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So Many Problems

I wrote this for the Urban News.

When I was an intern, one of my fellow interns would summarize a busy night of medical admissions with a simple phrase: “So many problems.” Unfortunately, this was during morning report when we were supposed to receive a detailed summary of the patients who had been admitted overnight. This would allow me and the rest of the medical team to carefully plan how we would take care of the newly admitted patients. The “so many problems” line gave us nothing. We had to scramble and figure out what was going on with these newly admitted patients and then formulate a plan for how we would take care of them. We have a similar problem in the United States these days. We have allowed Congress to kick problems down the road without resolution for decades. No one seems to be held accountable.

Gun Violence

More than 20 years ago, two high school seniors walked into the Columbine HS library in Littleton, Colorado with a variety of pistols, sawed-off shotguns, pipe bombs, and other explosives. They killed 10 students and one teacher before committing suicide.

America cried out for action. We needed some meaningful legislation. We could have limited high-capacity magazines. A girlfriend of one of the gunmen was over 18 and she had bought some of the weapons. Allowing someone to buy a weapon which is later used in a mass murder seems to be a loophole crying out for simple action. Congress could easily write a law which holds the person who bought the firearm responsible for any crimes committed with that firearm, but nothing was really done.

We hear the same tired old arguments that put the rights of gunowners ahead of the rights of the victims. Current data from the Center for Disease Control states the number one cause of death or injury for children under the age of 16 is firearms. Yet, we still have weak gun control laws. And when there is a strong one, like the 109-year-old legislation in New York that required anyone to show a good reason for carrying a firearm in public, the current Supreme Court majority will strike it down.

If you are in a public space, you should be on the lookout for some crazy man with a gun. This means if you are at church, at the mall, at a parade, or anywhere in the United States, you need to be on guard. This is just a sad fact of life right now in the US.

The recently passed Safer Communities Act is a nice start but it doesn’t come close to protecting us from random gun violence. It does not ban assault weapons. Why a civilian needs an assault weapon is beyond my understanding. The 2nd Amendment does NOT say that Americans can and should have any weapon they chose. Nor does the Safer Communities legislation enact red flag laws (These are laws that temporarily remove guns from people who are an immediate threat to themselves or others.) The act does not hold Americans who purchase guns accountable for the violence that their guns create. This is a must. My right not to be shot, killed or injured by some crazed lunatic outweighs any Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Finally, arming teachers to protect our school children may be the dumbest idea since Wiley E. Coyote decided to capture the Road Runner. Why? Because if we quickly review mass shootings, we find that well-trained police officers, who handle guns every day, fire and miss their targets frequently. Now, inject an armed teacher who is NOT as familiar with guns as a police officer into the confusing mix of a mass shooting. I see very little good that can come out of this situation. I see teachers becoming scapegoats as angry parents are wondering why the teacher didn’t save their child.

By |2022-10-08T20:27:05-04:00October 8th, 2022|Healthcare, Mass Shooting|Comments Off on So Many Problems

Katrina – 10 years later

new orleans post katrina VIII

From the Center for American Progress:

Tomorrow marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in New Orleans. The storm flattened entire communities, took the lives of 1,800 people, displaced more than one million others, and caused more than $100 billion in damages, making it the costliest national disaster in our nation’s history. Hurricane Katrina drew attention to the consequences of poverty, segregation, and police brutality, a decade before Black Lives Matter activists began fighting to protect and invest in black communities. (Editor’s note – Although Katrina was a Catergory 3 hurricane, the real damage to New Orleans came from the Levees failing. This should never be forgotten. Most if not all of the pain and severing that is associated with Katrina was man-made. )

The storm devastated the city of New Orleans, but the damage was not equally distributed. As a result of years of segregation and disinvestment, the city’s poor and African American communities were disproportionately harmed. Today, most of the city’s neighborhoods have restored 90 percent of their pre-storm populations, but in the Lower Ninth Ward, the city’s poorest neighborhood, only 37 percent of households have returned. The Lower Ninth Ward also suffered the most in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. For weeks after the storm, up to 12 feet of water remained stagnant, leaving many people stuck without power or water service. Under those dire circumstances African American residents were quickly labeled “looters,” and automatically seen as criminals.

The chaos after the storm led to police brutality not unlike the kind that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. In the time immediately following the storm 11 people were shot by law enforcement officials. These incidents helped sparked a wave of activists speaking out about the relationship between police and African American communities. Indeed, there is a connection between today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the violence seen after Katrina, as Tracey Ross explains here.

Yesterday President Obama visited New Orleans to commemorate Katrina and celebrate how far the city has come. In his speech at a new community center in the Lower Ninth Ward he spoke of the city’s resilience in the face of the storm and the growing threat of extreme weather events. Across the country, as in New Orleans, African American and poorer communities are much more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including the risk of being permanently displaced from their homes.

And as climate change threatens to make severe storms more extreme, these communities are increasingly at risk. Because of its disproportionate impact on African American and poor communities, climate change has become a civil rights issue, but it is one that can be addressed with investment in at-risk communities. In this video, Sam Fulwood, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, discusses the aftermath of the storm and what we’ve learned since.

BOTTOM LINE: Hurricane Katrina was the costliest storm in our nation’s history, but climate change threatens to make storms that severe the new norm. Without investing in our most vulnerable areas the same issues of poverty, segregation, and police brutality will continue to devastate communities across the country.

By |2015-08-29T13:14:10-04:00August 28th, 2015|Katrina|Comments Off on Katrina – 10 years later

How Texans Love and Hate the Federal Government

Flooding in Dallas

It was just about a month ago when Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, announced that he and the Texas National Guard were going to keep an eye on the US Military just in case our military decided to take over Texas and several other states. Then the heavens opened up and dumped tons and tons of rain on Texas. This same governor couldn’t ask for Federal disaster relieve quick enough.

From Robert Reich:

Texans dislike the federal government even more than most other Americans do. According to a February poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, only 23 percent of Texans view the federal government favorably, while 57 percent view it unfavorably, including more than a third who hold a “very unfavorable” view.

Texas dislikes the federal government so much that eight of its congressional representatives, along with Senator Ted Cruz, opposed disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy – adding to the awkwardness of their lobbying for the federal relief now heading Texas’s way.

Yet even before the current floods, Texas had received more disaster relief than any other state, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. That’s not simply because the state is so large. It’s also because Texas is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather – tornadoes on the plains, hurricanes in the Gulf, flooding across its middle and south.

Given this, you might also think Texas would take climate change especially seriously. But here again, there’s cognitive dissonance between what the state needs and how its officials act.

Among Texas’s infamous climate-change deniers is Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who dismissed last year’s report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “more political than scientific,“ and the White House report on the urgency of addressing climate change as designed “to frighten Americans.” Smith is still at it. His committee just slashed by more than 20 percent NASA’s spending on Earth science, which includes climate change. (more…)

By |2015-06-02T22:54:16-04:00June 1st, 2015|Party Politics|Comments Off on How Texans Love and Hate the Federal Government
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