Monday Reads: Lousyana Extra

DSCN0462Good Morning!

I got a lot of things that I didn’t bargain for when I moved South.  I’ve been here long enough that you must know that I am a New Orleanian.  I usually have dreams about not being able to get back to New Orleans when I am anywhere else; and they are usually high anxiety dreams.  It’s like I am Dorothy just trying to find her way home.

I want to share some state news with you because the Jindal administration makes every thing about my state seem so damned backward these days.  I know many of you think that these kinds of things can’t come to a state near you because the south is–well–so damned backwards. I am not so sure that a lot of this kind of nonsense isn’t going to sneak into places that might surprise you, so I am going to give you a little feel of the news down here that should make you very afraid of how parts of this country can completely toss modernity and the constitution aside to creep back in time.   Take North Carolina or Florida or Ohio or a number of states.  We’re living in a time where powers that be want to reassert their right to throw away any one that doesn’t fit their agenda. 

This story is from right up the street from me.  It is about the urban neighborhood between my Bywater and the French Quarter. We are in the process of gentrification. There are a lot of tensions that go with that.  Now, it seems we have our own version of the Zimmerman case and a test of “Stand your Ground” laws.  Are you in imminent danger when you’re like 30 feet away from an unarmed teenager? Is a minor break in really worth taking a life for?

Louisiana has its own version of the “stand your ground” law that got so much attention last year after neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Florida town.

The state’s law also embraces the “castle doctrine,” a centuries-old legal principle that grants people the right to legally protect their property — homes, cars, businesses — from intruders.

But some lawyers and legal experts said neither of those provisions seem to fit in the case of 33-year-old Merritt Landry, who was booked last week on an attempted murder count in the shooting of 14-year-old Marshall Coulter in his front yard.

If Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office decides to charge Landry, the case boils down to a simple argument over self-defense: Whether Landry could reasonably have felt himself in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm when he fired at Coulter, lawyers said.

Coulter reportedly jumped a gate into Landry’s Faubourg Marigny yard in the early morning hours of July 26. Landry, an inspector with the Historic District Landmarks Commission, told police he approached the boy “from his front yard, near his vehicle. As he grew closer, the victim made a thwarted move, as if to reach for something. At that time, Landry fired one shot, striking the victim.”

A witness, unnamed in the brief police account, gave a conflicting account, though the report doesn’t describe the difference.

Just what “thwarted move” means, or what Coulter did, is unclear. But the report says police found a single, spent shell casing some 30 feet from the boy’s blood — about the span from Landry’s back door to the gate.

That distance suggests Landry wasn’t in a “stand your ground” situation, and it may complicate his case for self-defense, local defense attorney Craig Mordock said.

“This is far worse than Zimmerman for the defendant. If Zimmerman had these facts, I think he would have been convicted,” Mordock said. “If you’re 30 feet away, are you under a threat of imminent harm? Remember, Trayvon Martin is on top of Zimmerman.”

According to police, Coulter was not armed.

DSCN0471 We’ve also made news at Politico and I’m not really proud of how we are “reinventing high school with private sector help.”  Here is yet one more way to filter funds to republican donors at the expense of public schools and of children.  Also, notice that we’re not the only state trying to do this.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime.

State Superintendent John White said Monday that nearly 3,000 students have enrolled in an array of private-sector classes that the state has agreed to pay for, from math and literature to Japanese and German to hair styling, welding and nail manicuring. The classes, which carry regular high school credits, are taught by an eclectic mix of nonprofits, unions, trade associations and for-profit companies, as well as local colleges.

White said he had only budgeted $2 million for the program but would find another $1 million to cover demand, perhaps by leaving some open jobs in the state education department unfilled. And he plans to expand the program substantially next year. White said he is particularly interested in adding more vocational classes, though an analysis of enrollments that the state provided to POLITICO shows one of the most popular offerings is ACT Prep.

Louisiana’s Course Choice program represents a first foray into a new approach to public education as an “a la carte” offering. States including Utah, Idaho and Florida let public-school students take some classes online from approved providers.

But Louisiana aims to go further still, allowing students of all income levels to customize their course lists using taxpayer dollars to pay a broad range of public and private providers for classes they can’t get — or don’t believe are well taught — in their neighborhood schools.

It’s hard for me to watch our state move backwards to a plantation system of economy while having these steps touted as progress by the media and right wing politicians.  Jindal continues to be our absentee governor as he moves around the country stumping with his unusual gift for bad speeches and confused rhetoric.  He was in Iowa recently and now he’s gone to Virginia to dis Terry McAuliffe.

Republican Governors Association Chairman Bobby Jindal called on Democrats on Sunday to drop Terry McAuliffe as their nominee for governor of Virginia.

The governor of Louisiana seized on a report that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating GreenTech Automotive, the electric car company McAuliffe co-founded, over its conduct in soliciting foreign investors.

This is laughable given the hot water Jindal is in here at home.   Jindal’s in trouble on many fronts.  First there is the number and types of donors to his wife’s ‘charity’.

  • After Jindal’s administration signed off on Marathon Oil’s request to increase its oil refinery’s output, the oil giant committed $250,000 to the foundation.
  • AT&T needed Jindal’s signature on a bill giving the company more freedom to sell cable TV services. It committed $250,000 to his wife’s foundation.
  • Northrop Grumman, a military contractor,  forged a deal with the government to build a maintenance facility at a former Air Force base. It has pledged $10,000.
  • Dow Chemical, a petrochemical company, was under investigation for a spill at one of its plants and, in 2009, the state proposed fining the company. Dow has pledged $100,000 to the charity and thus far hasn’t been fined.
  • Alon USA, an Israeli oil company, wanted approval to release more pollutants at one of its refineries. It has pledged $250,000.
  • D&J Construction has won $67.6 million in state contracts since 2009. It has pledged $10,000.
  • Governor Jindal hasn’t “entirely distanced himself” from the charty, notes the Times. He’s pictured with his wife on the charity’s corporate solicitation web page and his chief fund-raiser is the charity’s treasurer, according to its tax returns.

 Then, there is “vouchergate”.

Did Governor Bobby Jindal’s staff and Louisiana’s state education superintendent conspire to suppress a news story that the state had ”not DSCN0463performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications?” It looks like it. From reporter Barbara Leader in the Monroe News-Star:

Emails between Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s spokesman Kyle Plotkin and Jindal’s policy adviser Stafford Palmieri show White devising a scheme to “muddy up a narrative” and to “take some air out of the room” after a news report about the new voucher program that was published before his Senate confirmation hearing in May.

In the email exchange, White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the sate Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.

Read All of   Louisiana’s ( School) Vouchergate Scandal Erupts

Then there is the resignation of the Secretary of Health and Human Services over bid rigging.

Louisiana’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, is resigning amid state and federal inquiries into the awarding of a Medicaid contract to a company where Mr. Greenstein once worked. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration last week canceled the nearly $200 million state contract with CNSI, which is based in Maryland, after details leaked about a federal grand jury subpoena involving the contract award. The governor’s office announced the resignation on Friday but said Mr. Jindal, a Republican, did not seek it. When the Medicaid contract was awarded two years ago, Mr. Greenstein denied any involvement in the selection of the company, but he acknowledged that a change he promoted in the bid solicitation made CNSI eligible for the contract. Mr. Greenstein gave no explanation for quitting in his resignation letter to the governor.

Then, there is this one.

Immediately after the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed an historic lawsuit against over 100 oil and gas companies, Governor Bobby Jindal “demanded” the authority drop the suit. Curiously, though, neither he nor any member of his administration have ever criticized the actual merits of the litigation; instead, Jindal and company seem to be infuriated with the idea that lawyers may make money off of this. “This is nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers,” Jindal said. “It boils down to trial lawyers who see dollar signs in their future and who are taking advantage of people who want to restore Louisiana’s coast. These trial lawyers are taking this action at the expense of our coast and thousands of hardworking Louisianians who help fuel America by working in the energy industry.”

Governor Jindal, in doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry, failed to mention that the only way these “trial lawyers” could make a significant amount of money from this litigation is if they win. And if they win, Louisiana stands to gain billions that would be used for coastal restoration. If they lose the case, they make nothing. And if, for some political reason, the lawyers, whose contract was unanimously approved by the authority, are forced to abandon the lawsuit, they can only be compensated for the work they’ve already done. It’s a standard contingency fee agreement. Governor Jindal’s contemptuous comments about “trial lawyers” not only reflect a cynical politicization of the most critical issue in Louisiana, they also promote an insidious and ignorant disdain for the rule of law, the legal profession, and the judicial process.

It is easy to try to write this off as just another Louisiana example of corrupt politics or just another example of a backward Southern state. But, remember, this man is running for president as a main stream republican candidate and on the grounds that he is modernizing and bringing a new environment of openness in government.  This is hardly the case.  All of these Republican governors need to be watched very carefully.  I feel like our state is just one big Tea Pot Dome Scandal eruption every few months.

Here are some other headlines you may want to watch:

The State Department has extended its reaction to Terror threats in key MENA regions.

The State Department announced late Sunday it would extend the closures of 19 foreign embassies across the Middle East and Northern Africa through next Saturday, as the terror threat across the region remained high through the final days of Ramadan.

 Rick Santorum is likely running for president again so get prepared for a barrage of religious hatred towards every one.

Santorum is heading to Iowa for three days next week, where he’ll attend a GOP fundraiser, a state fair and a leadership summit — a schedule that’s prompted speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for another presidential campaign. In 2012, he made stops in each of Iowa’s counties, ultimately winning the state by a slim margin.

Obama and the Republicans are likely to come to blows even as the deficit closes.   Raise the deficit ceiling?  Fiscal Cliff?  Shut down the Government?  Here we go again!

Obama is insisting Congress raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached, while a group of Republicans say they are willing to stop paying the government’s bills unless the president’s signature health care law is defunded.

“Both sides are more dug in than in the past,” said Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden who is senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a fiscal research group.

Lawmakers return from a five-week break on Sept. 9, just three weeks before government funding runs out. For the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky favors a one- or two-month extension of current yearly spending levels, which are $988 billion, said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman.

If Congress concurs, that would push the broader fiscal fight into November, when the U.S. is expected to reach its $16.7 trillion debt limit.

smaller government

So, thanks for letting me let off steam over my freaking incompetent and corrupt governor. Pictures of the Bywater Riviera–that is the  west bank of the Industrial canal two blocks behind my house most famously known for overtaking the Lower 9 after Katrina–are courtesy of Youngest Daughter. Those of you that have ever talked to me on the phone know the sound of the New Orleans Beltway Rail Road really well too. You gotta cross it to get to the Bywater Beach.

So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?