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Archive for the ‘ALEC’ Category

There are those like a certain former governor who see no good in any state employee. Perhaps that is why efforts were exerted to privatize every state government agency in sight and even to the extent of destroying one of the better teaching hospital systems in the country.

And gutting higher education’s budget only brought higher tuition costs, putting a college education out of reach of thousands of Louisiana students.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons Louisiana is the SEVENTH-FASTEST shrinking state in the nation, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a research organization that routinely publishes lists of the best and worst in a wide array of subjects.

Of course, another reason steeped in Louisiana tradition is the sordid history of CORRUPTION that has permeated the political culture of this state for longer than anyone reading this has lived.

And when you have a state legislature that ignores the well-being of the state’s citizens in favor of the corporate interests of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the oil and gas industry get first consideration, it’s no wonder that folks are a tad jaded.

Yet, thousands of state employees report to work each day to do jobs that go largely unnoticed—until something goes awry. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. A civil servant gets fined for receiving an unsolicited Christmas ham from a vendor (that really happened), but another employee, an administrator, gets caught claiming time on the job while actually on vacation and nothing gets done.

Let a few rank and file state troopers drive across country for a conference at the direction of the State Police Superintendent and they are punished while the superintendent is allowed to retire—with full benefits.

Let another agency head trade sex with the manager of a restaurant in exchange for a permit to operate and nothing happens. But that same agency head dished out arbitrary punishment and fired employees for no cause and it took civil lawsuits to bring some measure of justice. And not even all of the lawsuits produced satisfactory results for the fired employees.

I write all that to say that while little seems to get done much of the time, there is one agency that has uncovered nearly $6.3 million in criminal violations, initiated investigations that have resulted in 51 criminal prosecutions that have resulted in produced 57 terminations or resignations.

A hard-charging, politically ambitious, headline-seeking prosecutor?

Nope. Just the work-a-day numbers-crunchers working for Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

From Jan. 1, 2015, through Nov. 13, 2017, Purpera’s office has submitted 108  investigative audits of local and state government agencies, boards and commissions and quasi-public entities. From those 108 investigative audits came 72 actual reports with 200 findings reported and 555 recommendations made.

summary of projects

An investigative audit, by definition, is far more serious than routine audits that agencies undergo on a regular basis. Before embarking on an investigative audit, there must be a reason for the auditor’s office to suspect some kind of wrongdoing.

The dollar amount covered in those 118 investigative audits was $148.96 million dollars with almost $6.3 million in alleged criminal violations turned up.

Some of the more high-profile investigative audits performed during the 22-month period included:

  • Misappropriation of funds by an employee of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Misapplication of funds at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches;
  • Improper payments and tickets to athletic events at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette;
  • Improper expenditure of $268,000 by the Institute for Academic Excellence in New Orleans;
  • Improper expenditure of $360,000 by the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Nearly $800,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the 9th Judicial District Attorney in Rapides Parish;
  • Employees of the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Office improperly paid for 51 days that they did not work;
  • Numerous violations by management at Angola State Penitentiary which resulted in the resignation of Warden Burl Cain and others;
  • Nearly $200,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the District Attorney’s Special Asset Forfeiture Fund as required by the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Mismanagement and missing state equipment from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries;
  • Improper use of state vehicle, hotel rooms, personnel, meals and training facilities by management personnel of Louisiana State Police;
  • Improper use of $164,000 of state funds by two employees and a student worker, unauthorized use of student identification cards, unauthorized free meals totaling more than $12,600 and improper advances of financial aid to students at Grambling State University.
  • Failure of the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority in New Orleans to collect more than $600,000 in boat slip rental fees.

So, while it’s easy to criticize civil servants, it’s important to understand that while the public perception may be one of “deadheads,” they are people just like you—people with mortgages, student debt, family illnesses, and myriad other concerns (again, just like you). They are your neighbors, your friends and your relatives and they show up for work every day—just like you. And they struggle to make ends meet—just like you.

Given that, it’s a little difficult for me to understand how someone like autocrat Trump can pretend to say he relates with 800,000 federal workers who are facing the second pay period without a paycheck.

It’s puzzling also that daughter-in-law/adviser Lara Trump calls the government shutdown during which federal employees have to resort to food banks to eat, hold garage sales to pay the rent, or worse, be ordered to work without pay thus preventing them from taking part-time jobs that do pay, “a little bit of a pain.” This privileged, self-centered little rich girl has never known “a little bit of a pain.” so, how the hell can she relate?

And how can Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett even dare to suggest that idled workers are better off because they’re benefiting from “a free vacation”? That’s unsurpassed arrogance.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took the prize by suggesting that federal workers simply run out to the corner bank or credit union and float a loan.

Perhaps Ross was trying to encourage them to borrow from the Bank of Cyprus that he once headed as it washed the money of Russian oligarchs.

All of this just so Trump can try to score some kind of vague point in order to say he’s a winner.

But my question to all those I’ve talked to who suddenly think a wall is of the utmost importance to the continued existence of a free and pure America is simply this:

Did you ever—even ONCE—consider the crushing need for a wall before Trump tossed the idea out as a throw-away line during a campaign stop in 2016? Did you know he was instructed to do that by his handlers only as a means of keeping him on topic?

Neither Trump, you, your mama, my mama, nor anyone else had ever given a wall a fleeting thought until then. Suddenly, it became the holy grail for all his followers who were unable to come up with an original thought of their own. And so, they fell in lockstep and followed, like so many sheep.

But there was another part to his promise that he has quietly dropped.

Mexico ain’t paying for it.

So, that’s my tribute to public employees, both state and federal and I hope to hell every one of them remembers our two U.S. Senators and five of our six U.S. Representatives who blindly support Trump’s every asinine utterance, tweet, and stumbling, bumbling, fumbling action.

 

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Before going any further, let’s establish a few facts:

I am straight, white, happily-married (for 46-plus years) male, a recovering Republican (40 years was more than long enough), in fairly good health. And while far from wealthy, my home is paid for and we live in reasonable comfort. My children are successful professionals and my grandchildren do well in school.

I am not a malcontent who bemoans every misfortune that comes my way. Linda Ronstadt’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me is simply not my theme song.

Nor am I one of those oblivious optimists unable—or unwilling—to see or acknowledge the injustices meted out on those less fortunate. I will not allow myself to become blind to the suffering and hardships of others. Just as I do not want others judging me, I am likewise acutely aware that it is not for me to judge others.

I cannot, in good conscience, turn my back on someone because of gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or skin color. To do so would go against everything that the smartest man I ever knew taught me: my grandfather who had only a sixth-grade education but was smarter than any Ph.D. I ever met.

That is why my blood boils when I see those in positions of power deny the creature comforts to the less fortunate, or judge the lifestyles of those who do not think and act the way they do, or reject equal gender pay, or deny adequate medical care for the indigent or to even refuse to raise the minimum wage of the struggling working poor.

Bobby Jindal insists that those coming to live in this country should subscribe to his idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

But for someone who preaches freedom of choice, doesn’t such a requirement necessarily restrict that same freedom?

He even manages somehow to link his opposition to Common Core to the teaching of American Exceptionalism in our schools even though the Common Core curriculum is limited to English and math, not history. http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2015/03/19/bobby-jindal-responds-to-criticism-from-muslim-activists/

But Bobby, you need to answer this question: where is your ideal of American Exceptionalism when you deny health care to 250,000 Louisianans or when your lap dogs in the Legislature vote to block an increase in the minimum wage so the single mom having to work two jobs can make a decent salary?

HB 645 VOTE

Talk is cheap and you, Bobby, are even cheaper. You’ve been bought and packaged by the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and their ilk. And you know what, Bobby? When they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like a disposable diaper, which somehow is a uniquely appropriate metaphor.

And lest anyone think that I am singling out Bobby Jindal for verbal abuse, let me assure you there is plenty blame to go around, beginning in Indiana and moving on to Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and to every coward who brandishes a Bible and wraps himself in the American flag in the name or religious freedom.

These are the people who, secure in their own insulated cocoons, insist that others less fortunate should be happy to live on minimum wage, go without health insurance, receive sub-par educations from deteriorating public schools while their own kids go to charter schools and all the while, expect the working poor and middle class to bear the burden of higher tax rates, thanks to generous exemptions and incentives written for—and by—the wealthiest of the wealthy, the membership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Indiana unbelievably, has passed a law removing the protection from discrimination by private entities against gay and lesbian citizens of that state—and Arkansas followed in short order.

Are you kidding me? Indiana and Arkansas seriously want to deny basic human rights and protection under the law for people simply because they are gay or lesbian? What’s next, burning witches at the stake?

The act does not restore religious freedom; we already have that. Instead, it rejects other basic freedoms for a class of people. That is discrimination by anyone’s definition.

Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence is trying to say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was not intended to enable discrimination, but try telling that to the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/04/01/3641622/indiana-pizza-discrimination/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3

Crystal O’Connor, one of the owners of Memories Pizza, in defending the decision to refuse to provide pizzas for same-sex couples’ weddings, sniffed, “We are a Christian establishment.”

Oh, really? Well then, Ms. O’Conner, here are a few Bible verses for you to chew on:

  • Matthew 7:1-3: “Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”
  • Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
  • John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”
  • John 13:34-35: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The Indiana law comes with a potential high cost. All four coaches of the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis April 4-6, have endorsed the NCAA’s position that discrimination should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Joining them are NASCAR, the Big Ten Conference, the NBA Indiana Pacers, the WNBA Indiana Fever, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, UConn Coach Kevin Ollie and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaabk/final-four-coaches-release-statement-on-indianas-new-law/ar-AAajTKT?ocid=iehp

You’d think that would be sufficient but even as Arkansas legislators were passing their own version of RFRA, major corporations, including Apple, Angie’s List, Cummins, Inc., Eli Lilly, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Arkansas-based Wal-Mart have called on Pence to repeal the Indiana law and for Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the law. Hutchinson first said he intended to sign the bill into law though he has since buckled to pressure to send the bill back to lawmakers for tweaking. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/31/politics/arkansas-religious-freedom-anti-lgbt-bill/

Even Republicans in Indiana have seen the light and are beginning to backtrack on their support of the law. http://www.thenation.com/blog/203001/even-indiana-republicans-are-telling-mike-pence-his-discrimination-law-wrong#

But even as they do so, lawmakers in North Carolina and Georgia have similar bills under consideration and former Florida governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush has expressed his support for the Indiana law. http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Jeb-Bush-defends-Indiana-law-as-he-seeks-Bay-Area-6171335.php

All of which begs the question: Have we as a nation gone stark raving mad? What happened to the great melting pot that was once America? This is what Jindal calls American exceptionalism? If so, stop the bus and let me off. I want no part of it.

I have worked with gay people find found them to be exceptionally intelligent and talented at what they do. As a newspaper editor, I once had a lesbian reporter working for me. She never hid her sexual orientation but neither did she flaunt it or let it interfere with her work as a professional reporter and we have remained friends for more than 35 years and continue to communicate by email on occasion. If I were a newspaper editor today, I would not hesitate to hire her. In fact, I would be proud to have her on my team again.

(I would be less than honest if I claimed I always felt this way. The truth is, in high school I joined with others in making life miserable for a gay classmate. He eventually dropped out of school because of our cruelty. I will carry the regret and shame for my act to my grave. That was most definitely not what my grandfather taught me.)

And even as I write this, State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) is considering introducing his own RFRA bill (the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act”) for consideration during this year’s legislative session. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/lgbt_louisiana_religious_freed.html

And then there is that arrogant Republican State Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Tennessee.

After his committee voted to deny 280,000 state residents access to health care by rejecting a plan to expand Medicaid, a-la Jindal, a play by the way that would have cost the state nothing, Gardenhire, who works as a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley, was confronted by an advocate for expansion.

Asked by one supporter of the expansion, Damien Crisp, if he would be willing to give up his own state-subsidized health insurance, Gardenhire responded by calling Crisp an “a**hole.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/todd-gardenhire_n_6986582.html

I believe it was President Truman who suggested if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Gardenhire obviously can’t take a little heat, especially after being caught lying when he earlier denied he received state-sponsored coverage.

The bottom line is this, just in case Jindal, Hutchinson, Pence, Bush, Gardenhire and Family Forum’s Gene Mills may have forgotten: Gays, lesbians, Mexicans, blacks, women, and the poor (along with others I may have missed) all belong to a group known collectively as human beings and as such, they have feelings, emotions, needs, families, dignity and rights.

They are American citizens and for anyone to try through legislation to deprive them of their rights and their dignity is nothing short of evil and even criminal—especially when it’s done so that some corporate CEO can get a bigger bonus and a better golden parachute that allows him to retire with a monthly pension many times more than the annual salaries of his employees.

If the Koch brothers, and their fellow CEOs from the corporate membership of ALEC would throw their combined talents and the money they spend on lobbying and dark money they funnel to super PACs behind a concerted effort to lift up those less fortunate, what a remarkable difference—for the betterment of all mankind—they could make.

As an alternative to pouring ever larger sums of cash into the lobbyist money pit that is K Street and into the pockets of self-serving, sanctimonious, out-of-touch politicians, work instead to bring jobs from overseas back into this country and make America the proud nation it once was, a title you long ago forfeited to influence and avarice.

The last time I went to church (which was last Sunday), I believe the lesson was that Christ was humble and that he aided the sick and afflicted. Perhaps if those among us with the resources and a true desire to help make this a better world would, instead of plotting how to gain even more wealth at the expense of the poor and the middle class, reach out to the weak and downtrodden, the experience might become a self-fulfilling prophecy of peace, hope and understanding.

Then and only then can we talk of exceptionalism.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers and big oil won quiet but major victories in the U.S. House last week and five of Louisiana’s six-man congressional delegation were complicit in efforts to thwart efforts to protect the environment.

Republican Reps. Steve Scalise, Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Ralph Abraham and Garrett Graves voted in lock step on three separate measures dealing with environmental issues the outcomes of which were certain to please ALEC and corporate interests opposed to issues important to environmentalists. Rep. Cedrick Richmond was the lone holdout on each of the bills.

The five Republicans voted in favor of two House resolutions detrimental to environmental proponents and against two bills opposed by those same interests.

The two resolutions supported by Scalise, Boustany, Fleming, Abraham and Graves included:

  • A proposal to restructure the Environmental Protection Agency’s 52-member Science Advisory Board. Included in that restructuring was a proposal to reduce academic representation on the board while expanding corporate membership. The vote to give corporations a stronger voice in denying climate change was 236-181 in favor of HR 1029 which now goes to the Senate.
  • Approval of HR 1030 by a 241-175 vote to kill certain environmental rules unless all data from supporting studies is made public so that the study could be independently replicated—including confidential health information about participants.

The five Republicans joined with the majority to defeat one other provision contained in the two House resolutions cited above as they defied all logic in voting down by 179-237 an amendment to HR 1029 by Democrats that would have denied seats on the EPA Science Advisory Board to scientists whose research is funded by firms convicted of major environmental crimes.

It was recently revealed that one scientist, Dr. Willie Soon, who has denied evidence of climate change, received $1.25 million to underwrite his research denying climate change from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Koch alone has funneled some $73 million to groups denying climate change.

It would certainly appear that big oil has invested heavily in the futures of a certain five Republican congressmen from Louisiana and that those investments are paying huge dividends.

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As our friend and former State Budget Officer Stephen Winham recently said when Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s recently moved Louisiana’s credit outlook from stable to negative, the bond rating agencies are finally waking up to what the rest of us have seen coming for some time now.

Now Moody’s has gone on record as saying what Gov. Bobby refuses to acknowledge: Louisiana’s public universities are not equipped to absorb additional credit stress expected with an anticipated cuts of yet another $300 million.

State Treasurer John Kennedy agrees while Joseph Rallo, barely acclimated to his new office after being chosen last October as the state’s eighth commissioner of higher education, tried to remain optimistic in the face of the latest announcement by Moody’s that the state’s colleges and universities are now in danger of having their credit ratings reduced if the legislature does not finally grow a set and stand up to Gov. Bobby.

“Moody’s is putting us on notice that it will reduce the credit ratings…if the legislature continues to cut higher ed funding,” Kennedy said. “We’ve cut our college campuses by $700 million since 2008. We’ve made deeper cuts than any other state. Enough is enough.”

Rallo told LouisianaVoice that it is not a matter of not having the revenue available to fund higher education, but rather it is an issue of allocation of funding. He said Moody’s is holding off taking the step of actually downgrading high education’s credit rating until June in order to see what the legislature will do to resolve the funding problem.

The problem at this point is twofold: Gov. Bobby refuses to take steps to increase revenue and legislators lack sufficient backbone to face Bobby down for fear of losing precious projects in their districts by veto. The legislature always blinks first.

Therefore, if Bobby won’t take steps to increase funding (he’s a party to that no-tax pledge the tea partiers forced down the throats of legislators and congressmen who had no taste for facing up to real problems and finding real solutions when self-serving rhetoric and pandering could get them re-elected), then the only alternative is to cut and cut again and then cut some more.

What these tea partiers and their ilk, including Gov. Bobby, refuse to admit in their manic pursuit of free market economics, is that corporate welfare (read lucrative tax breaks) costs this country many times what individual welfare costs and corporate fraud costs the nation billions upon billions more than the roughly 1 percent in documented welfare fraud (see details of the 2008 Wall Street bailout for verification). Corporations and corporate executives pay far fewer taxes, percentage-wise, than do middle- and low-income taxpayers in this country. Those are the cold, indisputable hard facts. To claim otherwise is to throw up that same tired old argument that the middle- and low-income are a drag on the nation’s economy while the super-rich produce wealth and jobs, thank you very much.

But Gov. Bobby would much rather continue doling out tax breaks that cost the state billions of dollars with little or no return than to take the necessary steps to pull the state out of the financial quagmire in which it currently finds itself and thus allow college to be affordable to the middle class and for the working poor of this state to have access to health care.

And legislators are a party to the scheme and must share the blame. Let’s consider some projects in the districts of four key legislators from the 2014 legislative session:

  • Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin: $13 million in projects, including the Jackson Parish Riding Arena and Livestock Pavilion ($195,000 last year, $1.4 million in Priority 2 and $1.6 million in Priority 5 funding;
  • Senate President John Alario: $121 million in projects for Jefferson Parish;
  • House Speaker Chuck Kleckley: $107 million in projects in Calcasieu Parish;
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue: $60 million in projects in St. Tammany Parish.

And then there are these little projects we found in last year’s capital outlay bill:

  • City Parish Golf Complex improvements (Orleans)—$9.1 million;
  • Junior Golf Training Facilities (Caddo)—$445,000;
  • Golf Course Development (Calcasieu)—$1.6 million;
  • Zephyrs Baseball facilities repair (Jefferson)—$1.5 million;
  • Professional Sports facilities improvements (Jefferson, Orleans)—$18.4 million;
  • New Orleans Sports Arena improvements (Orleans)—$41.5 million;
  • Bayou Segnette Recreation Complex (Jefferson)—$5.5 million;
  • Improvements to New Orleans Superdome—$6 million;
  • Recreational complex (Iberia)—$100,000;
  • Baseball stadium improvements (East Baton Rouge)—$1.4 million (Baton Rouge has no baseball team);
  • Improvements to amusement area, tennis center improvements (Orleans)—$1.2 million;
  • Repairs to Strand Theatre (Caddo)—$950,000;
  • Various community centers (statewide)—$11 million;
  • Various hall of fame projects (statewide)—$15 million.

One can just follow the money to see why legislators become shrinking violets when Gov. Bobby is holding that veto pen. Sure, there will be all manner of posturing, bluster and harangue but in the end, they always end up going along with whatever the governor wants.

And the governor wants what the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants and ALEC wants to take the state out of state universities.

And Louisiana isn’t alone.

If you don’t believe that, just take a look at what is going on in Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona and Kansas. http://neatoday.org/2015/02/19/cuts-to-higher-education-taking-public-public-universities/

  • Louisiana: Tuition costs have increased 90 percent since Gov. Bobby took office;
  • Arizona: Tuition has more than tripled while state funding has decreased by $3,500 per student;
  • Wisconsin: Like Louisiana, $2 billion tax cuts have resulted in $300 million in cuts to higher education that could eliminate the schools of nursing, law, business, pharmacy and veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison even as Gov. Scott Walker lobbies for $220 million in public donations to the Milwaukee Bucks to build a new team arena;
  • Illinois is losing $2.1 billion in tax revenues because of lawmakers’ refusal to extend taxes that are expiring even as colleges are facing a $400 million cut;
  • Kansas is projecting a loss of $5 billion in revenues because of reckless tax cuts and higher education, not surprisingly, is on the chopping block.

It’s not a coincidence, it’s a pattern. And what would one suppose these five states have in common besides this disturbing trend in higher education funding?

Republican governors who feel they owe their allegiance not to the voters of their states, oddly enough, but to ALEC and the Koch brothers who insist on defunding state colleges and universities in the hopes they will be forced to become private universities.

That, of course, will drive tuition up even further, necessitating much larger student loans and greater profits to lending institutions and Wall Street. It also will make a college education assessable only to the wealthy while relegating the rest of society to low paying jobs in the service sector in the absence of manufacturing jobs that have all been moved offshore.

Louisiana, says Moody’s latest assessment, has had the steepest declines in state funding in the nation from 2009 through 2014.

“As the state tries to close its widening budget gap, Louisiana public universities will face additional reductions in state appropriations,” the assessment said. “After five years of the deepest cuts to public higher education in the nation and significant expense reductions, these universities are ill-equipped to face additional credit stress.”

Moody’s said the timing and magnitude of budget cuts, the ability of universities to quickly align expenses with revenue, and the degree of financial cushion to absorb operating volatility “will factor into our assessment of ratings and outlooks for individual universities.

“Currently, Louisiana public university credit quality is lower than the median A1 nationally, reflecting historically weak state funding, anemic operating performance and limited liquidity,” the report said.

So while legislators wring their hands and gnash their teeth over the hard decisions they’re going to have to make this year, just remember no one held a gun to their heads and made them drop those golf courses and baseball parks into the Capital Outlay bill last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

And remember that Gov. Bobby and ALEC do not (boldface that: Do Not) have the survival of our universities as public institutions as a priority item. If they are ultimately forced to become private colleges, that will be perfectly fine with them.

With all due respect to Dr. Rallo, we shouldn’t expect too much from this governor in the way of meaningful solutions to a problem that has persisted since he became governor more than seven years ago—long before the latest decline in oil prices which he conveniently uses as a scapegoat for Louisiana’s fiscal ills.

The late Wiley Hilburn, who headed up the journalism program at Louisiana Tech University, once told us that Bobby visited the Ruston campus when he was Commissioner of Higher Education under former Gov. Mike Foster, ostensibly to get an overview of university operations. Instead he spent his entire visit in Hilburn’s office playing computer games.

Perhaps that’s what Louisiana’s public colleges and universities are to Gov. Bobby—a game with students serving only as action figures for his personal enjoyment.

It certainly appears that that’s all this state is to him.

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To call Gov. Bobby Jindal disingenuous would be to belabor the obvious. The evidence is there in plain view for everyone to see: his painfully patronizing platitudes, designed to appeal to his ever-shrinking core base, induce involuntary winces of embarrassment not only from his critics, of which there are many, but from objective observers as well.

But now it turns out that Jindal is trying his best to out-imitate Attorney General Buddy Caldwell as he heads into his final year as governor.

Caldwell, as some still may not know, was probably best known for his Elvis impersonation before being elected as the state’s highest legal counsel.

Jindal, not to be outdone, has set about impersonating everyone in sight, beginning on that fateful night in 2009 with his pitiful attempt at a Reagan-esque response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Woefully inept as a polished speaker, that performance was universally panned and his status as a rising star in the Republican Party appeared to have been prematurely snuffed out.

But Jindal is nothing if not resilient. Seemingly oblivious to critics, he has spent the ensuing six years doggedly trying to re-claim his status among the Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs as the nation’s savior.

To do that required his forcing the media to give him ink in the daily newspapers and face time before the unblinking eye of network cameras. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did just that and he took full advantage. He grabbed every opportunity to express his concern on the nightly news. Of course, when the national media ignored that growing sinkhole that threatened only a few homes in Assumption Parish, so did Jindal. The fact that local media gave the hole that was swallowing entire trees ample coverage was insignificant since that could not enhance his national image, so one quick trip long after the sinkhole first developed had to suffice for someone so bent on burnishing his presidential image. In a way, it was reflective of the way George W. Bush had to be goaded into doing a flyover of the carnage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina and to rush through the photo opt with “heckuva job, Brownie.”

And then there was Jindal near the end of his first term and already running for re-election as he traversed the state handing out those cherished veterans’ pins in appreciation of those who had served the country in the armed forces.

A great gesture, right? Also reminiscent of President George Bush the First in his 1990 run-up to his 1992 re-election campaign when he was handing out those “Thousand Points of Light” awards to such people as Sam Walton and about 5,000 others.

But the most blatantly transparent rip-off of another’s idea by this governor, who can never be accused of originality, came with his Jan. 24 Prayerpalooza at the Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus.

That event, which crammed all of 3,000 attendees into the 18,000-seat P-Mac, was a direct clone of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s event, The Response, held four years ago in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Perry, you may recall, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination only days after that rally.

Jindal might be wise not to base his decision to seek the nomination on his rally, which drew only about 10 percent of the 30,000 who attended the Houston rally despite (or perhaps because of) the participation of Cindy Jacobs.

Understandably, Jindal and his supporters have played down her part in this year’s event, even going so far as to take down the video that featured her endorsement of the Baton Rouge rally while all the other promotional videos were retained.

Jacobs apparently is a bit much even for Jindal. All she has ever done is suggest that her child’s stomach ache once prevented the assassination of President Reagan; that she could foresee terrorist attacks and prevent coups; that birds died and fell from the sky because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and that she had the power to raise the dead.

Undaunted, his weekly Team Jindal email blast described Jindal as “speaking to a crowd of thousands” at the prayer fest. While we do concede that the 3,000 in attendance did, in fact, constitute “thousands,” by purposely failing to mention the actual head count, Team Jindal was implying that the crowd numbered in the tens of thousands. Laughable as that may be, it is nevertheless a disturbing trait of this administration to parse words so as to convey the message that all is well in the land of Jindal.

And then there is the subtle, under-the-radar form of imitation that may have escaped observers’ attention: Jindal’s channeling of the later Gov. Earl K. Long.

Earl, many will recall, once said, “Someday the people of Louisiana are gonna get good government and they ain’t gonna like it.”

Prophetic words from a man who also once said, when asked by a legislator whether ideals had any role in politics, “Hell yes, I think you should use ideals or any other g—d— thing you can get your hands on.”

Louisiana history buffs (and those of us old enough to remember the events vividly) are aware that ol’ Earl’s train left the tracks during 1959, his final year in office. He was in and out of mental institutions and had an affair with stripper Blaze Starr that grabbed national headlines. He even cut a deal with former Gov. James A. Noe of Monroe to have Noe run for governor and Earl for lieutenant governor on Noe’s ticket. (Yes, candidates ran on tickets, from governor all the way down to comptroller of voting machines, back then.) The deal was for Noe to get elected, take office, and resign, allowing Earl to become governor. Up until the first term of former Gov. John McKeithen, a Louisiana governor could not serve consecutive terms, thus necessitating the flim-flammery. Noe and Long even had LSU All-American Billy Cannon campaigning with them under the banner of “The Noe Team is the Go Team.” The problem with that slogan, which no one apparently caught, was that Cannon, played under the system of former head coach Paul Dietzel in which LSU actually had three separate teams—the Go Team (which played offense only), the Chinese Bandits (exclusively defense) and the White Team (both offense and defense). Cannon played on the White Team.

That was the same election in which arch segregationist Willie Rainach, a state representative from Homer in Claiborne Parish, ran third behind New Orleans Mayor deLesseps  “Chep” Morrison and former Gov. Jimmie Davis. The Noe-Long team finished out of the money with Noe failing even to carry his own precinct in Monroe and Davis went on to defeat Morrison in the runoff election.

So now, we have the gubernatorial train barreling headlong toward a similar mental derailment. Jindal, caught up in the throes of delusions of grandeur (some would say delusions of mediocrity) that leave him convinced he is presidential timber, apparently feels his repeated budget fiascos are of little consequence. He has abandoned any vestiges of leadership except where it might appeal to his support base, which probably explains his actions with Common Core.

For it before he was against it (another imitation: remember John Kerry’s position switch on the Iraq war), Jindal issued an executive order declaring that parents should be able to opt their children out of taking the Common Core standardized tests this year.

Besides putting Jindal at odds with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the order calls into question the status of a couple of state contracts with a testing firm totaling $117 million.

Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) has contracts of $68.8 million and $48.2 million, both of which expire on June 30 of this year, that call for DRC to develop test forms, printing and distributing and collecting materials, scoring and reporting test results. It is unclear how much, if any of those contracts, are for Common Core testing, but if that is included in the contracts and the executive order is implemented, litigation is almost certain to follow. (And we know how well Jindal, represented by attorney Jimmy Faircloth, has fared in courtroom appearances.)

A pattern of irrational behavior on Jindal’s part is beginning to emerge as he flails away at attempts to grab onto some issue which will resonate with voters—even at the cost of abandoning the post to which he was elected by the people of Louisiana.

And we don’t even have to elaborate on his silly gesture of producing his birth certificate during the hoopla over President Obama’s citizenship. It was not only silly, it was pitifully superficial and sophomoric considering no one had even questioned his birthplace.

Jindal received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at its 2011 national convention in New Orleans. But as he systematically tears down the programs designed to help the less fortunate among us, he ignores the philosophy of the man for whom that award was named. It was Jefferson who said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” That sentiment was echoed more than a century later by President Harry Truman: “The whole purpose of government is to see that the little fellow who has no special interest gets a fair deal.”

There is no question that Jindal is an intelligent man. But intelligence alone cannot overcome the avalanche of problems besetting our state and that appears to be the one lesson which has thus far escaped him.

Perhaps A.E. Wiggin, the character from the novel Ender’s Game, said it best: “Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education. Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.”

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