Archive for the ‘Broadband, Internet’ Category

Anyone who still wonders why Gov. Bobby Jindal trots around the country uttering his venom-laced attacks on Washington in general and the Obama administration in particular should understand something. It’s all about politics; he is simply pandering to what he perceives as his base which is, at best, an illusion.

His foaming at the mouth courtship with his invisible support group is something like playing with an imaginary friend. In Jindal’s case, we have it on pretty good authority that he had two imaginary friends as a child but they would go to the other end of the playground and never let him join them. You will notice he never shows up in any of the lists of potential major GOP presidential candidates. That’s because the Republican Party just doesn’t want to play with him.

We have to give Jindal credit for one thing, however; he backs his rhetoric with action.

In his steadfast resistance to anything Washington, we have seen him:

  • Reject $300 million in federal funding for a Baton Rouge to New Orleans high speed passenger rail connection because he doesn’t want federal control;
  • Pretend to reject $98 million in federal stimulus funds for recovery from the 2008 recession while quietly taking the funds and handing out checks to municipalities during his highly-publicized visits to Protestant churches in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $80 million in federal funding to expand broadband internet service into rural areas of the state, primarily in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $15.7 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds because he incorrectly claimed it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over 10 years. He provided no figures to back that claim but did defiantly say Obama “won’t bully Louisiana.” Meanwhile, more than 200,000 low-income Louisiana residents are still without medical insurance.
  • Reject the Common Core State Standards Initiative after previously voicing his wholehearted support for the standards, again saying, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards.”
  • Prevail upon the legislature to reject an increase in the minimum wage, to reject tightening regulation of payday loan companies, to ban discrimination against gays, and to reject support of equal pay for women—most probably because all such proposals have the ugly thumbprints of Washington all over them.

So, taking into account his polarizing negativity against Washington, it’s pretty easy to see that things might have been different if we’d never had this little demagogue as governor.

But then we got to wondering how Louisiana might have fared down through the years if we had always been saddled with a Jindal on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. We would probably have beaten South Carolina in being the first state to secede from the Union.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. That’s pretty fair because U.S. Sen. Huey Long (whom Jindal often seems to be trying to emulate) was about as anti-New Deal then as Jindal is anti-everything federal is today. Moreover, the nation was reeling from the Great Depression, thanks to Wall Street’s greed, just as America was suffering from the Recession of 2008, thanks in large part to Wall Street again gone amok.

Works Progress Administration projects:

  • Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans where many Louisiana physicians received their training for decades (including Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, Jr.);
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which brought electric power to Louisiana’s most rural farm communities (and without which, to paraphrase the late comic Brother Dave Gardner, they’d all be watching TV by candlelight);
  • State Capitol Annex across Third Street from the State Capitol;
  • More courthouses were constructed under the program from 1936 to 1940 than in any other period in state history. They include courthouses in the parishes of St. Bernard, Natchitoches, Iberia Parish, Caldwell, Cameron, East Carroll, Jackson, Madison, Rapides, St. Landry and Terrebonne.
  • Mumford Stadium, Bradford Hall and Grandison Hall at Southern University;
  • Himes Hall, the faculty club, and the geology building at LSU;
  • Two buildings at what is now the University of Louisiana Monroe, three on the McNeese campus, seven each at Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana Tech, a water tower at Grambling State University, eight additions at Northwestern State University and 12 at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, all of which significantly extended the reach of higher education in the state.
  • Scores of new elementary and high schools (including this writer’s Alma Mater, Ruston High School), as well as high school science labs, gymnasium-auditoriums, home economics cottages, athletic fields, music rooms and vocational education shops;
  • New buildings for the Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville;
  • The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans;
  • Extensive improvements and updates to the French Market in New Orleans;
  • Expansion of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans;
  • Paving of 40 miles of roadway on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City as well as the clearing of 15 miles of bayous and drainage canals and the rehabilitation of 43 wooden bridges on the base;
  • Improvements to the 1,300-acre City Park in New Orleans;
  • The Louisiana State Museum in Shreveport;
  • Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans;
  • The old City Hall in Denham Springs;
  • Construction of the Louisiana State School for the Deaf (now housing an administration building for the Baton Rouge Police Department);
  • Post offices in Hammond, Plaquemine, Arabi; Arcadia, Bunkie, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Haynesville, Jeanerette, Leesville, Oakdale, Rayville, and Monroe;
  • Conversion of a Baton Rouge swamp into the University Lakes around which many LSU professors, former U.S. Congressman Henson Moore and current Congressman Bill Cassidy now reside;
  • Eradication program to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes near the New Orleans lakefront.

Huey Long did everything in his power to throw up roadblocks to FDR. His reasons? He planned to run for President in 1936 and he needed to incite opposition to Roosevelt and Washington in order to build a national political base. In fact, before his death in September of 1935, Long was quite effective as fewer than three dozen PWA projects were fully authorized for the state.

Sound familiar?

Following Long’s death and with his obstructionist policy abandoned by his successors, FDR funneled $80 million into Louisiana for roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, parks, playgrounds, public housing, library and bookmobile programs and literacy drives. That’s $80 million in 1930s dollars. About what it would take to fund that proposed broadband internet expansion for rural north Louisiana today.

So, let’s ask Jindal to hop into our time machine and travel back to September 1935 where he will run and be elected governor just in time to revive the Kingfish’s anti-Roosevelt rhetoric.

Big Charity Hospital? Who needs it? But wait. Jindal wouldn’t have that facility today to give away in his privatization plan yet to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And without Big Charity, there probably never would have been similar state hospitals in Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport or Monroe to close or privatize.

All those courthouses? Shoot, just drop them in the Capital Outlay bill and sell some more state bonds. We can always raise the state’s debt ceiling.

As for all those buildings on the university campuses across the state, hasn’t anyone been paying attention? We’re cutting funding for all that. Who needs public colleges anyway? Let the students get a student loan and go to ITI Technical College.

And Ruston High School? We’ll just turn that into a charter and issue vouchers to the white kids—the smart rich ones.

All those New Deal programs created jobs for Louisianians? Well, so what? There probably wouldn’t have been an unemployment problem in the first place if the workers weren’t so greedy back then and would’ve agreed to work for 15 cents an hour. That’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage.

Fast Forward 30 years

And lest we forget, we probably need to include a couple of programs President Lyndon B. Johnson rammed through Congress.

The Civil Rights Bill opened the door of opportunity for African Americans as nothing since the Emancipation Proclamation had done. And of course there was bitter opposition right down to passage—and beyond. There are those, some in elective office, who would repeal the act today, given the opportunity. The irony is that LBJ had opposed every Civil Rights measure in Congress when he was a senator but when he ascended to the presidency upon JFK’s assassination, he told one supporter, “I’m everybody’s president now.”

And, of course, there is the precursor to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Of course, that would be that radical Social Security Amendment of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

There was rabid opposition to Medicare by Republicans and the American Medical Association which insisted there was no need for the federal government to intervene in the relationship between patient and physician. Today, if any politician ever tried to terminate Medicare services, he would have a blue-haired riot on his hands and rightly so.

Medicare now provides medical insurance to 50 million elderly Americans and Medicaid does the same for another 51 million low-income or disabled Americans.

Perhaps someone should ask Republican Congressmen Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge (6th District and a candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mary Landrieu) and John Fleming of Minden (4th District), and Charles Boustany, Jr. (3rd District) each of whom is a physician and each of whom opposes Obamacare, what percentage of their income as practicing physicians walked in the door as Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Then check with Jindal to see how that squares with his opposition to the welfare state and such socialistic practices.

Read Full Post »

Two months ago, when the Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.

Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”

What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf

Also ignored by the Jindal administration—and ALEC—is that broadband service in the U.S. is woefully inadequate when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan and even Portugal and Italy. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/competition-and-the-internet/

And it’s even worse in the country’s rural areas. http://deltafarmpress.com/blog/broadband-service-rural-areas-promise-still-exceeds-reality

No doubt you’ve seen those cute AT&T commercials featuring the man sitting at a table with children. He asks a question and gets feedback from the kids and the commercial ends with, “It’s not complicated.”

Indeed it is not. In 2008, Jindal’s very first year as governor, he signed SB-807 into law as Act 433 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act, was authored by then-Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans). It passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote with only Dale Erdy (R-Livingston) voting no. Absent and not voting were Sens. Robert Adley (R-Benton), Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) and Sheri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville).

AT&T, which contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s campaign since 2007, supported the bill. AT&T also contributed $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.

It’s not complicated.

It also passed overwhelmingly in the House by a 94-9 vote. The only members casting no-votes were Reps. James Armes (D-Leesville), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Greg Cromer (R-Slidell), Jean Doerge (D-Minden), Ricky Hardy (D-Lafayette), Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Sam Jones (D-Franklin), and Chris Roy (D-Alexandria). Rep. James Morris (R-Oil City) was absent and did not vote.

The only ALEC member to go against the official doctrine was Carmody. He attended ALEC’s 2010 annual meeting in San Diego at which the organization’s Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force passed an official resolution in potential opposition to private telephone and cable companies by public bodies such as city councils and parish governments. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/05/09/could-loss-of-that-80-6-million-broadband-internet-federal-grant-last-fall-have-been-deliberately-orchestrated-by-alec/

Other members of the Louisiana Legislature who attended that meeting included Reps. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), State Chairman Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte) and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge).

Act 433 well may even have been written by AT&T, which is a member of ALEC and a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. AT&T chipped in $50,000 to the ALEC cause in 2010 and was a member of the Louisiana Host Committee for ALEC’s 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans. Jindal was the recipient of ALEC’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award at that 2012 meeting. http://www.alec.org/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s not complicated.

And lest one think that Louisiana’s loss of the $80 million broadband grant in 2011 was the exception, consider this:

  • Early this year, the Kansas Legislature undertook Campaign Stop Google Fiber—and any cities that may wish to invest in broadband network technologies. Included in legislation introduced in the legislature were stipulations that except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not themselves offer to provide or lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of allowing a private entity to offer, provide, carry or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/30/1273848/-Kansas-moves-to-Stop-Broadband-Internet-to-residents?detail=email
  • In February of 2011, the Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) initiated a public battle with National Public Broadband (NPB) by inundating Lake County with a flurry of public records request designed to slow NPB’s efforts to bring broadband Internet to rural areas of Lake County.

While MCCA correctly asserts that Lake County should act transparently, the barrage of requests submitted by the association makes its intent to protect its own financial interests over those of rural residents of the county is quite apparent. Its monopoly is, after all, being threatened and those cable services that are overpriced and which provide as little speed as possible are fighting back.

Certainly it’s only coincidental that AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Excel Communications, Fair Point Communications, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, and Cox Communications are members of ALEC. All but Excel and Fair Point serve on ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Corporations.

It’s not complicated.

So, given Jindal’s cozy relationship with ALEC and given ALEC’s opposition to public participation in expanding broadband Internet service to rural areas in competition with ALEC members, it’s perfectly understandable why Jindal eschewed that “top-down” management of the $80 million grant.

It’s not complicated.

And it is equally apparent that the monopolistic advantage enjoyed by private sector providers be protected at all cost—even at the cost of creating some 900 miles of cable over 21 rural parishes that would support several Louisiana universities with expanded optical fiber networking capacity.

It’s not complicated.

Top-down management apparently is good only when it originates from the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Just ask any legislator, former state employee, or board or commission member who has dared to contradict him on any issue.

It’s not complicated.

Read Full Post »

Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

Read Full Post »

State Civil Service employees have gone without a 4 percent merit pay raise for three years now because of budgetary restrictions, brought on in large part by a Piyush Jindal administration that refuses to apply for federal grants for needed projects and by Jindal’s insistence on granting more and more tax breaks to corporate entities who take the money and, in at least one case, cease operations within a year or so.

No one is saying that grant money can be used to fund employee pay raises but when federal funds for broadband internet ($80.6 million), early childhood development ($60 million), and $5 billion a year in tax exemptions are taken out of the budgetary mix, the money must be made up from other sources.

Because of constitutionally mandated spending, there are only two areas where cuts may be made: higher education and health care. And of course, there is always the suspension of pay raises.

Accordingly, Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC)–once known by its archaic nom de plume, the Department of Labor–sent an email to all his employees on Sept. 26 which informed them thusly:

Dear Fellow LWC Employees,

As you are aware, the LWC has experienced significant reductions in funding over the last four years as the demand for our services increased. That has put a lot of added pressure on many of you, and you should know that your efforts are greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, the combination of funding reductions and increased services also puts a tremendous strain on our budget, and we continue to struggle to maintain staffing levels in certain areas.

Yesterday afternoon, I submitted a request to Civil Service for the Layoff Avoidance Measure of withholding performance adjustment pay increases (or merit increases) for the upcoming year. I sincerely regret that this is necessary for a third year in a row, but I made this request to minimize the impact of budget pressures on our levels of staffing and on the agency.

I appreciate your dedication and patience as we work through these tough financial times. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Well, wasn’t that special? Eysink, in an effort to avoid layoffs, was willing to allow his employees to bite the bullet on behalf of the greater good by denying them pay raises, even though he “sincerely” regretted the action.

But wait. While he was sacrificing 4 percent increases for virtually his entire agency, Eysink was apparently attempting a backdoor salary bump of some $20,000 per year (40.8 percent), from $47,570 to $67,000, for a single employee.

Jonie Smith, Emerging Workforce Manager (for programs involving community action agencies, veterans and disabled workers), was approved by the state Civil Service Commission for an increase from $47,570 to $67,000 despite restrictions that would have limited her increase to only $53,000.

This is the same Civil Service Commission that rubber stamped the privatization plan for the Office of Group Benefits that will cause about 120 workers in that agency to lose their jobs. (Is it just us, or does anyone else see the Civil Service Commission as becoming just another Jindal dancing monkey in much the same mode as the Ethics Commission and the Louisiana Legislature?)

Not that one member, at least, didn’t try to discourage the big raise.

Briefly, here’s a recap of what went down:

Smith apparently got a job offer from the private sector and Eysink felt she was just too valuable to lose. Civil Service rules allow a state agency to match a private sector offer and in this particular case a match would have boosted her salary by $5,430, or 11.4 percent—nearly three times the 4 percent merit raise for state employees—if such raises still existed, which, of course, they don’t.

Even at that, agency officials lobbied for $67,000, causing commission member Scott Hughes to balk. Hughes observed that a lot of good employees have already been lost to layoffs. Another 1500 or so are slated to lose their jobs (just in time for Christmas, no less) through massive cutbacks in services by the LSU healthcare system.

“I’m not going to cast a vote to set a precedent for one employee,” he said, adding that other agencies might attempt similar moves. “I believe it’s a barn door we are opening that will not get shut.”

Commission Vice Chairman John McLure pooh-poohed Hughes’s concerns. “Given the current economic situation and the downsizing we have approved, we won’t see much of this,” he said somewhat incredulously.

Apparently, McLure has not been paying close attention to the news lately (see Tim Barfield, whom Jindal appointed Revenue Secretary at twice the salary of his predecessor).

It should also be noted that while Eysink pays the obligatory lip service to his employees by telling them how much he values and appreciates their dedication and patience, at least one staff member is valued and appreciated considerably more than the rest. Either that or he’s simply lying about how much he appreciates his workers in the first place. Of course, lying is certainly not new to this administration.

Remember Jindal’s disingenuous State Employee Appreciation proclamations the past three years? Were they not so cynical and such classic examples of sick humor, they’d almost be laughable. Almost.

Hughes did have one ally in Civil Service assistant director Jean Jones.

While Ashley Gautreaux, LWC human resources director described Smith, who has worked for the agency since December of 2010, a “critical” employee, Jones said based on Civil Service records, Smith barely meets minimum job qualifications for the job she is in.

The commission predictably went along with the $19,430 per year pay raise with Hughes casting the only negative vote.

One LWC employee emailed LouisianaVoice expressing an attitude of being quite “p—sed” at the action.

That’s certainly easy to understand. Jindal has completely ignored this state since his re-election (with the exception of opportunities for camera face time during Hurricane Isaac). He is rarely even in the state anymore even as a dangerous sinkhole has caused evacuations in Assumption Parish. He is nowhere to be found even as the state’s economy is tanking, causing cutbacks in medical care, budget cuts to higher education which in turn precipitated tuition increases for already financially-strapped students—all while he pumps up salaries for his appointees (see Tim Barfield), fires doctors and college presidents and attorneys and continues to campaign for president—a goal, by the way, that he will never reach.

The question then is, with more than three years left for him to turn his nose up at the citizens who elected him, how much more of this boorish behavior is the state citizenry—and the legislature—willing to take off this arrogant Alfred E. Newman lookalike?

Perhaps Hammond attorney C.B. Forgotston said it best when he said it is time for us to move on because Bobby has. “It’s time for us to admit the truth: Bobby Jindal is finished with Louisiana,” he said.

“Bobby’s future is beyond the borders of Louisiana and he shows it every day. It’s time for the legislators to determine what type of state in which they want to live, not what Bobby leaves us.”

Read Full Post »

BATON ROUGE (CNS)—From Shreveport to New Orleans, from Amite to Alexandria, they’re beginning to catch on to the smoke and mirrors act of snake oil salesman Piyush Jindal, masquerading as governor of Louisiana and wannabe shining star—but now a fading star—of the national Republican Party.

And the picture isn’t a pretty one, at least from Piyush’s perspective—if, that is, he is even aware of the growing tide of resentment over his failed programs. Those failures run the gamut: from the $250 million wash-away berms in the Gulf of Mexico to the rejection of more than $800 million in federal grants for broadband internet, early childhood development and a high-speed rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to nightmarish cuts to higher education, state hospitals and Medicaid.

The question of his understanding of the depth and breadth of the problems is a matter of open speculation. One of his handlers recently described Jindal as “delusional.”

Definitions of the term vary somewhat in their wording but all say essentially the same thing:

• “A fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact;”

• “A false personal belief that is not subject to reason or contradictory evidence…”

• “A false belief or opinion;”

• “A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence…”

If Jindal doesn’t see and appreciate the looming consequences of his programs, i.e. school vouchers, budget cutbacks, privatization, hospital closures, then at least the readers of the Shreveport Times appear to understand and to come to grips with the dilemma of a disconnected governor.

A poll of Times readers this week asked one simple question: “How would you grade Jindal’s performance as governor?”

The term “grade” is significant here when one considers Jindal’s own penchant for “grading” Louisiana’s public schools in an apparent effort to categorize as many as possible as “D” and “F” schools to clear the way for new, mostly for-profit charter and online virtual schools and for his ill-conceived voucher/scholarship program, all of which rip money from local public school districts, leaving them in a deeper fiscal chasm than before.

The results of that poll late Friday afternoon showed, out of 866 votes cast, 593 (68.5 percent gave Jindal an F. Another 138 (15.0 percent) gave him a D. So, 83.5 percent of respondents gave him either a D or and F. Only 70 (8.1 percent) gave him an A while 33 (3.8 percent said he warranted a B and 32 (3.7 percent) gave him a C.

Jindal’s grading method for schools says that any school with a C, D, or F grade is considered failing and eligible for parents to move their kids out to a voucher school. Accordingly, 87.3 of respondents say he simply doesn’t measure up.

(Of course the poll is unscientific, but it certainly is interesting to know that he was re-elected with 66 percent of the vote of 20 percent of voters who went to the polls and now 68.5 percent see him as an utter failure.

Just to make sure there was no stuffing of the ballot box, we attempted to vote twice to see if we could. We could not, so the results, though unscientific, are significant because north Louisiana, along with the Florida parishes, is considered one of the areas of the state where he is strongest.

Taking the results of that poll into account, perhaps we should consider the implementation of a “charter” or “virtual” governor or perhaps vouchers could be issued for Louisiana’s citizens to select another governor if we are unhappy with the one we have.

Of course, like school vouchers, that would not preclude one over the other.

In other words, we would still have Jindal as the public governor, but we also would have a private governor of our choosing who would be accountable to no one.

Wait. We already have that.

The Monroe News-Star also has challenged the governor and his superintendent of education John White on the matter of what is and what is not public record. That publication has filed a lawsuit over records White has claimed are part of the “deliberative process,” a term that never existed before Jindal took office.

Gambit, a New Orleans publication, recently published a column with the headline: “Jindal’s got the job he wants? Prove it, Governor.”

The article asked the not-so-rhetorical question of why, if he truly had the “best job in the world,” would he spend so much time away from Louisiana?

Pointing out as others have recently that there are plenty of problems to occupy Jindal’s attention, Gambit submitted a “Bobby-do” list of tasks for the governor to tackle now that he has been officially eliminated from Mitt Romney’s vice presidential veepstakes:

Keep Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SLH) open. In 2009, Jindal shut down the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH), justifying the move by pointing out that its patients could receive the care they needed at SLH in Mandeville. Gambit asked where can those patients turn to now for treatment, Mississippi? With the closure of SLH scheduled for October, an entire region of the state—the most populous region of the state, it might be pointed out—will have no public mental health hospital.

Address the catastrophic cuts to higher education with something more than your rhetorical “do more with less” mantra.

Put real accountability into the public school voucher program. This program, passed by Jindal and now administered by his hand-picked superintendent of education (we’ll get to him presently), is an unmitigated disaster worthy of a Three Stooges or Marx Brothers comedy.

Except that this scenario is not funny.

Which brings us to White and his traveling dog and pony show which has played to less than enthusiastic reviews thus far.

First of all, White should have the good sense not to stroll late into a meeting with a parish school board (already a hostile audience) in open shirt with sleeves rolled up, dressed, in the words of one observer, “like he was attending a corn husking party,” complete with half-unzipped pants.

Is this really the image the leader of the state’s educational system wishes to convey in a public meeting of local elected officials? Apparently so.

Kevin Crovetto, a Ponchatoula High School teacher, got in what was possibly the best zinger of the night when he said if White and his staff were judged by the same standards proposed for teachers, they would be rated “ineffective.”

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board was, predictably, equally unimpressed.

Board member Al Link said that under the new teacher evaluation system, teachers will be held accountable for the academic progress of their students while the responsibilities of the student and parents are not addressed.

The state continues to put mandates on teachers, jumping from one mandate to another, to the point that teachers are finding it impossible to do their jobs, Link said, adding that the state now is saying some teachers are not meeting expectations so now their jobs are being given to persons who are not certified.

White responded by saying that he is “not keen” on certification and that anyone who is a college graduate and who is “proficient” should be allowed to teach.

Yet florists, plumbers and auctioneers are required to be licensed in Louisiana.

And just who is in charge of determining proficiency?

When Crovetto and others questioned White about the new voucher program that allows students who qualify to attend private schools and charter schools—at the expense of public school systems, White, incredibly, responded by indicating he cared little about the financial drain on public schools so long as voucher students get an education.

Let that sink in, folks. The head of Louisiana’s public education system says he is unconcerned about the financial hardships imposed on local school systems so long as voucher students get an education—at places like:

• Delhi Charter where, until public pressure forced a change in policy, a girl even suspected of being pregnant could be forced to submit to a physical by a doctor of the school’s choosing;

• Light City Christian Academy in New Orleans where the founder of the school calls himself “Apostle” and “Prophet;”

• New Living Word School in Ruston, which does not even have books, teachers, or classroom space and where the state recently circumvented the local building inspector to issue a building permit for a construction project to expand the facility (remember Willie Stark in All the King’s Men and the collapse of the school fire escape?);

• Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake that teaches that the Loch Ness Monster is real as a means of supporting the fundamentalist theory that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. It also uses textbooks that teach that American slave owners were benevolent, kind-hearted overlords, that the Ku Klux Klan was a “reform” organization that protected women and children, that the “Trail of Tears” was responsible for the conversion of many American Indians to Christianity;

• BeauVer Christian School in DeRidder that couldn’t grasp the proper spelling of “Scholarship” on its sign advertising free vouchers.

And, let us not forget, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), who says she is all about teaching the Christian beliefs of our forefathers in charter schools and vouchers for Christian schools but was opposed to vouchers for an Islamic school in New Orleans.

All these factors are part and parcel of the administration of a governor who more and more, exhibits signs of a growing disconnect with reality.

Delusional: a false belief based upon a misinterpretation of reality.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,797 other followers

%d bloggers like this: