Democratic Louisiana flag
Volume 1, Number 17
By Democrats For Democrats
June 6, 2010
Welcome back to Democratic Louisiana!

The Memorial Day holiday and trying to catch up on that shortened work week threw my writing and publishing schedule off. So, this is the first edition since last Sunday.

There is nothing quite like a bolt of honesty to clear the air clouded by yammering idiots in love with the sound of their own voices. That is precisely what happened this past week when Bobby Jindal and his friends in the Louisiana House were wringing their hands over the impact of the six month moratorium on deep water drilling ordered by President Obama.

They are worried about the jobs, don't you know? The jobs that will be affected by parking those rigs until we know what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon and take steps to prevent something like that from happening again, don't you know?

Then, after passing their motions, the members of the House went about their other work which is cutting the jobs of hundreds if not thousands of Louisiana state employees all because they don't have the brains or the balls to offend their upper income patrons.

Yes, it's about the jobs, don't you know? Their jobs.

Oh, and Jindal got his berms (at least some of them). But, they made him pay a high price for them: he had to listen to scientists say it is nearly a hair-brained idea because so little thought has gone into it. Don't worry, though. Jindal's bubble remains firmly sealed.

If you've missed an earlier edition of Democratic Louisiana, here's the link to the archive page.

Thanks for reading!

Mike Stagg, Editor

Democratic Louisiana

Democratic Strategist says party's challenge is non-Tea Party, white working class voters

The Democratic Strategist is featuring a new white paper by Andrew Levison, whose study of white working class voters dates back all the way to the 1970s.

Here's how the folks at TDS describe the white paper:

Levison's study begins by isolating non-college-educated white voters who are not attracted to the Tea Party Movement, but who are rapidly trending Republican, as an important strategic target for Democrats in 2010 and particularly in 2012. He then examines the often-heard proposition that a strong anti-corporate "populist" message is the key to attracting these voters, and finds it lacking in terms of the strong anti-government and anti-politics sentiments that have become an entrenched factor in the world views of many non-college educated voters in recent years. He instead suggests a comprehensive message of "government reform" that addresses the legitimate and perceived concerns of those white working class voters who are still open to persuasion, and that contextualizes progressive policy proposals in a way that makes them far more acceptable to skeptics of government and politics.

You should read the whole article.

In his overview of the paper, Levison says the party can reach these voters through use of an approach that is based on the interaction of the basic social value systems working people internalize as they grow up and the individual experiences they have in their lives. He said that the polling data leads him to conclude that white working class voters are actually split between two groups — a quite substantial group of conservative “true believers” and smaller but politically pivotal “open minded” or “common sense” group. This split can be clearly detected in survey data derived from last years’ CAP study of political ideology as well in as recent D-Corps focus groups.

CAP is the Center for American Progress. D-Corps is the firm that James Carville heads with Stan Greenberg.

Levison says polling has identified a segment of “non tea-party” white working class voters who have voted Democratic at various times in the past and who are the reasonable targets for a Democratic communications campaign. They do tend to consider themselves generally conservative and traditional, but they are also capable of voting for moderate Democrats and passively “going along with,” if not agreeing with, the major policies of the Obama administration.

He then looks at the best way to win the support of those voters.

You can download Levison's paper here (PDF).

Let the record show that Governor Bobby Jindal's embrace of the protection of Louisiana's coastal environment lasted just about a month.

During a week in which Jindal lost no opportunity to lambaste BP over the damage their still-gushing oil was doing to Louisiana's wetlands and estuaries (and their ineffective response), the governor sent an impassioned letter to President Barack Obama asking that the President lift the six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Louisiana House of Representatives got into the act on Thursday, too, passing a resolution on a vote of 92-0 asking Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to end the just-announced moratorium.

Senator David Vitter (John-DC/LA) declared his undying loyalty to the energy industry and his largest contributors by sending his own letter to the President, asking that the moratorium be ended and that drilling be allowed to continue unless safety violations were found.

The question is: Found by who?

What the President recognizes — as does anyone else who has followed the reporting on this disaster — is that the oil and gas companies have written their own tickets in the Gulf of Mexico. Consider these items:

* The Department of the Interior's Mineral Management Service was a captured entity of the industry because of the built-in conflict it had of directing lease sales and regulating drilling activity.

* At least three decades ago, the industry obtained a blanket waiver on a requirement to provide environmental impact statements on drilling in the Gulf.

* Some drilling rigs in the deep water fleet in the Gulf did not have 'as-built' blueprints available so that crews could respond effectively to problems on the drilling site.

* There was not a clear chain of command on the Deepwater Horizon that led to an inability to deal with the crisis that emerged on the night of April 20.

Still, apologists for the industry led the charge to let the drilling continue while the damage inflicted by the BP Gulf Gusher continues unabated and it is not clear what went wrong on the rig on that fateful night.

During his trip to Louisiana on Friday, President Obama made clear he is aware of the economic cost of the moratorium but that there is no safe way for deep water drilling to continue until what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon is known and corrective measures are in place to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

"As difficult as it may be, it's important for us to do this right, because if we don't do it right, then what you could end up seeing is an even worse impact on the oil industry down here, which is so important to so many jobs," the president said.

Obama said everyone in the meeting agreed that safety is paramount.

"They did ask: Can we do it faster?'' he said. "And what I said to them was the same thing that I said to (Bob) Graham and (William) Reilly, which is, you do it as fast as it takes to do it right.''

Obama appointed Graham, a former Florida senator, and Reilly, a former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, to head a presidential commission probing the Gulf oil spill. He said although the commission has six months for the investigation, that doesn't mean it has to use the entire time.

"If they can front-load some of the analysis of what went wrong and can do that more quickly than six months, let me know. Don't hold the results," the president said.

No Going Back to BBP (Before BP)

Essentially, the President is saying that business as usual is over in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen and their families have recognized this. The energy industry is going to have to come to grips with this. The politicians, well, they can keep posturing and taking money from those companies, but the old game of conflating our state's interests as being the same as the energy industry's are over. Things like this make it unmistakably clear.

There can be no going back to "Before BP" thinking where every permit was approved and every project rubber stamped.

The concern about the moratorium is on the economic impact it will have. The temporary loss of oil and gas industry jobs is not a trivial concern but neither were the potential environmental and economic impacts of a Gulf Gusher like the one currently under way. It was the industry and their apologists who downplayed — yes, trivialized — those concerns.

Now that a catastrophe far worse than anyone had predicted is unfolding it is pretty hard to feel much sympathy for the industry that paid lip service to the environmental impact of their work, down played safety concerns and ignored the risks associated with deep water drilling.

The industry's accountability moment has arrived and they want to skip the test.

What makes the President's clarity so stark is that most of our political leadership has long been — and still remains — in the back pocket of the energy industry. Back in the 1980s, when oil and gas exploration was at its peak in Louisiana, it fed our families, it funded our government and it bankrolled out politicians.

Three decades later, industry employment has been shrinking and energy revenue accounts for a smaller percentage of government funding. But energy industry bankrolling of politicians has remained constant.

Click here to read the rest of "Thank You, President Obama"

Tucker's Blueprint for Louisiana Passes House on Friday

House Speaker Jim Tucker is committeed to whacking down the size of state government — whatever the cost in jobs and quality of service — and his colleagues in the House on Friday advanced a budget bill that is much to the Speaker's liking.

It forces sharp cuts in the LSU Hospital system, it makes further cuts in higher education, and leaves it up to the Division of Administration to cut another $60 million or so from the other state departments not singled out for cuts under HB-1.

Tucker made clear his desire to shut the LSU hospital system when he told the House Appropriations Committee that, “We shouldn’t be in the hospital business anyway. We should be in the outpatient clinic business.” There are 13,000 people working at hospitals in that system.

Dr. Fred Cerise of LSU said the bill that passed the House could force the closure of four of those hospitals.

The cuts to higher education would bring to $300 million the cuts made to colleges and universities over the past 18 months. That amounts to at least a 20 percent cut in funding at the same time the universities are being told to improve their performance in return for control over tuition increases.

The House also passed a bill that would close the hole in the current year's budget, but possibly at the expense of being able to put the state's rainy day fund to use in closing the gap for the next fiscal year.

The fight over both budgets is ramping up with two weeks left in the session. Here's what some people told the Senate Finance Committee the impact of the Tucker Budget would be.

Thousands of state workers will be laid off in coming years. Services will be cut back. Here comes the Jindal recession.

DHH Privatization Push Goes Hardball

DHH Secretary Alan Levine continues to press the Jindal privatization agenda regarding the state's mental health hospitals.

The Advocate reported two developments this week. The first was that Levine has called for the Inspector General to investigate the high use of "family medical leave" at the three state-owned and operated mental hospitals. Those hospitals are the focus of privatization efforts this year.

In the second story, The Advocate reported that five companies have submitted plans to carry out the privatization of services at East Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson, which is the source of a fight between the Jindal administration and a bi-partisan coalition of House members who, at the very least, want legislative oversight of the process. Jindal and Levine oppose that oversight.

Bobby n' Billy Get Their Faith-based Berms

The Obama Administration has approved the construction of six sand berms along Louisiana's coast in the hope of preventing some of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP-owned well from damaging more of the state's wetlands and beaches.

Prospects for success of the project have been deemed slim by those who know the coast best, but since they were not consulted on the development of the plan, but were only brought in for comments this week. What are you to expect from a plan conceived by a parish president, championed by a governor turned beach comber, and apparently approved as a means of sparing both men from serious health issues if they did not get their way?

The six-berm plan is a scaled down version of a 'back-of-the-napkin' plan to dredge up to 128 miles of berms that would have required the removal of 102 million yards of sea bed, and cost up to $950 million.

The berms are the brainchild of Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser that Governor Bobby Jindal latched onto with a ferver that looked desperate even by his hyperactive standards.

According to the Los Angeles Times, people familiar with the Gulf, dredging and building berms, it is doubtful that anything will be built in time to make any difference in the problem of oil flowing into bays and estuaries.

Like the Deepwater Horizon itself, this project to try to mitigate the damage from the disaster will be done without an environmental impact statement, nor any detailed consideration of the impact of the project on hydrolic flows along the coast.

Do the words "unintended consequences" ring a bell?

The fact that the impact of the project has not been thought through is so striking that BP has said it will not accept any liability for damage resulting from the building of the berms.

"The company will not assume liability for unintended consequences," BP spokesman Mark Proegler was quoted in the LA Times as saying. "We're counting on the government to make the right decisions."

Let that thought settle in for a second: this project is considered too risky by BP.

With hurricane season upon us, some scientists question the expenditure of money and resources on an experimental project. The berms will be 300 feet wide at their base, tapering to 25 feet at the top.

The berms "will not survive even a low-intensity tropical storm in the northern gulf," Jack Kindinger, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., told the LA Times. "If we have one next week, the berms will be gone. We have to be careful not to do more harm than good."

But, in the final paragraphs of the Times' story, is the essential fact here: despite Louisiana universities serving as home to several top-flight coastal research programs, it apparently never occurred to Jindal to reach out to those experts:

Coastal scientists and oceanographers were brought in this week to present their views on the berm proposal to state and federal responders. Many said they were frustrated, wondering why their expertise was not brought to bear sooner.

"You cannot do this without some sort of reasonable quantification as to what will happen," Gregory Stone, director of the Coastal Studies Institute at Louisiana State University, said. "I understand we are in a jam right now, but, good Lord, we have sophisticated computer models that can do this in a matter of weeks.… It's sort of unconscionable that we've gone well over a month without scientific input."

Denise Reed, interim director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Science at the University of New Orleans, said that given the construction timelines, expectations that the berms will stop oil are unrealistic.

"There is a public sense that this is the solution that we need," she said. "I found this proposal extremely difficult to evaluate because it's so idealized and conceptual.… We are not going into it with our eyes wide open."

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