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There is an unnecessary controversy building to a fever pitch as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepared to vote Thursday on abolishing net neutrality.

Unnecessary because the issue should not even be on the table.

Why, other than to financially benefit a half-dozen or so internet service providers (ISPs), would bureaucrats in Washington even consider taking this matter up for a vote?

Everything about the proposed repeal of net neutrality works against the interest of American consumers and to the distinct advantage of companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Cox, Time-Warner, CenturyLink, et al.

The proposed changes would mean these companies would be able to decide who is and who is not heard. They could create fast and slow lanes and even create toll lanes on the Internet highway, charging extra fees and relegating users to a slower tier of service.

And if you believe for one Nano-second that any of those companies have your best interests at heart, I have some Bernie Madoff stock options you may be interested in.

A group of inventors and technologists authored a letter to Congress in which they said the FCC’s proposed repeal of net neutrality “is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint COMMENT signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.” The letter said.

“Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically incorrect proposed order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.”

But the FCC ignored that analysis and refused to hold any public hearings to consider citizen input, the letter said. So much for a full and open democracy in which citizens have a voice.

More than two dozen senators have called for a delay to the vote following reports that more than 80 percent of the 22 million public comments sent to the FCC were generated by bots, nearly unanimously favoring killing net neutrality. Can you say fake news?

On the other hand, about 95 percent of the legitimate comments submitted supported keeping net neutrality and public polling has shown a vast majority of Americans also favor keeping it.

No matter. Donald Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai, plans to go ahead with the vote on Thursday, pitting telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon against Internet behemoths like Google and Amazon who have warned that rolling back the rules would make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment.

So, just exactly is net neutrality? Passed in 2015 under President Obama, it is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment or method of communication.

In short, net neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means ISPs should not block or discriminate against any content—just as your telephone company cannot decide who you call and what you say on that call.

Under these principles, Internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down, or charge additional fees for specific websites and online content.

A few examples of net neutrality abuse:

  • The FCC was had to order Comcast, for example, to halt the secret slowing (throttling) of uploads from peer-to-peer file sharing.
  • Madison River Communications was fined in 2004 for restricting access to rival ISP Vonage.
  • AT&T was caught throttling access to FaceTime by restricting access to only those users who paid for AT&T’s new shared data plans.
  • Verizon Wireless was accused of throttling when users experienced slow videos on Netflix and YouTube.

In each case, those practices were deemed illegal. But if Net Neutrality is repealed Thursday, throttling will become the norm and there’s not a thing anyone will be able to do about it.

 

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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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Corporations need tax breaks

so they can earn more money

to pour into campaigns and PACs

to lobby for bigger tax cuts

Spoiler alert: All you frothing fanatics who still think Donald Trump is the savior of the free world may want to stop reading at this point because the rest of what I’m about to say will not be very pleasant to those of you who to this point have refused to think for yourselves and this will only serve to stoke your anger.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t read it; you should. You should read the words of what any rational observer of the body politic might write about this blusterous buffoon we know as POTUS. To refuse to read or hear or to ignore the facts would cast you into that 35 percent core group of Trump supporters that I refer to as a cult. You continue to experience mind-altering donalgasms with each new tweet.

Okay, you’re already composing your response for this post’s comments section. You will say:

  • That I am a flaming liberal (I’m not. In fact, I only left the Republican Party after more than 30 years of an uninterrupted record of voting Republican because of the likes of Bobby Jindal and Donald Trump);
  • That my candidate Hillary Clinton lost the election (she was not my candidate; I really dislike her intensely, just not with the same intensity as that with which I loathe Donald Trump. And Hillary didn’t lose, the American people lost);
  • That I can’t get past losing (what I can’t get past is having a POTUS who is a laughingstock to the rest of the world, who would accept the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies, who thinks it is more important to have a child molester in the U.S. Senate than a Democrat, and who finds it impossible to distinguish documented facts from his sorry version of the truth).

Since becoming president, Trump has been caught telling no fewer than 500 lies that are easily substantiated as such. Yes, all politicians lie. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards once said as much. But this idiot has taken it to a new level, lying through his teeth even as he had to know his every utterance and tweet is fact-checked and more often than not, debunked before the echo of his words has faded. A few examples:

  • During the campaign, he promised to release his income tax reports. He lied.
  • He claimed the crowd for his inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” He lied.
  • During his speech at CIA headquarters, he repeated his claim that he opposed the war with Iraq. But he told Howard Stern in 2002 that he supported the war. He lied.
  • Trump has repeatedly, without any evidence to back his claim, said he only lost the national popular vote because of widespread voter fraud. He lied.
  • Speaking to business leaders at the White House, Trump said, “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.” He has never received any environmental awards. He lied.
  • Trump claimed that immigration and Customs Enforcement and border agents “unanimously endorsed me for president.” He lied.
  • He said the national homicide rate was “horribly increasing.” In fact, it is down significantly (except perhaps in Baton Rouge). He lied.
  • He claimed two people were fatally shot in Chicago during President Obama’s last speech as president. Didn’t happen. He lied.
  • He claimed he had “one of the best memories of all time” but later could not remember a meeting with George Papadopoulos, who confessed to lying to the FBI about meeting with Soviet agents. Here is a photo of that meeting.

He Lied.

  • His “alternative facts” spokesperson Kellyanne Conway alluded to the “Bowling Green massacre” in defending Trump’s travel ban. There was no “Bowling Green massacre.” She lied for him.
  • Trump claimed The New York Times was “forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win.” Never happened. He lied.
  • Trump promised tax reform that would lower taxes for working Americans. The biggest cruelest LIE of them all.

And these are only a handful of the buckets of lies that have poured out of his mouth.

Just as cruel, and approaching a new level of stupid, is the position taken on the tax bill by Louisiana’s two senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy. Cassidy’s support is baffling because he worked as a physician at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge where he had to know the desperation of Louisiana’s poor, uninsured citizens.

Kennedy is more understandable. In addition to drinking week killer, he once ran a TV ad during his first campaign for state treasurer in which he said, “During my time as secretary of Revenue, I reduced paperwork for small businesses by 150 percent.”

How anything can be reduced more than 100 percent is one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. The real irony, however, is that the claim came from a man who was asking us to put him in charge of the state’s financial investments. Talk about voodoo economics….

Kennedy has said he would vote against the tax bill if it contained the so-called “TRIGGER” provision, which would automatically abort the bill and revert to the present tax rates if the new bill did not perform as projected by the Republicans in Congress who keep promising they are from the government and that they are here to help us. And they’ll still respect us in the morning.

ILLUSTRATION OF PROJECTED EFFECTS OF TAX BILL

Those of you who have stayed with me to this point need to consider one other feature of the so-called “tax reform” package.

If you have children in college, who are headed for college in a couple of years, or if you have children who recently graduated from college, it might interest you to know that the interest rates on student LOANS will no longer be deductible under the new tax bill. Moreover, students on TOPS or who receive other tuition EXEMPTIONS will find that those exemptions will now count as income on which taxes will be due.

Of course, Trump and his congressional lap dogs—Cassidy, Kennedy, Garrett Graves and the rest of Louisiana’s Repugnantcan delegation included—will continue to lie, distort, twist and skew the facts to make you believe their tax REFORM is the best thing for you since Barry Goldwater and you will continue to drink the Kool Aid—because you want to believe them.

Never mind that you continue to vote against your own economic interests because the Repugnantcans continue to feed you the red meat of islamophobia, illegal immigrants, welfare cheats (who in fact take only a tiny fraction of what corporate America and Wall Street steal from taxpayers every day), Obamacare and gun rights. They do this in the knowledge that you will continue to elect a 70-year-old child predator as long as he waves a pistol in the air and displays the Ten Commandments.

You are being taken for fools, to be perfectly honest. The Republicans are holding a Bible in one hand, wrapping themselves in the flag and picking your pocket, all in one swift motion.

And you love them for it.

I don’t suppose any of you have ever wondered what became of the so-called Fiscal Hawks now that the Republicans have full control over everything in Washington. It’s kinda funny how you don’t hear anything about deficit reduction these days.

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An interesting scenario is playing out up in Bossier Parish that could impact the landscape in the 2019 state elections and the 2020 congressional elections with key players being U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson and Bossier Parish Superintendent of Schools Scott Smith.

Back in 2015, there was an uproar over students’ plans to install “prayer boxes” at Airline High School in Bossier City. While the controversy died down rather quickly, it provided a window for then-State Rep. to lead the fight against the ALCU right on into Congress.

Today, the dispute is between the Bossier Parish School Board and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State over last May’s Benton High School graduation ceremonies that opened and ended with prayers and Smith is right in the middle of the controversy.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/education/2017/09/25/bossier-schools-respond-complaint-graduation-prayers/699983001/

Cynics are asking, “Why Bossier?” and “Why now?”

The scuttlebutt, when plotted out, makes good political sense and a couple of comments from Smith’s wife, former State Rep. Jane Smith only serve to validate the rumors.

But first some background:

During Johnson’s time in the State Legislature, he authored House Bill 707, known as the MARRIAGE and CONSCIENCE ACT, which would have prohibited the state from denying any resident, nonprofit or business a license, benefits or tax deductions if the business took actions “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.

Critics said the bill had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with discrimination against same-sex marriage and the bill died in committee only to have Bobby Jindal promptly issue an executive order to enforce the intent of Johnson’s bill—a similar one of which had already been struck down in Kentucky by the courts.

JANE SMITH, a former Bossier Parish School Superintendent in her own right who was in her third term and term-limited by the Louisiana Constitution, was appointed by Jindal in 2012 as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue even though, as she admitted to a friend, she knew “nothing about revenue.”

So, what to make of all this?

Well, word is that Johnson has his eyes on bigger and better things than being a lonely voice among 435 members of the U.S. House.

Governor?

Nope. That plum belongs to U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, presently a not-so-lonely down-home voice among 100. It’s the worst-kept secret in Louisiana that Kennedy wants desperately to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2019.

The plan, according to some observers is for Johnson to run either for lieutenant governor or attorney general. Barring entry by any other candidates in those two races, we would be left with the less-than-desirable choice between Johnson and Billy Nungesser or Johnson and Jeff Landry.

Should that scenario play itself out and should Johnson be elected to one of those statewide posts, that would leave the door wide open for Scott Smith, who those same observers in northwest Louisiana, is already being groomed to run for Johnson’s vacated seat in a special election in early 2020. Johnson is tight with Landry but if Landry opts for a run at higher office, Johnson may feel the job is his by divine right. At any rate, speculation is the deal has already been cut.

Far-fetched? Perhaps not so much. The information making its way down to LouisianaVoice is that Jane Smith is already telling close friends that she has accepted a lobbying job in Washington.

All we can say for certain in all of this is anytime a politician waves a Bible while wrapped in the flag, little good can come from it. Sanctimony is not a trait becoming to anyone.

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When I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I worked part time as a disc jockey at KRUS radio station in Ruston. Occasionally, I would have a “Golden Oldies Show,” during which I played only old rock & roll records.

I saw a story in the Washington Post recently that conjured up memories of old news stories and at the same time made me wonder if the Republicans in Congress were paying attention all those years.

The story, headlined, “GOP abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility,” noted that the Republican Party has essentially abandoned its platform of fiscal restraint, “pivoting sharply in a way that could add trillions of dollars in federal debt over the next decade.”

https://politicalwire.com/2017/10/07/gop-abandons-pretense-fiscal-responsibility/

So, doing the minimum research, it was almost too easy to find stories that reveal that the tax cuts proposed by Trump would further widen the gap between wealthy and low-income Americans. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/42177-trump-s-proposed-tax-cuts-would-further-widen-the-gap-between-rich-and-poor

The Trump-led (and that’s a very loose term) Republican tax reform would cut taxes for the very rich and place the burden on the rest of us.

In 1970, the bottom 50 percent of U.S. wage earners averaged $16,000 a year in today’s dollars. In 2014, that figure had skyrocketed to $16,200.

The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their average income increase from an average of $400,000 a year to $1.3 million during the same time period, hardly enough to keep the lawn watered in the Hamptons.

Some might dismiss these sources as typical liberal media, but the conservative U.S. News & World Report seems to agree with their assessments.

More than two years ago, on May 20, 2015, the magazine ran a story headed simply as THE PARTY of RED INK.

That story did cite the $1.2 billion budget deficit that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Mally left for his Republican successor, but for the rest of its story, USN&WR hammered one Republican state governor after another. Those included our own wunderkind Bobby Jindal (a $1.6 billon deficit), Chris Christie (a staggering $7.35 billion structural budget deficit), Scott Walker of Wisconsin ($2.2 billion deficit), and Sam Brownback of Kansas ($1 billion shortfall).

Their collective answer to these budgetary nightmares? Cut taxes.

But along with tax cuts go cuts to services.

Back when I was a student at Tech—and given, that’s been a long time; Terry Bradshaw was emerging as a top draft pick back then—my tuition was $99. Today, my grandson, a computer engineering student at Tech, is forking over $9,000 per quarter to stay enrolled.

In Louisiana, cuts to higher education, public education, referral services to the mentally ill, services to children with disabilities, foster child services, and other cuts have had devastating results. Yet, the Republicans go merrily along with their vision of fiscal reform.

Jindal’s obsession with tax cutting, service cutting, and privatization was such a dismal failure that Newsweek on June 1, 3015, published a story headlined HOW BOBBY JINDAL BROKE the LOUISIANA ECONOMY.

But a March 26, 2015, story was even more revealing. That story, admittedly by a partisan Democrat writer, nevertheless cited a report by an outfit called WalletHub, a commercial personal financial web site that rated all 50 states on their dependence on federal dollars to prop up their respective economies.

The REPORT basically said that red states, America’s stalwarts of fiscal responsibility, suck more money out of the federal treasury than any others and that some of the poorest states, of which Louisiana is certainly one, depend on federal funding for 30 to 42 percent of their total revenue.

Louisiana depends on federal dollars for 42.2 percent of its budget That just happens to be the highest percentage in the nation. Mississippi is right behind, drawing 42.1 percent of its budget from the feds, according to a report released in May of this year. http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-state-budgets-federal-funding-2015-2018-trump.html

Yet, who screams the loudest to get the federal government out of our lives? Well, that would be the Republicans, who control both Louisiana and Mississippi.

And yet, there they go again, to paraphrase Mr. Reagan. The Republicans in Congress are pushing that same agenda of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to services, increased military spending, heavier tax burdens on the middle class, and economic stagnation for what now, something like the 35th straight year?

And yes, I am keenly aware that some of those years included the administrations of Clinton and Obama and that some of those years Democrats controlled Congress. But that only goes to prove my oft-repeated point that there is little difference in the two parties when Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the NRA, and defense contractors exert such a heavy influence on the national agenda.

But with the Republicans, it’s not so much a political philosophy as it is an obsession, a mindset.

They adhere to the Laffer Curve at all costs. That’s the theory advanced by one Arthur Laffer, who says that tax cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.

Anyone seen any economic growth around these parts in the last couple of decades or so? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

The Laffer Curve might be appropriately named were it not such a cruel joke.

 

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