Holiday Ramblings (Wednesday)

Today we’re a little on the chippy side…


If there is a more left-wing newspaper in Louisiana than the Baton Rouge Advocate we sure haven’t seen it.

In case anybody needs further evidence behind this assertion here’s some, courtesy of the editors on Monday…

Call it the great Haynesville Bust.

Yes, the Haynesville Shale deposits that are America’s new great source of natural gas. In northwestern Louisiana, on land, not offshore in federal waters where the state gets little tax benefit from energy production. But it turns out that Louisiana isn’t getting much tax benefit from the Haynesville play, because of its own decisions. A new state budget downturn is forcing some cuts this holiday season, during the middle of the state’s fiscal year.

How can that be? The Haynesville drilling is booming. Even if natural gas prices are far off their peak, the drilling activity alone — on land, again — should provide for extra money for education, health care and other purposes in the state budget.

“As far as I know, there has been about a thousand wells drilled and not one dry hole,” said Foster Campbell, the Public Service Commission member from the area.

Wait, there’s more.

Alas, as economists reported to the state this week, most of that production is exempt from state taxation. In the 1990s, when horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were new methods, the state passed at the behest of the powerful oil industry a 100 percent tax exemption for the cost of drilling wells. Once the well paid its drilling costs, or two years had elapsed, then the state would start to collect severance taxes. That “incentive” to promote new methods was never examined, apparently, again. It was just kept on the books. Apparently, no one in the state’s brains trust — from Gov. Bobby Jindal on down — ever thought that this deserved discussion. Certainly not before the Haynesville Shale exploded into production.

It is not yet clear from the presentations to the state revenue estimating committee how many or how soon many of those 1,000 wells that Campbell spoke of will start paying tax revenues. Natural gas wells tend to produce on a steep curve early and moderate quickly; maybe the severance tax break will be used up in a year or so. And yes, there are lease payments and other money that the state gets to tax, directly or indirectly, from the shale activity. But the severance taxes will be a fraction of what would have been received from full taxation from the get-go.

And the grand finale…

Ultimately, in the case of budget cuts this week, the fact that the Haynesville Bust occurred is a self-inflicted wound by state politicians in hock to powerful interests.

Does this really merit a response? First, in order to think the Haynesville Shale is a bust you’d have to believe that Louisiana is somehow Cuba or North Korea, where the government is the only important party to be found within our borders. The fact is that thousands and thousands of Louisianans have reaped fortunes from the Haynesville Shale and have paid out in state income and property taxes as a result. The find has produced thousands of jobs for the state, from which income and property taxes have resulted – one company, Chesapeake Energy, has paid $9 million in property taxes alone this year. It has resulted in significant economic growth in an area of the state which for a long time didn’t have any. And it has contributed to cheaper natural gas, which has benefited industry in the state and created or saved a great many jobs.

You have to be either incredibly myopic or far-gone to the left to consider such an economic boon to be a “bust.” But somebody at the Advocate believes this bilge.

Second, Louisiana doesn’t have a revenue problem. Louisiana has a spending problem. Louisiana has had a spending problem for a long time. Even when the state’s revenues were flush thanks to the confiscatory taxation of the Stelly plan and then the post-Katrina bubble, the economy and the population were stagnant because the government crowded the private sector out. That’s why Texas has grown into an economic behemoth the last 15 years and we’ve been stagnant (at least until very recently).

The Haynesville Shale is playing out exactly as it should. It doesn’t exist to provide politicians at the State Capitol with oodles of dead presidents to buy votes with; it exists to benefit the owners of land who lease their property for mineral exploration and the entrepreneurs who take the financial risk to create fuel for our economy. And the workers who facilitate the transfer. As those parties benefit, the government does as well. And Louisiana’s severance tax law was drawn up in order to encourage that exploration, not to create some public-sector windfall when it produced results.

As for the crack about “powerful special interests,” please. Teachers’ unions and the NAACP and university administrators and state workers, who will be howling when there are budget cuts, aren’t “special interests?” If they’re not “powerful,” blame the voters – they’re the ones who chose business and industry over the public sector by running the Democrat Party out of state government. People have decided they’d rather have a growing private sector and a shrinking public sector after decades of the opposite.

A few years ago the Manship family plunked down $70 million for a brand new press and facility at the Advocate, which was a pretty dubious investment given the future of the print newspaper business. They should have added a few bucks for editorial writers who don’t belong in San Francisco or Massachusetts; with this kind of idiocy appearing as the paper’s in-house opinion they’ll soon be printing wedding invitations on that press rather than the fishwrap housing Monday’s editorial.


Apparently, not everybody appreciates Drew Brees’ record-breaking TD pass to Darren Sproles on Monday night. Pete Prisco, who is a “senior NFL columnist” for CBS Sports’ website, penned a rather noteworthy piece (if a bit off-putting) panning the decision to throw the ball late in a 45-16 victory…

If they are the third seed, there is a chance they will play the Falcons again in two weeks. If they do, they will be facing a team that sure didn’t take too kindly to the way Brees broke the record.

Nor should they have.

Brees broke the record with 2:51 left in the game with the score 38-16. It was a questionable decision to say the least to go for it in that manner since the Saints have another game to break the record. Payton must have known that too since he brought up the decision before somebody asked about it during his post-game news conference.

“Someone is going to ask this question so I am going to answer it before it’s asked,” Payton said. “Typically, would I be throwing it there? The answer would be probably not. In fact, the answer would be ‘I wouldn’t be.’ But I thought it was appropriate that we get the record. And we did it. We have a ton of respect for Falcons coach Mike [Smith], his staff and his players. It seemed like the right thing to do. I felt real good about the decision.”

Respect? The Falcons players didn’t see it that way. Nor did much of their staff.

The players I talked to all thought it was classless.


“No need for that,” one player said. “It came on our watch, but it didn’t have to come that way. We won’t forget it.”

Payton said he talked to Smith about the decision after the game, and also addressed some of the Falcons players about why he went for the record with the score what it was that late in the game.

The word I got out of the Falcons locker room was the only player he talked to about it was quarterback Matt Ryan.

“He didn’t talk to me,” Falcons corner Dunta Robinson said.

“I’m with Dunta,” safety William Moore said.

A handful of other defensive players said they had no contact with Payton either.

“We weren’t trying to run up the score or anything,” Brees said,

Maybe not, but the Falcons sure didn’t like it.

When I asked Payton how he would have felt if that were done to his team, he said, “It’s hard for me to answer because it didn’t happen to me. But I felt really good about the decision.”

The way I see it, what should have been a truly special moment, something that should have happened in the context of the game, and made it tainted with questions.

It won’t overshadow what truly is a special record for one of the greatest passers of this generation, even ever, but it does take some of the gloss off of it.

First of all, didn’t Atlanta run up a 41-14 score on Jacksonville just a week ago? Yep, it looks like they did. Second, does Atlanta seriously expect mercy from the Saints? Atlanta is a blood rival. That means something. Third, the Falcons aren’t exactly New Mexico State; they didn’t come to the Superdome as a rent-a-win team looking for a check. They’re an NFL team headed to the playoffs; if they don’t like Brees throwing for touchdowns then maybe they should have stopped him instead of whining like little bitches.

The chances are pretty good that Atlanta will come back in a couple of weeks for a playoff game. If this is the attitude they’ll bring, 45-16 will be a Swedish massage compared to what the Saints will do to them. Grow a set and earn your salary. This is the NFL; it’s not some soccer league for chump six year olds where everybody gets a trophy just for showing up. It was no surprise that the Saints were going for that record Monday night. Atlanta’s job was to stop it. And they couldn’t. Boo freakin’ hoo.

It’s hard to hate the Falcons any more than we already do, but this definitely makes it possible. As for this Prisco guy, he might want to consider sniffing jocks in some different locker rooms. What a tool he is to even write such drivel.

And by the way, also at CBS Sports Gregg Doyel agrees

I’m talking about the Falcons’ reaction, late in the game and then afterward, to the sight — shocking! — of Brees still in the game, still throwing passes, in the final minutes.

The Falcons gestured and stared. They pouted and sulked. They gave our Pete Prisco passive-aggressive comments of the most gutless variety — anonymously, because none of them had the stones to attach his name to it — about the nerve (the nerve!) of Saints coach Sean Payton, who let Brees play the game for 60 full minutes.

See, the Falcons wanted pity. They wanted Payton to feel sorry for them by letting off the gas, stop playing the game, stop trying. That would have made the Falcons feel better, I guess: The sight of the Saints feeling sorry for their woebegone little defense.

So at this point, I have a question for the Falcons and their coaches: Are you guys professionals, or are you babies?

This isn’t high school, and that wasn’t one Class 5A monster running up the score on a tiny Class 1A opponent. This was one NFL playoff team playing another NFL playoff team, in a league with a salary cap and reverse draft order and other rules designed to promote parity.

Sure, Brees could have stopped playing in the fourth quarter, could have come up a few yards short of the record, could have subjected himself and his team to a week’s worth of distraction entering the regular-season finale Sunday against Carolina — a game the Saints need to win to have any shot of a first-round playoff bye.

But never mind that!

The Saints should have worried about the feelings of the poor Atlanta Falcons!

Hey, Atlanta, when you’re done with that baby’s bib … please send it my way. I think I’m going to be sick.


Yesterday we found this…

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) summed up Republicans’ leadership of the House this year as a “disaster,” The Columbus Dispatch reported on Monday. 

“It’s been a disaster, quite frankly,” said Ryan, aiming his comments at the 87 freshman Republicans.

“It has been an ideological group who hates government and doesn’t think government has any role in our society,” he said.

Ryan went on to suggest that former President Reagan, who is often held up as an icon of the right, would not make it past a Republican primary, given the current Tea Party trend.

“Ronald Reagan could not win a Republican primary right now,” said Ryan. “It’s gotten so far to the right that someone traditionally conservative like Reagan would get beat in a primary.”

So Republicans who haven’t been bought off by the Beltway crowd yet hate government? Interesting – the guy for whom our nation’s capital is named had something funny to say about all this…

‎”Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

So – on whose side do you think the most important of our Founding Fathers would be on? Here’s a hint: not Tim Ryan.


This will undoubtedly be the stupidest thing you’ll see all week.

Yesterday, Gunner Kiel committed to play football at LSU. Why does that news belong on the Hayride? Well, Kiel’s commitment was something of a big deal. He’s the top-rated high school quarterback in the country, and potentially the best quarterback LSU has brought into the program since Jamarcus Russell. There is talk that Kiel might be the most college-ready recruit in the country and even talk that he could come in and beat out Zack Mettenberger for the starting job next year.

That last part is pretty irresponsible hype from a recruiting guru, but the point is that Kiel has the look of an Andrew Luck-type impact player at a position where LSU typically survives rather than excels. While Matt Flynn is a pretty solid backup quarterback for the Packers, he’s more of a field general than a superstar, and that’s a description which fits Matt Mauck, LSU’s other national championship quarterback of recent vintage. Current quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have combined to lead the team to the cusp of a third national title, but neither are considered superstar quality either.

So a big-time quarterback at the helm of the Tiger offense is a rather frightening thought for the rest of college football. And Kiel is that; having turned down most of the nation’s top programs to opt for Baton Rouge. He’ll be enrolling next month and taking part in spring practice.

It’s a big deal, and it’s the talk of the college football recruiting circuit.

Which means that, naturally, the morons among Alabama’s fans are telling crazy stories about how Nick Saban turned Kiel down; otherwise he’d have committed to Alabama. A taste, though it’s from around Halloween…

If Gunner Kiel thought Alabama would still be interested in him after being spurned by him with his commitment to Indiana and subsequent backing away from that commitment, he doesn’t know Nick.

Kiel wants to go to Notre Dame and Alabama for visits, and while the Irish will roll out the red carpet and slobber all over him, Alabama at this point could really care less.

Alabama took a commitment from a quarterback, and they don’t back away from a player once they’ve given their word. This was a year that Alabama only wanted to take one quarterback, and the Tide found one in Alec Morris, a pro style quarterback from Allen, Texas.

With just a few spots left in the 2012 signing class and other needs to be filled rather than quarterback, there simply isn’t a need anymore. Kiel’s chance has come and gone to be part of the Crimson Tide.

And perhaps his chance to ever be a champion has come and gone too.

Alabama doesn’t need you now, Mr. Kiel, and if you don’t already know it, you will in a few years. You needed Alabama a whole lot more than they needed you.

Saban only wants people who are sure they want to be there.

Alabama won a recent national championship with another little known Texas quarterback, and the Tide may do it again.

The Alabama message boards are full of this kind of rot, and it’s a sure thing anyone masochistic enough to listen to Paul Finebaum’s show will hear it on the radio this afternoon.

Two things can be said about the sentiments expressed in the goofy piece referenced above. First, Alec Morris is such an impressive player that his other offers came from – wait for it – Wake Forest and North Texas. Texas didn’t want him, and neither did Texas Tech, Houston, Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor or SMU.

And second, Saban isn’t exactly the gold standard for talent evaluation at the quarterback position. Saban is the dunce who decided he’d rather have Daunte Culpepper than Drew Brees.

LSU will do just fine with the nation’s top high school quarterback. Alabama? Probably not as well with the kid they stole from the Mean Green.


Just a few things to mention about the state of things in America the week before New Year’s Eve…

1. Every day, the U.S. government takes in $6 billion and spends $10 billion. This means that every day the federal government spends $4 billion more dollars than it has.
2. The real unemployment rate is a jaw-dropping 11 percent.
3. Every fifth man you pass on your way to work is now out of work.
4. College graduates are now 34% less likely to find a job under Obama than they were under President George W. Bush.
5. Every seventh person you pass on the sidewalk now relies on food stamps.
6. The ravages of the Obama economy now mean that more Americans live under the federal poverty line than at any time in U.S. history since records have been kept.
7. Under President Barack Obama, every fifth child in America now lives in poverty.



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