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Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson just cannot help himself. He can’t.

While he stood in front of the TV cameras and said he is ultimately accountable for the state of chaos his office finds itself in, he still refuses to accept responsibility for specific actions.

Back in 2014, when LouisianaVoice first became aware of Edmonson’s ability for deception through the latest revelations about his usurping an award from one of the most respected State Troopers in Louisiana, he has repeatedly attempted to shift blame onto others.

And while I am by no means qualified as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Vaknin, in his book Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, classifies this behavior as a form of narcissism. More about that later but first, let’s examine the brief history of our coverage of Edmonson and Louisiana State Police (LSP).

  • In the closing minutes of the 2014 legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), an announced candidate for State Treasurer, slipped an amendment onto an otherwise benign, obscure bill that would have increased Edmonson’s retirement by some $55,000 per year. Riser (did we mention he’s a candidate for State Treasurer) assured fellow legislators that the bill had no economic impact and the bill with the attached amendment sailed through with even then State Rep. John Bel Edwards voting in favor.

LouisianaVoice received an anonymous tip about the ruse and broke the story and the backlash was immediate. Edmonson, as his emerging behavioral traits would reveal over time, disavowed any knowledge of the effort by then Capt. Jason Starnes, though it’s absurd to think Starnes would ever attempt such a move without the blessings of his boss. Edmonson, in fact, later admitted that he was aware of the amendment and did, in fact, give the go-ahead to Starnes.

Starnes, meanwhile, has seen his career skyrocket. His salary has gone from $59,800 as a lieutenant to his current salary of $150,750, an increase of 152 percent. Most recently, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given a $25,000 raise—after Edmonson assured the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in August that the creation of the post of supervisor of management and finance would not incur any additional costs.

  • When LouisianaVoice learned that the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) had laundered campaign contributions to various politicians through the personal bank account of the LSTA executive director, Edmonson again denied any involvement. But how many really believe the LSTA would act of its own accord in approving campaign contributions?
  • Edmonson also denied that he asked the LSTA to write a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards in December 2015 endorsing Edmonson for reappointment to lead state police for another four years. LSTA ultimately ditched the idea, but how did it come up in the first place? Edmonson desperately wanted to hold onto the job and sources say his denial notwithstanding, he requested the LSTA to write such a letter.
  • Now he’s claiming he had no knowledge of the side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon taken by four troopers as they drove Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy’s state vehicle to San Diego for the convenience of Edmonson.

Yet, there was his signature on the expense report of Maj. Derrell Williams, head of Internal Affair, who was the senior officer of the four who drove the vehicle. So how could he have not known?

  • His explanation? It was a signature stamp affixed to the report by his secretary. Not his fault, in other words.

Seriously, Mike? You’ve already thrown the four who drove Dupuy’s Ford Expedition at your direction under the bus. Now you’re going to throw your secretary under the bus as well?

We’re beginning to detect a disturbing trend here.

At least you admitted that Michelle Hyatt, wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt, was a civilian passenger in the Expedition along with the four troopers in that cross-country jaunt. It’s going to be interesting to see how you manage to shift that responsibility onto your subordinates.

Now, back to Dr. Sam Vaknin and his book about narcissism. Among his descriptions of narcissistic behavior:

  • A “consummate manipulator of human emotions.”
  • Convincing, deviously successful.
  • Uses anything and anyone to secure his dose of “narcissistic supply” and discards, without hesitation those he deems “useless.”
  • They disguise their behavior in order to “humiliate, create dependence, intimidate, restrain, control and paralyze.”
  • They employ “very simple” deceptive mechanisms to achieve their goals.
  • He usually is unaware of why he is doing what he is doing and is generally unable to predict the outcomes of his actions and is “powerless” to modify his behavior.
  • He is unable to determine why he does what he does or why he chooses one mode of action over other available under the same circumstances.

GEORGE SIMON, Ph.D., puts another way:

  • When they blame others for their wrongful acts, it’s simply an attempt to justify their stance by casting themselves as being in a position where they simply had no choice but to respond the way they did. In this way, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate and manage the impressions of others. The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as a victim. It’s typically an effective tactic that gets others to pay attention to everyone or everything else except the disordered character and his wrongful behavior as the source of a problem.

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When Lloyd Grafton tendered his resignation from the Louisiana State Police Commission over the shoddy way the commission had forced Executive Director Cathy Derbonne out the month before, it prompted a heated exchange between Grafton and Jared Caruso-Riecke, one of the newer members of the commission which has undergone considerable change in makeup in the past 12 months.

The confrontation between the two also prompted a few choice comments from member Calvin Braxton Jr. of Natchitoches who expressed his displeasure at the direction the commission, the State Police equivalent of the Civil Service Commission, has been going over the past year.

The commission has become increasingly politicized as it has come under the influence of the State Police upper management and the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA). The appointments of Caruso-Riecke of Covington and Monica Manzella of New Orleans, along with the election of T.J. Doss, the State Police representative on the commission, as its president only served to accelerate that shift.

The hiring of outside legal counsel Taylor Townsend, a former state senator and a political supporter of Gov. John Bel Edwards, to conduct a perfunctory investigation of political activity by LSTA members has further distanced the commission from even any pretense of functioning as an independent body.

Manzella, appointed last October, is an assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans and has signed off on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) contracts between the City of New Orleans and State Police. Under LACE, state police are paid by the local district attorney to help beef up traffic enforcement. Some have characterized her work on the contracts and her appointment to the commission as a possible conflict of interest.

But with last week’s outburst over Grafton’s comments about his perceived lack of integrity on the commission, it is Caruso-Riecke who bears a closer look because of his association with a racing team that openly boasts of evading law enforcement in attempting to set new cross-country speed records at speeds of up to 140 mph on public highways.

Caruso-Riecke, of Covington, heads up Riecke Construction which has “designed, acquired, and built numerous commercial, residential, and industrial developments throughout the Gulf South for several generations,” reads an online biography of CARUSO-RIECKE. Though he is involved in several other business enterprises, the “several generations” hints that the company’s financial success may have pre-dated his involvement in its operation and that he now benefits from the labors of his predecessors.

(Of course, it’s possible that he took over a mediocre company and propelled it to outrageous success through hard work and shrewd business tactics. On the other hand, it would appear problematic for anyone to maintain a hectic playboy persona while occupied with building a company from the ground up.)

Regardless, Caruso-Riecke, who also stars in a TV reality show, pointed out in January that he takes no per diem or mileage for attending commission meetings. But with $70 million in the bank, why would he? He loves to perpetuate his image of a fast-living bon vivant as evidenced by several online YouTube videos.

In one, he is interviewed by a member of his “Team Riecke” about the modifications to a Mercedes used in cross-country rally competition. Features include two in-dash police scanners, each with more than 1,000 channels, plus a handheld scanner and several cellphones—all used to evade law enforcement on public highways.

At one point, as Riecke pontificates on the features of his rally car in the YouTube INTERVIEW, he reaches into the back seat and retrieves a cover for the police scanners, explaining as he does so (to the amusement of the interviewer) that some states “frown” on such scanner equipment. The cover, when put in place, conceals the scanners and makes the dash appear as a solid component.

One might think he is a modern-day Burt Reynolds reprising his Smoky and the Bandit role—except Burt ain’t nearly cool enough; Burt doesn’t perch a pair of sporty, expensive sunglasses on his forehead in the same cool manner that Caruso-Riecke does.

In the second YouTube POST (warning: graphic language), Riecke places a casual $50,000 bet that another team, obviously friends, can’t beat the record of 32 hours, 51 minutes for driving from New York to Los Angeles. As the bet is made and as team members prepare to depart, one member boasts that the team has 10 separate license plates to help evade law enforcement as he demonstrates a quick plate change for the camera. He explains that if they are spotted and they hear officers on the scanner giving out their plate numbers, they can pull over and switch plates.

The team succeeds in making the New York to L.A. run in 31 hours, 59 minutes, eclipsing the old record by 52 minutes. At one point, they reveal they have averaged about 140 mph over a single 500-mile stretch.

So, what it’s now come down to is that in vetting appointees to the Louisiana State Police Commission, Gov. Edwards has selected a man last June whose hobby is evading law enforcement as he races around the country on public highways at speeds far exceeding 100 mph, laughing about concealing police scanners and apparently condoning switching license plates to further avoid arrest.

Apparently, he thinks he is Peter Pan and will never have to grow up.

And when he’s not behind the wheel, he casually bets against someone’s ability to average 90 mph from New York to Los Angeles. That’s an average speed, folks, for 2800 miles, but at speeds up to 140 mph in some stretches. He so cool that he loses a $50,000 bet in the same blasé manner others would in giving a homeless man a buck or two at a busy intersection.

And now he’s one of the newest appointments to the commission charged with maintaining the integrity of the Louisiana State Police by making sure officers and management play by the rules.

What’s wrong with this picture?

For openers, it should cause one to wonder about integrity on so many levels—that same integrity that Grafton attempted to address but was shouted down by Caruso-Riecke.

Which begs the question of how Caruso-Riecke got appointed in the first place.

Well, when all else fails, follow the money.

For starters, here are just a few political contributions by Caruso-Riecke and his companies:

  • Bobby Jindal—$16,000;
  • John Kennedy—$1,000;
  • Walter Reed—$7,000;
  • Mike Strain—$9,500;
  • Daniel Edwards (Gov. John Bel Edwards’ brother and Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—$4,500;
  • John Bel Edwards—$5,500.

You’d think that someone with a net worth of $70 million could’ve been a little more generous with the one who would appoint him to his present position on the commission.

 

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One thing about Louisiana politics: the only constant is that the rumors are never ceasing.

Another is that even though the rumors may be baseless, sometimes the logic behind them can actually make sense.

Sort of.

That is, if anything in Louisiana politics makes sense.

And so it is that those close to Gov. John Bel Edwards have been called upon to deny rumors—and they have—that he is courting the Republican Party as he ponders the political practicality of a switcheroo, a-la Buddy Roemer, John Kennedy, John Alario, and former U.S. Reps. Billy Tauzin and Rodney Alexander.

Still, according to a high-ranking State Republican Party official, Edwards’s intermediaries have been talking with State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere about that very possibility. Efforts by LouisianaVoice to reach Villere for a comment have been unsuccessful.

Gov. Edwards’s office categorically denies the report, hinting if anything, it was the Republican Party that asked him to the dance.

Either way, it’s now got both sides flinging rocks at each other with the next governor’s election nearly three years away yet.

As with any decision of such magnitude, fraught with perils as it would certainly be (it worked for Kennedy and Alexander but not so much for Roemer), there are plenty of pros and cons.

First the pros:

Remember those old (and I do mean old) Tareyton cigarette ads in which some happy smoker sporting a black eye proclaims that he/she would rather fight than switch?

Image result for i'd rather fight than switch

Well, in Edwards’s case, it could be that he’d rather switch than fight.

The worst-kept secret (if, indeed it is still a secret to anyone) in the state is that Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry is in a four-year campaign mode for the governorship. And Landry takes verbal (and legal) swipes at Edwards at every opportunity in his blatant self-promotion.

With $3 million already in his campaign coffers, what better way to cut the attorney general off at the knees than to take away Landry’s fund-raising capabilities while adding to his own? As one political observer put it, “If Edwards switches to Republican, $3 million might be enough. Landry won’t be able to buy a Chik-fil-A sandwich. Edwards would be the beneficiary of that scenario because the Republican money would allow him to raise even more cash.”

There’s also this: as a Republican governor, he would be able to do what he could not as a Democrat: name his choice for Speaker of the House.

Another, a former state official, said, “The Democratic Party in Louisiana is gravely disappointing and I have to wonder the extent to which what is happening here is replicated in other states and at the national level, i. e., if Democrats in power have essentially given up on their own party.

“As you know, (State Rep.) Karen Carter Peterson and former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu tried to talk JBE out of even running (they wanted to support Dardenne) and it took him forever to get support from the national party in D.C.

“When is the last time our state party has come up with a viable candidate for anything? Was Hillary Clinton really the best the party could come up with as a POTUS candidate? Really? JBE got elected because the stars were aligned against Vitter—and look how long it took Republicans to essentially give up on Vitter. I had/have some hope for JBE. If he jumps ship, I guess the only place to go is independent which, to me, is like ceding all power to the Republicans and their führer.”

Another possible benefit to crossing over is Donald Trump. As vindictive, petulant, petty, vile and vicious as he is crazy, Trump would never hesitate to hit Louisiana where it hurts if it had a governor who insisted on partisan politics: the state treasury.

Louisiana already is the second most-reliant on federal funds of the 50 states. We are behind only Mississippi (but barely) in slopping at the federal trough. To see a cut in the influx of federal dollars for a variety of programs would only add to the already draconian budgetary woes facing the state.

On the con side, there is the obvious potential political fallout.

Politicians who change parties sometimes have a tough time of it, said a state employee who tends to keep his finger on the political pulse. “They are despised in the party they leave, and they are not trusted in the party they join. Buddy Roemer and John Connolly of Texas come to mind. However, Richard Shelby of Alabama changed from the Democratic Party to the GOP back in the mid-1990s, and he is still in the United States Senate.”

Finally, a Baton Rouge attorney said Edwards has been a difficult governor to figure out. “He is a real enigma and very disappointing, thus far, to me as a moderate conservative who voted for him. I cannot imagine how the progressives and the left feel at this point.

“I have been unable to figure out what his goals are,” the attorney, a former state employee, said. “He is obviously very indebted to many groups, such as the Sheriffs’ Association. That, it clearly appears to me, keeps him from doing many things that would make him more successful.”

As we said, one source wired into the Edwards camp says it just ain’t so but we’ve all heard promises and denials before from our elected officials that in the end, turned out to be just so much hot air. He already is pro-life and pro-gun so half the battle’s won if he decides to go over.

So, the question is this: is this a non-story story on a slow news day or something major in the offing? The rumors and the denials are equally strong at this juncture so we’ll wait and see.

Edwards spokesperson Richard Carbo, reached by LouisianaVoice, expressed shock at the report. “Let me check this out and I’ll get right back to you. Give me five minutes.”

Two hours later he replied by text message: “I can confirm that neither the governor nor his ‘intermediaries’ have been in contact with the state GOP about changing parties.”

Carbo quickly followed with a second text that accused the Louisiana Republican Party of planting the rumor: “First the state GOP floats this idea, then backtrack(s) when the governor shows no interest. The governor did not have a single conversation regarding political parties. He’s too busy cleaning up their (Republicans’) budget mess. Roger Villere should stick to negotiating illegal Iraqi oil deals. He’s better at that than party leadership.

“Unless there’s a source named, the onus is on them,” he said.

His reference to Villere’s “negotiating illegal Iraqi oil deals” was in reference an April 12, 2016, LouisianaVoice STORY about Villere’s and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s comedy of errors in being taken in by a con man promoting an oil deal with Iraq.

All of which just serves to support our advice: Never listen to what politicians say. In this case, observe instead, the governor’s action on the issues: taxes, education, higher education, etc. to get a true sense of which direction the political winds are blowing.

But above all else, remember that it’s the sincerity of the B.S. factor that trumps everything else (and no, that’s not a reference to anyone).

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Mike Edmonson got his way but Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Executive Director Cathy Derbonne did not give him the satisfaction of having his puppet commission fire her.

She quit. But she said she did so under duress.

The commission plowed through the first three items on the agenda before Chairman T.J. Doss, the state police representative on the board, abruptly announced there would be a 30-minute recess in proceedings.

There was probably a good reason for the recess. During almost the entirety of testimony of retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet, who is one of the commission’s harshest critics, Doss was busy texting someone (we suspect it may have been Edmonson)

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He continued texting during part of the recess but different commissioners kept caucusing in corners, offices and around the coffee pot but were careful to keep their meetings down to three members or fewer. If four had met anywhere in the room, there would have been a quorum and LouisianaVoice would have politely asked to sit in. Instead, whenever a fourth entered the discussion, someone else would leave.

Just to be on the safe side, LouisianaVoice submitted a formal, written public records request for the content of all of Doss’s texts sent and received during Thursday’s meeting. On the outside chance he was texting commission attorney Lenore Feeney, we are prepared to demand proof of that by having LSPC provide us with the “To” and “From” portions of the texts with the actual messages redacted. All other messages are to be provided intact.

Millet did get Doss’s undivided attention at one point when he alluded to a report that Doss had addressed a meeting of the Louisiana State Troopers Association at which he was quoted as saying his goal was to be elected chairman of the commission and to “get rid of the executive director.” Doss, of course, denied saying that.

Upon re-convening, contract attorney Taylor Townsend read Derbonne’s resignation letter and the commission then voted on whether or not to accept the resignation (I always thought when one quit, it was his or her decision). Member Calvin Braxton and Jared J Caruso-Riecke voted no on accepting her resignation letter.

Voting to accept were members Doss, Monica Manzella, Eulis Simien, Jr., and Donald Breaux.

Caruso-Riecke, it should be noted, contributed $3,500 to John Bel Edwards and $2,000 to his brother, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards. Daniel Edwards is a member of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association which endorsed John Bel Edwards for governor and once elected, John Bel Edwards re-appointed Edmonson as State Police Superintendent as a condition of the sheriffs’ association’s endorsement, proving that life—political life, at least—is indeed a circle.

LouisianaVoice attempted to ask Caruso-Riecke why he voted not to accept Derbonne’s resignation and he refused to comment, choosing instead to take the opportunity to chastise LouisianaVoice for yesterday’s post that said Edmonson OWNED HIM.

Well, quite frankly, we didn’t see anything during Thursday’s meeting that would change our mind.

Why is that?

Simply because LouisianaVoice happened to learn it was Doss and Caruso-Riecke who placed the two items on the LSPC agenda that were to have dealt with Derbonne’s “professional competence” and whether she would be continued or terminated.

So, basically, Caruso-Riecke, aware that the four votes needed to end Derbonne’s eight years as executive director were locked in, he could vote “no” and come off as the nice guy by taking the high road, confident that it was a done deal.

Now if he just hadn’t been one of those who prepared the agenda and handed it to Derbonne for her signature….

The obvious question is what trigger was the commission going to pull to terminate Derbonne? Conspicuously displayed behind commissioners was a screen with a paused video of proceedings of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget at which Derbonne testified last year. The video was never shown because Derbonne resigned but what it would have shown was legislators asking her who approved the LSPA’s budget and she inadvertently replied, “The Commission.” The commission budget is actually approved by the commission before being sent to the legislature for final approval and it was that gaffe members were going to use to hang her.

Well, that brings up an obvious question: Back around October, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson appeared before the commission to ask that a new position of lieutenant colonel be created to oversee finances for State Police. He assured commission members that (a) the position was not to be created for any specific individual and that there would be no additional expenses for the position. Before anyone could say cut and dried, Jason Starnes was promoted into the position and promptly given a $25,000 raise.

Edmonson lied and he did so deliberately. Will he be fired as well?

Edmonson, back in 2014, engineered the insertion of an AMENDMENT to an otherwise benign bill in the closing minutes of the legislature that would have given him an additional $55,000 per year in retirement income—illegally, because Edmonson had locked his retirement in years before when he entered the state’s DROP Program, which froze retirement income at his rank at that time. A lawsuit by State Sen. Dan Claitor killed the raise. Was he fired for that? Check that box No.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS, a state representative at the time, said he would seek a “full investigation” of the furtive attempt to approve the raise. Instead, he reappointed Edmonson to head Louisiana State Police (LSP).

When a Troop D State Trooper was found to be doctor-shopping in order to stockpile prescription narcotics, which he was taking while on duty, Edmonson’s solution was to first promote him to Troop D Commander and later, when the incident became public, to make a LATERAL TRANSFER.

When a State Trooper was found to have had sex with a woman in his patrol unit, he was SUSPENDED for 36 hours and reduced in pay for 18 pay periods but was allowed to work overtime to make up the reduction in pay.

When a married State Trooper escorted an underage woman into a Vicksburg, Mississippi CASINO floor to play slot machines and blackjack, he was busted and attempted unsuccessfully to use his position as a trooper to negotiate his way out of a fine. Edmonson promoted him to Troop F Commander.

When Department of Public Safety (DPS) Deputy Undersecretary JILL BOUDREAUX was allowed to take an early retirement buyout incentive and cash in her leave time and then return to work the next day—with a promotion to Undersecretary, Edmonson allowed her to keep $59,000 in buyout and annual leave payments—and her job—despite instructions from the Division of Administration for her to repay the money.

Edmonson sat on a HARASSMENT complaint on a Troop D State Trooper for more than a year.

Louisiana State Troopers’ Association Executive Director David Young kept his job after it was revealed that he laundered state troopers’ funds through his personal bank account in order to make substantial—and illegal—campaign donations, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards. A political crony of Gov. Edwards was hired to torpedo the investigation—and did just that.

And when a handful of retirees, members of LSTA, complained about the contributions, they were politely booted out of the association. You don’t cross Edmonson’s boys and not pay a price.

Through all these disruptive incidents, Edmonson sailed right along, never receiving any disciplinary action. He will say he has no control over the LSTA, but that organization’s members don’t go to the bathroom without a hall pass from Edmonson.

He skates when he lies about how the promotion of Jason Starnes would cost no additional money but Derbonne is offered up for sacrifice when she inadvertently says the commission approves her budget.

Capping off the bizarre events on Thursday, reporters attempted in vain to get any member or either of the two commission attorneys—Taylor Townsend and Lenore Feeney—to say something, anything, about the meeting and Derbonne’s resignation. Each one, Doss, Braxton, Caruso-Riecke, Breaux, Manzella, Simien, Townsend and Feeney, seemed to have somewhere to go in one helluva hurry. Everyone was scurrying around like a bunch of rats in a burning meth lab.

Townsend, all but sprinting from the room, was pursued by a reporter who asked, “What did you guys talk about during the break?”

Townsend’s RESPONSE, made over his right shoulder as he exited the room was, “You don’t want to get into that.”

Well….yeah, we do.

The most humorous—and frustrating—exchange took place when reporters followed Doss as he entered a private room with Maj. Durell Williams, who is over Louisiana State Police Internal Affairs.

Doss, just before entering the room, turned and faced reporters who asked for a more detailed explanation of events. He referred reporters to Feeney, “the attorney in the red jacket,” saying that she could address their questions.

But when FEENEY was confronted, she rushed past reporters, saying, “I’m not been authorized to make a comment.” It was a classic game of bureaucratic ping pong with reporters serving as the little plastic ball.

So there you have it, folks. The wagons have been circled; Starnes, with no accounting experience, has been put in charge of LSP finances; Edmonson has consolidated his base by eliminating another potential critic and gaining complete control of the LSPC; the Sheriffs’ Association is happy as a pig in the sunshine, and Derbonne has been sacrificed at the Altar of Deniability.

And to think, Edmonson gets away with all the above—and more—mismanagement but when I, as a five-year-old, threw a candy wrapper out of my grandfather’s truck window, I felt a pop on the back of my head and I could see Jesus at the end of a long tunnel, waving me to the light.

But not to worry. Edmonson is off to Rome with his latest benefactor, Gov. John Bel Edwards, to meet with the Pope on the issue of child sex trafficking so all is right with the world.

(But we can’t help but wonder if he will get into trouble like he did when another Pope came to Louisiana.)

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All those rabid LSU fans who find themselves in the unusual position of backing a team virtually buried in the 19th position among AP’s football elite can take heart; at least the Tigers aren’t 44th.

And those equally insane ‘Bama fans looking to secure another crystal football for their school’s trophy case can be glad the Tide isn’t ranked 46th.

As both teams head into their respective post-season games, 24/7 Wall St., a research firm that publishes some 30 ARTICLES per day on economy, finances, and government, has come out with its rankings of the best- and worst-run states in the country.

And it ain’t pretty.

Alabama is no. 46 out of 50 states but that’s okay. Never mind that it is one of the poorest states in the nation with 18.5 (5th highest) of its citizens living in poverty). The Tide is in the playoffs for the national championship.

Don’t worry about the state’s unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, which is tied for 8th highest in the country. Alabama, which proclaims itself to be the Heart of Dixie, pays the coaches of its two major college football teams, ‘Bama and Auburn, combined SALARIES of $11.67 million—$4.73 for Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and $6.94 million for ol’ Nicky Boy.

(Les Miles, before being unceremoniously cut loose by LSU’s Athletic Director Joe Alleva, himself the possessor of somewhat dubious talent, was pulling down a cool $4.3 million per annum. But all of these salaries pale in comparison to Jim Harbaugh’s $9.004 million salary at Michigan.)

LSU, meanwhile, is headed to this Friday’s Citrus Bowl in Orlando to take on the juggernaut Cardinals of Louisville—without the services of Leonard Fournette who has played his last game for the Tigers. (On that note, now that Fournette has declared himself draft eligible, retained an agent and opted not to participate in Friday’s game, has he, or any other player deciding to go pro, also opted out of attending classes for the remainder of the semester as well? If not, are any of them continuing to reside in free housing, enjoying free meals or using school training equipment for workouts? Just a thought.)

Meanwhile, back home, Louisiana ranks as the 44th best-run (or the seventh worst-run) state, just two notches ahead of Alabama. The two are sandwiched around Kentucky in the rankings while the state geographically wedged between them, Mississippi, is ranked 47th best, or fourth-worst with the fifth-highest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent and the highest poverty rate at 22.0 percent.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate of 6.3 percent (sixth-highest, right behind Mississippi) and its third-highest poverty rate of 19.6 percent (New Mexico’s 20.4 percent is second-highest) are nothing to brag about. Nor is its $4,067 debt per capital (16th highest).

The question, at least in Louisiana’s case, is: Why?

  • Louisiana has some of the highest crude oil and natural gas reserves in the nations;
  • Louisiana is one of the top crude oil producers in the country;
  • More crude oil is shipped to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) than to any other U.S. port;
  • Louisiana has several of the nation’s largest ports with exports totaling $10,530 per capita in 2015, second highest of all states, behind only Washington;

So with this abundance of natural resources, why is it that Louisiana continues to struggle with high poverty, low educational attainment and high violent crime.

Well, for starters, you can tie the first two of those to the third: high poverty and low education rates equal high crime. Every time.

All that notwithstanding, however, the overriding question is how can a state with such an abundance of the world’s most valuable commodity fail to profit?

Market news has been replete with stories lately about how the poor oil companies are taking hits with some reporting net profits down by as much as 37 percent. Still, even with lower earnings, some, like SHELL, reported net profits of a paltry $2.24 billion for the second quarter of 2016. That’s three months’ profits, folk. Three months.

Yet, Louisiana continues to give away the store to big oil through more than generous tax breaks while allowing them to walk away from the ravages they have inflicted on our coastal marshes.

With so much revenue derived by the oil and chemical industries through these tax breaks, there is no reason why this state’s citizenry continues to wallow in the depths of financial despair and desperation.

With a more reasonable tax structure in which big oil, big chemical plants, and their related industries (ports, trucking, and rail) could be asked to bear more responsibility for wrecking our coastline, polluting our air and water, and tearing up our highways, Louisiana could forge ahead of most of those states ranked ahead of them.

Yet we continue to place the greatest burden on the backs of those who can least afford it: the middle and low income groups through the most inequitable form of taxes. Louisiana has the third-highest average (9.01 percent) in state and local SALES TAXES in the nation.

Ever wonder why that is? For starters, the average taxpayer doesn’t have the time or resources or a PAC to generate organized opposition to this rigged tax structure or to purchase legislators’ votes. Big oil, Big Pharma, and Big Banks do.

Do you think it was sheer coincidence that former State Sen. Robert Adley was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards as Executive Director, Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority? http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/governorelect-edwards-announces-cabinet-executive-staff-bese-board-appointments

Think again. Here is LouisianaVoice’s overview on why Big Oil has the influence it exercises in this state: https://louisianavoice.com/2016/08/28/ag-jeff-landry-joins-jindal-legislators-in-protecting-big-oil-from-cleanup-responsibility-follow-the-money-for-motives/

(Be sure to click on Copy of Campaign Contributions)

But at least the NCAA playoffs and the Citrus Bowl—and national signing day—will keep the natives content for a while longer.

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