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11 March 2005

Time Killing Game of the Week 

Simple but fun edition. I've been loving this one. Use the cursor keys to move your blue square into the red square. The blocks stop you and there seem to be an unlimited number of "lives." Unfortunately, if there's a way to continue from where you've left off with a password, I haven't figured that out.

Bush in Shreveport 

The AP's report is up, and Adam Nossiter does a servicable job with it:
The warmth of the crowd of several thousand in this Republican territory was matched by the friendliness of four citizens invited to share the stage here during Bush's forty-five minute visit. The White House called it a "Conversation on Strengthening Social Security," but there wasn't a flicker of dissent from the supportive local student, two retirees and minister who flanked the President here at Centenary College.

...

In Baton Rouge, an afternoon rally led by Sen. Mary Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon and Treasurer John Kennedy, all Democrats, discussed their reservations about the plan at the Old State Capitol. But organizers, striving to point out the difference in approach from that used by supporters of the Bush plan, said that supporters of the plan also took part in the discussion.
It's since been bumped off the front page of the Advocate's website, but for a time this afternoon they were running a less than friendly headline about George Bush's public approval on Social Security.

Exoneration? 

That's what former UNO chancellor Gregory O'Brien calls a report that essentially whitewashes his improper use of state funds to pay for part of his two daughters' weddings. It seems that their report doesn't detail anything specifically improper on his part and names the LSU board of supervisors responsible for not overseeing the expenditures. Presumably the board of supervisors could have signed off and it would have been okay, or at least that's the way I read this. Apparently running a university in Louisiana gives you all kinds of perks if you can just manage to get a few alumni donors and corporate guests "on the list" of whichever personal function you've got in the works.

Maybe Sean O'Keefe will do just fine at LSU after all. Instead of ballasting planes with extra weight to justify costs, he can just ask TAF pres. Richard Manship (I've heard that name somewhere before...) along for the ride and he can take state jets anywhere he wants to.

So much for the White House 

Well, I've never harbored any inklings that Kathleen Blanco was even slightly interested in the Presidency, but if she ever did, she can certainly kiss that fantasy goodbye now.

She was lucky enough to avoid any unflattering pictures with the Communist dictator of Cuba, but lunching with him won't do much for any national ambitions she may have had. In the eyes of her biggest detractors a lunch meeting is probably only worse than actually climbing in to bed with him for a mid-afternoon siesta.

Blanco downplayed the significance of the meeting, and went so far as to say that she probably needed to in order to broker the best possible deals in her trade mission, but I imagine it won't be hard to find a whole lot of upset people over this.


More at the T-P.

At any rate, it ought to be fun to see what the Freepers have to say about this, so let's give them a look Not much yet, but it appears to have just gone up on the board. I'll check in for you if you don't feel like it.

10 March 2005

Ugh 

I finally had some time to blog, but a mix of computer difficulties and an absolutely useless blogger for most of the morning conspired to keep me away from the World Wide InterWeb. This is getting extrememly annoying.

More Cuba 

It would be naive to suggest that there isn't a more than healthy and somewhat unsettling dose of economic self-interest involved in any of these trade missions to the third world. And in the days leading up to Blanco's departure she didn't make any bones about the opportunity this was for Louisiana growers, but in a testament to the trust I have in our Governor, I just can't help but believe her when she makes statements like the ones regarding her first couple of days in Cuba.
Blanco hinted that it is difficult to consider only politics when you come face to face with humanity.

"These are people who are dependent on imports because they do not produce enough food as an island nation," she said. "They are largely dependent on food products that come from Europe."

She added later, "Louisiana has a history of missed opportunities, and I'm trying to stop that."

...

Blanco told reporters she didn't want to second-guess the U.S. government's trade policy but preferred "to let the politics play itself out."

"I think you'll find all over the world -- a yearning -- because we are looked upon as a nation of plenty," she said, adding that "governments have to do what they have to do to protect their national interests."
You should really read the round ups of the day in the Pic and the Advocate. There's some great reading about the touchy political situations and a near-surprise visit by el Jefe himself. Not to mention the head American in charge of overseeing the US's Cuban (don't-call-them-diplomatic) operations.

09 March 2005

Ken succumbs to liberal media 

Not content with his fifteen minutes thanks to the Post's Page 6, Ken is now selling out to the "MSM." Congrats on the pub, Ken. I'll have to keep my eyes glued to the tube tomorrow morning.

Longest. Shoot. Ever. 

Who knew the folks from "All the Kings Men" were still around filming? There's yet another casting call in Michael's native place of New Iberia on Friday and Saturday. Michael makes the age, maybe he ought to pay the old town a visit?

Justice Delayed Dept. 

Not much to say about this...
Two Baton Rouge brothers who are serving their ninth year in prison without ever going to trial could be free in less than six weeks.

A three-judge panel of the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal granted supervisory writs that could free James Roger Thomas Jr. and his brother, Percy Dyer, from Iberville Parish Prison.

...

They ordered the 18th Judicial District Court to enter a judgment quashing murder charges against the two men and to discharge them.

"The state has been held accountable for robbing a presumptively innocent human being of nine years of his life without ever convicting him or even bringing him to trial," Thomas' attorney, Chris Alexander, said. "It is hard to imagine a more-tragic, inexcusable development than to rob an American of his freedom this way and then to simply walk away."

Bush to Shreveport 

The President's Friday stop on the bamboozapalooza tour is Shreverport, and I suppose the arrangements look more or less standard, but it is curious just who will constitute the 3,000 or so invited guests that will make up this faux town hall meeting:
However, the city expects to spend as much as $3,000 to supply presidential VIPs with SporTran bus service and chartered bus service to and from Centenary.

Five SporTran buses and two chartered buses hired from A-1 Charter Service will be used to transport as many as 2,000 to 3,000 invited guests of the president, Swaine said. It's estimated the SporTran buses will cost the city $1,500 to $2,100 and the chartered buses will cost an estimated $600.

The buses will be unavailable for public transportation and, therefore, the city was asked to not release the location of where the VIPs will board, Swaine said. "We were told the buses were needed and to stand by."
Centenary students were allowed to enter their names into a lottery for whatever tickets are left over. And "lottery" seems to be the right word no matter how you cut it:

"The multi-purpose facility, constructed at a cost of $1.3 million plus equipment, has a seating capacity of 3,000 with cushioned armchairs on the upper level and bleachers on both sides of the floor."

Weird 

It's very difficult to make any sense of what our Senators voting on in regard to the various incarnations of this bankruptcy bill and related amendments. This story doesn't do much to clear any of that up, but it is disappointing that Landrieu voted for cloture on the debate. Any final bill is going to make it even more difficult on anyone who finds themselves in the position where bankruptcy finally becomes an option.

...If you're going to conciliate on the social issues to be a moderate, it doesn't do any good to also sell out bread and butter economic issues or you really are just ending up as "Republican Lite."

Cajun Dancin' 

My beloved Ragin' Cajuns are headed to the NCAA tourney for the second time in as many years. Couple that with the LSU loss to number 1 Tulane in baseball last night (have I ever mentioned what I think about LSU here?), and I had a recipe for an all day celebration.

Okay, so maybe I only wished I could have celebrated all day, but it sure was nice to see my Cajuns take down the Denver Pioneers in the SBC championship game. They gave us fits in the first two meetings, but our athletes proved wayyyy too much for them in game three. I hope you all had a chance to see slam dunk champion Dwayne Mithcell's lift off from just inside the free throw line at the end of the game. We've been wathcing him do that in Lafayette for a long time now, but it's rare he gets the opportunity on a national stage.

08 March 2005

South of the border 

Governor Blanco's whirlwind tour of the Gulf and Carribbean continues today. Yesterday she attempted to rejuvenate the importance of a mostly meaningless title in Cancun, Mexico, and today she experiences the pinkos of Havana first hand. The T-P says the Queen Bee is doing the right thing. As I said yesterday, I'm rather indifferent to this whole affair, but I suppose I'm inlcined to agree with the Picayune editors on this one.

Diplomas for sale 

Remember that grade buying scandal in the Southern University office of the registrar that was exposed not so long ago? Despite the rather reassuring news that there were actually less people involved than were originally considered, it seems that the measure of the fraud itself is much worse than anyone has previously written:
A state audit released Monday finds that at least 25 students at Southern University received grades or transcripts without enrolling at the school, paying tuition or leaving records of ever attending class.

One student may have had as many as 47 grades recorded for classes never taken, the Legislative Auditor's Office found in its investigation of a scandal that cropped up at the university in March 2003.

...

The 25 students rousted by the auditor's probe all had records edited by Carroll, and the university could not prove they'd paid tuition, enrolled at Southern or appeared on role sheets.

Those three factors "provides a strong indication that the student did not actually attend and complete the courses," the report says.

Carroll allegedly received $9,100 to change grades, add false transfer credits to transcripts and record illegitimate credits that in some cases helped students earn degrees, according to the report.
The shocking thing is that someone in the registrar's office could have enough control over the system produce transcripts for people without them ever attending or paying tuition to the university. It's a wonder anyone ever bothers with college at all if they could simply walk in to meet the registrar, pass him an envelope, and a few weeks later have the good fortune to find a transcript with nearly a career's worth of credit hours. You're probably left off of the alumni hassle list by taking that route as well.

It seemed that the original story here suggested that people were paying for grade changes and similar services from Mr. Carroll, but the thought that some were actually paying for grades for a school they never saw anything of other than the administrative offices is nearly unbelievable. How can something like this even happen? At the two schools I've attended, I've found the bursars' offices to be only slightly less intimidating than your average bill collector. Where were they when credits were being handed out for people who never paid a bill to Southern?

There goes the neighborhood 

Who knew Hibernia was worth more than $5 billion? As is typical in these cases the head hanchos of the entity taking over made a whole lot of reassurances that things really won't change much:
Richard Fairbank, Capital One's chief executive, agreed that big job cuts normally result after one bank company buys another. But not this time. Because Capital One is a credit card issuer, not a bank, there are few overlapping jobs to cut, executives said.

Both Fairbank and Hibernia's president and chief executive, J. Herbert Boydstun, acknowledged there would be some cuts, but said they will be minimal.

...

"This is not about cutting, it is about building," Fairbank said during the hourlong interview late Monday.

He said the move is designed to "help accelerate the growth of a great franchise in Louisiana and a growing franchise in Texas." In recent years, Hibernia has made inroads into Texas to take advantage of strong economic growth there.

"The tower will stay white, and it is most important that the customer not notice anything has changed," Boydstun said, referring to Hibernia's locally famous lighted cupola.

Capital One, based in McLean, Va., is a credit card issuer without a bank, and it has been seeking a bank to have access to its low-cost deposits, rather than buy more expensive deposits from institutions or brokers.

"We want to grow Hibernia's deposit business," Fairbank said. "Nothing beats good old-fashioned retail deposits."
Tired of paying brokers and institutions to secure the "capital" in Capital One, they've decided to just go ahead and buy their own vaults so they can have access to the funds to cover the credit they deliver. That's fine, and it says something about the strength of Hibernia as a commercial bank that a major lender like Capital One would buy them for what looks almost solely in order to gain access to the Hibernia cash supply, but things aren't all rosy for Capital One these days, despite their clever marketing schemes:
The Minnesota state attorney general’s office has sued one of the nation's largest credit card issuers, claiming it is misleading consumers with promises of “fixed“ interest rates, then hiking their rates as much as 400 percent.

Capital One's well-known “no-hassle card” television advertisements feature crowds of assaulting Vikings, representing high-interest rates chasing after consumers as they are about to make a credit card purchase. The lawsuit says the TV ads are “simply false.”

It also claims other Capital One marketing tools, such as direct mail solicitations, break Minnesota's laws prohibiting false advertising, consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices. The lawsuit seeks an end to the marketing practices, and a return of any profits the firm has garnered as a result of misleading advertisements.
At any rate, any Hibernia customers who start getting assaulted with offers from Capital One during the course of the takeover ought to keep that in mind, not that it should be any surprise, or that it makes any particular difference as to the fate of Hibernia. It's sad that an institution of such strength in Louisiana is coming under the the thumb of a faceless giant in Virginia, but that's the way things go. Surely this will be great for the shareholders of both companies, but that doesn't mean it has to be a cause for celebration.

Capital One has spent more than a half-billion dollars to make their "No Hassle" credit plan the signature identity of the institution, so it's strange that the Pic's Jim Darce could write this accompanying piece and barely mention the lawsuit and customer dissatisfaction that has come to characterize the credit offer.

Anyhoo, this news fronted most of the dailies around the state today. You can read about it from the Advocate too if you're interested.

07 March 2005

Say Hello 

I love you, God
It's your newest Saint, which means you may as well say good-bye to this ne'r-do-well. Okay, that's a little harsh. He played well-enough this year, but talk about a guy who never justified his salary...

Local teacher goes nuts 

Well, there may be a few Lafayette High School graduates who will find this report from the Daily Advertiser interesting, particularly some of my siblings who had the misfortune to actually sit in this guy's class for an entire year:

A 61-year-old Lafayette man was arrested early Sunday morning on an attempted second-degree murder charge after he allegedly shot another man twice in the chest late Saturday night, police said.

Police arrested Richard Taylor after the incident, which occurred at 11 p.m. at Holy Family Apartments on the 1500 block of Louisiana Avenue.

...

The report said Taylor was at his girlfriend's apartment when he heard a knock on the door. He went to answer it while carrying a gun in his hand. When Taylor opened the door, the victim "lunged" at him and he fired two shots at him out of fear, the report said.

"The suspect turned himself in this morning and was booked with attempted second-degree murder," Francis said.

Taylor is being held on a $40,000 bond at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center.
He's a former World Geography teacher at "The High", and I grew up hearing stories about him from various people I knew who were repeatedly rapped on the skull and dismissively referred to as "popcorns". I don't know what the hell to make of the story, but it's always strange when you read about a sixty-year-old man allegedly shooting someone in what appears to be a lover's quarrel. Reports from the local rumor mill are already surfacing that Mr. Taylor had romantic feelings towards some of his students while he was still teaching, but I never heard those until just today.

Boustany shies away from Bush 

Charles Boustany has been straddling the fence of the conscience caucusTM for quite some time now, but he may have come out of the closet completely this weekend as he did all he could to run the hell away from the administration line in an interview with the local rag on the day after the President dispatched John Snow to the "gret stet" to shill for the boondoggle.

Key quotes:
"The president speaks with a loud voice. He's used the word 'crisis' to describe Social Security. Everybody has a different definition of 'crisis.' "

Boustany campaigned on four principals of Social Security: a refusal to support an increase on payroll taxes; no reduction of benefits for retirees and near retirees; no increase of the retirement age and no privatization.

"I'm going to stick to those four ideas right now," Boustany said. "Clearly, something needs to be done to protect Social Security. It's been a successful program in the past. There have been things to fix it, but they were temporary fixes. We have a responsibility to evaluate all of this and do what we can to put it on sound financial footing."

...

"I like the idea of having personal accounts," Boustany said. "But I am not in favor of jeopardizing the system to have personal accounts."

"By itself, it (the president's personal savings account proposal) doesn't secure the future of Social Security," Boustany said.
I guess this leaves him in this weird netherworld on Social Security policy, but when a Freshman Congressman who essentially owes his election to the the strength of Bush's name in his district is shying away from the signature policy proposal of the President's second term, I'd say said policy proposal in trouble.

Blanco to Cuba 

My papers are thin enough that the Advocate wastes more than a few column inches dealing with the outrage over Kathleen Blanco and co.'s trade mission to Cuba. I'd characterize my reaction to this news as indifferent. I've never really believed that opening markets necessarily leads to freedom, but at the same time trade is probably a more effective weapon than killing countless thousands of civilians or bombing cities to smithereens. In all likelihood more probably depends on the nation we are trading with and its receptiveness to democratic principles than the actual practice of "trade" itself. I tend to believe these things are more appropriately decided on a case by case basis. [blog taboo alert!]Frankly, I don't know enough about the particulars of trade policy to make an informed argument about this mission one way or the other[/blog taboo alert!], but that's why I link to articles. You can go read it for yourselves if you're interested.

Sorry about the long posting break...

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