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22 May 2004

Push Poll Story Gets Play 

Both the Advertiser and the Advocate report today on a Friday press conference Durel quickly called to protest Cox's automated push poll that started yesterday. Durel is clearly upset at the tactic and believes it may mean that Cox is participating in current "compromise negotiations" in bad faith. It’s good to see Durel's instincts for straight talk back in play; quiescence doesn't suit him—or benefit Lafayette's cause.

Not surprisingly, the Advocate's story is far superior to the Advertiser’s. Take a look at both and you will see that the Advocate’s reporter believes that enough information should be provided that a reader could make an informed judgment about competing claims. It’s nice to see that someone still honors the educational functions of local papers. Kudos to Kevin Blanchard.

Just for the record, the difference between a real poll and a push poll isn’t hard to understand. Real polls are after information; they spend their money surveying a relatively few well-chosen respondents about a wide range of pertinent issues. Push polls are advertising, they are pushed to far more people than would be necessary to simply get a sense of the range and intensity of opinion. They tell you what is true and then ask a few, usually repetitive, rhetorical questions about what you think about their “fact.”

Cox is automatically dialing every household in Lafayette with six inflammatory “question” premises each of which end in the same rhetorical question as to whether or not LUS should build the fiber “for 100 million.” LUS is surveying a random subset of its installed base with 35 questions the most “rhetorical” of which is whether the user would buy services from LUS if the price were cheaper. Cox’s protests about LUS's poll are dishonest, so transparently so that their spokesman must know it. Durel is right, there is no good faith here.

Durel advocates calling Cox and complaining about their poll. Nah, call your representative and senator about SB 511; that's a complaint that might get Cox's attention.

To quote Ricky from his post yesterday on this topic: “Don't ever trust anything Cox ever says.”

21 May 2004

Good politics 

Bush could have told the LSU graduates that they were all going to be shipped off to Iraq and fed to wildebeests and it wouldn't matter, because the only thing that people would see is an image like this (from WWL-TV):
what's that in your diaper?

TKGOTW 

Man-eater edition. Avoid the evil divers who will try to stab you to death with tiny knives. Get behind them and eat them to keep your strength up, otherwise you'll die and the game will be over. Have this game in your head as you, your friends, and your family begin planning trips to the beach. You won't be disappointed.

Sorry about another afternoon of light posting, but it's been a very busy week for me since the sun decided to come out again.

Wire accounts 

confirm my source from the halls of LSU who suggested there may have been a silent protest from faculty members who wouldn't stand for the President.

The account doesn't say much about the speech, but I'm guessing it wasn't that political:

Bush received an enthusiastic welcome from the faculty and 3,200-member graduating class of Louisiana State University. Several members of the audience sat in silent protest as everyone else stood and applauded as Bush was introduced.

Damn liberal brain-washing profs.

Cox Push-Polling 

I'm going to continue to post news about this story because it's important to me, and if you haven't read John's guest post from last night I'll suggest that you go ahead and do so right now.

I bring it up because I just received a pretty nasty "poll" from Cox survey that asked me--among other things--"considering that only two municipalities have ever tried service offerings like LUS is proposing and both have raised their rates by as much as fifteen percent within the first year, do you still support the issue of $100 million in bonds by the city of Lafayette?" I don't remember the other questions, but the phone call ended with the news that it was a survey being conducted by FEC Research (I think, but I can't find a damned thing about them on the web) and paid for by everyone's favorite cable provider, Cox Communications.

The current story online about the proposal at The Independent (by Timshel friend Nathan Stubbs and another reporter) doesn't support the accuracy of the above question:

Over the past decade, other city-run utility companies that have treaded into broadband service include Ashland, Ore., a town about the size of Youngsville. Ashland started building out its fiber network from scratch through its public utility to approximately 10,000 customers in 1999, at a cost of $8.5 million. It completed the network last year.


Bonnyman says that in the U.S. it’s typically the smaller towns, feeling as if they’re not on the inside track of the national economy, that decide to build out fiber to jumpstart their local economies.


Ashland’s utility has since penetrated half the cable TV market and two-thirds of its consumer cable-modem market. The City of Ashland Electric Department has not yet offered phone service, citing high competition and expense. “We don’t think we’re ready to do voice,” says David Wanderscheid, electric and telecommunications director.


Nevertheless, Ashland’s residents are enjoying some of the lowest cable and Internet rates in the state. Wanderscheid says he offers 126-channel cable service for $30 a month. In turn the private local provider, Charter Communications, dropped its monthly rates to $32 for the same service. Elsewhere in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, cable customers pay up to $50 for similar service.


Ashland wholesales usage of its fiber optic infrastructure to eight different private Internet service providers who in turn sell retail broadband service for about $35 a month, comparable to Charter’s rates. With the competition hitting Charter in the pocketbook, the company has been relentlessly lobbying the state to restrict municipal utilities from cutting into its markets. Wanderscheid says such a bill has been proposed in each of the legislative sessions since Ashland went public with its cable service.

Don't ever trust anything Cox ever says.

The things that really matter 

If you think Bush's address at the commencement is the biggest story today, you're wrong. It's that Tom Benson is scheduled to meet either Governor Blanco or one of her surrogates in meetings about the future of the Saints franchise. James Gill is none-too-happy with the state's bait-and-switch style of deal making, and he suspects Tom Benson isn't either.

The state is evidently about to renege on the multimillion-dollar subsidy it promised the Saints three years ago.

But don't worry, Tom, say the superbrains on the Superdome Commission. We'll make another promise in return. Why, we'll find $150 million to upgrade the stadium two or three years from now, and then you'll make all kinds of money.

You have our word on that.

Someone should tell these guys that Benson didn't get to be stinking rich by swallowing snake oil.

...

So now the state, having promised Benson oodles of cash and held out the prospect of a new or extensively renovated Superdome, figures he will settle for a few extra seats, suites, lounges and restrooms to be built in 2006-07.

Of course, we haven't got the $150 million needed for these relatively modest improvements right now, and the Superdome Commission acknowledges that a tax increase will be necessary. There's an idea that will be wildly popular.

Superdome Commission Chairman Tim Coulon sees all this as "a win-win for the Saints and the state."

Sure, and Benson just fell off a turnip truck.

This isn't my area of expertise, but the continued presence of the Saints in Louisiana is very important to me and countless others. Every time this happens I feel myself developing ulcers because of the worry...

Getting there 

The final product is likely to bare only a passing resemblance to this, but it's worth noting that we're one step closer to a $17 billion state budget today. Cuts aren't looking as drastic and there appears to be quite a bit of room for legislative maneuvering to ease the problems in some of the more important state services. As usual there are lots of one-time sources for revenue, but all in all things look better than they did three months ago.

Bush at Graduation 

In a little more than an hour President Bush will address a few thousand graduates and the friends and families privileged enough to score the hottest ticket in town at the LSU commencement exercises. The state coverage is pretty good, noting that protesters are gathering in the LSU parade ground--which if my knowledge of the LSU campus is worth anything--isn't within a thousand yards of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (feel free to correct me on that), and that protesters were on the steps of the state capital yesterday to discuss how Bush's environmental policies are bad for Louisiana. The Advocate even ran a picture of yesterday's protest on its front page.

Their coverage of the event also notes that LSU officials had to take back a directive which would have prevented graduates from wearing buttons and/or signs on their robes and mortar boards. Instead they prohibited obstructive banners and signs. That's reasonable not necessarily as a security measure, but because signs and banners could be terribly disruptive to the people unfortunate enough to sit behind them.

The editors also weigh in on that issue, saying LSU eventually made the right decision. They also stress that anyone who thinks this isn't a political stop for George Bush is either incredibly naive or just plain stupid. As I noted in a comment below, it surprises me a great deal that they didn't write about how great this is for LSU and the state of Louisiana and blowing the event so far out of proportion so as not to resemble reality. Good for them.

My local paper's coverage is typically useless. You can read it, but I promise it's not offering any news that you haven't already seen somewhere else. The Pic's coverage focuses more on the political aspects of the trip, and does note a bit not seen anywhere else about Chancellor Mark Emmert's finagling to get the President here:

Chancellor Mark Emmert said he courted Bush for a visit in 2003 but instead landed Vice President Dick Cheney. Although Cheney was supposed to deliver the address, he had to stay in Washington to cast a tie-breaking vote on the president's tax package, and his wife ended up speaking for him.

Emmert said he went through Republican Party donors and the state's congressional delegation to lure Bush. Emmert said he also contacted Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card, whom Emmert had met at a social occasion.

I wonder if that social occasion was a Bush fundraiser. Emmert certainly does seem to have a lot of connections to this administration. He landed Cheney and Bush in successive years, and God knows he has the money and the social connections to be a pioneer if he chose to, although I couldn't find his name in any searches through Open Secrets or Fundrace.

When it's all said and done, I suspect this will be a very successful trip for George Bush. Let's face it. Besides me and maybe three or four other people, everybody in this state has nothing but love for LSU. They talk about the university like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that Bush is coming to visit will only reinforce the blown out of proportion perception that many Louisiana residents have for the school. They'll see George Bush as a hero for coming and attaching his name to the flagship, and he'll probably score about ten-thousand or so of the dumber fence-sitters still unsure about their vote. And besides that he stands to score another million bucks out of Louisiana donors at a Metairie fundraiser later in the day. And he gets to miss the god awful boring graduations of his daughters. It's all in a day's work for his Bushness.

Brilliant 

I'm putting off the Bush in LA morning roundup for one more post about some brilliant police work done in New Orleans in order to get folks with arrest warrants to turn themselves in.

How might they do that?

Mailed to about 3,800 former inmates wanted for various infractions, the official-looking letters said the sheriff had screwed up by failing to return all of the ex-inmates' money when they were released from parish prison. "Our records indicate you received $30.50 and should have received $156.44," one such letter read.

"Come in person and have a picture identification with you in order to pick up your claim check."

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's department managed 114 arrests that way. It seems so easy it's almost unfair. I do question why if they have the suspects' mailing addresses, they couldn't just go to their homes to make the arrests, but I guess they just wanted to make their jobs a little easier.

Alert the Chik-Fil-A cows 

I have to say that I was a little thrown off this morning because the Advocate wasn't on my doorstep for the first time I can ever remember, and reading newspapers online just isn't as satisfying. I usually miss out on all kinds of interesting things, because I'll avoid clicking on articles without headlines that grab me. In print I can at least scan even the articles that seem boring on the surface.

Thank God I looked at this article, though. It's probably the funniest thing I've ever seen in print. The gist is that a group of PETA activists went to Capitol Middle School to try to convince the students there that it's wrong to eat chicken. One was even dressed up in a chicken costume. Unfortunately they arrived too late to get to the students at school, and since yesterday was the last day, they won't have another chance to see them. So instead of giving up they decided to try engaging the kids as the walked away from the school. This was the result:

Jeffery Stewart, a sixth-grader at Capitol Middle, said he likes chicken, though not the chicken nuggets served at school on Wednesday.

"I like the McDonald's chicken nuggets, not the school kind," he said.

Gail Johnson, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services in East Baton Rouge Parish, which oversees school lunches, said the school system is one of several in Louisiana that buys only healthier chicken nuggets that use less salt and use only the less-fatty white meat part of the chicken.

But Rice was not impressed.

"No matter how a chicken is prepared, it is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol," he said.

Rice asked Keshon Bell, also a sixth-grader at Capitol Middle, whether she eats chicken.

"I eat chicken," she said.

"That's too bad. They're just like dogs and cats," Rice responded.

"Like that dog over there," Bell said, pointing at a dog, perhaps dead, which had been lying in the middle of Gus Young Avenue, the whole time.

"Perhaps dead"!! WTF? How hard is it to verify that bit of information? And what's up with dead dogs just lying in the streets of Baton Rouge? I don't think the Austin 6 crowd is going to be pleased with that. I can't tell how much I laughed when I read this the first time, now it doesn't seem so funny. Oh well, it's my blog.

20 May 2004

A Call to Arms 

Folks of the Blogosphere, readers of Timshel: warning, guest poster.

Hi, I’ve been commenting on these pages about the LUS plan to provide fiber optic to home and recently the issue has come to a head in the legislature. Ricky has kindly invited me to post my reaction as a guest on Timshel—just about the only place online or off where you can get the real scoop. Thanks Rick, for the opportunity and your coverage.

I’d like to issue a call to arms—The current controversy over LUS providing fiber optic to the home has reached a critical point with the Senate Bill 511 and that bill is threatening to shut down any realistic possibility of fiber to the home not only in Lafayette but statewide(as Timshel correctly notes). If there was ever a moment for progressive, technologically adept types to make their voices heard about something they are in a unique position to understand and value now is the moment.

The gist of the current situation is that the state legislature is in the midst of gutting a decent broadband initiative (originally intended to foster service in poor rural areas) in order to sneak a bill in after the deadline for filing bills that would, ironically, prevent local communities from providing affordable broadband services themselves. This has been met with a resounding yawn by the media and hence the public is unaware of what is at stake.

This is one of those moments when knowledge carries responsibility. If knowledgeable folks don’t kick up a storm it is quite possible that the opportunity to move Lafayette and the state ahead in ways that few will be able to match will be lost.

I ask you to contact your non-timshel-reading friends and urge them to act as well. If you are a Lafayette denizen call everyone; you stand to lose something valuable that is within your grasp if the plan goes away. If you are elsewhere in-state call or write your representative, call the members of the committee who have turned a good bill that would expand opportunities into one that will shut people out of new technologies. Write your local media—your rights to every have affordable fiber optic bandwidth are endangered. If you are an expat write, especially the state media. Let them know how attractive the idea of a whole community that has broadband access would be to out of staters. (Especially if you could get that good food, coffee, and music in that community—Festivals Internationale counts too.)

If you are a regular Timshel reader you’ll be aware of a lot of the background story. I recommend you read his remarks and follow out the links Ricky provides for the development of this tale.

What the bulk of the rest of this post provides are some talking points that might help you think about how to argue for progress when communicating with representatives and writing editors. Take from my mish-mash what seems to make sense to you and what speaks to what you care about. Both editors and officials have to develop a sharp nose for sincerity and passion. Use who you are—because of the way the debate is going business voices will be particularly valuable but teachers, professionals, kids, photographers, grandparents--all have something special to say—everyone has a unique position to speak from.


Good, broad points especially suitable for legislators but also helpful for letters to the editor:

Complain that the state is gutting a decent broadband initiative (originally intended to foster service in poor rural areas) in order to sneak a bill in after the deadline for submitting bills that would, ironically, prevent local communities from providing affordable broadband services themselves. Astonishment and outrage is appropriate.

Complain that state law is being used to quash a local initiative that will provide 21st century broadband services to everyone at prices that are affordable to all. The state should stay out of it and the legislators should certainly not help big corporations quash local initiatives—especially when the big corporations admit that they don’t have any intention of providing such advanced services at any price.


Talking points (quashing lies and dispelling myths department):


Big Multistate Utilities just want to stifle competition from little local utilities. (That is basically all that is going on here.)

The claim that letting LUS provide these utilities would violate the ideals of free enterprise has nothing to do with it when various governmental boards guarantee telecom utility profits. They are not free enterprise companies; they are regulated utilities. The telecoms’ argument is dishonest.

Similarly, “fair competition” has nothing to do with it when restrictions are put on publicly owned utilities that do not apply to privately owned utilities. (Nobody tells private business that they have to make a profit in any length of time or in any segment of their enterprise; requiring such as does the new Senate 511 is hypocritically anti-competitive.)

None of the Big Utilities are willing to provide fiber to the home. They just want to prevent LUS from doing so. That is what the new Bill 511 would accomplish and all it would accomplish.

It isn’t true that LUS plan would unfairly compete directly with current providers. Or at least not any more than Sprint or Cingular unfairly compete directly with BellSouth or than DirecTV directly competes unfairly with Cox. BellSouth and Cox invested in (now old) technologies that gave them monopolistic access to the home. They made a lot of money. No one has poached or is suggesting poaching on their investment—Sprint, Cingular, and DirecTV found new ways into the home and paid for the infrastructure build out. LUS is going to do exactly the same with fiber. There is no unfair competition involved in that. Just old dinosaur Big Utilities and a new, nimble, small, local utility that is willing to invest in its own community.


Talking points (wonderful possibilities department):

The economic development opportunities are truly amazing. Through the forethought of a few public servants a possibility exist for Lafayette that is available to few localities in the US: fiber optic-based broadband services to the home. This is like being located on a river was in the 1700’s or on the railroad line in the late 1800’s. Everything comes to your door first and cheapest. Businesses sprout like weeds and prosperity grows. Communities thrive. This could be Lafayette’s one big chance. Such opportunities open up only once in several generations. Killing this chance for some large out of state corporations is stunningly irresponsible.

The most commonly made point has been widely reported and is worth repeating: the new broadband infrastructure will allow the provider to sell services that are functionally similar to current phone, internet, and TV services more cheaply than the current price. This is a GOOD thing. It is always better when the consumer benefits from new competition. It is also a good thing for our society if all the goodies of a modern society are not restricted to the wealthiest segments of our society. LUS has an excellent “public good” argument.

The harder to make but more important part is that fiber optic services will spawn business we cannot yet imagine. Lafayette and any community that follows its lead will become a testbed for every brilliant and hair-brained idea of the technological age. Businesses will come to try out their ideas bringing new blood and hiring local expertise. (Can we say “in-migration?”). A few of the most obvious ideas: Streamed movies on demand; massive public access programming, selling supercomputer level computational power using cycles from distributed computing as a cheap utility, Local video/Voice over IP too cheap to bother to charge for as a special service, Educational access previously unimaginable (want to learn how to weld your gate shut? Look it up online and watch how it’s done), massive, fast, cheap, off-site data storage facilities, community video chat rooms/centers with video and local news, a whole new level of possibility for local bloggers and newshounds. (Wanna watch the Durel’s news conference and see what the reporters missed? Stream it. Links to multiple commentators from reporters, to admin folks, to bloggers, to Tante Marie.) And, as they say, much, much more…that I can’t easily imagine.

One of the more dishonest arguments is that somehow LUS will cost the taxpayers money. If the current financing plan is followed there is really no chance that this will happen. But more importantly, the truth is that we can expect this plan to provide the city-parish with income. Current LUS utilities actually provide income to the local government and cost the taxpayer nothing. If LUS owns these particular new utilities there is substantial reason to believe that they too would turn money back to the city-parish. So how would you like to fund government? By compulsory taxation or by well-run, locally accountable utilities that provide valuable and otherwise unavailable services to local individuals and businesses?

The Durel administration is willing to be visionary. Their ideas already include ideas about renting cheap computers a la Cox’s set top boxes. This goes further than any program I have heard of to bridge the gap between poor and rich with regard to access to knowledge (and thereby power) than any I have heard of. Social justice doesn’t have to be something only priests talk about.

Bringing the net into almost every home brings many other possibilities: neighborhood bulletin boards—babysitting, grass mowing, the girl scout cookie house, meet the candidate at Jayne’s house, the church bake sale….Most real communication is rightly local; the current internet seems great only because it is so easy. What you really want to know is close to home. Having the net available to all could help pull communities together again.

Education, did I mention education, yes, probably. Let me mention it again more loudly. In the end computers and the net are about information and ease of communication. They are inherently educational. Right now you can download the classics of world literature and MIT’s courses and course materials from the net. And you can find out how to wire fluorescent lights so they work and how to choose the number of bulbs you’ll need to light your workshop. We could all get in the habit of having access to valuable knowledge of all kinds. Somebody want to start a collaborative Cajun and Creole Dialect and Culture encyclopedia? Wellll…maybe not until they know such a thing is possible and have net access. Then they can start a Wiki. People could share as well as consume knowledge. That would be really educational.

Too long, and possibly too strong, I know, but I hope it will give you a starting place to talk to others—and hopefully to talk among ourselves here on Timshel.

I will put email addresses, phone numbers, and other access codes into the discussion fields of a post to follow as I get them together.

Feel free to write me at the email link in the comments if you’d like. Though better yet to just ask in the comments section. I’ll try and answer any questions.

Access Codes for “A Call to Arms” 

Hi, this is your guest poster again, I intend to put address of newspapers, phone numbers of local representatives and legislative committee members and the like in the discussion field attached to this post. Others should feel free to enter any they locate as well.

A special note: as I reviewed my materials to start adding addresses to the comments I noticed that The Daily Advertiser surprisingly put a box above today's letters to the editor entitled "Should LUS offer fiber optic services?" and containing the question: "Should City-Parish Government offer phone, cable TV and internet services? We want your opinion."

I say oblige 'em. Make your voice heard.

Their request earns the Advertiser a place on the front page of this post; here is the info you'll need to help them out:

The Daily Advertiser (a Gannett chain paper; make ‘em act local)

Online: http://www.acadiananow.com/letterstotheeditor/ (online form; may not work. Use the email address if you have an email account.)

email: letters@theadvertiser.com

fax: (337) 289-6443

Postal: Letters to the Editor, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser, 221 Jefferson St., Lafayette, LA 70501


The print edition mentions a 300 word limit mentioned nowhere else; opinion essays at 450.

Don't forget 

Bush comes to address the graduates at LSU tomorrow. Adam Nossiter reminds us what a bad father he is, and Mary Landrieu continues to audition to be John Kerry's veep:

The President is skipping his two daughters' graduations, at Yale and the University of Texas, both schools where officials have said protests are likely. But at the conservative-leaning LSU campus Bush will find himself in friendly territory.

...

Landrieu, who has campaigned at Kerry's side on his visits here, told reporters Thursday: "the President will be coming to Louisiana, make a speech, collect a million-plus dollars, then leave us to sort through the wreckage of his economic and farm policies."

Landrieu added that "the administration is going to be signing a trade agreement that could seriously jeopardize one of the oldest and most productive industries in Louisiana."

Hopefully Bush won't find LSU to be all peaches and cream for his visit. We know one student who won't be attending, and then there's that whole protest that will be going on (scroll down to the bottom of that post for necessary info if you're interested).

More sun 

That means more roofing today, sorry about the extended absence in the afternoons lately...

Riiiight... 

From Political Wire

Crossfire host Tucker Carlson told The Hill that his new PBS show, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered, "is going to be much less political with no partisanship — absolutely none — allowed."

I hope there's more truth in advertising in this venture than that whole "No Spin Zone" thing, because that worked out so well.

In all honesty I kind of respect Tucker Carlson. Unlike hacks like Hannity and O'Reilly, he always seemed to play the role of the conservative on "Crossfire" with an ironic smile. I certainly didn't get the sense that he believed in the hype that surrounds the ultra-partisan rhetoric of those types of shows. Whatever the case, hopefully he'll be able to use his new PBS program to cut through some of the bs that began with the "McLaughlin" Group and finally reached it's full ascendancy of stupidity with "Hannity and Colmes". Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.

blogger spell-check note (for Jeff) as he regularly notes for some reason the blogger spell-check function doesn't recognize "blog" or any of its derivatives, but it did suggest "McLaughlin", which I spelled with a "G".

Conflicting Values Dept. 

Two headlines seen in the legislative section of the Advocate today:

Bills to increase public-record access clear panel

Blanco's secret talks bill advances

5th District 

Former Rep. John Cooksey, the great white hope for the Republican Party in that race , has finally ruled out a run, which means it should be clear sailing for Rodney Alexander. Clyde Holloway could run, and at this point he's probably the only chance the RNC has left.

Now if there was only a way Rodney Alexander could be made to pay for his flirtation with a party change without handing the seat over to the Republicans...

Congrats 

Pardon me as I engage in a little navel-gazing and congratulations for a fellow Loyola alum and old Prado friend, who--as far as I can tell--not only got his first press mention as a "campaign staffer" (an understatement as far as his role in that campaign goes from what I understand) for 1st Congressional candidate Steve Scalise (ugh, I won't get into my views on the candidate, which ought to be well-known to regular readers), but also managed to get the Scalise talking point into the story's lede.

Now in a publication like The Hill a monniker like "DC Darling" is probably a positive thing, but back home--especially considering that Jindal had to move in to the district to run for the seat--Jindal may still need to prove that he's sensitive to First district concerns. Scalise has a long way to go, but it's nice to see J.T. Hannan getting his name out there.

In the interest of full-disclosure I should note that I asked Hannan's younger sister out once and she shot me down. The four-or-so years of pent up bitterness about the rejection has absolutely nothing to do with my sustained criticism of Rep. Steve Scalise in this space. I just think he's a tool.

Good 

I haven't had much reason to write about this in a while, but when I first started this thing I spent an inordinate amount of space on the death penalty. Anyway, it's good news that a state House committee has advanced a bill for debate on the floor that would prevent sentencing people who committed crimes before the age of eighteen to the death penalty.

Although I doubt they'll be threatening lawmakers who oppose this bill with the Eucharist, it's good to see that in its zeal for the "protection of marriage" and anti-abortion politics the Church has managed to take a strong stance on this too. Considering their double standard on partisan politics and concern about who is a "real Catholic", one might have figured that the Church didn't care about the death penalty at all any more. Not so:

The Rev. William Maestri, a lobbyist for the Catholic bishops of the state and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, urged the committee to pass Gray's bill.

"The execution of adolescents is morally repulsive and enhances the culture of death," Maestri said. "Violent juvenile crime is a test of our wills."

Sigh, I doubt this bill will be passed in the full House, but it's good there are people out there working for at least incremental roll backs of state sanctioned death.

It was only a matter of time 

A few weeks ago a plan emerged from municipally owned Lafayette Utlitlies Service to begin directing fiberoptic access through their existing loop around the city and directly into homes and businesses. There are some heavy, but not earthshattering, capital investments involved in the upgrade, but there is little doubt that the payoff for the city would be enormous in the long-run. This is also one of those happy cases where the consumer stands as much to gain as the investor. I first read about the issue, I couldn't envision a lot of strategies for private telecommunications businesses to stop the project, but I wasn't thinking clearly, because now they've clearly gotten off their rears and really put the entire venture in Jeopardy.

A story in this morning's Advocate--way to blow another one Advertiser editors--discusses the rewrite of SB 511, initially a noble effort at expanding incentives to telecom business that expand services to rural areas around the state. After moving through committees in both houses it was returned to it's author and the Senate Committee which initially advanced it for a rewrite in order to pass it. Noble Ellington (the same guy that said, "Tolerance is tearing apart our state") must have gotten a pretty specific memo from telecom lobbyists, because his eighteen page total rewrite of an otherwise good bill would make it nearly impossible for LUS or any other municipally owned company from establishing their own telecommunication services. Read the bill here.

The piece of the bill that would put the project in danger is discussed in the Advocate:

The bill calls for a public hearing, followed by the hiring of a consultant to conduct a feasibility study.

LUS is in the middle of a feasibility study, which is expected to be released in June.

The study would have to find that the venture would turn a profit -- enough to at least meet bond obligations -- for the first five years of the program.

Ron Lunt, director of broadband services with the American Public Power Association, said public ventures into telecom rarely turn a profit that soon. But public entities have the advantage of being funded by 20-year or 30-year bonds, not private investors looking for a quicker return.

Should the feasibility study meet the bill's requirements, two more public hearings would have to be held.

In a fit of unnatural honesty by public officials dealing with big bond issues, the initial reporting of this story made it very clear the Parish President Joey Durel and LUS director Terry Huval didn't believe the bond issue would be paid for in the first ten years, much less turn a profit every year for the first five. It's the truly crippling part of the bill that would make it impossible for public entities to finance a move like this.

Ironically, the bill's opening lines expound on the importance of Internet access for an equitable society:
Access to computers and the Internet, along with the ability to effectively use these technologies, are becoming increasingly important for full participation in America's economic, political, and social life.

Cost-effective high-speed Internet access is a key competitive factor for economic development and quality of life in the new economy of the global marketplace.

In the digital age, cost-effective universal connectivity is a necessity for 25 business transactions, education and training, health care, government services, and the democratic process.

Inequitable access to computer technology and Internet connectivity by income, educational level, geography, or other demographic factor could deepen and reinforce the divisions that exist in our society.

There exists a necessity to create a broadband council in the state to close the digital divide for the citizens of Louisiana and to focus on the ability of rural areas to support the creation, retention, expansion, and recruitment of businesses.

Those are some high minded ideals for a piece of legislation that would reduce public access to cheap, high-speed Internet, phone service, and cable.

19 May 2004

Dead Tired 

Last night was a late one at the card table in a losing effort and a long afternoon climbing among the rafters of a workshop in progress didn't do anything for my energy level this evening. Hope all is well in the blogosphere...

Here's a plea for info from people who might know more about these things: I've been getting a lot of spam from addresses with names suspiciously close to those of the friends, family, and other correspondents in my address book. Is this because of some virus I'm carrying; just a coincidence; or is this a problem in the ether that won't necessarily affect my computer?

... 

Sorry about the lighter than usual posting today. With no more news of Andre 3000 and the arrival of some welcome dry weather, I'm busy building a roof with my brother-in-law. More posting in the early or late evening. I guess. Don't expecting any groundbreaking work out of Timshel today.

Here we go again 

Expect the stories about the Saints renegotiation of incentives and arena renovations to be uglier and uglier once the two sides actually sit down at the table together. I'm pretty torn up about the whole thing myself. Obviously the state has an obligation to make it's payments to the franchise, and I couldn't blame Tom Benson if he decided to say no way to renegotiations, but it's very hard to justify busting a tightly strapped budget to send money to a football team no matter how much I love them and want them to remain in Louisiana. The guaranteed return on the investment doesn't sell to the rest of the state, unfortunately, who once you get north of Alexandria seem to see the Saints an not-even-lovable losers.

I will say that it strikes as a very bad idea to spend $150 million to renovate the Superdome when no matter what's done to it, the NFL will demand a brand new stadium. If the state can guarantee that kind of money, why not work a little harder at the extra hundreds of millions it would take to build a new facility. Reliant stadium is probably as close to the top of the line that stadiums get (until the new stadium in Arizona opens up this season) and was built to the tune of $450 million. Obviously Houston was in a much better financial position to put together the money to pay for this, but I can't really see the point of paying more than the quarter of a cost of a brand new facility in order to renovate an older one that will probably never completely please the NFL. I hope I'm wrong about that, though.

Jayzus 

Man, this legislature has got me in a bad mood today. A bill advanced through a House committee yesterday that would pay education benefits and job training for wrongfully convicted persons released from jail. This would be a good start by itself, but:

Before it did, the panel removed a provision to let a former inmate file a claim for $25,000 a year for each year he or she was falsely imprisoned, up to a maximum of $500,000.

It's possible that the panel only stripped it to allow for debate about just what kind of economic compensation should be available to released inmates, but procedurally it shouldn't have mattered that the economic compensation was in the bill or not. It just seems pointless to strip it. One Rep. seems to have about the right attitude:
"I'd want more than food stamps and a Medicaid card," said Rep. Monica Walker, D-Hessmer, also a member of the panel. "I'd come out screaming. Something needs to be done to right a wrong."

Hopefully this bill will pass and there will be plenty of money attached to it; unfortunately I'm losing what little faith I've got left for our lawmakers around here.

and one other thing... 

about that post below, I'd be remiss not to note that Governor Blanco's resounding silence on this issue is a terrible reflection on her commitment to Louisiana and the men and women who helped elect her. Bobby Jindal's refusal to even sit down with GLBT groups during the gubernatorial campaign made Blanco look like she was sensitive to the concerns of the minority. Clearly she doesn't care that much about them, or she would have exhibited more leadership than her timid, "I don't know if we need this right now" bs that she's making a staple of her governorship. Some things are worth fighting even losing battles for. Now it's completely out of her hands.

Shame 

Both houses of the Louisiana legislature passed bills that would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and the "legal incidents thereof." I won't spend much time with this morning, since I've obviously spent plenty of time on this already in this space. It will only take a little legislative tweaking to put a bill together that will make it onto the ballot for either September or November, when Louisiana voters will undoubtedly vote in favor of the amendment.

I'm obviously ashamed of our legislature for playing on the fears ginned up by social conservatives around the country about "the danger to the pillar of our civilization", as though allowing gay people the same legal rights as the rest of us would immediately lead to the downfall of all the things we know and love in Louisiana.

I'm not allowed to post the Advocate's pictures anymore, but this is what it looks like when men celebrate discrimination. They're giving each other high-fives when they should be walking out of the Capital Building to catcalls. Here's the story that goes with it.

The T-P's report reminds readers that this amendment is vague enough to threaten protections engineered by the city of New Orleans for partnership benefits, and as I showed you last week, the bill's backers had no interest in specifically protecting the benefits that municipalities may decide to confer on same-sex couples, though that certainly has nothing to do with marriage. In fact, they blocked a change that would spell out that protection. The only logical conclusion is that the bill's supporters think New Orleans or any other city shouldn't have the right to confer benefits to same-sex partners of their city employees.

The only cheers go out to Senate candidate and state Rep. Arthur Morrell, who argued against the amendment with these words:

"This is discrimination," said Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, a vocal opponent of the measure. "This bill would be putting in the Constitution a way of discriminating against people.

"This is just feel-good legislation for a president of the United States to find an issue to get him re-elected," Morrell said. "If you believe in discrimination, vote for this bill."

and Sen. Joel Chaisson had this to say yesterday:

Sen. Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan conceded that backers had the votes.

"I can see the handwriting on the wall, but that doesn't make it right," Chaisson told colleagues.

The Democrat said the ultimate decision on whether same-sex marriages are banned rests with the U.S. Supreme Court, not a ballot measure in Louisiana.

"It's not going to accomplish anything but divide people," Chaisson said.

And don't think I haven't taken note that two of the Democratic candidates looking to replace Chris John as the federal Congressperson for the seventh district, Sen. Willie Mount and Sen. Don Cravins, both voted yea on this amendment. A pox on both their houses. End transmission...

18 May 2004

More Andre 3000 

The AP piggy-backed on yesterday's news about Andre Benjamin's film project scheduled to shoot in NOLA this September. I wouldn't link to it except it included the news that Andre is also involved in a thirty minute animated series. I couldn't imagine what nut would put OutKast on Saturday mornings, but a google search revealed that white people's favorite rapper is actually working on the project for Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network.

The special may be autobiographical, or it may focus on Andre's alter ego Johnny Vulture, the star of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" video.


While executives at Cartoon Network were initial uncertain about the celebrity collaboration, they came around after a meeting with Andre 3000.

"I'm extremely wary of it, but in Andre's case, I think he is a creative genius," Mike Lazzo, senior vp of Cartoon's "Adult Swim" program block, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He has definite opinions of what he likes visually."

I couldn't imagine a better lineup than ATHF, Sealab 2021, and The Brak Show, all followed by a thirty-minute Johnny Vulture cartoon. He could take Harvey Birdman's place. That show stinks anyway.

And for a little fun for the Sealab set, there's this:
Murph
You are Captain Murphy. You've lost your mind, but
you have more fun without it.


Which Sealab 2021 character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Interesting 

In an AP story filed out of Broussard we learn that Hugh Thompson, the patriot responsible for blowing the whistle on My Lai, is kicking around the state of Louisiana counseling veterans on their benefits. He also regularly educates US Soldiers on the importance of reporting the criminal acts of their comrades. Not if you're in it for praise, though:

His acts are now considered heroic. But for years Thompson suffered snubs and worse from those in and out of the military who considered his actions unpatriotic.

Fellow servicemen refused to speak with him. He received death threats, and walked out his door to find animal carcasses on his porch. He recalled a congressman angrily saying that Thompson himself was the only serviceman who should be punished because of My Lai.

...

"Don't do the right thing looking for a reward," he said, "because it might not come."

For context, Kevin Drum recently updated a little of the back story on Abu Ghreib whistle-blower, Joseph Darby. In the end, there's no doubt that Darby did the right thing, but his life won't be easy while he waits for his fellow soldiers and some irrationally jingoistic Americans to come to terms with what happened at the Iraqi prison. Some of them probably never will...

Imagine that... 

Raining again. Thank God I live on high ground.

I wish they had it online, but the Advertiser fronted its "B Section" with a picture of a flooded Acadiana resident saving what appeared to be a gamecock from the deluge. See, they really do care about the plight of the animals.

Aren't they cute 

Ten years ago, the news of a conference for women's leadership in the state of Louisiana would have probably been derided as a hen party, but when two of the three most important offices in the state are staffed by women, it's impossible not to acknowledge the gains made during the same time period.

Martha Carr has a report about the conference, which will begin Friday in New Orleans.

Here's more from the Governor Blanco's website.

Louisiana: the State We're In had a very well done piece on the rise of women in state government last week as well, but you can't really see anything about it online. All I'll do is suggest that if you're not watching that program, you're missing out on the most well-produced and informative television program on Louisiana state politics and life anywhere around.

Anti-gay amendment revived 

According to a brief note in the Advocate Senator John Hainkel intends to call for a second vote on our state's own hate amendment sometime today (not online). If he retains all his votes from the last time it came to the floor and persuades any of the six Senators who weren't present then to vote with him, the Senate will approve a constitutional amendment meant to to squash any hope homosexuals would have of living normal lives in Louisiana until the Supreme Court decides to take the case. He claims to have the votes he needs, but you can take that for what it's worth. If you're up for it, send the absent Senators an email asking them to vote "nay" on the amendment.

Nick Gautreaux
Butch Gautreaux
Ken Hollis
Paulette Irons
Rob Marionneaux
Craig Romero

The House version of the Amendment sponsored by 1st Congressional candidate Steve Scalise is supposed to reach the floor for debate this afternoon as well.

Withering on the vine 

I suspect that's what will happen to Senator Cleo Field's proposal to set the state minimum wage a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage. Yesterday it was sent for a second committee hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, which it must move through before it can come to the floor for a full debate. There was an interesting note worth pointing out from the brief report of the bill's sidelong movement:

Fields' legislation is estimated to cost Louisiana $3.3 million. According to fiscal estimates, it would cost $3 million in raises for more than 3,800 state employees and $340,000 for an enforcement program. That doesn't include costs to universities for student workers.

The low cost means that it's not possible for the 3,800 state employees making minimum wage to be full-time, but the fact that there are so many belies the somewhat callous disregard for the minimum wage workers expressed in an Advocate editorial this Saturday which stated that minimum wage workers are mostly "young people starting out, or older people supplementing their retirement." Economic development advocates are right to worry that compelled wage hikes might lead to layoffs, but just because many of the people earning the lowest wages are high-schoolers and retirees doesn't mean that the men and women supporting themselves on these low-paying jobs should simply be forgotten. The state certainly owes it to its employees and to business owners around Louisiana to set an example by paying their own employees better than the minimum. Presumably the 3,800 mw employees receiving checks from Louisiana aren't mostly young people starting out or retirees. It's shocking that Louisiana should employ so many people below what they would need to live.

I doubt that this bill will ever make it to the floor, but the state should suck it up and spend the $3 million it would take to clean up their own house.

Can you say, "Doucet"? 

WORLD EXCLUSIVE, I write that with only a little trepidation, since I’m composing this post before I actually read tomorrow’s papers, but I don’t think Judge Ned Doucet’s campaign team is doing their job, because I certainly didn’t see any professional reporters at tonight’s public event. Full disclosure—I didn’t inform the candidate or the Council of Concerned Citizens for Good Government that I would be writing this up on my website, but the newspaper clearly marked this as a public event, so I feel okay about reporting on what was said at the forum. Now, with those minor legal details out of the way, on to a little original reporting from the field.

Arrival

I arrived at precisely 6:30 and signed in as a guest and paid a dollar for a fifty-fifty raffle ticket to be awarded at the end of the meeting. After purchasing the ticket I immediately regretted it, because I worried that a long, boring meeting meeting might after Judge Doucet finished up with his part of the gig.

The Council members were very helpful and either curious or suspicious about what I—probably the youngest person in the room, and carrying a backpack—was doing there. I laughed when a gentleman with a Lafayette Economic Development Authority lapel pin asked me “what industry” I was with. I politely told him that “I am a concerned citizen,” and I think that went over well.

By 6:35 pm I found a place at the end of a table to sit down and take notes. I noticed some papers at the space across the table from me, but dismissed them as unimportant. I figured the free Community Coffee deserved more of my attention and secured a cup. Waitresses took drink and dinner orders, but as usual, I’m broke, so there was no seafood for me at the event.

When I pulled out my notebook and began jotting a few things down, Judge Doucet approached and asked me something I didn’t really understand. I stammered a nonsensical response, and then I realized that the papers at the place across from me were his notes for his address. He quickly snatched them away. In a fit of paranoia I began to think that he suspected me as some kind of dirty trickster who was there to sabotage his campaign. I drank my coffee and wondered whether or not I should tell him that I wasn’t up to anything out of the ordinary. Then I considered simply picking up my notebook and running away. The driving rain between the door of the restaurant and my car convinced me that I should stick it out.

Sometime in the middle of all this I overheard a conversation on the back wall of the dining room about Massachusetts couples being married. One young woman eventually began making fun of one of the lesbians getting married yesterday who looked like a man. That’s some sophisticated mockery, there. I jotted it down alongside a note about the political persuasion of most of the audience.

I finished my cup by 6:42, but since I hadn’t yet seen anyone else pour another one, I decided to wait before I went back for seconds.

6:50 rolled around without another chance for a cup of coffee. There were about twenty-five people there—most of whom looked to be on the other side of fifty—and none of them were drinking any coffee. If my parents are any indication, older people don’t like to drink much caffeine after six, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this. I didn’t really mingle, so I started scribbling pictures of the half-eaten food on some of the plates around me. I didn’t bother to caption what they were, and now I have no idea what I drew. Looking at my notes, I suspect the strange round mass with things appearing to fly out of an opening is a baked potato.

Not a moment too soon, a speaker approached the podium and asked us all to stand and pray. It was a good non-partisan prayer asking for God’s help in making us good citizens. It made me a little more optimistic about how the question and answer session would go after Judge Doucet finished up his formal remarks. A hearty Pledge of Allegiance followed, and I think we all sat down feeling pretty good about civic duty and proud of our commitment to the political process.

Then disaster struck. The emcee asked visitors to stand up and introduce themselves. A former employee of Judge Doucet went first and proudly endorsed Doucet’s candidacy. I stood next, and I decided that rather than expose myself as an amateur journalist (not working for money—the shame) I would go with the concerned citizen bit that seemed to impress the Council member earlier. With my notebook on the table and the constant note taking, I saw suspicion on all their faces, but they continued to smile politely. I deluded myself into believing that they didn’t want to let on that they were about to boot me out of the restaurant for the liberalism that was surely written all over my twenty-four year old face.

The address

Since we’re nearly a thousand words in and I’ve only discussed the first twenty minutes I was there, I guess it’s time to let you in on what Judge Ned Doucet actually said. He began with a note about the Brown decision and used it to segue in to his experiences growing up in the small town of Kaplan, Louisiana. His parents owned a general store/movie theater/dance hall, and his home was a town center of sorts. White, black, and even Asian folks all spent time around the Doucet compound. He said he never really noticed that the black children went somewhere else during the day.

Small town values immediately emerged as a theme of his candidacy. He went off to Loyola for law school, but returned to Kaplan and went in to public service right off the bat when he was named the city attorney. He talked about 9/11 motivating him to run for office, and I wondered why he didn’t make a run when he had the chance to challenge the incumbent Chris John in 2002. I believed him when he returned to his commitment to the people of the district, where he has established numerous contacts from Lafayette to Lake Charles. He was at his best when he spoke about how important accessibility and accountability are to a successful Congressman.

Unfortunately he couldn’t really speak clearly about the issues facing the country. He seemed to have a very strong grasp of what challenges our state faces, but he couldn’t translate that into a meaningful justification for his candidacy, because he didn’t seem to offer many solutions.

At 6:06 I became a little bored with the sort of meandering approach Judge Doucet was taking with his remarks, and I noticed a young man enter with the dining room with a beer in his hand. I wondered if it would be rude to go to the bar and get one. I decided against it. My commitment to the Timshel readers got the better of my desire to alleviate my boredom with alcohol. I’m sure you’re all very proud right now.

At the same moment Judge Doucet did the unthinkable. He mentioned Austin, Texas as a paradigm for stronger Louisiana cities. This is the note I took, “Oh no! Austin, TX; rears it’s ugly head again. When will I ever escape the Austin fetish?” Despite all my better instincts, this didn’t send me running to the bar.

His speech never really spoke to any recognizable party platform despite his Democratic Party affiliation. This can be a good thing a lot of the time. And in Judge Doucet’s case I felt myself believing that he was a pragmatist at heart who would give each issue a non-ideological approach. Unfortunately, I wanted him to give me some hint that he at least has some solutions in mind for our troubled state and nation. He failed at that. This early in a campaign, it’s very hard to fault him too much for not having a lot of answers, but I’d say that he’s pretty lucky they aren’t meeting in any multi-candidate forums just yet.

He did make some throw-away lines about foreign seafood interests dumping their products into our market and the lack of funding for the No Child Left Behind Act, though he made it clear that he was for NCLB and only against unfunded mandates—a favorite buzz phrase among conservative Democrats. I imagine our local press corps would call that populism, but I will not fall into that trap.

He finished off by reaffirming the importance of integrity in politicians with a quote from Samuel Johnson, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful,” though I think he may have said something other than “dangerous and dreadful”. I don’t do shorthand, and I was still too busy scribbling notes from earlier to catch it right on. He also said that he was the right person for the job, because as an attorney he practiced law, as a state Senator he made law, and as a judge he interpreted law. That’s an impressive message, and it’s among the parts of his candidacy that I think he can really sell.

Q and A, or when I decide I’m not voting for him

There were a grand total of five questions from the assembled and two comments. I won’t go in to too much detail, but I will say that if I had any doubt about the political leanings of the group going in to the forum, I was left with none going out. The first question was a rather aggressive query from the back of the room about how Judge Doucet would help provide jobs in our struggling Louisiana job market. The next questioner brought up the Stelly Plan, as if a federal Congressman could do anything about it. Doucet gave the impression that he wasn’t a big fan of the Stelly Plan, but I noted that the candidate was careful not to actually take a position on it, rather he informed us that he had talked to people around the district that were none too happy about the tax reform. As far as what he could do to for the job market, he retreaded gubernatorial campaign talking points about phasing out business taxes on manufacturing purchases and similar arguments we heard a lot about last fall. That’s not exactly federal territory, but the people in the room nodding their heads didn’t seem to notice.

Next up was a man who was very displeased with the lack of teeth on immigration policy. Judge Doucet made an unfortunate statement he couldn’t have been positive about when he said, “my position is your position.” I couldn’t discern any position from the questioner other than “immigration is bad because of Al Qeada, and income taxes” so I’m not sure where our friend the judge was going with that one. I noticed his campaign consultant cringe after that line, so if she’s doing her job, I hope she suggested he be a little more careful before he wholeheartedly endorses the beliefs of a man he doesn’t really know again.

Later on an audience member goaded Doucet into calling for an end to the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax. I obviously think that’s a terrible idea, and the only reason I still gave Doucet the benefit of the doubt is because I believed in my heart of hearts that he didn’t realize just what he was saying up there. His brain was obviously clouded by his unflinching desire to please an increasingly conservative room.

He got his biggest positive reinforcement of the night when he said that Nancy Pelosi wont like him too much when he gets to Washington. That wasn’t so bad for me. He is in Lafayette after all, and this group pretty clearly would have sent him back to Kaplan if he had even offered a modicum of praise for the House Minority Leader. I didn’t even mind when he stated unequivocally that marriage and civil unions are the solely the privilege of a man and a woman. I’m getting pretty used to it now.

Not soBig finish

In the end the whole event was like a disappointing present at the end of a lack-luster Christmas. I started out a little charmed by a man I believe could probably go to Congress as a good-faith representative of the state. I don’t doubt his smarts or his commitment, but I do doubt his ability as a politician despite his repeated claims as a consensus builder. He was way too eager to please a crowd that may have benefited from engaging in a little debate. He’s very lucky there weren’t any real members of the press around or he’d have some serious questions to answer about some very strange policy statements. By the time he was done I felt like I may as well have stayed home.

Anyway, that’s one Democrat I’ll knock off my list of possible votes in the “primary” election next November. I obviously don’t agree with a lot of his political positions, but I really do like him as a person. He’s believable when he talks about integrity and accessibility. I’m even rooting for him to put a little polish on his campaign to become a better candidate. If all politicians were as honest as he seems to be, I’d have a lot of reasons to be optimistic. That I don’t necessarily think he has the makings of a Congressman or share many political views with him is unfortunate, because I’d vote for him if I did.

postscript the meeting ended very quickly after Judge Doucet finished up. I didn’t win the fifty-fifty, and I never heard how much it was worth, but I don’t think it was more than about ten dollars.

17 May 2004

Terra' 

At the end of a long correspondence with one of his pals on the ground in Iraq, a TPM correspondent exposes the folly of the Bush administration's confluence of the Iraq war with the "War on Terrorism":

[T]he US Forces only trust themselves here and that means they set their own limits and tolerances. Abu Ghuraib are good examples of that limit. I told a Journalist the other day that these kids here are being told that they are chasing Al Qaeda in the War on Terrorism so they think everyone at Abu Ghuraib had something to do with 9/11. So they were encouraged to make them pay. These kids thought they were going to be honored for hunting terrorists.

It's a terribly discouraging letter from Iraq, but necessary reading nonetheless.

Every Year 

It's the same old promises, but mother nature never delivers the goods. I bet Nash Roberts wouldn't put up with this fearmongering.

Jeebs... 

If they just added some music to this I could sit around throwing the ball all day long. It's so pleasant.

via the good folks at b3ta.com

This song would make a good addition.

Great Graphics Dept. 

The local news stations continue to turn them out. Guess what this one's about:


Time to Move Back to New Orleans 

Untitled Andre Benjamin Project" (that's Andre "Ice Cold" 3000, one half of OutKast, to the pop-culturally impaired) to begin shooting in New Orleans in September. (for the story scroll to "Andre 3000 Takes...) New Orleans Hornet superstar-when-he's-not-injured guard Baron Davis is signed on as an executive producer. The movie was greenlit with help from various incentive packages and grants from the state of Louisiana.

Set in the mid-1970's, the film follows the story of upper-middle-class musical prodigy 'Valentine' (Benjamin) and lower-class free spirit 'Chevon' whose families are opposed to their inter-racial relationship. The stakes go up when an accidental shooting caused by Chevon's police officer brother, is blamed on Valentine. The two star-crossed lovers are forced to go on the run until the truth about the shooting can be unveiled from the cover of racism that clouds their town and families.

"I have grown to respect and understand Andre's enormous impact on current mainstream music," stated Nazarian. "He has changed the way in which hip-hop and rock music merged and I believe that his partnership with Element will have the same effect on films."

"This is a story that I have been passionate about being a part of for a long time," commented Benjamin. "This project is coming to life at a perfect time in my theatrical career. The whole team is really excited about the possibilities."

The movie sounds like a real snoozer, but I can't wait for what kind of fun Chris Rose gets out of interviews and gossip from Andre's visit to the crescent city.

Special thanks to Chris for the link on this one.

Glad I'm not the only one 

Did no one like "The Sopranos" last night? Add Slate's mob experts and ">Matt Yglesias to the crew jumping on the train, although I don't necessarily agree the extended dream sequence was a radical change of "the narrative structure of a television series," but I don't have a Harvard degree, so what the hell do I know?

I'm glad Shargel reminds us of the not-so-strange appearance of Annette Benning. The episode was so bad that I completely forgot she was in it. Tony to Annette: "Something bad is going to happen." She should have responded, "Yeah, you're about to set a record for how long it takes to force your entire audience to change the channel."

The recap at TWOP and users disagree, apparently enjoying all the self-reference and dream-state allusions to mob-lore. Hello, people! The writers have been doing that during the entire series, no need to cram upwards of six thousand into a nineteen minute dream sequence.

Because Heterosexuals Don't Do These Kinds of Things 

Katherine Lopez from "The Corner", quoting a newly married couple from P'town.

SO MUCH FOR "MARRIAGE" [KJL]
According to the Boston Herald, here is what the first recipient of a Provincetown Massachusetts same-sex marriage license had to say about marriage: "[Jonathan Yarbrough] says the concept of forever is 'overrated' and that he, as a bisexual, and [his partner Cody] Rogahn, who is gay, have chosen to enjoy an open marriage. `I think it's possible to love more than one person and have more than one partner, not in the polygamist sense,' he said. `In our case, it is, we have, an open marriage.''

Besides God's imminent smiting of Massachusetts, the next thing opponents of gay marriage will try to sell us is that marriage was a perfect institution never sullied by straights until these damned homos came in to introduce newfangled concepts like "open marriage".

I was never one of the people who tried to pretend that homosexuals would be particularly better at being married than straight folks, but by acting like everything was "a-ok" before today changed the world forever is about as dumb as they can get over there.

Another reason to vote for Kerry 

As if you needed anymore, LSU Student finds one (permalinks a little screwy, scroll down to "the boob post"--depending on your workplace environment, this may or may not be safe). I go away from the blog for an afternoon, and by the time I return I've missed out on more Presidential hotness.

I hear Jenna's planning on flashing her graduation this weekend...

Hot to the touch 

AP Baton Rouge man Adam Nossiter writes a must read today for the wire. It's mostly about legislative resistance to their own and the Governor's stated agenda. He doesn't let Blanco off the hook for her increasing failure to expend political capital on behalf of much of anything (perhaps she wasted it all in the special session), but targets the legislature with the well-earned fault for holding back the state of Louisiana. I won't quote it selectively because it's too difficult to do so without stripping it of all its context, but you should definitely give it the few minutes it takes to read.

Kind of like the Atkins diet... 

Before I ran out of here yesterday I meant to post this bit from the state Democratic Party. They seem to have seen the value in gimmicks to gin up support from the usually ignored Democratic base stewing in our own juices around Louisiana.

Ugh, nevermind, the briefing book from The Advocate wasn't published online yesterday and neither does there seem to be any information about it on the LA Democratic Party website. The long and short of it is pretty simple. State Dem. Chairman Mike Skinner spent the week advertising the Louisiana No CARB diet, CARB meaning [C]heney, [A]shcroft, [R]umsfeld and [B]ush, a convenient acronym which pretty much sums up every person in the Bush administration Democrats can't stand. Now that I'm look at it in my words, it seemed a lot funnier yesterday when I saw it in the paper. Whatever the case, hopefully it will remind the partisans in the ranks that the state Party is pretty fed up, too, and they're working to boot this bunch from the White House in November. I'm sure the money will start flowing in any minute.

Seventh District News 

According to the Daily Advertiser (this one isn't online) Don's downtown in Lafayette will be hosting Congressional candidate Ned Doucet (a retired appeals judge and Democrat from Kaplan) to kick off a series sponsored by the Concerned Citizens for Good Government that plans to eventually host all the candidates for the race.

It begins at 6:30 pm and will be open to the public. Your humble blogger plans to attend with an account ready for first thing tomorrow morning. Lafayette area residents all have a stake in this one, though, so I heartily encourage your attendance and participation.

Here comes 'da judge.

Update @ 10:21 am: I lied, the note about the meeting is online after all. See it here.

Not trying to rub it in or anything... 

But I was at a crawfish boil last weekend, and this one was only slightly larger than average size of the hundred pounds we devoured that day.

(picture deleted because I am convinced it was causing the website problems...)

That's not me holding the soon-to-be boiled crawfish, but if you read comments, you've read his words before. Thanks to cornbread for the pictures.

This is the way it's done 

Where I praise Archbishop Alfred Hughes for his actions on gay marriage and stem-cell research...

Well, not exactly, but this strikes me as a much more productive and consistent way to influence policy than telling parishioners that they are sinners for voting for Democrats. You won't find me agreeing with the message, but urging lawmakers and even bringing Catholic activists to the legislature to support the Church's position is the way they should act. It shields the Church from charges of political hypocrisy and is probably even more likely to work in their favor.

That said, I still believe that proponents of the gay marriage (and anything vaguely resembling legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples) ban doesn't amount to much more than very thinly veiled anti-gay bigotry, but it's nice to see that AB Hughes isn't threatening to withhold a sacrament from politicians who might vote against it or the voters who support them.

I'm looking forward to the next time the Archbishop urges lawmakers to put a hold on the death penalty.

In other events, Massachusetts began granting marriages to same-sex couples today. A Timshel correspondent is in Boston today on other business, but wrapped it all up over the weekend and now has the day to do whatever. That may include a guest post on the crazy protests and inundation by national media outlets from the field since the apocalypse is surely to begin any minute now. The entire foundation of civilization will crumble under the weight of men wearing the wedding bands of other men. I wanna see the sun blotted out by the sky, and if we can't get pictures, then we'll just have to settle for a post from a friend.

My Bad 

Okay, so I didn't make it back after 2:00 yesterday as promised. It was a somewhat busy day for me, and by the time I was ready to post again, it was time to watch what was probably the worst episode of "The Sopranos" in the entire course of its now five season run. Posting returns to normal today, though a little later than usual.

16 May 2004

Sunday Reading 

The two big state papers I read every morning have vastly divergent views on the state of race and social relations fifty years after Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. The headlines to their retrospectives spell out all the differences of the pieces, both of which are well-done in their own ways. The T-P's "PAINFUL PROGRESS" (front page subhead: "In New Orleans de facto segregation still exists") celebrates the ruling but dwells on the realities of life for black children in New Orleans which continue to trouble the city. Meanwhile things are all rosey in Baton Rouge with this headline: "Ruling's legacy shows in black middle class: Economic, social gains traced to decision". The story is probably a little more cautiously optimistic about the realities of life as an African-American than the headline suggests, but the contrast between the two papers' articles is notable. Black life and public education in New Orleans is considerably different and more difficult than anywhere else in the state. The Pic's article reflects that. They are both relatively long pieces considering the publications, but you won't waste your time if you decide to give them a read-through.

The Advocate's editorial page is filled with interesting stuff today. First off is John LaPlante's full-column advertisement for a book we've discussed in this site a few times now, Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics. In the context of a discussion as to whether Kathleen Blanco is a product of old-style Louisiana politics or a departure from the corruption and back-room dealing that dominated the Edward's era, LaPlante manages to give author Wayne Parent a lot of free space to present his views. Read the column then buy the book, you won't be disappointed.

Also off the OP-ED page is a Gerard Shields letter from Washington--by way of Acadiana--about Donald Cravin's chances in the Seventh District Congressional election. Cravins is excited, and considering his base and name recognition in my area, he should be considered a viable option for the runoff. There's always the question as to whether a black candidate can win the big, non-urban races in Louisiana, but if there's a candidate that's up to the task, I'd have to say it's Don Cravins. He's established himself as a consistent and honorable voice in the legislature. I continue to have faith in the largely Cajun district to put racism aside, but my faith has failed me before, so I don't know...

Time to stop for now, but I'll have more sometime after two this afternoon. The roundup is not complete just yet. Click on the links on the sidebar in the meantime.

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