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Archive for the 'Local Stuffs' Category

God, Save Me From Your Followers

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

I literally chunked my iPhone across the room when a local news-updater app came up telling me that, with no dissent ("unanimously and without debate"), the Louisiana House voted, to add a Ten Commandments monument to the Louisiana State Capitol.

Separation of church and state apparently doesn’t exist here.  Jefferson would be taking to his unique, personally-edited Bible and the other founding fathers would be shaking their heads in utter dismay.  State Representative Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, who brought the proposal makes the entire thing all the more worse (if that can be imagined) by saying the monument is not about religious observance but is of historical note:

The significance is historical. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. In fact, without them, a lot of our laws would not exist.

I am unsure what history classes Rep. Williams attended, but I was unaware that the history of this nation was based on Christian doctrine.  In fact, it would seem that our founding fathers said something completely different:

[Our] principles [are] founded on the immovable basis of equal right and reason.

- Thomas Jefferson, to James Sullivan, 1797

Not founded on Christianity, but the simple concepts of equal rights and sound reason.

May it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [July 4th] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them....

- - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C Weightman, June 24, 1826, Jefferson's last letter, declining, due to ill health, an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of that document; Jefferson died ten days later, the very day ot the 50th anniversary of the Declaration's signing (John Adams died a few hours later, not knowing that Jefferson had also died)

Emphasis mine.

Rep. Williams claims the plaque will have an added mention of its historical context:

Context for acknowledging America's religious history.

I believe this is more a future legal loophole that Rep. Williams and his ilk hope they can use when this plaque is deemed unconstitutional - it's not religious, it's historical, they will say.

Whatever your beliefs, I assure you they are not everyone's and it is unfair to leave out others (in this case non-Christians) when erecting something like this in a state capitol.  The sad part is that this will be challenged and, at a time when the State of Louisiana is in dire economic strife, cost the state untold sums in litigation.  The state simply cannot afford such a pointless distraction at this time, and, therefore, I put this in the same realm as Rep. LaBruzzo's ridiculous proposal to make abortion illegal in Louisiana thereby bucking the federal government's ruling.

 

Pot for Life

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The title does not mean what you probably think it does.  Instead, it is referring to the life sentence given to Cornell Hood II here in Louisiana for getting busted a fourth time with marijuana.  Remember that, in this state, life means life.  There is no parole for lifers here; the only state in the Union where that holds true.

This boils my blood, as did the recent AlterNet article, The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot by Paul Armentano.  I knew, before even clicking through to it, that Louisiana would be on there.  We have some of the harshest laws and toughest punishments in the nation.  Sure, enough, we made #4; which reads, in part:

Each year, cops make nearly 19,000 pot busts in the Bayou State – some 91 percent for simple possession – and according to Gettman, only three other states routinely punish minor offenders so severely.

It also brings up Cornell Hood, who was convicted on February 15 in Covington, Louisiana under the "repeat-offender" law.  Up to 2 lbs. of pot were found at his home near Slidell during a routine visit by his probation officer.  It was Hood's fourth conviction for possession and/or distribution and the State chose to "send him up the river", as they say.  Yes, for a victimless crime, this man will die in prison.

One of three for a long time, Louisiana is now the only state that still has "real life"; which means that, 90% of the time, you will die in prison.

"No possibility of parole" means exactly that in Louisiana.  Indeed, a second-degree murder charge in Louisiana is known as a "second death penalty".  Due to such harsh sentencing, 97% of the 5,000+ inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola will die there; that is a statistical fact.

Now add to that list Cornell Hood.

He will be sent off - most likely to Angola - and serve the rest of his natural life behind bars.  Are the streets of Louisiana any safer because Mr. Hood, known only to be a pot smoker (and possibly dealer) as far as breaking the law is concerned, is off of them?

Truly, has justice been served?  Or will the cost of keeping a man convicted of a victimless crime behind bars for the rest of his life be worth it for Louisiana and it's flailing economy?

The United States, as a whole, is insanely backwards and backwoods-ignorant when it comes to drugs and its fruitless yet costly "war on drugs".

Justice is rarely served, though so-cheap-it's-nearly-free slave labor of inmates contracted out through Prison Enterprises certainly serves the free market, capitalist society we have become.  And the majority of Republicans, Libertarians, evangelical Christians, and most social conservatives want us to be even more like that, if possible.

Do not for a moment think that locking up gaggles of people for ridiculous reasons is to cleanup our streets and/or eliminate crime in our towns and cities.  It's all to turn a profit, these days.  Some prisons - those bought out by private industries, as Jindal is trying to do here - will not even take "problem" inmates; they do not good workers make, you see.

It looks and sounds good for these politicians to be "hard on crime" and lock up everyone and throw away the key - the public eats that shit right up.

But it's all a ruse, my friends.  The wool is over your eyes and where you see justice being done those politicians see dollar signs in the pockets of the big industries and companies that are going to donate to their next campaign fund.

Wake up, America.  You're being sold out and you do not even see it.

 

For the Love of God, People, READ TO YOUR KIDS!

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Reading stats over at Reach Out & Read and am saddened (but not shocked) to learn that Louisiana ranks last (as in #50) in % of children read to every day by their parents and (no doubt as a small result of that, among other factors, of course - mainly our shitty & dismal excuse for "education" in this state) we are ranked #49 in "% Students at or above Proficient in reading, Grade 4" and #50 in "% Children age 6-17 who have repeated at least one grade".

Damn.  That is sobering and depressing, eh?

In other words, Louisianian parents, please read to your goddamn kids! Please?

Reading and books were so important in my home.  My Mom always read to us, always had us excited about books and stories, took us to the library, etc.  She made the world of books magical - she loved reading so much (inherited from my grandfather) that it just came natural to her to immerse us in the wonderful, imaginative world of stories.

The result?  Three smart kids that - as adults - have a passion for books and one that became a writer (that would be me).

It isn't uncommon for us to give gift certificates to Amazon as birthday/Xmas gifts; we all read, all the time, and we love books.  If we read a really good one, we tell each other to check it out, loan books to one another, etc.  It's awesome, really.  I can't imagine a life without books - without words and stories and all of the neat worlds I've experienced and characters I've met through reading.  The love of books and reading is one of the most precious gifts our mother gave to us and I am forever thankful for it.

Please, parents, take some time away from your busy schedules to read to your kids - it's more important than you know and you will be opening up so many wonderful, creative worlds for them by doing so.  Read to your kids.  Both of you will benefit from it and you just can't beat that precious time spent together.

Local Charms Help Support Local Community

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, my friend Emily and I traveled down to New Orleans and stumbled upon this charming little jewelry store called Isabella's Fairy Dust (Yelp review) located at 614 Royal Street in the French Quarter.  It was not only the dazzling array of lovely, unique, and simply beautiful "jewelry, masks, stained glass, kaleidoscopes, fairies, and angels" that had us so captivated, but the fact that every piece in the store had been crafted by local artisans.

Though the media gives mostly encouraging reports coming out of New Orleans and it's slowly - but surely - recovering economy, the truth is that the Crescent City and its multitude of talented artists are still struggling.  The shopkeepers of Isabella's told us that stores around the French Quarter - even up and down the daytime "walking mall" of Royal Street with its chic boutiques and gilded antique stores - were closing up one by one.  It is a sad but all too true reality.

That is why it is so very important for locals, visitors, day-trippers, tourists, and/or vacationers to help support this most basic fabric of New Orleans's culture by supporting local artists and the shops that sale their wares.

If you dine in the city, be sure to do so at a locally-owned restaurant such as the Clover Grill (900 Bourbon), China Moon Wok (800 St. Ann), Coop's Place (1109 Decatur), Mona Lisa's (1212 Royal) or Angelli (Decatur at Governor Nicholls).  You can get McDonald's and Subway anywhere and any day.

If you need a grocery-type item, skip Walgreens and take your business to one of the Quarter's quaint, time-worn stores like the Royal Street Grocery & Deli (801 Royal), Central Grocery (923 Decatur),  Matassa's Market (1001 Dauphine) or, a personal favorite, the Verti Marte (1201 Royal).  Though the prices may be a bit higher, the atmosphere of these old and friendly groceries and the quality of local produce more than make up for it; plus you have the satisfaction of knowing your money went to help a community in need rather than a giant, nameless corporation.

If you shop, be sure to visit the artists in Jackson Square as well as the myriad of shops lining the streets of the French Quarter; be on the lookout for locally hand-crafted items.  Every such purchase that you make while visiting New Orleans helps this community to rebuild, and every penny that goes back into the hands of it's multicultural, multi-talented, and colorful citizenry helps New Orleans remain the magical, eccentric place that so many treasure. (See FrenchQuarter.com's Shopping page for where to find shops by item, great articles on the latest shopping trends & shop happenings, and lots more.)

You can also visit the New Orleans/French Quarter page at Wikitravel for listings and descriptions of more locally-owned businesses and eateries that are worth a visit.

Supporting shops like Isabella's Fairy Dust, with its simply breathtaking pieces and friendly, local ownership boasting wares from area artisans, goes to the very heart of bringing New Orleans - and its residents - back to life.  I encourage you to visit this charming little jewelry shop - I simply don't have words to describe the many beautiful baubles and precious pieces we saw there; it's something you must see for yourself - and others like it to help support this striving community and the people who make it so great.