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There’s an old saying from back in the days of my long-lost youth that sometimes you have to hit a mule in the head with a two-by-four to get his attention,

And before I start getting bombarded by animal rights activists, I’m not advocating hitting mules or any other animal with anything.

And I’m not calling the good folks at WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge mules. But a $2.5 million preliminary default judgment levied against the station and its investigative reporter after the station failed to answer a defamation LAWSUIT against it and reporter Chris Nakamoto was the club that got the station’s attorneys’ attention.

The two-page JUDGMENT, signed in chambers by 21st Judicial District Court Judge Doug Hughes of Denham Springs, isn’t likely to stand for a number or reasons put forth by station attorney Stephen Babcock of Baton Rouge.

But the main point to be taken from this litigation is that it may well be the first volley fired across the bow of Baton Rouge media as part of a growing trend toward the filing of the so-called SLAPP lawsuits.

SLAPP is the acronym for Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation and that’s precisely what it means: lawsuits filed not to win a judgment, but to discourage legitimate questions about official misconduct lest citizens asking the questions—or in this instance, the reporter and his news medium—be forced to shell out tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves.

In this case, WBRZ, as opposed to an ordinary citizen like Welsh City Alderman JACOB COLBY PERRY, has legal liability insurance and can well afford to defend itself. Still, such lawsuits call a station’s and reporter’s integrity and credibility into question and can conceivably injure the reporter’s career opportunities.

An editor in my professional past once told me, “If you haven’t been sued, you aren’t doing your job.” Well, that’s a form of validation I can live without. It’s not unlike being pecked to death by a duck.

I’ll leave it to WBRZ, Nakamoto and their legal team to explain why they never bothered to answer the lawsuit filed by Livingston attorney Wyman Bankston on behalf of State Police Lt. Robert Burns of Livingston Parish—if they care to put forth an explanation. But I will say from my layman’s viewpoint, it’s unwise to ignore litigation. People are trying to get into your pocket and it’s prudent that you defend yourself.

In this case, Nakamoto had done a perfectly legitimate STORY, which it based in its entirety on public records obtained from LSP, on the 64-hour suspension imposed on Burns by Louisiana State Police (LSP) following an Internal Affairs investigation into his conducting 52 illegal computer searches on his ex-wife, her finance and a former boyfriend over a period of almost three years—from November 2013 to October 2016.

Burns, in his defense—which LSP investigators, by the way, didn’t buy—said that in 46 of those occasions, he was conducting a search of his own license plate and that the “spin-off” searches of his wife were a result of “unintended inquiries generated by an automated system.”

That explanation, however, does not explain the two searches on his former wife’s current finance and the four searches on her ex-boyfriend. Those searches, besides vehicle and driver’s license records, also included computerized criminal histories on the two men. You can’t explain that away by saying you were doing a search on your own license number.

Nor does it explain why he subsequently disseminated some of the information he had found (according to WBRZ’s belated response) or why he texted his ex-wife to request that she not report his actions because he “could get fired for doing so.”

Why could he have been fired? Because the searches were “for non-law enforcement purposes, in violation of (LSP) department policy and federal law,” according to a letter from LSP notifying him of an impending suspension.

When neither WBRZ, Nakamoto, nor their legal counsel filed an answer to the lawsuit and when they failed to appear in court on Sept. 28, and without the plaintiff’s submitting any evidence of his claims that Nakamoto had not read the entire LSP report as Burns claimed in his petition, Judge Hughes—in chambers—ruled that the station and Nakamoto were at fault and awarded $1.5 million to Burns and $1 million to his wife, Hilary Burns.

That got WBRZ’s attorney’s rear in gear. On Oct. 12, Babcock filed a 19-page (10 pages longer than Burn’s original petition) MEMORANDUM in support of a motion for a new trial.

In that motion, the station’s attorney argued that a default judgment can be handed down only if the plaintiff presents “competent evidence that convinces the court that it is probable that he would prevail on a trial on the merits” and that he “must prove each element of his claim as fully as if each of the allegations of the petition had been specifically denied by the defendant.”

“Plaintiff is required to adhere to the rules of evidence despite there being no opponent to urge objections,” Babcock wrote in his motion, and that the “trial judge should be vigilant to assure that the judgment rests on admissible evidence.”

Babcock cited a decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in which the court said:

  • Judges, acting with the benefit of hindsight, must resist the temptation to edit journalists aggressively. Reporters must have some freedom to respond to journalistic exigencies without fear that even a slight, and understandable, mistake will subject them to liability. Exuberant judicial blue-penciling after-the-fact would blunt the quills of even the most honorable journalists.

On Monday, Judge Hughes signed a one-page ORDER setting 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11, as the time and date that Burns must show cause why a new trial should not be granted.

Burns would probably be wise not to buy that beachfront property in Gulf Shores just yet.

And WBRZ, you just got scooped on your own story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly what is to be gained from work release?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what about businesses who employ work release inmates?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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When I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I worked part time as a disc jockey at KRUS radio station in Ruston. Occasionally, I would have a “Golden Oldies Show,” during which I played only old rock & roll records.

I saw a story in the Washington Post recently that conjured up memories of old news stories and at the same time made me wonder if the Republicans in Congress were paying attention all those years.

The story, headlined, “GOP abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility,” noted that the Republican Party has essentially abandoned its platform of fiscal restraint, “pivoting sharply in a way that could add trillions of dollars in federal debt over the next decade.”

https://politicalwire.com/2017/10/07/gop-abandons-pretense-fiscal-responsibility/

So, doing the minimum research, it was almost too easy to find stories that reveal that the tax cuts proposed by Trump would further widen the gap between wealthy and low-income Americans. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/42177-trump-s-proposed-tax-cuts-would-further-widen-the-gap-between-rich-and-poor

The Trump-led (and that’s a very loose term) Republican tax reform would cut taxes for the very rich and place the burden on the rest of us.

In 1970, the bottom 50 percent of U.S. wage earners averaged $16,000 a year in today’s dollars. In 2014, that figure had skyrocketed to $16,200.

The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their average income increase from an average of $400,000 a year to $1.3 million during the same time period, hardly enough to keep the lawn watered in the Hamptons.

Some might dismiss these sources as typical liberal media, but the conservative U.S. News & World Report seems to agree with their assessments.

More than two years ago, on May 20, 2015, the magazine ran a story headed simply as THE PARTY of RED INK.

That story did cite the $1.2 billion budget deficit that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Mally left for his Republican successor, but for the rest of its story, USN&WR hammered one Republican state governor after another. Those included our own wunderkind Bobby Jindal (a $1.6 billon deficit), Chris Christie (a staggering $7.35 billion structural budget deficit), Scott Walker of Wisconsin ($2.2 billion deficit), and Sam Brownback of Kansas ($1 billion shortfall).

Their collective answer to these budgetary nightmares? Cut taxes.

But along with tax cuts go cuts to services.

Back when I was a student at Tech—and given, that’s been a long time; Terry Bradshaw was emerging as a top draft pick back then—my tuition was $99. Today, my grandson, a computer engineering student at Tech, is forking over $9,000 per quarter to stay enrolled.

In Louisiana, cuts to higher education, public education, referral services to the mentally ill, services to children with disabilities, foster child services, and other cuts have had devastating results. Yet, the Republicans go merrily along with their vision of fiscal reform.

Jindal’s obsession with tax cutting, service cutting, and privatization was such a dismal failure that Newsweek on June 1, 3015, published a story headlined HOW BOBBY JINDAL BROKE the LOUISIANA ECONOMY.

But a March 26, 2015, story was even more revealing. That story, admittedly by a partisan Democrat writer, nevertheless cited a report by an outfit called WalletHub, a commercial personal financial web site that rated all 50 states on their dependence on federal dollars to prop up their respective economies.

The REPORT basically said that red states, America’s stalwarts of fiscal responsibility, suck more money out of the federal treasury than any others and that some of the poorest states, of which Louisiana is certainly one, depend on federal funding for 30 to 42 percent of their total revenue.

Louisiana depends on federal dollars for 42.2 percent of its budget That just happens to be the highest percentage in the nation. Mississippi is right behind, drawing 42.1 percent of its budget from the feds, according to a report released in May of this year. http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-state-budgets-federal-funding-2015-2018-trump.html

Yet, who screams the loudest to get the federal government out of our lives? Well, that would be the Republicans, who control both Louisiana and Mississippi.

And yet, there they go again, to paraphrase Mr. Reagan. The Republicans in Congress are pushing that same agenda of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to services, increased military spending, heavier tax burdens on the middle class, and economic stagnation for what now, something like the 35th straight year?

And yes, I am keenly aware that some of those years included the administrations of Clinton and Obama and that some of those years Democrats controlled Congress. But that only goes to prove my oft-repeated point that there is little difference in the two parties when Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the NRA, and defense contractors exert such a heavy influence on the national agenda.

But with the Republicans, it’s not so much a political philosophy as it is an obsession, a mindset.

They adhere to the Laffer Curve at all costs. That’s the theory advanced by one Arthur Laffer, who says that tax cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.

Anyone seen any economic growth around these parts in the last couple of decades or so? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

The Laffer Curve might be appropriately named were it not such a cruel joke.

 

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Call it the hangover effect, but the saga of Louisiana State Police (LSP), particularly Troop D in Lake Charles, just won’t go away.

A state district judge, basing his decision in large part on a series of LouisianaVoice stories, has ordered LSP to produce personnel records “within 10 days” of two Troop D State Troopers for a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against State Police.

Emily Landers filed suit against LSP through the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Entergy Gulf States Louisiana and PPG Industries in connection with a Dec. 1, 2010, auto accident on I-10 in Calcasieu Parish.

Landers was driving on I-10 when her vehicle was struck by an electrical line that had fallen across both sides of the interstate. LSP already had several troopers onsite, she says in her petition, but they were sitting on the shoulder of the road with lights activated.

The troopers identified as potential witnesses included Jimmy Rogers, Derrick Cormier, Zack Matt and Paul Brady and Landers said that the credibility of each was at issue.

A second person also involved in a separate accident, John Heurtevant, said that Trooper Rogers’s testimony as to the location of his and Trooper Cormier’s units were situated and what the state knew at the time of the accident.

Landers requested the LSP policy and procedure manual, personnel files, including reprimands and internal investigations of Rogers, Cormier, Matt and Brady, and any information in the state’s possession regarding any road closure because of the electrical line.

LSP objected to the release of personnel files, claiming that the files did not relate to any matters involving the litigation. Landers’s attorney, Thomas Townsley, however, said in a Sept. 11 motion to compel that the credibility of the officers “is very relevant, and go to some of the core issues in this case.”

MOTION TO COMPEL

Townsley said that while the state would be relying on Rogers’s testimony to support its position that the state handled the emergency properly “despite the fact that most evidence discredits his testimony.”

Townsley said he had obtained information from LouisianaVoice “that demonstrates (sic) that Trooper Rogers has severe credibility, character, and integrity issues.”

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/08/17/state-police-headquarters-sat-on-complaint-against-troop-d-trooper-for-harassment-captain-for-turning-a-blind-eye-to-it/

Townsley also cited a second LouisianaVoice story which discussed State Police investigations of Capt. Chris Guillory, Brady and Rogers.

“Although the LouisianaVoice was denied access to Rogers’s records because the Louisiana State Police did not complete its investigation due to his resignation, sources report Rogers resigned after it was discovered he was committing payroll fraud on parish-funded overtime details known as Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE).

“Rogers was reported issuing citation on his regular shift, but claiming them on different dates in order to accrue overtime,” Townsley said.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/05/state-police-launch-internal-affairs-investigation-of-troop-d-commander-after-public-records-requests-by-louisianavoice/

Townsley said he was also aware “of Trooper Jimmy Rogers filing a incident report with false information on it. Consequently, this information is very relevant regarding the character, honesty, and integrity of major witness/employee of the state who was allegedly negligent in this accident that led to the plaintiff’s accident and injuries.”

Judge Ronald Ware of the 14th Judicial District agreed.

In a two-page ruling dated Sept. 26, Judge Ware first denied the state’s motion for summary judgment (dismissal) and then granted Landers’s motion to compel.

JUDGMENT

Ware ordered that the troopers’ personnel files “which are to include, but not limited to, reprimands and internal investigation…to the court for an in camera (confidential) inspection within 10 days of the hearing. Upon the court’s review, a decision will be given on what should be redacted and what should be given to the plaintiff’s counsel.”

 

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U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, himself the victim of an unhinged would-be mass killer, says the Second Amendment means the rights to bear arms is “unlimited.”

I respectfully disagree. (Full disclosure: I own a lever-action .22 rifle I inherited from my grandfather and two handguns. I don’t hunt and I fervently hope I never have occasion to use those weapons. And I don’t harbor irrational fears that someone is coming to take them from me.)

Whenever there is a mass shooting like the one in Las Vegas, there are three things of which we can be certain:

  • There will be renewed calls to address the problem of the easy accessibility to guns, especially automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
  • There will be those members of Congress (and the occasional POTUS), the beneficiaries of large campaign contributions by the NRA who will say, “Now is not the time for that discussion.”
  • There will be those, mainly gun owners steeped in the indoctrination that people will be coming for their guns, who will pose the not-so-rhetorical question, “Why is it when a horrible incident like Las Vegas, certain people start hammering gun control?” (That was a question actually asked in the comment section of a recent LouisianaVoice post.)

Taking the reader’s question first, my response would be because that’s when the image of the carnage brought by these weapons is the freshest on our minds. It’s because politicians are obligated to regurgitate the cliche that they are “praying for the victims” (when most of them haven’t bother to pray in years, if ever, and, truth be known, won’t now) and we are obligated to sigh and shake our heads and ask why this keeps happening and why isn’t something done to keep guns away from these people before our attention is again diverted to LSU and Saints football.

As for that second certainty, I would pose my own question: When the hell is “the right time,” you imbecile? What is your idea of a “right time”—when the outrage has subsided and we return to our daily routines like so many sheep while you continue taking campaign cash from the NRA?

If that is what you consider the “right time,” then I suggest the “right time” has come for you to resign from Congress and enlist in the military so that you can deploy to some hot spot on the planet that you, as a member of Congress, have deemed important to U.S. interests so you can get your ass shot off defending some vague concept of Liberty and the American Way which I suspect is little more than protecting the financial well-being of war profiteers—big oil, weapons and military aircraft manufacturers, and those companies who move in afterwards to “rebuild” with their contract cost overruns of $100,000 a week like a certain Baton Rouge firm with a contract to help rebuild Iraq.

Speaking of defending America from aggression, has it occurred to anyone else that we didn’t really have much of a terrorist threat in this country until we started sticking our collective noses into the affairs of other countries? Have we, in our indignation of Russia’s interference in our election, ever tallied up the number of elections in other countries that we have interfered in? A hint: the number is more than 80, including places like Central America, South America, Africa, Iraq, Iran, France, Italy and even Israel. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-us-intervention-foreign-elections-20161213-story.html

Try defending America’s honor with statistics like that. Try coming to terms with those facts while popping a blood vessel over some jock kneeling during the National Anthem.

That’s why I was just a little astonished at Scalise’s erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment. But it is consistent with his political viewpoint and those of his constituents who, incidentally, are the same ones who once elected white supremacist David Duke to the Louisiana Legislature and who elected Bobby Jindal to Congress from the same First Congressional District that Scalise now represents.

Scalise was on Meet the Press Sunday morning when host Chuck Todd asked him about his view on gun laws after the Las Vegas shootings. Instead of answering Todd’s question, Scalise gave the usual B.S. political two-step, saying the focus should be on “the amount of people across the country who over the course of a day or week or month use guns to protect themselves against criminals.”

Huh? But…but, Congressman, did those people at that concert in Las Vegas have an opportunity to defend themselves against the assailant’s automatic weapons? A handgun wouldn’t have been much help in that situation, now would it?

Todd then asked, “Is the right to bear arms unlimited or is there a limit?”

“The Second Amendment really predates the Bill of Rights,” Scalise responded, as if that was an answer to the question. A do-si-do to go with the two-step.

Todd pressed on. “But is it unlimited?”

Incredulously, Scalise finally said, “It is.” (Click HERE to see the interview.)

Okay, I’ll give him that the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 in the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling that the Second Amendment “codified a pre-existing right” and that it “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with the service in a militia.”

That was Scalise’s apparent reference to the right to bear arms predating the Bill of Rights. But Scalise did not quote the rest of that opinion, which said:

  • “The right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Bingo. Or should that be touché?

Let’s return to Scalise’s contention that the Second Amendment gives unlimited rights to bear arms.

First of all, I thought Scalise was a conservative but that’s a pretty damned liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment.

But let’s assume for a moment that he’s correct.

Carrying that logic to its natural conclusion, a most liberal interpretation would have to be applied to all the other amendments. Thus, we would have an “unlimited” right to say and write anything we want about anyone at any time simply because the First Amendment gives us unlimited rights to speech and press.

I could, for example, write that Scalise once had a romantic relationship with a nanny goat but had to break it off when his donkey got jealous. Now, is that true? Probably not. I don’t think he owns a donkey. But the by God First Amendment gives me unlimited rights to say and write that.

And if someone wanted to practice a religion that called for its adherents to slaughter all red-haired, left-handed men with big feet by beating them to death with a badminton racket, then the First Amendment gives me unlimited religious freedom so there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

And if that same religious leader and all his followers wished to hold a parade through downtown Baton Rouge to display the racket-mutilated carcass, then hey, no parade permits need be obtained because the First Amendment gives them the unlimited right to free assembly.

No, Congressman, the Second Amendment does not give unlimited rights. But I know you, like most of your contemporaries in both the House and Senate long ago sold your souls to the NRA, so you are obligated to stick to the game plan despite your own tragic near-death experience with a deranged sociopath who happened to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon.

And I understand your reluctance to talk about legislation making it more difficult for these people to obtain weapons.

Now is just not the time to discuss it.

 

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