A humanitarian crisis continues at the U.S. border with the influx of thousands of illegal immigrants – many are unaccompanied children. President Obama and Republican lawmakers are blaming each other's party for the crisis.
Today, President Obama was in Dallas on a fund-raising trip for Democratic candidates, but also participated in a roundtable discussion on the crisis that included Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who seems to be trying to improve his national credentials for a possible presidential run in 2016.
Pleasing many Republicans, Gov. Perry initially rejected an invitation to greet President Obama as he arrived at the airport but wound up doing so anyway. Perry said that he was only interested in a meaningful discussion about the crisis on the border of Texas and other southwestern states.
The President is asking for $3.7 billion in funds to help deal with the countless illegal immigrants coming to America. Over 9,700 children have been taken into custody since May and there are no signs the migration to American will ease. The children are being sent to America to escape the growing violence and poverty in Central American countries.
Members of both parties have called for President Obama to visit the borders most effected by the latest surge of illegal immigrants, and with the President arriving in Dallas, about 500 miles from the border, the calls for President Obama to visit the border have grown louder.
The White House said the President and his officials are being kept up-to-date on the latest developments along the border, and there were no plans to visit the area.
Is the White House saying that the President only makes trips to disaster areas when his presence is actually needed, rather than to make a symbolic gesture by witnessing the crisis first-hand? If so, then how can they justify all the other trips Obama has made to disaster areas – like Louisiana after Isaac or even New Jersey following Sandy?
I have often argued that presidents from both parties use disasters as photo opportunities to give Americans the impression of a hands-on approach to the problem. In reality, a president can be in touch with any situation from the White House. Much of presidential travel is for show.
While the President's physical presence at the border will not alter the immediate crisis, Obama should make the visit, and not do so while on a fund-raising trip in a state feeling the full impact of the crisis. Doing so would make the President seem even more disconnected.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is also a host on the Fox News Channel and a possible Republican contender in 2016, compared President Obama's lack of response to the immigration crisis to President Bush's delay in visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) said the Administration is way behind on this crisis, as the problem continues to worsen. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that all of the children should be sent back to their families, and any country that fails to do more to prevent illegals from coming to America should lose foreign aid from the U.S.
The fact that the sudden increase in illegal immigrants coming to America includes so many unaccompanied children magnifies the humanitarian aspect of the crisis. Though both parties are playing politics and using innocent children as pawns in their game – the idea of parents giving up their children and sending them to America for the promise of a better life, and the children making what must have been a scary trip alone should tug at the hearts of every American citizen who has been blessed to be born in America.
It is not easy to move to another city as an adult, and I have had my share of those experiences. But it is even more difficult to move as a child, and imagine doing so without a parent and moving to a country where you don't know anyone and don't even speak the language.
To fully appreciate what that reality is like – imagine conditions being so bad where you live that you were willing to say "goodbye" to your children, and sending them to a foreign land alone with the hope that they will have a better life, and knowing you will probably never see them again, or even know what happened as a result of your painful decision.
I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that as the greatest country in the world, we should be able to figure out a solution without using innocent children in a high-stakes game of politics.
As citizens who are often willing to takes political sides, we should show our appreciation for being Americans by resisting both parties who also use us to play their game. We should only demand that a solution is found and it doesn't matter whether the Republicans, the Obama Administration or both work together to find a humanitarian solution to this crisis.
Sometimes we must reject the "game of politics" when it takes advantage of humans – especially innocent children.
When I heard that Pink Floyd would be releasing a new album in October, I thought about how exciting the news is for Pink Floyd fans – but I also thought about the bands that will never reunite to do anything new.
I will never forget the feeling I had when John Lennon was murdered in 1980. I was doing a morning radio show and had gone to bed early the night news of Lennon's death was announced. Breaking news did not travel as fast in 1980 and there was no social media. I remember being alone on a dark sidewalk downtown about to go into the radio station when I picked up a newspaper to see on the front page that John Lennon had been killed outside of his apartment building in New York City.
There had been growing talk of a possible reunion of The Beatles and though it was unlikely – the possibility of The Beatles getting back together died when John Lennon died. My thoughts focused on the finality of The Beatles – a band that my generation grew up with and a band that had a major impact on our lives and society. I felt something from my life had been lost.
When Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, I thought about the loss that would mean to a new young generation that was, in part, defined by the music of Nirvana. By committing suicide, Kurt Cobain robbed an entire generation of experiencing how he would have musically evolved as they matured.
As I watched The Cure at Voodoo Fest last year, I imagined how important is was for fans of the band to watch Robert Smith and The Cure sounding – and for the most part – looking like they did in the 80s and 90s.
As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I find comfort in knowing that many of the bands I grew up with and was playing on the radio during my early years as a young disc jockey in New Orleans are still performing today. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith and the upcoming reunion concert of Crosby, Stills and Nash give a sense of security for the generations that can mature, but still experience the comfort of the music that was the soundtrack of their lives.
It is sad when any performer dies at an early age, but it seems particularly sad when young generations are robbed of experiencing how their music trailblazers would adopt to changing times. Kurt Cobain represented the most significant change in the direction of pop music since The Beatles and the British Invasion. I would love to hear what Kurt would be writing today and how we would be relating to the generation his music helped define.
When I watch the music video for the Justin Timberlake song, "Love Never Felt So Good," and I see the innovative dancing of Michael Jackson, I realize that Michael Jackson will not be around to continue to mature with the many generations he touched. And would he still be inventing new dance moves?
With the announcement that the legendary Pink Floyd will be releasing a new album in October – what band would you love to see come back and do something new? Or, just reunite to tour again? And what band are you most sorry will never reunite?
Every large crowd that takes over our city for a major event has a collective personality and attitude, and since I live in the heart of the area where visitors stay and party, I usually get a strong sense of the crowds that temporarily dominate downtown and the French Quarter.
The preconceived impressions of the annual influx of the Essence Festival crowd to New Orleans are definite. Many react to the Essence Fest crowd being in town by saying, "Well, I'm not going downtown this weekend!" And the promise to avoid downtown during Essence goes beyond the traffic and the city and the crowds – many express concern about the attitude of the crowd itself.
I have always been honest about what I see and experience in my neighborhood. I have been honest on the air about a different "element" in the French Quarter over the past 6 months or so. And I will be honest about the crowd that was in town for Essence Fest this past weekend.
As expected, downtown and the French Quarter were packed with visitors in town for Essence Fest. As I walked down Bourbon Street and through the streets of the CBD, I was bumped into often, and in almost every case the person said, "Oh, I'm sorry!" It was a very polite and courteous crowd.
Legal parking spots were rare and coveted throughout the downtown area, and one night I found a perfect spot on a corner. After getting out of the car, I realized I could have parked closer to the curb so I got back in the car and someone turned the corner and pulled up behind me thinking that I was about to pull out. Quite often there is great frustration when it's realized the person is not actually leaving the parking spot you were hoping to get. When I got out of the car signaled that I was not leaving and the person in the car that had pulled up behind me waiting for me to leave just smiled and waved when he realized I was not leaving. That was a different reaction than I've gotten from many others who displayed total frustration over the fact that I was not leaving.
There were numerous incidents of politeness with people on the sidewalks and people in cars. The Essence Fest crowd merged Friday night, July 4th, with thousands of locals who ventured downtown to see another spectacular fireworks display on the river and everyone seemed to get along. I sensed no tension.
Obviously, there were the usual few rowdy individuals, but I couldn't tell if they were in town for Essence Fest, or locals who came in for the fireworks display on the river, or maybe just the regular French Quarter partiers. But the overwhelming feeling with the Essence Fest crowd in town was one of polite people who were thrilled to be in New Orleans and were here to have a good time. And they apparently did!
Often negative impressions are based on preconceived stereotypes, rather than real life experiences. The Essence Fest crowd was well-dressed with a great attitude and we will continue to embrace their annual visit to New Orleans.
Rush to judgment on the basis of stereotypes was flawed in the initial blame for the Bourbon Street shooting and in the initial defense of the Georgia father who left 22-month-old son to die in his hot car.
If you rushed to negatively judge the character of the Essence Fest crowd – you have learned another lesson about how rush to judgment is wrong!
If you were downtown or in the French Quarter over the weekend – did you have a good experience? Post your opinions on our Facebook page or send an email to Scoot@WWL.com.
Two recent tragic stories in the news remind us how the public is quick to rush to judgment.
As I talked about the Bourbon Street shooting on WWL, I described an element in the French Quarter that I have seen become more predominant over the past 6 months. I received texts and emails from some listeners harshly criticizing me for being politically correct and referring to an "element" rather than telling the "truth" that is was "young black males" who committed the crime. My response to the criticism was, first, we don't know who the shooters are and second, what difference does it make if they were black – the crime was still committed. Why would was blaming young black males important?
The rush to judgment that the shooters in the French Quarter were black fits the convenient stereotyping of many white Americans who find their own comfort in blaming "those people." That exonerates their community and makes it someone else's problem. The fact that a disproportionate number of young black males are perpetrators and victims seems to support the claim that crime i a "black problem." But defining crime as a "black problem" wrongly blames skin color for criminal mentality, which is a ridiculously false assumption. The greatest concentration of the crime problem may exist in the black community – but that does not make it a "black problem."
The mentality that leads to violence is the direct result of a culture of non-parenting, a general lack of understanding love and the failure to fear consequences – within a family, community or society. Crime will always be more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods – but that does not mean it is inspired by the race or ethnicity of the neighborhood.
When the New Orleans Police Department revealed the pictures of two young "persons of interest" – many were shocked to see that they were white. I received a text from a listener who said he was "ashamed" that he assumed the Bourbon Street gunmen were black.
We still don't know who the gunmen were, but it became obvious that the instinctive reaction to blame young black males was wrong.
The other recent case of rush to judgment is the case of the Georgia father who left his 22-month-old son in his hot car to die. When Justin Harris was arrested after his young son's lifeless body was pulled from the car, there was an immediate online petition demanding that police drop any charges against the "grieving father."
The petition stated that the grief-stricken father would suffer enough punishment knowing that he forgot to drop his son off at day care, his son who literally baked in the car while Dad sat at his desk at work. Talking about this tragedy on the air, I received calls and texts from people who were sympathetic of the father and did not believe a father in that situation should face charges.
Today in court, it was revealed that while Justin Harris' 22-month-old son, Cooper, was dying in the stifling heat of his car – his father was sexting 6 different young women – one underage – as he sat at his desk. It also came out in court that Harris was not happy in his marriage and was dealing with financial problems. The parents had a total of $27,000 in life insurance policies on their son.
The sexting by Justin Harris was lewd and included and exchange of photos of his erect penis and the bare breasts of females. The sexting and the life insurance policies could be coincidental – but both paint a very different picture the "grieving father" seen in cute photos with his son that so many were willing to defend.
The rush to judgment in the Bourbon Street shooting and in the case of the father who left his young son in his hot car demonstrates how quick some people are to stereotype.
When you hear of a crime that has been committed – before you assume you know the type of person who is guilty – think about all of those who could cause people to stereotype you!
This week's Supreme Court ruling that allows closely-held companies like Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing certain contraceptives for employees has sparked another huge controversy about religious freedom in America.
Hobby Lobby is a large corporation owned by devout Christians, and under Obamacare, the company was being forced to cover some forms of contraception mandated under the new law – for example – the pill that has become known as the "morning after pill." Hobby Lobby and others that oppose the "morning after pill" believe it is an abortion pill – which is medically inaccurate. The "morning after pill" does not cause an abortion. The pill known as RU-486 does induce a miscarriage or abortion after becoming pregnant and should not be confused with the "morning after pill."
The "morning after pill" is designed to act in several ways: 1) prevent or delay ovulation 2) prevent fertilization 3) prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, which defines the state of pregnancy.
The Hobby Lobby controversy reflects the passionate dedication of pro-life Americans, who oppose legal abortion. But if the "morning after pill" does not cause an abortion, is the controversy founded on misconceptions?
The controversy over a Christian family-owned business denying certain mandated coverage of health care based on religious freedom also feeds the growing panic in America that, as a nation, we are losing our precious right to freedom of religion.
Many Christians are proclaiming that Hobby Lobby is being hypocritical for denying coverage for the "morning after pill," while continuing to do business with China, which has one of the world's most pro-abortion policies.
For years the Chinese government has had a one-child per family policy in effect as a way of controlling the population. If a family has a child and the wife gets pregnant, abortion is mandated by the government. If a Christian family-owned business is opposed to abortion to the point of refusing to provide the "morning after pill" for employees because they think that pill causes an abortion (which it does not), then shouldn't they refuse to do business with a nation that has mandated abortions in certain situations?
Selecting when to apply Christian beliefs is often based on what is convenient and not financially devastating to a business. Perhaps Hobby Lobby can afford to apply its strong Christian beliefs to the denial of coverage for the "morning after pill" – but not in the case of severing business relations with China. Theoretically, that seems hypocritical.
Any religious beliefs should be invoked consistently and not just on the occasions that are financially convenient to use for the promotion of religious standards and seemingly make one feel better about oneself.
The use of religious freedom to condemn the growing acceptance of homosexuality by refusing to serve gay and lesbian customers is another example of how religious beliefs are being selectively applied. Condemnation of homosexuality is based on the belief that the lifestyle is a sin. Yet, those businesses that want to use their religious freedom to deny service to gays and lesbians do not seem to care about serving heterosexual customers – all of whom are sinners! Why is one sin worthy of rejection and another not?
There are certain issues that expose obvious hypocrisy in America. Hobby Lobby's decision to refuse coverage for contraceptive items, like the "morning after pill," could be seen as being hypocritical if the company continues its financial relationship with China.
Condemnation of the "morning after pill" seems to be based on irrational emotions. Since the "morning after pill" does not medically cause an abortion, Hobby Lobby is demonstrating the selective application of religious freedom.
And even if the "morning after pill" did cause an abortion, it could be argued that if Hobby Lobby were true to it religious convictions, it would refuse to do business with China.
The act of social and political hypocrisy has been turned into an art form in America. We should all challenge ourselves to be consistent with our convictions.
Do you think Hobby Lobby is being hypocritical by refusing to cover the "morning after pill" believing it is an abortion pill – while continuing to do business with China – where it is believed up to 13 million abortions are performed every year?
Send your comments and reaction to me: Scoot@WWL.com - some of the emails may be read on "The Scoot Show."
NOPD announced late Monday that a 10th shooting victim has come forward from the wild-west style shooting on Bourbon Street over the weekend. Five of the shooting victims remained hospitalized Monday – one in critical condition and the others in stable condition.
Whenever there is violence on iconic Bourbon Street – New Orleans and the nation take notice and the city has once again gotten national attention for the wrong reason. Tourism is the lifeblood of this city and violence on Bourbon Street is proof that not all publicity is good publicity.
Living a block off Canal St. and the French Quarter – Bourbon Street is part of my neighborhood and the spot where the shooting occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday is an area I travel through quite often. It may not be fair that the French Quarter is a neighborhood that gets a disproportionate amount of police protection – but that is reality. With the upcoming 4th of July weekend highlighted by Essence Fest – the weekend shooting on Bourbon Street is causing some to feel less safe in New Orleans.
In a conversation with NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas Monday morning on WWL, the Chief acknowledged that the force needs more officers – but also said that there was police presence on Bourbon Street and an officer was very close to the shooting incident. Which leads to the obvious question – is the strategy of how New Orleans police respond to shootings on target?
The societal problems that have created the mentality of those on the streets of our city who are incapable of resolving conflict and are quick to use their "illegal" guns to settle an argument are so deep that it will take a generation to turn things around – and that's if all the problems were clearly defined and we implemented changes today. But in the meantime – what is the strategy and are NOPD officers trained and willing to respond in a way that begins to turn the tide against those who have no apparent fear of police.
If a police officer was close to the shooting - then why wasn't the gunman apprehended? Was protocol followed? And is the right protocol in place? When I asked Chief Serpas if an NOPD officer's first response is to care for a victim on the ground or to pursue a perpetrator – he said that it is a judgment call left up to the officer at the scene. Certainly police should attend to any victims who appear to be suffering from life-threatening injuries. But there are some questions about whether the officer at the scene of the shooting Sunday morning made the right call by staying near a victim and not pursuing the assailant.
Are NOPD officers trained and encouraged to pursue? Or is the instinct to actively pursue a perpetrator affected by poor moral in the department? Citizens and those who visit the French Quarter deserve answers.
Surveys consistently reveal low moral in the New Orleans Police Department and if moral is low would more police on the street make a real difference.
There are individuals and groups in the French Quarter, particularly on weekend night, that are not there to enjoy the activities most come to New Orleans to enjoy. Some are there looking for prey – others congregate with an apparent motive to stake out their territory and demand recognition of their presence.
Over the past 6 months – maybe longer – I have witnessed the crowd in the French Quarter change. I see very young males taking up positions on the street and often harass and intimidate passers-by – especially females. While any individual does not need a specific reason to legally "hang out" on Bourbon Street – it is becoming more and more obvious that there is a new element in the Quarter that is not sharing in the party atmosphere. NOPD needs to have a strategy to discourage this element and make pursing and apprehending perpetrators a priority over attending to most victims.
I do understand that police officers will always be in a position of making a judgment call when a shooting or any violent act occurs – and the question is whether to attend to the victim or pursue the perpetrator?
Verbal outrage from local leaders following a shooting where innocent bystanders are shot while enjoying the party atmosphere of arguably the most famous street in America may make citizens feel that finally, there will be changes. Yet we hear essentially the same things said after each violent act. It's not good enough to say that the city will not tolerate this kind of mentality on our streets. It's not good enough to tell people things will change - if there are not actual changes.
This call for a new strategy is not criticism of the entire police department - but like a football team – if there are not enough good players and the right strategy is not in place to beat the other team – you lose.
Even though the murder rate has reached a near record low in decades – the shooting of 10 innocent people in the French Quarter over the weekend does raise the question of strategy. If nothing else – would it not be better to have more police officers on the street late at night and into the early morning hours rather than have more officers on the street earlier in the evening? Police presence cannot be about the appearance of officers on the street to make people feel safe – police presence should be used at a time when the criminal element is more prone to strike.
Whatever strategy has been in place is obviously not effective and therefore, a change in strategy is needed. I don't know what the answer is – but someone knows the answer and doing nothing is not acceptable.