Category: Local/State
Jarvis DeBerry: As Louisiana’s COVID-19 cases spread, a gospel of selfishness spreads, too
worker | August 12, 2021 | 6:08 pm | COVID-19, Local/State | Comments closed

Jarvis DeBerry: As Louisiana’s COVID-19 cases spread, a gospel of selfishness spreads, too

A sign encouraging people to get vaccinated on the marquee of the First Grace First Grace United Methodist Church is seen vandalized with red paint in New Orleans, La. Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Photo by Max Becherer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Every Christian should know the story of the legal scholar who tells Jesus he knows he’s commanded to love his neighbor as much as he loves himself, but professes not to understand who his neighbor is. Without actually reciting the parable of the man who’s ambushed on Jericho Road and then revived and rescued by his presumed enemy, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who’s Catholic, has repeatedly alluded to that passage of Scripture when he’s begged residents to think of COVID-19 mitigation efforts as part of their duty to be good neighbors.

In a state where 84% of people say they’re Christian, convincing them to show concern and compassion for others shouldn’t be a hard sell. However, nearly all the opposition to the governor’s emergency orders has come from conservative Christians (some evangelical, some Catholic) who have elevated the so-called right of the individual not to be mildly inconvenienced over the public good of fewer deaths. We’ve heard theologically flimsy arguments against crowd restrictions, vaccinations and masks, all which suggest a belief that Christianity requires not neighborliness, but a selfish disregard for the well being of others.

“So it’s not love your neighbor so much,” Du Mez said by phone. “Well, you know, they’ll say the way that we love our neighbors is to stand for truth and righteousness and they are welcome to come join us. But, you know, it’s a different conception of loving one’s neighbor, for sure.”

COVID-19 hospitalizations are skyrocketing, and last week, Edwards wisely — if belatedly — announced a new statewide mask mandate. He also said Louisiana can’t lay claim to being the “most pro-life state in the nation” if its people won’t do the simplest things to thwart the spread of disease and its politicians won’t stop fomenting defiance of public health guidelines.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Catholic, is not an evangelical, but on the same day Edwards issued the new face mask order, Landry was offering form letters to parents looking to gin up religious or philosophical objections to face masks. “I do not consent to forcing a face covering on my child, who is created in the image of God,” the religious objection form says.

“I don’t believe he’s consulting with any public health experts,” Edwards said of Landry on PBS’s “Amanpour & Co.” Wednesday, “and what he’s doing has no basis in the law.”

It has no basis in the Bible either, notwithstanding Landry loading up that letter with scriptures.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Obery Hendricks, a professor of systematic theology, said of Landry’s suggestion that people use “image of God” language to get out of mask mandates. That would mean believers shouldn’t wear hats, Hendricks said, or “wear clothes at all.”

Hendricks, an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who teaches at Columbia University, has studied the same right-wing takeover of the faith Du Mez has. He calls his latest book “Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith.”

“If they cared about the Bible, they would act very differently,” Hendricks said of people here and across America citing religion to resist health guidelines. “They would support the governor’s call for neighborliness. It seems their Bible doesn’t even include ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Seems like the part about obeying authority has fallen out with it. When the oppressed have protested mistreatment, conservative Christians have routinely flipped to Romans 13 and lectured that authorities are to be obeyed. But Democrats — even pro-life Democrats — aren’t called authorities. They’re called tyrants.

It doesn’t matter that conservative Christians are a small part of the population. They own a political party. That means their gospel of selfishness imperils us all.

Texas Supreme Court thwarts Democrat effort to overturn governor’s veto that blocked legislative funding

Texas Supreme Court thwarts Democrat effort to overturn governor’s veto that blocked legislative funding

Texas Supreme Court thwarts Democrat effort to overturn governor’s veto that blocked legislative funding
The Texas Supreme Court has blocked a challenge by state Democrats seeking to overturn a move by Governor Greg Abbott that could deprive the legislature of funds for the next two years as part of a standoff over voting laws.

The all-Republican state Supreme Court ruled in Abbott’s favor on Monday, denying Democrats’ request to overturn a veto of a legislative funding measure, which would leave lawmakers without cash for the next two-year session.

The judges argued that the funding issue “continues to exist not because of a dispute between the Governor and the Legislature, nor even because of one between the Governor and a minority of House members,” adding the dispute is primarily between lawmakers and that it cannot intervene.

This political dispute within the legislative branch is not an issue of separation of powers that we can decide.

ALSO ON RT.COMFederal judge sides with Biden administration, blocks Texas measure to stop transportation of illegal immigrantsIn their challenge, state Democrats argued that Abbott had overstepped his authority as governor and violated the constitutional separation of powers between lawmakers and the executive by vetoing the funding. The court did not accept that rationale, saying the matter could have been settled if the Democrats had worked with other lawmakers, but declined to do so.

The judges also observed that if a total loss of funds were truly “imminent,” they would expect other lawmakers “besides members of the House Democratic Caucus” to object, noting that no Republicans had joined the complaint.

With the funds set to run dry, Abbott has announced a special legislative session that will extend into September, and has allocated some stop-gap funding to allow proceedings to continue during that time. Unless the dispute can be resolved during the special session, the funding will remain in limbo.

The controversy erupted after a number of Democratic lawmakers left the state in order to prevent the lower chamber from having quorum during a May vote on a controversial election bill. Democrats obstructing the legislation insist it would violate voting rights and limit access to the ballot box for marginalized groups, but Republican opponents have put the measure high on their agenda, arguing it is needed to combat voter fraud in the state.

Both the voting bill as well as the funding measure are on the agenda for the current special session.

Following the walk-out, Abbot blasted the lawmakers involved, vetoing their appropriations proposal while stating that “Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”

While opponents have vowed to continue fighting Abbott on the issue, with legal pressure group Democracy Forward insisting it would “review the court’s decision” as it determined the next steps on Monday night, the governor’s office cheered the ruling, saying Democrats had “run out of excuses.”

“The Texas Supreme Court has again recognized that ‘the Governor has power to disapprove any bill and upheld the governor’s veto power granted under the Texas Constitution,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement.

It’s time to stop the charades and get back to work doing the job they were elected to do – voting on critical legislation on behalf of their constituents.

ALSO ON RT.COMTexas lawmaker claims fugitive Dems were ‘exempt’ from mask rules when they flew to DC and they ‘didn’t know’ about Covid-19 surgeThink your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Jarvis DeBerry: Louisiana is a safer place for Big Oil than Louisiana’s people
worker | July 19, 2021 | 6:39 pm | Local/State | Comments closed

Jarvis DeBerry: Louisiana is a safer place for Big Oil than Louisiana’s people

Our Drowning Coast: Left to Louisiana's tides, Jean Lafitte fights for time
Oil industry infrastructure in wetlands south of Lafitte. (William Widmer, The New York Times)

State Rep. Danny McCormick’s attempt during the Legislature’s session to have Louisiana designated a “fossil fuel sanctuary state” would never have passed constitutional muster. The state can’t just up and decide that its laws take priority over the country’s. But in calling out the absurdity of the Oil City Republican’s legislation, there’s a chance that some of us lost sight of the reality that Louisiana — to our great peril — has long been a fossil fuel sanctuary state.

No, the state can’t protect Big Oil from the feds, but it protects it from everybody else — especially Louisianians who want the industry held accountable for its damage to the coast and its toxic effects on our air. And as accurate as it is to say that the state’s capitulation to the oil industry will destroy us, it’s even more accurate to say it has already destroyed us plenty.

Referring to the 1920s and ‘30s, Horowitz writes, “Southern Democrats like (St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes’ District Attorney Leander) Perez, icons for almost an almost fascist level of government power, used that power in the service of the owners and shareholders of Standard Oil, Freeport Sulphur, and other transnational corporate interests. Working with local government, these firms rewrote Louisiana’s constitution and redistributed its mineral wealth. Even as Governor Huey Long promoted quasi-socialist reforms to make ‘Every Man a King,’ and Perez boasted of his parish’s ‘Utopia’ with full employment, they were transferring huge amounts of public resources to private markets. Once they yielded influence to the oil interests, local politicians never regained the reins of power.”

Have Louisiana politicians ever demanded those reins? Even now, many act as if it’s important that Louisiana be thankful and deferential to those oil companies lest they storm off in a huff and leave oil in the ground. That deference dooms us.

 Should Louisiana be a ‘sanctuary state’ for oil and gas? This bill would make it so

As Horowitz writes, Louisiana politicians signaled generations ago that they’re OK with private companies getting the profit from oil exploration and the public paying the cost.

That cost includes the destruction of wetlands that previously dampened the blow of incoming hurricanes.

One could argue that the Perezes of the world didn’t know that giving the oil companies carte blanche in Louisiana would make Plaquemines Parish, as The New Yorker puts it, “among the fastest-disappearing places on Earth.”

But today’s officials can’t plead ignorance. They have seen what has happened and what is yet happening. And they’ve certainly been told that oil and gas exploration bears the lion’s share of the blame for our land loss.

But the oil industry’s legacy of destruction gives them no pause. They remain willing to cater to the industry’s every whim.

Although the legislation naming Louisiana a sanctuary state for fossil fuels didn’t pass, legislation making it easier for natural gas companies to avoid penalties after leaks did. There’s also a new law that gives industrial facilities the ability to self-report environmental violations to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, in exchange for reduced fines and the right to keep the public from knowing about the violations for two years. Lawmakers also passed laws against the solar energy industry, which doesn’t cause air pollution, and gave the go-ahead to chemical recycling, which reportedly does.

 Katrina’s 15th anniversary brings a pair of books that look back through different lenses

Together Louisiana, Louisiana Budget Project, the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice have given the Louisiana Legislature an ‘F’ for its stewardship of Louisiana’s air, land and water. Erin Hansen, who helped create the score card, said that “it feels like we’re moving backward at a time when science tells us we can’t do that.”

Oh, we can do it; we just can’t do it and survive.

Horowitz looks at the 90 years of decisions that preceded Hurricane Katrina’s destructiveness to challenge the common idea that the disaster was an acute, out-of-nowhere event or that it counts as an “act of God.” We’d do better to think of it as the consequences of allowing an industry to tear up the coast with impunity.

And to be sure, there are yet consequences to come. Because the state’s leaders continue to make Louisiana a safer place for oil companies to operate than for human beings to live.

Bob Marshall: When do we tolerate socialism in Louisiana? When oil companies benefit.
worker | July 19, 2021 | 6:35 pm | Local/State | Comments closed

Bob Marshall: When do we tolerate socialism in Louisiana? When oil companies benefit.

Fieldwood Energy
An oil platform sits in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Fieldwood Energy)

Has anyone in Louisiana been able to get a home mortgage without first proving their financial worth and then purchasing flood insurance?

Of course not. That’s because lenders need to make sure you could meet the debt — especially if the worst happens. It is just part of doing business in this region and the nation.

Well, unless you own an oil and gas company and want to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In that case, you can get this sweetheart deal: If you go bankrupt taxpayers will help pay to clean up any mess you leave behind, such as polluting wells and corroding pipelines — even if it means less money for their schools, hospitals, roads … well, everything else.

What’s that you’re saying? You’re a Louisiana taxpayer and you didn’t agree to this terrible bargain?

Then you better wake up, because that’s the deal the politicians you’ve been sending to Baton Rouge and Washington have been signing in your name for decades.

The latest example of this con is on view in a Houston federal court where, as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Fieldwood Energy LLC has proposed abandoning as many as 1,715 wells, 281 pipelines and 276 platforms and letting you and previous owners pick up the estimated $9 billion tab for safely shutting down all that potentially polluting property.

But here’s the biggest gut punch for us suckers: This is the second bankruptcy Fieldwood has claimed in less than three years.

By now you’re wondering: How can this happen?

Well, when big oil companies routinely sell declining wells to smaller, less-capitalized companies on federal or state lands, the law says responsibility for properly shutting down that well goes to the new owner. But politicians made sure there were different rules for playing in the Gulf of Mexico to allow smaller, local companies to join the fun. So when leases change hands offshore, the responsibility for cleanup remains with the original owner.

 In Fieldwood bankruptcy, judge ‘freezes time’ on 1,700 Gulf of Mexico oil wells

But those original owners are some of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the world, and they often find ways to delay, reduce and absolve themselves of those costs and pass them on to the public. And that’s why industry insiders are not surprised Fieldwood could get a second chance even after its recent first bankruptcy.

An ethical solution isn’t complicated, said Megan Milliken Biven, the New Orleanian who has turned the insider knowledge of the oil and gas business gained while a staffer at the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management into a role as an innovative energy reformer. She says Canada’s Alberta government — the Texas of the North — has proposed a very simple and effective solution to take taxpayers off the hook while protecting the environment. It’s called “Sticky ARO.”

The “ARO” stands for asset retirement obligation. And “sticky” means a portion of the costs of that retirement stays with each of the owners until the property is properly shut down.

“Let’s say a well is owned by Chevron for 60% of its life and two other companies for 20% each. When it’s time for decommissioning they each would be on the hook for that percentage of the costs,” she explained.

“It’s a very fair way of sharing the costs of decommissioning based on the profit each company gained from ownership.”

 Oil firm’s plan to abandon 1,700 Gulf of Mexico wells could mean ‘environmental disaster,’ say rivals

Just as important, of course, is making each owner provide insurance proving they will have the funding to take care of their share before being allowed in the game — something that still isn’t done adequately by U.S. or state agencies.

And don’t let the industry tell you this isn’t a big problem. One federal audit showed between 2009 and 2018 there were 22 corporate bankruptcies in federal waters resulting in $4.3 billion in decommissioning liabilities. This doesn’t include the risks from 18,000 miles of inactive pipelines left behind since the 1960s in violation of federal laws requiring their removal. The same federal audit found enforcement almost nonexistent.

It’s all part of the type of socialism Louisiana and other red states think is fine. They believe businesses should be allowed to privatize profits, but socialize their risks.

Bob Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisiana environmental journalist, can be reached at, and followed on Twitter @BMarshallEnviro.

Jarvis DeBerry: The tax breaks for jobs scheme isn’t working out for Louisiana
worker | June 29, 2021 | 7:54 pm | Economy, Local/State | Comments closed

Jarvis DeBerry: The tax breaks for jobs scheme isn’t working out for Louisiana

marathon oil refinery 2019_001.jpg
The Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville, La. Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

You, I and every other American taxpayer helped out Marathon Petroleum during the worst of the pandemic. Then, the same year it secured its $2.1 billion in federal tax benefits — the most of any U.S. oil company — Marathon let go almost 1,920 employees.

The “reductions,” to use Marathon’s word, included 45 workers at Marathon’s refinery in St. John the Baptist Parish who probably don’t say “reduced” when describing what the company did to them.

Marathon grabbed up our money but let go our neighbors. “Understanding the benefits that Marathon received to presumably stimulate them into maintaining full employment,” one of the laid-off workers told reporter Chris Staudinger, “it’s frustrating to have still been chopped.”

But in Louisiana, it’s not uncommon for industry to get government help — most often tax exemptions from the state — only to cut workers. The mere promise of jobs is enough to make state officials genuflect before the companies offering them.

Even when a company says up front it’s going to double the amount of pollution — consider Formosa’s plan to emit 800 tons of toxic air pollution each year in St. James Parish — we are told to pipe down lest we chase away potential jobs.

Robert Taylor, the 80-year-old leader of Concerned Citizens of St. John, made it clear in a phone interview that no number of jobs justifies people breathing air that’s killing them. When Taylor’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, he moved her out of state. His daughter also left because, according to Taylor, she and three other Black women in St. John developed an autoimmune disease that only one in 5 million people get.

Taylor lives closer to the Denka plant (formerly Dupont) than to Marathon and mostly blames that plant for his family’s poor health, but he says none of the companies in St. John that boast about job creation provide evidence.

“All these companies, they guard their personnel records with their lives,” Taylor said. “There’s no access to anything about the demographics of employees. We’ve been fighting with (Marathon) as well as with DuPont/Denka to give us the statistics to let us know — since they brag about all the jobs. We’re always trying to find out what percentage of the population that has been impacted by them the most are they employing.”

But again, who cares?

“I would not trade off the health of the people here for any job at all,” Taylor said. “What good is a job going to do you if you’re dying? I know a guy who has retired (from Marathon); he got his son on. Both he and his son contracted the same form of cancer, but they are better able to deal with it and get the right medical care. They both survived the cancer, but the average person that lives here, which is 99% of us, we don’t have the kind of medical insurance and care that Marathon can give to the few token Blacks that they do hire.”

On the last day of the legislative session, state Rep. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) asked the Louisiana House to extend the current 5% federal earned income tax credit by five years, calling it “good policy that … serves working people at the bottom of the totem pole.” state Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath), the leader of the Republican Caucus, objected to the projected cost of $20.5 million a year.

“This institution,” state Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Central) said in defense of Duplessis’ bill, “gives everything away for corporate, for business. We give it away. We don’t even think about it…. But when it comes to the people of our state, we’re going to have these unbelievable philosophical questions and concerns about whether it’s the right thing to do.”

In May, Ivey expressed dismay at his House colleagues who approved a bill that would have let companies getting tax breaks to create jobs keep private the salaries they pay their hires. That bill died in the Senate, but the message was still sent that, just like the feds, Louisiana doesn’t care much what corporations do after taking our money.

That’s one of many reasons we know the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong when it ruled in 2010 that corporations are people. People are capable of shame.

Biden commemorates Tulsa massacre, notes ‘terrorism from white supremacy’ is ‘greatest threat’ to US
worker | June 2, 2021 | 9:04 pm | Fascist terrorism, Joe Biden, Local/State | Comments closed

Biden commemorates Tulsa massacre, notes ‘terrorism from white supremacy’ is ‘greatest threat’ to US

Biden commemorates Tulsa massacre, notes ‘terrorism from white supremacy’ is ‘greatest threat’ to US
Joe Biden commemorated the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre by visiting the city and announcing new efforts to combat “white supremacy” and increase federal spending on minority-owned businesses.

Speaking from Tulsa’s Greenwood Cultural Center after visiting with the three remaining survivors of the massacre of black citizens, Biden noted he was the first sitting president to visit the Oklahoma location, something he said he did to help erase the “silence” around the dark event, which he described in detail.

The Tulsa destruction began when a young black man named Dick Rowland was falsely accused of rape by a white woman. With a white mob demanding the sheriff turn him over, dozens of black citizens showed up to guard Rowland at his trial. After being turned away, they returned in greater numbers only for things to descend into violence with a mob of white people. The chaos led to the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood, referred to as “Black Wall Street” thanks to its thriving black-owned businesses. Numerous homes and shops were destroyed and black citizens were killed, some even by private planes dropping bombs.

ALSO ON RT.COMArmed protesters march for reparations in Tulsa, Oklahoma as the city marks 100th anniversary of black massacreThe true death count from the day is not known, but some have estimated that it could be higher than 300.

“This was not a riot. It was a massacre,” Biden said to applause, dismissing the long-held narrative that the events were a “race riot.”

“Imagine all of those hotels and diners and mom-and-pop shops that could have been passed down this past 100 years,” he later added, before announcing efforts to help in “black wealth creation,” including increasing federal contracts to “black or brown owned” businesses by 50% as well as combating the “racial discrimination in housing,” noting black home ownership is lower today than 50 years ago.

“We’re committed to changing that,” he said.

ALSO ON RT.COMTrump expects to get reinstated as president by August, New York Times’ Maggie Haberman claims, sparking stormAmong his administration’s other efforts is setting aside $10 billion in infrastructure spending to go to rebuilding roads, schools, etc. in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The president also said he was putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of an effort to push back against new voting laws in various states he claims are trying to suppress the “right to vote.” Biden did not go into specifics, but said he would have more details about his plan in the coming days.

He wrapped his commemoration by comparing the “hate” at the center of the Tulsa Massacre, as well as voting rights issues, to more recent events such as the 2017 Charlottesville riot and Capitol riot – done by a mob of “violent white extremist thugs,” according to Biden – on January 6, which led to the death of five people, though he did mistakenly say the latter took place on January 9.

“Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today,” Biden claimed, citing concerns from US intelligence communities.

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Dems stage surprise walk-out at Texas State House to block vote on voting rules bill, governor calls for special session
worker | May 31, 2021 | 7:44 pm | Local/State | Comments closed

Dems stage surprise walk-out at Texas State House to block vote on voting rules bill, governor calls for special session

Dems stage surprise walk-out at Texas State House to block vote on voting rules bill, governor calls for special session
Texas Republican legislators’ attempt to rush through a controversial voting bill before the end of the legislative session was stopped in its tracks by a surprise Democrat walk-out, denying a quorum.

Senate Bill 7 (SB7) would enact a major overhaul of the electoral process in Texas. Written along lines not unlike those of similar bills passed in Georgia and Florida, it became a focal point for partisan clashes on the state and federal levels. Republicans said the reform was meant to protect the integrity of elections from fraud, while Democrats said it was meant to suppress the vote of black Texans, with some branding it the “new Jim Crow,” in reference to the system of legal discrimination of black people that was in force in many states before the mid-1960s.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Moving in the wrong direction’: White House slams new Florida voting law as ‘built on a lie’With the GOP controlling both chambers of the state legislature, the Texas bill was expected to be finalized on the weekend and passed on to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott. However, a last-minute maneuver by House Democrats blocked a vote on Sunday, the last day of the legislative session.

The Democrats’ initial plan was to stall until the midnight deadline with speeches against the bill, but “it became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation,” House Democratic chairman Chris Turner said in a statement later. “At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”

Republicans have only themselves to blame for the way this Session is ending.

As the debate continued, he instructed members of the Democratic caucus to discreetly leave the chamber and the building. With dozens of lawmakers trickling out, the 150-seat body didn’t have the quorum. Two-thirds of the House members have to be present to take a vote. Republican Speaker Dade Phelan adjourned the session and later lashed out at the Democrats, accusing them of dereliction of duty.

The runaway lawmakers “killed a number of strong, consequential bills with broad bipartisan support,” Phelan said in a statement. “Texans shouldn’t have to pay for the consequences of these members’ actions – or in this case inaction.”

ALSO ON RT.COMSenator Scott blasts Dems for divisive political race-baiting, Liberal Twitter brands him ‘Uncle Tim’ in responseThe governor likewise rebuked the Democrats and said the bill will be back on the floor in a special session. “Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session. They STILL must pass,” he tweeted. A brief statement along the same lines did not set a date for when the special session will be held.

The clash over SB7 escalated on the weekend after a slew of last-minute changes were proposed by a conference committee following a behind-closed-doors discussion over the past week. The changes introduced additional rules that were not part of the previous versions of the bill, which were passed by both the House and the Senate.

These older versions differed significantly from each other. On Sunday, both chambers were supposed to pass a unified text that would then be signed by Governor Abbott. A marathon debate in the Senate, where Democrats objected to the changes and the fact that they were not given enough time to review them properly, ended with a victory for the GOP, after SB7 was approved overnight.


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