Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Secession Time

This long sojourn was something of a self-imposed sabbatical, enhanced by a profound sense of inertia. Interestingly, the blog connected to this listserv still attracts a solid 29 hits a day -- no less, no more. I'm convinced that the National Security Administration [NSA] has simply hooked my blog up to its listening network through 29 separate software nodes. Perhaps that sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it makes a lot more sense to me than the idea that 29 different (or same) people check this blog daily when it's been inactive for nearly 6 weeks now. I'm equally convinced that the FBI visit that my parents were treated to on my behalf in the spring of 2003 was triggered by the NSA listening program. In other words, they were listening to me (in Jordan at the time, with MSF), and they sent the FBI to check up. Perhaps we should be reassured that they're on the beat, that they didn't ever really harass us, or that we can all feel safer that we're all being watched -- except that every time Bush repeats the assertion that it's a "limited" program monitoring the activities of those with "suspected ties to al-Qaeda," I'm reminded that he means me, and I'm part of a "limited" phenomenon. Folks always wonder why European Jewry didn't get out of town when the writing was on the wall in the 1930's. I think I know why -- the crawfish boil scenario. That is, if you throw crawfish into boiling water they struggle to get out. If you heat it up slowly, they don't even struggle. Analogy certainly works.

Back to Katrina affairs. Last night Mr. Bush once again shook all of us New Orleanians out of any sense of laissez-faire by pointedly, intentionally, and brusquely ignoring the long awaited initiatives necessary to bring back New Orleans. In his State of the Union, the greatest national disaster (financially) in US history was all but ignored -- and New Orleanians are pissed.

Granted, our fine mayor Mr. Nagin has not helped matters lately, what with his "chocolate city" comments followed by profuse (and sincere, it appears) apologies. Many folks are energized by the recently announced candidacy of Mitch Landrieu (Jesuit graduate, Louisiana Lt. Governor) ibn Moon Landrieu (Jesuit graduate, NO mayor back in the 1970's, namesake for the "Moonwalk," and HUD cabinet secretary for President Carter). Although I've got nothing against Ray Nagin, I have to admit that Nagin's national credibility is shot and Mitch would probably be a great improvement at this point.

Following Bush's symphony of silence last night, today LA Governor Blanco announced state intentions to recover oil and gas royalties which up until now have effortlessly flowed into that Black Hole known as the US Treasury (see article below). Now, that's what we're talking about! Her initiative would "only" bring in about 2 billion USD per year, but that would at least give LA state govt enough cash to do something for itself. Pissing it away to -- oh, so uncorruptable -- DC is simply getting us nowhere.

Which brings me to the main point of today's posting -- secession. I have been talking it up for months now, and have always said that if no significant federal reconstruction funds materialize by this summer, it'll be time to start talking secession. As far as I'm concerned, last night moved the schedule up. The Gulf Coast is simply no longer on the national agenda. We're on our own. Period. To paraphrase our friendly neighborhood Evangelicals: "the feds help those who help themselves."

Here's a proposal, to "help ourselves". We need to immediately start a serious petition drive to put on the November 2006 election ballot a referendum on secession from the United States of America. If nothing else, it'll be hard to ignore the symbolic significance of a secession referendum in any part of the US. One might argue that this would alienate the rest of the US, but I don't see how we could be more ignored than we were last night. I would argue the opposite -- maybe this would wake DC up on the one hand, and spread some useful ideas for community activism in the rest of these United States. So, any ideas for secession petition logistics are hereby welcome.

The argument is as follows: we in the Gulf Coast have been paying our federal taxes and sending our troops to die halfway around the world for decades. As of last night, exactly 50 Louisianians have died serving in the US Armed Forces in Iraq since 2003. When Katrina hit, 1/3 of our LA National Guard was in Iraq -- absolutely useless to their home state. We pay oil and gas royalties to the tune of well over 5 billion USD per year. The Port of Louisiana is the primary export gateway for US grain exports. New Orleans is the center for one of the few worthwhile cultural contributions America has ever given the world -- Jazz. Widening it out a bit, the Gulf Coast has big time gambling coming soon on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Keesler Air Force Base, Pensacola Naval Training Facility (where they learn to land planes on old carriers), the (bustling) Port of Mobile, Avondale shipyards, the Biloxi shipyards (where they build state of the art destroyers), Michoud (space shuttle gas tanks), Stennis NASA facility (rocket engine testing facility), etc. In a nutshell, all of this has been provided to the US Government and society. In return, all we've ever asked for is protection. In New Orleans, the levees -- a federal responsibility -- breached. After the breach, recriminations, excuses, clean-up funding, and...no more. Well, it's time to take "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps" to the next level.

While it may seem purely symbolic at this point, the utopian vision is as follows: we should push for an independent nation state with the following borders: Lake Charles (or Galveston) to the west, Pensacola (or Mobile) to the east, Lafayette-Baton Rouge-Hattiesburg to the north, and the Gulf Coast to the south. It's a little sliver of America, but it's got some jewels. Export tariffs, oil and gas royalties, transport fees, tourism, gambling, etc -- we can finance our own recovery. It's a little sketchy, but there it is. Who knows, maybe France will send some money over, via the EU.

Now that South Park is hitting on Katrina, I guess there's pleny more to say. But enough for today.

In case I don't write anything for another 6 weeks, I urge you to follow the following blogs, each of which is kept up frequently and has further links on Katrina:

http://peoplegetready.blogspot.com/
http://worldclassneworleans.blogspot.com/

Our one article today, regarding secession (I have saved many more, but...maybe later):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,,-5586693,00.html

La. Governor Demands U.S. Pay Royalties

Wednesday February 1, 2006 7:46 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Kathleen Blanco isdemanding that the federal government give Louisianamore of the billions in royalties from oil and naturalgas extracted off its coastlines, saying she'll blockfuture leases without an increase in the state'sshare.

Blanco's warning, in a letter this week to the federalagency that manages offshore drilling, comes as thestate is struggling to finance up to $40 billion inhurricane recovery and protection projects, andcomplaining that the federal government isn't helpingenough.

The state wants half the royalties from oil and gasproduced beyond its three-mile boundary - a sum thatcould amount to more than $2 billion a year.

The state currently gets 27 percent of royaltiesproduced between three miles and six miles offshore.For oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico fromsix miles offshore to international waters, Louisianareceived just $32 million of the $5.7 billion thefederal government brought in.

Under federal law, for lease sales to go through,governors in adjacent states must agree that the salesare consistent with their states' coastal managementplans.

The U.S. secretary of the interior, who oversees theMinerals Management Service, could override Blanco ifshe attempts to block the next lease sale. But SidneyCoffee, Blanco's executive assistant for coastalactivities, said the federal government probably willwant to avoid the yearslong legal battle that couldresult.

The Minerals Management Service has not completed itsreview of Blanco's letter and has not issued aresponse, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

The governor met with oil and gas industry officialslast week.

Jeff Copeskey, of Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and GasAssociation, said Blanco's letter is meant to bringattention to the issue, and is not a slap at theindustry.

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