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Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s head cheerleader, the Baton Rouge Business Report, keeps churning out those feel good blurbs about the various surveys that put Louisiana in a good light.

That’s understandable, of course. After all, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister served as Jindal’s campaign treasurer, then as chair of Jindal’s transition team, later as director of Jindal slush fund organization Believe in Louisiana, and finally as treasurer for Jindal’s Stand Up to Washington PAC.

As reward for his loyal services, Jindal appointed McCollister to the LSU Board of Stuporvisors where he promptly proceeded to vote with the remainder of the board in the decision—dictated by Jindal, of course—to fire LSU President John Lombardi, to resist the release of candidates for LSU president—so much for the Fourth Estate standing up for the public’s right to know—and to allow Jindal to give two LSU hospitals to a fellow LSU board member. As an added bonus, Jindal appointed McCollister associate Julio Melara, Business Report President, to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board of Commissioners.

And we won’t even discuss campaign contributions to Jindal from McCollister and Melara.

That should be sufficient assurance of objectivity and even handedness, so why should anyone question all those wonderfully warmed-over success stories about business climates, job growth, economic development, etc.?

So when the Business Report recently ran a story that proclaimed to the world that Thumbstack.com’s third annual Small Business Friendliness Survey ranked Louisiana as fifth in the nation in the all-important overall friendliness with a grade of A+, we were appropriately ecstatic.

But then on June 12, came the report from 24/7 Wall Street that identified the top 10 states in economic growth.

Louisiana was a no-show on that list.

While the U.S. economy grew at a rate of only 1.9 percent, down from the 2013 growth rate of 2.9 percent, the 10 states experienced growth rates of between 3 percent (Nebraska) and 9.7 percent for North Dakota.

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/06/12/10-states-with-the-fastest-growing-economies/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=JUN122014A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Louisiana? Our economy grew by a whopping 1.3 percent, according to the Associated Press, .6 lower than the national rate.

You would never know that to hear our esteemed presidential candi…er, governor, boast about the great strides our state has taken under his mostly absentee leadership.

But leave it to our friend Stephen Sabludowsky, publisher of the blog Bayou Buzz, to call Jindal out on his misrepresentations with his post, “Louisiana GDP facts: ‘Jindal miracle’ or mirage.’”

http://www.bayoubuzz.com/buzz/item/685147-louisiana-gdp-facts-jindal-miracle-or-mirage

Sabludowsky noted that Jindal told CNBC’s Jim Cramer (appropriately, a former hedge fund manager) that Louisiana is “doing what Washington, D.C. is not doing.” Jindal said, “Our economy is growing 50 percent faster than the national economy.”

On a roll, he continued: “Louisiana’s state GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008 and it’s growing at nearly twice the rate of our nation’s GDP.”

Sabludowsky, not impressed, noted that economic numbers released by the federal government did not square up with Jindal’s claim.

“Every chance he gets,” he said, “whether on national TV, while campaigning for President or while sharing broiled chicken with the Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal touts the Louisiana economy—as glowing and out performing almost all competition. Some conservative commentators have described the state’s economic ascendency as the ‘Jindal miracle.’”

Conservative commentators. There is your key. Jindal is very careful to spew his rapid-fire statistics—with little or no basis in reality—in interviews held only in the friendliest of environments where they are accepted at face value and are never challenged. You will never—we repeat, never—see him venture into hostile territory where such claims can be vetted.

Not that anyone in the media would ever challenge him. Where are the old-fashioned, cynical reporters who, like Peter Falk’s character Columbo, always asked one more question, never satisfied with hearing what politicians say but who listen instead to what isn’t said? Where are the journalists who challenge authority—like the late David Halberstam who, as a reporter for the New York Times, called out the American generals for lying when they repeatedly insisted we were winning in Vietnam? His audacity resulted in attempts by the U.S. military to demonize him and to have him thrown out of Vietnam and off his war coverage beat—a distinction he bore with honor.

Sadly, those guys just don’t exist anymore. They are all too busy rewriting press releases and never asking probing questions that might lead to real answers.

What reporters practice today is what Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide, his book about Edward Snowden, calls “an obvious pretense, a conceit of the profession.”

That’s how Jindal became governor: not one reporter asked the questions that needed to be asked when he ran in 2003 or again in 2007. By 2011, it didn’t matter; he was too firmly entrenched.

And that’s precisely how he plans to get elected President if not in 2016, then in 2020 or 2024.

All he has to do is schmooze a few more news executives.

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Have you ever wondered why Gov. Bobby Jindal writes all those op-ed pieces for the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Heritage Foundation, and Politico and not for Louisiana publications?

Could it be for the same reason that he doesn’t hold press conferences that aren’t tightly managed and/or staged? Could it be because the ones who read those publications are, for the most part, not from Louisiana so he can get away with his half-truths and outright prevarications (a polite word for lies)? What he says in those publications would simply never fly in Louisiana and he knows it—because we know him.

His ruminations can best be described as the artful practice of creative license because his ideas rarely are grounded in reality. They are more suited to one of those inane, shallow plots from The Brady Bunch, from which, coincidentally, he took his first name Bobby.

But now, in his ubiquitous quest for the presidency, he is taking his unsolicited opinions global and the powers at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are probably quaking in their boots.

Our governor, who, in his six years in office, has yet to present an executive budget that wasn’t held together with Bondo, baling wire and duct tape, has offered President Barrack Obama and French President Francois Holande the benefit of his vast economic knowledge in his latest op-ed for The Heritage Foundation. And he even managed to invoke the memory of D-Day in doing so.

Perhaps we subconsciously plagiarized Jindal who in his op-ed piece criticized Obama and Hollande for their “pretensions to economic knowledge vastly exceed their capacity to make smart policy choices.”

Would that be smart choices like your school voucher plan? Or like your ill-fated state retirement reform plan? Or would it be more like your income tax reform plan of last year that was dead on arrival? Or perhaps it was your visionary plan to build those $250 million disappearing berms to stem the flow of oil from the BP spill? What about your rejection of an $80 million federal grant to provide Broadband internet services to the state’s rural areas? Or even your inspirational plan to trick the feds into matching its own federal funds with more federal funds in your infamous hospital privatization plan through advance lease payments? Or maybe the health insurance premium reduction that resulted in that historic drawdown of the Office of Group Benefits reserve fund from half-a-billion dollars to something like $60 million or so? And there’s that $5 million contract with Alvarez & Marsal to cut state spending by, among other things, cutting Medicaid fraud and having Medicaid Mamas birth their babies at home. But then it could be your going against the advice of a dozen or so legal scholars and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to sign SB 469 that kills the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against those 97 oil companies that wrecked our coastline and marshes but which contains language that might also kill ongoing claims by local governments for damages inflicted by that BP spill. It’s not, after all, like his own legal counsel is batting a thousand in these matters.

No matter. We can readily see there is a plethora of examples of stellar economic wisdom flowing from the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

Why, you are so full of wonderful economic ideas that you even supported the rejection of Senate Concurrent Resolution 142 by Sen. Rick Gallot (D-Ruston).

I mean, let’s be reasonable. Gallot wanted to pass a resolution asking that the Department of Revenue to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that all oil and gas severance taxes due the state from oil companies is paid in accordance with state law.

Gallot, in his frenzied call for heavy-handed governmental control, actually wanted the Department of Revenue and the Legislative Auditor to work together to determine the accuracy of self-reported (as in no oversight) data from oil and gas companies to determine the amount of severance taxes owed as well as the accuracy of tax refunds claimed on those severance taxes.

Gallot also wanted to take the oppressive hand of state government even further by having the two state agencies “review and conduct yearly audits of all who may owe mineral royalties to ensure that the state receives complete, accurate, and timely payments.”

Really? We wouldn’t just want to continue to take the word of the oil and gas companies?

The State Senate, apparently caught unaware of Gallot’s Gestapo-like tactics, approved the resolution by a 35-0 vote with four absences (Conrad Appel, A.G. Crowe, Jack Donahue and Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb) but the House, much more alert to threats to members’ generous campaign contributors, defeated the measure by a 48-44 vote with 12 absences—22 votes short of the required two-thirds needed.

Here is the House vote on SCR 142:

YEAS

Anders

Arnold

Badon

Barrow

Billiot

Broadwater

Burns, H.

Burrell

Chaney

Connick

Cox

Dixon

Edwards

Fannin

Franklin

Gaines

Gisclair

Guillory

Harrison

Hazel

Hill

Honore

Hunter

Jackson

James

Jefferson

Johnson

Jones

Landry, T.

LeBas

Leger

Montoucet

Moreno

Morris, Jay

Norton

Ortego

Pierre

Ponti

Price

Reynolds

Richard

Ritchie

Shadoin

Smith

Thierry

Williams, A.

Williams, P.

Woodruff

TOTAL: 48

 

NAYS

Adams

Barras

Berthelot

Bishop, S.

Burford

Burns, T.

Carmody

Carter

Champagne

Danahay

Dove

Foil

Garofalo

Guinn

Harris

Havard

Henry

Hodges

Hoffmann

Hollis

Howard

Huval

Ivey

Lambert

Landry, N.

Leopold

Lopinto

Lorusso

Mack

Miller

Pope

Pugh

Pylant

Robideaux

Schexnayder

Seabaugh

Simon

St. Germain

Stokes

Talbot

Thibaut

Thompson

Whitney

Willmott

Total – 44

 

ABSENT

Mr. Speaker

Abramson

Armes

Bishop, W.

Brown

Cromer

Geymann

Greene

Hensgens

Morris, Jim

Pearson

Schroder

TOTAL–12

 

After all, who needs another layer of government bureaucracy to ensure that the state receives the money due from the oil and gas companies? They already have folks on staff to make certain that the ordinary citizen pays his taxes so why do we need to duplicate that effort with the oil and gas companies? After all, we killed that pesky lawsuit against the oil companies.

And now Jindal, the financial wizard of Louisiana, writes an essay critical of…France’s revenue shortfall.

While saying America’s labor force participation rate is at a 36-year low (could be because American corporations ship jobs overseas for cheap labor, thus robbing Americans of decent jobs?), Jindal claims that Obama’s proposed minimum wage increase could cause as many as a million Americans to lose their jobs. Apparently, he would prefer that we revert to the dollar-an-hour minimum wage of the ‘60s and McDonald’s would love nothing better than to outsource its hamburger flipping jobs to Bangladesh if it could find a way to do so.

Jindal also was critical of France’s 11 percent unemployment rate, contrasting it with Louisiana’s 4.3 percent jobless rate.

But as Baton Rouge/New Orleans Advocate reporter Mark Ballard, quoting Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, pointed out, France’s unemployment is the result of the country’s practice of giving government aid to students to help them complete their education as opposed to American students who work, but at low-paying jobs to pay their way through school. At the same time, Ballard, again citing Krugman, said that French adults “in their prime working years…are substantially more likely to have jobs than their American counterparts.”

But here’s the kicker: Jindal, with his smoke and mirrors economic policy, believes dealing out tax breaks, exemptions and other incentives to rich corporations like so much Halloween candy leads to employment for the poor. It’s a classic example of misdirection and precisely the reason he prefers to write for publications outside the borders of Louisiana.

“But in Louisiana,” he writes for The Heritage Foundation, “we’ve tried to show that there is a better way—one that leads to quality jobs and robust economic growth.” That growth, it should be obvious to those forced to sling burgers for a living, is why our tax base continues to shrink instead of expanding, his sage advice to the French president notwithstanding.

“While Obama raised federal taxes by more than $1 trillion, we passed the largest income tax cut in state history,” he writes. “As a Democratic Congress rammed through trillions in new spending for Obamacare, we cut the state budget by 26 percent. And even as the EPA proposes new regulations that could decimate critical portions of our energy sector, we’ve worked to create a more predictable legal environment for energy companies in the state,” he said.

Well, there is certainly no disputing that last statement as witness the Jindal-led successful effort to kill the lawsuit by the SLFPA-E litigation.

But we do have a question: how is it that our governor can spend more time writing his self-serving op-ed pieces for the national publications than he spends at the job for which he is paid? Perhaps someone will ask him that if he ever holds a real press conference in Louisiana.

 

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The Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda, as we have shown here on numerous occasions, promotes unyielding opposition to any legislation that smacks of benefits to workers, the unemployed and the poor.

Among other things, ALEC, led by the Koch brothers, pushes legislation that:

  • Opposes an extension of unemployment benefits;
  • Undermines the rights of injured workers to hold their corporate employers accountable
  • Promotes for-profit schools at the expense of public education;
  • Opposes consumers’ right to know the origin of food we consume;
  • Opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage;
  • Limits patient rights and undermines safety net programs including, of all things a call to end licensing and certification of doctors and other medical professionals.

While the effort to end licensing and certification of medical professionals might play into the hands of State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-D-R-Opelousas) and his affinity for witch doctors, such a move probably would not work to the benefit of the average patient.

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/30/louisianas-chameleon-legislator-sen-elbert-guillory-republicandemocratrepublican-is-candidate-for-lt-gov/

And while ALEC vehemently opposes any legislation that might remotely resemble benefits to the poor or which might invoke that hated word welfare, the organization’s agenda remains something of a paradox when one takes a step back and examines the spate of corporate welfare programs enacted by willing accomplices in the highest reaches of Louisiana politics.

Generous tax exemptions, credits, and incentives have proliferated to an extent not even imagined by the injured or unemployed worker trying to provide for his family—while generating few, if any, real benefits in the way of new jobs.

Probably the most glaring abuse of the incentives offered by our Office of Economic Development are the absurd tax dodges meted out to the movie industry and for what—being able to boast that we’re now recognized as Hollywood East.” That offers little encouragement to the guy trying to pay for a mortgage, a car payment, education of his kids, and health care if he’s hurt or can’t find a job.

By contrast, LouisianaVoice has found a few federal farm subsidy payments to several “persons of interest” which may come as a surprise to Louisiana’s great unwashed. Then again, maybe not.

For example, we have former legislator (he served in both the House and Senate) Noble Ellington, two years ago appointed to the $130,000 per year position of Deputy Commissioner of Insurance despite his having no experience in the field of insurance.

Ellington, a Republican from Winnsboro, also served until his retirement from the legislature as ALEC’s national president and even hosted the organization’s annual convention in New Orleans in 2011 so it stands to reason that he would, on principle alone, reject out of hand any form of welfare—even such as might be to his own financial benefit.

Not so much.

From 1995 to 2012, Ellington received $335,273 in federal farm subsidies while sons Ryan Ellington and Noble Ellington, III, received $89,000 and $25,223, respectively—nearly $450,000 for the three.

Granted, the senior Ellington made his fortune as a cotton merchant so we suppose that qualifies him to the subsidies—except for his position as National President of ALEC which is diametrically opposed to welfare. Oops, we forgot; that’s diametrically opposed to welfare for all but the corporate world. Our bad.

And then there’s Ellington’s successor to the Louisiana House, Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), who introduced a bill during last year’s session that would have required the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to “adopt rules and regulations that require all public high school students beginning with those entering ninth grade in the fall of 2014, to successfully complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course provider as a prerequisite to graduation.”

If that’s not corporate welfare, in that it guarantees a constant revenue stream in the form of state payments to private concerns offering those Course Choice courses, we will shine your shoes free for a year.

During the same time period, 1995 to 2012, Pylant received nearly $104,400 in federal farm subsidies.

His occupation prior to his election to the Louisiana House? He was sheriff of Franklin Parish.

Another ALEC member, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), also received $472,952 in federal farm subsidies for the same time period as Ellington and Pylant.

Thompson holds an Ed.D. Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) and lists his occupation as educator and developer.

Other ALEC members, their occupations and federal farm subsidies received between 1995 and 2012:

  • Bogalusa Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers—electrical contractor, $20,000;
  • State Rep. Andy Anders (D-Vidalia)—salesman for Scott Equipment, $34,175;
  • Rep. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro)—Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “independent businessman” and also has a background in education, nearly $2600—a pittance by comparison but still indicative of the mindset of the ALEC membership when it comes to applying a heaping helping of double standard to the public trough.

To be completely fair, however, it should be pointed out that Nevers introduced a bill this session (SB96) that called for a constitutional amendment that would make health care available under Medicaid to all state residents at or below 138 per cent of the federal poverty level—an effort that sets him apart from those who parrot the standard ALEC position on medical care for the poor. Of course his bill failed in committee by a 6-2 vote today (April 23) after Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) moved to defer action.

Perhaps voters will remember Claitor’s compassion for those without health care in this fall’s (Nov. 4) congressional election.

Two other legislators and two political appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal who are not members of ALEC also combined to receive nearly $561,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012, records show. They are:

  • State Rep. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall)— dairy and beef farmer, $38,000;
  • State Rep. John Morris (R-Monroe)— attorney, $11,625;
  • Robert Barham of Oak Ridge—Secretary, Department of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, $489,700;
  • Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA.—member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, $21,600.

All but Burford and Mallett reside in the 5th Congressional District formerly represented by Rodney Alexander (R-Jonesboro), who now heads the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 5th District includes the Louisiana Delta which make up one of the largest row crop farming communities of any congressional district in the nation.

Accordingly, the $289,000 paid out to recipients in 2012 was easily the highest of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, more than double the 4th District represented by John Fleming and accounting for 50.6 percent of the statewide total.

For the period of 1995-2012, the 5th District also ranked highest in federal farm subsidies with the $23.7 million paid out representing 31.2 percent of the total and ranking slightly ahead of the 3rd Congressional District of Charles Boustany, which had $21.1 million (27.8 percent).

Of the $292.5 billion paid in subsidies nationwide from 1995-2012, the top 10 percent of recipients received 75 percent of all subsidies, or an average of slightly more than $32,000 per recipient per year for the 18-year period reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA records also reveal that 62 percent of all farms in the U.S. received no subsidy payments.

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Could Bobby Jindal possibly embarrass himself any more than he did on Monday?

Could he possibly have revealed himself any more of a calloused, uncaring hypocrite than he did on Monday?

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills. http://theadvocate.com/news/8440065-123/blind-vendors-jindals-office-spar

That trust fund has shrunk from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration finds itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that has sucked up $365,000 in legal fees, of which the state is responsible for 21 percent, or $76,650.

(I worked for the Office of Risk Management for 20 years and $365,000 in legal fees is not unreasonable for a major lawsuit that involves significant injuries or death where liability is in question. But $365,000 in attorney bills in a lawsuit over who gets to run the cafeteria, a commissary and a grocery store would seem to be a tad high—even for the law firm Shows, Cali, Berthelot and Walsh, which is representing the state under a $500,000 contract with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.)

Rubbing salt into the wounds is the fact that the Blind Vendors Committee, which is supposed to have a say in policy decisions, has been left out of the loop over the Fort Polk controversy.

Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, justified the hiring of private attorneys to defend the litigation by saying his office’s staff attorneys are too busy to handle the contract lawsuit.

That brings up two questions:

  • Busy doing what?
  • And isn’t this the same administration that pitched a hissy fit when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contracted with a private attorney to seek damages from 97 oil companies for destroying the Louisiana wetlands?

But back to the boy blunder. Jindal turns his back on a minimum wage increase for the working poor to stand outside the White House to chat up the Keystone pipeline which would have the potential of generating $100 billion in profit for Charles and David Koch?

Today’s (Wednesday) Baton Rouge Advocate ran this editorial cartoon that is certain to become a classic in that it symbolizes the defining moment of the Jindal administration:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that.” And by “better,” he was referring to the Keystone pipeline which he said Obama would approve if he were “serious about growing the economy.”

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy almost pushed Jindal aside in his eagerness to take the microphone to say, “Wait a second. Until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.” He said Jindal’s “white flag” comment was the most partisan of the weekend conference and that many governors, unlike Jindal, support an increase in the minimum wage.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, was a bit blunter, calling Jindal a “cheap shot artist” as he walked off the White House grounds.

Jindal, of course, wants to be president so badly that he is perfectly willing to sell his soul to the Koch brothers and their organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the apparent hope that some of their AFP money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

AFP is the same super PAC that recently hired professional actors to pose as Louisiana citizens claiming that Obamacare is hurting their families. The merits of lack thereof of Obamacare aside, this is politics at its very sleaziest and our governor is in bed with them.

But this is perfectly in keeping with his character as governor. He has attempted to rob state employees of their retirement benefits. He has attempted to destroy public education with a full frontal attack on teachers. His administration has handed out huge no-bid contracts to consultants as if they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. He has handed over the state’s charity hospital system to private concerns, including two facilities that went to a member of his LSU Board of Stuporvisors. He has run roughshod over higher education. He has fired appointees and demoted legislators who dared think for themselves. He has refused to expand Medicaid despite living in a state with one of the highest number of citizens lacking medical insurance. He has crisscrossed the country making silly speeches designed only to promote his presidential ambitions by keeping his name before the public. He has written countless op-ed pieces and appeared on network TV news shows for the same purpose.

And still, whenever the pundits start listing the potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, he name never appears as a blip on their radar. Even Sarah Palin’s name pops up now and then but never Jindal’s.

Even readers of his favorite political blog, The Hayride, which among other things 1), recently featured an infomercial touting a sure-fire cancer cure and 2), got taken in by a hoax video depicting an eagle swooping down and trying to grab an infant in a park, seem to hold Jindal in low regard. A couple of weeks ago The Hayride conducted its own poll of potential Republican candidates for president in 2016.

Here are their results:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz: 39.9 percent;
  • Sen. Rand Paul: 20.7 percent;
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 10.1 percent;
  • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 5.8 percent;
  • Other/Undecided: 24.9 percent.

That’s it. No Jindal. And this from a decidedly pro-Jindal Louisiana political blog. We can only assume he may have shown up somewhere among the 24.9 percent undecided. But this much we do know: he was beaten by Sarah Palin.

At this point, we don’t need a poll to tell us that Jindal would be far better suited as the auctioneer in that GEICO commercial or as the disclaimer voice at the end of those pharmaceutical ads that tell us how we could all die from side effects of the drug that’s being advertised to help with our medical malady—or perhaps even better as the really rapid fire voice that absolutely no one on earth can understand at the end of those automobile commercials.

He has, after all, been auditioning for the part for six years now.

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The photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20140218/NEWS05/140218014/Computer-Sciences-Corporation-bring-800-jobs-Bossier-City

The company, partially owned by Lloyds Banking Group of London through its Scottish Windows funds, offers IT services, including cloud solutions, cyber security, technology consulting and, according to several sources, secret CIA flights for the purposes of interrogation and torture. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/may/06/lloyds-computer-sciences-corporation-cia-rendition

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

Louisiana Tech is scheduled to receive the bulk of the $14 million as it plans to quadruple its number of undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyber engineering over the next five or six years, Jindal said, adding that Bossier City was selected over 133 other sites in the U.S. He said the company’s decision will help northwest Louisiana to become “one of America’s new technology hubs, enabling the region to attract technology partners of CSC as well as other technology companies attracted to the growing IT work force here.”

And while Louisiana Tech will get most of the initial funding, the lease payments for the 116,000 square-foot technology center that will be constructed and leased to CSC by Cyber Innovation Center will be paid with $29 million in state funds. City and parish governments will chip another $5 million each to purchase data center equipment for the building while CSC will invest in the servers and other computer technology.

While we are not sure of the identities of the other “technology partners” of CSC, it’s somewhat interesting to note that CSC customers are being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240160206/Customers-urged-to-boycott-CSC-over-CIA-torture-flights

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Documents provided by Reprieve include invoices that show that CSC chartered N982RK, a Gulfstream jet, on the date El-Masri was abducted and logs provided by the civil-military air traffic safety regulator EuroControl show that N982RK few in stages from Washington to Kabul on May 26, 2004, and then to Kucova air base.

Aviation authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina called attention to the unusual flight patterns of the plane which had requested diplomatic permissions under a CIA identifier.

The U.S. has since admitted the abduction to German premier Angela Merkel.

“We think CSC was at the top of the contracting tree for this (CIA operation),” said Reprieve researcher Dr. Crofton Black. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that CSC was the prime contractor between the government and the companies that ran the flight operations.”

German ministries have been sharing IT services with the CIA and NSA and now it is learned that the German government does business with a company involved in abduction and torture—at a pretty handsome profit. http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/67143760611/outsourcing-intelligence-sinks-germany-further-into

For years, CSC was one of the CIA’s largest contractors and records show that the CIA paid the firm $11 million to have el-Masri picked up in Kabul and subsequently tortured for months on end before finally being released as a victim of mistaken identity.

One online news story about the company notes that CSC is a “massive company,” with at least 11 subsidiaries in 16 locations in Germany alone. CSC and its subsidiaries are part of a secret industry, the military intelligence industry but do the “traditionally reserved for the military and intelligence agencies,” but at cheaper rates and under “much less scrutiny.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Cyber Research Park and Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

Coincidence?

We certainly hope so.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have suffered a mass exodus of sorts in the wake of its Stand Your Ground mantra that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but ALEC is far too strong to let a few defections stand in the way of its political agenda in such areas as public education (even to borrowing from John White’s playbook), weakening workers’ rights, diluting environmental protections, healthcare and now even in the way U.S. senators are nominated and elected.

For that reason alone, the upcoming legislative session which begins at noon on March 10—less than two months from now—will bear close watching for any bills that might appear to have originated at ALEC’s States & Nation Policy Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

ALEC, while striving to change laws to meld with its agenda, nevertheless denies that it is a lobbying organization. That way, corporations and individuals who underwrite ALEC financially are able to claim robust tax write-offs for funding ALEC and its companion organization, the State Policy Network (SPN).

ALEC has a strong presence in Louisiana. Former legislator Noble Ellington, now a deputy commissioner in the Louisiana Department of Insurance, is a former national president of the organization and Gov. Bobby Jindal was recipient of its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award a couple of years ago when ALEC held its national conference in New Orleans.

Current Louisiana legislators who are members of ALEC are:

House of Representatives:

  • Rep. John Anders (D-Vidalia), Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans),      attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting;
  • Rep. Timothy G. Burns (R-Mandeville), Civil Justice Task Force Alternate;
  • Rep. George “Greg” Cromer (R-Slidell), State Chairman, Civil Justice Task Force (announced he was resigning from ALEC and from his position as Alec state chairman of Louisiana on April 17, 2012);
  • Rep. James R. Fannin (R-Jonesboro), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Franklin J. Foil (R-Baton Rouge), Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Brett F. Geymann (R-Lake Charles), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Johnny Guinn (R-Jennings);
  • Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), State Chairman, member of Education Task Force; (solicited funds for “ALEC Louisiana      Scholarship Fund” on state stationery July 2, 2012);
  • Rep. Cameron Henry, Jr. (R-Metairie), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);
  • Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Girod Jackson (D-Marrero), (resigned last August after being charged with fraud);
  • Rep. Harvey LeBas (D-Ville Platte),  ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Rep. Walter Leger, III (D-New Orleans), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), (attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting where he spoke on “Saving Dollars and Protecting Communities: State Successes in Corrections Policy”);
  • Rep. Nicholas J. Lorusso (R-New Orleans), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge;
  • Rep. John M. Schroder, Sr. (R-Covington), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);
  • Rep. Scott M. Simon (R-Abita Springs), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force;
  • Rep. Thomas Willmott (R-Kenner), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;

Senate:

  • Sen. John A. Alario, Jr.(R-Westwego), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Sen. Jack L. Donahue, Jr. (R-Mandeville), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston); Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Sen. Daniel R. Martiny (R-Metairie); Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Sen. Fred H. Mills, Jr. (R-New Iberia), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Ben Nevers, Sr. (D-Bogalusa), ALEC Education Task Force member;
  • Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Gary L. Smith, Jr. (R-Norco), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi)
  • Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, Jr. (R-Central), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

All ALEC meetings are held under tight security behind closed doors. During one recent conference, a reporter was not only barred from attending the meeting, but was actually not allowed into the hotel where the event was being held.

Apparently, there is good reason for that. It is at these conferences that ALEC members meet with state legislators to draft “model” laws for legislators to take back to their states for introduction and, hopefully, passage. Some of the bills being considered for 2014 are particularly noteworthy.

We won’t know which proposals were ultimately approved at that December meeting in Washington, however, because of the secrecy in which the meetings are held. We will know only if and when they are introduced as bills in the upcoming legislative session. But they should be easy to recognize.

One which will be easy to recognize is ALEC’s push for implementation of Louisiana’s Course Choice Program in other states. Course Choice, overseen by our old friend Lefty Lefkowith, is a “mini-voucher” program which lets high school students take free online classes if their regular schools do not offer it or if their schools have been rated a C, D or F by the state.

Course Choice has been beset by problems in Louisiana since its inception first when companies offering classes under the program began canvassing neighborhoods to recruit students and then signing them up without their knowledge or permission. Vendors offering the courses were to be paid half the tuition up front and the balance upon students’ graduation, making it a win-win for the vendors in that it didn’t really matter if students completed the courses for the companies to be guaranteed half the tuition. Moreover, there was no oversight built into the program that would ensure students actually completed the courses, thus making it easy for companies to ease students through the courses whether or not they actually performed the work necessary to obtain a grade. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however ruled the funding mechanism for Course Choice from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program unconstitutional.

Three other education proposals by ALEC appear to also borrow from the states of Utah. The first, the Early Intervention Program Act, is based on Utah’s 2012 law which has profited ALEC member Imagine Learning by diverting some $2 million in tax money from public schools to private corporations. But Imagine Learning did not offer test scores for the beginning and ending of the use of its software, little is known of what, if any, benefits students might have received. The Student Achievement Backpack Act and the Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act also appear to be based on Utah’s education reform laws.

The former provides access to student data in a “cloud-based” electronic portal format and was inspired by Digital Learning Now, a project of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education when he was Florida’s governor.

Not all of ALEC’s proposals address public education.

For example, do you like to know the country of origin of the food you place on your table? More than 90 percent of American consumers want labels telling them where their meat, fruits, vegetables and fish are from, according to polling data. ALEC, though, is resisting implementation of what it calls “additional regulations and requirements for our meat producers and processors,” including those that would label countries of origin.

ALEC’s “Punitive Damages Standards Act” and the accompanying “Noneconomic Damage Awards Act” would make it more difficult to hold corporations accountable or liable when their products or practices result in serious harm or injury.

The organization’s “Medicaid Block Grant Act” seeks federal authorization to fund state Medicaid programs through a block grant or similar funding, a move that would cut Medicaid funding by as much as 75 percent. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has pushed similar block grant systems for Medicaid in several of his budget proposals.

In what has to qualify as a “WTF” proposal, ALEC for the second straight year is seeking approval of a bill to end licensing, certification and specialty certification for doctors and other medical professionals as requirements to practice medicine in the respective states and to prohibit states from funding the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Then there is the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” which is considered an assault of sorts on the 17th Amendment. For more than a century, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, a practice which often led to deadlocks and stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months on end. But 101 years ago, in 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified, changing the method of choosing senators to popular vote by the citizenry.

While ALEC’s proposal doesn’t mean full repeal of the 17th Amendment, it does mean that in addition to other candidates, legislatures would be able to add their own candidates’ names to ballots for senate seats. ALEC, apparently, is oblivious or unconcerned with a national poll that shows 71 percent of voters prefer electing senators by popular vote.

To keep track of these and other ALEC bills introduced in the upcoming session, just keep an eye on the member legislators and the bills they file.

And keep reading LouisianaVoice.

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Even as Bobby Jindal continues to bombard us with glowing reports about the best this and most favorable that—surveys by all the right organizations, at least from the administration’s perspective—which advance the governor’s agenda, other reports don’t paint such a rosy picture.

For every claim of a favorable business climate, there is a one that reflects one of the highest pay disparities between men and women in the nation. For each boast of low taxes, national comparisons point to one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. For all the laudatory praise of the state’s recreational facilities, we still have the second highest obesity rate in the country. In the face of the administration’s trumpeting of all those surveys rating Louisiana as having a favorable business climate, there is no escaping the fact that we are near the top in the number of citizens without health insurance. Yes, we have a deep labor pool, one survey cheerily reports even as another chides Louisiana for its dearth of skilled labor.

Of course if one listens to Jindal or reads his news releases, you hear only that the glass if half full, never than it’s half empty. Balance in reporting is not in the governor’s vocabulary.

All the so-called good news from the conservative think tanks that have the same political philosophy as Jindal and obediently do all in their power to put his best face forward does little to offset the reality of a state beset by problems too many to enumerate.

The latest bit of adverse news comes in the form of credit ratings for the individual states that show to virtually no one’s surprise, with the possible exception of Jindal and his Secretary of Economic Development Steven Moret (and probably Rolfe McCollister, a member of Jindal’s very own LSU Board of Stuporvisors and one of Jindal’s most vocal cheerleaders), that Louisiana is second only to Mississippi (a familiar position in most other negative surveys, as well) as having the worst credit rating of the 50 states.

http://money.msn.com/credit-rating/10-states-with-the-lowest-credit-scores

Southern states in general have the lowest credit ratings, according to the credit bureau Experian. And while living in one of the states with low credit scores does not mean individuals have low credit scorea but the credit scores are employed as one means of evaluating the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine how much interest to charge borrowers, the report says.

The latest credit rating is for the last quarter of 2013 and the 10 lowest scores ranged from a low of 707 for Mississippi to a high of 729 for New Mexico—well below the national average of 748 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The survey reveals that southern states have some of the lowest credit scores in the nation, according to calculations from the credit bureau Experian.

The ratings are designed to reflect applicants’ ability to repay debt and lenders use credit scores to assess the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine what interest rates to charge borrowers which means that the state ratings have a direct bearing on consumer credit.

In Mississippi, recently named as the poorest state in the nation, Gov. Phil Bryant has proclaimed that 2014 would be a breakout year for the state’s “Creative Economy,” noting that somehow the state’s claim to be the birthplace of blues might be the springboard for the state that has an unemployment rate in excess of 10 percent. We suppose the thinking could be that as the nation’s economic anchor, there is only one direction to go: up.

Louisiana, with a credit rating of 720, wasn’t much better. Like its poorer neighbor to the east, the state was hit hard by the double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

Still, the administration, in grasping at any straw to enhance its image, leans heavily on a report by the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program that said both Baton Rouge and New Orleans have made great strides in recovering from those twin disasters and the New Orleans ranks as “one of the best cities in the nation for business development and economic growth.”

Overlooked (deliberately, perhaps?) in that optimistic report is the fact that the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program is part of the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit—a creation of the administration.

No conflict of interest there.

Other bottom 10 states in credit rating and their scores are, in order, Georgia (721), Nevada and Texas (722), Arkansas (725), Oklahoma and Alabama (727), South Carolina (728), and New Mexico (729).

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Gov. Bobby Jindal has this cool web page on which he is conscientious about posting the latest updates about all the wonderful things going on in Louisiana, thanks in large part to his diligent work on behalf of the state.

The web page, of course, has the requisite “donate” button on which to click to make contributions—ostensibly for his long-anticipated presidential campaign since his last run for governor was more than two years ago and he’s term limited from running again.

The web page is paid for by Friends of Bobby Jindal, Inc., AKA the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal, Inc. Records filed with the Secretary of State indicate the agent for the organization is David Woolridge of the law firm Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff, and McCollister. Officers include Alexandra “Allee” Bautsch, finance director (also Jindal’s campaign finance director), deputy finance director Erin Riecke, and Melvin Kendal.

Strangely enough, even though Friends of Bobby Jindal solicits contributions through the web page, there apparently have been no campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Commissions. All contributions and expenditures are listed in Jindal’s name individually and not in Friends of Bobby Jindal or the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal.

You can check out his page right here  http://www.bobbyjindal.com/ to see glowing reports on the following projects:

  • The South African energy company Sasol’s integrated gas-to-liquids and chemicals project n Louisiana was named Foreign Direct Investment Deal of the Year (no mention of how many jobs that would actually produce for the state).
  • Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec will build a new distribution facility in Louisiana which will create a whopping 70 jobs.
  • A New York Post editorial has praised Jindal for his efforts to crack down on abuse in the state’s food stamp program (abuse, by the way, which pales in comparisons to the costs of that CNSI contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals, corporate tax breaks and legislators recently exposed for using campaign funds to pay for private vehicles, auto insurance, and LSU football tickets).

And while we certainly appreciate his dedication to keeping us informed, we can’t help but notice that he missed a couple of recent developments. And because we’re here to help, we are more than happy to fill in the blanks so that you, the reader, may remain informed about our state.

  • Speaking of CNSI, writer Michael Volpe penned an interesting story on Friday, Nov. 22 when he wrote that CNSI, one of the subcontractors working on the Obamacare website, is currently under investigation by the FBI in Louisiana and is currently embroiled in legal disputes over services provided to the states of South Dakota, Illinois and Michigan. Jindal’s former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein was formerly employed by CNSI and it has been revealed that he was in constant contact with company officials in the days leading up to its selection for the $800 million contract. http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/22/subcontractor-working-on-obamacare-site-under-fbi-investigation/
  • While Mississippi was chosen as assembly sites for Airbus Aircraft and Nissan and Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai have built assembly plants in Alabama, the five facilities employing thousands (compared to 70 for Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec), GM closed its Shreveport truck assembly plant.
  • For anyone who has ever wondered what the job of the Louisiana Attorney General is, consider this: the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, obviously with little to do about road maintenance in Evangeline, has asked the AG’s office for a legal opinion as to whether or not a rooster is a chicken (brings to mind the story about the child asking his mother if chickens are born. “No, chickens are hatched from an egg,” his mother said. “Was I hatched from an egg?” “No, you were born.” “Are eggs born?” “No, eggs are laid.” “Are people laid?” “Some are; others are chicken.”). State law, it seems, prohibits staging fights between “any bird which is of the species Gallus gallus. Proponents of cockfighting maintain their birds are of a species other than Gallus gallus and the AG has been asked to weigh in on the matter. (Sigh.).
  • That sink hole in Assumption Parish continues to expand with no indication from the fourth floor of the State Capitol that there is any concern on the part of the governor for the plight of all those displaced residents.
  • Our friend Don Whittinghill, who provided us the information on the auto assembly plants in Mississippi and Alabama, also provided another interest tidbit missing from Jindal’s web page: Last year, 91,215 people moved to Louisiana while 95,958 left for greener pastures—a net loss of 4,741 people. This could be related to Louisiana’s construction job growth of 8.3 percent compared to a 19.1 percent gain by Mississippi.
  • Louisiana is ranked as the seventh-worst governed state in the nation, according to the financial news site 24/7 Wall Street. The survey’s results are based on financial data, services provided by the state and residents’ standard of living. The state’s budget deficit of 25.1 percent was the fourth largest in the nation, ranking behind (in order) New Jersey (37.5 percent), Nevada (37 percent), and California (27.8 percent). The national average budget gap was 15.5 percent. The percentage of citizens living below the poverty line (19.9 percent) was third highest, surpassed only by Mississippi (24.2 percent) and New Mexico (20.8 percent), and the state’s median household income of $42,944 was eighth lowest in the nation. Moreover, nearly 500 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012 made Louisiana one of the most dangerous states in which to live.

So, Governor, we know you are a busy man, flitting all over the country to appear on CNN and Faux News, writing all those provocative op-eds in the Washington Post about how all the other Republicans (except you, of course) are a bunch of children whose hand you feel compelled to hold while leading them out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

We know you have all you can do in your efforts to climb from the bottom of the pile of potential GOP presidential contenders and that your sending Timmy Teepell to help get Neil Riser elected to Congress kind of blew up in your face—like that governor’s race in Virginia.

So, we want you to know, we’ve got your back.

We promise to keep a dutiful watch on your web blog and when we discover an omission in your superb coverage of all that’s good and wonderful in this state, we’ll be sure and jump in and fill the gap.

That’s the least we can do.

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It’s easy to sit back and take pot shots at those in charge so when I recently said Gov. Bobby Jindal was out of touch, perhaps I was remiss in not offering solutions as to how he could regain the connection with the average working people of the state he purports to govern, often from the New York studios of Faux News or the latest conclave of Republican governors.

You know the people I’m talking about: those who congregate each Sunday in the Protestant churches of north Louisiana—those same churches that Jindal used to visit during his first term of office but hasn’t since—and who returned to the drudgery of their workaday jobs on Monday morning while Jindal basked in the glowing praise of the usual cast of sycophants.

My neglect in offering suggestions for Jindal and Co. to overcome their respective psychopathic behavior was brought home to me by Robert Mann in his recent blog Something Like the Truth about Jindal’s “Poverty of Compassion,” in which he said he has often wondered why Jindal “is so apathetic about the plight of the working poor.”

Mann said Jindal, speaking at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) during its “American Comeback” project, said when he was born his dad had no medical insurance and paid for little Bobby’s delivery on the installment plan. “And the doctor was willing to do that,” he said in explaining why Daddy did not need health insurance. “He didn’t want help from the government,” he told his fellow GOP governors, to what almost certainly was enthusiastic applause.

So the obvious lesson here is if you need a heart, lung, or kidney transplant or if neurosurgery is necessary, you don’t need insurance. All you need is an understanding surgeon, team of nurses, anesthesiologist and other OR personnel who are willing to tote the note for a few decades—or longer.

Well, that little episode certainly sheds a glaring light on Jindal’s psyche. Perhaps he was taking his cue from Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman’s aide Donny Ferguson, who in June boasted that he took the challenge of trying to feed himself on the $31.50 per week level of SNAP food stamp benefits under the Farm Bill—and actually got by on $27.58.

Anyone can pull that off—for one week, as this clown did. A gallon of milk, peanut butter, crackers a few canned biscuits, sardines, bologna and bread, and anyone can get by for a week.

But why doesn’t Ferguson try that little ploy for a year or longer? Why doesn’t he do it permanently, the way the real people on SNAP do? The Spam might lose some of its appeal as a publicity stunt. He might switch the peanut butter for a package of those Kraft American Cheese slices—you know the ones that used to advertise five ounces of milk in ever two-thirds-ounce slice (I actually called the Kraft advertising agency once to ask how they did that. There was a long pause on the other end of the line before the Madison Avenue shill declared, “Oh, you want American; I’m in cheddar.”). But even those cheese slices will get old before too long.

So, after making that suggestion to Ferguson, I’ve decided to offer the same solution to Jindal and his minions. All he and his cadre of confidants have to do is get back to the roots they never knew: the hardscrabble life of long hours and low pay of 19.9 percent of Louisiana citizens living in poverty (second highest in the nation), many of whom do work but at minimum wage jobs with no benefits.

Here are some choice jobs I’ve found for Jindal and select members of his cabinet:

  • Superintendent of Education John White: Since Wal-Mart is out front in bankrolling pseudo education reform, White seems the ideal candidate for a Wal-Mart greeter as he forgoes his $275,000-a-year salary;
  • Jindal’s Assistant Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin: Pizza delivery boy for Domino’s because he already carries Jindal’s water for him and the Domino’s pay would be closer to his actual worth instead of the $110,000 he now makes;
  • Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols: Her $162,700 salary is completely disproportionate to her actual worth at her new job as a hostess for a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.
  • Dr. Christopher Rich approves workers compensation claims at a pathetically low rate of 14 percent—at $225,000 per year. He appears more qualified to transport claimants as a passenger van driver for a cut-rate chiropractor’s office;
  • Jimmy Faircloth has raked in more than a million dollars while losing court cases for the state, making him more realistically suited to run cheesy TV ads as a personal injury lawyer in Paincourtville (that’s a real town in Assumption Parish, by the way—and aptly named);
  • Jan Kosofsky, Executive Director and Deputy Director Carol Nacoste of the Capital Area Human Services District have received raises of $21,000 and $15,000, to bump their salaries up to $189,500 and $142,000, respectively, since 2011 while the remaining 200 agency employees received no salary increases. For that little indiscretion, they are infinitely more qualified to work as worm counters in a bait stand on Bayou Corne (site of that expanding sinkhole in Assumption Parish). My first job as a 12-year-old growing up in Ruston, LA., was counting worms at a bait stand out on Cooktown Road. Clarence Cooley paid me five cents per each 100-count carton filled (He sold them for 50 cents each) and my standing instructions were to always throw in a few extra to keep the customers happy. I generally made about $5 per Saturday;
  • Public Service Commission (PSC) member Scott Angelle, who resigned his $129,000-a-year job as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the wake of that sinkhole at Bayou Corne to run for the PSC rather than stay and address the problem. He is hereby reassigned to clean porta-potties at construction sites around Baton Rouge;
  • Joe Namath once called sportswriters “$125 a week jerks.” That seems a tad inflated for Timmy Teepell, but he can be the sports editor of the Grand Coteau Weekly World News Guardian Tribune Shopper.
  • And saving the best for last, Gov. Bobby Jindal hereby relinquishes his $130,000-a-year job in favor of plucking chickens at that Foster Farms poultry processing plant in Farmerville in Union Parish—the one for whom Jindal orchestrated a $50 million infusion of state money as repayment for a generous campaign contribution so that 65 percent of the plant’s 950 employees can drive the few miles from Arkansas to Farmerville to work in the Louisiana taxpayer-supported plant.

I haven’t attempted to assign all of Jindal’s cabinet members with special employment because jobs are scarce and not everyone can find employment. Accordingly, those who are not assigned jobs are going to have to accept meager unemployment benefits—and apply for food stamps.

These new assignments should put officials of this administration in touch with those who put them in office—the people who thought Jindal represented a new day in Louisiana politics only to find that the man they elected cares first and foremost for his own political fortunes and little for those who elected him.

Jindal has forgotten those who believed in him—if he ever thought of them in the first place. Perhaps living their lives—for more than a week the way Donny Ferguson did—might make him more appreciative of the great unwashed.

Or perhaps not.

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While we normally do not delve into national politics (we have quite enough to do to keep up with the jesters on the fourth floor of the State Capitol), we have decided to offer up our solution to the impasse in Washington, aka the federal government shutdown.

If the board of a larger corporation like, say, Wal-Mart disagrees with the company’s CEO or president, there are no closures of Wal-Mart stores. That would be self-defeating in every respect. Corporate profits would plummet, consumers would buy elsewhere and the stockholders would elect new board members and new officers.

So how is it that Congress—America’s corporate board—can shut down company operations because of disagreements among themselves and with the President—the country’s CEO? Is our national company that near bankruptcy, financial collapse, that hysteria is now the order of the day when it comes to running the store?

To borrow a line from the television sitcom Two and a Half Men, our elected representatives appear to have the emotional stability of a sack of rats in a burning meth lab. Come to think of it, the analogy might not be that far off.

When either side of the aisle in Congress, whether Republicans or Democrats, takes it upon itself to hold the entire country hostage over its inability or unwillingness to compromise, drastic measures are in order.

When 535 men and women can cancel services to more than 300 million Americans on a whim, the system is broken and is in immediate need of repair.

When either side of the issue comments that it is “winning” and that it “doesn’t matter” to them how long the shutdown lasts—and please remember that there are cancer patients and wounded veterans who run the risk of not receiving needed medical treatments—then arrogance has supplanted diplomacy and common sense in our nation’s capital and something must be done.

When Rep. Randy Neugegauer (R-TX) can publicly insult a park ranger for doing her job in closing access to the temporarily closed World War II Memorial in Washington because of the government shutdown—a shutdown brought about by congressional stupidity and not by any action of the park ranger—then he, not she, should be ashamed.

And then we have Rep. Lee Terry (R-NEB) who said he cannot afford to give up his salary during the shutdown. He was dismissive of those who are declining their pay, saying, “Whatever gets them good press.” Good press seems the do-all, end-all for elected officials these days but they often miss the mark by a wide margin. “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college,” Terry sniffed in refusing for relinquish his salary. “Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) expressed similar sentiments, saying he’s keeping his money because he’s “working to earn it.”

Certainly not like those federal employees who also have houses and kids in college and credit card debt and utility and grocery bills but who aren’t working because they were furloughed as a result of increasingly recurring—and tiresome—congressional gridlock and 535 megalomaniacs jockeying for “good press.”

Unfortunately, the solution to this idiocy cannot be implemented overnight; it will take several years.

Nevertheless, here is our solution:

Fire every damned one of them.

That’s right. Put them on the street for a change. Let them struggle to make ends meet each month. In short, put them back in touch with their constituents by making them one of us. We at LouisianaVoice have long felt that if we sent the politicians into battle before sacrificing our young men and women, there well might be fewer unnecessary, foolish, and costly wars like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly Syria that benefit only the defense contractors.

So why not take that idea further and whenever federal employees are placed on furlough because of a federal shutdown resulting from sheer pigheadedness and some philosophical point, stop the pay for members of Congress and put them on furlough—permanently.

Constitutionally, it cannot be done in one fell swoop. Senators are elected on a rotating basis—one-third every two years. But in 2014, we could fire 468 of ‘em—all 435 members of the House and one-third, or 33 senators. Two years later, in 2016, send another one-third of the senators home and the final one-third in 2018. (Somewhere along the way, of course, there would be 34 senators up for re-election to account for all 100, but it should be just as easy to fire 34 as 33.)

None are righteous, no not one. All 535 have lost touch with the American people. Witness the shabby way in which 5th District Congressman Rodney Alexander “retired” with little advance notice, all so that (a) Gov. Bobby Jindal could install his choice, State Sen. Neil Riser, into Alexander’s seat and (b) Alexander could be rewarded for opening the door to Jindal’s boy via his appointment as head of the State Department of Veterans Affairs, a position which, incidentally, will bump his state retirement from his tenure in the state legislature before his election to Congress from approximately $7500 to about $82,000 per year.

He’s not alone, of course. Far too many members of Congress have parlayed their time in Washington into small—and not-so-small—fortunes.

Jindal, for example, spent a tad more than three years in Congress and emerged a multi-millionaire, a status he was far from enjoying when he entered.

And at least four of our own former congressmen—Sen. John Breaux and congressmen Bob Livingston, Richard Baker and Billy Tauzin—simply retired and moved over to K Street as highly paid lobbyists. There are others, but those come to mind quickly. Tauzin, it should be noted, used his position in Congress to set up his future employer—and himself—in a way we can only dream of. He rammed through a Medicare bill that prohibited the federal government from negotiating the cost of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the pharmaceutical companies set the prices—and that was that. And then he resigned and went to work as a lobbyist for (you guessed it) the pharmaceutical industry.

Other members of Congress (and some governors) establish non-profit, tax-exempt foundations that allow well-heeled donors to circumvent laws that limit campaign contributions to $5,000 per election cycle. Donations to foundations such as the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children and Jindal’s Believe in Louisiana, however, have no such restrictions placed on them.

As might be expected, contributions to these foundations from individuals seeking lucrative appointments and corporations seeking favorable legislation tend to spiral out of control.

And there are members of Congress, Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid among them, who use their positions to garner inside information that allows them to anticipate and profit from stock market fluctuations or to make property investments that enrich them personally.

There is less controversy in Congress over the issue of the NSA’s spying on American citizens—an issue that should prompt outrage on the part of the American people.

And now these self-righteous hypocrites beat their breasts as each side waits for the other to blink—all over the issue of ObamaCare which, good or bad, passed Congress and was ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American people should be asked to tolerate only so much from these miscreants. Our patience should be wearing a bit then with these spoiled brats.

The only reasonable solution, therefore, is to fire them all.

No exceptions.

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