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Boasso distort, attack mode may finish his chances

You can tell which Louisiana gubernatorial candidates are getting desperate when they resort to outright deception about an opponent's actions and statement, as occurred during the second “debate” at my home institution.

Democrat State Sen. Walter Boasso lost his cool when, in the space of 30 seconds, first he lied about opponent Republican Bobby Jindal’s voting record, and then about the content of Jindal’s campaign commercials. Boasso first started going off the rails when he said Jindal had voted against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and belittled him for that. In fact, Jindal was absent for the final vote and has said he would have voted for it.

When Jindal interrupted with the moderator’s permission, no doubt to correct Boasso, Boasso then whined over him about resenting how Jindal had called him corrupt, probably referring to a campaign commercial where Jindal asks voters to put someone in office who is not part of the old “corrupt” crowd and not one of the “clowns” currently running the state. But Jindal never has said any of his opponents are corrupt, from his own mouth or in his commercials – so it’s interesting that Boasso would think it was him to which the commercials referred, but definitely inaccurate to impute Jindal called Boasso “corrupt.”

Boasso said he referred to an earlier version of the legislation that Jindal had voted against. But especially given the fact the previous day Jindal had quite publicly stated he was for the SCHIP bill and would vote to overturn its veto, it was clear he was trying to distort and confuse the issue, just as he distorted the Jindal ad’s meaning.

By contrast, Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell laughed off the “clown” remark in the ad, and independent businessman John Georges used the exchange to argue “partisan” bickering of this nature was at the heart of troubles in Louisiana governance. They clearly scored points at Boasso’s expense.

Again, this paints Boasso as a candidate willing to say or do “whatever it takes,” apparently no matter how far removed it is from reality, to win, a promise he has previously made and confirmed by his partisan switch for political gain. As negative as some voters will see this, however, another perception problem looms for him.

This incident was consistent with a combative, pugnacious approach concerning Jindal that Boasso has taken in both debates. Jindal is taking it for now and, with the exception of calling Boasso on the vote fib, has refrained from counter jabs, knowing he well can afford to desist with a good chance of winning outright in the primary, then unloading on whoever makes the general election runoff against him if it comes to that. This allows Georges and Campbell to engage in light criticism of Jindal and get a free ride off Boasso’s back as his combativeness may pull some voters away from Jindal but equally alienates them from him.

Boasso may think he must attack, even to the point of falsehood, in order to pull Jindal into a runoff where he assumes he’ll be the opposition. He better think again, because his tactics are such that even if Jindal has to face a runoff, they may allow Campbell, Georges, or both to pass him to deny him the other runoff position.


ULM betrays higher learning by reaction to prank video

To say the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s administration overreacted to a sophomoric prank would be an understatement. To say concerning the incident that ULM’s administration strayed from what an institution of higher learning should be about would be charitable. To say that the ULM’s administration’s response to the situation was an exercise geared more towards soothing itself and catering to its own attitudes rather than appropriately dealing with the situation would be accurate.

Some time ago, a white ULM student on the spur of the moment with her white buddies decided to do an impromptu interpretation of the crime at the heart of the “Jena 6” case – where one black juvenile assisted by others is alleged to have beaten a white classmate. Some of them smeared themselves with mud (presumably as “blackface”) and then pantomimed pummeling and kicking one of them on the ground, amid mostly laughter and one racial epithet. (Supposedly there was also an exchange where one suggested putting a noose around the “victim” – which apparently did not happen in the real-life incident – but I couldn’t hear that.) The 1:12 video’s audio was bad, its cinematography was wanting, and if you knew nothing about the Jena 6 incident, you’d have no idea what it was about.

Despite the poor artistic quality of it all, the female still thought it worthy enough of posting to a social networking site. Eventually, other students stumbled onto it and some were disturbed by it. This caused the woman to reevaluate her posting of it as apparently she did not mean to offend anybody with it, and she took it off the site with apologies.

Yet, in the eyes of the ULM administration, the damage seemed to have been done when the “national” media made inquiries about it. My guess is, since I can’t find any other national media reference to it at the time of writing this, that it came from a Washington Post blogger – who asks the questions the ULM administration should have considered.

Rather, ULM reacted as if it were time to suspend the university’s business of education in order to embark on a group therapy session, on short notice convening a gathering of students, estimated at 500 and most of who, for some reason, were participants in the school’s athletic teams and apparently hardly representative of the school’s overall student body. This is opposed to the proper response which should have been a short statement to the media reiterating that ULM respects the rights of all individuals, that the student’s free speech production did not represent that of the ULM community, and that ULM’s respect for free speech and the right of academic inquiry meant it could take no action other than publicly condemning the video, being it was private speech unrelated to any scholastic work at the university in any way.

Instead, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Wayne Brumfield threw more gasoline on the fire, stating at a news conference “it became apparent a racist dramatization of the Jena Six incident appeared” connected to a ULM student, then to the students it “was a racist depiction of the beating of the white student at Jena High School.” What makes me curious is why he was so eager to spotlight the racist aspect to the video rather than the more egregious bad taste of it, that it promoted violence against whites by blacks. Or what even the “racism” was he saw in the video – was it black on white racism by depicting blacks beating a white, or was it white on black racism given the fact there were white “actors” wearing blackface thereby imputing whites thought blacks were violent towards whites? It seems to me that of the three potential objectionable interpretations of the video – inciting black on white violence, condoning black on white racism, or committing white on black racism by use of parody – the last is the least objectionable. (That is, if anybody can get past the flippant tone of the video that screams out that it is not to be taken seriously by anybody for any reason.)

Brumfield also announced the university would investigate whether it could punish the student. Try to understand this fantastic and sickening situation: an institution of higher learning, which at the very core of its mission is to allow robust debate in the pursuit of truth, seeks to punish the student, thereby sending a chilling effect over freedom of inquiry for all on campus, for an action in her own personal life that did not occur on university property, did not have anything to do with university resources, was not connected in any way to her education at the university, and did not involve the commission of any crime?

To put it another way, what if Brumfield and this gang found out some students were disturbed that a black ULM student was an active, participating member in something like the Nation of Islam which has, among other things, a racist anti-Jewish perspective, who posted his support of such views on his own personal web site – but who never sought to publicize his views on campus, to use campus resources in any way to publicize them, and never made such views evident in completing any classroom requirements. Would they call a news conference and student meeting to blast this student’s views and threaten him or her with disciplinary action because his views were asked about by other students and the media? Neither does this example merit what ULM has inflicted on the student whose only offense was naïveté about how her decision would affect others.

It is disappointing that the ULM administration chose to abandon a core value of the idea of the university in making a mountain out of a molehill, pandering to political correctness in order to make it seem it was “doing something” – if not falling into the trap of pursuing a political agenda: one almost can sense the eagerness of academia to use the entire Jena 6 incident as a way of “resurrecting” the civil rights movement, implying the ridiculous notion that there is a systematic government-sponsored deprivation of minority rights in America today as there was a half-century ago. Simply, ULM took a teachable moment about what a university should be and preferred to gut that chance on the altar of hustling after a public relations gimmick, or worse.

Ironically, one student at the forum put it best but not in the way he intended when he said, “What kind of message is this sending to America about our university?’ Regrettably, the message is that ULM would rather betray an important core value of higher learning than to resist the fashion of the day.


Blanco rant leaves us counting the days to her exit

Just about a hundred days to go now in the term of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and judging by the idiocy and divisive partisanship of recent remarks of hers, the day of her departure cannot come soon enough.

In mean-spirited commenting about all the Republican U.S. House members who voted against a budget-busting State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Democrat version of which brings a supposedly low-income health care program to children instead provides for universal, government-managed health care to families well into the middle class and to many young adults to age 21, Blanco made the following ignorant, asinine remarks:

  • “They are afraid to have an independent thought, and that worries me on an issue that’s critical,” Blanco said. No, it’s Blanco who can’t think her way out of a paper bag on this one – the SCHIP expansion would greatly expand dependency of millions of Americans on government health care, undermine private health plans, reduce choice for Medicare beneficiaries, and saddle taxpayers with a permanent new entitlement. True independent thinking on this one, instead of being hemmed in by Democrats and her liberal ideology, would have her coming out against this bad legislation. Instead, she says she is “appalled” in particular at Rep. Charles Boustany, a doctor, for voting against it – when he obviously has a far better idea about the actual merits of the program than she does.
  • As a reason to expand the program, Blanco said health-insurance costs are skyrocketing and fewer companies are offering health insurance to their employees. No kidding, because government continues to expand into this area to discourage the private sector, such as in the major drug expansion represented by Medicare Part D – which is precisely what the expansion that she supports does.
  • Bordering on dementia was her blather that the Republicans voted against it “to protect the insurance companies. Obviously people can’t afford it (health insurance) or they would have gotten it.” What this dunderhead doesn’t seem to get is it’s a bad bill, so instead she has to go casting aspersions about principled objections based on the lack of soundness of the policy. And it would help if she got a clue on why some people don’t have health insurance for their children – some because they are too poor, but others because they’d rather spend money on flashy new cell phones, cars, televisions, shoes, and clothes, or on cigarettes and on booze or, most unfortunately, on drugs and on other illicit behaviors.

    The shortcomings of the federal reauthorization, which thereby provides the lion's share of money for Louisiana to fund its CHIP program, also includes discouraging private sector insuring initiatives and bypassing many modest-income families, besides including the non-poor and adults in it. Simply, this ever-expanding program if anything it will make health care provision worse for children. And Blanco truly is an ignoramus if she cannot understand this, and a genuine political hack to have the audacity then to cry out politicians opposed to this are mean people shilling for insurance companies.

    So Blanco either is too stupid to understand the commonsensical and logical opposition that all the state’s Republican representatives voting against it and have against it (Rep. Bobby Jindal did not vote on the bill but, whether an error in his judgment or because he is running for governor, says he would support an override of a threatened veto), or she does know these things but is such a partisan hack that she’d sell out the best interests of children just to score points even as her political career comes to an end. Either way, it’s just one more confirmation why time needs to fly on somebody so unable to understand good policy, and demonstrates the wasted time and opportunity her other 1,360 days in office became.
  • 1.10.07

    Term limits to open door to GOP, conservative majority

    Ever since qualifying for state elections ended last month, it’s been clear that Republican chances for taking control of the Louisiana Senate are slim, while the odds probably don’t favor a takeover of the House. As noted then, in a state where the Republican Party has come so far so fast it can be difficult recruiting quality candidates for whom experience in politics makes them more electable.

    Still, after it all goes down by the middle of November, while the GOP may not achieve goals as lofty as once hoped, conservatives probably will in electing a more conservative legislature. This is, as mentioned last week, the direct result of term limits which have the effect of producing candidates succeeding term-limited members, even if of the same party, that are closer to the median voter. And the median voter in Louisiana, by perhaps every electoral indicator except the Legislature’s partisan composition, is more conservative ideologically than this body. Even party leaders both Republican and Democrat affirm that the realized and likely successful new Democrats will be, on the whole, more conservative.

    Yet, “more conservative” is not the same as “conservative,” and besides the strengthening of the bench for the GOP which will occur relatively quickly over time, the biggest obstacle in front of the party in getting elected true conservatives, as opposed to those who are more liberal than conservative, is the state’s bizarre nonpartisan blanket primary system. By letting candidates regardless of party run together in a contest that can serve simultaneously as a general election, it does not penalize candidates or voters for aberrant behavior; i.e. calling yourselves one party label while behaving differently from it.

    Taking a closed primary (only party registrants can vote in its primary) as an example, the electoral system now to be used in the state for federal elections, the first effect after its institution would be party-switching favoring Republicans as conservative Democrats find they no longer could choose preferred candidates in a primary (for those who didn’t already do this in response to the federal office change). In turn, this would encourage conservative Democrat candidates to switch affiliations because they would have to compete with a more liberal base to get a primary nomination, increasing their chances of primary defeat. It also would raise the chances of more conservative Republicans getting elected because they have a higher likelihood of beating switchers in their primary, rather than, as now, facing them in front of the entire electorate, and also becoming more likely to defeat more moderate Republicans in the process.

    Of course, for all this to happen Louisiana law would have to change and that means the Democrats who still control the Legislature would have to hand the rope to Republicans, until the GOP can get majorities in both houses. But this process doesn’t have to be delayed necessarily. The change to closed primaries for federal offices occurred because of a Republican/black Democrat coalition. These Democrats understand that the current system reduces their clout within their party because they cannot influence elections and policy in districts where they do not have a majority. A closed primary system would “purify” the composition of each party, leaving some districts now with a plurality of white Democrats with more black than white Democrats. This means for Democrats blacks would control the nomination process and whites would have to bargain with them whereas now white Democrats in these districts can afford to ignore them.

    Naturally, this could make Democrats a minority in the legislature, as these black or black-approved candidates would be less likely to win against a Republican nominee. But if the Legislature seems headed to this anyway because of term limits and larger overall trends, black politicians may think it’s better to have some influence within a minority party than little, and will support Republicans in this effort. And, in the end, it will have been term limits that would have started this process.

    Term limits do not automatically favor conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, interests – it depends upon the underlying partisanship and ideological composition of the electorate. However, since Louisiana politics has featured a disconnect between state elected officials and the electorate that has favored Democrats for over two decades, eventually Republicans and conservatives will experience victory of the magnitude they hoped for this election cycle – and probably much sooner rather than later.


    Jindal offers best hope for good LA state fiscal policy

    Interviews with the major Louisiana gubernatorial candidates about state fiscal policy, especially dealing with a projected $1 billion surplus, for the upcoming year more than anything it else make it seem like they’re all trying to say the same thing. Still, they managed to show enough of a varied response to reveal how well in touch with reality they appear to be, and thus who best may serve the state.

    Least realistic is Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, and not just for his economy-killing oil processing tax which itself won’t work and for that reason is highly unlikely ever to pass the Legislature and to get a vote of the people for it to go into effect even if Campbell pulled off an unlikely win. Rather, it’s the statement by Campbell that he’s a “fiscal conservative.” His past record as a state senator shows no fiscal discipline at all, and even today, by way of example, he continues to support big government spending such as throwing money at an unnecessarily-large new charity hospital in New Orleans to prop up an inefficient, underperforming health care model. His would be dangerous hands in which to trust Louisiana’s economic policy.

    Businessman independent John Georges, who touts his background, seems out to lunch on the issue when he declared surpluses of the past couple of years were not part of hurricane disaster recovery money from the federal government. Months ago the figure was $60 billion having flowed to the state, and it shouldn’t take running a huge company to understand 4 percent sales tax here, income taxes of 2 to 6 percent there, and then payroll taxes on top of it, that the state has pulled in several billion bucks in revenues from it. If Georges cannot understand this, it’s hard to trust him to make good economic policy for the state.