Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is Marie Laveau Jindal's PR Flack?

Louisiana K-12 Education and the RSD

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is praised by the Daily Beast-Newsweek for having a great education program, which he has little responsibility over. 

But the article praises the Recovery School District, the 2nd worst district in Louisiana, one of the worst districts in the developed world. 

Make no mistake: The RSD is the model for Louisiana education reform. 

Did Gov. Bobby Jindal hire the ghost of Marie Laveau to put the chicken bone gris-gris on the media? 

Get to know Miss Laveau through singer Bobby Bare.

John Avlon's "Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S."
Dec 17, 2012

I like old Mitch, but give me a break. 

Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster used to invite people he wanted to persuade to visit the Governor's Mansion for cookies and conversation. Jindal? He must have privatized and subcontracted such activities to Marie Laveau. 

I always knew there was something a little weird about the guy.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Louisiana State Retirement: Not What it Seems

A response to "LSU has to show Les Miles the money" by Times-Picayune reporter James Varney:

Mr. Varney: 

Thank you for the op-ed on Coach Miles and higher education. I would like to offer some facts for your consideration about benefits offered to Louisiana higher education employees.

Currently, Louisiana higher education employees in TRSL contribute 8 % of their salaries to the retirement system. This is almost twice the current 4.2 % Social Security (SS) contribution rate required of other American workers. Many state employees have paid into SS elsewhere. When they retire, if they’ve paid in less than 40 quarters of SS, they'll receive ZERO benefits. If they’ve paid in more than 40 quarters, the benefits will be actuarially reduced because they worked for a state that opted out of the SS program. If the faculty member’s spouse dies, they will lose 100 % of the spouse’s SS benefits immediately. Not only this, but TRSL has some of the worst vesting rules of any retirement system in the country. For example, if someone leaves before the retirement date, they get no match and no growth. Perhaps they could hold on for decades until they are eligible for a benefit and keep the money in the system, but inflation will destroy the return on investment.

A large number of higher education employees are in an Optional Retirement Plan (ORP)—Fidelity, TIAA-CREF. These people chose an independent retirement account, a defined contribution plan. They pay in 8 % and the state deposits 5.97 % into their accounts but no SS. The employees will be penalized by SS just like TRSL members. On July 1, 2013, TRSL is dropping the state ORP contribution to 5.18 %. At least The Times-Picayune sends 6.2 % to the feds on your behalf, and SS is a defined benefit plan. The ORP is not. Perhaps you have a 401(k) and even some kind of matching contribution. (In Mississippi higher education, the state contributes about 9 % directly to an employee’s ORP fund plus paying 6.2 % to SS.)

I want to challenge you to find one accredited university of any substance in the US with lower retirement contributions than the amount going to Louisiana state higher education employees in the ORP.

I will save you time. Such a university does not exist.

Also, the state health insurance is not free. I understand that the premiums are higher than those of an average employee of a decent Louisiana company, and almost every medical service requires a co-pay. There’s no paid vision, dental, etc.

Most state employees have not received a raise since 2008, and COLAs for retirees have been nonexistent for some time. Many current employees have been furloughed. Right now the state layoffs resemble the newspaper business.

For a slightly different perspective, I hope you will consider my piece titled “Les Miles and the Zombie Apocalypse.”

Thank you for reading the points above.


Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Original Louisiana Song: "The Ballad of Leon Terrebonne"

A New Song

One of the hats I wear is singer-songwriter. Over the past three years I've written at least 50 songs. Here's one posted on YouTube. No video, just a still image of an original sketch and a folksong titled "The Ballad of Leon Terrebonne." It's a traditional  murder ballad, an original song I wrote in October 2012 that is in the tradition of American murder ballads. Johnny Cash performed many of these.

Hope you like it.


Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Les Miles and the Zombie Apocalypse

What's left of Louisiana Higher Education

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South
November 30, 2012

I was stunned. The news that Les Miles was offered a coaching job at the University of Arkansas hit me in the gut.

Good thing LSU could give the coach a raise and extend his contract.

The Hogs brought home the bacon with a $27.5 million offer, but the Tigers must have really roared in the big bucks.

I was actually daydreaming that Coach Miles was headed to Arkansas.

Leaving the LSU Tigers would be the canary in the coal mine, and it would have shown just how far the mighty had fallen.

Had Les Miles departed Baton Rouge, it would have been the zombie apocalypse all across Louisiana.

Finally, the lapdog legislators and business elite would take note.

Though the Tigers appear safe for now, please get to know some facts about Louisiana higher education under Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Since 2008, $450 million have been axed from college budgets, there have been no raises for most faculty members in five years, several universities are in death spirals, and the LSU Board of Supervisors is nothing more than an adjunct of the Governor’s Office.

The out-migration of faculty members and administrators is staggering and a national embarrassment that grows worse by the day.

Several university administrations are on the American Association of University Professors censure list and more are under investigation.

Faculty and staff members are demoralized and fearful.

Students are paying a lot more for an inferior education.

The medical schools aren’t far from losing accreditation due to the ongoing charity-hospital fiasco, and LSU merger shenanigans have the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools questioning potential conflicts ofinterest in Baton Rouge.

Tiger fans, without SACS accreditation, LSU is nothing more than a diploma mill with some pretty oak trees, and the NCAA won’t let an unaccredited school field a football team.

I could go on and on, but no one seems to care.

Some people have questioned LSU’s priorities giving Coach Miles an obscene pay raise when we’re closing hospitals and placing the entire higher-education structure at risk.

Indeed, we should question the priorities of the state as a whole for letting the governor sink our ship while he pines away for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Louisiana higher education and even football will be better off after Jindal’s departure. Les Miles would be sorely missed. Our current governor, not so much.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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Monday, November 5, 2012

The Bobby Jindal Years

How is it working for you?
By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
November 4, 2012 – 700 words
Hammond, La., Sunday Star, 4A-5A

I was born in Louisiana. From my perspective, our state is far more interested in Tiger football and oyster po-boys than building an educational environment that makes a university football team possible or protecting a healthy ecosystem that creates good seafood.

This disconnect from the sources of our joy is our greatest downfall as a state. We like the benefits of living in this unique cultural swamp but fail to nurture its roots. We’re like folks that salt their own well and wonder why the water has gone bad.

For about six months, I have written a weekly column for my hometown newspaper. I like to joke with friends that my pay has tripled during this time due to such an overwhelming response: Three times zero is zero. But I didn’t write for money or the lack thereof.

Most of my columns have been dedicated to Louisiana issues, threats to the quality of life as I see it.

This is a good time to take a break from my quixotic task of tilting at windmills.

If Barack Obama is reelected President, Governor Bobby Jindal will go into overdrive for his presidential election bid in 2016. Louisiana will be little more than an afterthought to Jindal.

On the other hand, if Mitt Romney wins, Jindal will likely leave us for a cabinet post, and many believe it will be as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education or the Department of Health and Human Services.

If Jindal stays in Louisiana, we’re doomed. If he leaves, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne will have his hands full.

In either case, my contribution to fixing what is broken is limited. The Pelican State needs an exorcist, not a columnist.

Well, I know people will say we already have an exorcist in Bobby Jindal. He wrote about his reminisces of collegiate exorcism while at Brown University, but I’m afraid we need a really talented exorcist now.

Despite what some may have perceived as shortcomings, I have been earnest to a fault in my columns. That’s always been my modus operandi: Swing for the bleachers and hope the bat doesn’t slip out of my hands and hit a fan in the fifth row on the right field side.

But I offer a parting shot in this final weekly op-ed. Every Louisianan should realize that elections have consequences, and my question for those who voted for Bobby Jindal is simple. How is it working for you?

Public educators, what about that new evaluation system? How is it working for you?

School officials, what about that MFP funding? How is it working for you?

Higher education administrators, what’s it like watching your institutions destroyed a little at a time? How is it working for you?

University professors, what about the loss of academic freedom and the culture of fear on your campuses? How is it working for you?

College students, what do you think about your tuition and fees doubling since 2008? How is it working for you?

Doctors and independent pharmacists, what about the Jindal medical plan? How is it working for you?

St. Tammany Parish residents, the brightest red of red parishes in a fire engine red state, what do you think about the destruction of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville? How is it working for you?

Legislators, what about the lack of respect and input during decision-making about cuts in your districts? How is it working for you?

Former Governor Mike Foster, what is it like knowing you created a dictator in Bobby Jindal? How is it working for you?

Readers of this newspaper, those who voted for Jindal and those who failed to vote at all, how is it working for you?

During the Ronald Reagan years, back in the 1980s, those horrible days of the Louisiana Oil Bust, I recall seeing a bumper sticker: “Last one out, turn off the lights.” People were leaving Louisiana in droves and for good reason.

A message summarizing the Bobby Jindal years might be “How is it working for you?”

Perhaps it’s time to print a few bumper stickers. Hope I see you at the polls on Tuesday.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Guest Commentary by Davy Brooks

The Real Slim Shady

In 1956 a new game show was launched called To Tell the Truth. The format had a moderator welcome three guests who were all introduced with the same identity. A panel of career television personalities would question the guests and try to deduce which one was telling the truth and which two were impostors. Finally, at the end of the questioning, the moderator looked at the guests and said, “Will the real ________________ please stand up?”

This became a trendy catch phrase that ranked with “Where’s the beef?” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Marshall Matters, aka Eminem, had some fun with the phrase in 2002 and again in 2005 in his anthem “The Real Slim Shady.” The character was the rapper’s alter ego who disses the world of manufactured pop songs. He says that all the fashion trends are due to his success and everyone is copying him. He declares, “I’m the Slim Shady, I’m the real Slim Shady, all the other Slim Shadys are just imitators.” Then he borrows from the old catch phrase: “Would the real Slim Shady please stand up. Please stand up.”

I was reminded of these things upon watching the third presidential debate between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. That night it seemed that the soul of the previously hawkish Romney had morphed into a Peter, Paul, and Mary-styled peacenik. I could only conclude that the essence and aura of the late great Vietnam War critic and 1972 presidential candidate, George McGovern, who had shed his earthly coil only the day before, had miraculously made its way into the inner being of the previously swaggering, bomb throwing, rebel arming Mitt Romney. What else in the world could account for such a transformation in such a short time?

Retired General Colin Powell, in his recent endorsement of President Obama, said that Romney had agreed with the President “on every issue with some nuances,” but “this is a quite different set of foreign policy views from those he held earlier in the campaign.” “He is a moving target,” said the good general.

Powell’s observation is quite accurate. If you follow Mitt’s career, you will see more identities than at a Peter Sellers film festival.

In 1994, Romney ran for the senate against Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He said then that he would be a better candidate for gay rights than Kennedy. But the candidate for the 2000s opposed “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” gay marriage, and gay adoption. Another time Romney told a very personal story of a family member who had to endure an illegal abortion, and he vowed form that day forward that he would always support a woman’s right to choose. Today’s Mitt says he would like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, and he would appoint the judges to do it.

Moderate Mitt was for forms of gun control before Severely Conservative Mitt was against them. The Boca Raton Mitt behind closed doors said a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not, could not, should not work. Don’t even try. However, Open Mic Night in Boca Raton had the Republican hopeful favoring a two state solution. Then of course there was the tax cut that everyone was going to receive, then in the debates it turned out it wasn’t for the wealthy—well, not really. Then when it came to pre-existing conditions, there was an internal struggle in the Romney camp that concluded something like yes, no, maybe so, certainly not.

What is the casual voter to do? Look those Mitt Romneys in their collective eyes and say, “Will the real Mitt Shady please stand up? Please stand up!”

Davy Brooks, teacher
Hammond, Louisiana

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Louisiana Gun Amendment & Stupid Politicians

Another step toward guns on campus

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
October 28, 2012 – Revised
Hammond, La., Sunday Star, 4A-5A

When I was a ninth grader at a local high school, a student stuck a loaded .357 magnum pistol in my face while on school grounds. Three of us were behind the agriculture shop, and one of the guys took a pistol from a truck cab and started horsing around. I stared at the revolver a few moments before he finally put it back inside the truck.

Because of the code of silence adhered to by teenagers, I never said anything to school staff or my parents. I suspect the student with the gun would have been expelled from school. The act would be taken even more seriously now than in the mid-1980s. The threat of gun violence in schools is serious, and no student should keep silent about other teens with guns.

I do regret having to write this column. I should have said something about the gun at school. But I am speaking up now about a far more serious threat.

I am disturbed by Constitutional Amendment No. 2 on the current ballot. The seemingly benign statement about protecting gun rights in Louisiana is anything but innocent. If the “strict scrutiny” test passes on Nov. 6th, Louisiana will have the most dangerous gun law in America. The proposed amendment has been attacked by The Advocate, The Gambit Weekly, New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, and the Council for a Better Louisiana, among many others (1). They want you to vote No on the amendment. 

Before any reader questions my belief in the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, think again. I am not anti-gun. On the contrary, I own a number of guns myself.

What I am against is the stupidity of Louisiana politicians. This is an example of one of the most egregious and cynical acts committed by the Jindal Machine. Senator Neil Riser (R-Columbia), a mortician and close Jindal ally, authored the bill. It is nothing more than a pandering attempt to score points with the gun lobby and to show that Jindal is a “real” conservative to his national audience. But Louisiana already has some of the least restrictive gun laws in America. We are an open carry and concealed carry state. These freedoms are not under threat by the Legislature in Baton Rouge.

But what Senator Riser has done is create a solution to a problem that did not exist, as some commentators have argued. Be very dubious of any politician’s motives when this occurs. All politicians make the most out of a crisis, not letting a good crisis go to waste. It’s a pony of an altogether different color to create a crisis in order to fix one. That’s a recipe for disaster.

What does this amendment do?

It allows all Louisiana gun laws to come under the “strict scrutiny” doctrine. For example, let’s say a Southeastern Louisiana University student decides he wants to carry his Glock to class, which is currently illegal, and he gets the National Rifle Association or some other group to file suit on his behalf for free. Well, if a state judge says the campus policy is a violation of Amendment No. 2, the policy is struck down. 

Please recall that the Legislature has been unable to pass a “guns on campus” bill. But if a judge is willing to rule in a plaintiff’s favor, guns will be allowed on campuses from Nunez Community College in Chalmette to LSU-Shreveport. What could not pass in the light may pass in the darkness. 

Where are the higher education leaders on this issue? They are silent, fearing for their jobs under the Jindal dictatorship, I suppose. 

But it’s not just college campuses at risk. How about eighteen-year-olds at Hammond High Magnet School? What if they want to pack their shotguns to class? All they need is a good lawyer and a willing Louisiana judge to sign on. Rather than a “willing” judge, might I say a “bought” one? 

Same with court houses and parents at elementary schools packing heat to PTA meetings, on and on. All it takes is a lawsuit and a judge. 

Amendment No. 2 is a lawyer’s paradise and a citizen’s hell.

But another important issue is whether guns will be allowed inside the Louisiana State Capitol? It’s conceivable.

Remember, we lost Governor Huey Long to gunfire back in the days before the X-ray machines were placed at the entrances of the Capitol. I heard a local woman quip that Governor Jindal has nothing to fear if guns are allowed at the Capitol. He’s never in Louisiana anyway.

I believe there are a few places too sacred to bring our guns—even in America. These places include elementary and high schools, universities, court houses, the Louisiana State Capitol, hospitals, and our houses of worship.

Let’s vote against Amendment No. 2 and keep these places sacred and gun free. It’s important.

1. Correction: The print version of this opinion piece misidentified the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana as opposing the legislation. However, they did not take a position but provided analysis of the amendment here on pages 7-11.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Open Letter to Pres. Barack Obama

Thanks, President Obama

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
Sunday, September 9, 2012 / 950 words

Dear President Obama,

The Democratic National Convention is over, and the Republican National Convention fell apart at the seams just like an old set of retread tires unraveling shortly after leaving the discount auto store.

You’ve got to be smiling. How anyone making under $250,000 a year could vote for Mitt Romney after hearing former President Bill Clinton’s masterful speech on Wednesday night in Charlotte, I’ll never know. And people making the big bucks who care about the commonwealth, care about being “all in it together” wouldn’t go down the Romney-Ryan rabbit hole either.

It’s sweet success.

But I have a quick reminder. Have you invited Clint Eastwood over to thank him? A good deed left unthanked is soon forgotten. Be sure to offer to let him take home a White House chair as a souvenir. He had your back when you needed it the most. Don’t let him leave empty handed.

How about the news this week of 30 months in a row of job growth and the highest stock market in five years? President Obama, you may not have ever run a lemonade stand, but considering the disaster that George W. Bush gave you, it’s hard to believe the progress you’ve made in three and  half years: The War in Iraq is over, Afghanistan is coming to a close, General Motors is thriving, and Osama bin Laden is fish bait. Did I mention the Affordable Care Act? All of this was achieved while fighting the stated goal of the opposition party, which was to stop you from succeeding.

That’s some list of accomplishments for a poor African-American man whose family was on food stamps for a time, a man whose father abandoned the family, and a man who went onto graduate from Harvard Law School with a student loan debt bigger than his Chicago home mortgage.

Only in America.

I know you are concerned about the national debt. But please remind people that the day you took office, as the country was in the throws of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, that three Republican Presidents had accumulated 80 percent of the national debt. Their names are Reagan, Bush, and Bush. These three CONservatives created 80 percent of the national debt from Washington to Bush Jr. People won’t hear this on Fox News or the mainstream “liberal” media. Remind the country, will you? It’s “arithmetic,” as Clinton called it.

Be sure to let everyone know the details about vulture capitalist Romney and Ayn Rand disciple Ryan’s cruel plans for economic growth: Funny numbers, tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and cuts to every social program helping the young, poor, old, and struggling college students. Don’t let the Romney camp get away with the constant barrage of lies.

But all the good news about your upcoming second term aside, I want to thank you for visiting Louisiana last Monday for Hurricane Isaac and for getting things done in the form of federal aid. It was nice to see Gov. Jindal, Sen. Vitter, Rep. Landry, and both Landrieus acting like your old buddies in the photos taken at Louis Armstrong Airport. Funny how federal disaster money can bring together all sorts of political ideologies. It looked like one big happy family.

There are pundits saying the rest of the nation should give up on the Gulf Coast, particularly Louisiana. These people just don’t get it. Not only are we a significant culture, but we enable our country to prosper through our fisheries, our ports, and our oil refining industries. Please help us rebuild our wetlands, diverting Mississippi River silt, protect coastal communities like Plaquemines Parish through good levees, and assist us in solving the overwhelming insurance fiasco that could kill our rebuilding efforts. If people can’t afford the homeowner’s insurance or if the policies don’t cover anything, they will have to move elsewhere.

As Louisiana goes, so goes the nation. We are the canary in the coal mine, and if we can’t prosper and become a sustainable environment, I sense that it can’t be done anywhere else.

I’m going to be straight with you, Mr. President. Louisiana has a political mess as bad or worse than our coastline. The U.S. Attorney seems to be unable to file indictments of our politicians as fast as he can uncover new criminals currently in office. 

And our little governor is so bad I wish you would take him off our hands. Is there a place in the federal government where he can’t harm anything? Could you appoint him to an ambassadorship to Mars? Think about it. It could be a win-win. And Louisiana would get Republican Jay Dardenne as governor. He seems like a decent human being, and he cares about the state.

There are times when I wonder if the feds shouldn’t build a border fence around Louisiana and let no one in our out. But the American experience is not built on logic but on a sincere faith in a better tomorrow. We believe we can work together to solve our state’s and our nation’s problems if we are willing to keep the faith and keep trying. That’s the American philosophy, and it’s a good one.

I’m counting on you to lead America and Louisiana into the future. Let me know your plans for Louisiana during the next four years. I suspect you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to a change of address. Good luck planning the inauguration. Please give your wife a speaking slot. She’s quite a gem.


Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Bobby Jindal's Legislative Lap Dogs

Carrying Water for Jindal

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
Published in the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star,
Thibodaux Daily Comet, and The Houma Courier
(Shorter version in several newspapers as a letter.)

Mon., Aug. 20, 2012 / 700 words

The Louisiana Legislature passed a host of new education laws this summer. Most of these measures are currently being litigated with many more lawsuits to come as citizens of this state realize that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education “reform” programs are not only unconstitutional but flawed in every conceivable way possible.

Hardly a week passes without a new scandal: a voucher school being led not only by a former state representative but a self-proclaimed prophet and apostle, a Delhi-based charter school that loves state money but not pregnant students, BESE’s corrupt “walking quorums,” the use of wacky Creationist textbooks that are now a national laughingstock, and Monroe News-Star’s planned lawsuit against State Superintendent of Education John White over his refusal to make available requested charter-voucher program documents.

This obvious catastrophe is Gov. Jindal’s greatest achievement. Unfortunately, we’ll be decades fixing his K-12 “reform” project.

Jindal’s wholesale attack on Louisiana teachers, higher education institutions, public school students, and public hospitals would not be complete without his signature retirement reform legislation. For the good of Louisiana, he began to lose interest in the legislative session after winning his big education “reform” battles. One state retirement bill, HB 61, did pass.

I refer to this as the “Cat Food” Retirement Plan because many future state workers will be lucky to afford generic cat food for dinner in their retirement years. Fans of the program call it the “Cash Balance Plan.”

The plan helps Jindal begin to move all state pension funds closer to privatization like the state health insurance programs, and it enables him to have a concrete accomplishment to tout for national GOP office.

However, without Social Security benefits, which state employees are not allowed to contribute into nor earn, he has made Louisiana public employment the worst place to work of any state or federal agency in America. The “Cat Food” Retirement Plan begins on July 1, 2013, for new hires.

There are serious questions about whether the plan will cause massive IRS tax penalties on employee investments and whether some of the state workforce could be required to begin paying into Social Security, which is not part of the “Cat Food” Retirement Plan and will cost Louisiana taxpayers even more money. Rather than waiting for a determination by the feds, Jindal is pressing on with the plan according to an Aug. 10 Advocate report.

In a heroic effort, the Retired State Employees Association has filed suit over HB 61 (Act 483). Why? Not because the “Cat Food” bill is in and of itself unconstitutional, but because the bill costs the state tax money. Such bills require a 2/3s supermajority vote, and Jindal’s most faithful water boy, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), allowed the bill to “pass” without the 70 votes required by law. Indeed, the actuarial report on HB 61 is clear. The new plan will create an unfunded accrued liability, and it will cost the state more than the current Defined Benefit Plan.

Does the Louisiana Legislature actually violate the constitution in order to please Bobby Jindal?

Only on certain days that end in a “y.” Unless unconstitutional laws are challenged by citizens, smoke-filled room politics will not be stopped. An unconstitutional law remains a Louisiana law unless challenged and defeated in a courtroom. Unfortunately, these challenges are far too rare.

Why was the retirement legislation needed? To protect the state retirement systems and save money, the backers said. However, the very opposite occurred. The new plan will cost the state more money than the old plan.

It should be noted that the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System was recently named a top 10 performing state pension in the country based on 10-year investment returns.

As political commentator C.B. Forgotson says, Louisiana should adopt a new state motto: “If it ain’t broke, break it; if it’s broke, leave it alone.”

When will our legislators stand up and tell our absentee governor that they’re done carrying water for his national political agenda?

I hope sooner rather than later.
Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Bobby, Can You Hear Me in the Bunker?

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
Published in the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star, 4A-5A
Sat., Aug. 18, 2012 / 850 words
Revised edition

Dear Bobby,

I hate to break the bad news. No, it’s not about Gov. Mitt Romney having the good sense not to pick you as VP, nor that you weren’t even on his shortlist of candidates, nor that you didn’t land a prime speaking spot at the RNC in Tampa. The bad news is something a conservative activist told me the other day. On Aug. 12 your political career ended.

Yes, not becoming Romney’s VP was the end of your political ascendancy. Blame Romney or blame yourself, but it’s caput.

Maybe you’ve already figured it out. Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press ran a story with the word “bunker” in the title regarding your administration’s activities right now. Do your handlers let you read the newspaper in the bunker? I hope you have cable TV and can get ESPN, air-conditioning, too. But you need some reality therapy in a bad way.

A week ago The Dead Pelican website ran an unscientific poll. I suspect the readers are mostly conservatives. Did they let you see it in the bunker?

The poll asked a single question: “Will Bobby Jindal continue to be a rising star on the national stage, now that Paul Ryan has been picked for V.P.?”

Out of 1,079 votes cast, 68 % of the respondents said either “No” or “Who is Bobby Jindal?” Only 32 % said that your star will continue to rise.

Oh, my!

I think folks are catching on, conservatives especially. One Republican media figure recently said to me, “Dayne, I believe Bobby Jindal is going to kill the Louisiana Republican Party.” He wasn’t happy in the least.

The problem, though, is how sad a moral specimen you’ve become, an empty suit, a nihilist with only one belief left. 

John Maginnis, the dean of Louisiana political columnists, opined that perhaps being present at the college exorcism and writing candidly about it may have been your very last unscripted act.

Bobby, you only believe in yourself. Can’t you see it?

I suspect you don’t have a friend in the world to tell you the truth about anything important. 

And how does it feel to be used by Romney? According to reports, he didn’t even call you to say he was sorry for picking Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). He called five other shortlisters but not you. He picked Ryan, a man with a single hero: Ayn Rand. Rand is a writer Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners calls “a philandering Russian atheist.” But at least Rand and Ryan have an ethos. A horrible ethos but an ethos nevertheless. An ethos is something very similar to an ethic or sense of morality, and a way of life in a community.

Bobby, you don’t have an ethos. There’s some interesting dialogue in The Big Lebowski, a great movie about friendship. You should watch it posthaste, and pay close attention to the "ethos" dialogue between The Dude, Walter, and Danny. Nihilism is bad, in part, because it leaves you friendless. Who cares to be a buddy to a nihilist? It escapes me. But if you had an honest friend, he might tell you the truth: you’re a caricature of the worst sort of politician on the make, and it has gotten old to Louisianans. You’ve sold your soul for personal political advancement, and everyone seems to know it but you.

Have you heard there is a giant sinkhole in Bayou Corne? Some say the thing could blow up like a nuclear bomb, a genuine apocalypse that’ll make Hurricane Katrina look like an afternoon shower. Why haven’t you been there with the press? Are you scared of the possible explosion or that no one will show up but sycophantic staffers with their iPhones to take photos, a press conference with no press? It’s not because the press won’t show out of fear, but that you’re no longer important enough to waste the drive.

Hey, out of our longstanding friendship, I’ll go if you go. Call me the press. I’ll write about it.

Bobby, we are a resilient people here in Louisiana. We have fought off hurricanes, levee failures, water moccasins, Yellow Fever, Reconstruction, a host of carpetbaggers and scallywags, and the Civil War, not to mention more bad governors and corrupt politicians than a country boy can shoot in the butt with a Daisy BB gun. We’ll survive your reign, especially now that your power is quickly diminishing. Thank God for the Law of Gravity.

So why not come on back to earth, Bobby? Your career is all downhill from here on out. Realizing this, however, may be the only thing that saves you from yourself. Read the late Catholic novelist Dr. Walker Percy. I think his writings will offer a diagnosis for what is really at stake in your downward slide.

Reading Percy and surrounding yourself with some honest folks won’t save your career, but it could help save your soul.

Come on over to my place. I’ll brew a fresh pot of coffee. We can have a long talk. There’s life outside the bunker. Isn’t it about time you try to leave lockdown and go out into the sunshine?

It’s not nearly as bad as you think.

Your pal,



Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Louisiana Believes in Corrupt Vouchers

Update - 6/10/12:

Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher scandal is going viral. It's a national disgrace. Each day more revelations of corruption surface. When will Louisiana State Superintendent John White be fired? When will they admit it was a mistake?

Top Ten Theft Contracts by the La. Dept. of Education:

Louisiana watchdog howls about contract irregularities and amounts:

Corrupt vouchers. Shame the Times-Picayune did say something before it became law:

La. Dept. of Education contract corruption:

Out of state firms make millions:

Editorial about no more failures:

Update - 6/8/12:

Vouchers Gone Wild, my June 3, 2012, Hammond, La., Sunday Star column:

Dr. Diane Ravitch's "Voucher Follies in Louisiana." Yeah, it's all about the children. It's the data: Louisiana charter schools and vouchers. There's a chart here that maps the madness. What do our senators and representatives have to say about this? 

Dr. Ravitch uses this Educate Now chart showing how terrible the RSD-Charters-Vouchers system is.

Comprehensive article on Bobby Jindal's Louisiana vouchers - scandal: 

Louisiana teachers file suit against corrupt vouchers:

Vouchers and the future of public education:

JindalCo’s “scholarship” program is looking more like the boondoggle:

How bad was this Louisiana legislative session? Bad enough that the dense Advocate newspaper has finally figured it out.

'Education for $ale': La.'s classroom changes reflect boardroom thinking:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Children don't have time for more failures:

Q: School reform? A: Model bills:

Hasten: Debate heated over MFP funding:

A scary (and telling) school voucher story:

Update - 5/31/12:
The Monroe News Star has started a tremendous series on voucher corruption in K-12. If they keep writing it, they'll deserve a Pulitzer. This story is going viral. Pass it around.

A little grilling for John White and the school voucher sandal. This one is worth your time.
Let the BESE members know to quit robbing the state schools: email addresses -,,,,,,,,,
BESE Officers Issue Statement Regarding MFP Formula. Read statement at: 
By Barbara Leader / Monroe, La., News Star
May 25, 2012

I can't begin to explain how corrupt this voucher debacle is, but Louisiana believes in education "reform," unless it really matters. This school is not the exception. It is the norm and the whole plan. Read about it and weep.

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