The Advocate Blog Network

Search
Banner image

Common Core Needs Special Session

The asininity level has reached new heights, or rather depths, from all sides of Louisiana’s battle over the Common Core education standards. Common Core supporters offered asinine reasons, or rather non-reasons, in support of the Core during this year’s regular legislative session. The Jindal team in recent weeks made asinine insinuations that state school superintendent John White isn’t merely wrong on the topic but perhaps “corrupt.” A charter school organization, in an asinine misunderstanding of its own best interests, joined a group of parents and others in filing a lawsuit against the Jindal administration to force it to back off its anti-Core actions. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today took the asinine step of joining that lawsuit. Later today, Jindal took the asinine step of intervening in the suit, by using presumably expensive outside counsel to make what is more a philosophical point than a legal one, while further entering Jindal in the “I can sound like Rick Perry too” national conservative presidential sweepstakes.

Enough already.

Rather than embroiling the state in so many suits and counter-suits that it will take a Dickensian eon to unravel them (see Jarndyce v. Jarndycein the novel Bleak House), all sides should stop wasting money on lawyers and tying up the courts, and instead solve this through ordinary representative processes. A special session should be in order. (About which, more, momentarily.)

Let’s unpack, far too quickly, why each step has been asinine.

First, even though the topic of Common Core created considerable sturm und drang during the legislative session, it actually catalyzed very little cogent debate. Opponents repeatedly were treated rudely, while some legislators pronounced themselves in favor of Common Core before asking what it was. A committee chairman took to cyberspace to offer embarrassing pablum in favor of the Core, while the governor, suddenly opposed to it, barely lifted a finger to actually persuade legislators in his direction. In short, the spectacle was asinine.

Jindal made matters worse by sending out his minions to question Superintendent White’s integrity. For that matter, his original press release announcing Louisiana’s “withdrawal” from the Core focused far more on his policy disagreements with the Core than on his legal reason (or pretext) of saying BESE’s procurement process for the Core-aligned tests was flawed. (The administration later tried just to emphasize the procurement issue, but that didn’t explain the governor’s unilateral “termination of [Louisiana's] participation in the Common Core.” If anybody thinks Jindal’s aim was merely the dutiful attempt to enforce a state law, rather than to curry favor with national conservative audiences, they are more gullible than TV’s Gilligan.)

Then came the lawsuit by the parents and the charter school group. Most of the suit sounds like a policy argument devolving into a whine session, but it does eventually make some points actually relevant to legally actionable claims. That’s not what was asinine. What was asinine was that the “Choice Foundation,” an otherwise excellent group which runs three admirable charter schools in New Orleans, chose to stick its nose into the morass of the courts. It did so against its own best long-term interests. To wit:

One of the biggest policy arguments (among many other good ones) against Common Core is that is probably will have the tendency to homogenize instructional methods, curriculum, and other educational practices nationwide. One of the beauties of charter schools is that they resist homogenization in favor of innovation, particularity, and an understanding that different strokes work for different folks. Inherent in that idea is the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that, to the greatest extent possible, decisions be made and implemented at the most local level practicable. This key aspect of charter schools thus runs directly contrary to the Core’s nationalizing impulse. For the Choice Foundation to join this suit amounts to an illogical fit of pique rather than a wise use of time and resources. (And yes, I read its explanation of the “harm” it will supposedly suffer due to the governor’s actions, and I just don’t buy it.)

Today, BESE upped the ante by joining that lawsuit. It did not need to do so. There’s even a question as to whether it has the authority to hire its own counsel to do so. The layering of lawyers (or is that lawyering of layers?) further complicates an already awful situation, and further raises the legal stakes for all involved.

Then came the administration with what, at first glance, appeared to be a rather ludicrous “third party demand” — an intervention in this same lawsuit — by the governor to nullify something called a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) between BESE and a Core-aligned outfit known by the acronym PARCC (which also provides the material for the tests at issue in the procurement controversy). It does so on the basis of a legitimate doctrine, questionably applied. The doctrine is known as “non-delegation,” and in layman’s terms it means that a public body may not delegate its authority to a private entity or an entity outside of the state.  Yet by the very terms of the MOU cited by the administration’s lawsuit — an MOU originally signed by Jindal himself — the “authority” being delegated is revocable by the state at any time, so BESE retains control (without threat of penalty) over whether or not to participate in PARCC’s processes. That hardly seems, to an outside observer, to be an illegal delegation of BESE’s responsibility.

It’s all rather complicated. Let’s simplify it: Jindal in effect is yelling “state sovereignty” at the top of his lungs, trying to get attention back from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is gaining ground in the Republican presidential sweepstakes by making valid points about state sovereignty with regard to the border crisis and the Obama administration’s perfidy related thereto.

All of which leads to this: It’s horrible public policy to rush to the courts, which take months or years to rule, to solve what really amounts to a policy dispute, while holding children, parents and school hostage to the political battle. This should be a matter handled not by judges, but by the people’s elected representatives. Those representatives did a pathetic job this year in their so-called consideration of whether or not to withdraw from Common Core. They were dealing with hundreds of other issues at the same time, and few legislators even had a clue what they were really talking about.

Jindal should call a special session devoted to the Common Core issue, alone, and then use all his persuasive ability to try to move legislators his way. Those of us who oppose Common Core would cheer him on, all the while. Legislators would be forced to own up to their decisions, sole-focused, without excuses. And the public could watch how outside players — lobbyists and campaign donors — influence the proceedings.

It would be a donnybrook. But it would last a finite time period. A decision would be made, one way or the other. And, afterwards, education could move forward.

Jindal Administration’s Unfortunate Insinuation

I start writing this as I am still listening to a phone press conference by Jindal Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin, about the governor’s meeting with State school superintendent John White regarding procurement contracts relating to the state’s school tests (which, of course, are related to the overall debate about the Common Core standards, although Plotkin went to great pains to say that the meeting in this case was only about procurement and not about the Core). I write to suggest that Plotkin should walk back some of his comments, or at least disavow some unfortunate implications thereof.

Clearly, there is a dispute between Jindal and White both about Common Core and about how the testing contract was done (sole-sourced, or no-bid, rather than openly bid). There seems to be a difference of legal opinion as to whether that bid process is in accordance with state law. It seems to me at very first glance that Jindal’s team has the better legal argument, but that is immaterial to the point I am about to make. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jindal is right about the law. Even so, it could well be that White or his staff misinterpreted the law, or were unaware of its provisions, or some other honest explanation.

Yet, repeatedly in the phone conference, Plotkin stressed that Jindal made a great point with White of recounting the state’s history of “corruption” and of stressing that such corruption is what Jindal has pledged to put an end to. In that light, said Plotkin, Jindal stressed how important it is that White follow the law.

Note the context. This goes beyond Jindal explaining what he thinks the law is, or why his interpretation of the law must govern White’s actions, or any other legitimate reason why White should cry uncle. This goes beyond any assumption that there is an honest difference of opinion. The obvious subtext is not just that White is wrong, but that he is willfully and deliberately wrong. One doesn’t bring up “corruption” in such circumstances unless one is insinuating that there is corruption afoot. (Or, it could be a hamhanded way of scene setting by Jindal, trying to explain why he must be an absolute stickler for the law, in light of the past corruption, but without intending to suggest corruption on White’s part. It’s a stretched interpretation, but at least it’s possible.)

But here’s what is troubling: If it was just a vague scene setter, rather than an insinuation of something worse, why would Plotkin mention it repeatedly in the press conference? Why would he continue to raise the specter of “corruption” rather than of just a legal disagreement?

I asked, quite specifically, if Plotkin really meant to raise the possibility of deliberate malfeasance. I think it was clear that I meant to give him a chance to walk back the noxious inference, made about Jindal’s hand-picked superintendent.

Plotkin didn’t budge. He refused to offer any olive branch at all to White. He left my question hanging, by saying (and, alas, I didn’t get the exact quote) again words to the effect that “White must follow the law, period.”

Look, I oppose Common Core. I also think Jindal is right that the testing contract should have been open to public bid. But I have seen not an iota of evidence to suggest deliberate malfeasance, or “corruption,” on White’s part. And I think it behooves the Jindal administration to quickly, publicly, and graciously clear up such a misimpression.

If not, then it obviously is not an unintended misimpression, but instead a virtual allegation of wrongdoing. Now, unless the administration has evidence we don’t know about — in which case, the evidence should be released, forthwith — then the insinuation must be assumed to be a deliberate assault on White’s reputation for integrity. From what I’ve seen, such an assault is unwarranted.

And if it’s unwarranted, there’s a word for what the administration just did. The word is “smear.” It’s dirty pool. And it should not stand.

 

 

Scalise wood

Scalise Brought the Wood

Saints Coach Sean Payton and former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston served as exemplars for a bit of inspirational fun that Jefferson’s U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise had with his organizational team the night before his victory in this week’s race for Majority Whip of the House of Representatives.

Several weeks ago, Scalise was dining with friend and informal political advisor Rick Legendre, the former longtime district representative for Livingston when Livingston served southeast Louisiana in Congress. This was a week or two before House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset in his re-election primary in Virginia. Having no idea that a race would be upon them so soon, Scalise and Legendre were talking about Scalise’s hopes to run for Whip after the fall elections, or at whatever later time a spot opened up. Legendre suggested that in the course of any such race, Scalise should have some fun while firing up his supporters by imitating the motivational tool Payton used to start the 2010 playoff run that led to the Saints’ famous Super Bowl victory. Payton had handed out baseball bats to his players, telling them to “bring the wood” to the Arizona Cardinals.  Considering that Baton Rouge-based Marucci Sports is the major provider of bats for Major League Baseball, Legendre figured they could get the bats made in a jiffy if needed.

Within 48 hours of Cantor’s unexpected loss, Scalise called Legendre and asked him, quite literally, to bring the wood. Marucci was able to do a quick turn-around of some distinctive, deep-red bats and have them delivered to Scalise earlier this week. The bats were inscribed with the words “Bring the wood! Scalise Whip Team 2014. Geaux!!!”

At the end of his team’s last organizational meeting, Wednesday night before the Thursday vote, Scalise surprised his colleagues with the lumber, and his fellow congressmen reportedly exited the meeting brandishing the bats and laughing, full of enthusiasm for the election.

Just as it did with the Saints, the “wood” let to an overwhelming victory for Scalise.

The Saints, however, were only one of the inspirations for the idea. Legendre also had remembered another catchy bit of symbolism that helped set the tone for some major accomplishments back in the 1990s. When Livingston took over as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in January of 1995 — the first Republican Approps chair in 40 years — he was on a mission to achieve nearly unprecedented savings in federal domestic discretionary spending. (In other words, on items other than defense or entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.) Opening his first committee meeting, laughing, Livingston pulled out a glisteningly sharp alligator skinning knife and said something along these lines: “I told you we will cut the budget, and I mean it. We’re going to cut carefully, even surgically, so we don’t harm any essential services, but we’ll use sharp knives. This (pulls out knife) is what I call my ‘Cajun scalpel.’ It’s tough enough and sharp enough for alligator hide, but it can be wielded with precision!”

After the laughter died down, Livingston said: “Now, if that doesn’t work to save enough taxpayer money, or if you people won’t do cooperate with surgical cuts, then we’ll use THIS!” From under his desk, Livingston pulled out a huge Bowie knife, twice as big as his alligator skinner. And, to howls of laughter, Livingston added: “And if we can’t get the job done that way, well, then we’ll really get serious!”

With that, Livingston pulled out a very large machete and made an exaggerated hacking motion.

By that time, aides had passed out to every Approps member a lapel button featuring an image of the alligator skinning knife along with the words “Cajun Scalpel.” The good-natured, can-do spirit was so infectious that ever several of the committee Democrats left the room wearing the buttons.

(Alas, most of the media garbled the story and missed Livingston’s point that he wanted his savings to be deep but surgically precise; instead, most reports just focused on the machete and the image of crazy Republicans madly hacking away at supposedly popular programs. Oh, well.)

Anyway, Livingston’s committee did succeed in entirely eliminating 300 duplicative programs while saving $50 billion in actual dollars (not from projected increases) in just two years. And the Saints went on to win the Super Bowl. Scalise now can hope that his experience as whip will be equally successful.

After all, it’s pretty darn hard for anybody not to like a little Louisiana theatricality and humor, expressive of Louisianan’s famous joie de vivre. 

Transparency in Insurance

One bill that flew under the radar in the recently completed state legislative session, but which could prove extremely beneficial, was HB 909, which will require far greater transparency within the home insurance industry. This, in turn, eventually could help counteract any unwarranted maltreatment of home owners in coastal zones, which especially since Hurricane Katrina have faced much higher rates and much more difficulty in purchasing any homeowner insurance at all.

Alabama passed a similar “Clarity Bill” a couple of years ago, and the data collected as a result showed that coastal zones were not nearly as much at risk for greater damages as most people would assume, or as insurance companies want to charge them for via higher premiums, deductibles, etc.  For one thing, hurricanes and tropical storms tend to cause significant wind damage and river flooding well inland in addition to the obvious damage to the coasts. For another, inland counties tend to be more susceptible to major tornadic activity, of the sort that flattened parts of Tuscaloosa in 2011. Therefore, the higher premiums and deductibles, and even redlining of entire coastal zones, may not be warranted after all — or at least not to anywhere near the degree that they now exist.

In the short run, this information can be used by state authorities to force the insurance companies to more nearly equalize the rates between coastal counties and inland counties. But the ultimate goal isn’t to create a war within states by pitting the coast against everybody else. Instead, the goal is to set the stage for a national alliance of all states within a “coastal band,“ to create its own separate risk pool for insurance in a way that isn’t so costly, in part by avoiding exorbitant “re-insurance” rates by international companies unduly assuming that the coasts are more at risk.

After New York and New Jersey suffered from Superstorm Sandy, the odds are better for non-Gulf states to want to join such a coastal band. Eventually, say the coastal band activists, they hope that every state with an ocean or Gulf coastline will join the band and, with such a large swath of the citizenry affected, be able to have enough strength in numbers to force “a more logical private/state/federal partnership on natural disasters.”

Governor Jindal signed HB 909, which at least will make public the accurate data, upon which any reform movement will rely.

Aviation Board Gets it Half Right

The New Orleans Aviation Board avoided a horrid rush to judgment today in the contracting process to build a new airport terminal, but now it has made the opposite mistake of pushing off judgment too long. The new mistake is of admittedly lesser magnitude than the first would have been, but it’s still a bit problematic.

My column yesterday explained how the process had been bungled by a special Review Committee, which certainly looked as if it mis-scored both the original bids and a tie-breaking assessment after the two contract bids were afforded exactly equal assessment scores the first time.

The Aviation Board, to its great credit, took the concerns seriously. It would have been foolhardy to award the contract today to the international Parsons-Odebrecht group in the face of the multiple existing controversies.  So it didn’t do so. It decided to push the “pause” button for the process.

Good. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu rightly said in a message read to the board before the board made its decision today, this $546 million project is of utmost importance for the future not just of the city but of southern Louisiana — so Louisiana must get it right. Hitting the pause button will increase the chances of doing just that.

So what’s the problem? The board threw out the baby with the bath water

Rather than choosing to pause just a month while itself taking over a detailed review of the contract bids (thus taking into account the Review Committee’s existing work but not crediting its conclusions), the Aviation Board decided to completely junk the existing bids and to put forth an entirely new Request for Proposal (RFP). The upshot is that the pause in the process surely will be at least three months, not just one. (I expect it will take longer: several weeks at least to create the new RFP and possibly to name a new Review Committee, plus probably three more months on top of that for the bidders to submit their proposals and have them assessed by the committee and then considered by the Aviation Board.) This will make it far harder to have the project ready for the city’s Tricentennial celebration in 2018.

Furthermore, while fairness to the bidders is less important in the long run than getting the best deal and especially the best final product, it remains true that fairness to the bidding companies is an important component of getting the best deal and product. Why? Because any company or partnership that games the systemduring bidding seems more likely to game the process (and cut corners) in the actual construction phase for the new terminal. Yet by creating a new RFP, the board opens the door for the system to be gamed in two ways: either by shenanigans on the front end, by insiders massaging the new RFP to better fit one of the existing bids over the other; or on the back end, by one of the bidders mis-using the information from its competitor’s original proposal.

When federal projects are re-bid, this is exactly what sometimes has happened — most notably recently when the Gulf Coast lost an immense, apparently-won bid to build new air tankers after pressure from Boeing forced a re-start to the whole process, in a way that definitively disfavored the earlier advantages of Boeing’s competitor.

But what’s done is done. A entirely restarted process is better than a rushed decision that ignores anomalies and surely would attract a lawsuit. The Board (and the mayor) are to be commended for getting this procedural decision at least half right.

Now comes the crucial consideration for Round Two: At least some of the membership of the Review Committee should be changedOne of the controversies in Round One stemmed from a potential for bias by committee member Cedric Grant, the deputy mayor, and two of his employees also on the committee, because Grant once worked for one of the two bidders. Grant and his two employees may have meant well and may have done fine work on the committee, but they should not be appointed to the new committee. Indeed, the mayor’s existing staff should have far less representation on the committee in toto — not because he doesn’t have good staff, but in order to avoid the appearance of a politicized process.

Surely there are other people with the requisite backgrounds to sit on the Review Committee.

There are probably no “bad guys”here. But there are indeed some bad impressions that must be corrected in the name of public confidence.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. Maybe the same two partnerships will again be the only ones to submit new bids, after seeing the new RFP. Maybe Parsons will win again, fair and square – or maybe not. Maybe one or both of the earlier bidders will give up the ghost, while a third or fourth bidder emerges. No matter what happens, it is in everybody’s interest to keep politics out of the process and make competence and cost the true, deciding factors. It is also in everybody’s interest for the Aviation Board itself to familiarize itself far more intimately with the bid details, so it can better adjudge, the second time, whether the (new) Review Committee has done its own job well.

A good Aviation Board and good mayor can and must get this right. Here’ s hoping that today’s delaying action turns out to be the pause that refreshes.

 

Two-and-a-quarter Cheers for Mary Landrieu

For the first time (as far as I can tell) in the Obama presidency, Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has voted against the administration on a judicial nominee (or important Justice Department nominee, too, for that matter). But, in part because of an earlier vote from Sen. Landrieu, the awful nominee remains on track toward probable confirmation.

I had written about nominee David Barron, and Sen. Landrieu’s political discomfort relating to him, here. Barron is a radical’s radical who advocates almost unlimited judicial latitude to ignore the law and guiding precedents in order to reach “progressive” ends, and he is particularly hostile to private property rights.

First, for whatever reasons she did it, let’s credit Sen. Landrieu for bucking the president today, when she voted against “cloture” (ending debate and thus moving forward with the nomination) for Barron’s consideration. Barron clearly is far more leftist than the majority of Louisiana citizens are  – and a good senator will vote to represent her constituent’s viewpoints unless her own strong principles to the contrary demand a stand, on conscience, against public opinion.

It should be noted, however, that under the formal Senate rules that had existed for more than two centuries until last November, the 52 votes for cloture (of 100 senators) would have fallen eight short — in other words, a virtually insurmountable barrier — of moving forward with Barron’s nomination. In short, the nomination would have failed, as well it should, one way or another. Landrieu voted with Majority Leader Harry Reid to kill the permanent filibuster for all presidential nominees, and thus to pave the way for approval of radicals like Mr. Barron.

Ordinarily, I would not criticize that vote last November by Landrieu. I have long argued that while permanent filibusters against nominees for judgeships might technically have been allowable under Senate rules, those filibusters nonetheless violate longstanding and valuable Senate traditions and also violate fairly clear constitutional intent. I am perfectly happy seeing an up-or-down vote on all judicial nominees who make it through committee (although not necessarily other presidential appointments which don’t involve an entirely separate and putatively nonpartisan branch of government, e.g. the judiciary). That’s what Landrieu’s vote last November helped achieve.

The problem here is Landrieu’s inconsistency on these issues. In 2003, she provided a key vote in favor of the first-ever permanent filibuster against a judicial nominee in American history, and then had joined the so-called “Gang of 14″ who warded off a rules change to formally disallow such filibusters. She argued then that the filibuster should be an inviolable power of a large Senate minority, and that it should therefore be preserved. Having broken tradition by filibustering would-be judges, and then having fought against the rules change that would have outlawed such filibusters, she then voted last year for the very rules change she earlier had pronounced unconscionable. It was that rules change last year that now allows Mr. Barron’s nomination to advance.

All that history aside, Mr. Barron still isn’t a judge quite yet. He still faces a vote on final passage, and there remains a chance that at least three more Democrats will join Sen. Landrieu and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin to kill the nomination then. This assumes that Landrieu’s “no” vote on cloture indicates that she will vote “no” on final passage as well — a position that Landrieu’s constituents ought to let her know they approve.

If Sen. Landrieu does vote against Barron on final passage, Louisianans ought to thank her for doing the right thing. They should thank her even more if she publicly, vocally, and successfully lobbies for her Democratic colleagues to do likewise.

A throwaway vote is one thing; real effort to win a vote is far more useful.

 

Conrad Appel’s Content-less Defense of Common Core

So Conrad Appel, chairman of Louisiana’s Senate Education Committee, is out with a full essay purporting to explain why he’s for the Common Core national educational standards. The essay is a nothingburger.

Paragraph one says he will explain why he stands firm in the face of supposedly nasty bloggers. Paragraph two says he has principles. Paragraph three talks about the Constitution and the importance of union. Paragraph four talks about how great, he, Mr. Appel, is, because he built a business and studies things thoroughly and then sticks to his guns.

– Interruption, to note that so far he hasn’t actually written a word about Common Core itself. –

Paragraph five says that “finally, the reason I support Common Core specifically is because…” Because what? Because Louisiana is ranked 49th in educational “outcomes.” And because he rejects the “political social climbers” and other bad guys who put their own political goals ahead of the children. Paragraph six says Louisiana helped develop the Common Core and that there is nothing better “on the horizon.” Paragraph seven is boilerplate about believing in “all of our children.” Gee. Wow. Then he says we are stronger together than apart. Such insight! Then he says the politics of “fear or financial benefit has no place in education.” And he believes there is “every indication” Common Core can work.

– Interruption, to ask: What indication? Can he be, well, specific, as he promised in the previous paragraph? Well, no. –

Paragraph seven says “our nation is hurting” from “an ideological sickness.” We must “join the vast majority of our sister states” to improve education, so we don’t “fall back into the cycle of ignorance and poverty.”

That’s it. Yes, really. Those are the final words of his column.

So he’s for all things good, against all things bad, loves our country, loves our children. Therefore, we must impose the Common Core on the children in our schools.

Huh?

This is nonsense. There’s not a single specific argument based on what Common Core actually is or does. There’s nothing about its content. There’s nothing about its associated, or “aligned,” curriculum. There’s nothing about nothing about nothing at all.

This isn’t just boilerplate, because it isn’t even warm enough to come within light years of boiling. It’s warmed over mush. It doesn’t even begin to build an argument.  It just maligns those who disagree.

If his own education taught him that this is actually how to build a real case — you know: thesis, facts, evidence, logic, reason, etcetera — then we really should not want Sen. Appel telling the rest of us how to educate Louisiana’s children.

If I were a 7th grade composition teacher, I would give this essay a D+. It gets an “A” for grammar and punctuation. It gets an F for everything else.

Landrieu on Another Judicial Hot Seat

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has another opportunity early next week to put a dent in the reigning narrative about her — namely, that when Louisiana interests aren’t directly at stake, she acts like a hard-line left winger in lockstep with the Obama White House and the flagrantly two-faced Senate Majority Leader (and liberal spear-carrier) Harry Reid.

We all know Landrieu acts energetically and pragmatically, rather than ideologically, on Louisiana-specific issues (and I have credited her for it numerous times during the past quarter-century, especially for her work on garnering offshore oil revenues). On the flip side, her record on federal judicial nominations is as leftist as anybody this side of New York’s loudmouth Chuck Schumer. Now comes another test for her – with a twist.

On Monday or Tuesday, the Senate will vote to invoke cloture on (in other words, avoid a filibuster to block) the nomination of one David J. Barron to be a judge on the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (for the Northeast United States plus Puerto Rico). On his overall approach to matters judicial, Barron is as hard-liberal as liberal can be, completely alien to the values of a large majority of Louisianans. (More on that momentarily.) But in one area of civil liberties, he so dutifully did his job as an Obama political warrior at the Department of Justice that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised a serious yellow caution flag (although not a bright red flag of outright opposition) about his nomination.

Specifically, Barron authored at least two legal memos justifying the use of drones to kill American citizens operating abroad as suspected terrorists. Under severe pressure from the ACLU and others, the Obama administration recently made those two memos available to senators to review, but not to the public. Therefore, if Landrieu wants at least a little political coverage on the left as protection against anger from Obama and Reid for opposing their choice of Barron, she can cite the issue of drones and presidential non-transparency.

From the standpoint of the majority of Louisianans, though, Barron’s worst excesses come not in the form of being insufficiently left-libertarian, but in his record as a radical, big-government advocate of a politicized, left-wing judiciary. That record is evident on numerous legal issues, from a plethora of his writings – but nowhere more flagrant than in his denigration of property rights and his antipathy to free enterprise.

Barron is an advocate of what he calls “a progressive federalism.” To wit [my emphases added in bold]:

It would give states and local governments much greater room to regulate the private market. This would check national and multinational business influence as Louis Brandeis and earlier progressives once imagined…. To expand the ability of states and local governments to regulate private business… a progressive federalism would also interpret the Takings Clause to give more deference to local efforts to make developers assume the costs of their development. And rather than characterizing state and local regulations as protectionist  or as obstructive of the  national  market, as the Court often does in its Dormant Commerce Clause  decisions,  progressive federalism would permit sensible attempts  by state and local governments to protect their communities from the harsh and dislocating effects of larger economic forces.

And: “[P]rogressive federalism would promote national/local relations consistent with a broader liberal political vision.”

In that light, it is no wonder that Barron wrote strongly in favor of the horrendous, and broadly unpopular, 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which a Connecticut town seized homes that had been held by the same families for generations in order to promote a politically connected development project that later failed miserably.

A far larger column could be written outlining the numerous other examples of Barron’s extreme ideology – in favor of liberal judicial activism “in advance of the political will”; in favor of letting public colleges ban ROTC from their campuses; in favor of impeaching President G.W. Bush for his conduct of the war in Iraq; in favor of judges achieve a desired “progressive” result by citing law review articles and foreign treaties that might “shape the culture” even when past cases and statutory and regulatory texts” [in other words, the actual law!] support a diametrically opposite decision – but, for now, with time of the essence, the important thing for Louisiana audiences is whether Landrieu will obey Obama and ratify this radicalism, or instead represent Louisiana’s values by opposing Barron.

To confirm or not to confirm? Ah, when one is a U.S. Senator, the slings and arrows of outrageous jurisprudence can be mighty difficult to avoid.

Mary Landrieu Has Good Point on Coastal Fund

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, taking a break from national issues, is urging the state Legislature to limit the use of the state’s coastal wetlands trust fund as a pass-through account to turn one-time revenue into supposedly recurring revenue that can be used to plug annual budget gaps.

She has a good point.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the wetlands trust fund itself doesn’t really suffer from this maneuver in the short term. But as I also wrote (while citing a report by the Public Affairs Research Council),  ”[B]y setting the precedent of using for non-wetlands purposes any money categorized, however briefly, as part of the wetlands trust, the administration ‘diminishes the integrity of the Coastal Fund’ — with potentially harmful legal or political consequences down the road.”

That said, perhaps there ought to be a tiny bit more leeway, within state budget rules, for “non-recurring” revenue to be used to shore up short-term budget holes. The simple fact is that because of how all the budget rules/laws interact with each other, it is quite likely that the state will, each year, benefit from officially “non-recurring” revenue of one sort or another — so that what is categorized as a temporary windfall is actually a fairly predictable benefit for state coffers. It’s complicated. I absolutely support the general idea of the existing prohibition, but perhaps an amendment might be considered that allows up to, say, just 10 percent, or even 5 percent, of any non-recurring revenues to be tapped for annual budgeting purposes. That small amount of leeway can’t harm future budgets too terribly, but it would provide a little wiggle room — and by providing wiggle room, it would take away some of the incentive for governors like Jindal to use somewhat sneaky means, such as the wetlands-fund pass-through, to circumvent the restrictions.

Either way, though, to the extent that the Jindal maneuver runs afoul of the basic spirit (if not the letter) of the current restriction, it is not a salutary budget practice. Landrieu is right to support a bill to foreclose the subterfuge. The wetlands trust fund is too important to allow its integrity to be threatened.

Yes, Jindal’s New Press Secretary Lives, Works in Louisiana

Noted blogger C.B. Forgotston has been on a rampage lately, casting aspersions for the past three or four weeks on the newest member of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s press office, one Sarah Haley. In this case, his facts are wrong.

Forgotston’s latest e-mail blast came today:

Yesterday,  Bobby Jindal’s new (6 weeks) press flack, Sarah Haley, confirmed that she does not live in Louisiana.   Despite the lack of residency in Louisiana, she is being paid by the taxpayers of Louisiana to flack for Jindal.

That clears up another matter.  Because Haley doesn’t reside in Louisiana, she is not required to register her motor vehicle in Louisiana nor does she have to acquire a Louisiana driver’s license.

This also explains why nobody has seen Haley in Baton Rouge.

This is further evidence that Haley’s job is solely to get Jindal the GOP nomination for president for 2016.  The question is why are we in Louisiana paying her; she should be on Jindal’s campaign payroll.

Although I may disagree with a number of Forgotston’s conclusions on various issues, I have been an admirer of Forgotston’s knowledge of state government and of his fiscally conservative principles for 27 years. But in this case, he’s being flat-out unfair. First, I do not know how he could say Ms. Haley “confirmed” this information, when she confirms none of it.

On the record, she tells me this: “ ”I live in Louisiana and have lots of family here. It’s a great, welcoming state.”

Beyond that, she would not say. Methinks the Jindal administration doesn’t want her to feel a need to answer attacks on her character. But what I have been reliably apprised via other inquiries is that she does indeed live full-time in the Baton Rouge area,  she accompanies Jindal’s team on its in-state travel and does Louisiana-based work dealing with Louisiana journalists, and she does indeed have a Louisiana license and plates.

I have every reason to trust Ms. Haley’s professionalism. A decade or more ago, when I was writing editorials for the Mobile Register and she was press secretary for U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, I had reason to deal with her (almost entirely by phone and e-mail) on multiple occasions, and always found her extremely professional and responsive.

I find it unchivalrous of C.B. to go after Ms. Haley in this way.

I also find it absurd for the Jindal administration to refuse to answer Forgotston’s questions about Sarah Haley. It matters not how much he seems to detest the governor or how much they dislike his constant harping. If they want to just ignore his constant attacks on the governor, that’s fine. But when he beats up on a new staff member, and it is so easy to set the record straight, they should darn well set the record straight — not for his sake, but for hers, lest any of Forgotston’s readers, now or in the future, believe that she is acting as sketchily as he has insinuated. Things last in cyberspace a long, long time, and false reports have a way of being seen and believed in the future by people needing to check professional references — people who may not know the context of what appears to be the longstanding enmity between Forgotston and the Jindal team.

‘Nuff said.