It looks as though they’re starting to get really thin-skinned on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.
First it was Timmy Teepell, the alter-ego for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who engaged Bob Mann in a Twitter war of words over the ice purchased for Hurricane Isaac. You will remember that the bottom line price for the ice was $28 per 10-pound bag after paying $7.1 million that included “loitering time” for truck drivers, ice purchases and restocking fees—and then allowing the ice to melt in an unrefrigerated storage building in St. Tammany Parish.
Now, Jindal’s assistant chief of staff Kyle Plotkin has weighed in with a few tweets of his own to Mann and his comments smack of juvenile playground retorts—not very dignified for someone who serves as Jindal’s public mouthpiece. Also not very mature for someone who has to know that any elected official, especially a governor, is going to be subjected to close scrutiny and criticism—by bloggers and voters. http://bobmannblog.com/2013/08/08/jindal-aide-to-bloggers-and-tweeters-shut-your-traps/#more-3038
“I knew that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his staff were intolerant of dissent,” Mann wrote in his introductory remarks. “Jindal has fired so many people who disagreed with him that we’ve all lost count.
“But until now, I assumed that the intolerance extended only to people who work for Jindal, not journalists and bloggers who critique Jindal’s leadership or policies. You know, citizens, who speak out in a democracy in a way that the Founders thought was essential for a strong democracy.
“But in Jindal’s world, dissent is not tolerated in any form. But at least they had the good sense to keep their intolerance of citizens’ commentary to themselves.
“Until Thursday night, that is.”
This time the exchange was over Mann’s repeated claim on his blog Something like the Truth that the administration, in its dogged pursuit of education “reform,” fails to take the state’s poverty rate into account when addressing school achievement.
“In every country, ever state, that has tried every possible reform, the achievement gap doesn’t close until poverty addressed,” Mann tweeted, followed by a quick “Oh yeah? So’s your old man” type retort by Plotkin.
“I’ve got an idea,” he fired back at Mann, “run 4 gov. Put ur ideas up 4 debate instead of just tweeting & complaining.”
Ouch. That’ll leave a mark. Did Plotkin somehow forget that Jindal’s approval ratings at the present time are in the 30-something percent range?
Mann, in an apparent effort to keep the exchange on a higher plane, responded, “You really think no one can legitimately criticize you without first running for office? Seriously?”
“If ur ideas are so great. (sic) Go try and change the world,” Plotkin sniffed back.
Referencing one of the worst episodes of any television series, Mann harkened back to the 1977 Happy Days episode in which Fonzie, in an effort to boost the show’s sinking ratings, jumped a shark while on water skis—thus giving birth to a term synonymous with acts of desperation. “You and your administration officially jumped the shark on that one,” he wrote.
At that point, education blogger Crazy Crawfish, who has gained a reputation for his research and documentation with his own blog about public education, chimed in with, “He’s got a point. Jindal and his disciples like Kyle Plotkin are changing the world. Just a shame it’s not for the better.”
Mann got in the last shots on his blog:
“Just contemplate what it means if that’s truly the opinion of (the) governor’s senior staff—that you shouldn’t speak out or criticize the governor unless you become a candidate for public office. Everyone else, keep quiet. The public sphere isn’t for mere citizens!!”
Mann said he feels his 14-year-old son’s tweets would be “more mature and more circumspect than Plotkin’s.
“And, unlike Plotkin, he also knows about the First Amendment,” he wrote.
It would be nice if these were the only examples of Jindal’s people putting their mouths in motion before putting their brains in gear. Or, in the vernacular of my late grandfather: letting one’s alligator mouth overload his jaybird backside.
Unfortunately, they appear not to be the exception, but a trend.
Back in early 2012, I had my own legitimacy called into question by the administration. When Jindal presented his Executive Budget to the legislature, Division of Administration (DOA) spokesman Michael Diresto was handing out copies of the budget to the media. When I stepped up to get one, he informed me they were only for members of the media who had offices in the press corps area of the Capitol.
I motioned to a reporter to whom he had just handed a copy and said, “He doesn’t have an office in the Capitol.”
“They’re for legitimate media only,” he said. “You’re not legitimate.”
Inasmuch as I was a “traditional” reporter for a quarter-century and I now cover state government for about a dozen newspapers statewide in addition to my blog, I was naturally curious as to what equated to legitimacy in his narrow view.
I eventually got a copy of the budget but only after appealing to then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater.
And then there is retiring Congressman Rodney Alexander.
Alexander, whom Jindal offered the position of Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs (he served six years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve) at $130,000 per year, apparently feels much the same way about the First Amendment.
Walter Abbott of Ruston has a blog called Lincoln Parish Online and on Thursday he alluded to an interview Alexander did with the Ouachita Citizen of West Monroe. In that interview, Alexander indicated he had a problem with social media and “non-traditional” news outlets such as blogs. http://lincolnparishnewsonline.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/alexander-unhappy-with-people-who-are-not-necessarily-in-the-news-business/
“The Facebook and all of that—people who are not necessarily in the news business—are driving what people do, and at times, that’s had a very negative impact on how the Congress operates.”
(Funny we didn’t hear him complain when Dan Rather was disgraced and forced into retirement by bloggers over that bogus Texas Air National Guard letter about George W. Bush.)
No, Congressman-cum-double dipper, bloggers aren’t the problem. Congress itself is the one dominating factor in the negative impact on how Congress operates. How dare you try to foist the inability of 535 lobbyist-purchased senators and representatives to accomplish squat onto a handful of bloggers. That’s a cop out and you know it.
Apparently, Alexander feels that the First Amendment is applicable only to those who are paid to write in traditional media, says blogger-attorney C.B. Forgotston of Hammond. “He blames the ills of our country on those of us who express our views in non-traditional ways,” C.B. wrote. “We caused Congress to be a do-nothing group. Yeah, right.
“If Alexander can’t take the heat of hearing from citizens of the United States, (it) isn’t going to be any more comfortable working on the state dole for Bobby Jindal. Yes, we have Internet in Louisiana,” Forgotston wrote.
“Rodney, if you are so concerned about the public outcry, perhaps you should refuse Jindal’s job offer and come back to Louisiana as a private citizen. You might find it educational to learn what it’s like to be a mere citizen and why we are upset with people like you who look down your nose at us.
“Meanwhile, get over yourself before you come back to our state.”
In his interview with the Ouachita Citizen, Alexander was less than candid about his future plans when asked. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Something will come up.” http://www.ouachitacitizen.com/news.php?id=12879
That “something” already had come up. Jindal officially extended his offer of a job the day after his announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2014 but anyone who does not believe the fix was already in, has his head in the sand.
Here is the scenario:
Those in the employ of the state, including legislators, are eligible to retire at 2.5 percent of the average of their three highest-earning years times the number of years of service. An employee making an average of $50,000 for a minimum of three years who retires after 20 years, for example, would retire at $25,000 per year. ($50,000 X .025 X 20).
Alexander served in the legislature 15 years, from January 1988 to January 2003, at which time he entered Congress. While he took out his contributions to the state retirement system (LASERS), he would have the option of buying back his time when he begins his new job. The retirement benefits for legislators, based on salaries of less than $20,000 and his years of service would not be that much, but if he remains on the job for the duration of Jindal’s term (three-plus years) at $130,000, the numbers change rather dramatically.
Because of his age, if he chooses to buy back his time, his retirement would be at 3.5 percent of $15,000 (an arbitrary figure; it was probably less back then), times 15 years of service would come to $7,875 per year.
But take an average of $130,000 per year and add three more years to his tenure and his retirement income would take quite a jump. Suddenly, at 3.5 percent of $130,000 times 18 years, that retirement increases more than tenfold, to $81,900 per year—in addition to his federal retirement (based on his 10-year tenure and his final three-year average salary of $174,000), plus his Social Security benefits.
No wonder Alexander and the Jindal administration hold bloggers in such low esteem: we can do the math.
Perhaps those of you reading this would wish to email Plotkin at email@example.com
or call the governor’s office at 225-342-7015 to let them know that you can do the math, too—just for fun, of course.