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31.3.20

Will Facebook cushion Advocate from its ills?

Will Facebook come to the “rescue” of Louisiana’s home of “there’s more to the story”™ and “reporting you can trust?”

Undoubtedly, snickers arose in newsrooms from Shreveport to Thibodaux and among news consumers from Vinton to Mound when reports surfaced that the source of these phrases to describe itself, the Baton Rouge Advocate, which includes allied operations in Ascension, Lafayette, and Orleans Parishes and several weekly newspapers – with competition from another daily newspaper only in Lafayette – sent out an e-mail plea to its subscriber base to “donate” money to it. This came in the wake of staff cuts and furloughs about a week after Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first of three proclamations that progressively have brought a fair portion of the state’s economy to a standstill to combat encroachment of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Understand that, as the media landscape has changed with the advent of broadband delivery via Internet, cable, and satellite plus the social media revolution that in part cuts out information intermediaries, print newspapers have suffered tremendously. However, Advocate owner John Georges – a former gubernatorial and New Orleans mayoral candidate – since his 2013 purchase of the operation had pursued an aggressive expansion strategy that gobbled up or created outlets big and small, while smaller operations in particular have had difficulty in adapting to rising fixed costs and in getting a handle on increasingly important targeted digital advertising.

30.3.20

Congregants defying orders won't see penalties

They have been getting away with it. And they will continue to get away with it.

Central’s Life Tabernacle Church hasn’t missed much of a beat since Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a series of proclamation over the Wuhan coronavirus invasion into Louisiana. The orders began at limiting gatherings to 250, then went to 50, and the current iteration places the maximum number at ten. But the church continues tohold services and events that draw hundreds and even over a thousand participants.

Drawing national attention, pastor Tony Spell claims the virus won’t affect his congregants. He calls the matter a question of religious freedom, and suggests that the First Amendment’s free exercise and assembly clauses overrides any attempts at state government restrictions.

26.3.20

LA has means to avoid virus ventilator crisis

A ventilator crisis may loom for Louisiana, but it is manageable with a bit of forethought.

This device aids, if not entirely performs, breathing for individuals. A few people (like, for over 17 years, my wife) live with them permanently, but now demand for these has surged with the Wuhan coronavirus invasion. In fact, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, within two weeks the state health region (One) serving Orleans Parish will exhaust its supply of this equipment.

Keep in mind that Region One is not just the epicenter of the virus infection for Louisiana, but vying for that sad designation in the entire country. Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes had 65 percent of the state’s cases as of today, and the region’s incidence rate of under one in every 600 residents nationally trails only the New York City area. The Orleans rate of 1:393 is slightly higher than New York City’s, but New York’s Nassau County’s is a bit higher and Westchester’s unbelievably is more than twice as high.

25.3.20

Virus-caused LA budget cuts looking more likely

So, what are Louisianan’s options as the economic impact of the Wuhan coronavirus continues to linger?

It all starts with the Revenue Estimating Conference, which last year made forecasts for fiscal year 2021 that the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration wanted to bump up two months ago. Leery (presciently) of the state’s economic health, Republican leaders of the Legislature didn’t want to commit to a $100 million or so boost and no change occurred.

Chances are, with the price of oil more than halved in just weeks, taxes on sales, income, and gambling likely to feel ongoing effects from what appears to be a month-long economic moratorium, and the decline in investments that will force the state to commit more current revenues to shore up its unfunded accrued liabilities, that supposed surplus more than has disappeared. This means cuts for FY 2021, unless bringing into play the Budget Stabilization Fund.

24.3.20

Edwards risks tossing baby out with bathwater

There’s no “nuance” in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ dictionary, but “fear” is a word prominently displayed when it comes to the current pandemic.

Sunday, Edwards issued another proclamation regarding the advance of the Wuhan coronavirus in Louisiana. This one now limits gatherings to ten and closed additional businesses, allowing open only grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, factories, transportation hubs, and critical infrastructure, although a social distancing limit is asked to be observed. People also are advised not to leave homes unless to shop for groceries, seek medical supplies or care, or go to work if part of the businesses not closed or not involved with public interaction.

The announcement he made to accompany that highlighted the per capita incidence and rate of growth of cases in Louisiana. As of Sunday morning, the state had the third highest per capita infection rate of the states, trailing only the epicenter Washington and hard-hit New York. It also in its first 13 days since the initial reported infection had the most severe growth rate of any country or state, with a current trend well above the average.

23.3.20

In LA, sport of kings perhaps laid fatal blow

Almost the only live sport to remain over the past couple of weeks since professional leagues and college associations cancelled their remaining seasons has been horse racing. Unfortunately, despite its prevalence in Louisiana, it won’t help the looming budget crisis to come and the fallout may put the industry closer to extinction in the state.

With voluntary slowdowns and a succession of proclamations by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, a sizable portion of economic activity within the state’s borders has come to a halt. Combine that with downturns in the oil and equity markets, and the recipe for a budget shortfall for this year plus carryover into next fiscal year’s if not a matter of if, but how much.

Suspension of athletic events contributes to this, in the form of taxes gathered on lost ticket and concession sales, as well as income taxes forgone from athletes not receiving pay (both residents and non-residents). However, horse racing kept on, with New Orleans’ Fair Grounds continuing its thoroughbred meet and Bossier City’s Louisiana Downs its quarter horse meet. They did so, after the Edwards bans on more than 250 (later lowered to 50) people gathering, by barring spectators.

19.3.20

LA should consider nuanced response to virus

In Louisiana’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, policy-makers must keep in mind that not only is it essentially a New Orleans-area problem, but that in per capita terms New Orleans right now is one of the world’s most dangerous hotspots for the disease.

While some elected officials have highlighted Louisiana’s incidence as something like one of the three highest per capita states, most have missed the fact that Orleans Parish has the second-highest rate per capita of any metropolitan county in the country. As of this morning, an astonishing 1 in fewer than 1,700 Orleanians have or had the virus. Extrapolate this nationwide and that would indicate over 193,000 cases when in fact the U.S. has reported only 10,442, and worldwide outside the U.S. the number is about 226,000.

King County, the location of Seattle, WA has drawn the most attention since the virus appeared there first in the U.S. But its incidence ratio is twice as high as Orleans’. The only ratio lower has appeared in Westchester County, NY: with about a million people, it has nearly 800 cases.

18.3.20

Can reformer win LA superintendent job?

At least in one respect business as usual goes on with Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education: selecting a new permanent leader.

Recently, the Board proposed a slew of measures related to the closure of schools for a month by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards last week. Essentially, these dismantle all accountability measures for students, educators, schools, and districts. Ironically, this bow to reality for this academic year creates an environment close to what Edwards would want in regards to the issue of accountability, so he will issue the necessary proclamations with relish.

But Edwards, his teacher union allies, and many on the political left would like to see more than just a temporary acceptance of this agenda thrust upon the state by fate, and going beyond that begin with appointing a new state superintendent sympathetic to their views. Longtime superintendent John White – who very much supported an accountability agenda the opposite of Edwards and these others – exited last week, and BESE has begun the process of finding his replacement.