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James Gill: New John Bel Edwards administration might make us more civilized, but we’ll still be backward

Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards addresses supporters at his election night watch party in New Orleans, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Edwards won the runoff election for Louisiana governor Saturday, defeating the once-heavy favorite, Republican David Vitter, and handing the Democrats their first statewide victory since 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

If, as Samuel Johnson averred, “a decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization,” Louisiana might now be ready to enter a less barbarous age. The imminent expansion of Medicaid, fiercely opposed by outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal, will cover some 400,000 people currently unable to afford health insurance. That… Continue reading →

James Gill: Polls show gay rights good for business in Louisiana

One of the classic stories at my old paper concerned the visitor who, seeking a reporter by that name, asked, “Which one is Gay?” Looking around, the editor on duty said, “Take your pick.” The makeup of the staff certainly proved that sexual orientation had not been a factor in hiring. Of workplace discrimination there… Continue reading →

James Gill: Craving political put-downs? You'll enjoy the John Bel Edwards, David Vitter campaign

Louisiana used to produce politicians who could skewer their opponents with style. Thus did one governor, Earl Long, observe of another, the jug-eared Robert Kennon, that “he can stand in a courthouse in Ville Platte and hear a dollar bill drop in Opelousas.” When two other governors debated some years later, David Treen asked Edwin Edwards… Continue reading →

James Gill: Officials crack down on culture of sin in French Quarter, but reputation is what draws many there

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson allows that, since resuming French Quarter patrols in March, his officers have seized 125 guns. That may sound like quite an achievement, given that Louisiana law is probably the gun-friendliest in the country. Although a permit is required for a concealed weapon, carrying one in… Continue reading →

James Gill: It might be time for the Boston to give New Orleans back its Civil War bells stolen by Gen. Benjamin “Beast” Butler

New bells for the Cathedral of the Holy Cross that came from the closed Holy Trinity Church in the South End are lifted in the cathedral’s belltower Oct. 23, 2015.Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Gen. Benjamin “Beast” Butler, commander of occupied New Orleans during the Civil War, also was nicknamed “Spoons” for his alleged habit of helping himself to silverware. That may be a canard, but we do know for sure that he grabbed a bunch of our church bells and had them shipped to Boston. Five of them, made… Continue reading →

James Gill: Truce between New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson a big win

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, foreground, leaves a press conference where he and  Howard Schwartz, Assistant Inspector General Investigations, left, spoke about the reporting of sex crime cases by five NOPD officers who often recategorized sexual complaints as miscellaneous also speaking at the press conference is new NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, background center, at NOPD headquarters in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.

. It’s hard to disagree that the rapprochement between New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson is “a big win for the entire community.” So says David Marcello, who, as head of Tulane’s Public Law Center, is quite the expert on the city’s Ethics Review Board, to which the city’s two watchdogs answer.… Continue reading →

James Gill: Attorneys join forces in the case to free Robert Jones

Prosecutors and pro bono defense attorneys in New Orleans last year announced they would join forces to free the wrongfully convicted. It was the first such collaboration in the United States and now the defense side claims to have found the perfect candidate. Innocence Project Director Emily Maw thinks it so obvious that Robert Jones was bum-rapped… Continue reading →

James Gill: Give a man an honorary badge, and sometimes he begins to think he is 'The Law'

Advocate staff photo by TERRY JONES -- Pictured is Nathaniel Bankston's honorary deputy sheriff commission from West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office.

Louisiana’s unlikeliest deputy sheriff ever has to be the great comedian Mort Sahl. No, Sahl did not hurtle around the bayous in a squad car. He didn’t live here, and even if he had, he couldn’t have collared any wrongdoers, because his commission was purely honorary. He was issued a badge because his brother-in-law at the… Continue reading →

James Gill: Let the voters of Jefferson Parish decide if convicted felon Derrick Shepherd is fit for office

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd signs papers next to chief deputy Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Frank Borne, left, as Jon A. Gegenheimer. clerk of court, top right, watches as Shepherd takes part in the qualifying process for Louisiana house district 87 at the Jefferson Parish Government Building in Gretna, La. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Shepherd plead guilty to money laundering and believes he can still qualify for the legislature.

If Jefferson Parish voters want Derrick Shepherd representing them in the Legislature again, the appropriate response from the rest of us would be, “You can have him.” But that is not possible because the state constitution says felons can’t run for office until 15 years after finishing their sentences. But it won’t say so much longer… Continue reading →

James Gill: Despite Times-Picayune layoffs, strong journalism still needed in New Orleans

A newspaperman writing about the role of journalism is in great danger of appearing a pompous ass. But your correspondent will fearlessly run that risk. You know the drill, so we’ll keep it short, merely averring that democracy needs a vigorous press and attributing the sentiment to Thomas Jefferson. It has to be said again because… Continue reading →

James Gill: A very serious sin still a campaign turn-on

Asked at a gubernatorial campaign forum the other day whether he had ever violated Title 14, U.S. Sen. David Vitter did what he always does when prostitution rears its ugly head, and ducked. In 2007, he admitted committing a “very serious sin” but has steadfastly refused to satisfy the media’s hunger for titillating detail ever since.… Continue reading →

James Gill: Real ID won't fly, but you will with your noncompliant Louisiana driver's license

The feds are still threatening to stop you boarding an airplane with only a Louisiana driver’s license for ID. It’s high time they quit trying this bluff. We are not falling for it, and it’s already cost billions. We are asked to believe that we will not be allowed on any flight unless we can produce… Continue reading →

James Gill: Time for Lee to surrender his pedestal

As soon as Dylann Roof became a household name, Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed removing Confederate heroes from the streets of New Orleans. He was hardly alone in springing into action after the church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. When the Confederate battle flag is removed even from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol, a profound change… Continue reading →

James Gill: Illiberal judges draw line at Danziger Bridge follies

Judge Kurt Engelhardt

The hero of the hour has to be Kurt Engelhardt, the federal judge who ruled in 2013 that five cops convicted in the Danziger Bridge bloodbath were entitled to a new trial. That was pretty brave decision, given universal revulsion over the cowboy officers who opened fired on unarmed civilians in the hectic aftermath of Katrina and… Continue reading →

James Gill: Only America believes in myth of scholar/athlete; lowering GPA for extracurricular activities could be beneficial for some kids

Reporters always will vie to see who can get the most outlandish quote in the paper, but it won’t be easy to match The Advocate’s Charles Lussier. It was Lussier’s good fortune to cover the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board debate on a proposal to lower the GPA required for extracurricular activities from 2.0 to 1.5.… Continue reading →

James Gill: Jaw-dropping news, brought to you by Coca-Cola: Lazy kids get fat

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- PBRC Executive Director Dr. William Cefalu, presents Paula Pennington de la Bretonne, left, with the first t-shirt for the program as Gov. Bobby Jindal, right, and legislators watch. Announced at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center is a New Translational Research Clinic for Children (TReCC). It's a Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program with a new pediatric research clinic which is one of only a few of its kind in the nation dedicated to research in obesity in children.

We can all be proud today, because the latest scientific breakthrough comes from right here in Baton Rouge. The frontier of human knowledge is never advanced without considerable effort, but LSU researchers were especially diligent on this occasion. They collected and analyzed data “from 12 countries and every continent, except Antarctica,” according to the news release… Continue reading →

James Gill: 'Absurd' Angola death row lawsuit over heat 'price we pay for retaining the death penalty'

Advocate staff file photo by Mark Saltz --The arms of two death row inmates could be seen on B Tier at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on March 3, 2009. Fans above and to the right of the cells, are alleged by some inmates to be the only source of cooling during summer months when heat indexes allegedly exceed 100 degrees. Three inmates sued the prison Monday in an effort to force a heat index limit of 88 degrees on death row.

Hot enough for you? You’ll hear that dumb question everywhere this week, but it would be a sadistic screw who asked it on Angola’s death row. The heat index there constitutes cruel and unusual punishment even while the temperature outside is normal. So says the federal appeals court in New Orleans, though it… Continue reading →

James Gill: Don’t expect Sen. David Vitter to cough up $70,000 to Louisiana to pay for legal fees to his campaign operation

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., watches before an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne must be cracking under the strain of running for governor. He somehow got it into his head that U.S. Sen. David Vitter is forcing “the state of Louisiana to pay $70,000 in legal fees to his campaign operation.” But the money is going to the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, which has absolutely nothing… Continue reading →

James Gill: Ray Nagin’s creative legal argument suggests he should have retrial

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Former mayor C. Ray Nagin leaves court with his wife Seletha Nagin and attorney Robert Jenkins after being found guilty on 20 of 21 counts in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

Imagine you paid off a public official only to find he would have done what you wanted anyway. Shoot, that money could have been used to meet some other cost of doing business in Louisiana. And what if another politician showed up with his hand out? There might not be enough money left… Continue reading →

James Gill: For whom the whistle blows, like it or not

It’s the same old story. You try to do someone a favor, but there’s not a word of thanks. Rerouting freight trains from Old Metairie to Hollygrove is an idea that has been kicking around for years, but the feds cannot put off a decision much longer. Jefferson Parish President John Young says… Continue reading →

James Gill: Why Bobby Jindal is struggling to stand out, is going nowhere with his campaign

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

With Iowa knee-deep in ideologically indistinguishable GOP presidential candidates, standing out from the crowd requires an ability to beat the rest to the punch. Gov. Bobby Jindal has lately been the one with the fast hands. They can all abhor gay marriage, but he’s the one who came out immediately with an executive order to counter the… Continue reading →

James Gill: Why not replace Robert E. Lee statue with statue of Homer Plessy?

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Keith M. Plessy, left, of the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation and a descendant of Homer Plessy who was arrested on a Louisiana railroad car after he sat in a whites-only car because of racial segregation laws in 1892 that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, sits next to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Phoebe Ferguson, right, with the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation and descendant of John Howard Ferguson, as they listen to Doratha 'Dodie' Smith-Simmons, bottom right, as she retells her story of trying to test a newly enacted federal law preventing racial segregation at bus terminals in 1961 in McComb, Mississippi. The panel discussion at Gallier Hall in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, July 2, 2014 was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It might seem impossible right now to find common ground between black activists and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but fortunately I have come up with a plan. All we have to do is remove Robert E. Lee and replace him with Homer Plessy. That way we would have a black hero on top of… Continue reading →

James Gill: Louisiana judge Jeff Hughes' same-sex marriage comments show he's 'clearly too dim for this job'

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- State Supreme Court Judge Jeff Hughes, attends the election-night party of 22nd Judicial District Attorney candidate Brian Trainor, on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, at the Castine Center at Pelican Park in Mandeville.

State Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes has never made any secret of his views on issues about which he is ethically obliged to keep his trap shut. He made his views on judicial impartiality plain when he won promotion from the court of appeal in 2012 after campaigning as a gun-toting, anti-abortion believer… Continue reading →

James Gill: Successful lawsuit by the Louisiana Chemical Association against tax increases could derail state budget

The blame will all belong to reckless politicians if the money runs out, but regular Joes must pay the price. Newspapers will be grim reading; the wires will hum daily with eyewitness accounts of privation and despair. Well, maybe the Greeks are worse off. But harrowing times could lie ahead for Louisiana, too. If the Louisiana Chemical… Continue reading →

James Gill: Where’s Yankee know-how on executions?

Whatever happened to good old American know-how? Sure, we are the only advanced society with the death penalty, but we must ask ourselves whether we are proving worthy of the distinction. We sentence ’em to death all right, but we are seldom up to the task of killing them. In fact, the process has gotten… Continue reading →

James Gill: Governor Bobby Jindal delighted to use gay marriage ruling to hornswoggle voters

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Celebrants daubed in rainbow colors could have been no more delighted than Gov. Bobby Jindal by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gay people have a constitutional right to marry. While gay activists rejoice that the fight is over, Jindal must regard it as a godsend, too, for he still has skin in the game. He is… Continue reading →

James Gill: Removing flags? Why not focus on the guns?

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- With the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee behind them, Malcolm Suber, left,  and Rev. Raymond Brown along with other protesters burn the Confederate battle flag at Lee Circle during a rally to remove the symbol, along with statues like the one of General Robert E. Lee at Lee circle, from public places in New Orleans, La. Friday, June 26, 2015.

The threat posed by armed lunatics draped in Confederate flags is one that will spur any prudent society to action. Fortunately, this country has risen to the challenge as a consensus builds about what should be done. The answer is obvious. Get rid of the flags that fly over statehouses in several parts of the old South,… Continue reading →

James Gill: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as King John? Not quite

The legislative session ended just three days before the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, but the spirit of Runnymede failed to invade Baton Rouge. While the barons stuck it to King John, legislators, though a rebellious spirit was not entirely absent from the Capitol, did not in the end challenge Gov. Bobby Jindal’s right to lay down… Continue reading →

James Gill: Healthy lifestyle a blow to Harrah’s, New Orleans

Harrah’s profits at its New Orleans casino are way down, and, while you will probably receive this news without shedding a tear, the implications for the public treasury could be dire. The demands on that treasury are already crippling, and a reduction in the city’s share of the casino loot is bound to be reflected in the… Continue reading →