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Lest Attorney General Jeff Landry mistakenly believe that LouisianaVoice is going to drop the matter of his office’s foot-dragging in the investigation of the rape of that 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail back in April 2016, let this be a reminder that he is sadly mistaken.

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/09/07/17-year-old-girl-raped-in-union-parish-jail-cell-files-lawsuit-meanwhile-ag-still-hasnt-completed-probe-after-17-months/

Yesterday, (Tuesday, Oct. 17) I sent the following public records request to the Attorney General’s office:

  • Please provide me with any documents or reports pertaining to the status of the attorney general’s investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell last April. That’s the investigation 3rd JDC District Attorney John Belton asked the attorney general’s office to investigate because of a conflict of interests.

Today, I received the following response from Luke Donovan, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division:

  • Your request has been assigned the tracking number 17-0159.  Our office is in the process of determining what, if any, records are subject to this request and, if so, whether any privileges or exemptions apply. This may take some time. You will be notified within 30 days whether records have been located that are responsive and approximately when they will be ready for review.

First of all, I don’t know the response came from the Civil Division when this is clearly a criminal matter.

But, just to cover my bases, I also sent a second inquiry at the same time, this one to Ruth Wisher of the Attorney General’s press office. Rather than putting it in the form of a public records request, I simply made it a straightforward question:

  • Could you provide me with a status update on the investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell?

Today, I received a five-word response from Ms. Wisher:

From: AG Landry News [mailto:aglandrynews@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1:49 PM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: QUESTION

This matter is under investigation.

Thanks!

Ruth

To be clear, none of this bureaucratic shuffle is the fault of Ms. Wisher or Luke Donovan. God knows, they have an impossible task of trying to get the rest of us to take their boss, this clown Jeff Landry, seriously.

But in the year-and-a-half since this young lady was raped—not once, but twice—by an inmate already convicted of aggravated rape and awaiting sentencing who was allowed into her cell, I have seen the most egregious example of an overall lack of interest by the one person who should be on a white charging steed to wrap this investigation up and to deliver some semblance of justice for this heinous act.

Granted, the girl was brought into the jail because she was on meth. An innocent saint? No, but how many of us are? Who among us has nothing in our past that we wish we could change. I believe the passage goes something like this: Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.

So, granting that she was not the typical young lady you’d see in the church choir, she was still someone’s daughter, maybe soiled and hardened, but still someone’s little girl.

And to be denied justice while the attorney general grandstands on all sorts of other high-profile issues in an orchestrated effort to enhance his political career so that he can run for governor is reprehensible, disgusting, and unpardonable.

I am on Landry’s email list for his politically-crafted news releases and I have gathered a few of them and listed them below in no particular order. Following each one, I have included my personal observations in italics:

Oct. 18, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is once again offering his office’s assistance to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in an effort to protect critical federal funding for the City from the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ).

“My office stands ready and available to work with your legal counsel in drafting a policy that conforms to federal law and ensures continued financial support by the USDOJ,” wrote General Landry in a letter today to Landrieu. “The safety of citizens who live, work, and visit New Orleans is too important to ignore.”

Landry jumped onto this issue like a monkey on a cupcake (to quote Ray Baronne in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) for no other reason than it’s an issue being advanced by Trump, his favorite POTUS (I’ll leave it to the readers to determine whether that’s Trump’s favorite POTUS of Landry’s). Apparently, the safety of teenage citizens exposed to rapists in jail cells in Union Parish are not so important and can be ignored.

Oct. 16, 2017:

Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced the arrests of three New Orleans women as a result of an investigation exposing over $2 million in Medicaid Fraud.

“We have continued to see Medicaid welfare fraud increase as a result of the Governor’s expansion,” said General Landry.

Wait. What? We’ve had Medicaid fraud since Moby Dick was a guppy and he’s going to lay it off on Gov. Edwards? If Landry puts his mind to it, he can probably say gun violence, North Korea and climate change are “a result of the Governor’s (Medicaid) expansion.” That’s how grandstanding buffoons like Landry and his favorite POTUS think.

 

Oct. 10, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is urging parents, guardians, and consumers to be mindful of several child products that have been recently recalled.

“My office and I are committed to doing all that we legally can to make Louisiana a safer place for families,” said General Landry.

If he’s “committed” in the same way that he’s “committed” to investigating the rape of a 17-year-old in a small jail cell where the victim, the assailant, the time, and the assailant all are knowns, then parents, you’re on your own here.

 

Oct. 10, 2017:

Attorney General Jeff Landry is praising EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision today to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama overreach that would have devastated Louisiana’s power plants and energy consumers.

“On behalf of Louisiana workers, job creators, and consumers – I commend Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration for repealing this unconstitutional, job-killing regulation,” said General Landry. “The so-called Clean Power Plan was always a political attempt to force states into green energy submission.”

Yep, his favorite POTUS. If Trump or one of his lap dogs does it, you can expect these kinds of news releases to keep flowing non-stop from Landry’s office.

 

Oct. 6, 2017:

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry will host a fair housing workshop in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. General Landry’s Equal Housing Opportunity Section will give an overview of the Fair Housing Act and address some of the most common misconceptions and violations under the law.

“My office is committed to educating the public on their housing rights,” said General Landry. “State law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap; and we will continue working hard to ensure Louisiana’s people are treated fairly when it comes to buying or renting homes.”

…And if Trump should ever go public with his intense contempt for the Fair Housing Act (he was prosecuted for violations of the act as a private citizen/landlord), you can expect Landry to do a 180 so quickly that you’ll feel the breeze from his about-face.

 

Oct. 12, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has arrested a Covington man on charges of child pornography, and he is asking the public for their assistance and information on the alleged perpetrator.

“Today’s arrest is another step forward in making our communities safer,” said General Landry. “However, our work is not done. I am asking anyone with information or concerns about Victor Loraso to please contact my Cyber Crime Unit.”

Obtaining assistance from the public is most likely the only way Landry will ever successfully conclude any investigation, this one included. 

 

Oct. 17, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced additional criminal charges have been brought against Michael Wayne Tipton of Alexandria.

“It is a disturbing trend that those who view and distribute child pornography often are also hands-on offenders,” said General Landry. “My office will not rest in our efforts to arrest child predators and help rescue their victims.”

That last sentence is laden with irony and not one damned bit inspiring. Eighteen months after the jailhouse rape of a juvenile, and the investigation is still not complete? Are you kidding me?

 

Oct. 6, 2017:

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Cyber Crime Unit has arrested three south Louisiana men on multiple charges of child exploitation, including molestation of a juvenile.

“The victimization of children should infuriate all of us and shake us to the core,” said General Landry.

Same comment as above.

This state and nation have seen its share of ambitious, self-serving, egotistical, megalomaniacs elected to office. Not a one of them qualifies as a true public servant in the sense of consigning his own financial and political career to a role that is secondary to the public good.

Jeff Landry, you are one of those and all the glowing news releases that you can gin out proclaiming your dedication to and concern for the people of Louisiana are just empty words. Every time you ring your bell of justice, we hear a dull, hollow clank.

To prove I’m wrong, Mr. Attorney General, get up off your ass and do the job you were asked to do in this matter. Bring this girl some justice.

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It took an article in Everybody’s magazine by writer Charles Edward Russell to embarrass the state of Georgia into enacting reforms to the state’s inmate work release program. Following a special legislative session called to address that specific problem, the governor signed into law a compromise bill which, while restructuring the program, still assigned certain inmates to work release programs administered by private contractors for up to one year.

All Russell did was to follow the trail of a single inmate from his conviction for the theft of $300 from his employer, to his sentence of four years’ jail time to his selection for work release under the supervision of a private firm that would be responsible for his housing, his feeding, his rehabilitation, and his work assignment.

The food was of low quality, often inedible. No education programs or practical job training were offered him or the other inmates, medical care was unheard of, and recidivism was off the charts.

His every movement was made under the watchful eye of the armed guards and any prisoner who made a mistake or who did not meet his work quota paid a price.

It was a great arrangement for everyone but the prisoners. True, they broke the law and society says one must be punished for transgressions against it. No one argues that point. But as more and more prisoners were shuttled off on the private concerns, the state had fewer and fewer prisoners to care for, to feed, to educate, or to provide medical car for.

The private concerns, meanwhile were reaping huge profits through what had become a form of legalized slavery and everyone was happy but those upon whose backs the profits were being realized.

And when Russell wrote his story, it was only natural that the Georgia legislature and the governor went just a little ballistic. “Georgia didn’t waste any time finding fault with us for calling attention to the spot on her pretty gown,” said the magazine in an editorial afterwards. “All we did was criticize.”

Typically, however, when the light is focused on widespread and ingrained abuses, it is the abuser who squeals the loudest, professing to have been grievously wronged by what one prominent politico likes to call “fake news.”

But it’s not fake news. Not now and not in 1908 when Russell actually wrote his story for the long-defunct Everybody’s magazine. His story was reprinted in The Muckrakers: Journalism that Changed America, a BOOK comprising a compilation of investigative newspaper stories edited by Judith and William Serrin.

The practice described by Russell more than a century ago, lives on. It has been tweaked, adjusted, and fine-tuned but remains basically the same and today is making a lot of people wealthy. It was called convict leasing then. Today, it’s called by a much more benign name: transitional work program. It is better known as work release.

CONVICT LEASING actually predates the Civil War in Louisiana. It was legalized slavery then and not much better today. Its popularity mushroomed following the Civil War and the loss of slave labor as southern politicians saw it as a natural alternative to the real thing. It was no coincidence that the vast majority of “leased” convicts were African-Americans.

Private concerns profiteered off prisoners and they still do, even if in methods that are a little subtler. And just as it was when Russell wrote his story, the practice is sanctioned, encouraged even, by the political establishment.

And just to make sure the skids continued to be greased, lawmakers from the halls of Congress to state legislatures annually pile on more and more bills calling for stricter and stricter sentences for even non-violent offenders, thus ensuring the beds in those privately-run prisons and sheriff-run parish jails will stay full. This in turn guarantees that the payments from the feds and the state will keep rolling in and those prisoners can be farmed out to private companies.

In reality, it is a system that feeds on itself.

Convict leasing, simply defined, is a method of control and distribution of convict labor practiced mainly in the southern states, including Louisiana. Contractors would pay the state a bargain basement price to take control of a given number of prisoners. Some of these private concerns, desperate for labor, included planters and manufacturers. Some contractors used the convict labor in their businesses while others were nothing more than labor brokers, or middle men, who sublet the prisoners to other concerns.

Unlike other southern states, convict leasing in Louisiana continued almost non-stop from 1844 to 1901.

It wasn’t until 1892 that efforts began in earnest to abolish the practice. Gov. Murphy J. Foster (does that name sound familiar?) supported those opposed to the leasing practice. The Louisiana Constitution of 1898, passed during his administration, abolished both convict leasing and the Louisiana lottery, which had become a notorious source of corruption. The last lease for convict labor expired in 1901 and the state took over operations of what is now the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

In Georgia, the practice continued until it was OUTLAWED by the legislature in 1908, the same year Russell wrote his story for Everybody’s magazine.

Exactly what is to be gained from work release?

Well, of course those who run the programs are quick to point out that prisoners are learning a trade.

That’s strictly a subjective evaluation at best. Swabbing the floors of a chicken processing plant isn’t very appealing as a career choice for most people, even prisoners.

Maya Lau wrote an excellent STORY for The Shreveport Times about one work release inmate in the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Department’s work release program prior to moving to the Baton Rouge Advocate. Lau, now with the Los Angeles Times, reported that the inmate was paid $7.75 an hour, barely more than minimum wage. Of that amount, the sheriff’s office claimed up to 62 percent right off the top. Multiply that by the number of total hours all prisoners in the program work in fiscal year 2011-12, the latest year data were available for Lau’s Jan. 7, 2015, story and you come up with a cool $500,000 added to the Caddo Sheriff’s Department’s general fund.

That was in addition to the $25 per day the sheriff’s office was paid for housing state inmates and $47 per day per prisoner paid by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for federal inmates, most of whom have committed no greater crime than being illegal aliens.

Moreover, there are those commissaries operated by the private prisons that reach deeper into inmates’ pockets. With literally a captive clientele, private prisons were able to charge $4 for a Honey Bun and $5 for a cold drink. That’s according to Baton Rouge Public Radio reporter Sue Lincoln, who did an outstanding series on THE PRICE of JUSTICE earlier this year. It’s no wonder, then, that Correct Commissary, LLC, of Ruston approached the Lincoln Parish Police Jury several months ago about constructing a 50,000-square-foot commissary warehouse on the site of the former Ruston Municipal Airport. The company packages snack boxes that it sells to prison inmates, according to An April 2, 2017 article in the Ruston Daily Leader.

After 11 weeks, the prisoner about whom Lau wrote, took home a grand total of $416, or about $37.82 per week.

And what about businesses who employ work release inmates?

Well, besides the low wages, there is the obvious benefit of not having to pay for medical insurance or contribute to retirement funds—or to pay each such employee two weeks’ vacation pay each year. One could make the case that using this cheap prison labor could be knocking non-inmates out of jobs.

But that’s not the only consideration. For every work release inmate employed, the state gives the employer a whopping $2,400 tax credit. That’s not a tax deduction, but a full-blown tax credit, meaning that amount is lopped right off the top of the company’s tax bill. So, a company like the Foster Farms chicken processing plant in Farmerville in Union Parish, which uses up to 200 inmates from work release, gets an instant reduction of up to $480,000 off its state tax bill.

A 2016 AUDIT by the Legislative Auditor’s Office revealed that there were 8,700 prisoners in work release programs across the state. That computes to nearly $21 million in tax credits—and that’s in addition to the $80 million or so the state pays private and parish prisons for housing inmates.

And while the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 may have abolished plantation slavery, it may have unwittingly opened the door to another form of slavery that while flying below the radar, nevertheless remains legal more than a century-and-a-half later, enriching the modern slaveowner, aka private and parish prisons.

So, it is understandable perhaps that Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator was so FURIOUS at the new Louisiana sentencing and parole laws that go into effect on Nov. 1. The new law will mean the release of about 1400 non-violent offenders. He will, he says, lose some of his best CAR WASHING prisoners.

 

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Are State Fire Marshal deputies in violation of the law by wearing firearms while on duty?

That’s a fair question.

Many, if not most deputy fire marshals would prefer not to wear a weapon. Some whom we talked with are downright resentful that they are required to go through Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification to be qualified to be armed agents. It’s not the training they object to so much as the requirement that they carry a weapon.

But the fact remains that they are required to do just that.

But there may be legitimate questions as to the actual legality of such a requirement.

In 2009, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning wanted a bill introduced that would redefine and expand the authority of deputy fire marshals, a move opposed by command level brass at Louisiana State Police (LSP) who found the proposal to be inappropriate, based on the mission of the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LOSFM).

In a March 16, 2009, email to State Police command and on which LSP’s Office of Legal Affairs was copied, Browning wrote, “I wanted to follow up on the legislation on full police powers for our investigators. Currently, they have powers to carry firearms and (to) make arrests for the arson crimes and I have the authority to commission them. Arson is now, more than ever, a bi-product of so many other crimes and our folks regularly uncover other crimes and times where their ability to charge with other crimes might help the arson investigation.

“Our people need full powers while conducting a (sic) arson investigation. This can be accomplished with adding to the fire marshal’s act or by your commissioning authority,” he wrote. “I have no preference. I just know they need this ability. You (sic) consideration in this matter is appreciated.”

Browning even prevailed upon then-State Rep. Karen St. Germain of Plaquemine (now Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles) to draft a bill to redefine the role of deputy fire marshals. From what we can determine it appears that despite Browning’s pleas to expand the agency’s law enforcement authority the bill received no support from Gov. Bobby Jindal (likely at the urging of then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson) and was never filed.

Why would a person who trained to be a boiler inspector be required to pack heat?

The same goes for nursing home, child care facilities, and hospital inspectors.

Ditto those who inspect carnival rides.

Likewise, for jail, public school and other public building inspectors.

The fact is, the only conceivable area in which a deputy fire marshal might need to be armed is in the area of explosives and arson investigations, according to highly-placed LSP officials who insist there is little or no need for the creation of yet another police agency to augment LSP, Department of Public Service (DPS) officers, sheriffs’ departments, campus and local police departments.

Yet, just a couple of years ago, there they were: Armed deputy fire marshals patrolling the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

In order for Browning to get around the objections of LSP, he instituted cross-training whereby all deputy fire marshals, no matter their specialized training, must be qualified to inspect any type building, any carnival ride, any boiler, any jail, or any night club—and to be arson investigators to boot. That proposal, coinciding as it did with Jindal’s obsession with downsizing and consolidation of state government, tempered the governor’s initial reluctance to go along with Browning.

But in reality, the issue was never about improving response or streamlining the agency at all. It was about improving retirement benefits.

By allowing deputies—all deputies (and virtually all employees would ultimately be designated as deputies)—to become POST-certified and to carry weapons, it qualified employees (even clerical, if they wore a gun, as some now do), to have their jobs upgraded to hazardous duty as are state police and DPS police.

What that means is employees can now qualify to retire at 100 percent of their average salary for their top three years more than a decade earlier than State Civil Service employees. Here’s how it works:

State classified employees under Civil Service accrue retirement at 2.5 percent per year at a rate based on the average of their three highest earning years (excluding overtime) multiplied by years of service. So, a classified employee whose highest three-year average earnings are $50,000 must work 40 years to retire at 100 percent of his salary ($50,000 X 2.5 percent = $1,250 X 40 years = $50,000. Based on that same formula, if he worked 30 years, he would retire at $37,500). (This equation, of course, works for any pay level, not just $50,000.)

But hazardous duty employees accrue retirement at 3.5 percent of the average of their three highest years. That means the same three-year average pay of $50,000 would accrue retirement at a rate of 3.5 percent, or $1,750 per year, allowing him to retire at 100 percent of salary in just over 28 years.

Accordingly, Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Brant Thompson surmised that if deputies achieved POST certification, then they were fully imbued with general law enforcement authority and not the limited law enforcement authority laid out in state statutes. “That assumption is absolutely not true,” according to one long time law enforcement official familiar with how officers are commissioned. “Just because an individual has POST certification doesn’t empower that person to enforce all laws. That authority flows from the law or via the person issuing the commission. I’m not sure who commissions deputy marshals; I suspect it is Browning rather than the Superintendent of State Police.

“I know that when the LSP Colonel (Superintendent) issues a commission to campus police, for example, the commission makes it clear that law enforcement authority is limited to crimes occurring on the campus,” the former law enforcement officer said.

Browning is nothing if not determined in his quest to acquire full law enforcement authority for his marshals. The debate that began in 2009 has continued into 2016, at least. Gene Cicardo, who was appointed chief legal counsel for DPS upon the death of Frank Blackburn last September, was drawn into the dispute and wrote a memorandum to Edmonson and Deputy Superintendent Charles Dupuy that left Browning upset and unhappy, according to sources.

The contents of that memorandum are not known, but LouisianaVoice has made a public records request to LSP for that document.

Cicardo has since returned to private practice in Alexandria.

Meanwhile, we have armed boiler inspectors, carnival ride inspectors, nursing home inspectors and, conceivably, even State Fire Marshal Office clerical employees (aka Executive Management Officers) patrolling for criminal elements in the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

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Yesterday, Sept. 19, was the 17-month anniversary of the rape of that 17-year-old female meth addict in the Union Parish Jail by a man already convicted of aggravated rape who was awaiting sentencing. (See LouisianaVoice’s initial story HERE.)

Seventeen months and still no resolution to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s “investigation.”

Because the Union Parish Detention Center is run by a consortium comprised of the mayors of Union Parish municipalities, the Union Parish Sheriff, the Union Parish Police Jury and the local district attorney, District Attorney John Belton correctly recused his office from the investigation and requested the assistance of Landry’s office.

Apparently, that’s where the “investigation” ended.

Landry, who harbors an apparent obsession with issuing news releases that promote Jeff Landry almost on a daily basis, is never shy in boasting about his intolerance for wrongdoing and how his office will not stand for (fill in the blank for whichever hot button topic a particular days’ news release is about).

A few samples:

  • In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has issued a Public Service Announcement to protect consumers from purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle. 
  • Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is warning the public of online promotions that mislead consumers to believe they can receive money from a settlement reached between the nation’s four largest tobacco companies and attorneys general from 46 states and territories.
  • “It is important for consumers to understand that if an advertisement sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said General Landry. “Louisiana consumers should be on guard that if a promotion is promising free money, it may not be legitimate.”
  • “Our award-winning Medicaid welfare fraud investigators work around the clock to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in this program so critical to our State’s most vulnerable,” said General Landry. “With the Governor’s expansion of Medicaid welfare, we recognize the need for even greater detection and prevention of taxpayer-funded Medicaid welfare fraud.”
  • “I have made it clear since entering office that the Louisiana Department of Justice will not stand for corrupt public officials,” said General Landry. “The people of our State deserve better and should expect more out of those who are appointed or elected to serve.”
  • Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced the arrest of a New Orleans woman for practicing dentistry without a license, providing services to illegal immigrants. “When there are unlicensed people posing as professionals, it violates the public’s trust,” said General Landry. “There are too many hard-working people in our State to let criminals affect their professions.”
  • “My Public Protection Division works tirelessly to ensure companies that deceive Louisiana consumers are held accountable for their actions,” said General Landry. “This resolution does just that and should serve as a reminder for those doing business in our State to follow manufacturing safety standards.”
  • In an effort led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, nine states are urging the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) to evaluate Obama-era consent decrees and ongoing civil rights cases with a goal of working collaboratively to end them.
  • “Our office fights daily to protect our State’s seniors and sick. Criminals preying on Louisiana’s most vulnerable will investigated, apprehended, and prosecuted,” said General Landry. “It is a disgusting travesty for the elderly, especially Holocaust survivors, to be scammed and robbed by those supposedly caring for them. I hope to get justice for our victims very soon.”
  • “My office will not rest in our pursuit of those who rob much needed services from our State’s most vulnerable,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Our award-winning fraud detection and prevention unit remains committed to uncovering, investigating, and arresting those who attempt to defraud the system.”

You gotta give Jeff Landry credit: He certainly can self-promote.

Somehow, though, he can’t seem to complete an investigation of the rape of a 17-year-old girl even though he is in possession of the following relevant information:

  • He knows the date of the assault;
  • He knows the location of the assault;
  • He knows the identity of the rape victim;
  • He knows the identity of the rapist.

So, what more does he need? Why has his office’s “investigation” still not been completed after 17 months?

The answer is simple and it’s a sad indictment of the political culture and the political agenda of not only the state of Louisiana in particular but the entire nation in general.

It’s the same reason words like cooperation, bipartisanship, and compromise are relics of the past in Washington.

Just look around and you can see the answer everywhere, like so much low-hanging fruit:

In the words of one state official: It’s low priority because there’s no political capital to be gained.

Where, after all, are the votes in defending the rights of a 17-year-old girl who is a meth addict and who can’t vote?

She probably is oblivious to Landry’s gubernatorial aspirations.

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I don’t often delve off into national politics because, quite frankly, it’s way above my pay grade. Some would argue that a local zoning board would be above my pay grade, but for now, we’ll leave that argument for later discussion.

But I fear there is a disturbing trend out in the real world, folks, and the early signs are it’s only going to get worse. So, within my limited capabilities, I will attempt to address a development that, having grandchildren in college, I find especially troubling.

Aside from that despicable display at Charlottesville a few weeks back, there have been no civic uprisings of a scale to require extra hair spray for David Muir’s ABC evening newscasts.

While certainly, there have been several inexplicably senseless shootings of individuals by law enforcement officers, there has been nothing as tragic and senseless as the Kent State University shootings 0n May  4, 1970, or at Jackson State University 11 days later.

My wife and I celebrated our 49th anniversary last month and at the time of the slaughter of these students, we were still two months shy of our second anniversary. We were only a couple of years older than they when they were cut down.

And today, sadly, the seeds are being planted for future occurrences far more catastrophic than those of more than 46 years ago.

Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Program 1033, first enacted by Congress in 1996 during the administration of President Bill Clinton but suspended two years ago by President Barack Obama, was being resumed.

Program 1033 (Click HERE) is a program whereby America has been furtively arming police departments across the country with military armaments designed to put down insurrections, riots, or even peaceful protests.

Sessions noted that the program was originally implemented “for use in drug enforcement by federal and state law enforcement.

But here’s the real kicker: The program is now being expanded to colleges and universities which feel the need to possess military hardware. Already, 117 institutions of higher education, including two Louisiana universities, now have sufficient weaponry to tilt the balance in their favor should a horde of angry college students set out to overthrow the government of these 50 sovereign states. (Click HERE).

Apparently, it’s not enough that any governor can call up the National Guard to protect the status quo as was done at Kent and Jackson State. Now the campus police, P.O.S.T. (Police Officer Standards and Training) certified though they may now be but still, for the most part, seriously lacking in proper policing skills other than handing out campus parking tickets, are going to be armed to the teeth.

What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, discounting the obvious potential of horrific meltdowns in tense situations such as occur on a typical game day, the bean counters on university campuses are looking at the bottom line as if it is, in itself, justification for placing a powder keg next to the barbecue grill at a Saturday afternoon tailgate party: “For me, this is a cost savings for taxpayers,” says University of Florida Associate Vice President and Dean of Students.

What??!!

A COST SAVINGS??!!? These are our children and grandchildren you’re placing in harm’s way, you idiot! Are you out of your rabbit-assed mind, you booger-eating moron??!!

Oh, sorry. I forgot. Students are only secondary to big-time sports and the almighty bottom line.

An equally asinine quote by Fort Valley State University associate professor of criminal justice Michael Qualls that, coming as it does from a member of academia, has to make one ask what “WTF?”:

“…as those items become obsolete at the military level and if they become available, why not get ’em?”

By that logic, universities might wish to look into obtaining decommissioned battleships, submarines and even a few dozen “obsolete” nuclear bombs, along with a couple of mothballed B-52 bombers to deliver them.

Yeah, right.

Comic Ron White nailed it when he said you can’t fix stupid.

Just let any otherwise insignificant event occur on a college campus and some trigger-happy, itchy-finger campus commando cop with an M-16 come on the scene and we have another massacre on our hands. Only this time, it’ll be far worse than Kent State and Jackson State combined.

With exceptions that are completely in line with the general population, our colleges and universities have done just fine, thank you, without the ominous presence of G.I. Joe ready to put down any simmering restlessness on the part of college students who might be angry over any number of things—cuts to funding, say, or increased tuition, suppression of freedom of speech (the latest on-campus fad), the every-widening wage disparity, climate change, or another in a string of senseless wars designed only to make military suppliers and speculators wealthy.

I mean, after all, we just can’t have free expression, the free exchange of ideas, on our college campuses. That would be subversive and….well, dangerous. We don’t want these kids thinking for themselves, becoming active in any type of student resistance, or even engaging in dialogue outside the campus community.

Besides the 12 M-16s issued to both NSU and ULM, some schools are getting armored pickup trucks (University of Florida) and “Mine Resistant Vehicles,” or MRAPS as they are affectionately known in such tourist meccas as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Purdue, being an especially dangerous hangout for subversives of all sorts, is getting 25 M-16s but that’s nothing. The University of Maryland is reaping 50 of those, two M-14s, and 16 riot shotguns (12-gauge). They must really be expecting trouble from those rowdy quantum physics majors.

Hinds Community College and the University of Central Florida received grenade launchers and Texas Southern University got a mine-resistant vehicle.

Seriously, they really did.

Next will come the name changes: Hinds Community Military Installation, Fort Central Florida. Texas Southern University (TSU) will become Tactical Systems University. ULM won’t mean University of Louisiana Monroe; it’ll be University of Light Munitions. NSU will be Neutralizing Systems University.

But for the record, neither Kent State nor Jackson State were among the 117 institutions receiving surplus military supplies.

Could it be that they more readily see the lessons to be learned from the insanity of nearly half-a-century ago?

What was it again that President Eisenhower said upon leaving office in 1960 about the military-industrial complex?

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