Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Chickens

Being a chicken is a tricky business. In addition to traditional enemies like foxes, today chickens have to be wary of McDonalds and their McNuggets and the evil Colonel Saunders. In the State of Louisiana though, there are even greater perils to worry these creatures, which have been making the news of late.

It turns out that Cockfighting is still legal in Louisiana. Many people find this fact surprising, given that, for example, this activity was outlawed in England back in 1835 (it was not outlawed in Scotland until 1895). Every few years, there is an attempt at prohibiting cockfighting, but these attempts seldom get anywhere. There has been another attempt this year, which appears to be doing better than usual, due to fears about so-called 'bird flu'. This is why the matter has been making the news.

Many people find the notion of cockfighting problematic, on the grounds that it is cruel to the animals involved. Indeed, Louisiana Revised Statutes, 14:102.1 which describes 'Cruelty to animals; Simple and aggravated' prohibits most forms of animal cruelty. However, Section D of this statute contains the following remarkable provision:

"For purposes of this section, fowl shall not be defined as animals."

So, under Louisiana law, chickens, roosters and their feathered friends are denied status as animals, as a matter of definition! The law is silent on whether chickens should be considered vegetable, or mineral instead. By way of this legislative 'fiat' cockfighting remains a perfectly legal activity, at least for now.

It is important to also realize that this is not some arcane and abstract legal matter. At least one of the workers in my building actively engages in cockfighting on a regular basis. He is concerned about this latest attempt at legislative prohibition. This man is clearly no monster. I only found out about his hobby one day when, as we had done many times before, we were smoking together outside the building. He considers cockfighting to be part of his heritage. Who am I to disagree?

The CP

Sunday, May 21, 2006

MCI: Moronic, Criminal and Ignorant

So, the main topic this week will be the recent activities of the phone company MCI. They appear to be a bunch of crooks, as best I can figure out.

My normal phone company is AT and T. I have been with them for a while, as they offer plans that suit my calling habits. I was very sorry to hear that they decided to throw their hat in with the profoundly dreadful BellSouth, who I have complained about before. However, this week I discovered a rather nasty consequence of my phone company choice.

I have a friend who is currently in jail. We are able to keep in touch by letter, but some times it is nice to be able to actually talk on the phone. This is not an altogether easy proposition, as the only way we can talk is for my friend to call me collect. In theory though, this should not be too difficult. However, it seems that the crooks at the phone companies, notably MCI, want to make this process as difficult as possible.

When my friend first called me, I got the usual officious greetings explaining that the call originated from a prison, and was then asked whether I would accept the charge. Naturally, I agreed. We had a very nice chat and everything was cool. A little while later I received a bill from MCI, which I paid the very next day. No problems, thus far. The bill was ridiculously high, but no matter. It turns out that MCI has the contract to provide collect calls from prisons in the State of Louisiana. Although I am sure that there have been all sorts of antics (i.e. back-handers) of the sort a Public Service Commissioner should care about in the awarding of this contract, on the face of it, it seems a reasonable arrangement. It does provide MCI with a State sanctioned monopoly, which explains the high rates.

However, this week, I received a letter from my friend telling me that my number has now been blocked by MCI. This was quite a surprise, as I had payed the bill and as I had heard nothing about this. So, I put in a call to MCI, to try and find out what was going on. My goodness, did I get a shock!

'Lequisha 5' of MCI informed me that as I was with AT and T and MCI had no billing arrangement with them, I would have to open a new account with MCI. This surprised me a little. I know of someone else who has BellSouth for their phone service and they are not required to do this. After all, BellSouth and AT and T recently merged! Lequisha 5 was unimpressed. She knew nothing about the merger and anyhow did not care. I asked Lequisha 5 why MCI could not just send me separate bills, as they had before. She told me that this was a new program which had only been in operation a few months. I pointed out that I had received my bill from MCI only two weeks previously, so this did not sound too plausible. Again, Lequisha 5 was unimpressed. She told me that I had to open an account with MCI. She also offered me the option of changing my phone company to MCI! This was the giddy limit -- it amounts to an attempt at slamming. The worst was yet to come, however.

When I told Lequisha 5 that I did not want to change my phone company, she informed me that my only option was to open a special MCI account. She also told me that MCI had called me on numerous occasions, to tell me this. This is an outright lie, but I let it go. So, we began the process of setting up an account. This was where the big shock came. It turns out, in order to open up an account with MCI one has to provide an up-front payment of $50. I protested this. I suggested that MCI could check my credit, check my payment records, whatever they needed to do. None of this was good enough for Lequisha 5. If I wanted the block removed from my phone, so that I could receive calls from my friend, then MCI needed $50 of my money.

As Lequisha 5 was clearly a very determined lady, I naturally asked her what rate of interest would be paid to me, whilst MCI had their sticky fingers on my $50. Lequisha 5 clearly thought that such a request was retarded. There would be no interest paid at all! The good new was though that, if I received a call from my friend, the cost would be deducted from my $50.

I told Lequisha 5 that this arrangement was not really satisfactory. One of the many problems I could see with her proposal was that it was a pretty clear violation of 47 USCS 253(a) (the text is available here). This law applies mainly to States, and as MCI is acting as an agent of the State of Louisiana, in this case, it should apply to them. Needless to say, Lequisha 5, was unimpressed. When I asked Lequisha 5 to transfer me to the MCI legal department, so that I could debate this point with someone better versed in the law, she explained that she could not transfer me, but gave me the number. When I called the number she gave me, it was the number for the Federal Communications Commission! So, naturally, I filed a complaint against MCI.

There is however, a deeper and more troubling point here. I am educated and middle class. Many of the friends and families of inmates are not. I can afford to pay $50 so that I can receive calls from my friend. However, for a person living on minimum wage, this $50 MCI charge represents a significant amount of money and no doubt amounts to a considerable hardship. What I have in mind here are all the little old ladies, with sons in jail, or wives with husbands in jail. It appears that this fee presents a very real and substantial barrier to their abilities to maintain significant family relationships with their incarcerated relatives. This seems to me to be wrong.

What is also problematic is the vast amount of money this 'program' will yield to MCI. The Louisiana State Prison at Angola, for example holds roughly 5,000 prisoners, at any time. If each of these prisoners has just two contacts on the outside they wish to be able to call, then this would provide revenues to MCI of half a million Dollars, just for the right to be able to be contacted by an imprisoned friend, or loved one. Assuming an annual interest rate of 4%, this provides MCI with a net profit of $20,000 for doing nothing! These figures result from very conservative assumptions. Who knows how much money this MCI scam will actually make them.

I know that I am not the only person who has had problems with MCI, in this kind of context. I will be filing complains with any responsible authority, or legislative agency. In the meantime, should you wish to discuss this matter with the 'fragrant' Lequisha 5, then please feel free to give her a call. Her number is 1-800-231-0193. I am sure that she (or one of her partners in crime) will keep you on hold for a good long time, before trying slam you into signing up with MCI. It seems whether you fall for this ruse or not, Lequisha 5 and her cohorts will still have plenty of novel and legally dubious methods to steal your money.

The CP

Update: In addition to the complaint I filed with the FCC, I have now also lodged complaints with the Public Service Commission and The Better Business Bureau. Professor Zero is reporting that Sprint also does something similar, but they ask for $150 up front, and charge even more for calls! May I politely suggest that everyone calls these phone company crooks and screams at them. Also, I recommend that if you own MCI stock, now would be a really good time to dump it. What a bunch of bastards.

The CP

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm Done!

Well, the horrors of the end of semester grading marathon are finished. My last grade was posted a little while ago. This semester has been especially difficult, for reasons I cannot fathom. For your amusement, here are some of the more amusing stories from the real world of a philosophy professor.

Student A, a graduating senior, came down with some evil infectious malady and missed the final, to avoid infecting the class. After several phone calls we worked out a solution. Now, he just has to get the two professors without phones or e-mail addresses to give him grades and a break. This is all so this guy can go get killed in Iraq...Sheesh!

Student B, another graduating senior, had his appendix out mid to late semester. Unfortunately, my useless colleague gave him a poor grade on a required course, poor enough to stop him graduating. He needs to graduate. The Chair could help, but he doesn't feel that he can (for God knows what reason). As the professor in question does not accept any excuses in his course (including major surgery), the only hope is the Dean. As this is my student, I will have to make some calls in the morning...goddamn

Student C, yet another graduating senior, handed in a paper that clearly was not written by him/her. I busted his/her arse. They will now not graduate. They were pretty cool about it, but what a waste...Holy Shit

Student D, sent their paper late and by e-mail. In their e-mail, the said that they were sorry that the paper was not properly formatted, but I could probably do it reasonably easily. Do I look like the office staff?...Lordy, sing goddamn

On the up side, one student made a mistake with their spell checker. The word 'ask' was replaced throughout by the word 'ass'. At least this produced a belly laugh! faints

So, I am too tired to write more. I also have to be up early tomorrow to deal with government flavored stupidity. I'll try and write a more inspiring blog soon, when I have cleansed myself from the semester horrors. To those who are still in the Horrors of grading, keep in mind it will come to an end and there will be a cold beer waiting, even though you will fall asleep from exhaustion before you are able to drink it!

The CP

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Student Housing

The amusement for this week is that the students are complaining. Apparently, some of them live in a place developed by Capstone Development Corp. Problems with this place is now a popular form of excuse. So, I did a bit of digging to find out who these folks are, and how they behave. What can I say? My God, it sounds like these people run grade one zoos! I am not too sure about what to do with my students who have to live in these Capstone Gulags, but here are some amusing comments from their residents (N.B. Quoted ratings come from

Comments From Residents of Capstone Developments Properties

University Commons Apartments, Eugene, OR.-- Overall Rating: Recommended by 0.0%

"The neighbor (sic) are loud 24-7 and management doesn't do anything. The emergency call buttons are took at least 15-minutes for anyone to respond and the management never did. This place is the worst place to live. I hate it here and I can't wait to move out. If it didn't cost so much to break a lease I would have months ago."”

Anonymous (Source:

"“The first month we lived here the trash area was a complete mess. The trash pile was over 5 feet high and span over a 10x10 square. Had to call the health department to get it cleaned up. Every week I am having to call to make noise complaints from noisy neighbors partying until 4am...In one week, 23 cars were stolen. My brand new bike was stolen within a week of moving in. Theft is high in this area. Just stay away from here for your own good."”

Anonymous (Source:

"“I lived here for a year during my Senior year as a U of O student. What a horrible mistake it turned out to be. Most nights there were extremely loud parties until 4 a.m., the police showing up to break up fights as things often escalated."

Anonymous (Source:

University Commons Apartments, Gainsville, FL. -- Overall Rating: Recommended by 31.0%

"“...We constantly have bugs, roaches to spiders, to sink nats! We have gaps under the sinks that bugs travel in and out of. They help tow trucks make money, I know at least 8 different people who have gotten their car towed, even if you rent here it could be towed and you still have to pay!...If you want to live in a noisy, rude and nasty place...this is for you."”

Anonymous (Source:

"“The place is a joke, The office staff sucks. The kids who live here are rapist and a**holes. My roommate got raped by someone who lived in building C while living here and they wouldn't let her out of her lease and they didn't kick the kid out.. This place is a dump.. PARENTS BEWARE"”

Anonymous, (Source:

"“...They don't control the parties here, so if you have a noise complaint, save your breath and just call the Alachua County Sheriff's Dept. and have a cop come out instead. They come quickly and are efficient b/c they LOVE busting up the parties. And then you can finally sleep!Â"

Anonymous (Source:

"“I have lived here for only one month and I am sicker than I have ever been. When it rains, our windows leak. Besides damdaging (sic) our property, it makes mold grow all over our house and I am constantly sneezing, coughing, and hacking up phlegm...There is NO storage space. Loud people at the pool outside my window will yell and scream until 3:00 AM I'm serious, consider every other option before moving here. These guys will tow you, your friends, your mother, even Jesus at anytime of ANY day. My boyfriend got towed on SUNDAY MORNING! Who tows on Sunday morning? He even had a visitor parking pass! My mother got towed because she was here cleaning my apartment of BLACK MOLD! They lure you in with a tour of a nice looking apartment, and the one you get will be nothing like it. The pool water looks milky.Â"

Anonymous (Source:

University Commons Apartments, College Station, TX.-- Overall Rating: Recommended by 29.0%

"“Would you like your car broken into? Ok if you are like any other person I would guess that NO you would not like your car broken into and have eveything (sic) including your backpack stolen. That is exactley what happened to me. Then a couple of nights later, I kid you not, 20 cars were vandalized. Someone actually took a bat to my friends truck and made a hole the size of a watermelon in the side of it! To top it all off the managment told us they were not going to do anything about all of the break ins and refuse to higher any security.Â"

Anonymous, (Source:

"“...Everything around you is a facade. There is no peace here: Any moment could be a moment when you hear a loud noise from your immature neighbors, any morning could be the morning you find your car gone (towed), any meal can be the infested with ants. Theres just no end to the madness. You've been warned.Â"

Anonymous, (Source:

"“Be ready to deal with freshman/sophomore idiots who think it is time to act like jackasses just because they don't live with Mommy anymore. I had a neighbor who smoked pot all the time and the smoke would come through the vent into my apts. After MANY complaints to him and the management, I finally called the police and they got arrested. But, did the mgmt kick them out? NO!Â"

Anonymous, (Source:

Wow! I guess the students really have things to complain about!

The CP

Monday, May 01, 2006

Festival International de Louisiane

First off, sorry that is a Monday post, rather than a Sunday post. This is a consequence of a weekend road-trip to Festival International de Louisiane (FIL). All I can say is "WOW!". Having been to other international music festivals, such as WOMAD, they do not even begin to compare with FIL. At WOMAD, they seem hell bent on getting every last penny out of your pocket, whilst providing as little music as possible. At FIL, the case is the total opposite. FIL is totally free, although they do ask that one buys one of their pins, at a cost of a mere $5. Not only that, there are six stages with music running simultaneously on each. Even compared to JazzFest, in New Orleans, FIL is much cheaper and a lot more fun.

On Friday night, we saw Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca from The Congo, followed by La Boutine Souriante, from Quebec. We also tried to take a look at Zydeco guys J. Paul and the Zydeco Nubreeds, but there were just too many people to see the stage.

On Saturday, we got a late start and just kind of wandered around, seeing bits and pieces of bands. We did catch quite a bit of Vasen, from Sweden, who were great. Much of the time though was spent poking around in various craft stalls, selling all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff from all over the world. We got a couple of unique items for good prices though. The big problem with Saturday was the weather. It was windy and overcast. Eventually the threatening skys opened and there was torrential rain. It was almost Biblical -- we beat a hasty retreat! The local news said that six inches of rain fell in two hours and I am sure that they are correct. Although FIL shut down for the day, there were all sorts of other music venues open. We found a neat little place called The Blue Moon. They had a great Cajun band,so the day was not a bust.

Sunday dawned gloriously and the weather could not have been more perfect. What was amazing was the Festival site. As we left, we had seen debris all over the place and even a tent with poles bent ninety degrees. However, the next morning everything was perfect again. Those Festival people must have worked through the night to get everything fixed. As in previous days, we had a lot of fun just wandering around. The variety of food for sale at FIL was amazing. There were also all sorts of wild drinks available. On the food front, of especial note was the Deep Fried Roast Beef Po'boy from Joe's Dreyfus Store Restaurant at the Fais Do Do Stage. Although I am sure my physician would disapprove of this delicacy, it was a little slice of heaven to eat. We finished out the day by hearing Buckwheat Zydeco, followed by The Skatalites. The $5 pin price was worth it for these two bands alone.

Although we are tired after FIL, we will certainly be going again. Apart from the utterly incredible music, the whole experience was a blast. The people were also incredibly friendly. We were wished 'happy festival' many times. I recommend this festival to anyone. It is a shame that we will have to wait a year until the next one.

The CP
Listed on 
BlogShares web stats Site Meter