Friday, June 24, 2011

Lafayette delegation kills anti-LUS bill

The Advertiser carries a nifty little story that illustrates a basic principle of legislative strategy seldom covered in civics texts; let's call it: "Killing with Kindness" or KWK

Now the more usual strategy is to kill a bad bill by, you know, arguing against it. That's in all the civics books. Debate, rational argumentation—you've heard of it. But using the standard strategy depends upon your opponent having actually putting forward the real purpose of the bill. If instead he has disguised his real purpose by using some Mom and Apple Pie (MAP) strategy disguise its true purpose—well then, things get a bit harder for opponents of the true bill. After all who wants to vote against Mom or Apple Pie? Or, in this case, for "porn."

Now faced with MAP you've got two choices: 1) Argue against the real purpose and count on your fellow legislators to be smart enough to see through the deception and brave enough to vote against Mom. (intelligence+courage: not available in Louisiana) 2) KWK—Kill it with Kindness, a sort of legislative jiujitsu which turns the strength of the deceptive MAP bill against it in a way that damages the real interests behind the bad bill and so causes its advocates to turn against it. (slyness: something Louisiana has in abundance)

Sooo...now we are in a position to understand the story in the Advertiser report more fully. Franklin house member Sam Jones puts forward an obviously pointless MAP bill—one which he pretends is needed to outlaw something that is already illegal (buying porn on a government credit card.) From the story:
Jones originally explained HB142 as banning the use of public credit cards by state and local officials visiting strip clubs or purchasing pay-per-view movies while traveling,
One of the sly points of a MAP strategy is that it isn't as clear as with an honest bill whose interests are actually served. So anyone intending to counter it with a KWK (Kill it With Kindess) strategy has to accurately scope out the real intent behind the bill. Michot thought he knew who was behind the bill:
"Lafayette is the only public utility that offers cable service," Michot said. He said singling out Lafayette would put it at an unfair disadvantage against competitors like Cox and AT&T.
So the Lafayette contingent had to figure out how to kill Cox and AT&T with kindness. If they were right they could kill the bill by causing the incumbents' agents to withdraw it rather than suffer the consequences. (If they were wrong they'd lose—if the real interest was just some sort of simple silly prudery then the bill's author would welcome make it more prudish and silly.) The most obvious thing to try is to include Cox in the same trap that Smith & Cox were trying to put the Lafayette legislators and LUS in: include them in the bill:
Michot and Rep. Joel Robideaux of Lafayette were appointed to a conference committee to try to reach a compromise. Michot and other Senate appointees, as well as Robideaux, who was a House delegate to the panel, wanted to make the ban apply to all cable TV providers in Louisiana.
This is the crucial moment in the story—if Lafayette is right and the real interests behind the bill were the incumbents then they'd tell their agent (Smith) to drop the thing; after all this sort of strategy is supposed to use the power of the state to create a disadvantage for your competitor, not "level the playing field." Apparently Lafayette was right:

Since he couldn't get Michot to pull his amendment, he decided to allow the bill to die without action.

Robideaux said that to him, Jones' unwillingness to work on a compromise "tells me it was always about trying to put LUS at a disadvantage. If he would have worked with us, he had every opportunity to have his bill passed and signed.
There you have it: An advanced lesson in civics as she is played out in the Gret State.

Extra Credit: Decide whether the real point of this exercise was purely PR — was it never intended to pass, only to try and lay on LUS (again--this ploy fizzled badly during the fiber fight) the onus of selling "porn?" Or was the hope to impose another long, embarrassing and distracting lawsuit on Lafayette? (This worked pretty well during the fiber fight.) Show your work....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LUS Fiber and Porn (Roll Eyes)

Good Grief....I go out of town for a couple of weeks on a Rockies camping vacation and return to reams of "coverage" of LUS Fiber after a long quiet period. I'll get around to making some sort of comment on earlier financial stories just as soon as I get it all straightened out in my own head what the issue is supposed to be. But this latest business about porn is just plain silly.

First: Of Course LUS Fiber has porn channels. So does every single other video provider you care to name. Big whoop. Glad to get that moral dilemma out of the way.

Now, about representative Sam Jones (R, Franklin) suggesting a law that was ostensibly only supposed to prevent public officials from using their credit cards to buy porn. He says that it wasn't supposed to effect the big city right up US 90 from his burg in any way...but then again he's gonna fight any change that might clarify that it wasn't his intent. That is purest horse pucky. He's been put up to this. There is NO need for a law preventing public officials from buying porn...that would be using the public's credit card for personal purchases and that is already against the law. If his intent was so innocently (and pointlessly) school marmish then he wouldn't be fighting an amendment that would clarify it.

There is a lot of murkiness behind this article...according to text the Advertiser apparently alerted LUS and the city-parish's state lobbyist to the existence of the bill following which LUS asked Michot to put in a clarifying amendment. Various confusions followed. What's most interesting about that story is that we aren't told how the Advertiser knew this toss away law was being put up late in the session. You can bet that there's nobody at the Advertiser who is pouring over the legislative daily's for stories about ridiculous uses of public credit cards while our states financial crisis continues to deepen with no resolution in sight. No, somebody pointed this bill out, and underlined the not-obvious implication it had for LUS Fiber. If the Advertiser really wanted to get to the bottom of this "story" they'd follow that lead. Or at least tell us so who did so that we could trace the implications for ourselves.

Who put this neat little bit of sensationalism before the Advertiser reporter? Follow that trail and you might actually have something to report on that would be relevant to the larger battle.

What do I think? Follow the money as two reporters were famously advised. Who benefits? Nobody but Cox Communications...and anyone who thinks they are above such crassness doesn't remember the ugliness of Lafayette's fight to build our network.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Quick Note: LUS promises a Gigabit...before Kansas City

Quick Note Department

Here's a a bit of Lafayette news that I missed in the furor over the Google's selection of Kansas City for their experimental gigabit network. 10:12 Corridor, a regional business weekly, called Terry Huval, head of LUS, for his response to the news:
Huval says the LUS Fiber network is already providing Gigabit services to all of the public high schools in Lafayette Parish, and by the time the Kansas City Google system is operating, the LUS Fiber system will be making Gigabit speeds available to homes and businesses in Lafayette. (Emphasis mine.)
So...Google says that it will be providing service "beginning in 2012." That's been mostly interpreted as early 2012. That, in turn, would seem to imply that LUS anticipates providing gigabit service sometime this year. (Uh, LUS Fiber PR people, where are you? This is not the sort of thing you allow to be revealed in a casual interview and then fail to take advantage of here.)

We've got six months or a bit more in which to hold our breath.

Update: For Your Files—Durel issued a press release following the Google announcement (mentioned in the article cited above): Lafayette to benefit from the Google Fiber for Communities initiative.