Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jindal Down in Poll. But Far from Out

It seems that the S.S. Jindal has taken on some water according to the latest poll from Southern Media and Opinion Research survey on statewide officials.

Governor Bobby Jindal, who had spent a considerable amount of time on the campaign trail for Republican candidates across the country (Louisiana excepted) and has recently been touring the nation promoting a book he wrote on leadership, saw his poll numbers fall significantly, an indication that a sizable portion of the Louisiana electorate is not enamored with his out of state travels.

According to the SMOR data, Jindal’s approval rating stood at 55%, a six point dip since the last survey the Baton Rouge-based polling company performed in the spring. Matching Jindal’s popularity dip was the rise in his negative rating, which climbed to 43%.

Jindal’s SMOR poll numbers have tumbled considerably since the spring of 2009, where the governor enjoyed a high, if not unrealistically so, 68% approval rating with a 30% negative rating.

At first glance, the most troubling aspect of the poll for Jindal is that only 39% of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect him with 35% stating they would definitely vote for someone else. However, as 35% is about the state’s hardcore Democratic vote, that number isn’t as astonishing as it might appear. In fact it’s automatic opposition to any candidate with an “R” next to his or her name.

Jindal has been flayed in the local press for being out of state so much during very dire budget times with the most stinging hit coming courtesy of the LSU student government president who used mocking letters to the editor in newspapers in states that hold early presidential primaries and caucuses to slam the governor for his extracurricular political activities beyond Louisiana and for the expected severe hit to the state’s higher education budget.

The governor’s numbers have also been affected by the constant speculation that he will run for president, despite Jindal’s constant claims he will not be a candidate. Once Jindal’s bid for re-election as governor begins, concerns about his presidential aspirations, at least in 2012, will be quelled and resentment for his out of state travels will subside when people see him in Bunkie instead of Des Moines.

Jindal’s lower approval rating isn’t politically terminal. The governor has raised an astounding $8,000,000 after three years of constant fundraising in Louisiana and beyond. A challenger is going to have a hard time putting together even half that amount, especially almost exclusively in-state.

As one of the GOP’s rising stars, Jindal parlayed his celebrity status to attract dollars to his campaign from people in other states that normally wouldn’t care about who wins governor of Louisiana. Jindal’s Democratic “Opponent To Be Named Later” is going to have a hard time getting someone in Delaware to spend $1,000 on a photo op with him or her.

In all likelihood, Jindal will have the capacity to spend $2 defining his opponent for every $1 he or she spends just trying to build name recognition.

And who is the Democrat “Opponent to Be Named Later” going to be? The Baton Rouge Advocate recently did an article on potential Democratic challengers with none committing to the race beyond “consideration” and two in particular offering clever quips renouncing even the prospect of running.

And while first time candidate Caroline Fayard proved that quasi-self-financing with generous sums of money is one way to pole vault over better established politicians in the primary, the end result was being on the wrong side of a runoff landslide against a candidate she outspent by a wide-margin.

And I should add, that was for an office the public doesn’t really care about.

Jindal’s most vocal critic is a fellow Republican, State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has sparred with the fourth floor in the press over the budget.

Kennedy, who has the highest approval rating of the officials polled at 61%, is not expected to challenge Jindal, with a source close to the treasurer stating, “John has the job he wants”.

And though stern words have been exchanged between the two Republicans, Jindal is in no danger of losing his core GOP base- that being the same bloc of voters responsible for dispatching the last Republican governor that lost re-election.

Though Jindal’s poll numbers have fallen and might fall even further as the budget battle becomes more public and protracted, until he draws an opponent who can match his well-stocked warchest and convince Louisiana voters that had just overwhelmingly embraced the Republican ticket to swing back to the Democratic Party, the governor goes into the election year a heavy favorite for a primary win.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seasons' Greetings, Gropings and Scannings!

The day before Thanksgiving marks the busiest travel time in the country as millions of younger Americans return to their roots to celebrate with their families that most unique of our holidays.

But the route between their new home and their old home will be marked with traffic snarls and lines at the airport.

The former because we own so many cars (no need to apologize) and the latter because our country is so large and our population so mobile, passenger air service makes it convenient and in some cases necessary.

But in 2010, those lines at the airport are going to be longer. A lot longer.

And for that, we can thank Osama Bin Laden and his stooge disciples, the bumbling shoe and underwear bombers in particular.

The 9-11 hijackers utilized box cutters and fear that they were armed with something more potent to manifest their martyrdom and murder.

In December 2001, Richard Reid used something a more technical in his attempt: 10 ounces of C-4 plastic explosives hidden in his shoes. Thankfully, Reid wasn’t that bright. He apparently wore the shoes around, which either absorbed moisture or got wet in the rain, and thus he had trouble detonating the shoe bombs. Also deserving of credit are passengers and flight attendants who physically subdued Reid while in the act of trying to light the fuse.

Had Reid succeeded, the explosives would have done enough damage to bring down the transatlantic flight.

Mr. Reid is the reason why we must all shuffle about airport screening areas in our socks so our shoes can be checked through x-ray machines to see if they’ve been hallowed out.

Four years later British intelligence exposed a plot to smuggle explosives in gel form concealed in sports drinks on to transoceanic flights in an attempt to simultaneously blow up the planes while over the Atlantic. This plot was nipped in the bud before it was near execution and dozens of people were arrested. One of those conspirators had wide-ranging access at London’s Heathrow Airport.

They are the reason why we must buy mini-sized toothpastes, shampoo and mouthwash and stick them in zip lock bags if we don’t check baggage (something people try to avoid due to fees) and why if we’re thirsty, we have to pay near baseball stadium prices on bottled water and sodas on the other side of the security screening area.

And then there is Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, AKA the underwear bomber.

A child of privilege, the highly educated Abdulmu…no, he doesn’t deserve to be known by his name…he shall henceforth be referred to as the “panty popper”…decided to end it all for himself and 289 people on Christmas Day 2009 on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Unlike Reid, who tried to blow the plane up in front of everyone- perhaps a sign that he was hoping someone would save him from himself, the “panty popper” set his plan in motion as the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 neared Detroit away from prying eyes in the privy.

Once again, luck was on the side of the passengers as the explosive device didn’t work as planned with the “panty popper” setting his leg and part of the plane’s interior wall on fire.

A Dutch passenger tackled the would be martyr while flight attendants (who seem to provide more of a service than just providing people drinks) extinguished the flames. The “panty popper” had chemical explosives sewn into his underwear, which a standard metal detector would not pick up.

In other words, the “panty popper” used a smuggling technique not too far removed from that employed by my fraternity brothers who wished to secret whiskey in Tiger Stadium: liquids in plastic packaging hidden in an area nobody was likely to check.

And it is thanks to the “panty popper” we must all be zapped in a giant clear chamber that checks under our clothes, in our body crevices, douses with radiation and maybe makes us become sympathetic to the approaching out of space visitors looking to take over Earth.

It is this latest indignity that has people angry, as people tend to link radiation with cancer, with most people believing the alternative is letting a low level government employee getting to second base on us.

Well folks, I have some bad news: last week I got the Bruce Banner treatment and had to be groped anyway. In other words, it’s not an either/or.

Such treatment has led folks to angrily quote the Declaration of Independence, Sean Hannity, Edmund Burke and Ron Paul at high volumes in the presence of TSA workers, whom I imagine more than a few are happy to no longer be employed at Walmart.

In a recent column, George Will opined that the elaborately intrusive TSA screening system is theatre intended more to reassure than protect. To a degree he’s right.

Notice how the security policies come AFTER the failed or foiled attempts. In other words, the government agencies are reacting to and not anticipating for Al-Qaeda’s end around plays.

That’s the part that bothers me the most.

But it does provide a modicum of protection against the acts of terrorism by making things more complicated for the bay guys. Remember how easy Mohamed Atta & Co. had it, walking right on board with weapons? Now things are as complicated for the terrorists are they are for travelers.

No walking in with sharp objects (or knitting needles). No plastique (or silly putty for junior). No gel-based explosives (or hair gel for those who must have managed hair). And no chemical based liquid accelerants (or that bottle of Aquafina I bought at the Exxon for 99 cents).

And with the new scanners that can peep anywhere except our souls, no smuggling any of those things in an uncomfortable place. And I’m not talking about the backseat of a Volkswagen.

So if terrorists are largely prevented from running things through the actual checkpoints, then they need to expand their conspiracy…which increases the chances of a bust via someone with second-thoughts, a heavy conscience, a girlfriend who talks too much and/or a sleeper agent.

And the cost of this added layer of protection/irritation?

According to an AP story that ran on the frontpage of last Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Cheyenne), $175,000 per scanner.

From my personal experience, removing every little thing from your pockets. Everything.

So your wallet, money clip, lucky fava beans, etc. makes it through the x-ray machine before you make it through the ray-gun booth. That had me sweating more than the microwaves running through my body.

According to the article in the aforementioned daily, there are two kinds of scanners: the millimeter wave units and the backscatter variety. The former emits a weak radiation that is harmless; the latter emits X-ray like radiation, which experts claim are insignificant.

How insignificant might you ask? It’s less radiation than one is exposed to during a dental x-ray or from flying in the plane itself, which receives a big dose of it from being closer to the sun’s rays.

Each machine can scan 350 people an hour. Optimally.
As the technology is new, the TSA people not overly skilled in its operation and travelers ornery, things don’t go so smoothly.

For example, while boarding a flight to Denver the early morning line at Moisant’s Southwest gate (one of the faster security lines) stretched to the gift shop. After waiting patiently, I finally went into the booth, was zapped and then I had to stand there. Two people ahead of me was a guy that needed to be checked, necessitating a male “toucher”. After he was give the once over, I was stuck standing in the booth as the next person head of me was female and needed to be vetted by a female so the first checker had to go back.

I was out of the booth when I had to wait again as, you guessed it, the male checker had to come back. After being patted down, I scampered to my flight gate with belt, possessions and shoes not in their usual places. My high “B” number made academic by the security gate delay as almost all of the other passengers were already on board.

Rather than having separate scanners for male and female with appropriate staff to do the mandatory body checks (which seems unnecessary since the scanner should pick up more than a hand feel), the TSA check was a Three Stooges operation.

So if you’re one of those people traveling this Thanksgiving week (or any other week in this new reality of ours), allow me to share some advice.

1) Add another hour, thirty minutes minimum, to your airport arrival. What used to take less than 30 minutes will take an hour, etc. The TSA isn’t familiar with the new machinery and you have to remove a lot more now, so that’s going to back things up.

2) Save the drama for your congressman. The TSA people don’t make the rules, they just clumsily enforce them. Rather than quoting the second hour segments of radio talk show hosts who rant about the TSA but fly on private jets, bear it (you’re not obligated to grin). If you don’t like it, don’t fly and/or write your congressman and US Senators. But please do not cause a scene. Making the family behind you miss their flight isn’t being patriotic just because you’re pissed off. Really. How much more different is being disruptive in the airport security line than it was for those anti-war protestors in San Francisco who unwisely decided to recklessly block thoroughfares to vent their spleens about George W. Bush? Not a whole lot. Blog. Write. Phone in your protests. But don’t go Patrick Henry on TSA workers unless you have a lawyer with too much free time on his or her hands.

3) If you request to not go through the scanner, expect to be thoroughly groped. The bomber who could be behind you in line doesn’t want to go through the scanner either, but for different reasons as terminal illness isn’t much of a concern.

While there are more ways for terrorists to strike at our country than simply bringing down planes, airports are a favorite target. And even the most comprehensive security measures cannot fully protect people. The precautions that have been put in place are not the best, but are simply the best available. However, the pre-existing screening devices and systems that were previously in place didn’t do the job and we can’t count on Al-Qaeda to always send in bumbling agents to do their bidding.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Early Call: Landry to Win, Vitter, Dardenne Start Strong

The early returns from Saint Bernard show that Republican Jeff Landry will cruise to an easy election in the Third Congressional District.

Landry won 70% of the early vote to Democrat Ravi Sangisetty's 30%.

Also starting with a lead are Republicans Jay Dardenne and David Vitter. Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon, who represents Saint Bernard in Congress, received 35% in the first numbers reported. Dardenne ran ahead of Democrat Caroline Fayard, 60% to 40%.

The Early Call: Saint Bernard Parish Turnout

Turnout in the suburban parish of Saint Bernard has reached 22% as of 6 PM. Black turnout is keeping on par with the average, a sign that a key component of the Democratic Party's base is motivated in the mid-term election.

The first results will be posted here at 8 PM.

Election 2010: Oh, How Far the GOP Will Go?!

1994 was somewhat of a surprise.

While many Republicans expected the US Senate to swing to the GOP, not many people expected the party to retake of the US House of Representatives, which hadn’t been under Republican control since the early days of the Eisenhower Administration.

Though only 16 years removed, the world was a very different place. Information mainly flowed through newspapers, radio and television, with the internet being a novelty with rough graphics and slow speed.

But things are different now. Competition in the cable news realm and the expansion of their reach has denied the networks of their de facto monopoly of news on election night. Election results are posted real-time in some states and polling data is readily available from news and politics sites, with the most prominent being Real Clear Politics.

Political junkies in New Jersey can easily follow a US House race in Mississippi.

If video killed the radio star, than the internet ruined the surprise.

Now the political party on the ropes can hear the Jaws music playing as the dorsal fin advances towards the victim.

2010 will be the reverse of 1994. The US House of Representatives has been conceded to the GOP for weeks now, with only polished liars from the Democratic end arguing otherwise. They encourage their most die-hard supporters to stand, like Linus from Peanuts, in the pumpkin patch (or National Mall), awaiting the big surprise.

The problem for the Democrats is that the surprise took place just under two years ago after the American public that had voted in the presidential election with their dreams and aspirations without bother reading the fine print learned that Barack Obama had more than magic and rainbows in store for country.

While fudging on the details during the campaign, Obama promised change and by the eternal, he delivered much of it.

The American electorate was much like a tourist visiting a foreign country who opted to order something in a restaurant from a menu written in a language he did not comprehend. And when the toursit saw what the waiter brought out was not what he intended to order, the exasperated tourist sent it back, this time making a point to spell out EXACTLY what they wanted.

That’s precisely what’s going to happen on Tuesday. Steak-hungry voters are sending back Obama’s goulash that they have no intention of paying for.
In 2008, the voters wanted their spirits raised; in 2010, they want government spending lowered.

The Races


Right now, Republicans are projected to win governorships in states where the GOP has been shut out for eight years or more. The Great Lakes states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are expected to elect Republicans on Tuesday, which are key battleground states in presidential elections. Iowa, Maine and New Mexico are also expected to elect Republican gubernatorial candidates to succeed Democrats.

Gubernatorial contests in Oregon, Massachusetts and Colorado have been classified as toss-ups, though Democrats hold the edge in recent poll numbers.

US House of Representatives

Perhaps Nancy Pelosi should consider making a cameo in the sequel to Zombieland as she’s technically already dead…at least as speaker.

District poll numbers have shown a likely take over of the 435-member chamber for weeks now, with the only question being the margin of control Republicans will possess.

Democrats have only three Republican seats in play. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are effectively challenging six-dozen Democratic seats. Hardly an equal trade.

The GOP’s floor is a net 50 and their peak is a net 80; Republicans only need to net 40 seats to attain a majority. In addition to gain control of half of Congress, Republican candidates are in a position to knock out a few prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.

US Senate

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts marked the first chip in the Democratic senate majority. There are going to be a lot more chips on Tuesday, with the question being will it be enough to attain 51 seats, since Vice-President Joe Biden would provide the tie-breaker for his party.

There are no Republican seats in the US Senate that are vulnerable while on the Democratic side, their majority leader might suffer an ignominious defeat at the hand of a TEA Partier.

The poll numbers have been contracting in the GOP’s favor over Halloween weekend. Pennsylvania, Washington State, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Illinois and Colorado are within reach by either party, though Republicans are expected to win most of them.

The GOP will have to win six of the aforementioned seven to win a majority. Democrats may retain control by a narrow margin or via tie. The big question is whether the Republican voter enthusiasm and momentum to close the margins. Even though Republicans won’t win in Connecticut and Delaware, closer than projected races could serve as an omen in races where Republicans either hold a slight advantage or are trailing the Democrats by the margin of error.

Also keep in mind as that much of Washington State votes by mail, it could be weeks before we find out which party controls the US Senate. I should also add that Washington State also has a bad past when it comes to close elections.

You’ve been warned.



GOP wins a majority of the governorships with 30, the US House of Representatives with a swing of 73 seats and the US Senate by one after Washington State finally provides its numbers in an environment of voter fraud allegations and missing ballots.


US Senator Vitter 55% Melancon 42% Others 3%

Lieutenant Governor Dardenne 57% Fayard 43%

Second Congressional District Richmond 52% Cao 45% Others 3%

Third Congressional District Landry 62% Sangisetty 38%