HITHER AND YON: Yes, The Advocate Hates Bobby Jindal

You can’t exactly call this news, but the Baton Rouge Advocate really dislikes Bobby Jindal.

Most of the state doesn’t have all that high an opinion of him, either, but most of the folks we talk to look at Jindal as somebody who’s been in the past for the better part of four years. Not since the 2012 legislative session has Jindal been much of a factor in Louisiana politics, so making a big deal of him now would seem like a waste of time to lots of people.

But if that’s true, the Advocate is happy to waste some time. That’s why Tyler Bridges, whose job at the paper seems to be primarily to pick a Republican political figure and write a procession of long screeds about how terrible he is, got 1,500 words to tell everybody what we all already know – everybody hates Jindal and he’s at fault for everything.

The whiz is gone.

For years, national reporters profiling Bobby Jindal and his political rise inevitably referred to him as a whiz kid — Rhodes scholar at 21, Cabinet secretary at 24, university system president at 28, governor at 36 in 2008.

Not anymore.

Not with Louisiana threatened by financial disaster after Jindal inherited a $1 billion budget surplus eight years ago and left Gov. John Bel Edwards with a $3 billion deficit. Not with state legislators — Republicans and Democrats alike — openly deriding him, two months after he stepped down as governor. Not after ending his presidential campaign in November long before any votes were cast. Not after Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the candidate he then backed, dropped out of the race Tuesday night.

“It’s hard to comprehend where he was eight years ago and where he is today,” said James Carville, a political strategist who lives in New Orleans. “He’s a really smart man who made a bad bet in thinking that the most extreme form of no tax increases, deep budget cuts, of ‘never letting anybody get to the right of me’ agenda would prevail. I don’t know what’s more disastrous — the situation for the state or his political future.”

Carville, of course, is a devoted Democrat.

Many Republicans aren’t much kinder.

“We just spent the past 3½ weeks dealing with the budget mess he left us,” said state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, referring to the recently completed special session that aimed to close an immediate $900 million or so midyear budget gap.

Lawmakers left a $70 million hole — the budget ax will begin to fall this week — and a $750 million shortfall for the upcoming year, out of the $2 billion gap Jindal left them.

Martiny pointing the finger at Jindal reflects a majority of public opinion, a new University of New Orleans poll shows.

About 55 percent of active registered voters blame the budget crisis on the former governor.

Danny Martiny is the Republican tabbed to take a big dump all over Jindal. He’s also a Republican who endorsed John Bel Edwards. The piece also has a quote from Frank Hoffman, another Republican who hasn’t particularly distinguished himself as a conservative in the legislature, which actually wasn’t all that unfriendly to Jindal – Hoffman said he thinks history will probably treat Jindal a lot better than public opinion is treating him now.

Of course, given that public opinion is driven to some degree by the major papers in the state, giving 1,500 words to Tyler Bridges to trash Jindal for the Sunday Advocate might be related to the outcome of the opinion.

The piece launches into a number of stupid questions for which the answer is no, most prominently among them the question of whether Jindal is going to be somebody’s vice presidential choice or whether he’ll run for the Senate this fall.

By the way, the options given to respondents in that UNO poll were Jindal, the Legislature, John Bel Edwards or “something else.” A downturn in oil prices wasn’t listed, the state’s economy wasn’t listed, Obama wasn’t listed. The poll is worthless. Which is not to say that most people would absolve Jindal of responsibility for the budget being what it is; most people do blame him. But if that’s a poll put forth as a barometer of public opinion which is supposed to drive news coverage, which then reinforces and drives public opinion, we can see how stupid a circle we’re creating.

What Jindal ought to do, because at this point he has nothing to lose, is to put out a statement along the lines of “if you want to blame me for the budget, fine. I can’t stop you. But know a few things about why things are the way they are,” and then launch into a dissertation of how completely fouled up the state’s budget process is. He could talk about the $6 billion in welfare the state pays to local governments with things like the Minimum Foundation Program that subsidizes school districts no matter how poorly they perform, the idiocy of the state’s inventory tax rebate and how it encourages local governments to charge confiscatory taxes to businesses who in turn pass the costs on to the state, the supplemental pay for cops that local governments would have zero trouble raising through local taxes if the state were to stop paying, and so on. He could talk about the overbuilt nature of higher education and how it’s impossible to fund all the colleges and universities in Louisiana when there are so few college-capable students in Louisiana thanks to the pathetic quality of K-12 education in the state Jindal busted his rear end to try to fix, and how he tried to move the funding model to TOPS so as to encourage better achievement only to be castigated for “gutting” higher education.

And so on.

And he can say that he spent all those surplus funds he’s now being blamed for spending, for two reasons. First, unlike virtually every other politician in Louisiana, Jindal made a promise that he wouldn’t raise taxes and he did his damn well best to keep that promise, and second, because the people of the state and the legislators they elected had no apparent desire to see structural changes to Louisiana’s government that would shrink the cost burden, Jindal figured it was preferable to draw down a bunch of government bank account surpluses that did very little to actually help the people of Louisiana rather than break that pledge.

Louisiana probably needs to hear the truth from somebody in a position to know it. It hears a sliver of truth from John Kennedy, the state’s treasurer, and Kennedy is the most popular politician in the state. Maybe if Jindal had leveled with the people of the state about the enforced stupidity of public opinion vis a vis Louisiana’s fiscal house rather than traipsing off around the country in a vain attempt to win the GOP nomination he would have left office with better numbers.

Either way, doesn’t the Advocate have anything better for Bridges to do than to howl about how awful Jindal is? That’s so 2015. The only people still doing that are with the Louisiana Democrat Party.

Oh, right.

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This guy deserves the job.

A job interview was in progress when a thief grabbed cash from the till at a fast food restaurant. The manager conducting the interview then blocked the door, and the applicant grabbed the thief’s arms.

Eighteen-year-old Devin Washington got the robber — and the job — at a Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken restaurant in eastern New Orleans.

Manager Danyanna Metoyer (muh-TWIRE) said the robber asked the cashier to change a dollar Saturday afternoon, “and just reached over the counter and stuck his hand in the change drawer.”

Police said in a news release that assistant manager Dominique Griffin grabbed the man’s arm, but he broke away from her and headed for the door.

But Metoyer was there to block him. “My upper-body strength was stronger than his,” she said Sunday morning.

“We hadn’t made hardly any money, Metoyer said. “He wasn’t going to take the $300 to 400 we probably had made. We needed our money,” she added.

Washington said, “I got up and bent his arm back.” He said he didn’t know whether the man had a gun, but wasn’t scared.

Washington and cook Michael Ford held the thief until police arrived, said Metoyer.

So far as we can tell there’s no video. Would love to see the would-be thief get manhandled on camera.

Maybe next time.

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What Webster Parish needs is to start advertising, NOW, that they’re going to put on the greatest Fourth of July fireworks display in American history. Might even put it on pay-per-view.

The material belonged to Explo Systems, a private contractor. The 18 million pounds includes some explosives like TNT, but nearly all of it is M6 propellant, which can spontaneously ignite, a risk that increases significantly over time. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say it is the largest such stockpile in the country.

Last week, a couple of dozen people, forming what is called the Minden Dialogue Committee, gathered at a community center here to discuss how to proceed. The group included scientists, environmental activists, government officials and local residents like Sam Mims, a retired Army colonel, who appeared as an “irritated, concerned citizen representing my 17 cows.” They had been meeting almost constantly, at least by telephone, since early February.

The committee was formed in direct opposition to a plan announced in October by the Army, the E.P.A. and the Louisiana National Guard to burn all of the M6 propellant outdoors in large trays, a disposal method routinely used by the Army, though not at this scale. The idea of burning 80,000 pounds a day in open fires for more than 220 days — which some experts said would send untold amounts of carcinogens and other hazardous pollutants into the air — was a nonstarter with nearby residents.

No doubt burning that stuff for 220 days is going to drive the locals nuts. Burn it in one day. Set it up so the explosions light up the sky for miles around and put on the greatest show anybody’s ever seen.

And then tell everybody “we do it up big in Minden.”

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