In the last legislative session, Governor John Bel Edwards was successful in passing a package of laws that completely overhauled the state’s criminal justice system. The main reason for the legislative package was to reduce the state’s incarceration rate, which is the highest in the world.
As a result, starting on November 1, 1,900 “non-violent offenders,” became eligible for release from prison after serving at least 35% of their sentence. Before the release, Sheriffs and District Attorneys across the state expressed concern that violent criminals would be unleashed upon the innocent citizens of Louisiana. Not surprisingly, days after the state started releasing these “non-violent offenders,” an armed robbery was committed in Kenner by Tyrone “Smokey” White, one of the criminals set free.
White used a BB gun to rob a roofer working at a home in the 600 block of 27th Street. After another roofer claimed he had no money, White scampered away from the scene of the crime. Before the armed robbery, White had been trying to steal cars in the neighborhood by pulling on door handles to see which ones were unlocked.
Fortunately, White was soon apprehended by the Kenner Police and booked with attempted armed robbery and armed robbery. Unfortunately, his case is indicative of what could be in store for the people of Louisiana in the days and weeks ahead. According to Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser, “You can’t imagine the amount the amount of frustration we have here in law enforcement. We knew it was coming.”
White has an amazingly lengthy criminal record. Even though he is only 24 years old, he has been arrested over 50 times for burglary. He has also been charged with a variety of crimes ranging from illegal possession of a stolen handgun to resisting a police officer.
At the age of 18, White pleaded guilty to multiple counts of simple burglary and was placed on probation; however, he was soon thereafter arrested on more burglary charges. In October of 2012, White was sentenced to six years in prison for four counts of simple burglary.
Incredibly, White was soon out of prison committing more burglary. He was eventually arrested and sentenced again. In 2014, he was convicted on four counts of simple burglary and was sentenced to 12 years in prison; however, a mere three years later he was released. As noted by Chief Glaser, “He’s got a 40 page criminal history.”
White is the type of criminal who should have never been released. To maintain basic public safety, prisoners with a “40-page criminal history” need to remain behind bars. How many other “non-violent offenders” sprung from prison on November 1 will be committing crimes in the days ahead?
Supposedly, Louisiana Department of Corrections officials were reviewing each case to make sure that dangerous criminals would not be released. Obviously, in the case of White, a huge mistake was made. Thankfully, no one was killed this time, but an innocent citizen might not be so fortunate the next time.
After almost 54 years, the controversy about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy still rages today.
The question at the center of the debate is the roll of Lee Harvey Oswald. Was he the diabolical perpetrator of the crime or an unwitting patsy set up to take the blame for the murder of the century by powerful forces either within the U.S. government, the Mafia or foreign entities?
Prior to the assassination, Oswald spent several months living, playing and working in New Orleans. While some believe he was using that time to prepare for the Kennedy assassination, others are convinced that Oswald was working undercover for the U.S. government.
Since New Orleans played such a key role in Oswald’s life and the Kennedy assassination drama, it is only appropriate that the city host a series of events exploring this story from a unique angle.
On Wednesday October 18, a variety of authors and Kennedy assassination experts will gather in New Orleans to celebrate what would have been the 78th birthday of Lee Harvey Oswald. Instead of viewing Oswald as a villain, these researchers firmly believe that Oswald was innocent, so they want to celebrate his controversial life.
At 10 a.m. a press conference and rally will be held at Lafayette Square, across from Gallier Hall.
At 10:30 a.m., a walking tour will commence at Lafayette Square and include visits to old New Orleans haunts of Lee Harvey Oswald during his “march to infamy” in New Orleans.
From 2-5 p.m. there will be a book signing event at Barnes and Noble, 1601B West Bank Expressway, Harvey, LA 70058. At the event, readers will be able to meet Edward T. Haslam, author of Dr. Mary’s Monkey and Judyth Vary Baker, author of Me and Lee. Baker, who claims she was Oswald’s girlfriend, will also be highlighting her new book, Kennedy & Oswald: The Big Picture.
At 8 p.m., the day will conclude with the official Lee Harvey Oswald Birthday Party at Le Bon Temps Roule, 4801 Magazine Street, New Orleans.
This day will include research, activism and since it will be held in New Orleans, of course, a celebration of what would have been the 78th birthday of Lee Harvey Oswald. All of the activities are free and open to the public. If anyone would like additional information, please visit www.LHOBirthday.com.
Along with trying to rehabilitate the reputation of Lee Harvey Oswald, event organizers have another major purpose in this day of activities. They hope to increase pressure on the federal government to officially release all files pertaining to the Kennedy assassination as mandated by the JFK Records Act, passed by Congress in 1992 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.
The legislation was approved in the aftermath of Oliver Stone’s conspiracy laden 1991 film, “JFK.” Stone alleged that the Kennedy assassination was shrouded in a complex layer of government secrecy.
This law requires all relevant documents be released to the American public by Thursday October 26, 2017. Only President Trump can withhold the disclosure of this long-awaited information. Some researchers are concerned that the CIA or FBI will ask the President to suppress the release of these materials for “national security reasons.” Roger Stone, an informal adviser to the President, is reporting that the CIA is asking the President to delay the release of pertinent materials until 2042.
Such a decision would be a major mistake and would generate more suspicion among the American people that their government is involved in a coverup. Hopefully, nothing will interfere with the online disclosure of more than 3,000 files and previously redacted information in 30,000 other records.
The President needs to strike an important blow for openness and transparency in government and allow the American people the opportunity to finally know the complete truth about the Kennedy assassination. President Trump is being encouraged by members of both parties to fully release the files. A powerful supporter of full disclosure is U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said “Americans deserve a full picture of what happened on that fateful day.” Finally, after 54 years, it is time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
For most of their 50 years, the New Orleans Saints have been a losing professional football franchise. It took 20 years for the team to make the playoffs and other another 13 years to secure the first playoff victory. It took 42 years for the team to finally win the Super Bowl.
Through the suffering, the great New Orleans Saints fans have remained loyal to their beloved team. However, that loyalty is being threatened by the actions of selfish players and the inappropriate comments of the Saints ownership and Head Coach Sean Payton.
On Friday night, in a rally in Huntsville, AL, President Trump blasted NFL players for disrespecting the National Anthem. He called on NFL owners to fire any player who refused to stand for the National Anthem. Instead of following his advice, owners backed the actions of over 200 players who disrespected the National Anthem on Sunday.
Among the protesters Sunday were ten Saints players, who sat during the National Anthem. In another gesture possibly aimed at President Trump, Saints Wide Receiver Brandon Coleman raised his fist in the air after a touchdown. Some fans interpreted the “celebration” as a black power salute.
The Saints organization did not discipline any of the players, instead team management criticized Donald Trump. In a prepared statement, the Saints called the President’s criticism of the National Anthem protesters “disappointing and inappropriate.” The team also supported the players and stated that they “should be allowed to share or express their feelings.”
Saints Quarterback Drew Brees spoke in favor of standing for the National Anthem, but criticized the President’s comments. Coach Payton questioned the wisdom of President Trump and said he was “dividing the country.” Last year, Payton made headlines for anti-Second Amendment comments in the aftermath of the murder of former Saints player Will Smith. In fact, the Coach praised “England, where even the cops don’t have guns.”
Sean Payton is the most successful head coach in the history of the New Orleans Saints. He led his team to the playoffs five times, including one NFC championship and one glorious Super Bowl. Clearly, his mastery of his craft is unquestioned and his coaching tactics have been emulated by other NFL coaches. However, after three straight losing seasons, it might be a better idea for the coach to focus on football rather than bashing the President or advocating gun control.
All of these political comments and protests are having some negative ramifications for the Saints. Several legislators are now questioning the funding the team receives from the state budget. Billionaire owner Tom Benson, who is the richest man in Louisiana, has received over $165 million in state benefits, including an upgrade to the Superdome and the annual payment of office rent at his building in downtown New Orleans.
Legislators are looking at more pressing needs in Louisiana such as housing, education and healthcare. If Saints players continue to be disrespectful toward symbols of our country, and receive support from coaches and management, it may be difficult to convince legislators to continue the subsidies.
It is unclear what the players are protesting. Is it police conduct or treatment of minorities in America? Certainly, NFL players are not the victims of discrimination. These protesting players are mostly millionaires who make more per week than the average American family can make in a year.
If this continues, both the NFL and the New Orleans Saints are threatening their solid support base among loyal fans. Already there are signs that the Saints have crossed a line with local fans. For example, a Slidell Mardi Gras Krewe has rescinded an invitation for two players to serve as Grand Marshals in the next parade.
In Chalmette, the management of WOW Café and Winery announced that the restaurant will not air Saints games for their patrons until the players start showing appropriate reverence for the National Anthem.
In addition, some Saints fans are burning jerseys, while others are tearing up their tickets. It is a full-scale fan revolt that is unprecedented in the annals of Saints history. Even during the 1-15 1980 season, fans still attended the game, but with bags over their head.
Unless corrective action is taken, the Saints are on the verge of destroying the tremendous loyalty and support among fans that has been developed over 50 years. This is all being threated due to the ill-advised actions and comments of the entire organization, not just the ten players who sat during the National Anthem.
At the next game, all players should stand for the National Anthem and show proper respect to not only a country that has given them so much but also to fans who have served in the military and made sacrifices that have guaranteed all Americans the right to enjoy our God given freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
All Saints fans are the “customers” of the team and no group has been more long suffering and loyal. These people deserve better treatment from the organization. The fans need to be respected first and foremost. Unfortunately, the Saints in a bid to show solidarity with a protest movement, have forgotten their fan base. Let’s hope and pray they come to their senses.
For eight long years, Republican candidates have promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. It is biggest reason why the GOP took control of the U.S. House in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2014. Ending the nightmare of Obamacare was also one of the major motivating factors for the 62.9 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump.
Even after the Senate finally voted to move forward with discussion of an Obamacare bill, it is very questionable whether anything can pass. So, it remains to be seen whether Republicans ever meant any of those promises or whether it was just more meaningless campaign rhetoric designed to garner votes.
The real losers are the conservative activists who organized Tea Party events and helped give Republicans control of both the House and Senate. Trump voters have also been abandoned, not by the President, but by the congressional leaders who never really supported the Trump agenda.
As an outsider and populist, Donald Trump is directly at odds with the leadership of Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell are only lukewarm supporters of the President. Often, they have been critical of everything from his tweets to his political plans.
The dilemma for Donald Trump is that his agenda cannot be fulfilled by executive actions only. Unfortunately, he needs the support of the weak-kneed Republican congress that has not been able to deliver on the major parts of his agenda.
Other than the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Republican House and Senate have delivered nothing of substance for President Trump and the American people. These privileged politicians are paid handsome salaries, enjoy outrageous perks and large staffs, and yet do not listen to their constituents. They are captives of the lobbyists, special interests and the media. They are creatures of the Beltway, denizens of the noxious swamp.
Unlike Democrats, who easily unite for the benefit of their party, congressional Republicans are like a herd of cats, unmanageable and ineffective. McConnell should be replaced by real conservative and Trump supporter. On his most important task, McConnell failed miserably, delivering a major setback to the President and the Republican Party.
McConnell’s lack of leadership was apparent after the second edition of his Obamacare reform bill crashed and burned. Thereafter, his idea of a repeal only option followed by replacement two years later also appears to be dead on arrival.
In the process, the President’s entire agenda is in jeopardy. If Obamacare is not repealed, it will be much harder for the President to garner congressional support to implement his other major campaign promises: major tax cuts, building of a border wall, and massive new infrastructure spending.
Ideally, Republicans should completely repeal the disastrous and unconstitutional Obamacare legislation. This would give return America to the healthcare status of 2010, prior to Obamacare mandates and exchanges.
Thereafter, free market reforms should be enacted giving Americans the opportunity to purchase health insurance across state lines, build Health Savings Accounts. All of the mandates and Obamacare taxes need to be eliminated. States should be given block grants to deal with indigent care and high-risk pools.
Instead of passing legislation to offer Americans common sense healthcare solutions, the nightmare of Obamacare will continue. Premiums will continue to rise, insurance choices will become more limited and the march toward a single payer system will be inevitable.
Without the guts to make tough decisions or the desire to unify, Republicans will gift wrap the 2018 mid-term elections for the Democrats. This will give the left wing, crazy, and unhinged Nancy Pelosi the position of House Speaker once again.
If that occurs, it will be a total nightmare for our country, but it will not upset many of these weak Republicans in Congress. For these members do not have the courage of their convictions and are unwilling to challenge the establishment, the Democrats, the special interests and the media. These Republicans do not want to lead and prefer to be controlled by Democrats and answerable not to their constituents, but to the cocktail circuit in Georgetown.
The irony of this situation is that the Republicans have a congressional majority, but are unwilling to enact an agenda and prefer to be controlled by the minority, the Democrats, and the liberal media.
This strategy will only lead to more difficulty and obstacles for President Trump who has a winning agenda if only it could get implemented.
In a political party devoid of young leaders, some are speculating that Mitch Landrieu, the Mayor of New Orleans, must be a prime presidential candidate for 2020. He was mentioned along with about a dozen other presidential prospects in a New York Times article. This national publicity for Landrieu follows his interview on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program discussing his crusade to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
Not surprisingly, by championing the removal of Confederate monuments, Landrieu is scoring political points with the far-left leadership of the Democrat Party. In fact, Landrieu’s political ambition is the whole reason the monuments are being removed.
Prior to the Mayor’s embrace of this cause, there was never any groundswell of support in New Orleans for the monuments to be removed. Before Mitch Landrieu was Mayor of New Orleans, four African Americans served in the city’s top position and none of them tried to remove the monuments.
When Landrieu was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and Lt. Governor, he never made the removal of Confederate monuments an issue. As Lt. Governor, Landrieu controlled state museums and was tasked with promoting the culture and heritage of Louisiana as well as fostering tourism. It would have been the perfect time for a political leader so concerned about Confederate monuments to make it a statewide issue. Instead, he said nothing about Confederate monuments.
During his four campaigns for Mayor of New Orleans in 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014, Landrieu made no mention of his seemingly burning desire to remove the monuments. It was only after a tragic shooting in South Carolina that Landrieu saw an opportunity to make the removal of Confederate monuments his signature issue.
He knew that this stand against Confederate monuments would give him national publicity. Landrieu also knew that in Louisiana his prospects for statewide office were nil. Thus, he needed another goal, to set his sights on national political opportunities.
In November 2016, a clear opportunity for a cabinet position was lost when Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency. Now that Donald Trump is President, Landrieu is auditioning for the role of chief antagonist. In recent weeks, the Mayor has ramped up his rhetoric against the Justice Department’s crackdown on sanctuary cities. The Mayor is an ardent supporter of New Orleans retaining its sanctuary city status; although he claims the city is not breaking any laws.
All his activities are clearly exposing the Mayor’s new goal, running for President in 2020. For Landrieu, fighting Donald Trump and fighting racist monuments is a perfect platform for a lifelong politician to run for national office. He has started a political action committee, Nola PAC, and is constantly pitching his supporters for funding to fight against Trump and racist monuments.
Although the Mayor is long on ambition, he is short on actual accomplishments. Other than political office, Landrieu has zero meaningful private sector experience. His record as Lt. Governor is undistinguished and as Mayor it has been a total failure.
If Democrats care to investigate his record, they will notice his inability to fight violent crime, reform the New Orleans Police Department, fix failing infrastructure or bring good paying jobs to the city. In fact, the population of New Orleans is now declining for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, as people are being forced out of the city by the high crime rate and the Mayor’s unquenchable desire to raise taxes.
The race for the Democrat Party presidential nomination in 2020 will be wide open; however, if Mayor Landrieu is given thoughtful consideration it will show how desperate the situation has become for a once proud political organization.Instead of providing a safe environment, jobs and opportunity for his citizens, the Mayor has created a major controversy which is leading to racial division and violence. He has ignored local standing problems such as the violent crime rate to pursue the removal of Confederate monuments and his own political agenda.
If Democrats want a problem solver, they need to look elsewhere. However, if they want a self-serving politician who cares little about the real plight of his constituents, but is brimming with unending ambition, then Mitch Landrieu would be a perfect choice as their presidential nominee.
The Confederate monument removal frenzy has now spread from New Orleans to Lafayette, Louisiana. A monument dedicated to Confederate General “Alfred” Mouton should be removed, according to activists with the group Move the Mindset. A member of the group, Frank Crocco, says that he agrees with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that Confederate statues “don’t represent the community anymore.”
The Mouton monument opponents were emboldened by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision clearing the way for Mayor Landrieu’s administration to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Among the New Orleans monuments, the statue honoring General Robert E. Lee is the oldest and was unveiled in 1884. In Lafayette, the Mouton statue has been in place since 1922. These Confederate statues are both works of work and historical treasures that need to be protected, not removed and potentially damaged or even destroyed.
The effort to remove Confederate monuments gained momentum in 2015 after white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was later discovered on the Internet that Roof had been pictured waving the Confederate flag. Soon thereafter, South Carolina officials removed the Confederate Flag from their statehouse grounds.
In New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu used the South Carolina tragedy to mobilize opposition to the four Confederate monuments. He was successful in obtaining a 6-1 New Orleans City Council vote, which labeled the statues as “nuisances” and gave official approval for their removal.
While the decision has been ratified by the courts, there are pending lawsuits in both state and federal courts and the potential for legislative action in Baton Rouge aimed at protecting the monuments.
The whole process could also be derailed by a lack of funding. Reports are circulating that the anonymous donor who promised to cover the costs of removing the Confederate monuments has withdrawn his offer. There is also the potential for a lack of qualified bidders to handle such a delicate project. Unfortunately, no one knows who is bidding on the project or funding it because the Landrieu administration refuses to provide the public with this information.
If the Mayor is successful and the four monuments are moved to an undisclosed warehouse for temporary storage, there is no assurance that they will be preserved or relocated in a public setting. In fact, there are some rumors that a private individual may eventually possess the monuments at his “slave museum.”
Presently, there are more questions than answers, but we do know that the Mayor is fixated on removing the statues and he now has legislative and judicial approval to move forward.
The process might not end with the removal of the four Confederate monuments because there are vocal activists with the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA who want to remove dozens of other statues in New Orleans, including the city’s most iconic monument, the statue of Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter. This statue, right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter is the most photographed spot in the Gulf South. Removing such a gem would be devastating to New Orleans as a tourist attraction and historical destination.
These activists want the city of New Orleans to be completely free of references to Confederate heroes or slave owners. They demand that any landmarks and street names honoring former slave owning Presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson must also be removed.
This campaign is not new, it actually started in the 1990’s when Orleans Parish Public School Board officials stripped the name George Washington from a school. Even though he was a brilliant general, our first president and our most influential Founding Father, since he owned slaves the school board judged him to be unworthy to adorn a public school.
Along with monuments and school names, street names will also need to be changed. Residents can say goodbye to Jefferson Davis Parkway, Robert E. Lee Blvd., Jackson Avenue, Washington Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Bienville Street, Calhoun Street, Henry Clay Avenue, among many, many others. This will cause confusion and bring economic costs to thousands of citizens and businesses who will be forced to deal with the headaches of changing their official addresses.
Before the landscape of New Orleans is changed forever, it is imperative that the residents of the city be allowed a vote on the issue. On a matter, so important to the future of New Orleans, voters should have input. It should not be left to the politicians or unelected federal judges.
If the Mayor is so confident of the correctness of his position, why not give the citizens the right to make the final decision? Surely, in a city with a 65% African American majority, citizens would agree with the Mayor, right?
Or, maybe not, which is why Landrieu and his political cronies hoard all the decision-making power and give none of it to the citizens of New Orleans, the people most impacted by their misguided governance.
Back in late January of 1999, I had just finished a two-year stint as Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. Looking for a new project, I started a political newsletter with journalist and commentator Christopher Tidmore.
While interviewing Ed Butler, the new General Manager of talk station WTIX 690 AM, we were offered positions as talk show hosts on the station. Of course, we gladly accepted his kind invitation, although we had no experience or training. It was a great opportunity for complete novices. Fortunately, Butler was patient as we learned the business and became more comfortable on the air.
Eventually, Chris moved to another station and I brought on a new co-host, Leslie Stewart, to fill the role of my liberal counterpart. A year after the radio show started, we created a television version of the show and I recruited former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial as my liberal co-host. Our radio and TV on-air battles were spirited, but respectful, hopefully educating our audience not demoralizing them.
After another year, I bid fond adieu to both Leslie and the Mayor and had the formidable challenge to be the solo host of both programs. A show that had started as Politically Speaking Louisiana Style became Ringside Politics.
After WTIX 690 AM, the program moved to Pittman Broadcasting on the Northshore and Lafayette and then find its home in June 2007 on WGSO 990 AM. This remains the only locally owned news/talk station in New Orleans, as all the others are owned by either out of state media conglomerates or individuals.
This week, I have the good fortunate to celebrate 18 years on the radio as a New Orleans talk show host, a lone conservative voice on an island of liberals. In fact, New Orleans is a deep blue island in the red sea of Louisiana. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received 81% of the vote in New Orleans, while only receiving 38% statewide.
New Orleans is a city with immense potential, but immense problems. There is rampant poverty, blight, horrible street conditions, homelessness and a high crime rate. The liberal Democrats own all the current problems afflicting the city. Democrats literally control everything from the schools to the streets. In fact, there is not one Republican serving in an elected public office in New Orleans. The last Republican Mayor of New Orleans was elected during Reconstruction.
Hosting conservative media programs in such a liberal market is a challenge. At least, I don’t have much competition for being the conservative voice of New Orleans. One “conservative” news/talk station has all out of town syndicated political shows, while the other major talk station in New Orleans features hosts who are either moderate or outright liberal.
The so-called objective political analysts on television are liberals. The local newspapers mostly feature liberal columnists, and, quite often, will present only liberal editorial opinions, apart from an occasional establishment Republican viewpoint.
There are some exceptions such as Kathleen Benfield, a great social conservative talk show host on WSHO, a religious station, and the talented Libertarian John Osterlind who does a show on a music station. Other than that, it is all liberal, all the time.
Surviving in this climate is only possible due to our great listeners, viewers, supporters and sponsors of the Ringside Politics TV and radio programs. In 18 years, I have had the incredible opportunity to interview 18,000 wonderful guests, who have graciously shared their stories with our audience. These guests have provided tremendous insights on countless issues and helped me clarify my positions on the pressing problems we face today.
At the very top of this impressive guest list are my talented radio all-stars who generously donate their time on a weekly basis to enlighten our audience: Chad Rogers, Publisher of The Dead Pelican, Steve Sabludowsky of Bayou Buzz, Attorneys Mitch Gibbs and Nick Varrecchio, Chris Holton of The Center for Security Policy and commentator Donna Carol Voss.
None of this would have been achievable without the backing Chris Beary, Principal Owner, Richard Tate, General Manager, and the entire staff of WGSO 990 AM. Their steadfast encouragement of my program over the years has been crucial to any success I have been able to achieve. In addition, much appreciation is also given to Ron Yager, WLAE-TV Vice President and General Manager and Jim Dotson, LAE Productions Vice President and General Manager, for their generous support of my television program.
Also, very special thanks to my longtime friend Steve Sabludowsky for faithfully featuring my columns on Bayou Buzz and co-producing with me the successful political comedy show, Politics with a Punch.
Even after 18 years, this work never gets old as every day is a new adventure. Today, during this heightened political season, it is the most exhilarating time ever to be on the air discussing the major events of the day.
To be able to express my views, explore important issues, interact with guests and listeners and try to impact the political environment in our country is the biggest honor I will ever receive.
Prior to the passage of much needed reform legislation in 2004, the sale of contact lenses was primarily controlled by eye doctors exclusively. Patients were not given their prescriptions and not allowed to shop for better prices. This situation changed in 2004 with the passage of the Fairness in Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), which allowed patients to shop for the best prices for their contacts. It required doctors to provide patients with their prescriptions, leading to lower prices and more choices for consumers. The bill was a success as it introduced free market principles into this industry, which, not surprisingly, became more prosperous.
The legislation allowed consumers to purchase contacts from online sources and retail giants like Walmart. The monopoly was busted and prices dropped dramatically. Of the 41 million Americans who purchase contact lenses today, one-third take advantage of online sites and retail outlets. These sales total approximately $1.5 billion in an industry valued at $4.5 billion in the United States and $8.8 billion worldwide.
Unfortunately, a new bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (CLCHPA), which would strip away some of these reforms. It is advocated by contact lens manufacturers and the American Optometrists Association. The bill forces third party lens manufacturers to provide additional information to doctors, who would be allowed to ask questions and delay the delivery of the contacts to patients. It clearly limits the free market advantages of the 2004 legislation and restores more of the monopoly for optometrists.
Supporters of CLCHPA claim that contacts sold by third party vendors are unreliable and have caused more medical problems in patients. However, studies have proven that eye infections have not increased as more patients have purchased lenses from online sources and third party vendors.
UCLA Professor of Ophthalmology, Dr. Paul Donzis, conducted extensive research into this topic. He concluded that “based on…authoritative scientific articles, it appears that online sales of contact lenses have not contributed to any increase in the incidence of contact lens related [injury].” The medical journal Eye and Contact Lens also conducted an extensive 20-year study of this issue and concluded that there was no increase in contact lens related keratitis after the 2004 legislation was passed. In effect, giving consumers more options did not lead to more health problems.
Since no lenses can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription, these complaints are little more than scare tactics. The entire purpose of the new legislation is to shut down a thriving industry, limit choices for patients and force them to pay more for contacts, while giving optometrists a greater percentage of the profits.
The new bill is being vigorously pushed by the medical lobby, which understands that in many European countries and Japan, it is not even required for patients to receive a doctor’s prescription for contact lenses. In these countries, there is also no evidence of increased health risks or additional eye infections. Unfortunately, even some members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation have jumped on the cronyism bandwagon.
Hopefully, Americans will soon be able to have the same freedom as those patients in other countries. Today, a patient can totally bypass a doctor and use an online app to accurately check their vision on their phone. This type of technological innovation is threatening to the medical lobby which is trying to maximize profits and limit patient choices.
Our political leaders should embrace new technologies, while maintaining a strong interest in promoting patient safety. Unfortunately, the new Senate bill is little more than a throwback to a bygone era of monopolies which did not place the interests of patients first.
At the very least, the new bill should be defeated and the next step should be to follow the lead of other nations in giving patients even more control of how they purchase contact lenses.
Since my Ringside Politics radio and TV programs started in 1999, I have enjoyed an annual Thanksgiving tradition of bestowing a “Turkey of the Year” award to the most deserving celebrity or politician. Of course, these are “winners” who distinguished themselves in a particularly foolish way. Previous winners have included filmmaker Michael Moore, former House Speakers John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, President Barack Obama and former New Orleans Mayor, current federal inmate, Ray Nagin.
This year, the list of nominations was almost endless. It has been a political year like no other, but it has been dominated by one person, President-elect Donald Trump. He burst onto the political scene as a businessman and outsider who was tired of the insufferable weight of political correctness. He declared his goal was to “Make America Great Again,” by “draining the swamp” around Washington D.C. and putting “America First.”
It all started on June 16, 2015 before a huge crowd at the Trump Tower in New York City. In his initial speech, Trump claimed that the country needed a wall on the southern border and that Mexico would pay for it. He also lambasted Mexico for “sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Immediately, Trump was labeled a racist and the media started to ridicule his presidential plans. There were also efforts to financially harm Trump’s business empire. His Miss Universe show was dropped by television networks, the first indication that his presidential aspirations would be met with fierce opposition.
In the GOP race, Trump faced 16 seasoned challengers, many of them are members of the Republican Party establishment. These candidates were quick to condemn Trump whenever he made a controversial comment. Many issues arose that gave his opponents fodder. Trump’s statements about Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Senator John McCain, and an Indiana judge presiding over the Trump University legal case caused continual controversy.
After he secured the Republican presidential nomination, there were other controversies such as his statements about a Muslim father who lost a son in the Iraq War, a former Miss Universe and his infamous remarks about women captured on a 2005 tape recording which was conveniently released to deflect from the WikiLeaks disclosures about Hillary Clinton. The icing on the political cake occurred when 12 women came forward to allege Trump sexually assaulted them.
In every one of these incidents, Trump was viciously attacked by the usual collection of news reporters, Hollywood celebrities and liberal politicians. Unfortunately, they were joined by many Republican politicians who were eager to be critical of Trump and unwilling to support his candidacy, even after he secured the nomination.
Former Republican Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush refused to endorse Trump, as did 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. U.S. Senator and 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain was among several prominent Republicans who withdrew their support after the 2005 tape was released.
Joining these political leaders was a collection of conservative misfits in the media and political worlds who refused to endorse Trump. This group became known as the “Never Trumpers” and included radio talk show host Glenn Beck, commentators Erick Erickson, George Will and Bill Kristol and Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Many of these individuals bitterly opposed Trump, even though he won the nomination fairly and faced Hillary Clinton, a corrupt liberal, in the general election.
From this “Never Trump” universe, I selected my three Ringside Politics Turkeys of 2016. These were the worst of this motley crew because they were presidential candidates who betrayed their party and reneged on a promise to support the nominee. All 17 GOP presidential candidates signed a pledge to officially endorse the eventual party nominee. Unfortunately, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Ohio Governor John Kasich placed their own political interests in front of their party and their country.
Not only did they make a horrific mistake, but they looked quite foolish in the process. Graham said that “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it.” Not quite Lindsey, as Trump won 30 states, plus Maine’s 2nd congressional district, and collected 306 electoral votes, the most won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. Jeb Bush who was embarrassed by Trump and famously labeled “low energy” acted like a petulant child and refused to endorse anyone, and indicated he would vote for a third-party candidate.
While Graham and Bush acted poorly, the most egregious political violation of the year was committed by Ohio Governor John Kasich. He not only refused to endorse Trump but later confessed to writing in the name of John McCain as his presidential choice.
Kasich declined to participate in the Republican National Convention which was held in his home state of Ohio. He did not welcome the delegates nor attend any of the events which culminated in Trump’s nomination. He was under the delusion that he was the “most electable” Republican presidential candidate even though he only won one primary in his home state of Ohio. In contrast, Trump won 37 states and four times the number of delegates as his nearest competitor.
In a year of the Trump political revolution, where one candidate defeated the combined forces of the political, business, media and globalist establishment, these three Republican Turkeys did not join the historic party.
Sadly, Graham, Bush and Kasich put their selfish interests first and lost badly. Their only consolation is that they are the clear winners of the 2016 Ringside Politics Turkey of the Year Award.
Billionaire Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur, futurist and visionary. From humble origins in South Africa, Musk has become one of the richest men in the world.
He earned his money through successful high tech ventures such as the first online version of the Yellow Pages, X.com, and another company which he founded and merged to create the incredibly lucrative and transformative online payment site, PayPal.
He eventually became involved in a variety of businesses that are fantastic conceptually, but have problems translating into financial solvency. Musk owns Tesla Motors, which is trying to make the electric car profitable, SpaceX, which is working on a plan to transport humans to Mars and SolarCity Corporation, which is attempting the impossible, turning a profit on solar energy.
What has saved Elon Musk from total collapse has been a very healthy dose of federal government subsidies and contracts. In each of his businesses, Musk is facing product questions and fierce competition.
While Tesla require most customers to travel great distances to purchase and service their vehicles, the Chevy Bolt will soon be available nationwide and will be easily serviced at accessible dealerships.
Musk’s ambitious goals for SpaceX might need to be adjusted after the recent failure of the Falcon 9 rocket. This explosion cost at least $62 million and destroyed a payload including a $195 million Facebook satellite.
It was the second explosion of a SpaceX rocket in the last fifteen months, even after launch delays that have averaged two years or longer. In the process, the explosions also destroyed $118 million in taxpayer cargo.
For the first failure, Musk blamed a vendor for an inferior product and in the last catastrophe, there has been wild speculation about potential sabotage from a rival company including images of an unidentified flying object coming from a neighboring building. An investigation has turned up no smoking gun. While some conspiracy theorists believe that SpaceX was the victim, the American taxpayers are the true victims.
With such a track record, it would seem investors might be worried about the future of SpaceX, but the good news for Musk is that he has healthy government subsidies and contracts to carry him through the tough times. For SpaceX, Musk has reportedly received federal government contracts valued at $5.5 billion, and government subsidies worth $4.9 billion, which also benefit his other two enterprises, SolarCity and Tesla.
Overall, Musk’s companies have accumulated over $10 billion in federal government subsidies and contracts with a very minimal track record of success. Surely, Musk is a dreamer who inspires others to support his fabulous journey, but in a federal government with a debt approaching $20 trillion, the taxpayers are being taken for a ride on a rocket that keeps crashing.
In the private sector, these companies might very well be bankrupt after so many failures, but in the fiscally irresponsible realm of the federal government, the bailouts continue undisturbed. It is time Congress starting exercising their responsibilities for fiscal oversight.
It is time that questions were asked about accountability. Is this the best use of $10 billion? Why should our government play favorites and fund Musk’s enterprises at the expense of his competitors?
SpaceX’s competitor is United Launch Alliance, a collaboration of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It performed 106 space launches successfully, but at a higher price tag than SpaceX promised. Thus, SpaceX just won its first Air Force contract worth $82.7 million, to launch a satellite in 2018.
Musk is an incredible salesman and has wowed the federal government with his promises and his ability to market his companies. According to Forbes, he is worth $14.3 billion; however, it is time to analyze whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth with these investments.
Incredibly, all three of his heavily subsidized companies have experienced massive delays and none of them are making a profit. Tesla Motors produces cars that can cost up to $115,000. While consumers can utilize some tax breaks and credits to ease the pain of a new electric vehicle, the price tag is still out of reach for most Americans. This is a product with a very limited potential audience, so it is worthwhile to question why the government is investing so heavily in Tesla, including $1.3 billion in government assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy other sources.
To propel the use of solar energy, SolarCity has been the recipient of over $300 million in local, state and federal grants and subsides. With the price of oil and natural gas so low we should not expect this investment to make a profit anytime soon, especially with tax credits for consumers ending in 2017.
If Musk can achieve his dreams of widespread space travel, solar energy use and electric vehicles, he should be applauded. However, this should be accomplished with private sector funding. In this arena, mistakes are costly, but triumphs are handsomely rewarded.
In the world of federal subsidies, a company can fail for years and still receive generous taxpayer funding. It is a symptom of what is wrong in our Nation’s Capital and it needs to be fixed before we accumulate another $20 trillion in debt.
At this point in the race, as his poll numbers are surging and Hillary Clinton is dealing with the negative fallout over her health scare and continual lying; only the media can stop Donald Trump from being elected the next President of the United States.
The media will have multiple opportunities in upcoming debates, featuring mostly liberal moderators. In fact, in an interview this week with the Washington Post, Trump questioned the impartiality of CNN’s Anderson Cooper. According to Trump, Anderson is “very biased, very biased. I don’t think he should be a moderator.” Trump also said that Cooper cannot “be fair” and that “CNN is the Clinton News Network.”
CNN is just like the other networks, tilted to the political left. Only Fox News has true ideological balance.
Thus, it is no surprise that Americans have a very dim view of the news media. According to a new Gallup survey, only 32% of Americans have a fair or great deal of faith in the news media to “report the news fully, accurately and fairly.” Among Republicans, it is even worse with only 14% expressing a belief that the media is fair. These are the lowest media ratings in the 44-year history of the Gallup survey, dropping eight points in just one year. In the view of Gallup, these dismal results are “a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public.”
The problem is that the media does not inform; they mostly try to persuade. For example, Republicans have certainly noticed how horribly the media treats Donald Trump and they obviously do not like what they see. Among Democrats, there is much more support for the news media with 51% expressing faith in their work. Democrats obviously appreciate how the media has covered for Hillary Clinton on so many issues.
In the last week, a video showing Hillary collapsing and being dragged into her van forced the mainstream news media to reluctantly cover Hillary’s health problems. Previously, it was viewed as a major conspiracy theory pursued by suspicious websites and crazy Republicans. The media prefers to focus on Trump controversies and found a new one this week, the President’s birth certificate, to drag back into the spotlight.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump was questioned about whether he accepts that Obama was born in Hawaii. Of course, with so many important issues facing the nation, it is amazing that Trump would be asked about an old controversy. It was another media trap set to destroy Donald Trump.
After first refusing to acknowledge the authenticity of the birth certificate, Trump later said that he accepts that Obama was born in the United States. Today, at a media event at his new Washington D.C. hotel, Trump said that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”
Today, Trump handled the event masterfully by first introducing military heroes who endorsed his candidacy. He only addressed the birth certificate at the very end of the event, but only after getting the media to cover his powerful endorsements. This is exactly what happened during his highly anticipated immigration speech in Arizona. He used it as an opportunity to show endorsements from “Angel Moms,” parents who suffered the loss of a child due to the criminal actions of an illegal alien.
For the next few days, the media and their favored candidate will try to trumpet the birth certificate issue as another way of calling Trump a racist. Hillary Clinton said that the debate shows “bigotry and bias” and that Trump owes the President “an apology.” These attacks are only the beginning as Hillary and the media will join forces in an attempt to sidetrack Trump’s momentum in the polls.
The good news is that the public is wise to the media’s game. The Gallup poll results show that the American people understand what side the media is on and will discount much of what is reported. Luckily, the mainstream media cannot influence the American public like it once did. There are too many alternative news sources today and, clearly, the American people are too smart to fall for the media’s tricks once again.
The Great Flood of 2016 devastated 40,000 homes across the state of Louisiana. Sadly, 13 people have lost their lives in this historic storm, which produced up to 31 inches of rainfall in some areas over the course of four days. This is more rainfall than the City of Los Angeles experiences in four years. It was a storm that was so intense that it only happens once every one thousand years.
Emergency officials claim that the Great Flood of 2016 was the worst natural disaster in this country since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After that storm, President Obama famously met with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to show support for the region.
This time it was a much different scenario. Despite the magnitude of the disaster, President Obama did not visit the region, in fact, he stayed on vacation at Martha’s Vineyard and played multiple rounds of golf. The images of our golf obsessed President enjoying his favorite pastime while his fellow citizens were in such pain was quite troubling to say the least.
Over the course of almost two terms, Obama has played more than 300 rounds of golf. This compares to President George W. Bush who played only two dozen rounds of golf during his two terms in office. In 2005, Bush was roundly criticized for his tardy response to the disastrous Hurricane Katrina. No one can forget the images of Bush looking out of the window of Air Force One at the devastation below. However, at least he flew over the region and eventually visited the area multiple times before the end of his presidency. In contrast, Obama did not leave Martha’s Vineyard early and did not cancel one golf game with a Hollywood star.
The media crucified Bush for his delayed response in 2005, but gave Obama a pass this year. Even Democrat Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards had to cover for Obama maintaining in an interview on MSNBC that he did not want a presidential visit at this time. He claimed it would divert resources that were needed for the recovery. However, back in 2005, during an even worse disaster, no one came to Bush’s defense. He was pilloried mercilessly for not immediately visiting the New Orleans area.
An immediate Obama visit would have been helpful because it would have highlighted the needs of the region. The area suffered a tremendous blow considering that so many of the victims did not have flood insurance as their houses had never flooded before. Unlike so many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the victims of this disaster live in areas that are above sea level and are not considered flood zones.
At least Donald Trump and Mike Pence visited Louisiana, showing leadership and concern and giving the thousands of victims some much-needed attention. Even with the incredible magnitude of the disaster the national media moved on from the Louisiana flood and the story quickly faded from the headlines. With Trump and his running mate in the state the media spotlight returned to the plight of the many victims of this horrible natural disaster.
Trump’s visit was accompanied by an 18-wheeler of supplies that he donated to the victims. It will surely spur more donations to the agencies that are providing vital resources to the many thousands of victims who need help. By expressing his sympathy and personal concern, he also gave a boost to the people who lost everything and are in tremendous pain. By visiting the disaster area and comforting the victims, Trump acted presidential, a trait that has been in short supply for the past eight years.
While Trump was on the ground in Louisiana, Hillary Clinton was literally phoning it in, calling the Governor and tweeting a link for donations. She will visit the state in a few days, as will President Obama, finally. Clearly, Trump shamed both of them into scheduling a trip to Louisiana. It is quite sad that Obama’s first reaction was not to personally visit the region and see the damage in person, but to continue his golfing vacation.
The victims of this horrific storm deserved the full attention of their President, instead they received visits from his underlings and saw images of Barack Obama riding around in a golf cart while their homes were literally under water. This whole episode has brought back painful memories of Obama’s pitifully slow response to the BP oil spill disaster in 2010.
Some Louisiana residents speculate that the reason for the President’s negligence is that this is a state that votes Republican. It is highly doubtful that a similar catastrophe in a “Blue State” would have been handled by the President in the same way.
Who knows the real motivation for his inattention to Louisiana, but at least local residents have some good news to celebrate, Obama leaves office in five months.