louisiana's strange regulations for floral arrangement licensing for all the world to see. It quickly became a cause celebre among the conservative blogging world thanks to the lesson it imparted of dangerous regulations stifling competition and hurting consumers.

Apparently, Louisiana lawmakers on the Senate Agricultural Committee just don't care what Rich Lowry, the Institute for Justice, and the armchair warriors of the Republican Party have to say about their floral arrangement regulations. Yesterday they laughed in the faces of IJ supporters of a bill that would open up the licensing requirements and unanimously killed their bill. They'll leave it for the courts to decide.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no supporter of this industry's laughable attempts to protect itself from competition, but it's fun to see the Rich Lowrys of the world thwarted by Louisiana lawmakers on a "stay out of our business" kick.

Legal Incidents 

The two big papers covered the advancement of the House bill on the anti-gay marriage amendment sponsored by Steve Scalise. The Pic's coverage is the only one to actually include the text of the amendment as it would read in our state constitution. Also, cheers to Robert Travis Scott for including this criticism of the bill in his report:

Eileen Donaghy, an employee of Shell Oil Co. in New Orleans, told the committee that Shell extends health benefits to unmarried domestic partners and that she fears the Scalise bill would force Shell to give up that policy in Louisiana.

Contacted at her New Orleans office, Shell spokeswoman Mary Dokianos said the policy for all company employees worldwide is to recognize domestic partnerships, regardless of sexual orientation, when granting health and welfare benefits.

The employee must sign an affidavit naming the domestic partner.

As for the bill's potential impact on company policy, the corporation's attorneys would have to look into it, Dokianos said.

The city of New Orleans has a similar policy. A spokesman for the city said Tuesday that the bill's language would have to be examined by city attorneys to weigh the potential impact.

Two lawyers who helped draft the bill could not say conclusively whether the constitutional amendment would affect the legality of domestic partnerships as recognized in New Orleans and by the corporations.

Committee Chairman Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said he was troubled that the bill might expand its impact to unmarried couples currently granted employee benefits and certain other rights in Louisiana. He offered an amendment to try to remedy his concern, but his proposal failed.

That this bill's supporters in committee refused to specifically protect partner benefits should clear up any doubt that supporters of this amendment don't care about protecting marriage. All they care about is denying homosexuals even the most basic concerns for their dignity and well-being.

Supporters in good faith of this amendment need to understand the far-reaching consequences of it. The implications for economic development alone should have most pragmatists scratching their heads as to why our legislature is bothering. It also doesn't seem to concern anyone that the two lawyers who drafted the bill don't even know what it would mean for judges who should try to interpret it. Of course, that they "don't know" is simply bullshit. The motivations behind this amendment are pretty clearly not to protect an institution--one that is already sufficiently protected by current law in this state--but to capitalize on the hate and fear that runs latent through a fairly large portion of the electorate. Moderates who are worried about marriage and may be inclined to support this bill as it comes to a vote in both chambers should be aware of what has brought this amendment to the table.

...more from the Advocate

Why not now? 

My brother sends me a link to this video by an over-zealous Saints fan on the message boards over at SaintsReport.com

He says it's never too early to get pumped up about the Saints offense, and he's dead right about it. Watching the video does beg the question as to whether or not you can cram every career touchdown by Donte Stallworth and Deuce McAllister into one four minute video. The answer is "yes". And after watching four minutes of Dulymus, if you're not asking yourself whether or not he has the potential to be the best running back in the history of the NFL, then you're not a true Saints fan. Enjoy.

11 May 2004

Good News for the BoSox 

If it's true that the modern game originated in Massachusetts and not New York, maybe the baseball gods will finally look kindly on the Red Sox for their years of endless suffering. It's probably just as likely that since the evidence is a two hundred year old document restricting play because of broken windows, that Pittsfield, Mass may want to consider rescinding the ordinance to appease the angry deities.

Weird 

I don't know what to say about this guy, but Saints fans should take note of who the prosecutor is.

Local Promotion 

Never heard of him, but a Lafayette writer tosses off a very good letter to the New York Times today in response to this David Brooks column.

Once again, David Brooks steadfastly approves of a demonstrably failed foreign policy ("Crisis of Confidence," column, May 8). "We've got to reboot," he writes.

Although an amusing metaphor, rebooting foreign policy implies that the policy is essentially sound, with only an operational glitch.

This administration's foreign policy is not computer software; it is dead and wounded American soldiers and civilians, uncounted Iraqi casualties, collapsed international credibility and now, with Abu Ghraib, destruction of American moral values that will not be recovered in the lifetimes of my great-grandchildren.

My father and oldest brother were graduates of West Point. Dad served in World War II. My oldest brother served three tours in Vietnam. Another brother served in the Navy for six years. I served in the Army Reserve. My sons served in Desert Storm. My youngest son is in Afghanistan as I write.

There is no excuse for what just happened.

WILLIAM A. FERRY
Lafayette, La., May 8, 2004

Right on, Mr. Ferry, may I suggest a Louisiana webpage you might find a lot of shared opinions with.

In other local business, don't forget that Democratic Party meetups are going on around the country tonight. Lafayette Dems are meeting at Barnes and Noble at 7:00 pm. I assume they'll be in the coffee shop, but I've been wrong about these things before. I'll have the good fortune to finally getting around to attending one of these things, though I hope they're a little more productive than the Dean meetups I showed up to a few months ago.

No kidding? 

A quote of a quote from a Political Wire entry about Bill Clinton's completion of his memoirs:

"Historians expect that the former president's book will seek to defend Clinton's record and preserve the future political viability of his wife, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008."

And here I was thinking the whole thing would be about blow jobs and murder coverups.

Hate Amendment 

Our superfluous and bigoted constitutional ban on the legitimization of any same sex relationship in the state has advanced through a state House Committee today. It will likely see floor debate next week. If you're scoring at home that means an amendment which will essentially do nothing different than what state law already guarantees (remember Louisiana's civil code likely precludes judges from declaring established state law unconstitutional) has advanced to floor debate in both of Louisiana's legislative houses. Unfortunately our Governor, who has expressed mild disapproval of the amendment, won't get the chance to veto this bill, since it would go directly to the population should it pass both houses.

It is scheduled for debate in the Senate tomorrow.

"You will create division. You will create hatred. You will create violence over this issue," said former state Rep. Risley "Pappy" Triche, who told lawmakers his son was murdered more than 20 years ago because he was gay.

Tell your representatives that you support Triche's opposition.

Rush Limbaugh 

Complete Asshole.

Good and Bad 

A legislative effort to ban all forms of cloning stalled in the state House yesterday. The bill's sponsor, Gary Beard (a Republican from Baton Rouge), was opposed to an amendment that would allow researchers to clone individual stem cells so he withdrew his support for it and is now waiting to see what happens in the state Senate. From the beginning I've thought this was the kind of uninformed knee-jerk legislation that ends up stifling progress, so it's a good thing that it's stalled for now.

On the other side, our lawmakers seem to be in the middle of all kinds of legislation that doesn't do much except deal with personal annoyances. There's a bill to outlaw playing organized sports on public streets, and not because of the safety of those playing, but because traffic is often stopped. There's another one which would make it illegal to travel in the left lane on an interstate unless you're passing someone. And don't forget about the minimum speed law that was being considered last week. Without getting into arguments about the merits of any of these bits of legislation, it's hard not to see them as trivial considering some of the larger problems facing our state. The grand champion of triviality is of course the lowriding pants bill, but I guess I don't even need to go down that road.

I guess that's life in the "gret stet".

Coastal Restoration 

In a meeting organized by Mary Landrieu, representatives from our coastal parishes will meet with Joe Barton and Pete Domenici, the chairs of the House and Senate Energy Committees, respectively.

I wish them luck, but I don't know how effective they'll be without Mr. Bill and the Estuarians...

Eternal Sunshine 

I mentioned David Duke's coming release from a halfway house yesterday, but I had no idea just how optimistic he remains even after his stint in a federal penitentiary. One thing is sure, his experiences in the pen didn't at all change his detestable politics. Let's call it the exact opposite of what might have happened in the movie "American History X":

He's writing a new book, "For Love of My People," and planning an international conference of white supremacist groups that will take place at an undisclosed location in New Orleans during the Memorial Day weekend.

"The best way I can describe prison is that it was like pulling back on the bowstring," Duke said. "The longer I was in there, the tighter the string got, and the more power I accumulated. I'm looking forward to my release this week to let the arrows fly."

Duke will be freed from the halfway house Friday, marking the end of his imprisonment. He spent a year in a federal prison in Big Spring, Texas, for bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes

...

"I'm not trying to reflect against black people, but it's going to be hard for them to put aside any prejudice they might have from reading about me in the media," Duke said. "I was not willing to take the risk of going to trial in New Orleans and getting a jury that was not of my peers."

While in Big Spring, Duke said he worked maintenance jobs and spent the rest of his time studying, researching and writing "on the issues I'm concerned about."

He described his prison experience as difficult, and characterized the prison in Big Spring as "a very violent place" where he "witnessed riots, deaths and disfigurement."

There, Duke was far from being just another one of the other prisoners.

"It was a 90 percent non-European-American prison, which didn't afford me a very comfortable position," Duke said. "It was mostly Mexicans and blacks who were there, but they came to respect me very much by the time I was released. Many of them had read my latest book, 'Jewish Supremacism.' "

...

While he hasn't yet decided whether to pursue politics or teaching, Duke said he's certain about one thing: He intends to keep promoting what he dubs his "cause."

"When you're in prison, when you're down to your core, you realize how important the things you believe in are," Duke said. "I'm going to continue to work for my cause."

whoa, sorry about the long quote there. But here's a question for you folks to consider. Should David Duke decide to throw his cards in the 1st Congressional District race, who benefits the most from his candidacy? Does he hurt Jindal by spewing his white supremacist hatred throughout the district or does an anti-racist backlash help Jindal benefit as sort of a "we're not racist, we're voting for an Indian" statement to the country? Does Steve Scalise benefit from Duke's vitriol, by being a comfortable (and decidedly non-racist), white, alternative to the ex-klansman? I'd say that Scalise stands the most to lose by having Duke in the race, because any votes he might have gained from people wouldn't vote for Jindal just because he's Asian (and they are there in the district) are probably racist enough to go ahead and vote for Duke. The result could be a damaged Jindal in a runoff against Steve Scalise, though, so it could help him in the end.

Sorry for the extended and out-loud thinking on this. I just wanted to point out some strange contingencies that could accompany David Duke's return to public life.

Vitter at the Press Club 

First, a quick thanks for the link from Tbogg which has already doubled my daily traffic and it's only eight thirty. Shamelessly plugging random posts to the big dogs finally pays off...

I wanted to point out these reports about David Vitter's trip to the Baton Rouge Press Club before I do anything else this morning. From the Advocate:

U.S. Senate candidate David Vitter, a Republican congressman from Metairie, made the announcement during a speech in which he laid out his plans for fighting corruption and cronyism in Louisiana.

Vitter told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he twice talked to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to push for special corruption fighters here.

The congressman said success on that front is critical to bringing jobs to Louisiana and making sure funds allotted for certain critical areas, such as education, don't line people's pockets instead.

I'm quite certain this will be an effective campaign tactic for the Senate candidate, but every time I read about this stuff (and when I heard him at his rally here in Lafayette) it sounds like he'd be better off running for an office where he gets to work in Louisiana. I wish he would focus his ire against "corruption and cronyism" in the US Congress and leave Louisiana corruption to our own legislature. It's not a big deal, but the whole thing strikes me as just a little bit off.

more from the AP... and this bit is also instructive about a new direction Vitter's campaign will probably need to take:

Vitter has the most conservative voting record in Louisiana’s seven-member Congressional delegation and has been a staunch supporter of President Bush’s economic and foreign policies. A recent fund raiser for him featuring Vice President Dick Cheney underscored the congressman’s support for the current administration.

Nonetheless, in a possible sign of the political trouble administration allies could face over Iraq and the prisoner-abuse scandal, Vitter did not offer a defense of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when asked if the secretary should resign.

“I don’t know nearly enough to make a decision like that,” he said. “We need to get all the details.”

The prisoner-abuse affair is “worrisome on a lot of levels,” Vitter said. The abuse was “clearly very, very wrong. It’s a real, practical, concrete setback,” he said.

I'm sure when the news of John Breaux's imminent retirement first began circulating through the Louisiana delegation during the run up to the Iraq war last year that Vitter thought his perfect record of voting with the Bush administration would be a real boon to his fortunes in a Senate race, and while Bush is still fairly popular in this state, it's not hard to realize why Vitter is avoiding invoking dear leader's name anywhere on the campaign trail anymore.

10 May 2004

Google Search Phrase of the Day 

"will gas prices go down in Maine? It's just really awful"

I'm sorry I can't help you on that one, but you may ask President Bush to call in those Saudi connections if it means that much to you. The real question is why on Earth Timshel is the fifteenth result of more than four thousand? Thanks for the spider, Google.

Oops 

Sometimes I miss things that are so unbelievably important that I feel like just giving up this blog all together. But, like Bush's non-apology to the King of Jordan, some things are better done late than never. In this case I have to pass on the news that Comedy Central's The Daily Show sent cameras to the legislature last week to take a look at the hearing on the bill to prevent people from low-riding their pants.

There's no word from any of the reporting I've seen which senior correspondent the Daily Show sent to cover the story or when it will air, but I can't imagine that it would take more than a week or so to produce this segment. I'll be watching so you don't have to.

There is one question remaining. Why did it take the Daily Show--which has been running for at least eight years now--this long to finally find a reason to make a trip down to mock our "hallowed" legislature?

A big thanks goes out to my brother, who pointed this out to me on Saturday morning when I was too hungover to really care that much. Tonight in the middle of doing some dishes the thought recurred to me like a lightening flash. There you go, and don't forget, knowing is half the battle.

Prescience 

It turns out all the wingnuts were right about Hillary Clinton's designs on the White House in 2004. This should be all the proof you need. developing...

Catching Up 

The AP's Cain Burdeau catches up on what our old friend David Duke has been up to since he was released from federal prison for the friendlier environs of a halfway house about a month ago. One of the conditions of his release compelled him to find employment. Apparently going back to work for the same organization he used to swindle his supporters didn't raise any eyebrows in the federal probation system. Here are a few looks at what employment means for David Duke:

Duke, due to be released from the halfway house on May 15, "has been answering telephones" and "doing computer work and reorganizing the way we do data entry," Armstrong said.

During this period, Armstrong said Duke also has organized a "welcome home" event for himself and a conference to take place over Memorial Day weekend. According to EURO's Web site, representatives of white supremacist groups such as Stormfront, the National Alliance and the British National Party will be speakers at the New Orleans conference.

EURO has paid Duke $1,000 for his month of work, Armstrong said. Duke could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Armstrong contended that Duke would have found it difficult to find work elsewhere.

Here's the website where you can keep track of what he's up to for yourselves. You may want to be careful about clicking over there if your friends or coworkers think you're racist. And if anyone wants to contribute to the rehabilitation of a "white"-collar criminal, maybe you can send him an email telling him you can find him an easier job than ogranizing parties for himself.

More Bush at LSU... 

from someone who could be there, but won't. It's too bad more people don't follow LSU Student's lead on this one. The kicker: "It strikes me as ironic that Bush, who might be thought of as the nation's highest-profile anti-intellectual, is speaking at a university graduation."

But we already know that George Bush really doesn't think graduations are very important, otherwise he would make a point to see his daughters walk across their respective stages. More irony will surely come when with a straight face he tells all those LSU graduates something to the effect of "this is the most important day in your life..." while his daughters pine away for a little attention from their father, who is just too busy running for office to care about the most important day in their lives.

It might be instructive to ask what people would say about Bill Clinton if he had missed Chelsea's graduation, but it's too difficult, because even America's worst husband and father managed not only to make his only child's graduation from high school, but he addressed the ceremony. When Chelsea graduated from Stanford, by then a former President and First Lady, Bill and Hillary managed to make it to that too.

He really is a uncaring SOB 

I should note that I was only half-serious when I said President Bush was a bad father for skipping his daughter's graduation to go and make a campaign speech at LSU. However, the truth is that Jenna and Barbara's happiness now has a price. Republican donors seem to have set it at the tune of $1.2 million, which George Bush will rake in at a Metairie fundraiser at approximately the same time Jenna will be walking across a stage in Austin.

What will we tell the children?

Good stuff 

I walked the streets of Houma at about 9:30 in the morning yesterday looking for a copy of the Times-Picayune, but didn't have any luck. Our hotel's machine was sold out of all their copies as well as a Walgreen's and a Spur convenience store. The result was that I missed this editorial from their Sunday edition. Here's the conclusion:

Government institutions that have shown their disdain for Louisiana's gay and lesbian citizens in so many ways, on so many occasions, are unlikely to change their ways anytime soon. Louisiana is not Massachusetts, and amendment supporters' premise -- that some mysterious cabal of activist state judges is itching to legalize gay marriage -- has no basis in reality.

In truth, the amendments under consideration in Baton Rouge have nothing to do with setting public policy, because a ban on same-sex marriage is already enshrined in state law.

Instead, these proposals are the work of sore winners. Opponents of same-sex marriage are trying to use the state Constitution to rub salt in the wounds of an already disfavored group.

Today's edition includes another editorial that I would like to read, but their website seems to be in the middle of all kinds of trouble right now. However if you click here at random times over the course of the day, you may find an column headlined "Your time is up" and about the plan legislators have to overhaul our election system. I would comment on it, but I have no idea what conclusions they have reached. I've expressed my wariness of it.

By the way, the Houma Courier is about 1000 times better than my paper here in Lafayette, but it's no substitute for the Pic.

What's going on around here? 

I returned from a great weekend in New Orleans and Lockport, LA to find a complete overhaul of the blogger interface. It turns out I've created 1,551 posts since beginning this thing on September 1, 2003. Who knew blogger's been tracking such things? I guess I like the new features, but I'm not sure if I like look of the whole thing. Start your own weblog and find out for yourself.

Anyway, regular posting will resume while I get reacquainted with the service.

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