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“[I]t does approach that kind of cult behavior — including the MAGA hats and the willingness to expose themselves to a lethal pathogen — because loyalty to the cult leader requires it. And his grandiosity is now . . . to the point where there is a sense that he is immortal or invulnerable or invincible. He could conquer the virus by being this Superman-great leader. Now he’s on dexamethasone, which is a steroid known to produce euphoria and grandiosity and psychosis as a side effect for some patients. If you have a tendency in that direction in the first place, it probably doesn’t help. But, yes, it’s become more florid, certainly. as time has gone by. And then, of course, the incitements to violence and the paranoia have similarly become more explicit — more frequent. And now, he is retrieving wilder and wilder conspiracy theories and obsessing with particular enemies. So I would say that you can’t really know his mental status without a direct examination, but what we see of his mental status looks more floridly disturbed as time has gone by.”—Dr. Judith Herman, co-founder of the Victims of Violence Program and psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, warning about Donald Trump’s mental health.

“I’m about the best thing that has ever happened to Puerto Rico.  You better vote for me Puerto Rico.”—Donald Trump, announcing the release of $13 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid and repair schools exactly three years after he tossed those rolls of paper towels at Puerto Rican crowds following the second of two major hurricanes devastated the island. [Uh, you do know, don’t you, Mr. Genius, that Puerto Rico does not vote in presidential elections? But you’re right about one thing: it is surrounded by water, lots of water, wet water.]

“So many of Trump’s supporters look like extras from Deliverance!Tweet by Glyn Sanders. [I thought I heard banjos.]

“Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor, you’re a racist and so forth.”—J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, in describing mail-in voting as “the number-one left-wing agenda.” [Oh, I don’t think the Republicans have ever been afraid of such accusations; they’re rather proud of the fact.]

NOT A TRUMP QUOTE, but it should be (with apologies to Cavin & Hobbes):

TRUMP: I’m a genius, but I’m a misunderstood genius.
BARR: What’s misunderstood about you?
TRUMP: Nobody thinks I’m a genius.

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

                                    –Signs (Five Man Electrical Band)?

I know, I know. The stealing of political signs is nothing new. It’s been a number-one pastime of election season as long as there’ve been election seasons.

But when a sitting mayor orders the thefts – and storage of the pilfered signs in a municipal warehouse – and it isn’t even his race…well, that’s just…Louisiana politics and the kind of nonsense that makes Louisiana a laughingstock.

Richie Sanderson is one of those challenging incumbent Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta in his bid for a third term as the representative from the PSC’s First District.

And thanks to Harahan Mayor Tim Baudier, Sanderson is having a pretty hard time keeping a fresh supply of yard signs because they just keep disappearing as fast as he can place them.

And it’s not just Baudier. Recently, a woman was spotted removing a sign from private property and when confronted by Sanderson’s people, she claimed she was the property owner and that the signs were placed without her permission.

She threatened Sanderson’s workers with trespassing.

The only problem was she wasn’t the property owner. In fact, she was the Skrmetta’s wife and Sanderson obtained an affidavit from the property owner attesting to the fact that he authorized the sign to be placed on his property.

So, who’s trespassing now, Mrs. Skrmetta?

But the real kicker to this entire sordid affair is that Sanderson’s team watched a city worker remove one of Sanderson’s signs and confronted him. The entire exchange is captured on this VIDEO.

This hapless city worker acknowledged that he had been ordered by Baudier to remove the signs and to transport them to a municipal warehouse for storage. The exchange takes on comical overtones as the desperate worker keeps trying to walk away from the interview, obviously uncomfortable with the position he’s been placed in.

LouisianaVoice attempted to contact Baudier for comment today, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Apparently, he isn’t too eager to talk about the signs but is pretty irate about the video of the city worker’s interview.

There’s another angle to the sign story: Sanderson, understandably angry over the theft of his signs (they do cost money, you know), had the foresight to place digital trackers on the signs (what a difference the electronic age has made in our lives) and was able to trace them as they made their way to three different storage sites.

Harahan police are now involved in the drama, so a lid has effectively been placed on any additional information about the ongoing investigation. But one has to wonder how much clout Mayor Baudier has over the police department and if he could in any way hamper the investigation at least until after the Nov. 3 election.

The answers would appear to be none and no as the police chief of Harahan is an elective office and Chief Tim Walker is not politically beholden to Baudier for his job.

One other note of interest:

In yesterday’s POST, LouisianaVoice noted that suspended attorney Scott McQuaig, who was previously contracted by the PSC as an outside legal counsel, was on today’s agenda to be hired to a $49,550 contract as an “outside consultant” to advise the PSC on cybersecurity.

 

 

We thought perhaps yesterday’s story might actually shame the PSC into at least tabling that matter since on the face of it, his previous contracts looked a little to cozy being, as it was, he was and is a pal and business partner of Skrmetta and given the fact he was only recently suspended from practice by the Louisiana Supreme Court (May 2019).

But noooo. McQuaig was their boy, suspension and all. The Good Old Boy Backscratching Express was too far down the tracks to throw on the brakes. Give him that contract, keep stealing those signs.

I mean, what’s the big deal about screwing over constituents with their own tax money? This is Louisiana, after all.

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“Judge Barrett has been called so far a racist, a colonialist, a religious bigot.”

—U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA), at Monday’s confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

“Who said that?”

—A reporter, in response to Kennedy’s claim. [No one had.]

“I’m not going to argue with you guys. Some of my colleagues suggest because she’s a Christian, she’s unfit to serve in public service.”

—Kennedy.

“Seriously, can you name one of your colleagues who has attacked Judge Barrett?”

—Reporters, pressing Kennedy to name names.

“I don’t want to go there.”

—Kennedy, finally admitting he was referring to three-year-old remarks. [Louisiana should be so proud; we have Clay Higgins in the House and this buffoon in the Senate.

“I mean, that would be outrageous if they do that. In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don’t do that, ’cause that would be kind of playing a game that we don’t want to play. So, I hope they reconsider that, if, in fact, they are indeed considering that.”

—Dr. Anthony Fauci, critical of Trump again using his quote or image in a Trump ad.

“They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words.”

—Trump, defending the use of a quote by Dr. Fauci taken out of context to make it appear he was endorsing Trump’s coronavirus response. [Yes, they were his words, Numb Nuts, but they were not said in praise of you. A one-cell amoeba would know the difference.]

“The House passed a bill in May and this Senate went on vacation. If you want to call yourself a leader … you got to get things done and those of us who served in the Marines, we don’t just point fingers at the other side. We get the job done.”

—Challenger Amy McGrath, during debate with incumbent Mitch McConnell – as McConnell laughed.

“There’s people I associate with and talk to and may even socialize with, but they don’t know how I feel about social issues. I don’t talk about it, because it’s not welcome. “Personally, I’m scared. They’re flying Confederate flags, calling you ugly things. They’re very comfortable with that now; either way it’s not going to go well.”

—Bonnie Dobson, a black mother of three in North Carolina. […and that’s just the way Trump and Lindsey Graham planned it.]

“To those who knew him, no words were necessary. To those who didn’t know him, no words are adequate.”

—Johnny Bench, on former Reds second baseman Joe Morgan, who died on Monday.

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Today’s lesson, class, is on governmental ethics, Louisiana style.

With Louisiana’s ethics laws, of course, you’ll find more twists and turns than from a belly dancer in a carnival sideshow tent.

In fact, Louisiana’s ethics laws are just about as tawdry as an over-the-hill belly dancer, but without the tasteful ambiance.

So, having said that, we’ll get right to the first question of today’s lesson:

What do you do with an attorney who has suspended indefinitely from practicing law by the Louisiana Supreme Court?

Well, if we’re talking about the Louisiana Public Service Commission and the former lawyer is a business partner of PSC member Eric Skrmetta, you hire him to a consulting contract – potential conflicts of interest be damned.

And if you’re Skrmetta, you even make the original motion to hire your partner or, absent that opportunity, you offer the second to another co-conspirator’s member’s motion.

Before the suspension, it was borderline okay, I suppose, to hire Scott McQuaig as a PSC legal counsel but that became something of a problem after his license to practice law was pulled.

Solution: hire him as (ahem, harumph) a consultant to advise the PSC on matters.

Here’s the back story on the entire sordid mess.

The first contract awarded to McQuaig in May 2013 was for $264,950 to serve as outside counsel for the PSC’s efforts to come up with a “Best Practices” protocol for disaster planning for utilities. About that same time, he was awarded a separate contract for $96,000 to serve as outside counsel for establishing “rules and regulations specific to the regulation of prison telephone communications systems.

In each case, Skrmetta seconded motions to hire the man with whom he served on three separate corporate boards.

Two years earlier, Skrmetta, who had taken – and continues to accept – campaign contributions from companies who provide prison phone services, BITTERLY OPPOSED efforts by advocates to get the PSC to oppose telephone rate increases for prisoners’ families.

But then, just over a year ago, on May 13, 2019, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld an action by the Louisiana Supreme Court to suspend McQuaig from the practice of law indefinitely after he was accused of legal malpractice, ethical violations, failure to pay for services rendered, and theft.

He was suited on at least five separate occasions in unrelated cases involving disputes with former clients. In one case, two men who had hired McQuaig said his failure to act resulted in their lawsuit being dismissed but he failed to inform them of the dismissal.

So, now the PSC was faced with a dilemma. The solution was to award a contract for $128,500 to McQuaig who, instead of outside legal counsel, was now a “consultant” hired to “advise the commission about telecommunication attachments to electric utility poles. Skrmetta, ever ready to help a friend and business associate, again offered the second to the motion to hire McQuaig.

And now, the PSC is scheduled to meet on Wednesday (Oct. 14) at which time it is scheduled to consider yet another contract for McQuaig, this one for $49,550 to support the PSC’s “monitoring the area of cybersecurity.

There was another matter reportedly involving McQuaig that the PSC was scheduled to take up but that item appears to have been removed from tomorrow’s agenda: a proposed contract with an outfit called Resolved Energy. McQuaig was said to have been involved with that company in some manner, but the details of their relationship, if it indeed exists, were not immediately available.

Commissioner Craig Greene, a protégé of one Timmy Teepell (remember him?) was quick to come to the defense of Skrmetta’s potential conflict of interest in pursuing the interest of his old business partner.

“I do not know the extent of Mr. McQuaig’s relationship with Commissioner Skrmetta,” Greene said, apparently with a straight face, “but it is never surprising for commissioners to know all the consultants who place bids to the commission.”

Oh. Well then. I certainly feel better knowing that.

Except…except Skrmetta and McQuaig are using the same 100 Lilac Street address in Metairie and have been for at least 11 years. McQuaig listed his address as 100 Lilac Street as early as 2004, according to corporate records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office, and Skrmetta just happens to have listed 100 Lilac Street, Metairie, as the address of his PSC District 1 office as recently as 2009 and in filings with the PSC as recently as 2012.

As an added wrinkle to this tacky little soap opera, should a formal investigation of the relationship between Skrmetta and McQuaig and any insider contracts become necessary, it’s going to be a sticky wicket for Attorney General Jeff Landry who has formally endorsed Skrmetta for reelection.

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