The Hayride

The Times-Picayune Isn’t Off To Much Of A Start To 2013

The Times-Picayune Isn’t Off To Much Of A Start To 2013
January 15
17:42 2013

It’s long been a general opinion among the state’s consumers of news media that the New Orleans Times-Picayune was the best of Louisiana’s newspapers.

Which fishwrap should currently enjoy such a reputation is up for debate. But based on the last few days the Picayune shouldn’t even be in the discussion.

When last fall the T-P opted to cut back on its distribution to three days a week, one of the promises it made was that its news product would become even more robust due to its becoming free of the limitations of print media.

It then embarked on a massacre of its journalistic roster, unfortunately missing some of the most appropriate victims. And in the past few days those poor decisions have come home to roost with a series of pratfalls in both its online and print product.

Start with the death of Marion Edwards, the former governor’s brother. The Picayune reported the less-famous Edwards’ demise in print with an interesting photograph…

OK, so that’s Marion Edwards’ photo, right?

Another look…

Well, here’s the photo of Marion Edwards the Picayune ran online…

Doesn’t really look like the same guy, right? Another picture the Picayune ran online…

How ’bout that hair? Not exactly the obituary photo, right?

The Marion Edwards the Picayune killed off over the weekend was a judge in Jefferson Parish, not the disgraced ex-governor’s brother. That’s a bit of a hard foul.

At least it was a mistake. Bob Marshall, who used to be the hunting-and-fishing columnist for the Outdoors section whose articles would commonly irritate local anglers disappointed in his accuracy about where the sac-a-lait were biting, survived the Picayune’s purge and is now writing about…global warming. His latest offering in that regard rankled many when it was published Sunday…

WARNING: This column contains science. It might be considered inappropriate or offensive by certain members of our congressional delegation and others who call themselves conservative. Ideological discretion is advised.

The piece was entitled “Global Warming Is Swamping Us,” but what it contained was a discussion of the future of the East Land Bridge, a strip of turf between the Chef and Rigolets Passes which is the roadbed for the old Highway 90 between New Orleans East and Slidell, and a commission hearing which discussed the fact that sea level rise could put the East Land Bridge under water.

And that there has been more sea level rise than the IPCC projected in one of its assessments, which means according to Marshall that there is bound to be a whole lot more sea level rise by 2060 than anybody ever thought. Because of global warming and all.

That highly-scientific leap into the logical abyss was brought to a close with this piece of polemical genius…

I studied the faces of the authority members as they viewed the slides. No one was laughing. They had questions — but not about the science the engineers used. No one claimed the projections were based on a hoax or created by liberal scientists out to pad research grants. No one shouted “You lie!” No member said he disagreed with the peer-reviewed science on global warming supported by 97 percent of the world’s accredited climatologists.

The members know the conservative path is to plan for conditions based on the overwhelming scientific consensus — not roll the dice and hope the 3 percent of deniers are right.

Of course, none of them are members of Congress whose campaign war chests are fed by industries responsible for greenhouse gas production. Or self-described conservative critics who use the claim that science somehow has a liberal bias as an ideological litmus test for joining their ranks.

After reading this report then reviewing the “denier” comments on climate change by congressmen such as Rep. Steve Scalise and Sen. David Vitter, every coastal resident should have one prayer: Please, God, never put them in charge of our flood protection.

If this moonbattery wasn’t enough to make a laughingstock out of the paper, then certainly the execrable Jarvis DeBerry must be.

DeBerry has now written two columns trashing Republicans for attempting to limit federal spending in the Sandy relief bill…to Sandy relief. The first, which appeared Thursday, had the unwieldy and indefensible title “Harry Reid’s dumb comparison of hurricanes isn’t as bad as Republican opposition to their victims.” The text is no better than the headline…

When disaster strikes an American community and its people cry out for help, it’s usually not the Democrats you have to worry about catching a case of the stony hearts. To be fair, a majority of both major political parties tend to come to the aid of storm-tossed Americans, but if there are laggards, or out and out opponents, you can bet your last nickel they’ll be Republican. That party seems to always harbor somebody, or some people, who believe that depriving the dispossessed of food, shelter and clothing toughens them up and keeps America strong.

DeBerry then goes on to say that the attacks by Sen. David Vitter and others in Louisiana’s congressional delegation on Harry Reid for his idiotic comparisons between Sandy and Katrina are peculiar since Republicans were the only ones to vote against Katrina aid.

Which was passed by a Republican-controlled House and signed by a Republican president. And oh, by the way, if DeBerry read the paper he works for he might know that the billions of federal dollars wasted in that aid package were no small scandal and the federal indictments and convictions of the crooks who engaged in funneling that waste into their own wallets were proof of that. As such, perhaps Vitter and Steve Scalise and Bill Cassidy and the other members of the state’s congressional delegation who trashed Reid for his comments might be more sensitive to the question of whether bills purporting to include federal disaster aid are actually clean, as opposed to being covered in porcine legislative KY jelly, like Alaskan fisheries relief or road repairs in Des Moines.

One such stickler was U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden, who voted last week against the $9 billion replenishment of the federal flood insurance program on the basis that it is broken and needs reform, and just shoveling money out the door without undertaking efforts to make the program self-sufficient. Fleming’s reaction to DeBerry’s piece, and the question of targeted Sandy relief in general, was less than friendly…

There is another crisis that needs to be addressed if the government is going to be able to help disaster victims, today and in the future. It’s a crisis of deficit spending on pork that is only made worse by the Sandy bill. The measure that passed the Senate, with a “yes” vote from Mary Landrieu, contains billions in presidential earmarks for non-Sandy related projects, like roof repairs at the Smithsonian museums in Washington.

Also, I voted against the $9.7 billion FEMA insurance extension that passed the House and Senate because it is not paid for and added to the deficit. With all the excess spending in Washington, we surely could have found $9.7 billion in cuts elsewhere. And, the federal insurance program has become a subsidy program that often leaves taxpayers absorbing the risk for flood and hurricane prone areas. This program is in desperate need of reform. We always want to help those in need. Originally this program was meant to pay for itself but it no longer does so, and unless we change our priorities we will be paying for good programs like this with just more borrowed money from the Chinese.

DeBerry was undaunted by Republican opposition to Sandy relief in some quarters today, including a Fleming amendment what would scrub out at least $10 million in completely unjustified spending on a privately-owned island used by a Connecticut university for research, as the T-P columnist repeated his attacks on nasty Republican skinflints with another piece today

Principles are important, and I don’t begrudge the fiscal hawks in the Republican Party for having them, but not at the expense of pragmatism. If Congress can’t even agree on paying for spending it’s already approved, can we really expect it to agree on simultaneously handling disaster aid and corresponding budget slashing? Must American people climbing out of the wreckage have their relief delayed until a perpetually deadlocked Congress agrees on something as controversial spending cuts?

Here’s the philosophy I think should guide members of both parties in Congress. When Americans are dealing with catastrophic disaster, help them – and fast.

This is, of course, ridiculous. No one with an active CAT scan seriously believes that the $50 billion package being gnawed upon in the House today will serve to help anyone – and fast. This is money which won’t be disbursed for months, if not years, and as such the idea that this is a crisis and we need to surge tax dollars willy-nilly into the Jersey Shore and Staten Island and Queens or else people will die is ridiculous. The relief funds going to those areas are already at work, and what is being contemplated is recovery money.

Furthermore, DeBerry suggests that the votes of Fleming and other Republicans opposing the flood insurance refill would somehow mean that federal flood insurance consumers would be screwed out of legitimate Sandy claims because the program didn’t get a $9 billion cash infusion, without recognizing that as Fleming noted the opposition is to the fact that spending isn’t offset by killing wasteful spending someplace else. Everyone knows that finding $9 billion of low-hanging fruit which needs to be picked anyway and certainly isn’t worthy in comparison to Sandy recovery dollars isn’t difficult.

Also today came a piece about Karl Rove’s speech in front of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting today. Reporter Lauren McGaughy ignored pretty much everything Rove said in better than a half-hour at the podium, and instead fired off a couple of questions to Rove afterward and ginned up a “Bobby Jindal could be a serious presidential candidate” headline for her trouble.

“I think if he wants to be a candidate he could be a really serious one,” Rove said after his keynote remarks Tuesday, referring to Jindal. “He’s doing a lot of things here, particularly on education reform and government reform that could translate well on the national stage.”

Rove said nothing like that during the speech; the closest he came was to note that all the real policy successes in the country are coming at the state level, and he threw Jindal’s name among a host of other Republican governors who are making those successes happen. What Rove did say, which was interesting though highly speculative (and probably wrong), was that on a couple of policy fronts he thinks it’s possible that a deal could be had between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. The Baton Rouge Business Report’s David Jacobs, who actually paid attention to Rove’s speech rather than just go for a drive-by headline, summed up those areas

While largely predicting political gridlock on most major issues facing the federal government, from the debt ceiling to major gun legislation, prominent conservative pundit Karl Rove says there’s a decent chance of significant legislation in two areas. One is immigration reform, which President George W. Bush attempted to take on while Rove was an adviser. “A lot of Republicans woke up and said, ‘How stupid have we been [on immigration]?’ ” says Rove, who delivered the keynote address at LABI’s annual meeting today. “Why didn’t we do this when we were in power? And why don’t we get it done?” The second is tax reform, where Rove sees the possibility of legislation similar to what was passed in 1986, in which rates are lowered while tax breaks and loopholes are reduced. He says tax reform should be pursued “in the spirit of revenue neutrality, which is a complete fiction.” After the 1986 reform legislation, the revenue to the federal government went up more than projected because tax simplification has a positive impact on the economy.

Interestingly enough from the LABI meeting, Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield also took a machete to another Times-Picayune piece from last week. Specifically, an article by Jeff Adelson on Friday said that part of Jindal’s proposed tax reforms would include eliminating oil and gas severance taxes. Barfield, in making a presentation on the tax reform proposals this morning, specifically said there have been no serious discussions about severance taxes – he did say they’ve been looking at everything in the state tax code with an eye toward creating the most growth-friendly system possible, but other than “nothing is off the table” there is no indication the governor will be pushing for an elimination of severance taxes.

Why Adelson would write such an article, with only a quote from Barfield’s spokesman Doug Baker that “These revenue streams are currently under review and will remain so for the immediate future,” is interesting – one might draw the conclusion that throwing out the repeal of severance taxes as a straw man to confuse and inflame the tax debate this spring would be to service the agenda of those who oppose the idea of eliminating the income tax.

Either way, it was one more in a string of inaccurate, sophomoric and flat-out wrong pieces appearing recently in a paper which has clearly lost the ability to match its reputation with current performance. It’s clear the Picayune isn’t satisfying the needs of its marketplace – regardless of how frequently it chooses to print its wares.

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3 Comments

  1. Stephen Caldarera
    Stephen Caldarera January 16, 21:55

    Excellent analysis here.

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