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Archive for November, 2016

What do you do when you just keep getting into trouble whenever you get behind the wheel of an automobile?

How is that when you rack up multiple DWIs (at least three), tickets for speeding, illegal passing, driving under suspension, possession of narcotics, reckless driving, passing a stopped school bus unloading kids, no insurance, no seat belt, following too close—and then fail to even appear in court and you are sentenced to not a day in jail because friendly district attorneys quietly make the charges go away?

How is it that you even manage to have a cooperative district attorney submit court records showing you have completed a pre-trial intervention (PTI) program in record time—a program intended solely for first-offenders—so you avoid jail time?

How is it that even the charge of no insurance goes away with the “presentation of proof of insurance” showing that coverage started, conveniently, the day before the ticket was issued—and even though the insurance is in someone else’s name, it’s accepted with no questions asked by the court?

And most puzzling of all, how is it that your court date for your latest DWI was changed from Wednesday, the usual day for the court to hear DWIs when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) normally monitors the court proceedings, to Monday, December 5—with no notification given to MADD?

Could it be because your grandfather (Marvin Henderson, in whose name the supposed “proof of insurance” was issued) has, over the years, greased the palms of Louisiana politicians, including a former “reform” governor, a state treasurer, a parish president and a state senator currently running for mayor-president of Baton Rouge to the tune of more than $50,000 over the years?

Perhaps it’s just that Cody Bowlin of Livingston is just lucky to have found the district attorneys and judges in St. Landry and Livingston parishes in exceptionally good moods.

More likely, however, it’s Paw-paw.

LouisianaVoice has long held to the position that too many politicians with no souls, no moral compasses and with (they seem to believe) no responsibility to adhere to any code of conduct or ethical values facilitate bad behavior by the politically connected.

Cody Bowlin, 26, a self-employed auctioneer, appears to be connected via his grandfather, Marvin Henderson of Livingston, founder of Henderson Brothers Auctioneers who has contributed more than $50,000 to various political candidates since 2003.

Henderson has experienced legal problems of his own which will be discussed in more detail in a subsequent post. But for now, let’s look at Cody Bowlin.

His citations, in chronological order, include:

  • March 18, 2008—Possession of marijuana;
  • Nov. 21, 2008—Speeding, limitations on passing on the left;
  • Sept. 24, 2009—Following too closely, driving under suspension (amended to improper parking);
  • May 3, 2011—Shoplifting;
  • Dec. 13, 2011—No seat belt;
  • May 31, 2012—Speeding;
  • Nov, 27, 2012—Careless operation, driving left of center, operating a vehicle while intoxicated with controlled dangerous substance;
  • June 2, 2015—Improper overtaking and passing a stopped school bus;
  • Oct. 27, 2015—Possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana or synthetic contraband;
  • Nov. 17, 2015—Careless operation of a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated—controlled substance, second offense; operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, second offense;
  • June 11, 2016—Possession of marijuana, possession of a schedule 3 drug, improper passing, no insurance (all charges dismissed after proof of insurance mailed in showing the insured to be not Bowlin, but his grandfather, Marvin Henderson—insurance coverage that was issued June 10, the day before Bowlin’s arrest and which did not list Bowlin as covered as a driver);
  • June 23, 2016—Speeding;
  • Sept. 21, 2016—Possession of drug paraphernalia.

In at least three cases, Bowlin failed to appear for arraignment and bench warrants were issued for him.

Some with less pull might find himself subject to Louisiana’s three strike law that imposes harsher penalties to multiple offenders.

Bowlin also picked up a DWI in Mississippi several years ago. In that case, he completed a 90-day pre-trial intervention (PTI) program for first offenders, court records from that state indicate.

He later completed another PTI and charges were dropped. PTI programs are intended only for first offenders.

But it is his arrest in St. Landry back in June and the November 17, 2015, DWI arrest that raise eyebrows.

In the St. Landry case, papers submitted to the court by District Attorney Earl Taylor’s office certified that he had completed yet another PTI program in an astonishing nine days (PTIs normally require several weeks to complete, in some cases, months) and charges were dismissed. (Perhaps he was enrolled in the accelerated class, given his experience in the program.)

But it is that Nov. 17, 2015, that warrants special attention.

That’s because in Livingston Parish, where this arrest occurred, DWI cases are always held on Wednesdays. Always, except for Bowlin’s case, that is.

You see, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) monitors DWI cases and always shows up to track DWI trials.

But Bowlin was flying under MADD’s radar.

That’s because the case has been scheduled for next Monday, December 5, LouisianaVoice has learned, and MADD is mad.

There was no explanation of why Bowlin’s case was moved from Wednesday to Monday.

Perrilloux has already dropped charges against Bowlin in two other cases, the ones on June 2, 2015, and October 27, 2015. He probably planned to do the same next Monday but with MADD sitting in the courtroom, perhaps he should reconsider.

But now that MADD has been alerted, they will be there, the best (or worst) intentions of District Attorney Scott Perrilloux notwithstanding.

 

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Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based national policy resource center, has released an extensive study entitled Megadeals: The Largest Economic Development Subsidy Packages Ever Awarded by State and Local Governments in the United States.

Louisiana, with giveaways totaling $3,169,600,328, ranked sixth behind New York, Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington in the total dollar amount of so-called megadeals, the report shows, $65 million more than much-larger Texas, which had $3,104,800,000.

Louisiana, with 11, tied with Tennessee for fifth place in the number of such budget-busting deals behind Michigan’s 29, New York’s 23 and 12 each for Texas and Ohio.

The report, authored by Philip Mattera and Kasia Tarczynska, is somewhat dated in that it was published in 2013 but it still offers some valuable insights into how states, Louisiana in particular, was more than willing to give subsidies worth millions upon millions of dollars to corporations in the name of new jobs that rarely, if ever, materialized.

The subsidies included in the report, it should be noted, do not include tax incentives, which is another type of inducement. Accordingly, Wal-Mart, which has received more than $1.2 billion in total taxpayer assistance, is not included because its deals were worth less than $75 million each. Good Jobs First has documented giveaways to Wal-Mart in a separate report.

The single biggest example of corporate socialism contained in the report is the 30-year discounted-electricity deal worth an estimated $5.6 billion given by the New York Power Authority to Alcoa. In all, 16 of the Fortune 50 corporations (excluding Wal-Mart) were included as recipients of the report’s megadeals.

The biggest single deal for Louisiana—and the fifth-biggest overall—was the $1.69 billion subsidy in 2010 for Cheniere Energy in the form of property tax abatements and other subsidies for the Sabine Pass natural gas liquefaction plant. That project, the report said, created 225 new jobs—a cost to the state of more than $7,500 per job, the largest single cost-per-job project contained in the report.

Shintech, received a 2012 deal worth $187.2 million in subsidies to the company. That project was said to have created 50 new Louisiana jobs at a cost of $3,744 per job.

One of the biggest recipients of governmental largesse since the year 2000 has been General Motors with more than $529 in subsidies nationwide. Yet, it was General Motors who pulled up stakes pulled up stakes in 2012, leaving upwards of 3,000 former employees without jobs.

The megadeals cited by Good Jobs First in its report were dwarfed, however, by the seemingly insane subsidies given to banks and investment firms since 2000.

Of the top 21 recipients of bailouts by the federal government, the smallest was that of a company most probably never heard of: Norinchukin Bank, a Japanese cooperative bank serving more than 5,600 agricultural, fishing and forestry cooperatives from its headquarters in Tokyo—and it received $105 billion (with a “B”).

That’s nothing when compared with the heavy hitters. In all, 12 foreign corporations received loans, loan guarantees or bailout assistance from a generous federal U.S. government, led by the $942.7 billion received by the United Kingdom’s Barclays.

But Barclays ranked only fifth in terms of subsidies received in the form of federal bailouts:

Consider, if you will, the top four:

  • Bank of America $3.5 trillion;
  • Citigroup $2.6 trillion;
  • Morgan Stanley $2.1 trillion;
  • JPMorgan Chase $1.3 trillion.

All of this, of course, was the direct result of deregulation pushed by a congress whose members were supported by generous campaign contributions from CEOs, officers and stockholders of those very firms.

And yet we have elected officials—and citizens—who dare to rail against so-called welfare cheats, the costs of illegal immigrants, and the costs of health care for the poor.

These are the same people who wring their hands at the cost of social programs yet justify the expenditure of billions of dollars per day in military contracts to campaign contributors to support wars with no apparent objective (other than political payback) and with no end in sight.

These are the same ones who look us in the eye and tell us they support free market capitalism.

But pure capitalism doesn’t give away the public bank in order to entice some company that was probably coming to your state anyway. After all, if Louisiana truly has all these rich oil and gas deposits (and it does), does anyone really believe the oil and gas companies are going to locate their refining plants and pipelines in Idaho in order to mine for Louisiana’s resources?

You can check that box “no.”

What is the logic behind subsidies to lure an industry just so it can exploit cheap labor? Wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in public education and higher education so that our citizens might be capable of demanding higher wages for their knowledge and skills? Why would we opt to perpetuate the cycle of poverty by sacrificing taxpayer dollars to the advantage of some faceless corporation who cares not one whit for our citizens?

Free market capitalism doesn’t reward corporations with these kinds of subsidies while the recipients are simultaneously sending job oversees, depriving Americans of job opportunities.

Pure capitalism would dictate that each and every business in America succeed or fail on its own merit, without having to depend on governmental handouts.

Anything else has to be considered as something akin to (gasp) ….socialism.

But insisting on capitalism for the poor and socialism for corporations and the wealthy is a formula for disaster if ever such formula existed. The two philosophies are simply not compatible

And you will never get that lesson from the disciples of Ayn Rand.

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(Editor’s note: This is another guest column by Ruston resident John Sachs, a Ruston High School classmate, a CPA and a personal friend.)

Socialism:  Good or Bad?

By John Sachs

Is socialism good or bad? Let me give you something to think about. My answer to that question is this: it depends on who benefits from it.

There are those folks who say that socialism in any form is always bad because it is communism in its infancy.

Next, they say that almost all government programs should be privatized and administered by and for the benefit of a capitalistic, free enterprise system rather than for the general population.

Next, they say that any government regulation of free markets serves only to advance communism and that it restricts the effectiveness of any benefits to be derived from unfettered capitalism. Now hold on to that thought as I’m coming back to it.

Do you think that these folks really mean that all socialism is bad and even evil? Do you think that they really want government totally out of the free market system? The answer is a resounding NO! Then when do these same pure free enterprise advocates find themselves solidly in favor of socialism? When do they cry out FOR rather than against “socialist” programs?

We only have to look back to 2008 and the $700-billion-dollar bailout of Wall Street to see a perfect example of free enterprise advocates praising socialism. When we 300 million middle-class American citizens bailed out the greedy, incompetent, scions of Wall Street, none of them complained of socialism. Certainly not! When the masses of taxpayers were rescuing the financial industry from crushing losses created by the free enterprise system, that was just fine and dandy. Socialism, for that purpose worked perfectly—for the super wealthy.

Skip forward only one year to 2009 when Wall Street had been restored to comparatively good health by the massive infusion of government capital. What did Wall Street say and do then? They said for the government to get out of their way and let them manage their industry as they saw fit. In addition, (are you ready for this?) they paid themselves billions in bonuses with the taxpayer rescue funds as though they had done something to deserve it. That defies not only logic, but also defies understanding how the American public—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike—could stand aside and allow this to happen.

How could 99 percent of American taxpayers accept this? How could our elected representatives be allowed to do this to us so they can get personal re-election donations from the super wealthy? Why haven’t we risen up en mass, recalled or impeached or better yet, imprisoned (in one of their own privatized hellhole prisons) each and every official responsible for allowing this to happen?

It just defies logic and understanding. Yet the unthinking American public buys into the lies we are fed as to why we should absorb capitalism’s losses and applaud those officials who caused it. To socialize Wall Street’s losses but privatize their gains just won’t cut it with me. Does it with you?

If Wall Street is too far away for you to relate to, look at Farmerville. $50 million rightfully belonging to Louisiana taxpayers went to bail out the private enterprise poultry plant there. And another $11 million in federal aid bailed out the chicken production folks. If this isn’t socialism, what is it?

The next time you hear or mistakenly think that socialism or socialistic programs or government-run programs are bad, remember the examples mentioned above. Your view of socialism as to whether it’s good or evil really depends on who benefits. That sword cuts both ways. Both the goose and the gander must be allowed or denied its benefits equally.

Do you think this topic is important? If not, then you had better ask yourself why the people of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, etc. are demanding back what is rightfully theirs but was stolen by their respective dictators and their top1 percent super-wealthy supporters. If by the use of purchased political favoritism and deceit, the super-wealthy top 1 percent of Americans continue to gain ownership of the assets rightfully belonging to the other 99 percent of us, then we in America are heading down the path that Egypt took.

In case you are wondering how close you are from being included in the top 1 percent super-wealthy in our country, understand If you don’t earn an average $2,700 per hour or $5.4 million per year, you aren’t there yet. Thus, when the federal government or a state governor and legislature sell national or state assets or privatize almost all public services, you are being robbed while at the same time you are paying for the “privilege.”

Join in demanding a stop to the privatizing of those assets that belong to you and the others of us in the 99 percent category.

Hurry! Congress is now in session and the Louisiana legislature convenes April 25.

So, are you against socialism? Is it inherently evil? Funny thing isn’t it that the answer is not a resounding YES. Your answer must depend upon whether or not YOU benefit. If your government gives you special benefits denied to the rest of us, then stop calling the government programs that help the rest of us “socialistic” or you are a hypocrite. The only solution is for you to refuse to accept any assistance of any kind from your local, state and federal governments. In my book, you’ll be an okay kind of guy. But a hypocrite? Not acceptable. Not at all.

 

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Editor’s note: Amid the Nazi salutes and cheers and hopes for better days or the wailing and gnashing of teeth and fears of worst-case scenarios in the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning victory (depending on one’s political sentiments), one unidentified individual’s observations on the mood encountered before and after the campaign stand alone as best capturing the angst being felt by those finding themselves surrounded by rabid Trump supporters. You can almost feel the frustration of the writer being placed in a potentially hostile environment.

The writer, who identified himself/herself only as “Confused” for very obvious reasons, wrote this as reader’s comment but we felt it was such a well-articulated, poignant message that it deserved to be published as a guest column.

With only minor edits, here is his/her story:

I have always been very private at work and avoided conversations there about politics, religion, science, evolution and diversity. It was just a general awareness of my not fitting in and seeing others getting ganged up on if they disagreed with others, which rarely happened.

Prior to getting hired (I’m from out west), I never thought I would ever experience living somewhere where I felt afraid for my job because I did not agree with the homophobic viewpoints, the entrenched racism, the anti-union sentiment and the fear of anyone of color.

I have stood up to this many times for our clients because I had no idea free speech is only allowed if I agree with them.

During the campaign, I was asked over and over about who I was voting for. I was told lies about both candidates, told racist and sexist jokes and heard people proudly boast of being white. I found ways to walk away or change the subject.

As many have noted in their comments on LouisianaVoice, arguing is futile.

Now I am terrified. I need my job. I can’t afford to move, but thinking of four years of living like this makes me ill. And knowing there is no guarantee it will end in four years only intensifies my anxiety!

I am white, but as terrified as I feel, I can’t even begin to understand how helpless this whole election has felt to those who Trump has attacked verbally and emotionally and now has the power to attack them physically and destroy their lives.

 

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Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant minister who became an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler. As a reward, he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

He is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

In related incident, a fellow church member approached me Sunday just before services started in an obvious good frame of mind. Turns out he was still celebrating the election of Donald Trump. “We have us a president!” he practically shouted.

When I told him the time would come when he would regret ever hearing the name Trump, he replied that he was better than the alternative. “Hillary’s not even a Christian,” he said.

“And Trump is?” I replied.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s better than Hillary.”

But…but…but he had just implied that it did matter.

While I am far from calling myself a fan of Hillary Clinton, I was, and remain, terrified of Trump and left my fellow Methodist with the warning that he might be singing a little different tune when Trump starts trying to do away with Social Security and Medicare.

And yes, I do believe he will try that, along with the EPA and OSHA as well as several other regulatory agencies charged with protecting the welfare of American consumers and workers.

Consider this:

  • If you like Trump, you’d love children toiling away 12 hours per day in sweat shops.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love purchasing diseased meat ripped off the carcasses of sick and injured cattle in the Chicago stockyards.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of 60-hour weeks with no health or retirement benefits and no vacation.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of thugs with guns and clubs attacking union organizers who were attempting to get better pay and decent working conditions.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of unmonitored toxic dumping in our creeks and rivers by oil and chemical plants.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of no minimum wage.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the old Jim Crow laws.

Extreme? Far-fetched? Unrealistic? Scare tactics?

Not so much.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-holocaust-museum-alarmed-over-hateful-speech-white-053806789–finance.html

And here’s what David Duke said about Trump’s election.

He’s already making sweeping plans to fire federal employees and to weaken or destroy federal employee unions.

Of course, that was the liberal Washington Post saying that about firing federal employees, so why should you listen to them? Well, it was the conservative Washington Times that chronicled David Duke’s laudatory remarks about our president-elect.

If you and State Treasurer John Kennedy want to align yourselves with Donald Trump and David Duke, go right ahead. I think I’ll pass.

One of the most disappointing developments I’ve witnessed on the state political scene (other than the eight years of Bobby Jindal’s disaster (which goes unchallenged as the high water mark for disappointments), it’s John Kennedy’s current TV ad in which he says he has been “with Donald Trump since the beginning.” Funny he never said that before Trump got the nomination.

(Full disclosure: I have considered Kennedy a friend and he even made a monetary donation to this blog’s fundraiser last year. What I am about to say will probably place a serious strain on that friendship.)

Kennedy, of course, is the former Democrat who supported John Kerry until he held his finger up and detected a strong Republican breeze a-blowin’ and switched parties. Just like that: did a complete 180 on his entire political philosophy. And if you look at the polls, it’s obvious no one was taking notes.

John Kennedy is such a chameleon that if you threw him into a box of crayons, he’d explode from overload. He’d look like he was in an explosion in a paint factory.

Kennedy is the same one who while serving as Secretary of the Department of Revenue, ran for State Treasurer with a TV ad boasting that while revenue secretary he “reduced small business paperwork by 150 percent.”

Think about that for a moment. If you reduce anything by 100 percent, there’s nothing left. So how the hell did he reduce paperwork by another 50 percent? And this is the guy who handles the state’s finances and proclaims we don’t have a revenue problem yada, yada, yada. Unfortunately, he has quickly become a one-trick pony.

And now he’s running on the coattails of a man who most probably doesn’t have the faintest clue who Kennedy is. But then Trump each day validates the rock-solid theory that he knows nothing about political leadership or anything of any real substance other than how to tweet his displeasure at any and everything.

He wants to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. I’m hearing that Canada wants to build a wall along its southern border and they’ll gladly pay for it.

I have a Jewish friend both of whose parents survived Hitler’s Holocaust that people like Trump love to say never happened. My friend is angry and scared—and with good reason.

Trump is loading up his cabinet with some very disturbing appointments. These are men who make Spiro Agnew look like a great civil libertarian.

He is a petty man with petty grievances. He has an ego as big as all outdoors and now he has the reins of power. He would shut down (or at least boycott) the smash Broadway play Hamilton because of a benign statement read to Trump’s vice president by cast members at the close of a performance last week.

He somehow finds the time to watch—and criticize with even more tweets—Saturday Night Live for its parody of him. Every president since Nixon has been victimized by the show and yet he is the only one to lash out.

It’s called Freedom of Speech and it remains, for the time being at least, protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a document he obviously has little passing familiarity with.

But all things are subject to change. It happened in Germany and it happened in Cuba. Don’t think for a moment it can’t happen here.

If you don’t believe there’s much of a chance of his implementing the programs he’s advocating (and some he hasn’t yet revealed), consider this:

He is coming into office with an agenda and a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Supreme Court.

It’s the perfect political storm, folks.

 

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