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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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Serious consideration should be given by our legislature to changing the official state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to something more realistic representation of our state—like, say… “At Least We Ain’t Mississippi” (or Arkansas or West Virginia).

On the other hand, West Virginia’s motto “Let Us be Grateful to God” seems a little misplaced as regards this story. the Arkansas motto “The People Rule” just has to be some kind of cruel joke and I still don’t know what our neighbors in Mississippi meant when they adopted “By Valor and Arms” as their calling card.

I write all this because 24/7 Wall Street, that online research service that publishes all those state, city and national surveys of the best and worst of just about anything, has just released another one that puts us right near the bottom but for Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia.

The ranking referred to in this case is “America’s Most and Least Educated States” and it has to be embarrassing to have Alabama and Kentucky looking down their noses at us. Yet, there was Alabama ranked as the seventh worst educated state with Kentucky just two notches better at the fifth-least educated.

And then there was Louisiana, sitting at 47th best, or to put it more bluntly, fourth-worst educated state in the country.

We should be so proud.

Yes, college tuition has more than doubled over the past three decades and in Louisiana, thanks to Bobby Jindal, who now plies his trade as an op-ed columnist for the Wall Street Journal (because he has so much good government advice to share based on his stellar job as governor), who slashed funding for higher education by about 70 percent.

Louisiana has TOPS, which was originally set up to help students in need but which now is spread across the landscape for all students who maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled. Of course, what has gone virtually unsaid is that TOPS has resulted in an explosion of new housing construction on college campuses, underwritten by the universities but constructed by private investors in an elaborate scheme that allows universities to avoid having to go hat in hand to the State Bond Commission for permission to build the new units.

Some schools even require all unmarried, non-local students (that’s all students, as in freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) to live on campus so as to fill those new housing units. Unsaid is a requirement that all such students purchase meal tickets.

That’s because, according to a former Aramark food manager at a state university, the schools have contracts with food service companies to provide a predetermined number of meals. If, say, Grambling University has a contract with Aramark to provide three meals per day for 3,000 students, Grambling will do all in its power to fill the housing units (thus committing students to pay for the accompanying meal tickets). Should the school fall short and end up with only 2,000 students living in university housing, the school is still on the hook to Aramark for 9,000 meals per day.

Still, the share of Americans (in other states, apparently, but not here) with college degrees continues to increase. Latest figures show that 32 percent of all U.S. adults 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly double the 17 percent of 1980.

In Louisiana, that figure is 23.8 percent, 4th lowest in the U.S.

“Many of the state-level disparities in educational attainment parallel disparities in income, as well as socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, industry composition, and population growth,” the report said.

Accordingly, in Louisiana, the median household income was 4th lowest at $46,145 and the state’s unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was 4th highest in the nation. If you’re one to play hunches, you might remember the number 4 when you go to the racetrack or fill out your Mega Millions and Power Ball tickets.

Arkansas (23.4 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree), Mississippi (21.9 percent) and West Virginia (20.2 percent), ranked 48th, 49th and 50th, respectively followed the pattern with Arkansas’s $45,869 median household income being the 3rd lowest, Mississippi’s $43,529 the 2nd lowest and West Virginia’s $43,296 the lowest. Do you see a trend here?

By contrast, Massachusetts topped the list with 43.4 percent of its adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree while the state’s median household income of $77,385 was 4th highest.

To review the entire list, state-by-state, GO HERE.

But hey, the news isn’t all bad.

Yet another survey, also by 24/7 Wall Street, that lists the 30 COLLEGES THAT PRODUCE the BEST NFL PLAYERS, actually has LSU ranked higher than Alabama even though the Crimson Tide did have two more all-time NFL players than did the Tigers.

LSU was ranked number 7, four rungs higher than ‘Bama, which came in at number 11. Alabama has 352 all-time NFL players to LSU’s 350. But LSU has 116 Pro Bowl players to 104 for the Tide. ‘Bama, on the other hand, has 8 alumni in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, to 3 for LSU. Notre Dame, as might be expected, ranked first, with 567 former players going on to the NFL and the Fighting Irish also led the pack with 182 Pro Bowl selections and 13 alumni in the Hall of Fame.

But here’s the caveat: “No college has produced more current NFL players than LSU and Florida,” the survey says. “The Tigers and Gators are tied with 56. There were eight Tigers drafted in 2017, including three first-round selections.

So, with all that gridiron success by LSU, who needs college degrees anyway?

If the Tigers can just somehow beat Nick Saban’s bunch, median income figures are for the politicians.

If LSU wins a national championship, nobody will care about unemployment rates.

We have our priorities in Louisiana.

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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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In case you haven’t been paying attention, the victory by Donald Trump has resulted in more women making the decision to seek public office.

And if more women are participating in the political arena, it’s not necessarily because of any positive influence from the Trumpster. In some cases, it’s the indignity of seeing a misogynist in the nation’s highest office that has triggered women’s decision to run for office.

For ANDIE SAIZAN Andie Saizan, the idea of watching U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves as he obediently went along with virtually everything put forward by Trump was just too much.

The Holden Democrat was repulsed by Graves’s blind loyalty to Trump, including unconditional support of the NRA, proposals to scale back Medicaid/Medicare benefits, repeal of internet neutrality. And the treatment of children of illegal immigrants was just too much.

The 37-year-old mother of four is officially a candidate for the 6th District congressional seat now held by Graves.

She is part of the wave of women seeking public office, much of that being a reaction to Trump and his policies, said Jean Sinzdak of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Andrea Dew Steele, president and founder of Emerge America agrees. She says there was an “immediate uptick in interest in our work” following Trump’s election. “And it has persisted through today. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

Since the 1971, the year before Watergate, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of female office holders. Statewide elected offices have seen an increase in women from about 7 percent in 1971 to a high of 28 percent in 2000. Today, females make up about 24 percent of statewide elective offices. That percentage is about the same for state legislatures.

During that same time period, the number of women in Congress has gone from about 3 percent in 1971 to 20 percent today.

Saizan acknowledges that hers is an uphill fight because of what she describes as the “good old boy system” that she says “needs to be taken out.”

And she knows a thing or two about overcoming stiff odds. “At the age of 24, I had two children and was pregnant with a third when my husband walked out on me. Working for the Continental Kennel Club, I didn’t have a high-paying job. But they stood with me and supported me.

“I was on food stamps and everyone was telling me I couldn’t go back to college, but I did.

“Republicans love to talk about welfare queens but because I fought the system and got an education, today I pay more in taxes every year than I ever took in food stamps.”

Saizan, who works in the computer industry, believes that everything elected officials do should be geared toward empowering people. “When we turn our backs on people in need, we cannot call ourselves Christians,” she says.

Her quest may not be as quixotic as it might appear at first glance. “Edwin Edwards, a convicted felon, received 40 percent of the vote against Graves,” she said. “He can be beaten and he can be beaten on his own record.”

Saizan doesn’t give all the credit for her decision to run to Trump. It was Graves himself, she says, who pushed her to run, albeit inadvertently.

“Garrett convinced me to run when he trashed Medicaid/Medicare,” she says. “If I can’t bring my child to the doctor when she’s sick, something’s wrong with the system. Healthcare is too important to treat as some sort of political football. We use public dollars for insurance companies to bet against the health of Americans, and that’s wrong. If there’s something wrong with the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), then fix it, don’t abandon it for some political philosophy.”

She said she and Graves differ in their stands on guns. “We are gun-owners at our house. I’m pro-Second Amendment. But we need laws that sponsor responsible gun ownership. Garrett doesn’t want that.”

As for Graves’s stance on net neutrality, she says he “either misled voters or he doesn’t understand net neutrality. It’s far worse than simply slowing down internet service. Say, for example, you’re on a cruise ship. The cruise line can make internet service a-la cart so you have to buy a specific service provider—and they charge more for it.”

She fired a broadside at both Graves and former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin when she said, “We must be able to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs.” Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Lafourche Parish, as one of his last official acts as a member of Congress, pushed through a bill that prohibited the federal government from negotiating the prices of prescription drugs under Medicaid/Medicare.

Following that little coup, he promptly resigned and went to work as the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

Saizan is particularly incensed at the manner in which the Trump administration has gone about separating children from their parents on the nation’s southern border. And she isn’t shy about expressing her contempt for the president. “Any man who would try and justify separating children from their mothers like this is simply a coward. This is immoral! It was wrong when Hitler did it and it’s wrong now!

“I am not for open borders but I do know that we can treat this situation in a more humane manner. The fact that this is what we have come to only reiterates that America needs comprehensive immigration reform without racial bias or classism.”

She said the Democratic Party is the “party of the people but we don’t get our message across.”

She’s working on that.

 

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