Bobby Jindal Is No Kenneth the Page

Since his disasterous rebuttal to Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday, Bobby Jindal has been compared to Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock for the manner in which he spoke down to the audience and sounded rather simple himself. It turns out that this comparison is unfair–to Kenneth. While Kenneth might seem a little simple at times, he is honest. We found that Bobby Jindal is not completely honest. There have been blog posts all week questioning a story he told regarding Katrina. His office now admits that the story was not true as told. They have tried various ways to spin the story in their favor. Kenneth would never behave this badly.

Kenneth the Page’s Response to Bobby Jindal

If the 2012 battle for the Republican sacrificial lamb to go up against Barack Obama should be between Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal the cast of 30 Rock will be well positioned for political satire. First we had Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin, and now we have Bobby Jindal being compared to Kenneth the Page.  Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth, has responded to Bobby Jindal on the Jimmy Fallon’s show (video above).

Bobby vs. The Volcano Monitors

A common conservative tactic is to misrepresent legitimate government spending in a way that might sound absurd until the facts are reviewed. We saw this in attacks on science spending by John McCain and Sarah Palin both during and after the 2008 campaign. Bobby Jindal used similar tactics in his response to Obama’s speech last night. Jindal mocked volcano monitoring but there is true value to this:

The $140 million to which Jindal referred is actually for a number of projects conducted by the United States Geological Survey, including volcano monitoring. This monitoring is aimed at helping geologists understand the inner workings of volcanoes as well as providing warnings of impending eruptions, in the United States and in active areas around the world where U.S. military bases are located.

Most of the money from the stimulus bill earmarked for monitoring (only about a tenth of the total going to the USGS) will go to modernizing existing monitoring equipment, including switching from analog to digital and installing GPS networks that can measure ground movements, said John Eichelberger, program coordinator for the USGS’s Volcano Hazards Program. Much of the expense of this technology comes from the manpower required to make and install it, he added.

“Ultimately most of this creates jobs or saves jobs that would have been lost” to recent budget shortfalls Eichelberger told LiveScience.

When he heard Jindal’s remarks, Eichelberger said he “was frankly astonished” that the governor would use this particular example, given his own state’s recent brush with a catastrophic natural disaster.

More response at Scientific American:

Well, Congress authorized some of that $140 million to be spent on volcano monitoring, but not all of it, ProPublica notes in a blow-by-blow of the economic recovery package. That line, ProPublica says, is directed to “U.S. Geological Survey facilities and equipment, including stream gages, seismic and volcano monitoring systems and national map activities.”

Critics writing in The New Republic and elsewhere say Jindal’s jab at volcano monitoring was disingenuous. The USGS is charged with working to “reduce the vulnerability of the people and areas most at risk from natural hazards,” including volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires which it says cost hundreds of lives and billions of dollars annually in disaster money. Between 50 and 70 volcanoes erupt each year, according to the Smithsonian’s global volcanism program. And between 1980 and 1990, they killed at least 26,000 people and caused 450,000 people to flee their homes, the USGS says. “Why does Bobby Jindal think monitoring volcanoes is a bad thing for the government to be doing?” Nick Baumann writes in Mother Jones. “There doesn’t seem to be any immediate way for private enterprise to profit from monitoring volcanoes (maybe selling volcano insurance?), but there is obviously a huge public benefit from making sure volcanoes are monitored: warning people if a volcano is going to erupt. Isn’t that obvious?”

The USGS recently predicted that Mount Redoubt in Alaska is rumbling and expected to blow. Check out our guide to volcanoes for more, and read about what causes a volcano to erupt in our Ask the Experts piece. See another post for more on Jindal’s response to Obama’s speech, including Jindal’s comments on the salt marsh harvest mouse.

Jindal’s science might be expected from Kenneth the Page (who he has commonly been compared to after his disastrous rebuttal) but not from an up and coming political leader.

The Anchorage Daily News provides a full run down of response to this comment.

> What was Jindal talking about? (Scientific American)

> Governor of hurricane-threatened state shouldn’t belittle volcano monitoring (Chicago Tribune politics blog): “If anyone should understand the risk nature can represent to large population centers, it’s a Louisiana governor.”

> Jindal vs. the volcano (Talking Points Memo): “The potential argument that volcanic monitoring has no relevance when it comes to saving American lives and property is baseless.”

> Jindal a volcano-watcher hater (Alaska Dispatch): “What’s really puzzling is his hostility to our own Alaska Volcano Observatory, which Republican Ted Stevens worked hard to get for us.”

> Government’s role in natural disasters (Paul Krugman blog, The New York Times): “Does (Jindal) really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.”

> What the stimulus bill really says about volcano monitoring (Questionable Authority blog): “Volcano monitoring … is clearly not the only thing that’s being funded (with the $140 million). Jindal was clearly ignoring the truth in his attempt to paint the bill in the worst light possible.”

> What is volcano monitoring? Where are U.S. volcanoes? (Live Science)

Scientists Boycott Lousiana For Their Rejection Of Science

While Bobby Jindal is sometimes billed as a pragmatic governor, he has embraced the anti-science/anti-reason world view of the far right. I’ve previously noted that Jindal has signed legislation which would promote teaching creationism in the pubic schools. The  Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has decided not to hold their annual meeting in Louisiana in response to this:

The repercussions that were expected from the Louisiana legislature’s passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of the creationist 2008 LA Science Education Act have begun. Louisiana taxpayers and schoolchildren are now reaping what the legislature and governor have sowed: the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, one of the nation’s leading scientific societies, is boycotting Louisiana. In a February 6, 2009, letter [pdf] to Gov. Bobby Jindal, SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie told the governor that “The Executive Committee voted to hold the 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City in large part because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008…. Utah, in contrast [to Louisiana], passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum.” [See the resolution adopted by the Utah State Board of Education affirming that “The Theory of Evolution is a major unifying concept in science and appropriately included in Utah’s K-12 Science Core Curriculum.” Contrast this resolution with the recent decision by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to strip the prohibition against teaching creationism from the policy implementing the LSEA.]

The LA Coalition for Science has issued a press release [pdf] announcing SICB’s decision. [Correction: Although the LA Science Education Act was first introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and signed into law as SB 733.]

(Hat tip to P.Z. Meyers.)

Bobby Jindal Enlists Religious Right For Advice On Family Issues

Bobby Jindal says he is not interested in running for the 2012 Republican nomination, but he continues to compete with early front runners Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin in going after the support of the religious right. I’ve previously noted his support for teaching creationism in the public schools. The Bilerico Project details Jindal’s lastest moves to the extreme right:

In December, Jindal announced the formation of the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family, billed as “an entity within the executive department that serves to propose programs, policies, incentives and curriculum regarding marriage and family by collecting and analyzing data on the social and personal effects of marriage and child-bearing within the state of Louisiana.”

In other words, Jindal’s Commission is going to be looking at – and making recommendations regarding – marriage and family issues within the state. And a quick look at some of those appointed by the Governor to serve on the panel leaves no doubt that, in the end, the line-up will do nothing more than promote an extreme, anti-gay agenda that sets back, blocks and battles any attempts to recognize or respect Louisiana’s same-sex families.

Among those who have been appointed by Jindal to serve on the Commission are Tony Perkins (who hails from Baton Rouge), the president of the anti-gay advocacy group known as The Family Research Council . . . Gene Mills, executive director of the far-right Louisiana Family Forum . . . Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund . . . and numerous members of the clergy. All, Jindal has said, “have significant academic and/or professional expertise” on issues of marriage and family.

And each has a long history of spouting anti-gay rhetoric, too.

Perkins and Mills, especially, are vociferous anti-gay advocates, and have been the driving forces behind attempts to ban legal protections for same-sex couples. And on his website, Mills promotes publications with titles such as Morally Straight, Protect Your Children, and Three Myths About Homosexuality. All are inflammatory, inaccurate and outrageously biased papers that demean and degrade lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. (The Family Research Council’s list of similarly harmful publications is too long to list in a single blog entry.)

Every family in Louisiana should be alarmed by Jindal’s “Commission.”

Following the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and a successful bid to strip same-sex couples of adoption rights in Arkansas, there is little question that Perkins and Mills, especially, will push for similarly anti-gay measures in Louisiana. By giving the movement to deny lesbian and gay couples adoption rights a facade of credibility via a gubernatorial panel, the two will no doubt use the resulting recommendations to spread inaccurate, unproven and harmful rhetoric about the issue . . . and then push their anti-gay agenda in the legislature, and at the ballot box.

Governor Jindal is setting Louisiana up to be one of the next battlegrounds in the fight for family equality.

Following his decision to roll-back an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination order implemented by his predecessor, the Governor is now taking another, unmistakable step to the right in an attempt to shore up a base he believes he may need down the road.

Besides pushing the agenda of the religious right, Jindal has something else in common with Sarah Palin. Both might campaign on their abilities related to defense against the dark arts. While Palin has been blessed to be free of witchcraft, Jindal is into exorcism. Vote Republican in 2012 if your main concern is fighting witches or demons.

Repackaging Bad Ideas in Health Care

I fail to see why Ezra Klein is so excited about a proposal by Bobby Jindal to move Medicaid recipients in Louisiana into managed care plans. This is not anything new or innovative, and it is not a positive step towards health care reform. Many states have already adopted similar plans for Medicaid and it has hardly been a solution to the health care crisis.

This is primarily a way to change how the health care is paid for those already covered by the state’s Medicaid plan. There is some benefit in including more low-income individuals, but it is hardly a good model for health care reform for the entire population. The goal should be for more people to have real coverage, not to throw more people into the inadequate Medicaid systems. There is a tremendous difference between Medicare for All and Medicaid for More.

I do not share Ezra’s fondness for either the British model for universal health care or for capitated medical care. This HMO model was tried (and to some degree still exists) for employer-paid health care and was a dismal failure. (Incidentally, not that the person behind it necessarily means a particular plan is bad, but it was Richard Nixon who first began pushing this idea when he was president).

While there are undoubtedly problems with fee for service health care, the alternative turned out to be far worse, leading to the desire of most consumers to avoid HMO’s which are run in this manner. Capitated systems, in which doctors receive a fixed amount of money per patient (often with adjustments for factors such as age and health status), risk having doctors forced to provide inadequate care in order to get by on what is paid. Doctors are given financial incentive to see patients as little as possible, do as few tests as they can get away with, and treat as little as possible.

Jindal’s plan would include financial incentives if physicians met certain performance criteria. Such plans have not worked out very well so far. Frequently the burden of reporting data to receive financial incentives has been greater than the value of the incentives offered. It comes down to whether it is worth paying employees to submit more paperwork for a small amount of additional money.

While electronic medical records might change this in the future, at present the ability to monitor and reward based upon performance is quite primitive. Those who come out ahead in such systems are not those who really provide quality care but those who can best game the system by having computerized systems in place to report the data being monitored. This leads to problems such as the Veterans Administration, which has spent a lot of money on computerization, but often fails to spend the money to adhere to current standards of medical care. This leads to them looking good on paper, and unfortunately fooling some liberal publications based upon their ability to report data, despite the deficiencies in the care they provide.

Bobby Jindal and Teaching Creationism in the Public Schools

Bobby Jindal tops of recent poll of favorite elected Republicans among conservative bloggers and is believed to be on John McCain’s short list for potential running mates. The New Scientist might rank him highly as a threat to the legitimate teaching of science. Their current issue discusses a new law passed in Louisiana and signed by Jindal. The bill “allow teachers and school boards across the state to present non-scientific alternatives to evolution” and is being used as a back-door attempt to teach evolution (intelligent design) in science classes using a new strategy to attempt to circumvent court decisions opposed to teaching evolution in public school science classes:

The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID – including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute – is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of “academic freedom”.

“Academic freedom is a great thing,” says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. “But if you look at the American Association of University Professors’ definition of academic freedom, it refers to the ability to do research and publish.” This, he points out, is different to the job high-school teachers are supposed to do. “In high school, you’re teaching mainstream science so students can go on to college or medical school, where you need that freedom to explore cutting-edge ideas. To apply ‘academic freedom’ to high school is a misuse of the term.”

“It’s very slick,” says Forrest. “The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left… They know that phrase appeals to people.”

The article disccusses Jindal’s connections with the religious right:

On 28 June, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain’s shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.

Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar – hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes “presenting biblical principles” in “centers of influence”. It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.

“We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue,” says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation’s religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: “Certainly it’s an extension of it.”

Opposition to this attempt to teach creationism instead of legitimate science is not limited to the left. Last week I quoted John Derbyshire’s criticism of the Discovery Institute. The same post criticizes this bill and refers back to a previous post in which he criticized the bill on sound conservative grounds:

The entire effect of this law, if Gov. Jindal signs it, will be that one cartload of Louisiana taxpayers’ money will go to the Discovery Institute for their mendacious “textbooks,” then another cartload will go into the pockets of lawyers to defend the inevitable challenge to the law in federal courts, which will inevitably be successful, as they always are, and should be.

Any Louisianian who wants his kids to have a religious education can send them to parochial schools; although if the parochial school is Roman Catholic, the kids will learn standard biology (“Darwinism”) in science classes, since the RC Church — Gov. Jindal’s church — approves it. Or they can home school them. Everybody’s fine with this. I’m fine with it. Louisiana Coalition for Science is fine with it. Raise you kids the way you want to. You may not, though — you constitutionally may not — oblige taxpayers to fund your religious beliefs.

Veto this bill, Gov. Jindal, or explain to Louisiana taxpayers the pointless waste of public money that will inevitably ensue from your signing it.

Favorite Politicians of the Right Wing

Right Wing News has polled a selection of right of center bloggers on their favorite politicians. George Bush, despite all his failures, along with his destruction of any remnants of the right as being supportive of civil liberties and small government, managed to make the top ten. John McCain barely makes the list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he also makes their least favorite list, which is to be posted tomorrow.

20) John Thune (6)
16) Mark Sanford (7)
16) Mitch McConnell (7)
16) John Cornyn (7)
16) John McCain (7)
12) John Shadegg (8)
12) Jon Kyl (8)
12) Haley Barbour (8)
12) Tom Tancredo (8)
11) Dick Cheney (9)
9 ) Jeff Sessions (11)
9 ) Jeff Flake (11)
8 ) Mike Pence (12)
7 ) George W. Bush (13)
6 ) James Inhofe (14)
5 ) Sarah Palin (15)
4 ) Duncan Hunter (16)
3 ) Jim DeMint (18)
2 ) Tom Coburn (24)
1 ) Bobby Jindal (25)