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18 September 2004

But who will run BFOP? 

Matt Lavine writes a suicide letter/mash note to Jimmy Swaggart. What will we tell the children?

That may well be the funniest thing I've read in months.

Painting and a hearty congratulations! 

I've been busy this morning and will be for most of the afternoon painting with my brother-in-law, but I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone to get out and vote while you still have the right to.

In Lafayette Parish I voted "Against" on Amendment 1, and Genovese for Judge. These Judge campaigns are notoriously difficult to vote on because they're really not supposed to talk about their possible positions on anything. I met Genovese, though, and he seems like a very decent man. Therefore he got my vote. This week's Independent did have a good rundown of the candidates if you need help making your decision. You can pick it up at virtually any locally owned restaurant in town.

The congratulations go out to sometime commenter and a very old friend who sometimes goes by Bread, whose lovely wife is now pregnant with their first child. She asks that you pray for the baby to be blessed with a smaller head than the giant noggins that preside over their shoulders. The entire Prado family extends their warmest wishes for a healthy pregnancy. We can't wait for April.

17 September 2004

Interesting 

Normally anything with the subject heading "add me to your site" is immediately thought of as spam, but in this case I clicked on it and it turns out that it's a link to what could end up being an indispensable resource for all those looking for information about what does or does not exist in Pensacola and environs after Ivan. As the site states, it's largely unconfirmed info, so read it at your own risk..

Anyway, I'm out for the night, but if you're interested, have at it at "Help Pensacola." Good luck with your efforts, this is the literally the least I could do.

NOLA Schools 

Oyster has a good post up about the importance of you NOLA residents' votes in tomorrow's School Board elections. If you're voting in OP, you ought to go read it. The best advice is probably the simplest. "If in doubt, throw them out." The School Board there has been a complete joke for longer than anyone can remember, and this is a major opportunity to send a message of reform. The future of New Orleans schools isn't just important to the city, but to the entire state. As usual inform yourself and make wise decisions.

Flora-Bama update 

I found some news about the redneck paradise on the Alabama-Florida border I made an inquiry about yesterday. The short version is that it's a disaster, but not quite dead. Here's the story from the Mobile Register:
Actually, it remains in its rightful place, straddling the state line on Beach Boulevard. But its familiar wood floor is now 3 feet of sand. The structure lost portions of walls and its roof and appeared to have heaved its contents onto Alabama 182.

Among the items left standing were the bar's marquee and a front window covered by a plywood sheet on which someone had spray-painted, "till we float away."

Parts of the bar itself and much of what had been inside were strewn across the high way -- simple bar stools, aged ice chests, electric beer signs, steel kegs, a wood-handled blade for shucking oysters. An industrial-sized propane tank sat on its side in what would have been the roadway, hissing and smelling of sulfur. Something else reeked of rotting seafood.

And everywhere, there was booze. Stacked neatly on a shelf inside, bottles of champagne and merlot. Cast about in the tempest, flasks of Southern Comfort and Jose Cuervo Gold, 1.75-liter bottles of Jack Daniel's and Finnish vodka and Puerto Rican rum and several longnecks of Flora-Bama Mullet Head Red, some near-buried in sand, a few broken but most still sealed.
Now I don't want to advocate any law-breaking, because that's not what we're about here at Timshel, but never, ever has looting sounded so appealing.

thanks to my bro in the Woodlands for forwarding me another article which got me interested in finding out what the story was on this place. I can't imagine that it would take longer to rebuild this old haunt than it will to repair the massively damaged highways and residences around the same area.

By the way, I'm noting all this because Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach have been longtime vacations spots for the Prado family. There's a lot of sentimental value to these places, and while those of us who live and play on the Gulf Coast pretty much live with the knowledge that most places on the barrier islands are anything but permanent, that doesn't make it any easier to read about their destruction. I hope my levity on this matter doesn't obscure any of that, rather it's just how I deal with these things.

TKGOTW 

I just came across this one today, but I can't get enough of Square 2. The thumping beats will do my alter-ego proud any day of the week. My usual score is up in the seventies, but my high is 114. I'll play a lot more to try and bring that up. It's a particularly great TKGOTW because it's quick and simple. Avoid the red stuff while using your black square to gobble up all the black stuff. All you need is a decent mouse. Note that picking up your mouse from the surface you're using will not cause your black square to disappear no matter how much you wish it would.

TKGOTW bonus: "Hurricane", not what you think it's about, though. Blow things up in your spaceship. The gameplay is a little slow on my computer, but you may not have that trouble.

Festivals Acadiens 

Lafayette's signature "fall" event kicks off today at Girard Park. Go out and support traditional Louisiana music, its practitioners, and the Lafayette economy. It's supposed to be a great weekend for a party.

Here's a schedule of events.

Child Abuse! 

Ken brought up the case of the crying baby in comments to my own post about the vandalism at the Democratic Party HQ here in Lafayette, but I don't know how many liberal sites like my own the Ken frequents, so I figure I better just put this up on the main page to see what our friend in Brooklyn thinks about it. Besides, it really is quite funny and deserves to be trumpeted throughout the nation.

Long story short, a West Virginia man was at a John Edwards event carrying Bush/Cheney '04 signs where someone ripped it out of his very young daughter's hands, causing her to cry real tears. There's even a great picture of it at the Wash Times website.

What a tangled web Phil Parlock weaves, though. It seems that the same thing has happened to him at events for Democratic candidates in the last three presidential elections. Apparently the guy is some sort of lightening rod for angry Democrats in union tee-shirts who might actually be related to him. As usual, Atrios has all the links, including a picture of the Parlock family so that you can helpfully compare and contrast them with the "union thug" who so treated Parlock's three year old with such contempt.

Meanwhile, National Taxpayer Union interns are literally stomping on protesters at the RNC with nary a peep from the Washington Times. Call it the adventures of the SCLM.

Friday Fiber: Storm Warnings 

After a quiet period there is some movement on the fiber front to report on Timshel. I'll fill you in on the week's happenings but the executive summary is easy: the political storm is picking up power and speed and the conditions are ripe for it to turn into one motha of hurricane.

The big story of the week was that LUS was forced by Cox to respond to a public records request with their legally mandated (recall Bill 877?) "feasibility study." Cox got it on Wednesday and the papers covered the story Thursday and Friday. (The Advocate, The Advertiser) There is plenty of interest in feasibility study—pledges of a 20% reduction in price for services overall, an indication that the first customers are to be served in 2006, and a bump in the overall cost projection to 119 million overall among others. Its is both pretty minimalist, at 30 pages hardly an exhaustive roadmap, and emphatically represented as a "DRAFT" with the warning that things might well change before the final presentation to the council. (Just in case readers might be tempted to forget its tentative nature the study is underprinted with a giant, all caps, 120 point, red, "DRAFT" in elegant Palatino running at an angle up the page on the background of each and every page.) But don't expect the sparseness of the document or its tentative nature to change anything. Now that the incumbents have something to attack and LUS has made clear that they intend to bring it before the council for a vote in only 2 months the incumbents know battle must be joined—or abandoned. And nobody expects BellSouth and Cox to retreat. I'll be picking through the feasibility study now that the regular media has had its shot and blogging reactions over at the Lafayette Pro Fiber blog.

The other largish fiber story is more upbeat, but has its own cautionary notes: Mayor Billings of Provo, Utah was brought to Lafayette to give a speech at IndExpo's "Byte Before Breakfast" tech event. Again, both The Advertiser and The Advocate (not online) give the story play, albeit with very different emphases. Both are worth looking over. But the fullest story is in Mike Stagg's Fact Check article. Provo's experience, both in how it was gradually drawn into the project by need and incumbent inaction and the dramatic response of the incumbent providers to the mere suggestion that the people might build their own infrastructure was telling. It's worth noting that Provo, in the heart of Utah's Mormon countryside is even more conservative than Lafayette.

The last tidbit of interest is that the crew that came here to man the "Academic" Forum for Cox and BellSouth in order to tell us how municipal telecom utilities are always failures has moved on to the next locale. Lenard of the Progress and Freedom foundation has told Wired News that "case studies" of cities including Lafayette prove that municpals just don't succeed. The problem with his research is that there can be no "case study" of Lafayette with which to prove anything since Lafayette has no project to do a case study of. These guys are just plain shameless.

Get it right! 

Mark Ballard's report on Denny Hastert's trip to Alexandria yesterday isn't online today, and there's nothing about the substance of it that bothers me. However, twice he rather insidiously refers to the "Democrat Party" instead of the "Democratic Party". I regularly read the Advocate pretty closely, and I've never seen this before. Normally I would think it was a typographical error, except that it happened twice in the same article.

The party's name is the "Democratic Party", individual members are "Democrats". It is not the "Democrat Party", which is a term used by right wing radio blowhards to deride us. I'm willing to chalk this up to editorial error this time, but if it continues I will be done with this paper once and for all.

The article's title was "GOP House leader campaigns for former Democrat Alexander." You can compose a respectful and short letter to the editor correcting them here.

Privacy 

Penny Brown Roberts has an interesting story in the Advocate this morning about the sticky legal situation Cox is in w/r/t a cable internet subscriber who is alleged to have been selling drugs over the internet. A federal investigator subpoenaed his email address and password--citing, among other things, provisions in the Patriot Act--so they could find out whether or not he read certain emails sent to him. In this case the investigator can issue the subpoena himself, and Cox is holding out for a warrant from a judge.

I'd say you have to hand it to Cox here for holding out for a warrant. They're obviously concerned about the implications of releasing email information at the first request of a federal investigators. Consumers would probably lose a great deal of confidence in their provider if they thought their emails could be sifted through for any old thing under the sun. Also, you could probably imagine that Cox is a little worried about the liability that might come from providing a medium for a drug-dealer to ply his trade, so it's not exactly selfless, but at least reassuring that the legal team realizes that they have an interest in protecting the privacy of their customers.

Of course, if the guy who was dealing drugs over the internet was dumb enough to use his personal email address with Cox as a place where he negotiated deals, then maybe he deserves to be given up to the feds.

This really is an interesting story that regular "netizens"--sorry, I hate that word--would be wise to bone up on. There really are a lot of privacy issues here that are worth reading about. It also deals with some concerns that I'd be interested to read guest poster John's thoughts on this since LUS is a potential email provider now--and more so now that they've published their feasibility study. I can't find it, but I know he's addressed privacy in relation to whether or not a government run entity would monitor the content its subscribers chose to download. I'm interested in whether or not they would feel extra pressure to comply with federal investigators in this specific case. It certainly seems like the feds would have more leverage with an LUS than a Cox, but I'd love to told my concerns are unfounded.

Busy Morning 

Sorry about the late start. Here's a story about the evacuation procedures and their many shortcomings. Commenter Richard P. suggested to me in an email that outrage is the only appropriate response to the horrorshow that was I-10 traffic this week. He's right, and this article offers some solutions, but I am curious at what point evacuation procedures are acceptable? Outside of spending billions to build new Interstates, highways, and loops around the four major cities in South Louisiana I don't really know how any practical solutions will be more than bandaids. Surely shaving even an hour or two off of the nine or ten that some people spent in their cars would be a good thing, but how can new plans ever amount to more than something akin to sticking a finger in the dike? I guess my point is that I've already resigned myself to the fact that we're dealing with a major headache and potential danger that simply is a fact of life in our region. However, with that said, we can certainly do better than this:
"We need to do a better job of directing people off the interstate and onto arterial routes," Blanco said. "That could make life a little less frustrating for folks, but people are creatures of habit. They know a route and want to be on a route they know."

The governor urged motorists to make sure they have a Louisiana road map in their car or truck.

"If you have a good road map, you can examine alternate routes for yourself when frustration sets in," she said.
Certainly I can muster some outrage if this is the only response to what happened this week, so I'll do my part to point it out.

16 September 2004

It's all about the Cheez Whiz 

In response to this K. Drum post, Digby writes:
Frankly, I don't think Bush is the least bit religious. I think it's as phony as the rest of him. Phony cowboy, phony flyboy, phony Christian. The only authentic thing about him is that he's a self-centered fratboy who's greatest faith is in his ability to get away with anything. A real Christian would never have made fun of Karla Faye Tucker the way he did. (A real human being would never have made fun of Karla Faye Tucker ...)

Apparently the evangelicals have taken it on faith that this guy is one of them because his speech writer is adept at using familiar religious phrases and he often evokes God as his guiding spirit. But, it's clear to me that he is nothing but a rich prick playing a role for people for whom he has nothing but contempt.
There's little to no doubt that one of President Bush's greatest strengths is natural ability to "connect" with voters on a personal level. It's probably Kerry's most glaring weakness. The difference is that Kerry doesn't really bother trying to do it, and he probably shouldn't. However, that doesn't mean that liberals with real media power, the kind of people who go on television shows every night talking about the candidates, shouldn't spend every moment reminding people that nearly every thing Republicans say about Bush is damn near a complete fraud. They should chip away at the small things, like the ranch he purchased just before he began campaigning for President, the way the day in the classroom blatantly contradicts his supposed resolute leadership on Sept. 11, and most importantly the Cheez Whiz incident. If you do these things over and over again it forces people to reconsider the thing about Bush that the GOP has spent four and a half years cultivating. I'm no political genius, but it doesn't take one to figure this out. The question is why haven't our hapless Democrats gone after this yet?

The Bush campaign wanted to turn Kerry's "flip-flopping" into a national joke much the same way they created a persona of Al Gore as a serial "exaggerator". They succeeded famously with both. It takes coordinated message management, but the Republicans proved that it really isn't that difficult to get the people on your side to say as loudly and as often as possible just what you want them to. Democrats have an advantage because the "regular guy" Bush persona is so obviously constructed as a house of cards. Savvy Dems could shatter this image without much help. Most people instinctively distrust politicians anyway, so showing them the phony that Bush is would probably just confirm what they initially thought anyway. I just don't understand why they aren't attacking it more aggressively. Hell, if you want to get really dirty, he's probably not even the sober man the Republicans have made him out to be.

Never should Bush's name be mentioned without the words phony or fake attached. It's not hard to make these things the CW. Just do it goddammit.

An Ivan Question 

There's probably not a more perfect expression of all that is "redneck" about the "Redneck Riviera" than the Flora-Bama Lounge, the bar that sits on the beach on the border of Florida and Alabama. Their website promises updates as soon as they can post them, but there's nothing yet. This place is literally constructed half out of aluminum roofing material and plywood. I don't know how it has survived as long as it has. Is it possible that it made it through the storm?

What a bunch of dicks? 

John Kerry campaign signs were burned and pro-Bush messages scrawled on windows and a door at the Kerry headquarters, the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party said Thursday.

It was the second act of vandalism aimed at the Democratic presidential nominee's campaign office in Lafayette.

Calling it an "an obvious attempt to intimidate our workers, and a misguided attempt to promote the candidacy of President Bush," chairman Mike Skinner said the messages scrawled at the office here included a "huge" W on the front door, and "GWB" and "4+" on the windows.

I haven't been able to make it over there in a few weeks, but this is too bad. There's already not much to the headquarters on the outside except a few signs and a door. I'm just glad there's no big plate glass window in the front or it almost surely would have had a brick through it.

They ought to put a big sign out front that says, "Bring it on!", and then stake the place out.

Free Advertising 

I've mentioned these fellas before, but a very old and dear friend of mine is in a band called The Lost Bayou Ramblers. They just returned from separate tours of New York and Colorado. Normally they'd be energized from travelling like this, but they were the victim of a heinous crime while in Denver recently. On the same day the Broncos were whooping up on the Kansas City Chiefs, some jerk or jerks stole the van carrying all their equipment, and literally all of my friend Chris's clothes.

All told they estimate the cost of just the equipment lost at around $12,000 and more than a few items of great sentimental value (including a fiddle that had been in one member's family for upwards of a century).

At any rate, the group is scheduled to perform at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette tonight and somewhere else in Lafayette during Festival Acadiens this weekend. They intend to bill both shows as "benefit the band" shows, so if you want to help some truly struggling musicians out, tonight would be a great time to start. Their music, though generally not the kind of stuff I get out of the house for much, is quite good. It's mostly traditional Cajun music, but they've been known to mix things up a bit. They're performing this week with mostly borrowed instruments, so try and get out and help them buy back what they've lost.

You can sample their music at the band's website.
we need your help!


Ivan traffic 

Richard P. emailed to ask when the Ivan traffic post was coming, so let it be known that I'll generally try to submit to blog requests when I get the chance. Here's a quick roundup of stories of people I know who've had to make the arduous trek between New Orleans and virtually anywhere else on the planet in the last three days, besides, apparently, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Richard P.: Nine hours from New Orleans to Baton Rouge

M and R (some friends at LSU-Med) six hours from NOLA to BR, where they stayed overnight, then another four between BR and Lafayette

C and E (NOLA hipsters): nine+ hours on US-90, the highlight of their trip was a girl vomiting on the road in the lane to their left. Their question "why not vomit onto the shoulder instead of into the middle of the pileup?"

J and A (destination Houston): total time spent between their departure from New Orleans and arrival in Houston? 26 hours, including an overnight stop outside of Lafayette. Now J has to be back at work on Friday morning.

That's about it from friends of mine, though I'm sure I'll hear some more over the next few days. The lesson to take from this is that you should never, ever evacuate. Always ride out the storm no matter the potential for destruction.

Who knew? 

Colin Powell makes a shocking revelation...

Good Read 

I won't bore you by adding much to this link (just call me Glenn Reynolds) but Mark Ballard has a good column about how Governor Blanco has assuaged the fears of juvenile justice advocates that her campaign promises regarding the need to reform the system weren't just empty rhetoric. I've complained a bit on this blog about Kathleen Blanco's caution in expending political capital on much of anything that's important to progressives, but this is one case where she definitely is putting her neck on the line. There's still a long way to go on this, but this is a time when we can be proud of the Queen Bee.

BRNext---> 

After their tasteless and terrifying ad attacking Baton Rouge Mayor Bobby Simpson, a couple of members of the "advocacy" group are resigning from its board and asking for their money back. Unfortunately Scott Dyer doesn't discuss just what the ads are about, but if you've already forgotten about the series of explosions and an apparently crumbling building in the background of a list of charges against Bobby Simpson's handling of security in Baton Rouge, you really should go take another look.

I've said before that I don't much care about the campaign for Mayor in Baton Rouge, but it's good to see that even though Bobby Simpson is getting the shaft from this group of a-holes at BRNext, he still has some friends left somewhere.

Ugh 

There's a lot wrong with this story about a supposed poll that Amendment 1 backers say shows more than seventy percent of Louisiana voters support the same-sex marriage ban, but in the end it's probably not very far off.

On the same day men and women were fleeing their homes and bracing for a major hurricane, state legislators, candidates, and their backers had to get together to promote an amendment that will end up doing more to harm gay people than it will to protect marriage.

The story I linked to includes a long list of politicians and candidates whose names will not be forgotten for as long as I'm the proprietor of this site.

Making Amends 

Last week my local rag published a series of stories commemorating the fifty years that have passed since the University of Louisiana (then the Southwestern Louisiana Institute {SLI}) began admitting black students. Today they published this letter to the editor. It's short, but it's worth quoting in full.
Here is a “white side” of SLI 1954.

I made hateful remarks.

I had no reason to do so other than stupidity.

However, out of regret has come an adulthood of sincere effort to be fair and honorable to all people.

Please know that the pain of regret never subsides.

Ron Nicko

Lafayette
This serves as something of a reminder that for every hardened racist spreading hate and helping to prop up Jim Crow, there were probably about a dozen otherwise decent people who were not only too weak to fight the system, but also found themselves participating in its uglier aspects. Hopefully more people are out there like Ron Nicko who carry the regret of their actions in a different time and strive to make it right in the future.

15 September 2004

Free Advertising 

I've been having a lot of fun today going over the musings of the folks who run RuthlessReviews.com I don't agree with quite a bit of it, but it's all doubtlessly--er--engaging. For a taste of what they're all about visit their list of the 10 biggest pricks in American political history.

Priceless 

I think I'll make this my new "short description" of Timshel up in the blog heading. Atrios always finds the best stuff...

"If Jesus weren't a Jew, he'd be an American." He'd probably be a Texan, too.

Harbingers of Doom 

from today's Pic:

Saints waiting out Ivan in San Antonio
They've been practicing at Alamo stadium (not to be confused with the Alamo Dome), but one of the fears of Saints fans has been that Benson would one day up and move the team to the place where got his start. Hopefully they won't just stay there to wait out the completion of a new stadium.

Thanks, Sherlock 

Another high-priced consultant tells us things we already know. A headline from today's Advocate:

Consultant: La. needs to reform schools -- soon

The report is full of shocking revelations!
Hunt said one reason high schools need change is because colleges and universities, the military and private companies have long complained about the quality of some of its graduates.
and facts widely reported in every newspaper that ever writes a story about the state of Louisiana education:
Just 55 percent of students earn high school diplomas in Louisiana, he said, and high school dropouts make up half the nation's prison population. Studies also show a huge gap between market demand for students with two-year, associate college degrees compared with those who earn such degrees.
He also provides innovative answers surely never considered before by education officials:
Ward said, improvements are possible if state educators make sure business groups, the military and others who have complained about student quality are included in any reform effort.
Surely this is just the catalyst the state needed to get back on the right track.

Hooray! 

It's hurricane day in all the state papers I normally read, but that doesn't mean there aren't some worthwhile stories and opinions out there for your consumption. The first thing I'll do this morning is single out my local paper for a little bit of praise for once. After shamelessly copying Ian yesterday and forwarding the Advertiser's opinion page to you, the editors made it up by coming out more forcefully against the anti-gay amendment than any of the other papers around the state. It's still a little softer than my tastes would prefer, but I have to give them credit for putting their hearts in the right place. Here's the best part:
We believe that proponents of the proposed amendment have conducted a very low-key campaign in the hopes that the first sentence, “Marriage in the state of Louisiana shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman,” will be sufficient to assure its passage. It is confusing and somewhat suspicious that sample ballots on the secretary of state’s Web site show only that sentence. The other sentences are buried elsewhere —very deeply. Those buried sentences are our cause for concern.

...

The banning of civil unions is premature. We do not believe such unions should be banned without public debate, and certainly not through a document that declines to openly state the intent to ban them. Vermont has legalized civil unions. We now have the opportunity to examine the impact of such unions and then make an informed decision. The proposed constitutional amendment would ban something that most people know little about.
This is great, really. Not only do they oppose the amendment but they also take the timid first steps to calling for formal legal recognition of homosexual relationships. It's too bad this amendment promises to pass overwhelmingly, but at least I have a little faith left for my normally hapless Daily Advertiser. I can't wait to see the letters to the editor on this one.

By way of accompaniment there's also a story about a gay couple in Opelousas and their concerns about the possible change to the Constitution.

...And speaking of letters to the editor, check out this one from a self-identified soldier of Christ in today's edition. It's mild enough, but I don't think that will last for long when the rest of the usual suspects begin their missives to the paper.

Wow 

Tonight I spent time with a New Orleans evacuee who was with some other friends who fled the Crescent City. This wouldn't be a big deal except for the fact that she was recently at a party hosted by a certain New Orleans Saint known affectionately as "White Jesus." This wouldn't be a big deal either if she weren't also present when White Jesus had her best friend shave his already much shorter hair for his new mostly shaved mohawk look. And even this wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that White Jesus offered her his truck to facilitate her evacuation, which was apparently sitting mere feet away from me at the bar we shared.

Also present at that labor day barbecue were Deuce McAllister, Joe Horn (w/ wife and kids), Aaron Brooks, Montrae Holland (who made at least ten pounds of potato salad), and countless other Saints who she didn't know. She didn't know any of these people. She just kept reciting names while I swooned. She said there was plenty of booze and a little of that illegal green stuff. Now I know why we lost this week.

14 September 2004

Sigh 

This is slightly reassuring, though not for any of the poor bastards around the Mississipp/Alabama border, but the one model that has consistently tracked the Hurricane directly over Lake Pontchartrain has finally moved east and more closely resembles the rest of the computer predictions. New Orleans may have a future after all.

It's official 

Despite their songs about hard-drinking and thankless wives, country musicians are complete--wait for it...--girlie men. First Tim McGraw cancels an event in far off Rayville. Now Alan Jackson has decided to postpone his September 16 concert at the Cajundome. Meanwhile our seven day forecast is full of sunshine and the occasional scattered showers. Surely the Cajundome isn't going to be used as a shelter for fleeing coastalites (a new word, courtesy of your friendly blogger).

very interesting blogger spell checker addendum: "Cajundome" should be "scantiness".

Moving forward 

Fox McKeithen says Ivan or not, we're gonna amend our constitution one way or the other this weekend.

Okay, he actually said barring a catastrophic turn, but I'm glad he's confident the storm ain't coming this way. Aren't you?

Jeebus 

What an ugly SOB? The people on CNN just said something about the danger of the Mississippi overflowing its banks and flooding the city. I understand the danger to be the possibility that the Lake Pontchartrain storm surge would overflow the levees and then flood the city because it can't flow back or out into anything else because the city is surrounded by levees. I trust my own judgment over the chumps on CNN any day.Update @ 2:00 am CST 9/15/04 satellite picture refreshed.

From one monster to another 

From here until Ivan hits I'm going to try to work the storm into every post I write. For instance, with the Gulf Coast anticipating a disaster of epic proportions, wouldn't it be nice to know that you had a truck that could probably haul away the entirety of the scattered remains of your home in one trip when it comes time to clean up? Wouldn't it be better if you could watch a DVD and enjoy the comforts of plush leather interior while you do it? Now you can. Meet the International CXT:
Don't fuck with me or I'll eat you!
The brainchild of International Truck and Engine Corp., a manufacturer of commercial trucks and mid-range diesel engines, the CXT has been conceived of as a industry-worthy truck with some of the consumer comforts of passenger pick-ups.

...

Buyers will be able to customise their new set of wheels with a leather interior with wood grain trim, reclining captain chairs, a fold-down bench that can be used as a bed, a DVD, and a rear-mounted camera for increased visibility behind the vehicle.


But none of this comes cheap: the truck will retail for 95-100,000 dollars -- about the double the price of a Hummer SUV.
Unfortunately you won't be able to get your hands on these big daddies until 2005, but you can bet they'll be tearing up the roads in your neighborhood very soon. It's the American way. I believe they get approximately 1.3 miles to the gallon. I'd like to say I found this on my own, but various blogs around the sphere have been talking about it in the last few days...

Kiss of Death 

Well, you mention a major recording artist for the first time, and then he goes and cancels his signature event of every year. Maybe it's because Time magazine exposed him as a Democrat. Or perhaps he's ready to hang up the guitar and start his political career a little early. Surely it's not because of the weather. I mean, what on Earth could cancel Swampstock? I'll miss Faith Hill most of all.

Busy Morning 

Well there wasn't much in the papers this morning, which is good because I had a lot to do. Everyone is rightfully freaking out about Ivan, and I hope my New Orleans readers are considering the wisdom of getting out of town. In the interest of the fear gripping the Gulf Coast today, I think it's worth it to offer a little levity. And what better place to tap your funny bone than my local rag, the Daily Advertiser? Today the editorial page is a veritable hot bed of controversy. They continue to shake things up in the community at every turn. These are the two headlines on the Opinion Page (usually around page five of the A section in the print edition each morning). They're not online so you'll have to trust me on this one...

Say thanks to a teacher with a nomination for the 2005 LEF awards
Issue: Contributions by our educators that are beyond measure.

We Suggest: We have an excellent opportunity to express our gratitude.


and...

Class of '54 working on Holy Rosary restoration
Issue: Alumni shared memories and celebrated preservation plans for the facility.

We Suggest: While no longer a school, it is an important part of our history.
The Lafayette metro area serves roughly 380,000 (according to these figures at least) and the best our rag of a paper can do is talk about teacher awards and historical restoration. Is their any wonder why the Advocate has bill boards up all over town advertising their paper?

Boustany, primary and secondary sourcing... 

Okay, how hard is it do some basic freaking fact-checking? I had a longer post worked up about Charles Boustany's trip to the Concerned Citizens for Good Government at Don's Downtown last night, but somewhere between plugging it into the blogger "new post" field and carrying it over from Microsoft Word I managed to delete it. This is probably better for you guys because it will be shorter and unimportant extraneous information will be left by the wayside. You can read about the last time I went to a CCfGG meeting to hear the entirely unimpressive--though quite nice--Ned Doucet, who promptly dropped out of the race after his appearance.

At any rate, here's the Patrick Courreges report on the event. You should know that this is a fairly difficult group to speak to. They are generally engaged people and some seem to have a pretty fair grasp of the issues facing the district. They are a conservative bunch, which makes them receptive to Boustany's politics, but it's not their politics that makes the format difficult. The problem lies in the fact that at any given moment during a speaker's trip to the podium roughly half the gathering is either ordering from the menu, eating, or talking to each other about how good the food is. While Dr. Boustany stumbled through his speech a few times, he managed to do quite well despite the disadvantages of speaking in front of a dinner group. Needless to say, I agreed with very little of his pitch.

It's hard to nail down a theme of his candidacy, though he's clearly trying to make the hard sell on the surgeon thing. He talks about his "prescription for prosperity" a lot and discusses other ways that his background as a doctor will help him as a Congressman. The throwaway lines about "bold decisive leadership" sound as much like an afterthought as they would from any other politician.

But let's get down to specifics. Charles Boustany seems to have a solid understanding of the problems facing south Louisiana. He talked about the importance of providing health care for Louisiana's residents and remembered to stress the importance of providing health care even for those worst off. He talked about the fact that the state is bleeding away its brightest citizens, who seek employment outside of Louisiana. He addressed the need for infrastructure improvement, beginning with I-49 and moving right along to US 75 which serves the Port of Lake Charles and is about as bad a highway as one could drive on.

He also spent quite a bit of time on coastal restoration, which is where he simply lost me. He proposed creating a Mississippi River Caucus, which would join together every district that borders the River in order to discuss the problems that are causing our dead zone in the Gulf and contributing to coastal depletion. There are a couple of problems with this, both pretty major, that Courreges easily could have checked but apparently couldn't be bothered to. The first, of course, is that LA-7 doesn't border the Mississippi River. Maybe Boustany wants to create a caucus for the Gulf districts and the Mighty Missip' districts, but he certainly didn't say that. The other glaring problem with this idea is that a Mississippi River Caucus already exists! Every district that borders the River is represented, and their interests are so notoriously competitive that they've never been able to get any work done together on coastal restoration. It's the people up at the northern reaches of the mighty stream (read Baton Rouge and every place on the river north of our state's seat of government) that are contributing to our dead zone and other coastal issues. Do you think they care what a small group of representatives down river are saying? Of course not.

Charles Boustany goes on to prescribe the typical boilerplate conservative solutions for the rest of the problems facing the state. He thinks more tax cuts are in order, further deregulation of the oil industry so that Louisiana can reclaim its "wildcatter heritage" (those were his words). Of course he doesn't mention that the drilling off the coast is also a major contributor to our coastal depletion and pollution in the Gulf, nor does he seem to care.

On national security he says he's read a lot of books that have prepared him for the task at hand, and continues to voice support for the President's preemption doctrine. "A strong offense is our best defense," he says. Matt Yglesias has a reading list I would hope Boustany might familiarize himself with, since he's such a reader. He made some outrageous claim about how well the Israelis have done securing their own borders. And while I guess there hasn't been a suicide bombing there in a while, I'm not sure we ought to use Israel as a template for how to make America safer. Theirs is not exactly the most beloved country in the world, and the cycle of escalation at every attack is hardly successful for them.

He did break with the Bush administration on the prospect of reimporting drugs from Canada, but from here his prescription seemed to be putting band-aids over a stab-wound. Nobody in this race is running on any radical health care agenda, but just once I'd like someone to admit that the whole system is broken. Boustany surely understands what the problems are, but he doesn't seem to be willing to go out on a limb beyond what his party calls for. Of course, he says, we also need "meaningful" tort reform. No shit?

The doctor did handle the questions well, though they weren't particularly difficult. I was proud that he didn't acquiesce to one inquiry about whether or not he would support a national sales tax. Ned Doucet did that last time around, which was when I pretty much figured the guy would never make it once reporters began showing up to actually record what he was saying. Boustany avoided the issue and instead said he would push for tax reform, throwing out the importance of the new Club for Growth mantra "alternative minimum tax". Whatever, it's all designed to end progressive taxation, but these folks either don't care or don't know. At least Boustany's wise enough not to tell this group everything they want to hear.

At the end Ernie Alexander managed to fire a parting shot at Willie Mount, though he never mentioned her by name, who spoke to the group a few weeks ago (I wasn't there for that one). He clearly stated that Boustany was a better candidate because he actually talked about the issues facing Louisiana instead "pitter-patter about working together."

I hurried home to watch some Monday Night Football.

13 September 2004

More Ivan 

My local ABC affiliate is doing all they can to become the leading local website in storm tracking, which I've always found to be a bit of a bore, myself. However, this nifty little feature from their website more than does it all for you. It's a java rendering of the movement of all of this year's storms, last year's, and some of the more damaging hurricanes in the nation's history. It loads fairly slowly, but if you can get past that it's fun to play around with. Have at it...

McGraw for Senate 

By way of Political Wire we learn that Tim McGraw wants to run for Senate in Tennessee whenever he decides to get out of the music business, which would apparently be years from now. Time reports that his politics are "progressive" but sensibly closeted because he fears alienating some of his country fan base. All this is fine, but if the guy really is progressive I wish he would come run down here. Louisiana could use a Democrat who could wrap up a Senate run without even having to campaign in the northern part of the state, which is where McGraw grew up anyway. He still gives back to the land of his birth, just look at what he's doing this weekend:
Superstar Tim McGraw returns home to northeast Louisiana to host his 10th Annual Celebrity Concert and Softball Challenge – Swampstock 2004. The all-star event will take place on Sunday, September 19 at the Tim McGraw Sports Complex in Rayville, Louisiana. All profits from the Swampstock 2004 charity online auction will benefit charities in the northeast Louisiana area.
All this is meant to say that Louisiana could use him more than Tennessee, no matter how much I hate country music. Besides, as far as I'm concerned the more time Faith Hill spends in the state of Louisiana the better.

Wow 

I was just reading the David Remnick piece on Al Gore in the Sept. 13 issue of The New Yorker and lamenting the way various members of the pundit-class have assaulted his honor since the debacle of the 2000 election. It's an extremely fair piece that doesn't spare Gore any of his real faults--not the imagined ones about lies spun out of whole cloth by GOP communication operatives and the parasites who feed off their "research" at the national print and television orgs--or make him a martyr of the theft that was 2000. At any rate, if you get a chance you ought to pick it up and give it a read since it doesn't appear to be available online. Allow me the indulgence of one extended quote from the interview:
The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he is a very weak man. He projects himself as incredibly strong, but behind closed doors he is incapable of saying no to his biggest financial supporters and his coalition in the Oval Office.

...

[Bush] certainly is a master at some things, and he has a following. He seeks strength in simplicity. But, in today's world, that's often a problem. I don't think that he's weak intellectually ... I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he's a coward when confronted with a force that he's fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes" to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole--that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don't see any other explanation for it, because it's not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they're willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation.
There really is a lot more to the long piece than that bit, and it's well-worth the twenty or thirty minutes it takes to read. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the magazine when you get a chance.

Howling at the Howler 

Sometimes there's nothing left to do but quote...
Dickens invented characters like Okrent, as he strove to describe a world in which idle, privileged, insolent people felt unvarnished contempt for their social inferiors. Okrent strolls straight outta those novels. But make no mistake—powdered people like Daniel Okrent are now in control of American discourse. Lazy, pampered, self-indulgent and stupid, they’ve made a sick joke of your interests for years. At some point, the public will have to find ways to end their control of our discourse.

If you care, Daniel Okrent went out of town for six weeks to get away from his stressful "two column-a-month job" as public editor of the Grey Lady. His triumphant return was less than welcome at the Howler campus. Go find out why.

This is just weird 

The Advocate's Debra Lemoine files a lengthy report on a Louisiana reservist in Baghdad who's been protecting a group rebuilding a boardwalk in Iraq's capital. Pieces of the report are quite strange:
U.S. officials have invested $500,000 in the project, which would be equal to investing millions of dollars in a U.S. project.
I'm not sure why $500,000 dollars is any different anywhere else in the world unless the US government gets a higher return on investments made in Iraq than they would in America, which doesn't seem like something they'd want to advertise, considering the war profiteering implications. It certainly doesn't help the Iraqis much to have to guarantee gigantic returns on US investments into projects that are supposed to help them rebuild their country. If anything it sounds shady, but please correct me here. Maybe they meant an investment of 500,000 thousand dinars, but somehow I doubt it.

Also there's this somewhat outrageous claim, though one can't help but hope he's right:
Attacking the project would only harm Iraqis, the contractors working on the project and the future businesses in the area, he said. Plus, harming the project will hurt the short- and long-term economic rehabilitation of a highly populated area.

Iraqis have long ago distinguished the work of Civil Affairs from other soldiers in Iraq, knowing they are there to rebuild schools, hospitals and other vital services, Rodriguez said. None of the thousands of civil-affairs projects has been targeted by terrorists, Rodriguez said.

"When we show up in a neighborhood, residents come out of the woodwork to meet us and discuss their needs and concerns," he said. "The fact that people know we are there to help becomes our security."
A Google search doesn't take long to reveal that Civil Affairs soldiers have been killed. And while Google won't tell me about individual projects, the fact that the at least once a civil affairs headquarters has been targeted leads me to wonder just how good Rodriguez's memory might be.

I don't mean to diminish the hard and entirely necessary work Major Juan Rodriguez and his brothers are doing in Iraq, but sometimes a little context is necessary for these things. Iraq won't ever be a better place with more people out there like him. Unfortunately rebuilding a boardwalk isn't going to make up for indiscriminate bombing, tortuous prisons, and near-total lack of a plan for victory. This is a completely screwed situation I don't have any answers for, and while these stories are welcome, a little bit of context couldn't hurt. Things aren't a picnic over there.

I haven't been over Michael's place yet today, but I'll be interested in what he has to say about this.

Weekend Miss 

In catching up on what I missed in the state papers yesterday I came across this excellent report by Robert Travis Scott on the Louisiana GOP's controversial endorsement of Billy Tauzin III in yesterday's T-P. Most of it isn't really news to regular readers of the site, though there's good stuff about just why the money question could be a violation of FEC law, but it's probably worth it to point out this bit:
[A] juggernaut of party support has been building for Tauzin.

On Friday, Tauzin announced that top Republican leaders in the U.S. House, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, have committed to campaign in Louisiana to help Tauzin's bid for the seat. All of the state's Republican congressman have endorsed Tauzin.
Rodney Alexander has the same advantage in his district, as Jock Scott so colorfully pointed out last week, but I'd like to note that in the 3rd this kind of national support could really backfire. Rodney Alexander is already a known quantity to voters in "the sprawling Fifth", so people coming out to support his candidacy probably won't have much of an effect one way or the other. In south Louisiana though, voters don't really know much about Tauzin's lobbyist namesake. He's never held office and the influx of a bunch of people from the national Party in a district where registered Democrats--no matter how conservative--probably outnumber registered Republicans by a factor of two to one might hurt his candidacy. I'm writing this without data, but it's been my experience that Louisiana's Democrats, who are perfectly willing to vote Republican if he's the right candidate, don't want to be told by people in Washington who the right candidate is. Especially when they're Republican party leaders who probably spell crawfish with a "-dads" or a "y". Billy Tauzin will surely make the runoff, but all this interference from the Party's campaigners in waiting--while great for raising money from the hardcore rank and file members--probably won't do much to win Tauzin votes from the Democrats he'll need to put him over the top. If anything it could scare them away. At least I hope so. Discuss...

Hate Amendment 

Mondays are usually pretty anemic for the state papers, but there are some bits worth pointing out on the state hate amendment (better known as Amendment 1 to anyone who's hitting the polls this weekend). It's nice to see the state papers more or less rejecting the amendment, even though they don't use the kind of forceful language against the bill's sponsors and opponents that I would prefer. The Advocate mustered a mild rebuke last week, and today the Pic editors took their turn:
Marriage has any number of "legal incidents," ranging from inheritance rights to hospital visitation privileges to the ability to claim a deceased spouse's body. Many unmarried couples -- same-sex and opposite-sex ones alike -- have secured those rights through private contracts. Opponents fear that such contracts could be rendered unenforceable if Saturday's amendment passes.

If Louisiana wants to keep denying marriage rights to same-sex couples, it can do so even without a constitutional amendment. So the amendment is at best unnecessary. At worst, it could interfere with the ability of any unmarried couples -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- to arrange their legal affairs as they see fit.

Voters should reject the measure.
Meanwhile, Kevin McGill--an AP writer on state legal issues--works an analysis piece--headlined "Same-sex marriage proposal a wordy proposition", talk about your controversial positions!--wondering just what the result of the amendment's language will be. McGill's report won't put any minds at ease, but he does try to temper the near-hysteria that surrounds this issue for the men and women who are seeing their very being assailed by the state legislature. In other words, it's the typical both-sideism that's come to characterize these kinds of reports. Ed Anderson does more or less the same thing for the Picayune, but longer and with a whole lot more quotes from the people involved in the bill's passage. They both come to same conclusion, namely that the courts are going to have to sort this all out after the bill inevitably passes. I still advocate scrapping our entire worthless rag of a constitution and starting over (122 of 184 possible amendments approved since 1974 and counting...). The document itself is a complete mess with or without this amendment, and after the presidential election no one's going to care about this gay marriage debate anyway. Call me pragmatic, except not.

12 September 2004

Get the plywood ready... 

And watch out for the blue line.

Has anyone seen Nash Roberts lately? See the map and some more information about the modeling here.

Opening Day Blues 

The Saints didn't leave us with much to be optimistic about after today's performance. If I ever have to hear Tim Ryan call another game I'll throw a brick through the television. The only thing I'll say is that fans shouldn't worry about Deuce or start yelling about how they absolutely have to start running him behind a fullback. He only had sixteen carries today, and in his last four or five he showed exactly why he'll be just as effective out of the Ace sets. When Deuce gets to touch the ball throughout the game he plays better. I'm not even sure if he had more than a carry or two in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, it sure would be nice if the defense could stop the run. Lord help us if Courtney Watson had anything worse than the cramps the FOX crew reported, because even if he didn't play that well, Orlando Ruff doesn't deserve a roster spot.

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