Archive for the 'Louisiana Politics' Category

Jindal sworn in as Louisiana’s governor

(cross posted at Risk and Return)

The most prominent Indian American politician in American history has now been sworn in as governor:

Bobby Jindal took the oath of office as Louisiana’s 55th governor at noon today, becoming the state’s first non-white governor since Reconstruction. Jindal, a 36-year-old Republican and Baton Rouge native, won the October 2007 primary outright against 11 opponents with 54% of the vote. He replaces Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who chose not to run for a second term.

Here’s a roundup of Jindal’s big day:

—Festivities began at 10 a.m. with the House and Senate meeting in their respective chambers to swear in legislators and elect leaders. The day ends with the invitation-only inauguration ball at 7 p.m. at the River Center. Joel Chaisson, a Destrehan Democrat, was formally elected as Senate president. Jim Tucker, a Terrytown Republican, was elected as Speaker of the House, and Karen Carter Peterson, a New Orleans Democrat, was elected as speaker pro tempore.

—The inauguration is being televised live on Louisiana Public Broadcasting stations across the state, and live videos will be posted at and

—In an Inauguration Day editorial, The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette says that Jindal’s government experience will serve Louisiana well. “Jindal brings to the governor’s office broad experience, proven ability and a remarkable intellect. He has a record of success in every government position he has held. We expect that record to remain intact during his tenure as governor,” the newspaper says. Read the editorial here.

—New Delhi Television Limited, a private Indian station, has an article about how Jindal’s election is a giant step for Indian-Americans politically. There are more than 2.5 million Indian-Americans in the U.S., and many have broken through the glass ceiling and attained leadership roles in business and academics. The article notes how many Indian-Americans are proud of Jindal, but some are concerned about his politics and his backing of tough anti-immigration measures. Read the story here.

—CBS Sports announcer Tim Brando, a Shreveport native and former WAFB sports anchor, served master of ceremonies during the inauguration ceremony. Brando told USA Today why he thought he was selected for the honor. “I guess because I’m a rather verbose compassionate conservative—which Mr. Jindal is,” Brando said.

—A Times-Picayune story this weekend notes how Jindal’s inauguration comes at the perfect time. India is becoming a major economic power, with a growing number of companies looking to expand their operations and trade across the world. Outgoing Louisiana Economic Development secretary Mike Olivier says Jindal will “open up doors in a short period of time” for Indian businesses looking at establishing a presence in the U.S. Read the story here.

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Private Infrastructure

Over at the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report, Robert Frank notes:

Government outlays on physical infrastructure have declined to 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product, he says, from 3.6 percent in the 1960s. Philanthropic giving, in contrast, has jumped to nearly 2.5 percent of GDP.

This leads him to wonder:

With privatization all the rage, why not take things a step further? Why not offer today’s rich some real incentives to strengthen the country’s infrastructure with naming rights. Rather than naming bridges, airports and roads after politicians (which is weird, given that taxpayers pay for them), they could be named after private benefactors. We could have the Bill Gates International Airport in Seattle, or Icahn Avenue in Manhattan. (I’d draw the line at the Trump Tunnel.)

I hate naming rights as much as the next guy. But if private money prevents our bridges and roads from from falling down, I don’t care what they’re named. Someday I might even be able to enjoy a faster, less-crowded subway ride aboard the Buffett Express.

Hmm…. Maybe we have a potential funding mechanism for Baton Rouge’s long sought after loop?

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Our Arrogant Overlords

LSU Tigers

As a few of you may be aware, we fans of the LSU Tigers have been blessed with our second chance this decade to watch our beloved football team compete for the BCS Championship. This has led to an enormous demand for the few precious seats available. One small reason so few seats are available is the Sugar Bowl and LSU’s favorable treatment of those who are their benefactors, and one group of benefactors are our elected officials:

Thousands of LSU fans must resort to online ticket brokerages and face sky-high prices if they want to get into the Superdome for the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

All 143 state legislators, however, are sitting pretty for the Tigers’ matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

LSU offered each lawmaker — including dozens who will leave office a week after the game because of term limits, retirement or electoral defeat — an option to buy two tickets at the face value of $175 each.

All 39 members of the Senate bought tickets, as did the 104 House members who are still in office until Jan. 14. One House seat is vacant. Many legislators also bought up to four additional tickets — again, at face value — from the Sugar Bowl Committee, which is hosting the title game.

Newly elected lawmakers were not offered either option.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, meanwhile, will welcome 42 yet-to-be identified guests to a Superdome suite she has used throughout her term to entertain supporters, potential industrial recruits, lawmakers and her family and friends.

Special ticket access for lawmakers is neither new nor confined to Louisiana, and it does not run afoul of the state ethics code. LSU has for years offered legislators an opportunity to buy season tickets for its home games.

Blanco’s Superdome suite, among the largest in a building that state taxpayers help finance, comes with her job. But critics say the legislative deals in particular send the wrong message about the motives and mores of elected officials.

Now this is small potatoes in my estimation, but it has really touched a nerve amongst many here in Louisiana. However, while I harbor no ill will over this myself, the comments of State Sen. Mike Smith reveal a level of cluelessness that is simply astounding:

State Sen. Mike Smith, D-Winnfield, was unapologetic for buying whatever tickets he could get. The Tiger Athletic Foundation donor said his family has had the right to buy 12 season tickets since his father entered the Legislature five decades ago.


Smith said lawmakers deserve some recompense for the public scrutiny, long hours and middling pay their positions bring. “The press and the public need to get over this thing,” he said. “If people want these tickets so bad, tell them to run for office.”

Heh. Well that will show the public. I am sure the resentment will lessen now. I am going to help him out and try and make sure as many people as possible hear his well reasoned response to their skepticism. Arguments like that deserve to be heard.

What an idiot.

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The Disappointing Usefulness of Simple Stereotypes

A reporter for the local paper of Jena, LA is pretty disgusted with the coverage of the events surrounding the trials involving the “Jena Six.” We have expressed confusion and frustration over the coverage here, here and here. As I have continued to read about the case his description of events seems more and more to fit the facts. Go ahead and read the whole thing, but we of course cannot be surprised.

We have seen in the cases of the Duke lacrosse players, Haditha, Blackwater and many more instances the desire of people to rush to judgment with the media’s full throated encouragement as long as it fit a narrative people wanted to see garbed. Whatever the truth of these four incidents, the willingness of the media to report rumors and unfounded conjecture as fact and reasoned supposition has been appalling, and unsurprising in who the villains and victims of their narrative turn out to be. If one had asked ahead of the coverage which party would be chosen as the bad guy/guys in each case, resorting to stereotypes of liberals would have been far more predictive than any kind of more nuanced or reasoned approach.

The coverage of Katrina was similarly awful, and unfair to pretty much everyone involved (including even the pathetic Michael Brown.) While a flawed effort, it is in many ways one of the most remarkable rescue operations ever undertaken, and one of the most successful:

MYTH: “The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history.”–Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest–and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm’s landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day–some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, “guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways,” says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

These units had help from local, state and national responders, including five helicopters from the Navy ship Bataan and choppers from the Air Force and police. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched 250 agents in boats. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state police and sheriffs’ departments launched rescue flotillas. By Wednesday morning, volunteers and national teams joined the effort, including eight units from California’s Swift Water Rescue. By Sept. 8, the waterborne operation had rescued 20,000.

While the press focused on FEMA’s shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success–especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.

Yet most of America would laugh at that characterization. Why? Because that wasn’t the way it was portrayed, even if all those facts were present in the coverage, the narrative around them was of a whole different character.

Finally, we should not be surprised that a media which cannot get even close to an accurate rendering of a story involving a few people in a small town in Louisiana has, on the whole, trouble grasping an infinitely more complex event such as Iraq, nor that simple stereotypes are a better predictor of the majority of coverage than any rational calculation of what is or is not significant.

Hat tip: Instapundit

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What a contest!

You can pick which one thrills you the most, LSU’s thrilling last second win against Auburn or Bobby Jindal winning the Louisiana Governors race and avoiding a runoff.

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Justice in Jena-Updated

As a Louisiana native I probably should have weighed in on the “Jena Six.” Like Michael, and many others, my initial reluctance has been being unsure of what really happened due to sketchy and conflicting reporting. What I can say at this point is that the decisions from a legal perspective have in each aspect of the case been very reasonable. The reporting has obscured that fact at times by declining to mention the nature of the attack, that there is no evidence it was associated with the “nooses” incident or the criminal history of Mychal Bell and the other defendants.

That the legal decisions have been reasonable does not make them right, but any decision is likely to be seen as less than satisfactory by someone. They have all been defensible however, and in the end the “Jena Six” are being tried on an appropriate charge. I give you Reed Walters, the prosecutor, defending his conduct in the New York Times:

I cannot overemphasize how abhorrent and stupid I find the placing of the nooses on the schoolyard tree in late August 2006. If those who committed that act considered it a prank, their sense of humor is seriously distorted. It was mean-spirited and deserves the condemnation of all decent people.

But it broke no law. I searched the Louisiana criminal code for a crime that I could prosecute. There is none.

Similarly, the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, who is African-American, found no federal law against what was done.

Was this a “schoolyard fight?”

Conjure the image of schoolboys fighting: they exchange words, clench fists, throw punches, wrestle in the dirt until classmates or teachers pull them apart. Of course that would not be aggravated second-degree battery, which is what the attackers are now charged with. (Five of the defendants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.) But that’s not what happened at Jena High School.

The victim in this crime, who has been all but forgotten amid the focus on the defendants, was a young man named Justin Barker, who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier. According to all the credible evidence I am aware of, after lunch, he walked to his next class. As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside, he was blindsided and knocked unconscious by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell. While lying on the ground unaware of what was happening to him, he was brutally kicked by at least six people.

Imagine you were walking down a city street, and someone leapt from behind a tree and hit you so hard that you fell to the sidewalk unconscious. Would you later describe that as a fight?

Only the intervention of an uninvolved student protected Mr. Barker from severe injury or death. There was serious bodily harm inflicted with a dangerous weapon — the definition of aggravated second-degree battery.

Given the facts as best as I have been able to determine, this is a reasonable view of the case. Whatever else was going on at the time at Jena High School, it shouldn’t be allowed to obscure or justify a vicious assault on a student, especially when it has nothing or little to do with those other events.

Update: Brendan Nyhan and others have brought up the point that Mr. Reed is eliding past the point that they were originally charged with attempted second degree murder. That may have been inappropriate, though we don’t know that given that others stopped them before they finished whatever was being attempted, and some of the witness testimony certainly might support such a charge. However, It is hardly unususual for prosecutors to start with the most serious charge which might be warranted before settling on a lesser one. The point is that the actual charge is second degree aggravated battery.

It is also said Mr. Barker was a racist, which he may well be, and that racist websites are holding him up as a hero, which goes beyond irrelevant. Mychal Bell however hardly gets a pass as a potential racist given his conduct though, and more to the point Mr. Barker’s opinions on race are not the issue either.

As for the pistol grip shotgun incident, the problem there seems to be that the stories are conflicting and hard for the prosecutor to get a handle on. It also was earlier than the attack on Justin Barker when it seems the prosecutors office decided to crack down, and when the violence reached its most dangerous point. Still, if there is compelling evidence that the young man in question committed a crime, it in no way mitigates what happened to Mr. Barker. These comments from Bean at Lawyers, Guns and Money sums up the problem with the commentary I continue to hear (and bean is far more reasonable than most, but why pick on the deluded:)

Yes, “Free the Jena 6? has become a rallying cry around this whole sorry mess, but I’m not sure even the protesters believe the six should get out of jail free if they were involved in the attack on Justin Barker.

It’s just that so many others ought to be going to jail as well.

That certainly isn’t what we hear from the protesters. Many do feel they should get out of jail free, and the problem is why protest in his favor at all? He committed aggravated battery! The protests speak of freeing the Jena Six because that is the focus, not that others should go to jail. Sadly, they want to invert the injustice (assuming the others mentioned should go to jail) and give similar charges to them and free the “Jena Six.” No putting more reasonable aims in the protesters mouths will change that.

The reasoning behind the decision to charge Mychal Ball as an adult is flimsy at best. His attack was by surprise (so the DA says)? Still not enough to try to throw a high school kid in jail for double-digit years.

Michael Bell is in high school, but he was a star athlete of 17 years when he did this with a history of violence including 4 previous violent crimes, two committed while on probation for a previous battery conviction. Bell has had numerous chances and threw them and a Division I athletic scholarship away. He is no innocent naif caught up in an isolated incident. While it might be argued he shouldn’t be tried as an adult, the case for doing so is not in any way flimsy.

I’m not sure how it’s worded in the Louisiana code, admittedly, but the resort to “my black friend says so too” immediately makes me suspicious.

It doesn’t make me suspicious. Given the constant emphasis, including in his post, of the race of people involved on the prosecutorial side, the jury, the witnesses, etc., pointing out that not only white figures in the cases agreed is unfortunately quite necessary. You can’t have it both ways. Bean and others have made race central to every aspect of the case, not just where it is obviously relevant. Reed didn’t choose for it to be seen that way, the protesters and his critics have.

For a very reasonable view of the case I suggest Richard Thompson Ford, despite ignoring the students history of violence and accepting at face value some claims which may not be true (Was there really a “white tree?” Many claim there wasn’t.)

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Jena In A Bottle

I have been following this story for about a week now, and I still can’t figure out what happened. Most of the core facts seem to be in dispute, such as whether or not the nooses in the “White Tree” were meant to intimidate black students intending to sit under it, or as school spirit gesture in light of the football game that day against the Avoyelles Mustangs. Jena Six ProtestsParts of both explanations ring as true, while other parts of each don’t seem to add up. It’s a common theme in this saga thus far. The end result is that it really is difficult to figure where to stand on this story.

I tend to agree with Jeralyn Merritt that, in the very least, it looks like a case of overcharging on the part of the prosecutor:

While I still can’t make judgments as to much of the story, I have no problem declaring the case one of prosecutorial over-charging and abuse of a system that allows prosecutors discretion in charging juveniles as adults. I think the only reason the kids were charged with such serious felonies was to get Mychal Bell, then a juvenile, into adult court.

The only explanation I’ve found suggesting that the Jena Six were not mis-charged is offered by Pastor Eddie Thompson from Jena (HT: MSimon):

Justin Barker, the white student attacked, was not the first white student targeted by these black students. Others had been informed they were going to be beaten, but stayed away from school and out of sight until they felt safe …. The “Jena Six” have repeatedly been held up as heroes by much of the race-based community and called “innocent students” by the national media. Some of these students have reputations in Jena for intimidating and sometimes beating other students. They have vandalized and destroyed both school property and community property. Some of the Jena Six have been involved in crimes not only in LaSalle Parish but also in surrounding parishes. For the most part, coaches and other adults have prevented them from being held accountable for the reign of terror they have presided over in Jena. Despite intervention by adults wanting to give them chances due their athletic potential, most of the Jena Six have extensive juvenile records. Yet their parents keep insisting that their children have never been in trouble before. These boys did not receive prejudicial treatment but received preferential treatment until things got out of hand.

I don’t know if Pastor Thompson is any more reliable on this matter than anyone else putting facts and opinions out there, but the information he’s thrown into the mix certainly makes it appear as if the whole story isn’t being told. If it makes any difference to you, the Pastor also penned an essay las December titled “The Battle Against Racism In Jena, Louisiana” in which he had this to say:

David Duke once received over sixty percent of the vote in a statewide election in LaSalle Parish. For whatever reason, there are a couple of schools here that were never integrated. There are no longer any tracks—the railroads having long abandoned what was once a sawmill paradise—to separate us in Jena, but most blacks live in their “quarters” while most whites live in theirs. I’ve lived here most of my life, and the one thing I can state with absolutely no fear of contradiction is that LaSalle Parish is awash in racism: True racism. Not the sort of affirmative action/name-calling/reparations-seeking fluff that keeps Jesse Jackson and liberal do-gooders in business, but a systematic, culture of bigotry, neglected by the scrutiny of time.

Obviously, Pastor Thompson isn’t hiding his head in the sand on this one, nor trying to cover for anyone’s actions that were motivated by racism. Indeed, he expresses a clear desire to tackle the issue head on. Of course, that doesn’t make his version of events any more reliable, just a bit more credible.

Another article I read recently that has a rather sober view of the Jena incidents is by Jason Whitlock:

Thursday, thousands of us, proud African-Americans, expressed our devotion to and desire to see justice for the “Jena Six,” the half-dozen black students who knocked unconscious, kicked and stomped a white classmate.

Jesse Jackson compared Thursday’s rallies in Jena to the protests and marches that used to take place in cities like Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. Al Sharpton claimed Thursday’s peaceful demonstrations were to highlight racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

Jesse and Al, as they’re prone to do, served a kernel of truth stacked on a mountain of lies.


You won’t hear about any of that because it doesn’t fit the picture we want to paint of Jena, this case, America and ourselves.

We don’t practice preventive medicine. Mychal Bell needed us long before he was cuffed and jailed. Here is another undeniable, statistical fact: The best way for a black (or white) father to ensure that his son doesn’t fall victim to a racist prosecutor is by participating in his son’s life on a daily basis.

That fact needed to be shared Thursday in Jena. The constant preaching of that message would short-circuit more potential “Jena Six” cases than attributing random acts of six-on-one violence to three-month-old nooses.

And I am in no way excusing the nooses. The responsible kids should’ve been expelled. A few years after I’d graduated, a similar incident happened at my high school involving our best football player, a future NFL tight end. He was expelled.

The Jena school board foolishly overruled its principal and suspended the kids for three days.

But the kids responsible for Barker’s beating deserve to be punished. The prosecutor needed to be challenged on his excessive charges. And we as black folks need to question ourselves about why too many of us can only get energized to help our young people once they’re in harm’s way.

It’s a good article, and I recommend that you RTWT, but again I don’t know if Whitlock’s recitation of facts is any more reliable that any one else’s. Unfortunately, I don’t know if we’ll ever really know the truth of what happened during those several months that racial tensions flared into violence at and around Jena High School. It does not appear at this juncture that enough people are invested in sussing out the facts so that the real narrative can be told.

Despite all the confusion and competing narratives regarding the Jena Six, however, there is one unequivocal truth that has emerged: thank God for Martin Luther King, Jr.

I shudder to think what would have happened to the Civil Rights Movement if the race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had been in charge back then. Although not everything that resulted from the cause led by Dr. King was a great big bowl of cherries, at least with his leadership and ability real problems of racism were exposed and real racism was confronted. If instead it had been the Jesse and Al show back then, we would be lucky if Jim Crow laws and “colored water fountains” were the worst remaining vestiges of that racially charged time. Given the level of incompetence and self-aggrandizement displayed by these two in Jena ( as well as that of their fellow travelers), I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that if they had led the march to Montgomery in 1965, a full on race war would have erupted, and that we would all be a lot worse off.

So, whatever else comes of this Jena Six debacle, say a prayer for Dr. King, and thank God that it was he who led the Selma March.

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Urban Policy

I recently did an interview, about an hour and a half long, on the ongoing, and fruitful, efforts to revitalize downtown Baton Rouge. We discussed a wide variety of related topics to development; economics, regulatory barriers, the work of the great Jane Jacobs, new urbanism, smart growth, the arts, affordable housing, architecture and design, aesthetics and much more. Many readers of this blog will appreciate that the editor cut it down to a few paraphrases.

Unfortunately you may not be so lucky when I edit myself. More on this topic in coming weeks.

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Katrina’s Wake – A Tale of Two Cities

Two years after the devastation of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still rebuilding and the politicization of the storm is still raging (emphasis added):Katrina

( – In the two years since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, the Bush administration has failed to restore the city because of its reliance on conservative policies, a liberal organization charged in a report released Tuesday.

While conservative analysts acknowledged that the federal government could have responded more effectively to the disaster, they noted that the document failed to place any blame on the New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor – both of whom are liberal Democrats – while using President Bush as a “convenient scapegoat.”

“The failure we see in the rebuilding of New Orleans is without any question a failure of conservative governance,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, during a telephone news conference announcing the group’s report [pdf], “Compounding Conservative Failure: Hurricane Katrina Two Years Later.”

The report refers to a speech President Bush made on Sep. 15, 2005, in which he said: “We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives” in New Orleans.

That Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin escaped blame is a bit odd. Neither comported themselves well before, during or after the natural disaster. But if your aim is to lambast political opponents, by blaming “conservative policies” for NOLA’s woes, then the omission makes sense.

“This administration believes that tax breaks and private enterprise will redevelop the society,” said Borosage, but “fundamental change has to be done, with the federal government making the commitment to build a modern public infrastructure ….”

“The same combination that crippled the reconstruction in Iraq – lack of planning, crony capitalism, no-bid contracts and scorn for public infrastructure – has undermined reconstruction in New Orleans,” the report said.

(emphasis added). If only that bolded part were actual conservative policy, I would probably count myself amongst their ranks.NOLA As it stands, “conservatives” in the Bush Administration simply believe in a relatively smaller government solution than what the Campaign for America’s Future would prefer to see. In the meantime, while the fight continues over just how much government is necessary to rebuild NOLA “a lot” vs. “and then some”), citizens in the community of Versailles have taken the rebuilding process upon themselves to great effect.

Entire strip malls remain shuttered in east New Orleans.

Apartment buildings are abandoned, and rows of utility poles still lean at precarious angles — a reminder of how viciously the area was battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the subsequent flooding — and how hard it’s been to rebuild.

But one enclave, the Vietnamese neighborhood known as Versailles, has rebuilt itself nearly to pre-Katrina conditions.

Homes in the community 12 miles east of downtown New Orleans have been gutted, rebuilt and repainted. Nearly all of its 7,000 residents have returned, and nearly every business has reopened.

While many projects across the Gulf Coast wait on billions of dollars in promised federal funds, Versailles residents have taken matters into their own hands.

While one place bickers with the federal government over just how much of a helping hand should be administered to rebuild the city, another place takes the initiative and nearly completes its rebuilding process on its own. Pastor Vien in Versailles nails the difference on the head.

The rebuilding effort has centered around Vien The Nguyen, pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church.

“We believe that when you rely on someone else, you’re at their mercy,” Vien says.

Amen, pastor. Amen.

(HT: email from Keith)

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Henry Farrell vs Kos on Jindal

Start with Professor Bainbridge, then read this post by Kos and this post by Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber. Compare and ponder who has more influence in the Democratic Party, Kos and the type of people who launched these attacks in Louisiana or people like Henry Farrell. Dishonesty (or lack of reading comprehension, I vote for both) vs. honesty. Plain and simple. I said previously that the Louisiana Democratic Party has little do with liberalism or progressive politics, and then I read Kos and realize maybe I am wrong.


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Vitter escaping voters wrath

My problems with Vitter are pretty much what I have with most Republicans, most prominently and specifically the unconscionable aid requests for our state he made in the aftermath of Katrina along with his Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu. So I have to admit that this doesn’t surprise me:

U.S. Sen. David Vitter is still popular with Louisiana voters, despite being caught in a prostitution scandal earlier this summer. According to a poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research, 66.7% of voters say they either strongly approve or somewhat approve of Vitter’s job performance.

According to The Politico:

“Voters apparently like David Vitter’s performance as their U.S. senator – 66.7 percent is a strong rating,” the pollsters wrote in their press release. “Vitter’s image of not being one of the good old boys of Louisiana politics is more important to voters than recent revelations and speculation concerning his admitted ’serious sin.’”

Sadly, it not only doesn’t surprise me, I even sympathize with it. I won’t vote for Vitter, but I don’t want to vote for those who are most likely to replace him either. My views on the Louisiana Democratic Party are pretty firm.

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The Vile Louisiana Democratic Party Strikes Again

Possibly the most despicable, corrupt, racist and venal political major organization in our nation hails from my home state of Louisiana. I am speaking of the Louisiana Democratic Party. The iron grip this organization has held my state in for so long has been slowly crumbling over the past thirty years, but it won’t lose power gracefully. Bobby Jindal is its latest target because he is threatening to run away with the election with a margin of victory that was once only attainable from the Democratic Party machine. Sadly this party still gets support from people who claim they are liberals despite a history that should shame any association with it, from Jim Crow, environmental degradation, murder, graft, vote buying and a host of sins too disgusting to believe.

In the last election ads darkening Jindal’s skin were used to appeal to racist whites in North Louisiana, and in that same area we now get ads attacking him for his religious views. Bad enough, but of course his views are being lied about in the most disgusting manner possible. Captain Ed has beaten me to discussing the specifics which are causing quite a stir down here. I can only hope it backfires, but this is the state that elected Edwin Edwards three times:

I purchased the first essay highlighted on the website that the Democrats set up to demonize Jindal’s writings. In this, they cleverly write hyperbolic descriptions of his essays while hiding behind the knowledge that readers will have to pay to read them from New Oxford Review. For instance, the description on the essay I bought claims that “Jindal explains how Catholicism has more merit than all other Religions. Jindal states non-Catholics are burndened [sic] with “utterly depraved minds” and calls individuals who ignore the teachings of the Catholic church intellectually dishonest.”

When I read Jindal’s essay, however, it says nothing of the sort. Jindal quotes John Calvin as saying that all men are born “utterly depraved” and then argues against it:

One of the most consequential, and yet neglected, Reformation beliefs is the view that utterly depraved man is incapable of meaningful sanctification. This rejection of spiritual regeneration and subsequent separation of spiritual from physical realities has resulted in various widely held current beliefs, ranging from predestination to nominalism. Yet Luther was wrong to claim that our sins are as dung covered by snow, for he underestimated both God’s justice and His power. Faith does more than cause God to ignore our sins, for His grace is enough to accomplish a true spiritual rebirth. In embracing God’s grace, our righteousness becomes imparted, as our sins and their effects are “removed from us” …He also does not call Protestants “intellectually dishonest.” He says that it would not be intellectually honest to ignore the teachings of the Catholic Church when studying Christianity. That doesn’t mean all Protestants are dishonest, but that any comparative study of the religion without at least seeing for one’s self what Catholicism has to say about itself is intentionally self-limiting. He also calls on the Catholic Church to live up to those teachings in almost the same breath. Frankly, this piece is pretty much Catholic Apologetics 101.

Why the National Democratic Party continues to support this organization I cannot fathom. Anyway, read the whole thing.

Here is a story from our local news on the vicious campaign:

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My stupid state

I love Louisiana, but I can only argue about degree (not that I should) when it comes to what JR Ball has to say in the Baton Rouge Business Report (a truly wonderful publication, one of the nations best):

Of all the alarming stats and reports regularly published about the economic future of our state, none is more sobering than the assessment by public school czar Paul Pastorek, who told a Rotary Club of Baton Rouge audience last week that Louisiana’s public school system is an abysmal failure.

What else can you conclude when Pastorek says the state’s four best performing districts—including top-rated Zachary—are no better than average. As for the rest? They’re either dismal (a D rating) or a failure (an F). It should come as little surprise that East Baton Rouge schools are firmly in the failure category.

Never in the 25 years I’ve now lived here have I heard a more blunt and depressing view of the state we’re in.

Seriously, it’s scary when the state’s new superintendent of education admits our government is absolutely pathetic at its most important obligation—providing a quality public education for its residents.

Four mediocre districts and 64 others that stink? That’s what we get for a $31 billion budget? Are you kidding me?

Of course there is a bright side:

I can hear you—a 50-something C-level executive with a trophy wife and two kids—saying, “Well, that’s pretty bad, but my kids go to (insert name of private school) and they’re on a fast track for college.” (You’re not alone; Louisiana has the nation’s highest rate of private school attendance.) [ed. My emphasis]

True, and we have a pretty good private school system, so our population as a whole isn’t as bad off as the statistics say. However, that bright side has a pretty low impact because:

Well, enjoy your kids while they’re here because yet another study shows Louisiana is one of the top 15 states at producing college graduates only to see them bolt for professional careers any place other than here. As for importing college-educated talent, no state is worse than ours.

In summary, our best and brightest leave and those failed by our state stay here forever.

He isn’t just griping and complaining, or calling for empty solutions such as more money, more “support” or any of the other things which haven’t made a difference. JR is a convert:

Against that backdrop, how can anyone, especially members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and teacher unions, offer any reasonable argument against vouchers, charter schools and other forms of choice? Why do school board members keep telling us that it’s getting better when it’s only getting worse?

They lie because they know we don’t care.

If only our states leadership – and I am including civic organizations, non profits and major media outlets- were so blunt and clear headed. Start over root and branch.

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Flooding risk remains in parts of New Orleans

Gee, parts of N’Awlins are still under sea level (and unlikely to change.) You would think the above headline was a given.

And why does it NOT surprise me that what the local leaders were most concerned about…

As part of the report, the corps plans to make available a Web site that allows New Orleans residents to study the city on a block-by-block basis, and learn what kind of damage they might expect with different kinds of storms. As a result, it could potentially lead insurers and investors to think twice about supporting the rebuilding efforts in particularly vulnerable areas, or even in the city as a whole. But it also shows that some areas are less vulnerable than earlier thought.

Major General Don Riley, the head of civil works for the corps, said in an interview that local leaders were initially wary of the report and how it would be used, and some said, “Oh, boy, I’m not sure we can do this – because we’re trying to get people to move back in.” But, he said, “after we worked with them and showed them, they said, ‘This can really be a good tool for planning.’ ”

The new report, more than a year behind schedule and still a work in progress, is an enormously ambitious attempt to figure out just how risky it is to live in New Orleans.

Some of the risk has clearly been reduced, largely because of the construction of enormous gates across the mouths of the city’s three main drainage canals. In other parts of the greater New Orleans area, where the hurricane protection system was restored but not upgraded in a major way, the probability of damage does not shift nearly as much.

Seems it’s a constant fact of life that safety will be shorted in the name of economic progress after major disasters. From the great quake and firestorm in San Francisco, all the way up to present day.

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Dollar Bill can keep on collecting

You have got to be kidding me:

House Democratic leaders are not expected to pressure embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to forfeit his lone remaining committee assignment, even as two Republican lawmakers who similarly face intense FBI scrutiny have relinquished their posts in recent days.

Democratic sources indicated that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is unlikely to ask the Louisiana lawmaker, who is under federal investigation, to give up his seat on the Small Business Committee. …

The Louisiana lawmaker has not been indicted in the investigation, but the FBI has asserted it videotaped Jefferson allegedly accepting $100,000 in marked bills from an informant, and a related raid of his home reportedly found $90,000 in cash in his freezer.

The FBI also raided Jefferson’s Congressional office in May 2006, an action that drew criticism of the agency from both Republican and Democratic leaders.

In addition, a former Jefferson aide and a Kentucky businessman have both pleaded guilty in connection with the case, receiving lengthy prison terms.

I am often embarrased by the politicians in my home state. It doesn’t comfort me at all that Pelosi has decided to make him a national embarrassment. Our misery does not need company.

As Captain Ed points out, at least the Republicans are starting to clean up their act:

Over the past week, two Republican Congressmen have resigned their committee assignments after having been raided by the FBI for investigations into potential corruption. John Boehner asked John Doolittle and Rick Renzi to step down to maintain confidence in the legislative process.

I was hoping the Democrats would curb their appetite for corruption for at least a year or two with all the focus on it last fall. I knew it wouldn’t last, but so far the effort to clean up congress is still born on the Democratic side of the aisle.

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It is looking good for Jindal-Updated

Earlier today John Breaux’s good friend Charles Foti declined to give him an answer as to whether legally he was entitled to run for Governor of Louisiana. From Red State:

Hoping to do an end run around Louisiana’s Constitution, Breaux asked his friend Charles Forti, the Louisiana Attorney General, to issue an opinion that Breaux was still a citizen of Louisiana. Forti, however, was not willing to spit on the Louisiana Constitution, thus distinguishing himself from nearly every other Democrat in Louisiana.

Of course Forti also did not want to tell his friend John Breaux “No,” so today he has released his opinion stating that he “must refrain from rendering an opinion” because the matter will surely be litigated.

It took the Attorney General eight pages to say that.


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Logic Problems at Salon

The subtext of this Salon piece? People in Louisiana sure are stupid. Because everything that went wrong after Katrina was Bush’s fault, and yet the state is growing more staunchly Republican.

I’m going to just leave the “it’s all Bush’s fault” meme alone, except to express astonishment that anyone could make such an argument or have it taken seriously. Whatever your opinion of George W. Bush, Louisiana politicians have been out-incompetenting and out-corrupting the rest of the nation for 200 years. Also, they are incompetent and corrupt in a variety of amusing and colorful ways, which is the only reason we are able to tolerate them. Suffice to say that there is plenty of blame to go around, and I am uninterested in rehashing that discussion, mostly because I am lazy and don’t feel like tracking down a bunch of links. (Have at each other on the comments if you want to.)

The really interesting part of Schaller’s article is this section, in which he examines the impact of race on party identification and electoral success:

Louisiana is, at last, about to look a lot more like its Deep South neighbors politically. There has been something of an inverse relationship in recent presidential elections between the share of black voters and Republican performance. That is, the blacker the state, the bigger the Republican margins. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are all states with black populations close to or above a third, the highest percentage in the nation — and not a Democratic senator, governor or, since 1992, Democratic electoral vote among them.

Along with Florida, Louisiana had been different, a state where multiracial coalitions propelled Clinton, Landrieu and Blanco to victories. In Louisiana, a black population of 32.5 percent made victory for Democrats possible. The post-Katrina question is whether the black population will remain large enough for Democrats to continue building such coalitions, especially if there is a backlash among white voters in the noncoastal portions of the state toward Blanco, controversial New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and state Democrats in general. Recent polls, however, are not promising, and they also show how resolutely racial party identification has become in the Deep South. The blacker the state, the more Republican the whites are.

Let me see if I can follow this logic. First he says, southern states with large black populations are more reliably Republican. In his words, “the blacker the state, the more Republican the whites are.” In the same paragraph, he says Louisiana’s pre-Katrina demographics (a higher percentage of blacks) ”made victory for Democrats possible.” And now that there are fewer black people in the state (because of post-Katrina migration), Louisiana is getting more Republican…because there are fewer black people! Wait a second…shouldn’t we be getting less Republican in that case? It must be because Louisiana used to be different (how? why? I don’t know!) but now we are the same–a “new Mississippi.” Ouch! Low blow.

I guess what they say about Louisiana schools is true, because I’m too dumb to figure that out.

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