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Garland Robinette

Tune in to "The Think Tank" for independent, intelligent discussions with experts on matters of news, politics, science and much more!

Weekdays 10am-1pm

Twitter: @garlandWWL
Email: garland@wwl.com

Garland: Please America - take a deep breath

My vocal chords are infected & I can’t speak on the radio right now.  But, I CAN talk with my pen, and my message is this: please, everybody - take a deep breath!

The end of the world is not yet here.  Donald Trump is only one man, and our governmental system is a huge, slow monster that will allow itself to be pushed only so far before it pushes back. And liberals will not be able to do much damage to “Trump-ism” in their reduced role in Congress and the states.

If you disagree with the above... fine. That’s what debates are all about, but can we start initiating an adult debate?

Two days of debate over crowd size, rather than what’s going to happen to healthcare?

The liberal side that sees crowd size as a way to minimize President Trump’s image?

A President, who is so overly sensitive that he tells his press secretary to attack the media in his first press briefing?

Madonna deflects the positive side of the millions of women (and men) marching nationwide to announce that she has considered blowing up the White House?

And, President Trump, instead of building bridges, asks why the crowd didn’t vote?

The defense or attack on any of these references can be found in the liberal and conservative websites and blogs. To find out who is right is virtually impossible.  All of the “fact checking” sites impartiality have been called into question... just google how many of the sites have liberal or conservative ties behind the scenes.

With all that said, can we start arguing like adults about what we do with the longest unresolved war in U.S. history (Afghanistan)?  Can we figure out what a replacement for Obamacare will look like? Can we debate whether its corporations or automation that’s keeping jobs from returning to America?

These are fool proof ideas, because you won’t need the media to fact check whether we get out of the blood-and-money drain called Afghanistan.  You won’t need liberal or conservatives to tell you if your healthcare improves or gets worse. You won’t need to be convinced whether we see an increase in jobs or whether products become more expensive because they’re made in America.

Soooooo...after the deep breath... can we show our children we really are adults?

Can’t wait to talk to you... debate with you... hopefully, soon.

Join Garland Robinette in the Think Tank weekdays 10am to 1pm on WWL-AM-FM-or WWL.com - your station for every generation. 
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Garland: Do you trust the government, or the media?

Do you trust the government or the media to tell you the truth? A major newspaper and government agencies reported that Russians had infiltrated a U.S. utility. It turned out not to be true.

The Washington Post was first to report that Russian hackers had infiltrated a Vermont power utility's computer network. Sounds scary, right? Only, that story had to be retracted once additional details came out that shed more light on exactly the level of compromise that the hackers were able to achieve.

At a time when trust in the media is at an all-time low, are you more inclined to take what the government tells you at face value?

We had a great conversation today, tune in on the link below!

FULL AUDIO: Do you trust the government or the media?
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Garland: Pentagon can't be stupid enough to ask for bonus repayment, right?

America is forcing thousands of soldiers to repay enlistment bonuses decades after going to war. When I read that, I thought, there's gotta be something more to it. The Pentagon and Congress could not be this stupid.

GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said this morning that the Pentagon should immediately stop trying to recover enlistment bonuses paid to nearly 10,000 soldiers in California who signed up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government has 45 auditors who are assigned to check on the cases of 20,000 more National Guardsmen and women. 

I asked Larry Korb, Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress and former Assistant Secretary of Defense to come on and help explain what's going on here.

The Pentagon said this "has some complexities." What does that mean?

"You got a couple of issues - there was some fraud, some people who have actually been convicted of taking money they shouldn't have. The next thing is that when a soldier comes up for a bonus, you have a good idea of what you're supposed to get. If you're supposed to get 10 and they give you 20, you might ask, or maybe there's a wink and a nod. Having said all that, it's the auditors job to go in and check that out." 

OK but it wasn't the soliders themselves committing fraud, right, so what happens to the recruiters and higher ups who thought this was a fair plan of action?

"What I'm dumbfounded about is where's the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness? Where's the Secretary of Defense on this? The California Guard called Congress - where was the National Guard bureau? The head of the National Guard is now one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where was he on this? To me, that's the real failing. The people who committed the fraud should pay for it, but not these soliders."

In the second half of the show, I spoke with Shad Meshad, President and Founder of the National Veterans Foundation.

"I think you and the whole nation should be aggravated about this. This has got to be the most heinous, stupid thing I've ever heard of - it's just beyond reason, that they went back for multiple tours because of the bonuses, then come back and try to move on with their lives... and now the government is saying we made a mistake and we want our money back? That's unethical and unfathomable."

To hear the full show - prepare to get angry - click on the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks solider bonuses on "The Think Tank"
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Garland: Should third-party candidates be allowed on debate stage?

Should the Libertarian & Green candidates be allowed to participate in the Presidential debates?  

Some are urging the Commission on Presidential Debates to reconsider their policy of allowing only candidates who have an average of 15% in the 5 national polls into the fall debate. Should they? Using this model, only Clinton & Trump will be allowed to take the stage, excluding Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson whose national polling average is 8.8% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein who is polling at 3.4%.  

What if voters want to hear all points of view so they can make an educated decision?  In a recent Pew Research Center survey they found that 4 in 10 voters think neither Clinton nor Trump would make a good president... and that most voters are with the two-party system.  Another poll by USA Today & Suffolk University found that 54% of voters want 3rd party options. Should our democratic electoral system include all candidates in the debates or not?

As always I turn to Political Analyst Ron Faucheaux for some guidance. He's just had a piece published in the Wall Street Journal about this very topic.

"In this election, you have so much public discontent with the two major candidates... the proposal I made is that you can keep the 15% requirement for the second and third debates, but for the first debate, lower it to three percent, so that you can have both Stein and Johnson in the debate," Faucheaux said. "The idea there is that voters really need the information, and need the chance to see what all the options are. If they don't move up over the course of the campaign, then don't include them later. But at least give them some access to these public debates. Otherwise they have no chance at all of winning the election."

The two third party candidates have about 13-14% combined. If nothing else, shouldn't the commission allow that and say to Congress, there is a building movement out here that doesn't like what you are doing, and these numbers suggest you should be changing?

"That's exactly right. One national poll this year showed that 54% of American voters would like to have third options to look at in elections. Another showed 41% of voters didn't think either of the major party candidates would be a good president. So clearly voters are saying, we want to look at all of the options. It doesn't mean they're going to vote for those other options, they're just saying we want to look at them. If the minor party candidates have a voice, and the voters have a choice, I think it's healthier for our democracy." 

To hear the rest of the conversation with Ron, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks third-party candidates with Political Analyst Ron Faucheaux

Photos via USA Today

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Garland: Could Facebook swing an American election?

Facebook may have been deliberately suppressing conservative news.  If true, is it legal? Can Facebook be forced to change?

My first reaction was "So what?" There's virtually nothing in today's media that isn't biased one way or the other. But in reading about this, I stumbled upon a work by Scott Allan Morrison, a veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author of new book, "Terms of Use," a thriller about the dark side of social media that speculates how a large social media company might try to swing an election. I invited him on the Think Tank this morning to see where the truth lies.

Could the fictional story in Morrison's book become a reality?

"I spent ten years covering the big internet companies, and the short answer is, they are amassing huge amounts of our data, data we don't even appreciate we're giving out," he said. "They are much more granular in the information they collect about us than we can even imagine... if they can manipulate our emotions, they can certainly manipulate our opinions. They story you referenced, that they are suppressing conservative views, is a disturbing one."

"Really what happened here is that some low level contractors were injecting their bias, conscious or unconsciously, into the stories they were putting up... and it could very well have just been the opposite, where conservative leaning employees might have done the same thing... regardless of whether they're suppressing liberal or conservative views, the fact that this is even possible highlights Facebook's ability to set the agenda and possible impact public opinion," he continued.

"We think of Facebook as a neutral platform, and it sells itself as one. So we have to be very careful about what comes out on Facebook."

Dr. Robert Hogan, LSU Professor of Political Science, joined me after the news to explain the story from his point of view.

"Social media sites have come to play a large role in Presidential campaigns in recent years... it's a major force in American politics today, so when you hear a story like this, that gives you some pause. i think people may not be fully aware of how FB works and how news gets to them. It raises serious questions," he said.

Could it be enough of a concern to where the government intervenes and puts in some sort of regulation there?

"What we're finding out is that the things that are on the "Trending" list is not simply put there by a mathematical algorithm, but is actually made in almost an editorial sense. And to the extent that humans are involved in that, it'll be subject to their biases... there have been calls to regulate old style media and there may be calls to regulate here but, it sounds to me like the nature and direction of that is coming from conservatives, who generally don't like government regulation, so I doubt you see much government intervention here.  

To listen to the full interviews with Morrison and Dr. Hogan, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks Facebook and the news

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Garland: Hokie was a one-of-a-kind man

I was always jealous of those who knew and were close to Hokie Gajan.  I’d see him in the hallways, and occasionally he agreed to venture into the Think Tank.  I knew Hokie was special, because I could see that EVERYBODY thought he was special.  I’ve got to confess, if I had been a great athlete, hero of LSU, icon of the Saints, and beloved by a city, I would have bragged about it all the time.  You knew about Hokie only from someone other than Hokie. 

My personal memories are few but clear.  Every time I shook his hand my brain asked me, “Is that a hand or a catcher’s mitt?”  When I did brag to him that I had “almost become an athlete,”  he laughed.  When I attacked Hokie on my show for stealing all my knowledge of sports, he laughed.  I once said to him, “I want to be tough like you one day.”   He said, “You’ll never be as tough as me, I have four daughters...you only have one.” 

Not long ago, I actually stopped and watched Hokie walk down one our WWL hallways.  He was bent over, covered with arthritic bumps and he shuffled because of many surgeries.  He ran into 3 people, one by one he made them all laugh.  No pity, no complaining, just love of life and people around him.  Some call Hokie “a man’s man.”  Actually, he was a one of a kind man.  NEVER to be another like him.
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Garland: Why are Jefferson residents happier than Orleans residents?

Why are Jefferson Parish residents so much happier with their quality of life than New Orleanians?  

A new UNO poll says people who live in Jefferson Parish are 94% satisfied, while residents in NOLA are only 66% satisfied - and that's an eight-point drop from 2013, while results from Jefferson remained pretty much unchanged.

READ MORE: Full results of UNO quality of life survey

I invited UNO Political Science professor Dr. Ed Chervenak into "The Think Tank" this morning to see if he could help explain these findings.  "Historically, people are more satisifed in JP because it is a suburban parish. Its a much more prosperous parish, has a much stronger tax base, and government  is able to deliver services much more efficiently. Whereas in Orleans Parish, its a relatively weak base, but given its population, it requires a lot of services and so the needs outstrip the resources, and I think that's why you see a bit more negativity," he said.
I kept thinking, aside form the bliions of dollars flowing into New Orleans after Katrina, everything you read says people are starting to abandon the suburbs for the city - is that trend reflected in the study?

"We havent seen that in our poll - certainly we have had an influx of peo ple from outside New Orleans since Katrina. I don't know if we've 'bucked the trend' we're seeing in the rest of the country, where elderly people in particular are moving back to cities for public tanspotiation and access to health care. We just went through a different situation as a results of having to recover from that disaster."

I also asked Ryan Berni to chime in - he's a Senior Adviser to Mayor Landrieu. What does he think about the report?

"I think we take the long view on these kinds of things - these are just a snapshot in one period in time. I think people have reason to be more optimistic about the city, especially when you take the longer view. There was a lot of polling done with the tenth anniversary of Katrina last year, and a lot of that research showed that 70, 80% of the public was optimistic about our future and where we had come from."

To hear the entire conversation, just click on the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland discusses UNO quality of life poll


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Garland: Atty General Landry takes over coastal lawsuits; now what?

If our state Attorney General takes over coastal lawsuits against oil & gas, will it help the cause of Louisiana parishes or oil and gas? Jeff Landry is taking over coastal lawsuits filed by three parishes against oil and gas firms.  Will that move make Louisiana’s case stronger?  Will it make oil and gas pay... or not pay at all?  

I invited Loyola Law Professor Rob Verchick and Congressman Garret Graves into the Think Tank this morning so see about getting some clarification on this. 

"Coastal restoration is something that affects the entire state, so the Attorney General respresenting the State has the right to intervene to make sure all of these claims are being organized to the best interests of the state in general. What we don't know is exactly what Landry in this capacity is going to do, whether he's going to have the effects of strengthening the lawsuits or weakening the lawsuits, from the plaintiff's point of view," explained Verchick.

"The Parishes sued based upon state authority or state liability, so the Attorney General says look, I'm the state's chief legal officer, so I'm going to intervene and basically take over control over these so we don't have dozens of disparate efforts out there trying to manage these different lawsuits," Congressman Graves told us.

To listen to the podcast, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks coastal lawsuit news with Rob Verchick and Congressman Garret Graves
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Kennedy to Garland: Audits have already identified $1.7B in waste

The cutting waste versus new revenue debate continued on WWL today with Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy insisting there is a lot for government to gain by running a tighter ship.

"The legislative auditor last year did 36 audits," Kennedy told WWL's Garland Robinette. "The total amount of waste and inefficiencies that the legislative auditor in these 36 reports identified just last year, in 2015, is 1.745 billion dollars."

FULL AUDIO: John Kennedy talks budget crisis with Garland Robinette

Kennedy said it wouldn't surprise him to find that none of the agencies audited were required to do anything to change their wasteful ways.

Kennedy also sent the governor several reports from studies dating back years on areas where government can be cut -- reports Kennedy says were never acted upon.

"If his staff bothers to read the reports, they will find that many of the issues that are addressed in these reports are the same issues that we are struggling with today."

Kennedy said he knows the governor has a copy of is paper done by the Public Affairs Research Council on January 29, called  ' A Plan to Control State Spending.' 

"So the argument put forth by some that there's no specificity in terms of how we can control our costs, and therefore, we can't reduce our spending, and therefore, we have to implement the largest tax increase in the history of Louisiana, otherwise we are going to terminate the TOPS program, shut down Nicholls State University and eliminate LSU football, in my judgement, is a little over the top," said Kennedy.  
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Gov. Edwards with Garland; tough questions, tough answers on budget

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards today said he welcomes proposals for cuts to try and close a budget deficit the governor says is more than $940 million, but repeated his argument that cuts alone won't close the gap.

"We cannot simply cut our way out of this particular jam," said Edwards.

FULL AUDIO: Listen to Governor Edwards' interview with Garland Robinette

Edwards rebutted State Treasurer John Kennedy's claim that the savings can be found in state consulting contracts or repealing state laws that require money go to certain programs.

"The idea that there's enough savings on those contracts alone to solve our problems is really not based in reality," Edwards told WWL's Garland Robinette. "We can achieve some savings there and move it into the general fund...but for those people who want to try, that, too, is in the call."

Edwards said he wasn't using scare tactics when he told Louisiana in a prime-time address last week that the TOPS program could be suspended or critical health care services like dialysis could be cut. He warned that's the only way to balance the budget without finding new revenue.

"If that sentiment wins out, then those things will happen," he asserted. "I'm trying to engage in truthful conversation with the people of Louisiana."

Edwards has asked lawmakers to consider an increase in state sales tax among other ways to increase revenue.
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