Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What can Big Brown do for you? 

Granted, my sister has forgotten more about horses and horse-racing than I'll ever know. She loves those big animals something fierce, and doesn't mind the smell of horse-poo in the morning.

I'm no expert, and I'm not pretending that this is an amazing prediction, but my handicapping spidey sense is tingling, and you can mark this down: Big Brown is going to win the Triple Crown.

Video of Big Brown's Kentucky Derby win here.

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Stonewalling 

Jeremy Alford's article on the Jindal administration is a must-read. Don't miss the "Jindal's Media Playbook" compilation at the end. Here are some choice nuggets:

The unmistakable irony of [Gov. Bobby] Jindal’s stances [on government transparency] is not lost on some of his stakeholders. It’s a bitter pill for them to swallow, as Jindal was the mastermind behind forcing lawmakers to disclose more of their income and the chief cheerleader for everything else ethics-related in Louisiana... Many legislators see a hypocrisy underscored by the Citizen Access Project at the University of Florida, which ranks Louisiana as dead last when it comes to access to the governor’s office.

“[Jindal's Press Secretary Melissa Sellers] telling us a lie isn’t right. I hope that never happens again.”
...
Sellers has become Public Enemy No. 1 to many reporters at media outlets big and small... That comes as no surprise to Mark Ballard, Capitol bureau chief for The Advocate. “[Jindal] has surrounded himself with people who play hardball and can be punitive,” Ballard says. It’s created a good cop/bad cop situation that allows Jindal to essentially ignore the Louisiana press corps.

Lawmakers and reporters have also experienced difficult stints with Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s brain trust and chief of staff. During the February special session on ethics reform, Teepell was busted handing out free tickets to elected officials for a Hannah Montana concert. By ducking into doorways and avoiding phone calls, Teepell ignored media requests on why he gave out the freebees when the administration was simultaneously pushing a bill that would ban lawmakers from accepting such perks.
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For now, Jindal is enjoying his status as “America’s Ethics Governor,”... But back home, there are serious questions about how Jindal’s far-reaching ethics package can be enforced. In particular, The Advocate’s [Mark] Ballard broke a story on how the governor’s heightened standard for assessing violations could neuter any serious attempt at true ethics reform.
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Last year I tried to get an explanation from Rep. Jindal's office for the reasoning behind his vote on an Iraq resolution. I was told by a Jindal staffer that I'd get a letter addressing my question. It never arrived.

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h/t to forgotston

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Kudos to Lee Zurik 

Mosquito Coast appreciates WWL's Lee Zurik, and links to several of his recent investigative reports on floodwall joints filled with newspaper, the 311 phone scam, and Public Service Commish Jay Blossman (who is as dumb as an unbaked brick.)

Occasionally I see Lee at Mr Louis' barber shop (#4). Press on, sir!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ineffective "crime camera program... cloaked in secrecy" 

After a spike in crime in 2003, Mayor Nagin promised that 1,000 "crime cameras" would be put up in the city. That didn't happen. After the historic crime march in January 2007, Nagin promised that 200 would be online by the end of the year. Today we learn even that didn't happen.

Since the announcement, much of the Nagin administration's crime camera program has been cloaked in secrecy. City Council members and citizens seeking basic information about the program, such as contracts, have been rebuffed.

As a City Council hearing about the matter began Tuesday morning, the city's technology officer, who is in charge of camera deployment, was nowhere to be found. A note sent to the head of the Public Works committee stated that Anthony Jones -- who had canceled several previously scheduled appearances -- was traveling.

That left two attendees, a police officer and an associate tasked with monitoring the program, to give council members the bad news: Right now, the city has "about 85 cameras that work most of the time."

The announcement incensed some council members.

"I have documented evidence that over 200 cameras would be installed," Councilwoman Stacy Head said. "The press releases are wearing me out. I want to know the truth."

More than 250 cameras have been installed, but only about 85 are operable. In fact, the number of crime cameras working in New Orleans today is about the same as it was pre-Katrina.

Spokespeople for the Nagin administration did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, violent crime is occurring under inoperable cameras.


Again: "Cops not cameras" is the political hay that can be made here. Citizens who are paying exorbitant traffic camera fines won't tolerate excuses about inoperable crime cameras during a surge in violent crime. In my view, this tension between extremely efficient traffic camera collections and extremely lax crime camera performance is ripe for political exploitation. I hope someone makes this an issue, because it

1) showcases this secretive administration's bungled priorities and

2) may curtail some of the rampant surveillance overreach that masquerades under the rubric of "security".

Stacy Head should zealously pursue the truth about these camera contracts. Then she should publicly berate whoever is responsible, just as if they had denied her a chair at Jazzfest.
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Update: In the comments, Celcus helpfully points us to this T-P article from today's paper:

Three New Orleans City Council members on Tuesday called for an investigation into Mayor Ray Nagin's office of technology and sought to freeze the office's budget in the latest skirmish between two branches of government over access to records and accountability questions.
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"In typical fashion, the administration provided us with half-truths and misinformation," [Councilmember Stacy] Head said. "We have no idea how much money we spent on crime cameras, installation and maintenance in 2007 and 2008. That is an embarrassment."
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After voicing their displeasure, Head, [Councilmember Shelly] Midura and [Councilmember] Jackie Clarkson approved a motion calling on the full council to launch a "formal investigation" and move the entire technology office budget, except for salaries, into a reserve account. Such an investigation could prompt the council to use its subpoena power to force the Nagin administration to hand over public records.


You go, girls!
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Update #2: Always ahead of the curve, the American Zombie has more.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

That Buzz you hear 

Is not coming from the Hornets' "hive" in the New Orleans Arena.

It's coming from national conservative pundits like William Kristol, and it involves Governor Bobby Jindal. In a column titled "McCain-Jindal?" Kristol strokes our boy wonder whiz kid, arguing that the McCain campaign is naming him as a possible Vice Presidential choice:

[In] separate conversations last week, no fewer than four McCain staffers and advisers mentioned as a possible vice-presidential pick the 36-year-old Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal. They’re tempted by the idea of picking someone so young, with real accomplishments and a strong reformist streak.

It might also be a way to confront the issue of McCain’s age (71), which private polls and focus groups suggest could be a real problem. A Jindal pick would implicitly acknowledge the questions and raise the ante. The message would be: “You want generational change? You can get it with McCain-Jindal — without risking a liberal and inexperienced Obama as commander in chief.” I would add that it was after McCain spent considerable time with Jindal in New Orleans recently, and reportedly found him, as he has before, personally engaging and intellectually impressive, that the campaign’s informal name-dropping of Jindal began.


We've been told that Jindal is the "future of conservatism". He's the "next Ronald Reagan".

And now he's got a headache:

A major tax-cutting measure that gained critical momentum in the Legislature last week is threatening to scramble the state spending picture and create a political headache for Gov. Bobby Jindal.
...
But any large-scale tax cut would probably need to be matched by corresponding spending cuts, creating a political dilemma for an administration that says it philosophically favors lower taxes but doesn't appear eager to sacrifice the new spending it has proposed for health care, higher education and public schools.

The dilemma is made more acute by the fact that it's Jindal's GOP allies who are behind the effort, after months of genially backing the governor's plans to overhaul the state's ethics laws and spend a $1 billion surplus.


Recently Jindal told the Legislature that they "must be bold". I guess that's a "mission accomplished". Your move, Guv.

Again, I must emphasize my belief that Jindal is not going to be McCain's Vice Presidential pick. This orchestrated "informal name-dropping" campaign is meant to raise Jindal's profile, as he seeks the keynote address at the GOP Convention. Jindal enjoys all the "buzz" and attention, but he would be a horrible Veep pick. It's sort of like Rudy being the nominee-- I can't even comprehend it.

McCain, a candidate that many regard as too old, would look positively ancient if he runs with Jindal. McCain's 100 years in Iraq platform would not be "balanced" by an inexperienced candidate who largely avoided the Iraq issue over the past year, repeating ad infinitum "I don't think our troops have to be there forever". (Just imagine the campaign commercials that splice Jindal's "not forever" comments with McCain's 100 year pronouncement.) And if you think Jeremiah Wright is a problem (which he is-- this is the undeniable low point of the Obama campaign-- luckily it's only May) wait till a national audience gets a taste of Jindal the exorcist. You can bet the National Dems will raise that story in a much more effective way than did the hapless Louisiana Dems. All the apparent weaknesses of Obama (youth, inexperience, commander-in-chief bona fides, not being "vetted") will instantly be much less of an issue if the septuaganerian McCain asks Jindal to stand one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

It doesn't make sense.

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Update: An anonymous commenter points us to this hilarious deconstruction of Jindal's "exorcism" essay.

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"So THAT'S how it is in their family." 

VH1's Best Week Ever show has some yucktastic snark about fathers behaving inappropriately around their young daughters.

First there's the famous Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair photos, and her father's full participation.

Then there's Hulk Hogan rubbing suntan lotion on his daughter's inner thigh.

Then BWE showed a clip from a Tyra Banks Show featuring a young woman named "Summer", who looked like a teenager and aspired to be a pron star. Her stepfather is her ... manager. He was shown waxing his daughter's inner thigh, and advising her on how to shave her pubic region.

It can always be much, much worse. But still... blecch!

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Spaz. Spaz. Spaz. Spaz..." 

Times Picayune columnist Chris Rose tells us about a Jazzfest alternative:

Jazzfest is unquestionably the premiere gig in New Orleans as far as getting exposure to a large and influential record-buying and club-booking public. So those who get left out of [Jazzfest] are left to lick their wounds and hope they get in next year. Unless your name is Connick, Marsalis or Neville, you've got to work your butt off in this town to catch a break.

Or you simply have to make your own break.

That's how, three years ago, when Jazzfest released its lineup and several downtown bands didn't make the cut, they decided to make their own festival.
...
Thus was born: Chazfest, named after the ubiquitous and profoundly good-natured local washboard player, Chaz Leary, who neither owns nor produces the festival but simply has the right name in the right place at the right time.

"We happen to have a guy named Chaz in our midst, so we figured if we were going to do an alternative music festival, why not call it Chazfest?" said McMurray, who plays with Leary in the Tin Men. "I suppose if we had a guy named Spaz in the band, we'd call it Spazfest."

I don't have much to add except that I like Washboard Chaz and the idea of Chazfest, as well. Also, "Spazfest" made me think of the time Lovely was sick, and I brought her a care basket with candy and flowers and a card and a movie. I made her soup and brought it to her on the couch and then she glanced at the movie I got her and said, "What's Meatballs?"

"You've never seen Meatballs? I thought it would be like an old favorite of yours. You know, Bill Murray, Rudy the Rabbit... Spaz?"

"No."

"Oh. Well, do you still wanna see it?"

"Sure."

She was asleep within minutes. After seeing it for the first time since the eighties, I couldn't really blame her.




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Let me take this opportunity to plug my friend Clint, who plays around town-- often at the Neutral Ground Coffee House. Thursday night Ratboy and I drank rusty nails, and watched Clint and the Drunken Outlaws play at ... the Rusty Nail (formerly the Mermaid Lounge). Check out Clint's jukebox if you like that heartfelt country sort of thing.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

I like this conservative 

NYT:

Boris Johnson, the floppy-haired media celebrity and Conservative member of Parliament who transformed himself from a shambling, amusing-aphorism-uttering figure of fun into a plausible political force, was elected mayor of London on Friday.

I think this was the key to Boris Johnson's success:

The Conservative politician Boris Johnson bounded through Borough Market the other day like some kind of hyper-articulate Labrador, trawling for votes in the May 1 mayoral election.

He sampled an oyster. “Oysters for everyone!” he boomed expansively. “I promise to oysterize all of south London!” Searching for money to buy a magazine, Mr. Johnson excavated from his pocket some coins and a grubby piece of cheese. Asked what he could offer as mayor, he reeled off, “Optimism, energy, dynamism and creative ideas!”

It was a mix of blustery charm and satirical self-deprecation typical of a man who once declared that “beneath the carefully constructed veneer of a blithering buffoon, there lurks a blithering buffoon.”


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Hat tip to Three Pipe Problem.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Serving up a facial 

1. T-P columnist James Gill, on Jim Bernazzani:

Bernazzani, having lost his job as FBI chief in New Orleans for presenting himself on TV as a candidate for mayor, told former staffers Tuesday that he is still mulling his future.


Well, that candidate for mayor idea might have to be shelved.

The City Charter requires mayoral candidates to have lived here for five years "immediately preceding the election." The primary is to be held in February of 2010. Bernazzani got here in April, 2005.


Gill puts all the blame on Bernazzani, however I'm interested in who the people were who told him he could become mayor in the first place. My initial reaction was to suspect GOP fundraisers Boysie Bollinger or Joe Canizaro. Clancy Dubos, on the other hand, said that (while he didn't know for sure who put the mayoral aspirations in Bernazzani's head) there were a "gaggle of Uptown swells blowing smoke up his butt".

If Clancy is correct that a silk-stocking contingent from St. Charles Ave did in fact stroke Bernazzani, my initial reaction is: Why don't they like the thought of Arnie Fielkow for mayor? Do they not "feel good" about his ability to control crime?
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Update: The main point I want to make is that there are some people who bear responsibility for pushing Bernazzani to consider a run for mayor. These people probably think that Bernazzani is indeed "larger than life", like the T-P described him-- a superhero from Boston. But not only did their political sweet talk lead to their hero's transferral, but these chatty political kingmakers didn't even check to see if he was eligible to run in the first place!

I mean, a lot of folks in this town liked what they saw of Bernazzani. Certainly he is mostly responsible for this fiasco, but I think Bernazzani fans deserve to know precisely which (conservative) elites tried to get him to run, and thus share responsibility for the termination of Bernazzani's FBI career in New Orleans.


2. Forgotston serves Jindal:

According to the latest figures from the Division of Administration, Governor Jindal’s “hiring freeze” has been anything but a freeze. Nor has it been a savings for the state.

Since Jindal implemented the “freeze,” overall personnel costs have INCREASED.


3. And Lee Zurick, for the second week in a row, breaks reports on a huge story, and this time serves up a facial on Mayor Ray "he understands business" Nagin:

New Orleans could be paying almost $20 per resident every year for 311 service.

WWL also had [Professor and 311 expert] Robert Shick compare the New Orleans contract with Solano County, California, since the same company, ACS, has contracts with both areas.

Shick says the California contract totals $3.9 million for 3 years. The New Orleans contract is for as much as $17.7 million for that same time period. Bottom line, it is the same company, with similar service and software at a $14 million difference.

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Radioactive 

From yesterday's T-P:

A controversial plan to transport low-level radioactive waste from Italy through the ports of New Orleans and Charleston, S.C., for disposal in Utah is in jeopardy now that Utah's governor [Rep. Jon Huntsman] has joined the opposition.

Good.

But the project's sponsor, Utah-based EnergySolutions, says it is proceeding with its application for a federal license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Ew.

In a letter to the NRC, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the proposal "seems like a risky proposition to me."

And Vitter understands a thing or two about "risky propositions", yuk yuk.

Let's gather a bit more detail about this arrangement. Here are some excerpts from a November article in the Charleston paper:

Italy would send 20,000 tons of radioactive waste through the ports of Charleston and New Orleans beginning next spring for burial in a dump in Utah under a proposal by EnergySolutions, the company that runs a radioactive waste landfill in Barnwell County.

Some in Congress are questioning the plan, saying it's the first time a company has sought approval to import such a large amount of radioactive waste.

EnergySolutions counters that other companies have imported radioactive materials before, and that the company can do it safely.

This makes me wonder about how much radioactive material is already coming through the Port of New Orleans. We know there's lots of environmentally harmful chemicals and oil products coming through the port, but how much radioactive material is there? We don't hear so much about that. If 20k tons is a large amount, what is considered a "small" amount? What-- if anything-- constitutes a "safe" amount of transported radioactive material on a river? (Especially when the river's high and wild, you think there aren't frequent "close calls"?) Here's more:

David McIntyre, a public affairs specialist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the agency had yet to respond to the letter. He said the agency has received applications from companies wanting to import radioactive waste before, though he wasn't sure of the number and what volumes were involved...

In a statement, EnergySolutions said Tuesday that it's a world leader in the safe handling and disposal of radioactive materials, and that many companies import waste through U.S. ports. They cited licenses granted to companies that import uranium cylinders from England and radioactive items from France and the Czech Republic.


That's interesting. What is the number and volume of radioactive items and waste that comes through the Port of New Orleans? I'm not trying to be alarmist, but I'd like to get a sense of proportion here.

[The] proposal comes at a time of dwindling disposal options in the United States. Starting next summer, the Barnwell landfill, one of three in the nation that accept low-level radioactive waste, will accept material from only three states: South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"Given what happened to Barnwell, I'm not so sure the (NRC) is going to open the doors to low-level waste from overseas," said Mitch Singer, media relations manager for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an organization that represents the nuclear industry.


"Dwindling disposal options"? I'm sure that looming reality has been prudently factored into the true costs of radioactive waste disposal. No doubt. They wouldn't underestimate that sort of thing to boost short term profits.

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So, if the Utah Jazz win (tonight) and then beat the Lakers in the conference semifinals, they will face the New Orleans Hornets (if they can beat the Spurs).

Thus, the Utah Jazz-- the "most comically misnamed team in professional sports"-- might have a playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets (who are also comically misnamed). It would be better if New Orleans could trade nicknames with Utah, and become the "Jazz" again. Or, if Utah didn't like the "Hornets" moniker they could pick an entirely new name*.

If, as I predict, Utah and New Orleans meet in the conference finals, the Hornets will have home court advantage. That means games 1,2,5 and 7 will be played at New Orleans Arena, and games 3, 4 and 6 will be played at EnergySolutions Arena.

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* Perhaps something like "the dirty isotopes", or "the green jello salad infusion".

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title reference

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

D.C. Madam found dead, apparent suicide 

AP:

D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey has been found dead in a home in Florida, police say.

Police in Tarpon Springs, Fla. were called to the home of Palfrey's mother, Blanche, to investigate an apparent suicide at 10:52 a.m. at the Sun Valley Mobile Home Park.

Police confirmed the dead woman as 52-year-old Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

Palfrey's body was found in a small storage shed near her mother's mobile home, police say.

There was a handwritten suicide note, but police did not disclose its contents.

Palfrey was convicted on April 15 of racketeering and money laundering charges for running a prostitution ring.

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Today's the National Day of Prayer! 

The National Day of Prayer Task Force does all it can to promote the day. They're a conservative nonprofit out of Colorado, created by the National Prayer Committee.

The Task Force says that it represents "a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible."

The mission of the Task Force is to "communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family."

Here's Gov. Bobby Jindal's proclamation that today is Louisiana's Day of Prayer.


I pray that America never has to witness another scene of choreographed hubris like the one that occurred 5 years ago.



Birthday cake and McCain, a winning combination.

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Petrodollar diplomacy 

AP:

Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer, has stopped conducting oil transactions in U.S. dollars, a top Oil Ministry official said Wednesday, a concerted attempt to reduce reliance on Washington at a time of tension over Tehran's nuclear program and suspected involvement in Iraq.

Iran has dramatically reduced dependence on the dollar over the past year in the face of increasing U.S. pressure on its financial system and the fall in the value of the American currency.
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Iran has a tense relationship with the U.S., which has accused Tehran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development and providing support to Shiite militants in Iraq that are killing American troops. Iran has denied the allegations.

The U.S. is sending a second U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, a deployment that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday could serve as a "reminder" to Iran. But he said it's not an escalation of force.

These developments would appear ominous under most circumstances, but our involvement in the unpopular Iraq morass combined with an election year, a recession, high gas prices, and a dreadfully unpopular Commander-in-Chief makes any pre-emptive attack on Iran politically impossible, in my opinion.

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Hat tip to the Flaming Liberal

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Fragility and Goodness 

I prefer team sports because of transcendent moments like this one.



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"A new poll says Bush-- not Wright or Bill Clinton-- is voter's main concern" 

How can that be? I was under the impression that Obama's former pastor and Bill Clinton's penis were the cause of all our problems.

WSJ:

Only 27% of voters have positive views of the Republican Party, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the lowest level for either party in the survey's nearly two-decade history.
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President Bush reached new lows in his eighth and final year, with 27% approving of his overall job performance, and 21% his handling of the weakened economy. An unprecedented 73% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track; only 15% say it is going in the right direction.

The numbers show an electorate more disenchanted than in the fall of 1992, the previous low in the Journal poll -- sentiments that led to the ouster of President Bush's father.


I'm sure the voters will come around by November, after the summer rebate checks are spent and this non-recession is comfortably behind us. Then, Americans will come to understand that their dissatisfaction actually stems directly from Pastor Wright and the Big Dog's pecker.

How could it be otherwise?

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Cazayoux positioned to win LA-06 special election 

You don't need polls to know that Democrat Don Cazayoux is ahead and will claim victory Saturday over Republican Woody Jenkins. Just look at the Goopers' desperation.

This is a conservative district that went for Bush 60-40% in 2004, and has been in Republican hands for a long time. It will be national news when Cazayoux prevails over a well-known diminutive reactionary like Jenkins.

Suck it, Woody.

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