Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Western Democrat speaks out

How the West was lost and where it got us: on the need for a separate agenda for Rocky Mountain States

Federal presence:

Unlike other parts of the country, where the federal government is seen regularly only in the form of the post office, the federal government is the biggest landholder in the West. Eighty-eight percent of all the Nation's federal public land (including National Parks, Wilderness Areas, and National Forests) resides in the West. While these lands are managed for the public nationwide, laws, policies and management decisions for public lands disproportionately impact those living, both economically and socially, in the Western states. Western residents and communities depend upon public lands for tourism income and economic support from federal resource-dependent industries, water supplies, flood protection, resource use and/or extraction, wildlife habitat, recreation, hunting and fishing, and aesthetic values. Although the management of federal lands under current statutory authority and policies has generally been effective in assuring resource sustainability while providing for multiple use, it has become inefficient and frustrating to both the public and to land managers.

As a result of a top-down approach to public lands, great antagonism has been directed toward the "party of big government"- Democrats. In fact, some of the most Republican districts in the country lie directly on these same Federal lands.

Instead of siding with either environmentalists or ranchers, farmers, and developers, a Third Avenue is to create solutions revolving around increased state and local control without neglecting legitimate environmental concerns.

Water allocation and rights:

Although the Eastern seaboard of the US is currently experiencing a drought, Western states still receive scant rainfall. The competition for this scarce, life-giving natural resource pits ranchers and farmers against city-dwellers and divides states.

The Endangered Species Act also disproportionately impacts Westerners. The constraints on water use, logging, mining, and other natural resources to protect endangered species such as the suckerfish or the spotted owl has led to conflicts and tensions.

felons and life after prison

There's an ongoing trend of late to prevent ex-felons from reintegrating into society. Many states, like Florida, won't let them vote, most companies won't hire ex-cons, and same goes with most public institutions, whether by statute or in practice. In someways, what is the point of letting them out if you won't let them be part of the outside world?

Some argue that by committing a felony, these people have waived their right to vote, and to work in certain industries etc.

Something we can all agree on though, they shouldn't be attorneys (especially not criminal defense attorneys). In Arizona, a man who shot and killed two people in a drug-related drug robbery tried to get admitted to the bar. The AZ supremes said no thanks. I have to say though, he did pass the bar and did graduate from an ABA acredited law school (oh and he got his bachelor's behind bars too). You can't fault the man for not trying to make himself better. And hey if he can do it, why can't I?

In their opinion, the judges cited ex-cons refusal to take responsibility or appologize for what he did. The article says his sentence was commuted, why?

Monday, December 05, 2005

keep Katrina front page

sorry for the long no posting period, and thanks for the comments on my last post. Iraq vis a vis Vietnam is a tough nut to crack. These last couple days we have been smelling gas from our vents, so we had the gas company out and they traced the leak to our heater on the roof. Since then, it has rained and snowed for several days. Our heat has been shut off and no repairmen will dare climb up and fix it. The home owner's insurance company at least gave us $75 for space heater, but we spent the last couple days at my parents house in the canyon. And as a result of the cold, the lack of food, lack of company, and old age, our pet fish died.

And while we morn our loss and lement our cold, I can't help but think of the hundreds of thousands of homeless people as a result of Katrina. How the federal government failed them by not building the levees past catagory 3, by not getting help and supplies out there for days. For leaving the poor, mostly black populace to die.

It was just Friday that former residents of the lower 9th ward got to visit their homes for a brief moment or two (called a "look and leave") Almost everything was destoryed by the salt water, the mold, and neglect. How come Bush could interrupt his vacation to sign the Terri Shaivo bill, but couldn't be bothered to stop his San Diego sing-a-long to help the victims of Katrina.

A whole city was destroyed. A bustling metropolis of over 1.2 million people now has population of 70,000. My buddy who went to Tulane law isn't going back, he is transfering to BYU law (because Utah Law won't let him transfer), and I imagine lots of people won't move back. There are lots of ideas of how to fix the city, by raising it up, making the levees catagory-5 proof, or Denny Hastert's idea, abandoning it.

Whatever we do, we can't ignore the problem or pretend its been solved by time. There is now a Katrina cough because of the excessive mold spores there. Whole neighborhoods are beyond repair. There is a profound sorrow that makes profiteers like Mike Brown even more disgusting than their incompetence.