Friday, November 2, 2007


From the Archives (September 2005)

Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody!—Aaron F. Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana (Monday)

[Evacuees] were underprivileged anyway—Barbara Bush, touring the Houston Astrodome relocation site. The blue-blooded ex-first lady/current first mum asserted that many of the poor are faring better than before the storm hit and that they actually prefer public digs in the Astrodome. The full quote: So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them.

Meanwhile, our country is doing a heckuva job providing Barb with big tax cuts on the backs of the impoverished.

Paul Krugman says that the government’s “lethal ineptitude” is the consequence of “ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good” and gives this example: the USS Bataan, which has 6 operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds, and can produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water per day, has been sitting in water off the Gulf Coast since last Monday with no patients! He also points out that, after 9/11, all the country really needed from the president was a speech, which he managed to deliver once someone pointed out that it wasn’t very presidential to continue reading a children’s book (and after a speechwriter told him what to say).This disaster required action however and Shrub has failed miserably ... with ideological hostility to the very idea of assisting others for the public good perhaps guiding the way.

(I keep waiting to hear something about faith-based hurricane relief. You know it’s coming.)

John Tierney also points out, correctly, that local officials also failed miserably and should have organized an evacuation themselves, since they already knew that 3/4 of the population lived in extreme poverty and had no way to get out of the city. He compares their approach to the advanced planning of (the much smaller) Newport News, VA emergency preparedness team, which has notes about which residents need additional help. Their plan includes going door-to-door to handle evacuations. If residents resist, they hand them magic markers and ask them to write their social security numbers on various body parts so that someone will be able to identify their bodies.

(A effective strategy, that.)

Meanwhile, FEMA ordered 25,000 body bags and a ghastly poem about Saint Gabriel LA (the small town where refrigerated trucks are carrying thousands of bodies to the temporary morgue they’ve set up there) is forming.

(Headline: The bodies of 32 dead residents found at St. Rita’s Nursing Home are now being trucked up to Saint Gabriel LA. All those streets named after all saints who couldn’t protect anyone. Sad.)

Came across this interesting commentary online:
Scraggy residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hands-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.

David Brooks notes that Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty.

He points out that, when low-income families are moved into middle-income neighborhoods instead of living only among others in poverty, then the children are much more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, move out of poverty. After awkward adjustment, they are also more likely to learn how to move socially in a professional environment.

So what’s barely getting reported while the hurricane gives us all post-traumatic stress syndrome? Two queer biggies (plus a rumor that FEMA is separating gay couples). First, the California state assembly approved a bill that defines marriage as between “two persons,” effectively legalizing gay marriage, but the governator vetoed the damn thing.

These social conservatives want it both ways! When the courts doesn’t rule in favor of their bias, then they complain that radical judges write law in accordance with their own social agendas and insist that legislators should decide the law, not judges.

Then California legislators recognize discrimination when they see it and expand the definition of marriage to include civil contracts between any two people—a fair-minded definition that addresses the problem of offering benefits to some couples who fall in love while denying them to others and that honors the 14th Amendment —and the governor says he’ll veto the legislation because the courts and the voters should decide.

(Uh, polls indicate that the legislature roughly mirrors popular opinion, Governator.)

Part of why we have a three-tiered government is so that biased voters/the tyranny of the majority does not discriminate against the minority. This is called democracy in action and equal justice for ALL (as opposed to just the Christianist majority).

Today’s New York Times editorial “Where’s the Governator Now?” puts it better:

Mr. Schwarzenegger ... seems to have forgotten that this nation was foudned as a republic, in which the citizens elect legislators to govern on their behalf. Such representative democracy is especially important when it comes to protecting the fundamental rights of minorities, who may face bigoted hostility from some segments of the electorate.

Then there’s the troubling custody battle going on in Virginia and Vermont. Judges in those states disagree about custody rights for a 3-year-old born to a lesbian couple that had a civil union ceremony in Vermont, then broke up after having a child.

The Vermont judge has ruled that the women should “be treated no differently than a husband and wife” and established a visiting schedule, then he held the biological mother in contempt of court when she failed to comply with the schedule. The Virginia judge, meanwhile, ruled that the biological mother has sole right to decide who can see her child and that her former partner has no parentage or visitation rights.

This is a direct conflict between state courts and the case is on its way to the Vermont Supreme Court now, so chances are good this one’s destined for the US Supreme Court.

Finally, here’s a quote from the biological mother that goes a long way toward explaining why she is asking a court to not honor her legal commitment to her wife the way it would honor another married partner’s rights: When I left Janet I left the homosexual lifestyle and drew closer to God.

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