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I received a very official-looking envelope in the mail last week. Inside was a return envelope stamped, “Process Immediately, Congressional District Census Enclosed. Along with the envelope was a questionnaire to be completed and returned.

My first thought was, “Oh, census. This is important governmental business.” Then it occurred to me that the official U.S. census isn’t until next year, so I took a closer look.

That’s when I saw it was not “census” information at all, but a push poll “Commissioned by the Republican Party.”

They must not know me very well. I haven’t been a Republican since midway through Bobby Jindal’s first term. Maybe they were going by the previous 30 years.

Anyway, here’s what they said:

“Mr. Aswell: Your Participation is Urgently Needed.” (bold faced and capitalizing inappropriate words, just like Donald Trump in his tweets.)

Trust me, they don’t really want my responses. Their poll questions phrased in such a way as to “push” the respondent not toward what he/she would like to say, but what the party wants to hear so they can trumpet the “overwhelming support for Donald Trump” shown by the party’s poll.

I won’t bore you with all the questions, but here are a few (with my observations in parentheses):

  • Do you think the Democrat Party as a whole is promoting a Socialist agenda for America? (as opposed to the Republican Party promoting a fascist agenda, a choice not provided? You mean all those god-awful socialist programs like social security and Medicare, minimum wage, federal highways, police and fire protection? That socialist agenda?);
  • Do you think that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat-controlled House will work with President Trump to address the critical issues facing our nation? (as opposed to asking if Trump would work with Pelosi and the Democrats—I mean, cooperation is supposed to be a two-way street. Trump and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, after all, have already given us an additional $1 trillion federal deficit.);
  • Do you currently trust the federal government bureaucracy to act in the best interest of the citizens of our nation? (as opposed to the days of tainted meat, child sweat shop labor, runaway Wall Street speculators throwing the country into depression, unsafe vehicles, unregulated food and drugs, pre-social security and Medicare, unsafe working conditions, unclean air and water, no minimum wage, 60-hour work weeks with no vacation, no sick leave, no health care or retirement benefits?);
  • Do you believe the national media has (sic) a strong bias against all things Donald Trump and Republican and fails to tell America’s voters the real facts about Republican policies, principles, goals, and accomplishments? (Well first of all, media is plural and should take the verb “have.”) (second, you mean like the reality of the tax reform bill that only benefited the wealthy while creating an additional trillion-dollar federal deficit cited in my response to question two above? The abolishing of net neutrality? Trump’s attempt to deny aid to the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico? Like the repeated attempts to strip poor Americans of health care? );
  • Do you support canceling all federal funding to sanctuary cities that fail to enforce U.S. immigration laws? (I would refer you to question number three above);
  • Do you support President Trump in his determination to appoint judges who will adhere to strict Constitutional principles and not use the court to advance their personal ideologies? (Oh boy, I damned near choked on that one. Didn’t know these Republicans had such a sense of humor.);
  • Do you think race relations in America are getting better or worse? (Seriously? You really want an answer to that question after you, the Republican Party, has done everything in its power to strip African-Americans of the right to vote, the right to work, the right to do about anything other than get shot with impunity—all while encouraging a resurgence of white supremacy activity?);
  • Do you believe more federal laws that impede individuals’ Second Amendment rights are the proper response to gun violence in our nation? (C’mon guys, you already have Russians as members in good standing of the NRA, Russians who funneled $500,000 into Trump’s campaign through the NRA and you don’t want any discussion of ways to keep assault weapons out of the hands of mentally deranged people. Why would we want any additional pesky laws that might impede your fine work on behalf of the mass slaughter of school kids?);
  • Under President Trump’s leadership, improvements have been made to ensure that our nation’s Veterans (there you go with the capital letters again) receive the quality of care and services they deserve (Oh, gawd, surely you jest). Yet much remains to be done. Do you agree that Republicans should push for additional legislation to be passed that will address problems still confronting the Department of Veterans Affairs? (Why do you need my opinion on that? Didn’t Trump already turn over the VA to some local hacks at Mar-a-Lago, hacks who don’t even work for the government but are just members of Mar-a-Lago?);
  • Do you support rebuilding our nation’s military by expanding our military investment? (By “rebuilding,” you mean spending even more than the current 57 percent of the federal budget already devoted to military spending? Hell, why not 100 percent? Maybe they could find a cure for stone bruises.);
  • Do you agree with President Trump that fixing our nation’s inner cities and working to rebuild our crumbling highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals must be a top federal priority in the next few years? (First of all, I agree with the concept but to say that that is Trump’s “top priority” is something of a reach, since all I’ve heard his first 27 months in office is “wall, wall, wall, wall, wall, wall….” To tell the truth, I haven’t heard much serious discussion about the nation’s infrastructure from either the Republicans or what’s-his-name.);
  • Do you have any interest in serving as a volunteer to help at your local Trump Victory Headquarters or to assist a Republican candidate in your area? (only if I can do so in the same manner as the late Dick Tuck. If you don’t know who he was, google him.);
  • Do you plan on supporting Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential election? (Haw! Snort, giggle, chortle!)
  • Can the RNC count on your help to re-elect President Trump as we fight to Make America Great Again? (Same response as above, but add a guffaw.);

Finally, under the section set aside for my pledge of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or “Other $_______, was this:

“I cannot send a donation at that level right now. But I am enclosing $15 to help pay for the cost of processing my Census Document.”

Well, there’s two thing you can’t accuse them of having: pride and integrity.

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Do you really want to know how your elected officials go about stabbing honest individuals in the back in order to do favors for political cronies?

Well, do you?

You must not because you just keep electing these same political hacks to office. Term limits? Hah! Doesn’t mean a thing. Francis Thompson ran his string in the House only to turn around and run for the Senate. Same for Jim Fannin. Of course, Neil Riser’s claim to infamy is his laughable attempt to ram through a six-figure retirement increase for his pal former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

And Walsworth needs his proctologist every morning to fine his….well, never mind.

And now these “honorable and distinguished public servants” are pooling their political muscle to block the appointment of Dr. Jeetendra Patel to the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry after he was properly included in a list of three nominees, including incumbent Dr. Richard (we like to call him “Rick”) Willis.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be done: three names submitted to the governor and the governor names the new appointee.

But, oh no. Rick couldn’t play by the rules. Tearing a page from Mitch McConnel’s playbook, he adopted a new set of rules and called for a new election—to hell with what the governor wanted. Not only that, whereas previously, only members of the area dental association (in this case, Northeast Louisiana) could vote on a nominee, Rick decided to let the voting be opened up to all comers. Not a dentist? No problem! Here’s my campaign brochure.

Even good ol’ Rick had the cojones to admit in the letter above that Patel was ousted only “after multiple votes and petitions.” Man, he must need a wheelbarrow to haul ’em around.

In the above letter, Rick, apparently desperate to hold onto his power, implores members of the Northeast Louisiana Dental Association to “keep the pressure on Fannin, Riser, Walsworth and Thompson” to “do the right thing.”

Do the right thing, Rick?

The right thing would have been for you to shut the hell up, lick your wounded pride and walk away with your head held high. You served your five-year term, now go home.

But you couldn’t do that.

Why? is the question. What is so important about serving on the board that would deliberately go out of your way to undermine a man who has done nothing to you? Is it power, prestige, or something else?

And that, dear readers, is the crux of the issue with the Louisiana State Dental Board. Its only purpose is to serve as a means of extorting huge fines for minor infractions from dentists who, should they resist, are systematically ground down by an agency that has unlimited financial and legal resources. And this is usually done to a dentist who poses a competitive threat to a sitting board member.

If it’s not about power, it’s about race.

And neither is what this country, this state, is supposed to be about.

We are supposed to be about fairness.

We are supposed to be about compassion.

We are supposed to be about democracy.

None of these traits apply to the methods employed by Dr. Rick Willis.

Perhaps it’s time for the Dental Board to investigate him for unfair competition.

But don’t hold your breath.

 

 

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This is necessarily going to be short.

Regular readers may have noticed I’ve not been very active in my writing this past week. That’s because I’ve been extremely inactive physically.

It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re in a neck brace, fighting headaches, fatigue, and prohibited from driving for six weeks.

That’s what a C-3 through C-6 fusion will do to you. Demobilization, I call it. A pain in the neck.

Shoot, I’m not even able to talk much and those of you who know me are aware what a handicap that is for me.

I have a phobia about pain pills. Up until this procedure, I’ve always refused to use them. Not this time. When you get this kind of headache, you’ll do just about anything to make it go away.

I’ve been putting this off for some time but I finally had to face reality: my neck wasn’t going to heal itself.

My neurosurgeon, Dr. Luke Corsten, told me it was a “difficult” procedure. He has a flair for the understatement.

I was laid on my back, strapped to the operating table, my arms stretched outward and upward as far as they would go and my chin pushed upward, a position I remained in for the entire four-hour operation.

I wouldn’t be this sore after an extreme triathlon on a hot August day in Baton Rouge—without warming up.

They made a lengthy incision in the front of my throat, pushed the vocal cords out of their way and went to work doing what they do best—making people better.

And I’m here to tell you that the folks at The NeuroMedical Center and The Spine Hospital of Louisiana are the best. From Dr. Corsten down to the hospital orderlies, the personnel were magnificent. Ever been in a hospital and pressed the nurse “call” button? Did you have to press it two or three more times before finally getting someone to your room?

Not at The Spine Hospital. Push the button one time and before you could release it, someone’s in your room. And not with an attitude like you’re interrupting something important like, say, Facebook time. The staff there make you feel like you’re the most important person they’ve ever met.

Surgery isn’t pleasant, but they did their best to make it so. And I, for one, noticed and appreciated that.

Medical personnel these days want you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe.

If I had to rate their kindness and professionalism on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, I give them a 15.

And lest I get scolded for omitting the most important ones in my life, Betty, you and the girls have been absolutely splendid. It’s been 50 years since I walked you down that aisle and the only thing I’d do differently today is maybe walk a little slower. Seventy-five years tend to make the footsteps a bit more deliberate and a lot more cautious.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have two cuddly pals, chihuahuas Bella and Ellie, who are waiting to curl up in my lap for our nap.

 

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Okay, this is going to bring out all the foaming-at-the-mouth Trump supporters. But go ahead, give it your best shot. (a) I am used to your blind, hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil unwavering devotion to anyone who speaks the same hate-filled “all-hat-and-no-cattle” rhetoric as you and (b) I don’t really care because I would rather stand up for decency, honesty, and respectability than to curry favor with any of you.

Having said that, I can now turn my attention to Mr. Hominy and grits, Mr. syrup for brains, Mr. Hypocrisy himself, aka Louisiana’s junior senator John Neely Kennedy, for his latest sound bite for the TV cameras.

It’s been said that the most dangerous place in Washington, D.C. is to stand between Kennedy and a TV microphone but to tell the truth, his down-home, aw, shucks B.S. is starting to wear just a little thin, especially with his latest PROCLAMATION.

Yep, you read it right. Mr. Morality Kennedy just called Joe Biden a “creepy old man.”

Before going any further, a disclaimer is called for here. I am not a Biden fan necessarily, although I do certainly think he is far superior in intellect, honesty, decency and experience than Clown Prince Trump. Personally, I feel Biden, like Bernie Sanders and a few others (including Trump) are too old for the rigors of being the leader of the free world—if one could indeed call Trump a leader, which I certainly do not. (I’m 75, so I don’t believe I’m necessarily guilty of age discrimination in saying that—just realistic.)

But for Kennedy, a one-time fairly liberal Democrat just in case anyone needs reminding, to call Biden “creepy” and at the same time endorse and embrace every utterance and act emanating from Trump is indisputably the height of hypocrisy, duplicity, and evidence of a lack of a real moral compass. If Kennedy had an ounce of self-respect as opposed to a ton of ambition and ego, he would distance himself from Trump, who is on record, courtesy of the ACCESS HOLLYWOOD tapes, saying much, much, MUCH worse than anything Biden has ever said or done.

Trump’s payoff of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were to cover up adulterous affairs and despite claims by Trump apologist (creator, actually) BREITBART, were most definitely not “private transactions.”

Yes, Biden crossed a line—several times. Women, for the most part, are just not comfortable with touchy-feely men and men should respect that. He also should apologize and not just slough it all off by saying he will change his behavior, as he said today.

At the same time, I cannot help but feel that with the manner in which Russia took over social media in the 2016 election, that this entire Biden business would never have surfaced had he not been the leading Democratic challenger to Trump. Now, whether some kind of character assassination was carried out by Trump or by Biden’s Democratic challengers is not certain but rest assured it was just that—a character assassination or as it is better known, dirty politics.

And it’s not the last such event that we’ll see in the upcoming presidential election. There will be others, lots of others.

Some might even say what I’m writing here is a character assassination of Trump.

Except he doesn’t need my help. He has a very rare affliction: every time he opens his mouth, he shoots himself in the foot. Very rare indeed. He is his very own walking, talking character assassination.

But this little rant is about Kennedy. If he is a true Trump loyalist, and I have no reason to doubt he is, he should never have opened that little can of worms.

After all, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

And Kennedy just heaved a big one on behalf of the resident of a very large but fragile glass house.

Maybe Kennedy, for once in his ego-driven life, should just shut the hell up.

 

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The Southeastern Conference has finally decided to take action to burnish its tarnished image.

It’s about time.

The Kansas City Star, way back in 2012, featured a lengthy STORY about the sordid history of the conference which, when Mike Slive was appointed commissioner in 2002, half the conference’s 12 teams were either on probation or under investigation.

Slive, who died last year, retired in 2015 and was succeeded by Greg Sankey but the problems didn’t go away.

Folks still remember the controversy swirling around the alleged payments to Cam Newton in order to get him enrolled at Auburn.

But the conference is rife with such stories:

There was Pat Dye at Auburn, Charlie Pell at Florida, John Callpari, Eddie Sutton and Dwayne Casey at Kentucky, Alabama’s paying $150,000 to entice football prospect Albert Means to pay for the Tide.

Some coaches got caught up in recruiting misadventures prior to being hired by SEC schools.

Auburn assistant basketball coach Ira Bowman was suspended for violations involving the University of Pennsylvania. Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl was caught up in an FBI investigation of recruiting violations while at Tennessee and Auburn assistant basketball coach, Chuck Person was charged with corruption and bribery in another FBI investigation involving then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

Of course, cheating isn’t limited to the SEC. There were these, to name a few:

  • The Reggie Bush saga at USC;
  • The academic fraud scandal at Florida State;
  • The illegal cash payments to North Carolina players by a sports agent;
  • The tutoring scandal at North Carolina;
  • Tattoogate at Ohio State;
  • God knows what-all at Miami and Oklahoma;
  • A number of recruiting violations at SMU, including claims by Eric Dickerson that the school paid him while he was enrolled there;
  • Michigan booster Ed Martin and the damage he did to the school’s basketball program;
  • Jerry Sandusky at Penn State;
  • Sexual assault at Baylor that forced Kenn Starr out as president;

And now we have our most current embarrassment: the suspension of LSU basketball coach Will Wade after FBI wiretaps surfaced in which he is allegedly heard discussing payments to a highly-recruited basketball player currently enrolled at LSU.

So, now, in a LouisianaVoice exclusive, we have learned that Sankey, with the near-unanimous backing of SEC coaches is taking action that should keep the conference at the head of the pack in NCAA athletic competition—without the stigma of recruiting violations.

A draft to replace the arduous rigors of bribing 18-year-old high school kids.

And why not?

A draft will not only dramatically slash the cost and time devoted to recruiting, but will level the playing field for the perennial have-nots like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and South Carolina in football, practically everyone but Kentucky in basketball and several of the mediocre teams in baseball.

And it would obliterate cheating and payoffs in recruiting and take unscrupulous boosters out of the equation.

Those are just the men’s sports, of course, but to be totally honest, that’s where the most expenses are and it’s where the most cheating occurs. Women’s sports just seem to be a bit more ethical and virtuous and grounded in the true spirit of SPORTSMANSHIP.

So, now, beginning in 2020, the SEC will conduct a draft of high school prospects with the team with the worst record in 2019 drafting first, the second-worst next and so on until the reigning SEC champion drafts last.

Also like the NFL, teams may trade up in the draft in order to get a player that might not be available in the later rounds.

But unlike the NFL, the draft won’t be binding to other conferences.

In other words, if a high school player wants to play in the SEC, he must play for the team that drafts him but at the same time, he would be free to go to any other non-conference school that recruits him.

Orgeron said the SEC draft could actually be a benefit to other Louisiana schools. “If a player was drafted by, say, Missouri but wanted to play closer to home, he could stay in state and play for Louisiana Tech, ULL or some other state school that might not otherwise be in the running for his services,” he said.

Undrafted players, of course, would be free to play for any SEC school as walk-ons.

High school players could declare themselves for the SEC draft following their junior years, Sankey said. “Opting out of their senior year of high school wouldn’t put any additional academic pressure on them since once enrolled in the school that drafts them, class attendance will be, as always, optional,” he said. “We will continue to have tutors and test stand-ins for those who opt not to go to class.”

“We’ll be instituting the draft only in football and men’s basketball at first to determine if the plan is feasible,” Sankey said. “If it’s successful, as we expect it to be, we will phase in all the other sports for men and women.”

Sankey said the next step in his long-range plan to eliminate the cloud of corruption that has come over the conference far too often is expected to be approval of the payment of stipends, or salaries to players. “To help combat any negative publicity, each school will also provide free legal representation for players,” he said.

“If we can negotiate salaries with the players in the same manner as the NFL,” he said, “there’s a good chance we could keep more players for the full four years of their academic pursuits, thus increasing the conference’s graduation rate for student-athletes.”

Sanky said if salaries for players are phased in, players would also be allowed to be represented by agents.

“The times, they are a-changing,” he said, quoting from the Bob Dylan song of the ‘60s. “We have to change with them to remain competitive.”

As noted earlier, the plan was “near-unanimous” in its acceptance. LSU’s head football coach Ed Orgeron and Alabama Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban came down on opposite sides of the issues of both the draft and payments.

“Go Tigers. I think it’s a great idea,” said Orgeron. “This will allow LSU to keep some of those great players from West Monroe here in the state and maybe one day we can beat ‘Bama’s butts. Go Tigers.”

Saban, however, was vehemently opposed to the plan. “Why would I want to be the last team to draft and lose a great player that I would normally get with minimal effort?” he asked, red-faced and with veins popping out on his forehead. “Why should I get penalized for winning by making me draft last? This is just an attempt by the media to create controversy at Alabama and I’m not going to fall for it.

“Trust me, ‘Bama will continue to get the players it wants, one way or another. Some things never change.”

The initial high school draft is scheduled for one year from today.

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