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26.7.07

While correct, prayer ruling delays final showdown

Score one for common sense as the entire 5th Circuit Court of Appeals narrowly reversed a decision made by a smaller panel of it that ruled nonsectarian prayer at Tangipahoa Parish School Board meetings violated the first amendment. While it does not settle the matter by any means, the buildup to this decision and its content reveal once again the lengths to which anti-religion advocates are willing to go to erase religion from the public sphere.

By 8-7, the Court ruled the plaintiffs that sued the Board for violation of the conjured “wall of separation” between church and state that argues government should not support the concept of religion in any way even to the point out promoting secularism (contrary to the intent of the Framers of the Constitution) did not have standing to do so because they could not prove harm. Its Chief Judge Edith Jones (frequently mentioned as a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court) in the majority opinion said a lower court would have to visit that question, which it did not do so when District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan (a former president of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization which brought the suit on behalf of plaintiffs) ruled against the board.

It’s bad enough that a judge ideologically predisposed against the board made the initial ruling, but worse was the attitude displayed in the minority opinion written by Circuit Judge Rhesa Barksdale, who wrote the opinion of the three-judge panel earlier, calling the decision “a most grievous and unpardonable judicial sin of exalting form over substance.” Translation: “since the rules dictated that the outcome go against my ideological agenda, we need to break the rules.”

Essentially, the previous decisions were vacated, but expect a renewed ACLU challenge this time doing its best to demonstrate standing. In the meantime, Alliance Defense Fund counsel Mike Johnson (who defended the board at no cost to taxpayers) has developed a set of guidelines he thinks will pass constitutional muster that would anticipate forestalling another suit. It won’t given the blind ambition of the ACLU and its fellow travelers on this issue. This won’t go away and may well go all the way to the Supreme Court and maybe there a favorable outcome will protect expression of religious belief from anti-religion forces using government to try to squelch this right.

25.7.07

Odom again intends to use taxpayer funds unwisely

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom is up to his old tricks again, proposing taxpayer funding of ventures likely to fail. Previously having sought to sink money into sugar mill sinkholes, he now wants the state to take possession of a livestock and rodeo arena, plus adjacent land.

Currently, the privately-owned Lamar-Dixon Expo Center is run under a lease-buy agreement with Ascension Parish. Built for $54 million and never having turned a profit, the agreement says the parish may buy in July, 2009 for $7.5 million; Odom has a securitized stream of money he says can support an $8 million price tag upon sale of bonds to accomplish that purpose. He accomplished this because the law dedicating money to boll weevil eradication has a loophole that allows excess funds from it to go to any purpose seen fit by the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority – a body controlled by Odom which approved this plan.

It may be that the state actually would not take large losses at this price. But the real question is whether the state’s taxpayers ought to be paying up for an arena that will benefit very few. Even more to the point, is this something government at any level should be involved with at all?

24.7.07

Reports confirm Jindal loses only if he beats himself

Despite one opponent’s wallet being a little fatter than his, when Rep. Bobby Jindal swings his it’s going to hurt a lot worse relevant to the governor’s race in Louisiana this fall than anybody else’s.

Campaign finance reports that are out show Republican Jindal raised the most dollars over the most recent reporting period, topping other reporting candidates Democrats state Sen. Walter Boasso and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Republican businessman John Georges. However, courtesy of his own money, Georges has a slightly higher total of cash on hand than Jindal’s $5.7 million, both dwarfing the amounts available to Boasso (although he has pledged to throw more than the $1.4 million he already has put in as well) and to Campbell (who already loaned himself $400,000).

The real story, however, is that Jindal collected his sum from a broad base of donors that makes the other three candidates’ look puny. In other words, compared to Jindal Campbell is hardly getting any money from any body, while Boasso and Georges would be in the same boat if they weren’t throwing in so much of their own personal funds.

It’s an indicator that not a lot of people are betting on anybody but Jindal winning. Donors are rational individuals: unless they feel very ideologically committed to a certain candidate and his ideas, there’s no sense in giving money to somebody they really don’t has a chance of winning because money buys access to elected politicians. But there’s no access if they guy can’t get elected, so why waste your money? (Really telling is that, to this point, no Democrat party organization has given to Campbell or Boasso.)

The reports, by way of listed expenditures, give some insight into their strategies. Being in the most enviable situation of having both high name recognition and intended vote percentage, Jindal has not had to spend much to this point since he hasn’t had to create both of these conditions. No doubt the day after the reporting period Jindal went out and made major expenditures revealing what his campaign will do – but opponents will have to wait weeks before finding out what they are on the next report, if the products of those buys haven’t already hit the airwaves, phone lines, etc. by then.

One must wonder what kind of advice Georges has been getting. For a guy with almost zero name recognition and getting about a percent of the vote in polls, he can’t start spending big too soon, especially with so much of the Jindal mountain to have to detonate. Yet outside of some print ads there’s hardly any indicator that he’s running for this office; waiting until after Labor Day and thinking money can buy him parity or better with Jindal is foolhardly (remember this guy?). Campbell’s campaign soon will suffocate for lack of funds, while only Boasso’s campaign is doing what it has to do to have a chance to beat Jindal.

The reports only reaffirm that at this point the only guy that can beat Jindal in this contest is Jindal himself.

23.7.07

Landrieu endorses govt censorship of political views

Lost last week in the continuing efforts to force from office Republican Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana media have ignored the actions of Louisiana’s Democrat senator that threaten its very freedom.

Sen. Mary Landrieu along with every other Democrat senator save one, voted to prevent language that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from reinstituting the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine” applying to broadcasting. Two decades ago the rule lapsed as electronic media outlets began to proliferate. Originally, with just over-the-air sources of electronic media available, government wanted to ensure that the few broadcasting oligopolies (local and national) then existing could not force one viewpoint down people’s throats and so decreed controversial viewpoints broadcast by a station had to allow time for opposing views.

But the advent of cable and now satellite radio with Internet components to the media have more than mooted this concern. However, also in the interim, political opinion broadcasting mostly on radio has exploded – but to the great consternation of liberals like Landrieu, almost totally favoring the conservative side of the spectrum.

Understanding liberalism and conservatism explains the dominance of the latter easily. If you are well-informed about history and current events, you are a logical thinker, and you don’t let emotion cloud your arguments, only if you are intellectually dishonest with yourself can you think liberalism is a valid, coherent ideology. Because radio doesn’t have accompanying images that play much more to the basis of today’s liberalism, unreasoned emotion, it demands much more critical thinking on the part of its broadcasters and listeners when explicating ideas, accentuating the vastly superior quality of reasoning and fact presentation of conservatism.

Thus, talk radio has been the great equalizer to the liberal bent of other broadcast media. This makes liberals mad and explains the move to reopen the possibility of the rule’s promulgation in the future because they cannot stand the thought that, in the marketplace of ideas, conservatism trounces liberalism, endangering their political power. The idea would be, with the rule back in place to scare broadcasters away from presenting any opinion as conservatism resonates with the audience, to enable every single utterance to have liberal rebuttals that would cost so much time, money, and create such chaos that broadcasters would be discouraged from giving conservative arguments demanded by the public.

It won’t happen immediately give the alignment of political forces but it could in the future were liberals to get much healthier majorities in the U.S. government’s majoritarian branches. Thus moves were made to write into law a prohibition on the doctrine, which last month passed in the House.

The same was tried in the Senate attaching it to an unrelated bill. Perhaps the Democrat with the most to gain from this was Landrieu, whose seat is the most at peril among Democrats in 2008 and with a compliant print media in Louisiana, only talk radio has been able to present consistently to the public aspects about her record that demonstrate why she is a poor choice to represent the state. With her help, the amendment failed.

Make no mistake, Landrieu wants to use government to censor opinions she doesn’t like, to silence those who speak truth to power – itself another indicator of her unfitness for office.