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08 January 2005

RIP Buddy D. 

I hate to push John's excellent fiber roundup off the top of the page, but there's some rather sad news for Saints fans around the world today. Buddy D. died of a heart attack last night. Normally I wouldn't post on a Saturday morning, but a lament for the bane of my listening pleasure is in order.

In New Orleans there are two kinds of fans. Some of us prefer our fantasy where every year brings new hope. All the way through a season we'll clutch at what ever glimmer of a chance at glory might be left. It's like an infant might react to a recording of his mother's voice. There's the initial rush that all is right with the world, but eventually we're left alone and crying in the dark.

Let's just say that Buddy D. didn't much care for these people. He was from the other Saints camp. These folks are the adolescents who've been mercilessly beaten for so long by their parents that hope isn't just foreign, but something to be spat upon. It's an endlessly depressing life where even victory can't be enjoyed because they've turned their entire existence over to pessimism and cynicism. Buddy D. was the voice of these fans. It's appropriate that he'll likely be remembered for his promise to wear a dress if the Saints ever tasted a championship, because he's from that camp that honestly believed it could never happen.

Oddly enough, I spent this year kind of straddling the fence between these two mindsets. As long as I've listened to Buddy D. though, he's never wavered. He passionately hated the New Orleans Saints. He did it with gusto and flair, but make no mistake about the way he felt about the boys and black and gold.

He will be remembered in New Orleans as another one of those characters that is unique to the city. He made his career reminding loyal fans about the futility of the whole mess. Despite his local fame, it's probably not really a job that many people would be willing to perform. Sitting in a booth constantly squashing people's hope is a difficult task even for a mean old son of a bitch. The amazing thing about Buddy D. was that he managed this job and could still endear himself to Saints fan across the Gulf Coast. Despite it all, on the air you could tell he was no mean old son of a bitch. He was a fan whose heart had been broken too many times.

Our two camps of Saints fans begrudgingly respect one another. Don't get me wrong, there's no small amount of disdain for those on the other side, but in the end we've all straddled the fence enough to know what life is like for the other half. Buddy D. may have firmly entrenched himself with the abused children when he first brandished the brown bag in 1980, but his voice was always worth listening to at least to temper the blind optimism that usually starts up around draft day. I'll miss listening to the old man no matter how much I hated most of what he said. For better or worse, he dedicated a large part of his life to the New Orleans Saints. No matter which kind of Saints fan you are, it's impossible not to acknowledge a certain selflessness it would take to spend a career following this team. He was a fine man one way or the other. May he rest in peace.

07 January 2005

Friday Fiber: Dancing with the Devil 

Warning: Ludicrously long. Designed to be accompanied by a good cup of coffee on a gray Saturday morning. Go, ahead, get your cup before you start.

Hi, Your occasional fiber correspondent is back. It's been a news-worthy week in fiber and the straight news reports just don't do it justice. The tale is an odd one, one that says as much about the dynamics of the society we live in as the particular conflict itself.

Late last week we got the announcement of a petition drive to stop LUS' plan to build an advanced and affordable telecommunications network for the people of Lafayette. The drive's public face was two fellows who were not able to convince the council to back off the plan. What started the week as a unfocused, unrealistic, thoroughly quixotic drive by disappointed opponents who were distributing their petition at a local auto bodyshop alongside an anti-anti smoking petition had, by weeks end, been transformed into a creature of corporate culture to be distributed by "volunteer" employees of a multi-billion dollar company in a fleet of blue and white trucks.

It really is a breath-taking story of co-optation; a case study in just how quickly the fearful can be taken advantage of by the powerful and how poorly an ideologically-based agenda fares in the real world. Even now the original principals are no doubt are celebrating their "allies." But those allies share neither their goals nor their beliefs and the disparity in power and resources is sure to reduce the originators to an embarrassing appendage in short order. The Faustian bargain the petitioners have struck is unwise. As every child knows striking a bargain with the Devil will cost you your soul.

For those who haven't been following the case a few details of the story are in order. Neil Breakfield and Bill LeBlanc, who'd initially opposed the fiber-optic technology itself as inappropriate but who came around to thinking it a good thing for Lafayette if it LUS built it but relied solely on renting bandwidth to others to pay off expensive bonds, popped up at a press conference with a petition that they did not release to the public, a claim that they had a shadowy but unnamed coalition behind them, and a lot of confusion about what the petition was actually intended to accomplish and how many people would have to sign it to force an election.

Naturally it got endless media coverage. Some of it outright adulatory.

As the week wore on and the petition failed to materialize, an initial website made it clear that the proponents actually wanted LUS to build and operate the network but not to own and operate it. (A mess of confusion that remains unresolved). It didn't appear that such a stance would excite the passions or express the pure ideology necessary to attract the requisite rabid partisans. Finally an ungainly website appeared that failed to attract significant membership, doubts mounted about the legal basis of the petition, and it appeared that the whole affair might well blow over.

In fact, it appeared all too likely. Rather than allow something so valuable as a basis for a delaying lawsuit to just dry up and blow away BellSouth in the guise of John Williams, tow-headed son of a former BellSouth exec with corporate loyalty flowing in his veins, picked up the banner and allowed that he'd "allow" BellSouth employees to carry the petition in their trucks as they went around town. ...He didn't publicly announce any quotas... Bill Leblanc responded with enthusiasm and immediately hinted that he was woefully under-funded.

As quickly as that a foolish but appealingly quixotic proposal realized its potential to become a dangerous tool of the incumbents. And the petition became "BellSouth's anti-fiber petition."

I almost feel sorry for Neal and Bill. Anyone who knows the story, knows the outcome. Dancing with the Devil always has its price.

----

Not all the news was so grim. If you missed the brouhaha over Lafayette being featured on the cover of USAToday's money section you actually missed a shockingly good article. In it Durel flays the incumbents and demands that the they "Get out of our way, because we are not going to stand down on this!"
Honest, he says that. Right out loud. In print. And he not only doesn't disown the article but is pridefully eager to tout it.

The substance of the article is equally astonishing. In it Gannett's banner newspaper actually takes up the position (and does a fairly good job of documenting) that BellSouth is engaging in anti-competitive behavior in a drive to regain its old monopoly status. The story makes it clear that the attempt to swat down Lafayette is simply a subset of the larger story of BellSouth being offended by competition--from anyone.

All in one article: courageous politicians and astute economic analysis. At Gannett. In USAToday. Who'd 'a' thunk it?

The article kicked up a little firestorm of national and even international blogger commentary; pretty much all of it presenting Lafayette as a stalwart band of visionaries fighting for the people against a gray corporate behemoth. ...Ok, maybe I exaggerate. But only a little.

---

Finally, it's worth noting that the buried in all flurry around the petition and pro Lafayette PR was a little tidbit inviting people to call Abigail Ransonet at LUS and volunteer for the digital divide committee. If you were looking for a noble cause to fulfill your new years resolutions consider this one. What the fiber network offers above economic development is the hope and possibility that we can use our control of this infrastructure to develop a model for making sure that valuable new technologies are introduced in ways that minimize rather than exacerbate current inequities. The number? 291-8947

Have a good weekend. Even if it's grey outside, notice: it's now officially the carnaval season and everyone says that the crawfish are going to be big and plentiful this year. Life is good.

(Oh that bit of zydeco in the devil link? Rosie Ledet.)

Damn 

Michael's got a really great post putting the latest sad news for Louisiana's citizen soldiers in context.

via my Lafayette Dems Yahoo Group, Mike from LPF.com went to the original source on the Guard story from the Houma Courier. More names there. What a travesty...

Wow 

Don't know anything about this district or Chris Daigle. Do any New Orleans readers know if this guy has a chance?
Chris Daigle is running to become the first openly gay, HIV positive member of the Louisiana Legislature. He's running for the House of Representatives seat vacated by Ed Murray of New Orleans, who was elected to state Senate.
This election is right around the corner (Jan. 29), and one of his opponents is the former Rep.'s brother, so name recognition would probably be a factor. It would be interesting.

Maybe definitely not gay but beleaguered state Representative Tommy Wright has some advice for him.

New Feature Alert 

Bagging on L.A. edition

Today Murph writes:
I'm sure the news has been bringing you stories of how horrible the rains are here in Southern California. Let me assure you that it's all bullshit. Yes, it is raining here. Yes, it has been raining a lot. No, no one has died. No, it is not what people in Louisiana would call heavy rain. It's amusing the way people freak out when it rains in L.A., but this year has to take the cake. I love the local news' lead-in to the weather with "Major storm hits the Southland!" when we get less than an inch of rain. I love to hear people who come from other parts of the country where it rains but have lived in SoCal long enough to wonder if the latest rains are part of a terrorist attack; how people slam on their brakes the minute a drop hits their windshield; how ambulance sirens can be heard within four minutes of rainfall (and that's factoring in the three-minute response time).

Don't miss Murph's post on The Da Vinci Code and albinism either. I'm still waiting for the full review, but that's good for now.

Here's some inspiration.

Matters worse 

It seems that Bradley destroyed by mysterious explosives was filled with soldiers from Louisiana's 156th MI Charlie Company.

Most of the brigade is operating in and around Baghdad right now, so the likelihood is that Louisiana will continue to shoulder a heavy burden of casualties in the coming months. Sadly more young men will sacrifice their lives to justify this misconstrued fantasy. Hopefully it's not too late for our President to provide the necessary leadership to ensure their deaths were not in vain.

TKGOTW 

Haven't been looking very hard edition. Control the bubble with your mouse. Keep it away from the dirty bugs who'll try to pop it. Collect yellow balloons to make yours smaller.

First try level 20. Haven't played it again yet, but I expect to.

Unbelievable 

Armstrong Williams is a BzzAgent for NCLB.

What's a BzzAgent?

no offense, jboo

Regarding Sri Lanka 

Compare and contrast the experiences of Mary Landrieu and her companion to Asia this week. I mentioned Landrieu's selfless mission in an earlier post, and her compassion is palpable in this new account, but let's just say our friend "Dr." Frist can't hold a candle to his colleague from across the aisle:
At the A.R.M. Thassim College the two senators inspected a Sri Lankan Red Cross clinic set up in an open-sided building to treat tsunami victims who suffered cuts and bruises. Landrieu's eyes filled with tears as she comforted one weeping woman who lost four children and her husband in the disaster. One of her children survived.

``It's unimaginable,'' Landrieu said of the human toll.

...

Just before his helicopter lifted off, Frist and aides took snapshots of each other near a pile of tsunami debris.

``Get some devastation in the back,'' Frist told a photographer.
via SK Bubba by way of Eschaton

Quote of the Day 

Rodney Alexander on his newly acquired seat on the House Appropriations Committee:

"Hopefully, this position will enable me to speed up funding to advance these projects that our region desperately needs. I spell pork p-o-r-c, which stands for projects of regional concern."

Am I the only one who remembers when pork barrel spending used to be considered a bad thing? Don't get me wrong, it's always good to divert money to important projects that the region needs, but that's not the same thing as wasting government money on things like Hooters establishments and strip malls, which the happy turncoat seems all too proud to announce as central to his agenda. Maybe I'm taking a joke too seriously.

Running Items 

Renovating the Dome? Show us the money. Reading yesterday's reports I was under the impression that they at least had a basic idea of where the nearly $200 mil would come from needed to make the Dome a more hospitable building, but apparently there are still questions about that. They want Benson to pick up a large portion of the tab. I just don't think this is going to be acceptable to Benson, especially if he has to forgo the money guaranteed by the Foster deal (maybe if it comes out of that guarantee, but no way would both be acceptable).

Starting to fall in line with Bigshot's suggestion that a Sports Book in New Orleans is the only answer, though I think a lot of legislators would just as soon give the Saints a half billion dollars to guarantee they stay in New Orleans until 2050 as agree to any expansion of gambling in Louisiana.

Landrieu in Sri Lanka 

For all her faults, Mary Landrieu continues to impress me as a woman of political courage. By leaps and bounds she's my favorite Democrat from the state of Louisiana. Her trip to Asia in the wake of the disaster there may seem opportunistic to blowhards like Louisiana Limbaugh clone Moon Griffon, but make no mistake that she's acting selflessly out there. Buried at the bottom of Robert Travis Scott's report of Landrieu's trip to Asia is this note about Landrieu putting the orphaned Asian children over a not-insignificant constituency she has cultivated since she first went into national politics:
[S]ince the tsunami hit, many American families have been calling child service organizations seeking to adopt Asian children left without parents. But it is premature to begin international adoptions, [Antonia Edwardson] said, because the best route is to find relatives or unrelated friends willing to take them in, especially in the children's home countries.
Landrieu has gone east to make sure that this is a first priority of the nations attempting to rebuild themselves after the disaster. To be sure, it doesn't take political courage to stand up for orphans, but it's no walk in the park either, especially with thousands of would-be parents (many with lots of money and influence) in the US seeing this as an opportunity to finally fulfill their yearning for children. Landrieu could just as easily cynically exploit the desires of US adoption interests at the expense of Asian children who might be better off with family or other adults in their home countries. She's chosen the route that's best for the orphaned children, and she ought to be commended for it.

Besides, as our friend at Damfacrats likes to remind us, she's so hot.

Blanco Response to Conflict: 

Don't question my authority!

Kathleen Blanco makes an already ugly situation look worse with her response to appropriate questions about the possibility of ole' boy's club favoritism in her administration in one fell swoop (from the Advocate):
Blanco said her husband was unaware of "a Shintech opportunity."

The governor fears that the controversy about the flights might cause Shintech to locate in Texas. "I'm worried that we might lose the Shintech project and that I might have to look behind my back every time I try to get a business into Louisiana," Blanco said.
This is exactly the wrong way to approach this subject, and it speaks to an unfortunate tendency among politicians to stifle appropriate criticism. Blanco ran her campaign under the theme that she would be good for business because she would approach recruitment with gusto and would run a clean ship where the old ways so familiar to Louisiana of political favoritism and influence peddling would be anathema. Now that she's clearly in the middle of a situation where the old ways look like the order of the day. Instead of saying "we're sorry about the way this looks, but I assure you this is nothing more than old friends going to a football game. We'll be more careful in the future to avoid these situations" she says "don't ask questions or you're going to hurt our economic development efforts." There's no suggestion that things will change.

Meanwhile, Shaw Group exec. Jim Bernhard continues his bid to run the Democratic Party in Louisiana. Could there be a worse time to continue with this fantasy? Would the Democrats in the Central Committee be dumb enough to elect him and confirm the incestuous ties between their corporation and the state Democratic Party establishment? This is all very disappointing.

New Feature 

From the "Not all things are bad in Texas" dept.

Even God smiles on the birthplace of George W. Bush every now and then...
Christmas morning on the Gulf Coast of Texas
Thanks to my sis for emailing this my way. Now no more Texas for a few days or I'm going to lose some old friends.

Thanks to ImageShack for Free Image Hosting

06 January 2005

Flag policy 

Personally, I don't really care too much about this flap at a Houma apartment complex where the apartment managers didn't care for a renter flying a tattered American flag right near the entrance to their complex. It was stupid for them in a public relations context, but they have every right to maintain control over their own property. It's good that they've accommodated their flag-waving residents now that they got a little bad press. That's the way things are supposed to work.

With that said, this is a perfect opportunity to segue into one of my favorite pasttimes: anti-Texas anger.

What the hell am I be talking about?

Here in Lafayette a new chain restaurant just opened up on one of the busiest intersections in the city. It's called Texas Roadhouse and as far as I can tell, it's located in the state of Louisiana. Here's an exterior shot of another one that looks just like our local version. Take note of the flags flying on top of the building. There's one American flag and one Texas flag. Now I don't care one way or the other if people want to fly Texas flags all over kingdom come. That's their business and it's fine if they want to give a shout out to their "home state" regardless of what I think about it. But is it too much to ask for at least some acknowledgement somewhere on the restaurant that you're not actually in Texas? I don't think every steakhouse on Earth is supposed to be some sort of Texas consulate where the wait staff and managers have diplomatic immunity. Is the insult to the "gret stet" and, presumably, every other state where one of these restaurants is located supposed to be part of that endearing Texas swagger? Every day I drive by that place I'm immediately annoyed by it. I'll probably never eat their anyway, but this makes it much less likely. I hope some of my fellow Lafayette residents will show a little state pride and avoid this place until they give us the respect we deserve.

...pointless side note, in about a ten block stretch of Lafayette's Ambassador Caffrey Pkwy. there is a Lone Star Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, and Logan's Roadhouse. I wonder if there's a market for Prado's Yellow Rose Steak Shack?

Bye Bye Hornets? 

It's sad that I actually think if there's going to be only one professional sports franchise in New Orleans in the next five years it will probably be the Hornets. I wouldn't give them much longer than that though.

Just thought you might be curious about my level of optimism for the long-term future of the New Orleans Saints...

How can this be? 

Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased to learn that New Orleans once again finds itself behind a number of other cities on the "obesity list," but I honestly have a lot of trouble believing it. Of course, there's no way it's as ridiculous as the claim that New Orleans was only the fifth sweatiest city in the country made by Old Spice this summer, but that's another story.

Congrats, Houston. You're number one all over again.

I suspect this has something to do with the economic health of the city.

Just a Reminder 

Since our new Congressman from the Seventh is talking about the spirit of reform, I wonder if he'll reaffirm the criteria he promised to follow regarding Social Security during his campaign:
Boustany said he doesn't see a need to rush into anything on Social Security reform, that the federal government has enough time to come up with a "straight-forward" approach to solving problems.

"It's talked about all the time, but I don't pick up on a sense of urgency at this time," he said.

Boustany said he has four requirements of any legislative package to salvage Social Security -- no privatization, no raising retirement age, no cuts in benefits and no raising payroll taxes.

"It has to stick to the four principles," he said.
He still doesn't have an email address listed on his temp. website, and his local office doesn't have a phone number yet, but I'm sure he's ready to hear from any constituents willing to shell out a buck or two on a phone call to his DC office at (202) 225-2031.

...I'm curious because benefit cuts are almost certainly going to be central to the Bush "reform" formula. Boustany should have to answer for this.

...forgot to factor in the even greater likelihood that Boustany will break his promise to Seventh District voters thanks to the news that a more senior member of his own state caucus is going to chair the committee that oversees the "reform." Democrats need to think bigger than convincing our own "faint-hearted faction" and move on the bigger prize of damaging the probably unbelievably large numbers of Republicans who have spent the last five years promising "no benefit cuts; no privatization." I seriously doubt Boustany is the only one.

Rideau Larry David Moment? 

I think someone took this episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm a little too seriously:
A prospective juror in the murder trial of prison journalist Wilbert Rideau drew a 10-day contempt of court jail term for filling out a questionnaire with references to anti-Semitic groups, Satan worship and adorning the document with drawings of a swastika and a black power sign.

To at least two of the questions the man answered, "If I told you, I'd have to kill," according to Judge David Ritchie, who read many of the young man's answers into the court record and chastised him for his "flippant" attitude.

When asked on Wednesday if the answers were serious responses, the jury candidate said, "Somewhat." He never spoke another word while Ritchie dressed him down. He was led off in leg irons and handcuffs to serve out his time. His name has not been made public.


Fantastic 

Hopefully this means I'll be getting a little assistance from NOLA quarters in my anti-LSU jihad.

Au Revoir, Maria 

Apparently, TV-10 doesn't love you. This was from yesterday's papers, but I forgot to post it, so to my Lafayette readers, bid farewell to an institution:
Maria Placer will no longer sit behind the news desk for KLFY's 5 p.m. newscast. In her place will be Blue Rolfes, an anchor for the station's 6 p.m. and noon broadcasts.

The decision to bump Placer from the 5 p.m. anchor spot was to give her more time for other projects, said Mike Barras, KLFY president.
I was under the impression that Placer was the boss at KLFY, so this was something of a shock. Not that I care all that much. The newscast at KLFY, and every other local news outlet for that matter, is a complete joke. Lafayette is a growing market servicing upwards of two hundred thousand people (the television market is considerably larger than the market for print media, so up that number for television), but the press here, with the exception of the people at The Independent, seem to think there are still just thirty thousand people living in this city and they require cheerleaders instead of reporters. Investigative reporting is anathema; reprinting press releases and reading the AP wire on the air are the order of the day. In the event of some local tragedy, news crews are assembled to interview people on the scene. Don't expect any more than that. Consider the very report on this matter from Marsha Sills. We're left with more questions than she answers. Is this a ratings move? Does Barras think Maria's not up to it anymore? Whose really in charge at KLFY anyway? She's the station manager but she can't name the people on the newscasts? She clearly states she's not happy about the move, but there's not a single person willing to go even off the record about why this is going on?

Sigh.

For a look at Placer's greatest hits, recall the hostage situation at the St. Martinville prison, when the Cuban hostage takers called KLFY to discuss their demands, and Placer broke the story because she was the only person there who speaks Spanish.

Saints News 

The bare bones of the Governor's plan for the Saints is in the news today. Frankly, I don't know what will be acceptable to Benson, but it's hard to imagine him being very pleased with Dome renovations coming out of guarantees Foster made to him during the last big negotiation between the franchise and the state. Also, no matter how terrible a deal it was for the state with the Foster negotiation, it may not send a great signal to corporations that deals negotiated in good faith by previous administrations will be subject to constant review every time there's new blood. Economic development officials will correctly say that a professional sports franchise is a unique monster and the deal so debilitating that Blanco had no other choice.

But that doesn't really address the relative strength of this offer. I just hope that whatever comes out of this whole mess has the Saints in New Orleans for the long haul, but I'm anything but confident that this is the deal to get that done. It does look like legislators won't have much to argue about. It seems that they're trying to finance most of the deal through taxes on non-residents who happen to show up in Louisiana and rent cars across the state or stay in hotels in New Orleans. The rest would be from ticket taxes and more concession stands in the Superdome, which seems shocking to me, as you can't walk twenty feet through the Dome without seeing a line for vendors. Also, would more concessions really make a difference? Without upping the prices or somehow increasing the seating wouldn't it just spread the spending around rather than raise the ceiling on concessions?

More from the Advocate.

Quote of the day 

This is the funniest thing I've read in weeks. New Rep. Charles Boustany related his first day on the job to Patrick Courreges:
"You get a sense of history and a sense of gravity of what you're dealing with," he said of his first impression of the House in operation.

Boustany, a retired heart surgeon, has never before held public office.

Boustany said Hastert on Tuesday laid out for House members what the key issues on the 109th Congress' agenda will be, including Social Security, health care and the war in Iraq.

He said Hastert spoke of this Congress being a "reform Congress."
There's nothing like the "gravity" of "reforming" ethics rules so your real boss in Texas has no threat to his stranglehold on your Republican Congressional Caucus. Talk about respect for the Congress. Expect a solid four terms at least of more payback to Tom Delay for all that money he sent to Boustany in his campaign for Congress.


This is bad 

The Shaw Group is like Louisiana's own little version of Halliburton. The executives and Board of Directors are all inextricably tied to public officials of both parties, and they have no compunction against using their ties to secure contracts, under the guise that "they're the only game in town that can do the job."

So it's not surprising that Ray Blanco was on a plane to Florida with Jeff Jenkins, a Shaw executive. By itself that isn't even such a big deal. People who run around in exclusive circles regularly scratch each others' backs, however, that a Shintech executive considering building a billion dollar facility in Louisiana was on the same flight goes beyond mere "appearance" of conflict of interest. Essentially it's a signal to Shintech that the government favors one corporation over all others. The Blanco administration should be made to atone for this. And perhaps Jim Bernhard should reconsider his bid for Louisiana Democratic Chairman.

05 January 2005

I'm shocked... 

A question for "the folks," as my hero Bill O'Reilly might say, is there any reason at all to believe that this is anything but the God's honest truth?

And for my conservative friends, if it is true, how would this affect your view of the President's ability to handle the war in Iraq?

And since I don't know that much about intelligence insider facsimiles, I'm willing to stake Josh Marshall's reputation on the reliability of Chris Nelson's reporting.

The big question 

What is something you believe to be true, but cannot prove? It's the Edge annual big question (scroll a bit to get to the actual responses), via A&L Daily. "Edge" asked 120 "science-minded" thinkers about things they believe in but can't prove. The responses are worth your perusal.

I imagine this would be an interesting question to ask quite a few politicians too.

Useless fat guys 

Slate's Matt Feeney attempts to solve one of the enduring mysteries of television sitcom families.

More--er--Education 

While Jesuit high schools across the country are probably pretty likely to be considerably better than their public counterparts, they'll always have the risk of rather more damaging press.

Once again, Archbishop Hughes is mentioned without even the slightest hint that there may be reason for skepticism over his opinion.

Louisiana Dems in DC 

Surprise! They have a tough row to hoe.

This actually isn't a bad article. Expect Mary Landrieu's involvement with "The Third Way" and the already amped Republican opposition against her very existence to make her at least sound more conservative than she has since she was reelected.

Dumb 

Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation in what it expects public school students to know about literature, reading and other English topics, a study released Tuesday shows.
The state got an "A" in English standards, up from a "B" in 2000. It got a "C" in what students should know about math, which is 19th in the nation and up from an "F" in 2000. Louisiana was also one of just three states where grades rose in both subjects.
Last year the state got some other good grades from these ridiculous think tanks whose entire existence seems to be to justify the continued support of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Essentially our schools are being graded on whether or not we advance conservative education initiatives, not whether or not doing so actually does anything to better educate our children.

It would have been nice if Will Sentell could have found the space to mention what little meaning these grades actually have.

I just hope we haven't paid any consulting fees to the ideologues...

More on "Education Week" from these pages.

And a google search on the Fordham Foundation. That took all of five minutes, it's too bad I should expect so much from a paid reporter.

It's interesting that Sentell interviewed a teacher at Lafayette High's Gifted Program (a special education initiative that is not open to all students) where the standards are by their very nature higher than most other programs in the rest of the state. One wonders if an English teacher at Northside High or some public school in New Orleans would have the same experience.

Look, none of this is to say that raising the standards of what students are expected to learn is a bad thing, but what some think tank thinks about our education initiatives should be the last thing on our minds. Giving them press as though their "grades" matter just means that when they give us an "F" for something associated with liberalism that people will go up in arms about our awful educational standards for no reason.

Saints Polling 

I'm not going to pretend that state opinion isn't pretty firmly against the Governor throwing millions of dollars at the Saints in order to keep them in New Orleans, but this polling is just stupid. Even I would have answered "no" to the question, "Do you think the state should provide additional funds to the New Orleans Saints?" The idea of increasing subsidies, by far the most inefficient (for the state at least) of possible incentives to help make the Saints more profitable, is just ridiculous. The state needs to explore incentives that don't necessarily require writing checks to Tom Benson and have a more direct return in the form of revenue to the state. Right now that seems to be an investment in Dome renovations.

Besides the flaws in the question, one wonders where the mistake is in this one. John LaPlante reports that even in New Orleans "only 17 percent favor more money for the Saints and 88 percent oppose, a more than 5-1 margin. Three percent gave no opinion." I'm not sure how you can get an answer from 108% of voters, but if that's what Renwick sent off to the Advocate, then it should cast at least some doubt on the entire poll. It's almost surely some kind of editorial error, but I am curious what the correct numbers are on this one.

Whatever the case, it's an uphill battle for those of us who support the case for spending to keep the Saints in Louisiana. With Blanco presenting her own proposal to the Saints in the next couple of weeks, this is likely to get a lot of press in the short term. I've always thought Benson should more clearly make his case to the people for what the Saints bring to the rest of the state in the terms of real economic consequences. They should publish estimated income and property tax revenues generated by Saints players and coaches. They should send that to every legislator in the state to look at the losses in terms of real dollars should the team pick up and move. Why don't they hire a lobbyist either? Benson certainly hasn't helped his case in the last few years.

04 January 2005

Geaux Trojans 

Any doubts now about who the real College Football National Champion was last year?

Sad 

Kid Rock and 3 Doors Down!?

If I have to read another article in 2005 about how hip it is to be Republican, remind me of this.

Fear the brown horde 

Unbelievable.

This appears to be the image that has wingnuts up in arms.

For some reason I have a feeling Snopes will be taking this up in the near future.

Away for a while 

Posting should remain light for the rest of the afternoon. While I'm gone read more essay goodness from the NY Review. This one considers just what is Al-Qaeda. I'm sure others have linked to it before me, because I'm pretty sure I've read second hand accounts, but here it is again anyway.

Weird 

I can't quite figure out the point of this editorial in the Advocate this morning. I don't necessarily disagree with what it says, but I wonder what it's doing as an editorial and not one of their typically wishy-washy "analysis" pieces on the opposite page.

Is Louisiana in the "red" for the forseeable future? Maybe, but there doesn't seem to be any position to take here. Is this just meant to rub all the liberal noses left out there in the conservative takeover of the state the day after Baton Rouge swears in a new Democratic mayor? Because when I survey the scene in Baton Rouge, I'm pretty confident it's a tough sell to call the state Red no matter how conservative our state-wide Dems are.

Landrieu to Sri Lanka 

She and Bill Frist are headed to the battered nation in order to see the efforts to put things right first-hand. Landrieu, who has long been an adoption advocate (continuing the tradition of many pro-choice Dems who actually work to reduce the number of abortions rather than simply promise to end the practice while making it harder for parents to make the decision to bring their pregnancies to term) and an adoptive mother herself, is particulalry interested in the plight of children orphaned by the disaster.

Meanwhile, freshman Congresspersons met the President yesterday. And in the most out of place paragraph in the papers this morning, we're treated to this tidbit at the end of an otherwise unrelated article.
Jindal said he also took time out during the meeting to tell Bush that communities in Louisiana face serious threats of flooding unless steps are taken to combat the state's continued loss of wetlands and coastal erosion.
Our troubles are officially over. Thank you Bobby Jindal.

Burying the lede 

Way down at the end of an article about a New Orleans "gallery" violating George Rodrigue's Blue Dog copyright by depicting the little critter drunk and in other various comprimising positions and accompanied by the tag line, "Ruff night, morning after. French Quarter, New Orleans," Gwen Filosa tells us through an investigator that, "Mr. Dean also admitted that he paints images of dogs hanging the Blue Dog."

03 January 2005

New(ish) Blog 

Two of our side's funniest bloggers, Stockton & Tweed, take up new digs at Bad Vernacular. Go check them out.

And a blog I've been meaning to put up on the sidebar since Oyster first linked to it is New Orleans Metroblogging. It's a group blog that "celebrates" life in the Crescent City, at least in the sense that any word written about NOLA is a celebration of life there. Whatever, just go get a look if you haven't yet.

New Feature Alert! 

Timshel Trivia

From the department of random things heard on the radio as I was getting dressed earlier this morning, there are two states whose highest points are actually lower than Louisiana's "Mount" Driskill (535 nose-bleed inducing feet). One should be pretty obvious and the other, though unsurprising, probably isn't as easy. What are they? Answers to appear at the close of business hours assuming no one finds out for themselves.

Culture of Life 

Sister Helen Prejean looks at the Texas execution machine and examines George Bush's legacy of compassion for the New York Review. You should read the whole thing, but I'd be remiss not to point this out:
[O]n the night of Karla Faye [Tucker's] killing, my anger at George W. Bush turned to outrage when Larry King aired Bush's press statement and I heard the way Bush invoked God to bless his denial of clemency. I already knew the substance of Bush's position toward Karla Faye, but I had never heard the last sentence of his press statement: "May God bless Karla Faye Tucker and may God bless her victims and their families."

Immediately after the statement, King turned to me for a response. When I heard Bush say, "God bless Karla Faye Tucker," I had to struggle to keep a vow I made to reverence every person, even those with whom I disagree most vehemently. Inside my soul I raged at Bush's hypocrisy, but the broadcast was live and global. With not much time to rein myself in, I took a quick breath, said a fierce prayer, looked into the camera, and said, "It's interesting to see that Governor Bush is now invoking God, asking God to bless Karla Faye Tucker, when he certainly didn't use the power in his own hands to bless her. He just had her killed."

As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he has presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy, then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt.
Read the whole thing

Foster Bashing 

This morning's quote of the day comes from Alan Sayre's analysis piece for the AP. The whole column comes off as a much shorter version of that excellent Tyler Bridges profile from about a month ago, but Sayre finds the simplest contrast between the old way and the Blanco way:
Some business taxes are on the way out. Maybe Michael Olivier, recruited by Blanco from Mississippi to head Louisiana economic development, is truly a whiz. But the difference from the past is obvious: Blanco is trying.
Ouch. I had always found the criticism that Foster didn't sell the state hard enough a little overblown, but in her first year Blanco's shown that there's some reason for it. To be sure, Sayre isn't just talking about "selling" the state to potential employers but economic development agenda on the whole. It just seems that Blanco gets it a little better than her predecessor. She's still got a long way to go.

The Neverending Story 

Indifferent would be the wrong way to describe my feelings that Wilbert Rideau is back in the news again. However, it's hard to envision much change coming from this new trial. It seems that every couple of years this happens again and the state press dusts off old stories about the convicted murder cum Pulitzer prize sharing Oscar nominee. Pardon boards recommend clemency. Governors ignore it.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Inauguration Day 

In Baton Rouge, not Washington. I wonder if the Republican establishment at LSU decided to publicly name their new coach today in order to overshadow the first black Mayor of Baton Rouge's swearing in.

Just kidding, even I can't imagine that much malice in the heart of the TAF/LSU administration, but perhaps I'm naive.

Here's some more news about Holden from the Advocate and the Picayune.

So, press conference with Miles at noon and the Holden swearing-in at one. Is there any doubt where the real power in Baton Rouge is?

02 January 2005

Saints blogging 

When we still had hope edition...
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Perhaps our friend Flat Stanley saw last week what his three dimensional hosts couldn't, so he turned to drink...
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Thanks to bigshot and mrs. bigshot for the pics.

Thanks to ImageShack.us for free hosting

Shit. 

The sad thing is that I don't even think this will shut up the anti-Saints Delhomme contingent in my hometown...

Sunday Papers 

The Advertiser really does set the bar rather high for the new year with their front page article declaring Jake Delhomme, "the man" for Acadiana on the basis of a web poll and interviews with a few yahoos at a local sports bar owned by Jake Delhomme's former coach at then USL. Meanwhile, tucked away in the middle of the paper are actually worthwhile articles about the petition to call a city-wide vote on the fiber to the home initiative and Charles Boustany's agenda for his freshman year in Congress. The fiber article is typically muddled, as all seem to have been since they started writing about it this week. No one seems to know what percentage of voters it will take for this petition to be successful, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to find there. I suspect that no matter what happens here, BellSouth and Cox will probably send some corporate lawyer to argue on the organizer's behalf in some state court somewhere that the City charter's rather high threshold for the petition driven initiative will not be the controlling law in this situation.

Over in Baton Rouge there's a long and well-done profile on the city's new executive.

Check out the Picayune for yet another instance of possible influence peddling by Louisiana's most ethical former public servant, Billy Tauzin (scroll down). More good background about the state of the death penalty in Louisiana, where more than eighty await such a fate, though none have been carried out since 2001. And yesterday's New Year's news included the welcome article that the NOLA murder rate managed to go down from the previous year in 2004. Despite the rather terrifying nature of some high-profile shootings over the last year, this is unquestionably good news.

Does LSU have a new coach, and do I care after watching their heartbreaking [/sarcasm] loss yesterday?

Don't forget to watch the Saints today. No good for my well-being can come out of this game...

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