Soon, Very Soon, We Can Finally Criminalize Being a Woman of Reproductive Age

The latest in anti-woman rhetoric, from Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal:

Jindal said he was proud to help make his state one that supports a “culture of life,” adding that women will soon be treated similarly to criminals who are read their rights after an arrest.

“When officers arrest criminals today, they are read their rights,” he said, according to a report by Louisiana paper The News-Star. “Now if we’re giving criminals their basic rights and they have to be informed of those rights, it seems to me only common sense we would have to do the same thing for women before they make the choice about whether to get an abortion.”

Fittingly he signed HB 636, which mandates that clinics offering abortion post signs listing “women’s rights” when it comes to abortion, at the First Baptist Church of West Monroe. Interestingly, this list of rights doesn’t include any information about women’s right to choose abortion, such as that it is protected by federal law, that choosing abortion is a private decision between a woman and her doctor, different abortion methods available, and any funding options.

You can find a copy of the bill here.

Jindal said, “There were nearly 9,000 abortions performed in our state last year alone, and that is an awfully humbling statistic. What that tells me is much, much, much more work remains to be done so that everyone is choosing life in our state.”

He also pontificated about how women “deserve to know their legal rights and the protections already afforded to them under the law,” yet the language of the bill and the rest of his speech make it clear that he does not believe this. He has already decided what choice he wants every woman facing unwanted pregnancy to make, and he is only interested in providing information that will induce women to make the choice he wants. The only “women’s right” he is interested in is forced birth. This cynical appropriation of the language of the women’s rights movement to flimsily patch over his true interest of whittling away our rights makes me nauseous. And to do it at a church of a religion whose leadership lobbies hard for the subjugation of women… wow.


Almost 5 Years Since Katrina

August 29th is the anniversary of the levees breaking.

NOLA Femmes are counting down to the anniversary with a photos series intended to “depict the state of New Orleans neighborhoods in the 5th year post-Katrina.”

All the photos are taken by New Orleans women, and they are excellent. Please check out the project here.

An abandoned house in New Orleans 5 years after Katrina

Photo by maringouin.

A damaged house abandoned after Katrina, still vacant 5 years later.

Photo by maringouin.

The Exciting Times v.5

So much news, so little time!

Grassroots Oil Clean-up Efforts
Seeing a complete lack of action on the part of the US government or BP, some Louisiana residents take control as oil washes ashore. Some even commandeered idle BP-hired boats!

Men, Masculinities, and Peacebuilding
Gender Across Borders discusses an awesome new manual for men against violence and sexism. International case studies included!

Drug bust or racist revenge for Louisiana Jena 6 victory?
Uh oh.

At 4 a.m. on July 9, 2009, more than 150 officers from 10 different agencies gathered in a large barn just outside Jena, Louisiana. The day was the culmination of an investigation that Sheriff Scott Franklin said had been going on for nearly two years. Local media was invited, and a video of the Sheriff speaking to the rowdy gathering would later appear online.

The Sheriff called the mobilization “Operation Third Option,” and he said it was about fighting drugs. However, community members say that Sheriff Franklin’s actions are part of an orchestrated revenge for the local civil rights protests that won freedom for six Black high school students – known internationally as the Jena Six – who had been charged with attempted murder for a school fight.

One thing is clear: The Sheriff spent massive resources. Yet officers seized no contraband. Together with District Attorney Reed Walters, Sheriff Franklin has said he is seeking maximum penalties for people charged with small-time offenses. Further, in a parish that is 85 percent white, his actions have almost exclusively targeted African Americans.

Cao: My Constituents Are Poor

Louisiana Representative Anh (Joseph) Cao was the only Republican to vote for the health care bill:

“I have a constitutional duty to make the right decision for my district whether or not the decision was popular. I had to make a decision of conscience based on the needs of the people of my district. A lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor.”

Anh Joseph CaoNYT:Louisiana Republican Breaks Ranks on Health Bill

LA Times: Cantor: No retaliation planned against Cao, only Republican to vote for health care bill

CNN: Update: Lone GOP vote came after call from President Obama

Think Progress: GOP Threatens Retribution Against Cao For Health Care Vote

The Washington Independent: The War on Joseph Cao

Fox News: White House Spent ‘Weeks’ Courting Lone GOP Vote on Health Care Bill

Washington Post: A vote to make or break a career
Lone House Republican backed health bill after abortion was limited

Politico: Shenanigans: Get to Know Rep. Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao

Michelle Malkin: What GOP Rep. Joseph Cao got from Obama

TPM: Cao To Steele: Come And Get Me — Just Remember You Need My District

St. Bernard Parish Decides Against Referendum to Ban Multi-Family Dwellings

Hallelujah! Of course it was money that finally convinced the racist City Council in this Louisiana Parish and not a sense of justice, but whatever. The result is that St. Bernard Parish will not hold a referendum to try banning multi-family (read: affordable) dwellings. This ban would naturally have targeted, SURPRISE! blacks and poor people of whichever race.

From the Times-Picayune:

After pressure from federal housing officials and a pending lawsuit in federal court, the St. Bernard Parish Council on Tuesday officially rescinded an item on this month’s special election ballot that would have given voters the chance to permanently ban large apartment complexes in the parish.

The move came on advice from the parish’s lawyers, who last month told the council that they believed the potential apartment ban would jeopardize federal financing for recovery projects and hurt the parish’s appeals of its ongoing fair housing lawsuit.

There is a lot of backstory to this, which you can discover by reading my previous posts on this topic: I, II, III, IV, and V.

Yes, That White Justice of the Peace Who Won’t Marry Interracial Couples Is a Turd

Thanks to all the hot tippers out there who brought this item to my attention. Anyone who can read and does so regularly must now know of the idiocy of Mr. Keith Bardwell of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.

Just so’s we all know what we’re dealing with here:

Bardwell, a Republican, has served as justice of peace for 34 years. He said he has run without opposition each time, but had decided earlier not to run again. His current term expires Dec. 31, 2014.

That’s the caliber of the voters in Tangipahoe Parish. Additionally, a local newspaper’s poll shows that 30% of its readers don’t think he should resign. Seems like Blackwell isn’t so unusual for his community.

Keith BardwellBlackwell has been media-shy, but he did give an interview to a local newspaper, the Hammond Daily Star. He said:
“I’m not a racist. I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”

Another charming bit further clarifying the “I’m not a racist” statement:

Bardwell said from his experience, “99 percent of the time” the interracial couple consists of a black man and white woman.

“I find that rather confusing,” he said.

He also told a local TV station:

“I don’t regret what I did and if it ever came up again, I’d have to do the same thing. I don’t feel right by putting some innocent person that has nothing to do with the marriage in that position, and that’s my only reason.”

Other bloggers have already whipped out nuanced responses to this farce, so I will just leave you with a quote from one of my personal heroes, Bill Quigley, of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice.

“Perhaps he’s worried the kids will grow up and be president.”


The Times-Picayune just informed me that “St. Bernard Parish will go forward with a Nov. 14 special election that includes an option for voters to permanently ban large apartment complexes…”

By “large apartment complexes” they mean buildings with 6 units or more. 6.


If, by some twist of fate, you don’t already know about the housing discrimination hullabaloo down in St. Bernard Parish, avail yourself of knowledge here: Keeping Blacks Out of St. Bernard.

There are those in that parish who would rather shoot themselves in the foot than capitulate to “those people”. Just read the comments at that post.

Who puts a ban on housing?

What Anti-Racism in St. Bernard Parish Could Look Like

I was thinking about the St. Bernard Parish Housing Discrimination Saga while at work today. Or should I say, while I was bathing in cash from the huge payments I’ve been getting from Provident to write this. ;) And I was mulling over how several commenters at the above thread expressed anger at St. Bernard Parish being labeled racist, or at the label of racist being applied to themselves individually.

To wit, Amy wrote: “I am not NOT talking about race or what not. I am talking about Low-Income housing that people are on welfare and expect to get everything for free.”

Amusingly, lsder said: “In My Honest Opinion, The only racist people are the people screaming it.”

Yet in a later comment wrote: “answer two questions for me, who sold the black people into slavery(not who purchased slaves) who freed the slaves? ”

And then we have the immediately-banned Kay:

I am so sick of the race card always being played. What is funny it is the blacks who are always using it. The Blacks are their worse enemy. Look at the stats, who does the killings….blacks, who screams about race……blacks. Turn on the TV an the first thing you hear is about the murder or murders of someone……who is the suspect……..a black person.

While still arguing for an outcome in this housing battle that would have racially disparate effects and undeniable racial implications, these particular commenters claim that they are not racist and have some other motive in mind that is 100% divorced from race. Which in a situation where a white majority is making it nearly impossible for a black minority to live amongst them, is a hard argument to make.

Por ejemplo Jude (the guy who figured out I make the BIG BUCKS being a social justice blogger) escribe:

if you had any common decency you would be demanding that this developer place these apartments in a place where there is a hospital, services, and a tax base that could provide needed services. This blog isn’t about what’s best, or the right thing to do, it’s about jumping into a fight that you know little to nothing about and sadly people are going to pay for it with their lives. It’s too bad you don’t get it, but then you are probably being paid not to

Yet while his concern that low income blacks have the best possible housing built for them is one that I share, somehow I can’t bring myself to believe that the resistance to public housing in SBP is due to the fact that whites are concerned it won’t be good enough for blacks.

Perhaps my skepticism (besides it being a natural Czech trait) is due in part to comments like George Crossman’s: “Wow, all these wasted words and time on this, the bottom line is when the blacks moved to village square [demolished public housing] it ruined st bernard parish there is statistical proof of it.”

So I sez to myself, what kind of statement could a white St. Bernard Parish resident make that would make me not doubt their sincerity when they say they are not racist, or even, as some commenters have said, only have the best interest of blacks at heart?

Here’s what that would look like to me:

1. I assembled a community group who met with concerned blacks about what kind of housing would best suit the poor black community’s needs.

2. I arranged a meeting between the Parish Council and black leaders in St. Bernard.

3. I lobbied the Parish Council to ask Provident to build several smaller public housing units scattered throughout the Parish instead of simply one giant building.

4. I met with local housing advocates and asked for their opinions on affordable housing and preventing housing discrimination in St. Bernard.

5. I read up on the Fair Housing Act and the history of racial discrimination in housing in the US.

6. I organized some people to survey low income residents in St. Bernard and established a task force to implement their suggestions.

7. I took an anti-oppression class.

8. I located the former residents of the Village Square and wrote to the newspaper about their current situation and solutions to improve it.

9. I looked at recent cases where cities, parishes or counties experienced similar housing problems and learned x, y and z from their examples.

10. I learned to question common stereotypes about poor people, recipients of government aid, and blacks.

11. I volunteered my time to work in low-income communities on neighborhood beautification projects.

12. I talk with my neighbors about the harm racial discrimination brings to St. Bernard Parish.

13. I accepted that St. Bernard Parish has a terrible history of racial discrimination and decided to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, starting with myself.

14. I learned what terms are considered offensive by minorities in my community and have stopped using them.

But I have not heard anything like this. Instead, I have heard decades-old arguments that whites use when forcing shitty situations onto blacks and trying to wash their hands of the racist label.

So if anyone is wondering what it would take for me to believe white St. Bernard residents sincerely have the best interests of the black residents and former residents of SBP at heart, something like the above would convince me.

Anyone have any other positive anti-racist suggestions for steps forward in SBP?

This thread will be strongly moderated for racist language, personal insults, and threats. Sadly, after my previous St. Bernard post, this has now become a problem.

“Every society is judged by how it treats the least fortunate amongst them.”

-Thomas Douglas

UPDATE: Anti-racism =/= racism against whites. Do we really have to play that game? Try reading Color Blinded by Whiteness.

An Attempt to Shut Down The Czech

Looks like some people don’t like what I have to say about housing discrimination:

check this out – someone from FAR AWAY made it a point to support the apts we are fighting. please go to this blog and post your comments. if we make enough noise, he will shut down his blog for awhile. thx! ~Arabi~

At this Times-Picayune Forum

It’s a little bit scary, but I guess it means I’m on the right track! And my site hits are waaay up.

PS. I am not shutting my blog down.

UPDATE 9/29/09: My friend robert, from the first St. Bernard thread, has kindly advertised this here “liberal activist from Brooklyn” blog at Someone who has been successfully absorbing his daily Limbaugh Lessons responds eloquently.

Keeping Blacks Out of St. Bernard

I have to say something about this craziness. I will tell the story of racist housing policy in St. Bernard Parish, LA below, and hope to follow up down the line, as the story develops. What follows would be hilarious if it weren’t so… nefarious.

St. Bernard Parish is located to the south of New Orleans. Whereas New Orleans is 67% black, St. Bernard Parish just a few miles away is only 7.6% black.

Hurricane Katrina severely damaged both St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish (whose boundaries are identical with New Orleans city). In St. Bernard, nearly all of the housing where black and low-income renters lived was destroyed, eliminating much of the already tiny black population.

Now, the white residents of St. Bernard are fighting an all-out battle to prevent blacks from returning or migrating over from New Orleans, where there is also an affordable-housing shortage. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, which has been fighting against racist housing policies, has a detailed timeline of the battle.

Craig TaffaroIt officially started when Craig Taffaro Jr. (pictured), president of the St. Bernard Parish Council, introduced the infamous blood-relative ordinance, which states that property owners can only rent to their blood relatives. The ordinance passed in 2006. Before the storm, whites owned 93% of the housing stock. (reference) We can see pretty easily the effects of such an ordinance.

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) sued the Parish for racially discriminatory housing practices and won. The Parish settled, and then enacted an ordinance banning multi-family housing, i.e. most rental housing, affordable housing and most forms of public housing.

The same judge, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is apparently awesome, found St. Bernard to be in contempt of court and ordered that the ban be repealed, as it also violated the Fair Housing Act. She also ordered St. Bernard to pay fees, costs and damages to GNOFHAC.   So the Parish went ahead and repealed the ban, simply switching it for a year-long moratorium on multi-family building.

Provident Realty Advisors then applied to the Parish to build affordable housing projects. After a public hearing rife with racist statements both implied and open, their application was denied. After GNOFHAC took the Parish to court again, Judge Berrigan found them in contempt of the court order and hit them with more fines. She also had this to say:

Based on the factual record and judged under a clear preponderance of the evidence, the Court finds that defendants’ conduct since March 25, 2009, by subverting the re-subdivision process, has a discriminatory effect on African-Americans and therefore violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604(a), and the terms of the February 2008 Consent Order.

Does St. Bernard Parish get it yet?

DUH, of course not. As a matter of fact, the Parish Council is seeking a ballot referendum that would force any developer seeking to build a development with more than 12 units to have their plans approved by a public referendum, which the developer would also have to pay for. How soon will this be voted on?  “In order to get the measure on a Nov. 14 ballot, the parish would have to pass the ordinance and get approval from the state Bond Commission and the secretary of state’s office before Sept. 29.”

Ginger BerriganMeanwhile, Judge Berrigan is fed up with St. Bernard’s delays in approving Provident’s development application and has granted a THIRD motion of contempt against them just last Friday, saying:

Defendants are hereby enjoined from interfering or withholding approval of Provident’s re-subdivision applications. Provident’s re-subdivision applications are deemed approved.

…If the defendants fail to meet any of the various deadlines without advance notice and good cause shown for their failure, a daily sanction beginning at $5,000 for the first day, and increasing to $10,000 each day thereafter per each individual missed deadline will be imposed.

New Orleans, Louisiana, this 11th day of September, 2009.

Booyah St. Bernard Parish Council and racist inhabitants.

This story is developing. So is my analysis. More to come.

Learn more:

From GNOFHAC: Timeline of the Lawsuit

The Root: Keeping St. Bernard Parish White

Facing South: Fight heats up over discriminatory housing laws in New Orleans area

Read the coverage at the Times-Picayune, starting here: St. Bernard Parish Council housing plan drawing fire

Scathing Times-Picayune Op-ed: Housing bias in St. Bernard Parish is proving costly in the long run

Scathing Times-Picayune Editorial: Legally and Morally Wrong

You can donate to the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center here.

And you can respectfully and without making inappropriate threats contact the St. Bernard Parish Government here to let them know how you feel about this situation.

Cross-posted at Womanist Musings.

Katrina Pain Index – 2009

by Bill Quigley & Davida Finger

0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant – compared to 116,708 homeowners.

0. Number of hospitals in New Orleans providing in-patient mental health care as of September 2009 despite post-Katrina increases in suicides and mental health problems.

1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2008.

1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of vacant residences.

2. Number of Katrina cottages completed in Louisiana as of beginning of 2009 hurricane season under $74 million dollar federal program.

33. Percent of 134,000 FEMA trailers in which Katrina and Rita storm survivors were housed after the storms which are estimated by federal government to have had formaldehyde problems.

35. Percent of child care facilities re-opened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

35. Percent increase of demand in 2009 at emergency food programs in Orleans and surrounding parishes, “an increase pinned on the swelling ranks of under-employed and rising food, housing, and fuel costs.”

50. Ranking of Louisiana among states for overall healthcare.

52. Percent increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

52. Percent of federal rebuilding money allocated to New Orleans that has actually been received.

60. Percent of children in New Orleans public schools who attend public charter schools.

88: Percent of the 600 New Orleans residents who will displaced by proposed new hospital complex who are minorities.

160. Number of units which will be public housing eligible in the new St. Bernard area after demolition and rebuilding. St. Bernard was constructed with 1400 public housing apartments. Only a small percentage of the 4000 families in public housing in New Orleans before Katrina will be allowed to live in the new housing being constructed on the site where their apartments were demolished.

27,279. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding after Katrina who have been determined eligible for assistance but who have still not received any money.

30,396. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans since Katrina. This reduction leaves the New Orleans public school population just over half of what it was pre-Katrina.

63,799. Number of Medicaid recipients who have not returned to New Orleans since Katrina.

65,888. Unoccupied addresses in New Orleans. This is 31% of the addresses in the City and nearly as many as Detroit, a city twice the size of New Orleans.

128,341: Number of Louisianians looking for work.

143,193. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center estimate of 311,853, the most recent population estimate in Orleans.

9.5 Million. Dollar amount of federal Medicaid stimulus rejected outright by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal which would have expanded temporary Medicaid coverage for families who leave welfare and get a job.

98 million: Dollar amount of unemployment federal stimulus dollars rejected by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal that was available to bolster the unemployment compensation funds to assist 25,000 families in Louisiana.

900 Million: Dollar amount paid to ICF International, the company that was hired by the State of Louisiana to distribute federal Road Home rebuilding dollars.

?. Current vulnerability to storm-related flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers continues work to provide protection from a storm surge that has a 1 percent chance of occurring any given year. However, Katrina was a stronger storm than the system under construction is designed to protect against. Because no updated indicators exist on land loss, coastal restoration and mitigation of flood risk due to human engineering, tracking recovery is, at best, challenging.

Davida Finger is a social justice lawyer and clinical professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill Quigley is a human
rights lawyer on leave from Loyola now serving as legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. A version of
this article with sources is available if you write to the authors c/o