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12 June 2004

Reporters and Senators. Giggleicious. 

On the light side:
Yesterday’s front page Advocate story about the legislature getting the right to buy scarce tickets to the upcoming Super Regional baseball series at which the Tigers hope to advance to College World Series has stirred up a snit storm. Both the Advocate and some senators are helping add an hilarious but admittedly minor chapter to the “colorful” version of a book on Louisiana legislative hijinks.

Senators Marionneaux (D, Gross Tete) and Michot (yes, our Michot, R, Lafayette) took bipartisan offense at the Advocate running the story on the front page and suggested rambling series of sanctions ranging from banishing reporters to the balcony to requiring the Advocate to pay a fine equal to what legislators raised in a charity basketball game.

Today’s (frontpage of course) Advocate response was, of course, equally snarky in response. Marsha Shuler’s report raised the “he said, she said” style of reporting to a comedic level. Each silly point raised by “he” was answered by a snarky Marsha “she” response.

Some giggleicious extracts:

"What's so important to The Advocate? 'Legislators get ticket rights'," Marionneaux said pointing to a newspaper headline.

"This is ridiculous. Why wasn't Ronald Reagan your headline? The men and women in Iraq dying?" he asked.

The discussions of the ticket story lasted about 30 minutes -- the same amount of time senators spent discussing the state's $2.6 billion public school budget.


Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, joined Marionneaux in the criticism. They proposed that reporters be allowed to stay at their floor seats if The Advocate contributes to charitable causes the same amount legislators raised in a charity basketball tournament Wednesday.

Michot called the legislative fund-raiser "a noble gesture by this body" that he said went unreported.

The Advocate on Friday published a photo of legislators talking to a beneficiary of some of the money lawmakers raised.

There’s more, much more. Have fun.

11 June 2004

A man we loved, respected, and listened to has died 

Ray Charles died yesterday; he was 73. He became such a fixture, so much a landmark in the musical landscape, that it is hard to recognize the difference his life made in music—and in our evolving understanding of disabilities, poverty, and race. An AP obit story emphasizes his contributions.

10 June 2004

Competition, Regulation, and Fiber: A Federal Connection 

Introduction:
I am going to get to an interesting story (or at least meaningful) story connecting the ideological purity of the Bush administration and LUS's struggle to bring fiber optic connections to Lafayette citizens. But first some necessarily longish background. Patience folks, I like to think blog readers are seeking out opportunities to learn from different perspectives and so might tolerate and even enjoy a little educational background. But if you can't wait skip along to the punchline moral at the bottom.

Background:
I have remarked in these pages that BellSouth and Cox are both effectively monopolies; they, for their part, often claim to have plenty of competition. The problem is we are talking about different kinds of competition. There are actually two kinds of competition at work in the telecom markets: that resulting from new technologies and competition forced by regulation.

New technologies result in real competition;satellite TV and cell phones are the clearest examples. Because the majors don't control the transport medium they can't control the competition. And so we get Verizon Wireless and DirecTV offering competing versions of telephone and cable service. But each of these new technologies have the inherent disadvantages of being wireless: weather, landforms, distance and various forms of interference combine to make the reliability of the signal suspect. LUS's fiber would both be a new, uncontrolled technology and easily as reliable as landlines. Fiber is reliable, faster, and ultimately cheaper than its copper competition.

The second sort of competition we sometimes see in telecom markets is regulatory: natural monopolies (analyzed earlier) are forced to share the fruits of their publicly supported monopoly status with competitors. This is where we get resellers like EATEL and a host of business-oriented telephone and internet resellers. The federal telecom act of 1996 mandated this sort of competition and the inheritors of the old AT&T who built the national copper network have battled it at every turn. They own the wires and they demand control. Appearances notwithstanding, you are always buying landline service from BellSouth. With Eatel and others you are buying it through an middleman who is using a federally mandated discount. In my book that isn't really competition; regulatory bodies are designed to ensure the profitability of their regulated entities. BellSouth will not be allowed to fail. They just won't be allowed the monopoly level profits that they desire. Real competition involves the threat of failure and that just doesn't exist in the regulatory version of competition.

The long and short of it is that all competition in areas that are natural monopolies comes from either breakout technology (and fiber is one) or it comes from government regulation. The lesson for today is that the second form of competition can vanish in a flash.

The Story:
A story that broke in the New York Times (free registration required) recounts the machinations behind the administration's decision to not pursue an appeal of a court decision essentially overturning the central provision of the telecom act of 1996;the provision mandating the sale of low-cost wholesale bandwidth transmitted over the old AT&T network and its inheritors. Borrrinnng. Maybe, —but important. It means that all the apparent phone competition provided by folks like EATEL, MCI, AT&T (ironic, that) and DSL provided by ISPs of all stripes from Earthlink through AOL are profoundly endangered. No matter how they reconfigure the guts of their network they still have to get competitively priced access to the wire that runs into your house. If the Bush administration has its way BellSouth and the other baby bells won't have to give a deep discount to competitors.

Even the semblance of competition offered by the regulatory version of competition, a version which has lowered prices substantially, will vanish.

You might think this is merely an arcane regulatory argument; but it isn't: it is a profoundly political issue. Here is the political essence pulled from the Times story:

The administration's announcement [declining to appeal] followed fierce lobbying and aggressive tactics; each side has raised millions of dollars in campaign contributions for the president and the Republican Party. Before the decision, rivals of the Bells said they had told the administration that if it did not side with them in the dispute they intended to run television advertisements in swing political states accusing the White House of being responsible for higher telephone rates. For their part, the Bell companies pledged not to raise rates before the election in November.


[An aside: you may recall another near monopoly supplier that agreed not to raise prices until Bush was reelected. Remember the Saudi oil story? Denied of course, with an amazingly blatant Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink.]

The local ideological rigidity I grumped about earlier today is also at work in this national case. According to the Times story the infamously nonideological and thoroughly political Karl Rove, fought a losing battle to get the administration to join in the appeal of the case. No go, the ideologs prevailed. They believe that it ought to be true that less regulation means more competition, even though a bat could see that it means less competition in this case and in the case of any natural monopoly. No matter; here as in many other instances the administration's ideologically pure prevailed. What they believe ought to be true trumps what is merely factual.

The Moral:
Informed citizens ought to beware promises that competition from resellers like EATEL or MCI can drive down prices. This "competition" relies on regulation and the regulatory forms of competition are bogus and vulnerable to administrative whim and legal finangeling.Get the real thing: a technological change that will reliably drive down prices: get fiber.


Gay bashing amendment & Bush's election 

In the latest chapter of a story Ricky has covered extensively, the Louisiana Senate yesterday passed a gay-bashing constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on to the House for reconciliation. The amendment does nothing to change policy in Louisiana, laws banning gay marriage are already on the books. It just panders to our own religious Taliban and makes it harder for a future generation to reclaim Louisiana’s historically accurate reputation for an easy-going toleration of difference.

But the real political story peaks out from behind the Advocate’s matter-of-fact retelling. What will require reconciliation is the date that the amendment goes to the public for a vote. The House wants November 2nd while the Senate version calls for it appearing on the September 18th ballot. You’d think the promoters would want it nailed down as soon as possible, wouldn’t you? You’d think wrong. They want the November 2nd date, a date when the author, Scalise, will be on the ballot running for the state Senate from the 1st district. The Advocate story treats this as the political part of the story. But that treatment misses the more important point: Louisiana is a battle-ground state in the upcoming presidential election and the right wing wants every whacky hot button issue on the ballot in such states to aid in turning out their voters.

You thought Florida in 2000 was a weird Southern tale. Try and imagine Louisiana being the lynchpin in 2004. A long shot, maybe, but well within the realm of possibility. And the long recount might hinge on just how large a turnout the local evangelical Taliban can muster to demonstrate their distaste for homosexuality. Imagine the publicity if the election turns on just how much Louisiana’s reactionaries hate gays.

There is a hero in this story: Joel Chaisson of Destrehan was the lone voice raised in opposition to this little bit of bigotry and the online version of the story shows a neice hugging him after his moderating ammendment failed on the floor. It is nice to see that some folks still have the courage to fight for lost causes.

Grumbling about ideology, Part II 

Last night I grumbled about the tepid support the organized business community has shown the local plan to bring fiber optic cable to the home. (It ought to be said that individual businessmen have been among the proposal's strongest supporters. But the organizations that represent that community as a whole have been inert.) I woke up worried that I might have overstated my case, especially when I attributed the odd neutrality to political correctness.

Nah.

Happily, a glance at this morning's Advertiser reinforces last night's judgment. A letter to the editor from one R. J. Simon serves as a textbook example of right wing ideology trumping reason and evidence. The theme is that LUS is goberment so it is obvious that Huval's recent letter citing evidence that LUS is cheaper and more efficient than local alternatives must just be wrong. Why? Oh, because we might have saved more if LUS had competition.

What?! NO, sorry, that is just bad economics and folks who advocate "free enterprise" on the grounds of economic efficiency ought to know better. A warning for the scholastically adverse—a little economics lesson follows: For all natural monopolies (like electrical utilities, like fiber) building out two extremely expensive sets of infrastructure to serve every home with a cheap commodity simply doubles the cost the community must pay to provide the service. This is the textbook case of an instance in which every responsible economist I have ever heard of says that single source provisioning, aka monopolies, is more efficient. No sane citizen should want competition here since successful competition would nearly double the provisioning costs. The real question the people have to decide is whether we want local government, which we can hold responsible for its actions, providing the service or allow some private provider motivated by maximizing their own profit to have a monopoly. It really is that simple. Simon is blinded by ideology and the frightening thing is that hating the government and knowing that is always inefficient has become such an item of faith that folks who are probably eminently sensible in most areas of life are lead to make nonsensical statements with utter confidence.

The Advertiser also has a story this morn on opportunities for the public to comment on the LUS proposal that confirms my worries about local business organizations. The Advertiser outlined various moments at which public commentary would be possible. But the part of the story that reactivated my grumpiness on the subject of business organizations was the announcement that the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce will host a forum on the fiber optics proposal at 6 p.m. June 28 in the Petroleum Club. Regular readers will recall that the Chamber was supposed to host an informational meeting for the public back in the first days after the proposal was announced. With the Chamber's apparent fear that even talking about it would be seen as "talking it up" that event quietly slipped away. Now they are going to host an informational event. But NOT really a public meeting in the usual sense; a fact the Advertiser neglects to mention. A jump to their website reveals that the cost is free, but that registration is REQUIRED; that "The free tickets are available to Chamber members first, and will be offered to the general public beginning Monday" and that tickets must be picked up at the Chamber Office, 804 E. St. Mary Blvd. The format will apparently preclude questions from the public: “The four participating entities will answer prepared questions from the task force.” The locale, format, and restrictions bias the “public” comments in favor of (big) business interests. The chamber could have any auditorium in this town that it wanted. If they really wanted to open up an informed public discussion they would have a large, free, really open public meeting. The one currently scheduled is transparently intended to be a media event for the corporations. Come on guys get a clue on what is actually in your interests and in the interests of your community. This is no longer Bush league stuff. (Pun intended.)

Lagniappe: Eatel is listed along with BellSouth, Cox, and LUS as a party specifically invited to the Chamber's gala. That is interesting. Eatel only appears to be in competition with BellSouth for local phone service; they are actually locked into reselling BellSouth's monopoly service on which they receive at a discount mandated by Federal regulation. But the Bush administration is about to change all that...and Eatel may see a distinct advantage for themselves in having actual rather than regulation-dependent competition for BellSouth's current monopoly on bandwidth. More on the national story and how it might affect Louisiana and LUS fiber in a later post.

Business community AWOL on fiber. Why? 

I am that John guy that Ricky mentioned in his latest post. A while back he generously offered me space here to discuss the Lafayette Fiber to the Home initiative and I have, you may have noticed, taken advantage of it. Now he offers a bit more latitude while he is away. I’ll stay, for now, with fiber, but what follows is more reflective than my usual posts have been. I’ll be curious as to how folks respond…

Ricky wonders aloud at my political philosophy saying that he thinks the FTTH issue crosses party lines and inferring that my support of fiber is no real indicator of my position on other matters. I regretfully report that this is not true; politics does seem to matter—and in unnatural ways. I thought support would cross lines, but six weeks into it I am not so sure it really does. Conservatives and Republicans I have talked to find it really difficult to get past today’s conservative ideological correctness. “If goberment does it has gotta be bad” seems to be the reflexive reaction. You would think that the local Chamber of Commerce would be in favor of a plan that will move Lafayette to the head of the class as the most connected city in the nation—the largest municipality with truly high speed, big pipe bandwidth to the home. The business opportunities for local folks are enormous. But no…small businessmen as a group were noticeably absent from their role as community boosters when there was a whiff that a couple of out of state megacorps might not like the local community controlling its own infrastructure destiny. It used to be that Chambers of Commerce had a real commitment to local priorities. It used to be that their local boosterism was a little embarrassing, more than a little endearing and always valuable to the community. In this day of right wing political thought control that once admirable attitude is honored in the breach. I think some of the more progressive members of the Chamber were shocked when politics lead to chamber inaction and retreat and are very disappointed but, their distress aside, the overall result is that the business community as a whole has gone AWOL on the development opportunity of a lifetime. The chamber’s inaction leads an observer to believe that they would rather have no fiber and expensive bandwidth controlled by giant out of state utilities than concede that local government could be fairer, more efficient, and more visionary than Cox and BellSouth. That is political correctness run amok.

LEDA, the Lafayette Economic Development Association, who have the technological savvy to understand the importance of fiber to the home felt compelled to endorse fiber, but their apparent ideological blinders made them neuter their support by saying that they wanted cheap fiber to the home “regardless of who pulls the switch.” They know only the city will do any such thing but apparently this is too ideologically incorrect to allow them to forthrightly support an initiative they know is invaluable.I'm enough of a liberal to be uncomfortable with thnking poorly of my fellows (a weakness, I know)--if any readers have an alternate explanation I'd really like to hear it.

Long story short: economic conservatives, local values sorts, and businessmen ought to be natural allies of leftwing social justice types, community developers, and technology advocates on the issue of fiber. They haven’t been and I blame ideological correctness.

09 June 2004

Third Verse 

same as the first...

I'm out for another weekend of fun in the fine state of Texas. This time I'll be in Dallas at another wedding. I feel bad about not having the chance to capitalize on the nearly five thousand hits I received courtesy of Atrios today, but family is family, and frankly they're more important than this little hobby of mine.

John should take this as an invitation to post about anything he wants to during my absence. I know he supports the fiber to the home proposal that we've been discussing in this space, but that crosses party lines. In all honesty, I have no idea what his political philosophy really is, so if he goes ahead and posts for the weekend my regular readers could be in for some big surprises.

I'll be back in the late afternoon Monday. It's only Wednesday right now, but I'm ready to hook you guys up with the Time Killing Game of the Week anyway. We'll call it the "lost on a desert island edition". If you get stuck anywhere or can't figure out what the point is, make sure you click through the extra features that surround the game. It's quite fun.

Good for Him 

The National Quarterback Club has named Saints QB Aaron Brooks their "Humanitarian of the Year." (link, via SaintsReport.com)

The dinner this year looks to be a very New Orleans affair, as they are awarding Archie Manning with their Hall of Fame Award, Peyton with the top NFL QB award, and Eli with the top collegiate QB award. There is no word on whether non professional QB sonCooper is invited.

There is only a vague outline of what is required of members to the National Quarterback Club, but I suspect it takes a little more than throwing the ball around with your brother in your back yard as children. "A little more" meaning the kind of money it takes to pay for hobknobbing with NFL superstars.

Why we should scrap the Superdome... 

To put an end to a mess like this one.

I remember talking about the possibility that some joker wanted to paint a giant American flag on the roof of the Superdome around New Years, but I had no idea that the proposal had gotten this far.

Issues of Church and State aside, I can't think of anything uglier than a giant painting of the flag--a painting which would surely turn grimey and moldy within a few months of its application--with the giant message of "God Bless America" on the roof of the largest domed stadium in the world (does it still have that distinction?).

And one more thing:

Rep. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, said such a painting "will put Louisiana on the map" and "honor God in a respectful way but not to impeach on other's rights." He said the up to $450,000 it would cost to paint the flag and slogan would be raised from private entities with no liability to the state.

Put Louisiana on the map? I bet there are ten car dealerships just in Louisiana with larger American flags than the one they would paint on the Superdome.

Nick Saban speaks 

The state listens. The sports agent bill goes to the Governor's desk after the Senate voted 38-0 in favor of the House version of the bill.

Simply stated, this is a bad bill designed to give LSU (and other universities around the state) more control over their already exploited student-athlete's lives. Consider this:

Under the legislation, an athletic scholarship would be considered a contract between the athlete and the state. That would give schools and coaches the ability to sue agents who don't follow restrictions governing their conduct.

In addition, the bill -- sponsored by Rep. William Daniel, D-Baton Rouge, specifies that any contact with an athlete by the agent would have to be made through the head coach or athletic director. The agent cannot get around that provision by hiring intermediaries -- called runners.

What's most funny is that the people supporting this bill talk endlessly about personal responsibility, but they apparently don't think their athletes deserve any. This is what I said about it the first time I read about it, and I'll stick with those sentiments:

[T]he state shouldn't get involved passing legislation on behalf of coaches who can't be honest brokers of the well-being of the individual players in their programs. The result is legislation that appears to grant custodial rights to coaches, when the players who are supposedly the targets are adults who should be able to make their own decisions.

...

Neither story says whether or not this contractual obligation between student and university could lead the university to sue individual players for breach of contract should they deign to seek out an agent in the middle of a season, which is probably only slightly less likely to happen than the reverse. Logically there seems to be a way that could lead to this, but the reporting on this story hasn't gone far enough yet.

The worst thing about the whole situation is the way the legislation reeks of silly paternalism, whereby only LSU can protect their players from dirty lawyers trying to cheat their students. LSU could do more throughout the relationship to educate its student athletes about the dangers of consorting with agents without calling in the lobbyists to legislate away agents from the state of Louisiana.

Sigh, I guess it's a little late to get worked up about this since it will undoubtedly be signed by our governor, but I thought I should remind Timshel readers just how beholden our entire legislature is to the will of LSU football. Tom Benson should be so lucky.

Umm? 

Damn, thanks for the link from Atrios. I don't know how he got a link to the post about our friend in Metairie who is faking services as an abortion provider so quickly, but if a regular reader posted a comment about it or emailed him, thanks a lot. Already over a thousand hits today. I should have signed up with blogads this morning or something...

Ribbons Working 

Ken mentioned these in a post yesterday, but if you've been in Lafayette in the last couple of weeks you would have had to have been in a coma not to notice the seeming thousands of oversized yellow ribbon-shaped magnets with "support our troops" attached to the back of Louisiana automobiles.

It looks like all the good-will for the troops could get them back to their homes in Acadiana before they even leave for Iraq in the first place.

Kathleen Blanco and Louisiana National Guard Commander Benny Landreneau are organizing a fundraiser to pay for the transportation of members of the LNG 256th Infantry Brigade from Ft. Hood, Texas to their homes in and around Lafayette during their leave from July 1-8. I fully expect the money to come in hand over fist to get these young men and women back into the heartland before they finally ship out to the deserts of Iraq. In the week they're here I might even get the chance to win some money back off of one of our poker crew who took all our cash the last night he played with us before he was activated. I'd like to believe we let him win, but frankly none of us are that nice or that good.

Update @ 4:00 pm: KATC and Giles Automotive have decided to pick up the entire tab. Good for them! That doesn't let KATC off for their stupid graphics, but I'll let them slide on it for a little while.

It's not all bad 

Of course our representative don't hate all criminals enough to simply strip them of their constitutional rights. At least not the "factually innocent" ones.

I mentioned this one a few weeks ago when it was advanced in committee, but didn't express much optimism about its passage. It looks like the House is doing the right thing and saying the state ought to pony up job training, monetary compensation, and education to persons wrongly jailed. To stave off the chances that people simply let out of prison on technicalities would get state money (as much as $500,000 depending on the length of incarceration), the bill would require the state pardon and parole board to deem released inmates "demonstrably innocent" before they could be eligible for the aid.

Now it's up to the Senate to pass it.

Stupid 

Our legislators really are a bunch of idiots sometimes.

Despite repeated warnings and the acknowledgement of almost the entire committee about the constitutionality--actually the lack thereof--of forcing "truth serum" on death row inmates while they await their execution, a committee advanced a House Resolution that directs the state to "study the issue" anyway.

And in what must be the quote of the century for anti-death penalty advocates, the bill's sponsor had this to say:

"Why can't we mandate this?" she asked. "We take every right from these people. We take their freedom. That's what this country is all about. This would help bring closure to families" of victims if they can know what happened to their loved ones.

IOW: There lives don't matter anymore, why not do anything we want with them?

This is the kind of attitude that justifies all manner of neglect and abuse for the men and women unlucky enough to see the inside of a prison.

links here and here.

Prick 

I should just leave this one to Mary, since she generally has the cajones to go the extra mile when condemning the assholes running around this great nation of ours, but I have to at least point out that this occurred. I don't know how I missed it off the AP wire on Monday, but this story about a lawsuit filed in federal court against the "Center for Women" needs to be seen:

A Jefferson Parish anti-abortion activist pretends to run an abortion clinic while using fear and delays to keep women pregnant until an abortion would be illegal, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

...

The suit accuses Graham of pretending to set up appointments at bargain prices, but stringing women along until it is too late. The plaintiffs — four women and a physician — ask the court to make their suit a class action.

They also say Graham should be forbidden to tell women he will arrange abortions, or to advertise under headings such as "abortion provider" or "abortion referrals" — or to use the name "Causeway," because a nearby abortion clinic has the same word in its name.

...

One plaintiff, Priscilla Cabrera, said she decided to get an abortion when she learned she was pregnant, and got Graham's number from the telephone book under "Abortion Services," according to a 46-page memorandum filed with the suit. She said Graham used an alias and told her he put women who want abortions in touch with private doctors who perform them for $125.

"Graham told Cabrera that, unlike the doctors he worked with, clinic doctors were unable to make it in the real world and that the clinics generally were unsafe. Graham told Cabrera that if an abortion was performed too early, it could be harmful to her health," it said.

Her first call was December 26, 2003. Graham said he would set up an appointment Jan. 10, but did not call Cabrera back for weeks, even though she called him repeatedly, the suit said.

When he finally spoke to her, he said a later abortion would be better for her health, and he could arrange for an abortion up to the 30th week of pregnancy, according to the memorandum.

Louisiana law allows abortions only during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

To be sure, these are only allegations, but if there's any truth to this, this guy shouldn't only be forced to pay out the wazoo to his "patients", he ought to be in jail for defrauding women at some of their most vulnerable moments.

I'm a church-going Catholic, so I have a little sympathy for some anti-abortion activists, but even that doesn't go much past organizations that seek to counsel women against having an abortion or the odd marches, and "vote pro-life" bumper stickers. However, I have no patience for men and women who seek to confuse and literally play God with the bodies of women who make the mistake of coming into their "clinics" off the street. The confidence of conviction that I can respect in others' political viewpoints and how they live their lives does not extend to criminals like this man. I don't really know what else to say.

08 June 2004

Two helpings of fiber 

Two pieces of fiber news and I swear I will keep it short. Today’s roughage:

First the bad news—Senate Bill 877 passed the Senate 35 to zip. Oh, I know that any bill that all parties agree to is a lead pipe cinch to pass. But still, I consider it bad news that not one Senator could find the testicular fortitude to oppose a bill that makes them all look like toadies of out of state corporate interests. Toadying? Harsh? Sure. But what term comes to your mind when you watch the scramble that the authors engaged in to abandon a good rural broadband bill in order to please a few big corporations after they missed the filling deadline? Need our place in the queue? Sure, here, take the place reserved for rural broadband. Country folks are nice people; they’ll wait. Maybe next year. Most embarrassing is that Lafayette Senator Michot was second author on both bills. For shame.

The good news—I attended the LUS presentation to the Lafayette council today and it went well for LUS. The best index of just how well it went was probably the distressed mein of BellSouth president Oliver and the incoherent ramblings of the Cox representative. But the real news of the night emerged during the public comments after the session. Frankly, I had thought that BellSouthCox would flood the public commentary time with employees demanding a referendum. That didn’t happen. The commentary was overwhelming pro LUS and a referendum barely came up. What did happen was the emergence of a theme that I predict we will hear a lot more of: “Keep our children home.” It was introduced by a 16 year-old Comeaux High School student Katie Bauer who shiningly represented the hope for a future where students of her ability would be able to stay and work in Lafayette. The council was clearly charmed and the rumpled suits representing BellSouth and Cox could not have presented a greater contrast. She was followed by several mothers who wanted their children to be able to stay for or come home to high tech jobs in Lafayette. The Graham Group, the firm doing the PR work for LUS, had a representative there who spoke last. His short speech made it clear that he had been listening when he said he hadn’t realized what was important about this project until he heard Katie and the mothers talk. Expect to hear less about the lifeless idea of “economic development” and a lot more about fiber building a bright new Lafayette where our children and grandchildren are able to stay home.

I am beginning to be hopeful about all this…

Forty Days of Rain Ahead? 

Today is the fest of St. Medard, which means Cajuns looked intently out of their windows today since rain on St. Medard's feast day signals forty straight days of rain to come.

I was in the car a just before noon and got a very brief shower. I don't know if that counts, but summer is here, and if I know one thing it's that you can bet that on any given day it will rain at about four o'clock in the afternoon.

Apparently the English speakers around the country have the same tradition on St. Swithin's Day, which is July 15. Someone moved his body from it's initial resting place, and now he's up in heaven crying about it.

What would have happened if he had been cremated?

Random Bloggage 

Let me say a brief word of thanks that people weren't really doing this on such a large scale back when I was in high school.

Also, this is interesting if it actually is what it's description says it is. The Independent should have been so visionary.

IR Stalking 

I swear this story isn't about me, but if you had to stalk someone, Halle Berry would probably be my choice. Maybe this will explode the Louisiana is filled with racists charge as well. A Broussard engaged in some interracial stalking -- so much for David Duke's chances in a statewide if you ask me.

Sorry about the light posting again today. Insurance companies are useless. So is the jerk that hit me in April. I have to go to the police and check their dispatch records. Does anyone know if this is free to the public?

Update @ 4:38 pm: Here are the pictures included by KLFY and KATC in their thumbnail graphics attached to the same story...
Call me anytime, preferably nineteen or twenty times a day.Why am I standing in this strange seashell?
Frankly, I prefer this one:
The name is Berry.  Halle Berry.

Hockey 

If a team wins a championship and no one is there to see it, do they still get their names on the cup?

The Gift Tax, or when I really sound like a socialist 

The state Senate rejected a House bill that would have phased out a Louisiana gift tax over a six year period.

Currently Louisiana exempts the first $11,000 of any gift from the tax, the next $15,000 pays 2% and everything over that pays 3%. The proposed phaseout was meant to attract retirees to the state of Louisiana.

I could write a long bit about why I think the gift tax is good, and I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of points going to the government tacked on to the largest gifts, but it all comes down to one factor. I think it's wrong for people who have done literally nothing to get rich without the government taking at least a little piece of it to help spread around to the people who actually are productive and hard-working, but suffering in middle and lower class drudgery.

I did see an interesting study once that focuses on some more practical concerns about what gifting and inheritance means for the wealthy that's worth passing along, though:

In The Millionaire Next Door (1996), researchers Thomas Stanley and William Danko conclude that lifetime and testamentary family gifts are both a disincentive to work as well as a disincentive to save. Their findings show that the more dollars adult children receive, the fewer they accumulate, while those who are given fewer dollars accumulate more.

Furthermore they find that the giving of such gifts (which the authors call “economic outpatient care”) is the single most significant factor that explains the lack of productivity among the adult children of the affluent.

See, we'd be doing a favor to the wealthy by taxing large gifts. It fits into the "liberal as condescending maternalists" stereotype quite well.

More Federal Mandates 

I never thought I'd be in the position of arguing in favor of states rights around here, but the federal government continues to force it's federal mandates regarding highway funding down our throats. Consider this bit from an Advocate article about tougher DUI sentences:

Jim Champagne, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said the proposed one-year suspension in Senate Bill 852 by Sen. Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, won't meet the federal mandate.

"The federal mandate stated that we have to have a one-year mandatory suspension for second conviction, with no possibility of a hardship license -- and this bill still allows hardship licenses," Champagne said.

Hardship licenses are commonly issued to suspended drivers to allow them to commute to and from work or school.

I'm all for tough restrictions on the ability to get around from people who are arrested for drunk driving, but simply taking away the ability for many people to even earn a living is too harsh. The reality of life in this country, particularly in the south, is that people often need automobiles to even get to work. Consider a large portion of those people also need to drive during work, and you have a real problem with the way you punish DUI offenders.

This reminded me of a discussion between Kevin Drum and Atrios--among others--from a few months ago about creating something akin to a "drinking license" which could deny DUI offenders the right to drink instead of the right to drive. Of course there are a lot of problems with this: people could get friends and relatives to buy alcohol for them anyway; there is a general sense of suspicion about new licenses, especially for something so ubiquitous as the purchase of alcohol; and more. However, the consequences of ruining someone's ability to support themselves because they drove drunk goes too far, no matter how important it is to get drunks off the roads. States and the Feds need to look at this issue in different ways in order to come up with a better solution to this problem. Especially since taking away someone's license doesn't usually stop them from driving anyway. It just means if they are stopped over the course of the suspension that they're likely to face more fines and perhaps greater future troubles. It's an endless cycle of stupidity really.

And I'll echo Atrios' point that if we just had better public transportation around this place that we wouldn't have to bother with this discussion at all.

[nelson]Ha, ha![/nelson] 

Democrats are better Catholics than Republicans. And which Democrat in the Senate is the best Catholic of them all? It's John Kerry:

Of the 24 Catholic senators surveyed, Kerry, D-Mass., had the highest percentage of votes in support of the bishops' position, 60.9 percent. Landrieu ranked eighth with a score of 52.9 percent, while Sen. John Breaux, D-La., who opposes abortion, ranked 19th, with 47.4 percent.

Okay, we all know this kind of survey is ridiculous because it simply makes all positions "equal" with regard to their importance. However, simply saying that the only positions that should matter to Catholics at all--as certain Bishops around the country have been wont to do--are abortion, doctor assisted suicide, and stem cell research is simply foolish.

Dick Durbin was a might upset about the recent decision by some Bishops to deny communion to Catholic politicians, so he put this together to show just how much his faith means to his record as a politician. It should surprise almost no one that the politicians with the worst percentage of votes (that's a .pdf but well worth the loading time) corresponding to the position of the USCCB spend the most time talking about God and how important the Church is to their lives. I'm looking squarely in the direction of loudmouthed Catholic chest-thumpers like Rick Santorum and Pete Domenici on that one, who find themselves well towards the bottom of the list.

Like I said, no matter how you score it, it's silly in the first place. As these Republican Senators come out on the bottom of the list and try to reconcile their support for Catholic positions with the hard fact that--the shame!--they vote based on their conscience and political realities too, hopefully they'll realize the folly of trying to claim the mantle of "real Catholic". I seriously doubt that will happen, though.

Shame 

DailyKos.com gets more than 125,000 hits in a day.

He links to my daily paper and probably could have crashed their server with a story that I didn't even see. I should just give this business of blogging up all together.

07 June 2004

I told ya' so 

Looks like slower than normal blogging will go on indefinitely. The only thing anyone seems to be writing or talking about is Saint Ronald, and I'm just not down with that. Also, a weekend in Texas seems to have stripped me of what little humor I had left. Otherwise I'd come up with something terribly snarky to write about this headline off the NOLA/AP wire:

Raw sewage backup forces evacuation at New Orleans DA's office

Feel free to make up your own and include it in a comment. The best one will receive a signed copy of Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America

Wow 

PoliticsLA.com tilts leftward.

Their message boards must have been suffering lately, so they let a lefty out to call Bush a hypocrite, and on Memorial Day no less. Did I leave Louisiana only to find Bizarro World arrived upon my return?

Did Mary stop cursing this weekend?

What happened? Soon Michael will probably reveal his profound respect for Ronald Reagan.

Oops 

$71 million in unspent economic development funds meant for job training in growing sectors of the state economy. It's all just floating around the LA dept. of labor. Talk about your inefficiencies...

Houston: a retrospective 

Okay, I won't bore you with the details despite the title, but I have to say that I had one of the best times in Texas in a long while. I saw lots of good friends; visited family who now reside in the lone star republic; and ate some good Mexican food. The wedding was very nice, and the near-endless party afterwards gave us the slapstick hilarity of the groom's sister tumbling backwards off her chair and off a short porch and one of the guests trying to eat cat food. No one was hurt except the poor cat who probably wondered just who was stealing her dinner.


Blogging will be slower than normal today as I try to catch up on all junk I missed over the weekend.

As for Ronald Reagan, I won't bother by pretending to write something celebrating his presidency. I don't think he's nearly as bad as some would make him out to be, however his place in the pantheon of American leadership also doesn't come close to where his most ardent supporters place him. That's about as much you'll get from me on that. I imagine over the course of the next week, as the public mourning grows to a fever pitch and liberals are reminded about some of the most displeasing characteristics of Reagan's presidency, many of us will pine away for the days he occupied the oval office. Things in the now always seem worse, and in the case of G.W. Bush, they probably are.

My brother and I did decide that instead of Reagan's memorialists seeking to knock FDR off the dime (a unit of currency which ought to be forever tied to FDR thanks to his involvement with the March of Dimes), they ought to move to get Reagan on the dollar coin and knock off Sacagaweah. The Native pathfinder just isn't drumming up the use of the coin like Reagan could. And it would stop the mint from eliminating a more deserving president for one of the other coins. Anyway, it's just a thought. Back later in the morning...

06 June 2004

The Advertiser comes around 

Ok, I thought the massive Friday post would surely exhaust the fiber news for awhile but, amazingly, the Advertiser has posted six, count ‘em six stories, on the fiber issue in the Sunday paper. One on the front page detailing the LUS survey that shows overwhelming support for LUS. Two, with graphics no less, occupying the whole of page 4 (one on LUS’s proposal and one on other cities’s experience.) And three (one editorial praising the government's "exciting" vision, no less, a letter from BellSouth’s Oliver and one from LUS’ Huval) filling the whole of the editorial page.

Zounds. They must have gotten hold of a survey that says that 70 percent of their advertising market is in favor of the LUS plan. (Ok, that was mean. This is good stuff that will inform the public regardless of previous coverage.)

The Advertiser promises continued coverage with daily stories, letters to the editor and a second, presumeably more negative, editorial (I think we are in the land of "fair and balanced.")through Wednesday. While I love the coverage and think these stories pretty reasonable, especially in contrast to earlier ones a nasty little negative part of me notes that the Advertiser used the Freedom of Information Act to force the release of LUS' survey results, thereby robbing LUS of its ability to manage the PR around its very favorable findings. The same little fellow notices that that the FOIA could not be used to force Cox or BellSouth to release the results of any marketing survey they performed.

Update:
Before I fell into bed I hit the reload button on the Advertiser page and, lo, Monday's stories were up: "Financing the fiber,"mostly raises doubts about pay-back times. Another "WiMax, satellite offer futuristic visions," admits that nothing will touch fiber for the size of the pipe and that even less-broadband competitors are undeveloped fantasies still raises the spector of "leapfrog" technoloties. A third story, "LUS sells economic benefits of fiber optics" reports on the economic benefits of bringing fiber in. A fourth, "Fiber optics: Data at the speed of light" gives some background on what optical fiber is and reports both that BellSouth and Cox think we don't need it, that they aren't planning to provide it and counterposes that pretty fairly with voices that contradict the BellSouthCox point by point. A fifth article, "Private companies will lose in LUS plan" mostly provides space for BellSouthCox to complain. Ok, fair enough they will lose something if this goes through. One interesting aspect of this story is that it mentions the argument that these companies are effective monopolies in their area and subtly buttresses the point by documenting that BellSouth sells DirectTV and owns 40 percent of Cingular. I had wondered why DirecTV and Cingular weren't jumping on the chance to get a clean, reliable, weatherproof connection to customers by leasing cheap bandwidth. I guess this is why.A sixth, whew!, "Cities fall in love with telecom" says nothing about cities falling in love with telecom--though the net reveals many instances. That part of the original story must of been cut to make space for BellSouthCox to complain at length about being in competition with government. (Again, the real problem is competition of any sort...)

As promised the editoral for Monday is equally as strong against fiber as Sunday's was for it. This business of reporting "he said, she said" and calling it balanced coverage is wearing thin, don't you think? A real editorial should take a clear position and argue the point. Reporting other folks opinions doesn't make a story on the editorial page an editorial. Its just, to use a fine southron word, craven.

Least I sound too grumpy (and it is late at night) I do applaud the expanded coverage. It would have been nice to have had some public awareness of the issues before the fix went in at the legislature but at least voices are being heard now.

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