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24.7.08

Edwards, Brown penalty reductions set bad examples

Requests have been forwarded to Pres. George W. Bush to commute the sentence of Prisoner #03128-095, formerly known as ex-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, and to pardon the former Prisoner #03312-095, now known as ex-Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown. For different reasons, neither is a good idea.

Some high-profile individuals, including past political opponents of Edwards’, have argued that because of his advanced age Edwards ought to be let go early, or at the very least be let out 18 months early when, at the beginning of 2010, he becomes eligible for parole. I’m sure it’s tough on an elderly dude and his family for him to be in prison, but it’s not a reason good enough to spring him prematurely.

I guess Edwards wasn’t thinking about those hardships when he was performing the crime that got him convicted of influence peddling. And the precedent that would be set would not be in the public interest: if you can hang on long enough before and after being caught instead of reforming your ways and/or not committing that abuse of the public trust so as to be elderly when convicted, you can cheat paying back your debt to society.

While Brown’s crimes were less serious, which actually came about during an investigation of more serious crimes for which he escaped conviction, he asks for a full pardon so legally if was as if the crime never existed. Brown has bent over backwards to convince the world the crime didn’t exist, even going so far as to writing a book about his situation.

However, that evidence certainly did not convince multiple courts that he was persecuted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including the U.S. Supreme Court who twice turned down appeals by him. Therefore, in order for Brown really to have proof of his innocence rejected so often, there would have to be a fix in not just with the federal government and its prosecutors, but with the entire U.S. judiciary by his cosmology. If he really believes this, next thing you know he’ll be talking about his alien abduction.

If Brown showed some repentance, instead of falsely asserting his innocence, some thought to grant his request might be in order. But to pardon him would send the message that, no matter how phantom your innocence may be, if you squawk long and loud enough you can get, in essence, declared innocent, inviting more such antics by elected officials seeing this example.

For the public good, Bush needs to throw both requests into the shredder.

23.7.08

LA Fourth District race may affect redistricting options

With an almost certain retreat of the Sixth District from Democrat back into Republican hands, the outcome of the Fourth District race for the U.S. House of Representatives may have an impact on redistricting in Louisiana after the 2010 Census.

While one commentator argues that the result of the census, which almost assuredly will result in the loss of a congressional seat due to depopulation courtesy of the hurricane disasters of 2005, will cause the Fourth which is centered around Shreveport to gobble up the Fifth, centered around Monroe, this view places too much emphasis on regionalism and discounts the factors of partisanship and race. Perhaps almost 20 years ago, when there were almost no Republicans in the state Legislature and a Democrat-turned Republican governor ruled the state its north-south division might have mattered.

But it will not in the future. One of the outcomes of 1990 redistricting was two majority-black districts, one of which was tortuously drawn and coexisted in north Louisiana with another. Not surprisingly, the racially-gerrymandered district was tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court, bringing the lines largely present today. With just one majority-black district now present around Orleans, black legislators will fiercely protect it even though that is the area which lost the vast majority of population, not the least by threatening voting rights lawsuits.

Republicans will cooperate because geography suggests the easiest district to erase while creating a sufficiently non-convoluted majority black district is the Third, the home of the only other white Democrat, Rep. Charlie Melancon. As trends go, by then Republicans are likely to have a state House majority plus sufficiently large representation in the state Senate, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, to control the process with black Democrats. Now that partisanship matters (just another example is the letter from Republican leader state Rep. Jane Smith praising Jindal for line item vetoes after he was roundly criticized by Democrats, support which never would have been publicly revealed even a decade ago when the GOP was too small), it will be the driving force of redistricting.

Thus, the desire will be strong to retain the Fifth as is with current Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander cruising to reelection now and probably then, too. But the contest to succeed retiring Fourth District Republican Rep. Jim McCrery has a competitive Democrat running which could put the seat into that party’s column this year and in 2010. That would make the Fourth an eligible target along with the Third.

Still, given the coveting of a majority-black district somewhere around Orleans, the geography works about better to eliminate the Third. But what if Melancon, sensing his district will get carved up by 2012, decides to run for Senate in 2010 against incumbent David Vitter? Regardless of what happens, a Republican is more likely to win there perhaps by 2012 making the Fourth the only held by a white Democrat. Then geographical information systems will have to work overtime to fold that district into others while keeping a majority-black Second.

So it may well be true that the outcome of this year’s Fourth District contest will eventually affect representation in the area of the Fifth. But only if certain other things happen that are tied to partisanship, not to regionalism.

22.7.08

Suffering political damage, Nubian Queen takes on more

I suppose if anybody were looking for a nickname for state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, she helpfully provided one: the Nubian Queen. That’s what she said she could be called after it was revealed in a childish letter she sent to her chamber colleagues she had called Gov. Bobby Jindal “Maharajah.”

Her Democrat comrades aren’t touching this one with a pole of any length, refusing comments about it or insisting they didn’t endorse any “racial slur.” In private, they must be fuming equally about Dorsey’s rhetoric, which also included calling Jindal a “blatant liar” (maybe) or “asinine” (definitely not, if referring to decisions to veto wasteful spending and an asinine legislator pay raise), and the fact the letter got made public because part of the liberal Democrat gambit is to accuse those against their redistributive policies to be “racists” (since redistribution is supposed to make up for the “racism” in society and government) and the remark of hers makes it easier to see what a joke that strategy is.

Particularly ironic, which Dorsey seemed too moronic to grasp, was in her calling Jindal “one more one-term governor.” This coming from a woman who won her first term in the Senate by exactly nine votes while Jindal steamrolled his gubernatorial opposition much like he did her policy preferences, such as his vetoing her request for taxpayers to foot the bill for a hot-air balloon festival for unspecified expenses and by making her work for a living with a real job by his veto of the raise (and preventing a massive hike in her retirement benefits taxpayers would dole out to her that she is eligible for despite her service only being part-time).

Jindal says he takes none of this personally. But that’s exactly how Dorsey takes it, and there is the crux of the matter. Unscrupulous politicians like Dorsey just want to suck money out of hard working Louisianans in order to support their lifestyles, either in payment of salary or by promising redistribution of resources to political supporters. Dorsey knows she barely scraped into her privileged lifestyle (after having served in the House of Representatives) and the shame she brought on herself through voting for the pay raise and her inability to deliver on her one earmark makes her even more vulnerable to fail in her reelection bid.

Idiots like Dorsey are a dime a dozen in politics but, but survival of the fittest also applies. Maybe some of her liberal pals in the Legislature have the same constipated views as she does but they had enough sense to keep their mouths shut and pens capped. Perhaps the single biggest political loser after Jindal vetoed the raise, besides cheerleader House Speaker Jim Tucker, was its author state Sen. Ann Duplessis, who herself narrowly twice has won her seat. After this incident, the Nubian Queen looks set to join her in that dishonor.

21.7.08

Legislator sour grapes, or did Jindal really set them up?

Act I in the drama of the tussle between majoritarian branches of government in Louisiana was Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a pay raise to full-time status of part-time legislators. Act II was his line-item vetoes of appropriations bills that in almost every case slashed budget spending that was local and/or questionable in nature. Act III, the finale, came when the Senate vetoed the veto session to undo any of this. Jindal clearly triumphs, but it doesn’t mean he can avoid the hypocritical sour grapes of legislators.

The loudest complaints came from those whose projects clearly violated the standards Jindal had promulgated about these items, and have been discussed elsewhere. Another set of complaints have come from those who said that the smaller portion of vetoed items, dealing with specific appropriations for local governments, were done with little guidance.

On the surface, this would appear to have merit. No detailed guidelines were issued regarding these items as Jindal did with nongovernmental organizations in his Apr. 30 missive. But a nanosecond’s worth of thought dismisses this charge as just more politics.

20.7.08

Thrice lucky, fortune looks to abandon Melancon in 2010

The accidental congressman, Rep. Charlie Melancon, earned a free ride back to the House of Representatives. Good for him, as it’s likely to be his last term

Democrat Melancon won narrowly back in 2004 only because of internecine warfare between Republican candidates and was the district that year with the highest percentage of the vote for Pres. George W. Bush (57) that elected a Democrat. He got lucky again in 2006 when former state Sen. Craig Romero, the Republican who had waged the scorched earth campaign against Melancon’s GOP opponent in the general election runoff even after his elimination, was Melancon’s main opponent and given the ill will Romero had generated because of his 2004 actions, an unfavorable election cycle for Republicans, and hurricane displacement effects, Melancon won reelection.

Now in 2008, Melancon convinced enough political activists in the district that he had enough of a moderate image that he would be tough to topple in a year where the GOP is likely to have to expend resources in other places to defend their seats, and drew no opponents. In large part this was constructed with his initial two years of votes, where, according to the American Conservative Union’s scorecard, he racked up moderately conservative scores of 61 and 76.

Note that this was a period of Republican control of the chamber where he treaded lightly to burnish his credentials for reelection to a district which ideologically he really didn’t represent. But when his Democrats took over in 2007, the real Melancon showed up. Last year the ACU scored him at 36, solidly liberal, with Melancon’s votes including to increase the minimum wage, against the Iraq “surge” that is bringing the war to a successful conclusion, against religious freedom in hiring practices, against earmark reform, to delay construction of the Mexican border fence, to allow more union coercion in workplace elections, to allow wasteful expansion of the Children’s Insurance Program and new taxes to fund it (twice), and against expanding domestic energy production.

It’s a very vulnerable record, but luck was yet again on his side. But that looks to change in 2010. At that time, Melancon probably will abandon his seat to make a run for the Senate against Sen. David Vitter that, while it is not a longshot, in which he will be a definite underdog.

Taking this gamble to leave his seat in 2010 he must because there probably won’t be a House seat for him in 2012. With Louisiana sure to lose a House seat in redistricting, at the top of the list for disappearance will be his Third District, as a Republican-led state government aided by Democrat black legislators who wish to preserve the Second District (around New Orleans) and make other seats more competitive for blacks see his as their natural target.

So he either takes a less than even-money Senate shot at Vitter in 2010, or he almost certainly is out of a job in 2012 if getting even reelected to the House in 2010. Either way, it looks like Melancon’s luck finally may run out.