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Folks of my vintage can well-remember how angry the right-wing southerners were back in the day when they took Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn out of circulation because of Twain’s liberal use of the N-word.

The self-righteous indignation suffered by the protectors of the First Amendment was palpable and the roar of protests coming from the letters to the editor in the daily newspapers was almost audible – and justifiably so. Literature is literature and even when classics contain objectionable words, they should not be censored. That was my position then and it is my position now.

(Full disclosure: I had an uncle named James B. Aswell, Jr. who was an early 1940s-‘50s author and his books were so racy for their time – one in particular, I remember, depicted a housewife doing the Lady Godiva ride through downtown Lake Charles – that a ceremonial book-burning was held in front of the courthouse in his hometown of Natchitoches.)

I also remember at Ruston High School we were not allowed to bring onto campus copies of the 1956 scandalous Grace Metalious book Peyton Place. The result was the determination of every student to sneak a copy into school to be read during recess, lunch and study hall. While I had my own copy, suffice it to say the curiosity of the female students was no less stifled – more than a few of them were sneak-readers as well.

All that hullabaloo was before we had a thing called cancel culture or something called CRT. It was just plain old censorship and by gawd, we were agin’ it. We had a right to read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn if we wanted to. Hell, we could even read Little Black Sambo and Brer Rabbit – except we couldn’t anymore.

All you white supremacist John Birchers, Oath Keepers, Big Boys, Mamas Babies, and whatever else you are calling yourselves these days – do you remember those days? Of course not. Memories are selective and to throw those events into the equation would be to shine the spotlight on your hypocritical double standard of today.

That’s because we’ve gradually made a 180-turn back to the Jim Crow ‘50s. Today, you are invoking the vague term “critical race theory” and the equally vague word “decency” as grounds for redacting history and literature.

One Louisiana legislator actually openly advocates teaching only the “good things” in American History classes in our public schools. Really? Do you seriously wish to cease informing students that this country went through a disastrous Civil War? I suppose teaching the Spanish-American War (which the U.S. instigated with no proven provocation – we still don’t know what caused the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine) is okay. But the civil rights struggle in this country, obviously, is out.

History, good, bad or indifferent, is history. Period. And it should be taught with no artificial flavoring or coloring.

But that’s not what the Repugnantcan Party wants. While accusing political opponents of the so-called cancel-culture, they have set out dictating their own version of historical censorship.

Texas students, for example, cannot be taught the facts that led to John Wayne’s portrayal of Crockett’s standoff to the death at the Alamo. Crockett, Travis, et al died as heroes. End of story. Meanwhile, Texas State Rep. MATT KRAUSE (a Repugnantcan, of course) is personally reviewing 850 books on race and gender to determine if any of them might cause “discomfort” to students. If nothing else, Krause will emerge from the experience as possibly the most well-read member of the Texas legislature.

But does that qualify him to determine what may or may not cause reader “discomfort”? Hardly.

And Texas Gov. GREG ABBOTT, who can’t even keep the lights and heat on in the winter, has taken it upon himself to direct state authorities to develop statewide “standards” against “pornography” in Texas public schools.

That’s laughable. Hey, Guv, you want to guarantee teens will flock to get something? Just tell ‘em they can’t have it and then sit back and watch. And guess what, Guv? They have computers, they have iPads, they have iPhones – with cameras. Hell they can get all the free porn their little hearts desire by simply clicking on an icon.

And you’re going to be the self-appointed porn police who tells them they can’t? Good luck with that.

It’s the same in KANSAS and VIRGINIA and probably anywhere else there is self-righteous Repugnantcan “leadership.”

All these self-styled guardians against anything offensive, lewd, controversial or otherwise objectionable should remember the immortal (or was it immoral?) words of former New Orleans Mayor Martin Behrman who, when prostitution in the fabled Storyville District was finally official “abolished” by decree, said, “You can make it illegal but you can’t make it unpopular.”

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My grandfather had a term for those who possessed lengthy educational pedigrees but lacked the common sense to safely pour catsup from a bottle without endangering someone’s shirt at the next table:

An educated fool.

Such a person is Louisiana’s junior senator.

John Neely Kennedy is just that: an educated fool.

That he’s educated is well-documented but no less so than the mounting evidence that he is a pseudo-hillbilly philosophizing fool who loves nothing more than to have his platitudinous homilies aired by network television news so all the world to see that Will Rogers isn’t really dead – he just smells funny.

But when your 1950s red-baiting tactics conjure up the ghost of Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy, it has to leave one asking, in the immortal words of Frederick G. Fisher, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

That’s precisely what happened on Thursday when Kennedy, caught in a time warp, went out hunting for communists when the State of Louisiana might well have been better served with improved roads and bridges, less poverty, higher levels of education, and better job opportunities for its citizens.

But never mind all those things; they don’t garner face time on the networks. Grandstanding, obviously, does and grandstanding is what Kennedy does best. In fact, in the five years he has been in the U.S. Senate, that’s about all he has done.

It was during the confirmation hearings for President Biden’s nominee as head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that Kennedy really mooned the world (in polite terms – in cruder terms, showed his ass).

And it’s the irony of the entire exchange (which I’ll get to presently) that really brought out the hypocrisy of Kennedy.

“You used to be a member of a group called the Young Communist, didn’t you?” Kennedy asked Saule Omarova, who is a professor at Cornell University specializing in financial regulation.

Kennedy was referring to the Leninist Communist Young Union of the Russian Federation, aka the Komsomol.

Omarova answered in the affirmative explaining that because she grew up in the Soviet Union, membership in the group was mandatory. Unimpressed (or more likely, unhearing, because senators and representatives in Washington – and Baton Rouge – would rather hear themselves than their constituents or witnesses), Kennedy pressed on:

Did she resign from the group? Did she send them a letter of resignation? No, Senator, she explained patiently, that’s now how it works. Somehow, Kennedy never got around to questioning her about her qualifications for regulating banks, which is what OCC does. Instead, he was hell-bent on rooting out communists.

Now, I’m all for properly identifying communists wherever they might be, including those who might consider launching misinformation campaigns over Internet social media platforms in order to get a favored demagogue elected president say, in 2016, but to zero in on this person while ignoring all the intel that points to the Russian interference in the 2016 election is more than a little hypocritical.

I have no sympathy for the communist philosophy of government. I’ve seen what it’s done in countries like Russia, Cuba and Venezuela and it’s not pretty. But I’ve also seen what this country has done in countries with legitimately-elected leftist regimes in an effort to overthrow those governments and that ain’t pretty, either.

I also have no sympathy for those in power who would deny any citizen the right to vote, who would deny housing, jobs, or education to someone because of their skin pigment, or who would refuse to increase the minimum wage even as corporate CEOs’ remuneration has increased astronomically.

I question the values of a system that would allow someone who gets caught with a joint to spend a lifetime behind bars while a white kid from a wealthy family is allowed to go free after RAPING  four (count ‘em, four) girls. (Try to be honest in answering the question of what would have been the result if the boy had been black?)

I have a real problem with a judge (in Tennessee) who expeditiously (and falsely) creates new law out of whole cloth just so she can SENTENCE black children to prison.

But John Neely Kennedy, so long as it gets him on TV, has no problem with castigating someone who, while living under a tyrannical government, was forced to adhere to its oppressive rules by “joining” an organization of the state. Never mind that that same person managed to escape that life for what she thought was freedom in this country – only to be “outed” by camera whore.

I guess it comes back to the Bible verse John 8:7, which says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

But Kennedy, like his idol, would apparently rather just hold the Bible up for a photo-op than actually read what it says.

He is, after all, just an educated fool.

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“The right says the schools are indoctrinating the kids to think like the left. I cannot tell you how wrong they are. If we had that power to influence children in such a way, we’d use it to influence them to do their homework and to study.”

–A Livingston Parish educator.

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I’m not sure what Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta’s angle is, but you can bet the farm there is one and Louisiana electric power customers stand to take the hit.

I’ve written about Skrmetta’s BUSINESS TIES  to Jason Hewitt, whose “energy efficiency company” was awarded a $17.3 million contract by the PSC.

LouisianaVoice also did a story about Skrmetta BUSINESS PARTNER Scott McQuaig who was hired as a PSC legal counsel but when his license to practice law was suspended indefinitely, the PSC simply hired him as a “consultant.”

It was revealed here that Skrmetta failed to mention his INVOLVEMENT in a Mississippi casino. All state officials are required to divulge such information on their financial disclosure statements

Likewise, he neglected to disclose an AGREEMENT he entered int with Boomtown Casino to attempt to bring a casino to Harvey.

Now, we have Skrmetta, who represents all or part of 11 PARISHES in southeastern Louisiana, offering up a motion (thankfully, tabled until the PSC’s December meeting) that proposes that the PSC “provide written notice of withdrawal from membership to MISO.”

MISO is the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, a nonprofit association that manages the power grid for 15 states and Manitoba Province in Canada. It oversees the uninterrupted provision of electricity to 42 million people. Louisiana has been a member of MISO since 2013.

So now, Skrmetta apparently wants Louisiana to follow Texas in subjecting Louisiana to massive power outages in the middle of winter – perhaps so Sen. John Kennedy, like Ted Cruz, can take a vacation in Cancun when the lights go out.

Texas is not a member of any cooperative power grid, relying instead on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and went through widespread OUTAGES in the middle of the coldest winter in 72 years, leaving more than 5 million Texans shivering in the dark for six days, leaving the state only minutes away from months-long power outages.

Membership in the MISO grid provides many to Louisiana, including the ability to borrow electricity from other states during times of emergencies, said SIMON MAHAN, executive director of the Southern Renewable Energy Association. Part of the reason for the power blackout in Texas was because much of Texas is not connected to an interstate power grid, he said.

Membership also allows power companies to broker electricity to and from other states at wholesale prices, which creates competition in areas such as Louisiana that are serviced by only a few power companies, he said. A 2020 analysis conducted by Entergy revealed that Louisiana’s MISO membership saved customers an about $63 million last year and $698 million from 2014 to 2020.

Skrmetta apparently has an issue with MISO’s growing reliance on wind turbines. He indicated he feared taxpayers would be called upon to finance the transmission of power, which he said will cost $130 billion to bring to homes and businesses.

Mahan disputed Skrmetta’s claim, but qualified his denial by admitting that MISO could conceivably change its policy and begin charging southern customers for its projects up north.

But withdrawing from MISO is not an option and should be rejected out of hand by the PSC.

I seldom advocate mass calling projects because unless an issue is particularly controversial, it rarely generates the desired results in terms of participation. Add to that the fact that the PSC is one of those agencies that get little attention from the public, and you have the perfect recipe for a public body’s ability to operate in obscurity.

But this is a critical issue and if you are reading this, you really need to contact your PSC member and give him (all five are male) an earful.

To do so, go back to this link: http://www.lpsc.louisiana.gov/DistrictMapPage.aspx and click on your member’s name in the lower left part of the page. That will take you to your member’s page and you can go to the gray shaded box to the right to click onto his office’s email.

Get involved!

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So, Michael Flynn has never bothered to read the U.S. Constitution – at least the Bill of Rights, or at least the First Amendment.

It’s pretty simple and straightforward, really:

“Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

I suppose we can excuse Flynn. He is, after all, a very confused man, delusional even.

But the problem is, people still listen to his rhetoric that flies in face of our Constitution and that First Amendment which to me, is every bit as sacred as the Second Amendment that gun-loving NRA types hold so dear.

Last Saturday, speaking at a “REAWAKEN AMERICA” conference in San Antonio, Flynn literally went off the rails when he said, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God and one religion under God.”

What?!!!? Yep, he actually said that while at the same time proclaiming that the indictment of Steve Bannon for defying a congressional subpoena was an infringement on his right of free speech.

I know there are those who will leap to the defense of both Flynn and Bannon, but I defy anyone to explain how a retired Army lieutenant general, a supposed leader of men who took an oath to defend this country and who served as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, could be so ignorant of the language of the First Amendment as to serious suggest that this should be a nation of only one religion.

And while he did not invoke the word Christianity in those 28 words, it’s clear that’s what he meant in his follow-up remarks that compared “Nancy Pelosi to Pontius Pilate, who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus in the Bible.”

There are more than 20 million of the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faiths, all of whom enjoy the freedom to worship as they see fit, courtesy of the First Amendment, who might properly take umbrage at Flynn’s arrogance – and ignorance.

Every Saturday in the fall, more than 100,000 faithful congregate to pray to LSU to beat its opponent of the week, especially when the Tigers play ‘Bama. And don’t even try to tell me that’s not a form of religion in Baton Rouge.

This is the same Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Here’s what National Public Radio had to SAY ABOUT HIM  a year ago:

“He became a security and geopolitical consultant in private life and took tens of thousands of dollars in payments from Russian entities. In 2015, Russia’s state-backed TV network RT PAID HIM $45,000 to attend a dinner in Moscow, where he sat at the right arm of President Vladimir Putin.

“Back in the United States, Flynn became a vocal supporter of Trump’s outsider campaign in the 2016 presidential race. At the Republican National Convention that year, Flynn led the crowd in chants of “lock her up” about Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

“Flynn was interviewed by the FBI in January 2017, just days after assuming his White House post.

“Intelligence and law enforcement officials worried that the Russians’ knowledge about the true facts of Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak could open Flynn up to the prospect of coercion, given the contrast with his public statements at the time.

“Flynn lied to the agents about his conversations with Kislyak, saying he didn’t urge Moscow not to respond to sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia in retaliation for the Kremlin’s election interference.”

But then Trump intervened and subsequently pardoned the man who once led the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn, in response to the pardon tweeted a Bible verse: “’They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

Given some of his PREVIOUS UTTERINGS, perhaps we should not have been surprised at his latest call for “One nation under God and one religion under God”:

  • Last May he called for a Myanmar-like military coup in America.
  • In July, when gifted with a new AR-15-type rifle – at a church, no less – he responded by saying, “Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington.”
  • In September he expressed his concern that COVID-19 vaccines were being added to salad dressing.
  • Flynn even posted a 53-second VIDEO  in which he spewed a number of phrases and slogans identified with Qanon, prompting more than 10,500 responses, many of which were from self-styled Qanon supporters who thanked Flynn for his comments and used the same QAnon hashtag that Flynn had used.

Kinda reminds old-timers like myself of another general who got crossways with the Constitution. Gen. Edwin Walker got himself fired by the Pentagon – not JFK as many believe – for passing out John Birch Society material to his troops in Germany.

To my knowledge, Walker never tried to trample on anyone’s right to worship as they saw fit.

These are times we live in now, though. A demagogue can spout nonsense like calling for the establishment of a single religion, exclusive of all others, and he’s a damned hero – and the evangelicals will love him for it.

Sorry, but this isn’t the lesson I was taught in high school civics.

I happen to be Methodist but I would never for a nano-second entertain the thought of denying someone of a different faith the right to worship as they see fit. If they feel the need to worship a warthog, it’s none of my business.

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