Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's Beginning To Look More Like Impeachment, Everywhere You Go

I know many of you out there will think my title naively optimistic, that it's biologically and politically unheard of for lemmings to change their direction, particularly if you believe the cliff is already in their rearview mirrors. But the chinks in the armor are becoming fissures, and there is still almost a whole year until mid-term elections. Pro-war Senator Hillary Clinton is already facing a primary challenge from the left, and I wouldn't be surprised if other incumbents find themselves challenged for their stands. 2008 progressive hope Senator Russ Feingold is finding national traction with his leadership of a sustained filibuster against some provisions of the Patriot Act, and some Republicans have joined on both that issue and the rising chorus against domestic spying by the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the FBI and Homeland Security.
Michigan Congressman John Conyers has introduced resolutions to censure both Bush and Cheney, as well to convene a fact-finding commission to investigate impeachable offenses:

Resolution to Investigate
Resolution to Censure Bush
Resolution to Censure Cheney

Go to truthout.org or buy the upcoming issue of the Nation to read John Nichols' article explaining these resolutions. afterdowningstreet.org also provides a lot of invaluable context, and is also sponsoring a series of actions on Jan. 7 in support of these efforts. I believe it is imperative that there be something organized here in town to support this. If you feel the same way, email me at mpbookfreak@hotmail.com, and we'll make it happen. I'll be gone through the weekend, but will see what can be organized next week. Have a peaceful holiday, y'all.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Interesting Bedfellows for Local Land Use Study

On Tuesday, November 29, the Shreveport Times editorial enthusiastically endorsed a $125,000 study of the Shreveport/Bossier metropolitan area by an organization known for its efforts on behalf of urban sprawl-reducing “smart” growth. According to the Times, “A team from the Urban Land Institute especially will look at how real estate planning and development can lead to more economic development.” A number of innovative local organizations and developments are then praised for a number of worthy projects.
This all sounds very encouraging, until one takes a closer look at the Urban Land Institute. Among the efforts of the ULI is the annual awarding of the J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. According to the ULI’s website, “The $100,000 prize honors the legacy of legendary, Kansas City, Missouri, develop Jesse Clyde Nichols (1880-1950), a founding ULI member who is widely regarded as one of America’s most influential entrepreneurs in land use during the first half of the 20th century.” Indeed, an internet search of the words “Kansas City” and “J.C. Nichols” turns up multiple references, including some landmarks named for the developer. But his legacy is a tainted one, at best.
According to Judy Thomas, writing in February of this year in the Kansas City Star, Nichols was also a pioneer in the development of racial covenants, documents which prohibited homeowners from selling houses to select groups of people, most often African-Americans: “Nichols was among the first developers in the United States to promote the restrictions. From 1908 through the 1940’s, the J.C. Nichols Co. built dozens of subdivisions in the Kansas City area that prohibited housing sales to blacks.” According to Thomas, the covenants were ruled unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court as early as 1948, although many are still officially included in real estate contracts.
The Urban Land Institute is also active in the Gulf Coast region in post-Katrina rebuilding. New Orleans writer and activist Jay Arena has written about their activities in that city, and it was his writings on the New Orleans indymedia site (neworleans.indymedia.org) that alerted me to some of the moral and ethical ambiguities. I don’t believe the Urban Land Institute embodies the outright, blatant racism of J.C. Nichols, but their continued embrace of his name does raise some questions.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Modest Proposal For Our Fair State

It has recently come to my attention, through the writings of Shreveport Times contributor Emily Metzgar, personal contact with local attorney Henry Walker, and other sources that the indigent defense system in Louisiana is unconscionably underfunded. Any semblance of stability is undercut by the program's reliance on the payment of traffic fines as the source of funding. As there does not seem to be the political will in our state legislature to deal with this affront to the basic constitutional rights of the mostly poor and minority defendants who suffer from the destitution of public legal defense, I would like to offer this modest proposal (with deference to Johnathan Swift).
I would like to propose that all Louisianans of sound financial means (certainly households with income over $100,000, though I suspect the threshold could be set lower) consider a personal policy of consistent and blatant flouting of traffic laws while driving.
I realize that this will be a difficult decision for many to arrive at, as traffic laws are ostensibly devised for the common good, a sort of formalized courtesy, if you will. Additionally, there are some, particularly among those who identify themselves as "Republicans," who are perfectly content with the idea of young black men being locked up, outside of any questions of guilt, innocence or constitutionally mandated standards of legal representation. I can only say to those with the financial means to absorb the cost of traffic tickets to consider it your patriotic duty to violate the law, until such point that our elected officials see fit to fulfill their constitutional duty.
For those of you stirred into a patriotic fervor by now, here are a few suggestions:

1., Remove the license plates from your car. A screwdriver should be the only tool needed to accomplish this task, and it is one of the most obvious violations, as one could potentially be cited even when the car is not moving.

2., Remove the bulb from one of your headlights and/or tail lights. This approach works particularly well in conjunction with tinted windows, loud rap music, or other evidence that the driver and/or occupants of the car are some of those people who ruined Southpark Mall and drove everyone to the safety of the Boardwalk. The bulbs can typically be easily accessed through the trunk of the car without specialized tools.

3., You can never go wrong with speed. If one's vehicle has cruise control, I would suggest a setting at least 20 miles over the posted limit. This approach works particularly well in "school zones", particularly if said school is classified as a "magnet school" or is otherwise populated mostly by "white children," as these are more likely to be patrolled by police on a regular basis. I must stress that this must be done with utmost attention to safety. Remember, we don't want anyone to get hurt. We just want to fund the indigent defense system in our state.

4., Intoxication is also a sound strategy. Tis the season, as they say, and holiday parties will provide multiple opportunities for overindulgence. Try to eat a big lunch, so your alcohol absorption will not be affected by food. If you must eat, remember that those bar peanuts are provided because they will make you thirsty for more alcohol. And don't skimp on the shots. But always know your limits. Your goal is to be impaired, but basic motor function must be retained. If this approach makes you uneasy, save it for New Year's Eve, when the police are out in force. Sometimes, there will even be convenient roadblocks set up. Drive safely to the roadblock, but accelerate as your vehicle comes into view. Call the arresting officer Roscoe P. Coltrane for the piece de' resistance, and start writing your acceptance speech for the Congressional Medal of Freedom, my patriotic friend.

5., Keep your cell phone on your person at all times, just in case you observe any of the above behaviors or circumstances in other drivers or vehicles. This can also be convenient inside a bar or restaurant, if you observe a patron leaving in an intoxicated state. Make the phone call, order another Long Island Iced Tea, and drink to freedom.

6., Encourage friends and family members to do their part. Illness can be feigned, and underage teenage children can be sent out to pick up medicine at the local apothecary (in a car missing a license plate, say). Be creative. If everyone does his or her part, Louisiana can have the best damn indigent defense system in this great country, preserving constitutinal rights for all, regardless of race, class and income level. And I'm afraid that if we aren't all doing our part, violating traffic laws on a regular basis, then the terrorists have won.