Monthly Archives: October 2012

Must Read On Education Reform In Louisiana

A national magazine takes a close look at the bizarre coincidence that some of America’s richest people, while not entranced enough to LIVE in Louisiana, are sufficiently interested in our education system to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to local education campaigns and political action committees.

It appears that the nation’s one-percenters are obsessed with poor Louisiana’s “experimental” education system. Like any good patricians, they sprinkle some (to them) insignificant amounts of cash toward this grand experiment that is our children’s future:

Last fall, a coterie of extremely wealthy billionaires, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turned the races for unpaid positions on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) into some of the most expensive in the state’s history. Seven pro-education “reform” candidates for the BESE outraised eight candidates endorsed by the teacher’s unions by $2,386,768 to $199,878, a ratio of nearly twelve to one. In just one of these races, the executive director of Teach for America Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta, Kira Orange Jones, outspent attorney Louella Givens, who was endorsed by the state’s main teacher’s unions, by more than thirty-four to one: $472,382 to $13,815.

It turns out that two practical considerations drive this spending:

  1. Louisiana is a “cheap” state to play in. Politics might seem expensive here to the regular joe, but compared to TV ad rates in places like Florida or California, Louisiana is basically the low rent district. Furthermore, the counter-veiling forces, including teachers’ unions and advocacy groups, are basically not equipped to respond. They are broke and largely broken in the public opinion.
  2. Bobby Jindal has declared full-scale, no-holds-barred war on education and is unconstrained in his zeal to attempt total transformation. In other words, there are zero political obstacles in Louisiana for his agenda. Therefore, he can adopt as extreme agenda as possible, which only bolsters his standing in his ever-lasting run for another, higher office.

Read the whole article here.

Congressmen At Work

As a Friday treat, enjoy this hilarious rumble between two Los Angeles Democratic Congressmen, Brad Sherman (D-Taller and Balder) and Howard Berman (D-Shorter, Woody Allen-looking fellow). The two are in hotly contested race for a seat that is composed of the two current members’ former districts after redistricting.

Truly Skewed Polling Bites Back: Diaper Dave’s Vanguard

Don’t look now, but the 2015 Governor’s race is over. David Vitter is your new Governor. And the little shop of horrors that is the 4th floor of the capitol just got a new haunt. 

Wait, you say it can be true? It’s only 2012? And People actually have to vote on these things? Three years from now?

We won’t spoil the fun.

David Vitter’s pollster conducted an extensive, although strangely weighed, poll to confirm their own suspicions: Diaper Dave is just killing it! Says his own pollster, John Diez:

Magellan principal John Diez, who released the poll, moved to Baton Rouge in 2006 to become executive director of Vitter’s Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority. The committee’s website still listed Diez as executive director Monday.

But, the kicker is that Vitter DENIES that he has anything to do with this poll. Starting off with the lying early, huh Diaper Dave? From the office of one of Congress’ “Most Corrupt Members,”:

Vitter’s spokesman, Luke Bolar, said the senator neither backed nor funded the poll.

Laughable. Surely he couldn’t fund it, creating a paper trail and such. But “backing it”? That’s a wide berth of semantic yardage.  But let’s move on.

Here are the top lines: (and now to the video tape…)

LA-GOV: 2015 – If the election was being held today, for whom would you vote if the
candidates were DAVID VITTER, REPUBLICAN, MITCH LANDRIEU DEMOCRAT; JAY DARDENNE, REPUBLICAN; JOHN KENNEDY, REPUBLICAN; MIKE STRAIN, REPUBLICAN and JOHN GEORGES, DEMOCRAT?

  • DAVID VITTER 31.1%
  • MITCH LANDRIEU 29.4%
  • JAY DARDENNE 6.5%
  • JOHN KENNEDY 7.2%
  • MIKE STRAIN 3.1%
  • JOHN GEORGES 6.0%
  • UND/SOMEONE ELSE 16.7%

So, an open primary full of big money candidates (Georges spent a small fortune on his 2007 Governor’s race, and his 2010 Mayor’s race in New Orleans), David Vitter runs within the margin of error with Mitch Landrieu. That can’t be considered a “win,” can it? That bodes well for Mitchell, and therefore, for Democrats.

We’ll deal with the strange poll sampling later, but suffice to say, these are good numbers for Mitchell.

And still thinking ahead to the 2015 election for Governor in Louisiana. 8. If the election was being held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were DAVID VITTER, REPUBLICAN and MITCH LANDRIEU DEMOCRAT?

  • DAVID VITTER 45.2%
  • MITCH LANDRIEU 39.8%
  • UNDECIDED 15.0%

So, a +5 margin in a head to head? Great for Diaper Dave, right? Hmmm, maybe not so much. Cenlamar does a little digging:

Magellan’s poll is fraught with disastrous flaws: It severely oversamples white Republicans, by at least 15 points; it’s not proportionate among Congressional districts; its methodology and questioning are leading and disingenuous. It’s heavily skewed toward conservatives, which is not surprising; after all, it was led by a Vitter-man. And there’s hardly any mention of Bobby Jindal or his policies; Vitter isn’t even slightly interested in how Jindal is polling.

The kicker: How great is David Vitter doing at his job? According to his own pollster, Mr. Diez, pretty god damn great:

And do you approve or disapprove of the job that DAVID VITTER is doing as U.S. SENATOR?

  • APPROVE 59.1%
  • DISAPPROVE 33.2%
  • UNSURE/NO OPINION 7.7%

In the SMOR poll last week, Vitter was looking at 52.3 fav, 31.3 unfav. Not bad, but below Senator Mary Landrieu’s 53.7/28.4 rating. 

Now, of course, we see a completely different story:

What appears to be a conflict in the polls centers on Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. In Pinsonat’s poll, Landrieu has the highest job performance rating of any of Louisiana’s elected officials with 61.7 percent favorable (12.1 percent excellent and 49.6 percent good). In Diez’s poll 39.5 percent said they would vote to re-elect her but 50.8 percent said they would prefer someone else. The others wouldn’t say.

Oh well, nothing to see here. Read more on Vitter’s vanity poll @ Cenlamar.

Don’t Stop Believing

What is it men cannot be made to believe! - Thomas Jefferson, 1786

It was only 5 short years ago when the following words were spoken:

That is how we will run our New Louisiana government. Twenty-first century schools and colleges. Curricula linked to our new economy. Quality teachers. Accountability for results… A modern health care system that provides for all.

Bobby Jindal promised a modern health care system that provides for all. As of today, Bobby Jindal made sure that the promise he asked us to believe in would never come true:

The LSU governing board has backed a plan to deepen cuts to the university-run public hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured to $152 million.

The reductions will fall across seven south Louisiana hospitals, eliminating dozens of inpatient beds, some clinic services and nearly 1,500 jobs, most of which will require layoffs.

Opelka emphasized that the system was looking for private health care providers to “partner” with to provide care to the largely uninsured population that the LSU hospitals treat. These partnerships will help fill the care gaps, he said.

But Opelka mostly did not specify what those partnerships will look like, although he noted that Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center will treat patients.

For those taking stock at home, that’s a 25% cut. According to the AP, the cuts will fall in this manner:

Job cuts at #LSU hospitals include 423 positions in New Orleans, 341 in Baton Rouge, 173 in Lafayette, 146 in Bogalusa, 95 in Independence.

It was just the other day that we saw that “Reductions for the LSU-operated charity hospital system are particularly unpopular. 89%  said they were concerned by the cuts.”

In other words, if you didn’t like what’s already happened, get ready to Believe in Louisiana even harder! After Bobby cuts health care and education beyond the bone, so much so that the physical infrastructure will disappear, the only thing we’ll have left is our belief.

But this is completely in line with the teahaddist agenda, so don’t be surprised. “Opelka didn’t answer #LSU board member’s question about whether uninsured care will be harmed with the cuts.

The facts don’t matter. Despite the smoke screens, the truth is, we won’t cover everyone. Health care, already in crisis for our very poor state, will evaporate. You’re on your own. But we know this. “It’s arithmetic.”

In this post-truth right-wing hysteria, it’s always about “modern delivery systems,” or “reforming antiquated systems,” also know as privatization. Giveaways to your big business friends, campaign contributors. And Louisianians are left out to dry. Again.

After Bobby Jindal is done dismantling our state, belief is all we’ll have left.

Jindal Approval Sinks Like A Stone; Vouchers Opposed By Majority

64-61-51

Those are Bobby Jindal’s last three approval numbers in a SMOR Survey. This is what a flailing Governor looks like. Jindal is watching his political career tumble down the drain, and he has started to panic. Earlier this week Jindal announced a very startling staff shake-up, dumping his Chief of Staff without a cited reason:

In two weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal will have a new budget adviser and a new chief of staff.

The governor’s chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, announced his resignation Monday, severing career ties with the governor that began during the 2007 campaign.

“From the beginning of our work to build a better Louisiana, Stephen has been by my side as a trusted adviser and a friend. He helped shepherd through monumental policy reforms that will have a lasting and positive impact on our state,” the governor said in a prepared statement.Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater will replace Waguespack on Oct. 14. Replacing Rainwater will be the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Kristy Nichols.

And now a Southern Media and Opinion Research Poll finds Jindal sinking like a stone. It’s no surprise, but 89% of those surveyed don’t like Jindal’s slash and burn of the public Charity Hospitals. More startlingly, Jindal’s prized voucher program is opposed by 54% of Louisianians:

The poll shows Gov. Bobby Jindal with a 51 percent approval rating. That compares with 61 percent last spring and 64 percent a year ago

Reductions for the LSU-operated charity hospital system are particularly unpopular. Eighty-nine percent said they were concerned by the cuts. Seventy-nine percent said the charity system would not be able to provide the same quality of health care, and 80 percent said Louisiana residents would lose access to health care as a result.

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • On the issue of school vouchers, 54 percent were opposed.
  • Salaries for state executives and political appointees were a hot button issue with 86 percent saying annual salaries of $175,000 and above are excessive or not justified.
  • 47 percent favor eliminating tax exemptions to increase state revenue compared to 35 percent opposed, which tracks with widespread opposition to deeper budget cuts.
  • 69 percent said the Legislature should be more independent from the governor

Bad news all around. #Vouchergate isn’t going well for Team Jindal. Nor are his high-priced public employee hires.

And it looks like the tax credit monster is about to bite Jindal back…

Jindal isn’t worried, however. He’s spent the last week campaigning for judges in Iowa, in some fields of dreams.

A way of driving voters away?

Today I got a new driver’s license to reflect my weekend move from Baton Rouge to Lafayette. I did so as fast as I could to make the deadline for voting in the November elections. The deadline is 30 days prior to the Nov. 6 election — so if you aren’t sure about your current registration status, check it this week!

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, voters are required to present identification such as driver’s license, Special ID or “some other generally recognized picture ID that contains your name and signature.” Voters who don’t possess any of the above can bring “a utility bill, payroll check or government document that includes their name and address.” Voters with such documents “will have to sign an affidavit furnished by the Elections Division in order to vote.” As far as voting requirements go, this seems fair; it balances the integrity of the polls with accessibility for citizens.

I’ve spent 10 of my 14 voting years in Louisiana, and have never had a problem either voting or registering to do so. I voted in my first election before I had a driver’s license, using my college ID. A year later, I changed my address three weeks before an election, but still was able to vote at my previous precinct. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing everywhere I’ve lived.

Knock on wood.

One of the big political stories of 2012 has been the push toward more stringent voter laws nationwide. Though Louisiana hasn’t been among the major players in this push, the state shares the conservative makeup that most of the states involved have in common. Mandatory picture ID for voters could absolutely happen here in the near future.

Critics — I’m raising my hand here — contend that photo-ID laws are less about curbing voter fraud than about curbing voters, period. In a sense, it’s a genius political calculation by Republicans, who would benefit from the reduced influx of poor, minority, college and elderly voters for whom narrow ID standards can be an obstacle, and can disguise that de facto purge as upholding poll integrity. And who could possibly be against voter integrity?

Well, my trip to the DMV reminded me exactly why I’m against voter integrity — at least as the ID proponents define it.

In Lafayette, the DMV office is located at the very north edge of town near Carencro, on a frontage road off I-49. It’s the only one in the entire city, and people often confuse it with a police station on another frontage road (which, for a long time after the new DMV opened, had a stack of fliers pointing visitors to the correct location). The DMV’s isolated location is accessible almost exclusively by car, adjacent only to a Mexican restaurant whose core business is probably weary licensees. For those relying on the bus, their own two feet or a walker, it might as well be Emerald City. Even if you do get there, you’d better have the right papers and cash, just in case. Some don’t. Some never have.

As long as ID offices are less ubiquitous than polling stations, stringent ID laws are going to disenfranchise some (or many) legit voters — citizens whose only crime is lack of access to offices and/or proper documentation. For those making the push, this outcome is exactly what they want.

Let’s make sure anyone wanting to bring Louisiana into this poisonous movement has an equally tough road ahead.

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