Thursday, May 19, 2016

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack


The youthful soldier stands at rest, facing north; his face is "handsome and sensitive, with a slight trace of bewilderment in it."  Perhaps his confusion centers on the conflict swirling around him, on the animosity and anger, or maybe he is attempting to understand how 150-years later, we are still such a divided country.

At issue throughout the South is the manufactured outrage over decades old Confederate monuments.This brouhaha has been roiling New Orleans under the mayoral term of Mitch Landrieu; it has erupted in Memphis,  in Louisville, and let's not even begin the discussion about the battle flag.  Now it has come, once again, to Caddo Parish.

The Confederate monument that stands in front of the north side of the Caddo Parish Courthouse has been challenged  this time by Caddo Commission member Ken Epperson.  The NAACP called for removal of the monument in the past and the issue dissolved into limbo when it was (once again) determined that the 400 square foot parcel of land the monument stands on belongs to the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, given to them for use in perpetuity back in June, 1903. The Caddo Parish Police Jury (the forerunner of the Caddo Commission) donated not only the land but $1,000, or ten percent of the funds needed to pay for the monument, to the UDC.

Portion of 1903 minutes with regard to Confederate monument.

After the end of the Civil War, it fell to the women across the South to bury their fallen sons, brothers, and husbands and to commemorate those who were buried in unmarked graves in places unknown.  Across the South, women banded together in memorial associations, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (founded in 1894), for they had a common purpose. By the time our Caddo Parish monument came into consideration in 1903, the second phase of Civil War commemoration was underway and monument building was prevalent.

Despite what the NAACP might tell you, the original intent was not to perpetuate division and celebrate conflict. The primary purpose of these monuments constructed during this second phase (1883-1907) was to not only memorialize the fallen but to educate those in the future who may not have the same "emotional and personal ties" to the war.  The figures on these monuments had no overt political message or content -- something the NAACP and the uneducated liberals might be interested to know.

Because public citizens donated money for the construction of these memorials, it was then believed that these memorials should be a subject of civic pride "to be displayed in conspicuous places" like courthouses, public parks, and cemeteries.  Local historian Eric Brock wrote in the Forum Magazine in 2006:

For many [Confederate soldiers] in unmarked graves around America's battlefields, it is a symbolic tombstone, a sacred place that should forever stand and be respected. Those who forget their history, it has been said, are doomed to repeat it. Worse yet are those who deny history, for they doom civilization itself.

Attempting to erase, or sanitize, or revise, history by dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars to move hundreds of monuments into warehouses or dry museums is cowardice. It is to deny the sacrifices of men who sacrificed and fought for what they believed was their sacred honor -- their homes, families, and their state's rights.  The issues that divided the nation then divide us still only because there are those hate mongers and poverty pushers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who make their living and line their pockets off our being divided.

In July 2015, David French wrote:

Many thousands of the men who risked their lives and spilled blood to defeat the Confederacy would be appalled. Abraham Lincoln would see the malice toward all, the charity toward none. Ulysses S. Grant would be shocked at the notion, for example, that Pickett’s Charge represented “false valor,” and the great warrior-abolitionist, Joshua Chamberlain, would be disgusted at the thought of digging up Confederate bones to make a political statement. But why take any guidance from Union heroes when determining how to remember the past? After all, tweeters and Facebookers know so much more about right and wrong, about justice and injustice. After all, they’ve spilled their own online blood, and they have the hate-tweets to prove it. 

It would take a dim mind indeed to believe that once the Confederate monuments are all gone that our roads will smooth out, the paint will stop peeling off the walls in our crumbling schools, criminals will put down their guns, and drugs will only be used for healing.

Perhaps Ken Epperson and Lloyd Thompson, and their ilk, should take some art history classes, step back and admire the artistic masterpiece that Texas artist Frank Teich created for us.  Not only does
our monument have the young, bewildered soldier, but there are four busts of Confederate generals carved from Texas granite.  And most unusual, and not seen on other Confederate monuments, is the full sized figure of a woman, the Roman goddess of history, Clio, who is writing the names of the Confederate dead in a book of history.  She is lovely.

Our monument is one of the most beautiful Confederate monuments in existence. It was installed in 1906 with thousands of people from Shreveport and Caddo Parish in attendance. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, the application for which can be found here and from which I have consulted for some of this background.

As it stands now, discussion about the future of the monument has been scheduled for June 9 when it will move before committee chaired by Mario Chavez who said yesterday:
"We have removed it from the agenda tomorrow and it has moved into my long range planning committee. We will have open discussion on June 9th at 1300 in regards to this topic. You better believe I plan on keeping it exactly where it is."
If you feel so inclined, you are welcome to attend the meeting, fill out a speaker card, and have your three minutes to speak before the Commission on the matter.

Local attorney Henry Walker was at the meeting this week and he expressed his concerns that the monument "could possibly affect a trial because of its "implied subject matter."  What would that implication be, Mr. Walker?  What exactly is implied by this monument of Confederate generals, military men of respect and honor, men of value and integrity?  Men of courage.  Men who stood up for their families.  What is implied by a lone woman writing in a book of history?  What is implied by a non-confrontational, bewildered young man?  Mr. Walker told the Commission that the monument is just a bunch of concrete.

That might be the most revealing quote yet.  What exactly is threatening about a bunch of concrete, Mr. Walker?

Just a bunch of concrete?!  Now I'm bewildered.

In past attempts to remove the monument, the NAACP suggested replacing it with a monument for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty -- even though we have one of those three blocks away. Now the suggestion is that we erect a monument to the USS Golet -- a submarine lost at sea during WWII which was financed with War Bonds, some of which were purchased in Caddo Parish and there was one Caddo resident aboard.

Liberal logic.

Here is the KTBS story of the meeting this week.  Here are the minutes of the Work Session this week.

It seems to me that in the end, preserving our past is the only way to protect our future.  Just as we can't wrap our children in bubble wrap and expect them to negotiate the travails of this world unscathed, we can not sanitize or revise history.  Sometimes that takes resolve and sometimes it is painful, but always it takes courage.  These times of division that we now find ourselves in, more so than ever before, will take courage and all of us pulling together to overcome the closed minded people who want to perpetuate division and discord among us for their own gain.

Hold strong.

Related:
Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Full of Promise, Bossier Bearkats Receive Their Tickets to the Future

Bossier Bearkats Graduation 2016
Yesterday was graduation day for most Bossier Parish schools at the Century Link Center which sits at the end of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway along the Red River.  School and city officials have this day down to a well organized machine as the parish high schools seamlessly run through the building all day long. As purple robed Benton High School graduates march across the stage, Bossier High School is lining up backstage. As the new Bossier High graduates are dashing out, gowns flapping behind them, Haughton High School moves in.  It's a pretty good system.

At the end of the day we have hundreds of new graduates.

As a teacher at Bossier High, it's my favorite event. The kids are excited, emotional, nervous, and proud.  And the families!  Oh the families!

Our senior class sponsor organizes our graduation and oversees the most minute details most people never think about like providing ties for boys who don't have them or white dress shirts. A large number of staff members show up to help on the big day. My job, along with the speech/drama teacher, is usually working to line up the actual diploma envelopes on a long table backstage.  After the ceremony, the new graduates pick up crisp white envelopes in which they will find their diploma, a souvenir copy of the program, and each senior also receives at least one personal, handwritten note from a teacher.  Some kids get three or four notes, but everyone gets at least one.  This is one of the unique traditions at Bossier High School that set us apart from bigger schools.

There were so many moments yesterday that made me misty eyed and that helped strengthen that fabric of family that defines Bossier High School:

That image of our librarian/senior class sponsor, papers in her hand, directing volunteer staff members to various positions: check the right side of the line, be sure everyone is lined up correctly!  Check the left side, be sure everyone is in the right place!  She is cool and collected and always smiling.  Reassurance defined.

The kids are all in line, waiting.  One teacher walks along the line collecting gum.  You do NOT go out there chewing gum. The senior counselor collects a nose ring and tucks it in her pocket.  Guys with earrings?  We'll take those until after the ceremony.  Everyone complies.  

One senior tunes out the noisy din, standing quietly in line with his earbuds in, hands in pockets, watching and waiting.  As time gets closer, he removes his headphones, unprompted, and slips them under his robe, into his pockets.

In the last few moments before the long walk down the hallway toward the auditorium, the principal has the kids link hands one last time and calls them to attention. There is utter silence. Pinkies are linked, hand are clasped. Silence. Then he speaks in familiar tones of their time at Bossier, of the love we share for them, and offers good wishes for whatever journeys are ahead.

In comes one late arrival, cap tucked under her arm and robe flapping behind her as she runs on perilously high heels to take her spot in line just as it is ready to move into the auditorium.  A staff member calms her down, pins the cap neatly, and slides her smoothly in line, ready to go.

The speeches are moving.  They are brief, about three to five minutes, but powerful. I stood with the speech/drama teacher in the wings, listening.  I was doing pretty well until the salutatorian, staggeringly tall, blond, and sweet as she can be, approached the microphone and began her speech with a tiny gasp of a sob in her voice.  "Come on," I whispered.  "You can do this!"  Urging her on with silent support.  The speech teacher next to me smiled confidently, peacefully, with the knowledge that this student would muscle through this. The crowd encouraged her with applause. She got through it.  Her speech was fabulous and caught every tiny memory that had occurred over the past four years in a five minute speech: chicken day on Wednesdays, the long run from the second floor of one building to the third floor of the other, football games, surviving multiple AP classes, and what got me was when she called out the support of her teachers that she will never forget, catching the essence of each one.  "Oh, that's great...," she quoted her English teacher's support and just nailed that teacher's voice in the impression.  Everyone laughed and clapped.

One of our two valedictorians gave part of her speech in Spanish to her parents who have sacrificed immeasurably to support their daughter's education.  It was a stunningly beautiful moment and filled with emotion.  Not many dry eyes in the house at that point.  I had to take that moment to slip back to my table of envelopes and find my tissues.

The kids are all so filled with promise and hope.  

I looked at the envelopes standing up alphabetically in the box, waiting for me to lay them out in rows on the table.  Each one of those envelopes represented twelve years of work.  Twelve years of relationships, love, support, and promise.  Each envelope represented a different person, a unique personality, a life wide open with promise. A ticket to the future.

As the new graduates marched down the hall after the ceremony, led by their class leaders, they were chanting "Bossier! Bossier!" It's the last time they will march together as a group, the last time they will all be together as a group, and the last time we will see some of them, although many of them will continue to return to Bossier just to visit, to be sure they've not been forgotten, to remember.

Those kids will now scatter far and wide, making new lives and new memories. As teachers, administrators, and staff, and as a Bearkat family, we have given them all we possibly could. We have taught lessons, both life lessons and academic ones, we have guided them, watched them grow, tried to keep them on the right, straight and true path, and we have loved them. We have gotten aggravated at them sometimes, but always loved them.  We are a family.

Godspeed little Bearkats!  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

It's Time to Face the Music


I can hardly bring myself to blog about Donald Trump, as you may have noticed.  I agree with practically everything Kevin Williamson wrote about him last week:

He is unfit for any office, morally and intellectually.  
A man who could suggest, simply because it is convenient, that his opponent’s father had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy is unfit for any position of public responsibility.  
His long litany of lies — which include fabrications about everything from his wealth to self-funding his campaign — is disqualifying.  
His low character is disqualifying.  
His personal history is disqualifying.  
His complete, utter, total, and lifelong lack of honor is disqualifying.  
The fact that he is going to have to take time out of the convention to appear in court to hear a pretty convincing fraud case against him is disqualifying.

There's more.

Truth is, there are quite a lot of things about Hillary Clinton that should disqualify her as well, but they don't.

I loathe Trump.  He's boorish and crude.  He's as far from the Ronald Reagan archetype as any candidate can be.

That being said, he is going to be the Republican nominee and any attempt to derail that through a third-party run or a brokered convention will be doomed to failure and will only ensure to elect Hillary, in my opinion.

Despite George Will's conviction that Trump can't possibly win, and Josh Gelernter's third-party scenarios, I think that at this point, Republicans must unify behind Trump. Certainly nobody wants to, but reality bites.

All the talk about Mitt Romney coming in to save the day is simply garbage. He ran and didn't win, he didn't want to run this time, and he's not going to save you now. And he's the only one with a ghost of a shot.

If America wanted a successful businessman to save the day, we should have elected Romney when we had the chance, but we didn't, and we aren't going to do it now.

I had dinner with friends recently who tried to make the case that as offensive and boorish as Trump is, as president Trump will likely surround himself with people smart enough to do the job that Trump himself can't do.  Trump may be ignorant of the responsibilities of presidential office, but maybe they're right.  Maybe he'll appoint the right people.  It's the only hope we've got.

We are in for a long, miserable campaign and God only knows what after that.  I long for the days when we had class and grace in the White House but those are so far behind us now I don't think we can redeem ourselves.

Perhaps I will unplug from the internet for a few more months...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Take a Trip to the Keachie Confederate Cemetery Memorial Service 2016


Located on LA172 just west of the main drag in Keachie is a quiet little spot where Confederate dead rest under the pines. Many of the dead are unknown.

 Keachie is a tiny town in DeSoto parish and is filled with beautiful old houses crumbling from neglect and decay. Towering, wood frame Victorian homes with wide galleries, tall windows, and exquisite architectural embellishments are slowly giving way to time. The cost to restore them must be staggering.

 Of seemingly more historic importance is the Keachie Women’s College on LA172 located across the road from the Confederate cemetery. Opened in 1856, the college was apparently quite an impressive structure:
A visitor to the College in 1890 would have been considerable impressed by the appearance of the physical plant which dominated the village of Keatchie. The main building was a large frame two-story structure with cupola over the principal entrance. This housed an assembly hall, or chapel, study hall, recitation rooms, music rooms and dining hall. A large galleried wing which extended to the eastward, provided "30 dormitories each 16 feet square." Across the street was another sizeable tow [sic]-story building, providing living quarters for men and boys. But then the country went to war and in April 1864 was the Battle of Mansfield and nearby Pleasant Hill. 
The Keachie Women’s College was pressed into service as a hospital and morgue; patients who did not survive were buried across the road in what is now the Confederate Cemetery.

Here is come very cool drone footage of the building shot in February 2016:



 The Confederate Cemetery is now cared for by the Sons of the Confederacy and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. There are many graves there, most marked “unknown.” It’s a very moving sight.

 This past weekend, the SCV and UDC groups met at the cemetery to remember the dead, to honor their sacrifice, and to place wreaths.



 The UDC bestowed two military medals on Confederate descendants who have served their country in military service. The cemetery is located right next to another cemetery, and buried there are families of some of those Confederate soldiers.

 The Sons of Confederate Veterans brought their cannon and put on a very moving reenactment for the guests.


Complete with rifle fire:



 After it was all over, there was cake, cookies, and lemonade to be enjoyed, much visiting, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.



 Our country is torn apart right now as groups argue about symbolism and monuments. Those men resting in graves under the hardwoods and pines in Keachie don’t much care about that. In truth, both black and white veterans are buried there and certainly they deserve to rest in peace and have their sacrifice to their cause remembered. I’m glad to have been there and to have learned a little more about the fascinating history in Kisachie, Louisiana.




There's a history of Keachie College here.

Learn more about the Confederate Memorial Cemetery here.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Louisiana is now Taxing Pretty Much Everything

As of April 1, appropriately, Louisiana now has the highest sales tax in the nation.  We now pay five-cents on the dollar in state sales tax. Add that to your parish and city taxes and in some places you're paying 10.5% in tax on your purchase.

Buried in the twenty-five pages of revisions to the sales tax statutes you will find an astounding array of new and increased taxes.

In addition to the penny added to the state sales tax, getting the most press are the usual sin taxes: alcohol and cigarettes. The tax on cigarettes went up twenty-two cents for a new total of $1.08 tax per pack.  Taxes on beer, wine, and liquor are also up.

Our legislators have found ways to tax just about everything this time around though, and reading through the twenty-five pages of revisions is enlightening.  For example, we are now taxing Mardi Gras beads at five-percent; the purchases by krewes for those Mardi Gras throws had been previously exempt but no more.

We are also now taxing athletic events at schools now.  The old statute:

(b)(i) The sale of admissions to places of amusement, to athletic entertainment other than that of schools, colleges, and universities, and recreational events, and the furnishing, for dues, fees, or other consideration of the privilege of access to clubs or the privilege of having access to or the use of amusement, entertainment, athletic, or recreational facilities; but the term "sales of services" shall not include membership fees or dues of nonprofit, civic organizations, including by way of illustration and not of limitation the Young Men's Christian Association, the Catholic Youth Organization, and the Young Women's Christian Association.

But that statute is now revised to include taxes on admission charges to athletic events of schools, colleges, and universities (see page nine). That tax will start out at 5% and run until June 30, 2016 and then will drop to 3% for the next two years, and supposedly will expire in July 2018.  This is a terrible thing for public schools who quite often barely support their athletic programs at all. We all know that schools are always involved in one fund-raiser after another to support these programs. Car washes, candy sales, gift-wrap fundraisers, cookie dough fundraisers...it goes on and on.

Where will the extra manpower come from in collecting and accounting for these taxes at the school level?  The ripple effect of this one is disheartening.

Also now taxable at a rate of 5% are your membership fees and dues to civic organizations like the American Legion, YMCA, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, etc.  That one is going to hit me on several fronts.

There's a new 5% tax on admission to art museums and science museums.

That non-profit camp you were going to this summer?  Now taxed at five-percent -- unless you go in July and then it's 3%.

Eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, contact lenses, and wheelchairs will be taxed at 5% as will your purchase of a dialysis machine.

Ticket sales by non-profits?  Five-percent.  So, that American Legion Style Show fundraiser?  You'll be paying taxes on that ticket.

Do you shop at the thrift shop at Barksdale or other military installation?  There's a new 5% tax on your purchase.

And you've got to wonder what they're thinking here: "Sales by blind persons who operate certain small businesses."  Five-percent.

Tickets to dance, drama or performing arts performance sponsored by domestic nonprofit organizations: Five percent.

And if you purchase a of one-of-a-kind work of art from an established location within a cultural products district, there's now a 5% tax.

But hey, it's not all bad. If you own a racehorse in a claiming race, you don't have to pay tax!

And you don't have to pay taxes on your food stamp purchases.

And you don't have to pay tax on your crawfish bait.

Most of these taxes decrease in July back down to 3% and the finally expire again in two years, but it is safe to say that Louisiana lawmakers have figured out how to tax just about everything.

Not only that, but because of the new tax on internet sales, Amazon Associates has ended its program in Louisiana. Those links to books or merchandise that used to be in my sidebar and at the end of some posts? Gone with the wind. I no longer earn revenue from those.

The debate on how we got to this situation is another story - there is plenty of blame to go around and it's certain that Bobby Jindal's shell game bookkeeping didn't help us, but neither political party is without blame.  One would hope however that Governor Edwards would consider top level pay cuts or suspension of his own pay, perhaps, rather than the salary increases he doled out upon his election. Instead we are putting the burden on the backs of those that can least afford it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Softer Side and Doing Good Deeds

Your Speed: 27 mph
One of the reasons I backed off of political blogging is because I found myself angry and agitated all of the time.  As hard as I worked trying to tell people that in my opinion, Barack Obama would be a terrible president and would spread socialism, would weaken our national security, and would do irreparable damage, it seems no one listened. As loudly as I screamed that Obamacare would be a disaster and would result in thousands of people losing their private insurance coverage or paying higher rates, nobody listened.  I was either preaching to the choir or arguing with brick walls.

I burned out.

I got tired of being mad all of the time.

In place of politics I've diverted my attention to writing on other things and to research for my book.  We've been working on the house and the yard, and spending time with friends and neighbors. Instead of anger and frustration, I'm finding joy in the simpler things that warm your heart.

Last night for example, we sat outside under the magnolia tree, pulled up chairs for my neighbors, built a fire in the fire pit, and the four of us talked and laughed long into the evening. The tabby cat sat in the swing between me and Gena in utter contentment.  Three teenage boys walked by, their voices and laughter carrying across the cool air, on their way to one of the fast food joints on Kings Highway. One of them noticed the flashing speed sign mounted to the light pole so they took turns running past it to see how fast they were going.  The 13 mph champion raised his hands in a Rocky-esque victory celebration before they continued on their way.

It was all so much nicer than thrashing out the latest tax increase advocated by John Bel Edwards or digging through the qualifications of Obama's Supreme Court pick.

For the most part, I'm leaving all that to others these days, with the occasional exception.

My focus right now is on my book.  I want to thank donor Steve for hitting my tip jar yesterday, very generously.  That will help fund my trip to Natchitoches over spring break to get some final research that I need to finish revisions on the book.  I'm feeling some new motivation and inspiration to finish strong!  If anyone else feels so inspired, you can hit the tip jar over there in the right sidebar for the good of research!

In other matters: I've been greatly remiss in not watching the Shape of Shreveport series.  I happened to discover, through a Facebook conversation on the tragedy of Fairgrounds Field, that Episode 4 of the SoS series is online at Real Shreveport. This episode covers two crashes that devastated Shreveport: the plane crash that killed six prominent Shreveport businessmen, and the oil crash that killed the banking and real estate industry in Shreveport.  If you haven't seen it, go over to Real Shreveport and watch it.  It's just over sixteen minutes and worth every second.

You may remember my lamentations over the shape of Shreveport last summer.  It continues to make me sad at the wasted potential of this town.

Another thing I wanted to point out before I get back to work today is the good work Nova's Heart is doing. They always step up to help the less fortunate in our city care for their pets most basic needs and the flooding situation of recent days has taxed their resources to the bone. If you can make a donation of cash or supplies to them, that would be greatly appreciated.  If you aren't familiar with Nova's Heart, this is what they do:

Our mission is to help the pets of those in crisis. We are not a rescue and cannot foster or take in any animals. Our services include minor vetting, food, collars, harnesses, and leashes. We are not funded nor do we have the means to take on critical care for pets ( Parvo, Heartworm positive, or any extensive health problems ) We can set up a Vet appointment for a diagnosis but can't at this time provide treatment. We help the pets of those experiencing homelessness, rescues in need, and individuals that are going through crisis.

Their Facebook page is here. Their Amazon wish list is here. There are many items on that list that don't cost very much. For $20 you can send a flat of dog food. For less than that you can send them leashes and harnesses.  Help them out if you can.  If you don't want to donate online or from Amazon, I'll happily accept leashes, harnesses and bags of cat or dog food and take them to the Levy Street office of Nova's Heart for you.

Time to get back to work.  Take time to do something nice today.  The rewards are tenfold.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Loose Thoughts

Time to build an ark.
It looks like we're going to need an ark.  I was going to fertilize my lawn this weekend but I think I'll hold off on that as it appears it would all just wash away.  I love the rain but I'm feeling the need to batten down the hatches and hunker down.

The Cammie Book: As I noted yesterday, blogging has been light here lately.  I'm five months away from deadline on the Cammie book and that's consuming all of my mental and physical energy right now.  I'm heading back to Natchitoches over Spring Break to nail down a few details my publisher has asked for and I'm looking forward to that, actually.  I have loved the research aspect of this project -- it's truly been a labor of love.  However, we are not quite done yet, so ...wish me luck, please.  And if you feel so inclined, don't be shy about hitting the tip jar over in the sidebar.  Research takes money: gas, photocopies, lunch, postage, ink....help a girl out if you can.

The Louisiana Primary: Well, Cruz almost pulled off Louisiana, didn't he.  I expected Trump to win it and I maintain my position strongly OUT of the Trump camp.  I've been told that people like him because he is bombastic and will say things nobody else will say; they like him because he has his own money and nobody can buy him.  My personal opinion is that he is a buffoon, a clown, and a reality TV candidate who has offered no real substantive solutions to anything other than "build a wall."  Obviously we have no perfect candidate. But Trump is farther from perfect than most.

On a side note, I'm wondering how far in advance the ballots are printed?  Mike Huckabee dropped out the first week of February, but he received 645 votes. Jeb Bush received over 2000 votes.  Outside of early voting when your candidate may actually still be in the race, why would a person vote for someone who isn't even running?

Glenn Beck is predicting a brokered convention:

They are working on a brokered convention. Any sane leader of the party sees this is a two person race and asks the others to get out to bring us together. They are looking at a war on the floor! It could spill out further.. As I was listening to them and saw the loyalty oaths the party is along people take and the loyalty oath Trump made people take I couldn't stand it.

We are in real trouble, I'm afraid.

Political Clown Parade predicts Marco Rubio's presidential dream is over and I'm inclined to agree.

Stitch Fix:  I'm still getting Stitch Fix boxes - three so far.  I didn't blog the last one because I had to
Photo from Stitch Fix.
get two things altered: I got some flared jeans I requested and some white jeans, both too long.  It was okay because I had requested them no matter the length and they do fit perfectly otherwise.  All three of my boxes have been 5/5's - I've kept all five items in each box.  I'm requesting this green and white jacket in my next Fix -- I love this!

I have almost ten people who have signed up for Stitch Fix through my referral number, none of whom have ordered a box yet.  If they all ordered a box then I'd have a $200 credit!  Order a box for crying out loud!  It only costs you $20 and that applies to the total shipped to you if you decide to keep anything in the box.  If you hate it all, returning it could not be easier -- they include a prepaid mailer bag; just dump the clothes into the bag and drop in a mailbox.

Spring Projects:  We have ripped up the carpet in the living and dining rooms and have a guy coming to give an estimate on refinishing our hardwood floors. I'm also going to get estimates on good quality laminate.  I will always have dogs and dogs and carpet do not go together.  In fact, after pulling up this carpet, I can tell you that I will never have carpet again!  Can't wait to get the rest of it out of here.  If you know someone good who either does refinishing or installs laminate, let me know.  If you have experience with either or recommendations of one over the other, let me know.

In other projects we have trimmed five crepe myrtle trees, refreshed the mulch under the magnolia tree, pulled the pine straw out of the azalea beds and put down new mulch, and started weeding the back beds.  There is still a lot to do outside but I don't have Spring Break for three more weeks (and it'll probably rain and be cold that entire week, as is my luck.)

I'm going to head out and get some work done outside before the coming deluge and then spend the afternoon with Cammie.  My procrastinating must come to an end.





Saturday, March 5, 2016

Busy

The blog has been sort of quiet for a couple of weeks.  Spring has sprung around here and we've been busy with projects like sprucing up flowerbeds, laying down new mulch, trimming crepe myrtles, and even on the inside we've been ripping up carpet in preparation for refinishing hardwood floors.  Let me just add, I will never have carpet again!

It's voting day here in Louisiana, so that's on my list of things to do today.

And, adding to the chaos, baseball season has started so we've already attended a few Centenary baseball games in the past couple of weeks!

On top of that, I'm still blogging for DaTechGuy every Monday, and I have five months left until my deadline with LSU Press on my Cammie Henry book.  All that big talk I did about being finished "well before" the deadline?  Utter BS.  I'm scrambling right now.  I want it to be the best I could do and to be perfect.

If that all wasn't enough, I'm taking on some administrative and posting duties on a friend's Facebook page, but I don't want to say a lot about that just yet.

All of that and the weather is so gorgeous I just want to sit outside in the swing all day and read.

Anyway, I'm here.  I've been blogging about the Louisiana debt catastrophe at DaTechGuy so check over there now and then.  Meanwhile, go outside and enjoy the weather this weekend.  I'll be back.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Crisis in Louisiana

Here's a snip of my latest post at DaTechGuy blog: 

 When news broke this past Thursday that John Bel Edwards had halted all payments to the enormously popular college scholarship program, you could feel the panic and desperation throughout the state.  
 Thursday afternoon, February 11, word came down about the program via NOLA:  
Gov. John Bel Edwards' budget chief, Jay Dardenne, said the state will have to leave TOPS approximately $28 million short of what it would take to fully fund the program through the end of the semester. He said all public universities will be informed that they would not receive all their TOPS payment this spring. 
Dardenne added that TOPS could only be fully funded this year if the Legislature agreed to raise taxes a lot -- over a half a billion dollars -- in the next couple of months. Even then, the Edwards administration would likely prioritize filling a shortfall in the Medicaid program before the college scholarship program would receive the money it needs.
The TOPS program began in 1989 and, in brief, it pays college tuition to in-state universities for Louisiana students who score a certain percentage on the ACT and who maintain a certain GPA. The intent was to keep our kids here in the state. Through the years the requirements have been tweaked with the GPA requirement now at 2.5 and the ACT score now at 20. You can read more specifics here.  
Now, there are a couple of things to look at in those two paragraphs from NOLA: first, Dardenne said basically that those students already enrolled in the spring semester are on the hook for the balance of the tuition they had been told would be paid through their scholarship. Literally what he said was that the colleges would “absorb” the cost of the unpaid balance. Recall that higher education throughout the state has already been decimated by Bobby Jindal and there is no room to “absorb” anything.  
Students across the state went to bed Thursday night anticipating bills for the balances to hit their mailboxes any moment. 
The second thing to note from that NOLA quote is that Dardenne indicated that even if the money to fund TOPS was found, it would instead go toward funding Medicaid rather than satisfying the promised TOPS debt.

Go to DaTechGuy to read the whole thing.

Everywhere I've been over the past few days you can hear worried, subdued conversations about the tax increases and the proposed cuts. Edwards has the entire state under emotional blackmail.

And now we have the race card. Can we just stop already with the racial division?

The Special Session has begun and it is already contentious.  Whatever lawmakers ultimately decide to do, you can be certain that you'll be paying higher taxes on everything, and new taxes on things you don't pay taxes on now, and that the TOPS program will be decimated with cuts up to 80%.

Dark days ahead.

Added:  

It gets worse.

And worse. The deficit has grown an additional $17 million.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stitch Fix Box Number Two Review: Another 5/5!

Fix number two is another 5/5!

I'm addicted!

When I scheduled this Fix I updated my note to my stylist and requested some black slacks appropriate for work. My profile indicates that I teach school so I sit on the floor and I scrape against file cabinets and things.  I needed something comfortable. Also, I had updated my Pinterest board and pinned a necklace I loved that I'd seen on a Stitch Fix Facebook board.

This, I think, is the key to getting what you love, or at least improving your chances of getting something you love in your box.  

I've been following a couple of Stitch Fix boards on Facebook: Stitch Fix B/S/T and discussion and Stitch Fix Jewelry and Accessories.  Sometimes people get on there and just complain about how ugly this or that piece is, but I like the boards because I can see pictures of the clothes that people post which helps me get ideas for my Pinterest board, which in turn helps my stylist send things that I like. If I get something I don't like, it's probably because it just isn't a good fit.  

Yes, I've only had two boxes, but they were both 5/5's!

Okay so here's box two:

First item was one I pinned and specifically requested.  The Brixon Ivy Pinson Drape Cardigan:

Brixon Ivy Pinson Drape Cardigan

It is absolutely perfect for spring and even for summer in air conditioned buildings.  It's hard to tell in this photo how pretty it is.  This is the photo I pinned on Pinterest:

This is not me.
I used to be that skinny....

It is lightweight.  It's a sort of heather gray color with a lovely pale pinkish drape. The sleeves are 3/4 length.  It is soft and it is super comfy.  I love it.  Love!

I have pinned a lot of orange things -- I suddenly have a love for orange.  So, my stylist sent me this fabulous Papermoon Shurman Pullover Sweater.  

Papermoon Shurman Pullover Sweater

It is 55% cotton, 45% acrylic and is hand wash. It's hi-low which means it's longer in the back.  I like this.  

The sweater is fabulous with the infinity scarf I got in Box No. 1:

Perfect match.

In that first sweater photo above, I'm wearing the black slacks that came too.  Black slacks don't photograph well, at least not for me, but they are fabulous.  I'm going to live in them.  The slacks are the Lysse Izzie Straight Leg Pant and are pull on.  I pulled them out of the box and figured I would look like a stuffed sausage in them, but no.  And they are uber comfortable!  I can wear them with everything.

I also requested and received this necklace:

Zad Nayeli Mixed Beaded Necklace

I saw it on the Facebook board and pinned it. The turquoise isn't as dark as in the picture I pinned, but I love it nonetheless.  

The last item in my box today was this blouse:

41Hawthorn McQue Solid Lace Sleeve Blouse

I had asked for something purple and had pinned a couple of sweaters.  If I was to send anything back, I guess it would be this.  I love the color, but I don't love the lace sleeves.

Sleeve detail

But, it looks amazing with that drape cardigan, and with the turquoise necklace, plus it's cheaper to keep it and get my 25% five-item discount.  I'll simply note that I'd like to avoid lace sleeves on my feedback note when I check out.  But, again, it's beautiful with the cardigan and I can also wear it with the cardigan I got last Fix.  And I might grow to love lace sleeves (but I doubt it).  I can see that I will need to request a yellow cardigan and perhaps a fabulous yellow tote in a future fix!

I'm addicted.  Two 5/5 fixes right off the bat?  Yes, please!

If you're still waiting to try it, go ahead and give it a shot. Your $20 styling fee goes toward whatever you buy and even if you only like one thing, that's a great deal!

Here's the usual blurb:

Go to the Stitch Fix site and fill out a personal profile. You can schedule a "Fix" at any time or set up a recurring date if you wish. You pay a $20 "styling fee" for each box which applies to your purchase should you keep anything in the box. If you buy all five items in the box you also get a 25-percent discount on the total. 

 The box includes a pre-paid bag for you to return what you don't want to keep. 

For each referral, or friend you get to sign up, you also get a $25 credit to your account once their "Fix" ships. 

 The service uses your profile that you fill out as well as access to a Pinterest board you give them (optional) where you have pinned styles and clothes you like. If you Google "Stitch Fix Review" you'll find lots of blogs with lots of women sharing photos and reviews of their boxes. There are also multiple Facebook pages/groups where people buy/sell/trade and discuss their boxes.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too

My ancestors on my mother’s side were originally from Castile, Spain; they settled in Natchez, Mississippi and then moved to Rapides Parish in central Louisiana where they were landowners and planters. One of those men was Joseph Welsh Texada who was a captain in the 8th Louisiana Cavalry and fought at Shiloh with the Crescent Regiment.

I have heard the stories of my ancestral family for years from my mother, especially, who was always very proud of her Southern heritage and of her family’s distinguished background. At Shiloh alone 23,000 lives were lost.

 My ancestor survived and he went on to serve as a state representative and on his local Police Jury. His life mattered.

 The nationwide move to remove all Confederate symbols, monuments, history is simply appalling to me. Joseph Welsh Texada's life mattered and so did the lives of the 23,000 lost at Shiloh and the thousands at other battles.

 In New Orleans, Governor Mitch Landrieu has won yet another battle to remove four iconic Confederate monuments in the city. Wednesday, January 27, an Orleans parish judge denied a request to halt removal of the monuments and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the decision the next day. And so the battle now moves to the Louisiana Supreme Court in what will be the last chance. Until all appeals are exhausted, a group supporting monument preservation is continuing to collect signatures on a petition which currently has over 28,000 signatures. The large majority of NOLA residents is strongly against the removal.

 New Orleans is, of course, not alone in this fight. All across the nation history is being erased. There’s even been a move to remove the stained glass windows commemorating Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee from the National Cathedral in Washington. It's also happening in Birmingham, and Atlanta. The University of Texas removed their statue of Jefferson Davis last year.

 Many on the side of removal have suggested that these statues and monuments be placed in a sort of interactive historic park where people can still see them and learn about the history. This guy, for example, suggest that these "objects of hate" be put into a park similar to Memento Park in Budapest where images of Stalin, Lenin, and Guevara can be seen "in their proper context." My concern with that is who decides what the proper context is?

I object to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis being classified as an "object of hate" and in the same class as Lenin and Stalin. Quite a difference, I think. If that's the way these people view the Confederate generals, I have concerns about them writing "the proper context" for this suggested park.

 Again I ask, where in the world does this stop? Thomas Jefferson had slaves: shall we tear down Monticello? What of all the grand southern plantations still standing along the Mississippi River and throughout the South? Shall we raze those and put up condominiums in their place? Maybe we better stop the annual pilgrimage in Natchez.

 It all just defies logic.

 It makes me sad.

 It makes me want to fight harder to preserve my own heritage.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Braveheart Trial: One Year Later

It's been one year since "The Braveheart Trial." Jury selection began January 27, 2015.

I'm reposting my "Snapshots" from the trial for the occasion and to reflect on the progress we have made in a year.

I'll say this: that trial, and the experience of sitting through it, made a huge impression on me and one that has stayed with me almost daily ever since. The raw emotion on all sides was simply incredible. Even more important, I think, is that so many people in the area and across the country followed Braveheart's story and the awareness this dog has brought to the issue of animal abuse is unfathomable.

In the past year we have made a little progress in the animal rescue community; rescue groups such as LA Baby Mommas and many others are working tirelessly and have saved countless lives. The focus must also be a proactive one, however and the message to spay and neuter your pets doesn't seem to get through. You simply can't change the minds of adults set in their ways. I witnessed an adult adopting a puppy a few weeks ago and he didn't want to take advantage of the neuter voucher that came with the dog; the man insisted that it would not be necessary. He very nearly lost the adoption right then and there, had it not been for his wife's assurance that the animal would be neutered.

The key will be in educating the young, I believe. There has been change at the Caddo Animal shelter which hopefully will lead to good things there and to more animals being rescued. The euthanasia rate there is ridiculously high, but now that more animals are being approved for rescue, that should come down.

One program that is making a difference is PEP, or the Pet Education Project. This group goes into schools and teaches about responsible pet ownership: food, water, shelter, care and love. They've reached almost 60,000 kids in the area which is pretty awesome.

Another huge plus is the growth this year of Nova's Heart, an organization that helps the homeless care for, and keep, their pets.  Now associated with Hope Connections in Shreveport, Nova's Heart is very near being able to care for every homeless person's pet in the city; they provide leashes, food, blankets, and other items for the animals.

There is progress.

I hope that you'll read through this once again and relive the tensions, the compassion, the humor, and the love that we all felt as we all fought for Justice for Braveheart.

Today, Braveheart continues his mission as cheerful ambassador and educator in responsible pet ownership.  His Facebook page is filled with "Pittie smiles" and his expressions reveal the love he has come to know and gives in return.

He truly is a miracle dog and is truly a brave heart.


January 29, 2015:

"It's just a dog."

*******************

"Redirected aggression."  This is the defense attorney's explanation for why Gabriel Lee was on trial.  As I understood her explanation, he was a victim of "redirected aggression" which is primarily a feline condition and occurs when a cat sees something outside its reach that causes aggression; unable to reach the original stimulus, the cat will lash out at whatever it can reach.

Apparently, according to the public defender, "all these people" are lashing out at Gabriel Lee after seeing something so horrible (a clinically emaciated puppy near death) that they must have a victim for their aggression.

Ergo, Gabriel Lee is the victim here.

What?

********************

Jury selection.  I'm watching the potential jurors as the public defender questions, grills, explains points of law, prods.  (I was not there for the DA voir dire).  Some are very interested; some look nervous, some anxious, and once the bailiff had to wake one of them up.  They are a true mix of our society.  It looks like the system is working...

The public defender is a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner. I bet she gets that a lot.

Is it intentional that voir dire is so repetitive?  That the attorneys repeat the same thing over and over?  The power of suggestion, perhaps?  Do they teach you to talk down to jurors in law school?  To be patronizing?  I honestly don't know -- I do understand that as an attorney dealing with jury selection you are dealing with all levels of intellect and it's important to gather as much information about your jury pool as you can.

Both sides scribble notes.  Sitting behind the public defender, I could see her legal pad (I couldn't read it!) where she had divided the yellow sheet into boxes - one for each potential juror.  I suppose the name of each one was in each box and copious other notes that I could glimpse.  Both sides wrote constantly.  Notes, notes, notes.

***********************

The judge was a large, serious man with a wonderfully expressive face which he kept in "poker face"
Ronda Spataro, left, with Brave hours after he was found, and Brave, right, now.
mode most of the time.  An occasional smile to the bailiff who brought his (coffee?  tea?) to the bench.  A directing glimpse from judge to bailiff, to a nodding potential juror...the bailiff draws water from the cooler and takes it to the juror who lifts head in another attempt at attention.

The judge had a wonderfully resonant voice and as boring as jury directions were when it came time to charge the jury, I listened.

He must have read those directions to hundreds of juries yet he still read with expression.

***********************

After voir dire, day two.  Sitting on the patio at Nicky's unwinding and looking back on the day with the Braveheart crew.  The courtroom had been freezing, absolutely freezing, all day.  The sun on the patio felt good.

The table is filled with chips, salsa, white zinfandel, Dos Equis, tea, ashtrays.

"What is that you're drinking?" Bo asked me.

"Dos Equis.  Here, taste it."

"I think I will!" and takes a sip.  "Hey, I think I'll have one of those!"

Ronda drapes her arm out of the wrought iron patio screen to keep smoke away from everyone; she wraps her arms around the rungs and takes a drag.  Spirits are pretty high and everyone feels good about the way things are going.

"This is the first time I've relaxed since Friday, since the phone calls started," Bo said.

Six jurors and one alternate have been picked.  Five females and one man.  Various ages and race make-up.  We are happy with the jury.  We think they were all pet owners which looks to be an encouraging sign.  We don't talk about the jury much; we talk about Doris's parakeets, the cleft palate puppy Ronda and Bo are fostering, about other ongoing animal cruelty cases everyone is following.

Ronda snags our server and they get into a Spanish lesson about how to say "heart worms" in Spanish.  "There is no word for 'heart worms' in Spanish," Ronda explains.  They eventually figure out something that will suffice.

We sit for several hours on the patio, late lunch, a few drinks, a little down time.

It is nice.

***********************

You cannot wear your glasses perched atop your head in the courtroom.

It is a rule.

Not even reading glasses.

***********************

Before the courtroom is opened each morning, it is inspected and cleared.  Everyone waits in a sort of holding cave in the basement of the courthouse.  There is no cell service in there.  Zilch.  Zero.

Obviously there is no cell phone use in the courtroom.

On the first day of the actual trial there were two girls sitting in observation.  One was from New Zealand and another from California.

"This is like going to the movies for us," one explained.  "We like to go to trials.  We have no idea what this one is about!"

Bo had turned to talk to them and find out who they were.  If it's someone who follows the Braveheart page or someone from a rescue group, he likes to acknowledge them and thank them for coming.

He gave them a very brief summary of the case and showed them a quick picture of Braveheart on his phone.  They were very relieved to know the story had a happy ending.

The girls were looking at pictures on their phones before court started.  The bailiff approached:

"You aren't taking pictures, are you?"

"Oh no sir!  I was just showing her a picture."

The bailiff smiled and moved on.

***********************

Court is a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

Court "begins" at 9:30.  Which means 9:45 or 10.  Except there are always procedural matters and so court begins with a sidebar conference.  Then another recess for fifteen minutes.

Everyone rushes outside to smoke.  We've learned that the handicap entrance/exit is the quickest way - no stairs to fool with.  We still have to go through the metal detector and take off belts when we come back in.

"Give me your lighter."

"Where are your cigarettes."

"How long is the break?"

"I'm freezing in there."

Because Ronda was on the list to testify, we couldn't talk to her until after her testimony.  She stood off by herself to smoke.

I forgot and thought she was maybe upset so I took a couple of paces over,

"You okay?"

She nodded yes.

Jean:  "HEY!  Get back over here!  She can't talk to us!"

Ooops.

Ronda stubbed out her cigarette and we went back inside.

**************************

Opening statements.  The ADA is tall, lithe, graceful.  She looks a little like Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.  She strides in her slim gray suit to the podium, makes eye contact with the jurors who look at her expectantly, and she smiles at them.  She holds their eyes a moment.  It's a warm, sincere smile and she has them.  She begins her statements which quickly became discordant and hard to follow with the multitude of defense objections.

Is the jury getting frustrated, too?  I wonder.

The ADA speaks very quietly, evenly and keeps going as the judge overrules one objection after
Caddo Parish Courthouse
another.

She speaks maybe ten, fifteen minutes, and wraps up; her co-counsel whispers something to her and the ADA returns to the podium to point out to the jury some things she wants them to pay special attention to during testimony.  One of these things brings a quick objection from the defense which prompts a lengthy sidebar conference.

Another delay.

The jury is ready to get going, to hear the evidence.  This is frustrating.

***************************

Opening statements. The defense begins her opening statements.  She speaks with ease and with confidence; she's doing her job, but she sounds patronizing to me.  That's just me.  The jury is listening to her closely.

She has PowerPoint slides which she puts up to keep the jurors on track.

"Why Are We Here?"

Another one has the text of the statute the defendant has been charged against.  She explains very methodically what the charges are and spends a great deal of time telling them what the judge will say to them later.  She becomes repetitive and some jurors gaze off.  Looking around the courtroom.  Looking at the spectators.

Her co-counsel and the ADA scribble notes incessantly.

There is much strategy to all this!

************************

The defendant is sitting in front of me at the table with his attorneys.  I can only see the back of him
Gabriel Lee: Braveheart's abuser
except for when he enters and leaves the courtroom.

He spends the entire trial in a black leather jacket with orange strips somewhere on the shoulders or arms (I can't see them), white dress shirt, and slacks.  All of his clothes, including the jacket, look much too large for him.

He listens attentively to the testimony and his attorneys who both whisper to him frequently.  He sometimes slumps down in his chair, his hands clasped in front of him.  Sometimes he sits up and snatches a tissue from the box in front of him and blows his nose.

During closing arguments, he shakes his head repeatedly as the ADA lists the numerous things he omitted doing for Braveheart, like calling a vet.  At one point he let out an exhortation of frustrated air:  "Pffffffffttt!"

*************************

During the defense presentation, the attorney called up at least three, maybe four, close family members to testify that the defendant is a great guy and "he loves dogs!  Very caring!"

"Yes, I would leave my dogs with him!"

I thought, "Well, of course they're going to say that!  It's his close family and his girlfriend of ten years for crying out loud!  Is this supposed to be persuasive?"

***************************

"Redirected Aggression"??

***************************

KSLA posted a news story after day one in which they referenced the wrong Braveheart page.  They referred readers to "Justice for Braveheart," a dog in another state.

How hard is that to check?

***************************

Subway for lunch on Day One.  The line is ridiculous, but it's walking distance from the courthouse, and it smelled really good.

Jean marshalls some tables together outside and homesteads them while we all stand in this line.  Mamma Patt and I eventually reach what we think is the front of the line and move to the counter only to be rebuked by the "sandwich artist" to move back in line until called.

My bad.

We eat quickly.  There is much sharing of cookies and talk turns to the opening statements.  You're dying to know what everyone else thinks, but Ronda is sitting there and she's not yet been recused from the witness sequestration order so she gets nervous about the trial talk and moves away.

It has come much too far for this all to be called a mistrial on some technicality.

She moves to the curb to smoke.

**************************

All the Braveheart crew carry tiny bottles of hand sanitizer with them that have purple, green, and yellow painted on the outside of them.  They are part of a fabulous fundraiser one of their young volunteers has created.  Bo told me that she has raised huge sums of money for animal rescue organizations.

After every smoke break or recess, out comes the hand sanitizer bottles and everyone slathers it on.  That's not a bad thing.

Youth can be so inspirational!

*************************

On day one of testimony there were plenty of seats in the courtroom.  People came and went through the day and the deputies kept the back couple of rows "reserved."

Because of the high emotional impact of this trial there was a very clear law enforcement presence in the courtroom most of the time.

But when the verdict was read?  There were at least 24 armed deputies in the courtroom.  There was one on each end of each row, lining the walls, several in front, one or two at the door, the usual ones behind the bar, and I'm sure quite a few outside.

It was like the OJ verdict was coming down.

**************************

One of the first witnesses was the vet tech who found Braveheart in the locker.  She and her husband owned the storage facility / buildings where Gabriel Lee had rented a slot to refinish cars.  The building he rented apparently had a concrete floor and a garage bay door at each end; you could drive right through it.  Testimony indicated that there was grease of some sort and a fine sanded dust all over the floor.

She testified that she and her husband told Mr. Lee not to come back on the property because he had not paid his rent; that was 9/10.  On September 11, 2013, the witness and her husband went to the locker to change the lock and found a light on and a radio playing.  Because no renter was paying rent anymore to cover these utilities, they went in to turn them off and that's when her husband found the dog.

You know the story.

They thought he was dead.

They were going to bury the dog "on the property" and she had a shovel to pick him up; that's when he blinked.  He was not dead.

Her first thought was to take him to the emergency vet clinic.

Wouldn't yours have been the same?

**************************

The defense made much ado about whether the facility was a garage, a storage building, a locker, blah, blah, blah.

I get her point - her point was it wasn't Storage Wars.  It was a "place of business," she said, where people came and went each day to work.

What difference does it make?

Did you see the picture of the dog?

**************************

"Redirected aggression."

????

**************************

Ronda Spataro was nervous about testifying.  She had come so far to get to this point.

This I noticed about Ronda:  she has the capacity to sit very, very still.

Those benches are hard.  As Doris said, "It's like sitting in a Baptist church all day!"

The first day I sat next to Ronda and I fidgited; crossed one leg and then the other.  Shifted my weight.  Sat on my hands.  Leaned forward.  Rocked my head from side to side to crack the stiffness out of my neck.  Looked around ... the jurors....the judge...the bailiff.....the attorneys.....what time is it?

Ronda sat motionless.  Her expression set ("poker face"), staring straight ahead, hands folded in her lap, leg crossed.  Never moved.  Sometimes she would pull the arms of her sweater down and fold the sleeves around her arms and resume position.

How can anyone be that still for that long?

Nerves.

***************************

When Ronda finally was able to testify, near the end of Day One, she brought tears to my eyes.

The ADA:  "We've spent all day talking about the puppy Braveheart.  Do you know Braveheart?"

Ronda:  "I DO know Braveheart!"  and she smiled.  It was pure love.

It doesn't sound like much, but there was absolutely NOTHING in that room at that moment except her love for Braveheart.

It was everything.

The jury was riveted.

************************

Loraine does most of the posting to the Braveheart Facebook page and on breaks would try to mange texts and put up a quick post about the proceedings.

Loraine has the sweetest face and smile; she's the most positive person I've ever met.  She radiates peace.

Obviously the Braveheart t-shirts were taboo, but did you know that orange is the symbol color against animal abuse?

Loraine and I both showed up in orange on Tuesday.

She carries a prayer rock in her purse.  As we went through these metal detectors and purse scanners multiple times each day, once she pulled this rock out of her purse and showed it to me.  It was a gift someone had given her.  It's a palm sized dark grey smooth rock with silver painting on it.

On the first day of testimony the media was there at the lunch break.  It was KSLA who had erroneously directed folks to the wrong Braveheart page (they corrected that later).

Loraine spoke to them for the group; she's always so eloquent and kind.

Bo:  "Loraine, when have you ever not known exactly what to say?"

She cuts her green eyes at him, smirks, throws a sassy comment his way and then writes pure eloquence on the Facebook page.

*************************

Loraine works with Nova's Heart - an organization that helps feed and care for the pets of the homeless in the area.

Walking to lunch one day, Bo spots a familiar face: a homeless guy with his dog.  Bo shouts and waves at him from across the street.

After lunch we see the guy and his dog in front of the courthouse and we stop to visit.  Loraine recognizes a woman with him and her dog.

These people: Bo, Ronda, Loraine, Jean, all of them, do so much good, so much work for both people and animals that it simply defies logic when people on social media decry all the fuss about "just a dog."

They have no idea the depths to which these people reach to help others.

When the verdict came in, this guy had someone watch his dog for him so he could come in and hear his friend Bo's verdict.

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Doris on verdict day: She drove from MS to support Braveheart
Ms. Doris came from Mississippi to see this trial.  She is involved in animal rescue and has been for her entire life.  She's a fireball!

Ms. Doris was staying in a hotel in downtown Shreveport which caught on fire thus ruining her clothes for then they smelled like smoke.  She woke up to what she thought was an alarm, then looked out her peephole, didn't see anyone about, opened her door, and saw smoke.

Me:  "Oh my gosh!  Did they evacuate y'all?!"

Doris:  "Well!  I evacuated myself!"

She gathered a terrified young boy and his mother and out they went.

After sitting in the courtroom all day then she went back to the hotel to wash her smoky wardrobe and try to recover her items from her now sealed hotel room.

******************************

Closing arguments.

The ADA again strides up to her podium.  Elegant.  Cool.  Her confidence level has improved and her body language indicates a certain degree of confidence.  She has been chatting and smiling more with her co-counsel and seems more relaxed.

Her closing argument was made for television.

As she went over the possible verdicts the jury could consider, she reminded them that the defendant was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal.  A lesser charge they could find is "simple cruelty to an animal."

She held up the now famous picture of Braveheart curled up, waiting for death, in the storage locker.

"There is nothing simple about this," she said.

She listed like bullets a lengthy list of things the defendant "omitted" to do.

"OMISSION:  He omitted requesting veterinary assistance" from the vet tech from whom he rented the locker and who had previously offered to give him medicine for the puppy's obvious worms.

"OMISSION," she said again:  he didn't tell anyone there was a dog in the locker when they told him not to come back on the property.

"OMISSION!"  she said:  he didn't give the dog proper food or water - he was clinically emaciated and dehydrated.

She went through at least ten of these...

"OMISSION!"

It was a made for TV delivery.

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The law for aggravated animal cruelty in the State of Louisiana:
Any person who intentionally or with criminal negligence mistreats any living animal whether belonging to himself or another by any act or omission which causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain, suffering, or death to the animal shall also be guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals.

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"Redirected aggression"  

??

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"There is NOTHING simple about this."

*************************

"OMISSION":  he FAILED this dog in every sense of the word.

*************************

The public defender's closing arguments were basically that the defendant found the dog three days before he was found, he only checked the box that said he was the legal and rightful owner, or had custodial discretion, on the animal control release because he wanted to take care of the dog and he knew it would have a better life!  

He was giving it Gatorade!  To replace electrolytes!

He was giving it "proper" amounts of food!


She referred back to the emergency vet who said it was "very surprising" that Braveheart showed an interest in food at all in those early hours.

It was all because the defendant "gave her a head start!" with his care!

This poor fellow, this victim of "redirected aggression," saved the dog's life!

He's a hero!

*****************************

He did not tell the owner of that storage facility that he had a dog locked and chained inside.

****************************

I'll be honest.  I was incredulous at the defense closing arguments.  

Astounded.

****************************

The jury is charged, the judge reads pages of jury directions, and trial is in recess until verdict.  The Braveheart crew is exhilarated.  The prosecuting attorney are beaming.  Not celebrating, but confident.  

The back row is filled with deputies and the row before them filled with media.  As we leave the courtroom the media linger in the hallway afraid to venture too far.

Bo Spataro, always, always pleasant and polite, offers to call them when he gets word about a verdict so they, too, can go eat lunch.

We all file out the side exit, through the garage, and the smokers fire up.

We will have lunch at a place right next door to the courthouse on Texas Street, on the corner.  It's close.  

There are about eight of us; we sit down in the nearly empty restaurant, order drinks, peruse the menu, place orders.  

We see our courtroom bailiffs picking up lunches for the jurors.  Our lunch is delayed until the juror orders go out, which is fine.  We want them happy!

As soon as our food starts coming out Bo's phone rings.  

"They have a verdict," he says.  

The waiter, about to place a platter of red beans & rice in front of me pauses:

"You want us to just hold this for you?"  he asks as Bo says "We need checks."

All bundles of butterflies and wondering what this quick verdict means, we dash out.  They promise to hold our food.

Now that's service!

*****************************
We rush to the side entrance of the courthouse and get through the metal detectors and scanners as quickly as possible.  

Nobody has eaten.  Nobody could eat, now.  

Walking briskly down the hall to the courtroom, Loraine stops:  takes deep breaths, and her green eyes look a little alarmed.  

"Are you okay?"  someone asks.

Her eyes fill with tears.  

"Yes."  she says.  

It's fine - everyone has been saying.  Braveheart is already a winner.

But there must be justice, right?

Deputies everywhere.

The tension is incredible.

Doris:  "I've never seen such a police presence in my life!"  This from a woman who attended the Casey Anthony trial.

"What do they think we're going to do?!" she said.

Waiting.

The attorneys and defendant are all in place.  People are rushing in.  Bo kept his promise and let the media know the verdict was in.  They are here.

Finally, the judge enters.  

The jury files in.  I think about Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird, who said that a jury never looks at the defendant if they've convicted him.  

Jean is on one side of Ronda and Bo on the other.  All three have hands clenched in Ronda's lap.

The foreman passes in the verdict.  

The judge looks, scowls, motions them back to the jury room.  

Some technicality.

We stand and sit every time they enter.

The come back in within a few moments, we stand again.

The bailiff reads the verdict.

Guilty of Simple Cruelty to Animals.

Simple Cruelty.

***************************

"There is nothing simple about this!"

****************************

"Redirected aggression!"

****************************

Whispers ripple throughout - 

"Simple!"  

"It's simple, isn't it?  Is that what they said?"

"Simple cruelty!"

**************************

The defendant is handcuffed; it's still a conviction although a misdemeanor and not a felony, now.  Handcuffed and taken away.

*************************

There is relief that it's not a "Not Guilty" verdict but much frustration that it's not "Aggravated."  The difference in the language is so close - whether the abuse was intentional or not.  

I suppose the jurors believed the defense's theory that the defendant was trying to help the dog by bringing him into the "shade, out of the elements."  

******************************

Media everywhere.  They all want to hear from Bo and Ronda.  

Both need a moment to gather thoughts.  

The media complies.

In a few minutes, Bo and Ronda give a statement to the media in front of the courthouse; the frustration is obvious.

"What do you want to say to Mr. Lee?"

"I don't think we have anything to say to Mr. Lee at this point."

How do you feel about the verdict?

It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.

****************************

It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.

*******************************

"Redirected aggression."

*****************************

Obviously, Braveheart is a winner.  And the Spataros are winners because at the end of the day they get to go home to a beautiful Braveheart.  They are winners because they are good, kind, caring people who are doing good in their community and who have a loving network of friends and family.  
Whatever the verdict was today, they are all winners and there is nothing but positive, good things ahead of them. 

And many more dogs to save!

Go, Brave, go!