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We have truly descended into the nadir of third-world status.

The video that depicted Donald Trump shooting, stabbing and clubbing Democrats, the late John McCain, and members of the media inside a church is at once incredibly disturbing, warped and dangerous.

The fact that (a) it was shown at the conservative American Priority Festival and Conference at which Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Donald Trump, Jr., were scheduled to appear, (b) Trump has yet to condemn the video and in fact, (c) the creator of MemeWorld, the website for which the video was produced, was an Oval Office guest in July when Trump referred to him as a “genius” only serves to underscore the ominously repulsive nature of the video.

Even worse, it shows that Trump and his supporters have thrown all restraint and socially-acceptable norms out the window. But then, they did that that long ago—like the day he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower in 2015.

Worse yet, this will no doubt serve as inspiration for some nut job to take it upon himself to act out his own fantasies and when some reporter or political enemy is killed, Trump and his supporters will, by their tacit approval of the video, demonstrated by their deafening silence, have blood on their hands.

Don’t think that will happen? Well, let’s rewind the tape to 2017 when Herr Trump tweeted that video of him taking down a CNN REPORTER in a WrestleMania event. A year later, 13 pipe bombs were mailed to CNN, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, actor Robert DeNiro, and others perceived as opponents of Trump. CESAR SAYOC was subsequently sentenced to prison for those mailings.

The showing of that video is one of those things that makes me want to look the perpetrator in the eye and ask, “What were you thinking?” It showed about as much forethought as the guy I read about who tried to rob a bank at a drive-up window (bullet-proof glass, by the way). The teller, upon reading the note from the would-be robber, flipped it over and wrote, “I don’t see a gun.” The man obligingly placed his gun in the drawer and sent it in to the teller—action that can only attributed to gross stupidity.

The White House has attempted to distance itself from the video but we’ve heard nothing from Trump himself. Nil. Nada. Zilch.

Of course, he will be interjecting himself into our general election for governor, stumping for the Republican candidate over Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards. On that we can rest assured. One businessman with six bankruptcies and several loan defaults on his record campaigning for another businessman. Perfect.

Trump’s devout supporters will no doubt come to his defense as they always do. But now they will be defending the indefensible. They will say the video won’t incite violence, but because it’s impossible to prove a negative, only time will tell.

But even if it doesn’t, the question remains: why in the world was that video ever shown—or even produced—in the first place? What message was it trying to convey? It certainly wasn’t the Christian Values the evangelicals seem to have bestowed upon this president. It couldn’t be a message on behalf of free market capitalism. Nor could it serve as a message endorsing border security. Or peace. Or trade wars. Or the virtues of being an American patriot.

And it certainly couldn’t have been a message to show Trump’s courage.

He is, after all, the one who got five medical deferrals for bone spurs that kept him out of the military during the Vietnam War.

 

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It’s been a busy last couple of weeks, to say the least:

  • Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards was forced into a runoff with millionaire businessman Eddie Rispone who had never run for office before and who offered no specific solutions to Louisiana’s problems other than to say he was going to “fix it,” a-la the late Ross Perot and that he would lower taxes a-la Bobby Jindal.
  • In the all-important races for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the big money was the big winner. Seven candidates backed by LABI and its PAC money won seven seats on the board, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that it’s not who has the best ideas and who is the best-qualified, but who has the money that determines who gets elected in Louisiana. Voters continue to listen to the sound bites and to read the brochures that clutter our mailboxes instead of educating themselves on the issues. Perhaps the completion of an intensive civics course, complete with a required essay on all the candidates should be a criteria for voting.
  • Two Soviet-born emigres managed to penetrate the White House’s inner circle by cozying up to Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump by pouring $350,000 into federal and state Republican campaigns and contacted Ukrainian officials at the behest of Giuliani in his efforts to dig up information on Democrats. No word if any of that $350,000 went into the Rispone campaign.
  • Trump threw erstwhile allies Kurds under the bus by pulling out American forces, using has his excuse the somewhat dubious claim he wanted the U.S. out of the mess in the Mideast even as he was committing more troops to Saudi Arabia to aid that country in its fight against Iran.
  • LSU won a classic heavyweight match-up with Florida and moved into the number two spot in the national rankings.
  • The Hard Rock Café Hotel in New Orleans that was under construction in the French Quarter collapsed, leaving at least two dead and raising questions about construction inspections similar to those raised in a similar incident in Baton Rouge more than 40 years ago. That’s when a building undergoing construction on Airline Highway collapsed, killing three workers and injuring three others. The building had recently undergone its “final inspection” which pronounced it “ready for occupancy.”
  • In a textbook SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit, the Ascension Parish Council responded to a public records request from former employee Teleta Wesley by filing a lawsuit against her. The same course was taken by the 4th Judicial District Court (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes) judges against The Ouachita Citizen newspaper and by the Welsh Town Council against town council member Jacob Colby Perry. Similar action was also threatened but never taken by Lake Charles attorney Russell Stutes, Jr. in response to public records requests submitted by Billy Broussard who was never paid by Calcasieu Parish to remove debris from Hurricane Rita in 2005. Such lawsuits are filed for the sole purpose of shutting up critics who generally don’t have the resources to fight such nuisance lawsuits.

Several surveys came out recently that revealed some interesting facts.

  • Louisiana, with a poverty rate of 18.6 percent in 2018 (down from 19.7 percent the year before), improved somewhat to the fifth-poorest state in the nation. The state came in ahead of (in order) New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia.
  • Monroe, meanwhile, ranked as the 28th poorest metropolitan area in the U.S. with a median household income of $44,353 and a poverty rate of 20.7 percent and with 12.2 percent of households with incomes under $10,000 (both among the 10 highest rates). Not to be outdone, the Shreveport-Bossier City metro area was 14th-poorest with a median household income of $41,969 and a poverty rate of 20.4 percent.
  • Louisiana’s state retirement system, often criticized by the numbers-crunchers, while not on the best financial footing, was nevertheless, in “only” the 20th worst shape (putting the state not very far from the middle of the pack) with a funded ratio of 65.1 percent and a total pension shortfall of $18.2 billion (19th highest). That compares favorably with Kentucky’s funded ratio of only 33.9 percent and its $42.9 billion shortfall (the worst in the nation) and next-door neighbor Mississippi, which had a funded ratio of 61.6 percent but a total pension shortfall of $16.8 billion, two spots better than Louisiana’s.
  • Finally, a survey of the worst colleges in each state was done using U.S. Department of Education, Niche and College Factual (college ranking services) data based on graduation rates, costs of the university, salaries post-graduation, average student debt, and return on investment. Grambling State University near Ruston was deemed the worst in Louisiana. Grambling has a anemic graduation rate of only 10 percent and students leave with an average student debt of $27,656. With a median post-graduation salary of only $28,100, the default rate on student loans is 16.1 percent. By comparison, the worst college in Mississippi is Mississippi Valley State, which has a graduation rate three times that of Grambling at 29.8 percent and a loan default rate of 18.9 percent on average student loans of $32,252. In Arkansas, the worst is Philander Smith College in Little Rock which has a graduation rate of 39 percent but a default rate of 20.1 percent on average student debt of $26,616. The worst school in the nation is DeVry University. While it operates in nearly every state, its physical location is Illinois, so it was ranked as the worst in that state with a graduation rate of only 20.6 percent and average debt of $30,000 per student.

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Former British Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809-1898) is generally credited with coining the phrase, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Anyone who has had the misfortune of navigating our legal system in a civil lawsuit is keenly aware of the relevance of Gladstone’s insightful observation, especially if an individual should find himself pitted against the unlimited financial and manpower resources of, say, state government.

No one knows that better than three individuals who have seen their cases languish for as long as eight years with no resolution in sight. Murphy Painter, Corey DelaHoussaye and Billy Broussard have found the state attempting to ground them into submission through a flurry of legal motions.

The state has taken a page out of the playbooks of Allstate and State Farm in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Delay, deny, defend. Like those billion-dollar insurance companies, the state can afford to drag a case out indefinitely in the hopes of either demoralizing or bankrupting a plaintiff.

For those who insist that every person is entitled to his day in court, there is an equally compelling argument that justice can be bought. In criminal matters, the wealthy defendant who steals millions from his company or the politician who runs off a bridge, killing his female passenger, has a far better chance of avoiding a lengthy jail sentence—or any at all—than, say, some down on his luck individual who has the misfortune to getting caught with a joint. That’s because he can’t afford the legal representation and extracted courtroom fight as can those with greater resources.

LouisianaVoice will examine the legal pitfalls encountered by each of the three persons mentioned above in separate stories beginning today in an effort to show how the state drags out these cases as a tactic to wear down their finances and their will to keep fighting.

In the case of Murphy Painter, Bobby Jindal tried to set him up on bogus charges way back in August 2010 when he wouldn’t bend to the wishes of the late Tom Benson, a major contributor to Jindal’s political campaign, over a licensing issue. In our initial 2013 story about the prosecution, LouisianaVoice was the only media outlet to say publicly—and correctly—that Painter was being SET UP by Jindal.

Subsequent to that, we learned that the WARRANT executed on Painter’s ABC office was illegal in that the raid was carried out three days before the warrant was signed by Judge Bonnie Parker.

But that didn’t stop Jindal from pursuing criminal charges against Painter. He was indicted on 42 separate counts of computer fraud. But despite Jindal’s marshaling all the resources of state government against Painter, he was acquitted and the state had to pay his legal fees of $474,000—and that didn’t even take into account how much the state spent on his prosecution.

We will return to the state’s legal fees momentarily.

But first, let’s move to August 2011. That’s when Painter filed a lawsuit against the state, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, former Secretary of Revenue and Taxation Cynthia Bridges and Inspector General Stephen Street

It’s been eight years now and Painter’s lawsuit is no closer to a trial than it was in 2011.

Attorneys for the state have responded with stalling tactics that have taxed the patience of presiding judge who, out of exasperation, complained that Painter’s lawsuit had become so clouded by the state’s defensive maneuvers, motions, denials, and delays that the case had become impossible for any legal scholar to follow.

Just like the state planned it.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Lost in all this is the issue of just how much of taxpayers’ money the state is willing to spend in order to break an adversary who was railroaded for political purposes in the first place.

After all, if his lawsuit had no merit, it would seem the state would be eager to go trial and get the matter settled once and for all. That alone would save untold thousands of dollars. But all too often, defense attorneys with political connections are given contracts to defend these lawsuits. It’s a lucrative arrangement: the attorneys contribute generously to political campaigns and they are rewarded with contracts to sit on a case for a few years—all while the meter is running, of course.

Efforts have been made to learned just how much the state has spent in defending Painter’s lawsuit but the state says that information is protected under the public information statute.

For that matter, we have even been unable to learn how much the state spent in legal fees in its criminal prosecution against Painter. We know his legal fees of near half-a-million dollars were awarded but the state had shielded from view the amount it spent in the criminal prosecution on the grounds the ongoing civil suit prohibit the release of that information.

In fact, there is a provision tucked away in the statute [R.S. 44:4 (15)] which exempts divulging current legal fees in litigation to anyone except the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and that committee litigation subcommittee.

So, basically, the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for defending otherwise indefensible litigation are kept in the dark by state statute from learning how their tax dollars are wasted on years of costly legal maneuvers designed to frustrate and short circuit a system supposedly designed to allow the average citizen to seek redress for wrongs committed against them.

The exemption shielding this information notwithstanding, the citizens of Louisiana should have a right to know when the state deliberately draws out litigation in which it is a defendant with definite exposure—all as a ploy to exhaust the plaintiff physically, mentally and financially. A key element in the equation is the right to know how much taxpayer money is being lavished on contract attorneys who happen to have the right political connections,

A New York Appellate Court judge wrote in a 1968 case, “Public opinion, which is the most effective check on official abuse, can never be aroused (if) any and all acts of such an official are protected either by a veil of secrecy or the critic is subjected to costly litigation.”

William Gladstone would probably agree.

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Some weeks ago, I stopped counting political brochures arriving in my mailbox by sheer numbers, choosing instead to measure them by the pound.

Republic Services has probably had to put another truck or two into service just to cart away the political mail-outs cluttering the mailboxes on my street alone. They’re too slick to use for the bottoms of bird cages, so they serve no real purpose other than to attest to the fact we are needlessly killing far too many trees.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they actually offered anything new but, to paraphrase a line uttered by Frasier on the sitcom Cheers, they’re redundant, they repeat themselves, they say the same things over and over—and still they don’t tell us a thing about the candidate except perhaps in the case of one Edith Carlin, who insists she’s the male version of Donald Trump, a rather dubious self-accolade, if there ever was one.

Carlin describes herself in her fliers as “an outsider like President Trump.” (And yes, she does underscore the word outsider.) She goes on to say, “Just like President Trump, Edith Carlin is a self-made person…”

Really? Did she begin drawing millions from her father while still a child? Did her father purchase her way into the Wharton School of Business? Did she hire undocumented workers, not pay them, and default on billions of dollars of loans from banks into order to become “self-made”? Did she become “self-made” by declaring bankruptcy half-a-dozen times? Is she “self-made” from cheating thousands of students in a fraudulent “university” that was under investigation until making a big campaign contribution to the attorney general who was investigating the school? Is that what she means by “self-made”?

She should be so proud.

She says she “will hold the government accountable in a way politicians can’t.” Really? How does she plan to do that? That promise has been made thousands upon thousands of times by thousands upon thousands of candidates but nothing seems to change. But she’s different, I suppose. She’s proposing to waltz into a 39-member body and single-handedly convince her fellow senators and 105 House members that they’ve been wrong all along and they will obligingly repent of their evil ways.

That’s about as absurd as every four years, the candidates for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish vow to make public education better when in reality, the mayor’s office has zero to do with the school board. Zero.

Well, one of the things Carlin says she’ll do is “fix I-12 issues without raising the gas tax.” Well, Ms. Carlin, it would be most interesting to hear just how you plan to go about doing that.

“After billions of dollars in tax increases,” she says, “the government now admits taking too much from us.” I suppose she’s referring to the $300 million – $500 million surplus of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. But personally, I much prefer a surplus of $500 million to the eight years of $1 billion deficits of the best-forgotten Jindal administration.

She is running against State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, a fellow Republican, who is term-limited and who is running for the seat of former State Sen. Dale Erdy, also term-limited. Pope is a former Livingston Parish school superintendent who brought our school system up to among the best in the state. Pope’s big sin is he doesn’t always vote the party line, choosing instead to vote his conscience, an attribute many claim as their voting philosophy but which few can back up. But when you cross party lines, you cross the party and the party is the party is the party and the party doesn’t forget.

Carlin claims politicians “haven’t fixed our drainage problems,” that “80 percent of our district flooded.” True. I flooded, as did thousands of others. And of course, Carlin’s hero, Trump, dragged his feet in getting the requirements for assistance approved by HUD. It’s been three years and many still have received nothing from FEMA. As for fixing our drainage problems, she says we need an engineer to fix those problems. She is an engineer.

But guess what? Rogers Pope was an educator. Do you think they assigned him to the House Education Committee? Nope. That would make far too much sense. They tucked him away where he wouldn’t be a nuisance to Jindal and John White. Does Carlin think she’ll fare any better? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, she says she’ll work to improve drainage problems but she’s against taxes. It’s going to be interesting to see her just snap her fingers and make our problems vanish.

But to really understand the candidate Carlin, it’s always best to follow the money to see who is the power behind the politician (and she is now officially a politician, her denials notwithstanding).

So, I went onto the campaign finance records to see who her backers are.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least.

To narrow the field, I looked only at contributions of $500 or more. I found 65 contributions totaling $68,500 since January 1, 2019, including a couple of multiple contributions by the same donor, namely Republican power broker Lane Grigsby, who also backed Jindal and who is backing Eddie Rispone for governor.

I also noted a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries.

But the real story is that of those 65 contributions, is that exactly 11 were from Livingston Parish while 32 were from East Baton Rouge Parish, 14 from other parts of the state and eight were from out of state. That’s 11 from Livingston and 54 from elsewhere.

Those 11 Livingston Parish contributors (actually, only 10 because one person contributed on two different occasions) accounted for $14,500 (including $4,500 from just three persons) while the 32 East Baton Rouge Parish donors ponied up $37,500. The 14 from other areas of the state gave $17,500 and out-of-state contributors chipped in $13,500.

So, Livingston Parish contributors gave just 21 percent of Carlin’s total while backers in Baton Rouge put up 54.7 percent of her total.

Livingston Parish voters may wish to ask themselves why so many people in Baton Rouge are involving themselves in a race in Livingston Parish. Well, let’s see who they are:

  • EastPac, NorthPac, WestPac, and SouthPac, all arms of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), combined to give $19,267. Since there are limits as to how much a political action committee may give, LABI simply bent the rules by creating not one, not two, not three, but four PACs.
  • Lane Grigsby: $2,500.
  • Todd Grigsby: $1,000.
  • ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Pelican PAC: $2,500.
  • The Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC: $2,500.
  • TransPac (a trucking industry PAC): $1,500.
  • Investment portfolio manager Meagan Shields: $3,000 (two $1,500 contributions).
  • Louisiana Student Financial Aid Association (LASFAA) PAC: $1,000.

Besides Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, out-of-state contributors included:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.: $2,500.
  • Chevron, San Ramon, California: $2,500.
  • Stand for Children PAC, Portland, Oregon: $2,000.
  • Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, Washington: $1,500.
  • Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio: $1,500.
  • Tanner Barrow, Worthing, South Dakota: $1,000.
  • Micham Roofing, Sparta, Missouri: $500.

Louisiana contributors not from Livingston or East Baton Rouge Parish who contributed were from Bossier City, Slidell, New Orleans (2), Shreveport (2), Raceland, Jennings, Mandeville, Alexandria, Prairieville, Covington, Ponchatoula, and Gray.

So, those who haven’t already voted early may wish to ask themselves why the Republican party has turned on one of its own in such a vicious manner—but mostly why so much outside money is being poured into Edith Carlin’s campaign.

You may also wish to ask yourself whether she will be beholden to the people of Livingston Parish or to the faceless PACs of Baton Rouge, Washington, and elsewhere.

She may call herself a political outsider, but from here, she looks more like a puppet with the potential to be controlled by political insiders from outside Livingston Parish.

 

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There’s a wide-open sheriff’s race in Iberia now that three-term incumbent Louis Ackal has decided to hang up his gun and badge.

Ackal probably waited at least four years too long to walk away from a controversy-plagued tenure of his own making pockmarked as it was with dog attacks on defenseless inmates, beatings and even deaths that resulted in millions of dollars of damages from lawsuit judgments and settlements—along with a half-dozen federal criminal convictions of deputies.

Four years ago, Ackal was forced into a runoff and had to resort to soliciting the endorsement of the third-place finisher in exchange for a job in order to win that election in what should have been declared a clear ETHICS VIOLATION had there been an ethics commission with any ethics of its own.

On October 12, Iberia Parish voters will be tasked with picking a successor from among six candidates—two Republicans, a Democrat and three with no party affiliation. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Roberta Boudreaux (No Party), who lost that runoff election four years after third-place finisher endorsed Ackal and was rewarded with the newly-created position of director of community relations—not that such a position wasn’t sorely needed by Ackal.
  • Joe LeBlanc (No Party).
  • Fernest “Pacman” Martin (Democrat).
  • Murphy Meyers (Republican), a retired state trooper.
  • Tommy Romero (Republican), another former state trooper now retired from the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.
  • Clinton “Bubba” Sweeny (No Party).

For the moment, Murphy Meyers would appear to be the main story in this election.

That’s because while Meyers wants to be sheriff of Iberia Parish, there is a serious question about whether or not he actually resides in the parish, a qualification most folks would seem to desire of their sheriff.

Meyers has been the sole 100 percent owner of a residence located at 1000 Hugh Drive, St. Martinville, since 1991.

But back on July 12, 2016, Meyers did in fact register to vote in Iberia parish, using the address 210 L Dubois Road, New Iberia.

But on March 7, 2018, Meyers’ then-employer, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, Office of Louisiana State Police, filed an updated “Request for Personal Assignment and/or Home Storage of State-Owned Vehicle.” The vehicle was a 2008 Dodge Charger assigned to Meyers as his personal take-home unit. The form was for the requested approval period of July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. He signed the form stating all information in it was accurate and correct. The listed address of the employee’s resident was 1000 Hugh Drive, St. Martinville.

The very next day, March 8, 2018, Meyers renewed his driver’s license using 2101 Dubois Road, New Iberia, as his correct physical address. (Note: A driver may be cited and fined if the address on his or her driver’s license does not correspond with the driver’s actual address of residence.)

A year later, on March 25, 2019, Malinda Meyers, wife of Murphy Meyers, contributed two in-kind donations to her husband’s campaign fund, according to state campaign finance records submitted September 10, 2019. Malinda Meyers gave her address as 1000 Hugh Drive, St. Martinville.

On August 9, 2019, Murphy Meyers officially qualified to run for Iberia Parish Sheriff in a sworn statement that he met all requirements set forth by Louisiana law, including residence requirements. On that form, he gave his place of residence as 210 L Dubois Road, New Iberia, further affirming that he not only currently resides at that address but has for at least the last year, as per state qualifications.

So, just who does own that property at 210 L Dubois Road in New Iberia that keeps popping up on forms filled out by Meyers?

That would be the home that belonged his mother-in-law, Malindayes Mattox Burks.  Courthouse records in New Iberia list her as 100 percent owner of a home valued at $71,400 and assessed at $7,140. Malinda Meyers inherited the home but she and Murphy Meyers still reside in St. Martinville at 1000 Hugh Drive.

Or do they?

This would seem to be a job for the State Ethics Commission to straighten out provided, of course, it had any ethics of its own.

 

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