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5.1.06

ULM has chance to make trenchant social commentary

You can’t fight The Man, and in intercollegiate sports for all but the smallest schools the National Collegiate Athletic Association is The Man. Unfortunately, it’s also terribly politically correct in its assertion that schools cannot use any “hostile” or “abusive” racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, imagery or nicknames at any of the NCAA's national or regional championships.

Never mind it’s another example of people eagerly seeking victimhood and then using it to assert their own peculiar moralities on the rest of the population. Or the hypocrisy of it all – the NCAA seems to think Notre Dame University’s “Fighting Irish” is all right, even though that conjures up the stereotype of the red-nosed, heavy-drinking Irish who then get into brawls. (As part-Irish, I should object to this but, frankly, I never gave it another thought until right this minute. So there.)

Notre Dame can get away with it because it’s the only university with more officially rewarded championships in football than the University of Oklahoma and has enough muscle to negotiate its own football broadcasting rights unlike every other school. But the University of Louisiana at Monroe, having suffered through one name change just a few years ago, now finds it must change its nickname from “Indians.” It could appeal but that seems like a waste of time, or it could not send any mascot or reminder of the nickname to any NCAA championship rounds in which its teams might play. (Personally, I would have ULM’s spirit squads and the like wear black headbands with a feather attached in the back as a protest during these contests, but it’s that kind of forthrightness which keeps me as a little old college professor rather than gets me promoted to be a university president or chancellor.)

(Another thought: isn’t OU’s nickname “Sooners” also pejorative? It basically glorifies lawbreakers – Sooners were people who jumped the gun before the official time to get more and better land when the Indian Territory was opened to white settlement. But, as mentioned above in reference to ND, when the NCAA is dealing with the Alpha and Omega of college football ….)

Nevertheless, yet again to perform public service, I will suggest five candidates for new nicknames for ULM, taking into account the uniqueness of the Louisiana cultural, historical, and political experience. Starting with the obvious:

  • Coushattas – this tribe signaled acceptance of the current name, and the NCAA says if names that are tied to individual tribes are approved by that tribe (designed to appease big-money schools like Florida State, Utah, and Illinois) they’ll accept it, so why not give the Coushattas a little free publicity (although given ULM’s performance on the athletic fields in recent years, it may not be all that much and not even that desirable, but it’s the thought that counts). It can’t hurt, given who used to be one of the Coushattas’ lobbyists.
  • Governors – if it’s good enough for Austin Peay … Louisiana’s had some pretty colorful ones, so why not celebrate this part of our heritage, even though another name might be more appropriate when referring to them, or to politicians in the state in general …
  • Jailbirds – can you imagine the interesting situations that could develop from having this nickname; for example, uniforms could be white and black stripes, definitely distinctive and causing maximal confusion with the uniforms worn by most sports’ officials? And it also neatly sums up what far too many college ex-athletes, or even current ones, eventually turn into.
  • Hurricanes – yes, this may be more appropriate for some of ULM’s southern brethren which actually get flooded out by them, but why not? It would bring pride to the state to show we don’t fear these storms by embracing them, and it recognizes the unique cleansing they bring to the state in terms of a more-efficient state budget, of endangering electoral careers of politicians who are way past their primes if they ever had them, etc.

    But there is one, indisputably superior choice that would represent a period in state history, adhere to the dictate (as other schools are allowed to use it), and would show the stupidity of the entire idea of political correctness run amok and hypocritically applied in college athletics:

    Rebels… fight fire with fire. Maybe the NCAA can get a load of a nickname with some genuine social commentary -- against its idiocy.

  • 4.1.06

    Lawsuit may expose Louisiana's cosmetic electoral change

    Here we go again with Louisiana trying to set a date for physical enactment of federal elections, and looks as if the state may once again discover another reason why the blanket primary election system needs to be replaced.

    Almost a decade ago lawyer G. Scott Love in essence challenged the entire blanket primary system, which could have the effect of electing members of Congress prior to the national election day specified by federal law. The Supreme Court agreed with him. (Note: Louisiana’s system often incorrectly is called an “open” primary. It is not. An open primary is one where separate party primary elections are maintained although voters of any partisan affiliation or none may participate in any one party’s primary. In Louisiana, there are no separate party primaries, hence its correct name “nonpartisan blanket” primary or blanket primary for short.)

    Last fall, the Legislature finally addressed what it saw to be a loophole in the law. Act 282 changed technical language in the Revised Statutes to declare candidates “elected” on the federal election date, even if the actual election itself occurred earlier. As a result, this time Love has sued on behalf of his daughter Julia arguing the earlier date deprived her of the right to vote as her 18th birthday in 2006 would occur in the interim between the two dates.

    The crux of the matter is defined in the opinion as “a contested selection of candidates for a congressional office that is concluded as a matter of law before the federal election day, with no act in law or in fact to take place on the date chosen by Congress, clearly violates” the statute. The state claims the new law in fact satisfies the requirement that a trigger of sorts go off on the federally-defined day by stating that candidates get elected “at the close of the polls on the day of the general election” regardless that the physical enactment of the election may have occurred earlier.

    The plaintiffs may have found an ingenious way to contest this. Using the state’s logic, what’s to prevent other states to from bumping their elections up as far back as they like using the same reasoning, and basically subverting the intent of the federal statute? Unless the judiciary declares that there should be a limited time in which to do this that would seem to be the end result. It could declare a limit to moving forward such as the residency requirement; that is, an election can occur no more than 60 days minus the state’s residency requirement in days prior to the date set by federal statute (60 days because that is the most at which the Supreme Court will allow a state to set its residency requirement).

    If the law is declared unconstitutional, however, it should provide yet another sign that the state needs to change the system. Many such compelling reasons exist to make the switch but probably the main thing now holding it back is less-liberal Democrats probably would be seldom elected since even in an open primary system more-liberal Democrats probably would beat them. A closed primary system, where only voters affiliated with a party can vote in its primary, would reduce the electoral chances of these Democrats, a number of which haunt the Legislature, even more. Compounding that is the generally unfavorable electoral environment for incumbents but especially Democrats over the next few years will discourage them from making elections more explicitly partisan.

    This new law represents merely a treatment of the symptom, not a cure of the disease. Regardless of the outcome of this case which probably will go on well past this year’s federal elections, the blanket primary needs to go.

    3.1.06

    Statistics, reality shouldn't reassure Democrat officeholders

    If you take a walk with a Democrat elected to a Louisiana state office past a graveyard in the middle of the night, expect to hear a lot of vigorous whistling, if their reactions to assessing the electoral realities of the next two years are any indication.

    Much can happen before statewide elections next year, but trends continue to point to Democrat electoral carnage at state-level contests, consisting of three ominous signs for them. First, Hurricane Katrina has disrupted their reliable voting base in New Orleans beyond all repairs. In fact, what might seem to be a positive thing, scarcely declining voting rolls in Orleans, provides no reassurance. As yet, displaced voters have had little reason to switch in their new locations, as they take care of more important matters first and become acclimated to their new political climate. Worse, some may wait to switch just so they can vote to punish current officeholders to exact for themselves a sense of justice, and that will work against Democrats (nobody who stays will delay switching just to vote for an incumbent)
    .
    Because, secondly, some segment of the population will wish to visit retribution against those in power for the state’s lack of preparedness to and response after the crisis. The fact is, Democrats now hold all executive offices and still control both chambers of the Legislature so they will disproportionately suffer.

    Third, let us not forget that mandated term limits will forcibly sweep some monuments, disproportionately Democrats, out of the way in the Legislature as well (slightly in the favor of the GOP in the Senate, but overwhelmingly so in the House.) Almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans cannot run again (and one such Democrat, populist and defender of the mediocre Tommy Wright, resigned effective today).

    Some elected Democrats can’t bring themselves to face, or are incapable of understanding, these ramifications. At best, you’ll get out of them a “pox on all houses” response that argues any incumbent will face difficulty. There is a germ of truth to this – Republicans who are part of the good old boy ethos may well have their hands full with aggressive challengers from their own parties. But the fact is, the hurricane disasters of last fall will favor reform advocates and they disproportionately have run as Republicans as Democrats have favored the liberal/populist agenda of the past. The last real GOP populist in the state was David Duke, and we know what happened to him.

    More sensible observers from the left see reality. Even reliable Democrat shill Lanny Kellar can’t turn a blind eye to the trend, one which has sent three members of the state legislature already from the “D” to “R” column in the hopes of warding off the effects of that scarlet letter. At the statewide level, a growing awareness among the population of the bankruptcy of good old boy attitudes fueled by negative perceptions of Katrina’s aftermath could give the GOP the majority of those offices for the first time ever.

    If Louisiana Democrats’ (currently lacking a permanent state party chairman) putting on a happy face is a strategy to try to change perceptions, it’s no match for reality. If it’s designed to blunt reality, Democrats are even in bigger trouble as denial will make their response to the dilemma even less effective.

    2.1.06

    New year, but same good old boy attitudes in Louisiana

    It’s a new year, but too many of the same old attitudes remain in regards to those people in power in Louisiana’s government.

    Less than a month ago, Secretary of State Al Ater was issuing all sorts of reasons why New Orleans should delay its elections until around the end of September – it was the federal government’s fault in not providing lists of displaced voters, and also that pre-clearance would take too long, not enough poll commissioners would be around, etc. Suddenly, he now is saying they could happen in March, even though about a week ago he thought elections in April would be a stretch.

    Such a dramatic conversion in attitude likely has come from the confluence of outside forces that Ater neither hoped nor thought would occur. He probably knew all along that the federal government would be much speedier in providing clearance and information, taking away these excuses, and considerable pressure by a U.S. district court on his dilatory stance no doubt also caused an attitude adjustment. But perhaps the biggest impact came from the near-universal scorn heaped upon him and Gov. Kathleen Blanco by the public, pundits, and other politicians. Democracy works even in Louisiana, when you have a citizenry willing to inform itself and to prod its policy-makers.

    But the good-old-boy attitude that would minimize the voices of the people in their own governance has infested itself strongly among the state’s political elites and, while it was not strong enough in Ater’s case for him to resist, it still has significant redoubts. One such is that of the Gromyko of the State Senate, its president Don Hines, has shown little enthusiasm for changing these ways that, frankly, is what he used to accumulate political power while simultaneously holding back the state. This manifests in his attitude that a Legislative special session is unneeded whose crux rests on levee board governance reform.

    This obviously puts Hines on the wrong side of the issue that, besides delaying elections, has most galvanized the public in Louisiana since the Band-Aid special session. Hines did nothing to support meaningful reform in this area and instead focused his energies on making it easier to raid the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund to continue his strategy of shifting monies to favored constituencies rather than undertaking funding reductions which likely would endanger these interests as other needs are much more pressing.

    And it should go without saying that Blanco herself remains captive to this ideology. Anybody who observes her televised remarks understands she continues to attempt to shift blame instead of taking responsibility, and at the same time comes off as hypocritical in her desire to say others try to distort her record (she claims because it’s politics, because it’s gender bias, ad naseum) when she herself in front of Congress did her level best to distort her role in the leadership breakdown after Hurricane Katrina. It’s always excuses for what continues to fail, rather than admitting mistakes and, more importantly, embracing sensible change.

    It may be a new year, but nothing changes among Louisiana’s Democrat political elites – something voters need to keep in mind when many of these same characters and their ilk offer themselves for reelection next year.