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Event tempts some to contradict university's mission

The staging of an event at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center has raised the question about whether events at state facilities ought to be censored over free speech concerns of its sponsors, and is worth some exploration.

A prayer rally termed “The Response” is scheduled there Jan. 24 of next year and has caused controversy because the main sponsor behind it is the American Family Association. The organization has gained recognition for organizing boycotts of and registering legal complaints against television programs and movies that show higher amounts of graphic sex, violence, or language, and generally supports traditional morality in public policy. As a result, it strongly has condemned the practice of homosexuality and laws that legitimize it in the public sphere, such as same-sex marriage.

In turn, supporters of the concept that policy should protect expressions of homosexual behavior bitterly oppose the group. The absurdly-named Southern Poverty Law Center – being as its assets are over a quarter billion dollars – quaintly calls the AFA a “hate group,” which is the standard appellation it levies on groups who promote an agenda to which it disagrees, rendering it the genuine hate group of them all. Elements that apparently agree with that assessment seek to protest the event and to change policy concerning facility rental. To make matters more interesting, the event’s guest of honor appears to be Gov. Bobby Jindal.


Watering down TOPS subverts its beneficial impact

A recent opinion piece by a private university leader in Louisiana suggests less in the way of achieving educational excellence for those who attend college in the state than it does to encourage increase lining of his school’s pockets.

Dillard University Pres. Walter Kimbrough, upon reviewing the results of a recent report concerning statistics about the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which pays tuition at the highest state-school level for any university in the state for students who have graduated from high schools in state, or who were home schooled, or who meet other special qualifications if certain qualifications are met, declared the program “is more of an engine of inequality than it is of opportunity.” The program began out of a private effort by philanthropist Patrick Taylor to fund college for at-risk children in New Orleans who were able to graduate from high school.

But when the state institutionalized this into law using public money in 1998, the program as a tool to send students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to college became only one goal for use of that money. Incredibly modest merit standards were put into place for qualification to earn it, which today means that a student graduating from a high school to pursue non-technical study must pass there a certain number of core courses, achieve a 2.5 grade point average, and score a 20 composite on the American College Test.


2014 scenarios should prompt end of blanket primary

For some time this space has argued that Louisiana not only should return to closed primaries for Congressional elections, but for all elections. In the wake of 2014 elections favoring Republicans in the state, other voices have joined in perhaps through surveying GOP wins that might have turned out differently that could not have if the blanket primary system had been junked.

Perhaps most strikingly, Republicans nearly threw away a safe seat on – and thus the effective majority on it – the Public Service Commission as the stealth candidate phenomenon came calling to its District 1 contest. In the general election, incumbent Eric Skrmetta polled only 37 percent of the all-Republican field, one point behind Forest Bradley Wright with the remainder of the vote but not enabling him to make the runoff going to perennial candidate Al Leone.

But Wright only two years earlier had run as a Democrat in a different district (there is no residency requirement for these), gaining just a fifth of the vote, and had not changed his hard left environmentalist agenda. However, enough voters in the heavily-conservative district became aware of this so that Skrmetta pulled out a win by about 4,000 votes in the runoff.


Mitch Landrieu candidacy can't resurrect Democrats

While a proper understanding of the precarious political position Louisiana Democrats find themselves in certainly globally would assist the party, perhaps no one would benefit more from knowing this than their own New Orleans Gov. Mitch Landrieu in terms of what to do with his political life. And while those options don’t look great, his chances of maximizing them depends upon comprehending the most valid interpretation.

As previously noted, the blowout loss of his sister Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy to retain her present Senate seat has been understood poorly by many on the political left. Some wish to ignore its root causes and plan to sail on without learning its lessons: when leftist candidates are seen for what they truly are, which will be the case going forward in Louisiana, they cannot win statewide nor legislative majorities in Louisiana. The trick to recovery, then, is for Democrats to preach less in the way of the extreme liberalism that emanates out of today’s White House and (in a month) the minority parties in Congress, not to double down on it.

An objection to this argument declares that a moderating strategy that became more like a less far-reaching version of conservatism than like liberalism ultimately would fail because Democrats would end up echoing Republicans and voters torn between the two would still side with the real thing. Instead, this view holds out hope that traditional modern liberalism can appeal on economic issues to win back enough voters to make the party competitive, if not able to win majorities.


Better choices out there for LA governor than Cain

It might surprise readers to know that the idea of the warden of Louisiana’s most prominent prison running for governor is neither unprecedented nor futile: the only man ever to defeat Huey Long in an election was Henry Fuqua upon winning the governor’s race in 1924, with his only political experience and also previous job title for eight years having been the warden at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Yet that shouldn’t mean an embryonic candidacy of the current chief there Burl Cain either is realistic nor desirable.

While the state’s media may report the notion of Cain’s jousting for the state’s top spot, apparently juiced by anonymous social media postings, as something novel, in fact this talk has circulated previously, as noted warily by the far left in reference to the 2011 election. Cain has carved out a history as a prison reformer that puts the locus on reformation of the individual from within, that believes good, hard, honest work spurs such reformation (or at least helps the miscreant square his debt to society), and that religious belief and its expression does wonders to subsume and control man’s tendency towards evil.

In Cain’s nearly two decades heading up Angola, he has achieved near-celebrity status on the basis of helping to turn what once had been a dreadful operation into one that prides itself on its safety (a large portion of its population is murderers and the large majority are lifers), its multitude of enterprises that pay for some of its operations (including loaning itself out for documentaries and feature films), certain high-profile prisoner-run aspects such as its rodeo and newspaper, and the relatively high proportion of evangelization spread among its inmates. Critics maintain that Cain treats some prisoners too harshly (the most recent allegation being over its ambient death row temperatures) and severity depends upon whether they embrace religiosity, especially of his evangelical kind.