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I have to respectfully disagree with Kevin Reeves.

Col. Reeves, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent, penned a LETTER to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate today (Friday, Aug. 31) in which he questioned the appropriateness and purpose of the paper’s continued reporting of what he referred to as an “incident” that occurred “over 20 months ago.”

The “incident,” of course, was that ill-advised road trip by four troopers to a San Diego convention—in and LSP vehicle—by way of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, which proved to be the tipping point that brought the career of Reeves’s predecessor, Mike Edmonson, already rocked with a succession of scandals, to an abrupt end.

Reeves, who by all accounts, has demonstrated his determination to set LSP back on course and to restore its image, said it is time for The Advocate (and LouisianaVoice, I assume, though we were not mentioned in his letter) to “move forward” and to pull back on its negative coverage.

I’m certain that Col. Reeves needs no reminder that it was the State Police Commission (the LSP equivalent of the State Civil Service Commission) that kept the issue alive by its interminable foot-dragging in its investigation of the trip.

Repeated attempts by retired State Police Lt. Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur to prod the commission into a full-blown investigation of the trip, as well as several apparent violations of LSP regulations and state laws by the Louisiana State Troopers Association, were met by delays followed by yet more delays and postponements as the commissioners seemed determined to turn a blind eye to events occurring under their collective noses.

In the end, Reeves attempted to mete out appropriate punishment to the four troopers who pleaded ignorance of regulations and who said they were merely following the directives of Edmonson. (Ironically, such pleadings of ignorance never carry the day when a motorist is pulled over for a traffic violation.)

But again, it was the commission, in its resolve to tidy things over, that overturned Reeves’s punishment in a recent hearing held in Monroe. That, for good, bad, or indifferent, kept the story alive. When the head of Louisiana State Police is blocked from disciplining errant troopers for actions they well should have known were improper, that’s legitimate news and it should be reported.

First, it was Maya Lau who covered the State Police Commission. She was a quiet but effective reporter and did an excellent job until she left to go to work for the Los Angeles Times. She was succeeded by Jim Mustian who also held the commission accountable. Now he’s leaving for a job in New York with the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, yours truly is staying put. I’m not going anywhere and I will continue to report on all governmental wrongdoing, local or state.

For instance, there is still the pending matter involving State Trooper Eric Adams:

WAFB-TV story

Warrant-redacted

Criminal dismissal

Petition

Motion for Sanctions

Answer & Recon Demand-filed

 

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Conrad Appel must have the attention span of a moth.

Appel is the Republican state senator from Metairie whose political leanings are slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh and maybe, just maybe, a tad left of Alex Jones. But then, that’s the nature of elected officials who ooze out of David Duke’s stomping grounds (see Steve Scalise).

You may recall that he’s also the one who, back in November 2010, just seven days before Louisiana, Indiana and Oregon adopted the Discovery Education Science Techbook being offered by Discovery Communications, purchased Discovery Communications stock and made a QUICK KILLING.

As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he was in a unique position to realize the value of Discovery Communications was primed for a significant increase, so he shelled out between $5,000 and $24,999, according to his financial report filed with the State Ethics Board.

That stock opened at $40.96 per share on Nov. 30, 2010, the day of his purchase and by Jan. 2, 2014, it hit $90.21 per share.

Insider trading? All I know is that on the day of his purchase—again, just seven days before three states announced a major investment in the Discovery Education Science Techbook, more than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communication stock were traded. The next highest day was Aug. 1, 2011, when 3.1 million shares were traded. Normally, trading volume ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares, according to a monthly review from December 2010 through March 2014. It sure looks like somebody knew something in advance.

So, why am I dredging up this old story again?

Well, Appel has penned a GUEST COLUMN on The Hayride blog in which he admonishes me (and everyone else) that we should, by golly, show a little respect to the creep who presently occupies the Oval Office.

I’m not picking a fight with The Hayride. They have their agenda and I have mine, a right that each of us possesses as free Americans. And while I may disagree with their positions—and most times, I do—I would never deprive them of their right to voice them, just as I’m certain they would do nothing to stifle mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in this country.

But for someone like Appel, who attacked a witness in a Trumpian-like profanity-laced tirade during a legislative committee hearing earlier this year, to presume to tell me whom I should respect is beyond the pale and quite frankly, it makes my blood boil just a bit. His utter contempt for that African-American witness, by the way, shone through like a lighthouse beacon on a clear night.

I can respect the office, but why would I respect the man who occupies it seems incapable of respecting anyone or anything, including the very office itself?

Appel calls Trump the “leader of our nation” and “the very symbol of our great Republic.”

Seriously? You’re going to go with that? If he is truly the “symbol” of our country, then we’re in far more trouble than I ever imagined. This is a man who is most accurately described as a pathological liar—on his best day. He lies about the size of his inauguration crowd, about how big his tax cut was (REAL TAX PICTURE: it was pretty big for the wealthy, but nowhere near the biggest tax cut in history, as he boasted), about how North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, about what a great leader Putin is, about his knowledge of payoff money to a porn star….and on and on ad nauseam. He has single-handedly created an entire new cottage industry: fact checking.

You name it, he’s lied about it.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant my respect.

He’s a man who insulted John McCain during the 2016 campaign, saying he only admired those who didn’t get captured. Pretty safe, since there wasn’t much chance of Trump’s being captured, what with all those bone spurs. And even following McCain’s death, this blustering ass couldn’t even bring himself to pay the late senator a modicum of respect.

He’s a man who boasted about assaulting women.

That doesn’t earn my respect. Ever.

He’s a man who mimicked a physically handicapped reporter and who encouraged his adoring, frothing-at-the-mouth followers to physically attack protesters at one of his rallies.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant anyone’s respect.

He’s a man who called the press the enemy of the American people.

The only ones to do that previously were people like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and…well, you get the picture—despots who cemented their hold on power by diminishing the influence of the only independent governmental watchdog: the press.

Let me pose a question to you Appel (you don’t like it for newscasters to refer to the president as simply “Trump,” so I’ll try it out on you): When, during the entire eight years of the Obama administration, did you show Obama one scintilla of respect? He was a president who, like every president, had his failures but who, in eight years, did not have a single member of his administration indicted. He inherited yet another expensive, unwinnable war and he assumed office just as the horrible recession of 2008 was kicking in (thanks to an out-of-control banking industry that Trump has again loosed upon us). But when he left office, the stock market, as I recall, was doing pretty well, employment was up—all despite his having to fight a Republican congress every step of the way. Yet, he was pilloried and vilified for no other reason than his skin was darker than yours. There, I said it. Barack Obama is hated by Republicans because he is black. You can deny it all you like, but that won’t change the facts.

So, did you ever once, in all those eight years, say one good thing about Obama? Ever? One time?

Didn’t think so.

So, spare me your holier-than-thou judgmental posturing because you think I’m being nasty by not respecting a spoiled, bigoted bully who you so obviously admire but who, given the chance, would spoon with Putin.

And Appel, you say protesters “think it’s cool” to kneel during the national anthem. But fact is, you just don’t get it. The kneeling was never done to be cool. Only a damned fool would think that. Nor was it done to dishonor the country or the flag. In fact, it has nothing to do with the flag; it has everything to do with growing evidence of a police state where blacks are fair game for bad cops who like to run up the score. Yes, there are many, many good cops. I know that. And there are blacks who disobey the law—just like there are whites who disobey the law. But sometime, when you can come down out of your ivory tower, senator, run the numbers on the blacks who are shot by cops as opposed to the number of whites committing similar offenses but who somehow don’t get shot.

If Trump is really so offended at players kneeling for the anthem, instead of calling for their firing, why doesn’t he call upon the patriotism of the TV networks that broadcast the games? Sure, it’ll hurt them financially, because there’s big bucks in NFL broadcasts, but Trump should suggest that as a show of patriotism, the networks who carry the games will simply cease doing so the moment a player kneels. Just don’t show the games. That’ll get the attention of players, owners, and fans alike and would go a long way in making Trump’s case for….

Oh, wait. Sorry, I forgot. Fox is one of the networks carrying the games.

Never mind.

I guess that idea is worth about the same as a degree from Trump University.

I don’t suppose you have any of that stock…

It was the end of February 1968 and John J. McKeithen was just completing his first term of office. (Unlike today, when statewide inaugurations are held in January, state elected officials then took their oaths of office in May.)

McKeithen had earlier upset long-standing tradition when he managed to change the State Constitution during his first term so that he could run for re-election. Previous governors could serve only a single four-year term before being required to (a) seek another office or (b) start raising funds and lining up support for a return four years hence. In other words, governors were barred from serving two consecutive terms.

But this isn’t about McKeithen’s savvy political machinations that allowed him to become the first modern-day governor to succeed himself. It is instead about another precedent set by the Caldwell Parish native: The invoking of gubernatorial powers under Article IX, Section 8 of the 1921 Louisiana State Constitution which resulted in the heretofore unthinkable act of suspending a sitting sheriff from office.

It’s about how the current State Constitution, adopted in 1974, removed that authority from the governor.

And it’s about how, given the freewheeling manner in which some sheriffs wield power in their respective parishes, it might not be a bad idea if that authority was reinstated if for no other reason than to serve as a constant reminder to sheriffs that their actions could have consequences.

Yes, sheriffs are elected officials answerable to their constituents and if they keep getting elected, what business would a governor have in being able to say otherwise, especially if the sheriff and governor were political adversaries?

And if the sheriff can fool the electorate, there are always the courts. But face it, the local district attorney and the sheriff are usually strong political allies who present a formidable team to anyone who would question their authority. There are exceptions, like DA Earl Taylor and Sheriff Bobby Guidroz in St. Landry, who don’t exactly gee-haw on much of anything.

But then there is Louis Ackal in Iberia Parish whose strong-arm tactics, especially where blacks are concerned, has become a source of embarrassment to the locals—or at least should be—and would be even more of a pariah if the local newspaper, the Daily Iberian, was courageous enough to call him out for his egregious flaunting of basic human dignity and his contemptuous trampling of constitutional rights.

In the case of Jessel Ourso of Iberville Parish, across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, it was just a matter of a little Louisiana extortion that prompted McKEITHEN TO OUST OURSO on Feb. 9, 1968. Iberville was in the midst of a construction explosion with chemical plants sprouting up all along the Mississippi and the high sheriff was in a unique position to take full advantage of the boom.

Ourso placed his brother in a no-show job as a union steward for the Teamsters at one plant and contractors were ordered to lease equipment from Ourso’s nephew, State Trooper Jackie Jackson. The tipping point, though, was apparently Ourso’s requirement that contractors use a guard service owned and operated by the sheriff.

One witness described an atmosphere of “just plain racketeering and shakedowns through collusion of individual law enforcement officers and labor.” (Imagine that: the word collusion was being bantered about half-a-century ago.)

McKeithen’s decision to suspend Ourso was based on the recommendation of then-State Comptroller Roy Theriot, a recommendation which in turn stemmed from a report by Legislative Auditor J.B. Lancaster which laid out Ourso’s strong-arm tactics, including his preventing contractors from firing workers who were performing no work.

In Ackal’s case prisoners have died under mysterious circumstances, dogs have been loosed on helpless prisoners in the parish detention center, prisoners have been sexually abused, and women employees have sued—and won settlements—over sexual harassment claims.

A television network recently aired a documentary on Ackal’s fiefdom, concentrating on the death of Victor White, III, who, while he sat in a patrol car with his hands cuffed, was fatally shot in the chest—a shooting that was ruled by the local coroner as a suicide, as improbable as that had to be, considering his hands were cuffed behind him.

Ackal’s office has paid out more than $3 million in legal judgments and settlements in his 10 years in office—a rate of $25,000 for each of the 120 months he has been in office. And that’s not even counting the attorney fees of about $1.5 million. Those numbers are far more than any other parish in the state except perhaps Orleans.

And there are other cases currently pending against Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Like the LAWSUIT just filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette by Michael and Suzzanne Williams.

In that action, the pair said that sheriff’s detective Jacques LeBlanc, who has since left the department, obtained a search warrant for their home because he “thought” he had reason to believe the couple was in possession of “illegal narcotics, drug paraphernalia, currency and other controlled dangerous substance(s).”

When voices were heard outside their bedroom, Michael Williams went to the front door. When he opened it, he was ordered out of the house and deputies stormed the house. They forced Mrs. Williams outside clad only in bra and panties, refusing to allow her to dress. Williams was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car while deputies ransacked their home.

Officers “did not find a scintilla” of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia or illegal narcotics, their petition says. Following a fruitless search, they were released with no charges being filed.

Williams subsequently appeared at the sheriff’s office on numerous occasions in an attempt to obtain a copy of the search warrant and affidavit but were provided with neither, although they have since obtained a copy of the search warrant through other sources. They still do not have the affidavit on which the warrant ostensibly was based. Instead, they were told by Dist. Judge Lewis Pittman, who signed the warrant, that LeBlanc swore under oath that he had good reason to believe they were in possession of drugs.

They are claiming that LeBlanc knew his statement to the effect that he believed they had drugs was false and that he committed perjury in order to obtain the warrant.

They are seeking $2 million in damages in their lawsuit.

Occasionally, I post something as a point of personal privilege. This is one of those times.

Looking back, it seems a lifetime ago. Yet, the time seems to have zipped by before I really had a chance to take it all in.

Because Louisiana Tech is on the quarter system (the only school in the state that is), quarter break just happens to coincide with the Thanksgiving holidays. It was one evening during Thanksgiving/quarter break in 1967 that I was working part time as a bag boy at Safeway Grocery in Ruston while awaiting my grades—with some trepidation, I might add.

That evening was like every other boring day at the store (how exciting can bagging groceries be?) until I looked up and saw the three people approaching a register with their cart. One of those was a young lady who bore a striking resemblance to Mary Tyler Moore. She was, it turned out, with her sister and her brother-in-law and they were picking up a few items after visiting the women’s father who was a patient at Lincoln General Hospital.

As the other bag boys began approaching the register, I elbowed my way to the front. “I got this,” I said.

God, she was beautiful, but how to break the ice? Suddenly it came to me: ask about her grades. If she responded in a way that confirmed she was a student, chances were good that she was single. Brilliant. (It was a wonder I didn’t have women hanging all over me,)

But it worked. “Got your grades yet?” I asked as I carried her groceries to the car. Yeah, that was smooth. (Her sister Carolyn and brother-in-law Steve, seeing through my clever ploy, were hanging back, giving us a little privacy, most likely laughing at my glibness.)

“Not yet,” was her only response. Pushing my luck, I asked her name. “Betty Gray,” she said.

So far, so good. “Can I call you?”

“I guess so. I live in Simsboro. I’m listed under my dad’s name, T.R. Gray.”

Of course, being the doofus that I am, I promptly forgot her name (I’m still awful at remembering names) but my best friend, Gene Smith, had gone to school with her in Simsboro and he remembered her. I finally worked up the courage to call her in January and we went to see a simply awful movie called Fantastic Voyage at Ruston’s Dixie Theater.

Two dates later I proposed (she was simply that wonderful). She laughed at me. Two more dates and I proposed again. She accepted.

We were married on her 20th birthday, August 23, 1968. Today is our 50th anniversary and I can state unequivocally that they have been 50 years of a lot of highs and very few lows. For one, we have a rule to never yell or scream at each other. We can disagree without resorting to saying things we can’t take back. I like to say that Betty raised four kids: three daughters and me—and that I’m a work in progress. And I’m not too far off on that assessment. But the point is, we knew each other a grand total of nine months before we got married—and it took. I guess it demonstrates that real love is not defined by time.

I also say, jokingly, of course, that a lot of people lost money after the first year and that I even lost $20 because there was just no way she’d put up with me for that long. Somebody even had some variety of win, place and show going with odds taken on one, two or three years. I suppose bettors understand how that works.

To be perfectly honest, I spent a lot of time playing and coaching baseball, playing softball and tennis, and chasing news stories while she remained home taking care of Amy, Leah, and Jennifer. And make no mistake, the credit for their successes (Amy is a school principal, Leah a nurse supervisor and Jennifer a teacher) goes to Betty. She is their rock and to complete the picture of my perfect world, all three daughters and our seven grandchildren live within 10 miles of our house.

It don’t get no better than that.

There have been some memories that stand out more than others, to be sure. Like the time doctors thought Leah, when she was a child, might have cystic fibrosis. It turned out to be asthma, which was bad enough but at least it wasn’t cystic fibrosis.

And when Jennifer, our youngest, went into labor in Denham Springs while we were on Christmas vacation at Betty’s mom’s in Simsboro in Lincoln Parish—a mere 220 miles away. I drove like a bat out of hell to get to Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge for the birth of my first grandchild—on Christmas Day! We made it by a couple of hours.

When I was doing stand up comedy, I did a Christmas show for a Baton Rouge company at a local restaurant. We were in a private dining room and after my set, we sat down to eat. The company owner/president had the bright idea of going around the table (there were about 40 of us) and have each man tell how he proposed to his wife. Being one of the last ones to speak, I had time to think about it. When it was my turn, I said, “We were having dinner in a restaurant and I looked across the table at her and said…..”You’re what?

It suddenly got very quiet at the table—until I said I was joking. But for a moment, the company president was convinced he’d had a very bad idea.

But the funniest—and most embarrassing for me—was the birth of Amy, my oldest, in 1972. We were living in Ruston at the time and when she was born, Gene Smith and I were admiring her through the nursery window. Gene, who doesn’t have the best vision, asked what I named the baby.

“Amy Michelle,” I said.

“That’s not what’s on the bassinet,” he said.

“What does it say?” I asked, moving closer to the window.

“Ruby Gail Aswell,” he said.

Unbeknownst to me, my own vision was beginning to weaken and the power of suggestion took over, especially since one of my stepmothers (I had three of them, which goes a long way in explaining why I was raised by two of the most wonderful people on earth, my grandparents) was named Ruby and I absolutely despised her.

I peered in and could barely make out the name but sure enough, there it was: “Ruby Gail Aswell.” I exploded. I went tearing through the hospital until I found Dr. Hall who had performed the delivery. Pinning him against the wall, I began screaming invectives at him and demanding to know why he took the liberty of hanging such an offensive (to me) name on my baby. He started laughing as he removed his glasses and handed them to me. “Take another look,” he said.

I have to admit the eyeglasses did help as I was able to make out “Baby Girl, Aswell” on the bassinet.

Dr. Hall was a pretty good sport about it all. He laughed about that little episode for the rest of his life. Of course, Gene did, too—and does. And he was the one who caused the whole dad-blamed misunderstanding in the first place. (But isn’t that what best friends are for?)

There are so many other memories. My daughters’ first dates, all the teenage crises, the drama (oh, the drama), the time Amy and Leah flipped our car into a ditch (they were unhurt because I’d drilled the use of seat belts into their brain but the chilling feeling you get from that call from the state trooper is something you never forget) their weddings, the births of their own children and right there with me, all the way, has been the most beautiful, most caring, most patient, most wonderful woman I have ever known or will ever have the privilege of knowing.

It’s been a terrific 50 years with the love of my life. My only regret is that we don’t have another 50 years to spend together. We just aren’t given that much time on this rock we call call earth.

But then she probably would run me off with a mean, biting dog if she thought I was going to hang around that much longer.

Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson wants to be the next mayor of Shreveport.

He also wants to remove a confederate monument at the Caddo Parish Courthouse.

That is not a reason to distribute fliers of a PHOTO of Jackson with a noose around his neck and a warning to “LEAVE OUR STATUE & PROPERTY ALONE & GET OUT OF THE RACE N—–.”

There is, quite simply, never a reason for such backwoods, redneck reaction. Ever.

If you disagree with him, then yes, disagree. That’s your right just as it is his right to want the monuments to a dark period in our history removed—monuments to the idea that one man has the right to own another man. The very idea is abhorrent.

I can see the idea of monument removal morphing into demands down the road to change the names of the towns Leesville, Leeville, Jackson, Zachary and the parishes of Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jackson, Beauregard, Caldwell, Claiborne, Madison, and Washington.

For that matter, the Alt Right or Unite the Right groups may well demand that the names of Lincoln, Union, and Grant parishes be changed.

For that reason, I remain somewhat ambivalent about the whole issue. But then, my ancestors were never bought and sold like livestock, so who am I to even pretend to understand?

So, whoever placed that flier at the home of a Jackson family member should slither back under that rock from whence he came.

And so also should U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who each passing day is acting more like:

  1. A doddering old fool at the relatively young age of 66;
  2. A sputtering demagogue who doesn’t know when to shut up;
  3. An aspiring Donald Trump impersonator with diarrhea of the mouth;
  4. All of the above.

Kennedy, who dearly loves to dole out his down-home wit and wisdom in sound bites before the TV cameras for the benefit of the folks back home, is at it again.

This time, though, in his unabashed effort to curry favor with Donald Trump, he has stepped in it. He called former CIA Director John Brennan a “BUTTHEAD” but was careful to do so only after Trump stripped Brennan of his security clearance. YOUTUBE

In tossing out his latest banal platitude, Kennedy said (apparently without realizing the irony in what he was saying), “I think most Americans look at our national intelligence experts as being above politics. Mr. Brennan has demonstrated that that’s not the case. He’s been totally political. I think I called him a ‘butthead’ and I meant it. I think he’s given the national intelligence community a bad name.”

So much for senatorial decorum and dignity.

Now, Senator, before I slip up and call you a d**khead or an a**hole (of course, I’d never do that), let’s reflect on what you’ve just said now that you’ve been inside the Beltway what, a whole 19 months?

  • You’re going to take it upon yourself to follow the lead of a man who is the very personification of crudeness, rudeness, brashness, impulsiveness, crassness, untruthfulness, embellishment, self-aggrandizement, egoism, narcissism, thoughtlessness and unprofessionalism?
  • You are going to stick your neck out to contradict the entire intelligence community that says there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, and take instead, the word of a man who has demonstrated his sheer inability to utter the truth, to favor a lie when honesty would serve him better? You’re going to take the word of a misogynistic swindler who has tried for years to negotiate with Putin for the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow over career intelligence personnel who could slip into a coma and, with their knowledge of espionage and counter-espionage, still run circles around you and your “aw, shucks” witticisms that you obviously think make you appear as Will Rogers incarnate?
  • And speaking of the Russians and Putin, I can’t recall that you ever gave a viable explanation as to why you were among the delegation that made its own trip to Russia. Was that one of those classic congressional “fact-finding” missions? If so, what “facts” did you find while there? And just how much did that trip cost taxpayers?
  • You’re going to latch onto the coattails of a man who claimed bone spurs in his feet to keep him out of the military but who now wants to throw a gigantic military parade in his own honor?
  • You’re going to blindly follow a despot who calls the press “the enemy of the people,” and who summarily fires anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him (or, if not fire them, revoke their security clearance—while, I might add, leaving the security clearances of family members in place, family members, by the way, who held meetings with Russians to gather dirt and with Chinese officials to sell visas and to obtain trademarks for their own businesses)?
  • In other words, Senator, you’re going to choose loyalty to your titular party leader over your sworn obligation to serve abd protect this nation?
  • And, just to make sure I’m clear, you’re most probably planning to run for governor next year, which would be your third office to run for in…four years?

Perhaps you have bone spurs in your head.