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9.9.10

Saving Obama rather than LA behind EPA opposition

Political agendas behind in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to oppose a regular permit that would allow Louisiana’s berm building to continue make it clear that the Pres. Barack Obama Administration would rather preserve its own life and those of marine creatures than help Louisiana protect human life.

Under emergency permits, guided by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s directive the state began building six berms of about 34 miles to prevent oil from the recent Gulf of Mexico spill to prevent it from entering estuaries and lapping up on shore. Even incomplete, they have succeeded by catching a small amount of the total estimated spillage that would have fouled the coastline.

However, Jindal has bigger plans. He wants to build another 13 berms that could protect another 103 miles of coastline which not only could catch oil but also could be used as the first stage of a comprehensive coastal restoration plan. Always a stickler for efficient government in action, Jindal reasoned this could bring that kind of restoration, which counters disruption of some aquacultural and agricultural production but, more importantly, provides for increased hurricane protection, more quickly and more cheaply to the state.

Instead, the EPA indicated it would shoot down the idea by its asking for a halt of the first six berms’ construction, still months away from completion even as they are enough present to catch oil (and already paid for by the miscreant company responsible for the spill) and opposing the construction of the other 13. The commentary attached to the decision said the potential environmental costs it felt exceeded the benefits of catching oil, especially since the leak had been stopped.

Both ideological and partisan politics influenced this decision. Keep in mind that the most radically environmentalist presidential administration in history wishes to use this agenda as a method for government to gain more control over the economy, resorting to corrupt science and unconstitutional fiat using the EPA to impose its will. EPA mandarins may not be so much interested in that mission, aside from the increased power it gives them, as they are in propagating an agenda that inappropriately overvalues non-human concerns at the expense of human needs, especially as any potential harm to the environment is uncertain while a major storm striking the southeast part of the state’s coast certainly will have huge economic costs in dollars and human costs in lives. With such horrendous consequences, the cost of a chance of environmental degradation pales in comparison to these which can be mitigated the faster and more efficiently coastal restoration occurs, as Jindal proposes.

Unfortunately, political concerns even more brutally push the EPA into this position. As Obama was criticized severely for his inadequate response to dealing with the spill and its after-effects, Jindal was applauded by many for his proactive response, making Obama look bad by contrast. The berms were a key component of Jindal’s response, and that they have proven successful does more political damage to Obama. So, Obama has an interest in letting his subordinates at the EPA know that this reminder of his lacking leadership should be curtailed.

Further, as part of the strategy to downplay Obama’s fumbling of the issue, his Administration has floated a narrative that most of the leaked oil no longer poses a threat to the coast, hoping that minimizing the incident makes the public see it less critically as an issue. Thus, part of the EPA response mimics this assertion that not much oil out there thus can cause little damage, reducing the usefulness of the berms.

But in fact, the Obama Administration’s claims quickly were faulted by the scientific community, and more exacting and detailed analyses showed just the opposite. This reality magnifies the utility of the berms and their incorporation into a larger coastal restoration plan. By having this done, they can become more secure and provide better protection just like barrier islands. A decade or more from now a big storm could kick up all of this oil floating near or on the bottom of the ocean and thrust it inland, or a series of smaller events over time incrementally could push it shoreward. Without the berms, one day Louisiana will wake up without warning to a sudden influx of oil onto the coasts and into marshlands, and probably repeatedly.

In the end, this EPA pronouncement was more about saving the political ideology and fortunes of the Obama Administration than any reasoned analysis which would place primacy on protecting Louisiana’s people and coast – which should come as no surprise to observers of this regime since it came into power.

8.9.10

Jindal endorsement vacillation serves political needs

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s vacillation over whether to endorse incumbent Republican Sen. David Vitter isn’t really that mysterious when considering the nature and purpose of endorsements by politicians.

Before Labor Day, Jindal said he would be issuing no endorsement in this contest, where Vitter’s main challenger is Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon. After the holiday, his spokeswoman then said he might give one out, presumably for Vitter, before the election. Furthering muddying the waters was Jindal had said he would not get involved in this way in federal elections – despite having done so in a losing effort for the Sixth Congressional District special election in 2008, for a winning effort in that district months later, and also in a losing bid for the Senate simultaneously – later amended to say he had meant this just for this election cycle, before the hemming and hawing on that.

Seems confusing, but it really isn’t. Endorsements by a sitting elected official for others seeking office actually contains reciprocal benefits. The endorser hopes his imprimatur helps a candidate he favors, for reason of party loyalty or ideological compatibility to assist his agenda, or maybe just genuine liking, to get elected. But he also expects the endorsement to reflect favorably on him, which combines the perceptions that the endorsement proves useful to get somebody in office and that winner is someone with which he identifies. Both directions, giving and getting, link the candidate to the endorser.

Were it not for Vitter’s having admitted to a “serious sin,” believed connected to a prostitution ring although that has not been proven nor subject to any legal proceedings, likely Jindal would have endorsed Vitter long ago. However, Jindal may think that such an act may cause him political harm with some voters who are more interested in rumors about candidate behavior than issue preferences and thereby dislike Vitter even as they agree with his agenda. By an endorsement, Jindal may think this feeling may rub off on him with some voters.

This consideration might pale for Jindal were Vitter in a close race. But he’s not as polls consistently show he will defeat Melancon handily and all others spectacularly. Endorsements generally help only in close races and/or ones where the preferred candidate is an underdog – precisely the circumstances behind Jindal’s other federal contest endorsements. Thus, a Jindal endorsement really does nothing to change Vitter’s chances of victory, so far ahead is he, and the cost to Jindal of such certainly does exist. Why then endorse when no benefit for you or your preferred candidate seems obvious, especially when a cost to you appears present?

If something really crazy happened and Vitter’s lead suddenly shrank, then Jindal retains the option to endorse, where at that point any cost he incurs will be lower than the overall cost, not just to his agenda but also to those agendas of his party and ideological cohort, of Vitter not winning reelection. At that juncture, an endorsement might matter and Jindal even could come out looking enhanced in image, were Vitter to then win a close race, as he may appear with it to have tipped the scales in Vitter’s favor.

So it’s not all that hard to fathom Jindal’s silence, particularly as he continues to attract a modicum of attention as a figure for high national office. When looking towards the next election, in matters where principles don’t appear at stake (and for many if they are at stake, even greatly) you do things that you think will win more votes than lose them. On this issue Jindal acts rationally, even if this perturbs some supporters of Vitter, Republicans, and conservatives.

7.9.10

Don't wait until election to remove dictatorial Deen


Maybe the Bossier Parish School Board thought the well had been poisoned for tax increases, despite its deficit spending, when it did not roll forward rates last week. Because if one wanted to find a definition of “farce,” “arrogant,” and perhaps even “illegal,” around these parts look to the June Potemkin meeting by Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen to raise taxes on suffering Bossier Parish residents to satisfy some strange lust for taking maximal resources from them for minimal return.

Again, a review of statistics shows how Deen’s aberrant behavior has been over the past decade, as he has raised the overall tax millage far more than any other major governing authority in Bossier Parish through rolling forward rates. The Constitution mandates that rates be lowered above the legal maximum for an authority because of increase in value of property to keep overall tax paid the same, unless the authority acts to roll forward rates.

Unlike the Parish, Bossier City, and the School Board, he unilaterally may decide on this while these other authorities must have a supermajority of their governing bodies to do so.
Since 2000, Sheriff’s Office revenues have climbed 296 percent, expenses have increased 361 percent, property tax revenues – with just a 2005 roll forward prior to this one – went up 136 percent, and assets have exploded 932 percent. Parish population outside of municipal boundaries increased only about 12 percent in that period, and overall crime rates – which are more affected by things that policing cannot control such as proportion of young males in the population and economic performance – have gone down about 14 percent.

6.9.10

Lives, not marine life, should have priority in permitting

You could see this coming from far off, in this case the adoption by Gov. Bobby Jindal of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration’s mantra, “never let a crisis go to waste.” But while Obama wishes to take, if not provoke and create, crises in order to empower government at the expense of people, Jindal wants to use an entirely unwanted one to score environmental protection way ahead of schedule and on the cheap.

When the Apr. 20 well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico began pumping oil into the sea, that unfortunate incident cost lives and environmental degradation. But while Obama sought to use the incident as a catalyst to push for a costly, counterproductive alternative energy agenda, Jindal saw a silver lining to the tragedy enabled by a confluence of disparate circumstances.

The disappearance or retreat of Louisiana’s coastline long has been recognized, caused by human intervention such as through activities to prevent flooding and controlling waterways and economic activities, and also through natural changes. While the environmental and economic consequences are troubling, perhaps the greatest threat from change this comes from hurricanes. As marshlands recede, natural impediments to hurricanes are reduced to permit stronger ones to hit larger populated areas just off the coast.

While federal legislation eventually passed to begin funneling money to states to restore coasts, at present the money comes in a relative trickle and won’t begin substantially accruing for several more years. This means serious restoration efforts could not begin bearing fruit for another decade, allowing for more degradation and less n from inclement weather in the interim.

Until the accident happened and the company responsible for it BP pledged it would pay for efforts to contain the oil – one strategy of which is building berms to prevent oil from washing into marshland or, in essence, building artificial barrier islands. The Jindal Administration then figured out it could leverage an oil protection strategy into a marshland protection and restoration strategy, speeding up by years environmental efforts and at a much lower price affordable by the small amount of federal money coming in and other bucks previously bankrolled by the state during a special session early in Jindal’s term.

Despite overblown and politically-motivated criticism of the berms (some of which said it diverted money from things like coastal restoration), they have done their job with the oil. Even if a large amount of it has not been captured by them, considering the consequences if not, they have been worth it. From this point, Jindal wants to have them do double-duty by providing a means by which to serve as barriers behind which marshland can be rebuilt. At the current rate of progress, the entire 31-mile stretch of berms won’t be complete for several months.

In monetary terms, the free ride on cost may end before then. BP gave the state $360 million towards them, about a third of which has been spent, but the state could get more as long as the emergency situation ends, a call made by the federal government. Regardless, with this much done, the state if it ran out of money from others should use its own funds to finish them. So this is not a pressing issue.

What is the problem is that the federal emergency permit to allow for the work is expiring and if the emergency doesn’t persist, with the apparent capping of the leak within the past month, the federal government will not grant continuation of the work under the present guidelines (on about a third of the berms) nor allow the other berms not yet started to have work begin on them. Thus, the state is seeking regular permits, requiring review and public comment.

Having witnessed the success of the berms to date, critics now are focusing more on the impact the process of the construction may have on aquatic species. To which they apparently must be reminded: are crabs and turtles really more important than human lives? No doubt any potential harm visited on one part of the ecosystem to improve another part is undesirable, but in the permitting process a sense of proportion and reasonable priority hopefully will be maintained.

While Jindal may incompletely try to reduce the size of government, there’s no question he especially tries to make government run more efficiently. Let’s hope that federal authorities, starting tomorrow with a decision scheduled from the Environmental Protection Agency, take the wise course of action and allow the Jindal Administration to pursue these plans to restore the coast and to increase storm protection sooner and less expensively than originally conceived.