By Pat Austin


SHREVEPORT — Remember when “Swatting” was all the rage?  I think I know now how those victims felt.  I wasn’t a victim of Swatting last night, but I was indeed the victim of an over-zealous cop and his team who swarmed my house and came through the door with guns drawn.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I appreciate more than most people the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis.  It’s a dangerous job and most people wouldn’t do it.

Scene:  Saturday night, about 8:30.  My husband and I are sitting in our living room with the World Series on television.  Kansas City was leading the Giants 4 – 1.  My husband can’t stand listening to Joe Buck so the sound was turned way down.  He was working on his computer and I was reading a book on my iPad, and all three dogs were sleeping around us.

We have relatively new neighbors in the house directly behind us and these people have small children.  Lately the weather has been cool, turning to fall, and the evenings pleasant so the children are often playing out in the backyard, squealing and screaming as kids will do.  Yesterday their father was out there with them doing some home repair because I heard saws going and some hammering.   The kids don’t bother me; I’m glad kids play outside and are not stuck in front of video games.

So as we are watching the game, we can hear the kids playing and screaming; hubby asked me if I heard that because cause he wasn’t sure what he was hearing; it could have been on the TV, which as I said, was turned way down.  I confirmed that I heard the kids screaming and we went on about our business.

About 15 minutes later, about 8:45, Steve looks up from his computer and says, “Hey, there are police outside, I mean RIGHT outside.”  He could see the lights flashing through the blinds.  He got up and peeked out the blinds and saw patrol cars, and he saw officers with flashlights running down the driveway that cuts between my house and the neighbor’s house: it’s a wide double driveway that we share.

I stood up from the couch to look and as I crossed my living room I saw officers with flashlights running between my house and the neighbor’s house on the other side.  One was shouting “It’s back here, it’s back here!”

I said, “Steve, they’re over here now,” and pointed to the window.  About that time there is a fierce pounding on my front door and lights pointed at my house.  “Open up!  Open up right now!”  Pounding, pounding on the door.

Steve tells me to grab the dog (the Lab who is very protective, but not barking) opened the front door and starts to ask what in the world is going on when this cop with his gun drawn and aimed at Steve’s chest starts screaming “Get back!  Get back!  Who is screaming in this house?  Who is screaming!”  The cop props one foot on the threshold-step and continues screaming at us.

Steve raises his hands in an open gesture, the way you do when a cop is aiming a gun at you, and said, “What are you talking about?  Nobody is screaming in here!”

The cop, with the gun still aimed at Steve, looks at me and yells:  “Who else is in this house, who is doing that screaming?!”

I said, “Nobody is screaming in here!  It’s those children behind us!  We have kids living behind us and they play in their backyard!”  And Steve is saying “We’re just sitting here watching the baseball game!”  And the dog is standing there, who I’ve never managed to grab because this happened so fast, but he isn’t barking or charging at the cop, thank goodness.

Steve tells him, “I’m a police officer, I’m a retired Bossier City police officer; we are just sitting here watching baseball!”

At that point the cop turns his gun so he’s no longer aiming it at Steve but still has it in a firing grip, he turns to the officers standing behind him and in the driveway, and says “It’s the house behind, on the other street!”  and takes off running.

Steve hollers after him, “What’s your name!” and the officer gives it to him.

We closed the door in stunned silence.

We stared at each other, in silence, and then the fear and adrenaline hit me.  I started shaking and trembling and could not stop.  I sat back down on the couch, got back up, Steve is dumbfounded and then furious.  He gets on his cell phone and calls to speak to a supervisor and I walked outside on the back deck to see if I could hear anything.

I saw flashing police lights and the neighbor’s back flood light was still on.  I heard a stereo playing, maybe from their house, maybe another house.

I went back inside and Steve was still on the phone demanding to speak to a supervisor.  He finally got a lieutenant to come to the house to talk to us; he came within about thirty minutes and he had Mr. Over-Zealous Cop with him.  We had the door open, watching through the storm door for the lieutenant to show up and we saw Mr. Over-Zealous walking the supervisor through the run down the driveway and down the other side of the house, explaining what they did.  Then Mr. Over-Zealous walks back to the street, crosses his arms, and leans against his patrol car watching us as we speak to the supervisor.

In the end, the whole thing was terrifying.  I know it could have been much worse; I kept thinking what if my dog had jumped at the cop?  He would have shot him.  What if the cop thought Steve was making a threatening move?  Would he have shot him?  He was definitely drawn down on him.  What if my 22-year old son had come out of his room, walked around the corner into this scene – would he have shot him?  What if Steve and I had gone out and my son was home alone to face this craziness?

The what-ifs kept me up all night long and haunt me.

Like I said, I know it could have been worse, because no shots were fired in this case, and you certainly read about incidents that have gone wrong all the time.

I blame all this on the over-militarization of the police force.  Officers dress like SWAT teams now in all black or in riot gear with cargo pockets all over them.  What happened to first assessing the scene before you draw down on a civilian?  What happened to knocking on the door and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a noise complaint and just need to be sure everything is OK in here.”

And if he really thought someone was in mortal danger, why just take our word for it before running off to terrorize someone else?  When they were running between the houses, we had open windows (actually OPEN windows, as well as open blinds and curtains) and any officer could have looked inside or listened to see what was going on before drawing down on us.

I know police work is dangerous and I know that domestic calls are often the most dangerous.  I appreciate the difficulty of their job.  But with any job, your first responsibility is to do no harm, to avoid making any situation worse, and to act responsibly.

This could have gone very bad very quickly last night.

Tonight, I’m traumatized and a little unsteady but grateful that nothing worse happened.  But I remain convinced that the world is out of whack, the police are pushed and stressed beyond measure, and nobody trusts anybody anymore.


By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — I am sick to death of reading about Ebola.  Everywhere I turn, every paper, every website, every radio program – Ebola hysteria.

Shepard Smith’s Ebola smackdown has been all over Facebook and the blogs this week; he’s about the only person I’ve seen that’s making sense on this thing, and it pains me to say that.  But, he is correct that this is much ado about nothing.  Not that this isn’t a serious and scary disease, but the media wants so desperately for this to be “a big story” that everybody that sneezes or pukes at a DART station makes headlines.

The problem with this hype is that if something really newsworthy does happen, nobody is going to pay attention because that “cry wolf” thing only works so many times.

It’s like our weather forecasters down here in Louisiana: a band of thunderstorms rolls in from the west and all of a sudden they interrupt programing and go into full panic mode.  Their websites post up a “Severe Weather Live Blog” and panicked looking weathermen stare intently at their computers while people ask about the weather in their particular neighborhoods.  It is ridiculous.  Every storm that rolls in is not the next Katrina.

This Ebola panic is the same thing.

All the top stories at Memeorandum Sunday morning are about Ebola.

CNN wants to know where is the sympathy for Africa’s Ebola victims.

Byon York writes about the Ebola czar.

Drudge, who has been in full panic mode for weeks now, has the headline “Disaster of our Generation” at the top.

And the New York Times has a story about families in Ebola quarantine.

Enough already.

Can’t we just get back to looking at cat videos?

Seriously, I’d be much more concerned about catching the flu than catching Ebola.

I think the problems, as I said, is more with the media than with our own obsession for Ebola news.  Never letting a good crisis go to waste, the media would prefer we not think too much about mid-term elections, the lousy economy, and hey, this thing has been a great distraction for the illegals still pouring across the border.  Nobody’s talking about that anymore.  Unless it’s a connection between Ebola and illegals…

Nothing to see here.

Move along.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport


By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — Mary Landrieu’s most threatening challenger didn’t show up for the debate at Dillard University last week.  On Thursday, Senator Mary Landrieu and challenger Rob Maness joined forces in hammering Republican Bill Cassidy who attended his own campaign event in Alexandria.  Maness and Landrieu took turns taking pot-shots at Cassidy:


“Our opponent that is not here tonight, I used to think he was kind of afraid of me because I can be a little tough at times,” said Landrieu, a Democrat. “He’s afraid of the people of our state.”


“No amnesty, no pathway to citizenship. Both of my opponents support either amnesty for illegal aliens or a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens,”

Cassidy was not present to refute the claims.

When approached about his absence, Cassidy said “a debate about a debate is silly.”  He does plan to attend the LPB debate Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at the debate that Cassidy skipped, both Landrieu and Maness weighed in on Obamacare:

Landrieu asserted, “[t]he Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but it is working in many important ways.”

Maness, appearing in his first political debate ever, countered, “Obamacare is an abomination. One of my top priorities,” he added, “is not to repeal or defund it, but pull it out by the roots because it’s a job killer.”

People in Louisiana are talking about Obamacare this week as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, among other companies, announced double-digit rate increases:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state’s largest provider, filed papers that it is moving forward with its original plan to increases rates between 18.3 percent and 19.7 percent for policyholders in its Blue Saver, Blue Max and its Multi-State individual health plans. The plans cover 52,638 people.

In addition to BC/BS, Humana and Vantage plan to raise rates.

Mary says it’s working, though, no matter how expensive it is.

Maness stands little chance to win the election; his poll numbers are still dismal.  Every vote for Maness likely is a vote for Landrieu in the end result as each Maness vote would probably be a Cassidy vote were Maness not in the race.  Cassidy could win the election outright if Maness were to withdraw – an unlikely option.

Landrieu and her long-time Louisiana political machine are not to be trifled with and Cassidy should refrain from playing silly games with her.  Flipping that seat from blue to red is more important than any campaign event Cassidy thinks he might be more important than a public debate.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — The headlines read like Richard Preston’s 1995 non-fiction best-seller The Hot Zone

I read that book back in ’95 and have never forgotten it; I couldn’t find my copy this week as Ebola news started breaking from Dallas, so I downloaded it to my Kindle for a re-read.  I’m not alone – the Preston book is ranked #211 on Amazon right now.

This AP article reads very much like part of Preston’s book.  It’s terrifying.

What is equally terrifying is David Axelrod attempting to reassure me that the federal government has got a handle on this.


On Meet the Press this week, a smug and condescending Axelrod attempted to shut down Joe Scarborough when he voiced concerns that the government might be downplaying reason for concern:

The trouble began when Scarborough explained how he felt the government was deliberately downplaying the danger of a wide-scale Ebola outbreak in America. “This is a fire from hell, and if you think the Atlantic Ocean is going to stop it from coming over here, you’re kidding yourself,” he said, quoting an American doctor who survived the disease.

“I don’t want to disagree with Dr. Scarborough,” Axelrod said sarcastically, adding that health professionals in the U.S. government “have no motivation to mislead the American people.”

An offended Scarborough hit back. “I don’t understand that ‘Dr. Scarborough’ comment, I’ll be really honest with you,” he said. “This is a serious issue.”

I understand the need to reassure the public and I understand the need to quell panic, but some honesty and responsibility would be refreshing, for a change.

I mean, when you see crews power-washing Thomas Eric Duncan’s Ebola vomit off the parking lot presumably into the municipal water supply, it’s difficult to feel that people in charge have a real handle on how serious this could be.

When the feds are more cautious about cleaning up a mercury light-bulb than Ebola vomit, I’m a little worried.

They tell us that there won’t be an epidemic; no problem whatsoever, because it’s not that contagious.  You can only get it through transfer of bodily fluids.

That’s what they told us about HIV, too.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

SHREVEPORT — In our weekly Mary Landrieu report, we note that Keg-Stand-Mary thinks you need to just “get a life” if you were offended by her assist for a 28-year old guy doing a keg stand at last week’s LSU-Mississippi State game.

In a news conference this week, Mary said:

“They need to get a sense of humor, and they need to get a life — it’s just the way we roll,” the Louisiana Democrat said Monday during a news conference at the State Capitol…

Indeed, in an informal poll by the Times-Picayune, 49% of those responding don’t have a problem with a U.S. Senator funneling beer into a dude’s mouth at a tailgate event as he holds himself aloft by his hands on a beer keg.  38% think this is poor behavior for a Senator.

It IS Louisiana, after all!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

But seriously, Mary does have a voter problem; Louisiana political columnist Elliot Stonecipher takes a look at what he calls “the Maness effect” on the race in his column this week.  The conspiracy theorists wonder if Maness was “encouraged” to run by enemies of Rep. Bill Cassidy to split the primary vote thus giving favor to Landrieu.  Sarah Palin has come out for Tea Party favorite Maness, but Maness is still polling below 10%.  Even as Mary Landrieu fades in the wake of Residence-Gate and Keg-Gate, Cassidy is moving up in the polls while Maness stays about the same.

Stonecipher sees more noble motives in Maness:

Rob Maness is, as was the case from the moment of his entry into this race, the campaign’s designated spoiler. I do not believe he understood or expected such. Neither am I aware of any evidence that, as some politicos contend, Maness was recruited for this race by political enemies of Congressman Cassidy.

At the start, Maness, I prefer and choose to believe, felt he could run second to Senator Landrieu in the primary election, then go on to succeed her in the United States Senate. He and his supporters have steadfastly campaigned with the commitment and urgency befitting what they see as a winning cause.

The Democrats, for their part, see a path to victory as long as Maness stays in the race:

In Louisiana, Democrats believe their best shot at emerging victorious in the race is to win outright in November, taking advantage of a split between Cassidy and his main conservative foe, tea party challenger Rob Maness.

“The only pathway Republicans have to victory is through a runoff. We have a pathway to victory without a runoff that’s just it,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk.

The runoff — which would presumably unite Republicans behind one candidate — becomes a much more dangerous proposition for Landrieu and her party.

Which is why this blogger suggested weeks ago that Maness bow out.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.


SHREVEPORT — In one of those “you’ve got to see it to believe it” moments, former Herman Cain spokeswoman and Louisiana girl Ellen Carmichael tweeted out this photo of Senator Mary Landrieu helping a guy get his buzz on in a keg-stand.

The photo was taken just prior to the LSU-Mississippi State football game Saturday during the tailgating festivities. kegstand1

What was she thinking?

Where was her press person?

I don’t know; maybe it’s a move intended to make her look “cool” and “hip.”  It’s not as if the fellow was underage; he reportedly is in his “late twenties” and enjoying the game with family and friends.

If you want to drink from a keg while standing on your head, I guess that’s your business; and what are the odds of a Louisiana senator coming along to help you out?  What are the odds of her actually sticking the spigot in your mouth for you?  The odds of it hitting Twitter are pretty easy to figure out.

Tim Murphy, writing for Mother Jones, gives props to Landrieu for her keg stand assist

The pressure mounts, again, for a keg stand. A chant begins. “Mary! Mary! Mary!” The senior United States Senator from the great state of Louisiana picks up the nozzle of the keg, and…does not do a keg stand. But she does help a purple-shirted bro do one. So, points for that.

I guess Landrieu is trying to appeal to the younger voter.  This move probably won’t win her any votes among the teetotalers or those who are concerned about binge drinking on universities.  But it will certainly appeal to that “Rock the Vote” crowd that fainted and swooned over Obama in 2008.

Hey Louisiana:  there’s your U.S. Senator.  Is that the best we can do?

She’s clearly desperate.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  In a Friday news-dump report, Senator Mary Landrieu’s office issued a report indicating that the Senator has indeed been guilty of scamming taxpayer funds to finance her campaign jaunts to the tune of almost $34,000.

The review, which was released four days after her self-imposed deadline of Sept. 8, found that the senator took 43 trips, which amounted to 136 campaign functions, that were paid for by funds meant for official business only. Eleven percent of the total amount Landrieu’s office paid for chartered flights should have been paid out of her campaign funds, the review found.

Landrieu’s office said she fully reimbursed the Treasury with campaign funds and has notified the Senate Ethics Committee of the errors. She also said in a statement that she’s implemented a new bookkeeping system to prevent similar errors from happening again.

Senator Landrieu blames the mess of “sloppy bookkeeping” and says she takes “full responsibility.”

“They should have never happened, and I apologize for this,” Landrieu said. “A new system has been established that has been successfully used by a number of senate offices to provide a safeguard from this happening in the future.”

One wonders why she wasn’t using this wonderful new bookkeeping system all along.

One also must wonder how long this practice would have continued had she not faced pressure from challenger Bill Cassidy for her Senate seat.

Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Dore points out the obvious: while Katrina Mary blames sloppy bookkeepers, these flights go back years.  She’s the only constant factor in this equation:

“With 43 illegal flights and more than 100 campaign events, this was clearly policy of her office to use taxpayer means whenever possible to attend events,” said Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Dore. “Mary’s staff has changed. The donors have changed. The one thing that has been constant is this is Mary Landrieu’s office. She’s the one responsible for this practice going on in her office.”

Louisiana voters seem disgusted with her politics as usual methods and she continues to sink in the polls.  It’s still a critically close race and one can never underestimate the Landrieu machine in Louisiana.

Landrieu may not be out of hot water on this deal yet, either; Reince Priebus wonders how much interest she might owe on all this money.  Certainly one would expect she might have to pay interest on using taxpayer money for personal reasons all these years.  That would land some people in jail, after all.


Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  The only thing we know for sure about the 2016 presidential election is that Obama is not running.  (Wait, we do know that, right?)

The pundits have been buzzing for months about whether Mitt Romney will try one more time in 2016; adding some flame to the fire is Romney’s conversation with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Wallace tried to nail Romney down on a commitment to run and couldn’t do it:

WALLACE: Governor, let me — let me look to the future because voters seem willing to give you another chance. There was a “USA Today” poll just a couple weeks ago of Iowa voters in which you swamped the field there. You had 35 percent. Huckabee was second with 9 percent, and the rest of the field trailed after that. And recently, you gave an interview, and when asked about running again, you gave a whole lot of reasons why not, but then you also said circumstances can change.

Question, what does that mean?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I spoken on this topic so many times. I don’t really have anything new to add, Chris. I’m not running. I’m not planning on running.

And yet, there’s still the “is he, isn’t he” dialogue.

Althouse has parsed the whole conversation and she thinks he’s running:

It’s time for someone else… but what if no one else materializes? What if the baton just lays there, unpicked up? Is he willing to pick it up? He says “time” twice, speaking in the present tense, but that leaves it open that some time from now, if no one else comes forward, he will be there, ready to serve. He would love it!

Wallace takes another approach:

WALLACE: You mentioned Hillary Clinton. Do you think you’d make a better president than Hillary Clinton?

ROMNEY: No question about that in my mind. The American people may disagree with me. But, look, you’ve got to get this economy going.

At this point, I think I said out loud: He is running. He’s making a pitch for why he’s better than the presumptive candidate of the other party. And he’s raring to go…

Marc Thiessen thinks a Romney run would be a terrible, no good, very bad thing:

Why would Republicans want to relive that debacle? Mitt Romney is an utterly decent man who certainly would have been a much better president than Barack Obama. But he was given a golden opportunity to save the United States from a second Obama term and blew it.

Do Republicans really want to count on him to save the United States from Clinton’s first term?

Well, what are the other options?

Cameron Joseph at The Hill looks at some “dark horse” options which include Mike Pence, John Bolton, John Kasich, and Dr. Ben Carson.  I’d call those veeeeryyyy long shots.

A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll has Romney far and away the favorite Republican candidate in Iowa.  The next best option appears to be Huckabee.  When you look at the other possible contenders it looks like the same stable of tired old horses.

Speaking of tired, old horses, it also looks like if Clinton wants to run she has it all locked up.

Mitt Romney weighed in on Hillary, too:

You’ve also got to have people who’ve actually run something. The government of the United States is the largest enterprise in the world. You watched a president who just doesn’t understand how to make an administration work, how to interact with Congress, how to get things done. You have to have those things.

I don’t think Hillary Clinton has that experience. And I look for instance at her record as secretary of state, look, her record is Barack Obama’s record in foreign policy. And it’s a disaster.

The president went to Egypt and said we’re going to have this new wonderful relationship with the Muslim world, and now, the Middle East is burning. The president won’t even call the invasion by Russia into Ukraine an invasion. Look, if you can’t — if you can’t speak decisively, you can’t be decisive.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two peas in the same pod. And the American people have tasted that and have said, look, that’s not a good taste. It’s not right for the American people.

And so…where does that leave the Republicans?  Rand Paul?  Marco Rubio?  Ted Cruz? Paul Ryan?  Jeb Bush? Bobby Jindal?  Rick Perry?

Who will rise from the pack and assume the mantle of leader?  From where I sit, I’ve got grave doubts about most of the oft-mentioned names.

To be honest, I’m disgusted with them all.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — It seems like Senator Mary Landrieu just can’t catch a break; every week a new scandal.  She’s still battling the negative image of Flight Gate and now, as it turns out, she has a residency problem.

The Washington Post (of all things!) broke this story Thursday:

In Washington, Sen. Mary Landrieu lives in a stately, $2.5 million brick manse she and her husband built on Capitol Hill.

Here in Louisiana, however, the Democrat does not have a home of her own. She is registered to vote at a large bungalow in New Orleans that her parents have lived in for many decades, according to a Washington Post review of Landrieu’s federal financial disclosures and local property and voting records.

On a statement of candidacy Landrieu filed with the Federal Election Commission in January, she listed her Capitol Hill home as her address. But when qualifying for the ballot in Louisiana last week, she listed the family’s raised-basement home here on South Prieur Street.

Well, which is it, Mary?  And did you note that “she and her husband built…” part?  It’s no temporary condo she’s camped out in up in D.C.  That sounds pretty permanent to me.

On the heels of the Post story, the New York Times picked up the story the next day:

Bernie Pinsonat, a Louisiana pollster, said the question of Ms. Landrieu’s residency reminded him of a similar episode involving another Louisiana Democrat, former Senator John B. Breaux. Mr. Breaux had prepared to run for governor in 2007 but then abandoned the effort after the state attorney general refused to declare him a Louisiana citizen under the state’s Constitution.

“I don’t need a poll to tell that it doesn’t sit well with voters when public officials vacate Louisiana and don’t really live here anymore,” said Mr. Pinsonat, who works for both Democrats and Republicans. “I don’t know what will happen, but I don’t think it’s a positive revelation for her.”

And really, the New York Times story is particularly bad:  I can’t tell you had badly I DON’T want to know about Katrina Mary’s sleeping habits with her husband, but according to the Times article, we are to believe that when in Louisiana she returns to South Prieur Street and sleeps in a single bed in her childhood bedroom.


Now, former challenger Paul Hollis has filed suit over the residency issue and challenger Rob Maness has also cried foul:

Just hours before Friday’s 4:30 pm deadline, Republican candidate Rob Maness filed complaints with four Louisiana parish District Attorneys asking them to file legal challenges in state court to Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) candidacy in the November general election.

Mary’s biggest voting bloc comes from the New Orleans area where her family is entrenched and well known; her brother is the current mayor of NOLA.  But the rest of Louisiana is pretty tired of her and her long tenure in Louisiana.  She votes with Obama 97% of the time and in Louisiana Obama has a 55% disapproval rating.

Mary’s only prayer in Louisiana seems to rest on the hope that the Republican contenders in the primary split the vote enough for her to earn over 50% which is why some have called for the weakest link, Maness, to pull out of the race.  Of course, Maness is a Tea Party fave and has the endorsement of Sarah Palin, so he probably is in for the long haul, but his numbers are grim.  If Maness stays in, it won’t matter much if Mary charters planes to fly across New Orleans – she’ll win.

With that in mind, the scandals for Mary need to keep on coming.  She’s in one of the most vulnerable positions of her entire career.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride for her.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I noted with some interest this week the suit between a California teacher and her union; Rebecca Friedrichs and ten of her colleagues are suing the NEA and its affiliate, the California Teachers Association to “obtain freedom from compelled support for unionism.”  Alec Torres wrote about this suit in December:

Over the past 26 years, Rebecca Friedrichs has been forced, as a condition of her employment, to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a private organization whose actions she largely does not support. As an elementary-school teacher in the Savanna School District of Buena Park, Calif., she has more than $1,000 automatically taken out of her salary every year and given to teachers’ unions. Faced with year after year of compulsory payments, Friedrichs is now on a path to end this union coercion.

California is not a “right to work” state and so Ms. Friedrichs and other teachers in her state are compelled to join a union.

A California teacher has filed a lawsuit against her union that claims she was cut off from benefits and from having a vote on the contract because she did not want her dues spent on political causes she did not support.

“There’s this undercurrent of fear and intimidation,” said Rebecca Friedrichs, whose suit seeks an exemption from union financial obligations since she is receiving no benefits from the union–political or non-political. “If you’re not in step with what the union’s doing, if you stand against it, you’re not a part of the club. You’re bullied. It’s very intimidating.”

In addition, she objects to the union’s involvement in political activities such as lobbying:

“What troubles me is the union is so involved in politics that they use our money to put a lot of those government officials into their jobs. Now the union is bargaining with officials who have been put in their spot by union money, and they’re union-friendly,” she said. “You have union-friendly officials on the other side, and taxpayers aren’t represented, and they’re bargaining with taxpayer money. I think that’s political.”

The suit, which you can read here,  hopes to overturn the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

For my part, I’m very sympathetic with Ms. Friendrichs.  I live in Louisiana and I have the right in my state to be a member of no union whatsoever if that’s my choice.

When I started teaching 18 years ago, I was young and stupid and joined NEA because my principal at the time said it was a good idea and that everyone should be a member of a “professional organization.”  I signed right on up and paid hefty dues that were drafted right out of my check every month.

I never thought much about it after that.

But in 2011 I saw the light; I got an email from NEA saying that not only were they endorsing Obama in 2012 (again) but that individual member donations to their PAC would be doubled to ensure his re-election.  I literally got nauseous and got on the phone to drop my membership as fast as I could.

I moved my membership to a non-political professional organization that focuses on education and teacher support rather than funding charlatan politicians.

Friedrichs believes that most teachers are apolitical and that the unions have lost focus:

Friedrichs said that the union might have an easier time recruiting teachers if it served the interests of the students, rather than its own coffers.

I don’t know about the apolitical part, but I agree with her that the purpose of the NEA should not be to handpick candidates or coerce affairs outside of the needs of the teachers and students.  As I said, they lost me when they took my dues to fund their own candidate choice, one to whom I was totally opposed.

I hope Friedrichs and her colleagues win their suit and that forced union membership dies.  It’s an infringement against one’s very basic right of free speech and choice.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.