Brad Goins Thursday, January 23, 2014 0

Ain’t life full of little ironies? I’d just finished my last Up Front for 2013. I figured I wouldn’t be getting any new material for a while. After all, the office email action was going to really slow down as the holidays kicked in.

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as those sort of ideas started rolling around in my head, the freaky deak emails started rolling it.

For instance, we got an email inviting “all elementary, middle, and high school students of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard Parish schools” to write on this subject:

“What makes the holiday season so important to you? In your essay, explain why your holiday traditions, experiences, and/or favorite memories make your holiday season special.”

The students who wrote the six best essays would get a Kindle Fire.

Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? We always want to give students an opportunity to write. And why not reward them for their hard work? Could there be anything undesirable in such a civic-minded contest?

Maybe just a leetle beet. The email came from “Sen. J.P. Morrell” and the subject line read “Sen. Morrell Announces Holiday Essay Contest.” Above the announcement of the contest was a big headline that read “Happy Holidays from Sen. J.P. Morrell.” Right underneath that was a second headline that read “Sen. Morrell Is Awarding Six Kindle Fires to Holiday Contest Winners.” Students were told to send their essays to

I still haven’t heard about the essay I submitted. I’m a bit worried that somebody in Morrell’s office figured out I was just pretending to be a high school student in St. Bernard Parish. There’s nothing illegal about doing that is there?

A second email that arrived a little too late for the Up Fronter’s needs was even more goofily impressive. This one came from someone named Mike Mann, who’s started his own political party: the Better Government Party.

Well, if Mann feels motivated enough to start his own party, he must have a pretty strong platform. Let’s see what he has to say:

“The US government has more resources than the world’s largest corporations including, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. They should easily be able to build a workable website and backend platform were they not grossly incompetent, inefficient, wasteful and rife with graft and fraud throughout their lame system. I am sure my employees with a very small fraction of that financing could build a better system.”

An interesting feature of Mann’s platform is his description of federal government as “lame.” I’ve felt that a lot of the criticism of Obamacare has been simplistic and emotional. But when Mann brings the concept of “lame” to the table, I think he introduces a new level of intellectual rigor to the debate. I mean, anybody could say something like “Obamacare is a bunch of crap,” right? But to say the federal government’s lame … well … some thought went into that.

And you can see that he did well by calling his new party the Better Government Party. Perhaps if we all work hard together we can move the federal government from “lame” to something like “sweet” or “tight.”


About Town

The Military Order of the Purple Heart had to curtail its usual presentations during the last three months of 2013 due to the small number of members and the frequent occurrence of wakes and funerals for veterans who were advanced in years.

The presentations may resume early in 2014.

The Order continues to have an extreme need for some fresh blood — specifically, younger veterans — to carry on its work.

You can call the Order at 436-6945, or write or visit at the Military Order of the Purple Heart, 213 Helen Street No. 4, Westlake, LA 70669-3403.


‘Those Men’ Confused By Gov. Again.

The news flew around the world when Gov. Bobby Jindal stepped in front of cameras to make a strident, emotional and ideologically loaded defense of a character on the Duck Dynasty “reality TV” show.

Within two hours after the time the story broke nationwide, Google posted stories about it from sources as wide-ranging as NBC News, E! Entertainment, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle and CNN.

I was no more concerned about Robertson’s comments than I would be about the comments of any untrained celebrity in the middle of his 15 minutes of fame. What I did find interesting was the way in which Jindal’s curious actions and words added to the confusion of many who don’t understand why a person who wants to run for president makes the kind of statements he was once again making.

By choosing to make the passionate Duck Dynasty statement he wasn’t in any way called on to make, Jindal alienated Republicans or potential Republicans who are sympathetic to homosexuals, or who, for that matter, just like to have sex from time to time. (Among the sins that Robertson deplored in his comments were “sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” I don’t know who “those men” are; why they’re called “those”; or what inspired Robertson’s sudden shift from the singular to the plural. But believe me, I don’t need to know.)

Why would the potential candidate Jindal risk alienating those men and women — whoever they are — when he doesn’t have to? Does he think the Robertsons are such a valuable Louisiana product the governor himself must go to bat for them? Does he think the immense profits from the program flow into Louisiana rather than the deep pockets of A&E executives? Does he think his defense will change Roberson’s position in any way?

Jindal consigned anyone who disagreed with his TV review in any way to “the politically correct crowd.” Once again, it seemed as if he were not only alienating potential voters, but insulting them to boot. Maybe he just has an unorthodox campaign plan. I mean, as a rule, candidates tend to try to say nice things about people who might vote for them — including allies and contributors.


It’s Important All Right

Jindal isn’t the only person who thinks Duck Dynasty is really important for Louisiana. Turns out Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne thinks the same thing.

In fact, Dardenne told the press, “if the Robertson family cannot come to an agreement with A&E and wants to continue the show, Louisiana already has the infrastructure in place to maintain their record-breaking program.”

You’d think Dardenne meant that Louisiana was going to throw some money into a new TV program. But no! Instead, Dardenne “offered to connect the Robertsons with people who might be able to continue Duck Dynasty,” according to the Times-Picayune.

So, in Louisiana, the lieutenant governor is a television producer too. Wow. I just got a whole lot more impressed with state government than I used to be.

Dardenne said, “‘Duck Dynasty’ has been an important representation of the state of Louisiana, inspiring prospective visitors and investors since its debut. Their show draws tens of millions of viewers each year, reaching an audience eager to visit Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Well, that may be true. One thing that’s certainly true is that tens of millions of viewers come away from the show with the impression that Louisiana is populated by the uncultured, uneducated and opinionated. But I guess that’s the standard state of affairs for national television shows about Louisiana.

Dardenne is right on the money when he says Duck Dynasty “has been an important representation of the state of Louisiana.” Now, the fact that he wants to say that in public, and in front of microphones, is, from my weird perspective, the problem.

Dardenne plans to run for governor.


Jay’s Calling

Once I realized that Jay Dardenne is both a Louisiana politician and a big-time producer, it was easy for me to imagine the sorts of phone conversations he must have. Here’s one I imagined, as it would sound from Dardenne’s end:

“Hello, this is Jay Dardenne calling for Danny DeVito. Just tell him Jay’s on the phone … I know he’s busy, sweetheart. I’m busy. We’re all busy. Just put him on the phone … Sometime today … Danny, baby. How’s show business? … Lookit, I’m shopping a new project; a reality TV show. Danny, this thing is just going to make a gaggle of bank … Well, of course I’m going to let you in on it. In fact, I was thinking of making you executive producer … Two points? Goes without saying, Danny boy, goes without saying. You know I got your back. So how’s about I just get on the next plane to L.A. and bring the papers? We’ll hammer it out over an egg-white omelet … Oh, you’d rather fly out here? That would be fantastic for me, Danny. I’m working on a dozen more shows and I sure could use that time … Do I have that lime liquor you like? Danny, I have a case. Do I know what you like or do I know what you like? … OK, bro, I’ll have Melissa waiting for you at the airport. I’m sorry, bro, but I gotta book. I love you, Danny. I love you, man … LOVE … YOU! … Ciao, baby.”


Year-End Round-Up

I’m so far out of the loop I started my year-end round-up by researching events of 2012. After a while, I found myself thinking, “You know, 2012 wasn’t a bad year.” I was a little bummed when I finally figured out I was going to have to ratchet it up a year.

The year 2013 wasn’t a great one for horror films, with much of the money going to remakes of horror classics (Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw) that should never be remade.

I’ll give my nod for best of the year to Mama — a creepy little number about two young girls found abandoned in the woods who keep talking to their “Mama” just as if she were hanging around with them.

This is one more instance of the scariest movie coming from a Spanish-speaking director: in this case, Andres Muschietti, who first directed Mama (in Spanish) in Argentina in 2008. Universal was so impressed by Muschietti’s English language version of the film that it decided to give him a pile of money to helm the first installment in its new Mummy franchise.

In the last five years, the Spanish-speaking directors have just plain swiped the horror movie mantle from the Japanese. I wouldn’t have thought any group could make movies as consistently scary as The Grudge-type stuff. But the likes of Muschietti, Gustavo Hernandez (The Silent House) and reigning horror film king Guillermo del Toro are doing the impossible.

It was a great year for comedy movies, with Melissa McCarthy (the sleeper star of Bridesmaids) generating an extremely high frequency of laughs in the movie The Heat. McCarthy proved she can carry an entire movie if she has a good straight man (in this case, Sandra Bullock). The hilarious script was penned by Parks and Recreation writer Katie Dippold.

The Heat is rated R for a reason. If you’re 17 or older, find out what McCarthy’s talking about when she keeps yelling, “Nope, they’re not in there.” McCarthy’s certain to be the great comedy discovery of the teens.

The over-long This Is The End has plenty of laughs. This one has all the Judd Apatow people, The Office people, and pretty much every comedian in the United States in it. It’s worth watching just to see Michael Cera outrageously cast against type as a raging, foul-mouthed, coke-snorting tool.

In 2013, Miley Cyrus became the latest star to figure out that if you don’t have much to offer in the way of talent, you can still make a lot of money if you wear really tight clothing.

We do have to subtract a few style demerits for Cyrus’ decision to rip off the Mohawk that Darby Crash wore in the Germs 35 years ago. As for her dancing, that doesn’t bother me so much. She’s just trying to make sure she can get a job in a gentleman’s club on the inevitable day when people quit downloading her weak stuff.

As for current events — well, what can I say? The big political events — the budget battles on Capitol hill, the disastrous start-up of Obamacare, the continued tea party influence in the House, the lack of any elections that mattered — were about as interesting as a So You Think You Can Dance marathon.

Any year when the world of Miley Cyrus is more interesting than the world of K Street politics is a year we need to get behind us. “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” Yes! Happy 2014!


Hopes Are Up

In politics as in life, at this time of year, hope springs annually, if not eternally, until, from the Legislature in the spring to the voting booth in the fall, dim reality sets in. But as the year turns, politicians start by looking to the bright side for what they, if not we, hope will happen in 2014.

For the new year, if there’s one hope President Barack Obama and Gov. Bobby Jindal share, it’s that, after 2013, things get better for them. For Jindal, the dismal flop of his income tax repeal plan and his continued cuts to public services and college budgets resulted in the long, low ebb of his approval ratings and the disappearance of his presidential prospects.

But the tide might be turning for him a bit, as December passed without the mid-year budget cuts that had become a holiday tradition for the Jindal administration. If state revenues finally are catching up with the governor’s pronouncements of how well the economy is doing, 2014 could be the first year in the last five when he wouldn’t have to grapple with a budget crisis.

He might even be able to put some money back into higher education instead of cutting more. That would do more for his popularity than passing something major through the Legislature or spending more time in-state, neither of which is likely to happen this year.

He should also hope this year shows that Jindalcare, his rapidly imposed public-private partnerships of hospitals and clinics, works as well for the uninsured as the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare would have. Of course, the governor spurned that expansion.

Future years are another matter. If his model, based on federal funding that eventually will decline, isn’t sustainable long-term, that will be the next governor’s problem.

Also hoping to leave a very bad year behind her is U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, whose year-end was marred by attack ads from out-of-state groups over her support of the Affordable Care Act and other Obama policies. Her re-election hopes ride on the new federal health insurance law improving on its disastrous rollout to at least work well enough for ordinary citizens that it doesn’t become the burning issue in her re-election campaign this fall. With control of the Senate possibly hanging in the balance, the national spotlight will be on her as never before in her career, which also hangs in the balance.

With the great Senate opportunity within their reach, state Republicans’ hopes lie with peace breaking out in their own party. But that seems no more likely than it does in the Mideast.

Congressman Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge is the anointed one, but many on the right wing remain unimpressed and some like conservative Rob Manness’ tea party message.

The GOP field could get more crowded soon, now that state Rep. Paul Hollis of Mandeville has filed the federal election papers necessary to form a Senate campaign.

The best the party can hope for is for their candidates to keep their aim on Landrieu and not to turn on each other.

For Democrats, the past year was no worse than the last five or so, which have all been horrible. Now the party’s remaining hopes for statewide office reside in the Landrieu family.

Getting the action started this year is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s re-election bid, which his sister Mary hopes will be made without racial rancor that could spill over to her fall election. Democrats further hope that a victorious Mitch doesn’t go long into his second term before setting his sights on the governor’s race, for which Democrats haven’t had a runoff contender in 10 years.

Starting it all off will be U.S. Sen. David Vitter, when he soon reveals his decision about whether he will run for governor in 2015. He had a better year than all of the personalities mentioned above, but now he ponders turning his back on Washington and a long, safe Senate career to lay all his hopes, and likely some fears too, on the line in a quest for all the power he could hope for.