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Republican members of the Louisiana Legislature are pretty smug about their ability to block any proposed legislation or budget put forward by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Witness the antics of Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) as he danced to puppeteer/House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) in rejecting the findings of the Revenue Estimating Conference, effectively killing any chance Edwards had of implementing badly needed pay raises for Louisiana’s public school teachers.

But do Henry and Barras, members in good standing of the “Caucus of No,” give a damn about teachers or, for that matter, the state as a whole?

You can check that box No.

And the same can be said for Attorney General Jeff Landry, who would far rather take pot shots at the governor than do his job.

The only thing—and I stress the only thing—important to them is winning. Defeating any proposal of the governor in an effort to cast him in a bad light as the 2019 election approaches is considered a victory for them.

It’s a damned shame that grown-ass men put their own interests and the interests of their precious political party (be they Republican or Democrat) over the good of the citizens of this state. They would rather point fingers of blame for failures and grab credit for successes than come together to try and lead this state out of the backwater world of financial, educational, environmental, and cultural existence for which it has become notorious.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the number of legislative sessions we’ve had over the past three years:

  • 2016: 4 (one was the organization session held ever four years, so realistically, we shouldn’t count that one).
  • 2017: 3—Regular session and two special sessions—just to try and pass a state budget.
  • 2018: 4—Regular session and three special sessions—same problem.

Legislators Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) and Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte) put their fingers on the problem in 2017 when they dubbed the philosophy of putting corporate interests above individual taxpayers as ”OBSTRUCTIONIST POLITICS.”

And therein lies the problem. The big moneyed interests—big oil, big Pharma, banks, payday lending, nursing homes, communications companies, and insurance companies—all working together under the umbrella of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Chemical Association and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, pour money into legislators’ campaign funds, forevermore buying the undying loyalty of their lapdogs who, by pushing a red or green button mounted on their desks, control the fate of four million Louisiana citizens.

When it comes to you,  with your $25 donation, having your complaint about high cable TV bills, high drug prices, or unfair lending practices going up against their hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, legislative parties, meals at Sullivan’s and Ruth’s Chris, and the occasional “companionship” during a deep-sea fishing trip, just who do you think is going to be heard?

Again: don’t believe me? Then attend a legislative committee hearing on a bill in which you have an interest. Sign the card to speak for or against the bill. If your position is contrary to the committee members’ positions that have already been bought and paid for, just watch their eyes glaze over as you testify. Or, they might even get up and leave the committee room to take an “important” phone call or just get a cup of coffee. The point is, they ain’t listening to you.

Having said all that, I now bring to the witness stand the latest findings of 24/7 Wall Street, that private research firm that publishes dozens of lists and ranks each day, from the best wines or automobiles to companies projected to downsize to the most obese state, poorest state, state with the biggest gap in gender pay to today’s published results:

The BEST and WORST RUN STATES in AMERICA.

The survey is based on many metrics, including, but not limited to:

  • The ability to attract new residents (new money and new demand for goods and services);
  • The strength of the job market;
  • Diversity of economy;
  • Per capita GDP;
  • Crime rate

Do you want to even hazard a guess as to where Louisiana ranked?

You got it.

Dead last. 50th. Anchor position.

The top three, in order were Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Utah’s state minimum wage is $7.25 but Washington has the nation’s highest at $11.50 and Oregon is fourth-highest at $10.75

The bottom five, in order, are West Virginia, Mississippi, Alaska, New Mexico, and….

Louisiana

We have the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), the second lowest GDP growth, and the third highest poverty rate (19.7 percent).

Alaska’s minimum wage is $9.84 per hour and in New Mexico and West Virginia it is $8.25. In Mississippi and Louisiana, however, the minimum wage is still $7.25 even though the LIVING WAGE CALCULATOR says the living wage for a single adult in Louisiana ranges from a low of $9.46 per hour in Avoyelles Parish to $11.40 for several parishes in the New Orleans area. Here is the living hourly wage for a single adult in the following Louisiana parishes:

  • ACADIA: $9.62
  • ALLEN: $10.20
  • ASCENSION: $10.89
  • ASSUMPTION: $10.13
  • AVOYELLES: $9.46
  • BEAUREGARD: $10.20
  • BIENVILLE: $10.20
  • BOSSIER: $10.98
  • CADDO: $10.98
  • CALCASIEU: $10.20
  • CALDWELL: $10.20
  • CAMERON: $10.20
  • CATAHOULA: $10.20
  • CLAIBORNE: $9.88
  • CONCORDIA: $9.88
  • DESOTO: $10.98
  • EAST BATON ROUGE: $10.89
  • EAST CARROLL: $9.96
  • EAST FELICIANA: $10.89
  • EVANGELINE: $9.88
  • FRANKLIN: $9.88
  • GRANT: $10.83
  • IBERIA: $10.31
  • IBERVILLE: $10.02
  • JACKSON: $9.88
  • JEFFERSON DAVIS: $10.20
  • JEFFERSON: $11.40
  • LAFAYETTE: $10.79
  • LAFOURCHE: $11.27
  • LASALLE: $9.92
  • LINCOLN: $10.69
  • LIVINGSTON: $10.89
  • MADISON: $9.88
  • MOREHOUSE: $10.20
  • NATCHITOCHES: $10.25
  • ORLEANS: $11.40
  • OUACHITA: $11.01
  • PLAQUEMINES: $11.40
  • POINTE COUPEE: $10.89
  • RAPIDES: $10.83
  • RED RIVER: $10.34
  • RICHLAND: $9.88
  • SABINE: $10.14
  • BERNARD: $11.40
  • CHARLES: $11.40
  • HELENA: $10.89
  • JAMES: $9.73
  • JOHN THE BAPTIST: $11.40
  • LANDRY: $9.54
  • MARTIN: $10.79
  • MARY: $10.32
  • TAMMANY: $11.40
  • TANGIPAHOA: $10.90
  • TENSAS: $9.88
  • TERREBONNE: $11.27
  • UNION: $11.01
  • VERMILION: $9.79
  • VERNON: $10.77
  • WASHINGTON: $9.90
  • WEBSTER: $9.78
  • WEST BATON ROUGE: $10.89
  • WEST CARROLL: $9.88
  • WEST FELICIANA: $10.89
  • WINN: $10.20

No living wage for a single adult in any of the 64 parishes was given at $7.25, so how the hell do our LABI-bought, packaged, and owned legislators think a single mom and two or three kids can subsist on $7.25 an hour?

We have the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), the second lowest GDP growth, and the third highest poverty rate (19.7 percent).

Ah, but the 2019 regular session convenes at noon on April 8. The booze will flow again, sumptuous food will abound in Baton Rouge’s finest restaurants and deals can be made.

Of course, campaign contributions may not be made during the session, but not to worry; all that will be taken care well in advance of the fall of the gavel to open the session.

It’s Louisiana and we’re number by-gawd 50 and we worked hard to get there.

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There is so very much going on at both the state and national level and LouisianaVoice has stumbled upon a thread that connects, however tenuously, the events swirling around Donald Trump and the redacted information coming out of the special prosecutor’s office and the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office and a couple of familiar state political players—via the NRA.

That’s a helluva salient lede. I was taught by Wiley Hilburn, my Louisiana Tech journalism professor, to write, short, succinct sentences in my opening paragraph. I don’t think a 63-word opening sentence would have cut it in my classes, but it’s the best I could do. And just for lagniappe, throw in a little Russian spy story for added spice.

First, a couple of observations on the local level. To the surprise of a few observers, some interesting wannabes have dropped out of next year’s governor’s race and a couple of others have jumped in.

Businessman Eddie Rispone filed official paperwork back in October and on Thursday, 5th District U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who on Monday said he was too busy in Congress to run, changed his mine and entered the race, saying, “I intend to win.”

In between, two who certainly had their eyes on the office, Attorney General Jeff Landry and on Sunday, Dec. 2, U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, opted out. Landry and Kennedy, both Republicans, have kept up continuous barrages of criticism of Gov. John Bel Edwards and are expected to continue taking shots through their respective press offices that attempt to deflect any of Edwards’s positives and to create, if they have to, negatives. real or imagined.

By “creating,” I mean people like Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie who refused to go along with the Revenue Estimating Conference recently—apparently as an attempt to thwart the governor’s efforts to raise teachers’ pay. Louisiana’s teachers would do well to remember the actions of Henry and House Speaker Taylor Barras of New Iberia, both of whom seem to exist only to block any legislation proposed by Edwards.

Barras would be wiser to try and resolve the myriad of problems plaguing the sheriff’s office in his home parish than spending time picking fights with the governor. As for Henry, he just seems to be a wet-nosed upstart who needs a nap and a pacifier.

But, unless there’s another Republican, a heavy-hitter who can legitimately go toe-to-toe with Edwards, it appears from right now, 10 months out, the governor will return for another four years in office. He’s proven himself to be a champion of the state’s teachers, he’s favored by the all-powerful (some say all too-powerful) Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (his brother is sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish), he’s for raising the minimum wage (an entirely sensible thing to do), and his Obamacare expansion, like it or not, has brought a lot of federal money into the state. And he hasn’t raised taxes.

(As a side note, I heard AFL-CIO President Louis Reine on the Jim Engster Show on Thursday and a caller took him to task because of his support for raising the minimum wage above the impossible-to-live-on $7.25 an hour rate, claiming it would hurt business and hurt the very people Reine and the AFL-CIO purport to want to help. That caller obviously does not live on minimum wage, or he would never be so dense as to oppose a decent living wage for working people. Other states have raised the minimum wage and seen no ill-effects on business—or workers. It’s a false argument (dare I say fake news) promoted by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry whose members enjoy $3 billion per year in tax exemptions, credits, and incentives—at the expense of the working people of this state who have to make up the tax shortfall created by those breaks.)

But back to the governor’s race. Who do you know who is still in his 40s , has already served three years as a congressman and eight years as governor (who would love to eclipse Edwin Edwards’s record of four terms), who is so ego-driven that he thought he was presidential timber, and who writes for the Wall Street Journal so as to keep his name before the public?

What might be the odds that Bobby Jindal might somehow think he can fool the people of this state again? Especially with Timmy Teepell telling him how smart and how great he is—all the while raking in consulting fees for himself and his firm, OnMessage?

But wait!

What did I just read about Donald Trump, the NRA and OnMessage? Oh, yes, that story (CLICK HERE) on Daily Kos about how the NRA illegally coordinated $30 million in political spending to benefit Trump in the 2016 election. The NRA, it turns out, was infiltrated by accused Russian spy MARIA BUTINA who was working for powerful Russian banker ALEXANDER TORSHIN. Donald Trump Jr. met with Torshin at a private dinner hosted by the NRA.

And much of that $30 million, it turns out, was RUSSIAN MONEY funneled through the NRA.

The NRA used an apparent shell firm called Starboard Strategic, Inc. to produce ads for Senate candidates who employed a Republican consulting firm called OnMessage. Starboard Strategic and OnMessage both share the same Alexandria, Virginia, address as National Media, which had staff members working for Trump. By law, Trump campaign staffers and National Media staffers were required to be completely and totally separate. Otherwise, the limits on campaign contributions would’ve been $5,000, not $30 million.

Guess who is a partner in the OnMessage firm? None other than Baton Rouge’s very own Timmy Teepell, the political guru to whom Bobby Jindal turns for those sweet nothings whispered in his ear—for a very bigly fee, of course.

But back to MARIA BUTINA: She’s in jail as I write this, pondering a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. But who was she photographed with at an NRA event? None other than Bobby Jindal, who I’m sure was clueless (as he is about most things) as to her real motives as a Russian agent.

JINDAL AND THE RUSSIAN SPY

But then, not all Republican operatives may have been completely ignorant of her intent. She had a boyfriend. His name is Paul Erickson. He’s a Republican operative and you can read about him HERE and HERE.

To paraphrase our late friend C.B. Forgotston, not even Alex Jones (https://www.infowars.com/) can make this stuff up.

 

Read these stories:

(CLICK HERE).

(AND HERE).

Now close your eyes. Now imagine the face of your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your girlfriend, your sister, or your wife as one of these victims.

If you still support Donald Trump, then you’re a hypocrite—or worse.

And you’re part of the problem.

It’s that simple.

A few years back I had the good fortune to sit on the reviewing stand at a Texas A&M football game. It was Thanksgiving Day and the opponent was the University of Texas Longhorns. I was on the reviewing stand with good friend Jack Thigpen, one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. If Jack has ever said a disparaging word about anyone, I’ve never heard it.

We were seated in that special area because our host was a major donor to Texas A&M. Another personable and genuine person on that same reviewing stand that day as the cadets marched into the stadium was George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States.

I had Jack photograph me shaking hands with President Bush—several times. I kept coming back and the last time, he recognized me, laughed and said, “How many times are you going to do this?”

“As many times as you’ll let me,” I replied. He laughed again—and posed for the photo.

When I heard on Saturday morning that Bush had passed away, I couldn’t help but reflect back and marvel at the contrast between the political landscape of his time and today.

The comparison isn’t pleasant.

One can set down on just about any day of the Trump presidency and find plenty at which to be both appalled and disgusted.

There is his appointment of WILBUR ROSS as Secretary of Commerce. Ross, you may or may not know, was head of the Bank of Cyprus before joining the Trump disassembly of democracy. The primary function of the Bank of Cyprus, of course, was to LAUNDER DIRTY MONEY for the Russian Mafia.

There’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, about whom you can by clicking HERE.

And a guy named STEVEN HOFFENBERG, a $475 million Ponzi scheme operator who the late Ruston weekly newspaper publisher John Hays exposed several years ago. It would stand as the largest Ponzi scheme ever until Bernie Madoff came along. The resulting investigation by Hays resulted in a federal prison sentence for Hoffenberg, who surfaced a quarter-century later as a major fundraiser for Herr Trump.

But that wasn’t the end of the Hoffenberg SAGA. It seems he was a running buddy of Wall Street prodigy Jeffrey Epstein who worked for six years for Bear Stearns before launching his own financial investing firm in 1982.

Prosecutors tried to offer Hoffenberg a deal if he would give them information about Epstein and his part in the scam but he refused only to later file a $1 billion lawsuit accusing Epstein of running the scam through Hoffenberg’s company, Towers Financial Corp.

So, what’s the big deal about Epstein? There are lots of scammers on Wall Street. Madoff himself called Wall Street the biggest Ponzi scheme of them all—and he may have been correct.

And how does Epstein tie into the Trump administration?

Well, before I go any further, all this story circles back to a member of Trump’s cabinet and if you can, in any manner, rationalize anything Trump or his subordinates do, don’t read any further.

If you have a propensity to overlook Trump’s transgressions with a shrug and the (very) lame “well he’s doing what he said he’d do,” don’t read any further.

If you call yourself a Christian but are willing to look the other way while Trump appoints, crooks, thieves, scam artists, money launderers, and enablers of sexual perversion, don’t read any further.

And most of all, if you have high blood pressure and are easily angered when people play you for a fool, don’t read any further.

But if you have a conscience, please read what comes next.

If you are a Trump devotee (and even if you’re not), you’ve most likely heard the preposterous claim that Hillary Clinton was part of a pedophilia ring run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. Commonly known as Pizzagate among the wild-eyed zealots of the Alex Jones ilk, the absurd rumor was proven to be just that—a groundless rumor.

But there was a child sex ring before the Pizzagate story lit up the Internet.

It was back in 2005 and would include a lot of bigly—very bigly—names. Names like Epstein, Bill (not Hillary) Clinton, Prince Andrew, Kevin Spacey, Chris Tucker and….Donald Trump.

Epstein would be charged with sex trafficking. Many of his victims, most likely in the hundreds, were juveniles, some as young as 13. Virginia Giuffre, formerly Roberts, said in a lawsuit filed against Epstein that she was 15 and working at MAR-a-LAGO when she was recruited by Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

One story had both Epstein and Trump engaging in sex with a girl they knew to be only 13.

The Miami Herald, in a SICKENING STORY published last Wednesday, said a 53-page indictment could have sent Epstein to federal prison for the remainder of his life.

Until, that is, U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta stepped in and negotiated what has been called the “deal of a lifetime” for Epstein. A non-prosecution agreement was reached whereby the ongoing FBI investigation into whether there were more victims would be terminated. He would serve 13 months—13 months—in the county jail (where he would be housed in a special wing and allowed to work part-time in his office). And contrary to federal law requiring that victims of his crimes be notified of the agreement, the deal was sealed and kept from them.

And Acosta?

Well, he’s now Trump’s SECRETARY OF LABOR and until recently, was on the short list to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

And if you think I’m being overly hard on Acosta and by association, Trump, if you think that I like to cite the so-called “fake news” in making my points, you may wish to check out this story by…. FOX NEWS.

Such are the daily stories coming out of the Trump White House. There’s seldom a day that something sleazy doesn’t ooze from under the Oval Office door. The man is simply unable to display even an inkling of class and he has surrounded himself with those who are but mirrors of his own shortcomings.

And then there was GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH who was the very personification of class.

The LETTER he left for the man who defeated him for reelection in 1992, Bill Clinton, reveals the type person he was.

Volunteering for the military just before Pearl Harbor, he was shot down over Chichi Jima in the Pacific in 1944. He is the last combat veteran to hold the office of President. Trump, on the other hand claimed a stone bruise on his heel as a way to avoid the draft but when later pressed as to which heel, he couldn’t remember.

Bush and wife BARBARA were married an incredible 73 years. She died in April, he seven months later.

Writer Matthew Walther, writing for THE WEEK, said Bush was not a “movement” conservative, a trait that is lost on state politicians like Cameron Henry, Taylor Barras and Conrad (buy stock, then vote for state contract with that company) Appel. Bush’s willingness go back on his “read my lips” pledge and raise taxes “for the good of the country” likely cost him the election to Clinton. Walther pointed out that Bush had “little patience for the antics of Second Amendment absolutists and other loud-mouthed enthusiastic types in the conservative caucus.

“He spoke the old-fashioned language of solidarity with ease, though he had little patience for the empty self-aggrandizement that is expected of modern politicians.”

And he didn’t mind crossing the aisle and working with Democrats when the country stood to benefit from it. Gen. COLIN POWELL said Bush believed that politics shouldn’t be nasty.

My God, Trump, are you listening? (No, of course not.)

“Bush was the last important politician to embody all the old WASP virtues—decency, stoicism, self-denial, gentle wit, skepticism, and courtesy,” Walther said.

And would Trump skydive on his 80th and 90th birthdays?

“I pledge to continue diligent enforcement of our Open Meetings Law.”

—Attorney General Jeff Landry, in an effort to grab a share of the spotlight following a judge’s ruling that the Vermilion Parish School Board acted illegally in having a teacher arrested and ejected before approving a $30,000 pay raise for the board’s superintendent. (Landry is mandated to defend state agencies, boards and commissions in litigation over open meetings and public records and is prohibited by that same constitution from interfering in local matters unless requested to do so by the local district attorney.)