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Though the conversation depicted in this cartoon likely didn’t go down exactly this way, it is, nonetheless, typical of the mindset of not only Republicans, but Democrats as well. The merits of a given piece of legislation are immaterial; if it’s being proposed by the opposition party, we’re against it.

This is how we arrived at a situation on the national level where an old pedophile who sent a graduation card to a high school girl he now claims he never knew, who signed the high school yearbook of a girl he now claims he never knew, who was banned from a Gadsden, Alabama, shopping mall because he trolled the parking lot for high school girls, who invokes God and the American Way in the face of women who claim he assaulted them as children, is somehow preferable to a Democrat for the U.S. Senate for one reason and one reason only: he’s a Republican.

When former U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn was first elected to Congress back in 1912 and he boarded the train for Washington, his father had one very simple piece of advice for him: “Sam,” he said, “be a man.” Regrettably, we’ve lost sight of that.

Today, we have arrived at the point of electing our own spineless U.S. Senators and Representatives who, unable or unwilling to think for themselves or to consider the best interests of the working people of Louisiana, blindly follow the dictates of a pompous psychopath—even to the point of rushing through a tax bill laughingly called “reform” that will have an adverse effect on virtually every working citizen of Louisiana while giving enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

This cartoon perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the Republican Party, having failed over and over to repeal Obamacare, now finds itself so desperate to pass some—any—form of legislation before the 2018 elections, is perfectly willing to take this entire country over an economic cliff by passing a disastrous bill containing lobbyists notes in the margins of the final bill.

Remember how the Republicans howled that Obamacare was passed without any real discussion of the contents of the bill? Well, guess what, folks? This tax “reform” bill received even less scrutiny. It is the equivalent of a national enema—without the benefit of K-Y Jelly.

Remember how Republicans screamed about the national deficit? Where the hell are those hypocrites now? Can you hear the crickets chirping?

Democracy? No, this is insanity.

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The idealists among us like to say that justice is blind and illustrations generally show us Lady Justice with a blindfold as she holds the scales of justice.

But if the statues gracing the front of the Federal Courthouse in Lafayette are any indication, it would seem that justice may also tend to be brainless as well.

…And there are certainly times when decisions handed down would appear to substantiate the latter.

But the burning question has to be: Why?

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(Editor’s note: One of my classmates at Louisiana Tech back in the late ’60s was Nico Van Thyn who would go on to an outstanding career as a sportswriter for several papers, including the Shreveport Times, Shreveport Journal and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is now retired and living in Fort Worth. While at Tech, he was a student writer under the direction of the university’s Sports Information Directors Pete Dosher, Jack Fiser and Paul Manasseh and he was an eyewitness to the career of Tech all-time great quarterback Terry Bradshaw. In addition to writing Survivors: 62511, 70726, a poignant book about his parents’ experiences as victims of Hitler’s Holocaust, he wrote the following to set the record straight about the myth surrounding Bradshaw’s predecessor, Duck Commander Phil Robertson. It is reprinted below with his permission:

By Nico Van Thyn, Guest Columnist

When it comes to his athletic career, reality star Phil Robertson—the famed “Duck Commander”—is not very real.

But he and his family are really good at spreading myths. Such as (1) he was All-State in football, baseball and track; (2) he was a major-college recruit; and (3) he had NFL potential as a quarterback.

The first part: no, no, no.

Major prospect: doubtful.

The NFL? Oh, please. No way.

Quickly: I pay very little attention to anything ol’ Phil or his relatives have to say.

He is as far-right conservative as one can get, and I don’t travel in that direction. His brand of religion isn’t mine; his social and political views … not interested.

The TV shows, videos and books about him and his Duck Dynasty family … no thanks.

But I checked for one aspect: athletics. That’s because I was around for Phil’s time at North Caddo High—30 miles north of Shreveport—and Louisiana Tech University.

We saw Phil from the opposing side in high school; we compiled the game and season stats in football as student assistant in sports information for most of the three seasons he played at Tech.

But what I’ve seen and heard from Phil & Sons is about as far from true as the length of Terry Bradshaw’s longest pass (that might’ve carried 80-85 yards) or his national-record javelin throw in high school (244 feet, 11 inches).

I wrote about Phil and Terry 4 1/2 years ago, so I will try not to repeat much of that.

So why write this piece now? It is admittedly a nitpicking, innocuous exercise … except it is like finding a resume’ that is greatly exaggerated.

It irks me to read and hear what I know is not so.

Phil’s athletics bio and story-telling are—I saw this term in a book I am reading—“stretchers.”

I wrote some of this two years ago, but held off because I could not verify what I recalled. Now having checked microfilm of the 1960s’ Shreveport Times, I can tell you this:

Phil Robertson not only was not All-State in football, he wasn’t 1-AA all-district. He was honorable mention.

(Fred Haynes of Minden was all-district, having led his team to an undefeated state championship. Then he was a starter at LSU).

Phil might have pitched for North Caddo — as his sons will tell you — and he did make all-district in ’64 … as an outfielder. But the special baseball players in Class AA in our area, the All-State guys—five of them—were at Jesuit (state champs) and Ruston (two, one a future major leaguer).

He did throw the javelin, and he did make it to the state meet. But he was second in the district meet two years in a row (a Minden athlete beat him both years), third in the ’64 regional, fourth in the state meet … and not All-State. He was not Terry Bradshaw in the javelin, not close.

Myth No. 2:Sports Illustrated “Campus Union” story dated March 22, 2012, says: “… Robertson said he fielded offers to join the football programs at LSU, Ole Miss, Baylor and Rice.”

Can’t disprove it, but it is highly doubtful. He wasn’t that good as a high school QB, and I suspect Louisiana Tech was his best offer.

I can tell you that we had five talented QBs in the 1960s at our school that Phil could envy: three signed major-college scholarships (LSU and Arkansas); the other two signed with Tech. Three were drafted by pro football teams.

One started ahead of Phil at Tech; the other backed up Phil, but went on and won four Super Bowls.

Phil ducked his football career.

A lot of us sensed, early in 1968, that when Bradshaw’s potential blossomed—it soon did—he would replace Phil as Tech’s starting QB. My opinion: Phil sensed that, too. Losing was not fun, and he loved duck hunting.

Myth No. 3: A tryout with the Redskins.

It is so ludicrous, it is laughable. It is a joke. Nothing about it adds up. It is Phil as his BS-ing best.

He talks about this on a Sports Spectrum TV segment posted (March 25, 2013) on YouTube.

A transcript (found through a Google search) of the video follows:

So, Robertson left football and, the following season, he hunted ducks while completing his degree.

A year or so later, though, a former Louisiana Tech teammate, running back Bob Brunet, was with the Redskins and thought Robertson could still make the team. Brunet told Robertson to come up and he would likely be the backup and earn about $60,000.

“At the time, $60,000 didn’t seem like a whole lot even in the ’60s,” says Phil, who worked as a teacher for a few years after earning his degree from Louisiana Tech and then earned his master’s degree in education, with a concentration in English. 

“I said, ‘I don’t know about that. I would miss duck season, you know? I’d have to be up there in some northern city.’ I said, ‘Brunet, you think I’d stay?’ He said, ‘I doubt it. You’d probably leave with the ducks, Robertson.’ I said, ‘Probably so.’” 

“That’s when (future Hall of Fame coach Vince) Lombardi went to Washington for a few years right before he quit coaching. …What (Brunet) said was, ‘We got this hot dog, Robertson, but you can beat him out easy.’ I said, ‘Who’s the hot dog?’ He said, ‘You’re not going to beat out (future Hall of Famer Sonny) Jurgensen. You’re not going to beat him out, but this hot dog, his backup, no problem.’ I said, ‘Who is he?’ He said, ‘Joe Theismann.’”

Phil paused, smiled, then chuckled, recalling the conversation and how good Theismann became—a Super Bowl XVII champion, NFL MVP, and a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection.

“(Brunet) said, ‘No problem, we’ve got him, hands down.’

‘I may do it,’” Phil recalls says. “But I didn’t do it. I stayed with the ducks. But looking back on it, who knows if I’d gone up there, you know, I might not have ever run up on Jesus at 28.”

Now, the truth, the facts:

Lombardi coached one season (1969) in Washington. Brunet never played a regular-season game with Lombardi as coach. In fact, he quit the team.

Robert was the best back (when not hurt) we had at Tech in my time there (1965-68 seasons), a two-time all-conference player. The Redskins drafted him, and as a rookie in 1968, he had the second-most carries on the team. The coach that season was Otto Graham.

After Lombardi came in — having sat out one season following his Green Bay retirement — Brunet did not take to his fierce coaching style.

(The Great Coach was the opposite of the dignified soft-spoken legendary Tech coach Joe Aillet, and the head coach in Robert’s senior season, Maxie Lambright, was a quiet man, too, more intense than Aillet but nothing like Vince.)

So Brunet left and sat out the 1969 season, the time of Phil’s story.

Robert did return to the Redskins in the spring of 1970, with Lombardi still there. But in June, Lombardi’s fast-spreading cancer was found, and he never returned to coaching. He died before the season kicked off.

So, Bill Austin was Brunet’s head coach in ’70, and George Allen came in ’71 (and Brunet was a standout special-teams player for him into the 1977 season).

Jurgensen did not start much in 1971 through 1973. He was injured a lot and then the backup to Billy Kilmer (including a hapless Super Bowl against the “perfect” Miami Dolphins, 1972 season).

Jurgensen and Theismann were on the same Redskins team only in 1974. The “hot dog”—after three years in Canadian football—barely played that year. Kilmer started 10 games (and got hurt); Jurgensen started four (and a playoff game).

By then, Phil had been out of football seven years.

And if I have the timing correctly, Phil’s downward spiral hit in the early 1970s, and he soon was drinking and rowdy and split from his family for a time—not exactly headed for the NFL. Then he found religion.

I Don’t remember religion being a factor for Phil at Tech. His religion was hunting and fishing. In fact, Bradshaw had more of a religious leaning (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) then than Phil.

So maybe Phil and Brunet had a conversation about him playing for the Redskins. But, good gosh, what Phil tells makes no sense.

He’s told it so often, though—and written it—and his sons talk about him being All-State and “turning down a chance to play professional football,” and they all believe it now … and want the world to believe it.

Our lack of success in 1966 and 1967 wasn’t all Phil’s doing; the teams weren’t sound. But the QBs were not difference makers.

As a passer, Phil did have a quick release—Bradshaw has mentioned that often in interviews—and he had a decent arm. But not a great arm, like Terry.

Pro potential? Hardly. Alan, Jase and Willie—the sons—can twist it the way they want and repeat the un-truth.

NFL teams were not going to be interested in a guy who quit before his senior season—“to chase the ducks, not the bucks,” as he likes to say—and who in two years as a starter threw 32 interceptions (nine TD passes) and led his teams to three wins (Bradshaw, as a freshman sub, was the star of the only 1966 victory).

It was nice of Tech to invite Phil back for a September 2013 game, reunited with Terry, and to honor him. But it was for his notoriety (and Ducks success), not for his football past.

Give Phil and the Robertsons’ credit for inventiveness, ingenuity, creativity, self-promotion … and a duck dynasty.

They have millions of reasons—and dollars—to be happy, happy, happy. And I’m happy to provide the truth on Phil as an athlete.

He is out “in the woods” on so much (that’s the name of his new show on CRTV, a subscription-only channel. No subscription here, thank you).

The promotion, which I am not looking for but which is popping up regularly on my computer, says, “… just truth, from Phil’s mouth to your screen.”

Phil’s truth, not ours. If he tells you he was All-State in three sports or an NFL quarterback prospect, don’t believe him.

God-appointed messenger? You decide.

Reminds me of a friend who used to joke, “Any man who says he runs his household will lie about a lot of other things, too.”

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There’s a cheesy TV commercial that’s been running the past few days warning all of us of the evils of litigation but the State of Louisiana may have already found a way to thwart plaintiffs and their attorneys—but not the defense attorneys who work for the state.

On Oct. 20, LouisianaVoice published a story revealing that the state had more than $100 million in 40 lawsuit settlements and judgments pending but still UNPAID. And that is just the face value. With judicial interest accruing daily, that total now stands at well north of $300 million.

Three days later, on Oct. 23, we ran another story that contained a somewhat disturbing revelation: the state spent $309,000 in legal fees to defend a LAWSUIT against the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) and its former director, Troy Hebert, a suit that settled for $250,000.

And while the New Orleans defense firm of Frilot, LLC and its attorney, Renee Culotta, contracted to defend the state have already received their $309,000 (attorney fees are paid as they accrue), the plaintiff in the case, former ATC agent Brett Tingle and his attorney, J. Arthur Smith III, may have to wait several years before they see a penny of the settlement amount.

That’s also the case with those 40 judgments on the books right now. Legislative bills have been introduced and passed for payment but the money isn’t there so at the present time all the plaintiffs and their attorneys have is a judgment but in reality, nothing more than a piece of paper—apparently because the financially-strapped state is just too broke to pay anyone but defense attorneys.

LouisianaVoice pulled 17 of those 40 cases and made a public records request of the Louisiana Office of Risk Management (ORM) through the Division of Administration (DOA) for an accounting of legal fees in each of the cases. (The 1983 class action lawsuit over the disastrous flood in Tangipahoa Parish which resulted in a $98 million judgment was not one of those we examined. With interest, that judgment alone comes to about $300 million.)

Those 17 cases resulted in a combined total of $8.8 million. Some are judgments stemming from trial and others are consent judgments, or settlements, reached before trial. The plaintiffs in those cases.

None of the plaintiffs have received any of their judgments. Plaintiff attorneys in such cases usually work on contingency, meaning they do not get paid unless their client wins his case. The cut for plaintiff attorneys is usually in the area of 30 percent, or in these cases, about $2.6 million. Like their clients, the plaintiff attorneys have received nothing for their work.

Defense attorneys involved, however, get paid regardless. For the 17 reviewed cases, they received more than a third of the total amount of judgments—$3,064,800, to be precise. Of that amount, $426,238 was spent on expert witnesses and on surveillance of plaintiffs.

As in the Tingle ATC case, in three of the cases listed below, attorney fees, expert fees and surveillance fees combined to exceed the actual amounts of the judgments by a combined $192,490.

Here are the cases for which we asked DOA to pull the payment records, the parishes where the suits were filed, and the final judgments. The defense attorney, expert witness and surveillance fees are added in parenthesis (legal fees that exceeded judgments in boldface):

  • Michael and Mary Aleshire, Calcasieu Parish: $104,380.82 ($194,361);
  • Kayla Schexnayder and Emily Legarde, Assumption Parish: $1,068,004 ($325,868);
  • Debra Stutes, Calcasieu Parish: $850,000 ($428,130);
  • Peter Mueller, Orleans Parish: $245,000 ($110,270);
  • Steve Brengettsy and Elro McQuarter, West Feliciana: $205,000 (88,514);
  • Jeffrey and Lillie Christopher, Iberville Parish: $175,000 ($78,785);
  • Donald Ragusa and Tina Cristina, East Baton Rouge: $175,000 ($468,166);
  • Stephanie Landry and Tommie Varnado, Orleans Parish: $135,000 ($144,343);
  • Jennie Lynn Badeaux Russ, Lafourche Parish: $1.5 million ($128,561);
  • Adermon and Gloria Rideaux and Brian Brooks, Calcasieu Parish: $1.375 million ($103,980);
  • Theresa Melancon and DHH Medicaid Program, Rapides Parish: $750,000 ($172,262);
  • Rebecca, Kevin and Cheryl Cole and Travelers Insurance, East Baton Rouge: $400,000 $122,772);
  • Samuel and Susan Weaver, Lafourche Parish: $240,000 ($180,917);
  • Henry Clark, Denise Ramsey and Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Lafayette Parish: $326,000 ($55,401);
  • Anya and Abigail Falcon and Landon and Nikki Hanchett, Iberville Parish, $946,732.53 ($265,598);
  • Adam Moore and James Herrington, East Carroll Parish: $150,000 ($132,643);
  • Traci Newsom, Gerald Blow, DHH Medicaid and Ameril-Health Caritas, Tangipahoa Parish: $150,000 $46,231).

Judgments with round figures like the Traci Newsom and Gerald Blow case are most likely consent judgments, meaning there would be no judicial interest. But irregular judgments like the Anya and Abigail Falcon case, Michael and Mary Aleshire, or Kayla Schexnayder and Emily Legarde were likely trial decisions which would mean judicial interest is accruing every day.

In four of the 17 cases, private law firms were contracted to handle the defense with the attorney general’s office defending the remaining 13. But even in cases handled by the attorney general’s staff attorneys, ORM pays the attorney general’s office via interagency payments.

While the argument could be made that without putting on a legal defense, judgments may well have been much higher.

But if judgments are not being paid, why not simply allow a default judgment and save all those legal fees? It’s not like a plaintiff attorney can seize the State Capitol.

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Following is something I dreamed up in my spare time. It’s a fantasy that, unfortunately, I know will never happen. But still, we can dream. This is an imaginary letter from the governor to all cabinet members and department heads that would do so much to burnish his—or any governor’s—image. Like I said, it’ll never happen:

From: Office of the Governor
Sent: Monday, November 13, 2017 7:00 AM
To: All cabinet members, department heads, supervisors
Subject: ADVISORY: Consider yourselves to be on probation—permanently

Some of you may have noticed that I have experienced considerable difficulty obtaining legislative approval of any of my programs.

Even the most novice political observer would agree that this has nothing to do with the merit of my proposals, or the lack thereof. Instead, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate are determined that they will block any meaningful legislation from a Democrat governor, no matter how beneficial it may be for the citizens of Louisiana. The defeat of a member of the opposition party takes precedent over progress every time. That, unfortunately, is the reality of politics.

To see the Republican leadership promoting the Koch brothers and ALEC agendas while the state teeters on the precipice of financial disaster similar to—or worse—than that which has occurred in Kansas is both frightening and depressing. The federal budget and tax proposals now being pushed through Congress bodes no better future for the nation.

Partisan politics aside, what is also a reality is this: I am furious at being constantly embarrassed by those whom I have appointed to positions of responsibility.

With the rash of disasters that have struck the State of Louisiana along with the political divisiveness that has turned the legislature’s serious consideration of the fiscal perils that lay ahead into a mockery, the distractions of near daily reports of mismanagement, malfeasance, outright theft and general abuse of authority and position are something I can live without.

As governor, I have no control over actions of the legislature, other than my veto power, and regrettably, I have no influence over Congress and our congressional delegation.

But I do have control over the behavior of those whom I appoint and I expect nothing less than honest, open, selfless administration of your respective agencies. This expectation extends to your subordinates as well. You will answer to me for their actions as well as your own.

There is one state agency that does its job as it should. Unfortunately, it seems to operate in a vacuum. The Legislative Auditor’s Office does a herculean job of monitoring how state offices, boards, and commissions are run. Unfortunately, the auditor’s reports, even bad ones, are almost always ignored. No more. Henceforth, when a negative audit report on your agency is published by the Legislative Auditor’s office, that report will no longer be filed away to be forgotten.

Beginning today, when there is an audit report, a news report, or a formal complaint about or against your agency or any of your employees, I am directing immediate remedial action on your part and I expect that response to be public.

In the case of an auditor’s report that puts you in a bad light, I expect a complete turnaround within 30 days, no exceptions. You are to provide my office with a detailed written report of how you intend to remedy the situation. You are to be specific in your report, providing full details of how the situation was allowed to come about and how you plan on correcting the deficiencies. Failure to do so will result in your immediate termination.

In the case of news reports that put you and your agency in a bad light, you are to provide immediate access to the news reporter and you will answer all questions. Moreover, you are to provide my office with a full report, in writing, an explanation of what led to the news report, whether the reports are accurate, and if so, how you plan to address the problem. Misleading my office on the accuracy of negative news reports shall result in your immediate termination and the termination of all concerned.

Formal complaints from citizens or employees of your agency will be addressed immediately. In the case of an employee complaint, there shall be no reprisals taken against the employee, subject to your immediate termination.

As explained earlier in this communication, the governor’s office has enough to deal with without the necessity of constantly putting out brush fires. We exist to serve the public, not the other way around. Public service is a privilege, not an opportunity to enrich oneself. If you are on the state payroll to further your career and to profit from illicit activity with contractors, vendors, or through any other means, get out now or I will show you how it feels to be embarrassed publicly.

The public’s trust of its government, at least on the state level, is important to me.

Act as though your job depends on it—because it does.

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