Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Winning the Battle of the Form Letters

It's time for us taxpaying constituents to revolt against form letters from our elected officials that may or may not be on topic. Here's my suggestion for our very own form rebuttal:

Dear Mr. and/or Ms. Elected Official:

I am in receipt of your form letter response to my (choose one: email/letter) dated (choose one: 1 month ago; 2 months ago; more than 2 months ago) on the subject of _________________ (fill in the blank). I appreciate your acknowledgement of my correspondence.

I do not appreciate, however, the enormous amount of irrelevant boilerplate contained in your email. You chose not to address my questions or comments, opting instead to pat yourself on the back in an effort to influence my opinion of you and the "job you've been doing for me" (choose one: on Capitol Hill; in the White House; in the state capitol; in the loony bin known in New Orleans as City Hall).

I can quite easily ascertain your position on any issue, and how you voted; I know how to use several search engines on the internet. It is wholly unnecessary for you to explain why an issue is important and how you plan to resolve it -- I already know. That's why I wrote to you.

You, however, need to hear directly from your constituents, in depth, to understand the will of the electorate in our Representative Democratic Republic. That's why we correspond with you -- to communicate our positions, not to solicit you to blow smoke where the sun don't shine.

I will continue to communicate with you, and I will appreciate getting a brief reply from you acknowledging that you comprehend my position. I will not appreciate the heaping mounds of self-congratulatory barky-malarkey in which your previous communications abound.

I remember, I make contributions to candidates, and I vote.

Most VERY sincerely,

Of course, I don't have to worry about receiving form letters from Speaker Pelosi or the Young President -- they never reply to the love letters I send them anyway. Do you have anything to add?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mandatory Evacuation: Another Forfeiture of Individual Liberty?

Texas enacted a law, to take effect in September of this year, that requires its citizens to get on the road and get out of a storm's way if the Governor issues a mandatory evacuation. If someone chooses to stay put for whatever reason, he will be subject to arrest and involuntary transport.

I'm not sure what I think about that.

Sure, the law could save lives and allow first responders to do their jobs better since they won't have to go around rescuing folks and what-not, but it also flushes the Fourth Amendment down the drain. I see no-warrant-needed searches aplenty coming down the pike, and that frankly scares me. Our front door hasn't worked right since "the authorities" kicked it in doing their house-to-house after Katrina. (At least they painted the "X" on the sidewalk instead of on the house!) And it still gives me the creeps to know that they were in my house, uninvited, and left the house vulnerable to the unmedicated thugs and looters that ran unchecked throughout the city.

There are as many reasons not to evacuate as there are reasons to go -- health issues, elderly residents, pets. The Gustav experience last year was not very pleasant for those who participated in the government-run option, and I believe many will choose not to go if there's a big storm this year.

Besides, just as you can't legislate good parenting, you likewise can't legislate common sense. You can, however, stand up for the Constitution and property rights. So far.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Obligatory Gates-gate Post

I guess I'll just get it over with.

The Young President commented yet again on the Harvard prof's accusation that Cambridge police officers were insensitive to racial matters while responding to a suspected burglary at his residence.

The Young President was responding to criticism of his weighing in on the matter. In trying to frame a dialogue on race, he said, "... if I were black or if I were white... ."

Um, yes. You are. Both.

Move along, folks. There's nothing to see here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Presidential Primer: How A REAL President SHould Behave

I received this email today. It made me so very wistful -- we'll never see another politician with this kind of integrity again. *Sigh*

Harry Truman

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri . His wife had inherited The house from her mother and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (hello, Illinois )

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!"

I say dig him up and clone him!!

I would have to agree! You're still givin' 'em hell, Harry.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Update: "Dollar Bill" Jefferson Goes to Court

Following 5 weeks of prosecution testimony from FBI sting witnesses and co-conspirators, videotapes of money-exchanges, and audio tapes of the Congressman's own voice, the defense team for former Congressman Bill Jefferson began and rested its case yesterday. In 2 hours!

In a reversal of its previous position, the prosecution agreed to the admission of parts of the videotapes it had earlier resisted. Coming to that decision was probably made easier by the judge's comments (out of the hearing of the jury) that those excerpts don't "amount to a hill of beans" and "[i]t doesn't matter if he committed the crime for the benefit of his children, for himself, or for some charity."

Playing those tapes took up 90 minutes of the 2-hour defense. The defense then filed a Motion to Dismiss 15 of the 16 counts. Smirk.

Closing arguments begin next Tuesday. Methinks the defense is betting a little too much on "reasonable doubt."

The good former-Congressman -- always quite the dapper dresser -- should probably spend a little time at his tailor's over the next few days getting fitted for a custom-made orange jumpsuit. We wouldn't want him to look shabby at his debut in the federal hoosegow, now would we?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Federal Health Care Land: And We're Going to Pay For This, How Exactly?

In honor of the Young President's next teleprompter-a-thon this evening, I'd like to share this little chart prepared by Congressional Republican staffers. It analyzes the House proposal for reform and flows health care from the citizen to the provider, pointing out all new and existing bureaus and agencies that will meet our every important health need. Like the Office of Minority Health. Or the Advisory Committee on Health Workforce and Evaluation. Or the Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission (courtesy of the Stimulus). Or -- this one has such potential -- the Health Choices Administration. Do you wonder who's going to be doing the choosing?

And remember -- it all begins with mandatory insurance coverage! Buy it -- or provide it, if you're an employer, no matter your size -- or pay a rather substantial penalty!

Study the chart at your leisure, but be warned: it can give you a serious headache. And aspirin ain't gonna be cheap.

(You can see a full-size version here.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mysteries of Life: Livin' in Louisiana

This one just blows me away.

When you renew your driver's license in Louisiana, you don't trot down to the Parish O.M.V. (OFFICE of Motor Vehicles, not Division. What do expect from a state that calls counties "parishes!") to stand in line, watch as only the people who admit to faulty vision have their eyes tested, and pose for an inevitably awful photograph. Oh, no, indeedy!

You get a notice in the mail and you return it, along with a check for $23.00, to the State O.M.B.. And in a few weeks, the State mails you a brand new -- sticker!! You place the sticker in the space allotted for stickers on the back of your license and you're good to go for the next four years! Sweet!!

I'm not saying I dislike the system -- it's pretty easy on us taxpaying drivers. I am saying, however, that it's a good idea to take an alternate government-issued I.D. when flying. It's not an easy task to convince T.S.A. folks that your driver's license expiration date really isn't the one printed on the front with all the other information -- it's the one on the back. On the sticker.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rep. Fleming to Congress: Put Your Healthcare Where Your Mouth Is

Congressman John Fleming, who is also a physician, recently introduced House Resolution 615. On his website, he explains his Resolution as follows:
Over the past few weeks, members of Congress and the American people have
come to know the details of the Administration's proposed health care plan. Call
it whatever you like, I believe this proposal is nothing more than
government-run health care. As a physician, I am amazed at the number of
bureaucrats in this House who are quick to claim a government-run health care
plan is the reform this country needs. In response to this, I have offered a resolution that will offer members of Congress an opportunity
to put their money where their mouth is, and urge their colleagues who vote for
legislation creating a government-run health care plan to lead by example and
enroll themselves in the same public plan.

Under the current draft of the Democrat healthcare legislation, members of
Congress are curiously exempt from the government-run health care option,
keeping their existing health plans and services on Capitol Hill. If Members of
Congress believe so strongly that government-run health care is the best
solution for hard working American families, I think it only fitting that
Americans see them lead the way. Public servants should always be accountable
and responsible for what they are advocating, and I challenge the American
people to demand this from their representatives.

Together we will work to ensure that any plan that is good enough is for
American families is good enough for every member of Congress.

Now that's the kind of Capitol Hill action I can get behind! You can go here to his website to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor and download a prepared message to send to your own representative.

The House version of healthcare reform is a nightmare, and certain to be the death knell of many small businesses. Pelosi and her thugs strike again. Melt the phone lines!!!

Oh, and p.s., union healthcare plans are also grandfathered. I wonder what Congressman Fleming can do about that?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Best Choice for Car Czar Successor

Oh, why the heck not?

Thanks to Iowahawk, the U.S. auto industry might just survive.

Monday, July 13, 2009

William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson Goes to Court

This rather sneaky-looking fellow is my former Congressman, William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson.

Harvard law and Georgetown post-doc, he first went to Washington in 1991, having been elected as the first black Congressman to represent Louisiana since Reconstruction. Jefferson was no novice in governmental ins and outs, however; he had knocked around the state Capitol as a state Senator for twelve years and clerked for a federal judge. Once established in D.C., he worked himself into a pretty powerful position, serving on Ways and Means. You might also recall that he commandeered National Guard resources four days after Katrina to take him to his flooded Uptown home where he retrieved a number of personal items and managed to divert two military trucks and one Coast Guard helicopter from rescue operations while thousands remained stranded on rooftops.

Despite this elitist misappropriation of government assets, he was easily re-elected in the fall of 2006, and even though, suspecting him of engaging in bribery, the FBI had raided his Congressional offices in May 2006. (Don't ask me to explain Louisiana voters -- they defy explanation! See Edwin Edwards and David Duke).

Then, he messed up.

He got a little too greedy and, on June 4, 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Dollar Bill on sixteen counts related to corruption, telecommunications in Nigeria, and $90,000 in cold hard cash. Literally. Wrapped in foil and stuffed into pie crust and Boca burger boxes in his freezer. The source of the cash: an FBI sting operation that had him taking the marked bills to pass along to the former Nigerian Vice President as an "incentive" to grant a telecommunications license to a company in which he would ultimately have an ownership interest. Impressed?

The charges include Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, RICO stuff, and wire fraud, among others. He could get up to 20 years in a federal pen (just as one of his proteges, former City Councilman and once-expected successor to Mayor Ray Nagin -- another fine Louisiana politician --, Oliver Thomas, moves to a half-way house to complete his sentence for public corruption). Jefferson's trial began in Virginia on June 9th (happy anniversary gift to me!!!).

So far, his defense has centered around his fuzzy contention that "he was manipulated into accepting the money by [a woman wearing an FBI wire, on videotape] and that he did 'something stupid,' and took it," but he took it as a private citizen and not as a Congressman; a Congressman who has two influence-peddling pals who have already copped pleas to the deal. All of which is a fancy way of saying that his actions don't amount to public corruption. Yeah, like Joe Average has direct contact with the Vice President of Nigeria. I'd call that a Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot moment.

During his unsuccessful bid for re-election in 2008 (yeah -- we finally threw the sucker out!), he promised the people of the 2nd Congressional District "an honorable explanation" for the cash-sicles.

We're still waiting to hear. This should be good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Soldier Responds to MJ's Death

I received this in an email today. It's pretty powerful stuff. Plus, it suggests a way to get Congress to shut up.

This is written by a young man serving his third tour of duty in Iraq. Thought you might find his take on the Michael Jackson news interesting.

Okay, I need to rant. I was just watching the news, and I caught part of a report on Michael Jackson. As we all know, Jackson died the other day. He was an entertainer who performed for decades. He made millions, he spent millions, and he did a lot of things that make him a villain to many people. I understand that his death would affect a lot of people, and I respect those people who mourn his death, but that isn't the point of my rant.
Why is it that when ONE man dies, the whole of America loses their minds with grief. When a man dies whose only contribution to the country was to ENTERTAIN people, the American people find the need to flock to a memorial in Hollywood, and even Congress sees the need to hold a "moment of silence" for his passing?

Am I missing something here? ONE man dies, and all of a sudden he's a freaking martyr because he entertained us for a few decades? What about all those SOLDIERS who have died to give us freedom? All those Soldiers who, knowing that they would be asked to fight in a war, still raised their hands and swore to defend the Constitution and the United States of America. Where is their moment of silence? Where are the people flocking to their graves or memorials and mourning over them because they made the ultimate sacrifice? Why is it when a Soldier dies, there are more people saying "good riddance," and "thank God for IEDs?" When did this country become so calloused to the sacrifice of GOOD MEN and WOMEN, that they can arbitrarily blow off their deaths, and instead, throw themselves into mourning for a "Pop Icon?"

I think that if they are going to hold a moment of silence IN CONGRESS for Michael Jackson, they need to hold a moment of silence for every service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They need to PUBLICLY recognize every life that has been lost so that the American people can live their callous little lives in the luxury and freedom that WE, those that are living and those that have gone on, have provided for them. But, wait, that would take too much time, because there have been so many willing to make that sacrifice. After all, we will never make millions of dollars. We will never star in movies, or write hit songs that the world will listen too. We only shed our blood, sweat and tears so that people can enjoy what they have.
Sorry if I have offended, but I needed to say it. Remember these five words the next time you think of someone who is serving in the military; "So that others may live..."


Bravo, Isaac. And thank you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Twenty-six Years Ago Today . . . .

. . . . this sweet young woman joined our family, on her grandmother's birthday, at 1404 CDT (known in the civilian world as 2:04 p.m.). She was in a hurry -- Pepper had to catch her head while the doc was still scrubbing. She debuted at a fighting weight of 7 lbs., 6 oz. and, after clearing up the colic issues, she grew like a weed. All except the hair part -- that took a couple of years to fill in! But that's not a problem -- I love little bald-headed babies, then and now.

Ten months later, she was walking. And climbing out of her crib (thanks for teaching her how to do that, Shay!), toddling down the hall, and climbing up the footboard to pounce into the bed with her Daddy and me at ungodly-early hours. At two, she went running down the sidewalk, naked as a jaybird. I was really grateful for the open-door alarm that day!

She danced, she soccered, she Girl Scouted, she cheer-led, and she pretty much ran her high school, as had her sister before her. She engaged in the extended-stay undergrad experience, not hearing her Muse until Katrina hit. Today, she is preparing to begin the graduate program in the School of Social Work at UALR, and fretting over how to schedule work, school, time with her precious pup and the man in her life, helping her sister with wedding plans, and sleep. She'll handle it just fine.

My beautiful brunette baby will handle it just fine. Happy birthday, my Ronni.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party!

Our Greater New Orleans Tea Party went to Baton Rouge to participate in their Independence Day event at the state capitol. It was 99 in the shade, but a good crowd of 1,000-ish showed up.

Among the speakers was Gisela Chavalier, a naturalized American citizen, native to Cuba. She told her story -- of growing up as Cuba moved from democracy to socialism to communism -- and warned about the signs she sees here of the same path. Very moving -- and downright scary.
One of our GNO leaders, orthodontist Dr. Glenn Dubroc, made a presentation on healthcare reform. He noted not only the shortcomings of the President's plan, but also offered a few solutions to rising healthcare costs, such as the Cato Institute's proposal for Health-Status Insurance, and even medical malpractice tort reform. Clearly, something must be done to bring down healthcare costs, but we must think long and hard before jumping into a single-payer system or rationing of service. Congress just simply has to understand that haste makes waste -- just look at the Stimulus! But I digress . . . .

As our gathering was only a few blocks away from Baton Rouge's official 4th of July celebration on the Mississippi River, we got a few lagniappe sideshows, such as an F-15 fighter jet fly-by, a Confederate Air Force fly-by, and a hot air balloon float-by! Pretty cool! There were LOTS of young families there, kids running all over the capitol lawn and rolling down grassy hills, and at least one dog -- ours -- who weighed in on the healthcare issue. You can see his position in
the pic above. At least one commenter has said that he can't agree with Bouie's position! Sorry about this, Bou, but I have to go along with the commenter.

With family so far away, it was a nice, patriotic way to pass an Independence Day in the company of like-minded folks; but, somehow, it wasn't as exhilirating as the Tax Day party. We've been beaten down by Cap & Trade and more politician scandals since then, and the Young President has been on the 2009 World Apology Tour.

It did serve to remind, however, that we can't give up. The price is way too dear -- and I'm not just talking about having to pay more in taxes or carbon fees or whatever. I'm talking about losing our Republic. So, we must take a deep breath, gird our loins, and leap into the fray that is Cap & Trade in the Senate and Healthcare Reform everywhere else. Into the breach, good lads and lassies! Into the breach!

Cap & Trade Explained, to Music!

EXCELLENT explanation of Cap & Trade, a la Schoolhouse Rock, via Hot Air and Tax Now, I get it!

I miss Schoolhouse Rock.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day!

This will get you thinking patriotic thoughts -- then . . . .

Go Fourth and party like it's 1776!

T.E.A. Party, that is!

See ya in Baton Rouge . . . .

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Another Lesson Learned Courtesy of Katrina

In March 2006, just after Mardi Gras, I sent a letter to Linda Caillouet, a columnist with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She is a native of New Orleans and moved to Little Rock a number of years ago.

Her childhood home was destroyed in the federal flood that followed Katrina and she often wrote about it in her column. I had been in New Orleans to work on the house for several weeks when it hit me that I felt like I was home; New Orleans had never felt like home before. Prompted by this self-revelation, I felt like I should let her know about some stuff. The following is an email I sent her:

Dear Ms. Caillouet:

I’m sorry I missed seeing you in New Orleans during Carnival. My friend, Annette, found me on the Parc St. Charles balcony as Rex rolled by to tell me she had just met a columnist from Arkansas. She couldn’t remember the name of the newspaper – she was focusing all her concentration on throws and breathtaking floats. I thought you might be that columnist, at least I hope so.

Please accept my family’s deepest sympathy for your and your parents’ losses. We have many friends and acquaintances from Lakeview and Arabi and New Orleans East, so we know the depth and degree of those losses. We also know survivors’ guilt, having suffered relatively minor storm damage and no flooding or looting.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is MoogieP and I’m a fan of your column. I’m also sort of your geographical mirror image, living most of my life in Little Rock then moving to New Orleans in 1999 with my husband. He took a job at Entergy’s corporate headquarters and found our wonderful 1906 Victorian house in uptown, but I didn’t move full-time until 2001 so that our younger daughter could graduate from Hall High and I could continue teaching Business Law at UALR. It was a 2-year long distance romance, complete with a split-custody arrangement of the two dogs, you know? Anyway, we’ve been back living in Little Rock since our August 28th evacuation, first at our son’s home, then in a one bedroom apartment with the two dogs, two sets of golf clubs, a bicycle, and all the hunting and fishing gear. We still are uncertain of where and when we go next, but we’re miraculously fortunate to be able to visit our home in New Orleans from time to time to sleep in our own bed and cook in our own kitchen.

My daughter-in-law called last week when I was in New Orleans working on the house to tell me that you wrote in your column that you planned to be at Fat Harry’s on Endymion Saturday and Bacchus Sunday, but I never got over there to introduce myself to you, even though our house is only two blocks up, on the river side. The reason I never made it to Fat Harry’s is the main purpose of this letter – to enable me to indulge in a small cathartic expression of the Katrina-Rita saga from the perspective of a non-native resident.

Simply put, I miss New Orleans and I didn’t fully realize it until this last trip home. I’ve been so comfortable in my extended reunion with family and friends that I’ve suppressed how much the Big Easy has wormed itself into my soul. It’s now a part of me despite its oppressive humidity and indeterminable number of mosquitoes and inexplicable politics and LSU Tigers instead of Arkansas Razorbacks.

I really miss New Orleans and I didn’t know it until I heard the bands warming up on Napoleon Avenue before every parade that rolled uptown this season. So, I didn’t want to miss even a single moment on the neutral ground with my daughters and their friends in an attempt to weave my way through the crowds of families to get to you at Fat Harry’s on the Avenue.

I didn’t want to miss seeing how much the neighbors’ triplets, now three years old, have grown – their parents always set up next to us and allowed us to help shepherd them. I didn’t want to miss watching the enormous family nearby speaking some variety of eastern European dialect and enjoying their first carnival. I didn’t want to miss a hug from neighbors or a tail-wag from a neighbor dog I haven’t had the chance to see yet. I wanted to sit and contemplate the sunlight glinting off of beads dangling from the just-budding crepe myrtles and scarred live oaks. Beads belong in those trees and they’ve been painfully absent for six months.

I didn’t want to give up a single minute watching my sweet, geriatric dogs basking in the sun on the front porch, without leashes, after having been cooped up in that little apartment for so long. I didn’t want to skip playing “Winter Wonderland” on the piano, simply because I could. I wanted to try to cook chicken on the grill that my husband had lashed to the fuse box on August 27th, hoping it wouldn’t overturn as it had during Hurricane Cindy earlier in the summer. I wasn’t sure if it would work even if I could untie the ropes, but I needed to try.

I didn’t want to miss a single moment pulling weeds in my herb garden and I wanted to use as many dishes as I could in the kitchen, simply because I could. I didn’t want to miss a morsel of the red beans and rice my neighbor spent two days cooking even though her foot is in a cast. You see if I missed those moments as they happened, I would miss them all the more later.

So I never made it to Fat Harry’s; but I did get to experience all those moments. Plus, my daughter gave me the Willie Nelson doubloon she caught from his float in Bacchus; and I was able to watch in awe as Orpheus rolled into and paraded around the newly-reopened Convention Center on Lundi Gras, now a site of joy and tradition instead of despair and hopelessness; and I caught 2006 medallion beads from Zulu on a beautiful Mardi Gras morning on the other end of the balcony where you met my friend. Or maybe it was a beautiful Mardi Gras afternoon because, as usual, Zulu rolled really late. Something else usual.

I’ll return to Little Rock later this week after meeting with a glazier and the awning contractor – finally! I’ll return to Little Rock for awhile, aware now that no matter where we wind up, I’ll always miss New Orleans. Aware also that I must find some way to help her re-build from afar.
This was probably the grandest, safest, most joyous Mardi Gras I’ll ever experience, even though most of the City remains battered and broken. I know that you and I can never forget this Carnival season and the way New Orleanians have retained their own unique spirit, humor, and determination. I hope you were able to enjoy this visit to your hometown; I know I did.

Oh, and the grill worked like a charm. Now if I can just find a brick mason . . . .

My best to your parents as they re-build their lives in my hometown.

She replied and we have corresponded often. I finally got to meet her in person last year while I was evacuated for Gustav and Ike.

I pray I don't get another chance to evacuate this year. More installments to come . . . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let Freedom Ring, Here and Abroad!

A big THANK YOU to our military and their families. Job well done!! Rest well earned!