Texas Government Letter and Background analysis, political science homework help

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Course writing assignment

1. Think of an issue that is important to you or an
issue that has been in the news in Texas.  I am including a list
of possible topics that can be used for your assignment.  Some of the
ideas come from issues that I have seen in the news or are topics that are
covered in the Discussion Board. Remember, these are just some
examples – you may use one of these or you may use something completely
different. Your topic needs to be a state issue, not a federal issue. If you are unsure if your topic
is appropriate, please send me a note through the Messages link and
I will let you know. You only need to pick one issue.  I would
rather see you cover one issue in depth then three or four issues very
generally.  To view news articles on Texas, click on the Texas
news articles
 link on the left.

·  Voting – ways to increase turnout; voter id

·  Education – suggestions for improving the system; school funding;
standardized testing; funding

·  Regulation – should there be more regulation on businesses that
store hazardous chemicals or on food safety

·  Justice system – death penalty; reforms on sentencing; equality in
the system; public defenders

·  Health care – ways to improve access in Texas

·  Water issues – municipalities and farmers fighting over access to
water during drought; actions the state can take to ensure adequate water

·  Revenue – ways the state or city can collect revenue; how should a
budget surplus be used; should the state change the way it collects revenue

·  Social issues — gay marriage, abortion, guns, etc.

2.  Once you pick a topic, you need to
prepare a background analysis of the issue.  You will needthree
or more comprehensive,
full-length articles from mainstream newspapers or news magazine
publications.  Your articles should discuss the substance of the issue,
provide recent information and should consider various viewpoints.  Avoid
strict opinion pieces that provide a one-sided analysis of the issue. 
Your background analysis should include the people/groups involved in the
debate, description of the conflicting viewpoints of the people/groups
involved, including economic or ideological positions, and the various policy
outcomes that are desired by the different participants in the debate. 
Including statistics or data that help explain your issue will make your
analysis stronger.  To help find articles, you can use the Newspaper
 available on the list of databases through the Central Texas
College Library atwww.ctcd.edu/academics/library or other online searches available to
you. The onlinenewssource the Texas Tribune is also
a good place to start.

3.  The background analysis should be two
to three pages (double spaced).  In addition to the information from the
articles, you need to draw on relevant information in the textbook to show you
understand how the issue relates to topics covered in the course.  Make
sure you cite all the articles used and include the URL for the article.

4.  Once you have completed your
background analysis, you need to identify a state, county or city
government official in Texas that can address your issue. Hint: 
US Senators and members of Congress are not state level officials.  Using formal
correspondence style, prepare a three-fourths to one page (single spaced)
letter informing the official of your concern and offering a solution ormaking
a request for action
.  Yours may be an emotional issue, but your
argument must be based on reason, not just emotion.  Support your position
and refute opposing positions with factual information, data and well-reasoned
arguments.  When writing your letter, you will use information from your background
analysis, but you should not just cut and paste the information from your
background analysis into the letter.

5.  Save the letter and background
analysis as one document and submit the file through the link below.

6.  This assignment is worth 100
points.  The background analysis is worth 70% of the grade and the letter
is worth 30%.

7.  Be careful when writing your
background analysis and letter that you put the information in your own
words. Simply cutting and pasting information from websites is
unacceptable and will result in grade of zero for the writing assignment.


Senator Evan Bayh

Senator Richard Lugar

Dear Senators,

I’m writing to you today over my concern with the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act of 2010 that is being proposed. I want to encourage you to vote for this bill being sponsored by Senator Menendez. It’s time to stand up and take action against these big corporations behaving as if they can do whatever they want. 

According to the July 9, 2010 article in The Chicago Tribune, BP oil chose not to conduct an integrity test of the well’s cement plug. They also did not perform a circulation test that would have better prepared the well for cementing. The article also states that that there were disagreements among BP officials and contractors about properly centering the casing. The contractor Halliburton warned BP two days before the explosion that the company’s plan to use fewer centralizers in the well hole would create a “severe gas flow problem”. 

According to the June 21, 2010 issue of Time Magazine, BP has had a string of toxic safety problems in recent years. Also according to the July 19, 2010 issue of Time the estimated cleanup cost is going to be $14billion to $23 billion. There are nearly 7,000 boats and 45,000 people at work to clean up. All five of the states in the Gulf region have been affected by this spill. It is hard to imagine what economic effects it is now having, and how long it will take for them to recover. 

I know you are aware of all this. I am asking you to help send a message that it’s time for companies to start taking responsibility for their actions. It’s time to require oil polluters to pay the full cost of these oil spills. 


Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010

The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), proposes to require oil polluters to pay full cost of oil spills. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 holds responsible parties liable; however there is a cap on the amount of money they have to pay.  

What about the regulatory failure? According to the June 21, 2010 issue of Time, The Minerals Management Service (MMS), the Interior Department agency, meant to oversee offshore drilling did too little. They have also been exposed as both ineffective and corrupt. A 2003 report by the Interior Dept.’s inspector general found MMS employees had used drugs, accepted gifts from and had sexual relationships with energy company representatives. (Walsch) According to Christian Science Monitor, The Interior Department exempted BP from a detailed environmental analysis of its Gulf of Mexico operations. In early April BP increased its lobbying efforts to receive even more exemptions from federal law.  Official documents show that pushback from the oil industry resulted in easing of requirements for new technologies to prevent the kind of blowout that led to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. The MMS didn’t make the new acoustic blowout preventer mandatory. Where other oil-producing nations have required them. (Jonsson)

This might be a tough bill to pass considering the political influence BP and others in the oil industry have. According to Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, “BP ranks among the most powerful corporate forces in US politics”. (Jonsson)  The Oil and Gas industry spent $174.8 million on lobbying last year according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Although President Obama has pushed for clean energy alternatives to oil and the White House assures that Mr. Obama did not take any PAC money during his campaign for presidency, he was considered the top recipient of BP campaign contributions over the past 20 years. (Jonsson)  Even so, on June 1 2010 Attorney General Eric Holder said the government has launched criminal and civil investigations into the spill.

On May 27 scientist confirmed that the spill is the worst in U.S. history.  (Walsh)  The effects have now spread to all five of the states in the Gulf region. The economic blow to these states cannot be ignored. 18 % of potential visitors to Pinellas County said the oil spill has impacted their vacation choices. Nathaniel Karp, chief U.S. economist for the Birmingham based BBVA Compass Bank, estimates the economic impact to reach $4.3billion.(Jonsson) That’s not even beginning to look at the long term impact this disaster will have on the sea life. Ron Peck, President and CEO of Alaska Travel Industry Association discussed the Exxon Valdez spill (1989) with Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor Newspaper. He said the state had to run advertising for the next five years to combat negative public perceptions regarding the viability of an Alaska vacation, long after the spill clean-up had ended. Plus, he lamented that it took 17 years for resulting lawsuits to be settled through the courts. Although the fishing and other industries affected by the spill eventually received some compensation, the tourism business received no compensation whatsoever for their losses.

Anadarko, a partner of BP, has refused to send funds to help in the cleanup process. They feel that this accident could have been avoided. BP has been accused of several missteps in handling the well, including the use of cheaper materials to support the well. (Chi) Investigators are pressing their case that the oil giant cut corners and made decisions that compromised safety to save time and money. There were disagreements among officials and contractors about a procedure that was crucial to make the cementing of the casing to an adjacent rock more uniform.  The Contractor Halliburton warned BP 2 days before the explosion that the company’s plans to use less centralizers would create a sever gas flow problem. ConocoPhilips Chief Executive James Mulva said he thought the disaster was preventable.  (Cart) 

With it looking more like a case of negligence, BP does need to take full responsibility for this disaster that has affected so many people and will for years to come. The government needs to stop looking the other way while these big companies take shortcuts and risk others’ lives to make a bigger profit.  They need to start facing the same strict regulatory and safety standards other companies do. 

BP has had a history of safety problems, more so in recent years. After the explosion in 2005 killing 15 people and wounding more than 170, BP was hammered by investigators for sloppy practices, use of old equipment, overworked and unsupervised employees, and managements inattention to safety. A BP executive later admitted the fire was “a process failure, a cultural failure, and a management failure.” (Bryan)

According to The oil spill’s impact on BP (Chicago Tribune 7/23/10), Analyst have estimated cleanup cost around $6-9 billion, compensation to victims $14-22 billion, fines and punitive damages awards of $3-37 billion.  Their worth: oil and gas fields-$142 to $220 billion. Refineries, renewable energy, other assets: $31-62 billion. None of the cost of this possibly preventable disaster should fall back on the taxpayers due to a “cap” on responsibility. The responsible party should be fully responsible and I support this bill. 

Works Cited

“Anadarko tells BP it won’t help pay for oil spill.” Chicago Tribune 9 July 2010.

Bryan, Walsch. “The Spreading Stain.” Time 21 June 2010.

Cart, Julie. “BP well to stay sealed as storm moves in.” LA Times 23 July 2010.

Jonsson, Patrik.”As oil firms grow, response may slow to crises like Gulf oil spill” Christian Science Monitor  6 May 2010. 

Walsch, Bryan. “The Spreading Stain.” Time 21 June 2010: 51.

Walsh, Bryan. “On the Edge.” Time 14 June 2010: 31.


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