Thursday, June 29, 2006

Internet Neutrality

From MoveOn.org:
"Your senator, David Vitter, was the deciding vote AGAINST Internet freedom during a key vote yesterday in the Senate Commerce Committee.

The committee voted 11 to 11 on the Snowe/Dorgan proposal to preserve Net Neutrality—one vote shy of passage. Your senator voted to let companies like AT&T put tollbooths on the Internet and gain more control over what you see and do online. The fight to preserve the free and open Internet now moves to the full Senate.

Please call Sen. Vitter today and say "shame on you" for opposing the Snowe-Dorgan Internet freedom proposal. Tell him to oppose any bill in the full Senate that doesn't protect Net Neutrality. Here is the number:

Senator David Vitter
Phone: 202-224-4623

Senator Vitter took $12,000 in contributions this election cycle from big telecommunications companies, according to www.opensecrets.org, and then sided with them in yesterday's vote.

Senators who voted yesterday had a clear choice between siding with big money or siding with their constitutents. While 1 million everyday people petitioned Congress to save Net Neutrality, big telecommunications companies like AT&T gave nearly 1 million dollars in campaign contributions to members of the Senate Commerce Committee this election cycle. Politicians need to be held accountable for making the wrong choice."

Gulf Gas Lease

Via Blagueur:
Federal officials want a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Kathleen Blanco to discuss her objection to the August sale of federal leases for oil and gas exploration off Louisiana's coast.

The Blanco administration has agreed to the meeting with two caveats:

- It must focus on ways to address the governor's concerns.

- It should include high level officials, such as, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior or the director of the Minerals Management Service.

Blanco is attempting to block the federal government's lease sale as part of her push for the state to glean some of the billions of dollars going into the U.S. Treasury.

If Katrina has taught me one thing, never place too much faith in anything, because you will almost always end up disappointed. A part of me is happy to see Blanco stepping up to the plate and following up to the promises she made to her constituency earlier in the year, but I'm reluctant to put too much faith in our governor.

Why?

The governor has said she would settle for an investment by the federal government in protecting and restoring the coastal environment.

If Nader was in power, I'd have no objection to this settlement, but the Bush administration hardly prides itself on being environmentally conservative; I'm hardly convinced that they'd follow through on their promises, and I'm not entirely sure if all future administrations would be willing to invest in "protecting and restoring the coastal environment". Changes to the lease would guarantee the state money for coastal protection on a yearly basis--and we wouldn't have to worry about pushing the federal government to follow through on any of their investment promises.

We'd just have to worry about making sure that money was properly spent.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Recommendations

Da paper hasn't been delivered yet, so there's not much to write about during these wee early hours of the morning. However, I do want to point my readers in the direction of Mr. Clio's commentary on out-of-state FEMA fraud and Markus' commentary on the little-publicized article regarding the tsunami workers' reactions to the 9th Ward. Both are excellent reads.

Monday, June 26, 2006

GOP Rep. Wants to Charge NY Times with Espionage

Last Friday, a New York Times article revealed that the Bush administration was responsible for reviewing bank data without a subpoena or a warrant under the premise of "fighting terrorism".

This morning, Rep. Peter King "urged the Bush administration Sunday to seek criminal charges against The New York Times for reporting on a secret financial-monitoring program used to trace terrorists."

On Fox News, King said:

"The time has come for the American people to realize, and the New York Times to realize, we’re at war and they can’t be on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release. If Congress wants to work on this privately, that’s one thing. But for them to, on their own, for the editor of the New York Times to say that he decides it’s in the national interest -- no one elected them to anything."

New York Times editor Keller responds to this claim the best:

"Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. [...] Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them.

"It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it."

I find it shameful that the government would feel the need to prosecute reporters and editors for releasing information that would allow readers to make an educated decision on a secret (and possibly highly illegal) program that affects millions of Americans daily. But if congress still feels the need to punish someone over this breech of information, shouldn't they seek out the original source of the leak, rather than charge the newspaper that chose to report it?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Question About a Landrieu

I have a question that I was hoping that you "older folks" could help a young'un like me answer.

I come from a deeply conservative family; even my mother, who--in her younger years--was a hardcore democrat has slowly taken the walk towards the right side of the political spectrum. So many of my family members supported Nagin during the election, and cited Mitch Landrieu's father as the reason why they wouldn't elect his son into office. I wasn't even alive when Moon Landrieu was the mayor, so I know little about him outside of his pro-Civil Rights stance. Can someone please explain to me why so many of my conservative family members show so much disdain for Moon Landrieu?

An uncle and I got into a furious argument over the demolition of the Coliseum Baptist Church earlier today. Though I am an english major, I've studied both history and anthropology extensively over the past few years, and I thoroughly believe that it is important for people to work together to preserve as much of history as possible for future generations. My uncle, however, believes differently. He believes that a person has a right to do whatever they want with their property--regardless of its historical value. No one should impose their own guidelines--historical or not--on to someone else's property. When I pointed out that there were building codes in certain areas that people were forced to follow he claimed that they should be followed because they were implemented to preserve the property value in the area. I pointed out that historical guidelines were in place to preserve something even more important than property value--history.

Still, he was not convinced.

Sometimes, there's nothing worse than being the one liberal in a conservative family.

Edit [10:58 A.M.]: Answers found here and here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Coliseum Place Baptist Church

Both Loki and Maitri made excellent posts on the demolition of the Coliseum Place Baptist Church. If you haven't yet, read up. I've been keeping up with the story on the news, but it's nice to have an insider's perspective. Rarely does one get the entire story in a two minute news segment, but Loki and Maitri manage to cover all the bases in their respective blogs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Legiswatch 6/23/06

I have my UNO e-mail forward to my regular account, and occasionally I'll get some rather illuminating e-mails, like the announcement regarding the Katrina 5K Run/Walk. My favorite, however, are the Legiswatch e-mails, an informative compilation of UNO-related issues in legislation.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to locate a web edition of "Legiswatch", and seeing how informative these synopses can be, I've decided to crosspost Legiswatch updates here as I receive them.

LEGISWATCH

June 23, 2006

From: Robert Brown
Vice Chancellor for Governmental, Community and Diversity Affairs

The 2006 regular legislative session closed on a relatively quiet note at 6 p.m.,June 19 with few of the epic battles and last-minute conference committee budget shenanigans which observers of the process in the capitol are accustomed to seeing just before the legislature adjourns "sine die" (literally, the final day). The end was largely anticlimactic since, as one legislator put it, "I think that every member (read "legislator") got pretty much what they wanted or needed."

For the first time in recent memory, the House concurred in the slew of Senate amendments to HB1 when it came back to the House chamber for consideration on Monday morning. There was scarcely a murmur as House Appropriations Committee chairman, John Alario, answered a few perfunctory questions after which the bill passed unanimously. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes. This was largely due to the $585M in additional revenue which the Revenue Estimating Conference certified in mid-May, providing ample time for the legislature to appropriate a substantial part of it for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition, the legislature had the pleasant task of appropriating a huge portion of the $4.6B in aid provided by Congress to address Katrina- and Rita-related disaster issues.

Along with most other state agencies, public higher education institutions were the beneficiaries of the increased revenue, with the House and Senate adding more than $117 million for higher education to the budget which Go. Blanco submitted to the legislature in February. This included the full funding of $36.4M in mandated costs (classified merit pay increases, medical insurance premiums and retirement benefits), a $12M pool for hurricane-related enrollment management challenges, and $21.5M in additional funding for general operating expenses. While the numbers representing the University of New Orleans’ portion are encouraging, they still fall far short of restoring the $6.4 million cut imposed in the November special session and the substantial loss of tuition and fee revenue resulting from post-Katrina enrollment declines. Perhaps the most welcome increase, however, was the $31 million appropriated for a faculty pay raise. This money will be distributed according to plans developed by the institutions and approved by the Board of Regents.

There were a number of other rather important items, but I won't list each of them here. For more detailed information on higher education and UNO's final budget numbers, go to www.legis.state.la.us, click on HB1 and scroll down to SCHEDULE 19 (pp 171-208).

On other matters, state lawmakers have authored 21 constitutional amendments which will be considered in two elections - 13 on Sept. 30, and the remaining eight on Nov. 7. Among the more far-reaching (and more controversial) of these are proposals: to merge the seven New Orleans assessors into one office; consolodate the area's levee districts; and new restrictions on state and local agencies' authority to expropriate private property for economic development use by a third party. These issues will require some effort if citizens are to make informed choices on them. With that in mind, I will provide LEGISWATCH briefing summaries in the days leading up to the elections.

The first post-Katrina legislative season - special sessions in November and February and the recent regular session - has come to a merciful and generally painless end. One can now hope that all will remain quiet on the state legislative front until April 30, 2007, the first day of next year's regular session. That, by the way, will be a "fiscal only" session so it should make for interesting times. For observations, questions or advice on LEGISWATCH, please e-mail me at rwbrown@uno.edu. I intend to keep the information flowing throughout the year with occasional dispatches.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

National Guard and National Geographic

I haven't covered the National Guard presence in the area, because other bloggers have said it much better than I could have. Let me direct you over to The Wet Bank Guide and Tim's Nameless Blog for some apt commentary on the situation. I'm just as happy as everyone else that they're back, and I hope that their presence is enough to deter the gratuitous looting in the city.

Also, I missed last night's National Geographic Special on the Katrina aftermath. Does anyone happen to know when the special is going to re-air?

'Obfuscation' By FEMA Hurt Katrina Victims

I don't know if anyone else happened to see it, but this morning's Washington Post had a very interesting article on the class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims against the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hsu ends the article with a few excerpts from the judge's ruling:

The Court hesitates to seemingly "reward" FEMA for what could be considered cagey behavior with regards to FEMA's ever-changing requirements, as undoubtedly, as the Court has previously found, FEMA's indecision and internal bureaucratic bumbling has strained even the most patient of citizens. But based on the evidence presented, plaintiffs have failed to assert a cognizable due process claim on the issue of notice....

However, while FEMA may not be legally required to notify applicants or recipients of assistance about what FEMA provides, much less provide any data regarding its availability or the requirements for obtaining such assistance, one can only wonder why FEMA would choose to not do so, as has so often been the case herein.

It defies reason that a federal agency whose exclusive provision -- and indeed, sole reason for existence -- is to assist fellow Americans in a time of natural disaster in meeting their utmost needs would fail to notify people of the available services and the requirements for engaging those services, in some clear, consistent, and accessible way.

It also defies reason that such an agency would be seemingly more concerned with fraud on the individual level than with actually helping those persons whose lives have been literally turned upside down through no fault of their own. It is the Court's determined opinion that the vast majority of Americans, including plaintiffs, do not expect the federal government to right all wrongs nor support them indefinitely, nor even attempt to make them anywhere near "whole" after a disaster. Clearly such outcomes are simply impractical.

However, certainly it would seem that FEMA would at least try to make things clear for those for whom it was created to serve.... [D]efendants must not forget that the foundations of all of these institutions, including our own government and FEMA itself, are individual people -- human beings who must also be cared for, equally, equitably, and fairly.

Rather than hiding behind bureaucratic double-talk, obscure regulations, outdated computer programs, and politically loaded platitudes such as "people need to take care of themselves," as the face of the federal government in the aftermath of Katrina, FEMA's goal should have been to foster an environment of openness and honesty with all Americans affected by the disaster. Sharing information in simple, clear, and precise terms and delineating the terms and conditions of available assistance in an up-front and forthright manner, does just that.

Despite the voluminous "administrative record" provided to the Court by FEMA, and despite FEMA's stated good intentions to the contrary, the Court has seen scant evidence that any such desire for openness and clarity guided any of FEMA's communications, and this obfuscation has acted much to the detriment of plaintiffs, and indeed, the entire country.

Nevertheless, the Court finds that FEMA is not legally required to notify applicants or recipients of assistance about what FEMA provides or how to obtain such assistance. Regrettably this Court must leave any dissatisfaction with the law in this regard for those in the legislative branch to remedy.

I just hope that Judge Duval's criticism of FEMA and the way it is managed is enough to stimulate some massive reform from within.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Post-K Depression: Redux

One of my friends is following the lead of the wild geese. Unable to find any viable job opportunities in the area that didn't involve flipping burgers or sacking groceries, one of my friends confessed earlier today that he's probably going to be moving to Texas in the very near future.

With news like that, articles like this are hardly surprising.

Before Katrina, when I was particularly depressed, I always had someone to go to. I had people I could call, friends I could visit with. After Katrina, that changed entirely. Many of my friends moved out-of-area, if not out-of-state or out-of-country; they had their own difficulties to surmount and I--and I'm sure, many others--didn't feel the need to burden our friends with our own troubles, especially because I was so fortunate.

In the fall, it was easier to deal with my difficulties; the Friday immediately after the storm, I was handing out bags of ice with DOW workers and trustees. I volunteered at shelters, helped organize fundraisers, and involved myself in other various service projects. I may have not have had any friends when I moved to Baton Rouge, but towards the end of the semester, I formed a kinship with C. and we became very close friends.

However, school ended and I had a place to return to in the New Orleans area. One of my friends who had been living out-of-state since the storm moved back to Baton Rouge. And while the distance between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is hardly remarkable, conflicting work and school schedules ensured that visits were infrequent, and often short.

In the spring, there were fewer opportunities to volunteer. Volunteering had been my way of distracting myself from my own unhappiness; I felt better while I was doing something. But in the spring, there were fewer opportunities to contribute on a regular basis. There were fewer fundraisers; shelters closed down. To make matters worse, my long-distance friendships that I had struggled to keep alive since September were slowly deteriorating. In the spring, I felt even worse than I did in the fall following Katrina.

So many of these studies fail to recognize that Katrina took away more than just life or property; it also brought about a loss of friendship and community. Most of us have long come to terms and accepted the death and destruction. However, friends--and subsequently, our own personal support group--continue to migrate every day.

Naturally, I'm sad to see P. go, but I hope he finds better opportunities in Texas.

Even if he is moving to Houston.

Post-K Depression

A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide
Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

NEW ORLEANS, June 20 — Sgt. Ben Glaudi, the commander of the Police Department's Mobile Crisis Unit here, spends much of each workday on this city's flood-ravaged streets trying to persuade people not to kill themselves.

Sgt. Ben Glaudi, commander of the overworked Mobile Crisis Unit for the New Orleans police.

Last Tuesday in the French Quarter, Sergeant Glaudi's small staff was challenged by a man who strode straight into the roaring currents of the Mississippi River, hoping to drown. As the water threatened to suck him under, the man used the last of his strength to fight the rescuers, refusing to be saved.

"He said he'd lost everything and didn't want to live anymore," Sergeant Glaudi said.

The man was counseled by the crisis unit after being pulled from the river against his will. Others have not been so lucky.

"These things come at me fast and furious," Sergeant Glaudi said. "People are just not able to handle the situation here."

Read more.

It's really disheartening to read articles like the above, but it's hardly surprising. It's been nearly ten months and I still have difficulty traveling through Lakeview without my eyes burning.

At first, it was the sheer destruction of things that set off the waterworks. The comic book store I frequented was gone; my friends' houses flooded; my old apartment in Pass Christian completely obliterated. But now, it's lack of visible change that makes me teary-eyed. Sure, there's a few more FEMA trailers, a few more gutted homes, a few more houses that are lit up. But for every one house that's repaired, there's another ten quietly deteriorating.

In this kind of environment, it's difficult not to feel depressed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bad Press

I'm not sure who said it, but whoever coined the quote "Bad press is better than no press at all" has probably never lived through a disaster like Katrina.

Ever since hurricane season began (or perhaps, since Nagin's unfortunate election win), New Orleans has found its place back in the national spotlight, but never does the reporting resemble anything positive. If we're not wrongly being accused of defrauding MILLIONS from FEMA, we're forced to deal with the backlash from the abortion law that was signed by Blanco yesterday.

Frankly, I'm pro-choice and I--like many others--think that this legislative session should have been focused on more pressing issues. But the reporting on these issues wrongly gives others the impression that we're all more concerned with defrauding government organizations and on regulating other people's bodies than on rebuilding our city.

News that normally wouldn't even make a blip on the mainstream media's radar, like the failed cock-fighting ban is suddenly worthy of their reporting. Now, we're not just thieves--we're also savages!

Never mind the fact that I--along with a good portion of the Louisiana constituency--believe that cockfighting is an archaic, barbaric practice. But the only opinion that the media seems to be reporting is the opinion of our politicians. And unfortunately, the opinion of the public and the opinion of those politicians that represent them do not always correlate. But with only one perspective readily available, those casual readers/viewers are led to believe that the views of these politicians also represent the views of their constituency.

I'm not saying that the media should romanticize New Orleans or its politics--not by any means. If anything, we need the media to help watchdog the corporations, politicians, and administrators that are assisting in the rebuilding process. But this selective reporting is turning others against us.

I would like to see the media cover local opinion of these issues--to give those on the outside a perspective of what's being said within. To let others know the concerns of the "regular people" as opposed to the politicians that they may or may not have voted for and whose work they may or may not approve of.

But I won't hold my breath waiting for it.

A Plan for the Democratic Party

The Yat Pundit pointed the way to the Democrat Party's plan, entitled "A New Direction for America". It might be a little short, but it's definitely a start.

I rarely post about politics in my personal blog, but I mentioned there that I'd support the democrats if they ran a Feingold/Obama ticket in 2008. A very conservative friend responded to my entry, saying, "If the Dems run that ticket, I'll get a gun. I loathe both of those people. Thankfully, they're so far off the deep-end, that they would easily lose."

Many have argued that the democrats will lose a substantial part of their constituency if they pick candidates that are too liberal. However, I'm not entirely sure that the loss will be as great as some individuals predict. Sure, they might lose a few swing votes if they carry a more liberal agenda, but I also suspect that a swing to the left might help them to pick up a few voters that might have otherwise voted for a third-party candidate.

Thoughts?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Screaming at the Sun

A few weeks ago, I was venting my own political frustrations over the phone to a friend named E. Though E. and I clash on some issues, many of our beliefs ring the same. And because he's one of my few friends that are somewhat politically alert, he understands and sympathizes with my frustrations in a way that one who didn't know them couldn't.

My own feeling of political helplessness seems to come and go with the weather; generally it is the irresponsivenesses of politicians that sends my emotions into overdrive, though I'm not entirely sure what act played catalyst to this particular incident.

"I'm just so aggravated," I confessed. "I can't seem to do anything to make people care. I can't seem to do anything."

"It's like screaming at the sun," he replied.

It only hit me today how much that metaphor really fits.

Today was the Hurricane Preparedness Forum, and like any wide-eyed political activist, I had a small list of questions prepared to ask the senator that could not be answered by his aides in Washington. Since writing him already proved ineffective, I hoped that perhaps that by speaking to him directly--as his aides suggested--I might come to a better understanding with the senator.

I quickly scrambled into line after the forum ended, hoping for some clarification on a few issues. He answered the questions of several individuals, caught up with some people standing ahead of me that were acquaintances/friends, and even posed for photos. I wrongly thought he'd be able to spare a few minutes for me.

I stuttered out an introduction and shook his hand, and before I could say anything more, he was already moving out to reach the next person. I'm used to this sort of reaction from almost everyone; though I'm 21, my petite stature makes me look five years younger. I cut him off, and politely stammered out the first of my small list of questions--all questions that could not be answered by his aides in Washington earlier in the week.

My first question wasn't related to the forum, but was still an important concern to me. His aides were incapable of answering my question; this was a concern that only he could respond to.

"I'd like to keep the subject on hurricane preparedness," he replied. I understood this completely, so I planned to move on to my hurricane-related inquiries. But before I could even utter another word, the man had already turned to the next person in line.

I was about to interrupt again, to voice my concerns and worries, but I just gave up. Somewhere in those few seconds, I realized that it wasn't worth it. I was screaming at the sun. Nothing I could say would move him. I'd have to be old, like the woman he moved to after me or wearing a tie emblazoned with the Republican elephant like the man ahead of me before Vitter would feel the need to address my concerns the way he did theirs.

I had been blown off.

But there's still one question that I can't seem to answer. Why exactly was I blown off? Was it because my question regarding his stance on the NPR/PBS funding cut that obviously labeled me as a liberal? Or was it because I was (or looked) so young, and therefore wasn't a valuable part of his constituency?

Why was I so undeserving of his time?

Levees.Org Memorial Day Ceremony

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lessons Learned

After Katrina, I learned lots of lessons. But one of the most important lessons I learned was this:

Plug everyone's phone number into your cell and never delete it.

There are lots of people who I still don't know are all right--casual acquaintances that I socialized with, but not often enough to take down their number. J.D., our usual waiter at the iHOP in Gulfport. The old man and his mother who used to stop by my Sav-A-Center three times a week back when I was living in Pass Christian. My co-workers at that Sav-A-Center. The guys who used to play hackey sack outside of the liberal arts building. My best friend's roommate's friends. The artist who occasionally ate lunch with me at The Cove.

Every now and then, I think about them and I wonder how they're doing. And while I can take some comfort in thinking that they're all right, nothing really beats knowing that they are.

Another Body Found

Workers find body in flooded home
Sunday, June 18, 2006
From staff reports

Workers cleaning a Katrina-flooded house in eastern New Orleans on Wednesday discovered the body of a man who apparently drowned as a result of the hurricane, the New Orleans Forensic Center said.

The body was found under furniture in the house on Wilson Avenue, chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano said. He said the forensic center will use a DNA test to see whether the body is that of a 59-year-old resident of the house, who was reported missing in September.

He said relatives had made several trips to the house since Katrina, but a body was not found until Wednesday.

An autopsy showed the dead man drowned.

He was the 23rd apparent storm victim found in New Orleans since the forensic center took over body recovery from federal search teams in March, Gagliano said.

As of May 18, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals had counted 1,588 Louisiana deaths from Katrina, including 281 who died in other states after the storm.

Source

I find something terribly wrong with the state of things when bodies are being found nearly ten months after the storm.

Before they were bodies, they were people. People with families, homes, jobs, and hobbies. The least that they deserve is to be found and given a proper burial.

But somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if bodies continue to be found well after Katrina's one-year anniversary.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Times are Hard in the Big Easy

Markus, Adrastos, Maitri, and Jeffrey all did a great job covering the FEMA fraud "news" that came out earlier this week. If you're looking for a good synopsis of the FEMA fraud debacle, that's where you should look first.

Shortly after the "news" of fraud (I had heard of cases of FEMA fraud for months now) hit the mainstream media, there was an immediate backlash. A number of people--politicians, journalists, "your everyday American"--had been saying for months that victims of Hurricane Katrina did not deserve the assistance they had been given; this information, they believed, vindicated their claims.

As Markus pointed out, there were some inconsistencies in some of the articles. There was selective reporting. And this selective reporting twisted or omitted facts to make it look as though us--the victims--were somehow responsible for "rampant fraud" that was perpetrated by "people [who] did not live in Louisiana, did not live in the devastated areas".

The anger that should have been directed at FEMA for allowing the fraud to happen in the first place was deflected at us, most of whom were not even responsible for the fraud in the first place. And because of this, we're the ones who get to suffer because of the offenses of the few.

On Iraq and Journalism

From the Huffington Post Friday Daily Brief:

Republican Senators Endorse Amnesty For Terrorists As Iraqi PM Fires Aid Who Proposed It...

After one of his top aides told a reporter that Iraq was "ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki scrambled to distance himself from the idea that he would pardon insurgents who had killed American troops. As Senate Democrats called for President Bush to denounce an amnesty plan, Maliki accepted the resignation of the aide, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, and issued a statement saying that the aide "does not represent the government on this issue," although previous statements indicated that Maliki was indeed prepared to offer amnesty to any fighters that "were not involved in the shedding of Iraqi blood."

Meanwhile, five members of the GOP Senate took the floor and declared support for the amnesty proposal. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Ak.) said, "if that's amnesty, I'm for it," while Senator Cornyn (R-Tx.) called the amnesty debate a "distraction."

Read the report of comments from these Senators, as well as Senators McConnell (R-Ky.), Alexander (R-Tn.) and Chambliss (R-Ga.) here.

Read the rest of the story here.

When I read this late yesterday night, I could quite comprehend what was written. Maybe it was because I had just woken up from my 9 P.M. nap, or perhaps it was because I hadn't had time to properly caffeinate myself.

Even now, hours later, long after I've satiated my need for caffeine with a mug of coke, I still don't understand why anyone would support this legislation. It reeks of political suicide.

When I was in high school, I took a journalism class as an elective. I'm a self-declared fiction writer, but I needed some other elective to fill the gaping hole in my schedule. I chose Journalism, as it was the most appealing of the options available. During one of our first classes, our teacher gave each of us a newspaper. We were told to underline every argument for, and every argument against in an article of our choice. Once we had found them all, we were to count them up. No matter how many articles we analyzed, there was always one side that was covered more than the other.

"There's always going to be a bias in everything you read," he says. "You need to be able to identify it, and as journalists, avoid writing biases into your works."

Unfortunately, much of the so-called "liberal press" has a clear conservative bias. Don't believe me? Grab a highlighter and your nearest newspaper. Mark every argument for and against a liberal or conservative agenda. You will find that plenty of articles will take a clear swing to the right.

But I digress. Probably one of the "best" sources for conservative news is "The Note", which offers a conservative-slanted synopsis of the previous day's news. It is often used by various news organizations to find the day's "hot news topics". Completely befuddled as to how anyone could possibly support such legislation, I made a mad dash for the ABC website and read through "The Note"'s synopsis, hoping to find some mention of the endorsement. I wanted to see how anyone could possibly justify granting amnesty to terrorists. If I were going to find conservative spin on the issue, it'd most likely be found on "The Note".

But not once in The Note's June 16th edition was this matter even mentioned.

I turned to the Times-Picayune for answers, expecting to find that this was front-page news. Nope, just the drought. I jumped to page 20, where three meager articles covered Iraq. There was no even so much as a blurb on the insurgency amnesty in any of the articles.

When I see failures in reporting like this, it's difficult to take journalism as a profession seriously. Will bloggers be forced to pick up the journalists' slack and report on issues they neglect to report? Are bloggers going to be responsible for doing the investigative reporting that was once exclusive to the journalism profession?

I'm starting to think so.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

David Vitter in the Metro Section

Marriage defense hasn't ended hurricane work
Re: "Vitter takes off on a distracting detour," Other Opinions, June 11.

Stephanie Grace didn't surprise or disappoint me with her column lambasting my defense of traditional marriage as a core social institution. What disappointed me was the intellectual dishonesty of her arguments.

Like most in the liberal press, she largely avoided the important substance of the debate and instead argued that my support of traditional marriage was diverting attention from important matters like hurricane recovery, that it was all a cynical political move by Republicans, and the like.

The liberal press should be honest about what their criticism is really all about. I'm a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history. They are liberals who support that radical redefinition. It really has nothing to do with other pressing business.

Diverting attention from work on hurricane recovery? They must not have noticed that, in the same week, I helped finalize an extremely strong hurricane recovery package.

Perhaps the column's silliest and cheapest shot was the suggestion that my views on this show that I'm spending all my time in Washington.

Actually, I'm the senator who lives in Louisiana, is back every week, and holds town hall meetings in every parish in the state.

Because traditional marriage is such a core social institution that predates both government and organized religion, I think this is about more than "two guys in love filing joint tax returns" -- like the way we raise children, meet the most basic of their emotional needs and transmit values to the next generation.

When marriage means anything or everything, it means nothing. It's trivialized and weakened as an institution. When it's all about adult individual rights, the interests of children and society suffer.

But then again, maybe the liberals are right.

Family stability, child-rearing, the transmission of values -- how trivial.

David Vitter
U.S. Senator
Washington
As Vitter points out, it was that same week that the Emergency Spending Package was passed--but it wasn't passed until later in the week--after the trivial no-chance-in-hell-of-being-passed Marriage Protection Amendment had been debated for days. This debate pushed the Emergency Spending Package vote to the backburner, while Marriage 'Protection' took center stage on the Senate Floor.

Vitter dedicated his last few paragraphs to executing an argument I still fail to fully understand. He seems to imply that marriage is simply an institution reserved exclusively for child-rearing. If this is so, then why are infertile couples allowed to marry? Why should we allow those individuals who have no plans to have children the ability to wed? Furthermore, would gay marriage be permissible if they were allowed to adopt and raise children? I simply don't comprehend.

But that's not the only part of his argument I don't quite get. Vitter claims that, "When it's all about adult individual rights, the interests of children and society suffer." As I see it, children and society suffer as a result of this discrimination. The message it sends to children and society is that not "all people are created equal" and that not all people are endowed "with certain unalienable rights". This is a direct contradiction of our constitution.

Perhaps it is because of that message that America has seen so many hate crimes against the homosexual community recently.

The values David Vitter seeks to transmit to the next generation are not my own and they are not the values I want my future children to inherit. By imposing his own values on the rest of the county using the power of his political position, Vitter not only infringes on the civil rights of American citizens--but he also tramples over the face of the U.S. Constitution and all our country was founded upon.

When forced to choose between accepting another's moral guidelines as law or guaranteeing the civil rights of all people, I choose civil rights.

I just wish Vitter would choose civil rights, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Plame Game

Since I first purchased it two days ago, I've been devouring Eric Boehlert's fantastic book, Lapdogs. In it, he covers Fitzgerald's part in the Plame Affair and applauds his work on the case. He writes:

"The administration had already established a habit for making life professionally unpleasant for reporters who pressed too hard, and with a president who at that time still boasted lofty approval ratings, most journalists shed away from the conflict. Instead, it fell to a special prosecutor to do the watchdog work traditionally overseen by the D.C. press corps. If it weren't for Fitzgerald, it's doubtful the press ever would have fully reported the leak story on its own, even though scores of reporters, editors, and producers were sitting on the key facts of the case."

After falling asleep after reading morsels not much unlike the one above, it was a little disheartening to wake up to the news that the charges against Rove had been dropped. My initial feeling was disappointment--that is, until I had a free moment to dabble in the blogosphere.

At FireDogLake, OpisIsHungry writes:
"Anne at 44 (and Jeralyn) are right I think: The language used by Luskin strongly suggests that Rove got immunity in exchange for his cooperation (it is probably the same deal I have been suggesting was offered to Novak way back when...) Otherwise he never would have testified in the Grand Jury to begin with.

'Does not anticipate seeking charges' means that if Rove testifies at Libby's trial as expected, and as his agreement no doubt provides for him to testify, (lawyers call it providing "ongoing cooperation"), then all will be well for him. But if he 'goes sideways' on Fitz and testifies differently from what is now expected, he could be charged-w/perjury certainly, and his deal to avoid criminal liability in the larger conspiracy could be 'off' as he could face charges in that as well." [Emphasis mine.]

Many on the blogosphere seem to think that Fitzgerald's eyes have shifted from Rove to a larger target. However, Michael points out that, "'straight arrow' Fitzgerald is likewise unlikely to go for all the marbles and call for Big Time to stand tall before the man." I would like to see Cheney indited as much as the next person, especially since this is not the only time he's authorized a leak of information. But like Michael, I have doubts that Fitzgerald is moving in on the higher-ups; instead, I believe that he'll more likely use Rove's testimony to convict Libby, stock, lock, and barrel.

However, as Salon points out, perhaps Fitzgerald's decision not to indict Rove isn't all that bad.

On Immigration

"California Chinese, Boston Irish, Wisconsin Gerrmans, yes, and Alabama Negroes, have more in common than they have apart.... It is a fact that Americans from all sections and of all racial extractions are more alike than the Welsh are like the English, the Lancashireman like the Cockney, or for that matter the Lowland Scot like the Highlander."

--John Steinbeck, 1962

Earlier this morning, Rail made a fantastic first entry on immigration, one that made me nostalgic for a certain Schoolhouse Rock video...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On being young and politically active

On Sunday I had the pleasure of going out with a few friends to play D&D. It had been about six weeks since we last played. My friend, "J.", had been out-of-commission since a work-related object kept him on his back for the greater portion of a month and a half. The game had been put on hiatus until he finally recovered.

On the drive to Belle Chase, we started catching up on each other's lives. After Jim indulged me in the details of his injury and life after it, I mentioned that I had started a political blog.

J. looked at me as though I was insane. "A political blog?" he asked, as though he had heard me incorrectly. "You're 21. You should be out with G. and I, searching for the best margaritas in the city."

* * * * *


I mistakenly thought that the Hurricane Preparedness forum was yesterday; I dragged fellow college student S. with me to Eastbank Regional, where we both learned that I had the date wrong. Conference Room A was being used to educate first-time parents, not political enthusiasts.

"I was looking forward to being bored," S. complained, as he pocketed his iPod and we made our way back across the parking lot.

* * * * *


Before I started "T. and Sympathy", most of my political rants were kept in my personal journal, which had a rather wide readership. Most of the people who regularly read my blog were about my age--a few younger, a few older, but rarely anyone much older than 30. Eventually, my readers made it clear that they were tired of listening to me gripe about the condition of Lakeview or grumble about Gulf Coast-centric bills that were being tied up in Congress.

"It's depressing," they claimed.

"I'm tired of hearing about it all the time," they complained.

So I moved the rants here.

* * * * *


Part of the reason why I started "T. and Sympathy" was to encourage other young people to remain politically active and constantly vigilant. I wanted to encourage my peers to keep up-to-date on current events and then write what they thought about them.

So few people seem to encourage young people to remain politically active. Thirty-something year old J. and my forty year old mom both think that my political interest is something that can be "cured" with a more active social life. Most of my friends show little, if any interest, in politics--that is, unless it's something that will directly affect them, such as net neutrality or abortion--and they offer even less support. What I wanted was to create a coalition of young, politically-minded bloggers who would offer their peers emotional support and encouragement.

Most of my blogging seems to revolve around local issues (such as the Emergency Spending Act or local politicians) and national issues (such as Net Neutrality or Gay Marriage). As a result, I know little about what goes on in the states around me (save for perhaps Mississippi) or what issues matter to the young voters in those states. Through a network of young bloggers, we could educate each other about the going-ons in our respective states and offer political support, when necessary. If a fellow young blogger wrote about a little-advertised Alabama-centric bill needed support from Louisiana senators and representatives, I'd write and call Vitter, Landrieu, and Jindal and ask for their support.

Ultimately, I'd like one under-25 political blogger from each state linked on my sidebar. Perhaps it's a long shot, but I'm already one step closer towards it.

Later this week, a young political science major friend of mine from Alabama will be opening a political blog. I'll be sure to add a link to the sidebar once it's open.

I just hope that others follow suit.

Run for UNO

Calling all Privateer students, faculty, staff

To Help Turn the Negative into Positive

 

WE’RE WALKING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION IN NEW ORLEANS

 

A KATRINA 5K Run/Walk

Keeping All The Resources In New Orleans AliveTM

A National Day of Support for Higher Education in New Orleans

 

Saturday, June 24, 2006 

7:00 a.m. – On-site registration

8:30 a.m. – Start of 5K runners   

8:31 a.m. – Start of 5K Racewalkers

 

      Audubon Park, Shelter #10       

 

 

SIGN UP TO HELP SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE INSTITUTION!

       

  • Delgado Community College
  • Dillard University
  • Loyola University
  • Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center – New Orleans
  • Our Lady of Holy Cross College
  • Southern University of New Orleans
  • Tulane University
  • University of New Orleans
  • Xavier University

 

 

Registration fees $20.00

$15.00 for Students and Seniors (60 and over)

$25.00 for Honorary Members (Through June 17)

 

 

There is a challenge to see which university or college will have the top participation! Help UNO meet the challenge!

 

To register, visit www.akatrinawalk.com 

Monday, June 12, 2006

Books and Politics

I rarely watch TV these days, but today I felt compelled to flick through the channels. I managed to catch channel 6's interview with Mary Landrieu, who was discussing the Gulf Coast Protection Act (S.2420). This act will ensure that coastal states get their fair share of gas and oil revenue.

Representative Jindal also made an appearance to talk about his Domestic Energy Production through Offshore Exploration and Equitable Treatment of State Holdings Act of 2006 (H.R. 4761), which will ensure that we get two billion a year in royalties of energy produced offshore. He also talked briefly about the Emergency Spending Act, which is going to the house soon. Apparently, military leaders are desperate for the funds, which means that we won't have to worry about the house voting against it, or Bush vetoing it.

I only wish that we had this money before this hurricane season.

I went to Border's for the first time in about a month. Some people have alcohol, others drugs. My secret vice is books. I can not go into a bookstore without making some sort of purchase, and usually I end up spending twice as much as I intended to. As a result, my room has become an almost impenetrable fortress of books; messy stacks of books cover the floor of most of my living space. I've got a bag of used books that I purchased in a spending spree at Kaboom Book's during the school year and haven't had the time to touch. Hopefully, I'll remedy that soon.

Earlier in the summer, I vowed to read a book every day for the entire summer. In addition to that, I read a chapter of Creationism's Trojan Horse every evening, a rather thick hardcover book that would be impossible to read in just 24 hours. Unfortunately, right after Dystopian Week (I read everything from Lois Lowry to Ray Bradbury), I was struck with terrible migraines that just would not go away. After switching from Fioricen to Relpax, I'm doing all right, but I still haven't gotten back into my regular book reading schedule.

Today, I purchased three books: Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over For Bush, Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, and Dispatches from the Edge. Hopefully, these books will be enough to get me back into my regular reading schedule.

I'm still valiantly fighting for custody of one of the cars on Monday, June 26th. Anderson Cooper will be at the local Borders, signing copies of Dispatches from the Edge. Yet another reason to get back onto my regular reading schedule...

Higher Education: Another Victim of Katrina

Last semester, I took online courses at a local university. I'm an English major whose specialty lies in fiction writing, but I have an on-again, off-again love affair with history and anthropology. One of the courses I took this semester that was easily one of the best classes I have taken in my college career. It was an anthropology course entitled "Fads and Fallacies of Human Origins", and it was taught by one Dr. Shenkel.

Like most teachers that teach specialized courses, he was very passionate about what he taught, and it really shone through in his Microsoft Word lectures. Though I've never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Shenkel in person, his enthusiasm inspired me to seek out the truth in everything. Though the class focused almost exclusively on cult archeology, once I completed the course, I was more easily able to recognize instances of fallacious thinking and identify abuse of facts. Though I was a skeptic even before I took the course, that skepticism was honed into a more powerful tool after a semester in Dr. Shenkel's class.

Unfortunately, Dr. Shenkel was one of the many human sacrifices made after Katrina. Earlier in the year he sent out an e-mail confirming that his position, like many others at the university, had been terminated:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for coming and putting up with the trauma of getting the university going again. As most of you should know by now, the LSU Board of Supervisors has given the Chancellor the green light for restructuring. The draft plan I have seen eliminates my position starting with the next academic year.

It's disconcerting to think that professors as inspiring and enthusiastic as Dr. Shenkel are having their positions eliminated. In my three years of college, I have only rarely encountered professors that have managed to inspire me to do outside reading; even fewer have done enough to change my entire way of thinking. Dr. Shenkel was one of these rare professors, but nevertheless, his position was eliminated.

When the semester came to a close, and with it came the obligatory end-of-the-semester course review. And for the first time in my college career, I felt compelled to write down more than just a line or two about my thoughts on Dr. Shenkel. I hoped that perhaps my opinion would somehow influence the fate of his position. Dr. Shenkel had done more than just taught me; he had changed my life.

I greatly fear Dr. Shenkel and many other talented professors may have had their positions eliminated as a result of carpet decision-making. Perhaps if professors were evaluated on a case-by-case, administrators would have been able to recognize that Dr. Shenkel was a valuable asset to the university. Regardless, I can't help but wonder how many other fantastic professors were relinquished simply because they did not have tenure.

I can only hope that there weren't many.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Potpourri of Thoughts

I'm not sure who's considering running, but I'll support Russ Feingold if he decides to run for president in 2008. He's the only guy that voted against the original Patriot Act, and he also gave a stunning speech on the senate floor the other day opposing "Marriage Protection". Looking at his issues page, most of his ideas seem to correlate almost exactly with my own.

Both Gentilly Girl and Suspect Device have posted about the problems the New Orleans Fire Department is having at the moment. With the number of fires that have plagued the city since Katrina, the NOFD should be high on New Orleans' priority list.

Having secured transportation, I will be at the Hurricane Preparedness Forum on Monday. If anyone else is going to be there, please give me a shout.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Net Neutrality

Last night’s House vote against an amendment that would make Net Neutrality enforceable is the result of swarming lobbyists and a multi-million-dollar media campaign by telephone companies that want Congress to hand them control of the Internet.

The fight now moves to the Senate, where there is stronger bi-partisan support for a bill — put forth by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) — that would protect our Internet freedom from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

-Save the Internet

If you haven't already, contact your senators and let them know you support Net Neutrality.

Louisiana and Video Games

I've been a big fan of video games ever since I was a kid. While some people are quick to quip that video games perpetrate violence, I feel as though in most circumstances, it helps to deter it. I cannot count the number of times playing a video game has calmed me in a moment of anger. It's almost therapudic.

Millions of Americans play video games every day, but only a few cases of "video games violence" are reported every year. A few extreme cases shouldn't be much of a concern, correct?

However, Roy Burrel seems to think otherwise. He has wasted your tax dollars writing and pushing anti-game legislation that cannot possibly be implemented:

Written by Representative Roy Burrell (D-District 2) and Thompson, HB1381 would make it illegal to sell, rent, or lease a game to a minor if it met three conditions. First, if the "average person" would think "appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence." Second, if it "depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards." Lastly, a game would only qualify if it "lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors." Violators could be fined between $100 and $2,000 and sentenced to up to 12 months in a state prison.

Okay, what constitutes the "average person"? And who decides whether or not the game "lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value"? How in the world could such a law be implemented with such vague and ambiguous terms? I know that my idea of violence may be different than someone else's. Who in their right mind would approve such a measure?

Don't worry. The Louisiana State Senate wouldn't possibly approve that bill. Right? Right?

After being approved by a key committee last week, HB1381 was passed last night in a 35-0 vote in the Louisiana State Senate, according to watchdog site GamePolitics.com. The bill will now be presented to Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, who made national headlines during the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last fall. The Governor is expected to sign the bill, given the unanimous vote and the recent linking of games and teenage murder suspects in the Louisiana media. If that happens, expect an ESA legal filing to follow shortly.

D'oh.

A Phone Call to David Vitter's Office

I called David Vitter's office this morning to ask a few questions. When I broached the topic of the infamous quote from Wednesday's CNN article, the aide was quick to inform me that it was seven second snippet from a three minute speech. Apparently, Vitter was misquoted, and he meant that "protecting" the sanctity of marriage was the most important social concern.

When I pointed out other major social concerns in the area (namely levees, housing, etc.), he was quick to quip that I should speak to Vitter directly about these issues, and that he could not comment at this time. When I asked why an issue as "important" as the Marriage Protection was not listed on the senator's website, the aide informed me that once again, I should speak directly to the senator.

Still no word on how I can get directly in touch with the senator.

I also called Chaisson's office earlier today, but got his answering machine. I'll be calling again later this evening in regards to his support for the abortion bill that was passed by the state senate earlier this week.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Writing David Vitter on Gay Marriage

I think it's pretty clear that I'm against the Marriage Protection Act. I believe that homosexual or heterosexual, all people deserve the same right to marry the person that they love. After taking the wee hours of my Monday morning to write an eloquent e-mail expressing my views before the act hit the senate floor, I got this reply earlier today:

Dear Ms. T,

Thank you for contacting me in support of a Federal Marriage Amendment. I share your concern on this issue, and I agree with you 100 percent.

You may be pleased to know that I am an original cosponsor of a Senate resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. The amendment prohibits the Constitution or any state constitution from being construed to require that marital status or its legal incidents be conferred upon any union other than that of a man and a woman.

During my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives I cosponsored and voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and woman. Sadly the bill did not get the two-thirds votes needed for passage. I am now working in the Senate to protect the institution of marriage. Like you I feel this is essential to the future of our country, and I recognize the importance marriage plays in the lives of our children.

I believe marriage to be a union between a man and a woman. This definition should be held not to enforce discriminatory acts, but to uphold the sanctity of marriage. The Federal Marriage Amendment removes the debate regarding the definition of marriage from the hands of the courts and returns this decision to the American people, where it belongs. In fact, no state legislature and no popular referendum has passed in any state allowing any other definition of marriage except as between a man and a woman. In addition over 38 states have passed legislation protecting traditional marriage. In Louisiana , our statewide referendum passed with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

Thank you again for contacting me in support of traditional families and in defense of marriage. Rest assured I will continue to fight to protect our shared Louisiana values. Once again, thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts on this issue. Please feel free to contact me in the future about issues important to you and your family.

Sincerely,
Senator David Vitter
United States Senator

P.S. Please visit my webiste to sign up for E-Updates and receive regular email updates from me on the issues important to Louisiana families.

Thanks, David. Glad to know you care about your constituents enough to have your aides actually read their e-mails. It seems as though Loki has gotten the same reply.

And talk about impeccable timing. I also recieved a postcard from David Vitter in the mail just today:

Dear Friend,

Please join me at my Hurricane Preparedness Forum to discuss preparations for this year's hurricane season. We'll have representatives of all relevant agencies on hand to discuss evacuation, communication, levee repairs and improvements, and more.

I really look forward to hearing your views on these and other key issues for Louisiana Families.

David

Jefferson Parish Eastbank Regional Library
Meeting Rooms A and B
4747 West Napoleon Ave.
Metairie

Monday, June 19
7:00 P.M.

Will anyone else be going?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

David Vitter on Gay Marriage

Gutterboy over at the New Orleans LiveJournal community pointed this gem out:

"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one," said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

- Senate set to reject gay marriage ban

Oh really, David? I'm sure you could think of something.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

David Vitter: "Protecting" marriage instead of his constituents

Let me be honest. I don't like David Vitter.

I didn't like him when he was representative of first district, and I certainly don't like him now that he is senator. It's not just because of the part he played in Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal. Nor is it the fact he co-sponsored the Community Disaster Loan Act of 2005 (S.1858), which tacitly states that disaster loans "may not be canceled". And while his personal ideologies clash with my own, moral qualms are not the only reason I abhor the man.

Vitter is one of the many U.S. politicians who does not have his priorities straight. In Post-K Louisiana, articles regarding wetlands, levees, and hurricane preparedness, flood the Times-Picayune. Issues like immigration and gay marriage find their place in Da Paper, but they're rarely front page material. People are more concerned with surviving another hurricane season than they are with encroaching on the civil rights of others.

However, Vitter seems to think he knows where our interests lie.

Vitter choose to co-sponsor the Marriage Protection Amendment (S.J.RES.1), but not the Emergency Health Care Relief Act of 2005 (S.1716), which would "provide emergency health care relief for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and for other purposes"--for his constituents.

And when Landrieu threatened to block Bush's appointments requiring senate confirmation in hopes of stimulating the progress of flood restoration legislation, Vitter was content to blast Landrieu for her efforts on the senate floor when she participated in democratic filibusters that blocked Bush court nominees. It's hardly difficult to understand why Landrieu would be forced to block nominations in order to spur action; even despite Landrieu's best efforts, the Emergency Spending Package has been placed on the backburner this week in lieu of more pressing agenda: "preserving the sanctity of marriage".

Somehow, I fail to see the point in preserving the "sanctity of marriage" when you're unable to preserve the lives of your own constituents.

If you haven't already, write Vitter and let him know what's on your mind.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Louisiana's Catch-22

For the past couple of weeks, I've been doing research on a letter I'm writing on "why the Gulf Coast matters" in hopes of encouraging some of the more passive politicians up in D.C. to participate more aggressively in passing legislation that will assist Gulf Coast citizens in the rebuilding and help protect them against flooding and tidal surges in the future.

While gathering further information, I discovered that my local representative is responsible for writing up the "Domestic Energy Production through Offshore Exploration and Equitable Treatment of State Holdings Act of 2006" (H.R. 4761) which, according to Representative Jindal's website, will "bring Louisiana up to 75 percent of energy royalties produced offshore."

I'm sure that many remember remember last December's recovery spending bill, which gained most of its notoriety from Senator Landrieu's no-recess threat. However, the original bill--which included a precept that allowed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge--was filibustered. Eventually, before the senate's holiday recess, the bill was passed--once the ANWR was stripped.

While the ANWR drilling precept was shaved from the bill, there was the possibility that the bill would have been passed without the removal of the ANWR legislation. I am against drilling in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but I also want the coastal states to get the financial aid that they rightly deserve. Should others force me to compromise my ideals in order to help those in need? Should I be forced to choose between two personal ideologies?

I realize that negotiations are--and have always been--a part of politics. But when people are in need, should people take advantage of an unfortunate, desperate situation and use it to promote their own agendas?

I don't think so, but many politicians are quick to take advantage of the Gulf Coast's plight:

The Senate measure provides money for the war in Iraq, and for hurricane recovery. But it also contains billions of dollars for lawmakers' pet projects.

Passing these bills would be quicker and easier if they focused exclusively on one theme (i.e., Gulf Coast relief, funding for the War in Iraq, etc.), rather than several different issues at once. As in the case of the ANWR drilling controversy, many of the democrats who opposed the drilling in Alaska (and subsequently, delayed the passage of the bill), supported funding the Gulf Coast in their time of need, but refused to support the bill because of the ANWR drilling precept.

It's not uncommon for politicians to make compromises in order to help legislation pass. By adding legislation that caters to the interests of other politicians, the bill is more likely to be approved by those individuals who would otherwise turn it down; that's why it's not unsual to find pet projects strung onto the end of many big issue bills. However, the more bogged down these bills become with unrelated material, the more likely they are to solicit opposition.

As a result, Louisiana is stuck in a "Catch-22": if we cater to the demands of others, we delay the passage of bills that offer the Gulf Coast much-needed relief; if we don't, we still delay the passage of those bills.

Regardless of what action we take, it will likely be a long time before we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Blanco, however, is also taking an active (and hopefully more expeditious) route in hopes of collecting our fair share of the gas and oil revenue:

As this year's hurricane season began Thursday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco reiterated her pledge to block the August sale of oil and gas leases in the western Gulf of Mexico -- which in August last year netted more than $283 million for the federal government's general fund -- unless Louisiana gets a substantial share of offshore revenues.

Blanco said she'd prefer that coastal oil-producing states receive "a 50 percent share of the royalties," money desperately needed to finance efforts to restore Louisiana's wetlands.

However, threats like these are of no use to Louisiana if they are not followed through. The Gulf Coast may have gotten the $93 billion last year before Senate recessed for the holidays, but would Mary Landrieu have--and been able--to follow through with threat to hold the Senate through Christmas? Will Blanco's threats become reality in August?

We'll just have to wait and see, but I'm not expecting any miracles.