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19.9.07

Landrieu still making decisions that could defeat America

Louisiana’s Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu did it again, voting to undercut a strategy to create a sustainable ally out of Iraq, calling into question her political judgment, even her motives.

In July, as did every present Senate Democrat, Landrieu voted for cloture to allow passage of an amendment to next year’s defense appropriations bill that would have had the practical effect of sabotaging the military strategy that promised progress towards winning the battle in Iraq, and a step towards winning the war against terrorism. The amendment would have shortened lengths of tours of duty, making fewer soldiers available for war prosecution thus gutting the plan of Republican Pres. George W. Bush to increase troop strength in Iraq to weaken armed resistance born mainly of adventurism by America’s enemies.

That failed. Over the next two months even as evidence of increased political success in Iraq government’s improving its democratic and civic capacity to lead a stable country was small, militarily demonstrable and substantial progress was made. Last week the report by the overall operation commander and by the ambassador to Iraq confirmed both points. Militarily speaking, with minor qualification the “surge” was accomplishing Bush’s goal.

But instead of supporting an effort beginning to pay large dividends, Democrats decided to make another attempt at undermining the policy, today bringing up the same amendment in a slightly different way in a parliamentary sense, but which still required the same three-fifths majority as did the July cloture vote. Once again, the move failed but, yet again, with all Democrats and a few mistaken Republicans, Landrieu was on the wrong side of the vote.

At the very least, one must wonder about Landrieu’s political judgment on this issue. After the testimony which led to the optimistic assessment, Landrieu brushed off this most valid and reliable data on the situation with “today’s testimony does little to assuage my conviction that a change of strategy is needed in Iraq …. and it is clear that our nation's priorities continue to be misdirected.” In other words, Landrieu employed the old liberal political playbook: if the facts don’t fit your worldview, change the facts. This attitude disserves Louisianans and Americans.

At the very worst, Landrieu is letting politics interfere with her judgment. Democrats have invested themselves in America’s defeat because they know their liberal ideology fails. Unable to compete in the arena of ideas with the conservatism expressed largely by Republicans, they can win elections only by discrediting Republicans in claiming the war was a GOP idea (even as most of them, including Landrieu, voted to support the president in prosecuting it) and cannot be won, and then having defeat occur even if they have to engineer it themselves – because if America wins, Democrats end up further discrediting themselves.

Shame on Landrieu if she has bought into this unprincipled politics, instead of her votes and rhetoric on the matter being a reflection of poor policy decision-making ability. Hopefully, she won’t continue on her flawed path by voting against funding the troops in an upcoming vote. Such as action would confirm further that she leads poorly and hereby provides another example of why a lot of better people than her could be elected as Louisiana’s senator in 2008

Blanco attempts to rewrite her economic policy history

Gov. Kathleen Blanco was quick to take credit where none was deserved, and her Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc was nimble enough to throw up a smokescreen, regarding Louisiana’s projected $1 billion surplus from this past fiscal year.

The higher-than-expected amount, which only can be spent essentially on one-time items, came from three main sources: the avalanche of federal recovery dollars still coming into the state, record-high oil prices, and an unanticipated lack of desire of the state’s citizenry to take an insurance tax credit to offset state-mandated increases in homeowners’ insurance. Even as Blanco said the surplus came from “Our [administration’s] economic development efforts … taking root statewide,” anybody with any sense can note these things operate entirely independently of state government policy – unless one considers that Blanco’s ineptitude in dealing with recovery from the 2005 hurricane disasters delayed the reception of federal funds that only now are showing up in last year’s totals.

(Blanco made this disingenuous remark while on a trip to Spain, illustrating her idea of economic development policy – throw billions of dollars in quixotic quests to bring business to the state, rather than forgoing legal bribery in favor of real, substantial tax cuts for business and individuals and regulatory reform.)

LeBlanc chimed in that the latest projection served to vindicate Blanco against complaints during the last legislative session that her free-spending ways on new programs and recurring program increases would prove to be unsustainable: “We felt all along that this could be sustainable.” This means he missed the point entirely: the surplus money here is for non-recurring commitments; no figures were given on expected recurring revenues in this fiscal year.

(Perhaps Blanco will be able to take credit for some increase next year as well. Because her administration pulled a fast one by ignoring federal government regulations on the Road Home Program and overspent federal money on it, the state has put the federal government into the position where it probably will cough up as much as $4 billion extra. This means, when all is said and done, there exists perhaps another $500 million the state can rake off extra in the form of taxes that is one-time revenue in nature. No doubt Blanco revisionists will style this as part of the “sustainable” economy.)

Of the worthy items out there to which the surplus needs dedication by the next governor, perhaps paying off debt which has reached record levels under Blanco is the best choice. At least the forgone interest payments from early retirement can be used to mitigate her recurring spending increases otherwise unaddressed by this recent forecast which continue to threaten the state’s fiscal health, despite what Blanco and LeBlanc want the public to believe.

18.9.07

Alexandria need not duplicate Shreveport's mistake

Alexandria's Democrat Mayor Jacques Roy is advocating mandates to government procedures to increase the number of minority/disadvantaged contractors participating in city business. But before anything is done, policy-makers there need to review the results of Shreveport's disastrous Fair Share program.

This fiasco, created by Democrat then-Mayor Keith Hightower, was in the news this summer when some members of the City Council bitterly complained about how the contractor for the delayed Convention Center hotel appeared not to live up to the program’s standards. Its purpose is to set numerical targets of “disadvantaged” – defined as majority non-white and female-owned – businesses in receiving contract work from the city. For this project, the general contractor Walton Construction said it would adhere to a 25 percent goal of subcontracting – not in the contract itself, but in an addendum agreed after signing of the original contract.

Turns out Walton may or may not have achieved that. Maybe, because they insist they got just about there with their final computations. Maybe not, because only days, even weeks before reporting of the final numbers, they appeared far short of the goal and it seems impossible that there was enough work left that, even if quickly subcontracted out, it could bring the aggregate to the latest “official” figure.

17.9.07

Journalist's name-calling disserves LA reading public

It’s a shame one member of the Louisiana media feels so threatened and insecure about how well he is doing as a journalist that he resorts to inflammatory name-calling and paranoiac musings to mask this – which must question his credibility to cover accurately and impartially the current election campaign

One Mark Ballard of the Baton Rouge Advocate, head of its capital bureau, apparently did not like that criticism (that I will take his word for that there was, since I listen so infrequently to talk radio and did not read of any) heaped onto the mainstream media about its reporting “questions about [Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep.] Bobby Jindal’s campaign tactics and strategies.” If it were in reference to a poorly-reasoned, factually-challenged editorial The Advocate had published criticizing Jindal for not having as many debates as it liked (to which Ballard may or may not have contributed, as he writes both for the news hole and the editorial page), that public was response was more than deserved.

(In fact, the only criticism I have seen of Ballard’s writing comes from Michael DiResto of the state’s Republican Party on a blog. And none of that was personal in nature, just a well-reasoned critique of the content of some recent columns by Ballard not even including anything about recent campaign tactic criticisms.)

16.9.07

LA media failing to help citizens through election season

As I noted in the previous posting, Louisiana’s media can be selective in its political coverage to the point of inadequately informing the citizenry as evidenced by its failure to ask pertinent questions concerning Sen. Mary Landrieu’s relationship, if any, to indicted campaign finance fundraiser Norman Hsu – an error of omission. Unfortunately, some other recent stories appearing in the state’s press show the media makes errors of commission that likewise fail to assist the public in its quest for knowledge to help it make electoral decisions.

One recent example about which I wrote deserves re-emphasis. The Baton Rouge Advocate editorialized that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Bobby Jindal’s agreeing to fewer “debates” than it desired had a negative impact on information for voters, which I demonstrated was a shoddy argument at best and at worst displayed rank bias against Jindal who looks likely to agree to about as many debates as he did in 2003. Yet incumbent Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom has agreed to none – and yet we hear not a peep out of The Advocate condemning Odom.

Another recent subject I covered also deals in part with an Odom action. The Blueprint Louisiana organization has released a reform agenda that mostly hits the mark, yet major office candidates, even those like Jindal strongly identified with reform, have not formally endorsed it, with one exception – Odom, whose political career is the antithesis of reform. Just by way of illustration, one part of the agenda deals with ethics reform, yet Odom has been plagued with past charges, some still pending, not only of misuse of power but outright corruption in office.