Russia’s next move: Belarus and Turkmenistan

The media is laser-locked on the non-war with Iran and impeachment. In typical Russian fashion, Russia has been able to fly under the radar and stay out of the news. But the recent resignation of the government showed that its not quiet in Russia.

Putin continues to make moves to solidify his power in Russia. We already knew that. Putin’s larger goal is to recreate the USSR. He wants the Russian empire to extend again from the Pacific to Lithuania, the Arctic to Kazakhstan. While he’s made moves, successfully, in Ukraine, its come at a cost. The Russian economy shrank considerably, suffering under pretty severe sanctions, sparking protests in Moscow. Putin isn’t stupid, so his next moves will come in Belarus and Tajikistan, and they’ll look vastly different.

Yup, that’s a nasty drop. From Wikipedia.

Belarus has always been close to Russia, and as the next door neighbor to NATO, gives Russia a way to intimidate the nearby countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. But Belarus has been happy with its independence. It’s ethnically different from Russia, has its own currency, and is relying more on European Union support. A Ukraine-style invasion isn’t likely.

Instead, expect to see Putin setup Belarus as a failed state and use legal agreements to bring them into the fold. Putin has tried to get Belarus to rejoin Russia, using a 1999 Union Treaty to start discussions, but this hasn’t worked. But Putin has more levers, especially economic ones. Since most of Belarus’ oil and gas comes from Russia, Russia will no longer give Belarus a discount, worth about 10 billion dollars a year, unless it walks down the path of Belarus/Russia unification, including a single currency and unified government. President Trump’s warning about Russia using oil as an economic weapon will likely get played out in Belarus in 2020.

Turkmenistan is different. Bordering Russia and Afghanistan, it is landlocked except for a coastline on the Caspian Sea. With large natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan needs export routes, and has been pursuing a pipeline under the Caspian Sea. More importantly, much of its oil and gas is purchased by Russia or China, making it vulnerable to Russian economic measures.

Putin will likely pursue a different path with Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s border with Afghanistan remains dangerous, and an IS affiliate known as the Islamic State in Khorasan is continuing to cause problems. Russia has kindly offered military assistance, giving it a legal way to move military forces into the country. Over time, this will give Russia more influence in the region, especially as the United States removes troops from Afghanistan.

Putin will likely first pull economic levers to get Turkmenistan back into the Commonwealth of Independent States, a treaty that Turkmenistan hasn’t ratified yet. Then, expect there to be multiple “terrorism” problems that require Russian assistance. Over time, this will turn Turkmenistan into a larger version of Belarus, with an eventual goal of unification.

It’s not all hopeless. The US can use its export of petroleum to wean these countries off of Russian oil dependence. Cheap, safe nuclear power could be exported to eliminate the need to burn oil or gas for electricity. Media, hospital care and technology, all areas that the US and Europe are leading on, could make these regions profit and want to more align with democratic ideals. It’ll require us to care about an area of the world that most people can’t find on a map, but if we do, it could stunt Russia’s world domination desires.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

An essential reading list for all Patriots

if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be. the functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty & property of their constituents. there is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

Thomas Jefferson quote from a letter to Charles Yancey

Unfortunately our abysmal educational system, at all levels, has worked very hard at keeping everyone ignorant to the true meaning of our Constitution.  Because of this very few of us have a proper understanding of that most magnificent document which is the foundation of our nation and legal system.  Because of our ignorance the federal government has distorted the true meaning of the Constitution so much that they now use it as a weapon to take away our freedoms, rights, and property.  The only way to reverse this is for all of us patriots to educate ourselves and others about the true meaning of the Constitution. 

I’ve assembled a reading list of seven books that I consider to be essential reading for all patriots who wish to educate themselves about the Constitution,

1. The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen

This is the book that got me started on my journey to becoming a Constitutional scholar.  I consider it to be the best primer for learning about the concepts that the founding fathers used to write the Constitution and build the United into the freest and most prosperous nation that ever existed.

2. The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution by W. Cleon Skousen

Every single clause of the Constitution is broken down and explained in great detail using quotes from those that wrote and ratified the Constitution.  This is a lengthy book however it is extremely informative and very interesting.

3, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison

There is no better way to achieve a proper understanding of the Constitution than to study the transcript of the convention where the Constitution was written.  James Madison’s transcripts chronicle the many twists and turns during the entire process of the drafting so you achieve a perfect understanding of the final product.

4. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay

The ratification of the Constitution was very touch and go.  It looked like it would not be passed in several states.  To improve the odds three individuals wrote essays explaining the different components of the Constitution in great detail, often answering concerns of critics of the Constitution.  This is a perfect resource for understanding the Constitution. 

5. The Anti-Federalist Papers by Robert Yates and Et Al

The Anti-Federalist Papers are a collection essays from critics of the Constitution.  In most of the essays they raised valid criticism, pointing out actual flaws.  In many cases it took decades for their criticisms to be proven correct.

6. The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding by Eugene W. Hickok Jr.

The current meaning of the Bill of Rights is 180 degrees opposite from the meaning understood by those that wrote and ratified it.  The author of this book compares the original meaning and the current understating of every clause of the Bill of Rights,  There is no better resource on the Bill of Rights that I’ve found so far.

7. The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom by Walter Levy and William Mellor

The Judicial Branch is the one branch of the federal government that was restrained the least by the Constitution.  The Supreme Court has issued far too many rulings that contradict the meaning of the Constitution.  This has allowed the federal government to grow so huge that it is now a direct thread to our freedom, liberties, and rights.  This book examines twelve cases that were the most egregious examples of the Supreme Court not following the Constitution.  

Report from Louisiana: A sampler

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – A sampling of news items from Louisiana this week:

John White:  Louisiana’s long-time State Superintendent of Education, John White, has decided to move on to other endeavors. I wish I could say I was surprised, but alas, Mr. White has been working without a contract for the past four years.

White became Superintendent in 2012 and his tenure has never been without controversy. He immediately instituted sweeping reforms, came under criticism for his position that the fault that Louisiana ranks so poorly in education is the fault of the teacher, and the fact that there has always been discussion as to whether or not he ever taught in the classroom.

One of the most controversial aspects of White’s tenure has been his implementation of the Louisiana version of the Common Core curriculum. White and Governor John Bel Edwards have always had a contentious relationship although they have managed to grudgingly work together; one of the Governor’s initial campaign promises was to replace White, but he could never quite get the votes of the education board to do so.

Personally, the current curriculum situation is one reason why I’m retiring at the end of the 2021 school year, and I’m not sorry to see White move on, however, I have real concerns about who comes next. I believe it will be critical for Governor Edwards and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to listen to teacher voices and input as the next superintendent is selected.

Storms: Northwest Louisiana experienced an unusual violent weather system this past weekend as strong storms and tornadoes swept across east Texas, Louisiana, and on toward the east coast. Here, in our area, we had three fatalities and much property damage.

The storms rolled through just after midnight Friday, and into Saturday morning.

Benton Middle School lost part of their roof and classrooms were inundated with water.

We are counting our blessings that this did not happen during the school day.

National Championship:  New Orleans is rocking right now as Mardi Gras season is underway and LSU is in town to take on Clemson for the National Championship. LSU has had a beautiful, perfect season and quarterback Joe Burrow has been a joy to watch. Very exciting.

President Trump with be in attendance and will be watching the game in a suite with the Louisiana delegation. Security is amped up right now, obviously. Trump figures in to sever of the current prop bets, which you can see here, including whether or not he will wear a red tie. (I’m going with yes on that one).

I’m making gumbo for game day, of course.

Geaux Tigers!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Climate Change is not responsible for the Australian bushfire crisis

Almost immediately after the apocalyptic nature of the Australian bushfires became apparent claims that the infernos are either caused by, or made worse, by climate change began to fill news reports and the internet.   A large majority of the Australia bushfire stories falsely point fingers directly at climate change.  

Fortunately there are articles such as this Breitbart article Delingpole: Environmentalists Made Australia’s Bush Fires Worse which actually uses science, historic data, and real facts to determine the true cause of this catastrophe.  I highly recommend reading the original article, it is full of supporting scientific data and charts.  With this quote you can see that there was nothing extreme about the lack precipitation the area has been experiencing

As Paul Homewood pointed out last month, there has been no significant long-term decrease in rainfall or increase in temperatures in the affected regions.

Yes, it has been dry in New South Wales (where most of the worst fires are), but there have been several years, especially pre-1960, when it was drier

The same holds true for the temperature, which rules out climate change.

The same applies to temperature. Yes, this has been a hot spring in New South Wales. But there have been times when it has been much hotter — making a nonsense of all stories in the Australian media about temperatures being the hottest evah

This next quote points the blame directly where it belongs.

So, to be clear, there is zero evidence of any change in climatic conditions that might have increased the likelihood or severity of these bush fires. This is not — repeat NOT — a man-made climate change story, and anyone who claims otherwise is either a gullible idiot or a lying charlatan.

There is, nonetheless, good reason to believe that the stupidity and irresponsibility of man is at least partly to blame for this disaster — just not quite in the way that the left-liberal MSM and the green wankerati would have you believe.

Arson is the number one cause of the catastrophe.

Man-made culprit #1: all the firebugs who have been deliberately starting fires in New South Wales, Queensland, and elsewhere. You won’t be surprised that their involvement has had very little coverage in the left-liberal MSM.

Bad forest management caused by environmentalists is the number two cause.

Man-made culprit #2: well-meaning idiots who don’t understand that unless you manage forested areas with controlled burns, you’re going to end up with out-of-control wildfires.

Jo Nova has a damning story about locals in East Gippsland in the state of Victoria who successfully stopped a planned controlled burn at Nowa Nowa. Two of them were pictured holding signs saying, “Spring burns kill baby birds alive” and “Stop burning nesting birds”.

A you can see from the next three quotes, bad laws passed to solve the mythical boogie man climate change are also to blame.

Man-made culprit #3: Greens  The people most to blame for the Australian bush fires are the greens. Just like in California, their tree-hugging Gaia worship blinded them to the reality that forests need regular clearance and maintenance if they are not to become a major fire hazard.

in large parts of Australia, it remains illegal to remove trees from your land even in order to create fire breaks and protect your property — despite the obvious risk this ban creates to homeowners living in potential bush-fire zones. Trees have been designated a ‘carbon sink’, which supposedly offset Australia’s CO2 emissions.

Liam Sheahan is an Australian fireman who in 2002 was fined $50,000 – and paid another $50,000 in costs – for illegally clearing the trees round his home in rural Victoria. In 2009 he was vindicated when his property was only one left standing after bushfires destroyed his town.

This Breitbart article Police in Australia Begin Massive Criminal Investigation into Bushfire Arson documents just how large a role arson has played in causing the catastrophe

The Conversation reports experts estimate about 85 percent of bushfires are caused by humans. A person may accidentally or carelessly start a fire, such as leaving a campfire unattended or using machinery which creates sparks.

Research has shown about 8 percent of officially recorded vegetation fires were attributed to malicious lighting, and another 22 percent as suspicious. However, about 40 percent of officially recorded vegetation fires did not have an assigned cause.

When unassigned bushfires were investigated by fire investigators, the majority were found to be maliciously lit

18 to 20 year olds can fight and die for our country but they can’t legally smoke or buy alcohol

The oppressive paternalism that has become the hallmark of Washington DC kicked into overdrive this past weak when President Trump signed a military spending bill that also raised the smoking and vaping age to 21 all across the United States.

I am not a smoker.   I have not smoked a single cigarette, or anything else, so this article is not about something I indulge in personally.  I strongly believe that government should not stop us from doing what we want to do, even if it is bad for us.  Allowing the bad along with the good is an essential ingredient to maintain a free society. 

I am well aware of the very negative health consequences of smoking.  I believe that individuals should make up their own minds whether they wish to smoke or not, not have their behavior controlled by the government.

Eighteen has always been the age where we consider individuals to be adults, capable of making decisions on their own.  That is the age anyone can enlist in the military so they can defend our country and die if necessary.  There has been a steady drift in this thinking, which has increased in speed the past few years.  This began with the drinking age, then spread to the age that some states allow the purchase of weapons, now it has spread to smoking and vaping.  It does a tremendous disservice to 18 to 20 if we strip them of their adulthood and coddle them.

Banning something never solves a problem, and if you study the prohibition period, you’ll see banning things only causes more severe problems.  Banning something from teenagers will only cause more demand.  The banning of tobacco products will only make them more appealing because they are banned.  This will result in a  black market for tobacco products and a lot of 21 and over individuals becoming criminals after purchasing tobacco products for those under 21. 

The US Constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to ban anything.  The federal government twisted the original meaning  of the Commerce Clause to unconstitutionally grant itself that authority.  The Interstate Commerce Clause only grants the federal government the authority to regulate the large scale movement of goods and services between states by imposing taxes. 

President Trump not only signed the age increase, he celebrated it with this Tweet:

This tweet really disappointed me.  It proved once again that President Trump is a big government Republican type who believes in banning things rather than a truly conservative or libertarian president.  He’s not perfect but he’s infinitely better than Hillary or any other progressive.

Report from Louisiana: Happy New Year!

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As this decade comes to a close, we are headed to south Louisiana to spend the last week of the year on Bayou Teche, quietly amongst our books and cats. I can’t think of a better way to bring in the new year.

It’s been a pretty cool year for football fans around here: our Number Nines (Brees and Burrow) have given us much to be excited about. This is a topic of conversation almost everywhere you go.  I know people who are really excited that LSU will face Clemson in the championship game, but I’ve talked to others who really wanted to face Ohio State. It’s going to be a great game on January 13!

Carnival season will be in full swing right about then and as the game will be in New Orleans, we can expect a lot of revelry and excitement around the event. Really, we don’t need much of a reason to have a bacchanalian party around here, but this one will do just fine.

I’ll leave all of that to others; I’ll be watching from the comfort of my couch.

Looking back at 2019, I guess I can say it’s been a really good year for me. I didn’t win the Lotto or anything, but I did get to travel all over the state to speaking events and book signings with Cane River Bohemia. That’s been a real kick! I’m really grateful for these experiences

I’m also really grateful that this blog, through the patience and perseverance of Pete and you, our readers, is still here and has recovered from the technical glitches that plagued us so through the year. Be sure to hit the tip jar if you get a chance.

So this is just a short post to say thank you for being here, for reading, and I hope every single one of you has a safe and prosperous New Year!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

The Virginia gun control proposals will result in violence

Almost immediately upon gaining control of both houses of congress and the governorship of Virginia the Democrats announced rather extreme gun control proposals. The proposals are so extreme that a firestorm of dissent erupted from the people, sheriffs, and county officials.  There was so much dissent one representative threatened to sick the National Guard on sheriffs and county officials who refused to comply.  If the proposals are carried out I can see the whole mess resulting in violence.  I’m not the only who came to that conclusion, check out this Washington Times article Virginia Dem mulls National Guard to enforce upcoming gun laws, an idea likely to end in violence

Democrats in Virginia have already pre-filed bills to mandate universal background checks; to limit handgun purchases; to raise age limits on would-be firers; to redefine the term assault weapon and impose bans on buys of certain guns and magazines. And more.

And dozens upon dozens of county officials around the state have rushed to pass resolutions declaring their jurisdictions sanctuaries from the state’s gun control storm and announcing that their police chiefs have no intent of enforcing the Dems’ laws.

Democrat Representative McFachin kicked up the tension on the whole situation into high gear with this proposal.

“I’m not the governor,” said Rep. Donald McEachin, Virginia Democrat, according to a report in The Washington Examiner, “but the governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the [new gun control] law[s].”

If called by the governor to perform this odious duty the Virginia National Guard would be required to carry it out by law, however, the Virginia Bill of Rights protects the Right to Bear Arms for all citizens,

Granted, this act, signed in 1878 to prohibit federal troops from being used to enforce domestic laws, carves out exceptions for National Guard members operating under the authority of the states. But the spirit of the restrictions should still apply.

With his proposal,  McFachin proved that gun confiscation has always been the end result of Democrat’s plans.

But with one quick quip, McEachin took a situation that’s already boiling with tension and fear — namely, the realities of the new blue Virginia and the realization of Democratic-promised gun controls — and made it worse. He went there; he tapped the darkest worries of the gun rights’ crowd — the deep-seated belief that Democrats’ end game is to obliterate the Second Amendment and destroy citizens’ rights to own firearms. And in so doing, he actually let it slip that yes, Democrats will stop at nothing, even violence, to take the guns.

One Sheriff came up with a novel proposal, Virginia Sheriff Vows to ‘Deputize Thousands’ to Defend Gun Rights.

Every Sheriff and Commonwealth Attorney in Virginia will see the consequences if our General Assembly passes further unnecessary gun restrictions. “Red Flag” laws without due process will create enormous conflict as well.

America has more guns than citizens and murder has long been illegal. At best, the proposed gun restrictions will disarm or handicap our law-abiding in their defense and possibly cause a criminal to choose another tool for evil.

I remain very optimistic that our General Assembly will not pass the proposed bills. Obviously, if passed, there are many of us willing to challenge these laws through the courts. In addition, if necessary, I plan to properly screen and deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms.

The resistance has spread across the state: Report: Over 90 Virginia Counties, Municipalities Declared 2A Sanctuaries.  This shows how seriously the people of this nation take their Right to Bear Arms.

A report from WDBJ7 shows that more than 90 Second Amendment sanctuary declarations have been made by counties and municipalities in Virginia.

WDBJ7 reports that Rockingham County was one of the most recent sanctuary declarations. Breitbart News reported that over 3,000 residents attended the Rockingham Board of Supervisors meeting to demand Second Amendment sanctuary status.

Hopefully the Virginia Democrats will take not of the heated opposition and back down.

Report from Louisiana: Christmas Cards

SHREVEPORT – One of the small joys I get from the Christmas season is receiving Christmas cards from friends and family spread across the country. I love the colorful envelopes, the pretty Christmas stamps, and the cards themselves: glittery snow, red Santas, cherubic angels, foil stars, the works.

I find in years when Thanksgiving is late and Christmas seems so quick, there are fewer cards in my mailbox: people run out of time for the task.

One of my childhood memories is of my mother going to the stationery store, selecting the annual Christmas card, and having them imprinted.  When they arrived, ready for addressing, she would pull out the address book and sit at the dining room table with stamps, pens, and get to work. Some recipients would get a brief message or note, and then she would address each envelope in her beautiful, perfect script. That handwriting got shakier through the years and eventually she quit sending cards altogether with the exception of a very few. Mom had a red and white felt Santa, trimmed in sequins, that hung on a door and we tucked all the cards inside Santa’s beard, which was a pocket.

With my own cards I am less formal. I select a box or two at the store that reflect my mood of the moment and in each I usually write a brief message. My cards this year reflect Santa in a pirogue as he poles up to a wooden swamp cabin, Spanish moss hanging overhead. Some years I opt for the traditional Christmas scenes, other years Snoopy.

I’ve never been one to send the generic Christmas letter but we do have some relatives who write three page epistles to tuck into their cards about every doctors appointment and children’s report card that happened through the year.

And it seems that almost every year there around this time there is a touching story of a terminally ill child who only wants Christmas cards and then the hospital is inundated with thousands of cards.

In more recent years, it seems Christmas cards have morphed into cardstock covered with photos of the sender’s beautiful and prosperous year. Many of these include photos of people dressed in khaki and white standing on a beach somewhere, everyone in matching shirts and color coordinated. The selfie-card is a close relative of the three-page Christmas letter.

The tradition of Christmas cards began in 1843 with Henry Cole according to The Smithsonian and has evolved through the years:

Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.” It was the first Christmas card.

As we celebrate Christmas with our families and friends this week, I wish you all a Merry Christmas from Louisiana and I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Massachusetts’ draconian transportation funding proposals

Get ready to have your money sucked away rapidly by the Massachusetts tax man and be prepared to have Big Brother riding with you everywhere you drive because Massachusetts lawmakers are formulating a plan to raise more money to pay for transportation.  The current proposals have many odious provisions which are documented in this CBS Boston article Massachusetts Lawmakers Propose Expanding Highway Tolls, Charging Drivers By The Mile.

Several key House members have hinted that they are likely to include an increase in the state’s 24-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax in a transportation revenue bill that Speaker Robert DeLeo is eyeing for release next month, but other ideas put on the table during a Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday could supplement that revenue stream.

Rep. Thomas Stanley warned his colleagues that over the long term the gas tax will be insufficient to meet roadway and public transit needs. Rising fuel efficiency in vehicles, he said, means that even the same frequency of driving will result in motorists purchasing less gas, generating less revenue for the state.

Instead, Stanley suggested Massachusetts embrace legislation (H 3010) he co-filed with Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier to create a pilot program to test fees based on the miles people travel rather than the amount of gas used.

As if all of these driver fleecing proposals aren’t ridiculous enough, there are more being investigated.

The first bill (S 2060) would instruct the Department of Transportation to report on the feasibility of implementing all-electronic tolling on state and interstate highways “not currently subject to a toll,” taking a look in particular at tolls along the state’s borders.

The second (S 2062) would expand tolls to stretches of Interstate 93, Interstate 95 and Route 2 in an attempt to apply equal charges to drivers across the greater Boston region. That bill also calls for implementation of dynamic “peak pricing” where the toll varies based on roadway conditions.

As a libertarian who values personal freedom and privacy very deeply, Massachusetts Bill H3010 really bothers me on a fundamental level.  Here are the details:

SECTION 3. PILOT PROGRAM.

(a) The department of transportation shall develop, implement and oversee one or more statewide pilot programs to assess owners of motor vehicles a user fee that is based on the number of miles traveled on roads in this state by those motor vehicles.

(b) The pilot programs shall include at least 1,000 volunteers across the commonwealth who are representative of drivers of trucks, passenger, and commercial vehicles and throughout the commonwealth, who will have on-board vehicle-mileage-counting equipment added to their vehicles, administered in a manner the department of transportation deems appropriate.

(c) The pilot programs shall test the reliability, ease of use, cost and public acceptance oftechnology and methods for:

(1) counting the number of miles traveled by particular vehicles;

(2) reporting the number of miles traveled by particular vehicles; and

(3) collecting payments from participants in the pilot programs.

(d) The pilot programs shall also analyze and evaluate the ability of different technologies and methods to:

(1) protect the integrity of data collected and reported;

(2) ensure drivers’ privacy; and

(3) vary pricing based on the time of driving, type of road, proximity to transit,          vehicle fuel efficiency, participation in car-sharing or pooling or income of the driver

The freedom to travel wherever we wish is under assault by this bill.  The government will be punishing us for traveling too far by taxing us on every mile we wish to drive.  That is unacceptable.  The technologies to implement this will result in Big Brother riding with us in every vehicle.  That kind of government surveillance is beyond unacceptable.

Report from Louisiana: Quick Roundup

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Since I was on the road last week doing book events and unable to post, this week I’m bringing you a roundup of all things Louisiana; while I may not often love Shreveport (it’s in decline), I do LOVE Louisiana and this has been both a good and bad week to be in the Bayou State.

The Bad

Ransomware Attack: the state’s DMV was crippled early in the month by a ransomware attack. No one likes to go to the DMV, but for the last two weeks nobody has been able to go to the DMV!  From The Advocate:

Two weeks ago, a ransomware attack – triggered by what officials suspect was an employee opening a sketchy link – hit several state servers including at the Office of Motor Vehicles. The state quickly shut down network traffic to prevent the spread, and have subsequently brought most of the state’s offices back online. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state did not pay a ransom or lose data, and he said the effects could have lasted weeks or months under a worst-case scenario. Ransomware attacks typically lock users out of their computers until they pay a ransom, and the attackers threaten to delete the data if they aren’t paid.

Edwards activated the state’s cybersecurity response team after the attack. He also declared a state of emergency, allowing OMV and other agencies to forgive fines and fees for people unable to take care of business because the computers were down.

As of close of business Friday, only DMV offices were still closed. 

I can’t even begin to imagine the lines and wait time after such an event. 

The BP Oil Spill (2010):  Nine years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, new lawsuits are hitting the courts.  This will never end.

Recession: There is talk of a coming recession in the state, but some officials refuse to believe it. There is a sort of wait and see attitude. Much of our revenue is of course tied to the oil industry and as prices drop, tensions rise.

The Good

LSU: Oh, baby! What a beautiful season!   Championship bound!

The Saints: Not always pretty but not too shabby.  It’s certainly been worse.

Christmas: I love Christmas in Louisiana!  The bonfires on the levee on Christmas Eve, the community parades and concerts, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, it’s all fabulous, as it is all across the country. Every community has its own traditions and celebrations – take part in those. Explore something new.

Christmas was really hard for me after my mother died a few years ago; I’m still overcome at the most unexpected moments with sentiment and tears. I think I’m all past that, and then I walk past the candied fruit in the grocery store and am weeping. You never see it coming.

It helped a lot though when we decided to develop some new traditions. When you have a very small family, Christmas can be lonely.  Our friends adopted us into their traditions and families, and it has helped. As you celebrate this year, take a moment to check on those who may be struggling.

Coming Soon:  76 days until Mardi Gras.  And we are starting to see live crawfish available in local places!  Few things are more celebrated than crawfish season.

Here ends the short roundup. I’m off to a Christmas concert!

Pat Becker blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press). Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.