Author Archives: Jake

“Working diligently” to ease cuts to Higher Ed, says Governor Budget Bleak as Usual

Governor Edwards outlined another bleak picture of Louisiana’s finances, telling legislators on Friday that he and his team have to deal with more shortfalls even before they are finished 2016 problems. “I’m asking the Legislature to approve the use of $119.5 out of the Rainy Day Fund, toward the shortfall,” Governor Edwards told the joint meeting on the budget. “Any plan that does not make use of the Rainy Day Fund would simply be catastrophic and unacceptable to the vast majority of the people of Louisiana,” he said.
Even with the use of the funds, he said there will be “painful cuts to the Department of Health,” and other agencies. He noted his staff was “working diligently” to lessen cuts to higher education. We’re using a “scalpel not a sledgehammer” to solve budget problems.
In an Executive Order issued December 15th, and published in the January 20, 2017 issue of the Louisiana Register, Governor Edwards outlined reductions based on a November 2016 projected deficit of $312,665,008 in the State General Fund for the Fiscal Year 2016-2017.
The Order noted that to deal with and manage the deficit, departments and agencies are to reduce expenditures from the General Fund. Cuts outlined in the Executive Order included the following: Division of Administration – $ 1,500,000
Office of State Police – $ 5,106,503
Capital Area Human Services District – $ 700,000
Metropolitan Human Services District – $ 787,063
Medical Vendor Payments – $237,963,003
Office of Public Health – $ 1,108,005
Office of Behavioral Health – $ 1,559,019
Office of Revenue – $ 2,996,640
Louisiana State University System – $ 5,577,489
Southern University System – $ 699,715
University of Louisiana System – $ 3,411,230
LA Community and Technical Colleges System – $ 1,853,079

Deepwater Horizon

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein
Watching this film gave me a new perspective on the tragic explosion of the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico April 10th, 2010. At the time, the newspaper headlines made it clear that it was a major oil spill, that lives were lost, and that major ecological damage would be sustained. The film created
some new dimensions, human ones.

To link the story on the screen to the real event, the film begins with an audio of the testimony by a surviving crew member at one of the hearings held subsequent to the explosion and fire. The film ends with more of the testimony and with photographs of the eleven crewmembers who perished. Importantly, those photographs were family pictures, driving home the personal losses involved.

To further personalize the event, the opening scenes of the movie focus on Mike Williams, chief electronics technician for the rig, waking at home on the morning of the disaster, lingering in bed with his wife, Felicia, and saying goodbye to his daughter before leaving for work. The focus moves to
another everyday scene. Andrea Fleytas, the bridge officer, struggles to get her beat up Mustang to start, finally having to hitch a ride with a motorcyclist. These are “everyman” figures. But ones that will be caught up in a cataclysm. The message is implicit but clear. The bubble of security in which all of us live is much more fragile than we let ourselves think.

The visuals in the film are impressive in two ways. They provide an ongoing survey of the mechanical tangle of this Frankensteinian device for drilling thousands of feet below the surface. They take us high, to the overhead cranes, and below, into the depths of the sea, along articulated
complexities, bubbling and gurgling in eerie semi-light. The rig becomes a complicated monster managed, but, as it proves, not mastered, by very human and very mortal agents.

The monster is a metaphor for another monster, the web of organizations brought together to tap the oil deep below. There are companies with partly conflicting agendas. There are workers, focused on the nuts and bolts of the procedures. The film draws a clear, though implicit, distinction between the company “suits,” clean shaven, in jackets and ties, and the laborers, begrimed, helmeted and overalled. The company men are profit driven, wanting to avoid expense. The workers are task oriented, wanting to get the job done, and enjoy their pay. The metaphor linking the rig to its organizational context made explicit when one of the suits attempts to damp down complaints about
cutting safety corners. He compares British Petroleum to a machine with many parts that all have to work together smoothly.

The second major message of the film might be put in the form of a question. One hundred and twenty six people manned the rig, eleven died, all were scarred. How is one to balance their well-being, indeed, their lives, against commercial profit and loss? The film clearly suggests that in the Spring of 2010, on the Deepwater Horizon rig, the human beings involved were put at unacceptable risk.

If there is a shortcoming in the film, it is a lack of attention to the ecological aspect of the disaster. A single oiled sea bird crashes onto the deck of one of the rescue ships, a grim but inadequate token of an environmental cost that is still only partly knowable. Even given that demur, this is a film well worth seeing and, more, one worth thinking about