I have read the most horrifying stories this week. It makes me wonder if a good portion of humanity has a death wish. I’m going to share a variety of links that I’ve found; and a lot of them aren’t the most uplifting, I’m afraid.
Knowledge is power. Ignorance may be bliss to the holder but not to the folks around them. There is no lack of headlines in the area of bigotry and intolerance. This is truly discouraging to those of us that care passionately about social justice.
Crime rates have been falling recently but our incarceration rates are not. There’s a huge study out on the economic costs of our prison society and its findings are not pretty. We’re spending billionaires of dollars locking up the poor, the uneducated, and the mentally ill in a distinctly racist way.
While crime rates have fallen 45 percent since 1990, the memo said that the incarceration rate is now at a “historically unprecedented level,” jumping 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. An African-American man who never graduated from high school has a 70 percent likelihood of being imprisoned by his mid-30s; for similarly educated white men, the rate is about 15 percent. And the United States imprisons at a rate six times greater than most peer nations, including those of the European Union, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced rules last month that would give the Obama administration wider latitude to extend clemency or reduce sentences for drug-related prisoners who don’t present a threat to public safety. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously in April to reduce sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent criminals, a move now before Congress that could go into effect Nov. 1 if lawmakers don’t take any further action.
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is a clinical professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. The program focuses on criminal practice, education, and research, and hosts a teaching clinic for third-year law students to represent indigent criminal defendants in local and juvenile courts. Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about racial and national sentencing disparities, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration, and the sentencing reforms now under consideration.
GAZETTE: According to the memo, while the overall crime rate fell 45 percent between 1990 and 2012, the rate of imprisonment has spiked 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. What’s behind this disparity? Is that strictly the result of policy decisions like mandatory minimum sentencing, repeat-offender laws, and the growth in for-profit prisons? Or are other factors at work?
SULLIVAN: That’s certainly a big piece of it. … policy decisions in respect of mandatory minimums drive the huge incarceration rate. But there are other factors as well. What those factors are is the subject of a lot of academic debate nowadays. And to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what it is. We do know that on a per-capita basis the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including Rwanda, Russia, Cuba, all of the places one does not associate with a robust tradition of liberty. And that’s in many ways shocking.
The theory would be … with the high rates of incarceration that the crime rate would go down and then that would be followed by less incarceration because there just wouldn’t be as many crimes committed. But those numbers have gone in opposite directions. Mandatory minimums simply don’t explain all of it. Part of it, at least I think, has to do with selective law enforcement — the over-policing of certain neighborhoods, particularly minority neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. That is to say, if police are there and looking for crimes, and over-police certain neighborhoods, you’re going to produce more defendants in particular areas. And if the populations are drawn from poor populations, they’re unable to afford to be released on bail, they’re unable to afford good lawyers, and studies show that if you’re not released on bail you tend to stay in jail after sentencing. An unfortunate reality of the United States is that far too often the justice you receive is a function of how much money you have.
The prison-industrial complex is also an important factor. It doesn’t take an economist to know that if … you make your money by people going into prison, then there’s going to be higher incarceration rates. So I think that certainly plays a role as well.
GAZETTE: What are the areas of debate among scholars?
SULLIVAN: One explanation has to do with the United States’ articulated goals of punishment. Back in the ’70s and before, rehabilitation was an articulated goal of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court has said clearly now rehabilitation is no longer a penological goal. We look at incapacitation, we look at deterrence, and we look at retribution as goals that the penal system serves. When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community. That’s one of the things that scholars argue drive up the incarceration rate.
The other has to do with our system of elected judges in most states. Judges who are elected, the argument runs, respond to democratic pressures. We live in a political economy where people think that more and harsher punishment is better, even though most competent data suggests that longer sentences, after a certain point … make people worse as opposed to making them better. But you have democratically elected judges who respond to the will of the people, and if that will is for longer sentences, no matter how misinformed, then judges oftentimes acquiesce to those pressures.
The other issue has to do with legislators. It, again, has to do with the political economy in which we live. With this mantra of being “tough on crime,” legislators essentially race to see who can draft legislation with the harshest, longest penalties. I think that legislators don’t believe that prosecutors will attempt to enforce the most harsh provisions of particular laws, and in that sense, from the vantage point of the legislator, it’s sort of a win-win situation: They can get the political credit for drafting an incredibly harsh law, but not really have to deal with the effects because the notion is the prosecutor will sort it out and will recommend a fair sentence. That assumption, though, just hasn’t really been borne out in reality.
GAZETTE: The current incarceration gap between white men and African-American men is particularly striking. Does that figure surprise you, and what accounts for this gap? Is access to justice a factor?
SULLIVAN: The figure does not surprise me, and it is unfortunate that the figure does not surprise me. The figure reaffirms that race insinuates itself into almost every aspect of our life still, and it has a particular salience in the criminal justice system. … Here we see the effect of over-policing much more dramatically. In our culture, unfortunately … blackness is seen as a proxy for criminality. So the same or similar conduct engaged in by a person of color is seen through a lens that views that conduct as criminal, where others simply are not taxed in the same way.
The debate over the use of lethal injections and the drugs used for state executions continues. Three newspapers–including the UK Guardian–have sued to make public the source of drugs for these injections. Most states are trying to make that information private. Many of the recent botched executions came from simple druggists compounding the formulations because many of the major drug manufacturers–especially those in Europe–refuse to do so. Should the formulation and the source of death penalty drugs be kept from the public?
The growing secrecy adopted by death penalty states to hide the source of their lethal injection drugs used in executions is being challenged in a new lawsuit in Missouri, which argues that the American people have a right to know how the ultimate punishment is being carried out in their name.
The legal challenge, brought by the Guardian, Associated Press and the three largest Missouri newspapers, calls on state judges to intervene to put a stop to the creeping secrecy that has taken hold in the state in common with many other death penalty jurisdictions. The lawsuit argues that under the first amendment of the US constitution the public has a right of access to know “the type, quality and source of drugs used by a state to execute an individual in the name of the people”.
It is believed to be the first time that the first amendment right of access has been used to challenge secrecy in the application of the death penalty. Deborah Denno, an expert in execution methods at Fordham University law school in New York, said that more and more states were turning to secrecy as a way of hiding basic flaws in their procedures.
“If states were doing things properly they wouldn’t have a problem releasing information – they are imposing a veil of secrecy to hide incompetence.” “This is like the government building bridges, and trying to hide the identity of the company that makes the bolts,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Those involved in public service should expect public scrutiny in order to root out problems, particular when the state is carrying out the most intimate act possible – killing people.”
A Guardian survey has identified at least 13 states that have changed their rules to withhold from the public all information relating to how they get hold of lethal drugs. They include several of the most active death penalty states including Texas, which has executed seven prisoners so far this year, Florida (five), Missouri (four) and Oklahoma (three). Attention has been drawn to the secrecy issue by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on 29 April in which the prisoner took 43 minutes to die, apparently in great pain, from an untested cocktail of drugs whose source was not made public.
Lockett’s lawyers had argued in advance that he might be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of the lack of information surrounding the drugs, but the state supreme court allowed the procedure to go ahead having come under intense pressure from local politicians, some of whom threatened to impeach judges.
In the wake of the events in Oklahoma, in which the prisoner writhed and groaned over a prolonged period, the state has agreed to pause for six months before carrying out any further judicial killings to give time for an internal investigation to be completed. President Obama described the Lockett execution “deeply troubling” and has asked US attorney general Eric Holder to review the way the death penalty is conducted.
Until last year, Missouri which is now executing prisoners at a rate of one a month, was open about where it obtained its lethal injection chemicals. But like many death penalty states, its drug supplies have dwindled as a result of a European-led pharmaceutical boycott, and in a desperate move to try to find new suppliers it has shrouded their identity in secrecy. In October, the state changed its so-called “black hood law” that had historically been used to guard the identity of those directly involved in the death process.
The department of corrections expanded the definition of its execution team to include pharmacies and “individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure”. Six inmates have been executed by Missouri since the new secrecy rules came in –they went to their deaths entirely ignorant of the source or quality of the drugs used to kill them. All that is known is that the pentobarbital that Missouri deploys in executions probably came from a compounding pharmacy – an outlet that makes up small batches of the drug to order in the absence of stringent regulation.
We continue to see GLBT civil rights characterized by the right as an attack on their religious rights and their homobigoted behavior and language wrapped up as a first amendment issue. How does the right play the victim card in a debate about limiting the rights of others? It is doing the same things with women’s reproductive rights.
While Religious Right leaders are quick to equate criticism as an attack on their freedom of speech and religion, some of them are all too happy to limit the free speech or religious liberty of the people they disagree with. That includes the Benham brothers.
In the flurry of public appearances in the wake of the HGTV cancellation, the Benhams and their right-wing fans have portrayed themselves as committed to the principle that everyone in America should have a chance to express themselves. On the O’Reilly Factor, David Benham denounced the gay agenda for seeking “to silence those that disagree with it, and it begins with Christians.” Jason warned that “when an idea seeks to silence any other idea that may disagree with that, then we have ourselves a problem on hand.”
But as blogger Jeremy Hooper recently pointed out, back in November 2004, David, Jason, and Flip Benham were all part of a group of about 15 people who went to a Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting to complain about the gay pride celebration that had taken place in a city park six months earlier. They were among a group of people who had gone to the Pride event to, in Jason’s words, “tell them that Jesus loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.” But the Benhams and their friends were appalled at what they saw. “This is filth, this is vile and should not be allowed in our City,” said David. Jason urged city council members to reject future permits for Pride celebrations – and seemingly for any LGBT-themed event:
They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I [implore] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.
In the words of Charlotte Pride organizers, “The Benham brothers once tried to silence us. They failed.”
Some Benham fans, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, say flat-out that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections were only meant for Christians and don’t apply to Muslims, Mormons or other minority faiths. Back when many self-proclaimed “religious liberty” advocates were opposing efforts by Muslims in New York to build a community center – which critics gave the inaccurate and inflammatory name of “Ground Zero Mosque” – David Benham and his father Flip were among them. According to the Anti-Defamation League, David participated in protests against the Center, calling it a “den of iniquity” and labeling Muslims “the enemy” that was attacking America.
In these public debates, “Christian” as used by Religious Right leaders often doesn’t really apply to all Christians, but only to a subset of Christians who share their right-wing politics. Other Christians don’t count. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who has bemoaned “cultural elites” who want to “silence” and “bully” people like the Benhams, recently said that pro-gay-equality Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections as he does because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with religious views that align with those of the political Right.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commencement speech at Liberty University was a masterpiece in this type of dishonest projection. Posing as a champion of free speech and freedom of religion, he actually made a chilling argument in favor of stripping both of those freedoms away from ordinary Americans, businesses and anyone who might disagree with turning this country into a theocratic state. He started by defending Hobby Lobby for trying to strip contraception coverage out of their employees’ own healthcare plans. “Under the Obama regime,” he argued, “you have protection under the First Amendment as an individual, but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections. And that brings us to the second front in this silent war: the attack on our freedom of association as people of faith.”
It’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, Hobby Lobby’s intention here is to reduce religious freedom by forcing their employees to adhere to certain religious rules in order to get the benefits they already earned. ( They have a history of trying to impose their religious dogma on non-believers through other means as well.) The only people in any real danger of losing freedom are women, who are in danger of losing their freedom to use their insurance benefits in a way that fits their personal beliefs.
But Jindal was just warming up, claiming the “Obama administration” was gunning to decide “who can preach the Gospel.” This outrageous conspiracy theory was justified, in his opinion, by supposed other attacks on “free speech,” namely that TV networks are reluctant to house the opinions of open bigots. “The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us,” he said of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who was never silenced and has, to this date, been allowed to say any fool thing he wants. But he was briefly suspended from A&E, leading conservatives to decide that “free speech” means you have a right to your own TV show.
All of this has gotten me interested in again in White Supremacist movements. I really believe that most of these Southern Republicans fall squarely into the neoconfederate mold and aren’t that far off the KKK tree.
White supremacy is referenced in relation to specific news events as well. For example, the murder rampage by the neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Miller, the recent weeks-long debate between pundits Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait about “black pathology”; birtherism; stand-your-ground laws; and the open embrace of the symbols and rhetoric of the old slave-holding Confederacy by the Republican Party have been framed and discussed in terms of white supremacy.
Conservatives and progressive often use the phrase “white supremacy” in divergent ways. Conservatives use the phrase in the service of a dishonest “colorblind” agenda, evoking extreme images of KKK members and Nazis as the exclusive and only examples of white racism in American life and politics. Conservatives use extreme caricatures of white supremacy in order to deflect and protect themselves from charges that the contemporary Republican Party is a white identity organization fueled by white racial resentment. Liberals, progressives and anti-racists use the phrase “white supremacy” to describe the overt and subtle racist practices of movement conservatism in the post-Civil Rights era, and how American society is still structured around maintaining and protecting white privilege. This analysis is largely correct: however, it often conflates concepts such as racism, white privilege, and white supremacy with one another. Language does political work. In the age of Obama, the phrase “white supremacy” is often used in political discussions like an imprecise shotgun blast or a blockbuster bomb. If the Common Good and American democracy are to be protected—countering how the right wing has used the politics of white racial resentment, racial manipulation, and hate to mobilize its voters in support of a plutocratic agenda—a more precise weapon is needed. A necessary first step in that direction requires the development of a more detailed and transparent exploration of the concept known as “white supremacy.”
One of the sure signs to me of either a racist or a misogynist or a homophobic bigot is that they all insist they have no problem women, racial minorities, and/or gay people. The believe they are the victims by being forced to deal with any one else in terms other than their own choosing. Therein lies the problem. Here’s a perfect example from Kristen Powers writing at USA Today. You can’t call out bigotry without being called a bully obsessed with political correctness. Then, you’re told that the real victims are white conservative christians.
Each week seems to bring another incident. Last week it was David and Jason Benham, whose pending HGTV show was canceled after the mob unearthed old remarks the brothers made about their Christian beliefs on homosexuality. People can’t have a house-flipping show unless they believe and say the “right” things in their life off the set? In this world, the conservative Tom Selleck never would have been Magnum, P.I.
This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.
Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as “a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully” and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a “psychotic mass murderer” and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.
The self-serving capriciousness is crazy. In March, University of California-Santa Barbara women’s studies professor Mireille Miller-Young attacked a 16-year-old holding an anti-abortion sign in the campus’ “free speech zone” (formerly known as America). Though she was charged with theft, battery and vandalism, Miller-Young remains unrepentant and still has her job. But Mozilla’s Brendan Eich gave a private donation to an anti-gay marriage initiative six years ago and was ordered to recant his beliefs. When he wouldn’t, he was forced to resign from the company he helped found.
Got that? A college educator with the right opinions can attack a high school student and keep her job. A corporate executive with the wrong opinions loses his for making a campaign donation. Something is very wrong here.
The right seems to be really confused about the first amendment, which clearly deals with the relationship between the federal government, religion, the press, and the people’s free speech. The same idiots that scream that Hobby Lobby can deny its employees contraception and say that businesses should be able to refuse to serve GLBTs will shout out a corporation that says they don’t want to be known for bigotry of any kind. They also misunderstand the protection given to University professors when it comes to academic freedom. Companies have to comply with the law. They do not have to keep employees that don’t represent their corporate values. PERIOD.
Anyway, it just amazes me that this intense amount of uncivil bigotry and hatred seemed to have burbled up again after all these years. All it took was an African American President and a few powerful women–namely Hillary Clinton–to bring the crazy out.
I just wanted to mention that most of these silent film images come from “Birth of a Nation” but one comes from “Broken Blossoms” also known as the “Yellow Man and the Girl”. Both of these films were directed by DW Griffith around 1919. Both movies starred Lillian Gish and were received differently by white audiences than by the racial minorities they also depicted.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m going to remind you today of some events that happened 4 years ago with the BP Oil Gusher and show you that bad things are still going on in the Gulf.The leftover issues from abandoned oil rigs are bigger than Louisiana.Please consider this an open thread while I let you know how I feel.
If corporations are people, then BP and others in the extraction business are serial killers. All over our country and throughout our history, extraction companies have killed their employees, the people that live around their businesses, and the wildlife and the environment and water systems that sustain the life of our country. Look at that map. Those are active and orphaned/abandoned oil wells/pipelines that are disintegrating, leaking, and killing someone.
“I started noticing, towards the end of 2010, other leaks that were unrelated to the BP disaster,” Henderson says. “I would find wellheads that were leaking or platforms that were leaking. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”
Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But when Henderson checked, he found many of those smaller spills were not making that list.
So environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium to get a better count on spills. The partnership is a blend groups of complementary skills.
Gulf Restoration Network, for example, has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports.
SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft.Louisiana relies largely on the oil industry to self-report leaks and spills. The Gulf Monitoring Consortium was formed to improve that effort and said it often finds smaller leaks like this one, near Golden Meadow, that go unreported by the companies.
A third member, the West Virginia-based tech group SkyTruth, finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water.
SkyTruth spokesman David Manthos says its estimates typically are much higher than what’s been reported.
“We found that the spill was usually 10 times larger than had been reported, and that was averaged out across a lot,” he says. “In some, the mismatch was much larger than that.”
The sheer size of the industry here means there’s seldom a quiet day for the consortium. In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf.
It’s a number that surprised even SouthWings Gulf Program Director Meredith Dowling, a veteran of monitoring efforts.
“I can’t think of a single instance where our volunteers have flown offshore and not found spills,” Dowling says. “This was something that was really amazing to me when I first moved here … that is was a continuous, absolute failure of business-as-usual practices.”
There are many active spills around here. Many come from orphaned and abandoned wells. Many come from active wells. They are all spewing toxicwaste and it’s not just in Louisiana. Here is a program in Pennsylvania dedicated to plugging orphaned and abandoned wells. There are similar issues in Texas, New York State, and just nearly anywhere there’s been activity. Louisiana alone has about 6000. You can see that they are nearly everywhere if you look at the map at the top of the post. Many of these wells were first put into play in the 1850s and were just left where they were. They are rotting, they are decaying, and they are leaking. They are also dangerous.
Methane is an odorless, colorless gas that exists naturally below the surface. It isn’t poisonous, but it’s dangerous. When enough methane gathers in an enclosed space — a basement or a water well, for instance — it can trigger an explosion.
The gas didn’t come from the Butters well, nor did it originate from the Marcellus Shale formation that a nearby Shell well had recently tapped into. What most likely happened to cause the geyser in June, Shell and state regulators say, was something of a chain reaction. As Shell was drilling and then hydraulically fracturing its nearby well, the activity displaced shallow pockets of natural gas — possibly some of the same pockets the Morris Run Coal company ran into in 1932. The gas disturbed by Shell’s drilling moved underground until it found its way to the Butters well, and then shot up to the surface.
Areas impacted by oil spills are never the same. The BP Oil Gusher has introduced issues into the ecosystem that have left endangered species teetering further towards extinction. In the case of Louisiana, it’s even the state bird.
On a bright spring morning, P.J. Hahn is walking through a graveyard in the middle of Barataria Bay.
It’s a 30-yard patch of mud and sand bristling with bare, dead mangrove brush surrounded by miles of open water. Each mangrove is a tombstone marking the death of a nesting site used for decades by brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills on what was once the string of wetland pearls that made up the Cat Islands chain.
But in 2010 the oil spewing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon would send them all to an early grave.
“Four years ago we had more than five acres of habitat and there were tens of thousands of birds nesting on these islands,” said Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish. “Then the oil came in and coated the mangrove roots, and two years later the islands started going.
“I don’t know where those birds are nesting now – but they can’t do it here any more.”
The post-BP story of the brown pelican, Louisiana’s official bird, is the perfect metaphor for the crisis confronting the state’s coast.
Before the Deepwater Horizon blew out on April 20, 2010, brown pelicans were living the good life in southeast Louisiana as one of the great wildlife comeback stories. In 1963 not a single brown pelican could be found in the state due to impacts from the insectiside DDT. The comeback started in 1968 when the state began transplanting birds from Florida, and populations began to soar after DDT was banned in 1972. Thanks to the abundant food in one of the world’s most productive fisheries, by 2010 their numbers were thought to be near historic levels, as high of 85,000.*
Four years later, the sea floor closest to the spill and even the shores in the Gulf of Mexico are comparable to an Arizona Desert. It is barren, bleak and dead. There was life there. Now, there is the look of a forest fire without the resultant new growth. Nothing will grow back amid the poison of Corexit and Oil.
When a crew of journalists and environmental groups studying the effects of the BP Deepwater Macondo oil spill disembarked on Cat Island in Baratria Bay last week, there was a collective gasp.
“It looks like there was a fire here,” said Doug Meffert, vice president of the National Audubon Society and president of the Louisiana chapter, “but there wasn’t a fire.”
The bones of black mangrove stumps are all that remain of what was a thriving bird rookery here in Plaquemines Parish Four years ago, footage of oiled brown pelicans and the thousands of shorebirds nesting here went around the world in the aftermath of the 200 million gallons of thick crude that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Today the only green thing on the beach is a glass bottle. There are no pelicans, no mangroves, and worse, much of Cat Island itself is washing away. It and most of the barrier islands and marsh in Barataria Bay are steadily degrading, losing their battles with coastal erosion and subsidence faster than ever.
Areas around Barataria Bay and Grand Isle, La. were particularly hard hit, but they weren’t the only affected areas. Moreover, thousands of birds, other wildlife and marine life including dolphins perished, were oiled, sickened and overall left in distress. The effects on the area resonate now, which is only a shock to those either unfamiliar with garish oil spills or unwilling to accept the truth.
In the days following the “spill”, BP, apparently colluding with the US Government, doused a horrific amount of a deadly dispersant in the affected areas. Called “Corexit”, the cutesy name belies the sickening effects it brings to all it touches. On background, an environmentalist working in the area explained to me last year that they were, essentially, damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t, but chose the lesser of two ills.
That remains to be seen as the National Institutes of Health continues its 10-year “GuLF” study of BP spill health effects, from those most affected out on the Vessels of Opportunity boat that included BP-hired personnel trying to contain the spill, to residents in the line of fire, such as around Barataria Bay.
There is a way of life dying along the southern parts of the Gulf Coast in Louisana. The coastline disappears daily, the salt water intrudes in to the fresh water marshes, and the land doesn’t sustain the people or the animals like it once did. There is not better place to study the impacts of the extraction business and human addiction to fossil fuels than many parts of Cajun Louisiana.
Sea level rise is like an ultra-slow-motion hurricane for low-lying areas, but unlike a hurricane, it can be forecast decades in advance. Projections that some town or road will be underwater in 100 years can—and must—be mitigated against today.
Osborn characterizes the choice as “being proactive rather than reactive. Once you get into situations like Louisiana facing some very serious challenges in a very near time frame, all of a sudden you’re in a reactive posture.” Louisiana is a harbinger of things to come for New York, Miami, and other major coastal cities that would do well to look 20 to 75 years ahead and budget accordingly. Local, state, and federal governments will have to make critical decisions about infrastructure, water and sediment diversion, and wetlands restoration in the next 10 to 15 years, he says, and while NOAA scientists can contribute data, they can’t green-light projects or secure funding.
Osborn makes a technical distinction: “Right now it’s what’s called frequently flooded. And the risk is it will be routinely flooded.” Routine flooding will start to happen as early as 10 years from now, he says. They can call it whatever they want, but Gill says soon LA 1 will be “flooded every day during high tide.”
NOAA scientists predict that eventually all the marsh that surrounds LA 1 and Port Fourchon will disappear, connecting two major bodies of water that now are distinct: Barataria Bay and Terrebonne Bay. The only thing out in the water at all, by 2100, may be a raised road and Port Fourchon. “I can imagine Port Fourchon being like the Florida Keys,” says Chiasson, “being on its own, in the middle of open water, maybe a little marsh around it, but nothing between here and there.”
The fact that the entire extraction business is so fraught with so many bad things is why the men that run it must find politicians to protect them from lawsuits and regulations. Making these guys pay for what they’ve done would undoubtedly run their companies deeply into the red. Donation whores like Republican Governor Bobby Jindal will do anything to protect the benefactors that he hopes will fund him to the White House. There is nothing about Louisiana that this man is interested in except as a step on the rung of his personal ascent.
The state Senate targeted the flood protection authorities around New Orleans and the lawsuit one of the levee boards filed against the oil and gas industry for damages to the state’s wetlands.
In one bill, advanced by a Senate panel Wednesday morning, Gov. Bobby Jindal would get sweeping power to remove members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities. Opponents said the move, which would allow a governor to remove authority members under certain conditions, reintroduces politics into the levee boards, which is precisely what revamp after the 2005 hurricanes was designed to prevent.
Another measure, which was passed by the full Senate late Tuesday night, would derail a lawsuit filed last year by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East against 97 oil and gas companies. The levee board sought damages for contributing to coastal erosion and led to higher than anticipated storm surges.
Jindal opposes the lawsuit and has called it a windfall for lawyers, who would be paid with a portion of any winnings rather than a flat fee. Critics say the legislation would keep the oil and gas industry from taking responsibility for damage caused by drilling and productions activities over the years.
SB553 is aimed at a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. It would not impact similar suits filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes. But other measures currently being considered might.
The legislation passed Tuesday night, Senate Bill 553, would apply to retroactively. That measure was sent Wednesday morning to the Louisiana House.
Even kindergartners know they should clean up their messes. That is ones that aren’t sociopaths.
But, wherever there has been the extraction business, there are the sociopaths. We have the hundred year anniversary of just such an example.
Linda Linville climbed down the steep stone steps into the dugout on the southern Colorado prairie Sunday where one branch of her family was wiped out in one day 100 years ago.
Her great aunt, her unborn baby and two children died in a fire that broke out during a battle between coal miners striking against John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Colorado National Guard in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. Twenty-seven-year-old Cedilena Costa, 4-year-old Lucy and 6-year-old Onofrio suffocated from the smoke as they hid below ground to escape the battle. Linville said Cedilena’s husband, Charlie Costa, was captured and shot in the head that day and never knew his family’s fate.
“Anyone who says they died in vain is wrong,” said Linville, a retired history teacher from Corona, Calif., referring to the fact that the miners eventually ended up going back to work without winning any of their demands.
The massacre and battle left 21 people dead, including the Greek-American union leader Louis Tikas, and set off 10 days of civil war in which the miners killed 30 mine guards, supervisors and strikebreakers. They surrendered only after President Woodrow Wilson sent federal troops to the state.
The deaths drew national attention to the long running strike and forced Rockefeller to take a public role in Colorado Fuel & Iron. He instituted a company union and grievance system, which the miners later rejected when the won a right to unionize on their own during the New Deal. The massacre and the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 are credited with the helping win the eventual passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.
Linville and over 100 others — including members of the United Mine Workers of America wearing the red bandanas the strikers wore — gathered at the site of the former Ludlow tent colony to mark the massacre’s 100th anniversary with a Greek Orthodox Easter service. It was very similar to the one the miners, who came from a variety of countries, shared in 100 years ago with the Greek strikers the day before the massacre. In a coincidental reminder of Ludlow’s international community, the Easter service will include the traditional reading of the Gospel story in many languages to symbolize the universality of its message.
It is easy to look back at the years of coal and oil and see that not much has really changed in terms of the business. The only thing that’s changing is that people, nature, and animals don’t have a chance at all and the deathtoll and damage are obvious if you actually get to see it. I have a small car. I really don’t drive much at all. I think in a busy week I may put on 15 miles. I have a bike and nearly everything I need is about a mile away. I suppose, for me, that it’s nothing to say that I really don’t benefit from any of this. I’d frankly rather pay for every single person to have some form of solar or wind generator in their home than the tax breaks we give to the oil industry. I think it would save every one in the country a lot less grief in the short and long run. But then, I could care less how much money the likes of the Koch Brothers earn. I’d frankly rather be dancing on their graves.
I just wanted to add that I found some of these wonderful skull art prints from this site.
I know it doesn’t look like it, but this is an open thread.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
So, I’m sorry but I have to go all local today on ya! There are just so many deliciously nonsensical things going on here that I cannot resist.
First, you know about our “kissing Congressman” if you’ve been awake and on line for several days. I first wrote about Congressman McAllister back in November when he won the special election. There were several things that separated him from the politics as usual up there in Crackerland Central.
First, he had never run for office before but he was rich enough from that old grifter business known as the funeral parlor to self finance and win. Second his buddies the let’s get ducks all horny and shoot’em for fun dudes helped him with commercials and such. Third, he’s been telling Louisiana that we really need to take that federal money and extend medicaid benefits under Obamacare.
Now, we already know that it’s worked for the poor folk in Kentucky. The difficulty down here is that our Governor doesn’t govern, he prepares his resume for his next political office and he’s got a small, tiny hard on for at run a the presidency. Which, brings us to Jindal Gate. Some of us think some of his buddies leaked the photos of congressman kissy face with Mrs. Peacock in the Alley by the camera.
The day this story broke was basically a day the press jumped on the usual republican family values dude falls short kinda headline day. But, over on facebook, a bunch of us who watch Louisiana politics like most folks watch the Saints thought hmmmmmmm, this is a little weird. Lamar–who actually manages to stay up later than me–got to writing the story first and he gets tremendous Scooby Snax for it. His article basically went viral but it seems that some folks are still trying to get back to the Congressman up in your family values face who was caught on video passionately smooching a friend’s wife who was also one of his paid staffers.
The deal is this folks. Check out the date on the video that’s been every where. The kiss happened before Christmas in his office with Mrs Peacock right in front of the security cameras which was also the office and the security cameras of his predecessor. This is the predecessor that retired early so Bobby Jindal’s handpicked buddy could go to congress. That hand picked buddy called McAllister a liberal for supporting the federal extension of medicaid that Bobby Jindal doesn’t like, won’t take, and has chosen as the first little policy roll out of his pathetic attempt to get national attention. Then, notice how quickly Politico got the tape. The story originated from the Oachita Citizen whose owner backed the opponent and basically runs a virtual small town paper that’s about as notable as the PTA minutes from your local elementary school. Lamar’s got a tick tock that really lays it all out for you.
The story was first broken at 12:19PM by The Ouachita Citizen, a fledgling website that claims to have a paid readership of more than 5,200 people but, based on third-party web traffic analytical data, likely has a daily audience of between 200-300 unique visitors. An hour and a half later, the story was on the front page of Politico. An hour later, it was covered by almost every national news outlet in the United States- Fox, CBS, The Washington Post, NBC.
With all due respect to John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman, the two Politico journalists who broke the story nationally, it defies logic that they somehow randomly stumbled on a story published on a website that even most Louisianians have never heard of and verified the authenticity and provenance of a blurry surveillance video (which, by the way, was behind a paywall) all within a span of 90 minutes. No, this leak was coordinated and planned, and more than likely, considering it was recorded nearly four months ago, it had been in the works for a long time.
Notably, The Ouachita Citizen strongly supported State Senator Neil Riser, calling Mr. McAllister a “liberal” in a bizarre, apoplectic rant, which, ostensibly was an endorsement of Riser but reads more like a scathing attack against McAllister for supporting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. In its report on the McAllister video, The Ouachita Citizen claims to have received the video from an “anonymous” source, but somehow, inexplicably, they were able to verify the video’s provenance. The Ouachita Citizen, in my opinion, bordered on recklessness in their reporting, publishing Mrs. Peacock’s home address and implying, without any evidence whatsoever, that she may have never actually married her own husband. It seemed, to me, nasty and personal, motivated by more than a mere desire to inform the public.
So, the fun part started yesterday when the head of the Louisiana Republican Party and then Jindal got all in a righteous huff about the kiss. They called for his resignation because you know!!! Religious right wing indignation and all that! Funny thing is that both these asses were not so outraged when Diaper Dave Vitter was found on the list of the DC Madam and his diaper escapades went viral on the internet. So, blogger, journalism professor, and political junkie Bob Mann can’t help but wonder if Vitter’s wet dreams of being governor aren’t going to wind up in the diaper pail? I’ll see your kiss and raise you a felony soliciting prostitutes. You know, the same kinda thing that forced a New York Governor to resign. But, not David Vitter, he’s pathetic entitled lily white ass just keeps on going and going and going …
Vitter, as you will recall, was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal in the summer of 2007, finally admitting to a “serious sin,” which everyone knew meant he had paid prostitutes for sex.
As Louisiana Republican Party leaders from Gov. Bobby Jindal to the Louisiana Republican Party called for McAllister’s resignation, a logical question for many journalists and other observers was: “If simply kissing a female staffer is a moral outrage that should cost someone his seat in Congress, why is it a lesser offense for a U.S. senator to pay prostitutes for sex?”
It’s a very good question and one which neither Jindal nor party officials addressed today after condemning McAllister. Vitter, of course, refused comment, too.
I’ll save for another day a full review of the rank hypocrisy of Jindal and GOP leaders who think it’s just dandy for the morally challenged Vitter to continue serving in the United States Senate, but find themselves absolutely repulsed by the idea of McAllister’s on-camera lip lock.
That’s like forgiving a bank robber, and then throwing the book at someone who writes a bad check.
Regardless, the uncomfortable questions keep coming from reporters, from the Twitter-sphere and elsewhere. Sure, the questions will eventually go away once McAllister himself has gone away.
Yet, that almost every political observer in Louisiana – upon hearing about Jindal’s call for McAllister’s resignation – immediately thought of Vitter’s prostitution scandal should tell Vitter and his Republican allies something.
Vitter may have assumed his sordid past was behind him. It isn’t – and this time next year it may be front and center in the Louisiana governor’s race.
So what is Jindal all uptight about? He doesn’t say ONE word about Vitter but wow, the kissing congressman should resign because he’s an “embarassment”. Rank hypocrisy stinks enough, but there are those of us that really think he’s known about this tape for some time, is dropping it to get rid of a problem, and that some one close to him got that tape.
“Congressman McAllister’s behavior is an embarrassment and he should resign,” Jindal said in a statement. “He says he wants privacy to work on his issues with his family. The best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): “It is far too early for me to be making an endorsement.”
“I appreciate his working with us on an issue that I think is one of the most important issues in the state of Louisiana.” — regarding Jindal’s 2012 education overhaul.
“I also appreciate his steadfast opposition to Obamacare, to the ACA.”
Yeah. Like I don’t smell that unique mix of Curry and Watergate salad coming from the Capitol City. Bobby and Diaper Dave may hate each other, but Jindal does not want any one messing with his foray into health policy wonkery. I really really want the FBI to go for it, believe me. Just in case you want to see the response to the Vitter thing by Jindal. Well, here it is.
While we are disappointed by Senator Vitter’s actions, Supriya and I continue to keep David and his family in our prayers. This is a matter for the Senator to address, and it is our hope that this is not used by others for their own political gain.
Other uber embarrassing things are just adding to my desire to see New Orleans ask France to negotiate a retake. This one tops my list. Please, please, please can some one read these idiots the first amendment with emphasis on the establishment clause?
Legislation that would make the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana cleared the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs with a vote of 8-5 Thursday afternoon. It will now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, originally filed a bill to declare a specific copy of the Bible, found in the Louisiana State Museum system, the official state book. But by the time he presented the proposal to the committee, he changed language in his legislation to make the generic King James version of the Bible, a text used worldwide, the official state book.
Still, Legislators became concerned that the proposal wasn’t broad enough and did not reflect the breadth of Bibles used by religious communities. In particular, some lawmakers worried that singling out the King James version of the Bible would not properly reflect the culture of Louisiana. The Catholic Church, for example, does not use the King James text.
“Let’s make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James version,” said Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro.
A few committee members fought the bill vehemently, saying the legislation was likely to upset some citizens who are not Christian and open the state up to legal challenges.
“I am so bothered by this bill that I just called my pastor. My pastor just said that he thinks we are going to have a legal problem,” said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who voted against the legislation.
Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, tried to amend the bill to declare “all books of faith” the official state books of Louisiana, but the proposal failed 5-8. When asked if he would be open to making “all books of faith” a group of official state books, Carmody was fairly adamant in his opposition.
Well not even New Orleans is exempt from the usual asshattery. After being found guilty of basically emptying the city’s accounts for personal trips, home improvements, clothes, family vacations, and all kinds of meals and stuff, we now have a plea for a legal defense fund for Ray Nagin. Yeah, try not to trip all over yourselves helping him get more money from others.
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s legal defense fund is real, and it has at least one donation.
After rapper 9th Ward Gucci (@IAM9THWARD) tweeted a pic of a digital receipt acknowledging his donation, Nagin (@RayNagin) retweeted the shot, appended with a shout out. “Maximum respect. Donated, spoke out, not intimidated. U the man!”
Try not to spend that $10 all in one place Ray Ray!
I did want to point to a story about one recent story about a crime here in uptown near the Tulane Campus. This crime is really strange for a variety of reasons. Not the least is the name given to the victim by the perp.
She first encountered the man, who introduced himself as “Patrick,” on April 1. She was visiting the Carrollton home of a friend, and saw the man staring at her from behind cars parked in the driveway next door.
“He was this huge, beefed-up young guy,” she said, “and the neighbors are middle-aged. My friends and I are all in our 30s. This guy just didn’t fit in.”
She remembers him saying, “Hi, I’m Patrick.” Uninterested in engaging with him, she didn’t respond and he walked away toward Carrollton Avenue.
The next day, she returned to the Green Street home. She started getting out materials to finish painting the trim on her friend’s front porch. It was still daylight. She thinks it was 5:30 or 6 p.m.
Suddenly, there was “Patrick” again.
This time he approached within eight to 10 feet and began pestering her with questions, small talk, and overtures to go out. He even raised his tight-fitting T-shirt, trying to impress her with his hairless, hardened abs.
“I’m sure I rolled my eyes and probably snorted or something,” she said. “I can be pretty icy, but he just kept on. I was getting kind of pissy, because I came here to paint a house, not listen to some college boy chat me up. I’m old enough to be this guy’s mom, practically.
“He said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry if I offended you. Let me introduce myself.’ And I’m 90 percent sure he said his last name was Bateman.”
Patrick Bateman, she later learned, is the name of the fictional rapist, sadist and serial killer who narrates Bret Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho,” made into a 2000 film starring Christian Bale.
Tired of his advances, she packed up her paints and brushes and went back inside her friend’s house and locked the door behind her. She was alone.
The man in the front yard walked away, she recalled.
So a few minutes later, she went to the restroom, closed the door, and drew a bath. As she finished bathing, she heard the stereo turned on and assumed her homeowner friend was home early from work.
“But it was really loud, and it was NPR,” she said. “Like, who blasts NPR?”
The woman dried off and got dressed in a shirt, blue jeans and socks. Her boots, and a canvas bag with her cell phone, were left behind as she came out of the bathroom. She called out to her friend, then to her friend’s husband, momentarily forgetting he was out of town on business.
She came down the hall to find “Patrick,” staring at her impassively. A black rope was in his left hand.
“He looked so much bigger inside the house than he did outside,” she recalled. “This dude was massive.”
The woman — 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 130 pounds — says she has taken Krav Maga self-defense classes and is physically fit from a job requiring manual labor. “But this guy was probably 6-1 or 6-2, and he probably outweighed me by 100 pounds,” she said. “All that self-defense stuff just doesn’t work when somebody is that much bigger than you.
“It was like fighting a tree.”
It seems women and children are never safe.
Some times a kiss is not just a kiss.
Here are some other headlines that you may want to check out:
Well, that’s it from me. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’d like to suggest Brown University call the Governor of Louisiana up to yank his degree in science. He obviously learned nothing. I’d also like NBC to explain why it felt interviewing a governor for an education feature that has the most anti-education agenda that’s ever come down the pipe in any state. How many governors of states do you know have defunded higher education in their state by over 40% and bragged about draining state education funds to schools that teach that dinosaurs roamed the garden of Eden and the Loch Ness Monster is real? Because, well, that’s Governor Bobby Jindal’s education plan. However, we all know that he’s just trolling for right wing votes and funding for his upcoming presidential run. Yes, good education for children is all about public funding of christofascist madrassas, NBC! Way to give air time to the crazy!
Jindal also said he has no problem with creationism being taught in public schools as long as a local school board OK’s it. Since the state is committed to national academic standards, he said, as long as schools are teaching evolution they should be allowed to teach other theories as well. “What are we scared of?” he said. “Let (students) debate and learn … give them critical thinking skills.”
Once again this year, anti-creationism activists led by college student Zack Kopplin and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, are trying to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act that permits science teachers to use “supplemental materials” in the classroom.
Also voicing support for vouchers earlier in the afternoon was state Education Superintendent John White, who tried to depoliticize the issue. When he was a child, he said, the kindergarten in his neighborhood was lousy, so his parents voted with their pocketbook and sent him to private school. He said he has trouble, “on a moral basis, explaining why I shouldn’t extend that right to a person whose wallet” isn’t as full as his parents’ was.
White also promoted his plans to unify the state’s disparate early childhood programs and improve career and technical education in high schools. For students who don’t want a four-year traditional college education, “What is their viable path to the American middle class?” he asked, pointing out that many jobs in Louisiana require advanced training but not a college diploma.
On the whole, White expressed optimism about the direction New Orleans schools are going, saying, “I think this is a Silicon Valley of public education in America.”
Oh, be sure to take John White’s word for it. Afterall, he’s a professional liar with the thinnest education resume ever but he’s Jindal’s pointman on trolling for evangelical support with dubious educational policies and figures that never stand up to fact checks. Jindal’s antics are beginning to be outed in blogs and media every where. It just seems NBC didn’t have enough researchers on staff to get the notice and Hoda Kotb is spending way too much time with wine and what’s her name up there in NYC.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is on the defensive; his far right social agenda has been soundly rejected by voters, and his popularity has imploded as the public understands exactly what Jindal has been trying to pull. And yesterday he gave an interview that made it even clearer: despite his talk about “moderation,” Bobby Jindal is just as much of a religious fanatic reactionary as any other Republican: Jindal Defends School Vouchers in NBC Interview.
I believe this is the first time Jindal has come right out and said he’s in favor of teaching creationism in public schools, although it’s been obvious from his political agenda. This is the GOP “reformer” — just another anti-science caveman.
In a way I’m glad to see him finally dropping all the pretense and openly admitting what his voucher program is intended to do: put right wing religious mythology on an equal footing with modern science, and instill government-sanctioned ignorance in the children of Louisiana. It’s nauseating, but at least it’s now out in the open.
You know this is totally anecdotal, but I’ve taught undergrad and grad classes in Louisiana in several universities. I just don’t see any difference between kids coming out of the public schools and kids coming out of the private schools that stay here and attend local universities. I think the folks down here are pretty deluded about the outcomes they think their kids are getting from private schools. The public school where I come would kick the ass of the best private schools down here in no time flat but then, high property taxes there have always supported the schools. Granted, the talented kids from both sets of schools here leave the state and go elsewhere pretty quickly.
The thing that drives private school attendance seems to be folks looking to stay within a very narrow social group, racial group, religious group or whatever. The performance of the private charter schools down here are as varied as the public schools down here. Same with the religious ones. The one thing I will say thing New Orleans Public School now guarantee is a ‘creationist’ free zone. That alone means some sanity you won’t find other places. Just a reminder, here’s a link to MOJO and 14 completely whacky things that kids learn down here in schools that are now getting our precious state dollars.
“Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years.”—Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007
1. He permits Louisiana schools to teach creationism. Thanks to Jindal’s educational voucher system in Louisiana, students will be attending private or parochial schools on the taxpayer’s dime. But those schools don’t necessarily meet the standards of the state’s public schools, and may teach students creationism instead of standard science curricula.
2. He allows state employees to be fired for being gay. During his first few months as governor, Jindal decided not to renew an anti-discrimination executive order protecting LGBT employees who work for the state. Jindal has also said that same sex marriage opens up a path for courts to overturn the Second Amendment.
3. He has signed bills to intimidate women seeking abortions. Jindal compared women who have gotten abortions to criminals. But that unpalatable sentiment also came with a policy change — he signed a bill that requires all abortion clinics to post intimidating messages in their waiting rooms, and establishes a website that points women to crisis pregnancy centers instead of abortion-providing facilities. Jindal also signed a measure creating a 24-hour waiting period between a woman’s mandatory ultrasound and the date of her abortion.
4. He seeks to dramatically cut taxes for the wealthy, increase taxes for everyone else. Jindal’s latest tax proposal would raise taxes for 80 percent of Louisianians. The poorest 20 percent — with an average income of $12,000 — would face substantial tax increases, while those in the top one percent would on average get a tax cut of $25,423.
5. He refuses to provide health care for Louisiana’s poorest. Louisiana has the third highest uninsured rate in the country. Twenty percent of residents lack insurance of any kind. But as one of the governors vehemently opposed to Obamacare, Jindal turned down the Medicaid expansion offered under the law, ignoring the fact that it would drastically lower the numbers of uninsured and ultimately save the state money on emergency care.
Yup, NBC. That is certainly the type of guy you want to interview on the value of a good education. Way to go!!!
Ah, the sweet sounds of media all over the country writing obituaries for Bobby Jindal’s political career. It’s hard not to gloat from my little corner of the state that finally wised up. He’s just been called the “R” word. That would be Romney.
Monday’s article on the nation’s least popular governors did not include Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, because he is not up for re-election in 2014. (Louisiana’s next gubernatorial election will be in 2015, and Mr. Jindal will not be eligible, having served two consecutive terms.) But recent surveys suggest that Mr. Jindal has become very unpopular in his home state amid a series of battles on fiscal policy. A March poll from Southern Media & Opinion Research put Mr. Jindal’s approval rating at just 38 percent, against 60 percent disapproval. His numbers had been similarly poor in a February survey by Public Policy Polling.
Some national political commentators are treating the news as being self-evidently injurious to Mr. Jindal’s chances of capturing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Obviously, Mr. Jindal has plenty of time to turn around his image in Louisiana. But if he doesn’t, would Republicans really consider nominating someone who is so deeply unpopular among his own constituents?
Actually, you don’t have to go back very far to find a precedent for when Republicans did exactly that. Their nominee last year, Mitt Romney, was very unpopular among Massachusetts voters by the time he finished his single term as governor in 2006.
Can you hear the sound of the funeral pipes playin’ over Bayou Corne? Maybe it’s just the bat phone in Baton Rouge ringing so that Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers can call the Governor on his retreat from their pet ALEC policies. Excuse me whilst I enjoy my champagne.
In a short address Monday on the first day of the legislative session, Gov. Bobby Jindal described why his next big plan — a plan that had been applauded by conservative pundits nationally, pitched at meetings around the state and promoted in slickly produced commercials — was crucial to Louisiana’s success.
Then he announced he was shelving it.
“Governor, you’re moving too fast, and we aren’t sure that your plan is the best way to do it,” Mr. Jindal said, describing what he had heard from legislators and citizens alike.
“Here is my response,” he said. “O.K., I hear you.”
The plan, to get rid of the state income and corporate taxes and replace the lost revenue with higher and broader sales taxes, was not dropped altogether. Mr. Jindal emphasized that he was still committed to losing the income tax, but that he would defer to the Legislature to suggest how exactly to make that work.
But it was a rare admission of defeat for Mr. Jindal, 41, a constant Republican in the mix for 2016 and rising conservative luminary since his early 20s. And it was only the latest in a season of setbacks.
In the fall, Mr. Jindal was tapped to lead the Republican Governors Association and after the 2012 election appeared often on national op-ed pages and at Washington forums, diagnosing the party’s ills and earning a reputation as a politician who could deliver straight talk.
Back home in Louisiana his troubles were piling up. Unfavorable polls, once discounted as the byproduct of an ambitious agenda, were only getting worse — recently much worse.
The governor’s statewide school voucher program, a pillar of his education reform package, was blocked by a trial court judge on constitutional grounds.
Judges have since also blocked his revamp of teacher tenure rules and a change of the state retirement system (the administration has appealed the rulings and is pushing for legislative action should they stand).
Then at the end of March, Mr. Jindal’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, announced his resignation amid reports of a federal grand jury investigation into the awarding of a $185 million state contract. Mr. Greenstein had also been the point man for one of the administration’s most complex, consequential and potentially risky projects: the accelerated transfer of the state’s safety-net hospital system to a system of public-private partnerships.
All along, opposition to the tax swap was growing broader and more bipartisan by the day. Clergy members urged the governor to drop the plan, saying it could hurt the poor, while the state’s most prominent chamber of commerce group came out against the plan for its potential impact on businesses.
Yes, there will be no obvious robbing from the middle class poor in the land of the Kingfish this year! Can we just use TPM’s words and say POLITICAL COLLAPSE!
Sure the GOP may need a little outreach here and a little fine tuning there, but Republicans in Washington say they’re confident that a principled message of low taxes and cuts to social services will eventually propel them back to victory. They may want to take a look at Louisiana first.
Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA), considered a leading presidential contender in 2016, is suffering a political meltdown in his home state. His approval rating plummeted to 38 percent in a poll last week by the non-partisan Southern Media Opinion & Research, down from 60 percent just a year ago. In an ominous sign for national Republicans, the immediate cause is a sweeping economic agenda with strong parallels to the House GOP’s latest budget.
On Monday, Jindal scrapped his own proposal to eliminate the state’s income and corporate taxes and replace them with a statewide tax on sales and business services. His retreat was a concession to the reality that the proposal was headed towards a humiliating defeat — and taking Jindal down with it along the way. Jindal said in a speech to lawmakers that the backlash against his plan “certainly wasn’t the reaction I was hoping to hear,” but that he would respect the public’s wishes and start again.
Jindal’s proposal was different than tax plans by national Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in that it planned to eliminate income and corporate taxes entirely instead of just lower rates, but the provisions that inflamed the public against it overlap plenty with national GOP proposals. Namely, both plans generated complaints from economists that they would require regressive tax increases on the poor and middle class to pay for lower taxes for the wealthy.
Grover Norquist, the intellectual leader of the anti-tax crowd in Washington, had praised Jindal’s plan as “the boldest, most pro-growth state tax reform in U.S. history.” He noted that it was particularly significant, because with Obama positioned to veto anything resembling the House GOP’s budget for the next several years, Louisiana might be Republicans’ best chance to show off their tax ideas on the state level.
“The national media and Acela-corridor crowd continue to focus on the bickering Washington, but they can learn what real tax reform looks like by looking to Louisiana,” Norquist said.
It didn’t turn out that way. Only 27 percent of Louisiana voters supported the plan in the latest SMOR poll versus a whopping 63 percent opposed. The idea didn’t even garner majority support among Republicans.
I guess we’re not as dumb as they think we look. However, I think Jindal is not as smart as they think he is either …