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We’ve already seen that Louisiana has dismal RANKINGS in overall dental care (47th), oral health (44th), dental habits (dead last), in the percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year (dead last), and the fewest dentists per capita (dead last).

So, what happened when the legislature in 2009 passed House Bill 687 by votes of 96-0 in the House and 34-0 in the Senate that allowed the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry to promulgate rules and regulations for the operation of MOBILE DENTAL CLINICS?

Short answer: the number of mobile clinics in Louisiana went from three to zero.

Dr. John Reese, III, DMD, writing for DENTAL ECONOMICS in 2009, said, “Access to care is a major problem facing dentistry today. Many recall when the U.S. Surgeon General gave a failing grade to the level of dental disease in this country, and reported that the number-one reason children visit the school nurse is for dental pain.

Dr. Reese went on to say that with mobile clinics, patients can be treated on-site with minimal interruption of daily routines.

Two major obstacles stand in the way of adequate dental care: cost and access. By bringing dental services to schools and treating indigent children on Medicaid, the mobile dental clinics met both challenges.

Between 2010 and 2014, the number of school-linked

MOBILE_and_PORTABLE_DENTISTRY_PROGRAMS increased from 1,930 to 2,315, an increase of 20 percent. That includes health clinics as well as dental and every state except South Dakota and Louisiana participated.

So, what happened to the bill pushed so hard by Slidell dentist Dr. Edward Donaldson, the bill that became Act 429 with the signature of Bobby Jindal?

Quite simply, MCNA DENTAL (Managed Care of North America, Inc.), which certifies Medicaid dental programs, refused to credential mobile dental practices in Louisiana.

But a better question is how did HB 687 by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) change from its original form to the language in the final passage?

Well, in its original form the LEGISLATIVE DIGEST said the proposed law “prohibits the practice of dentistry in the buildings, improvements, grounds, or any other construction of elementary or second schools.”

Perhaps it was mere coincidence that Dr. Donaldson and Rep. Pearson both reside in Slidell, but it’s no secret that Donaldson was pushing hard for the bill because he seemed to think that mobile clinics were cutting into his patient base. Never mind that virtually all mobile clinic patients were not otherwise seeing a dentist.

The bill was amended 13 times before being voted on in its final form and the regulations as written were sound rules, or so it seemed, until MCNA entered the picture.

Diana Chenevert, a former employee of the State Dentistry Board, in her testimony before a Senate committee, referred to the coalition of the State Board of Dentistry, the Louisiana Dental Association, MCNA, and Molina (the firm contracted to approve Medicaid payments by the State Department of Hospitals) as the “Medicaid Mafia,” led by Donaldson.

She provided a graph that showed that (a) MCNA receives money for every child covered by Louisiana Medicaid, (b) MCNA pays mobile clinic dentists a fee for service for every child treated (thereby cutting into MCNA’s profit base), and (c) by denying mobile dental services, and in the process eliminating the fees paid to treating dentists, MCNA’s profits are increased.

She cited testimony by Donaldson and dental board member Dr. Claudia Cavalina “about mobile dentistry’s purported unclean, unsafe, unsanitary practice with no follow-up care. What you don’t hear were the initial pleas to the LDA board to fight against mobile dentists, including my favorite LDA member quotes:

  • “It’s gonna be more and more difficult for the private dentist to make a living trying to see these kids.”
  • “I sure, personally, would not like to see us giving all these groups a leg up to compete against our members.”
  • “They are eliminating the private sector. That’s not what I want.”
  • “(Mobile dentists) would be (happy) because they’re getting the first shot” (at potential patients and income).
  • “It’s unfair.”
  • “You can’t get the patients that you do need in certain areas. They will focus on certain areas obviously wherever the children are.”

“Mafia dentists profit directly by closing mobile dental practices as the only model left standing is their brick and mortar offices, the inside of which will never be seen by hundreds of thousands of Medicaid children in Louisiana,” she said in her testimony. “And the children of Louisiana lose.”

So, it was simple math that the mobile clinics operated by Dr. Greg Foules of Lafayette and Drs. Luciana Sweis and Nikita Sarr, both of New Orleans, would be de-certified. In fact, when Dr. Sweis placed her equipment in storage after her forced closure, it would be destroyed by a mysterious fire. Hailed as a major gain for Louisiana when she moved to New Orleans from Chicago, she departed after her clinic was de-certified and her equipment destroyed.

It’s not that Donaldson neglected the necessary time-honored practice of taking care of Louisiana elected officials.

Included in the $143,000 in political contributions by Donaldson, his wife, and their clinic from 2003, were six contributions to Pearson totaling $5,250.

Other contributions by Donaldson included:

  • $13,000 to Senate President John Alario;
  • $5,000 to House Speaker Taylor Barras;
  • $9,500 to various campaigns of Jay Dardenne;
  • $9,000 to Sen. Jack Donahue of Mandeville;
  • $8,000 to Sen. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro;
  • $5,000 to Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie;
  • $9,000 to former House Speaker Charles Kleckley of Lake Charles;

But Donaldson’s contributions are dwarfed by the investments in good government totaling more than $1.5 million made by private dental practices, dental PACs and other dental-related organizations since 2003.

Just imagine, if you will, how many indigent children could receive desperately needed dental care with that kind of money.

Among the more fortunate beneficiaries of that investment were:

  • $35,000 to Alario;
  • $3,500 to Sen. Conrad Appel of Metairie;
  • $8,550 to Barras;
  • $7,500 to Rep. Johnny Berthelot of Gonzales;
  • $6,000 to Rep. Robert Billiot of Westwego;
  • $11,000 to former Rep. Simone Champagne;
  • $8,000 to former Sen. Norbert Chabert;
  • $8,000 to Rep. Charles Chaney of Rayville;
  • $12,000 to Rep. Patrick Connick of Marrero;
  • $25,500 to Donahue;
  • $8,000 to Sen. Dale Erdy of Livingston;
  • $13,000 to former Rep. and former Sen. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro;
  • $23,000 to Fannin;
  • $7,000 to Rep. Franklin Foil of Baton Rouge;
  • $13,000 to former Rep. Brett Geymann;
  • $12,000 to former Rep. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas;
  • $8,500 to Henry;
  • $18,000 to former Rep. Lydia Jackson;
  • $31,000 to Jindal;
  • $17,000 to Kleckley;
  • $12,250 to former Rep. John LaBruzzo;
  • $16,500 to Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans;
  • $15,500 to Rep. James H. Morris of Oil City;
  • $9,500 to Pearson;
  • $7,000 to Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia;
  • $10,000 to former Rep. Mert Smiley of Gonzales;
  • $14,500 to Rep. Patricia Haynes of Baton Rouge;
  • $10,000 to Sen. Gary Smith of Norco;
  • $11,000 to Sen. Greg Tarver of Shreveport;
  • $7,000 to Sen. Michael Walsworth of West Monroe;
  • $7,000 to former House Speaker Jim Tucker;
  • $11,000 to former Sen. Sharon Weston Broome;
  • $17,500 to Sen. Bodi White of Central.

And after all the bad publicity and legislative hearings about dental board actions, the board is now upping its game from extortion, intimidation, and exorbitant fines to witness tampering and cyber stalking.

And why not? Look at those campaign contributions which equate to a get out of jail free card.

If you can’t afford to buy good government (good for your interests, that is), it’s always for rent.


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It’s not the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

It doesn’t have huge grants underwriting its operations.

It doesn’t have a famous movie star promoting it.

Machine gunner

And it’s not exactly overrun with visitors

But the War Museum in Ruston, while operating on a meager budget and with a single curator, is built on the very personal memories of every person who contributed a gun, a uniform, medals, or other memorabilia.


Contributors like Chaplain James White of Minden

Or Ruston’s Major General Hal McCown

Museum curator Ernest Stevens is owner of a sheet metal company he took over from his dad.

Ernest is a veteran of Vietnam and for decades I, along with a lot of other folks around Ruston thought that was him wading across a river on the cover of Life Magazine back when the war was going full bore. During a recent visit to Ruston, I dropped in on Ernest to take the tour. That photo came up in the conversation and Ernest assured me that the soldier in the photo was not him. So much for that local legend.

I’ve know Ernest for the better part of 55 years now and he, like me, is a bit heavier and a lot grayer but the handshake and warm welcome is just as fresh and enthusiastic as it was before he left for that awful war. He, like so many hundreds of thousands like him, was just a boy then.

What would a Vietnam veteran running a military museum do

without a couple of relics from ‘Nam?

Ernest (forget that, I’m calling him by the name I knew 55 years ago). Ernie said veterans who gathered for meetings of the VFW (where the museum is housed) began bringing souvenirs to meetings to show fellow members. “Before long, we just started an informal display and that grew to what we have today,” he said.

Daily warning for wartime workers during WWII

“Pretty soon, veterans of various wars were bringing in all sorts of items, from vintage radios, to wartime equipment, even uniforms worn by the enemy,” Stevens said.

Uniforms of the Axis Powers

Survivors of Bataan never forgot; some never forgave


A mighty U.S. naval fleet, nearly destroyed at Pearl,

rose to dominate the seas


Back home, there was the German P.O.W. camp between Grambling and Simsboro—later a hospital for tuberculosis patients and later still, the site of Ruston State School


Weapons and uniforms of War


Playing war games while listening for news

from the front on upright radio

If you’re in Ruston, drop by the museum on East Georgia next to the old swimming pool and say hello to Ernie. He’ll drop everything he’s doing and give you the tour. And when you do, don’t forget to sign the register and leave a donation. The ones who contributed these artifacts sacrificed much and when you thank them for their service, look them in the eye and say it like you mean it.

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It was back in 1966 that a young telephone installer-repairman realized that climbing telephone poles was not his cup of tea. The hot summers and cold winters perched atop some utility pole in rural Union Parish attempting to resolve repeated outages in the Truxno community held no real appeal for him.

That, coupled with the fact that he was a terrible telephone technician and more than a little put off by real work, prompted him to start looking elsewhere for gainful employment.

It was about that same time that The Ruston Daily Leader was looking for an advertising sales rep. So, with zero experience, the 23-year-old man walked into Publisher Tom Kelly’s office and applied for the position. Kelly, at the time only 36 himself, gave him the job at a whopping $65 per week—a $5 cut from what he was making with what was then Southern Bell.

It didn’t take Kelly long to realize he’d made a grave mistake. It turned out the kid couldn’t sell mittens to an Eskimo. But he had been dabbling with writing a sports column on the side and Kelly spotted something, some quality still unknown to this day, and as a consolation prize, offered him the job of sports editor.

And that’s how my journalism career was launched. A few months later, while I was sitting at my desk, I got a call from then-Louisiana Tech assistant football coach George Doherty. “You want to take a ride with me tonight?” he asked.

“Where’re we going?”

“We’re going to Shreveport to sign a future NFL number-one draft choice.”

And that’s how I came to be sitting in the living room of one Bill Bradshaw when his son Terry signed his grant-in-aid scholarship with Louisiana Tech. I ran a photo of Terry signing his scholarship, beating The Shreveport Times in its own back yard. I wish I still had that photo. He had hair then.

And, of course Doherty was correct. Terry was the first player selected in the 1970 NFL draft and went on to win four Super Bowls as the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

Earlier, in 1968, I left The Daily Leader for a job as news reporter for the Monroe Morning World where I worked for an outstanding editor, the late Jimmy Hatten. It was the same year I married my wonderful and beautiful wife Betty and sitting in the church during the ceremony was Tom Kelly. Hard to believe it’s been half-a-century.

Kelly would soon bring me back as city editor of The Daily Leader and while there, I wrote a short booklet about outlaws Bonnie and Clyde to coincide with the showing of the movie of the same name starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. It was also during that time that I made the decision to go back to school. I’d flunked out of Tech in 1962. Seems the importance of going to class didn’t really register with me then. But Tom Kelly taught me something that they didn’t teach in Tech’s journalism curriculum and that is, to paraphrase former House Speaker Tim O’Neill, all journalism is local. Tom drilled into my head that there are three critical times in a person’s life that must never be ignored: his birth, his marriage, and his death.

While pursuing a degree in journalism, was recruited by The Shreveport Times to run the north Louisiana bureau for The Times and Morning World in Ruston. Both papers were owned by the Ewing family and were good, solid publications, not the sorry excuses for newspapers they have become under the mismanagement of Gannett. (The Morning World has since consolidated with its afternoon sister publication and taken on its name, The News-Star.)

From there, my journalistic odyssey took me to Baton Rouge to work under the tutelage of Jim Hughes at the State-Times, the now-defunct sister publication of the Morning Advocate.

But Tom Kelly wasn’t quite finished with me yet. In 1976, he brought me back home to work as Managing Editor. I’d barely been there a week when there was an awful pipeline explosion in the Jackson Parish community of Cartwright that killed a retired couple and a mother and three of her children. As I walked up to the crater created by the blast, I could see a group of first responders about 200 yards away frantically waving and shouting to me. The heat from the ground around the massive hole in the ground began melting the rubber soles of my shoes, so I moved away quickly and started walking toward the group of men to learn what they were trying to tell me. And their message was there was another 30-inch gas line right next to the one that exploded. My knees immediately turned to something akin to Jell-O.

For New Year’s Day 1977, Tom Kelly sent out special invitations to the inaugural All-American Redneck Male Chauvinist Spittin’, Belchin’, and Cussin’ Society and Literary Club’s All-Day Poker Game and Dinner on the Grounds.

There were few rules but some of the most important ones:

  • Lots of music by Willie, Waylon, and Hank Williams;
  • No guns, knives, or other sharp objects allowed at the poker table;
  • The only hand to beat a Royal Flush was a real good redneck bluff;
  • Wimmenfolk was invited to do the cookin’ and bridge playin’, but they was forbidden to come into the poker room, sigh heavy, roll they eyes or say it was time to go.

At the time, The Daily Leader had an editorial writer, Rudolph Fiehler, PhD, a retired Louisiana Tech English professor.

Doc Fiehler knew nothing about poker, so he remained in the dining room playing bridge with the wimmenfolk. At one point, he got up and wandered into the poker parlor and stood watching us gambling away our life savings in nickel-ante poker.

Tom Kelly, spotting Doc, got up and offered him a seat at the poker table. Doc initially refused, saying he knew nothing about the game.

“We’ll tell you,” the five of us volunteered at once, smelling fresh blood for our game.

Doc did finally consent to sit in for a few hands. He was so foreign to the rules that we had to tell him when he had won.

And we had to tell him that far too often. Before the session was over, he possessed every nickel, dime and quarter at the table. We were busted he was $17.85 richer. One player threatened to ambush him on his way home. I still hold fast to the conviction that we were sandbagged.

As it is with life, we all moved on. I moved back to the Baton Rouge area, settling in nearby Denham Springs and Tom Kelly ended up back in Winn Parish where he had begun. A native of Gaar’s Mill, his first job was with the Winn Parish Enterprise. It was only natural that the yellow dog Democrat (a phrase coined by Harry Truman’s mother, who said she’d vote for a yellow dog before she’d vote Republican) would return to his roots. He founded The Piney Woods Journal in 1997. The monthly publication was geared to, but certainly not restricted to, Louisiana’s timber industry.

Earlier this week, I received an email that Tom sent to his correspondents:

This is to notify you officially that The Piney Woods Journal will cease operations under my ownership with the edition of May, 2019, completing 22 years of continuous publication. As of now, there are no buyer operators waiting in the wings to take over, and unless one steps up in the meantime, we will be closed.

This decision has not been made lightly. The Journal has become a part of the landscape in the region, largely because of your commitment to writing on subject matter that is of particular interest to a readership that has grown and remained loyal from the beginning. However, after several false starts, there appears to be no ready buyer waiting outside our door, and I am not able to do the things that I once did to contribute to the news/editorial/advertising mix that has made The Journal a unique media presence in what many continue to say is a dying industry. I would make a point that if it is dying, it is due to many self-inflicted faults (think Gannett, etc.) by a generation that believes that nothing is real except Google and Facebook.

This month, if I live to see it, I will be 88 years old. I have continuing health issues that prevent me from doing things I used to do on behalf of the paper, and which others are not in a position to do, for various reasons. My wife Miriam is entirely home bound with her own ailments. We have been at this together for thirty-five years. We live with pills and potions by the hour, and spend our most creative energies seeing after ourselves and, of course, our current “family” of growing puppies and their mama.

As the saying goes, it’s been real. And now our participation will end; unless there is a knock on the door down at 104 North Third, the Piney Woods Journal’s residence, with someone bringing a check to purchase our operation, we’ll see y’all in the funny papers.

 Good luck, good writing, and good life to all of you.

Needless to say, the announcement was like a punch in the gut. It caught me by surprise and produced an instant wave of nostalgia. The two of us had been through too many battles together and too many battles with each other for his message to be dismissed lightly.

I immediately fired off this message to Tom:

Tom, this truly saddens me on so many levels. Obviously, I share your sentiments about the death throes of news publications and I, too, place much of the blame on the Gannet and Facebook mentality. It’s an industry that I literally grew up in—as a man and as a journalist. But more than that, you and I have a connection that goes back more than 50 years and nothing can ever replace that. You took me under your wing and taught me about journalism. How you managed to have enough patience to do that I will never know, but know this: I will be forever grateful for that education and your tutorship and guidance. You are one of only a handful of people whom I admire and look up to and you will always be an inspiration and a source of encouragement to me. At the risk of sounding too maudlin, your announcement makes me feel as though I’ve lost something very personal—and I have.

Take care, my friend.


This was his response:

My greatest pride in the personal achievements in this profession that we follow are not in the words I write, but in the people I have been fortunate enough to bring in and help to grow as practitioners of our craft. Bill Davis. Eric Mahaffey. Nick Drewry. Jerry Pye. Derwood Brett. Buddy Davis. David Widener. David Specht. Several whose names have slipped my mind. And a brash, talented, industrious achiever of the writing arts named Tom Aswell. We called him Az. If I have left anything behind, it is in the talents of those who carry on even now. They all made me look better that I could have been alone.  Several of a new generation joined up as contributors for this latest enterprise, which has provided me a new level of satisfaction. 

Keep the faith. 


What you leave behind, Tom, is a legacy that no journalism class could ever hope to teach. You taught integrity, dedication, and a love for the written word to dozens of fortunate reporters, editors and interns who had the good fortune to walk through the door of the Ruston Daily Leader. I was one of those and I will be forever richer for the experience.

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(Editor’s note to Trump supporters: before you go bat-s**t crazy and start pounding me with your rants, please click on the links in boldface blue. In the past, it seems LouisianaVoice critics haven’t bothered to read the material I’ve so generously provided for them in the knowledge they won’t find the material on Faux News. Of course, when you read the linked stories, you’re free to comment as always.)

Just when you think it can’t possibly get more bizarre with this POTUS….it does.

His latest tweet seems to somehow infer that the government shutdown is okay because most of the furloughed workers are DEMOCRATS—as if that justifies the cessation of services or the loss of pay.

It’s not enough that his White House has the highest staff turnover in history—after he made an issue during the campaign of the fact that Obama had three chiefs of staff in his eight years (Trump is now on his third in less than two years).

It’s not enough, apparently that:

He says he “barely knows” Saudi Crown Prince MOHAMMED bin SALMAN, even after having boasted earlier of his “excellent” relationship with the Saudis.

He says he “doesn’t knowMATT WHITAKER, the man he named as interim attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions, despite having said earlier that he did know him. Whitaker, it was revealed after his brief promotion, had served on the advisory board of a major scam operation.

He says he “didn’t know” about the hush money payment to STORMY DANIELS.

He says he “barely knew” his own former campaign manager PAUL MANAFORT.

He claimed he “knows nothing” about former KKK leader DAVID DUKE, who said he supported the Trump candidacy and told listeners of his radio program to “get active” for Trump. Like him or loathe him, it would seem anyone running for President would know everything there was to know about the guy.

He said he “does not knowJARED KUSHNER very well. (Hint: he’s your son-in-law.)

He says he “barely knewMICHAEL COHEN, his personal attorney of 12 years.

He says he “barely knew” Felix Sater, the Russian who worked for Bayrock, whose headquarters were in Trump Tower. Sater spearheaded negotiation, unsuccessfully, it turned out, to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.

He said he “barely knewMICHAEL FLYNN who, despite that one handicap, still managed to lead crowds with chants of “lock her up” at the Republican National Convention and who managed to get himself named National Security Adviser by Trump.

He claimed he “barely recalls” meeting with GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, a foreign policy adviser for his campaign and who was the first to suggest that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Coincidentally, he was also the first to be arrested and the first to plead guilty in connection with the Mueller probe.

Do we detect a trend here?

Apparently not, because no less an authority than Donald Trump himself says he has ONE OF THE GREAT MEMORIES OF ALL TIME.”

Except when he DOESN’T.

But the one thing he does not forget is his wall, though he does seem to not remember that he promised during the campaign that MEXICO would pay for the wall because now he’s insisting that Congress pony up $5 billion or he will keep the government shut down.

Border Patrol, TSA, air traffic controllers, etc. are being required to work without pay but Trump says it’s all good because—again—most of the furloughed workers are Democrats.

As is that should matter. Ever.

And disregarding for the moment the fact that he has not a shred of evidence to support that absurd tweet, Trump should realize (except it’s obvious by now that his cognitive dissonance is such that he simply is incapable of stringing together a logical line of reasoning) that Republican or Democrat, they’re all Americans. They work for the American government, they buy goods and services in America, and they pay taxes in America.

Perhaps he’s a bad example when reflecting on how his presidency ended, but as a U.S. Senator, Lyndon Johnson was an ardent STATES-RIGHTS advocate, opposing every civil rights proposal to come down the pike, even calling efforts for federal legislation “a farce and a shame.”

But when he became President following the assassination of John F. Kennedy 55 years ago, he personally muscled the 1964 CIVIL RIGHTS ACT through Congress. Asked why the sudden departure from his Senate days, he said instead of reflecting the sentiments of his Texas constituents, “I’m everybody’s President now.”

That’s a lesson Trump should consider during his lucid moments, rare though they may be.

Memories like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were

                                                                                    —The Way We Were

(Thanks to Stephen Winham for passing along the lyrics)

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Read these stories:



Now close your eyes. Now imagine the face of your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your girlfriend, your sister, or your wife as one of these victims.

If you still support Donald Trump, then you’re a hypocrite—or worse.

And you’re part of the problem.

It’s that simple.

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