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Archive for the ‘Huey Long’ Category

There’re few feelings worse than a hangover and when the hangover contains remnants of the eight-year drunjeb privatization binge of the Bobby Jindal administration, the pain is particularly excruciating. In this case, it’s the state hospital privatization fiasco that keeps on giving us the dry heaves.

It may not rank up there with the 50-page blank contract http://www.forward-now.com/2014/01/09/as-the-la-hospital-privatization-biomed-worms-turn/ but the less-than-transparent and most probably more than a little illegal closure of one hospital has prompted a Baton Rouge attorney to file an APPEAL with the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge. His appeal follows the State Civil Service Commission’s denial of his Civil Service appeal on behalf of eight employees who lost their jobs when the Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville.

Arthur Smith III initially also represented Edwin Ray Parker, president of Council 17 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Brad Ott, a public hospital patient from New Orleans. Upon being informed they had no standing in a civil service matter since they were not state employees, however, they requested that their claims be dismissed.

In all, some 200 employees lost their jobs when the Jindal administration shuttered the facility on June 30, 2014.

Ott and Parker initially sued the state as soon as the closure was approved, claiming legislators did not comply with the Louisiana State Constitution in authorizing Bobby Jindal to close the LSU-run hospital. A retired state judge sitting in for the presiding judge in the case, in a curious ruling noted that the Senate violated the open meetings law when the proposed legislation was heard by its Health and Welfare Committee and said the closure was unconstitutional—but nevertheless allowed the closure to go forward. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06/lsu_hospital_closure_ruled_unc.html

The open meetings law violation claim came into play when the Senate committee published a meeting notice two days before its hearing, with an agenda that did not include the hospital closure legislation. But on the afternoon prior to the meeting, a revised agenda was posted that included the legislation, a ploy most likely designed to blindside opponents of the closure by not giving them sufficient time to mount an organized opposition.

Judge Robert Downing said he made his ruling so that the matter would fast track a direct appeal to the State Supreme Court, which ultimately denied a stay order, thus allowing the closure. At the same time he sharply criticized Jindal for “turning down billions” of federal dollars through Medicaid Expansion—even as Jindal was (wink, wink) claiming the hospital closure would improve health care for the uninsured in the 16-parish area served by the hospital.

Smith filed his appeal with the First Circuit following the Civil Service Commission’s seven-page DENIAL of his civil service appeal issued on April 6.

State Civil Service Director Shannon Templet was quoted in the commission’s decision as saying a “lack of funds” was the reason for the layoff. That, of course, played directly into Jindal’s hands as he had been systematically starving health care for the indigent since long before he became governor—as Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals under former Gov. Mike Foster.

In his appeal, Smith argues that the Civil Service Commission erred in approving the cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) pertaining to the medical center by failing to comply with the rules set forth by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Civil Service Commission v. City of New Orleans. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1274405.html

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CONSEQUENCES OF VOTING

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:

Melvin L. “Kip” Holden (DEM)             Defeated         506640            45%

“Billy” Nungesser (REP)                     Elected            628876            55%

Turnout: 40.2% 

We’re not yet halfway through the 2016 legislative session in which lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards are struggling to close a $2 billion budget gap for the coming fiscal year but attention has been diverted from that knotty problem by one of the most bizarre political behavior since Earl Long’s mental crash of 1959, accompanied by a whirlwind tour of the Southwest and his fling with stripper Blaze Starr.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser fell for a phishing scam that’s been around at least three years and in doing so, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Louisiana’s electoral legacy of a revolving door for scalawags, con men, thieves and clowns is securely intact. And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out outright idiots and demagogues.

You’d think we had at least partially rid ourselves of that ilk with the exit of Bobby Jindal, but you’d be oh, so wrong. There apparently is no shortage of egos or stupidity to go around and sadly, we keep electing them. The legislature is riddled with those who have set themselves apart from reality.

Thanks to the diligence of Baton Rouge Advocate reporters Rebekah Allen and Richard Thompson, we are now assured that Billy Nungesser is heir-apparent to the title of Chief Clown in residence—a worthy successor to Jindal, we might add.

The two reporters on Sunday (April 10) broke an astonishing story that Nungesser, abetted by state Republican Chairman Roger Villere, not only fell for a huge scam involving a supposed agreement between a Delaware-based corporation, a Lake Charles refinery, and the Iraqi government, but he did it without the knowledge or consent of Gov. John Bel Edwards on whose behalf he claimed he was acting. http://theadvocate.com/news/politics/15398751-125/lt-gov-billy-nungesser-gop-chairman-roger-villere-work-to-recruit-unlikely-iraq-to-louisiana-busin

For sheer audacity, it even surpassed Huey Long’s classic “Round Robin” pledge by 15 senators to block his impeachment back in 1929. Huey, after all, was battling for his political life while Nungesser was only feeding his inflated ego like a ravenous wolf devouring a fresh deer carcass. And he fed it with a story that had no basis in fact. And he did it for all the world to see. And then he apologized. Sort of.

While Baton Rouge was metaphorically wiping its eyes and laughing at this buffoon, we did a quick Internet search and found that a former East Baton Rouge parish councilman and failed mayoral candidate fell for a variation of the same scheme involving the same Delaware corporation three years ago. More about that later.

First, here is what has transpired thus far:

  • Villere, the state GOP brain bust…er, trust, apparently approached Nungesser for a new billion-dollar deal that involved a plan by Alexandros, Inc. http://alexandrosinc.com/index.html to partner with Pelican Refinery of Lake Charles http://www.pelican-refinery.com/index.html in signing a 25-year agreement to become the exclusive shipping company for the Iraqi government’s oil marketing arm, interchangeably called the State Organization for Marketing Oil and the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). The plan called for the transporting of up to 150 million barrels of Iraqi oil each month. http://www.alexandrosinc.com/shipping.html
  • Alexandros, headed by CEO Markos Fuson of California, proposed reopening the former Avondale Shipyard on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The facility shut down in 2014.
  • Alexandros also proposed building more than 40 new ships, “super-tankers,” capable of hauling 200 million barrels of oil per month.
  • Fuson supposedly committed to investing 100 percent of his profits from the venture in Louisiana’s motion picture industry and to then invest his share of film profits into an as-yet-to-be-created charitable foundation that would provide education, health care and housing assistance to Louisiana’s minorities.
  • Pelican Refining’s role in the scenario was unclear, given the fact the Lake Charles facility only produces asphalt and road oil. It has not processed sweet or heavier crude oil in more than a decade, The Advocate quoted the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as saying.

If all that sounds implausible enough, consider this: Nungesser, salivating over the prospects of establishing himself as the state’s economic emancipator, then took matters into his own hands. In quick succession, he:

  • Issued a press release in March saying that Iraqi’s export agency had signed off on Alexandros’s request to partner with Pelican Refining to purchase light and heavy crude oil from SOMO.
  • Inexplicably sent the press release only to the Washington Post which, recognizing a con when it saw one, chose not to publish the release.
  • Represented himself in the news release as well as in letters to representatives of the Department of State and to Iraqi officials as Louisiana’s economic development recruiter (he’s not; that duty falls to the Secretary of Economic Development, in this case, Donald Pierson). “The honorable governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has given me a directive to expedite economic stimulus for the state of Louisiana,” Nungesser lied in his letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, adding, “This request for Your Excellency’s advocacy is part of my office’s effort to fulfill that directive.”
  • Wrote similar letters to Stuart Jones, ambassador to Iraq, and to Secretary of State John Kerry in which he again passed himself off as the state’s key economic development leader. “It is with sincere gratitude that I, Billy Nungesser, as the lieutenant governor of the state of Louisiana, respectfully request the Department of State’s additional advocacy to the Republic of Iraq on behalf of the state of Louisiana,” he wrote to Kerry and Stuart.
  • Said in his letters that he copied Edwards with all correspondence. Not so, said a spokesman for the governor’s office, who said Edwards never received a copy.
  • With egg all over his face, denied reading, let alone writing the letters that he signed. Instead, he officially kicked off the blame game, saying first that Villere, an old friend and political ally, had told him he wanted a letter expressing the state’s interest.
  • In the lowest of lows, blamed his staff, saying the letters should never have made their way to his desk. “We’re changing the way some things flow in my office to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he was quoted as saying by The Advocate.
  • Apologized to Edwards. “I would have never used the governor’s name without his permission,” he added.

Falah Alamri, SOMO director general, said the entire deal was a scam, “a hundred percent not real,” The Advocate story says.

But wait. Jeff DeRosia, operations manager for Grand Isle Shipyard in Galliano, says otherwise. “I know they’re real. One hundred percent,” he said. DeRosia, it should be noted also is executive vice president of domestic sales for Alexandros, according to Alexandros documents.

So just where does Villere figure in this entire sordid mess? Who knows? He did, however write his own letter back in February to the Iraqi prime minister and the minister of Oil, Adil Abd al-Mahdi in which he laid out the “urgent next steps that the state of Louisiana and the United States insist upon.” Some of those steps included SOMO’s granting legal authority and the issuing of contracts to Pelican Refining.

It’s still unclear how Villere considered himself in a position to insist on anything on behalf of the United States or Louisiana governments.

The three—Nungesser, Villere and DeRosia—would have been wise to do even the slightest bit of investigation before going off the reservation the way they did.

Our own quick search found a Web site called Ripoff Report in which a Baton Rouge writer in February 2013 warned of a similar scheme by Alexandros. http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Alexandros-Inc/Highland-California-92346/Alexandros-Inc-Attempt-to-Defraud-with-Fake-Documents-Highland-California-1053139

In that report, Terry Easley produced a letter purportedly from the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization attesting to a professional relationship between Alexandros, Inc., Fuson, and the Iraqi government. The letter was signed, supposedly by Sarmad H. Abd, SOMO general manager of contracts, and John Percy de Jongh, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Easley pointed out discrepancies in the letterhead of that sham letter, comparing it to one he received on April 29, 2013, from SOMO Director General Alamri. The Alamri letter, he said, was on the correct letterhead, complete with correct logos, addresses and contact information in both English and Arabic. Here are the contents of that letter:

TO: Mr. Terry L. Easley

Email: [REDACTED]

Subj./Fraud Document

Reference to you letter dated 26th April 2013.

Please note the following:

1-The Document attached to your above letter is fraud and has never been issued by SOMO.

2-SOMO has no business relationship whatsoever neither with a company named “Alexandros, Inc.” nor with a person called “Sarmad H. Abd”.

3-Our policy is to deal directly and exclusively with End Users (refining system owners) and not through traders or middlemen.

Best Regards,

Dr. Falah J. Alamri

Director General

/04/2013

Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) Fax: + 964 1 7726 574 / + 964 1 7742 979

PO Box 5118 Email: info@somooil. Gov. Iq

Baghdad – Iraq Web: www.somooil. Gov. Iq

The fake letter that precipitated the above response from Alamri, Easley said, was also copied to one Darrell Glasper of Baton Rouge. Glasper, for those outside the Baton Rouge area, was a member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council and ran for mayor-president against incumbent Kip Holden in 2008. He later admitted to paying for a campaign flier during that election which included doctored photos depicting Holden after being severely beaten by the husband because of an affair between the two.

Ironically, seven years later Nungesser would defeat Holden in an election for the lieutenant governor’s office.

The Baton Rouge media and a prominent blogger lost no time jumping all over the hapless and apparently clueless Nungesser.

Reporter Stephanie Grace, saying on Tuesday (April 12) that Nungesser had gone rogue, pointed out that in a 2011 forum between lieutenant governor candidates, Jay Dardenne pounded Nungesser on the duties of the office while Nungesser countered by saying he was one who followed his gut and “thinks outside the box.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/15457076-133/stephanie-grace-nungesser-goes-rogue-on-whacky-economic-deal

Grace said in his first big move after taking office in January, he “proved he’s thinking much further outside the box than anyone could have imagined.”

Saying that Nungesser “has no authority over economic development, no right to speak for the governor, and no place contacting the U.S. government, a national news organization, or a foreign head of state” on behalf of Edwards, she did give him a backhanded compliment in noting that he “basically fessed up to have had no idea what he was doing.”

She suggested that Nungesser make a call to Dardenne, who now serves as Commissioner of Administration. “I’m guessing he’d (Dardenne) would be perfectly happy to, once again, school Nungesser on what the day job entails—and what it doesn’t.”

Political blogger Lamar White wasn’t quite as kind.

In his post today (April 12), White suggested that far from being funny, Nungesser’s actions are impeachable. https://cenlamar.com/2016/04/12/lt-gov-nungessers-scam-deal-isnt-funny-its-impeachable/

I disagree. I think to save himself further humiliation, he should take it upon himself to resign.

Even more biting, however, was White’s quote from Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, another political blog: “I always used to wonder what kind of person fell for those Nigerian prince email scams. This says a lot.”

White called Nungesser’s actions “an enormous embarrassment to Louisiana, a blatant usurpation of the statutory power of the Lt. Governor’s office.” He said it also “demonstrates both an enormous disrespect to Gov. John Bel Edwards, for whom Nungesser deliberately misrepresented as working under his authority and blessing, and a fundamental and damaging misunderstanding of the duties of his office.”

He referred to Nungesser’s claim of never having read the letters he signed and his blaming of his staff as “pathetic.”

Not overlooking the role of the state GOP chairman in the fiasco, White said Villere’s “intimate involvement, at the very least, warrants an investigation into criminal conspiracy.”

But then he observed, perhaps correctly that Nungesser need not fear the consequences. “Louisiana is too busy laughing at him to worry about actually holding him accountable.”

There is a lot of stupid to go around in Baton Rouge but with this stunt, Nungesser may have laid claim to franchise rights.

And that is particularly pathetic.

CLOWN IN CHIEF

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Bits and pieces picked up by LouisianaVoice while out and about in the Gret Stet of Looziana:

Yet another Jindal scheme backfires

Bobby Jindal’s gambit for a hoped-for selection as a vice presidential running mate or appointment to a cabinet post may have just been shot down by another Indian-American governor.

Jindal, following Rubio’s strong showing in Iowa but before he faltered in New Hampshire, executed a calculated ploy to reignite his own fading extinguished political star. But South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley spoiled that fantasy, a dream which was about as likely as his winning the presidential nomination.

Right about now, Bobby has to be pretty much peeved at Nikki. She, after all, is a much more attractive prospect as a running mate. She is an articulate, conservative female who would give the ticket ethnic diversity—and her response to President Obama’s last State of the Union Address was far superior than Jindal’s response to Obama’s first one. She was actually coherent and he was, well….something else.

Oh well, as our friend Stephen Winham has said on more than one occasion, there is always the chance of a hostile takeover of the 700 Club by the one-time boy blunder.

 

Phone audits and changes at the top at Troop D

Meanwhile, we have learned from within Louisiana State Police that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, or at least someone acting on his behalf, has ordered that a toll analysis be pulled on department cell phones, presumably in Troop D, to try and determine who may be talking to LouisianaVoice.

As we pointed out before, it’s a classic example of shooting the messenger. LSP, aka Edmonson, does not want to know about problems in his department (and there are many, as we shall examine momentarily); he only wants to punish those vocal few who want to see the problems addressed. “They just can’t help themselves,” our source tells us. “It is the only way they know how to do business.”

Well, Mike, you can conduct all the cell phone audits you like but I’m afraid you’re going to come up empty. First of all, I don’t believe any retired troopers are going to hand over their phones and the active ones aren’t stupid. They know better than to use state-issue cell phones for such purposes for the very reason we’re now seeing played out in your little witch hunt. They wait until after work hours and when they are well away from LSP headquarters to contact us.

All of which also raises this question: Is this the same professionalism shown when you carry out investigations into criminal activity? If so, the criminals must be having a field day.

At the same time, we have learned that that Capt. Chris Guillory has been relieved of his command at Troop D—and that Ronnie Picou may even get his job back when he appeals. (We requested the investigative report now that the investigation has concluded, but our request was denied by LSP.)

Picou, it seems, was terminated for lying and not for payroll fraud in connection with all those times he was home sleeping when he was supposed to be on duty.

Funny how that works out. A state Department of Children and Family Services case worker was not only fired, but is being prosecuted for failing to carry out mandatory monthly in-home visits with foster children. Inspector General Stephen Street said her misconduct was not linked to any cases of child abuse but her pending arrest is significant for the potential of abuse. http://theadvocate.com/news/police/14884056-32/arrest-warrant-accuses-state-worker-of-reporting-at-least-20-times-she-had-checked-on-foster-childre

Picou is not accused of endangering the public while he was snoozing, but the potential was certainly there. And Guillory allowed it to occur just as he allowed other activity to occur as previously documented by LouisianaVoice. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/05/state-police-launch-internal-affairs-investigation-of-troop-d-commander-after-public-records-requests-by-louisianavoice/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/08/17/state-police-headquarters-sat-on-complaint-against-troop-d-trooper-for-harassment-captain-for-turning-a-blind-eye-to-it/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/09/state-trooper-in-lsp-troop-d-is-reportedly-terminated-in-aftermath-of-investigation-into-louisianavoice-disclosures/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/08/edmonson-solution-to-multitude-of-problems-at-troubled-troop-d-go-after-messengers-with-withering-vengeance/

Speaking of lying, it appears that Guillory may have been relieved of command for being less than truthful to investigators when he denied that he refused to take a complaint from Dwight Gerst. Guillory was initially cleared of that but LouisianaVoice subsequently published an audio of Guillory doing just that. https://youtu.be/zd-JV3rKjko

Following our posting the audio, Gerst re-filed his complaint with LSP Internal Affairs last week and on Thursday (Feb. 17), Guillory was re-assigned to State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge, effective Friday, a move tantamount to placing him on administrative leave, pending the results of further investigation.

One question to Mike Edmonson: Why did it require a series of stories in the media to prod LSP brass into action when they have known for some time that there were disturbing irregularities occurring at Troop D? Concerned troopers have complained on numerous occasions but nothing was done until a glaring light was shone on the situation.

That speaks volumes about the quality of leadership at LSP.

 

Troy Hebert just won’t go away

Also On Wednesday, Troy Hebert, former director of the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commission (ATC) appeared on the Jim Engster Show. http://www.jimengster.com/jim-engster-podcasts/2016/2/17/0217-wednesday-the-advocates-mark-ballard-republican-state-rep-chris-broadwater-former-senator-troy-hebert-assistant-editor-james-moran-of-tiger-rag

Hebert, who is flirting with becoming an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter, was his usual half-baked self on the show, both in terms of sheer hypocrisy and blatant ignorance.

During his 38-minute interview (which is more than double the time to which Andy Warhol said he is entitled), Hebert credited Huey Long for creating the state Civil Service system.

Wow. Huey Long? Really? The man who practically invented political patronage in Louisiana?

Troy, Troy, Troy. Try Sam Jones and Jimmie Davis.

Jones, who served as governor from 1940-1944, was the one who finally overthrew the Huey Long dynasty and is credited with restructuring state government into a civil service system which, by the way, was dismantled by Huey’s brother, Earl K. Long, when he became governor in 1948. Jimmie Davis reinstituted civil service for keeps during his second term, from 1960-1964.

Huey Long indeed. Troy, you need to brush up on your history.

You also need to brush up on consistency.

During his interview on Engster’s show, he also advocated that all state employees, including college professors, punch a time clock in order to qualify for their paychecks.

Except for college professors, who do extensive research, grade papers, give lectures, and advise students, all outside the classroom, a time clock isn’t such a bad idea in concept. It’s done in the private sector and in most public sector cases, it would work just as well.

It’s not such a bad idea to have legislators punch a time clock. As it now stands, they are paid per diem for entire legislative sessions, including the current special session. But those per diem payments are also paid on Fridays and weekends, days on which legislators do not meet except on extremely rare occasions. How do we justify paying them $149 per day for days on which they do not meet? How do we justify paying them when they do not show up to vote on key issues?

(Taking the current special session, for example, which began on Feb. 14 and ends on March 9, there are nine days—Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays—on which the legislature does not meet. But each of the 144 members receives $149 for each of those days. That’s $193,104 in per diem payments for doing nothing.)

But… but… but, Troy, about those time clocks and your own attendance record at ATC…

How would you go about punching a time clock during the time you were out at the construction site when you were building that nice house on University Lake when you should have been tending to state business? We have it on pretty good authority that you were out there virtually the entire time construction was going on. Was there a time clock at the work site?

Was there a time clock at your apartment over the Copper Monkey Nightclub in the New Orleans French Quarter where you managed to spend quite a bit of time during working hours? Just asking.

Troy? Troy?

….Now where did he go?

 

 

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Folks, if you don’t read anything else today, please read Bob Mann’s post. It should strike a chord with every person in Louisiana who struggles to make his or life a little better. It will break the hearts of teachers who see the effects that abject poverty has on children’s ability to learn. It will resonate with those who are unable to afford health care. It should infuriate those forced to pay higher tuition at our colleges and universities because the politicians can’t seem to find the funds to support higher education.

But it will clang with an empty thud with those who want to absolve themselves of any responsibility, who fail to see society’s problems as their own and who, instead of striving to find solutions, choose only to blame the federal bureaucracy in a sweeping dismissal of the ills that afflict us all—economically, physically, emotionally, and morally.

A survey released on Thursday (Sept. 17) shows that Louisiana is the 8th poorest state in the nation. With the abundance of natural resources that we have in this state, that should never be. It should an extreme embarrassment to our leaders, especially one so oblivious as to believe he is presidential timber. Here is the link to that survey: http://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/09/17/richest-and-poorest-states/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=SEP172015A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Bob Mann has said the things that I have wished a thousand times for the skill and the proficiency to articulate. Go here to read today’s post:

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/09/18/the-real-immorality-in-the-governors-race-is-not-david-vitters-prostitution-scandal/

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It’s funny in a sick, perverted kind of way when you think about it.

Come to think of it though, that’s entirely appropriate; the Bobby Jindal administration has been nothing but seven years of sick, perverted exercises in futility and failed policies. It’s enough to make other states laugh at us—and they probably are.

Foremost among his many efforts at “reform” preached by this incoherent governor is his insistence on something he refers to as “freedom of choice” for parents of students in grades K-12. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/10/jindal-urges-parental-choice-limited-government-and-end-to-teacher-tenure-in-sweeping-education-policy-plan/

Speaking at the Brookings Institute in 2012, he said the U.S. does not provide equal opportunity in education. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDCU-VlSgX0

Yet, when it comes to freedom of choice and equal opportunity for students in Louisiana’s colleges and universities, Jindal appears perfectly willing to “let them eat cake.”

Even as LSU and other universities and colleges face financial exigency in the face of another round of budget cuts, this time as much as $600 million and as more than 1,000 LSU students marched on the State Capitol on Thursday in protest, where was Jindal?

Out of state, as usual.

Damn him.

Damn his blasé attitude toward doing his job as the elected governor of Louisiana at a time when the state is in dire need of leadership.

Damn his resolve not to repeal corporate tax breaks, his administrations’ failure to properly audit severance tax payments to the oil and gas companies who have bankrolled his campaigns to the tune of about $1 million.

JINDAL SWINDLE

Following the rally Thursday, dozens of students converged on the Senate Education Committee which was meeting in the bowels of the Capitol. The five committee members, who for the most part, talked among themselves instead of listening as a witnessed testified on a bill about student records, paid the obligatory lip service in welcoming the students and then politely suggested they move up one floor to the Senate Finance Committee “because that’s where the money is,” according to one member.

Except it isn’t there. There is no money because of Jindal’s haphazard, slipshod, snow-cone stand brand of administration.

One Education Committee member even suggested that the students keep going—up “to the fourth floor.”

“Except no one’s there,” said another member, eliciting laughter at probably the most accurate statement made thus far this session.

It’s not, of course, as though Jindal is solely to blame for this fiasco. The legislature is complicit in allowing him to run roughshod over the citizens of this state on his way out the door and (he somehow still believes) to the White House.

If you don’t believe the legislators must share the blame in this, then explain how an attempt this week to finally accept Medicaid funds to help provide health care for 240,000 low-income Louisianians never got out of committee. Explain how attempts to increase the minimum wage and close the gender wage gap fail time after time but somehow legislation to allow the teaching that the earth is only 9,000 years old passes muster.

Therefore, the protest by the LSU students, one of those demonstrations inspired by social media, was the perfect opportunity for the four announced candidates for governor in this fall’s election.

It would have been if they had all showed up. Perhaps that’s why State Representative John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) and the lone Democrat among the four candidates, got such an enthusiastic response from the students crowded onto the steps in front of the Capitol.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS

Rep. John Bel Edwards addresses LSU students on Thursday (click on image to enlarge).

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the only one of the four to hold an undergraduate degree from LSU and a former LSU Student Government President was apparently so busy he could only send a representative from his office. A missed opportunity if there ever was one.

Edwards tried to downplay the significance of that. “Well, to be fair, I was already in the building,” he laughed. “I didn’t have to go far.”

But neither did Dardenne. His office is across the street from the Capitol and LSU’s right fielder could probably peg a strike to his office window from the Capitol steps.

But Public Service Commission member Scott Angelle and U.S. Sen. David Vitter also were conspicuously absent. Nor was a single member of the LSU Board of Supervisors in attendance.

Of course, it would have been a sham for Angelle to make an appearance. He is, after all, joined at the hip with Jindal. Granted, Angelle was a Kathleen Blanco holdover, but held over he was and Jindal even made him his legislative liaison. Jindal also named him as interim Lieutenant Governor when Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans, and then appointed him to the LSU Board of Supervisors (that’s the same board that fires LSU presidents on a whim, costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a defenseless attempt to deny access to public records, and which gives away state hospitals in a deal that had been rejected by the federal government). http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/lsu_board_jindal_resign.html

But why Vitter didn’t show is something of a mystery; there were so many attractive co-eds at the protest, after all.

Edwards told the students that he has “spent seven years fighting Jindal’s budgets. I did not vote for the budget last year and my solemn promise to you is that I will never vote for a budget that cuts funding for higher education.”

Edwards, who holds his undergraduate degree from West Point, received his law degree from LSU Law School. He told the students they are facing the potential of a 90 percent increase in tuition this fall. As expected, that was met with a chorus of boos. “No state has cut funding to higher education more than Louisiana,” he said. “I have a personal interest in seeing higher education fully funded. My daughter is a freshman at LSU.

“If you look behind you, you see a statue of Huey Long,” he said. “Say what you will about Huey Long, but at a time this state was in the throes of the Great Depression, Huey Long found money to build LSU, build roads and bridges throughout the state and to establish a great state hospital system. If he could find money to do all that during the Depression, we should be able to fund education today.”

But as Jindal prattles on about choice for students of K-12, he seems to have forgotten about the choice of post-secondary students: the choice to obtain an affordable education, the choice to remain in Louisiana and attend a tier 1 university, the choice to avoid devastating student loans that put graduates in deep financial holes even before their careers begin.

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