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This And That: Stories From The Wild West

Here’s a round-up of some interesting news items from out west.

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The San Francisco Chronicle has a piece up on Fires provide no break from GOP fundraisers. Apparently, it took four days for any of the Republican candidates for president to issue any formal public condolences or expressions of concern for victims of the California firestorms, event though two of the candidates planned major fund-raising events in the Golden State.

FundraisingArizona Sen. John McCain has scheduled a $500-a-head and up fundraiser Friday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has a California trip on the books beginning with a fundraiser scheduled Monday in Rancho Bernardo – a fire-ravaged area in San Diego County – followed by fundraisers in the Orange County cities of San Juan Capistrano and Newport Beach. He is also planning events in the Bay Area.

Even the state leaders of the GOP noticed the apparent callousness:

“I find it very distasteful that while neighbors are dealing with these fires in their own way, whether directly impacted, or trying to empathize with those who have been – that they are being hounded by presidential campaigns – Republicans no less,” wrote Jon Fleischman, the Irvine-based publisher of the Flashreport, a leading GOP Web site.

“How candidates and officeholders react in the midst of a tragedy tells you a lot about whether they are focused on themselves, or on the people around them,” he wrote.

Also, some Democrats appear to be making this about politics rather than spending their own cash and volunteer resources aiding fire victims.

Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said of the Republicans’ glaring lag in recognizing California’s woes: “Haven’t we already had enough of a president who is slow to respond to a crisis?”

And, a nice statement about being concerned about the fire victims doesn’t have to be followed up with Democratic candidates actually taking a break from California fundraising…

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was one of the first to send out a statement of concern about the fires – and was joined by all the leading Democratic presidential candidates in doing so. But she kept to her schedule on Sunday as the fires began raging, attending a fundraiser in Hollywood.

One can easily tell who the local politician is, who apparently actually is at least on some level is actually concerned about the fire victims:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who had planned a fundraiser for Thursday in Sacramento – delayed his event until mid-November.

[After the break: rich Californians receive ‘concierge-level’ fire protection; Katrina comparisons being a different class of wrong; Marines become Ramadi sanitation workers; and dressing like hookers on Halloween] Also related to the California Firestorms, The Los Angeles Times reported that Another way the rich are different: ‘concierge-level’ fire protection:

[Bryce] Carrier hopped into his heavy-duty red Ford F-550 and sped to northeast Poway, dodging fallen eucalyptus and heading straight toward the wind-whipped blaze. He arrived to find flames marching up an embankment toward the multimillion-dollar home.

Hydrant On A PlatterYanking out the hose in the back of his truck, he began applying Phos-Chek fire retardant along the perimeter of the property, the shrubs and the roof. When the flames hit the milky white liquid, they stopped.

Another home saved.

Carrier is a certified firefighter, but he doesn’t work for a government agency. He’s an employee of Firebreak Spray Systems, which partners with the insurance company American International Group Inc. to protect the mansions of the moneyed.

AIG’s Wildfire Protection Unit, part of its Private Client Group, is offered only to homeowners in California’s most affluent ZIP Codes — including Malibu, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Menlo Park — and a dozen Colorado resort communities. It covers about 2,000 policyholders, who pay premiums of at least $10,000 a year and own homes with a value of at least $1 million.

Carrier and his 15 crew mates sprayed retardant on and around more than 160 homes in Malibu, Lake Arrowhead and the hardest-hit areas of Orange and San Diego counties this week. They claim to have saved a dozen homes.

The conservative “no new taxes” mantra seems to have separated white and rich from black and poor in a brand new and interesting way. This story really speaks to one significant reason of why and how there were differences in the disaster responses to the California Firestorms and Hurricane Katrina.

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Well, maybe I’m evil for comparing the disaster responses between the California Firestorms and Hurricane Katrina; Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote a piece entitled Katrina comparisons are a different class of wrong where he looked at some self-serving comments of California’s elected officials:

A writer on the conservative Red State website said the difference, of course, was firm Republican leadership in San Diego.

“New Orleans, on the other hand,” said the writer, “was a city on the federal dole dominated by Democrats, racial politics, and the legacy of Huey Long’s populist-socialist dreams.”

Everybody got that?

Republicans are better at evacuations than Democrats. This seems to be particularly true when the Republicans in question can flee down the highway in Yukons while Democrats wait for buses trapped under water.

“We’ve evacuated more people than were evacuated in Katrina,” San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender said Wednesday.

Not only was that ridiculously untrue, but one might argue the evacuations in the San Diego area were made necessary by a lack of firefighting personnel and equipment in a region that shuns taxes and happily sticks outside agencies with the tab when the bill comes due.

Talk about being on the dole.

Oh. Maybe I’m not so evil after all for thinking that politics has on some level overtaken real humanity.

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The song I Left My Heart In San Francisco has new meaning. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Selina Picon stood by the Colma grave of her son Thursday, a year after his death, and said the only way to learn now why the San Mateo County coroner kept the young man’s heart without her permission was by going to court.

Heart“I want to know why my son’s heart was kept. Who made the decision to keep it?” Picon said. “These are questions that keep me up at night.”

…Picon’s experience has led to a policy change at the San Mateo County coroner’s office and a stalled legislative effort to amend state law on whether coroners can retain whole organs at their discretion.

“Her son’s heart was stolen from her,” said Picon’s attorney, Ayanna Jenkins-Toney. “She had to literally beg to get his heart back.”

A lawsuit has been filed — of course.

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Okay, this is from southwest Asia (as in Iraq), but we’ll consider it a “west” story anyway.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Marines declare war on garbage. With Ramadi now quiet, troops turn to waste collection as a way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

[Lt. Sayce W.] Falk is one of several members of the unit who were in Ramadi in early 2006, when U.S. convoys raced down the main drag at 65 mph to dodge insurgent gunfire. Every patrol risked hitting buried bombs or being caught in a gun battle.

The situation had changed by the time the unit returned in April. Marines trained as snipers, tank experts and riflemen found those skills unnecessary here. Instead, they became masters of municipal mess, working under the theory that the way to keep the Iraqi city from going back to the insurgency was by improving the quality of life, from the fetid ground up.

Now, instead of worrying about roadside bombs, they worry about puddles.

…Maj. Rory Quinn, the unit’s executive officer, said that every little improvement helped keep Ramadi free of bombings.

“I’ve got to fix sewers today to buy three more days without one. You’re constantly buying yourself three or four days to prevent another Iraqi from wanting to go out and kill Americans.”

It doesn’t take long to see that the desire for clean streets and pleasant surroundings has overtaken security concerns in Ramadi, where the population has declined by 100,000 residents since the war began four years ago.

Lemme see now. We have gun-happy contractors (okay, allegedly gun-happy contractors) like Blackwater mimicking the job functions military guards for State Department employees based in Iraq and Afganistan, and front line Marines mimicking the job functions of a municipal sanitation department for the city of Ramadi.

Gee, anything wrong with that picture?

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Lastly, Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein says Halloween should be freed of adults who use it as an excuse to dress up like hookers. He wrote:

Working Girl - HookerI understand that the masquerade ball is a classic that faded away, and that people need an opportunity to hide behind a mask in order to safely express their hidden selves. It makes sense that once a year I get to peek into your psyche and find out whether you think of yourself as a whore nurse, a whore pirate, a whore angel or a whore whore.

That’s fine. But not on the kids’ favorite day. It’s transforming formerly child-friendly costume shops from fun-creepy into Chris Hansen-creepy.

So much for my red, PVC, sexy nurse costume from Lip Service.

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