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What happens when a legislator, so filled with an inflated sense of moral outrage and self-importance that [s]he goes completely off the rails and creates unnecessary work and aggravation for civil servants?

Of course, it’s a rhetorical question. Or is it?

Not necessarily. In fact, it’s far more commonplace than the average non-civil servant would ever experience because legislators, be they members of Congress, a state legislator, or a city council member from Bleeding Gums, Arkansas, feel the perpetual need to feed an insatiable ego by browbeating subordinates (read: civil servants) with demands and requests for, more often than not, trivial information that’s of no use to anyone.

Take the as yet still unidentified Louisiana legislator who got his/her panties in a wad over a link found on a Louisiana Department of Health web page.

The legislator, doubtless a God-fearing, family-values Repugnantcan, saw the word “Pride” on the web page and promptly went into orbit under the assumption that the word itself was necessarily tied to gay rights.

Except the assumption was incorrect.

No matter. DHH Secretary Courtney Phillips was compelled to drop everything else she may have been working on and address this new crisis which naturally posed a threat to humanity in general and Louisiana in particular.

The result was an email last Wednesday (June 29) from LDH Press Secretary Michelle McCalope to four workers in the trenches who it was assumed might know the answer to the legislator’s inquiry.

“The Secretary (Phillips) has asked that we review the website to see if there are any Pride links to anything, anywhere, and have them removed,” the email began. “She got a call from a legislator saying there were Pride links on the website, but we don’t have any more details.” (Well, that’s typical: go off half-cocked with some off the wall complaint but don’t give any details that might lead to an easy resolution of the problem.)

“We’re asking you to review your program offices and other accounts that you are responsible for on the web to see if there are any Pride link on those pages,” the message continued. “If you find something, send it to me and Aly (LDH Communications Director Alyson Neel) and we’ll have it removed.”

Here it is in its entirety:

There you have it. The DHH secretary, Michelle McCalope, Alyson Neel and four unsuspecting civil service employees (that’s seven people, if you’re counting) were thrown into a whirling dervish of motion at the behest of a legislator with nothing better to do than to get all worked up over the word “Pride.”

Well, I checked and damn! There it was! A Louisiana Department of Health web page with a LINK to an outfit called NOLA Pride-WFH. But I did what the busy legislator obviously did not have the time to do: I googled NOLA Pride-WFH to see what they were all about.

Guess what? It’s a mental health clinic in Metairie. Or at least it was. The telephone numbers listed were no longer in service and the Secretary of State’s corporate records indicated that NOLA Pride’s corporate charter had been revoked. (Full disclosure: I was never able to determine what the WFH stood for.)

That was the only LDH page I could find that contained a link to the specific word Pride and it turned out that just a cursory search (without involving any other living, breathing individual) showed that it had nothing to do with any gay organization or gay pride parade.

But so what if it had? LDH deals with myriad health issues, including Coronavirus, HIV, nutrition, dental care, and hepatitis, to name just a few. There was even a link on another LDH WEB PAGE to information on the 2019 National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. But nothing anywhere concerning any Pride timeline. LDH’s mission is to provide equal access to health care to all Louisiana citizens, regardless of race, sex, age, or any other demographic cluster. Would the legislator wish to pick and choose those to whom health care services are made available?

Silly question. Of course [s]he would. That’s the very agenda of the Repugnantcan Party. Make. No. Mistake. About. That.

The person who sent me a copy of the email (it was not any of the recipients) asked, perhaps also rhetorically, “Who does Courtney Phillips work for, a random Republican (presumably) legislator who doesn’t want to see any ‘Pride’ content or the governor, who says that discrimination is not a Louisiana value?”

Ouch! Tough, yet fair question but small minds and hypocrisy invariably make for a bad combination. It’s like the story in the Daily Beast that a relative sent me on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade:

Health professionals, it seems, “are permitted to discuss cases in general terms,” the publication said, and when asked about patients with anti-choice views there was no shortage of interesting tales about activists deeming themselves an exception to the rule.

“A family-medicine physician in Washington, recalled the time a woman ‘whose sister-in-law was the president of a big right-to-life organization’ had asked to be ‘snuck in the back door’ of the clinic where she was employed. Then there was ‘the picketer who brought her daughter in for a procedure and was back on the picket line the next week.’ On another occasion, a woman came in ‘and declared to a full waiting room that they were all sinners and should leave immediately.’

“When I drew her aside, I found out she was there for an abortion, too,” the doctor told The Daily Beast.

Now, I’m waiting until some married, pro-life Repugnantcan legislator or congressman sneaks around to get a back-door abortion for his girl friend who he’s gotten pregnant. It’s gonna happen. We may not hear about it, but it’s gonna happen.

Oops. Seems it already did.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/will-the-pro-life-gop-rep-scott-desjarlais-who-paid-for-an-abortion-ever-tweet-again

More than once.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pro-life-congressman-reportedly-asked-girlfriend-to-get-an-abortion

Shortages. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we were a bit smug when we read about all those shortages of consumer goods in the old Soviet Union. Never happen in the good ol’ US of A, right?

Well, wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

In the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic the joke making the rounds was that Donald Trump was so full of crap that the country ran out of toilet paper. But if you will remember, we were also a bit short on the supply of hand wipes, hand sanitizer, and face masks.

But then, as we began to emerge from the pandemic, we found other items to be in short supply. Auto dealerships endured empty lots with new vehicles on back order because of the shortage of computer chips and battery materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel. The lack of those resources, of course could mean only one thing: price increases. And with the unavailability of new cars, the price of used vehicles suddenly went through the roof.

In quick order came other shortages: chemical supplies for farms, diapers, baby formula, tampons, Hot sauce, labor, and worst of all, gasoline.

Suddenly, when we had to ration toilet paper or when we couldn’t feed our babies, we didn’t feel quite so superior to those Soviet Union consumers.  

More price increases followed but to no one’s surprise, there were no accompanying dramatic increase in salaries. States like Louisiana clung like blood-sucking parasites to the $7.25 minimum wage, refusing to give struggling workers needed relief.

Something called the supply chain was blamed and of course, whoever occupied the Oval Office was to blame for that breakdown. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the president, be he Republican or Democrat, is going to be blamed (erroneously) for inflation or recession when in fact, events were set in motion years ago for what we’re now experiencing with empty store shelves, soaring gas prices, and an economy teetering on the brink.

For openers, it’s a little difficult to point a finger at the White House (no matter who the occupant may be at the time) over record prices of gasoline at the pump when the oil companies are reporting record (let me repeat, RECORD) quarterly profits. That’s not a political problem, it’s pure old garden variety greed with a capital $.

One of the key sticking points for Americans choking on high gasoline prices is the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline, which many people seem to think caused the gasoline shortage and the price spike that went with it. But the truth of the matter is the Keystone Pipeline was NEVER INTENDED for American consumption. It was to transport Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries (which admittedly would have meant more jobs for the Lake Charles area) for subsequent shipment and sale overseas – not in the US.

So, why aren’t the oil companies increasing drilling operations to meet demand? Simple, and again, it’s greed with that same capital $. Wall Street is applying “enormous pressure” on oil companies to pump up SHAREHOLDER PROFITS instead of pumping up investments in drilling equipment.

I’m certainly no economics wizard, but from my admittedly layman’s viewpoint, it’s not difficult to see why supply chain problems could paralyze this country as they apparently have.

The reason is really quite simple: corporate greed (remember that capital $) and the destruction of American labor unions.

Like it or not, you have to admit, if only to yourself, labor unions created middle class America. Detractors love to point to corruption in the unions and certainly they have had more than their share. Then again, so has Congress, the presidency, innumerable state legislatures, and more than a few mayors and city council members. Those same detractors would love for you to ignore the fact that unions gave us the 40-hour work week, paid vacations, pensions, health care, safer working conditions, and abolished child labor.

Unions allowed America’s workers to speak as one and to tell management that workers would no longer be exploited and tossed aside after they were used up and no longer productive. And lest we forget, non-union members also were the beneficiaries of these same advances.

Unions gave us meat for our tables that was not contaminated or diseased. They helped define what a worker’s specific expectations were and what his specific reward would be for his labor.

In 1976, the year Louisiana’s Right to Work law was enacted by the Louisiana Legislature, 300,000, or more than 17 percent of the state’s workforce, were members of ORGANIZED LABOR Within a decade, that number had dropped to about 175,000, or less than 10 percent. Today, it’s 81,000 – less than 5 percent. With the decrease in numbers has come a decrease in political clout.

Nationally, by the mid-1950s, unions in the US boasted membership of approximately one of every three non-farm workers, which represented the pinnacle of labor’s political power. But then, the Republican Party, aided by corporate America, began systematically dismantling the protections that helped unions to launch this country’s post-WWII production and economic advancements to a position of world dominance. In the process, they also began the slow but consistent destruction of the middle class as evidenced by the growing wage disparity between workers and corporate executives and board members. The American middle class, to put it bluntly, is disappearing even as we watch.

Culminating with President Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers, this set of legal, borderline, and outright illegal practices proved chillingly effective at abolishing existing unions and preventing nonunion workers from organizing. Practices included outright threats of dismissal to union sympathizers, holding mandatory meetings with workers warning of the dire consequences (real or imagined) of a unionization campaign, and hiring permanent replacements for striking workers during labor disputes. This from a man who once was a liberal Democrat and who served as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Meanwhile, corporate America was looking elsewhere for cheap labor and places like China, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Mexico, and other developing countries (read: countries with few worker protection laws) suddenly looked attractive to companies like GE, Nike, Budweiser, Chiquita, Purina, and Carrier, to name only a few (even Trump’s suits and ties are made in China). US automakers shipped operations elsewhere, as well, leaving Detroit a ghost town, a shell of what was once America’s fourth-largest city.

Companies who chose to stay merged with other companies, killing competition in the process. Regardless of where companies went or with whom they merged, jobs were lost, awakening US workers to the grim realization that they were mere pawns in a very profitable boardroom chess game, expendable when it served management’s long game.

And now we’re seeing all that come back to bite us in the backside. If all those companies had stayed home and paid workers a living wage, there would be no supply chain issues, no reliance on the uncertainties of foreign skirmishes and wars – or at least less so.

Instead, we’re seeing shrink packaging, or “shrinkflation,” the downsizing of products in order to keep from raising the price, done with investors’ profits foremost in mind. Quality has diminished as well. How do you think Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, and Kia got such a foothold in our market other than American auto makers’ decisions to give us such products as Vega, Cadillac Cimarron, Pinto, Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobiles (remember that little public relations debacle?), and the exciting, dynamic K Car? American quality was suddenly only a fond memory.

So, you see, it’s not the fault of the hapless soul who happens to occupy the Oval Office. No sitting president has received a cent of those oil company profits (so far as we know). But we do know it was the Republicans’ intent to gut the unions and it was the first President Bush who pushed through the NAFTA agreement and it was Trump who replaced NAFTA with USMCA, both of which had the effect of costing US jobs and depressing US wages. Long before the senior Bush or Trump or even Reagan, however, Republicans were laying the groundwork for union-busting and economic robbery that has become a tragic reality today.

If Congress and the President were serious about wanting to help the nation’s economy toward recovery, a good step would be to abolish Right to Work laws, repeal USMCA, impose penalties on companies who abandon American workers by moving overseas where they can get by with paying 30 cents per hour with no medical care, no paid vacations, no retirement benefits, or no guaranteed safe working conditions.

The flag-waving, Bible-thumping, patriotism-chanting Republican Party is solely responsible for the systematic undermining of organized labor and the destruction of America’s middle class – all in the name of greater profits for corporate board members. To believe otherwise is only self-delusion.

But the greater tragedy is that the Republican Party has managed to convince middle-class Americans that it has their best interests at heart while simultaneously picking their pockets.

(Full disclosure: I am indisputably straight. In high school I, like others, turned on my friend when he came out, making his life so miserable that he was forced to drop out of school. The fact that I could be so cruel to another human being has haunted me nonstop as I approach my eightieth decade of existence on planet earth. Today, I take enormous pride in having friends who are gay and I have found in them a consistent capacity for intellect, creativity, compassion, and perseverance that could – and should – serve as inspiration for all of us if we’d only let it.)

Having said that, I now call attention to that abhorrent group of individuals in neighboring TEXAS who call themselves Republicans and whom I dismissively refer to as Repugnantcans because on the whole, I find the Republican Party repugnant in every possible way. I make no pretense at journalistic objectivity nor do I make any pretense at apology for doing so. As a recovering Republican myself, it is a deeply personal issue with me.

I simply am at a loss to understand why a group of individuals calling themselves leaders can possibly advocate so strongly for so-called “right to life” and then deny basic human needs to the living – needs such as pre-K, medical care, infant nutrition, a decent living wage (especially for single mothers), education, day care, etc.

I am at a loss to understand why the Repugnantcans, especially those from Texas want “less government interference in our lives” and then adopt an official platform that refers to homosexuality as ”ABNORMAL.” Abnormal by whose standards? The Book of Leviticus? Yes, it does call for the death penalty of gays in Chapter 20, Verse 13. Give me a break. Chapter 19, Verse 19 also prohibits anyone from wearing clothing of mixed threads.

How many adhere that that little directive?

Leviticus also says anyone with a flat nose or who are blind or lame cannot go to the altar of God.

The Book of Numbers? It says, in Chapter 31, Verse 17 and 18, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones (that would be children, would it not?) and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him” (and just how are they to know that little fact?), and “all the women children (that would be little girls, I do believe) that have not known a man by lying with him (again, how is this determined?), keep alive for yourselves.” (Emphasis added)

Well, that seems pretty abnormal to me.

How about the prohibition against wearing jewelry, found in 1 Timothy 2:9?

And then scattered all through the Good Book are admonitions against divorce. They’re found in Luke, Matthew, 1 Corinthians, Malachi, Romans, Mark, and on and on. How many of either party can hold fast to that “normality”?

And we won’t even talk about adultry, of which I’m quite certain no Texas Repugnantcan is guilty.

That must be why all those non-mixed-fabric or non-jewelry-wearing, straight, once-married, ever-faithful, pro-birth Texas Repugnantcans took such a patriotic stand in adopting their 40-page platform that somehow also included an outright rebuke of the 2020 presidential election in that the party rejected the election of Joe Biden as president and even reserved the right to secede from the union.

But there are a few Bible verses which the Texas Repugnantcans (and apparently, Repugnantcans elsewhere as well) hold dear:

  • Slaves must be submissive and obedient to their masters. (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Women must be submissive to their husbands. (1 Peter 3:1 and 3:5)
  • Women should be generally submissive and should be quiet, never teach or hold any authority over men. They should just be silent. (1 Timothy 2:12)

Now what good Repugnantcan (Texan or otherwise) could possibly argue with such sound logic?

It represents, after all, the best of both worlds for Repugnantcans: a return to the good old days of Jim Crow and to the future of the Hand Maid’s Tale.

Looks like someone didn’t really think this through or ask the obvious question: “Now, how will this end for us?”

Well, there are several things to consider. For instance, if Texas secedes, then US Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, along with some three dozen US representatives, would be placed on the unemployment rolls. Of course, Cruz could simply relocate to Cancun but what would Texas do with all those military bases? They do, after all, represent a lot of civilian jobs.

But do they really think NASA would hang around Houston very long in such a scenario? If Texas secedes, Shongaloo, Punkin Center, or Nip-and-Tuck (real Louisiana communities – Punkin Center is in Jackson Parish, Pumpkin Center is in Tangipahoa) would suddenly appear more attractive.

And what if Texas experiences another of those winter freeze-outs like the one that sent Cruz packing to Mexico the first time? There won’t be any FEMA or federal funds to bail Gov. Greg Abbott out of the next energy crisis – or the next hurricane.

One more thought: If Texas secedes, there would be no more Texas Repugnantcan Party because it would no longer be affiliated with the national party.

I suppose it could rebrand itself as the more appropriate Hypocrite Party.

Folks, I’ve not been able to contact my cousin and thus was apparently not up to date. I finally got through to her (after I posted the previous update) only to learn that her grandson had set up a Go Fund Me account and already has “enough stuff to furnish three houses.”

So, despite my urgent plea of earlier, it appears that they are going to be okay and will get through this ordeal. But….BUT, she said she is so very grateful for the support you’ve shown (and I have received literally dozens of responses). I, likewise, appreciate the generosity displayed by you and apologize for the appeal that, thankfully, turned out to be unnecessary.

To those who contributed cash, I will forward your gift to her because I know she can always use that to buy food for the boys.

Again, thanks so much.

I hate to come at you this way but my cousin in West Monroe is 82 and is caring for four great-grandsons, three of whom are non-verbal autistic. She is a graphic artist and she designed the covers for six of my books.

A couple of weeks ago, lightning struck her home and the ensuing fire destroyed the structure. Everyone got out safely, but the house was a total loss. She lost everything.

The house was gutted

Nothing is left. The plastic goo on the desk is her Mac computer

The house was insured, but not the contents. She is now living in a rent house with no furnishings and is in desperate need of bedding, linens, furniture, appliances, clothing, etc. Anything will help. My cousins in North Carolina are getting her a new computer for her business and her brother is helping with her rent.

For those of you living in Louisiana, anything you can spare would be of tremendous help and would be appreciated more than you could ever know. I can pick up items if you just let me know.

Please, if you can help, contact me at my email: louisianavoice@outlook.com

Thank you.

Tom

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