Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everybody! While we reflect today on the great strides in civil rights our society has made -- strides for example that allow Forest Whitaker and not some goober slathered in shoe polish and white lipstick to play Idi Amin -- let us remember President Bush's exhortation this morning to the boys and girls of Cardoza High, to send postcards to the mostly poor and black survivors of Katrina in their rotting, rat-infested FEMA trailers. Were it not for our society's wholesale rejection of racism since the 1960s, those people might actually need more than postcards!
And it is fitting on this auspicious day to point out corporate America's singular generosity in continuing to site and maintain its industrial interests, including oil refineries, in America's impoverished minority communities.
It's nice to see that the Richmond refinery story is receiving some non-hysterical coverage, but I fear the restraint of CNN and others may be due less to feelings of civic responsibility than to ignorance. The focus of all the segments I've seen seem to be that if you're in Point Richmond or San Pablo, don't go to school or work, refrain from grocery shopping or going to the emergency room when your labor contractions start -- just "shelter in place."
Yeah. Shelter in place. That ranks right up there with "hide under your school desk in case of a thermonuclear strike."
The Martinez and Richmond refineries, collectively, have been a looming menace for decades. Were that Chevron refinery, the one currently ablace, to truly go, it would take out a goodly chunk of the North Bay, as well. Contra Costa County would recall Dresden after WWII. (Goodbye, Ray Ray!) Windows in San Francisco would shatter.
And I have to wonder: Why was the press conference fielded by a county official? Not to impugn the good man's competence or professionalism, but where the hell is the EPA? No, I mean that EPA. Wait, no, wrong one -- this EPA. Oh, never mind.
Not that Chevron has ever been less than imperious and peremptory with any federal or state agency, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in control of the government (that very Chevron plant once infamously sent Cal-OSHA packing at the gates): "We are Chevron. We are lord."
But right now we just happen to have Bush in office. And the corporation that owns the currently toasty refinery also happens to own a tanker once christened "Condoleezza Rice" (another proud moment in black history, and proof that women and people of color and be just as nasty, venal, and grabby as old, patrician white men.) Do the math: if this refinery -- yes, they have this situation under control, this time -- if this refinery ever explodes while the current crew is still in the White House, you can safely expect the federal response to make their response peri-Katrina in New Orleans look like an efficient, well-oiled Red Cross triage operation.