October 25, 2007

Jindal Bells Ring In a New Era

Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning victory that few expected so early in the Louisiana election process, Rep. Bobby Jindal won election as governor last Saturday (October 21st, 2007) by garnering more than 50% of the vote in a crowded field. Jindal will be the youngest governor in the United States at 36 years old.

(And contrary to apparently widespread belief, Jindal is eligible to run for president, as he is a native-born American, not an immigrant._

Our previous Jindal Bells post is here.

What may also be unexpected is the way that Louisianans have faced up to the catastrophe that is the current governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco; they now embrace the view that the Katrina disaster was largely a failure of state, not federal response:

Mr. Jindal’s victory over a state Democratic party weakened by perceptions of post-hurricane incompetence and corruption was expected, as he has had an overwhelming lead in polls for months. The incumbent, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, hurt by stumbles after Hurricane Katrina, did not seek re-election....

Mr. Jindal campaigned as a cautious reformer, promising a more ethical government, for example, with greater transparency from lobbyists and legislators. His extensive résumé helped him project an image of competence, as did his detailed if conventional policy prescriptions — both evidently appealing to voters here weary of missteps in government since Hurricane Katrina.

While it may be easy for those "on the spot" -- in Hollywood, Chicago, and DC -- to spout the traditional Democratic "Katrina Truther" storyline of a heroic Gov. Blanco begging for help from a cold and callous Bush administration determined to permanently evacuate all the blacks out of New Orleans (failing that, to drown them by blowing up the levees)... those ordinary people actually living in Louisiana cannot help contrast the cleanup, reconstruction, and building efforts in the Pelican State with that of neighboring Mississippi (the Magnolia State, in case you're interested).

While Mississippi has done a fairly good job of rebuilding -- enough so that the elite media seems uninterested in reporting on the progress -- Louisiana has lagged, and its citizens have noticed. But the lag is not universal; it's much worse on projects controlled by state and local authorities than on projects paid for and run by private individuals or companies -- and don't think the residents haven't noticed that, too:

Two years after the devastating floods that followed Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and much of the Gulf Coast, has largely taken two paths: communities that have rebuilt themselves using private funds, insurance money and sheer will -- and publicly funded efforts that have moved much more slowly.

Federal, state and local governments have struggled to speed up the release of funds and restore infrastructure. None of the 115 "critical priority projects" identified by city officials has been completed: For example, New Orleans' police superintendent still works out of a trailer, as do most of the city's firefighters. And analysts at the city's crime lab don't have a laboratory to match DNA samples.

The delays have affected the poor the most — those dependent on government assistance to rebuild their lives. While middle- and upper-class neighborhoods have rebuilt using private insurance and contacts, residents of low-income areas such as the Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross — roughly 20,000 of them — for the most part remain scattered throughout the region, their return uncertain.

However, it's not lack of federal funds, as the USA Today article suggests; by July of 2007, Congress had already allocated $128 billion worth of tax credits, loan guarantees, but mostly direct block grants to the states affected by Hurricane Katrina. The problem, as the libertarian Reason Magazine points out, is that nobody really knows how to spend that money:

So it's not a lack of funding that's the problem. It's spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can't simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn't idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid—16 percent of the total—was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina's victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.

Unfortunately, the other option -- the one currently in place -- isn't any better: government micromanagement of payouts. This is where you get the [Louisiana] Road Home program's Byzantine policies, which includes dozens of dizzying, intermediate steps between filing a claim and the receipt of funds and, consequently, the plodding pace of recovery we've seen over the last two years. Because of legitimate fears that money will be squandered, mismanaged, or lost to fraud, the money sits unused.

But while Mississipians seem by and large satisfied with the actions by Gov. Haley Barbour, Lousianans did not the feel the same about Gov. Blanco. In fact, opposition to her was so intense that last March, Blanco dropped out of her own reelection campaign. Thus ends the short, hapless career of Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

In 2003, she beat Jindal 52-48 in an election marred by very questionable eleventh-hour ads Blanco ran accusing Jindal of throwing tens of thousands of poor patients off of Medicaid when he was Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals from 1996 to 1998. Considering the bitterness of that race, it must truly gall Blanco that she will be succeeded by the very man she worked so hard to destroy.

Jindal was also the top vote-getter in 2003's first round of voting; but this year, he did 20 points better, actually finishing above the 50% mark; thus the first round of voting is the only round... almost unheard of for a candidate who is not the incumbent and has never been governor before.

But the main change in Louisiana politics is likely to be on the ethics front. In most people's minds, Louisiana edges out Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey to win the prize as the most corrupt state in the union. The image is propelled by the state's history, from Huey P. "the Kingfish" Long to Rep. William "Cold Cash" (a.k.a. "Freezerburn") Jefferson (D-LA, 60%). Long was the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 (and nominally U.S. senator from Louisiana from 1931 -- yes, he was both governor and senator simultaneously -- until his assassination in 1935); William Jefferson is the Louisiana representative in whose freezer the FBI found $90,000 in cash.

Jindal insists that his first action will be to clean up Baton Rouge, the state capital, and then the rest of the state government apparatus. It's an open question whether the Louisiana State Legislature, heavily dominated by Democrats in both chambers, will permit an end to the corruption they have come to accept as a mandatory perk of public office. But I have no doubt that Jindal himself is sincere and will fight hard to legitimize his state.

And then, will this young, energetic, conservative, charismatic, born-again Roman Catholic Indian American run for the presidency? If so, he will make a formidable opponent to whichever old, entrenched, left-liberal, peacenik the Democratic Party nominates that cycle.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 25, 2007, at the time of 6:27 PM

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The following hissed in response by: LarryD

If the voters of Louisiana are serious about cleaning up their government, they'll need to elect reformer legislators as well as a reformer governor.

See California.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 6:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

One question: Were Jindal's parents LEGAL immigrants at the time of his birth? Because if they were not, he would be just another "anchor baby" like so many other recent illegal immigrants, and I am not certain that the Constitution grants such infants automatic US citizenship. In fact, I hope that it gets tested in court. Since citizenship goes only to those children of parents "subject to the jurisdiction" of the US, and illegal aliens are not so subject or they wouldn't be here.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 7:32 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

What I find funny is how the media ignores Jindal, but practically worships(ed?) Obama.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 9:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: soccerdad

Jindal, like Rudy, actually had a political position where he accomplished something. He reformed Louisiana's health care system. It's remarkable how Democrats invert Dukakis's famous "It's about competence not ideology" when in fact they worship the latter over the former.

Jindal had a great op-ed here.

The above hissed in response by: soccerdad [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 12:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: doctorj

"they now embrace the view that the Katrina disaster was largely a failure of state, not federal response'
Sorry Lizard, but this is a load of you know what. I am a Republican citizen of Lousiana and voted for Mr. Jindal. That doesn't mean I give this administration a pass at all. They were incompetent, inept, and cruel in the treatment of suffering US citizens. The state does not run FEMA nor does it run the Corps of Engineers. The story of this election was simply "Throw the bums out." In the next federal election I won't be voting Republican. They have earned the right of being out of power a while. So look at this elections through rose colored glasses if you want, but you are missing the reality of the situation. By the way, I think Jindal is going to shine as governor. He is an effective politician and , to my knowledge, an honest individual. Hopefully he can get the recovery moving faster than as snail's pace.

The above hissed in response by: doctorj [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 12:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: sloopy

Sorry doctorj but Your post is the biggest load of you know what. As a registered Independent voter and citizen of La., I KNOW who to blame for the biggest screwups in the whole mess. Blanco dropped out of the race for governor for a reason. Can you get a negative number of votes in an election?? In La. you probably could, and if it could happen, Blanco would've been the first. While Fema was sadly lacking, at least they didn't actively PREVENT private citizens and corporations from accomplishing anything. And are you seriously suggesting that the corps of engineers bears more responsibilty for flooding than the local levee boards and their amazingly spectacular history of corruption? Please. Spare me the bs.

The above hissed in response by: sloopy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 1:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

This young man seems to be a decent competent guy. I wonder why he wants to be in politics? After all, if people are not questioning his parent's legal status they are questioning his religion or his ethics. But here he is, winning an election in Lousiana. Good deal.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 1:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: doctorj

Blanco has the Road Home fiasco to blame for her demise. The feds have FEMA incompetence and , of course, the Corps of Engineers has the negligence of their work that was the cause of the flooding of most of my hometown. I actually supported the president until I caught him in a Clinton, "The definition of is is" moment. The day after the White House pulled its support for LA's recovery plan, a plan that took months for the LA politicians to agree to and had the support the President's hand picked hurricane czar Donald Powell, the president held a news conference. These were his exact words: "I'd like to help those folkes in that part of the world (meaning LA, US citizens last time I looked) if only they had a plan." The day AFTER he killed the plan! My trust in this man was lost in that moment. Nagin is just MIA. As I said before, there is plenty of blame to pass around. I want them all to be punished. What part of LA do you live in? There is a real divide in the state. I am just curious. I spent 30 years in the city and have lived on the northshore for 20 years. My 80 year old mother lives a block from the beach in Pass Christian, MS. And, by the way, the coast of MS is still devastated, no matter what the spin is.

The above hissed in response by: doctorj [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Have you read this previous lizardly post? 13 Ghosts. (The post links to an article that is also still accessible.)

Much of what people think they know about FEMA's response -- even those who live in affected areas (perhaps especially those) -- is wrong. You and many others were willfuly lied to by the same elite media that spread sick fantasies of mass rape and cannibalism in the Super Dome.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 6:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: doctorj

All of my experience with FEMA is local. I am a dentist on the northshore and I have worked on many patients that have lost everything. Most are from St. Bernard Parish, though some are from New Orleans (Lakeview neighborhood) and some from the MS Gulf Coast (Pass Christian and Biloxi). Their stores are horror stories. Besides the horrors of the floods and the storm surge destruction, the FEMA and Road Home stories are just as bad. Now first, you have to understand, if you are going to a private dentist, you have resources, so these are not the worst stories. But the ones that I hear are tragic. Let me give you an example. One is a retired New Orleans fireman who lived in St. Bernard Parish, the parish just west of the Lower Ninth Ward. Out of 26,000 homes, 5 were livable after the storm. To give you an idea of the destruction, the present tragedy in California is 1% of lost homes that occurred in St. Bernard Parish alone. He had evacuated to Arkansas. About 6 months after the storm he returned to St. Bernard to sign up for offered FEMA trailer. Once there, he found out he came for nothing because these tralers were for ST. Bernard only, and there is no medical help in SBP because the hospital there was destroyed. To this day there is still no medical help there. The fireman's wife is sickly and needs medical help close by. Therefore, a man that spent his entire life helping others, not asking help from anyone, is in a FEMA trailer Park 100 miles from everything he knows and loves. I spent an hour listening to him because he NEEDED to talk to SOMEONE, even if it was a total stranger willing to listen. I listened to the bureaucratic nightmare he endured trying to get his home of 40 years cleaned out. (FEMA was in charge of debris removal.) The rules changed everytime a new person was put in charge. It was bureaucratic incompetence personified. He said it all with a smile on his face. He kept telling me that he was luky. There were people worse off than him. I am telling you he and his wife will be dead within the year, all from the stress of dealing with the heartless government and slimy insurance companies. This is just one story out of hundreds. There are the young people living with in-laws whose children ask them every night when they can go home. There is the school teacher and her preacher husband that were turned away from Red Cross shelter when their money ran out at the hotel they evacuated to because they didn't go to the Red Cross to begin with. There is the 80 year old lady from the MS Gulf Coast that ended up in my town 200 miles away from her destroyed beach front mansion. The only thing they found was a crystal goblet of her grandmothers. She says she feels like she has been plopped into a new reality where her previous life of 70 years never existed. I do not have the luxury of saying it is the media. Before Katrina, I would have swollowed that hook, line and sinker. But I can't now , strickly because I have eyes and ears. I know that it is political spin and that is what makes me the most bitter of all. The Republican Party, my party, felt that defending itself was more important than the truth. I listened to Rush Limbaugh say things that were totally wrong and hateful when we needed Americans to help Americans. Is this the country we have become? Please tell me it isn't. I am an eye witness to incompetence, ineptitude and cruelty and yet America doesn't believe it. Everyone takes their side. The right says you are lazy and stupid and you deserve it. The left says I feel sorry for your plight but global warming will get you anyway so tough luck. So this is the lesson I learned at 53 years old. The America I thought existed, doesn't. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. On top of that, you better not dare tell people of the suffering all around you because then you are whining. Welcome to America of the 21st century. I am glad my father and grandparents are dead, not to see what this country has become.

The above hissed in response by: doctorj [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 8:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I truly sympathize with the plight of those who suffered through this devastation. But I don't see why you blame FEMA for people being unable to return to homes that were destroyed or being turned away from the Red Cross.

My understanding -- perhaps I'm wrong about this -- is that by and large, FEMA does not actually deliver the rescue, medical, or rebuilding services; they deliver money to state and local agencies and coordinate their activities. If the state and local agencies, services, and facilities are not up to the job, there is little the feds can do... particularly when the governor of the state simply refuses to make the necessary requests and give the necessary permission.

FEMA has changed its rules in direct response to congressional mandate, because a congressional oversight investigation discovered that in Louisiana, billions of dollars appropriated for rescue and rebuilding services were stolen by state agencies and even fraudulent "victims."

Congress (in its oversight role) demanded that FEMA change its rules to make such theft and fraud much more difficult. Of necessity, that makes it more difficult for legitimate victims and honest, caring public and private service providers, too.

As a doctor, you rightly care more about the victims' pain than the bureaucratic rules. You wish there were some way just to cut through all the red tape and get immediate help to the people who need it right now.

Alas, bureaucrats at FEMA or DHS or even the White House cannot simply ignore legislation, or legislative oversight, or court rulings. That means they literally don't have either authority or power to "cut through all the red tape."

Many of them are just as frustrated as you; but they can't simply take the money and give it to people who need it, because it's not their money: It's the people's money, and they can only use it according to the rules that the people's legislature, Congress, has put in place.

It's saddening, maddening, and insanely frustrating... but that's the reality. Congress will never let people just hand out money or resources. They'll always require you to jump through hoops... and there's nothing mortal Man can do about it.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 11:56 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles



At the risk of sounding callous, I find doctorj's responses suspect. Government is not G-d. Expecting miracles from government is childish, wishful thinking. Rush Limbaugh said nothing hateful about legitimate victims of Katrina or any other natural disaster. He did have harsh words for the drive-by media, the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans government officials, and the mooching, whining, greed of those who expect something for nothing.

Dafydd, most medical professionals do not get formal training in logistics. At best, the training is ad hoc and limited to local issues and experiences (typically toxicological or infectious disease epidemics). As you so rightly note, FEMA is a logistics agency. It coordinates responses between private citizens, local government officials, State government officials, non-governmental organizations, and Federal governmental officials. It supplies money and directs the provisioning of goods and services.

If you want immediate response to a disaster, it will always be done by local, private initiative and will never be done by governments, unless you have a good, local one. And even then, the private initiative will work through the fact that no plan survives contact with the enemy or the real world better than the government simply because trial and error in private initiative is expected as the natural order of things. Government officials get punished (internally and/or by their elected "bosses") when their plans sound better than their results and trial and error means taking risks and being responsible for failure.

Proponents of plans seem to never remember that plans have to be executed, and the execution of same in a disaster will never be what the planners envisioned.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2007 9:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: doctorj

I don't want you to think I am ignoring your post. I am not up to reading and replying today. What you call Katrina and the government's response and what I experienced are two entirely different things. My anger did not come in the time of crisis but the months and years afterward. I was without electricity and communications for three weeks after the storm. My only connection to the world was WWL radio out of New Orleans. I heard the people calling the radio station for help. "What do we do?" I heard the rescue workers and city officials cry because of what they saw and the people they could not help. The reports of the Cajun navy, sportmen trying to get into the city to help, but kept out so that the government officials could get paper work straight. All this while people were dying in stiffling attics. No, the real misery happened over a long period of time. FEMA losing paper work was the norm, that is IF you could reach them to begin with. The ANGER at FEMA was red hot heat. I actually saw a FEMA worker from out of state at my ofice. She said she had her nametag on a Walmart and a woman in line told her she couldn't believe she had the nerve to wear that in public. I told her"Oh, that is ashame" but in my mind I was thinking she was a fool to do that. You in the rest of America have NO IDEA what the people of the gulf South have endured and basically don't want to. Stay in your imaginary world where the government works. It doesn't but if it make you happy, go for it. Just leave the people of the Gulf South in peace. We have been hurt enough by this country. Leave us in peace. We have been abandoned anyway.

The above hissed in response by: doctorj [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2007 7:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


DoctorJ, can you point us to a single instance of actual incompetence, wickedness, neglect, or abandonment on the part of FEMA? We all know you're enraged at them and plan to vote for Hillary in 2008 -- but you can't seem to tell us what they did or what they should do now.

It's sad that a hurricane hit your city. It's sad that the levees were overtopped. But you have done nothing but malign people who raced out there to help you; out-of-state National Guard, doctors, and rescue workers who dropped everything to save as many of your fellow citizens as they could; FEMA workers who actually landed on the Gulf Coast days before Katrina hit, deliberately putting themselves into the storm's path so they would be Johnny-on-the-spot the help in the aftermath; a federal government that appropriated more than a hundred billion dollars to help you recover; and all the rest of us for not joining you in your rage and fury at George Bush.

Do you have anything constructive to add?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2007 10:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: doctorj

Do I have anything constructive to add? Yes. The people of the city have been heroic. Nobody believes in government anymore. Volunteerisn is the only thing that accomplishes anything. The spirit in the city is unstoppable. Something magical happens when something so unbelievably dear to you is so nearly lost. I will gladly give my life for the survival of my home. I myself have volunteered in clean up in 3 communities in 2 states. I have volunteered in school and churches. I have cleaned trees out of City Park. I have swept roads. I have housed evacuees. I have donated thousands of dollars of free dental work to Americans that had lost everything. I have written replies and thank yous to government officials in this country and foreign nations, volunteers, and news reporters. I have supported more local businesses than you can shake a stick at while Americans mule over whether it is "OK" to return to NOLA to visit. The "billions" allocated have not been seen or have been wasted on government ineptitude and waste. I started a long post of the FEMA problems. There are thousands. The post disappeared and it won't make a difference to you anyway. I was the same way once so I say that non-judgementally. I guess you have to see it first hand and see the consequences of government mismangement for it to mean something to you. If you are interested, google Fema trailers, Fema Blue tarp program, COE flood maps. You might want to add HUD + Katrina and Katrina Cottage program. Also the Stafford Act. I am excited that Jindal won. He will be good for state politics. He has already stated today on Hardball that the federal government has to come clean on their responsibility in the failure of the levee system. I have hope for the first time in a longtime. But like I said originally, my true healing in my feeling towards my own country cannot truly begin until this present adminstrtion is out of power.

The above hissed in response by: doctorj [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2007 4:13 PM

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