Democratic Louisiana flag
Volume 1, Number 23
By Democrats For Democrats
July 9, 2010
Il sont partis!

Qualifying for the various federal, state and local offices will wrap up this afternoon at 5. At that point we'll know what the field looks like in these races, particularly the U.S. Senate race.

I can't believe that Republicans are going to let David Vitter claim their nomination without someone trying to hold the state's junior senator accountable for the shame he has brought upon himself, his family, his party, and our state for consorting with prostitutes.

Maybe I'm too old to get it. But, I recall a time when the mantra for Republicans nationally was "character matters." They impeached Bill Clinton for lying about consensual sex but Vitter's serial john-ing while serving as a public official is not only condoned, but not challenged?

What happened to the party of moral certitude? My sense is that nothing really happened, but that it was posturing all along.

Still, I find it incredible that no one in the Louisiana Republican Party has the courage or sense of moral outrage that would lead them to challenge Vitter in the primary.

We'll know for sure at 5 p.m.

If I were Charlie Melancon, today would be the ninth day of a very intensive novena where I'd have been fervently praying that no one challenges Vitter. I believe that if Vitter does get challenged in the party primary, he'll lose. Whoever did that would likely defeat Melancon — despite the fact that Vitter would probably actively work against the election of the Republican who defeated him.

Vitter is beatable, despite what the poll numbers say at this point. I just hope that Melancon's campaign has the brains and the balls to run the campaign that will beat him.

Here's the link to the archive page.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Stagg, Editor

Democratic Louisiana

Three years ago, in the summer of 2007, David Vitter' life and career were in chaos.

He'd been identified as a customer of DC Madam Debra Jean Palfrey's escort service. Her phone records indicated at least five calls between Vitter (who was a First District Congressman at the time) and the service, including calls taken while votes were open on the floor of the House of Representatives. Vitter was lining up, uh, entertainment for him after a hard day at the office taking care of the public's business.

At least two other women — one, a madam; the other, a former prostitute — identified Vitter as a client of theirs in after news broke of his involvement in the DC Madam scandal. These women said Vitter's involvement with prostitutes dated back to his time in the Legislature.

Vitter, acknowledged having sinned, then went into seclusion for a week in Metairie with his wife and family.

On July 16, 2007, he emerged from hiding to head back to Washington. He and his wife delivered a media statement at a hotel near the New Orleans airport, just minutes before Congressman Bobby Jindal, who succeeded Vitter as representative from the First Congressional District, was scheduled to land at the same airport on the last leg of his tour announcing his campaign for governor.

Vitter dug in. He stonewalled the media. He ignored calls for him to resign. He pressed on. There was never any apparent doubt that he would run for re-election this year. In fact, in the three years since that scandal erupted, Vitter has worked hard to further ingratiate himself to the right wing of his party and, in the process, has maintained strong levels of support among Louisiana Republicans for a man so blatantly and explicitly connected to scandal and hypocrisy.

Read the rest of "Vitter's Furer Problem" by clicking here.

“A British panel issued a sweeping exoneration on Wednesday of scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate, saying it found no evidence that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.” – New York Times, 7/7/10.

This week’s report by an independent panel of inquiry in the U.K. is actually the third major investigation of  “Climategate” – a manufactured scandal that rocked the headlines last fall and helped undermine the Copenhagen Climate Summit. “Climategate” involved a trove of e-mails and documents that were hacked from the server of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in November 2009, and fed to the right-wing blogosphere. From there the story’s viral spread through the media provided the “denialists” of global warming a key chance influence public perception and policy with no formal investigation or analysis of the issues involved.

Typical of the rush to judgment was the conduct of Louisiana’s junior Senator (along with Congressman Steve Scalise), who jumped on the bandwagon, claiming “potential data corruption” and “significant biases in the peer review process” – not issues in which the Mr. Vitter is known to have fluency or expertise. The Senator’s staff seized on the story immediately in late November, and their memos to other Hill staffers display a characteristic mixture of extremism and confusion. Saying the e-mails “could well be the greatest act of scientific fraud in history,” Vitter staffer Bryan Zumwalt laid out “more than a decade” of charges:

Suppression of data, destruction of data, organized subversion of peer review, coordinated efforts with media outlets, etc.

He managed to confuse the CRU with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and to combine their “political agenda” with that of the WTO. Comically, he also managed to confuse a reference in one of the e-mails to “tax avoidance” with “tax evasion.” Reading the e-mails provides some clarification – later amplified by the scientists – that this referred to a perfectly legal attempt to convey travel funds under a grant to a Russian colleague in a way that would not lead to their being taxed as commercial activity.

In the aftermath of the first media cycle of the “Climategate” story and its accusations of fraud, repression, and sabotage, a number of major scientific associations conducted assessments of the e-mails’ most controversial content. This was fairly easy to do, since only 4 or 5 out of 1,000 had been singled out as allegedly revealing misconduct. The American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all stated that the e-mails had no relevance for the conclusions of the science of climate change.

But three panels have also conducted in-depth investigations of the hacked e-mails and other documents to gauge their actual impact and significance. The University of East Anglia (UAE) announced in December that an Independent Climate Change Email Review would examine the files for evidence of suppression or manipulation of data. The U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee announced an inquiry in January with a broader scope, which included the question of the independence of international climate data. The UAE also formed an independent Science Assessment Panel in March to reassess formal papers by the CRU which had already been peer reviewed and published, to ascertain whether they contained any evidence of data distortion. All three have concluded that there was no evidence of fraud, misconduct, or scientific malpractice.[ii]

While the denialists have branded these reports as whitewashes, even a cursory reading shows that the panels did direct criticism at some of the scientists involved because of the way they handled Freedom of Information requests from “skeptics” and others who were submitting them continually. The reviews have also confirmed that the vast majority of this data was already publicly available, with a smaller amount bound by proprietary contracts. (Changing this latter policy was a common recommendation.)

But the ramifications of the controversy have gone far beyond the question of what the e-mails really contain. Several members of Congress, including Senator Inhofe (R-OK), Representative Issa (R-CA), were among those claiming last fall that the controversy invalidated existing climate science, and calling for investigations of climate scientists. Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) railed about “scientific fascism”, apparently missing the irony that state control of science is in fact a hallmark of fascism.

And we’re seeing just that. The Attorney General of Virginia launched an investigation in May of Michael Mann, one of the scientists whose e-mails were hacked, and who had formerly taught at the University of Virginia. AG Ken Cuccinelli commanded UVA to produce all documents relating to state research grants Mann had received while there. Cuccinelli evinced no idea of what he was talking about, or of the implications of his actions for academic freedom and scientific integrity — factors that are becoming characteristic of the rightwing thought-world. Mann’s subsequent exoneration of any scientific misconduct by his current employer, Pennsylvania State University, will also likely be ignored by the denialists.

Which brings us back to Senator Vitter, who has joined Governor Jindal in blasting the federal government on a daily basis for “delays” in approving the state’s oil spill response plans.[iv] A look at the permit document files shows that the “delays” have largely come from the state, and that the feds have responded immediately to the CPRA’s disorganized proposals.[v] More fundamentally, the Governor’s plans have some bad ideas, which could likely have been avoided if the state had consulted with its impressive consortium of coastal scientists at LSU, ULL, and other universities. Those experts were deliberately excluded from the planning process when the Governor’s sand berm plans were thrown together. Science is obviously a hindrance to political opportunism, not to mention ideology. This attitude defines the state’s attitude to global warming, and increasingly to coastal restoration. It’s an approach Senator Vitter is very familiar with.

The author of this article is a non-ideological friend of science and this publication.

Len Bahr's 9 Reasons Bobby's Berms Are Busts

The Times-Picayune on Tuesday published an op-ed piece by noted Louisiana coastal researcher and blogger Len Bahr. In "Sand berms a dubious solution," Bahr demolishes Governor Bobby Jindal's sand berm fixation as quickly as waves from Hurricane Alex did to Hesco baskets at Holly Beach.

"On the basis of 22 years of academic training and experience in coastal science and 18 years of policy experience in the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities, I'm strongly opposed to the governor's sand berm project, Bahr wrote. He then lists nine reasons for his opposition. Here's the bulleted version:

1) Absence of science.

2) Questionable justification.

3) Opportunity cost.

4) Environmental cost.

5) Changes to natural flow regime.

6) Lengthy construction time.

7) Sand berm fragility.

8) Dubious benefits.

9) An alternative active response.

Click the link to the article for the detailed destruction of Jindal's fantasy.

Bahr concludes with a reminder that the Governor's skin is thinner than his credibility on this issue and suggests that's why more coastal scientists have not been willing to speak up on this issue.

"I'm not alone in challenging this project, although I can afford to be more vocal than most of my science colleagues. Many of them, along with their employers, fear the financial consequences of alienating Gov. Jindal, who tolerates no criticism of his sand berm fantasy."

I think Bahr went too far with that last sentence. Jindal tolerates no criticism, period, full stop. Just ask the folks whose projects got vetoed by the Governor after the recent legislative session.

Ecuadorian Oil-waste Victims Recognize Industry Damage to Louisiana's Coast

On Friday, July 2, the Houma Courier ran a story on a visit to the region by Luis Yanza and three fellow Ecuadorians. Their comments on the common impact of the energy industry on their country and on Louisiana drive home the point that the energy industry here is a neo-colonial force, just as it in in Ecuador and other second- and third-world countries.

Yanza and three other Ecuadoreans offered their solidarity to more than 50 local residents and members of the United Houma Nation and the Plaquemines Parish-based Atakapa-Ishak Tribe at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Dulac Thursday night.

The South American visitors, along with organizers from Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network, toured local bayous this week and shared their cautionary tales of what has been a nearly two-decade fight against Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001.

According to the Courier story, Yanza saw a pattern of corporate abuse here, pipeline canals dug through marshlands and oil waste pits next to homes like those in the Grand Bois community similar to what he saw in Ecuador.

“If oil companies have been successful in globalizing their bad practices all to make a profit … why can’t we all unite to defend our land, to defend our rights?” said Yanza, a coordinator for the Amazon Defense Front, through a translator.

Good question. Ask it of the next politician you encounter.

Levine Leaving DHH?

Could Alan Levine — Bobby Jindal's Potentate of Privatization — be heading for the door at the Department of Health and Hospitals?

Levine was quoted in The Advocate's Inside Politics column on Sunday as saying he’s going through his twice a year assessment of where he is professionally.

“I’m going through the process of deciding what I want to do,” Levine told The Advocate. Jindal brought Levine in to run DHH shortly after being elected governor.

As for whether this review means he is preparing to leave the adminsitration, Levine was noncommittal. “There’s nothing really to discuss right now,” Levine said when asked if he would leave the Jindal administration.

If Levine is headed out the door, it would seem to indicate an unusual rate of departure from Jindal's administration as it heads into the final year of what conventional wisdom has will be two terms for the Governor.

But, Jindal was particularly unengaged in the recent legislative session, having spent most of the time between late April and the end of June in coastal parishes pretending to respond to the BP Gulf Gusher.

Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis announced her resignation within days of the end of the session. She said she had told Jindal two weeks earlier that she was leaving, but the move caught even legislative allies of the administration (yes, there are still a few of those left) off guard.

Kristy Nichols has left what has been known as the Department of Social Services to become deputy Chief of Staff. In her place, Jindal promoted a budget specialist. At DOTD, Jindal elevated a career DOTD engineer to the post for the remainder of this term.

What is striking about the departure of Davis and the appointments of the cabinet secretaries is that these are reminiscent of the kinds of staffing moves Mike Foster was making late in his second term as governor. It was clear then that Foster's administration was coming to an end. Longtime leaders of the Foster administration went looking — and found — places to land before it became a mad rush for the exits.

Do Levine and Davis know something about Jindal's plans that the rest of us don't?

Or, are they just burnt out after a session during which Jindal was absent and they were left to fend for themselves? Did Davis feel burned by the budget deal with the Senate that Jindal struck, after she had carried the load for the administration on the budget during the grueling months of the session while Jindal vacationed with Billy Nungesser?

Could it be that Short Time Bobby has the blues and is getting ready to make a break for more stimulating political climes?

He's been on the job for two and a-half years. That's just about the longest he's stayed anywhere during his adult life. The budget mess he's created will be even worse next year and he agreed to let the Senate take money from every remaining secret stash hole in state government. The cupboard has been stripped bare.

Then there's the small matter of a budget hole of $2.2 billion — if current projections hold.

Oh, and statewide elections next year.

This does not seem like the ideal political environment for a fellow who recently revived his presidential prospects (he never gave up on them; others gave up on him).

No, something is up in the Jindal administration. Too many people are leaving or getting ready to do so for this to be business as usual.

Rep. St. Germain Slams Vitter Over Efforts to Help BP

State Representative Karen St. Germain slammed Senator David Vitter's efforts to defend BP in an 0op-ed piece that appeared in The Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Saturday.

"Sen. David Vitter has been working to protect BP practically from the moment the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April," St. Germain, who is chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus.

Our junior senator introduced a bill that would make "responsible parties" in an oil spill liable for an amount up to their total profits for the last year, or $150 million, whichever is higher. For BP, he said, that could be $20 billion.

How do we know that when it's all said and done, the price tag for BP's disaster won't be more than that?

One of its partners, and coincidentally a major donor to Vitter's campaign, was Andarko. It didn't make a profit last year, so it would be on the hook for only a measly $150 million.

Setting the Record Straight

By Mike Robichaux, MD

Following the April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other public officials began a series of press conferences at which they discussed the impending crisis of the oil spill off the Louisiana coast. Within a very short time the governor began flaunting his knowledge over matters of which he had little or no experience. After establishing his counterfeit credentials to a gullible media, he began a well-organized and dishonest attack on the federal government for the government’s lack of response to the unfolding tragedy.

What the governor and his pals failed to mention was that the responsibility for oil spills involving the state lay within the office of the Governor. Bobby Jindal had recently eviscerated the state’s oil spill coordinator's office, having cut it’s $750,000 budget the preceding year. The state’s Oil Spill Contingency Plans were a farce and should have been an object of derision. The Governor’s plans contained blank charts and a section that was supposed to be a plan for a “WORST CASE SCENARIO.” The only entry in this section was a note that stated, “to be developed.” There were several other sections labeled “to be developed” in different areas of the document.

In spite of the Governor’s dismal preparation for the disaster, initial coordination between the Governor’s Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, the Coast Guard and a committee of federal, state and local officials working under the Joint Command commenced, with the Oil Spill Coordinating Committee performing well. With little, if any, justification, Governor Jindal and his minions began a non-stop attack on the Coast Guard, the EPA, the Corps of Engineers and President Obama.

Ignoring much of what was written in his own contingency plan, the Governor began making decisions on the fly. He and his sidekick, Billy Nungesser, demanded that common sense (common sense being defined as their opinions) be applied to extremely complicated issues. These two Monday-morning quarterbacks felt that they understood tidal flow and currents, natural movements of sands, differences in fill materials and other matters that mere mortals take a lifetime of experience to learn. The Governor substituted political solutions for scientific experiences and the rest is history.

From the beginning it was difficult for knowledgeable people to take the Governor seriously. However his ability to lie and his willingness to create stories that bore no resemblance to reality played well with a pliant media. CNN played along with Bobby’s charade and should get special notice for its miserable reporting on this issue.

Long before the first oil hit the coast, Governor Jindal requested 950 miles of boom, or about one and one half times the world’s supply and three times what his own Southeast Louisiana area contingency plan said would be required to boom the state’s entire coastline.

Unfortunately, no one was willing to point out the absurdity of the governor’s requests and he was allowed to continue criticizing the federal government when it was his own incompetence that was primarily responsible for the early confusion.

It also became apparent that the governor was a great self-promoter who reveled in denigrating the President for whatever shortcoming the governor could dream up each day. His daily press conferences, held in the coastal communities most affected by the spill, pointed out shortcomings of the federal response and flaunted his common sense and his illusionary problem solving skills.

Soon after the spill, the Governor came up with an absurd plan to build a Maginot line of levees across the coast to prevent oil from ever reaching the shore. The plan was laughable, but the governor unabashedly submitted the request to the Corps of Engineers.

It needs to be understood that the State of Louisiana has some of the most experienced and talented wetlands scientists in the world and these individuals were available to the governor on a moment’s notice. He could literally walk to the LSU campus and have a dozen or so enthusiastic scientists at his fingertips. Instead, he chose to ignore these brilliant individuals completely and relied on a group of yes people from his own administration.

Within a few days the governor’s daily press conferences evolved into fierce criticism of the President and the federal government on a new topic. The federal government was not paying adequate attention to his barrier island plan. The Coast Guard and the EPA obviously realized the absurdity of his application but were not in a position to defend themselves while staring into the faces of rabble-rousing politicians.

On May 11, Governor Jindal submitted a three page permit request for his levee scheme and when the Corps of Engineers didn’t immediately approve of his original plan (which would have cost approximately $1 Billion and would have had a devastating effects on our coastline) the governor increased his criticism in his daily news conferences and threatened to do the job himself, risking the possibility of going to jail in doing so. His arrogance and determination to implement such an absurd plan in such a hurry was initially difficult to understand.

Under enormous political pressure, a much revised and limited version of the original proposal was approved and BP eventually agreed to pay $360 million for this plan of dubious merit.

Once the plans for the project were publicized, scientists from throughout the state and nation began commenting and it was discovered that few, if any, scientist with knowledge of barrier islands or of this type of program had been consulted. Most of these experts feared that the project would do far more harm than good and questioned the wisdom and incentive for using critical funding for such a boondoggle operation.

As details of the plans emerged it was revealed that the SHAW group had obtained a no-bid contract for implementing the project. (Similarly, dredging companies were also awarded no-bid contracts for their services.) You might remember the SHAW group from the Pulitzer Prize winning publicity it received following Hurricane Katrina. 

Several Multi-million dollar no-bid contracts were awarded to SHAW and, under one contract, it was revealed that SHAW was receiving $175 dollars a square for the application of blue tarps to damaged roofs while the workers actually performing the jobs received only a small fraction of this sum. A SHAW publication indicates that the company was paid for 300,000 squares of blue tarps. (At $175 per square, this amounted to over $52 million for blue tarps alone!) When FEMA began assisting in permanent repairs of roofs it was learned that they paid between $170 and $180 per square for roof repairs with asphalt shingles. Thus, slapping a blue tarp on a roof in a few minutes was more costly than total roof replacement!

After the governor was forced to alter his original barrier plans due to its incompetent design, the Berm from Hell project was begun. Initially, the contractor and the Governor refused to follow the guidelines of the permit and the project was delayed for several days while the Governor ranted and raved about having to adhere to the plans he had agreed to a few days earlier.

In order to save face (and after the fact) a panel of local coastal scientists was put together by the governor to direct the handling of the project. But even some members of that panel have expressed deep skepticism about the plan, though none wanted to be quoted on the matter.

While all of this wrangling was going on, the state legislature, smelling a rat, overwhelmingly passed legislation requiring the Governor to make the records of his financial dealings involving the oil spill available to the public. On June 25, the governor vetoed the bill citing one of his weaker fantasies as the reason for his action.

It is now readily apparent why the Governor clamored for immediate construction of his project and we may never know how he has divided up the $360 million dollars in spoils he will be getting from BP.

Bobby Jindal has a major crisis on his hands and, rather than implementing and encouraging projects that are being shown to work, he is promoting work that is clearly political in design and objective. He has purposely alienated the President who has patiently tolerated his tantrums and who has shown more attention to the state than any president in our history. The New York Times recently pointed out that Jindal has been alone among the coastal governors for his publicly critical stance toward the President and other federal agenciesBobby Jindal needs to put his fundraising and king making ambitions aside while this crisis exists.

With regard to Jindal’s insistence that his spending remain hidden, he has requested over a billion dollars of assistance from BP with no clear indications as to where he plans to spend the money. BP would be wise to place their money in the care of a skilled administrator who will see to it that the money will go into the hands of the working men and women of the state and not into the money bags of the Governor and his politically connected friends.

Once the BP oil spill is controlled there should be enough information to know whether these land barriers are effective. They have already broken down in the western part of the state in an area that so far has been spared any damage by the oil spill. A few days ago, while ignoring his damaged barriers in the West, Governor Jindal proudly reported that the sand berms on the eastern part of the coast suffered no damage. He failed to mention that the eastern berms were about 500 miles from the landfall of the storm. 

Interesting observations on this subject were made by Len Bar, a noted wetlands authority who served in the Governor’s office of Coastal Activities under 5 governors and who publishes LACOASTPOST. Len first covered the subject before the storm.  On June 28, in a posting titled “The ‘Great Wall’ of Holly Beach.” The following comments came from a contributor to Len’s paper who had noted a wall being erected along Holly Beach in southwest Louisiana. 

“Between Holly Beach and the Ferry landing, where the Gulf is only a few dozen yards south of the road, in some places the scrapers had scooped up all of the beach vegetation along with the sand. I’m sure that more than a few beach nesting birds contributed eggs or young to the contents of the boxes.”

The contributor went on to make the following prescient observations:

“I have no idea whose bright idea this is, but it’s a major Charlie Foxtrot. It seems like an idea a little kid in a big chair thought up with a box of crayons.”

“I don’t know what this wall is supposed to accomplish but I assume that it’s some politician’s way of ‘doing something.’ Maybe time will prove me wrong, but at this point I’m willing to say that whoever is behind this wall is a world class idiot.”

“Oh, yeah, and I would bet that it’s costing a ton. I don’t know what’s going on but I suspect that coastal experts were left out to avoid unpopular views that someone didn’t want to hear.”

I assume that the writer of this piece now knows who the idiot he described actually is. It’s one thing to discuss your observations with friends and then have your predictions actually happen. However, when you put your predictions in writing and they come true a few days later, it is indeed a special occasion.

Dr. Bahr’s comments in a post after the storm were as follows:

“Let’s assess the facts: the Holly Beach area, so far not threatened by BP oil, was lined by Hesco baskets filled with sand mined from natural chenier ridges that provide vital natural protection from storm surge and much of the sand has now washed away. Way to go sand berm advocates!”

In the near future, if the levees do not appear to be working as promised, the Governor’s shoreline destruction project should be scrapped immediately and the money frozen. A group of wetland scientists and administrators should then be appointed by someone outside of the Governor’s Office to review the issue and to immediately apply the funds to the creation of REAL barrier islands and other appropriate structures throughout the gulf coast. 

All contracts, whether they are for engineering, architectural or structural work, should be obtained through the bidding process and the governor should be excluded from involvement in this activity.

Governor Jindal came into office promising to clean up corruption in government and to implement ethics reforms that were to be beyond reproach. His record has shown that his reforms have actually weakened both our ethics laws and their enforcement and he has excluded himself from any scrutiny with this farsical legislation. Like so many politicians before him, Bobby Jindal has revealed himself to be the criminal he promised he would protect us from.

The author of the “Great Wall of Holly Beach” concluded his comments with the following:

“I don’t care which party makes a bonehead move. Every major player involved in this fiasco – federal, state, and most importantly, BP – has been less than honest and less than effective. Seeing the National Guard on the beach, I wondered whether the wall was a knee-jerk reaction to Governor Jindal having been caught assigning thumb-twiddling duty to 5,000 National Guardsmen assigned to clean up the spill.”

“If I’d seen Obama filling in the sand wall yesterday, I would’ve booed him. If I’d seen my own mom driving the earth-mover, I’d have given her hell, too. When someone does something stupid, don’t ask what party they belong to.”

“No matter who is behind this project, it is NOT better than doing nothing. It’s doing something so someone can claim credit, an eight mile long campaign poster.”

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