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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

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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Conrad Appel must have the attention span of a moth.

Appel is the Republican state senator from Metairie whose political leanings are slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh and maybe, just maybe, a tad left of Alex Jones. But then, that’s the nature of elected officials who ooze out of David Duke’s stomping grounds (see Steve Scalise).

You may recall that he’s also the one who, back in November 2010, just seven days before Louisiana, Indiana and Oregon adopted the Discovery Education Science Techbook being offered by Discovery Communications, purchased Discovery Communications stock and made a QUICK KILLING.

As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he was in a unique position to realize the value of Discovery Communications was primed for a significant increase, so he shelled out between $5,000 and $24,999, according to his financial report filed with the State Ethics Board.

That stock opened at $40.96 per share on Nov. 30, 2010, the day of his purchase and by Jan. 2, 2014, it hit $90.21 per share.

Insider trading? All I know is that on the day of his purchase—again, just seven days before three states announced a major investment in the Discovery Education Science Techbook, more than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communication stock were traded. The next highest day was Aug. 1, 2011, when 3.1 million shares were traded. Normally, trading volume ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares, according to a monthly review from December 2010 through March 2014. It sure looks like somebody knew something in advance.

So, why am I dredging up this old story again?

Well, Appel has penned a GUEST COLUMN on The Hayride blog in which he admonishes me (and everyone else) that we should, by golly, show a little respect to the creep who presently occupies the Oval Office.

I’m not picking a fight with The Hayride. They have their agenda and I have mine, a right that each of us possesses as free Americans. And while I may disagree with their positions—and most times, I do—I would never deprive them of their right to voice them, just as I’m certain they would do nothing to stifle mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in this country.

But for someone like Appel, who attacked a witness in a Trumpian-like profanity-laced tirade during a legislative committee hearing earlier this year, to presume to tell me whom I should respect is beyond the pale and quite frankly, it makes my blood boil just a bit. His utter contempt for that African-American witness, by the way, shone through like a lighthouse beacon on a clear night.

I can respect the office, but why would I respect the man who occupies it seems incapable of respecting anyone or anything, including the very office itself?

Appel calls Trump the “leader of our nation” and “the very symbol of our great Republic.”

Seriously? You’re going to go with that? If he is truly the “symbol” of our country, then we’re in far more trouble than I ever imagined. This is a man who is most accurately described as a pathological liar—on his best day. He lies about the size of his inauguration crowd, about how big his tax cut was (REAL TAX PICTURE: it was pretty big for the wealthy, but nowhere near the biggest tax cut in history, as he boasted), about how North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, about what a great leader Putin is, about his knowledge of payoff money to a porn star….and on and on ad nauseam. He has single-handedly created an entire new cottage industry: fact checking.

You name it, he’s lied about it.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant my respect.

He’s a man who insulted John McCain during the 2016 campaign, saying he only admired those who didn’t get captured. Pretty safe, since there wasn’t much chance of Trump’s being captured, what with all those bone spurs. And even following McCain’s death, this blustering ass couldn’t even bring himself to pay the late senator a modicum of respect.

He’s a man who boasted about assaulting women.

That doesn’t earn my respect. Ever.

He’s a man who mimicked a physically handicapped reporter and who encouraged his adoring, frothing-at-the-mouth followers to physically attack protesters at one of his rallies.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant anyone’s respect.

He’s a man who called the press the enemy of the American people.

The only ones to do that previously were people like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and…well, you get the picture—despots who cemented their hold on power by diminishing the influence of the only independent governmental watchdog: the press.

Let me pose a question to you Appel (you don’t like it for newscasters to refer to the president as simply “Trump,” so I’ll try it out on you): When, during the entire eight years of the Obama administration, did you show Obama one scintilla of respect? He was a president who, like every president, had his failures but who, in eight years, did not have a single member of his administration indicted. He inherited yet another expensive, unwinnable war and he assumed office just as the horrible recession of 2008 was kicking in (thanks to an out-of-control banking industry that Trump has again loosed upon us). But when he left office, the stock market, as I recall, was doing pretty well, employment was up—all despite his having to fight a Republican congress every step of the way. Yet, he was pilloried and vilified for no other reason than his skin was darker than yours. There, I said it. Barack Obama is hated by Republicans because he is black. You can deny it all you like, but that won’t change the facts.

So, did you ever once, in all those eight years, say one good thing about Obama? Ever? One time?

Didn’t think so.

So, spare me your holier-than-thou judgmental posturing because you think I’m being nasty by not respecting a spoiled, bigoted bully who you so obviously admire but who, given the chance, would spoon with Putin.

And Appel, you say protesters “think it’s cool” to kneel during the national anthem. But fact is, you just don’t get it. The kneeling was never done to be cool. Only a damned fool would think that. Nor was it done to dishonor the country or the flag. In fact, it has nothing to do with the flag; it has everything to do with growing evidence of a police state where blacks are fair game for bad cops who like to run up the score. Yes, there are many, many good cops. I know that. And there are blacks who disobey the law—just like there are whites who disobey the law. But sometime, when you can come down out of your ivory tower, senator, run the numbers on the blacks who are shot by cops as opposed to the number of whites committing similar offenses but who somehow don’t get shot.

If Trump is really so offended at players kneeling for the anthem, instead of calling for their firing, why doesn’t he call upon the patriotism of the TV networks that broadcast the games? Sure, it’ll hurt them financially, because there’s big bucks in NFL broadcasts, but Trump should suggest that as a show of patriotism, the networks who carry the games will simply cease doing so the moment a player kneels. Just don’t show the games. That’ll get the attention of players, owners, and fans alike and would go a long way in making Trump’s case for….

Oh, wait. Sorry, I forgot. Fox is one of the networks carrying the games.

Never mind.

I guess that idea is worth about the same as a degree from Trump University.

I don’t suppose you have any of that stock…

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It was the end of February 1968 and John J. McKeithen was just completing his first term of office. (Unlike today, when statewide inaugurations are held in January, state elected officials then took their oaths of office in May.)

McKeithen had earlier upset long-standing tradition when he managed to change the State Constitution during his first term so that he could run for re-election. Previous governors could serve only a single four-year term before being required to (a) seek another office or (b) start raising funds and lining up support for a return four years hence. In other words, governors were barred from serving two consecutive terms.

But this isn’t about McKeithen’s savvy political machinations that allowed him to become the first modern-day governor to succeed himself. It is instead about another precedent set by the Caldwell Parish native: The invoking of gubernatorial powers under Article IX, Section 8 of the 1921 Louisiana State Constitution which resulted in the heretofore unthinkable act of suspending a sitting sheriff from office.

It’s about how the current State Constitution, adopted in 1974, removed that authority from the governor.

And it’s about how, given the freewheeling manner in which some sheriffs wield power in their respective parishes, it might not be a bad idea if that authority was reinstated if for no other reason than to serve as a constant reminder to sheriffs that their actions could have consequences.

Yes, sheriffs are elected officials answerable to their constituents and if they keep getting elected, what business would a governor have in being able to say otherwise, especially if the sheriff and governor were political adversaries?

And if the sheriff can fool the electorate, there are always the courts. But face it, the local district attorney and the sheriff are usually strong political allies who present a formidable team to anyone who would question their authority. There are exceptions, like DA Earl Taylor and Sheriff Bobby Guidroz in St. Landry, who don’t exactly gee-haw on much of anything.

But then there is Louis Ackal in Iberia Parish whose strong-arm tactics, especially where blacks are concerned, has become a source of embarrassment to the locals—or at least should be—and would be even more of a pariah if the local newspaper, the Daily Iberian, was courageous enough to call him out for his egregious flaunting of basic human dignity and his contemptuous trampling of constitutional rights.

In the case of Jessel Ourso of Iberville Parish, across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, it was just a matter of a little Louisiana extortion that prompted McKEITHEN TO OUST OURSO on Feb. 9, 1968. Iberville was in the midst of a construction explosion with chemical plants sprouting up all along the Mississippi and the high sheriff was in a unique position to take full advantage of the boom.

Ourso placed his brother in a no-show job as a union steward for the Teamsters at one plant and contractors were ordered to lease equipment from Ourso’s nephew, State Trooper Jackie Jackson. The tipping point, though, was apparently Ourso’s requirement that contractors use a guard service owned and operated by the sheriff.

One witness described an atmosphere of “just plain racketeering and shakedowns through collusion of individual law enforcement officers and labor.” (Imagine that: the word collusion was being bantered about half-a-century ago.)

McKeithen’s decision to suspend Ourso was based on the recommendation of then-State Comptroller Roy Theriot, a recommendation which in turn stemmed from a report by Legislative Auditor J.B. Lancaster which laid out Ourso’s strong-arm tactics, including his preventing contractors from firing workers who were performing no work.

In Ackal’s case prisoners have died under mysterious circumstances, dogs have been loosed on helpless prisoners in the parish detention center, prisoners have been sexually abused, and women employees have sued—and won settlements—over sexual harassment claims.

A television network recently aired a documentary on Ackal’s fiefdom, concentrating on the death of Victor White, III, who, while he sat in a patrol car with his hands cuffed, was fatally shot in the chest—a shooting that was ruled by the local coroner as a suicide, as improbable as that had to be, considering his hands were cuffed behind him.

Ackal’s office has paid out more than $3 million in legal judgments and settlements in his 10 years in office—a rate of $25,000 for each of the 120 months he has been in office. And that’s not even counting the attorney fees of about $1.5 million. Those numbers are far more than any other parish in the state except perhaps Orleans.

And there are other cases currently pending against Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Like the LAWSUIT just filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette by Michael and Suzzanne Williams.

In that action, the pair said that sheriff’s detective Jacques LeBlanc, who has since left the department, obtained a search warrant for their home because he “thought” he had reason to believe the couple was in possession of “illegal narcotics, drug paraphernalia, currency and other controlled dangerous substance(s).”

When voices were heard outside their bedroom, Michael Williams went to the front door. When he opened it, he was ordered out of the house and deputies stormed the house. They forced Mrs. Williams outside clad only in bra and panties, refusing to allow her to dress. Williams was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car while deputies ransacked their home.

Officers “did not find a scintilla” of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia or illegal narcotics, their petition says. Following a fruitless search, they were released with no charges being filed.

Williams subsequently appeared at the sheriff’s office on numerous occasions in an attempt to obtain a copy of the search warrant and affidavit but were provided with neither, although they have since obtained a copy of the search warrant through other sources. They still do not have the affidavit on which the warrant ostensibly was based. Instead, they were told by Dist. Judge Lewis Pittman, who signed the warrant, that LeBlanc swore under oath that he had good reason to believe they were in possession of drugs.

They are claiming that LeBlanc knew his statement to the effect that he believed they had drugs was false and that he committed perjury in order to obtain the warrant.

They are seeking $2 million in damages in their lawsuit.

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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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