Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scientifically Accurate Information is a Must

Can you practice medicine without a medical license? Apparently Rep. AG Crowe (R-Slidell) thinks he can. He attempted to pass a bill through the state legislature that would have allowed the government to insert itself into the doctor/patient relationship. This bill, HB 25, would have forced doctors to tell women information that lacked medical consensus. A pamphlet is given to each woman seeking an abortion in Louisiana entitled a “Woman’s Right to Know” and AG Crowe wanted to insert his own thoughts into the pamphlet, instead of letting the medical community do its job. Instead of this being controlled by a scientific community specifically trained to handle medical decisions, Crowe wanted the government, whose job it is to create laws, to be left in charge. I don’t know about you, but I would rather talk to a doctor about my health instead of some Senator or Representative.

Thankfully, before Crowe could push his bill through the legislature, Senator Lydia Jackson (D-Shreveport) introduced amendments that would ensure that women seeking an abortion would be able to receive scientifically accurate information.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Times They are A-Changin' - Campbell for Louisiana Governor

Four days ago, I got in my car and made an hour long trek to Shreveport, Louisiana, to pick up campaign signs and bumper stickers from Foster Campbell. On the trip up I passed more than a few cars with bumper stickers bearing the name of President Bush and one of the candidates for governor, Bobby Jindal. I could do nothing but shake my head in shame and hope for a chance to pass them up so they could get a peek at my own bumper stickers. My own car is like a walking advertisement: one sticker lists the name of my college, another reads "No you can’t have my rights, I’m still using them," and my favorite "Impeach Bush." As I drive along in my car, I get a few people flipping me the bird, yet surprisingly enough, I get far more people giving me a thumbs up. Maybe Bob Dylan is right, the times they are a-changin’.

Now I have one more bumper sticker on my car. Foster Campbell for governor.

Louisiana is well known for our dirty politics. Probably our most well-known race was the 1991 governor race between Edwin Edwards and David Duke. The campaign came down to one motto: Vote for the Crook, It’s Important.

While we may not have a race between a crook and a racist, this election is profoundly important to Louisiana. After Katrina, we need real leadership from our governor, we need someone who is going to get things done and help our state rebuild.

That’s why I’m throwing my support behind Foster Campbell.

Someone like Bobby Jindal simply cannot be allowed to represent Louisiana. After the corruption of William Jefferson, we need someone who will be strong on ethics reform. Yet Jindal voted to weaken house ethics during the Tom Delay scandal, one of his first votes in office. Jindal put partisan politics over the honor and integrity that is supposed to be represented in Congress.

But I digress since I am here in attempt to tell you why the Daily Kos community needs to get behind the candidacy of Foster Campbell.

You might have heard of two little Louisiana communities, Mink and Shaw, in the news a few years ago. For nearly 40 years these two areas petitioned local, state and federal officials and telephone companies to get phone service. Campbell got that done.

After Katrina, Campbell persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to give $39 million so that Katrina evacuees could receive cell phones and minutes to get in touch with family, friends, and business associates.

Campbell lead the Louisiana Public Service Commission to study the potential for energy production from offshore windmills. Offshore Louisiana has vast potential to develop clean, renewable energy from the placement of wind turbines on outdated offshore oil rigs.

Foster Campbell has represented our state for twenty seven years in the state Senate and for almost five more years in the Public Service Commission.

Louisiana has a history of minor candidates coming from behind to take the governor’s seat. Just look at Mike Foster a few years back. Just because Jindal seems to have it wrapped up now, doesn’t mean it’s over for good.

That’s where you come in. To steal the Emily’s List motto, "Early money is like yeast – It makes the dough rise." You can donate via paypal or send in a check via snail mail here. If you live in Louisiana, you can email them to volunteer or pick up signs and bumper stickers.

It's time for a change in Louisiana and this isn't a time to sit still and do nothing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A City in Crisis - Mental Health in New Orleans

(cross-posted at Daily Kos)

It is another blistering hot day here in Louisiana. An afternoon shower has fallen, and the steam is rising off the pavement from the rain. Even with the thermostat set to 78 degrees, the air conditioning is still running constantly. After spending my whole life in Louisiana, it is not the heat that brings about the wariness of the summer months. It is the fact that the warmer weather brings about the inevitable start of hurricane season.

Here in Louisiana, we have every reason to be vigilant with the start of a new season. Yet, it is difficult to concentrate on the dangers of the new season, since many of the problems that resulted from Hurricane Katrina have yet to be resolved.

Hurricane Katrina is still killing. Dr. Kevin Stephens Sr., director of the New Orleans Health Department, is publishing a study this month in the Journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The study reportedly concluded that more local people are dying than before the storm. Another man, Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard believes that one day, the local medical community will be proven correct when they say that the aftermath of the storm has led to an increased number of deaths in the storm. He states that "Years from now, when they talk about post-traumatic stress, New Orleans after Katrina will be the poster child."

The mental health situation in New Orleans remains atrocious. For a city that has had to start over from scratch, the mental health situation has had to take a back seat to rebuilding the city’s economy and infrastructure. And, as I’m sure many of you know, mental illness is rising, with more people suffering from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

In a city that already had a horribly inadequate mental healthcare system, it didn’t seem that it could get much worse, but then Hurricane Katrina hit. Our two major hospital centers, Tulane and LSU, lost their inpatient psych units in the storm. LSU ran the state mental health facility which had more than 100 beds before the storm, but it was so severely damaged in the storm that it has not reopened. The emergency room at Tulane has only one psychiatrist on duty. This is a major problem since patients are constantly coming in who are in the midst of severe mental illness issues. They are simply overwhelmed and don’t have the necessary staff or equipment to deal with them, and the psychiatric inpatients are being sent over a 100 miles away to Baton Rouge.

The city doesn’t have enough people trained to deal with mental health and there are not nearly enough buildings available to house psychiatric patients.

The state has received money from the state and country to deal with this, including $55 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to attempt to induce healthcare workers back to Louisiana. FEMA (Fix Everything My Ass) even gave $50 million for crisis counseling and outreach.

This is all well and good, except it is too little for a city in a full blown crisis.

More temporary facilities need to be built to house psychiatric patients and more mental healthcare workers need to come back to the city. The rebuilding process needs to speed up, and to do that, some state laws/regulations need to be looked at or amended.

In order to properly rebuild New Orleans, the mental health of its citizens should not be allowed to suffer.

Natchitoches Tourism and Retirement

The Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission now has an opening on its board. Greg Friedman’s three year term is coming to an end and he has decided not to seek a reappointment. With tourism being a major economic factor in Natchitoches Parish, and its recent awards relating to heritage tourism and retirement efforts, this is a relatively important job in Natchitoches.

The commission is looking for nonprofits to nominate someone who can help the tourism industry, and the deadline for nominations is July 16. The final decision and voting will take place on July 19 when the Police Jury has their meeting.


In related news, the U.S. News and World Report magazine has ranked Natchitoches as one of the best places in the United States to retire. It is apparently a “low-cost gem,” or a bargain place for those who may be retiring.

Gonzales No Confidence Vote Fails

It seems that only one of our U.S. Senators from Louisiana favors the rule of law, that believes in the idea that we need to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Thank you Mary Landrieu for voting aye on cloture, so that the Senate could vote on the no confidence in Alberto Gonzales legislation.

Sadly, S.J. 14 failed by a vote of 53-38, with one Senator voting present.

David Vitter voted no. Glad to know what he thinks of our Constitution and our laws. In this day and age, and coming from a state that has brought the country the likes of William Jefferson, Vitter should be jumping up and down on tables attempting to preserve the law. But no, Vitter voted along party lines to deny us a vote of no confidence for Alberto Gonzales.

There are many, many reasons why Gonzales needs to go. There were the firings of U.S. prosecutors for a purely political purpose. Our Department of Justice and the United States prosecutors are supposed to be politically neutral, for lack of a better term at the moment. They are supposed to be neither Democratic nor Republican, yet Gonzales made a political litmus test a requirement for them to stay. Firings, resignations, and other scandals have shook the Department of Justice to the very core, and Gonzales oversaw it all, with approval. Gonzales needs to go. He is not fit to serve as our Attorney General.

David Vitter, today I am ashamed of you, ashamed that you are a Senator from my great state of Louisiana. You were elected to one of the highest offices of the land and you should be one of the loudest voices in favor of the law, of our Constitution, yet you vote no on this bill. Sir, have you no sense of decency?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Meat recall in Louisiana

Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. recalled more than 40,000 lbs of ground beef today. The contaminated meat tested positive for signs of E. coli contamination at a Sherman, Texas plant. Louisiana is one of 12 states that have been affected. To find out more information about the recall, including which products have been recalled, go here.

Luckily no illnesses have been reported yet.

Situations like these bring to the forefront problems with our food industry such as how safe is our food and how much of our food gets inspected for problems such as E. coli. Large meat processors can spread food borne illnesses much more easily and meat from a single cow may contaminate a large batch of hamburger.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that Big Mac for lunch today, but I digress …

The U.S. food inspection system is increasingly inefficient, leading to problems such as the peanut butter recall several months back or the pet food recall recently. And of course, there is a pretty good chance that the food will be consumed by the buyer before it has a chance to be recalled. I had two bottles of the recalled peanut butter in my cupboards, and by the time the recall was announced, each bottle was about half-way eaten already.

There have been big cuts in food and drug safety inspection that originated from the White House’s budget submissions. The White House has also fought to keep meatpackers from testing their cows for mad cow disease. In fact, when a small company called Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wanted to test their cows for mad cow disease, the USDA told them no, and refused to sell them testing kits for the cows. Large meat companies feared that the move would require them to test their larger herds as well and the USDA argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the industry.

Personally, I’d rather have my food safe to eat and the USDA should let Creekstone Farms test their meat if they want to. Let’s see if the American people prefer their meat to be safe and inspected, instead of having safety measures cut, particularly in the light of food recalls. Let the free enterprise system do its job.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Hypocritical Jindal

Last night my friend in New Orleans called me up saying that Bobby Jindal was on the local television station, WDSU, discussing the indicted William Jefferson and apparently being two-faced as usual (more here). Jindal stated that he voted for the investigations and would vote to remove Jefferson if the Ethics committee made that recommendation. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. I want the corrupt congressmen out of there as much as the next guy. The problem I have with this statement is that Jindal is a hypocrite who wants relaxed ethical standards for his own party.

When Jindal was elected into Congress, one of his first votes was to relax and weaken the House ethics standard. Why did he do this? The leader of his party, the crooked Tom Delay, was under investigation and Delay fell so far short of the ethical standard that it was laughable. You may remember that Delay was charged with criminally conspiring with two political associates to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections, in order to gerrymander the state and give himself more power in Congress. So when Tom Delay asks Jindal to weaken ethics standards, Jindal said yes. This is exactly the wrong kind of man we need in the governor’s office.

If Jindal intends to improve ethics in Baton Rouge when he’s governor, he needs to hold everyone to a higher standard, including himself and people like Tom Delay, and not just the Democrats. Improving ethics begins at home, Mr. Jindal, and you need to hold yourself and your party to the same standard as you do Democrats.