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Is American Democracy Dead?

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I came across a CNN op-ed that states that American democracy is falling to big business and America is now closer to an oligarchy. With the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding campaign finance, critics of the ruling argue that the voice of the individual is now obscured by super PAC money and congressional lobbying. Julian Zelizer, the author of the op-ed, points to a Gilens and Page study that found that wealthy interests were almost 15 times as likely to obtain their preferences from policymakers on issues like tax policy as were ordinary citizens. The consequences were congressional action that favored wealthier Americans like tax cuts and deregulation.

While Zelizer never specifically states that America is moving more toward a oligarchy, he certainly hints at it. With the business elite having most of the control, the power now lies in the select few instead of the entire population. While I don’t think America is a complete oligarchy just yet, we are definitely on that path. And with the recent Supreme Court ruling, it’s unclear as to how we can get off this path. Now, more money from big business will be funneled into politics, meaning corporate interests will be protected even more, meaning more legislation will pass that will protect corporations. As for the question “is democracy dead,” I don’t think it is quite yet, but it is definitely diseased and slowly withering away.

-OGD

No End in Sight to Poverty Issue

PR and BCHouse Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and the Congressional Black Caucus are having issues handling the poverty issue. MSNBC reports their meeting Wednesday ended on amiable terms, yet with nothing really accomplished. The only thing they can agree on is that poverty is an issue. However, the problem lies in not being able to come to an agreement on how to handle the issue.

The CBC’s budget plan includes a $500 billion jobs plan, a $388 billion investment in anti-poverty programs, and raises $2 trillion in revenue. This plan would be achievable over the next decade through increasing taxes on wealthy citizens and corporations.

Representative Paul Ryan’s plan lowers tax rates while cutting $4.8 trillion in spending. Programs that serve low and middle-income Americans would provide about 70% of the budget cuts.

The meeting resulted from a comment Ryan made in an interview last month, claiming the lack of work ethic among the inner cities should be blamed on poverty. Many members of CBC substituted the phrase “inner cities” for the unfair label “black”. Ryan contended his statement held no intention to target any specific racial group.

While the CBC arguably made an unnecessary assumption, Ryan should not have singled out a particular place experiencing poverty. Poverty is increasing across the board and needs a definitive plan put into action to move forward on the issue. This stalemate is not directly harming the issue but it is not handling the issue in any way. With unemployment rates at a current deadlock, government interference could be the very push necessary in decreasing these rates and the amount of poverty-stricken Americans.

-KAP

The Louisiana Senate is fanatical and fraudulent

To cover this story in a traditional manner would be inappropriate. I simply am biased. For what happens to a man when a news industry favor for a friend collides with his own personal stake in the situation. The result made for a very interesting week.

In a dark dreary universe of years past I was once a democrat. I only believed in the existence of two parties, until I happened to nonchalantly stumble into a libertarian caucus. That is where I met Chris Ambrogio, founder of LSU’s Student’s for Sensible Drug Policy.

At a meeting Chris demonstrated the existence of a Louisiana medical marijuana law  that was currently on the books. When the text of the bill came up on the power point I remember thinking,

“Oh (expletive), there I am”

By Louisiana Law spastic quadriplegics have been able to receive prescriptions for medical marijuana since 1991. Good Luck getting that prescription filled though. It will always ends with a pair of handcuffs, and not the kinky kind. When SB 541, a bill that would finally rectify this meaningless anomaly, was set to be introduced this legislative session by Sen. Mills; it was time to put this Manship education to the test.

In Early April, SSDP decided they would have a concert to raise awareness for marijuana reform. I wanted to pitch in.Following the format I learned in class, I wrote a press release and sent it out to a number of news outlets.

Then a funny thing happened, it got picked up. One organization, nbc33, wrote a short article on the concert. It included the time and place of the event, two quotes and a boiler plate statement. It was nothing special; until a Manship graduate working at nbc33 saw the article was getting a good bit of website traffic. She turned it into a TV spot.

There were three of us, and when we divided up the tasks, it was my job to talk about medical marijuana. I mentioned that for my whole life, a medical marijuana bill had been on the books to which I’m entitled. Instead a got a life of constant and aggressive physical therapy. This ended up on the nightly local news, and other patients who had been let down by our government began calling in support. We then got another TV spot.

The concert was a great success and we had a great turnout, even though LSUPD shut us a down a bit early. We gave out all the literature we had, and encouraged people to call their representatives. At the concert, I met Dave Brown, a pro-medical marijuana lobbyist who helped me get down to the capitol and have a chance to speak directly to the state senate committee about the bill.

Wednesday there I was. I had never been to one of these things, and was terrified. I heard from Chris that the other hearings on marijuana reform “Was like going to church because there were so many bible verses.” now I was at a medical marijuana hearing in Louisiana. People took cards, green for support and red for against. SB 541 came up, and after a series of jokes by the senate committee chairman, the arguments began. The green side went first.

The senators came and went throughout the whole hearing. They were on the phone, texting, whispering, moving around and sometimes leaving all together. I walked up to speak, and I genuinely think that it was one of the few times that every senator was in their seat and paying attention. With the exception of two opponents, every opponent commended me on my “bravery” for speaking. Many even said they would like to help, but in the end most of those comments were followed by dreary and inaccurate nonsense. It was said that marijuana isn’t medicine, even though it isn’t true.   It was said that the federal government wouldn’t allow the banks to store dispensary money, even though it isn’t true.

In the end, for the briefest of moments it seemed as though we would prevail, like reason would prevail in a state so resistant to change. But Sen. Claitor introduced an amendment to the bill that would delay the bill inevitably. The amendment stated that they would wait until the FDA reevaluated marijuana as medicine before they would act, which if they were willing to do we wouldn’t need the bill in the first space. After that amendment failed the bill was killed in a 6-2 vote. In the end I couldn’t help but be impressed that State Senators Honore and Mills had even brought the bill up in Louisiana, now that was brave.

If a picture is worth a thousand words than Ill see you next year State Senate.Forever Manship, tools for being heard.

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Freshman year (left) to Present (Right)

Short Lived…

ImageIt only took Vance McAllister four months to get involved in his first political scandal. After video surveillance was released of him being involved with one of his aids, McAllister began the typical plea or forgiveness. McAllister ran on a “politician-free” platform last fall. While not all politicians are cheaters, McAllister didn’t last long upholding what he ran on. He will now join a list of cheaters with other familiar faces such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards as well as a long list of corrupt Louisiana politicians.

Immediately after the scandal broke, the big question was rather or not he would seek reelection, and early on this answer was yes. On Monday, one of McAllister’s top aides released a statement that he didn’t believe McAllister would seek reelection when his term was up at the end of this year.

Some, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, believe the Representative should immediately resign. Cantor even asked McAllister to step down after meeting with him on Tuesday. After such public embarrassment to himself and his family, Cantor believes it is only right for him to leave office.

The open seat this fall leads to one big question. Will Neil Riser, who lost to McAllister in the runoff, seek to fill his position? After an upsetting defeat in the fall election, Riser said he won’t rule out a run next fall.

-CWN

 

images-1Why is every major news outlet talking about Donald Sterling? As I have watched this saga unfold the last few days, I knew this would happen. Every pundit HAD to weigh in on this. However, are they weighing in on socially and politically important issues that affect the public as much as they provide coverage on Donald Sterling?

According to a story from Newsbusters, ABC, CBS and NBC have devoted a collective 146 minutes and 39 seconds to the Sterling debate.

CBS gave 52 minutes and 13 seconds.

NBC gave 48 minutes and 36 seconds.

ABC gave 45 minutes and 40 seconds.

Most of the important news stories unfolding since Saturday such as; the Benghazi emails, President Obama’s new poll numbers, and the controversial comment by John Kerry on Israel, have been buried or not covered at all.

News coverage of the new developments in the Benghazi case:

CBS: 2 minutes and 50 seconds

ABC: no coverage

NBC: no coverage

Bad poll numbers for the President:

NBC: 46 seconds on Wednesday

ABC: 18 seconds on Tuesday

Controversial comment by John Kerry:

CBS: 30 seconds

The coverage of Sterling shows that our news networks around the U.S. are failing at their watchdog role in journalism. Instead of reporting on the issues that can affect our country, the networks dedicate time to a man that will no longer matter in a month; unless the networks keep him relevant, which I’m sure they will.

The original article where I took most of this information from can be found here.

-HRG

When Is Enough, Enough?

fedex-shootingGun control is a topic that has been debated for as long as guns have been around. Many Americans believe in the right to own as many guns as desired, while others believe the general public should not be able to own any guns because of the danger they present. Whichever side you are on, everyone can agree that something has to be done to stop mass shootings.

The most recent mass shooting took place just yesterday, April 29, at a FedEx shipping facility in suburban Atlanta. The shooter, 19-year-old Geddy L. Kramer, shot six people before taking his own life. According to Chicago Tribune News, FedEx employee Liza Aiken stated that Kramer “had bullets strapped to his chest like Rambo.” It is hard to imagine the terror these employees were feeling when they realized what was happening. The workplace is somewhere people should feel safe, yet it is almost impossible to feel safe knowing that anyone who owns a gun could potentially be a threat.

So what is the answer? If the government takes away guns, isn’t that taking away a basic right? Yet, if the government allows guns to continue being sold, there is a risk of more mass shootings. Some say a background check should be required to any one interested in purchasing a gun, and perhaps that is one of many answers. One thing is for sure–something has to be done.

-SRR

 

Let’s Talk About Keystone

Pipeline Construction via keystone–xl.com

Pipeline Construction via keystone–xl.com

And no I don’t mean, “Only the smooth shall pass,” Keystone Light.  I mean Trans Canada’s Keystone XL Pipeline. According to the Trans Canada website devoted to the pipeline, this particular pipeline will be the safest, most advanced and will increase the growth of crude oil production in the U.S. Trans Canada claims this project could reduce imports and foreign dependency by 40 percent.

Let’s look into a little bit of the project’s background. An application was filed in 2012 for a presidential permit. The pipelines plans would ensure its expansion over 1,179 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline is projected to bring 9,000 jobs and boost the U.S. economy. But would the Keystone XL Pipeline actually create long-term energy independence and reduce imports and gas prices?

I doesn’t seem likely according to Tim Worstall, a Forbes contributing writer. Worstall claims two things could happen: there will be no effect on prices if the pipeline is built, or process might actually rise for those living in the Mid-west. Worstall goes on to explain legally, one cannot export crude oil. However, with the pipeline, American refiners can buy more crude oil at much lower costs, which they can then turn into gas for export. This would benefit refiners who would see exponential monetary gains, but what about all those who are supposed to receive cheaper gas prices? Isn’t this pipeline supposed to be oil and gas for Americans, not for refiners to export?

Jane Kleeb a.k.a the “Keystone Killer,” is a native Nebraskan and anti-Keystone Pipeline activist. Kleeb’s concerns are for the property rights and water of Nerbraka’s farmers, ranchers and Native American peoples. Kleeb agrees the oil is not for America, but rather for export. Kleeb recently said, “We … should not risk our livelihoods and our water so a foreign tar sands corporation can get their product to the export market. This is not a pipeline for America. This is a pipeline through America so they can get it to the export market.”

So I ask you, is this really in the best interest for the United States? Is this oil truly for independence, or rather are we being sold a dream? Will we indeed produce 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day for U.S. use, or will the 70 percent of Americans who support this pipeline regret their choice after 2015?

–REK

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