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Bobby Jindal said in a 2015 address to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that teachers are still at their jobs only by virtue of their being able to breathe.

That was when he was touting his ambitious education reform package that was designed to promote and enrich the operators of charter and virtual schools by pulling the financial rug from under public education in Louisiana.

That, of course, only served to further demoralize teachers and to punish those students from low-income families who could not afford charter schools but all that mattered little to Jindal. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that his former chief of staff Steve Waguespack now heads LABI.

Lest one think that sorry attitude toward teachers and the teaching profession went away in January 2016 when Jindal exited the governor’s office, leaving a fiscal mess for his successor, John Bel Edwards, think again.

Here’s a little wakeup call for those of you who may have been lulled into a false sense of security now that the husband of a teacher occupies the governor’s office: That disdain for public education has carried over into the halls of Congress via this proposed new tax bill now being ironed out between the House and Senate.

Much has already been written about how the tax bill is supposed to benefit the middle class when in reality it does just the opposite—yet those blindly loyal zealots, those supporters of child molesters, those adherents of the Republican-can-do-no-wrong-because-they-wrap-themselves-in-a-flag-and-wave-a-bible-in-one-hand-and-a-gun-in-the-other mantra continue to drink the Kool-Aid and cling to the insane theory that Trump, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy have their best interests at heart.

These delusional people get all bent out of shape when a jock refuses to kneel at a football game because they consider it an affront to our military (it’s not) while this tax bill rips more than $40 billion from HUD, including programs that help provide housing for homeless VETERANS. How’s that for honoring our fighting men and women? Where the hell are your real priorities?

Any of you die-hard Republicans out there on Medicare? Are you ready to take a $25 billion HIT? You will under this tax “reform.”

All you Trump supporters who have been so critical of the federal deficit prepared to see that deficit increased by a whopping $1.4 trillion? Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy are. So are Reps. Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham and Garrett Graves.

Those of you with college kids presently on tuition exemptions like TOPS might want to get ready; your son or daughter is going to have to declare those benefits as taxable income. Is that why you voted Republican?

And while all this is going down, you can take comfort in the knowledge that the proposed tax “reform” will eliminate the tax on inherited fortunes (you know, the kind that made Donald Trump Donald Trump) and will maintain the “carried interest” loophole which taxes the fees of private-equity fund managers (read: the mega-rich, Wall Street bankers, etc.) at low capital gains rates instead of the higher income tax rates.

But after all that’s said and done, the part of the tax bill that really turns my stomach, the part that sticks in my throat, is a provision that is of so small an amount as to be insignificant—if it weren’t for the principle of the whole thing.

Call it a carry over from Jindal, a snub of teachers, or whatever, it’s galling.

Here it is:

Teachers, particularly elementary teachers, traditionally spend hundreds of dollars per year of their own money on materials and supplies for their classrooms. And it’s not for them, it’s for the children. Keep that in mind, folks. While there are parents out there who would rather buy meth and booze and cigarettes than supplies for their kids, there are teachers who quietly enter the school supply stories and stock up so that kid will have a chance.

Call it personal, if you wish, and it might well be. When I was a student at Ruston High School, I was injured right after school one day. My English teacher, Miss Maggie Hinton, never hesitated. She led me to her powder blue 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air and took me to Green Clinic—and paid the doctor to patch me up. You never hear the Jindals of the world tell those kinds of stories. They don’t fit their agenda.

Under the present tax laws, these teachers, who on average spend $500 to $600 per year (school principals, by the way spend an average of $683 of their own money annually on snacks and other food items for students, decorations and supplies like binders and paper), can take a tax deduction of up to $250 for those expenditures. (And to interject a very personal story, once, while I was making a purchase for a school in Livingston Parish at Clegg’s Plant Nursery, the owner would not accept my money. He donated the items because he, too, supports public education.)

Now understand, that’s a tax deduction of up to $250, not a tax credit, which would be a dollar-for-dollar tax cut. A deduction benefits the teacher only $40 or so off her taxes. But at least it’s something.

The Senate version of the new tax bill would double that deduction to $500, thank you very much.

So, what’s my beef?

Nothing much…except the HOUSE version would eliminate the deduction in its entirety.

That’s right. While the Republicans want to take care of the fat cats (those in Trump’s income bracket would realize tax breaks of approximately $37,000), teachers, under the House version of this tax bill would no longer get even that paltry $40. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Thank you, Garrett Graves, et al.

That really angers me and it should anger every person in Louisiana with even a scintilla of a conscience.

Because teachers are my heroes. Nearly fifty-seven years after graduating from Ruston High School, my heroes are still named Hinton, Ryland, Perkins, Garner, Lewis, Peoples, Edmunds, Barnes,  Johnson, Garrett & Garrett (any I omitted is only because I took no classes under them). They took a personal interest in a kid with no real promise and made him a little better person. They and my grandparents alone have stood the test of what a true hero should be.

And I am proud to defend the honor of teachers everywhere in their memory.

And the fact that five Louisiana House members—who, by the way, are all up for reelection in 2018—voted for this tax “reform” bill that slaps my heroes in the face really pisses me off.

Did I mention those five are up for reelection next year? That’s 2018, less than a year from now.

A smart voter remembers who represents him.

Those not so smart should go fishing on election day.

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It’s now been 20 months since that 17-year-old girl was RAPED twice in a jail cell in the Union Parish Detention Center in April 2016 and there still has been no resolution to the ongoing investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Because the detention center is administered by a committee that includes the local district attorney, he properly recused himself and the case was turned over to the attorney general for investigation.

To refresh, the girl was brought to the detention center after being found high on meth. Demarcus Shavez Peyton, 28, of Homer, was being held in the center awaiting a scheduled sentencing for his conviction of aggravated rape.

Sometime on the night of April 19, he was released from his cell and he entered the girl’s cell and raped her twice.

So, what’s to investigate? The victim is known. The perpetrator is known. The date is known. The location, a tiny, restricted jail cell, is known. It just doesn’t make sense that the “investigation” is taking so long when Landry is so quick to jump on every decision or action of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

It seems from my perspective that Landry is spending more time and energy on watching every move of Edwards and preparing his own run for governor rather than concentrating on his own job duties.

For that reason, I started making monthly checks into the progress of the investigation. Here’s one response to my first inquiry from his press secretary:

From: Wisher, Ruth [mailto:WisherR@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2017 11:25 AM
To: ‘Tom Aswell’ <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Mr. Tom,

 This matter is under investigation, therefore I cannot comment on the specifics or answer questions at this time.  

That has been the consistent response to my monthly update request, including the latest:

From: AG Landry News
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 10:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: RE: FOLLOW UP: STATUS

Good morning,

This is an ongoing investigation therefore I cannot comment on any specifics.

And that’s not the only case of Landry’s foot-dragging on cases other than the low-hanging fruit he seizes upon for his regular press releases to display his tough on crime stance.

When an employee of the DeSoto Parish district attorney’s office cashed more 580 money orders at the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office—money orders that amounted to something on the order of $130,000—the district attorney recused himself from the investigation on the basis of his being the victim of the theft. Accordingly, he called upon the attorney general’s office to conduct the investigation.

That was in February 2014, during the administration of Landry’s predecessor, Buddy Caldwell, the singing attorney general. Caldwell’s record was no better than Landry’s but when Landry came into office, the case continued to languish with neither attorney general ever filing any documents with the court.

The employee worked in the district attorney’s worthless checks and diversion programs, responsible for overseeing the case files, accepting payments from defendants, and recording receipts of payments.

A federal grand jury finally indicted her, charging than when she would direct defendants to pay with money orders with the recipient’s and remitter’s names left blank. She would then accept money orders for payments. Instead of recording the payment, she would notate the cases nolle pros, or charges rejected and then enter her name as the payee and cash the money orders at the sheriff’s office.

But Caldwell apparently was too busy with his Elvis impersonations and Landry was too involved in grinding out his daily press releases to burnish his reputation as a modern-day Marshall Dillon to waste time on remote parishes like DeSoto and Union.

Let’s face it: A felon in DeSoto Parish and a teenage meth addict rape victim in Union Parish aren’t likely to generate much sympathy or many votes in his run for governor.

A man trying to establish a reputation as a straight-shootin’, straight-talkin’ tough-on-crime politician still has to be pragmatic, after all.

Though the conversation depicted in this cartoon likely didn’t go down exactly this way, it is, nonetheless, typical of the mindset of not only Republicans, but Democrats as well. The merits of a given piece of legislation are immaterial; if it’s being proposed by the opposition party, we’re against it.

This is how we arrived at a situation on the national level where an old pedophile who sent a graduation card to a high school girl he now claims he never knew, who signed the high school yearbook of a girl he now claims he never knew, who was banned from a Gadsden, Alabama, shopping mall because he trolled the parking lot for high school girls, who invokes God and the American Way in the face of women who claim he assaulted them as children, is somehow preferable to a Democrat for the U.S. Senate for one reason and one reason only: he’s a Republican.

When former U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn was first elected to Congress back in 1912 and he boarded the train for Washington, his father had one very simple piece of advice for him: “Sam,” he said, “be a man.” Regrettably, we’ve lost sight of that.

Today, we have arrived at the point of electing our own spineless U.S. Senators and Representatives who, unable or unwilling to think for themselves or to consider the best interests of the working people of Louisiana, blindly follow the dictates of a pompous psychopath—even to the point of rushing through a tax bill laughingly called “reform” that will have an adverse effect on virtually every working citizen of Louisiana while giving enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

This cartoon perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the Republican Party, having failed over and over to repeal Obamacare, now finds itself so desperate to pass some—any—form of legislation before the 2018 elections, is perfectly willing to take this entire country over an economic cliff by passing a disastrous bill containing lobbyists notes in the margins of the final bill.

Remember how the Republicans howled that Obamacare was passed without any real discussion of the contents of the bill? Well, guess what, folks? This tax “reform” bill received even less scrutiny. It is the equivalent of a national enema—without the benefit of K-Y Jelly.

Remember how Republicans screamed about the national deficit? Where the hell are those hypocrites now? Can you hear the crickets chirping?

Democracy? No, this is insanity.

It’s a common practice in investigative reporting to have confidential sources. I do myself because in many of those cases, the information comes from a person who cannot afford to have his identity revealed for fear of reprisals. Often a person must conceal his identity because to do otherwise could mean the loss of his job at worst, impossible working conditions at best.

Perhaps that is why New Orleans TV station WWL scrambled for damage control when LouisianaVoice revealed the source of the leaked Louisiana State Police (LSP) audit that was so critical of the management missteps of former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

Obviously, WWL and its news partner, the Baton Rouge Advocate, were trying to protect the identity of the one who leaked the audit (or indeed, may not of even known the source—I’ve received anonymous tips before; the story of the attempt to bump up Edmonson’s retirement by about $100,000 is an example) but WWL got a little sloppy when, in the course of airing its story, showed a copy of the audit’s cover letter to Edmonson.

They either didn’t know or forgot that cover letter went out to only one person—Edmonson. Only two copies of the audit were printed and the other, sans cover letter, went to LSP.

So, by showing that letter in its video coverage of the audit report, WWL blew Edmonson’s cover even as Edmonson was, in my late grandfather’s vernacular, squealing like a stuck pig over the “premature release” which he said adversely affected his response to the audit—just the way he planned it.

By crying foul, he could claim his defense, in case of subsequent criminal charges, has been tainted. After all, a Baton Rouge judge recently ruled that while Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera is protected as a public official from legal liability for the contents of an audit of the Louisiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs, he is not necessarily protected by a news release issued by the auditor’s office concerning the contents of that audit. The judge, in his ruling, has allowed a lawsuit by the former secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to go forward on that basis.

Edmonson then, or most likely his legal counsel, saw an opening. A premature release of the audit before Edmonson had a chance to respond could conceivably prejudice the case against Edmonson. Accordingly, Edmonson (or more likely someone acting anonymously on his behalf) slipped a copy of the audit to The Advocate/WWL.

It might have worked had it not bee for the posting of that cover letter on WWL. That let the cat out of the bag and exposed Edmonson as the leak.

WWL, in an effort to save face, quickly removed the video from its web page after LouisianaVoice blew the whistle. Now there’s just a story but no video.

But as a LSP officials said on Monday, “There are a ton of screen shots of the letter floating around out there, so it’s not gone.”

Two quotes come immediately to mind.

From Andy Taylor, talking to Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show:

“There’s mischief afoot.”

From the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

 

It was a possibility almost too bizarre an idea to entertain.

It was just too weird to even consider.

The evidence was right there, however, for all to see and the conclusion was inescapable.

Mike Edmonson, erstwhile Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and once the most powerful law enforcement official in the state, had outed himself.

It’s not as if he had not been disgraced enough already. From the ill-fated but almost successful attempt to pad his own retirement in defiance of existing state regulations to that astonishingly ill-fated San Diego misadventure—with at least a dozen ugly stories of mismanagement, questionable promotions, and assorted rumors squeezed in between—would bring an ordinary man to disgrace.

But to leak a state audit that turned a glaring light on his propensity to use his position for personal financial gain and which may have left him exposed to major IRS penalties and even prosecution is the latest in a long line of of incredibly poor decisions that leaves observers a little incredulous.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Mike Edmonson—or someone acting on his behalf—leaked a copy of that devastating audit to the Baton Rouge Advocate and/or New Orleans television station WWL, which identifies itself as a news partner of the Advocate.

Do the math. There were only two copies of the audit. One went to LSP. The other was sent to Edmonson. The one provided Edmonson included a cover letter addressed to him. The one received by LSP did not contain that cover letter. That pretty much narrows the origin of the leak to a single source—Edmonson himself.

And when you watch the WWL report, 40 seconds into the VIDEO there is a shot of that cover letter dated Nov. 28 and addressed to “Dear Colonel Edmonson.”

Oops.

Pause the video at that spot and you can see for yourself that the first two paragraphs of that letter read:

“Enclosed please find a draft of our investigative audit report regarding the Department of Public Safety and Corrections – Public Safety Services – Office of State Police. Draft reports are not public documents and should be maintained in a confidential manner until the final report is officially released by the Legislative Auditor (Emphasis ours).

“At this time, we are asking you to provide any information you may have which may affect the findings contained in the draft report. Any information deemed material will be included in the final report. If you choose to respond, please respond no later than noon on December 12, 2017. Your written response will be included as part of the final report.”

Edmonson, as has been typical of him all along, again reacted as the aggrieved victim. He texted Advocate reporter Jim Mustian in advance of Friday’s publication of the audit’s findings to complain that if he (Mustian) published the audit’s contents prior to the release of the final report “you will be negating my legal right to review. The process is for me to respond back to them first, not the media. Whoever furnished you with the report did so without the approval of the auditor’s office,” he said.

It is important to parse his words here. When he said whoever furnished the report did so “without the approval of the auditor’s office,” notice he did not say it was without his approval. But the most important passage was “you will be negating my legal right to review.” (Emphasis ours)

That’s key. By first leaking the document and then, after Mustian contacted him for a comment before publication, following up with that email, Edmonson could have been setting the stage for his legal strategy. He will no doubt lawyer up if he has not done so already. And you can expect his legal counsel to claim that he was:

  • ratted out by disgruntled former subordinates;
  • treated unfairly by reporters and bloggers;
  • tried in the court of public opinion before he ever had a chance to defend himself from the ravenous wolves.

He will likely claim the premature release of the audit has placed him at an unfair disadvantage from which it will all but impossible for him recover.

And you can bet he did not leak the audit directly, but through a third party. Or if he did leak it directly, it was via a fictitious email account that could not be traced back to him. One person who knows Edmonson said he suspects it was by an email account set up under an alias. “Or it may have been done by an attorney,” though, he said he would first start “with Mike.”

The same person said he did not think Edmonson was smart enough to attempt a preemptive strike to gain a legal edge by claiming his defense was tainted by the premature release.

He said he audit report, while likely reflecting most adversely on Edmonson, probably includes other findings against the entire department which may have led Edmonson to believe the focus would be on the broader agency issues. “If that’s the reason, it was a huge miscalculation,” he said. “In fact, whatever his motive, it was a huge error. The audit is damning in its detail.

“And when I was watching WWL, I saw the closeup with his name on the cover letter. There was the smoking gun.”