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After more than eight years, the time has come to shut LouisianaVoice down.

Some, perhaps many, who read this will be delighted and that’s okay. It’s their right to disagree with me and I should have no problem with that—and I don’t.

Others will be delighted at my timing, which comes on the eve of our October fundraiser during which I spend a lot of time begging for your hard-earned money like some kind of shameless, money-grubbing televangelist (except I don’t own a Lear jet or reside in a gated mansion).

Having said that, I would suggest that those of you who have monthly contributions set up on Paypal deactivate your accounts. But please know that I appreciate your support through the years more than you could ever possibly know.

I’m not taking this action lightly nor am I exiting voluntarily. I have been diagnosed with macular degeneration and my vision has deteriorated significantly over the past few months. While I remain fully capable of most activities such as driving because my vision is not focused on a single item, reading has become difficult. Reading has been a lifelong passion and where I once routinely read half a book at a sitting, I now find it nearly impossible to read more than three or four pages before the words start to run together in an indistinct blur.

I still have a couple of books I want to try to write if I can pull it off but doing that and conducting research for and then writing LouisianaVoice posts has become a bit much, so I had to make a choice.

Having said all that, below is my final post on LouisianaVoice:

 

So, you think your voice matters?

You believe that when you sign a petition to be sent to your congressman or legislator, s/he actually bothers to read them?

The answer to both questions is an unqualified NO!

If you don’t believe me, sit in on a legislative committee hearing sometime—either live or online. Better yet, set yourself up for total humiliation and actually testify before a legislative committee and just watch the committee members’ eyes glaze over or even watch them get up and move about, talking to other members or even texting or leaving the room while you offer your thoughts about a bill.

Or, you could do what retired State Budget Officer Stephen Winham does on a regular basis—write your congressman. Winham does so on at least a weekly basis, sometimes several times a week. It’s become something of an obsession with him to try and get a direct answer from U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who has yet to actually address any issue Winham has raised, answering instead with canned, form letters.

How’s that for representative government?

In one recent exchange, Winham sent the following email to Kennedy:

SUBJECT:  2nd Amendment

On this and other subjects, your questioning of nominee Kavanaugh was excellent, but sometimes too scholarly for a layperson to follow. In the case of the 2nd amendment vis-a-vis Judge Kavanaugh’s stance as an constitutional originalist, the clause you discussed was never actually stated: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,..” 

The 2nd amendment is very simple. Although the Supreme Court in Heller held the 2nd clause, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (and the one Judge Kavanaugh actually quoted) held precedence over the first.  I think you were trying to get Judge Kavanaugh’s take.  If so, you did not succeed. You also did not succeed in getting an answer to the question of, as an originalist, if a case came before the court overturning a Supreme Court decision on the basis that the original language was misinterpreted, how he would tend. In other words, even though Judge Kavanaugh continuously invoked precedents as modifying his legal stance as an originalist, he never answered the direct question of whether he would ever disagree with a precedent if he believed it was wrong based on the original language.

I personally believe Heller was a bad decision. IF we needed a militia, the need for assault weapons and other military and automatic weaponry might be justified. Since we don’t, it isn’t. You have taken a strong stance that seems consistent with Heller. Have you modified that stance in recent days? I sincerely hope so.

Stephen Winham

St. Francisville

 

Here is KENNEDY’S RESPONSE:

That, folks, is pure arrogance. I may be wrong on this point and if so, I stand corrected, but I believe Kennedy has yet to hold his first town hall meeting.

Need more convincing? Check out this VIDEO which they didn’t show you in high school civics class.

This is one of the reasons I launched LouisianaVoice in the first place. Yes, mine may accurately be called a negative voice. But when you realize that your voice, your ideas, your dreams, mean precious little to those in power, it’s pretty damned easy to be negative.

And just as the video demonstrates, all you have to do is follow the money to understand why corruption is legal in America.

So, let’s follow some money.

For the 2018 election cycle (that’s this year, as in right now, folks), click HERE to see the top 100 recipients of campaign contributions from lobbyists and from lobbyists and family members (in parentheses). Right there at number 19, with $225,000 ($244,000) is House Louisiana’s very own Steve Scalise. Here’s the LIST of lobbyist contributors to Scalise.

Not that he’s the only Louisiana member of congress to feed at the lobbyists’ trough. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was 69th on the list, raking in $75,000 ($78,700) so far this year—and he’s not even up for re-election for another four years.

That’s nothing. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has received $77,000 ($80,600)—and he’s also not running because he’s retiring from congress. Yet, he continues to collect lobbyist money.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves was 89th, with a somewhat more modest $60,000 ($62,400).

In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton received a whopping $3 million ($3.4 million) while Donald Trump received only $112,500 ($143,000). Click HERE for Clinton’s individual lobbyist contributors and HERE for Trump’s.

In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pulled in $2.2 million ($2.6 million) from lobbyists—both of which were $800,000 less than Clinton’s take in 2016). That same year, President Obama received $180,000 ($354,000) in lobbyist contributions.

Scalise, meanwhile, received $233,000 ($262,500) for the 2016 election cycle while Kennedy received $82,000 ($84,000) in his initial run for the Senate.

Charles Boustany received $283,000 ($302,600) in his loss to challenger Rep. Clay Higgins.

In Louisiana, 2014 was memorable for the bare-knuckled Senate fight between incumbent Mary Landrieu and successful challenger Bill Cassidy. In that race, Landrieu received $444,000 ($482,000) from lobbyists while Cassidy got $151,000 ($176,000).

Scalise received $93,500 ($103,500) and Graves got $71,500 ($74,300) in 2014.

Here are the top 100 recipients of lobbyist contributions for 2012, 2010 and 2008.

The next time you hear or see a political ad, remember this: The Russians didn’t invent campaign interference or manipulation. They were not the first by any means to spread misinformation and disinformation and they certainly didn’t invent planted or “fake” news. Political consultants have been doing that in this country for as long as we’ve been a nation. It’s not called “political science” for nothing.

What does all that mean? For openers, we’re all pawns in one gigantic chess game and the chess masters see us not as “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton so infamously said, but as “disposables.” The bottom line, unfortunately, is that the system is hopelessly rigged so that corruption and power will long outlast exposure and prevail over the best-intentioned efforts at reform.

Call that cynical, jaded or pessimistic, it has become the sad reality of our time. Perhaps it was always this way and we just didn’t know it—until the emergence of the Internet, with its instant and universal access, brought us face to face with the truth.

Having said that, LouisianaVoice, in this, my last post, offers a first—my endorsements (for what they’re worth) for the Nov. 6 congressional races:

1st Congressional District: Tammy Savoie

2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond

3rd Congressional District: Mildred “Mimi” Methvin

4th Congressional District: Ryan Trundle

5th Congressional District: Jessee Sleenor

6th Congressional District: Garret Graves

 

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As a state representative, John Bel Edwards was once a harsh critic of Bobby Jindal.

That was then. Now appears to be quite different.

Edwards the legislator was often a lonely voice in the legislature, speaking out in opposition to Jindal’s destruction of the Office of Group Benefits and the raiding of OGB’s $500 million surplus from which it paid medical claims for state employees. Then.

Edwards opposed Jindal’s attempts to privatize governmental services, including prisons. Then.

Edwards the legislator was the leading critic—sometimes the only critic—of Jindal’s destruction of the state hospital system. Then.

Edwards the legislator openly challenged Jindal’s constant budgetary cuts, often asking pointed questions of Jindal or his lackeys during committee hearings. Then.

Edwards the legislator said that he was fooled into voting in favor of an amendment at the end of the 2014 legislative session that would have given a hefty—but illegal—boost in retirement income for then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. Edwards, in fact, led the call for an investigation into the maneuver by State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia. Then

But when John Bel Edwards was elected governor he suddenly began to morph into Bobby Jindal 2.0.

The first indication that the more things change the more they remain the same was when he reappointed Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc at the behest of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

The sheriffs’ association is a powerful lobby and anyone who desires to be governor must pass in review before the association and receive its blessing. The local sheriff, after all, is the single most powerful political figure at the parish level. And when you multiply that local power by 64, the number of parishes, you have a formidable political force to overcome if you don’t have their collective endorsement.

Edwards’s brother is a sheriff. So was his father and his grandfather before that. So, it was no surprise when Edwards received the association’s seal of approval.

JINDAL was joined at the hip by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and he showed it by his penchant for tax relief for big business at the expense of public and higher education and health care.

Remember when people could actually afford to send their kids to college?

Remember when there were facilities available to those in need of mental health care?

Remember when the state budget reflected some degree of sanity?

Remember when teachers could count on a pay raise every decade or so?

I can remember when there were real Democrats in Louisiana politics and not pretenders who bend with whichever direction the wind blows (see John Alario, John Kennedy, et al).

Well, thanks to the abetting of compliant legislators beholden to corporate campaign contributors, those are now just fond memories.

But when John Bel was elected, there was hope.

Instead, he has cozied up to business and industry and rather than confronting legislators, he tried to get along with them without offending them. Apparently, he didn’t learn from Dave Treen, a Republican governor who tried unsuccessfully to get along with a Democratic legislature.

And now, today, he is in New Orleans to address, of all people, delegates to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On a lesser scale, that’s the moral equivalent to Trump colluding with…well, never mind.

ALEC is, or should be, everything a real Democrat (as opposed to a DINO) should shun like the plague. A real Democrat truly interested in promoting what is best for Louisiana’s citizens would never set foot inside an ALEC Annual Meeting, much less appear as a speaker at one.

Retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham said as much when was quoted by a Baton Rouge Advocate EDITORIAL yesterday.

ALEC is a conglomerate of BUSINESS INTERESTS that promotes a Republican agenda exclusively. Members converge on a city (like New Orleans) for their Annual Conference, sit down in highly secretive meetings (no press allowed, thank you very much), and draft “model legislation” for member lawmakers in attendance to take back home and introduce as new bills, quite often without bothering to change so much as a comma.

That’s it. Legislative members of ALEC attend these meetings so lobbyists for corporations from other states can tell them what’s best for Louisiana citizens.

In 2011, when then-State Rep. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was its national president, Jindal was the featured speaker and received the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.

Now, ALEC is back and so is Jindal 2.0 John Bel Edwards.

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Sean Morrison is fighting a tough battle in one of the reddest of a decidedly red state’s parishes. But he doesn’t make any apologies for his positions and he stands ready to take the fight to the special interests.

Morrison says he is not beholden to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) or any other special interest group in his quest to fill the unexpired term of District 90 State Rep. Greg Cromer who resigned to become mayor of Slidell on July 1.

In fact, Morrison, chairman of the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee, took the rather unusual step of releasing a copy of LABI’s candidate QUESTIONNAIRE, the answers to which are virtually certain to keep him from getting the organization’s seal of approval—which is fine with him.

The survey, he said, “asked candidates to oppose policies that are good for working families like workplace fairness, job safety protections, access to justice for all Louisianans in our courts, access to high quality healthcare, promoting wage fairness, and an ongoing review of Louisiana’s billions in corporate tax giveaways.”

He said, “We need leaders in Baton Rouge who aren’t already influenced before they get there. I’m promising this: to fight hard to do what is right under the circumstances every single time,” Morrison said.

Born in Missouri, he grew up in Texas and moved around a lot as a child. From small towns like Egan, Louisiana, to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Sean saw all aspects of American life. His father, Michael, has worked in the oil and gas industry his entire career. His mother, Christy, is a school teacher in Houston.

Morrison studied political science, psychology, and philosophy at Tulane. He graduated with honors from Case Western Reserve Law School with a focus on international law and war crimes. He went to law school with one goal – to prosecute war criminals. Case Western Reserve had just the program, so Sean packed a U-Haul and drove it all the way from New Orleans to Cleveland. The gambit paid off. For six months he worked with the prosecution for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the aftermath of their brutal civil war.

Following law school, he got a job working with a large Cleveland law firm. One morning he woke up and saw his whole future laid out before him. It was full of billable hours, corporate meetings, and Cleveland winters. So, he hopped on a plane to American Samoa and became a criminal prosecutor there. It was not long until the island was hit with a devastating tsunami. He immediately transferred to the Department of Commerce, where he worked on rebuilding the community, revitalizing its broken economy, and planning to prevent future disasters. “It was there that I learned that serving people through government was the most rewarding work anyone could do,” he says.

When he returned, he began working to conserve the Gulf Coast, it’s beaches, wetlands, and fisheries for future generations. He entered the job in the wake of scandal, as the Executive Director and others were jailed for corruption. As part of the new team, Sean helped reorganize the department, put in place new legal and fiscal systems, and rebuilt the reputation so that today the Department of Marine Resources is considered the gold standard of government in Mississippi (though Louisianans, after eight years of Bobby Jindal, are leery of anything bearing the label “gold standard”).

“I have dedicated my career to helping people through public service,” he says. “I have seen how the government is supposed to operate, and what gets in the way. Too often it is the legislators enacting laws that make it impossible to provide decent service to the people. As more and more politicians claim that there’s nothing to be done (and then set about proving it), I’ve come to know that all we need is public servants willing to roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics, and start doing the hard work of government. I have that experience and I can get the job done.”

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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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Facing discipline that included recommendations of demotion, reassignment, removal from the SWAT team and a 160-hour suspension without pay, he RESIGNED from the Opelousas Police Department.

When he next popped up, he was working as a public information officer for the St. Landry Sheriff’s Office where he tried to transform his image into that of some sort of John Wayne-George Patton clone.

But that went south as well when it was learned that his salary was being garnished by the FBI because he had paid NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES for several years and that he was about $100,000 behind in his CHILD SUPPORT payments.

So, it was only natural that Clay Higgins would benefit from the 2016 Trump wave that would sweep him INTO OFFICE as U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s Third Congressional District.

During the 2016 campaign, he was taped by his ex-wife in a TELEPHONE CONVERSATION in which he said, “I’m just learning really about campaign laws…but there’s going to be a lot of money floating around.”

Higgins has established himself in the same mold as state and federal offices-holders Leander Perez, John Rarick, and David Duke in the two short years he has served in Congress.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin wants to alter the image of the 3rd Congressional District to reflect a more rational approach to addressing the district’s problems at what she calls a “pivotal moment” for the district, state and the country.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mimi Methvin, right, discusses her candidacy for U.S. Representative from the 3rd Congressional District with Ellen Torgrimson, New Orleans, of the League of Women Voters.

She is one of six challengers to Higgins—three other Democrats (one of whom just switched from Republican a few weeks ago), a Libertarian, and a Republican. If qualifications and past performance are any kind of barometer, she would be the hands-down selection as the candidate with the best chance of unseating the enigmatic Higgins.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin, left, formally qualifies to run for U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District last Wednesday. Looking on is Meg Casper of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

Methvin has worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office and served 26 years as a U.S. magistrate judge. Magistrate judges are selected on the basis of merit and she was vetted for each of her three terms. In that position, she mediated several complex litigation cases and in 2009, she returned to private practice, having just won a $1.2 million award for a Rapides Parish teacher.

“Our Constitution is a moral covenant,” she says. “The question that must be addressed is this: Does the voice of the average American still count or is the voice of corporate America the only voice heard?

“The people of the 3rd District need to be independent, not bought by the special interests,” she said.

To that end, unlike Higgins, she has eschewed PAC contributions while Higgins has accepted nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars in PAC money thus far, including contributions from political action committees representing big oil, utilities, defense contractors, health care companies, insurance companies, chemical companies, the NRA (through Russian operatives perhaps?), and even an outfit called the “Support to Ensure Victory Everywhere PAC.”

Methvin listed health care, coastal restoration, and income equality as issues that are important to the district. She was harshly critical of what she described as the transfer of wealth to corporations and of recent attacks by the Trump administration on NATO—and of Higgins’ voting record in Congress.

“Congressman Higgins has turned his back on promises he made as a candidate. Ninety thousand of his constituents have lost their health care while he has put dollars in the pockets of the rich. He is in lock step with the corporations.”

She accused Higgins of “incontrovertible fealty to party loyalty” over the interests of his constituents.

Having once presided over a major case in which a sheriff’s department was held liable for beating an innocent suspect with a metal baseball bat, Methvin definitely has the chops to be tough while standing up for the interests of the citizens of the district.

Higgins’ unwavering devotion to Donald Trump notwithstanding, this could be the most interesting race of all six congressional districts.

 

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