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10 December 2004

The most wonderful time of the year, alt. 

Nope, not crawfish season this time.

Carnival, courtesy of your friendly New Orleans metblogger...

Bonus Quote 

"It disgusts me that your face is the last face she saw. I want to assure you, when you die, my face will be the face looking at you."

That quote is actually from a while back when a jury initially sentenced convicted murderer (and alleged serial killer, though the state and the families of the rest of the victims have decided the further prosecution of Lee is unnecessary) Derrick Todd Lee to death. It's in the news again because the sentence was formalized by the courts today. Regular readers here know that I'm an opponent of capital punishment in all cases. I provide this quote because I'm not sure that the state should necessarily be putting people to death to satisfy this emotionally troubled--though certainly rational--need for vengeance. I report you decide.

Because lets face it, deterrence isn't a reality and most politicians know that. They support capital punishment because most people who put themselves in Charlotte Murray Pace's sister's shoes want an eye for an eye style of justice. It's a base emotional instinct that politicians are all too willing to pander to.

Now none of this is to say that Sam Pace is some kind of bad person for feeling this way. Anyone who lost a family member in such a brutal fashion would be hard-pressed to want anything but the wrath of the state upon a killer, but the criminal justice system is not an organ for satisfying the vengeance of victims.

Oh man... 

So here's the deal. Alcoholism is certainly nothing to laught at. This guy has clearly got some major problems if he would show up in front of the judge at his third DWI hearing well-more than three mere sheets to the wind, but I'd be doing you all a disservice if I didn't make his response to the justifiably concerned and angry judge the "Quote of the Day."

The judge asked him how much he'd been drinking and Ardoin said: "Judge, I'm from Mamou."

His BAC was 0.229 (as I understand it this was his BAC for his hearing, not whatever they determined for his actual DWI).

Sorry if you're not from around here, you won't find anything at all funny about that quote. I guess you have to know Mamou.

Time Killing Game of the Week 

Halloween edition? "A murder of scarecrows" isn't exactly the most fast-paced game around, but I find it eerily calming as far as the games I've turned up trying to fill this space each week. Your job is to protect your scarecrows from the life-destroying black birds which perch on their arms and heads. The deeper your straw men dig their roots, the healthier they are. A mouse is all you need to play, but take a look at the extremely simple directions to see how it all works. Make sure you initialize the spooky/ambient "skeleton radio" that's provided in the bottom right corner of the game screen for the full effect.

If you don't find the lazy pace of the first game particularly gratifying, then give "nucleus" a shot. This is of the more typically addicting variety. The rules are simple and it begins easy enough, but each level ups the difficulty ante quite a bit, and the game makes it easy to restart the level when you inevitably fail to move your electron to the nucleus, so that each time you begin anew, you feel like you're going to be successful. The added bonus is that it provides a password so you can get away for awhile and come back to the level you were stuck on.

The Cultural Economy 

I might shock you guys by saying I've never been the biggest fan of Jazzfest. I have no doubt that it's good for New Orleans and a whole host of performers and local artists, but it's never been something that excites me. Between ever increasing crowds, heat, and all kinds of hidden expenses I've just never really enjoyed myself in the few times I've gone to the trouble of attending. I don't really care much about the continued commercialization of the festival. That's an unfortunate side effect of any growing and lucrative venture. However, I'm not sure what to make of this news that the festival is going to have co-producers this year. Festival Productions will handle the day-to-day aspects of its production, while AEG-TV will handle the broadcasting and digital recording aspects. I imagine there's a lot of money to be made on DVD sales and out-of-area broadcasting, so someone probably stands to make a mint off of this, but is there any reason to suspect that AEG-TV will be passing along any of this to the city? Not that they should have to or anything, but I'm curious whether this makes any difference to festival or if it's something that most attendees and fans of Jazzfest from around here will even notice.

More Taser 

Following up on a story I mentioned yesterday, it looks like the family of a man who died in Lafayette shortly after being shocked by a taser during his arrest in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot is going to sue the specific officers involved, the Lafayette police, and the Sheriff's office.

The largest taser company has been denying for a long time now that deaths to people with weak hearts (often made weak by continued drug use) are not caused by being shocked. They obviously have a big interest in continuing to portray these weapons as "non-lethal", which in the great majority of cases they most definitely are. However, when in the hell will they ever own up to the fact that these things can be dangerous when used against the wrong people? With this in mind, they shouldn't be used as a first response to even the most mild non-compliance by suspects and detainees. I have no doubt that police officers are capable of using these things safely, but we can't even properly train them if the weapon's producers refuse to acknowledge basic facts about them and won't even bother to test them properly.

Doing Business in the "Gret Stet" 

The papers that are worth a damn explore the results of a survey of business owners conducted by the Council for a Better Louisiana.

Predictably the respondents believed that the major setbacks to running a successful business in this state are corruption (which goes side by side with the maze of regulatory and licensing agencies business owners must satisfy to either open shop or expand), lack of insurers for health and workers' compensation, and the lack of a qualified (skilled and unskilled) workers to staff needed jobs. The Pic. gives an overview of the whole survey, but The Advocate's Ned Randolph goes into quite a bit more depth about the shortcomings of the labor pool and its consequences.

For some reason I don't think the story I mentioned yesterday about the music industry and the rest of the conference meant to explore new ways to exploit Louisiana's "cultural economy" (lots more on this conference here) will be enough to make up for this state's myriad problems with nurturing a diverse economy, but I guess it's a start...

09 December 2004

Interesting 

With all the genres of music that have come out of Louisiana, why should Nashville or Austin, Texas, be widely regarded as music capitals -- with all of the economic benefits that go with the titles?


That was a question raised by Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu as a drive was launched to use arts and culture to create a strong economic sector in the job-hungry state.
More incentives to the music industry? There is zero doubt so far that the incentives to lure movie producers into Louisiana have been successful in the first part of their goal (though we don't know what the economic value has been without further study), so this is a logical next step. Let's hope the discussion doesn't begin and end with this conference.

A question for Mr. Jenkins 

Why is it that I have to go to some other blog to get a link to Lindsay Lohan's (blunt) smokin' Thanksgiving pictures? What good is it to have friends in Hollywood if they can't deliver these kinds of goods?

Defamer seems to vouch for their authenticity. The question is, why doesn't Murph?

More Rolling Shootouts? 

Okay, not quite, but this is the kind of thing that only happens in a red state...
A Bush-area man was arrested Wednesday evening after a bullet fired from his .22-caliber rifle struck a school bus loaded with children.

...

According to St. Tammany Police spokesman James Hartman, Fornea said he and a companion were hunting squirrels while riding in a pickup truck. Fornea and the driver of the Mazda truck said a poorly aimed shot struck the rear of the school bus.


The bullet did not penetrate the bus, and no one was injured in the incident.
To be fair, the police don't set much of an example in this regard.

The most wonderful time of the year 

Well, Jeez, it seems a little early for this, but I'm not complaining or anything...

Diversion Alert 

Frankly, I don't see why this makes one damned bit of difference. Clearly the troops who asked the question weren't brainwashed by some embed from a Tennessee paper. Their question represented their own concerns even if the reporter did help to facilitate it.

What's shocking is that it took this long before the chattering classes ever found a way to turn this into a compelling narrative for public consumption ("Rumsfeld taken to task by guardsmen" and variations on that headline) when this has been a problem since troops first set foot in Iraq. This should have been a campaign issue, but reporters were unwilling to explore the issue with any depth. When Kerry talked about troops on the ground that weren't properly equipped it was treated as just more campaign talk instead of a serious matter of concern about the way the war had been prosecuted to that point. But the moment Rumsfeld said something callous, it's time for a news explosion. Pundits who waited until now to express outrage about this ought to be ashamed of themselves.

New Orleans out in 2009 

Don't go wishing New Orleans will get a tourism boon for any Superbowls in the near-future.

This is as much due to the fact that New Orleans doesn't have a long-term deal with the state as it is to the lack of a new stadium. The only reason I say this is because they note that Miami (already a host to the Superbowl in 2007) is still in the running. And while Pro Player Stadium is still younger than the Superdome (by about ten years I think) it hasn't undergone any major renovations either and is up there in the realm of the older stadiums in the NFL. That doesn't mean New Orleans won't still be at a distinct disadvantage when it competes to host future Superbowls, but it's not out of the realm of possibility, particularly if major renovations occur sometime in the next few years.

My problem has always been that I don't see the point in spending literally more than two hundred million bucks in renovations and inducements instead of just finding the money to put together a whole new building, dropping the inducements, and guaranteeing that this won't come up again for another thirty years. Economists have wildly varying estimates about the impact these stadiums have on cities, but at least one has said that the Superdome in particular was responsible for generating as much as $6 billion during it's first twenty years in operation. Politics dictate that New Orleans probably won't ever see a new structure, but good politics don't necessarily mean good policy. From my perspective spending hundreds of millions to do it halfway is more or less pointless. Either suck it up and shell out for the whole shabang-abang or tell Benson to put the Saints on the free-agent market, because without the new building they're eventually going to be there anyway.

Shock the monkey 

The editors at the T-P advise caution in the explosion of taser use by local police departments throughout Louisiana. This comes the same day that my local newspaper reports that the FBI is investigating a drug sting that resulted in a suspect finding himself shocked at least four or five times (by the PD's estimate) but possibly as many as seventeen times (the suspect's estimate).

In the last two months Lafayette police also lost a suspect to what the medical examiner claims was drug-related heart failure, but it only occurred after he was hit by one of the stun guns while causing a disturbance during his detainment. Amnesty International claims that tasers can contribute to heart failure when used against some drug users.

As for the current story about the man who was shocked at least four times, it's hard to understand why police would need to continue to shock him after the initial stun, and they don't appear to be interested in offering any explanations to the folks at the Daily Advertiser. Here's the suspect's story:
On the night of Aug. 25, Alexander said he drove up to the Best Value Hotel on North University Avenue to meet with a friend. He went inside a hotel room and was introduced to his friend’s cousin, apparently a police informant.

Shortly after he sat down, police officers — up to 12 of them — burst through the door and ordered him to get down on the floor.

Before he could comply, he said, they used a Taser on him. He immediately collapsed, the shock of the gun causing his body to flail on the ground, he said.

Alexander said officers kept screaming at him not to swallow the dope. He said he told them he didn’t have any but they continued to shock him anyway.

“All I remember is they were shocking me,” he said. "I felt the life leaving my body."

He said at some point the wire that connects the Taser to the shock prongs broke off. An officer then got down on top of him, he said, and placed the Taser directly to his skin, sending 50,000 volts of electricity through his body with each shock. He claims that is what left the burn marks, about 30 of them in all.

Instead of arresting Alexander, however, police dropped him off at a hospital that night.

In an interview shortly after the event, Cpl. Mark Francis, Lafayette police spokesman, said it was because Alexander’s heart rate was elevated from ingesting crack cocaine.

“His only reason for going to the hospital, initially, had nothing to do with the Taser,” Francis said.

Alexander later turned himself in to police and was charged with possession of cocaine, obstruction of justice and resisting an officer.
Now I wonder how four hits with a taser could result in as many as thirty burns across Alexander's back, but I'm no doctor or physicist, so I can't speculate on the consequences of fifty thousand volts running through someone's body. What I don't get is why the police didn't arrest him that night? And is it appropriate to use even non-lethal force like multiple terribly painful taser stuns in order to prevent a suspect from swallowing evidence? The police were taping the operation and still had access to the suspect for blood tests. He couldn't have even had that much coke if he managed to swallow all their evidence before the police could stun him enough to stop. This whole thing looks like a completely botched up and probably unnecessary operation for a small-time drug dealer(?). Now they've probably opened themselves up to a major lawsuit.

Anyway, the Picayune editorial comes as a result of this man's death at Oschner's after being shocked with a taser.

*

Show me the money 

Three candidates spent $12.1 in the Senate primary. Compared to $9.2 in the primary campaign of Mary Landrieu's last Senate victory. That campaign was a little different though, as the GOP had pretty much decided on Suzy Terrell as their candidate and no one really expected that Mary Landrieu had much of a chance to win without a runoff (or at least they didn't for about the last month of the primary). That led the two big dogs in the race to conserve some of their war chests for the two-woman race. Considering the millions spent between the two Congressional runoffs, one can only imagine the boon to direct mailers, phone bankers, and ad execs had Chris John or John Kennedy been better candidates.

08 December 2004

Umm? 

How did I miss the Governor's big column in the Washington Post? It probably has something to do with not really reading the Washington Post with any frequency despite the daily reading link on the sidebar.

Anyhoo, the Queen Bee's biggest fan has more to say about it...

Interesting 

I guess sometimes you can go home again.

Dept. of Tired Jokes 

No more like this in my inbox please (third time this week from very different people...)
A seven year old boy was at the center of a courtroom drama this morning when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents so the judge awarded custody to his aunt. The boy confirmed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he refused to live there. When the judge suggested that he live with his grandparents the boy cried out that they beat him more than anyone.

The judge then decided to allow the boy to choose who should have custody of him. Custody was granted to the New Orleans Saints this morning as the boy firmly believes that they are not capable of beating anyone....
Boy, I couldn't see that punchline coming from sixteen miles away.

What took so long? 

George Bush's propensity for military-like dress isn't without precedent.

(I think I've seen things like this before {after the infamous carrier landing most likely} but it's worth pointing out every time Bush affects his "Commander in Chief" role for the boys in uniform.)

Louisiana College, must not be much to post on... 

This was bound to happen. This whole mess began because one professor had the unmitigated gall to assign A Lesson Before Dying in a philosophy class called "Introduction to Value Study." This has been an ongoing story over the last year that I haven't linked to at all, but at this point it's hard to see anything other than the full suspension of their accreditation after they serve out this probationary period.

The rumors about Falwell recruiting Louisiana College into his "Liberty University" fold is interesting. LC administrators are pooh-poohing it, but the unfortunate likelihood is that they'd probably be more successful from a financial standpoint if they had the seal of approval from his ministry. As it stands now they can't really recruit non-fundamentalists interested in seeking a true liberal arts education, and they don't seem to want to. The accreditation still means something to them, but they'd be stuck in a netherworld where they can't fully appeal to people concerned about academic integrity or the people who want the stamp of approval from the big daddies of Christian ministry. It looks like a no-win situation.

Executive Order Oddities 

Here's where I simply don't understand the method to Kathleen Blanco's madness. Yesterday the Louisiana Forum For Equality Political Action Committee essentially thanked Kathleen Blanco for keeping her promise to end discrimination against gays in the state government, but Blanco says she never made any such promise.

However, way back in November of last year, Blanco clearly made some kind of concessions and pledges to this group that directly contradicted answers Blanco or one of her staff members included on a questionnaire provided by the Louisiana Family Forum. Unfortunately the link I included to the story in that post is long since dead, but here's what I wrote about it back then:
I was curious a couple of weeks ago how Kathleen Blanco had earned the unqualified support of gay groups when she didn't seem to be offering anything to the gay community that was any different from Bobby Jindal.

It turns out that she has been very accommodating to the needs of these groups, and I commend her for that. Apparently she promised the LA League for Equality that she would veto legislation that banned adoption by same sex couples and would issue an executive order that ended discrimination against gays in state government. These positions directly contradict answers Blanco gave in response to a questionnaire by the LA Family Forum.
Now I don't know what to make of that "Apparently." I suppose it's possible that the League for Equality was trying to extract such a pledge from her. But I don't understand why she would go out of her way now to say that she never would have considered making such a pledge. The deed is done, why not get some mileage out of it by showing supporters that you're a woman who keeps her promises? What's the advantage to keeping the water so muddy? Does she think people don't remember the story from the campaign trail?

Tauzin III concedes 

It was only a matter of time. The final tally put him behind by 569 votes. Here's a question for all you amateur political strategists out there. Would "little" Billy Tauzin have won if he dyed his hair gray to look older and told people he went by William?

07 December 2004

Build your own hero 

Coolest gift idea ever.

Unfortunately it just isn't executed very well. There aren't enough variations. This is gold though. I'm telling you.

Thanks to l. for dropping this in my inbox...

How Cute? 

I don't know whether to be proud or horrified?

...Seriously, I very much doubt that this girl's mother actually sent her to school with honest-to-God Jell-O Shots, but it seems quite silly to even assume that nine year olds would know that little cups full of Jell-O are supposed to resemble something alcoholic. Or am I assuming too much innocence on the part of our nation's youth?

If the girl didn't know she was selling "a look-alike" should she still be punished? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered on this one.

Seconding the motion 

More than you've ever wanted to know about Kathleen Blanco.

Let me be the second pelican to recommend the Gambit's latest profile of Kathleen Blanco. Tyler Bridges managed to remake Oyster's opinion of Kathleen Blanco in one fell swoop with this bit of long-form journalism, but I wonder why. The Governor's ability to manhandle (pardon the word choice there) the legislature has been rather well-publicized, and her boundless optimism about the state of Louisiana is something I thought she had made quite clear going back to her campaign in 2003. I think the part worth highlighting from the article comes towards the end:
[C]ould Blanco create enough jobs to fund her agenda? After returning from Texas, I drove to Louisiana State University to ask Jim Richardson, the state's leading economist. After all, raising teacher salaries and fully funding pre-kindergarten alone would cost an additional $300 million a year.

Richardson's figures were not reassuring. He said that during Foster's term in the 1990s, Louisiana created about 33,500 jobs a year, "or not enough growth to keep pace with job creation in more dynamic Southern states like Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina." During the economic slowdown of President George W. Bush's first two years, 2001-02, Louisiana lost 10,000 jobs per year. In 2003-04, Louisiana will add about 7,000 new jobs a year, or not enough to offset the job loss during Bush's first two years. Richardson is projecting that Louisiana will create 18,000 jobs in 2005 and 22,000 in 2006.

Would that provide the tax revenue Blanco needs? In a back-of-the-envelope-style analysis, Richardson determined that every new $40,000-a-year job would produce an additional $3,000 a year in income, sales and excise taxes for state coffers. He pulled out a hand calculator. Creating 18,000 jobs would yield only $54 million a year in additional tax revenue, 22,000 jobs would yield only $66 million. "There will be a series of years where fiscal decisions will be tough," Richardson concluded. Under this analysis, in other words, Blanco could have enough new money to improve the state only on the margins.
I've never thought Blanco lacked the tools to bring forth her vision for Louisiana. She continues to exhibit something of a deft touch with lawmakers (read that profile and see how even the legislators she has spurned remain among her loyal supporters--she's like a benevolent George Bush in that regard) and other political animals around the state. She's used this to build consensus on a number of issues already. She's dogged in her pursuit of solutions to the problems facing Louisiana. She's sensitive to the concerns of the disaffected. My big problem is that she hasn't yet signaled that Louisiana needs massive changes before it can become the great state she envisions. I get the feeling that she believes if only people in the state were a little more optimistic about things, then some minor changes along the way will spur the development in Louisiana that has already occurred in other Southern states.

That doesn't mean she doesn't see this or that she won't be the catalyst to a bright future for the state. Hell, she's only been the Governor for a year now, and while I want more from here, it's hard to call it anything other than a fairly successful year for her administration and the state (bigoted amendments and the failure of the Democratic Party to run effective campaigns notwithstanding). I just haven't seen it yet, but I trust her and her abilities, and that's an accomplishment for any politician when you live in Louisiana.

And while we're on the topic of Louisiana books, I should mention that "The Rise of David Duke," by Tyler Bridges, (currently available on Amazon for less than fourteen bucks) was the first real book about Louisiana politics I ever read. I haven't looked back since. If you want a great read and a little context on the ugliest part of Louisiana's recent history, get your hands on that book and read it once or twice. It's an invaluable text for understanding David Duke's explosion onto the Louisiana political scene. The Blanco profile I've linked you to up there should give you an idea of what a capable writer Bridges is--how skilled he is at capturing the character of a person--and the David Duke book is an even better example of it. I can't recommend it enough...

Chris Rose must be in Heaven... 

He turns the rumor mill on "All the Kings Men", which has been trying to shoot in New Orleans for the last week or so. News you can use: Meryl Streep? Out. Patricia Clarkson (NOLA native)? In. Anthony Hopkins? In. James Gandolfini? Probably drunk somewhere in the French Quarter. Is this why "The Sopranos" only produces a new season every three years?

Buck up, Oyster, you may yet get your chance to "bump" into Kate Winslet.

And while I understand Jeffrey's problems with the "All the King's Men" characterization of Huey and Louisiana, I'll only say that one of the great failures of understanding this novel is that readers continue to conflate Huey Long and "Willie Stark." Warren used Long and the circumstances of his rise as a major political figure as a starting point for a tale about his character "Jack Burden". Willie Stark isn't the focus of the novel nor is his life supposed to be anything other than an author's tool to move along the development of the novel's protagonist. The inability for many to distinguish between the Stark character and Huey Long speaks more to the enduring image of Long than it does to the power of the novel Robert Penn Warren wrote. In the end his prize-winning, best-selling novel has been hindered by the mythic status Huey Long achieved as a national politician.

This is unfortunate for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that people often use "All the King's Men" as a substitute for reading something like the T. Harry Williams biography (a book which I have my own problems with, but that's for another post). But the big problem is that the people who have actually learned a little something about the old Governor can't appreciate the novel for the extraordinary work of fiction that it is. They get too caught up in political questions Warren never fully intended to raise in his characterization of Willie Stark.

In the case of the new movie, I understand that the intent of the production is to bring the focus of the story back on Jack Burden. If they can manage that and remind people that it's not a "movie about Huey Long", then that will go a long way towards putting things back in the right place.

...this is not to say that Warren didn't mean to at least poke some major holes in the "Long as populist hero" story--and I know shouldn't let him have it both ways--but at some point you have to accept that it's a bit of fiction based on a caricature of a famous figure, not the figure's actual history. He's allowed to make judgments, but the ones he makes regarding Willie Stark are considerably less important to "All the King's Men" than the (near) redemption of Jack Burden.

...reading through this, I understand that it calls for quite a bit of further clarification, which I'm not really ready to bother with at the moment. My only point is that at some point you have to simply accept that Warren has judgments about Longism and talk about what these judgments mean for the novel and the characters contained within. It's also his own failure as a writer to have put together a story in which he so brazenly attempts to make his own character out of such an elusive figure as Huey Long, but in the case of "ATKM" readers all too often put too much stock in the historical context of the work to appreciate its merits as novel.

Tauzin III losing ground 

There was never much of a chance for "little" Billy with the official count, but it's worth pointing out that as the time for certification approaches the once and future Congressman seems to remain a few votes shy of realizing his birthright.

The Company You Keep 

Hah, hah[/nelson]

Surprise! 

Poverty is abundant in Louisiana.

I don't mean to be a contrarian here, because holding a "poverty summit" is admirable, but we already know the problems. An awful school system combined with a lack of well-paying jobs is a disincentive for many to go to college. These realities reinforce themselves as time passes, and as unskilled employment apart from the service industry continues to move outside of the country we're left with a pretty shite state of affairs[/simplification]. A few days worth of moaning about it won't solve much. Hopefully this will be a productive gathering, but I'm not too optimistic. These kinds of problems require widespread commitment and action, not more talk. Politicians have been doing that for years. I can appreciate the need for Blanco's all voices welcome approach to the state's health care industry, but poverty? Just get to work.

Good for Blanco 

I've had my disappointments with the Governor on a whole range of issues in her first year in office, so it's good to see that she has decided to renew an executive order against state discrimination in the workplace to include sexual orientation as a factor and extend it to private companies that get contracts from the state. Opposition comes from the regular corners with the typical strawman that the language will somehow force the state to legitimize pedophilia and beastiality.

Blanco could go a long way to win back the respect of the GLBT community (remember that as the state was gearing up to enshrine discrimination into our constitution, the Governor signaled in an interview that she would probably vote for the ban) by issuing an executive order against the discrimination of the children of gay parents in Louisiana public schools. With the Marcus Huff story back in the minds of people around here, Blanco could do an admirable thing by making it a crime to punish children for having the audacity to discuss their parents with friends at school. I imagine there are all kinds of other realities to discrimination in the schools (like what happens to a teacher who would refuse to meet in a parent teacher conference with the same-sex partner of a child's biological parent?) that could be worked out before they become a real problem for the children of gay couples.

Considering the grandmotherly image that Blanco likes to cultivate, this kind of order would be right up her alley, and it's good policy because it accepts the reality that there are plenty of children out there that will probably have to deal with these issues over the coming years. Unfortunately the thought that there are children being raised by gay people disgusts the usual suspects even more than gay people themselves, so politically Blanco probably couldn't even float an idea like this without some pretty nasty ramifications. However, it is something to think about. Maybe gay rights groups could begin pushing for protections like this in order to get people to starting considering it as a realistic policy option. Maybe they already are?


1-800-CORRUPT 

David Vitter's first big idea for his trip to the Senate is to set up a national hotline to take tips on all kinds of government and private corruption. Presumably he means the kind of corruption where a US Congressman uses his influence to prevent the expansion of casino gambling among Native American tribes in one state while taking money from the only tribe in the marketplace.

He also promises to have his office "take all the calls" until the Senate can manage to get a bill through working out the details on such a hotline. Surely he will use this to take more credit for other people's work, because to hear him tell his story, he's personally responsible for the conviction of Edwin Edwards, et al.

06 December 2004

Oh yeah... 

Jeez, I hate to bring up the Saints twice in one day after a humiliating loss like yesterday's (see Murph for more sdnfd, and I'm anxiously awaiting the LC Monday Sports Pages for even more), but I thought it's worth agreeing with Jim Henderson on one of his points. Mitch Berger's play has been tremendous this season.

Lemons -----> Lemonade 

To be sure, Seth Stevenson is no slouch, but ever since Rob Walker left the "Ad Report Card" feature at Slate.com to begin his weekly gig with the NY Times Magazine, the old feature at the webzine has suffered, if only slightly. But if the result of Walker's young relationship with the Times is more fascinating pieces like this one about WOM marketing, then it's fine by me (Adding to my pro-Walker enthusiasm the fact that he speaks rather fondly of his former home in the Crescent City).

I should note to any friends or family who might read this, that if any of you are ever marketing things to me "on the sly", I'd rather not ever know about it. I might be inclined to kick my best friend in the face if I found out he was playing the role of advertiser for some sneaker company in Pennsylvania. I don't care how comfortable or how cool they are. It's just too weird. Paranoid fantasies about the intrusion of marketing into our daily lives aside, there is simply something wrong about enlisting friends and family members to "market" manufactured goods. I can't even imagine the cynicism it would generate in personal relationships. Hell, people are already hyper-sensitive about hidden agendas from their friends and family with all the psycho-babble self-help books on the market. Throw in the possibility that these same people might be agents for some far-flung marketing firm and we wouldn't have anyone left to trust.

Except bloggers, of course. I personally guarantee my sincerity.

Man on Fire 

Not that awful revenge fantasy/baptism by assassination picture starring Denzel Washington and decidedly not-Mexican Dakota Fanning, but blog hero Atrios. He's taking on all comers today.

I especially liked his response to Matt Yglesias's condescending Tapped post which suggests that the entire gamut of anti-war sentiment in the entire country is singularly represented by pacifist activists at Harvard and if only we had been in Boston in 2001 all us liberals stupidly entranced by Michael Moore would wake up and purge him from any respectable corner of the progressive movement.

...this isn't meant as a defense of Michael Moore, but Atrios regularly makes the excellent point that liberal-but-hawkish voices in the Washington establishment spend more time alienating the people who were right about Iraq (not necessarily Moore but other perfectly sensible voices on Iraq who saw the disaster for what it was before we went in) from the debate on when to use force than they do trying to understand how we got into this mess in the first place. They will do anything they can to avoid responsibility for lending legitimacy to this debacle by trying to suggest that all the anti-war voices in public are tin-foil hat-wearing pacifism at any cost America-haters. They want to deny that there was ever a legitimate choice in all the conflicts of the last four years besides military force.

Saint Nick 

Black and Gold fans may as well get this out of their heads. No matter how much time I devote to full on LSU-hatred, I've never doubted Saban's worth as a head coach. Unfortunately the Saints probably can't afford him, and there's good reason to suspect that Saban would be smarter than taking a job that will almost certainly require the wholesale reorganization of the franchise. Besides Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn, the Saints supposedly high-powered offensive talents simply can't produce wins anymore. And Joe Horn probably won't sustain the high-levels of production he's enjoyed over the last few seasons simply due to the wear and tear that comes with age. I've never really thought of Aaron Brooks as the problem with the offense--and I still don't--but he certainly has given us a lot of reason to doubt that he'll ever fully realize the potential he shows brief flashes of every few games. Maybe someone like Saban could get more out of him, but even then you're only talking about three players. The offensive line is in shambles. Early round draft picks who succeed seem to be the exception rather than the rule, and the high-priced salaries that come with their status will make the next GM and coach's job even more difficult than it should be. And do I really need to say anything at all about the defense?

Sigh...

And the quote of the day, a refrain from Jim Haslett that fans of the postgame press conference have grown very accustomed to over the last four years:
"We work on it, we stress it," Haslett said. "I don't know what it is. If you have any suggestions, send 'em in. This has been going on for two years now. We work on it. We stress it. I'm at a loss. I don't know what else you can do."
Haslett has been saying he doesn't know what the problem with the Saints has been over the last four disappointing seasons. Every Saints fan in the state knows the defense can't stop anybody in the NFL. The offense racks up penalty after penalty while wide receivers drop about half the balls that come their way. The quarterback and many other players don't seem to care if they win or lose. Meanwhile the lockerroom situation has been in various states of disarray since the moment Haslett took over. Players apparently hate one another. It's a coach's job to identify these problems and correct them. If he can't even figure out why they're happening, it's time for him to resign.

Good Reading 

The AP's Alan Sayre submits a good analysis piece on the legal proceedings in the anti-gay marriage amendment case.

I'll highlight this bit:
It's no great secret that many opposed to gay marriage also have serious problems with gay and lesbian couples setting up house with each other through contract agreements, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples doing the same.

Rawls more than implied that the amendment is a backdoor attempt to strike at those living arrangements. Attorney Michael Johnson of the Louisiana Family Forum denied that, saying the amendment would not infringe on anyone's rights to enter into contracts or leave property to others.

Some of the justices pointed out that people can enter into contracts with anyone of their choosing and will their property to anyone.

But Rawls said the amendment would make those agreements between gays and lesbians "substantially similar" to marriage -- and thus open to legal challenge.
I think it's worth repeating a convoluted point I tried to make last week. It's probably better to have the fuzzy legal language currently existing in the amendment that you would likely have a solid foundation to challenge in the event that it becomes necessary than to invite the legislature to take another crack at crafting two amendments that would make the language against contracts explicit and more likely unchallengeable. It might be worth it to force these people to put their intentions out in the open, but pandora's box probably isn't worth opening in this case considering the gusto with which Louisiana voters decided to enshrine discrimination into our state's constitution earlier this fall.

Unsafe at any speed 

Jesus, now you can't even drive through New Orleans without reinforced steel vehicles and bullet-proofed windows.

I hate to harp on the crime trouble in our favorite city to the east, and you can read Oyster's recent thoughtful comments on this issue to understand why, but the last few months seem to be serving as a wakeup call that simply ignoring this horror as a bane to the poverty-ridden housing-projects in New Orleans only allows the problems to escalate. Middle-class bystanders are now clearly in danger as criminals become more brazen in their takeover of New Orleans streets and neighborhoods.

Keep in mind that this is the second time in a week that people driving along their way and apparently minding their own business found themselves in the middle of a shootout. These incidents didn't occur at three in the morning or in the worst of the worst areas. Both were during relatively high-traffic hours and through well-traveled neighborhoods.

05 December 2004

Quick Thoughts 

Turnout in the black precincts clearly destroyed Willie Mount in this election, but it's unclear if she could have pulled off a victory even with more support from the black community. Percentage-wise, Charles Boustany actually out-performed George Bush in many Seventh District Parishes. Even though we couldn't muster even half the total participation from November, that's still a fairly impressive performance for Boustany.

As always, don't forget to watch the Saints, where Jake Delhomme returns to the Superdome to probably deliver the Saints another drubbing. Our already terribly weak linebacking corps has been further eroded to the point where a guy who was cut from last year's awful defense is now in a starting role. Fortunately, Carolina simply isn't very good this year.


Wow 

The third was unbelievably close, but for now we can finally wish a not-so-fond farewell to the disgusting influence of Billy Tauzin and family on national politics. Is there a recount in our future?

My home district was even worse than I expected for the Democrats. That Willie Mount was just too liberal, I guess...

Results...

...more wow, thanks for the link from DavidNYC at Kos. I had the good fortune to post at his place early in the presidential season, but I've been way to caught up with other things (and lazy, don't forget lazy) to continue my relationship with Swing State Project since then. Big congrats to David for hitting the big time with a regular guest posting slot of DailyKos.

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