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We are constantly encouraged to participate in our government.

Our civics teachers in high school drummed into our heads that we should get involved.

Write your representative or senators, we are told, because it’s the best way to make your thoughts known.

Our U.S. representatives and senators even have web pages on which we may contact them about a particular issue.

Do you really want to know just how effective it is to contact your representative or senator?

Do you truly believe a warm-blooded human actually reads your letter?

Are you interested in learning how difficult it is to get your message heard over the hum of the campaign money-counting machines in your congressperson’s office?

If your answer to the last three questions is yes, read on.

I recently went onto Rep. Garret Graves’s web page and clicked on the “Contact” link and sent him an email, the basis of which dealt with the 2016 flood.

I explained that like thousands of other victims, when seeking flood relief, I was directed by FEMA to the Small Business Administration table where I was given an application form for an SBA loan to repair damage to my home which took in 33 inches of water.

No one at FEMA or SBA bothered to explain that applying for a loan made me ineligible for a FEMA grant or even if I was offered a loan and refused it, the fact that it was offered automatically made me ineligible for a FEMA grant.

Read that again: even if I turned the loan offer down, I would be considered ineligible for a grant by virtue of the fact that a loan was offered.

I explained to Rep. Graves that my home was paid for at the time of the flood and that I did not carry flood insurance because we were in one of the highest-elevated parts of Denham Springs that had never even come close to flooding.

I also informed Rep. Graves that like hundreds, perhaps thousands of other victims, I was 76 years old, retired, and would never live to see my now brand-new $124,000 mortgage paid off.

I asked him to look into the possibility of loan forgiveness for the flood victims as had been done for other disaster victims and which was being considered [and subsequently approved] for potential recipients of SBA loans as part of the then-proposed $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

Here is the response I received from his office:

 

Thanks for taking the time to reach out to me about COVID-19. As we work to keep Louisianans safe and to minimize the economic damages associated with America’s response to this uniquely challenging threat, let’s keep this fact in mind: In Louisiana, we’ve seen our share of hurricanes, floods, and other disasters; people here know how to be resilient and pull through hard circumstances like this, and I’m confident that we are going to come out on the other side strong.

As you know, the United States is responding to a global outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by a new type of coronavirus, called COVID-19. Unfortunately, cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread of the virus are being reported in a growing number of states. Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, the President of the United States declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency.

Congress – and the entire federal government – is acting quickly to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus. We are working to provide regulatory relief, economic support, and innovations in our private industries to combat this threat. So far, the House and Senate have passed two major pieces of support legislation:

  • On March 4, we authorized $8 billion in emergency funding for health research into COVID-19 to develop high-quality diagnostic kits, more effective treatment plans, and a vaccine to prevent the further spread of the disease.
  • On March 18, President Trump signed a second piece of legislation called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This package was focused on individuals and families and ensures accessible testing, emergency paid leave, and support and flexibility for small businesses. You can read more about this bill here.

Our next step in the Congress is to pass legislation to deliver further assistance for our economy, including financial relief for those businesses and industries that are being hit the hardest by disruptions related to the pandemic response. As this bill comes together, my focus is on making sure the needs of South Louisiana’s families, individuals, and businesses are addressed.

This is a fast-evolving crisis, and things continue to change as new information becomes available every day. Please visit the coronavirus page on my website, where we are posting a running list of information, resources, and useful links to help you navigate this challenge. Additionally, please feel free to call our office or the Louisiana statewide call network (211) if you have additional questions or concerns. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me with your thoughts and hope you’ll stay in contact as this issue progresses.

Sincerely,

Garret Graves
Member of Congress

 

So, there you have it. If you have an issue that’s dear to your heart, just write your congressperson. [S]he’s there to help.

 

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There is a man in Congress who can make Donald Trump appear to be the adult in the room.

There is a man in Congress who can make fellow Rep. Devin Nunes appear to be the voice of reason and restraint.

There is a man in Congress who can make fellow Rep. Lindsey Graham look like a paragon of consistency.

There is a man in Congress who can make fellow Rep. Jim Jordan appear to be a calming influence.

There is a man in Congress who can make just about anyone else seem like a tower of intellect.

That man is none other than Louisiana’s 3rd District U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, aka the lawman who told Michael Cohen he’d arrested “thousands of people.” (His former boss, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, says the number is closer to six. Maybe.)

Clay Higgins is the former used car salesman who once got CANNED by the Opelousas Police Department—or rather resigned in lieu of firing—for roughing up a citizen and then lying about it.

Clay Higgins is the same guy who then was fired by the St. Landry Sheriff’s Department for trying to commercialize his position as a public information officer with videos, T-shirts, a radio production, and, of all things, photo sessions like he was some kind of slick magazine centerfold model.

Clay Higgins is the same guy who then landed a position in the office of Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope who would soon have his own legal problems.

Clay Higgins is the same guy who fell behind on his child support payments by about $100,000 but assured his ex-wife during his campaign for Congress that once elected, he would have access to all sorts of money.

Clay Higgins is the same one who called for the ERADICATION of all who might have any sympathy for Islamics.

Clay Higgins is the same one who, while tailgating with Trump on a trip to Germany, made a political video at AUSCHWITZ in violation of all manner of protocol and decorum.

Clay Higgins is the same one who ATTENDED A PAIR OF CONFERENCES, one hosted by a hate group and another by climate science deniers.

And while Trump takes his cue from Fox News, Higgins apparently takes his from Louisiana’s version of Rush Limbaugh, MOON GRIFFON.

Apparently taking Griffon’s advice to heart, the Cajun Barney Fife lit into Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday over the governor’s proclamation prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people—including church congregations.

Higgins, who likely hasn’t seen the inside of a church since the last funeral he attended, took particular umbrage at Gov. Edwards’s imposition of size restrictions on groups, saying in a LETTER to the governor, “…the decision to gather should be the choice of the individual or institution and not a mandate by any government entity. The State has no authority to enforce the proclamation nor any ban on worship.”

For whatever reason, Higgins has not deemed to hold Trump to those same standards even though Trump is calling for restricting gatherings to a much smaller number: 10.

Higgins also ignored is own BLOG POST in which he said, among other things, “All Americans, regardless of ideology, must be united in our effort to combat the coronavirus. We must prioritize the health and safety of American families.”

We couldn’t agree more. But sometimes being “united” means making sacrifices. This is one of those times. There is no question that things are going to get tight and people are going to suffer financially. But people are going to feel the economic effects regardless of whether or not John Bel Edwards imposes restrictions on the size of gatherings.

The proclamation makes more sense than that Florida preacher who urged his congregation to keep coming to services, saying, “If we die, we die for Jesus.” That, folks, is the epitome of selfishness; the preacher didn’t want to lose out on any “love offerings.” What an idiot.

In a nearly incoherent VIDEO, a grubby-looking Higgins, looking more like a homeless man than a member of Congress, ranted and rambled like a New Orleans wino about Edwards’s proclamation. While he called the governor’s action “stupid,” it was Higgins who came across as the poster child for stupid. Stand up comic Ron “Tater Salad” White must’ve had Higgins in mind when he said, “You can’t fix stupid.”

New Orleans Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace, apparently in a more charitable mood, refrained from accurately describing Higgins’s idiotic demagoguery for what it was: boorish grandstanding. She let him off the hook by saying he was “just out of line.”

I would add a couple of questions for Higgins:

  • What would you propose as an alternative?
  • Instead of slurring and mumbling some incoherent insult at the governor, why don’t you try and be a part of the solution to a very difficult situation?
  • Is this how the voters of the 3rd District elected you to represent them? Seriously?

A friend, appropriately offended by Higgins’s verbal mooning of the governor [who, by the way has displayed infinitely more leadership characteristics during the coronavirus epidemic than one Donald Trump], said simply, “If this guy gets re-elected, his constituents are as crazy as he is.”

 

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A couple of things caught my attention this past week, neither of which should be a sign of encouragement for Louisianans.

First, during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Louisiana 8th District Rep. Mike Johnson, a Shreveport Republican, had the unbelievable gall to tell Mueller that Donald Trump had “cooperated fully” with Mueller’s investigation.

That’s simply a damned lie and Johnson and all the other invertebrate Republican enablers in Congress are as well—and they know it.

How can threatening—and attempting—to fire Mueller be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ refusal to provide his income tax returns be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ refusal to appear in person before Mueller for questioning be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ incessant tweeting about the so-called “witch hunt” be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ constantly insulting Mueller be considered cooperation?

How can the repeated lapses of memory from President Bone Spurs (who, by the way, has repeatedly claimed he had one of the “best memories in history”) in his written responses to Mueller’s questions be considered cooperation?

Mike Johnson, there simply is no nice way to say it: You are a liar and an embarrassment.

Mike Johnson, you may wish to read what a friend sent me that was written by Paul Thornton of the Los Angeles Times (a conservative, Republican-leaning newspaper, by the way):

At almost any other time in American history, a decorated Marine with a highly distinguished legal and law enforcement career vouching for his 400-page report detailing a president’s impeachment-worthy conduct would be greeted with (at least) deference or (at best) bipartisan gratitude.

But Robert S. Mueller III had the misfortune of explaining his life’s most important investigation to a bunch of Republicans eager to engage in character assassination on behalf of the most amoral president in U.S. history, and in front of a media that valued “optics” just as much as the details of Mueller’s report.

The other attention-getter was the TV ad campaign launched by businessman Eddie Rispone in his bid to unseat John Bel Edwards for governor.

The best thing that be said about Rispone’s CURRENT AD is that he is just John Neely Kennedy 2.0—without the weed killer. Both are classic suck-ups running off someone else’s popularity with nothing of substance to offer. Some might call them political whores, but I would never be so crass. They’re just your typical political opportunists, folks, plain and simple.

Other than pointing out that he placed a Trump sticker on his truck, Rispone does nothing in the ad to address Louisiana’s problems or to offer solutions. Two words: sound bites.

Rispone even has a YOU TUBE AD (it may also have run on TV, but I haven’t seen it there yet) in which he proclaims, “It’s time to drain the swamp.”

Sound familiar?

Any questions as to how well President Bone Spurs has kept his promise to “drain the swamp”?

To give you an athletic analogy, in gymnastics, judges score contestants on, among other things, creativity and originality, degree of difficulty and execution.

Rispone’s pathetic ad falls flat on each of those categories. It’s nothing more than a dog whistle, to those poor souls who think President Bone Spurs actually has their best interests at heart and that he is really working on their behalf.

If Rispone is so devoted and loyal to President Bone Spurs, then that must necessarily mean that:

  • He condones adulterous behavior, even encourages it;
  • He is a racist;
  • He believes, like President Bone Spurs, that one does not need real solutions if he has enough money to purchase his office.
  • He supports a draft dodger who now hides behind the American flag;
  • He supports embracing shady characters like Jeffrey Epstein until they become a liability and then he “barely knows them”;
  • He believes the end justifies the means—regardless of who gets hurt in the process;
  • He believes that if President Bone Spurs can spout the rhetoric that resonates with his cult, then everything else he does should be ignored, even applauded.
  • He supports ridiculing physically-handicapped reporters;
  • He supports placing children in cages;
  • He supports tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations;
  • He supports Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung Un and Bashar al-Assad;
  • He would employ (but fail to pay) undocumented workers;
  • He would borrow (but fail to repay) hundreds of millions of dollars and would choose instead to stiff creditors by declaring bankruptcy—six times;
  • He supports increasing the national deficit by more than $1 trillion after promising to eliminate same;
  • He condones—encourages, even—serial lying;
  • He supports the idea of blaming others for everything bad and taking credit for all things good—like President Bone Spurs’ latest claim that the poor air conditioning in the White House is somehow the fault of his predecessor (really, he actually said that).

Rispone’s failure to publicly repudiate these suppositions should be considered affirmation.

Finally, there is THIS, and I think most of us can still remember the eight-year disaster that were the Jindal years.

So, if you liked Jindal, you’ll love Rispone.

If that doesn’t convince you that Rispone is about as phony as any political opportunist could possible be, then I have a mountaintop resort in Pierre Part to sell you.

 

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As Vice President Pence QUIETLY CATNAPPED through the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5, Donald Trump declared, “We will never be a socialist country.”

Fast forward to May 13 (that’s the day before yesterday and barely three months after that SOTU declaration.

Trump ramps up his trade war with China, imposing new tariffs on Chinese imports that he claims will bring money into the U.S. treasury when, in fact, the proposed tariffs only mean that U.S. consumers will be paying more for goods from China.

You see, that’s the way tariffs work. It’s the buyer (American citizens) who will be paying the tariffs, not China. Trump doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that.

China retaliated by announced its own new tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods, including $19.6 billion in agricultural exports to China in 2017, more than 14 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports.

No problem, Trump says. He’ll just push through a new RELIEF PACKAGE for farmers to the tune of about $15 billion.

That’s in addition to the $12 billion in farm aid Trump provided last year following China’s retaliatory tariffs.

And speaking of China, China was America’s biggest creditor for 2017, holding some $1.15 TRILLION in U.S, debt, down slightly from $1.3 TRILLION in 2013.

So, the U.S. will now borrow even more money from China to pay our own soybean farmers not to sell soybeans to China? Is that about it?

But wait! Let’s go back to that SOTU declaration. Wouldn’t ensuring farmers won’t go under in the wake of failure of capitalism (brought on, of course, by Trump’s trade war) be pretty much the very definition of socialism?

Of course, Republicans have repudiated socialism by voting repeatedly over the past two decades to increase their salaries while voting against raising the minimum wage 14 times. (In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that congressional pay raises are automatic unless members vote specifically to refuse increases—not that they’re prone to do that with any regularity.)

Senate Republicans have already expressed their trepidation over the tariffs and the trade war but if they had the courage of their convictions, all they need do is pass a bill to halt Trump’s petulant trade war. And with the Democrats who would join them in a bipartisan effort, they’d certainly have enough votes to override a veto.

But they don’t and they won’t.

Where, for example is Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina? According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long-time ally of the Republican Party, South Carolina will be the THIRD-HARDEST HIT state by the trade war with nearly 600,000 jobs and $30 billion in goods tied directly to trade.

Yet Graham is strangely silent on all matters related to the tariffs but has advised Trump staffers to ignore Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas.

And then there’s Louisiana, the fifth most adversely-impacted state, with 16.5 percent of its exports headed for China.

So, where are John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy? For that matter, where are Reps. Steve Scalise, Clay “The Cajun Mouth” Higgins, Mike Johnson, Garret Graves and (especially) gubernatorial candidate Ralph Abraham, who just happens to represent the very part of Louisiana hardest-hit by agricultural export tariffs?

Speaking of Abraham, Lamar White, publisher of BAYOU BRIEF, had a revealing story last week about how farmer-doctor-congressman Abraham and his family have raked in $2.6 million in government farm subsidies from 1995 to 2017. Farmer-doctor-Congressman Abraham personally received $68,000, and the Ralph and Diane Farm Partnership (that’s farmer-doctor-congressman Ralph Abraham and his wife) received an additional $514,000. His son-in-law, Dustin Morris, raked in a little more than $975,000 while his wife Ashley Abraham Morris, farmer-doctor-congressman Abraham’s daughter, pulled in an additional $592,000 over the same period.

And oh, farmer-doctor-congressman Abraham also just happens to be a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Here’s a RUNDOWN of members of congress who received at least $100,000 in farm subsidies:

Senate or House Agriculture Committee members:

  • Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa: $322,000;
  • Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzier of Missouri: $972,000;
  • Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California: $1.8 million (33 percent of $5.3 million paid to family);
  • Republican Rep. Frank Lucas of Ohio: $105,000;

Non-committee members:

  • Republican former Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee: $3.7 million;
  • Republican Rep. Deb Fischer of Nebraska: $381,000
  • Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri: $143,000;
  • Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California (one of Trump’s most vocal cheerleaders): $244,000 (25 percent of Sunset View Farms which received $748,000);
  • Republican former Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana: $220,000;
  • Democrat Sen. Jon Tester of Montana: $330,000;
  • Democrat former Rep. Gwen Graham of Florida: $238,000;
  • Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas: $160,000;

With 11 of 13—counting Abraham—being Republican, perhaps the Grand Old Party isn’t as militantly anti-socialist as it purports to be—unless, of course, it can blame socialism for programs to aid the poor. That’s a different matter altogether.

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So STEVE SCALISE says he would vote in favor of IMPEACHMENT of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Isn’t that special? Especially considering House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) went on record opposing such a move and even though Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) subsequently announced he was TABLING his efforts to impeach Rosenstein.

Maybe Scalise was just having a little problem with premature calculation of his re-election odds in a district that elects the likes of David Duke, Bobby Jindal and….Steve Scalise.

Maybe that’s why Tammy Savoie has decided to challenge him in this fall’s elections.

Or maybe it was because Scalise was one of Louisiana’s five Republican representatives who cast a big, fat NO vote to funding election security.

That’s right. Every single Republican House member from Louisiana voted against HOUSE RESOLUTION 6147 last Thursday. In fact, of the 235 Republicans in the House, 232 voted against funding for election security against Russian hacking. The remaining three just didn’t vote. Of 193 Democrats in the House, 182 voted in favor with 11 not voting.

Scalise is most likely in lock-step with the Republican Party that thinks the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and cost too much.

Let’s COMPARE.

Since Nixon was elected in 1968, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years and Democrats for 20. During the Republicans’ 28 years, there were 120 criminal indictments, 89 criminal convictions, and 34 prison sentences in the Executive Branch.

During the Democrats’ 20 years, there were three criminal indictments, one criminal conviction, and one prison sentence.

Even more telling is the COST COMPARISON of the various presidential investigations.

For all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth Republicans are doing about the escalating cost of the Russia probe, it’s interesting to note the costs of presidential investigations:

  • Nixon: $47.1 million;
  • Carter: $1.2 million;
  • Reagan: $81.1 million;
  • George H.W. Bush: $.65 million;
  • Clinton: $83.3 million;
  • George W. Bush: $3 million;
  • Trump: $17 million (revised from the $6.8 given in the link above).

And those figures don’t even include the $30 million or so spent on investigating Benghazi or Hillary Clinton’s emails—a 789-day investigation (Mueller’s probe is just over a year old to date) that produced zero indictments. And don’t forget this investigation was carried out by a Republican-majority Congress.

Is Hillary Clinton clean? Is she spotless? I doubt it. I’m not particularly fond of her or her husband but when you combine the investigations of Bill and Hillary ($111 million) and you get one criminal conviction, it comes off as a bit whiny of Republicans to piss and moan about the Russia investigation.

In fact, Trump has spent more than FOUR TIMES AS MUCH on his golfing trips ($80 million to $90 million) to Mar-a-Lago as Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller has on the Russia investigation.

Scalise appears to have chosen to ignore that fact and that makes him look a tad petty.

Of course, Trump’s aides defend the expenditures by saying the president is working while there. That being the case, why doesn’t he just stay in Washington and work? Of course, if he did that, his properties couldn’t make a profit from the staff members, Secret Service agents and media that accompany him to Mar-a-Lago.

And Scalise is front and center in his defense of Trump and his condemnation of Mueller and Rosenstein.

And perhaps that is why Tammy Savoie is offering the voters of Congressional District 1.

A native of Jefferson Parish, she enlisted in the Louisiana Air National Guard in 1978 while studying psychology at the University of New Orleans.

As a single mother with a baby on her hip and a Ph.D. in her pocket, she went on active duty as an Air Force psychologist in 1984, treating service members and their families at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

She served as Chief of Psychological Services at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan in 1999, where she created drug abuse and prevention programs. As Mental Health Flight Commander at Laughlin AFB, Dr. Savoie formed the first-ever Critical Incident Stress Team, coordinating the city’s emergency response teams, Border Patrol, and base agencies to provide crisis intervention services.

She was appointed Deputy Commander of the Air Force’s research office in London in 2008 and in 2011, she was deployed to Afghanistan to improve mental health services for U.S. troops. She traveled throughout the Middle East as the Chief of International health.

She retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2016 after a 22-year career with the Air Force. A resident of St. Tammany Parish, she now provides mental health services to veterans and to the Red Cross. She also is an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

In making her formal announcement upon qualifying to run last week, she said she is running on a platform of campaign finance reform. She said she is not accepting any PAC money in her campaign, preferring to running a grass-roots campaign.

“I will not put partisan politics above the interest of the citizens of the First Congressional District,” she said. She said she wants to close gun legislation loopholes that currently allow easy access to guns.

She also said she will work for salary equity for women and for other women’s rights issues and for a reduction in the infant mortality rate.

“I believe all Americans should have a right to health care,” she said. “Steve Scalise is happy to vote to knock 23 million Americans out of health care.

“We are hurting economically in Louisiana,” she said. Scalise voted against increasing the minimum wage not once, but twice. He has demonstrated his indifference to the interests of the people of Louisiana. He has voted against bills to reduce violence against women. He is against collective bargaining and he supports President Trump’s tariffs that will hurt Louisiana’s farmers.

“Donald Trump is no fan of American institutions. He supports a regime that has infiltrated our electoral process.

“Steve Scalise is complicit in Trump’s programs. He has sold our country to the highest bidder. He has not kept the executive branch in check.

“I will not give in to the corporate powers that control the Republican Party,” she said.

Savoie said her campaign will target the Independent and Democratic voters of the district, who she said outnumber Republicans.

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