Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Conversation

We've been in New Orleans for the better part of a week now. That has made posting difficult. The situation down here is remarkable. There is one conversation, the same conversation at every gathering. At the reception after the Bar Mitzvah on Saturday morning, at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding, Saturday night. At the reception after the wedding, same people, same conversation. At the family gatherings all across the metropolitan area, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, native New Orleanian or visitor, formal or laid back, rich or poor.... it is still the same conversation.

That conversation concerns the rebuilding of New Orleans and her suburbs. My family was remarkably affected... But no more remarkably affected than most families in the area... Some of them lost houses, others are in the process of completely rebuilding their houses at one stage or another. The unfortunate truth is that our families are not at all unusual. To find a family with no damage, from a storm 9 months ago, is unusual.

This afternoon, I went to lunch with friends I had not seen since 2003. No matter what the original topic, the conversation always seemed to come back to Katrina, even a topic as mundane as the Saints. I asked why the Saints, which less than six months ago were rumored to be moving to San Antonio, had record season ticket sales. The reason was not that the amazing running back from USC, Reggie Bush, was drafted. It was that FEMA money from construction workers was allowing for more people to purchase football tickets.

The front page of the paper concerns plans for rebuilding, every day. AND IT SHOULD. The sad truth and the worry of many residents is that the nation as a whole is no longer interested. The amount of damage that this area took is extraordinary. This story is not over, and will not be for years. FEMA is doing some things; the question from locals concerns speed and effectiveness. A story such as this one does not go away, and does not occur in a vaccuum.

We live in South Florida and, trust me, we get hit by numerous hurricanes, but nothing nearly as all encompassing as Katrina was to this area. CNN just did a piece on a day in the life of New Orleans. It showed the trials of the citizenry, from crime to education to health care. These are all challenges New Orleans faces. However, CNN fell into a trap. They are so eager to get the sensational news angle, that they are missing the bigger picture.

PEOPLE ARE COMING BACK. Significant numbers of New Orleanians are returning and trying to build a better city. The goals of this city are to be stronger and more vibrant than prior to Katrina. Yes, there is remarkable work to be done, but to focus on the negative is the wrong way to get there. If all you hear about is the difficulties of the situation, people and tourists are less likely to come here permanently or even just to visit. Focus on the strengths of the rebuilding and the ways others can help.

There have been extraordinary acts of kindness from strangers... from feeding people you do not know, to giving up vacation to help others in rebuilding their neighborhoods. Locals, of course, have helped each other, but people have also come from all across the country to help out however they can. People are still living day by day down here, and each day the conversation continues... What has opened near you...Who is coming back?...Americans need to support the reconstruction by encouraging their representatives to fund the spending bills required to rebuild and repair, and focus on the promise of this great area, rather than the problems that discourage people from visiting or returning.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Focus on the Little Things

There is so much to discuss. Cassie is back from our recent trip to New Orleans. She ate beignets and coffee, as if they were every day occurrences. Unfortunately, they are not, but we were happy to have them as well. She also liked cheese and corn grits for part of her dinner one night. It is official my daughter will know and appreciate the food culture of New Orleans.

She is doing well. Her favorite words are "Wow", and "Oh Yeah", I'm not quite sure what that means, but it is better than the dreaded "no", that we will hear soon enough. She enjoyed swimming and visiting with all of her cousins in Grandma Marilyn's and Papa Marvin's pool. We got to catch up with most everyone on both sides of the family. Cassie even went to her first art exhibit, where her cousin Corrine's work was featured. It was really nice. Sometimes it is best to focus on what is right in front of me, because if I don't I will miss it. Let me tell you what I have in front of me are some amazing people.

From personal experience I can say the same for Cassie.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A moment of Americana

Most of my posts are about serious topics, that alter our everyday lives, in some way. This is no such post... Taylor Hicks could possibly win the title for American Idol... His competition was so much better, and more qualified as a singer... Can anyone else imagine some southern boy who has a bit of a smarmy charm, winning a national election over a more qualified opponent.

Just a word regarding our popular culture...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Senior Official in the Bush Administration is against an HIV vaccine

I was going to mention that a Bush 2004 reelection official working in concert with the White House was sentenced to 10 months, but this incompetence was trumped by a Reginald Finger, M.D., M.P.H. , I'm going to talk about the importance of the (H)uman (P)apilloma(V)irus vaccine. This virus leads to cervical cancer; which causes the death of roughly 5000 American women every year. The activity that can caus this, is not necessarily indiscriminant or promiscuous. It is projected that roughly 80% of all sexually active adults have some strain of the virus. What this amounts to is a virus that is innocuous to most and deadly to others. How do our top national health officials handle this? They suppress the vaccine that would protect women against this cancer on religious grounds.

This same man, who is supposed to be advocating for vaccinations to prevent diseases, has stated publicly that he would be loathe to promote a vaccine to combat AIDS if it were to become available. His reasoning is the same in both cases. He does not believe in promoting these specific vaccines because it might implicitly promote pre marital sex. So rather than allowing Americans to protect themselves, he would rather keep the status quo, thereby watching as 5000 American women die every year. This is a small number compared to those women that die every year in the developing world (270,000 worldwide in 2002) from cervical cancer.

Now why am I writing about this. Elizabeth and I heard about this on the national news, and she explained it to me. I have a daughter, and a wife, who I hope will be very healthy for many years. I can understand the abortion debate. I don't necessarily agree with the conservative view, but that does not mean, I can't fathom the thought pattern to come to the pro life position. With that being said, I am envisioning an Administration saying "we have a vaccine approved unanimously by the FDA, that would significantly combat a specific cancer . This cancer kills roughly 5000 American women annually, and we won't approve it, because we don't respect the parents in our country, and must raise their children for them.

By the Way the Administration that would not support a vaccine to combat H.I.V. here is the current number of people you think are not worth your time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Immigration Reform... Is This New?

President Bush cut into May sweeps to push forward his ideas on immigration reform. The networks grudgingly gave him the time to speak on the national stage during prime time, but were these good ideas? Were these ideas well thought out? And finally, what was the reasoning for the timing of this announcement? These are all questions that should be answered as part of the analysis of the proposals put forward.
Was this timing to draw attention away from Karl Rove?Might it have been placed forward to draw attention away from Tony Snow's first press conference, and his embarrassing gaffe. The only other thing I can think of, is that Bush might want to raise those approval numbers. These numbers are comparable to July of 1974, anyone want to tell me what was going on then. Here are two graphs I found on the web... Both based on Gallup polling.These are just interesting reasons to consider before you delve into the substance of what President Bush is proposing.

The main proposal by President Bush is to put 6,000 national guard troops on the border with Mexico. This suggestion appears to be satisfying no one. Lou Dobbs, who has been hammering this issue for months, is raking the Administration over the coals for weeks. There are questions though, why Mexico? Is Canada that much safer?
There are definitely some commonalities in culture, but that is changing. The Hispanic-American community is one of the fastest growing, and most influential in this nation. It is remarkably, pigheaded, ignorant and discriminatory to put troops on our Southern border and not our Northern border.

But what could President Bush have done prior to this announcement in the nearly 5 years since the 9/11 attacks? He could have complied with the suggestions of the 9/11 commission. With all of this considered, it can't be a security issue. If it were, then it would be coupled with Port security and other measures. So why is Bush pushing Immigration reform?

My argument is that he is looking at his polling numbers and trying to secure his conservative republican base, so that he might have a better chance at holding onto a Republican House and Senate. If this is true expect to see Gay marriage and flag burning amendments to be on the agenda before the midterms, because they are so much more important than deficit reduction, a solid plan for Iraq or fully funding the Gulf Coast rebuilding.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mothers Day

As I sit here let me join the chorus of Happy Mother’s Day. I have been blessed by a wonderful mother, and an amazing wife. Congress should honor these two women. Anyone who can put up with me every day for any significant amount of time should be considered for canonization. This post is to honor both of them.

My mother, not only raised me, but she also put up with numerous career changes, and two separate trips to graduate school for totally unrelated courses of study. Heck, I couldn’t even commit to a region of the country for a while. Thankfully, I am now settled in South Florida for the duration.

My wife, Elizabeth, does an incredible job as the primary caregiver for Cassie. She is also a great wife. I help out a bit with the cooking, errands, and the occasional diaper change. But she does most of the housework, and I don’t thank her enough. Thankfully, Cassie appears to be progressing very well. Very often, she also helps me prepare for my day, by making suggestions on how to reach the kids, or being a sounding board to absorb some of the daily stress.

But my question is for all the talk of valuing families on both sides of the aisle, why is there only a day here, and in June, that people seem to notice? I work with severely emotionally disturbed kids. Most of them are being raised in group homes or other non traditional settings. Many of these kids would be much better off if only their home lives were better. Sometimes it is the parents who abandoned the children, but on more than one occasion, I’ve seen children who intimidate their parents. I will be the first to say that some of the issues are not related to parenting, but a good family definitely helps the situation in any setting. We should work as a country to value our families, and talk less of “family values”.

Friday, May 12, 2006

H Prize.... Better late than never

The House just passed a bill offering a 10 million dollar prize to encourage scientists to work on bringing the idea of Hydrogen power for automobiles to the present. The Senate needs to pass it, and then the President would have to sign it, but this is a first step. Let me mention that the House also passed this week a $70 Billion dollar tax cut that benefits the wealthiest 3.5% of Americans.

The H Prize could be a wonderful thing not only for the American people now being pressured by really high gas prices, but also for the environment, and for national security. In the long run this might be the best thing that happens to the country in the 1st decade of the 21st century. However, lets not jump the gun.
Will the Senate pass this legislation? Even if we presume that the Senate passes the legislation, it still needs to be signed by the President. What about George W. Bush's personal history makes me wonder whether he would want to stop a project lessening our reliance on oil?

How long can we let opportunities, such as this bill promoting development of alternative fuels, pass us by. It would be helpful if we all contacted our respective elected Senators and requested their support for this legislation.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stephen Colbert: Is he going to be blackballed

Bill Kristol being interviewed by Colbert

The reason I put this link first is because I just read the transcript from the White House correspondents' dinner. It is hilarious, and I strongly suggest it for everyone. That being said, I mused, who doesn't know, or would be caught off guard by Mr. Colbert's style of humor. Elizabeth responded; well if you don't really pay attention to the show he comes off as very conservative Republican. Now, at least it appears the Administration is consistent in only looking at this issue in the way it examines almost everything for the last 5 and 1/2 years, at a very superficial level.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What are we not hearing from the American Press

China, Russia welcome Iran into the fold
By M K Bhadrakumar

"The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO's decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15."

Now this is from the Asia Times. I'm scared of the implications of Iran having any more strength, but there is possibly a positive here. While Iran having allies could be a bad thing, if these other nations can help moderate Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons then this might help to tone down the rhetoric of recent days. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

The other question I might pose is; why didn't this get reported on any of the American news outlets?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Foreign Policy through song This website has the full lyrics to the parody "Bomb Iran" by Vince Vance and the Valiants, written in 1980, as a result of the hostage crisis. I'm as aggravated by the current situation as anyone, but is getting into yet another war going to solve this problem. Has going into Afghanistan solved our problems with Al Quaeda? I’m gratified to see that Iran has agreed to work with the IAEA to oversee their nuclear program. For those of you wondering, realize that the current leader of Iran is most likely certifiably insane, as well as a leader of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. He has called for the destruction of Israel. Israel is one of our strongest allies in the world, and definitely, our strongest ally in that region. Now numerous hateful Arab leaders have called for the same for the better part of 3 generations, but now we approach the same problem with nuclear possibilities. The same bluster needs to be taken just that much more seriously.
The benefits of diplomacy were disregarded by this administration, in regard to controlling Saddam Hussein. The same sort of sanctions might work against Iran. As I read more about the sanctions placed upon Iraq there does not seem to be clarity of purpose. While that might be true it appears that the sanctions were in some fashion quite effective.
The Iraqis, according to a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, had focused their military on fending off internal hostilities, and were no longer focused on menacing their neighbors. The coalition forces currently in the country have, not yet found the WMD’s that those same sanctions were meant to limit. Even President Bush made a joke about that at a White House correspondent's dinner. Working from the idea that Iraq was contained before we initiated military action, then let us learn from the mistake of the invasion and examine the situation closely in Iran before committing this nation and its brave military to yet another conflict that we do not necessarily know how to get out of. I hope that while Vince Vance and the Valiants can make a catchy tune, the powers that run our country are going for more than a quick pop hit. The ramifications of a bad political choice are a lot more significant than those of a bad song choice.