Monday, September 29, 2008

Eugenics Is Not A Laughing Matter

Watch Rep. John LaBruzzo defend his sterilization proposal on CNN:

Friends in Louisiana and Beyond:

Well, here we are again, our wonderful state of Louisiana in the national news. Unfortunately, we have not been placed in the spotlight for our great music, festivities, or food. No, for the past week we have been the target of very deliberate ‘dumb-southerners' humor, thanks to Louisiana State Rep. John LaBruzzo's call to sterilize all poor and low-income people, as a budgeting alternative.

Eugenics is no laughing matter, however. So many of us returned to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to improve our state and, hopefully, repair its image as a corrupt, backward ‘Island of Ignorance.' We cannot afford to tolerate Rep. LaBruzzo's brand of divisive politics and ignorance.

Our Louisiana legislators could simply ignore their colleague, but we say no. We want these state leaders to state united - Democrats and Republicans - and condemn Rep. LaBruzzo's call for sterilization legislation. Thus, an online petition has been launched in support of this effort. Please go to and sign our petition.

Additionally, please share this email with your friends, neighbors, and family members all over this country. Help us spread the word and encourage our Louisiana Legislators to condemn Rep. John LaBruzzo's reprehensible proposal.

United, we can make a difference.

With kindest regards,


Monday, September 8, 2008

Displaced Poor Still Arriving in New Orleans as Saints Go Marching In

This blog is cross-posted at Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at

Tears dripped down her face as she searched for her missing suitcase in the busy New Orleans bus station. "It had my ID, my children's birth certificates, my money and my credit cards," she softly cried. It was Sunday morning, one week after she was bused out of New Orleans to a military base in Arkansas. She was supposed to be at work. Her three children needed her. But she needed that suitcase.

A single, older woman, clinging to her heavy bag and a single crutch, sighed as she got off the bus from Kentucky. A little boy with a Lightning McQueen backpack, almost bigger than he was, gave a tiny fist bump to the first person he saw. A middle-aged woman sat in a plastic chair, eyes closed, head in her hands, slowly rocking.

Outside, black- and gold-attired fans of the New Orleans Saints were drinking and barbecuing, preparing for the noon game. Their smoke drifted over the bus station and mixed with the exhaust from dozens of big buses and the contents of dozens of port-o-lets.

Over a thousand people are expected to be bused home to New Orleans sometime on Sunday. They are the last of around 30,000 people evacuated by the government to hundreds of shelters across the country.

Though 26 percent of Louisiana was reported on Sunday to still be without power, people were more than ready to come home.

The bus station was full of dark blue-uniformed police, camouflaged National Guard soldiers, Health Department workers in sky blue shirts, red-shirted Catholic Charities and Red Cross personnel, lime green day-glo-jacketed volunteers from the local Medicaid office, and many others.

One local judge observed after days at the bus station, "It is unbelievable just how many disabled and elderly people actually live in our community. They just keep getting off these buses with their wheelchairs, their canes and crutches. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands. Many must usually be housebound, because we rarely see them."

A disabled older woman trudged along with a cane and a garbage bag of belongings as a volunteer pushed the wheelchair of her full-grown, absolutely silent son. "Next time," she said, "we're just going to have to ride it out at home. This was too much."

An old man angrily spurned the offer of ready-to-eat meals from a volunteer. "I need money. Can you help me with that? No? I didn't think so! I spent all my money on this and I'm about to get put out of my house!"

A University of New Orleans professor is collecting information from returning evacuees and will release a study soon. Reports from the New Orleans Worker Justice Center for Racial Justice point out that 1,500 people were housed in an abandoned Sam's Club warehouse that was not set up for habitation. "Mothers have been forced to bathe babies in portable toilets parked outside while diabetics are receiving food that puts them at risk." The Worker Center also published a state policy memo that sent people who evacuated on their own to one type of shelter and people who used public transportation to another type entirely. Another 1,200 were housed in an old Wal-Mart in Bastrop with insufficient toilets and had no shower facilities for at least three days. Others complained that shelter officials rationed everything, even tampons, telling evacuees to come back later when they needed another one.

Another problem were the arrests of evacuees after local officials on their own decided to run unauthorized background checks on each person. Arrests were reported in Atlanta, Bastrop, Chicago, Knoxville, Louisville, Marshall, Memphis, Oklahoma City and Shreveport. Many arrests were for outstanding warrants. The problem is that the New Orleans warrant system is widely criticized as unreliable.

Officials in New Orleans told The Associated Press they had no knowledge of the background checks. Those wishing to use the city's assisted evacuation system had been assured they would not be pressed for identification in order to board buses out of town. The evacuation is seen as key to saving lives and maintaining order during and after a hurricane.

"The problem is there have been massive holes in the warrant system in New Orleans for years," said New Orleans civil rights attorney Mary Howell. "Sometimes the warrants have been thrown out but are still in the system; some people don't know they have warrants out for them." What's worse, Howell said, is that such arrests will have a chilling effect on getting people to evacuate in the future.

At noon, the Saints kicked off in the Superdome. A few blocks away, publicly contracted buses continued to return with hundreds of passengers: the elderly, the disabled, children and those too poor to evacuate on their own, who had not been home in a week. The teary-eyed woman continued the search for her missing suitcase.

Monday, September 1, 2008

'Comfort' ain't 'Cash'! Demand FEMA Provide Monetary Assistance


Eariler today, the FEMA Director announced the federal government would not be providing financial assistance to Gulf Coast Gustav evacuees, but instead would rely upon NGOs such as the Red Cross to provide food, shelter, and 'comfort.' Folks, the bottom line is that nearly 2 million of our friends, family, and neighbors "voluntarily" evacuated the Gulf Coast region, and they cannot possibly return in one, two, or even three days. Leaving New Orleans for me was a 10.5 hour nightmare and, no doubt, trying to re-occupy cities from Lake Charles through New Orleans, and South Louisiana will take time, and money. 'Comfort' ain't 'Cash' and hotels require dollars, not prayers for payment!

Please call and write to Senator Landrieu and Senator Vitter, Governor Jindal, and Mayor Nagin and demand (1) they provide an orderly process to for return of all residents to the greater New Orleans area, and the entire Gulf Coast region, and (2) they force FEMA to provide cash compensation to evacuees inorder to defray the cost for this extraordinary effort.

Senator Landrieu: 202.224.5824
Senator Vitter: 202.224.4623
Governor Jindal: 225.342.7015
Mayor Nagin: 504.658.4000


Hard Time for Huggies!

So we made it! After 10.5 hours on the road, and much humor during several incredibly long stops along IH-59, at about 12:30a.m. today we made it to Montgomery, Alabama and the beautiful LaQuinta Inn. But there was much humor along the way.

I had no plans on evacuating. I figured, someone has to stick it out and insure our government officials open the NOLA doors to EVERYONE this time. But Jacob and Ray convinced me otherwise. Jacob wouldn't leave town without me (there was this 'compromise' of sorts: he would leave if I allowed him to fly to Dallas with his girlfriend. I had these terrible visions of a grandchild named Gustav or Gustavia nine months from now; I laughed as only a mother of a seriously smitten 15-year old can), and Ray, well our Mayor made the decision for me.

Ray Nagin found some humor in stating "All looters will be taken directly to jail. Not parish prison, but the big-house -- Angola." And then he smiled. Guys, I'm not sure whether my reaction was sane, but all I could think of was Hi from Raisin' Arizona, going to the big-house for holding someone up for Huggies! I mean, seriously -- where does he get this stuff. I'm a law and order gal, but sending folks to gen-pop at Angola for stealing Huggies, or a flat-screen, seems a tad-bit draconian. Call me wacky.

So we hit the road at 1:45p.m. yesterday. We were rolling, that is, until IH-59. What was really going on with the Mississippi State Police and its version on contra-flow. No flow. Contrary-to-flow. We travelled 62 miles in 4.5 hours. I had a teenager and a dog with me. I know God would never forgive me for killing them, but I had become convinced I would receive a reprieve for suicide.

At the end of the day, humor and the kindess of strangers gets me through. You know, when people you've never met offer you Crown & Coke through your window (I think they suspended the drinking and driving rules). Watching grown men get out and relieve themselves just along the side of the road. Then watching a grown woman get out and do the same. As she squatted she yelled "Y'all seen this before, so just excuse me, while I excuse me." I wasn't mad at her. And then, when we finally got to Interstate 65, and I stopped for a break and oil for the car, having 2 men offer to help (and give me their numbers, just in case I decide to move to Alabama permanently, and want to settle with a normal, hard-working man, who would bring home his check to me every week). I wanted to leave him Jacob and the dog.

More seriously, during the course of this evacuation, I was able to connect with many advocates throughout the country, all of whom have offered help. There is a website up and running -- Contact Brian Frank ( to add content. As many of you know, on Friday I began collecting contact information for NOLA advocates. After Sunday, Nicole Gillies took over coordination of the list, and if you would like to add your information, and receive the list, please contact Nicole at Kali Akuno and Pam Nath are coordinating a conference call this afternoon, so that we can discuss any needed advocacy. Please send me an email if you would like to be connected and I'll send you the call-in information. Also, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center will also start a Gustav website. They are still in discussions on same, but you may want to check out their site late this evening.

Finally, will serve as a blog-site for advocates. You can comment to this post, or simply send me an email with your post, and I will include same within the hour. I don't do the edit thing guys, so please self-moderate (no cussin'). Politically-incorrect is acceptable.

Folks can reach me by email at and and

Take care of yourselves. Don't stay glued to 24-hour t.v. -- it will just make you crazy!