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Guest Post: Daniel T. Smith on Louisiana's Political Present and Future (And What We Should Be Asking of Mary Landrieu) The three most publicized Louisiana issues at the moment that are also national questions are the Road Home Program, the Oil Revenue sharing legislation, and Asian fish cutting in on LA fisheries profits. I'll start with the fish because that's what I know the least about. I read an article in DeadPelican and on Salon about this, and basically it's what you expect: a lack of protective tariffs and commercial standards is threatening native catfish farmers from losing markets to Vietnamese fisheries. http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061127/BUSINESS/611270313/1003 In Louisiana, we raise real catfish in separated ponds with no environmental problems. In Vietnam, there are fewer safety standards and the fish are raised in netted reservoirs which increases risk of disease and contamination. Moreover, the Asian fish aren't even truly catfish, though in 2003 there was legislation to require fairness in labeling, so they can't call a Vietnamese basa a catfish. Even though basa goes for up to a dollar less a pound, aficionados say there's no comparison between the flavor, but most people eating fried catfish don'tcare what it really is. As you know the Road Home Program has been generating a lot of flak. People are angry, mostly at Blanco, for crafting the contract behind closed doors with the group ICF International, based in Fairfax. DeadPelican recently reported ICF is getting two new companies to help them out, one from Houma and the other I don't remember. Here's a good article summing up the various beefs with Road Home: http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/2006/11/hurricane-survivors-protest-louisianas.asp WeSawThat had an interesting conspiracy theory about the feds forcing Blanco's hand to pick ICF, as about half of their directors used to be in national security. Other than one other person speculating ICF probably greased hands in Washington and BR to get the contract ( http://bayoustjohndavid.blogspot.com/2006/11/jefferson-has-very-devastating-ads.html [bottom comment]. On the other hand, most other things I've read suggest the contract was just a bad choice. It's been pointed out that they do a lot of work for other states and for the federal government, and picked, ironically, for their speed in cutting checks. In the WeSawThat post, John Kennedy discusses that he thought the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency was a better choice. http://wesawthat.blogspot.com/2006/11/secy-john-kennedy-on-lra-road-home.html Interestingly enough, RedState has passed along a rumor that Kennedy is considering switching parties to run against Mary in '08 as a Republican. http://www.redstate.com/stories/elections/2008/senate_2008 Mary is considered one of the most endangered Democratic Senators in 08, for reasons you more than well know. The Senate will probably not go GOP because of the map, which negates Lieberman's party-switching threats. Many have linked her re-eletion to the success or failure of the Oil Revenue legislation. That's a big one, and interesting. I'd say this Oyster post serves as a nice primer, with an excellent dialectic resulting in a sort of consensus in the comments. Solid link: http://righthandthief.blogspot.com/2006/10/citybiz-jindal-stubbornly-resisted.html The idea is that the House bill, which is pretty radical, would allow any state that wanted to drill off their coast for substantial federal revenue sharing and give LA a lot of cash right away. The Senate Bill, which passed with only 25 dissenters (mostly envi-Democrats), is less environmentally offensive but wouldn't give LA any real cash for a decade I think (I did read one interesting idea about putting bonds against the future income, or something). [It smells like Jindal might be trying to pull an Arlen Specter. Two amendments related to the Military Commissions Act were up for discussion in the Senate. I don't remember the exact details but Specter had promised the Dems that he would put the vote to a less-radical compromise provision striking the habeus corpus denial. My memory is bad, but the idea is that at the last minute he went with the more radical proposal that he knew would fail, but that covered him when it came to looking like he wanted to protect habeus corpus. http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/109/senate/2/votes/255/ ] By supporting a radical bill that is a big time punch-in-the-face huge score for Louisiana comes across as being extremely noble and daring of Jindal. However, he's not a fool and he must know that it won't work. He's not pushing for compromise with the Senate Bill. I'm rusty on the process but if the House Bill is voted on and not the Senate Bill then Bobby can claim that he was a valiant hardliner, and it was the fault of the Dems in the Senate that nothing got passed. He looks good in the end, but really if he had actually compromised something could have gotten done. It's a good way to make an issue to sink Mary with in 08, who he'd probably go up against if he loses the Governor's Mansion. This is from Mary's website: "This letter by an influential group of House Republicans is yet another signal that a consensus is emerging that the best course of action is to pass the Domenici-Landrieu bill that does so much for Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and the nation. Now is not the time to overreach with an all-coast drilling plan that cannot pass. It is the time for our coalition of supporters -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to come together and pass this vital legislation." And speaking of reelections, there's Mary's support of Joe. Besides the fact that they are both conservative Dems, and the fact that national politics have almost no play in Louisiana state politics, it's notable that Mary supported him. It took 42 minutes for Lieberman's committee to confirm Michael Brown to his position, and when the shit hit the fan Joe's excuse was that Brownie had lied on his resume, which of course was discovered only later by checking his references of all things. http://righthandthief.blogspot.com/2006/10/mary-mary-quite-contrary.html Moreover, here's Lieberman on the Senate Bill: I cannot vote for an enterprise that falsely suggests we can drill our way out of this energy crisis and that willfully ignores bipartisan solutions to our oil addiction, said Lieberman. This bill is a wasted opportunity and a disservice to the American people. This was taken from the comments (which provide excellent analysis) of: http://righthandthief.blogspot.com/2006/11/political-notes.html It makes sense that Mary wants to be beholden to Joe, who the media has erroneously made out as the most important senator ever (Unity08 is an organization that is trying to get a McCain/Lieberman independent presidential ticket... yikes!). I seriously doubt Joe is going to investigate much of Katrina. Thank God we have Henry Waxman. Update: I just read on her website (landrieu.senate.gov) that on November 14th she was selected to serve on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Gov't Affairs. Surprise surprise. And speaking again of reelections, the Road Home (not to mention the storm) has tied an anchor around Blanco's neck. Jindal is rockin the cashboat hard, and as you know he won with 88% to his house district. I bring this up here to point out this survey, on another conservative blog (spare yourself and don't read the comments), http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1741066/posts which gives Jindal 52% to Blanco's 20%. A poll this far out is not informative in the least, but they did also include Vitter and Mitch, both who pulled 9%. I read on a blog and then heard independently from a close friend that some want Blanco to step out of the reelection bid to make way for Mitch for Gov. I also found a new online petition asking him to run, but basically no one had signed it (Google "Mitch Landrieu for Governor" if you care). I kind of like this idea, but who knows. A lot think he's damaged goods after Nagin beat him (oops), but Blanco is looking a lot like Lyndon Johnson in 1968 if you ask me. It doesn't seem to me like Mitch has been doing that kind of campaigning, but Blanco has. Consider her budget surplus ideas (insurance rebates, salary raises), which people are calling an attempt to buy votes. Most pragmatists say that this money, as it is not a recurring source of income, should be spent on infrastructure, especially roads for the oil industry or improving the transit from NOLA and BR for hurricane evacuation. The end of this recent Oyster post is a little heartening, though he makes it pretty clear that the 109th Congress is not going to vote on the Oil Revenue sharing proposal: http://righthandthief.blogspot.com/2006/11/one-last-gop-insult-to-la-will-dems.html And the record of Mary's Senatorial votes, where you can see when she went against her party: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/l000550/key-votes/ Questions for Our Senator: 1) Is there any way to make use of the Oil Revenue money immediately? What kind of projects (more specific than just "coastal/hurricane protection") will it be used for? 2) Is it over for Blanco? Will Mitch try to step it up? 3) What's up with Lieberman? 4) What is the real problem with the Road Home Program? Is there actually a problem at all, or are people just being impatient? Is there anything fishy about the ICF contract? 5) What's up with her support of the Iraq War, and more importantly, her support of Military Commissions and the Patriot Act? 6) Why did she go against her party after the hurricane to support the bankruptcy bill? http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/109/senate/1/votes/44/ 7) What is her opinion of Jim Webb's assertion that there is a class war going on in America with respect to the shift in health, financial, and vocational security risk from employers to employees? 8) Does the state Democratic Party care at all about a progressive movement in Louisiana? Does one even exist? Are Louisiana Democrats committed to the political center in order to reflect their electorate to insure reelection? 9) Is the populist political legacy of the Longs still applicable to Louisiana today? 10) What's up with the catfish? 11) Is Alexandria in a unique position to serve Southern Louisiana due to it's location as the first real city north of the Hurricane Zone? Or are we fooling ourselves? 12) What do you think of Harry Truman's statement (paraphrased) that when the Democrats run a Republican against the Republican, the Republican will always win?