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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

By now, thanks to the Internet and network TV news, virtually everyone in the U.S.—and apparently some foreign countries—knows about the ham-handed manner in which the Vermilion Parish School Board shut down one of its teacher’s comments during a recent board meeting.

The manner in which Kaplan middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave’s was cut off from speaking and subsequently manhandled by a city marshal was carried out with all the tact, consideration, delicacy, and diplomacy of Donald Trump discussing immigrants from $*%#hole countries.

And the fact that the school board employed the CITY MARSHAL who was previously accused of using excessive force against a 62-year-old man in poor health to carry out the handcuffing and arrest of Hargrave certainly didn’t help matters in what overnight brought national and international negative attention to Louisiana.

And the announcement by the city prosecutor that Hargrave would not be prosecuted only enhances her chances of reaping a financial settlement subsequent to the lawsuit she is almost certain to file for her rude treatment and public humiliation.

To provide a little background for anyone who may not have heard, Hargrave was at the board meeting to protest a $30,000-per-year proposed salary increase for School Superintendent Jerome Puyal (from $110,190 to $140,188) while teachers, cafeteria workers and, support staff received no salary increases. School Board President Anthony Fontana, an Abbeville attorney who has been on the board about a quarter-of-a-century, promptly gaveled her into silence, proclaiming her comments were not germane to the board’s agenda.

One report had Fontana referring to Hargrave, parish’s 2015-2016 teacher of the year, as “the poor little lady” in an INTERVIEW subsequent to the meeting. That charitable reference is almost certain to absolve him of any culpability in what has become a public relations nightmare sufficiently grievous to attract the attention of the ACLU and teachers’ unions, not to mention network television news.

But that all could have been avoided had Fontana simply consulted in advance with the good folks at Gravity Drainage District 8 of Calcasieu Parish Ward 1. Not those folks know how to shut a dissident up quietly and efficiently.

The secret is to get an attorney who isn’t afraid to threaten the dissident and a judge who can ignore the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and issue an order that the dissident may not make public records requests nor have any contact with any members or employees of the gravity drainage district.

Or, better yet, have a gaggle of judges file suit against a newspaper to prevent it from seeking public records from the court.

Problem solved.

Never mind that the gravity drainage district hired with Billy Broussard to remove debris from drainage canals following Hurricane Rita under a FEMA contract and then instructed Broussard to remove older pre-storm debris and that he would be paid to do so.

But when FEMA said the older debris was not part of the project, the drainage district flat-out refused to pay Broussard about a million dollars that was due him for the work. Moreover, some of that older debris consisted of large cypress logs—still very much useful in construction—which mysteriously disappeared.

So, when Broussard attempted unsuccessfully to get reimbursed for his work, RUSSELL STUTES, Lake Charles attorney for the drainage district, wrote a testy letter to Broussard in which Stutes, elevating himself to judge status, threatened Broussard with jail time “the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project…”

Stutes even filed a petition for injunctive relief to bar Broussard from contacting members or employees of the drainage district and from seeking public records. Incredibly, 14th Judicial District Judge David Ritchie signed the order for the INJUNCTION that bars Broussard from his constitutionally-guaranteed right to seek answers from a public body. That right is also guaranteed under Louisiana R.S. 42:4.1 et seq.

Likewise, the judges of the 4th JDC up in Monroe filed SUIT against the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe in order to stymie the newspaper’s efforts to obtain public records from the court.

So, you see, Mr. Fontana, it really wasn’t necessary to shoot yourself in the foot by having the city marshal strongarm Ms. Hargrave, your defense that he was authorized to do so notwithstanding. That just brought unwanted attention to a board what was already contentious in its membership makeup—some of that disharmony stemming from the performance of the very superintendent to whom you trying to give an extra $30,000 per year.

All you had to do was have the board attorney (and you are an attorney yourself) to find a judge who would sign an order for injunctive relief which, while questionable in its legality, would nevertheless have shut Ms. Hargrave up.

For a minute, anyway, to borrow a phrase from Ron “Tater Salad” White, one of my favorite stand-up comics, which he tags at the end of this joke but which is deleted from this VIDEO.

 

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So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

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One of the most frustrating jobs in state government has to be that of the Legislative Auditor.

The office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that audits and sworn financial statements of all public entities are carried out in a timely—and legally-prescribed—manner and that the books of those entities are in order.

Yet, whenever discrepancies are found and reported, little comes of the auditors’ reports. Oh, in cases where the findings are significant, such as the recent audit of the management of former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, a report will make a big splash in the media.

But then, it quickly becomes old news and is forgotten. All too often, in the end, nothing is done to actually rein in those who might be guilty of lax fiscal responsibility over their organization or worse—possible malfeasance.

Seldom is there any follow-up on the part of those who have the authority to make changes. An office or agency head continues to lead the organization with little or no disciplinary action handed down from above, be it from a department head, cabinet member, or, in some cases, the governor himself.

In short, there is little real accountability in state government. A critical audit, conducted at no small expense, points out shortcomings, a management letter is generated promising reforms, and life—and abuses of the public trust—go on unabated.

As Exhibit A, we have the Auditor’s NON-COMPLIANCE LIST, a dishonor roll that dates back as far as 2004 and which contains well over 100 agencies, offices, organizations and individuals who have failed to comply with state statutes.

The list is liberally peppered with justices of the peace, community development districts, constables, social organizations, and even municipalities, sheriffs’ offices, and clerks of court—all reflecting the widespread disregard for fiscal responsibility or, to be charitable, just plain ignorance of the law.

Any organization that has any financial relationship with the state or a parish must, depending on the size of the organization’s budget, provide a review/attestation of its financial condition, a sworn financial statement, or a full-blown audit on a yearly basis.

From Acadia to Winn, virtually every parish has at least one organization on the non-compliance list. Here are a few examples:

  • The Beauregard Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, Merryville—five times between the years 2004 and 2009: failure to produce an audit;
  • The Ward 7 Caddo Parish Constable—seven years between 2009 and 2016: no sworn financial statements;
  • The Resource Center in Caddo—10 straight years, from 2008 to 2017: no financial statements;
  • Louisiana Auto Insurance Plan, East Baton Rouge Parish—10 straight years, from 2007 to 2016: no audit;
  • Ville Platte City Marshal, Evangeline Parish—six consecutive years, from 2012 to 2017: no sworn financial statement;
  • St. Landry Parish Constable, District 8—nine years between 2005 and 2016: no sworn financial statement.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera, contacted by LouisianaVoice, acknowledged the frustration of constantly having to chase down the various offices. “It keeps us pretty busy and it costs the state money to track this in terms of both money and man-hours.”

He said state law says when any organization found to be in non-compliance for three consecutive years, that is considered malfeasance. “That law is on the books,” he said.

STATE REP. NEIL ABRAMSON

A few years back, State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) attempted to push through a bill in the legislature which would required any non-governmental organization (NGO) or public body to be on the Legislative Auditor’s approved list (not on the non-compliance list) in order to be eligible to receive any state funding or to conduct business with the state.

Abramson’s bill failed.

Now, who would have ever thought that?

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Legislators, like any member of society, can be incredibly stupid when they set their minds to it, as they all too often do.

But a story by Baton Rouge  ADVOCATE reporter Elizabeth Crisp, excerpted from a Washington Post column by writer Catherine Rampell, establishes a new low for stupidity, intolerance, and a propensity for shooting off at the mouth, the facts be damned.

Now let it be established here and now that I am a military veteran and that I stand and face the flag every time the National Anthem is played or sung at a public event, no matter how badly a singer may be singing his or her interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner (and believe me, I’ve heard some incredibly bad renditions). I don’t care if I’m at the concession stand outside Alex Box Stadium for an LSU baseball game, when the PA announcer asks the fans to stand for the National Anthem, I stop what I’m doing, remove my LSU or Boston Red Sox cap, and hold it over my heart in my right hand until the song is finished. No big deal, just something I do.

Why don’t I take a stand? Well, I do. I stand for the anthem and I respect those who choose, for whatever reason, not to. That’s because this is still America where freedom of expression is guaranteed in the First Amendment and every person in that ball park has that right, whether I happen to agree with them or not.

For that matter, how is taking a knee any less respectful than those who continue to talk or who refuse to remove their caps during the anthem? And believe me, there are literally dozens all around me who (a) continue with their concession stand purchases, (b) continue talking, or (c) do not remove their caps/hats. Taking a knee is an act of protest. Any one of the other three is indifference and just as disrespectful in its own way.

So, please, don’t waste my time telling me how unpatriotic it is.

But back to Elizabeth Crisp’s recap of the Washington Post column which, as the Saints stumble into the playoffs and LSU prepares to meet Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, is more than a little timely:

According to Post writer Rampell, a group of Louisiana legislators (much to their relief, LSU has refused to divulge their names, thus saving them considerable embarrassment) got their shorts in a wad and called LSU President F. King Alexander just before football season to threaten additional cuts to the higher-ed appropriations if any player took a knee in protest during the playing of the National Anthem before any LSU games.

King had to find a tactful way to remind the dumb-asses that LSU players remain in the locker room during the anthem and are not even on the field. If the legislators had ever used their free tickets to attend a game, they should have realized that.

Not that this is really relevant to this particular issue, but those brain-dead legislators apparently forgot how they kowtowed to Bobby Jindal and slashed higher-ed funding year after year for a cumulative 43 percent reduction in funding since 2008. Apparently, they had no problem taking a knee before Jindal so they could kiss his ring. And make no mistake, they are every bit as complicit as Jindal for the fiscal morass the state finds itself in today.

Interim Vice President of communications Jason Droddy told Crisp last Friday, “I can confirm the phone call occurred, but we won’t name the person, as that was an unfortunate comment that is better left in the past. We hope that in the future, LSU’s state appropriations will be tied to its performance in the classrooms and laboratories and its economic contributions to our state.”

It should also be hoped that in the future, legislators won’t be afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth just for the benefit of political grandstanding, but don’t bet the farm on that happening. Politicians, by their very nature, are grandstanding, running-off-at-the-mouth self-promoters who seldom let facts stand in the way of political expediency.

State Rep. Kenny Havard, for instance, wanted to pull state subsidies for the New Orleans Saints after Saints players knelt during the anthem before a pre-season game. “If it’s a state-subsidized sporting event, that’s not the place to protest,” he said.

And while I support pulling state subsidies for the Saints for an entirely different reason (mostly having to do with my distaste for supporting a billionaire owner’s hobby—and the requirement that state agencies rent expensive office space from that same billionaire), I would pose this question of Havard:

If a sporting event is not the place to protest, then is it the proper place to honor military personnel? While public support of our men and women in uniform is a noble gesture, it is, nevertheless, just as much a political statement as a protest. You can’t have it both ways, Rep. Havard.

I happen to support both the right to protest injustice and the right to honor our military personnel, even if I happen to disagree with our reasons for invading another sovereign nation. That is my right under the First Amendment. And it’s consistent.

I would suggest that Rep. Havard and those anonymous legislators who made that embarrassingly inadvisable call to Dr. Alexander step back and digest the words of my college classmate TERRY BRADSHAW who, in an NFL pre-game show on (appropriately enough) Fox Sports, a division of Fox Network, had this to say about Donald Trump’s tirade against NFL players who took a knee during the anthem:

It’s hard to believe that I’m going to say something about the most powerful man in the greatest country in the world, but probably like a lot of you, I was somewhat surprised that the President—the President of the United States came out attacking NFL players for them exercising the Freedom of Speech.

While I don’t condone the protesting during our National Anthem, this is America!

If our country stands for anything, folks—it’s freedom. People died for that freedom. I’m not sure if our president understands those rights—that every American has the right to speak out, and also to protest. (emphasis added)

 Believe me—these athletes DO love this great country of ours.

 Personally, I think our president should concentrate on serious issues like North Korea and healthcare rather than ripping into athletes and the NFL.”

Like Bradshaw, I feel legislators also have a few more pressing problems to address than football players taking a knee.

Louisiana is on the precipice of a $1 billion budgetary shortfall. This is largely attributable to the actions of the legislature in falling all over themselves for eight years to do the will of Bobby Jindal, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Grover Norquist—and for failing in their responsibility to face up to the looming crisis. That, after all, is their job—not monitoring knee-bends at a football game.

So, do your damned job.

Instead, you’re worried about some college football player taking a knee and in a frantic effort to prevent that, you make a wildly reckless threat to cut funding even further.

And I thought Roy Moore was an idiot…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few examples of net neutrality abuse:

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

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

 

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