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17 July 2004

Greetings, Timshel Readers, an experiment 

Ricky warned you that you might be hearing from me. And here I am indeed. I enjoy my occasional posts here and intermittently filling in for Ricky. I hope you enjoy the variety.

Timshel has its own character, that is what I come here for—and I suspect that regular readers feel the same way. I know that I can't fill all those holes and so...

I thought this might be a good opportunity to solicit the readership for posts that seem especially appropriate for Timshel. Send me a lead to a story, a hint at interesting Timshel-like posts, or a Timshelesque link and I'll try and get all the good stuff up in between bouts with the sander and a little roofing problem.

Thanks....You can leave stuff on the comments to this post or, if you prefer, send 'em via an email address for me.

Louisiana development: A Juxtaposition 

The Advocate runs a very nice background article on Mike Olivier, our new Economic Development Secretary in today's paper. I recommend cruising it; there are some bedrock attitudes there that I like but which folks may find debatable.

But....you have to wonder if the author intended the reader to assemble this juxtaposition, starting from the lead sentence:
Shedding the perception that Louisiana is rife with corruption and patronage is the state's biggest challenge in recruiting companies and creating jobs, said incoming Economic Development Secretary Mike Olivier....
Four paragraphs in:
Olivier, a native of Franklin and graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was hand-picked by Blanco, a longtime friend, three weeks ago to lead the state's effort in creating jobs....
Five more:

"I would say, 'What about Louisiana?' "

Their answer: "Naw, we don't want to look there, we've got lots of alternatives," he said. "They didn't want to look here because of the perception about patronage.

"The perception is not real," Olivier said.

Is it just me, or does it seem to you that folks just assume we won't notice these little inconsistencies?


16 July 2004

Friday Fiber:The Independent Earns its Name 

The Independent has followed the fiber story very competently from the beginning and this week's paper is worth picking up. (Nothing online: sound of long, weary, sigh.)

This week's fiber story, "The Back Channels" goes a long way toward demonstrating that The Independent actually is independent. What makes this story remarkable, and potentially interesting to Timshel readers, is that it is a story about the sinews of local politics—the connective tissue. Usually what we look for in reporting is the meat—the substance of a story—what is proposed or opposed and why—the rational, or not so rational rationales. But if the media, including the blogosphere, focus on the meat of a story you often hear a different version on the streets and the barbershops. There the conversations outline the connective tissue of community issues. Who is connected to whom, who is obligated to whom and for what reason, what family members provide ins to info and access to public figures. These are the sociological analyses of current issues; in the street version policy issues are not the only or even necessarily the predominant focus of discussion.

The Ind's "Back Channels" story is in the second tradition; or perhaps more accurately, treats back channels and informal connections as the meat of a background story about the local politics of fiber. It is a brave kind of reporting for a newspaper; it names names and points out current patterns of relationships and profit that may be uncomfortably perturbed by the introduction of LUS fiber. It is something only an Independent news source—or one not yet fully integrated into the local web of influence—would dare.

The story contrasts Cox and BellSouth's methods in the unnatural alliance these two natural enemies have made to oppose the LUS/city plan to run fiber to the home (FTTH). Cox, the story claims, has no network of relationships capable of influencing local politics. Indicatively, the Cox opposition is run out of Tyler, Texas, while BellSouth relies on an intricate web of local commitments and personal relationships.

Recall, dear reader, of the arc of the fiber story covered on these pages: on the one hand you have Cox running a fairly heavy-handed and up-to-now-ineffective campaign. The push polls (1 & 2), a stealth website, the apparently over-the-top conference call that deeply offended the Chamber, and the fear-mongering local ad campaign are all Cox's. Except for BellSouth's little insult to local politicians, most of the whacky stuff goes back to Cox. If, as the Ind avers, Cox has no established back channels then their line of attack must be public, and since (in the humble opinion of this watcher) they have no rational case their attack must rely on various irrationalities. BellSouth, on the other hand, has been quieter and arguably more effective. They dealt with the very clever move of timing of the LUS fiber announcement after the date for filing new bills in the legislature had closed. That little tactic was intended to prevent the legislature from acting to outlaw municipal ownership of communications technologies. (A credible fear since that is outlawed in Texas, for instance. Poor Austin.) BellSouth pulled a few still-obscure strings and whamo a bill was gutted out and the shell made available for a bill that would have put the idea down quietly. Only an alliance of municipalities, the intervention of the Governor, and (just as significantly in Louisiana politics), the support of the police jurors moderated the bill enough to allow LUS to proceed.

But the Ind story does not discuss this history, it focuses on ongoing connections and those connections are very interesting.

I have wondered, at times stridently, why the local business community has not gotten behind Fiber when it seems so clearly in their rational interests. And I still wonder—but the Independent story hints at one reason having little to do rational policy-making or the enlightened self-interest of the body as a whole. I have also wondered in private where the real elephant in this town was on the issue: the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Surely no one, no one at all, would benefit more from a FTTH initiative than the University. And no one, no one at all, would be in a better position to get a good deal out of a local, governmental fiber system. Why aren't they noticeably cheering it on?

By way of partial explanation "Back Channels" discusses the interconnections of BellSouth's Bill Olivier, an influential local businessman, and the University President. A web of shared membership on boards, the employment of a relative, and business deals is traced. I don't see and I don't see the Ind as portraying something dishonest or illegal as going on here. Connections, networking and business deals are the life blood of all involved. But the point is that BellSouth cultivates those relationships and knows how to use them while Cox has not and does not. If you've worked with the BellSouth Louisiana president and believe he has helped you out with necessary technology then you find him credible when he speaks about tech. And maybe, just maybe, you worry a little bit about your current good deal if you come out for fiber.

Natural, maybe even evidence of the humanity of all involved. But best for Lafayette rather than BellSouth? Doubtful.

Anyway get up and get away from your glowing screens for a minute; go down to the convenience store and pick up the issue. Page 7. The details are worth contemplating. Seeing the sinews laid bare is fascinating.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this little story is a fascinating primer in present-day politics with local, state, and even national reverberations. I recommend following it to folks who have no particular interest in Lafayette_s development, or getting cable/internet a bit cheaper, nor any fascination with the futuristic possibilities of the technology. It's a gumbo of technology, Louisiana political structures, big business influence, modern media manipulation, intimidation, influence peddling, 21st century equity issues, and real governmental vision. What could be more entertaining? (I know, I am nostalgic too. But I fear the last of those are gone. It was fun to watch him ride a horse in that powder blue jumpsuit and make cracks about dead girls and live boys. But Candy is getting a divorce and it's not clear he'll ever get out. We'll need to make our own entertainment these days.)

Lagniappe:
I have mentioned state fiber and questions connecting BellSouth's Olivier to our state's use of its own, too often underutilized fiber. This story mentions that Olivier is on the state's Board of Regents. How does he stand on using that fiber for governmental and educational purposes? Opposed is the answer I hear. Who currently has that business? Guess. How appropriate is it for Olivier to weigh in there? I concede that he is likely the most knowledgeable person on the board concerning communications technology. Still...ethics and all...

Rumor has it that the Chamber is trying to put together some sort of position statement vis-à-vis fiber. What will they come up with? More mush mouth I fear. My guess is that they still won't be able to choose between representing business and advocating community development. We'll see. (Of course, it would help folks who want to endorse fiber if LUS would be more forthcoming with the details of their plan. But if you've reviewed the story outlined in links above you'll understand their reticence.)

Grump:
I know the folks at the Independent are still trying to get all their gears to mesh over there but, really, the online absence doesn't serve the progressive paper they appear to be trying to develop. Sheesh, one would think they could at least toss pdf files of the paper's pages online if nothing more. Ok, they'd be big files. So? Another argument for real bandwidth. At least I would have something to link to when I want to pass a compliment.


The Shame! 

Next time some hypocrite complains about Whoopie Goldberg and assorted Dem "hate" speech,  here's what Republicans in Kentucky are saying about the Democratic candidate fro President.
 
Seriously, I'm out now.  The computer's about to go in the back of the truck...





15 July 2004

I'm out... 

Uhh, anyone know what happened to the spell check on blogger?

That doesn't really matter, I guess. I'm going to be on the road until at least Tuesday. Tomorrow I hit New Orleans to help my brother and his lovely wife pack up their things in the back of a Budget rent-a-truck and drive to Boston. We'll be arriving there sometime Monday, and I won't have Internet access until the next day.

I'll be in their fine New England environs until July 31.

You may notice that those dates will put me in Boston during the Democratic National Convention. I exhausted many sources and none could get me into the event, so if any readers know a way to secure entry please email me. I'll check Yahoo! regularly. Otherwise I'll be sitting around the Fleet Center trying to guess which pale guy with a laptop is one of the grandparents of the liberal blogosphere. They may help a fellow traveler out, but I doubt it.

Whatever the case, I'm sure Boston will be a lot of fun. The Yankees will be in town, and though we can't afford tickets to something like that, I understand that Bean-towners like to party when the hated Bronx Bombers piddle around in Fenway. I've been to Mardi Gras, and I know what partying is all about; I'll let you know if Red Sox fans do too.

In the meantime, I think LUS Fiber poster John is going to put his two cents in on Louisiana issues. I've got a lot of respect for his opinions, and you should too. So keep checking in, and by the time I come back I'll be blogging out of the hometown of the next President of the United States.

And if any readers out there are adventurous, I believe we'll be toasting "bon voyage" to my brother and sister-in-law at The Kingpin tomorrow after friends from the New Orleans area get off of work. Ask around for Ricky Prado, and I'm sure you'll find me drinking either an Abita Amber or something extremely cheap. It's always one or the other...

Happy Birthday 

Jeffrey of the Library Chronicles turns the big 3-O today.

Let no man think he's ever too old to tour the Abita Brewery, aka the happiest place on Earth. You should celebrate your birthday on the North Shore on Saturday.

What makes it great? The tasting room!
I want some Golden!

Edwards visit, AP response 

As Oyster noted below in comments, it was a private affair for the Edwards visit today. Here's a brief recap of two events featuring the veep candidate. There's not much meat in there, but it will give you an idea as to why no one knew too much about it. Too bad for NOLA residents, I'm sure many would have liked to get the chance to see the "wunderkind" in action.

Another report focuses on the trouble Edwards will have reconciling the optimism that won him so much support during the primaries and the role veep candidates usually have to take as the resident negative campaigner.

The sum total so far of Edwards attacks against Bush policies don't really seem to amount to much worse than anything Kerry has said on the campaign trail, so this report really could be much ado about nothing. These are the best quotes reporter Baum could muster from Senator Edwards:

"Going it alone is just a mistake," Edwards said of the administration's decision to invade Iraq without broad international support. "Are we not safer in a world where we're looked up to? It's not complicated."

A day earlier, Edwards took the lead for Democrats in challenging President Bush to take responsibility for mistakes in Iraq as British Prime Minister Tony Blair had done.

At a town hall meeting in another section of New Orleans, Edwards suggested improprieties in Iraq military contracts awarded to Halliburton Co., the company Vice President Dick Cheney headed before becoming vice president.

He also suggested a failed policy in Afghanistan. "The drug lords and the warlords have now come back to power," Edwards said.

"There needs to be reform of our intelligence community, but I'll save that for another discussion," he said.

...

Edwards also has shown little reluctance to take on the administration, citing the loss of manufacturing jobs under Bush and the ballooning federal deficit.

I feel like I've been raped. Talk about critical. He's so pessimistic. Can you think of any other Republican responses?

5th District 

Yesterday I mentioned that Rodney Alexander was staying home from the Democratic National Convention in order to talk to his constituents, but today Jim Brown lets us know that he could be facing a serious challenge (how many candidates is the GOP going to throw at this race?) from former state Rep. Jock Scott.

Apparently Scott is scheduled to announce on August 7, but that seems like a really long time to wait to announce if you've already made your decision. I suspect that he's waiting to raise some money before he climbs into the race. That may help him with fundraising down the line, since he'll look like he's not a hopeless cause.

I don't think anyone is going to beat Rodney Alexander this year. No matter how close his last race was, he has done nothing but endear himself to his constituents (while upsetting stalwarts from either party). Kos regularly posts polling on this race, and Alexander's favorable ratings are impressive in the district. It will take more than just money to take the Democrat down, and while I don't know much about Jock Scott, I figure if he had what it took he wouldn't be a former state Representative right now.

Legislative session over... 

Officially this time.

With the Kathleen Blanco's signature freshly minted on close to a thousand bills, the new Governor finally closed the door on what was more or less a successful political season for her. She made it clear that things are different from Mike Foster's eight years symbolically and substantively by passing the motorcycle helmet law and finally beginning the phaseout of those onerous business taxes that every one has been complaining about for the last God knows how many years. Securing a Union Tank Car manufacturing plant through sheer force of will was a major departure from Mike Foster's, "If they like us, they'll come" approach as well.

I said a few weeks ago that I wished for more from this session, but in retrospect it's hard to ask a brand new governor to waste political capital in a state that--while not severely divided across ideological lines in the legislature--isn't exactly at a consensus on the role of government. It's a political off-season for state officials right now, but it should be interesting to watch Blanco during it. There's a lot she can do to help herself politically while the legislature is out of Baton Rouge. She could also do a lot for the state if she uses this period to aggressively seek solutions to our burgeoning health care crisis. The state of education obviously has a long way to rise as well. She ought to find ways to address these issues while she can.

Getting Some Edwards Love 

The next Vice President of the United States will be in New Orleans today as one stop on the ticket's "Front Porch Tour" that will crisscross our fair country over the next few days.

Edwards will also hold a town hall meeting at a union hall on Elysian Fields sometime around noon. You have to give Pic reporter Bill Walsh for getting the details down in his report on the matter. Also big props to the Kerry campaign website for making this information so easy to find.

Anyhoo, Walsh spends a major part of his report trying to find out whether or not the Kerry/Edwards ticket really is competitive in Louisiana, because the state wasn't included in the latest major ad buy for the campaign. He quotes LA political insider Charlie Cook saying, "The idea of getting help from a guy from a state that is a 10-hour drive away is laughable."

Frankly, I don't necessarily believe that. I already know plenty of Democrats in my little neck of the woods who weren't sure about Kerry before, but have already become committed to him since the Edwards announcement. To be sure, there's not a lot of room for crossover appeal to the other party when the top of our ticket is a guy from Massachusetts and labeled the "most liberal Senator", but that doesn't mean the thousands of barely Democrats running around this state won't take a couple of looks at John Edwards and decide that they can trust the ticket based on his southern drawl and laid-back campaigning style.

At any rate, these kinds of stops in Louisiana for John Edwards are probably to test the waters anyway. If his campaigning gives them any kind of noticeable spike in their own polling, I imagine they'll keep sending him down here, and we'll back online in the next ad buy. It's still probably too early to call Louisiana a long shot. Democrats should think about places like Mississippi and Georgia as long shots right now. Most other states are at least competitive until the convention and voters actually start really paying attention to the candidates. Then polling data will really mean something.

(I just realized how unbelievably optimistic that sounded--I should note here that I think Democrats are in for a big disappointment this year).

14 July 2004

Keeping up with Joneses 

An email in my box this afternoon. Just thought it's worth it to know what the kooks think about the future First Lady. Here's a hint, she's almost worse than Hillary, but at least she didn't have Vince Foster murdered.

According to the G2 Bulletin, an online intelligence newsletter of WorldNetDaily, in the years between 1995-2001 she gave more than $4 million to an organization called the Tides Foundation. And what does the Tides Foundation do with John Heinz's money?

They support numerous antiwar groups, including Ramsey Clark's International Action Center. Clark has offered to defend Saddam Hussein when he's tried.

They support the Democratic Justice Fund, a joint venture of the Tides Foundation and billionaire hate-monger George Soros. The Democratic Justice Fund seeks to ease restrictions on Muslim immigration from "terrorist" states.

They support the Council for American-Islamic Relations, whose leaders are known to have close ties to the terrorist group, Hamas.

They support the National Lawyers Guild, organized as a communist front during the Cold War era. One of their attorneys, Lynne Stewart, has
been arrested for helping a client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, communicate with terror cells in Egypt. He is the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

They support the "Barrio Warriors," a radical Hispanic group whose primary goal is to return all of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to Mexico.

These are but a few of the radical groups that benefit, through the anonymity provided by the Tides Foundation, from the generosity of our would-be first lady, the wealthy widow of Republican senator John Heinz, and now the wife of the Democratic senator who aspires to be the 44th President of the United States.

Aiding and supporting our enemies is not good for America, regardless of your political views.

If voters will open their eyes, educate themselves and see the real Teresa Heinz Kerry, they will not appreciate her position as ultra rich fairy godmother of the radical left. They will not want to imagine her laying her head on a pillow each night inches away from the President of the United States.

Hopefully they love this country enough to decide that the only way these two will ever be allowed into the White House is with an engraved invitation in hand.

Let everyone know these people are unfit to represent this great nation. The uninformed will never hear the truth from the press, who wants Kerry elected!

Those who buy the Kerry facade, beware what you vote for - - - you may regret that you got it!

When will President Bush disavow the patrons of World Net Daily?

Here's an interesting debunking of the spurious Tides Foundation connection to terrorist groups claim from the folks behind the unofficial Jews For Kerry website. And let's face it, if a Jews for Kerry site says the Tides Foundation doesn't support Islamic terrorism, they probably don't support Islamic terrorism.

The most important note in there about Tides, the Bush administration has given considerably more to the foundation than Heinz's trust has. I wonder if the World Net Daily brief included that little bit of info. Somehow I doubt it.

Here's a link to the Tides website, if I weren't a broke bloke, I'd be inclined to give, but just to piss off the kooks of course. I hate democracy and the idea of a sustainable environment.

Damn Hell Blogger!!! 

Publishing is quite the pain this afternoon.

I don't get it... 

This guy doesn't look anything like Crispin Glover.

that one's for Murph who will hopefully enjoy my use of the tragic circumstances of crimes against children as fodder for not-exactly obscure film references.

FMA 

It's reassuring that our fine Senators from Louisiana didn't vote for the cloture measure on the Federal Marriage Amendment. That's called Constitutional (and Party) loyalty, and I'm all about it.

BFOP has a fine roundup (and a new look, my browser doesn't drop all the posts to the bottom of the page any more!) of the Democrats who did vote for it (not to mention the Repubs who didn't).

Perfection 

Liberal Oasis is nearly always good, and sometimes they are simply perfect:

[T]hey plowed ahead anyway, operating under the foolish notion that by keeping the [Federal Marriage Amendment] issue alive, they could spook voters into galvanizing against some sort of Queer Eye conspiracy to de-hetero-fy the nation.

As the GOP heads for an embarrassing defeat today, it would be wise for Dems to kick them while they're down.

To use the opportunity to expose their shameful tactics and out-of-whack priorities.

I could read that quote over and over again.


Rodney Alexander 

He's terrified of John Kerry and the Party he's a part of. He's begging off the Democratic National Convention to hold town meetings instead. It's a bit of political self-interest to be sure, and he can't be blamed for putting his reelection before Kerry's election, but at some point you need to show some courage.

And this is just ridiculous:
Alexander said he also hasn't endorsed either John Kerry or President Bush. He said he worked with the Bush administration to benefit his district and will do the same with Kerry's administration if Kerry wins.

"I just don't think, being a member of Congress, that I'm in a position to be suggesting to anybody else that I know who they need to vote for president," he said.

Aren't Congressmen in a unique position to be able to suggest to their constituents who they should vote for? I mean, he's got to be a better source for who could be better for the job than, say, some random editorial writer for a daily newspaper. They work together, for God's sake!

If Rodney Alexander doesn't want to go to the convention, then so be it. And the same goes for whether or not he wants to endorse John Kerry. But don't try and sell us some b.s. that you're not in a position to help people know the better choice. What a joke...

via politicsLA.com

Real journalism Giuliani coverage 

Bill Walsh notes the same themes I found in his account in the Pic.

Giuliani...staunchly defended President Bush's record on terrorism and urged Louisiana voters to elect a senator who would support Bush's policies.

"President Bush has remained consistent in his efforts to protect us and end the war on terrorism," Giuliani said. "He deserves a U.S. senator from Louisiana who understands when it's necessary to stick by your convictions whether it's popular or unpopular. David Vitter understands that."

...

Vitter said that the most important attribute he shares with Giuliani, who is credited with presiding over New York's economic renaissance during the late 1990s, is his desire to combat political corruption while boosting his state's economy.

"We can end the corruption and cronyism of the past," Vitter said. "We can reject the tax increases of (presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen.) John Kerry and all of my opponents. We can build good, productive, challenging jobs in Louisiana."

There's more there about the Democratic response to the visit and a note about John Kennedy's formal entrance into the campaign. In my account I discussed the importance of pork delivery to Louisiana voters when it comes to electing Senators. Kennedy is campaigning on dangerous ground as an outsider because it takes an insider to send money down this way. However, all he needs is to build up enough votes to get into a runoff, and if he can appeal to enough disaffected voters he might be able to make it. It would be a disastrous campaign against a proven Congressman in a runoff though. At least that's my guess, which you may as well take with a shaker of salt.

Update @ 9:50, damn, published by mistake...

cont'd.

For some reason the Advocate's story didn't make it online. The Daily Advertiser sent Marsha Sills. She focused a little more on crowd reaction, and I'm pretty sure I saw her talking to the young women who is quoted extensively at the front of the story, but her report on Giuliani's words seems to come to the same conclusion, reelect George Bush. It's all about Bush, who cares about Vitter? Not me, not Rudy Giuliani.

GI Giuliani 

ed. Oyster prophylactic oops on that title, fixed now...

It’s quite amazing how many times in a day you can hear variations on “a real American hero” in regards to the former mayor of NYC.

I arrived at Paul Fournet’s Hangar at the Lafayette Regional Airport just a bit before two in the afternoon to make sure that I could get in the door for a rally joining Congressman David Vitter and Rudy Giuliani to the common purpose of electing the first Republican US Senator from Louisiana since Reconstruction. I’d peg the temperature somewhere around the lower nineties out at the airport, and while it was a bit hazy, my concern that it might rain was unfounded.

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department directed me to a field a short walk from the gathering’s site to park. The clouds worried me enough to ask a red headed kid in a Vitter shirt helping to direct the cars—there were no valet’s, which was a big disappointment since I thought all Republicans were rich—whether or not the campaign would be towing out the automobiles sure to be stuck in the mud by the end of the storm. The kid said he had no idea, and didn’t realize that I was at least half-joking. A few minutes and about a quart of sweat later I was standing under a tent marking the entrance to the hangar. It was considerably easier to get a ticket than I expected, though the card I filled out tells them that Richard Prado is living at a made up address and has a phone number whose owner hopefully won’t be too upset when they start getting solicitations from the campaign.

It didn’t take long to realize that the claim to have given away 1,500 tickets was either a mistake or just incredibly wishful thinking on the part of the local Republican organizations.

At 2:00 pm there are about 70 people wandering around, and I help myself to the first of what ends up being quite a few bottles of water. They’re gratis, but I don’t worry about the gift from the campaign compromising my journalistic integrity. I note the giant “Sportsmen for Vitter” banner behind the stage. Camoflouge can really clash with what I’m coming to know as Vitter blue, the color of the dais’s backdrop. Inside the hangar the temperature is actually quite comfortable. A wind flows fairly regularly through the wide-open hangar doors, and seven planes line the side of the hangar we’re not using to mill about.

Fifteen minutes later I’m beginning to kick myself for gambling on their being any kind of food for this event. The crowd is beginning to fill out, but I know we won’t even glimpse Vitter or the star from NYC for at least forty-five minutes. I decided to kill a few of those by trying to finagle a press kit out of one of the staffers on the advance team. I figured a student writing a master’s thesis on “the effect of national political figures on Louisiana races” had a better shot of getting one than some tool with a website that no one reads, so I was up for a little more misrepresentation. It’s all for the greater good, you know.

Whatever, it didn’t matter as they had none to give me, although I’m not sure I was talking to the right person, no matter how much he used the phone or how many manila folders he was carrying around.

At some point I became bored enough to leer at the good-looking women in the crowd. I noted that the difference between good looking Republican women and good looking Democratic women is that the Republican women wear more expensive-looking clothes and prefer to wear hats. At least that’s the way it plays out in the South. Or better yet, that’s the way it plays out in the South in my head. I also notice a number of purses with gigantic bows or fake flowers on the side. Is this some new fashion trend that I’ve missed in my isolation from all things cool? If so, I’m glad I hadn’t noticed it before.

By 2:30 I estimated the crowd size at somewhere around 400. I went back to the giant ice chest shaped like a soda can for more water. When I returned to the place that I had staked out earlier to capture the event, a man I’ll call FF introduced himself to me. He said some pretty inflammatory things about rag-heads: “My grandson got sent home from school in Texas for wearing a shirt that said ‘Support our troops’ meanwhile those rag-heads get to wear their towels to school. There’s something wrong with that.” Needless to say, I found this story suspect. FF was very intense, and I think he suspected that I wasn’t there to be friendly to the campaign, no matter how many times I pulled my ticket out of my pocket to show him that I was an “invited guest”. He claimed to hate politics, which made me wonder why he was there at all, but as I thought about it I kind of hate politics too. Following them is more of a completely unsatisfying addiction than perhaps most drugs, which at least pay you off with some vague euphoric sense.

I managed to pull away from after fifteen or so very uncomfortable minutes with the not entirely untrue claim that I needed to use the bathroom. Three bottles of water will do that to you.

Ten minutes until the event is ready to begin and I know there is no way there will be 1,500 people here. I figure the area GOP groups handing out all those tickets actually discouraged people from coming since a few others in the crowd I spoke with mentioned that they almost didn’t bother after the morning paper reported that tickets would be limited and supporters should arrive early to get them. Oops.

The dais began to fill up with honored guests. These included all white faces except for one young black man and an older black woman. They appeared to be the only black faces at the entire rally. There were also some scouts, Acadian Ambulance employees, and various men in suits. I recognized former state representative Ernie Alexander. I rightly pegged him as the event’s emcee. At 3:00 he introduced the state officials and candidates at the event, the only one worth mentioning is 7th district candidate Dr. Charles Boustany, who worked the crowd after the introductions, but before the big dogs arrived.

We also said the pledge and then “remained standing” for what could only be the worst version of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve heard in my entire life. It was worse even than Carl Lewis’s butchering during that basketball game however many years ago. It began with some extended intro that sounded quite a bit like the theme from Superman, and then was dominated by the sound of synthesized trumpets and weird synthesized snare drumming. It was truly awful. I would rather hear Kid Rock sing our National Anthem a cappella than ever here this rendition again.

In the interim between the arrival of the guests of honor and the pledge and anthem break, some volunteers began handing out homemade shakers, which were water bottles filled up with Mardi Gras beads. I saw a particularly good looking blonde in a hat bearing only “W” (I guessed it wasn’t a Westin Hotel hat, but I could be wrong) grab one of the noisemakers, and I doubted that any one would be flashing their chests for these Mardi Gras beads. After all, Vitter has a family values image to protect.

At 3:25 the chants “Ru-dy” begin in earnest, as our city-Parish President, Joey Durel walks up to the dais, followed by Mike Foster, David Vitter, his wife Wendy, and finally Mayor Giuliani. It only took an hour and a half, but they finally arrived. I secured another bottle of water.

Durel’s introduction of Mike Foster lasted all of forty-five seconds. The best thing he could say about our former governor was “eight years without scandal is great.” Talk about your ringing endorsements.

When Mike Foster arrived at the microphone he wasn’t giving a much more ringing endorsement of David Vitter than he got from Durel. Their statements were both quite strange, and the bad blood that exists between the two state pols was clearly under the surface. Mike Foster, who chairs Sportsmen for Vitter, was proud to say that the Congressman was the only candidate to receive an “A” rating from the NRA, he also mentioned something about the “Death Tax”, though it seemed so unscripted as to be meaningless except for his actually bringing it up. He signed off with statements about the importance of voting against CAFTA and helping to get coastal erosion funds. I conclude that if these two issues dominate this campaign, then David Vitter is sunk. Chris John will not only win in December, but he will win by more than six or eight percent. Republicans seem constitutionally incapable of talking about environmental issues with any force or believability, and the crowd didn’t care either. It’s food for the moderates, who weren’t there anyway.

Vitter’s Giuliani introduction was longer and full of love for our hero, the mayor of New York. The themes of Vitter’s candidacy will be fairly simple. “Clean up corruption and cronyism” and…well that’s about it. I don’t know how often I heard “cronyism and corruption” during the speeches from both Vitter and Giuliani, but they were there throughout the thing. Apparently Vitter seems oblivious to the fact that cronyism is running rampant through his Party right now, and perhaps he’d have more to do if campaigned to become chairman of the GOP. He’d certainly make more of a difference there. He went on to mention how important it was for New York to have Mayor Giuliani because he “balanced the city’s budget while simultaneously giving money back to the voters.” I write in my notes, “Is he really talking about deficits? Is everyone in this room a complete moron?”

Perhaps the most effective theme of the statements from both Giuliani and Vitter was their continued insistence that things don’t have to go on like they are forever. If you think things are bad, you can make them better.

At 3:41 Giuliani steps up to the mike and gets the loudest applause of a day filled with mostly only scattered clapping. He’s clearly the star here. He begins with a note of thanks for those fire trucks the state bought for New York after the WTC attacks and goes on to thank Lafayette for providing the Yankees with Cy Young winning and World Series perfect game throwing pitcher Ron Guidry. It was a smooth move that he probable wouldn’t have thought of had Vitter not mentioned it in his introduction. Oh well, I bet Giuliani doesn’t really know anything about baseball anyway.

He spent a goodly portion of his address justifying why he was there. “We’re all in this together…It’s important to the whole country that President Bush has Senators on Capitol Hill who will be there for him.” Unsurprisingly, President Bush dominated the entire speech, all the way down to Giuliani’s favorite story about spontaneously telling a fireman during that fateful day, “Thank God George Bush is President.”

This confirmed a sneaking suspicion I had that the national GOP was using Vitter’s candidacy to sell George Bush in a swing state. This could work out for Vitter, but it seems like a risk he shouldn’t bother with if he’s committed to his own election. For all intents and purposes, Giuliani’s speech ended with the statement, “Consistency of purpose is the sign of a great leader…the President can’t do it alone.” He then had some throwaway lines dedicated to Vitter that didn’t even fit with the Congressman’s campaign. He said something about the environment, the importance of tax cuts, and once again mentioned cronyism and corruption, but that was the extent of it. The whole thing may as well have been sponsored by the Bush campaign for all the good it did Vitter to have Giuliani there.

Joey Durel then took the stage and made some comments about how great it was to have a hero like Giuliani in Lafayette. That was the last hero comment I heard during the day until I was joking about it with some friends afterward. I walked out with the distinct feeling that Vitter’s candidacy is part and parcel to the Bush reelection strategy in the state of Louisiana, and Vitter may want to be careful about that. My bet is that Louisiana wants two things in a Senator: pork delivery and the requisite sense that Louisiana always comes first. We’ll see if Vitter can use the President’s popularity in this state without sounding like the national GOP controls him. It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s not impossible.

At 3:52 I hauled out of there to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic. I had no need to shake anyone’s hand so I didn’t mind if I missed anything. I overheard a young woman on a cell phone telling someone “That was the boringest thing I’ve ever stood for, and it was sooo hot.” Swoon, “boringest”, and a Republican Party function no less. I should have asked her out; at least I may have gotten something out of the rally.

13 July 2004

Hillary speculators' heads burst wide open 

She's not speaking at the convention!!!!!!

What could it mean?

Developing...

She must be planning to run on an independent ticket. Pat Buchannan can be her running mate.

Anarchists for Kerry 

I cannot wait to see what O'Reilly and Hannity say about this on their shows tonight.

Reports show that fringe groups are hatching a plot on the Internet, telling people how to attack and trick police with the ultimate goal of evacuating Madison Square Garden (search). The suggestions include everything from throwing marbles in the path of police-mounted horses to going to shooting ranges before heading to the convention so that their clothes will reek of gunpowder and trick bomb-sniffing dogs on the subways and commuter trains.


It looks like the Fox report is piggy-backing off of this NY Daily News story and editorial from today's "paper."

But the tactics they plan to employ (Daily News sourced sinister "web postings") may as well come "Anarchist's Cookbook". As Fox News reports it you'd think they were planning on committing terrorist attacks (not that there's not plenty of awfulness to glean from the infamous "Cookbook", I'm just curious what they mean by "web posting").

Look for Republican talking points over the next week to include the message that liberal "fringe groups" like MoveOn.org are forming a coalition with dirty anarchists to stop the RNC from holding it's national convention.

It's getting hot in here 

Temperatures are getting dangerous, according to our friends at WDSU, but I think we'd have some serious worries if things looked as bad as their accompanying graphic.
My powers are fueled by the rays of the sun!
Run for cover!

Confusing Headlines Dept. 

Cross-dressing suspect robs N.O. East hotel

Is a person suspected of being a cross-dresser robbing hotels, or is a cross-dresser suspected of robbing hotels? You'll never know unless you give it a read. And won't it be hard to find the culprit if it was really just a very masculine woman?

Vitter and Giuliani 

I'll have a full post about this either late tonight or tomorrow morning, but my immediate impression was that it was about as boring as you'd expect any political rally to be when you don't care for the candidate, and that Giuliani doesn't know too much about David Vitter or why Louisiana voters should cast a ballot for him this November.

More to come on this later.

BellSouth expected to test video (“capacity”) 

This morning’s Advocate carries an interesting new fiber story. The gist of it is that BellSouth is promising to “test its capacity to offer” a new video service in Lafayette “within the next year.” The claim is that it would then be able to offer the same “triple play” that LUS is plans to offer. The projected price point: 90 dollars, about 5 dollars more than LUS’ projected selling price.

It is with mild pleasure that I report that BellSouth has apparently moved past the Fear part of the classic FUD strategy and has moved on to Uncertainty and Doubt. Fear appears to have mostly flopped in Lafayette and Uncertainty and Doubt are more respectful weapons.

But not much more respectful.

(Warning, thicket ahead, what follows is one of my patented little semi-scholastic diatribes designed to get a lot of useful background into a small space. Your patience is requested. But the impatient may, at their peril, skip the section marked educational below.)

<educational>
Williams representation of BellSouth’s DSL as a credible competitor depends upon his disrespectful but probably accurate belief that the public and the media lack the relatively straightforward background necessary to assess his claims. Unfortunately for Williams that lack is fairly easily remedied.

DSL is the telecos’ current adaptation of a system designed for analog phone service to the demands of internet/digital service. It is losing the battle to cable’s adaptation of its analog video service on two counts: speed and penetration. The original cable substrate was designed for the larger bandwidth of video and has more headroom. (Take note: bandwidth is the key word here.) As a consequence cable can offer more bandwidth (functionally: speed) and it can deliver that fuller bandwidth to every household it serves. Phone companies must amp up their service to provide DSL and if you are too far from a booster station you cannot buy DSL. (Subscriber density and other factors sometimes make DSL faster for a particular user in particular circumstances; but be not confused: the underlying disparity between the two media is unaffected.)

Takeaway message: DSL is a transitional technology that is currently losing to its chief competitor on the basis of bandwidth and inability to efficiently provision its user base.

Improvements that allow DSL to offer some video are not improvements to the underlying DSL media. They are chiefly improvements to the technologies that are available to all media—cable and fiber optics included—such as MPEG 4 standards which compress video down to the point where it is conceivable that some video can be transmitted by souped up DSL lines. The problem here is that both video and voice raise serious quality of service issues. The line has to be very clean. Too many dropped packets merely slow down the internet. They make voice inaudible and video unviewable. There are ways to clean up and prioritize signal. But those methods generally eat bandwidth and the problem with DSL is that it is already stretched to its limit and will always be behind its competitors in that essential component.

Long story short: DSL is not a serious competitor unless BellSouth decides on a major, fiber-based, buildout to bring big pipe bandwidth closer to the home. And we should all notice that even in their current desperate circumstances they are not willing to promise to actually improve their network in this way. Probably because at that point they would only be able to, perhaps, overtake cable. And possibly provide lower bandwidth competition for fiber. But making that strategy viable would require not almost matching but seriously undercutting LUS’ price. Unfortunately for BellSouth being the “economy” provider could not justify the expense of a buildout—an expense that would still leave them in a declining position as services they cannot offer over their maxed out bandwidth are developed and deployed over LUS’s big pipe public fiber. I very much doubt that they will ever actually take up this losing proposition; and they surely don’t want to make a claim even they can’t sell as credible. Once you admit that fiber to the home is the inevitable goal the only sensible alternative for the public it to go with the fellow who offers it first and cheapest. Since that fellow is not BellSouth obfuscation is the order of the day.
</educational>

BellSouth knows that DSL is not real competition for fiber…and they hope you don’t. Their hope for maintaining Lafayette as a profit center now rests on their confusing folks for long enough that BellSouth will wire Lafayette when it suits them—sometime after every larger and more technology intensive location has already been wired. It is in their interest, unhappily, for Lafayette to fall further behind in this dimension; no enmity involved. Just good business.

All this aside the hard kernel of actual news is that BellSouth is serving notice that it will “explore” the option of actually competing with LUS when the time comes. And the real function of this is to threaten to eat into the market share LUS is projecting for its fiber project without actually committing the resources that would be necessary to present an even minimally credible alternative. The hope here is to make the council anxious. They shouldn’t be. BellSouth is merely testing the usefulness of Uncertainty and Doubt as political tactics to delay or derail public fiber.

<Snark>
I took mild pleasure at the lowly venue to which BellSouth, having blown their chance at a high profile media event, had to turn to get their misdirection into the media. The scene at a “Concerned Citizens for Good Government” meeting was neatly captured by Ricky in an earlier post. I reread the “Q&A” section with some pleasure, imagining a BellSouth exec answering questions from the crowd described. Sometimes the small pleasures are the sweetest.
</Snark>


Forests 

By all accounts, the new Bush administration Forest rules will open up more federal lands to logging and road building. For that reason, it's hard not to admire the absolutely brazen nature in which spokespeople and administration officials can say one thing and do another. The culture of deceit surely goes from top to bottom in this administration.

From an article in the Advocate about how Bush's forest initiative is "bad for Louisiana":

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman painted a different picture Monday, calling the new policy a conservation strategy.

"Our actions today advance President Bush's commitment to cooperatively conserving roadless areas on national forests," Veneman said at an Idaho news conference. "Our announcements today illustrates our commitment to working closely with the nation's governors to meet the needs of local communities and to maintaining the undeveloped character of the most-pristine areas of the National Forest System."

Unsurprisingly, Governor Blanco hasn't had and probably won't have anything to say about this unless the time comes that someone wants to develop inside Kisatchie National Forest. It's not much of a likelihood and Blanco doesn't really have any interest in getting into this fray. It is fun to watch Bush officials say and do anything without consequence though. It's a reminder that all is right with the world. I mean, how would we react if they really had a conservation initiative? And what would we say if they actually admitted this is just a giveaway to logging interests in the northwest and not at all designed with "conservation" in mind? We'd probably all go running out for bomb shelters.

Sigh 

I got a bit of discouraging news from the Advertiser this morning. Apparently local Republicans have already claimed 1,500 tickets to the Giuliani event. There are still some available, but it means showing up at the airport as long as an hour in advance. I'm still going to give it a go, but I'm not sure if it will happen this time around. I think I need to get some fake journalism letterhead and start applying for press credentials.

I will say that it's disappointing to have read about six different press-releases for the event and two separate news stories which all said free and open to the public, but not one mentioned that you should call the local parish coordinator for the passes. I guess that's so they can give them all out to donors first and let the riff-raff like me fight over the scraps. I should have assumed those elitist GOoPers would operate this way.

Good News 

Sometimes the state does something right. In this case we'll be spending upwards of $40 million on some new voting machines from somewhere other than Diebold.

Now, I'm partial to the lever machines we've been using around here for a long time, so imagine my dismay that these machines apparently "do not meet federal regulations". From what I understand those machines are as accurate as any on the market, but the counting time is relatively slow and they cost a fortune to store in warehouses during non-election times because of their size. I can understand the desire to find another way.

However, Marsha Shuler never really tells us what we're going to get, only that the state will "stick with proven technology". The machines will be purchased and put into use after this election year, so don't be afraid of going to the polls and missing the familiar lime green machine with the half-length curtain and helpful red arrows. You've got at least one more chance to use them.

And for people who want even more ammo against the Diebold and other touch-screen technology, this bit was included in the report as well:

"We have always had a cautious approach to the touch-screen machines," Ater said. "There have been consistent problems around the nation with them.

"Put aside the software problems and the possibility of hacking into them. All the companies (that sell them) are advising us, by their own admission, that the life expectancy is seven to 10 years," Ater said.

"There are many other machines that meet federal requirements with life expectancies considerably longer," Ater said.

Seven to ten years? I'm pretty sure Louisiana has been using some of those "old-style lever machines" for at least twenty years--and I'd be willing to bet a lot longer--since some of my earliest memories include going behind the curtain with my father or mother to vote for their candidates. The idea of spending nearly $50 million every ten years for machines that don't even work properly is ludicrous, especially in this state. Cheers to our Secretary of State for his skepticism towards Diebold.

12 July 2004

Quick Hits 

I should drop off a couple of quick ones for you guys before I hit the sack tonight. It's been a slow day in the news today, so I'm a little glad I wasn't really around for a big part of it.

I did come across a couple of posts that are very funny, and you should look at them too. You see, that's the way blogging works. Tomorrow you'll be treated to some original fake journalism from the scene of Rudy G.'s visit to stump for David Vitter, but until then you'll just have to settle for some things other people around the blogosphere wrote.

First things first, via Michael, we're all directed to an account of one lucky 'Murican's proudest moment: getting flicked off by your President and mine, George W. Bush, and all it took was a sign that read, "More Trees, Less Bush":

After waiting around for about 45 minutes, the motorcade passed by us again. A few police cars, followed by a van or two, drove by. Then, a Bush/Cheney bus passed, followed by a second one going slower. At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

I'm sure in the bus Dear Leader could be heard saying, "We like to smoke while we shoot the bird."

And over at the Talent Show, Greg had this to say about the all too silly criticism from certain Republicans that somehow Democrats being rich is bad.

Republicans complaining about their opponents having too much money is like Courtney Love calling someone a washed-up junkie.

That's just the kind of snark that makes blog reading so damned rewarding.

Long Day on the Prairie... 

Did I miss anything?

Quote of the Day 

I missed this one in the Pic on Saturday, but they included a story about the Draft Ditka movement in Illinois that included this quote from David Vitter:

"As long as he's not coaching the Saints, I'll be happy."

I'll second that. Oops, I already did.

The Black Vote 

Adam Nossiter is good today. He says pundits in "the North" who don't believe Edwards brings a dynamism to the ticket in Louisiana don't know jack about Louisiana. I'll leave the relevant parts about why to him:

[T]his is a state where black people vote, where the black vote counts, and where black people are growing in influence.

On the stump, Edwards is colloquial, intimate, and a good storyteller -- qualities that drew him a thunderous reception from fellow Southerners at the Baton Rouge dinner.

What could matter far more than these oratorical skills on Election Day is that the North Carolina senator pays attention to black people. He exhibits awareness of racial divisions, and he gets black votes. And the black vote may provide the crucial difference in this Louisiana election, as it has in the past here.

Nossiter correctly goes on to note how blacks participate more in Louisiana elections than anywhere else in the South and also reminds readers that the African-American population grew in Louisiana by 12% over the nineties.

Of course, all of this is correct, but the question is whether or not these voters will pull the lever for a Vice President. I hope Nossiter is right, and I suspect that Edwards' natural appeal to black voters will have at least some effect, but without equal or better care taken to court the black vote in Louisiana from the top of the ticket, Kerry may as well write the state off.

That's not to say that Kerry has ignored Louisiana's strongest voting bloc, rather I only want to note that Nossiter seems to be overstating the impact of a Veep pick for the state of Louisiana.

Empty Comparisons 

The Picayune and the The Daily Advertiser both fronted stories about the Federal Marriage Amendment this morning. I'll give you one guess which one is better.

You can check them out here and here.

My poor Advertiser, why not just fold up and open the door to someone who can do it better? The truly sad thing is that two people contributed to the report and still couldn't do better than simply interviewing four people and running their quotes verbatim. I hope big chunks were edited out of it, but I don't have a lot of faith in the staff over there.

11 July 2004

Appeasement 

NeoCons love the word so I figured it's an apt description of the office of Homeland Security right now:

Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March's Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections—as well as intercepted "chatter" among Qaeda operatives—has led analysts to conclude "they want to interfere with the elections," says one official.

As a result, sources tell NEWSWEEK, Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election." Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to make such a call. Homeland officials say that as drastic as such proposals sound, they are taking them seriously—along with other possible contingency plans in the event of an election-eve or Election Day attack.

They want to interfere with elections, so we'll let them. Sounds like appeasement to me.

Well this is about the worst idea I've ever heard. I would be willing to maybe consider ceding such authority to the full Congress, but can anyone really say that it's a good thing to have a sitting President's own appointed cabinet secretary make the call on whether or not an election can go forward? I remember thinking the old "X-Files" movie conspiracy--where FEMA planned to use a major emergency to take control of the entire workings of the federal government--was far-fetched and silly. I guess they just got the agency wrong.

via Drudge

Quick Hits 

Now linking exclusively to stories in the Times-Picayune...

But seriously, it may be a sacrilege to say this in Louisiana, but I really hate catfish, and while that's mostly based on the fact that I don't like the way they taste, it's also nice to have my prejudices reinforced by the fact they're also dangerous little buggers.

In the political world there's some good reading on the Jindal campaign, where the perennial loser (okay, he's only lost one race so far, but until he's a wins something I'll call him a loser) is the "clear frontrunner" for the 1st district seat in the US Congress. It's a long story about the support he's been building all over the extremely conservative district. The only thing I'll say is that he's got some enormous help from name recognition which may prove soft should Steve Scalise get enough money to advertise throughout the district. However, Jindal going around and securing the endorsements of a load of local pols can help to make voters who are already inclined to vote for him more committed.

Also, Newhouse/Pic's Louisiana delegation column is interesting this morning only because it talks about Mary Landrieu's yeoman work to promote the Kerry/Edwards ticket. Landrieu's star is rising nationally, and who would have thought it would have been the result of the selection of John Edwards for the Democratic ticket?

And in the navel-gazing category, you can see a story done by new Timshel friend Jordan Hernandez--a recent addition to the illustrious staff of the Daily Advertiser and a New Orleans native--on Wayne Parent's visit to Lafayette yesterday. When I left it was a slightly crowded affair, but Dr. Parent assures me that by the end it was as typically raucous as any thing that goes on in Lafayette after dark on a Saturday.

Have a fine Sunday.

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