Friday, July 20, 2007

Second verse, same as the first

Gov. Blanco, drunk with insane VETO power, has vetoed another bill. This bill would has created a tax deduction for people who pay for private or parochial education for their dependents. Unlike the previous veto, I expected this one.

This would reduce government revenue (or increase Louisianians income) by an estimated $4.85 million in fiscal 2009. Holy cow, Batman. The state can't afford that. Assuming the state budget does not increase next year (I'll pause here till you stop laughing), then $4.85 million would reduce the budget by 0.015 %. Thats madness. Hospitals will close, children will starve, oh the humanity...

So, money is not the issue here. Gov. Blanco vetoed this bill because it is was a threat to teachers' unions. Teacher unions are the most powerful lobby in the US right now. They will fight school vouchers, school choice, teacher accountability, and anything else that might threaten to reduce teacher union membership.

Until the NEA and AFT have power taken away, public schools will remain sub-poor. Consider the louisiana average act score for 2006: 20.1 . LSU requires a 25 for admission. The highest parish was St. Tammany with 21.6, the lowest, East Carroll, with 15.3 . With the quality of schools varying, standardized tests are the only way to compare schools, and Louisiana public schools are not getting the job done.

Some would compare sending your children to public school to child abuse. If your local public school can't provide an education that will let your child enroll at LSU, they might be right.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hey, you know that bill you passed, VETO!

Gov. Blanco vetoed the car insurance increase bill. I am actually surprised. I'm sure she went back and forth (to England) before deciding to veto it. I'm betting the clincher was that the bill bill was sponsored by a republican. But she wouldn't be that vindictive, would she? I guess sometimes our "mommas" need to punish us.

But I am being too unfair; I wanted her to veto the bill.

A lot of lawmakers are term-limited (hallelujah), so we will see some new faces running for offices. Listen and see if any of them are talking about insurance reform. I predict silence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All your rates are belong to us...

Gov. Blanco has until midnight to either sign or veto a law raising the minimum levels for auto insurance(she could not sign it, but who does that anymore). Surely she has been using her time to study the potential risks and benefits of the proposed law, or maybe she was on a trip to England... I'm sure it was an important tax-payer financed trip.

40% of motorists in LA have the minimum levels, and they will see rates rise as much as 30 to 50 percent. The 10% of motorists without insurance will likely rise.

Yes, the current minimums are not high enough to cover current car and medical costs. But this is not the way to go about fixing the insanely high auto insurance rates in Louisiana.

Louisiana needs to move to no-fault insurance. Your insurance would pay for your claims for any accident you are in, your fault or not. This would give people an incentive to purchase higher coverage amounts since they would be covering themselves. The cost of their automobiles are known and would take a lot of guesswork out of buying the right amount of insurance. It would also eliminate the "uninsured motorist" coverage. Since you are covering yourself, it makes no difference if the other driver has insurance or not. Look at your bill and see how much "uninsured motorist" is of the total.

Don't like no-fault. No problem. I have an even better idea. Take the laws of the state with the lowest insurance rates, replace that states name with LA, adopt them, and presto- lower rates. Sounds simple, and it is.

But there is a large force at work in Louisiana that would oppose any reform, trial lawyers. Tort reform and tax reform, two of my favorite pipe dreams.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tis better to have stood and failed than to never be a hypocrite at all

The past several days, I have tried to listen to the attacks and defenses of Sen. Vitter. Most of the right is still supporting him. Not to surprising, he has been a good conservative senator. He has a 63% lifetime rating, which they categorize as "friendly", from Citizens Against Government Waste. (as a contrast, Sen. Landrieu has a lifetime rating of 22% ("unfriendly"))

As liberals, and some conservatives, attack Sen. Vitter, the one word I keep hearing is "hypocrite". This must be a bad thing to be, judging from the level of vitriol in the attacks I have heard.

Should we, at all costs, avoid being hypocrites? Should smokers not tell their children not to smoke? Same for drug users, alcoholics, racists... We must learn from our mistakes and teach others, so that they may not repeat ours.

For Sen. Vitter to avoid being a hypocrite, he would have had to advocate soliciting prostitutes and adultery. There are many Senators and Representatives, and NOT ONE pushes those positions. That Sen. Vitter is opposed to many liberal issues, like abortion and gay marriage, is not germane to this issue.

So spare me the cries of "hypocrite"; to find one, simply look in a mirror and you will, each and every one of us...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Violent crime across the pond update

The Smallest Minority has an interesting post about crime the the UK.

He links to a story from Life Style Extra here.

Here are some quotes: [emphasis added]

Gun and knife killings are getting out of control as six Londoners were murdered over the past week and one child is stabbed to death each week, anti-crime campaigners warned.

How are can this happen when ALL handguns are banned in the UK?

Victims of Crime Trust director Norman Brennan said Britain was quickly gaining a reputation as being one of the most violent countries in the Western world, scarring communities and leaving millions in fear of crime.

Never head this reported before. Hmmm...

Mr Brennan said: "There are currently 270 recorded firearm related offences committed on the streets of Britain every week."

Doesn't make NO seem as bad. I guess the UK has a lead problem too...

You see, what had happened was...

Seems that Senator Vitter was visiting the Washington DC madam. Bad timing from him on this. I was of the opinion that he was going to be Giuliani's running mate (maybe I'm crazy, but just had a feeling). No candidate will win the Oval Office without carrying most of the southern states. Giuliani, being a yankee, would benefit from having a VP from the south. One who had been out in front on immigration and can use the Katrina card. Who knows, maybe he fits right in with multiple marriage Rudy.

"But its just his personal life..."

This was used to defend Former President (FP) Clinton and will probably be used to defend Senator Vitter (most likely by the same people who attacked FP Clinton). For the benefit of those who don't know me, I think prostitution, like drugs, should be legal. So, I really can't beat up Sen. Vitter too much for breaking the law. But he took an oath of office to uphold the constitution and an oath of fidelity to his wife, and broke both. That's not good. This will certainly be on my mind when he comes up for reelection in 2010, or maybe I will have forgotten. Although, I am certain that any opponents will remind me in their ads...

Short term outlook

I think Sen. Vitter was wise to apologize as soon as the list became public. Whether he is sincere or not, who knows. I hope he is.

As an aside, the Official Wife of the German is of the opinion (which I share) that visiting a hooker is not as bad as having an affair with a friend/ coworker etc. This is because there is no relationship with the hooker. She then told me "not to get any ideas". To which I responded "Don't worry, I don't have any money". She was not amused...

All Sen. Vitter can do now is to hope the media finds a bigger fish on the phone list to knock his name out of the news.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Does lead lead to crimes?

The topic of crime has been much debated in and around New Orleans, especially after Katrina. How do we stop it? How do we prevent it? Is it all because of drugs? Gangs? Eddie Jordan? Wrong, all wrong.

According to economist Rick Nevin, the problem is lead (atomic # 82). The Washington Post has a article about Nevin's research linking the crime reduction in NY City under Giuliani to reduced exposure to lead.

My first reaction to this article was, "no way". But after more thought, I think there might be more to this than meets the eye (sorry, lame transformer joke). Nevin's work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the journal Environmental Research. He could be on to something here.

From Gambit Weekly (6/05/2001),

"The issue is again drawing attention in the wake of a study conducted by Felicia Rabito, an epidemiologist at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The results of the study, released in late April, revealed that 25 percent of children tested in New Orleans public health clinics carry toxic levels of lead in their bloodstream, a rate roughly six times the national average."

Here is a map I created showing the locations of lead samples above LDEQ evaluation or management level & above EPA level of concern for residential soil. According to the EAP: "A soil lead hazard is bare soil on residential property or on the property of a child-occupied facility that contains total lead of at least 400 parts per million in a play area or at least 1,200 parts per million on bare soil in the rest of the yard." So this map shows all locations above 400ppm (or mg/Kg).

All the data used to generate this map can be found through the EPA here.

You can see that this map looks very similar to the murder map found here.

There might be something to this lead/murder link after all.Our environment definately impacts our behavior. Lead contamination can be quantified, in blood and in the environment, unlike parental quality (which is subjective). Time for NO to get out in front on this. There is no downside; at worst lead is removed from the environment and at best the murder rate drops too (well not immediately, but after 15-20 years).

Unfortunately, to expect anything resembling action from Nagin is a waste of time...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Land of the Free, Home of Forced Busing

In the light of the recent Supreme Court rulings regarding the use of race to achieve diversity, I wanted to take a look at the status of desegregation in Jefferson Parish Public Schools.

JP Public Schools are under a Federal Court order to desegregate resulting from the outcome of Dandridge v. Jefferson Parish School Board, filed in 1964. The order was enforced, following stays sought by JPSB, in 1971. That was 36 years ago!

Surely that is ample time to desegregate the public schools. Here are some numbers.

2006-2007 enrollment: 42,000 students (page 2)
Number of students bused: 1,200

So, by busing 2.9% of students, JP achieves a racial balance? How low must this get to end forced busing? 2%? 1%? The answer is "never". Too many people have too much invested in "racism" to ever move forward. They stand to lose an issue to rile up voters, a way to squelch opposing viewpoints, and an excuse for failure.

George Will had a excellent column about the SC rulings. It included this quote from the NAACP brief written by Thurgood Marshall for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case:

"Distinctions by race are so evil, so arbitrary and invidious that a state bound to defend the equal protection of the laws must not invoke them in any public sphere".

Public schools will always be segregated, not by race but by culture.

Parents with either more money or with education as a high priority are choosing private schools and homeschooling over JP's public schools. Not to get away from minorities, but to educate their kids. JP public schools avg. ACT score is 19. A 22 is required to enroll at LSU. The two cultures separated here are one that will educate their children and another that just wants it to happen for free. They are, after all, entitled to it...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The 4th...

...more that a holiday from work.

If you have never read the Declaration of Independence, please do so.

You owe everything to this day, and the events that followed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


That, my friends, is the size of the 2008 budget for the state of Louisiana. Blanco still has the ability to veto some items, but even if she chooses to, it will not reduce the budget much. Remember, she can also veto tax cuts.

Based on the 2006 population estimate, that amounts to 7,463 for every man, woman and child in Louisiana. Here are some other figures:

2005 Median household income: $36,729

$7,463 is 20% of the median household income.

Tax breaks in the 2008 budget: $189 million

$189 million is 0.6% of $32 billion.

0.6% of $36,729 is $220. That is $18.33 a month.

How will the state function with a cut of that magnitude?

Blanco and the Democrats in the legislature fought tax cuts and they won. The state Republicans, much like their national counterparts, wilted in the end. I fear that we are on a set path, spending more and more... to what end? We have nothing to show and all our money gone, doomed to choose between those who want to increase government, and those who want to increase government more.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Emipre Strikes Back

JP code enforcement inspectors have descended on the taco trucks. Guess the inspectors don't work weekends. In he case of the truck at Power and Vets, they have cited the owner of the lot, not the owner of the truck. Weird. According to the same article, JP has (had) fewer that 10 taco trucks currently operating. Do we need a new law to deal with less than 10 taco trucks?

"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."
Cornelius Tacitus - (55-117 A.D.)

On a related note, the Louisiana State Constitution, written in 1974, has 230 148 amendments (sorry, can't count).

I was not surprised to see that we are not alone in the crusade against taco trucks. I was surprised to see that many cities in California are fighting them. Here is a good blog listing other communities fighting taco trucks. I guess those communities, like JP, have no other pressing concerns.