Showing posts with label Louisiana Legislature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisiana Legislature. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

We're off on the Road to Caracas

This is frickin' Haiti. If only someone had thrown a chair -- maybe shot a hole in the ceiling -- for the full effect.

Where this all is heading is frickin' Venezuela, which as I type is completely emptying out because it, like Louisiana, is completely incapable of self-governance. It's amazing all the existential, quite-fatal flaws $100-a-barrel oil can cover up.

Until it's $50-a-barrel oil.

IF I WERE Gov. John Bel Edwards, I'd make sure Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) discovered -- by Wednesday morning, at the latest -- that state health inspectors had documented severe rat-and-cockroach infestations at every single one of his convenience stores up there in Bumf*ckistan. Out of an abundance of caution, Harris' nasty, filthy stores then would have to be shut down.

In the name of public safety. And good government.

Especially good government.

When you're gub'na of a banana republic, you damn well better act like you're the top banana.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Louisiana swamp gas . . . or weapons of ass destruction

The Louisiana Legislature's latest round of budget negotiations has prompted the return of what is becoming an annual tug-of-war match between funding TOPS and funding state health care services.

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday advanced its version of a $27 billion state budget to begin July 1 featuring full funding for the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships and deep cuts to safety-net hospitals and other programs that serve the poor and disabled.

"This is a process," House Appropriations Vice Chair Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, said during the committee's hearing on House Bill 1. "There are other steps we'll be going through."

HB1 is scheduled to hit the House floor on Thursday, where it is certain to generate additional debate over where the brunt of nearly $650 million in cuts should land. Lawmakers haven't ruled out the idea of holding yet another special session to try to close all or part of the remaining "fiscal cliff" the state faces when temporary tax measures expire June 30, but they can't take up most revenue-raising measures during the regular session and current budgeting process. . . . 
"In rushing to pass amendments out, the House Appropriations Committee proved what we’ve been saying all along – there simply isn’t a way to fashion a budget that adequately funds our state’s pressing needs," Edwards said in a statement. "TOPS is absolutely a priority and should be fully funded, but so should higher education institutions, health care for our seniors and those with disabilities, funding for medical schools in Shreveport and New Orleans, and our partner hospitals. Now we can see that it’s not possible to do that without replacing more of the revenue that is expiring."

The move to prioritize funding for TOPS, which is wildly popular among middle class and more affluent families, mirrors recent actions from the Appropriations Committee, which gets the first bite at the state budget under state law.

Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, said he worried about the ripple effect cuts to the state's safety-net hospital partners would have. Several of those operators have already said they will walk away from the agreements, threatening the shuttering of hospitals across the state, if their funding is drastically reduced to the levels that have been proposed.

"We have health care providers in the state of Louisiana making tough decisions," Carter said. "I'm a big believer in both education and health care, but I certainly don't want to risk closing any hospital."

Several Democrats also questioned the plan to fund TOPS while cutting general funding for college and university campuses.

It didn't take jetliners flying into New York skyscrapers.

It certainly didn't take any declaration of war.

All it took was Bashar al-Assad dropping a chlorine (and perhaps sarin) gas bomb onto a Damascus neighborhood and killing 40-odd people in the latest outrageous act of Syria's long and bloody civil war. For that, the combined forces of the United States, France and Great Britain launched 100-something missiles into a country with which we weren't at war, at least not legally.

What, then, shall we do with Louisiana?

I doubt it could be argued that Louisiana politicians have not killed -- and will not kill -- any fewer than a Syrian gas attack every few weeks, if not days, by starving every social safety-net program on the books, all because their constituents have no more interest than Cain in being their brother's keeper. As we know from Genesis, Cain had no interest in being Abel's keeper because he had already killed him.

Artistic tradition pictures the jealous Cain slaying with the jawbone of an ass, as Samson later in scripture did away with the Philistines. In Louisiana, it's asses jawboning who mow down the poor, the disabled and the sick with their votes and their callous neglect. If the House committee's will becomes budgetary law, what little cash the state has on hand will fully fund a popular welfare program that overwhelmingly benefits the adult children of middle-class white people.

The poor and the ill, then, will be left to be their own damned keeper. Should be interesting to see how well Grandma shifts for herself when she's wheeled to the curb after the Medicaid money stops but her nursing-home tab doesn't.

The white children of white parents with ample green will have their tuition to crumbling state universities (which aren't being funded) paid in full with taxpayers' dollars.  The state Department of Health would be starved to the point where virtually every public-private "safety net" hospital closes its doors.

Meantime, medical education virtually would end in Louisiana.
“So of $346-million available, you want to spend $246-million of it for this, leaving $100-million for everything else?” [Rep. Walt] Leger [D-New Orleans] asked. “You believe $246-million is best spent in these ways?”
“I do,” [Rep. Franklin] Foil [R-Baton Rouge] replied. “We had a lot of ground to make up, since the executive budget had zero dollars spent on TOPS.”

“Isn’t this message giving students false hope, because the full body isn’t likely to maintain this in lieu of funding other programs?” Leger pressed. “You’re okay getting a positive news story today, even if it ultimately will prove to be fake news?”

“My commitment is to students,” Foil answered.

“What about the Department of Health?” Leger asked.

“What about it?” Foil fired back.

“You’re aware that department is taking biggest cuts? And you still believe it is more valuable to fund TOPS?” Leger asked, incredulously.
“Your district includes a substantial constituency that is on Medicaid, doesn’t it, Rep. Foil?” Rep. Pat Smith [D-Baton Rouge] asked. “But you’re willing to fully fund TOPS to benefit a different socio-economic group in your district, instead?”

“I think this helps everyone, in every district,” Foil replied. “We are clearly short on revenue, and even if we were to take all of the money available and give it to the Department of Health, they would still have a shortfall.”
“Yet your amendment fully funds TOPS to the detriment of all the other programs in the state: disabilities waivers, nursing homes, public-private partner hospitals, graduate medical education,” Leger said. “It’s a trap, forcing us Democrats to say we either support TOPS or we don’t. That’s a false choice, and it will really end up being nothing more than a comment about what we would like to do.”

“We are already on notice that the public-private partner hospitals will be closing,” Rep. Gary Carter (D-New Orleans) chimed in. “We say ‘we fund our priorities.’ Your amendment makes TOPS a greater priority than health care.”

“I believe we will find funding as we go through this process,” Foil insisted.

“That’s pie in the sky,” Pat Smith told him, bluntly. “You’re perfectly aware there is no guarantee to raise additional revenue. Some 20 members of this body won’t vote for any new revenue under any circumstances. What this ends up saying is that we only want to fund a program for kids doing well in school, but not the schools they go to, and not the hospitals.”
BREAKING NEWS . . . Louisiana to poor, sick and higher ed: Drop dead.

Breaking news? That's old news. It's also today's news, tomorrow's news, next year's news and your grandkids' news.

In this era of concussive enforcement of the Geneva Conventions and international human-rights charters, here's the news I eagerly await:

As a proportional and just response to unacceptable violations of civilized norms, I await news that sea- and air-launched cruise missiles from the combined armed forces of the United States and sundry NATO allies have sent a message to America's own pariah state. And that the Louisiana Capitol Complex now looks a lot like some of the sadder parts of north Baton Rouge.

Right is right, after all, and rogue regimes must be put on notice that certain red lines must not be crossed. Even in the reddest of states.

We're all in agreement on that, am I right? Am I right?


Thursday, March 22, 2018

A canary in the @#$&*! coal mine doth protest too much

Well, this was extraordinary . . . even for Louisiana.

You might think that was a wild overreaction by Sen. Conrad Appel, but you have to remember he's a Republican who represents Metairie, and that's what one has to do to hold on to one's job in David Dukeland.

People think Donald Trump is America's national disease. He is not.

What Trump is, is a particularly devastating symptom of an even more devastating disease (as evidenced by this display from our national canary in the coal mine, Louisiana).

Buckle up, America. The fun is just beginning.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Tempting the whirlwind in Jesusland?

Good, white, Jesus-lovin' people in Louisiana -- which clearly loves dead Confederates much more than live children and poor people -- are quick to tell you this is a Christian nation.

They'll tell you how the gays and the liberals and the politically correct are ruining this nation. They'd be quick to tell you how nothing's more important than family.

And then they'll go out and vote for the scoundrels who -- when they're not picking their pockets after yelling "Look! Welfare Cadillac! Baby mama with an EBT card! -- will construct budgets that savage the poor and the sick as they deconstruct civil society and the infrastructure of self-government bit by bit by bit. Year after year after year.

Louisiana State Capitol
This, because it's in the Bible (somewhere in the back) that the good, white, Jesus-lovin' people of Louisiana are absolutely entitled to another new pickup truck or another goddamned bass boat, but under no circumstances are obligated to pay one more penny in taxes. No matter what.

Our schools are crumbling. No new taxes.

Our roads are worse. No new taxes.

Our state universities have been savaged by budget cuts, people are laughing at us . . . and you don't want to know what people are wading through in the basement of LSU's library.

Does any of that affect football?
No, not at LSU -- that's self-supporting.

No new taxes.

Our social services and our health-care system have been cut to the bone. Actually, we had to remove a leg and a few fingers as well. If we cut any more, lots of people will die -- especially the disabled.  Blame Obamacare! No new taxes.

THE LATEST chapter of The State That Cut Off Its Nose Because It Already Cut the Budget for Soap and That Smelly Stuff That Goes Under Its Arms is told in the pages of today's edition of The Advocate in Baton Rouge:
The Louisiana House has agreed to a nearly $29 billion spending plan that has full funding for TOPS scholarships in the coming year but doesn't fund the state agencies that oversee health and social services to the levels that leaders say is needed to pay for critical programs.

House Bill 1 now heads to the Senate, where it will likely be changed in the coming weeks as lawmakers work to reach an agreement on the budget that begins July 1.

Huey P. Long's grave, state capitol
During the course of the debate, House Democrats had pushed back on areas that affect health care, prisons and social services, including foster care, but there was little movement.

"It's a transparent attempt to cut the budget deeply and hide those facts by telling the Division of Administration to do the dirty work," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans.

After the Appropriations Committee had advanced its spending plan earlier in the week, leaders in Gov. John Bel Edwards decried the proposal as "draconian," "gruesome" and "a nonstarter."

Edwards, himself, said Thursday after the entire House approved the budget in a mostly party-line 63-40 vote that he was looking forward to working with the Senate to craft a more bipartisan proposal. He said the House Republican-backed measure is "flawed" one that "would send us tumbling backwards."

"We can't move Louisiana forward if we're standing still," Edwards said. "Their budget guts health care, children’s services and veteran services to levels that endanger the health and welfare of the people of Louisiana. When politicians craft policies without the input of the experts in a field, you know you’re getting a bad deal, and that’s how this budget was drafted."
Edwards had originally recommended a budget that boosted the Department of Health by an additional $235 million to fund optional and behavioral programs. Part of that money originally meant for LDH was then shifted to fund the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a scholarship program for Louisiana high schoolers who attend college in state.
TOPS was funded at about 70 percent in the current year's budget.

Edwards, a Democrat, had listed TOPS as his No. 1 priority for funding if the Legislature agreed to tax proposals that would generate more revenue.

Edwards administration has argued that the funding levels offered in the House budget proposal would threaten the state's compliance with federal orders regarding behavioral health services and cut the number of psychiatric beds; eliminate jobs that deal with child welfare; and lead to furloughs for some prison inmates.

"This impacts people's lives," said Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin. "This is life or death."
HOW DOES one describe this budget, this approach to governance in a state whose day job appears to be protecting old statues of dead traitors and slavers, and whose hobby seems to be steamrolling the disabled, the sick and the poor? Many of whom, by the way, happen to be the descendants of those slaves victimized by the memorialized dead traitors.

How's this for a start?

Despicable. Wicked. Depraved. Blasphemous. A budget from the bowels of hell in a state bucking to become hell on earth.

"For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written."

I think that covers it.

Do you remember what various fundamentalists -- notably TV preacher John Hagee -- and others said about Katrina being punishment from God, because New Orleans?

Assume for a moment that's how God rolls -- that He's still in the business of Large-Scale Smiting. Assume also that Jesus, who is God, meant every word He said about "blessed are the poor," "suffer not the little children" and "whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Assume the Lord was making a point central to His plan of salvation -- and the nature of good and evil -- when He related the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

FINALLY, let us assume that the Savior of the World, the Creator of the Universe, wasn't shitting people in Matthew 25:31-46:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Gov. Huey P. Long

FOR THE SAKE of argument, what if we're accountable not only for what we do individually, but also the governments and societies we craft through our individual actions, activism and votes? What if those political entities, states and nations also are subject to divine scrutiny and divine judgment?

Louisianians -- particularly the white, conservative ones -- are fond of telling the world how God-fearing they are. One can assume a great many of them are quite well-pleased with the Republican-imposed budget bill now headed to the Senate. Because taxes, big gummint and leeches sucking at the taxpayers' teat.

How do they square the circle of loving what Jesus clearly hates? How do they so embrace the laundry list of ways to torture the poor, the halt and the sick (while devoting the savings from that to benefiting the rich and middle class) -- quite literally all those things that holy scripture devotes so much space telling us Jesus so hated.

God-fearing? I'm not so sure the South -- Louisiana -- is even Christ-haunted anymore.

And what if the crazy preachers and doomsayers are right about "acts of God" really being acts of God's wrath?

According to that model, New Orleans got drowned and 1,577 Louisianians killed because of gays, trannies and titty bars. What the hell do you think God will do to the Gret Stet because of this? Or, for that matter, this?

Lord, have mercy . . . because my home state surely has none.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Louisiana's grand prix of political obscenity

In a state notoriously indifferent to the needs of its citizens and -- let's face it -- the idea of fundamental civic decency, Louisiana legislators have no problem with the short bus having to go up against Indy cars in the race for tax dollars.

Guess who won.

In the Gret Stet, it's a matter of the survival of the fittest -- and the richest. And state senators aren't shy about putting taxpayer dollars where they're not needed to make sure those who can fend for itself get an even bigger head start on those who cannot. But in a state where one former governor was known as "The Silver Zipper" before he went off to a federal penitentiary and a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard almost became governor, the obscene is nothing to lose sleep over.

The Advocate in Baton Rouge reports on the Senate Finance Committee stripping funds dedicated to aiding the disabled as just another thing during a day in the life of the Louisiana Legislature. Which, unfortunately, it is.
As LSU battled for the SEC Tournament Championship on Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee was at the State Capitol unraveling much of the Louisiana House’s work on the $25 billion state spending plan.

Out went $63 million in cuts to contracts, state government jobs, overtime and technology expenses. Out went reductions to economic development programs. Out went some of the extra money for the disabled community.

Additions included $4.5 million for a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish. Gov. Bobby Jindal had committed to find the money for facility and track improvements.

“We’re taking money away from the disabled community and giving it to motor sports?” state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, asked Sunday night as he thumbed through 47 pages of amendments.

The committee’s chairman, state Sen. Jack Donahue, jumped in when a Senate aide gave Claitor a vague answer about the funding being part of the overall plan.

“The answer to your question, Sen. Claitor, is ‘yes.’ Alright, any other questions?” said Donahue, R-Mandeville.

Claitor was the only committee member who voted against the sweeping amendments. On a vote of 10-1, the committee approved the changes to House Bill 1, the state operating budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

The state budget funds schools, hospitals, prisons and other public expenses. The House had to fill a number of funding gaps. Jindal didn’t include enough money for public schools or the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, also called TOPS.
OF COURSE, the NOLA Motorsports Park is a private facility, owned by a rich doctor whose family runs one of the world's leading builders and operators of offshore-service vessels for the oil and gas industry. If, as a lawmaker, you're going to be shameless, go big or go home.

Sadly, "go away" doesn't seem to be an option here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A confederacy of dunces

Getting between the oil industry's posterior and Louisiana politicians' lips is a tight spot only Rhett Butler could love -- "I've always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost."

Odd that it was a Yankee academic and not Capt. Butler embarking on such a quixotic scheme Monday before a joint meeting of state House and Senate natural-resources committees. Either he was making the kind of profit the fictional Butler did from running guns to the Confederates, or the man just had no idea what he was walking into.

The Oregon economics professor's first mistake, sad to say, was in going to Louisiana in the first place. Nothing good could come of it.

His second mistake was in telling Louisianians --
politicians, no less -- what he took to be the truth, instead of what they wanted to hear.

THE THIRD mistake, as reported by The Advocate in Baton Rouge, was a doozy. He told the legislators that an LSU professor was dead wrong (and guilty of sloppy research) in his report arguing that the state was losing beaucoup revenue and jobs by not throttling lawsuits over environmental damage from old oilfields.
W. Ed Whitelaw, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, said the widely quoted analysis omitted relevant facts, including any mention of two hurricanes.

David Dismukes, an LSU professor who works for the LSU Center for Energy Studies, released an analysis in February that found that during the past eight years, Louisiana missed out on more than 30,000 oil and gas jobs and support positions because of what
are called “legacy lawsuits.”

The lawsuits are over the extent of cleanup of environmental damage caused by oil producers’ drilling practices years ago.

A joint hearing of the Louisiana House and state Senate committees on Natural Resources met Monday to “informally discuss the issues” involving legislation that would change the procedures leading to lawsuits over the environmental damage.

“Legacy lawsuits are strongly and negatively correlated with Louisiana drilling activity,” Dismukes’ report says. “Increases in legacy lawsuits are correlated with reductions in conventional Louisiana oil and gas drilling.”

Whitelaw, founder of ECONorthwest, a Portland, Ore., company that provides financial
analysis for businesses and governments, said Dismukes’ widely quoted analysis has several major flaws.

“Understand that these errors, and there are three or four big ones, any one of which is enough to render his analysis nonsense,” Whitelaw said. “These are rookie errors.”

In the Gret Stet, legislators reserve the right to starve Louisiana universities to death, but they'll be damned if some damn Yankee is gonna come down and tell 'em they're getting what they pay for. Or not getting what they refuse to pay for.

At any rate, ancestral hatred, a raging inferiority complex, a genuine lack of intelligence and good old bayou buffoonery combined for a quite predictable display of pique and posturing. Like I said, I hope Whitelaw's making obscene money for his expert testimony.
In the joint committee hearing, state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, came to Dismukes’ defense, asking former U.S. Rep. Chris John, who now heads the Baton Rouge-based industry group Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, how he felt about Whitelaw’s testimony.

“It always chaps my hide when folks come in here from out of state and degrade our universities and our faculty,” Chabert said.

John agreed, saying the oil and gas industry works closely with LSU, his alma mater.

“It is something that we should consider when a person from the Oregon Ducks would actually sit at this table; we’ve had our issues with the Oregon Ducks,” Johns said.
WHAT (expletive deleted) morons. What clowns.

It says nothing good about Louisiana that it's occurred to no one that so many of the state's political maladies could be solved by no longer reminding its politicians to breathe.

It also says nothing good about the place that it's occurred to so few there that the rest of America isn't laughing
with Louisiana, but instead at Louisiana.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lead us not into temptation. . . .

If you want to stop abortion, mind the company you keep.

If you believe homicide in utero is an abomination, a deadly affront to the rights and dignity of the most powerless and vulnerable members of the human race, don't fall in goose-stepping formation behind a man who sees our society as a tug of war between producers and parasites.

Don't take seriously the "faith-based" entreaties of a popinjay provocateur who once proposed voluntary sterilization of welfare recipients to prevent "a small minority of people working to fund and finance everybody else who isn’t working or producing."

And if you value the dignity of human life, live in Louisiana and come upon a "pro-life" rally with state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, at its head touting his bill to outlaw abortion . . . quickly walk the other way. No,
run the other way.

MEANTIME, even though I'm safely in Nebraska, I really need to stop looking at the hometown rag, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, online:

Supporters of LaBruzzo’s bill moved to a terrace garden outside the House side of the State Capitol. Opponents of his measure, many wearing pink, followed.

LaBruzzo climbed atop a planter with Rebecca Kiessling, a lawyer he identified as the person who handled the rewriting of the legislation, to address the crowd of about 50 people.

“This is going on across the country,” said Kiessling, of suburban Detroit.

She is with Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group pushing anti-abortion legislation on the state level.

Kiessling said the U.S. Supreme Court likely will not soon overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that allows abortions. “Let’s recognize the unborn child as a person in a full legal sense,” she said.

LaBruzzo said he welcomed a predicted challenge in court if the legislation is approved by both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Laura Mullen, of Baton Rouge, was one of several HB587 opponents who took LaBruzzo up on his offer to discuss the issues. When asked about medical implications of banning abortion, LaBruzzo interrupted questioner by saying he was directed by his religious beliefs.

“You’re not discussing it all,” shouted Brett Chance, of Baton Rouge, another opponent.

IF LOUISIANA pro-lifers are "directed" by their religious beliefs, as LaBruzzo claims he is, they have to understand there is a fundamental religious principle they can't escape. One the inheritor of David Duke's House seat can't rewrite like some legislative bill.

It's not complicated, and it goes like this: Satan can't destroy himself. You can't devote your political or philosophical life to evildoing and think you're going to do away with evil. You can't spend your legislative career denying the worth and dignity of "the least of these" -- pushing ill-conceived bill after ill-conceived bill designed to brand some human beings as parasites and deal with them accordingly -- then set your eugenicist self up as some grand defender of human life.

It's like entrusting Satan with the keys to the Kingdom; it would not end well.

Don't believe me, ask Jesus (Mark, Chapter 3):

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," 10 and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house."
IF YOU'RE in Louisiana, and you're pro-life -- or even if you're a national pro-life figure and get a call from some piss-ant bayou pol you've likely never heard of before -- listen to me now. It's important.

John LaBruzzo is the devil. And if you hang out with him, Satan is going to plunder your house.

You have been warned.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Louisiana: The state it's in

If only Louisiana Public Broadcasting had the rights to LSU football.

Or could get past the Federal Communications Commission's whole "indecency" hangup.

Like, if LPB could put Tiger cheerleaders on the air during fund drives, then have them expose their ta-tas in full HD for pledges instead of Mardi Gras beads . . .
well, it just wouldn't matter much what Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to do to the network's state funding.

BUT SINCE the FCC, I don't think, is gonna start allowing American TV stations to do the "full Janet Jackson" anytime soon, fans of educational TV in a place like the Gret Stet might find themselves s*** out of luck. The news in The Advocate isn't good:
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is warning viewers that state budget cuts may force the network to go off the air two days a week.

An alert on LPB’s Web site also warns that layoffs and the elimination of local programming are possible because of more than $2 million in potential state budget reductions.

“It’s not anything we want to do. It’s not our choice,” said Joe Traigle, chairman of the LPB Foundation, on Tuesday.

Without additional funding, the stations airing LPB across the state will fade to black on Fridays and Mondays, he said.

LPB President and CEO Beth Courtney said she plans to plead her case to lawmakers this week during budget meetings at the State Capitol.

She said a pledge drive will not resolve the problem.

“We literally raise every dime we can,” Courtney said.
NO, THE NEWS ain't good a-tall.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Barbara Norton: My ace in the hole

The next time some overly content (yet somehow angry) Louisianian writes to tell me I revel in trashing the Gret Stet and am just a bitter expatriate, I now can invoke the Barbara Norton defense.

Rep. Barbara Norton of Shreveport is the Einstein who invited her godson, the potty-mouthed rapper (Is that too blatantly redundant?) Hurricane Chris, to perform a "clean" version of his hit "Halle Berry (She's Fine)" on the floor of the Louisiana House. And when that didn't go over so well among relatively sane people from sea to shining sea -- Thanks, YouTube! -- the solon defended her boneheaded move by saying, basically, ain't no big thang, 'cause you can't make Louisiana look no worse than it look already.

Uh . . . oh, yes, you can! And Rep. Norton was just the woman to do it -- twice, now.

I BELIEVE Norton's exact quote was: "They been making a joke out of Louisiana and politics for even before I became in the House of Representatives so they're not just now start making a joke out of Louisiana.

"Louisiana has always been a joke."

I rest my defense. One, I'm not a Louisiana legislator and, two, I don't go around telling TV reporters "Louisiana has always been a joke" without at least some elaboration or qualification.

Oh . . . and I usually make at least some sense.

The articulate legislator also introduced House Resolution 134 to "commend Hurricane Chris of Shreveport for his outstanding musical accomplishments and does hereby extend to him best wishes for continued success and happiness in all of his future endeavors."

Because, after all, says the proud godmama, "It's not out there shooting, it's not robbing, it's not killing, it's not selling guns. Let me ask you this right here -- what do you think about the uh, the uh, congressman in Washington who they just said on TV about going out and having a marrited affair?"

Marrited? Uh . . . OK.

Something tells me that, like the rest of us, Halle Berry isn't much amused.

HAT TIP: My Bossier

Monday, June 29, 2009

That sinking feeling

You know the exotic dancer in Independence Day -- the best friend of Will Smith's girlfriend?

Remember how she's convinced the aliens and their gigantic spaceships pose no threat, and how she and a hundred or so other like-minded folk in Los Angeles go up on a high-rise's roof to throw a big party, pass a good time and welcome the little green men?

Remember what happened to them?

Dat's Loosiana for you!

Because that, my friends, is the perfect metaphor for my home state. Anybody with half a brain can see that it's not benevolent forces bearing down on Planet Louisiana, and that somebody better do something quick or everybody's gonna die.

SO WHAT DO Louisiana's leaders do when the state's revenue model has blown up, the exodus of its best and brightest continues with no letup and, now, scientists say the Gulf of Mexico is going to swallow a Connecticut-sized chunk of the state and no one can stop it?


HURRICANE CHRIS -- the rapper, not some future south Louisiana apocalypse -- wants to do unspeakable things with Halle Berry when he's not serenading the Louisiana House. Meanwhile, the death ray is charging up.

Dollars to doughnuts, the Gret Stet has about as much chance against the economy, demographics and rising sea levels as Independence Day's rooftop hoochie mama had against the space aliens.

Let's look at the burgeoning Gulf of Mexico, shall we? From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Even under best-case scenarios for building massive engineering projects to restore Louisiana's dying coastline, the Mississippi River can't possibly feed enough sediment into the marshes to prevent ongoing catastrophic land loss, two Louisiana State University geologists conclude in a scientific paper being published today.

The result: The state will lose another 4,054 to 5,212 square miles of coastline by 2100 -- an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

The reason: The Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers today carry only half the sediment they did a century ago -- between 400 million and 500 million tons a year then, compared with just 205 million tons today. The rest is now captured by more than 40,000 dams and reservoirs that have been built on rivers and streams that flow into the main channels.

Yet even if those dams were to be torn down and the river's full sediment load employed in restoration efforts -- a politically impossible scenario -- it would not be enough to turn back the tide of coastal erosion, write authors Michael Blum, a former LSU geologist now working for ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. in Houston, and LSU geology professor Harry Roberts.

GET THAT? A huge chunk of the state, a chunk where hundreds of thousands of people now live, will be in the drink by the end of the century, if not sooner. And that's according to rising-ocean estimates not nearly as drastic as some.

None of this is any surprise. Scientists have been saying variations of this for years, and the Times-Picayune has been reporting on it all. For a while.

I wonder what wisdom Hurricane Chris -- or Halle Berry, for that matter -- might have for the masses as that economy-sized can of Whoop-Ass looms on the horizon?

Increased rates of sea-level rise spurred by human-induced global warming, when combined with the state's rapid rate of subsidence, or the sinking of soft soils, will inundate vast swaths of wetlands over the next century, according to the study.

The paper predicts water levels will rise between 2.6 feet and 3.9 feet along the coast by 2100.

If the researchers are right, such land loss can't be stopped, or even substantially slowed. That means the cause of "restoration," as efforts to build new wetlands and barrier islands are termed -- creating the impression that wetlands lost over the last 70 years can be reclaimed -- is a lost one.

Roberts said he recognized the paper's conclusions would be controversial.

"Louisiana is facing some really tough decisions here," he said in an interview. "You can't do this restoration all over the coast because the whole coast is not sustainable and it never has been."

AND LOUISIANA'S future "tough decisions" inevitably impact tough budgetary decisions the state faces in the here and now.

How much infrastructure money do you think the state ought to be wasting on places like Morgan City, projected to be in the deep blue sea in a few decades? Do you think Louisiana ought to be supporting a state university -- Nicholls State -- in as precarious a place as Thibodaux is going to be?

And what about New Orleans? Can it be saved? At what cost to the rest of the state?

Will the federal government pay to do it? Or will it cut bait?

Some small communities along the coast already are being abandoned. Many more towns -- and probably a few cities as well -- will be abandoned long before 2100. Where will those people go?

Who will pay for them to go?

DOES HURRICANE CHRIS have any suggestions for what hundreds of thousands of Louisianians might do for a living after the seafood and oil-and-gas industries have been devastated? Any clues about how to find those answers when the state's universities are being hammered by budget cuts that only promise to get worse?

So far, the only answer the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal had for the New Orleans newspaper was that things probably aren't as dire as the geologists' report says.

Garret Graves, an adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal on coastal issues, said that while the study's conclusions seem to him overly pessimistic, the state recognizes it will not be able to restore the state's historic coastline.

"If we can extract 80 percent or greater amounts of sediment from the river and put it in strategic places, we can be more effective in replacing land," he said.

"But we are going to have to prioritize," Graves said. "Will Louisiana look like it did in 1930? No, probably not.

"But is it possible for us to sustain a significant part of the coastal area in light of protected sea level rise and the erosion we're experiencing today?" he said, "Yes."
BECAUSE THE only thing the Gret Stet has to fear . . . is thinking negative thoughts. Surely the worst won't happen, so why think about how to deal with it?

Why try to help yourself, after all, when you can throw a crawfish boil instead? Or maybe stick your fingers in your ears and whistle a few bars of "Dixie."

And that's where we now find the Gret Stet. Atop a metaphorical L.A. (or LA) skyscraper, gazing expectantly at the spacecraft hovering above its head.

Isn't it pretty? Surely the spacemen didn't come all this way to hurt us. They've come in peace! Yeah, that's the ticket! Let's party!

Hey, what the. . . .

Monday, March 30, 2009

OK, fair is fair

I interrupt my permanent fast from fretting about Louisiana for this important announcement.

Der pissen-anten Führer im der Swampen ist atten it again.

State Rep. John LaBruzzo, National Socialist R-Metairie, wants to require all welfare applicants to undergo drug testing and ban anyone with a felony drug conviction from receiving state aid for 10 years.

State law now bans drug felons from obtaining public assistance for one year from the date of conviction. LaBruzzo's bill would expand that to 10 years; however, a drug felon who goes through a drug treatment program approved by the Department of Social Services could become eligible for assistance two years after completing the program.

As for drug testing, current law calls for drug testing of "certain" adult recipients of aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program but leaves it to the state Department of Social Services to determine which recipients will be tested. LaBruzzo's bill would require testing for all adult TANF recipients.

Although less controversial than the sterilization proposal, which drew no public support from any other lawmaker last year, the drug testing and welfare eligibility proposals will face opposition.

"That is a suspicionless, warrantless search," Marjorie Esman, Louisiana director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said of the drug testing proposal. "It's a presumption that someone who needs a little bit of financial assistance has done something wrong."
IN ONE RESPECT, I have little to say about LaBruzzo's proposed legislation apart from "Consider the source." Really, really consider the source.

Consider that folks who had problems with LaBruzzo's eugenic scheme have little problem -- other than the bureaucratic requirements, perhaps -- with der Führer von Metairie pushing something just a little less draconian.

Consider also that most Louisianians probably think making poor people pee in a bottle before getting their welfare check is a fine idea. That cutting off drug felons for a decade is a better idea.

But then consider how these self-same folk might react if Rep. B. Lack Ascoal proposed banning from public assistance for 10 long years anyone convicted of minor in possession or driving under the influence. What about making grandma pass the piss test to collect her Social Security? Or grandpa blow into the Breathalyzer before the doctor submits his bill to Medicare?

Oh, no. They're not those people.

NO, TELL ME. Who are "those people," pray tell?

Well, that's my one reaction. My other reaction is to ask whether we get to apply similar high standards to the state of Louisiana before allowing it to continue suckling at the federal teat.

Think of the money we could save.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Abandon all heauxp

Let me see whether I can put together some news items from today's Louisiana newspapers.

Let's start with the bad-news baseline for the Gret Stet: There is -- at a minimum -- a bad, bad recession in full swing, the price of oil has collapsed, tax revenues surely will be down and the state is looking at a budget shortfall of about $2 billion.

If things don't get any worse.

CONTINUING WITH the baseline of suck, we note that various constitutional strictures ensure most of the budget ax's blows will fall squarely on the necks of higher education and social services. This promises that cuts to those crucial areas will be draconian. As in -- worst case -- a 30-percent reduction in higher-ed funding.

According to Louisiana State's student newspaper, planning by officials on the main Baton Rouge campus has turned up some dire consequences of a 30-percent cut. The Daily Reveille reported Thursday that:
The University is bracing to endure a 29.8 percent drop in enrollment if it’s forced to cut $71.9 million from its budget next fiscal year, according to documents obtained by The Daily Reveille.

And an apparent difference between the University and the LSU System’s approaches to dealing with the cuts has been a sticking point between the two since the beginning of the year.

An estimated 8,500 students may leave the University if state funding is cut by 30 percent next fiscal year.

This figure — among others like hikes in tuition and student fees — was not included in the LSU System’s “budget reduction exercise” released Feb. 4.

“We’ve tried to minimize any discussion of enrollment loss and avoid too much focus on alternative sources of revenue,” LSU System President John Lombardi told Chancellor Michael Martin in a Jan. 29 e-mail obtained by The Daily Reveille. “Those issues are likely to prompt questions we’re not ready to answer given the variable nature of the budget conversations at the present time.”

With a projected cut in higher education state funding between $212 million and $382 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Division of Administration asked Lombardi to complete a “budget reduction exercise” showing what a cut of up to 30 percent in funding would mean for the System.

Administrators at the 11 institutions compiled their own budget scenarios to submit to the System office, where they were compiled into one “budget reduction exercise” and submitted to the Division of Administration.

Records show several differences between what the University submitted and what was shown in the System’s exercise.

“I think [the System’s budget reduction exercise] made as good of a case as it could [for the University],” Martin told The Daily Reveille on Wednesday. “I understand that we have other units within the System that have to be represented as well.”

Lombardi declined an interview, through System Spokesman Charles Zewe, about the differences between the budget scenarios.

Martin said University officials focused more on finding possible solutions for a cut of up to 30 percent while the System’s interests lay in displaying what an across-the-board cut of 30 percent would look like for the System.
LET'S PUT THIS in perspective. Right now, LSU's Baton Rouge campus -- the state's "flagship" university -- has an enrollment of 26,140. Let's assume the state makes draconian cuts and the enrollment craters as badly as LSU administrators think it will.

That would leave LSU's new enrollment at just over 17,600 students, smaller than it has been in nearly 40 years. By way of comparison, the University of Nebraska at Omaha -- an urban, primarily commuter campus -- has about 15,000 students.

The enrollment collapse, though, would just be the beginning of the carnage:
Besides an estimated student loss of 8,500 — including 2,250, or about half, the minority student population — other elements were discussed in the University’s budget scenario that were omitted from the System’s final draft.

For instance, the Bengal Legacy Scholarships for non-resident sons and daughters of LSU graduates, the Board of Supervisors scholarships and the Louisiana Freshman Merit Award would be eliminated under worst-case scenario cuts, according to the University’s budget exercise.

“The cutting of any scholarship will have a detrimental impact on students eligible for the awards and may have a negative impact on enrollment,” the document states.

Merit increases for faculty, administrative and professional staff would also be “out of the question.”

With a large budget reduction, closing academic colleges is likely.

“To reach this [30 percent] level of a cut, more than one large college must be eliminated because of the corresponding loss of tuition revenue,” the document states.
WHOLE COLLEGES. Gone. Just the prescription for the "jewel" of a substandard higher-ed system in a poor, ignorant, underdeveloped state.

This is the backdrop for the other headlines of the day.

One is atop a column by veteran Lake Charles columnist Jim Beam,
who writes in the American Press that, no matter how much sense it might make, don't look for lawmakers to cut back on the state's bloated ranks of four-year universities.

Quantity always has been more important to the Gret Stet than quality, and the people's representatives aren't about to change things now. No matter how desperate the fiscal situation:
Any legislator with a higher education institution in or near his district is going to be reluctant to close a university anywhere else for fear his school could be next. That is the political reality here.

Making a college education convenient and affordable is everyone’s goal. Unfortunately, the legislators who promoted four-year status for LSU-A didn’t tell their colleagues the whole story.

The ink had hardly dried on the act Foster signed in 2001 before those same supporters launched grandiose plans for spending millions of dollars more on expanded facilities at the university.

While everything Michot, Clausen and others are saying makes sense, it’s not likely to change anything. The Legislature doesn’t have the courage it would take to close any state universities. If lawmakers could resist political pressure, LSU-A wouldn’t be a four-year school today.
MEANWHILE, some legislators are seeking a way to deal with an ideologue governor threatening to turn down, on "principle," billions in federal "stimulus" money as he stares down a $2 billion budget defecit.

On the other hand, according to Gannett newspapers, some legislators -- in the face of the $2 billion budget deficit --
think cutting taxes is just the thing to do when you're already way short of money. Gov. Bobby Jindal thinks this might be just as good an idea as gutting higher education and turning down billions from Uncle Sam:
Questions submitted to the governor's office about the tax cuts proposed so far brought a response from Kyle Plotkin, the governor's press secretary. The governor was out of town.

Plotkin said, "As a conservative, the governor supports tax cuts and has cut taxes in Louisiana six times so far. He is willing to support tax cuts that are fiscally responsible by being fully implemented in the same year and are accompanied by necessary spending reductions.
ONE CAN ONLY ASSUME that Louisiana has gone from being misgoverned by crooks to being driven into the ditch by fools and nuts.

Of course, this being Louisiana, the fools and nuts always had a place at the policy-making table. But now, with crookedness being less fashionable than it historically has been, the fools and nuts have seized their opportunity to shine.

There are three ways to live happily in Louisiana. One is not to care about one's future or one's fellow man.

Another is to adopt a fanatical devotion to Bacchus while trying to ignore the shadows creeping up on you and yours.

The third is to adopt a position of pie-eyed optimism, maintaining that everything is tickety-boo in Bayou Goula despite all available evidence.

UNFORTUNATELY, none of the "happy" strategies account for the inevitability of getting bitten -- hard -- in the ass by reality, which it would appear is now upon Louisiana in what might be an unprecedented manner. And that reality, cher . . . she can be a stone-cold bitch, yeah.