Friday, April 28, 2006

Veto the Pork

Thankfully President Bush plans to veto the Pork. I just hope he sticks to his guns. The American taxpayer deserves better then to be saddle with $700 million in debt, so Biloxi can have a scenic boulevard.

According to the Sun Herald “We don't expect an editorialist or newscaster who has never been here even once to appreciate that fact; we do expect a president who has already been here 10 times to better understand the situation.” I have news for the Sun Herald, I live here and I see no reason to spend $700 million to move the CSX rail line that has just been repaired. Apparently I am not the only one if Letters to the Editor are anything to go by.

Ronald Salters of Ocean Springs says Too many details of this pork project are hidden.

Too many details of this pork project are hidden
It is hard to believe that $700 million is being misappropriated for the purchase of the CSX right of way. This is only the beginning of the funds that will be needed to tear down a perfectly functioning railroad and build a multi-lane monstrosity, the details of which are conspicuously hidden from public scrutiny. The casinos and Harrison County and are the only true beneficiaries of this outrageous pork barrel.
The real travesty is that no one has considered the fact that an east-west corridor currently exists along the CSX right of way through Harrison County. By using the existing service roads and easements a multi-lane, east-west corridor could be constructed and co-exist with the railroad for far less than $700 million.
The $700 million is an unsolicited arm-twisting by politicians who used to brag about building infrastructure and fiscal responsibility. We should not let politicians use strong-arm tactics to push their pet project through Congress, furthering this country's debt at a time when real needs are not being met.
There is a better use of $700 million; one need look no further than those who are desperately seeking housing and jobs as they are being handed eviction notices by FEMA.

William Hutter of Biloxi says Questions should have been answered earlier

Questions should have been answered earlier
Politics and ethics aside, there remains the issue of whether buying the CSX right of way for an east-west connector road is good public policy. I offer the following for consideration:
• If the tracks are retained for light rail use, how will safety be increased? On a limited-access, high-traffic connector road, how will traffic accidents be reduced?
• Most of the Coast casinos are located along the beachfront. Moving traffic away from their front door seems counter-productive. The hundreds of beachfront businesses we hope will rebuild will face the same disincentives.
• The dream for a scenic U.S. 90 may be overblown. Most of the Victorian houses are gone, and view of the water is being decreased by condominiums.
• Width greater than the CSX right of way will be required. That will come at the expense of the moderate-income houses that line the tracks.
• A limited-access road means street grids will be blocked and neighborhoods will be separated.
• If the main artery for Coast traffic is moved north of the beach, it does not make much sense to route traffic across Biloxi Bay onto old U.S. 90.
In summary, I fail to see how a project with the potential of increasing traffic, doing nothing for traffic safety, decreasing tax revenues, reducing affordable housing, dividing neighborhoods, and delaying construction of the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge is in my best interest or that of my fellow citizens. Had this project been fully discussed earlier we might have avoided the embarrassing situation in which we now find ourselves.

Friday, April 21, 2006

New Blog

Steve Barnes has entered the blogging world, visit his blog Empires Fall, for his perspective on the Bush administration.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hurricane Supply Tax Break

Floridians are likely to get hurricane supplies tax free. On the other hand Mississippians who already shell out 7% in sales taxes on groceries, don't have any tax free supplies to look forward to.

Maybe if Barbour wasn't determined to give CSX $700 million dollars he could spare a few cents for working class Mississippians.

World News Tonight

Last night, ABC World News Tonight ran a segment on the current proposal to spend $700 million of your money to rip up and relocate a fully operational railroad in Mississippi. The segment can be seen here .
To get to the specific segment, click on "World News Tonight" on the right side of the page, then click on the fourth item from the top about the train.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Contributed by Bo Alawine - Wasp Nests

When I was a boy growing up on a dirt road near Zero, one of the many rural entertainments available to my brother and me was knocking down wasp nests. This was only marginally safer than one of our other hobbies, mining the gunpowder from fireworks to manufacture WMDs capable of splitting hollow catalpa trees, but I digress. (As for you sadists who think stirring up hornet’s nests is a more enlightened form of entertainment, my brother and I may have been dumb, but we weren’t fools.) The whole point of whacking wasp nests was to protect other people from getting stung. At least that’s what we told our mother. Aside from the dubious “fighting them over there in the shed so we don’t have to fight them here on the porch” rationale, the benefits were manifold. Whacking wasp nests made for a great cardio workout. If you were successful, you could get a hundred yard sprint per wasp nest, depending on how fast you were and how many very grumpy wasps were on your tail. Stings, while contributing to the zeal of the workout regimen, were considered minor occupational hazards unless you happened to incur the wrath of a nest of red wasps. These large, ill-tempered beasts were relentless when disturbed, held a mighty grudge and moved with a velocity which belied their size. We learned very quickly distance was our friend when dealing with red wasps. This led to another benefit: learning how to accurately aim a slingshot loaded with a dirt-laden sweet gum ball. Smart bombs have nothing on sweet gum balls for destructive power, at least on wasp nests and kid brothers. Last, but not least, were the economic benefits. I have no doubt in my mind the manufacturers of Benadryl, meat tenderizer and chewing tobacco are greatly indebted to us. What got me to reminiscing about stirring up wasp nests with sweet gum balls were the interesting reactions to my series of questions concerning the very serious issue of abortion. One of the rewards of having one’s ruminations published for all to read is the feedback of other people. Often as not, it is thought provoking and sometimes downright provocative. What I found most intriguing is that the majority did not to directly address any of my questions but to offer their own interpretations of either my intent or my moral clarity on the issue. This was greatly confusing to me, as I already thought I knew what I meant. In fact, I used my moral compass to build my foundation above the obfuscatory fog. (At this point, Mr. Alawine pats himself on the back for being clever enough to respond to three different columnists in one sentence). The mortal enemies of my youth, wasps, possessed a certainty of conviction. They led simple lives, with simple goals: feed the young and protect the nest. Along comes the knucklehead launching the Sweet Gum Ball of Mass Destruction (SGBMD), upsetting their nice little world. As is their nature, the wasps would immediately swarm, most searching for the cause of their confusion and disorder. Only after attempting to administer swift and terrible punishment, would they calm down, muttering to themselves, and return to their staid lives, incapable of contemplating why the SGBMD was sent special delivery, courtesy of Slingshot Express. Being a curmudgeon-in-training, I frequently lob the figurative SGBMD into the well-ordered, respectable opinions of those who fervently believe they hold the moral high ground. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. Interestingly, most of the reactions bear a striking similarity to those of my insect antagonists. As a student of human nature, I have noted people often do not wish to have their cherished notions of ethics, morality and fair play challenged. They instinctively attack the messenger, build and knock down straw men, or pooh-pooh the validity of the questions raised. People should be able to thoroughly explore and rationally discuss the issues of our time. The inability or unwillingness to see other viewpoints, debate the questions at hand and work out the particulars is at the crux of a number of the problems in this country. A dogmatic insistence that one particular world-view is the only lens through which all life can be safely viewed fails to address the various facets of each of these problems. “Because God said so” or “Because I said so” is not the answer to the questions which may make us uncomfortable or may cause us to re-examine our convictions. These responses require no effort of thought and are designed to avoid the hard task of defending a particular position. Admittedly, I am an amateur practitioner of polemics. I have a weakness for wiping the smug smiles off of the faces of pundits whose certainty is absolute. Having said this, I will also state it is a guiding principle of mine that when I offer my opinion to the rest of humanity, I darn well better be able to defend it or admit I was wrong and learn from my mistake(s). I hold other opinion peddlers to the same standard. The logical result of applying this principle is that sometimes opinions push people out of their comfort zones. A wise old saw once told me opinions were like bellybuttons: everyone has one and they all stink. Having an opinion doesn’t mean you have a monopoly on the truth. It should be an expression of what you think, and a good one should make other people think. Nearly forty years later, I’m passing through my second childhood, firing sweet gum balls into wasp nests. I guess I’m a slow learner. Who’d a thunk it?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Pork or Progress?

According to the MS Press the $700 million to move the CSX rail line isn't pork it's progress! But considering that many residents of the Gulf Coast are living in FEMA trailers; I believe the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Why was CSX allowed to repair the rail line (which is now fully functional) if the government was going to buy them out?

Why isn't money being sought to rebuild the public schools, libraries and government buildings destroyed by Katrina?

Why isn't money being sought to restore the utilities destroyed by Katrina?

Why isn't money being sought to help people rebuild their homes, and to build apartments?

Why is money being sought to give to a private corporation (CSX), that had a profitable year in spite of Katrina?

At this time $700 million of our TAX MONEY could be better spent on the citizens of the Gulf Coast who lost everything, not on moving a railroad that is fully functional.

If you believe the $700 million could be better spent on the needs of the residents of the MS Gulf Coast, please sign this online petition

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Coburn Expresses Concern About CSX Buy Out

The relocation of CSX is back in the news. I have to admit that I am relieved they are talking about using existing rail lines now and are not planning to build a railroad in my community. But Coburn made several good points in his press release. It seems to me the $700 million could be better spent rebuilding our schools, sewer and water lines, government buildings, public libraries and helping people rebuild their homes. And one has to wonder why CSX was allowed to repair the rail line (at their expense) if they were only going to be asked to take it up again at taxpayer expense.

Coburn Expresses Concern about Pork Projects in Emergency Supplemental Bill
Supplemental may include $700 million to destroy
and relocate recently-repaired rail line

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D (R-OK) today urged his colleagues to resist the temptation to attach extraneous pork projects and other non-emergency items to the must-pass Hurricane Katrina and Iraq supplemental spending bill. Coburn specifically encouraged his colleagues to not attempt to use the supplemental as a vehicle to dismantle and relocate the CSX Gulf Coast line to clear the way for a new scenic road and other waterfront development projects.

“It is ludicrous for the Senate to spend $700 million to destroy and relocate a rail line that is in perfect working order, particularly when it recently underwent a $250 million repair. American taxpayers are generous and are happy to restore damaged property. But it is wrong for Senators to turn this tragedy into a giveaway for economic developers,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Emergency supplemental bills are designed to help our nation confront emergencies. While the current location of this rail line may be displeasing to local economic developers and politicians, it is hardly a national emergency,” Dr. Coburn said.

“The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues to be a nightmare for displaced persons in the Gulf Coast region. Tons of debris still has not been removed, and thousands of people are still in temporary housing. I hope the Senate uses common sense and puts true emergency needs ahead of the special interest requests of developers. The citizens of the Gulf Coast and taxpayers across America expect nothing less,” Dr. Coburn said.