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04 March 2005

Y'all Heard of Me 

You can finally see the video that pissed off Harry Lee so much.

Most of it appears to be stock video of Corey Miller from other Cash Money videos and concert footage, but there's a healthy dosage of shots taken during his current incarceration. I wouldn't blame Harry Lee for retroactively charging him a studio fee. I have no idea who the other rappers on the record might be. Deadspace Matt, this is your territory, any ideas?

...Nevermind, it's rapper BG, AKA Baby Gansta and a long time friend of C-Murder.

Snow in New Orleans 

Yeah, you wish it were only Christmas day all over again.

Instead, the chief chump in the administration's Social Security boondoggle was in town to shill for the President. Perhaps a sign of the weak support for the President on this one, his own party's Senator stiffed the Treasury Secretary:
Two Republican congressmen — Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Jim McCrery — scheduled to accompany Snow Friday didn't appear with him, as the President himself traveled to districts where Republican representatives are taking heat on his Social Security idea. A Vitter spokesman cited family matters; McCrery's office didn't immediately return a call.
I guess the Senator and his wife Wendy could be seeing counselling over some mariatal troubles related to a certain Canal Street house of ill-repute, but I prefer to keep my mind out of the gutter and into the news. Surely Vitter just doesn't want to be anywhere near this bill.

I suppose that's slightly unlikely, but it sure would take a lot of pressure off of Mary Landrieu.

TKGOTW 

As noted, thin papers today, so I'll get this week's game out to you a bit earlier than I normally manage. Thanks to Greg at Suspect Device, I've got a new place to search for games, and this week we have a good puzzle-like exercise. It is up to you to shoot the mostly immobile robot (startlingly similar to Brak's friend Thundercleese) to advance to the next stage. If this game has a drawback, it's the inability to continue, but you're all big boys and girls and ought to remember how you succeeded in previous levels if you happen to take one in the mouth from the robot.

And because I'm thinking of a shrimp po-boy from Frankie and Johnny's on Arabella at the moment and can't be there, here's a little game to remind you of the uptown New Orleans joint. If you don't know why, don't ask me, you'll just have to go there and see for yourself.

Or if you want a very different type of game fun, you can check out Your Right Hand Thief

More posting to come.

...Bored 

Wow, my daily reads are quite thin today, but I guess I'll link you to this story about the state's school evaluation scores on the rise while the "achievement gap" barely registered any improvement. Here are the key bits:
The overall score for white students is 102.8 compared with 60.7 for black students.

The top five scoring districts in the state are St. Tammany, Livingston, Vernon, West Feliciana and St. Charles parishes. The bottom five are, from the bottom up, Orleans, Madison, St. Helena, Red River and Tensas parishes.
Now I don't know much about the way the scores are compiled, but the state hopes to achieve a score of 120 by the year 2014. The overall score for the state is 82.6 and up 2.0 from last year, so that leaves us, you might say, quite a ways from a goal we're supposed to achieve in less than ten years, particularly if the rate of improvement over that time period reflects anything similar to the this year's pathetic increase.

Of course, the most disturbing news is not how far away Louisiana is from reaching its goal for 2014, but the shocking disparity between schools in urban Orleans Parish vs. its suburban neighbor across the Lake. Black students in Orleans Parish averaged a score of 47.1 (not clear from the article, but this appears to actually be a percentile fourth and sixth grade black students averaged on the LEAP). Leslie Jacobs notes the correlation of the preponderance of certified teachers with the highest performing districts. Of course, at this point its a chicken/egg question, but if this study says anything it's that no matter how much our state's average may improve over the next few years, it's meaningless if it doesn't address the major problems affecting the worst-off school districts. Failure to address these issues is much worse than "the soft bigotry of low-expectations." It's nothing short of criminal to even speak about supposed improvement without accounting for and correcting a system where black students are abandoned for no other reason than that they happen to be born in the wrong Parish.

03 March 2005

Is that all? 

Factcheck.org examines the Campaign for America's Future ad currently running against Rep. Jim McCrery, calling it bogus because the Securities Industry won't receive the financial windfall CAF claimed it would in a previous newspaper ad the group ran against the Congressman. Okay, that'a bit convoluted, so let's boil down their criticism of the ad to a couple of paragraphs you can see for yourself over at their website:
The "windfall to Wall Street" argument rests on the idea that securities firms stand to reap hundreds of billions of dollars in fees from managing private Social Security accounts. What we present here is new evidence showing that's false.

The claim was made most recently in a series of ads by the Campaign for America's Future, which ran newspaper ads in Louisiana attacking Rep. McCrery Feb. 24 and Feb. 27, and launched a similar TV ad Feb. 28.

In summary, the ads accused the congressman of a corrupt bargain with Wall Street, which the newspaper ads claimed would reap $279 billion from private accounts.
Just to help clarify things a little bit, the "bogus" television ad claims that Wall Street would benefit from a windfall. In previous newspaper ads CAF claimed the windfall would be to the tune of $279 billion, but CAF does't use those numbers in the television spot most likely for the same reason that FactCheck.org calls it bogus, because Bush is proposing private accounts that aren't heavily managed and the financial services folks don't stand to make $279 billion anymore. So now the question is whether or not fund managers stand to make a windfall, and in this case, I guess it depends on what your definition of "boat loads of cash" is. Here's what FactCheck.org says the financial services sector actually stands to make:
The figure that the Campaign for America should have used -- from the same SIA study -- is $39 billion (over 75 years). That's the amount that the SIA study said would accrue to the securities industry under a plan like the one Bush is actually proposing, allowing workers to choose from only a few passively managed funds.
So get this straight, in the television spot aired in Shreveport cable markets they stopped using the $279 billion figure and retreated to the more vague "windfall," but that's still bogus somehow. I guess more than a half-billion dollars a year is no more than the yearly take of the janitors collecting lost pocket change in America's fund manager board rooms these days.

Thanks to JBoo for sending me the link...

Update from right around my bed time...It seems FactCheck doesn't even have the basic facts about how comparable Bush's not-yet-a-plan proposal for Social Security is to the Federal Thrift Savings Plans. Apparently the administrative costs are "far higher" in Bush's proposal. Uhh, windfall much?

via TPM

Cover your heads 

The proverbial sh*t is about to hit the fan. courtesy of your usual suspects.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who is considering tax increase proposals for a teacher pay raise, said she's asking lawmakers who are suggesting tax breaks or changes in the upcoming legislative session not to propose anything that would further decrease revenue next year.


Louisiana already has a budget shortfall of up to $400 million in state cash for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and Blanco said Thursday she doesn't want that problem to grow.
Blanco has already asked all state agencies get ready for budget cuts and is setting the stage for the big battles to come in this session, but I'm pretty sure there are already bills filed for this session that would cut all manner of taxes. Presumably she means no more bills. This will take some serious Queen Bee effort. So much for the goodwill she engendered from some Republican voices with those franchise tax cuts last year.

Terror in Lafayette 

Not that kind of terror, but an honest-to-God, brazen execution-style murder in a hotel lobby while guests watched. The most tragic part of the murder is that the victim may have known just what kind of danger she was in, but couldn't get anyone to cover her shift after the police advised her to leave work and find shelter.
Herring called police at 10 a.m. Wednesday, saying Vallery -- who is the father of two of her four children -- called her at the hotel and threatened her life, Francis said.

A police officer drove to the hotel Wednesday, where Herring has worked for five years as a desk clerk, and told her that if she thought the threat was credible, she should probably leave work for the remainder of the day.

But Herring was still at work three hours later when Vallery walked in with a handgun and fired several shots, Francis said.
That's all from the Advocate, but the local fish wrap explains that she may have stayed at work because:
[S]he was trying to accommodate other employees. Shortly after calling police, Herring called fellow employee Tracy Johnson to fill in.

Johnson, who lives in the hotel, said that when Herring found out, she was already working a late shift, she said she would try to call another employee to fill in.

Johnson said she called Herring back around noon to tell her again she could come earlier, but Herring said to wait until a little later.

"I went on and got dressed and got down there about 1 p.m.," Johnson said. "She said, 'Honey, why don't you wait 'til 1:30 or 2?' I had just walked into the reception area when I heard the shots."
A decent manager would have told her to get the hell out of there no matter how short-handed the hotel may have been, but we can't be sure that she actually informed the manager of just what the problem was. Sadly she leaves four children behind, and one imagines that her dedication to feeding and raising those children has a lot to do with why she may not have taken the threat as seriously as she should have. The police should also probably answer to why they let a women whose life had been threatened alone at work after merely advising her to leave and get to some random safe location. Whatever the case, this looks like a tragedy that could have been avoided if only a few people had acted with a little more caution or compassion for a person in need. I imagine there will be a lot more to this news story in the next few days. For now all we can hope is that Francis Vallery is apprehended and brought to justice. The rest can't be taken back, and will hopefully be sorted out as some kind of lesson for the future as more of the details become public.

Maybe next time... 

The state tells Diebold to take a hike. Too bad they can't do the same with the Sequoia folks.

Not really any more here on the decision.

We'll have a gay old time 

I wonder if Marcus Huff can talk about what it's like to be told "Gay" is a dirty word. Maybe the NFL ought to make this professor fill out a behavior contract too:
Spurred by a case of "Gay" pride, Leigh Clemons tried to order a New England Patriots jersey last month online. Clemons, an assistant professor in Louisiana State University's Theater Department, had watched one of her former pupils, Patriots defensive back Randall Gay, play a key role in New England's 24-21 win against Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX and wanted to show her support for the former LSU standout.

But the NFL intercepted her attempts in mid-February to buy a jersey, personalized with Gay's name on the back, from NFLshop.com, the league's official online merchandise center.

When Clemons entered the last name of the Patriots cornerback, her request was rejected. The Web site accompanied the rejection with a message that said, "This field should not contain a naughty word."
The truly shocking thing about this report is that Randall Gay was taking "Women's and Gender Studies" and not sixteen units of weight lifting along with the odd Jazz Studies course or certain sections of kinesiology.

02 March 2005

Local Remainders 

All Advocate edition

Angela Simoneaux writes a pre-mortem for Lafayette's soon to be late hockey franchise, better known to the rest of the world as the Louisiana Ice Gators. It seems that absolutely no one is intereste in buying, but we've heard that before. The question is, will anyone care?

Apparently the golf course/residential development in the works for the past fifteen years across Johnston St. has finally broken ground under the tender care of John Montesano and various VIPs from the Consolidated Government.

A ground-breaking was probably a better place to be for Mayor-Pres. Joey Durel than last night's Council meeting anyway.[/end transmission]

Terrible prediction update 

Well, shit, I said McCrery would have to work harder to get that ad pulled, but apparently I well-underestimated the fortitude of the jellyfish running LifeWise Cable Systems, who oversee Shreveport's cable system.
Roger Hickey, codirector of the liberal nonprofit group Campaign for America's Future, said it received a fax from LifeWise Cable Media, saying it had withdrawn the ad from Shreveport's cable system.

"We were very dismayed they wouldn't wait for a response from us," Hickey said. "It's troubling that a powerful member of Congress can just call up a cable system and get an ad yanked because he doesn't like it even before the citizens paying for that ad have a chance to respond."

...

Bobby E. Jelks, treasurer of McCrery for Congress, faxed Lifewise a letter on Monday, calling the sentence about privatization "patently false" and defamatory. The president's plan to let workers divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts is not privatization, the letter says.

If LifeWise keeps airing the ad, it "exposes you to possible legal liability," Jelks wrote. He quoted McCrery as saying he believes personal Social Security accounts are necessary. "But I would not privatize the Social Security program. There needs to be some government guarantee of benefits," the quote continues.

Congressman McCrery and George Bush want to privatize social security

I'll say it a thousand times over and over again. Legal liability, my ass. Personal and private are the same damned things. I can't believe the audacity of these people.

WTF? 

Is Dick Cheney actually playing "good cop" in the medicare negotiations between the states and the White House with President Bush playing bad cop?

Yesterday the Advocate reported that Kathleen Blanco and the rest of the Governors at the annual conference of state executives were rather displeased with the President's proposed slashing of medicare funding in the coming budget. Needless to say, many states around the country are experiencing some pretty ugly budget realities, and they count on the federal dole to alleviate the pressure on their own budgets.

But today's T-P reports the following under a story headlined, "Governors fail to deter Bush on health cuts:"
Jindal said he and other House members met Tuesday with Vice President Dick Cheney and that he was relieved to hear that the administration is flexible in its approach and willing to consider alternative suggestions from the governors to eliminate "waste from the program" while protecting important services.

"It's very early in the process," Jindal said.
Could the Prince of Darkness himself be showing more sympathy for the poor and needy than our compassion President? It's probably more likely that Bobby Jindal just wanted to get a quote in the article that he had been shooting the breeze with Dick Cheney, but it certainly is a pleasant thought, no?

Vitter tied to corrupt lobbyists 

I've mentioned Vitter's ties to the Abramoff gang here before.

Now Jack Abramoff is in the news again, and the Advocate's Gerard Shields just calls to remind us that Vitter did indeed oppose the Jena band's efforts to expand their gambling operations into Louisiana. The shock(!) is that Vitter was taking money from the Coushattas at the same time through by way of Abramoff's corrupt lobbying firm's efforts to put the two groups together. Vitter swears he's always been against gambling expansion all along, which may or may not be true, but it certainly is convenient to be against gambling expansion while taking money from an existing tribe that is concerned about competition from new casinos. He says he never knew where he was getting his money from, which I suppose is possible, but you'd think someone with David Vitter's commitment to the eradication of "corruption and cronyism" would take a little more care to examine who is funding his political operations.

Oh well, I suppose we can always call his national corruption hotline and let them sort it out. In fact, he said you could call his office directly if you have any corruption in government to report, so feel free to get to it if you have the time. You can tell them you're worried that a sitting Congressman accepted money from Indian tribes in order to stifle competition in the market place. The number is (202) 224-4623. The very least he could do is turn over whatever information he has about Abramoff and how the lobbyist put him in touch with misidentified political organizations fronting for the Coushatta tribe.

Bush to Shreveport 

As rcs notes in comments to the last post, the Pres. himself is on the way to Shreveport on March 11 to take pre-approved questions about how we ought to sign on to his attempt to cut benefits while simultaneously borrowing trillions to "save" Social Security. Maybe they could add el Presidente to those commercials. Here's what the Pic says:
Bush is expected to hold a town hall-style discussion March 11 at Centenary College in Shreveport, according to a source familiar with the planning for the event. The White House declined comment on the president's schedule.
Meanwhile, John Snow plans to come to NOLA to drum up support for this boondoggle. It seems that the administration must be trying to put the squeeze on Mary Landrieu, considering her a vulnerable target to become one of the few and shamed "compromise" Democrats.

And in the land of Captain Shreve, Congressman Jim McCrery is none-too-pleased with that ad I linked you to yesterday. Apparently the Republicans are back to the old saw that their current proposal for Social Security is not privatization, and therefore the ad is untrue and should be pulled from local television stations. At any rate, that report contains the strangest line of the day:

"McCrery is coming under fire for supporting President Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security. The president's plan would give younger workers the option of putting some of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts."

McCrery is going to have to try harder than that if he really wants to get this ad pulled.

01 March 2005

Snow Job 


The link is to Windows Media Player, but you can choose your own player for the ad here.

I could do without the somewhat condescending southern accent, but it could have been worse. They might have gotten some vaguely Cajun voice to narrate the ad even though there probably aren't fifty Cajuns within a hundred miles of McCrery's district. So the media team that thought this one up gets points for that. Not that the ad is likely to hurt, but it's nice that the Campaign for America's Future is going after the chief legislative tool for this boondoggle.

Nola.com 

I'm back, baby! I was just about to call up the service provider to find out what's been going on, but suddenly I have access again. I have no idea why it's working for me again, but I'll take it.

Finally 

Incrementalism is always welcome. The US Supreme Court has finally banned one of our nation's more barbaric practices.

Tiny bubbles bottles 

In a story about the reports left on the desk of the now deceased legislative auditor we learn about an interesting law in Louisiana.

"[The ATF commissioner a]llowedalcohol retailers to sell airline-size 50-milliliter bottles of alcohol at retail even though state law requires bottles of at least 750 milliliters.

Painter allowed the miniature bottles to be sold in stores in packs of 15, which he said was legal."

Now the idea that the mini bottles are illegal shouldn't be new or particularly surprising to anyone. However, when was the last time you walked in to any outlet where liquor is sold and couldn't find a pint of gin, whiskey, vodka, or any other hard liquor under the sun? That's less than 500 mL, but those things are ubiquitous around the state. Hell, you can't walk in to an LSU or UL football game and spot less than thirty or forty of those things tucked in to a jacket or pants pocket. I know all those people aren't rolling across state lines to buy them. I suspect this is a mistake on the Advocate's part, but I'm really not sure.

Whatever the case, the real story in this article is the question of just what was going down at the Port of Lake Charles during the Foster administration?
The Lake Charles Port Commission report accuses the former commissioners of neglecting their duties and costing the port millions of dollars while enjoying extravagant trips and other perks. For instance, the commissioners:


Undercharged two oil companies $3.3 million for overhead and overtime from 1999 to 2003.

Spent $350,000 on travel and entertainment in 2002 "with little or no discernable benefit to the port" and while the agency's expenses were exceeding operational revenue by $6.5 million.

Made too little interest on idle funds, losing $414,000.
In this case, I know the T-P has more on this, and I'll link you it because I can swipe it from somewhere else that has seen it, but I don't know what the hell it says.

And thanks to JBoo for copying a few things in full and putting them in my inbox this morning. I appreciate it, but I think I should have the problem worked out by the end of the day.

Surprise 

Blanco disagrees with prayer ruling

I'm quite torn about this. I generally agree with the prohibitions against organized prayer at public schools and associated school events, but I don't see why a school board shouldn't have the same "legislative exception" that most municipal bodies do. They're elected officials and their meetings, while open to the public, are not compulsory events for any students. Unlike a football game, honors ceromony, or graduation, where students are a necessary component of the event.

I imagine the Pic has more on this, but I wouldn't know for sure.

Advocate pulls an Advertiser 

I can usually count on getting better news coverage out of the Baton Rouge paper than I can out of the mess published in Lafayette, but when the Advocate decides to one-up the Advertiser, they really do it with gusto. Just this weekend the folks at the Advertiser managed to publish the same six or seven day old Bob Novak column that they had published in the same place just a few days before (that's not the first time this has happened with the same columnist either).

Not an organization to be out done by the boys down the road, today the Advocate staffers laying out the B section (Acadiana Section in my neck of the woods, can't speak to other editions) managed to include the exact same story with different headlines on two pages facing one another. This is the one they published.

At any rate, if you get the print edition check out pages 4B and 5B, where stories are headlined "Two New Orleans men admit offering fake documents to undercover agents" and "Men admit offering fake documents to agents." You have to love it when editors and staffers don't even bother to read the stories they're including in their newspaper.

28 February 2005

Friends in high places? 

"That story was just flat wrong"

Is O'Keefe in the clear?
The story: Sen. Susan Collins asked the GAO to audit NASA's credit card expenses. AP, citing four sources, turned that into a hit on O'Keefe's travel and other expenses. But GAO and Collins's office tell us that he isn't the focus. And NASA insiders say O'Keefe is a cheapskate who jammed too much work into trips. AP is sticking to its story; critics suspect disgruntled NASA tipsters. "My integrity," says O'Keefe, "has never been questioned, and I don't expect this will either." Retired NBC reporter Fred Francis, a NASA consultant, says, "After 38 years as a journalist, I wish I had the talent of an AP reporter from Baton Rouge who was able to get four unnamed sources in Washington to trash someone. The story was just flat wrong."
First O'Keefe said it was a routine audit, but Collins's statement that O'Keefe is not the target seems to imply that there is in fact a target of some sort. That shows that at least two of the sources who say O'Keefe has done nothing wrong have conflicting stories about why the audit is occurring in the first place, so I wouldn't say the chancellor is in the clear quite yet. However, you have to figure he's rightfully breathing easier these days. Not that the AP or anyone in Louisiana has followed up with anything significant yet anyway. I suppose it's just as likely that that's because there's no there there. I guess I'll always have that week I got to watch LSU get dragged through the muck.

Thanks always to CC for keeping me up to date with random bits from national publications I don't keep my eyes on.

Hopeful moments 

More good news to come from what I'm hearing.

Just kidding. I'm obviously not hearing anything. Hell, I can barely read anything at the moment with even WWL acting up on my browser, but so far, so good, right?

You've got to be kidding. 

Add to the rest of my trouble with the many internets, now blogger appears to be screwed too. Sorry for the lack of posting, but I've been trying to get this out to you for a while now. Maybe it will work this time; maybe it won't. Anyhoo...

Citizens Against Trial Lawyers

You read that right. Apparently ending frivilous lawsuits isn't enough. These folks believe the only answer is to do away the with people who would deign to bring civil cases before a judge and jury altogether. It's as though they're some invasive species that needs eradication, or a wild animal killing off our children one by one. Now they've created a special interest group to advise the public of the threat we face. They're like a really stupid MADD.

Or they're just trying to ruin the chances of a trial-lawyering Republican who had the gall to accept money from some Democrats.

Damn 

I've just spent the last hour and a half uninstalling and reinstalling various spyware, firewall, and internet protection devices to try to be able to regain access to Nola.com and I still can't manage it. Let's just say the inability to view the Times-Picayune online is a great disadvantage to my blogging skills.

27 February 2005

Sunday Papers 

This is going to have to be a short version since for whatever reason I haven't been able to access Nola.com in more than three days now. I don't know what's in the Crescent City daily, which is too bad, because I understand there's been some interesting reading there the last few days. Oh well. In papers that I can read, we learn that Kip Holden plans to pay John Breaux up to $120,000 a year to be a part-time lobbyist for the city of Baton Rouge. He plans to employ The Livingston Group (former would-be-speaker Bob Livingston's lobbying shop) at the rate of $96,000 a year. Apparently this is actually cheaper than what the city currently pays in lobbying fees per year.

The Advocate also asks the question "is the money the state has spent on the Saints worth it?" without once bothering to discuss or even estimate what kind of revenue or economic impact the Saints franchise has had on the state since they came to town in the mid-sixties. They have plenty of choice quotes from Edwin Edwards and state legislators that show us that we've perhaps assumed too many assurances over the years that this or that particular inducement would guarantee things that never really panned out. But despite the headline, Michelle Millhollon must have been too put upon to consider if all the money we've spent on those subsidies and inducements is actually worth it. The article might better have been headlined, "This is how much we've spent." I can't link to it because its only available through electronic archives at a library, but in 1995 the Advocate ran a story marking the twentieth anniversary of the Superdome's opening which estimated the total revenue generated by the building somewhere around an astounding $6 billion (warning...working from memory on that one). That's revenue that never would have existed if it weren't for the Saints. So I guess the answer must be, "yes." It's hardly surprising that the Advocate didn't include space to disclose what kind of impact the franchise has had on the state, but the least they could do is rein in their brazen disregard for the very idea that the Saints might actually offer Louisiana something more than a team to root for during a given football season.

In the local rag, Jim Bradshaw reminds(?) us that it was exactly 240 years ago today that the first large group of Acadiens disembarked at New Orleans. It was the final leg of a journey that began in Nova Scotia, stopped in St. Domingue (now Haiti), and finally led them to St. Martin Parish. There's no word of any crawfish boils at the welcoming party, though Bradshaw informs us that the Governor provided them with guns, ammunition, and other neccessities of survival for the Louisiana terrain.

Meanwhile, John Hill files a report for the Shreveport Times about Internet kook C.B. Forgotston and the effort to save Girls and Boys State. Forgotston's attitude is surprisingly refreshing considering the silly blogger triumphalism regarding recent news events on either side of the political divide.

And in local sports news, if anyone would have a Cajun fan before their respective seasons began this fall that the UL Women's basketball team would win the Sun Belt West and the men wouldn't, they probably would have been laughed out the room. Nonetheless, that's exactly what happened. The men lost in a heartbreak on national television yesterday (no help from those Arkansas officials unfortunately), which knocked them out of contention for the regular season crown. There's always the SBC Tournament. The women won their contest in nearly the same way the men's team lost theirs. Congrats to our ladies, at least. And it's nice that the baseballers are still rolling through their best start since Tony Robichaux took the reins in Lafayette. I suppose that's enough for now. Have a good Sunday.

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