Democratic Louisiana flag
Volume 1, Number 20
By Democrats For Democrats
June 18, 2010
Where is Governor Jindal?

The Louisiana Legislature is careening towards the end of its current session and the Governor is nowhere to be found.

Press reports indicate that a man identifying himself as Bobby Jindal has been seen watching the start-up of berm building operations along the coast.

A man also calling himself Bobby Jindal has been frantically working with his oil and gas service company patrons to get the federal government to lift the deep water drilling moratorium.

It is that blind boosterism of the industry that is destroying Louisiana's coast, its fisheries, and the coastal culture that reveals Bobby Jindal's (or whoever that stranger is) activities on the coast to be nothing more than political grandstanding.

The real Bobby Jindal never cared about the coast before the Deepwater Horizon incident escalated into a catastrophe. His only concern is that the coffers of his patrons might be affected by the moratorium.

The idea that deep water drilling should be allowed to continue after congressional testimony this week revealed that all the deep water drilling emergency response plans were identical to BP's is proof that the industry did not take safety seriously.

These emergency response plans for the Gulf were cut and paste operations that the industry just threw together when, apparently, any stack of paper would suffice as a plan down at the Mineral Management Service.

The costs keep rising for Louisiana and money is the least of it. This the much touted balance between the industry and the state that enabled our natural resources to be plundered at the expense of our environment. This was always the terms of the deal. What is different now is that, instead of the coast disappearing slowly, it is being rapidly destroyed right before our eyes by an event that we were assured could not happen.

There never has been a balance. It's always been a one-sided — even when the state was getting a significant portion of its revenue from oil and gas.

With the BP Gulf Gusher, the price of the deal has become explicit. Money is the least of it.

Here's the link to the archive page.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Stagg, Editor

Democratic Louisiana

President Obama gets BP to create damage escrow fund; Republican apolgizes to BP CEO

President Barack Obama continued to stand up for the interests of Gulf Coast residents of Louisiana and other states this week when he convinced the chairman of the BP board to have the company to create a $20 escrow fund to cover at least part of the damages that will result from the company's gusher that remains out of control off the coast of our state.

Republican members of Congress criticized the move to ensure that residents affected by the ongoing catastrophe have a path to recovery, calling it "a Chicago shakedown."

Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton went even further, calling the fund "a great national tragedy." Barton went so far as to publicly apologize to BP CEO Tony Hayward during Hayward's appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Barton once chaired.

Barton's ridiculous apology is causing him problems within his own party. But, it is typical of what we have come to expect of Republicans when it comes to dealing with the President. The Party of No is so hell-bent on criticizing any initiative by the President that they are willing to embrace the leadership of foreign corporations who are inflicting grave harm to people, businesses, and the econology of our state and others along the Gulf Coast.

Their hatred of the President so blinds them that they cannot distinguish the interests of the people of this country from their partisan posturing.

Congressman Barton's apology perfectly captures the 'if he's for it, then I'm against it' approach of today's Republicans. This has been at the heart of the attacks on healthcare reform. Barton's kowtowing to BP might actually open some eyes in this state.

To hear Governor Bobby Jindal's coterie of loyalists, calls for greater transparency in the Governor's Office and legislative oversight of the sweeping privatization contracts the administration wants to implement constitute heretical questioning of their core belief in Jindal's infallibility.

Jindal's ascent in Louisiana politics has been based on a presumption of his intellectual brilliance. It started back when then-Governor Mike Foster named the 25 year-old Jindal to be secretary for the Department of Health & Hospitals (DHH). What followed was a job-hopping career that enabled Jindal to advance without the implications of his performance in one position becoming evident before he moved on to a new slot. He went from DHH to DC where he served as executive director on a Medicare panel. Then it was back to Louisiana in 1999 where Foster convinced the University of Louisiana system to waive its hiring standards in order to make Jindal head of that system. In 2001, it was back to DC where Jindal went to work in the Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services. In 2003, he ran for governor. In 2004, he ran and won the seat of Congressman from the First Congressional District. He stayed there about two years before returning to Louisiana to run again for governor, winning the 2007 election.

At no step on that dizzying ascent did Jindal stay long enough to deal with the repercussions of whatever policies he might have proposed or implemented. It's different now that he's governor. Two-and-a-half years into his term, the impact of his policies are coming into focus. The picture for the state is not pretty. Essential services are being relentlessly and needlessly slashed. Yet, Jindal keeps plowing ahead while his supporters demand that the rest of the state continue to bow to his intelligence and ignore the implications of what he's doing.

From ethics reform to state budgets to privatization to the BP Gulf Gusher, Jindal's hidden but real record as governor is an uninterrupted stream of poor decisions and bad choices.

"Hey!" his supporters say, "The man's got an image to buff and a presidency to pursue. He can't be bothered by niggling questions about how his pursuit is wrecking the state."

Ignore those implications behind the curtain!

How dare you question The Smartest Guy In The Room?

Ethics: All That Glitters . . .

Jindal swept to victory based, in part, by positioning himself as having the answer to Louisiana's long history of political corruption. Interestingly, there was no corruption in the post-Katrina/Rita deluge of federal funding into the state. The administration of Governor Kathleen Blanco created and ran a squeaky clean reconstruction process that handled billions in federal dollars appropriated in the wake those two hurricanes and the federal levee failures in New Orleans after Katrina.

It is worth noting, too, that Jindal's deep ties to the Bush administration and his burning ambition to run again for governor may well have influence the heavy and early hyper-partisan effort of that administration to deflect blame for its failures onto the Blanco administration. I know, it's difficult to imagine the Bush administration playing politics with public policy.

Candidate Jindal incessantly touted his intention to win legislative approval for what he called "The Gold Standard" in ethics for state elected officials. In a special legislative session that took place shortly after his inauguration, Jindal got his ethics reform package passed, but problems were immediately apparent.

Enforcement of the state's ethics laws were transferred from the state Board of Ethics for Elected Officials to a group of administrative law judges. A large number of ethics board in place at that time resigned in protest over the obvious flaws in the process that relegated them to figureheads. An undaunted Jindal appointed a new board and, as problems have continued to manifest themselves, the new board members have become vocal in their criticism of the new ethics regime.

Jindal's 'gold standard' has actually crippled ethics enforcement in the state, a fact made embarrassingly clear when the administrative law judges refused to penalize a Democratic group that spent more than $600,000 in the 2007 campaign for attorney general. Here's how The Advocate described the case and the ruling in a May 22 article:

The three-judge adjudicatory panel found a Washington, D.C.-area Democratic group violated the state’s campaign finance law by failing to file required reports. The group spent $644,000 on television commercials criticizing 2007 Republican attorney general candidate Royal Alexander.

But the three-judge panel assessed no fine against The Louisiana Justice Fund because it said those behind the group did not know they were supposed to file. The group is funded by the Democratic Attorneys General Association Inc., a Denver-based organization formed to support the elections of Democrats to a state’s top legal post.

Ethics Board member Scott Schneider said the notion that a political action committee can come to Louisiana, spend $644,000 against a candidate without reporting it and then have no fine levied is “just unbelievable to me.” Schneider said lack of knowledge should be no excuse.

Ignorance is apparently blissful in Louisiana politics, particularly when it comes to violating campaign finance laws under the Jindal gold standard.

Click here to read the rest of "Papal Bull"

The illness afflicting workers exposed to BP's oil disaster?

Workers cleaning up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have reported suffering from flu-like symptoms that may be the consequence of exposure to chemicals in the oil as well as the petroleum-derived solvent being used to disperse the spill. The Institute for Southern Studies blog Facing South has the story here.

The illness -- marked by headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, and problems with memory and concentration -- has been dubbed toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT. People suffering from TILT lose the ability to tolerate exposures to household chemical products, medication or even food, Dr. Claudia Miller of the University of Texas Health Science Center told WOAI TV:

"Things like diesel fuel, exposure to fragrances, cleaning agents that never bothered them before suddenly bother them," adds Dr. Miller.

Miller first described TILT in 1996, but it remains a controversial diagnosis among the medical community. The syndrome is also known as multiple chemical sensitivity and idiopathic environmental intolerance. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has defined the illness as a "chronic, recurring disease caused by a person's inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals."

McClatchy News Service reports that federal regulators believe a cleaning fluid used to stem the flow of oil in the Gulf.

Federal votes poised to revert to open primary system

A reduction from three to two elections to choose U.S. senators and members of Congress from Louisiana, starting in 2012, won final legislative approval Wednesday. The Times-Picayune story is here.

State senators voted 35-0 for a compromise version of House Bill 292 by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge. Now, the final decision on changing the election process for federal races in the state is in the hands of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who can approve it or reject it.

The compromise was approved by House members 75-17 Monday.

Deepwater drilling moratorium is vital to safety, federal officials say

Lt. Governor Scott Angelle's appeal notwithstanding, the federal government claims the deepwater drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico is vital to avoid more well blowouts and oil spills, rejecting the argument from some offshore service companies that their business will be harmed.

The contention, entered in court records late Thursday, is at the heart of the Interior Department's answer to a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the six-month moratorium filed by a group of offshore service companies June 9.

The Associated Press story on the filing is in the Times-Picayune here.

Jindal has tough decision on opening oil spill records

The House of Representatives voted 77-12 today to ratify Senate changes on a public records bill that would require the governor to grant public access to all state records related to the Gulf oil spill, putting Gov. Bobby Jindal in uncomfortable position politically. The Times-Picayune story is here.

House Bill 37 by Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, originated as an uncontroversial measure that would allow the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections to discard certain old records. But the Senate earlier this week adopted the amendment from Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, to affect the governor's office and other executive branch agencies.

The Republican governor, who casts himself as a champion of ethics and transparency, has for three years successfully scuttled legislation to scale back his broad exemptions to Louisiana public records law, sparing himself from having to wield his veto pen. Separately, he has pushed his own records bills to tinker with the exceptions, calling those efforts "transformational" moves toward open government.

Jindal aides have not said what the governor plans in response to the latest maneuver. "We need to review the amendment in detail. We want to ensure we don't do anything to hurt our state's position in future litigation against BP."

Right. Jindal's approach to transparency is only based on his deep and abiding concern for the well-being of the state's position in court.

Got nothing to do with protecting his all consuming national political ambition, right?

That would be a first.

FDR and Ike Warned Us That There Would Be Days Like These

By Dr. Mike Robichaux

The current crisis off the Louisiana coast may be the largest disaster to ever hit our state. The true impact of this tragedy will not be known for years. It has the potential to significantly alter our coastal communities in ways that hurricanes and flooding alone could never do. There are several points I would like to make regarding this catastrophe.

The first point is with regard to off shore drilling: We can safely drill for oil in 5,000 feet of water or in 10,000 feet of water, whatever the circumstances, if proper engineering standards are used in the process. We cannot safely drill in 50 feet of water if we do not follow the rules and regulations that have been established for these activities.

Engineers have designed “failsafe” measures that can prevent the problems we are experiencing. Such measures were supposedly in place while this well was being drilled. Unfortunately, many of the oil and gas corporations have the political clout to circumvent regulations and have done so with impunity in the past. The U.S. Mineral Management Service, whose mission is to monitor offshore drilling, has apparently not implemented the proper oversight. Would better supervision on their part have prevented this tragedy? Available evidence indicates that it is likely that this catastrophe could have been avoided if regulations had been followed.

The second point concerns the role of U.S. and multi-national corporations: In recent years U.S. industries have gained such political clout as to be largely immune from regulations. In many cases, existing regulations aren’t followed and tragedies result.

The banking industry has brought our nation to its knees through exemptions it had been granted in the past. Our nation’s coal miners work in environments that are blatantly unsafe. Regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to enforce their own regulations and legislators are too cowardly to insist that the do so. Wealthy and politically connected owners bully their way around the system and the lives and health of American workers are constantly threatened by this abandonment of oversight.

The Oil and Gas Industry is now under the spotlight. Seven years ago we went to war in Iraq to benefit this industry. We have spent over $750 BILLION so far in that conflict.  Approximately 4,500 American deaths and over 30,000 SERIOUS injuries add to the cost. Clearly, the blood of our children has been shed to enrich this industry.

In a scenario similar to that encountered with coal mining, state legislators and the governor are screaming about closing offshore drilling while safety studies are being performed. The irony of this situation is that the governor and these same legislators are the very people whose anti-regulation policies created this problem in the first place. Who is joining them and supporting them in this matter? The Oil and Gas industry is being portrayed as being the good guys trying to save the jobs of thousands of Louisiana oilfield workers when they are actually the party responsible for all of these problems.

These large corporations never rest in their efforts to enhance their profitability at our expense. In the current legislative session they sought to improve their already favorable legal positions by eliminating environmental law clinics throughout the nation. These clinics provide legal services to individuals who are typically the victims of corporate misdeeds. One such bill, introduced by a floor leader for Governor Jindal, was before the state legislature when this catastrophe occurred.  The bill was pulled after the oil spill was publicized, but you can expect its resurgence in the future. You might find it of interest that BP was part of the group trying to eliminate these clinics.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals. Corporations will now be able to use their financial clout as never before to further control our government and our lives. This single ruling may have more impact on our nation than a dozen oil spills.

The true irony here is that WE are responsible for these tragedies. We have allowed ourselves to be deceived by people who have absolutely no interest in our well-being. WE are our own worse enemies in this respect.

For eight long and painful years Big Business was allowed to run our nation. Every stupid and destructive activity that had been championed by right wing lunatics was implemented and we were brought to the brink of destruction by these activities. We were lied to and deluded into going to war against a country that had never threatened us and at the same time, tax cuts were implemented that largely supported the wealthy. Going to war has always resulted in higher taxes. Not for this bunch. Their plans were foolish; the outcomes of their schemes predictable and highly destructive. President Bush inherited a budget surplus that would likely have eliminated our entire national debt. In a few years he managed to plunge us into debt that was greater than anything ever seen before in the world.

While it is impossible to correct the fiscal, economic and social damage done to our nation overnight, it is critical that we recognize those who do support our nation and differentiate them from those who would destroy our Republic and enslave its population.

President Franklin Roosevelt, who led the U.S. through the great depression and World War II, was a member of the Democratic Party. Roosevelt warned our nation of the evils of corporate power. In a message to the nation regarding the need for anti-trust laws (laws that were initially passed under his Republican cousin, Theodore Roosevelt), Roosevelt made the following comment:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

President Dwight Eisenhower, who had commanded the allied armies in the European Theatre during WWII, was, like Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican. He too was open about the threat from within posed by too much corporate power. In his last speech to the country he loved and served with great distinction, he issued the following warning:

 “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Both Roosevelts, as well as Eisenhower, understood that American industry and ingenuity were responsible for our remarkable successes throughout the world. They also recognized that, given the opportunity, the same corporations that assured our successes could strangle us, and, using their wealth and political influence, destroy our way of life.

Congress is making progress in curtailing some of the unacceptable behavior of the financial industry. The Oil and Gas Industry also needs to be brought under control, allowing for profits but with stringent and reasonable regulatory oversight.

Dr. Mike Robichaux is an Otolaryngologist practicing in Raceland. He is a former member of the Louisiana Senate where he was a championed protection of Louisiana's environment and the interests of working people.

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