> The QueQue
Dan Ramos' queer position, radiation clouds/Texas nukes, and warbler warning on Forestar deal
The QueQue - March 16, 2011
In a wide-ranging interview with the Current last Friday, Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Dan Ramos likened homosexuals to children stricken with polio and the Stonewall Democrats, an organization working to advance the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, to the Nazi Party.
In immediate response, State Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie called on Ramos to resign his post. Texas Stonewall Democrats called on him to apologize or resign. And Bexar County Young Democrats urged him to apologize and resign “for his profane display of bigotry.”
Among his more incendiary comments to the Current last week, Ramos said, “I liken [Stonewall Democrats] to the Tea Party — the Tea Party and the fucking Nazi Party — because they’re 90 percent white, blue-eyed, and Anglo, and I don’t give a shit who knows that. That’s the truth. Just like the blacks, they’re strong. And there’s nothing wrong — they’re Americans — but you can’t get your way just because you’re black.”
Richie lambasted Ramos’ “bigoted attitudes.” Not only that, Richie blamed Ramos in a prepared statement for a “constant state of turmoil” in the Bexar County party.
Though apparently uninterested in discussing the bill, San Antonio State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer filed legislation last week that would give state party leaders power to remove county chairs for “incompetency or official misconduct.”
Unmoved by the array of forces against him, Ramos said Monday he was focused on the trial setting of former Bexar County Democrats’ treasurer Dwayne Adams, charged with embezzling more than $200,000 from the group.
“If anybody’s stupid it’s the state chair. He has had more than adequate time to address these issues of the past and the people who have a different view of what the rules are,” Ramos said. “I will reserve my comments until we start the trial.”
Ramos frequently suggests that anti-Hispanic racism is to blame for the division that has been on display at past party meetings. When asked if race or sexual orientation were more a cause of concern for him, Ramos responded: “I go back to an old very well-used slogan: blacks wanted to get their way because they were black. What it is, is we have a very, very sinister movement in which you don’t know, at the end of the day, you didn’t even know that your next door buddy, your bosom fishing buddy was gay. That, I guess, goes to my belief in the religious thing. Look: this is not natural. This is like a kid who was born with a polio leg, you can’t kill him and you can’t sweep him under the rug. … I’m glad that Texas has not yet come to where gays can adopt children … because the poor kids have already come from a troubled family and then to be ‘hey, how come my momma is my daddy type of deal.’ It’s not natural.”
When challenged about his comments, Ramos insisted that he has been fighting for civil rights for 40 years. “I feel equal opportunity is meant for everyone that is being violated, regardless of who they are,” he said. “All I said was that equal opportunity should not be used as a umbrella to gain any kind of advantage over other people. It is pretty obvious that the advantage they [Stonewall Democrats] take is way beyond the pale. Certainly, all the people with handicaps, I represent them all the time.”
Former District 7 City Councilmember, current candidate, and co-chair for the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, Elena Guajardo, said, “I would very much hope and pray that Mr. Ramos is in no way using this as a strategy to create division [among] our Democratic local people here in San Antonio so that the real question would not be addressed, and that is the question of leadership or lack of leadership from our county chair.”
While the power to remove a county chair is not addressed by current rules, some party members are advocating voting to remove Ramos at the April meeting of the County Executive Committee. Or they could dream for September and passage of Fisher’s legislation.
After Chernobyl’s radioactive cloud swept over Europe in 1986, it kept moving across the Atlantic. Living in Washington, D.C. at the time, Solar San Antonio’s Executive Director Lanny Sinkin wasn’t aware of that fact when it rained one day on the Capitol City.
But after his daughter had already suffered five futile eye surgeries for a rare birth defect, a cyst that had formed on one of her eyes, lifting the retina from its place, he came to understand the possible link to what, to date, is considered the worst radioactive accident in history. He believes a radioactive isotope was taken up in the food chain and was delivered to his daughter while she was in utero through milk her mother ingested.
“Some years later I was talking to a health physicist who said this rare eye condition was typical of effects he’d seen up and down the East Coast from the Chernobyl cloud,” he said.
This week, Sinkin was in Hawaii observing nuclear disaster across a different ocean. As a team of about 50 Japanese plant operators and emergency responders struggled to keep multiple nuclear reactors from entering full meltdown, residents of the island state were searching for radiation-blocking potassium iodide pills or natural sources of iodine that could protect them from some of the poisonous clouds of radiation that could cross the waters.
“They don’t really expect the government to inform them if the radiation is coming over, so they’re doing their own research and figuring out what to eat to get natural iodine or going out and getting potassium iodide and just being sure their thyroid is fully loaded with iodine before the cloud passes over,” Sinkin said.
While it’s yet to be determined if such a cloud will form and cross the ocean, fires and explosions have released radiation outside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, even dusting the USS Ronald Reagan stationed 100 miles off the Japanese coast. Were such an event to happen here, Texans around nuclear plants wouldn’t have the option of popping pills. Following 9/11 when it came to light that Al Qaeda was originally plotting to hit a nuke with their aerial attack, Congress ordered residents within 20 miles of nuclear plants be provided pills. It’s an order both Presidents Bush and Obama have resisted. Apparently, it’s not a debate Texans need be concerned with. Texas doesn’t distribute the pills to the public at all, according to Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“We don’t recommend potassium iodide for the general public, the simple reason being it’s going to be much safer for the area to be evacuated if there is some sort of accidental release,” said Van Deusen. “Because there are going to be more radioactive isotopes than [radioactive] iodine.”
The pills are available, however, for emergency responders who will be working in the contaminated area, as well as special-needs populations who would be unable to evacuate.
“What if” questions weren’t being entertained. “We don’t foresee at this point any impact on Texas and we don’t want to provide any speculation on that point.”
Calls to the South Texas Project nuclear complex were not returned by deadline.
When it comes to nuclear accidents, the official account is often very different from experiences of people on the ground and observations by local doctors.
While the United Nations’ World Health Organization set the Chernobyl death toll at about 50, regional doctors in the Ukraine were complaining of being “overwhelmed” by new cancers. Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the Ukrainian National Commission for Radiation Protection, put his estimate closer to 500,000 dead. A report published last year in The New York Academy of Sciences drawing on more than 5,000 studies — many of which had not previously been translated out of Russian — suggests the number of deaths attributable to Chernobyl may have already approached a million.
“If you look at this historically, the severity of the Chernobyl accident wasn’t revealed until three days later when the Swedish government picked it up,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear advocacy organization. “Even our own government in 1979 didn’t issue an advisory for pregnant women and children until three days after the Three Mile Island accident. It would not be unprecedented if information is a casualty of this event. When the reactors are out of control, usually the utilities control the information first.”
With the nuclear industry — and the world — in shock over the chaos in Japan, CPS Energy and NRG Energy have decided to put their discussions about luring San Antonio into a deeper investment in two proposed reactors at the existing STP nuclear complex on hold. Talks about non-toxic alternatives such as solar and electric-vehicle charging stations, however, will continue between the two parties, said CPS spokesperson Lisa Lewis.
Those who have opposed the new nukes from the beginning — and have been frequently dismissed for raising the darker side of nuclear power — are hoping now the city can have “an adult conversation” on nukes, said Cindy Weehler of Energía Mía. “The events in Japan have shown our concerns are reasoned and reasonable.”
It was going to be the deal of the decade to save golden-cheeked warbler habitat and allow Camp Bullis to get on with its training unhindered by endangered species concerns. But when gaffes are made, as we’ve learned, blame a politician. After an erroneous story or two ran in the daily, it surfaced that Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff had apparently slipped the newspaper the wrong map. But even before the actual dimensions surfaced (about 46 percent of the announced 2,704-acre deal in southwest Comal County) the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance was already opposed to granting Forestar Real Estate Group all of the impervious cover credits from the deal, credits that can be sold to other developers to build over the sensitive recharge lands. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Bexar County has proposed pitching in $4.8 million to the deal. But now it turns out the land sitting in the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort's*
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort’s still-pristine backyard viewshed is not that valuable for the warblers anyway (though some estimates hold that all the credits Forestar would amass could be worth more than $3 million). Turns out the hilltops and slopes that would actually be set aside would provide only “minimal protection” for the warbler, according to GEAA’s science director.
“To establish precedent with the deal that Forestar is asking for would be really, really bad,” said GEAA’s Director Annalisa Peace. “The most we could support based on what they’re paying would be like a quarter of what they’re asking.”
SAWS, which must sign off on the number of credits, is expected to take up the issue at an open policy and planning meeting Monday, March 21.