Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Just three percent of Bush's attention is focused on Gulf Coast recovery

What's behind that nervous little thing he does with his jaw -- that back and forth lower jaw twitch?

What explains that smug look -- not the look of a disciplined intellect, but the look of a guy who knows he's getting through another day without doing his own homework by reading prose written by someone else.

Yawn ... blah blah blah. It's what -- 30 minutes into the State of the Union speech, and still no talk about the Gulf Coast?

I was appalled and offended by Bush's word-for-word recitation of a sergeant killed in Iraq. How dare he -- a man who was AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard while "defending" the United States from Mexico at a time when other men his age were dying in Vietnam.

How dare he -- a man who broke his obligation to defend the Constitution by cherry-picking unreliable WMD intelligence and embellishing the facts to order Americans to their deaths in Iraq. Bush is responsible for the maiming of 16,549 American soldiers, and the deaths of 2,241 of them.

How dare he:

Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting in Fallujah. He left behind a letter to his family, but his words could just as well be addressed to every American. Here is what Dan wrote: "I know what honor is. … It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting."

Bush never faced death himself -- but he couldn't have been more impatient to sacrifice the lives of others.

About 5,369 words were spoken in Bush's speech, of which 161 words were spent on Hurricane Katrina recovery -- less than three percent of what he had to say involved the concerns of hundreds of thousands of victims who continue to suffer from the worst disaster in American history.

Who's advising this guy?

Bush's remarks about Hurricane Katrina recovery were a stale refrain of philosophical platitudes devoid of any specific plan or commitment of resources.
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency -- and stays at it until they're back on their feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We're removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.

In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

Were I Mary Landrieu or Governor Blanco -- both seated in the audience -- I think I might have blown my lid right there.

The mantra of $85 billion? Most of that went to no-bid cleanup contractors who are taking the profits, while pennies on the dollar get to the sub-sub-sub-contractors hiring illegal immigrants instead of getting locals to do the work for living wages. The actual new allocation for rebuilding endeavors was $29 billion, most of which is just to keep the federal flood insurance program solvent, and only $6.2 billion of which has been proposed by the Bush administration to help 20,000 homeowners whose homes weren't in designated flood zones, and who didn't have flood insurance, while the actual number is more like 77,340 homes in that category. Bush has proposed nothing to help rehabilitate over 200,000 homes damaged by flood waters.

Where's the plan George? Bush can't get away with shooting down the Baker plan last week -- Louisiana's best plan on the table -- and then criticizing Louisiana for not having a plan, without himself offering an alternative.

What about Category 5 storm protection?

What about coastal restoration?

What about a confession that the federal government should assume the responsibility of helping hundreds of thousands of people rebuild the hundreds of thousands of homes that were destroyed by levees that were improperly designed by the federal government?

What a pathetic abdication of responsibility!

What would a fly on the wall have heard if it were near Mary Landrieu when she deliberately worked her way over to Bush after his speech, shaking his hand and patting him on the back? When she finished speaking, Bush gave her the conciliatory face of death -- the look that says, "that's interesting, but pardon me while I talk to this other person."





Finally, how did the terms "wood chips," "stalks," and "switch grass" get into a State of the Union address? It sounds like the product of a speechwriter's bet made in a bar room dare.

What should Louisianians do now? In a week in which Women of the Storm is lobbying Congress and the White House to visit New Orleans, their message doesn't seem to have reached the White House.

I was talking to a colleague -- the_velvet_rut -- recently who noticed snipers posted on top of the Army Corps of Engineers building at the levee rally a couple of weeks ago. To me, the image of snipers engaging a peaceful demonstration of people waving signs, socializing, and barbecuing out on the levee is symbolic of everything the Bush administration represents -- imperiling the safety and civic rights of Americans while pursuing a deadly agenda that benefits a few of his cronies.

Instead of vindicating the murdered victims of 9-11 with a strategy for success by strengthening relationships with true allies, George W. Bush continues to terrorize people around the world, unnecessarily violating the privacy of Americans instead of using the entirely adequate tools presently at our disposal (recall that a number of the 9-11 attackers were discovered without the Patriot Act or violating citizens' rights to privacy -- we were failed by an ineffectual, crony-ridden Bush administration).

Instead of helping hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents to rebuild their homes, especially here in New Orleans, George W. Bush continues to allow hundreds of thousands of them to languish as refugees.

The same colleague and I were talking about how the city of New Orleans is possibly a tinderbox ready to explode. With Mardi Gras right around the corner, that could be the flash point to spark the explosion.

We should commandeer Mardi Gras floats and drive them to Washington in protest, blocking traffic while throwing beads and rotten photographic memories, and heaving soggy furniture and moldy sheetrock on the White House grounds and on the steps of Congress.

Without a doubt, George W. Bush retains the Katrina boneless chicken award, and remains the worst president ever!

Monday, January 30, 2006

MITCH THROWS HIS HAT IN THE RING FOR MAYOR!!!

Where do I sign up? The Times-Picayune story is here.

We've all been promoting his candidacy -- now we have to do what it takes not just make sure he wins, but to make sure he wins on a platform we all agree is the right one to rebuild all of New Orleans.

I've never lived in New Orleans when an honest, competent mayor was running the city -- that's three mayors I'm talking about, and no, I don't think Nagin is competent. I think he's mediocre at best -- a nice guy I'd enjoy hanging around with eating crawfish and drinking Abita Restoration Ales with -- but he's not the mayor for me.

Oh, so Ron Forman might not run because he likes his sweet little half-mil-a-year job and it's so low stress? Considering his ridiculous salary and his capital improvements which require destroying precious rainforest habitats for many of the animals housed in the Audobon Zoo, I guess you could say Ron's politically green, but we're not talking about the same kind of green James Audobon would be talking about.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Looking for WTUL's Community Gumbo?

Features that aired on WTUL's Community Gumbo can be found here.

The Moron

Dan Balz wrote in The Washington Post:

The coming year in many ways represents another national campaign for the president, aimed at preserving the gains his party has made in the past five years, as well as rehabilitating a reputation that has come under brutal assault from the opposition in recent months.

Brutal assault? From the Democrats?

What reputation to rehabilitate? Don't we all know him to be a moron and a compulsive liar?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Redefining Republicanisms

ownership society n. A civilization where 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth [Michael Albert, Piscataway, NJ].

Lots more in The Nation's Dictionary of Republicanisms.

Faith-based diamond-mining subsidies

Even if you're one of those nuts who thinks it's okay for public money to subsidize (and endorse) religious charities, who in their right mind would allow Pat Robertson (or any other filthy, groveling televangelist) to receive tax dollars ... oh, I see, that freak Bush gave the nod:

With the Bush Administration's approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA's list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. "How in the heck did that happen?" Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing's inclusion on FEMA's list. "That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars." ...

Far from the media's gaze, Robertson has used the tax-exempt, nonprofit Operation Blessing as a front for his shadowy financial schemes, while exerting his influence within the GOP to cover his tracks. In 1994 he made an emotional plea on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from the Rwandan civil war to Zaire (now Congo). Reporter Bill Sizemore of The Virginian Pilot later discovered that Operation Blessing's planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire's then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

What's your plan George?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created one of the biggest crises in American history, and how does President Bush lead? By engaging in sincere and meaningful dialog out of sight of the cameras? No. Instead, he fires salvos at devastated Louisianians in press conferences.

Louisiana's response to Bush's press conference deserves just as much publicity (my emphasis):

"Louisiana has a well-designed bipartisan plan for reconstruction that the White House doesn't want to accept and very publicly rejected just Tuesday," Blanco said in a statement. "It would enable Louisiana homeowners to avoid foreclosure and will prevent widespread suffering and financial ruin by Louisiana homeowners who simply put their faith in the integrity of levees built by the U.S. government.

"Administration officials do not understand the suffering of the people of Louisiana," Blanco said.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is pushing the Baker bill in the Senate, added: "The people of Louisiana have a plan. What we need is a willing, creative and enthusiastic partner in the federal government. What we need is for the president to be our No. 1 champion, not our No. 1 obstacle." ...

Blanco said the administration's opposition to Baker's bill was like being "kicked in the teeth," but she said she was even more disappointed by Bush's comment that Louisiana does not have a plan to address its housing needs. ...

"If they don't like this plan, then they need to tell us which plan they do like," she said. ...

"I've worked hard not to have a chill in the air between me and the president," Blanco said. "But I think now we have to call it like we see it."

It isn't just Democrats criticizing President Bush's childish behavior. Here's Louisiana Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal:
Jindal said, the federal government should take on the housing crisis in New Orleans, because it was the failure of federally built levees that caused many houses to flood. He regretted that the White House -- which has proposed bailing out homeowners who had no insurance because they live outside the flood plain -- this week torpedoed the broader program of government buyouts proposed by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge.

"I was disappointed in the decision about the Baker bill, but where I especially disagree with the administration is in the plan to focus on those houses outside of flood zones. That might work in Mississippi, but the problem in Louisiana is that you have tens of thousands who say, 'My house was not flooded because of rain, but because the levees did not work the way they were designed to work. My house flooded because MR-GO was a hurricane highway,'" he said.

Let's remember that when President Bush criticizes Louisiana for not having a plan, without himself participating in the planning discussion to enable a solution, he's in very familiar territory. Just recently, retired Lt. Col. Andrew Krepinevich, a Vietnam veteran and respected advisor to three defense secretaries concluded that President Bush has pushed the U.S. military to its limit in Iraq, and is now in an unwinnable situation, due principally to the lack of a strategic plan for success in that country:
"Without a clear strategy in Iraq it is difficult to draft clear metrics for gauging progress. This may be why some senior political and military leaders have made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations regarding the war's progress."

What Hurricane Katrina did was to shine a spotlight on the complete negligence and incompetence of the Bush administration. What we witnessed -- and are still suffering from -- was the dismantling of the bureaucracy of governance, or career professionals who know what they're doing. Those professionals were replaced by Bush cronies and Pioneer fundraisers, yes men who would do the bidding of the administration, whether ignoring concerns by officials in the Clinton administration about Al Qaeda striking the United States, or cherry-picking intelligence to engage our country in an unjustifiable war, or gutting the emergency preparedness infrastructure and handing it off to private corporations in no-bid contracts.

What we American citizens got in return was a bastardization of our democracy, more dead Americans, and a short-sighted decision-making apparatus that could only see its way to the next opportunity to rip off the American taxpayer.

That's why President Bush doesn't have a plan to rebuild New Orleans. It's the same reason he doesn't have a plan for success in Iraq.

Compare the similarities between Iraq and New Orleans in this Tom Dispatch post:
It's now notorious that the State Department did copious planning for a post-invasion, occupied Iraq, all of which was ignored by the Pentagon and Bush administration neocons when the country was taken. In New Orleans, it's already practically notorious that endless planning, disaster war-gaming, and the like were done for how to deal with a future "Atlantis scenario," none of which was attended to as Katrina bore down on the southeastern coast.

Louisiana doesn't have a plan? Ask any New Orleanian on the street what the plan is. We have a plan.

Does President Bush have the courage?

Pot calling the kettle black I'd say.

1/28/2006 update: The Washington Post has an article in today's paper on Bush's abandonment of New Orleans.

Invasion of the body snatchers

Once again, on a lighter note ... this just came into focus for me ... the Bush agenda ... WE'RE BEING TAKEN OVER BY ALIENS!!! Klaatu barata nikto. Laura Bush is one of the emissaries, but they don't want peace, they're pod people.

View the full picture to take in the horror of the lifeless gaze.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My plan for Louisiana


Parishioners of Antioch Spiritual Church on Flood Street in the Lower Ninth Ward move soggy, moldy pews to a garbage pile in the street.



The doors to the church were opened for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, revealing a soggy muddy mess over four months after floods devastated New Orleans.

Maybe if Preznit Bush wasn't AWOL from New Orleans for so long; maybe if he hadn't just cruised St. Charles Avenue in the presidential motorcade the last time he was in New Orleans; maybe if he actually got some mud on his shoes and clothes from tromping around in the sewage-laced muck like these guys did to clean out their church; maybe if he just weren't so friggin' cocky; maybe then he'd realize that the problems in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast are beyond the pale, beyond comprehension, and involve issues that are impacting the well-being of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Maybe if he actually spent some time here for more than "goddamn press conferences", well, maybe then he'd finally get it -- that he can't just hang back and expect solutions to fall in his lap. He needs to be pro-active.

After he shot down the Baker bill, for example, which would have compensated owners for at least 60 percent of the value of their homes, well, then isn't the ball in his court? (For the record, I think homeowners deserve more than what Baker was offering). Shouldn't Bush have to offer a legitimate alternative? Instead, he sent his waterboy Donald Powell to say that the feds would help the 20,000 people whose homes flooded in areas that weren't in designated flood zones. Hey fuckers! That still leaves about 300,000 people hanging in the balance! I'm not even counting the 1.5 million people across the entire Gulf Coast who were impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita all the way from Lafayette, Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama.

Aren't that many American citizens more important than Iraq? Elections in the Palestinian territories? Counterfeiting in North Korea? The White House is developing plans to deal with those problems? Why can't President Bush get his fucking ass down here to New Orleans for more than a couple of hours every few months -- not for photos -- but TO HELP!!! Instead he's waiting for a nation with a short pop-culture attention span to forget about the ongoing misery (nine out of ten hits I'm getting lately are from people just looking for chocolate city T-shirts).

Which reminds me of what Hurricane Czar Donald Powell's mission really is -- it appears that President Bush appointed a former FDIC official not to cooperate in creating a bold vision for New Orleans' resurrection, but instead to pinch pennies and to crush the hope of hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Hey you fuckers! Let me tell you something. We don't need to beg to you monkeyshit-for-brains chickenhawks to give us a goddamn thing. We already produce at least a quarter of the nation's domestic oil, at least a quarter of the nation's seafood, and almost all of the grain and other merchandise destined for export from the Midwest travels through the Port of New Orleans.

So we don't need a handout. We'll just take the plan you had for financing your blockheaded invasion of Iraq -- remember how you said it would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues? We'll pay our own way. Just give us the $5-8 billion in annual off-shore revenues, 100 percent of which, to date, you've been spending in Washington. Then we'll keep all of the federal taxes we pay, we'll tax the Midwest for their exports and imports, and we'll tax the seafood the rest of the nation consumes.

We'll build Category 5 storm protection. We'll restore the coasts. We'll help everyone return and rebuild their homes. And we'll make New Orleans the city of the 21st Century that will be even more the envy of the rest of the country than it was before Hurricane Katrina.

So hey you fucker Bush -- why don't you just go get yourself a blow job so we can impeach your cheap monkey ass! Like your Vice President is prone to say, Go Fuck Yourself!

How's that for a plan asshole!

Let them eat moldy sheetrock

That's monkeyass Bush's answer to the citizens of New Orleans.

"I'm just the president. It's not my job to come up with a plan. That's your job. I'm givin' yer some sheet pilin' and some more dirt and rocks and stuff. Now get busy and clean up your own mess."

President Bush talking about New Orleans in today's press conference:

Q Okay, can I --

THE PRESIDENT: No, it's --

Q But, sir, I'm sorry --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's unfair to the other people.

Q No, I'm just -- I'm just following up --

THE PRESIDENT: You're trying to hoard. (Laughter.)

Q I'm not trying -- I have a question about New Orleans, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: This is -- I agree with you. I can see the expressions on your colleagues' faces that it's --

Q Well, I hope it will be worth your time. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: They don't think so. (Laughter.)

Q The administration has rejected a local plan to rebuild New Orleans, and your administrator down there, Don Powell, said that the focus for federal money should be to rebuild for those 20,000 homeowners who were outside the flood plain. Critics, local officials say that that ignores so many people in New Orleans, the poorest of the poor, the hardest hit areas, people who didn't have flood insurance or didn't expect the levees to break. And they feel, sir, that this is a certain betrayal of your promise that New Orleans would rise again. So why did you reject it? And do you think that the people of New Orleans have to expect that there is a limit for the extent to which the city can be rebuilt?

THE PRESIDENT: The Congress has appropriated $85 billion to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. And that is a good start; it's a strong start; it's a significant commitment to the people whose lives were turned upside down by that -- by those -- by that hurricane.

Secondly, we have said that we look forward to the time when each state develops its recovery plan. I, early on in the process, said it's important for the folks in Mississippi to come forward with a recovery plan. And it's important for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana to work together to develop a state recovery plan. And the reason I said that is because I was aware that folks in Congress will want to spend money based upon a specific strategy. We've got to get comfortable with how to proceed. Those plans haven't -- the plan for Louisiana hasn't come forward yet, and I urge the officials, both state and city, to work together so we can get a sense for how they're going to proceed.

Now, having said that, I recognize there were some early things we needed to do to instill confidence. One of them was to say that we will make the levees stronger and better than before, and study further strengthening of the levees. In other words, I recognize that people needed to be able to say, well, gosh, we can't even get started until we got a commitment from the federal government on the levees.

A lot of the money we're spending is prescribed by law, but we also went a step further and proposed to Congress, and they accepted, the CDGB money so that monies can actually go directly to individual families that need help. We'll continue to work with the folks down there. But I want to remind the people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot, and secondly, we were concerned about creating additional federal bureaucracies, which might make it harder to get money to the people. ...

QUESTION: ... Mr. President, as you're saying Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath is one of your top priorities...

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: ... why is it that this administration is not allowing the senior staff, your senior staff that you conversated with prior to Hurricane Katrina, during and after, to testify, to interview or talk with congressional leaders?

And why not push Michael Brown, who is now a private citizen, to go before them, as he is what many are calling the lynchpin for the whole issue?

BUSH: Well, let me make sure you have the facts.

We have given 15,000 pages of White House documents to the investigators, congressional investigators. Some, I think it's 600,000 pages, administrative documents.

BUSH: We have sent a fellow named Rapawanna (ph) up there to talk about -- he's a White House staffer -- to talk to the committee.

There have been a lot of interviews. There have been public testimony.

As a matter of fact, we are so concerned about this that we've started our own investigation to make sure that we understand the lessons learned from this. This is a problem we want to investigate thoroughly, so we know how to better respond on behalf of the American people.

And so we're fully cooperative with the members of the House and the Senate. And we'll do so without giving away my ability to get sound advice from people on my staff.

You see, here's -- and this is an issue that comes up all the time. And you might -- we've had several discussions like this since I've been the president.

If people give me advice and they're forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up, I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers.

BUSH: And that's just the way it works.

But we've given thousands of pages of documents over for people to analyze.

QUESTION: Does that include Michael Brown?

BUSH: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Does that include Michael Brown?

BUSH: People who give me advice -- it will have a chilling effect on future advisers if the precedent is such that, when they give me advice, that's going to be subject to scrutiny.

Now, we've analyzed -- we've given out all kinds of pages of documents for people and we're cooperating with the investigators. And that's important for the American people to know.

What's also important is we want to know how we can do a better job. And so we're having a lessons-learned investigation led by Fran Townsend.

And anyway, we need to know.

Of course, you really have to hear the speech to appreciate the fact that the ol' boy's hittin' the bottle again (refresh the page if you don't get a prompt to play or save the file -- the host is a little buggy), but we understand, 'cuz bein'a preznit's ... you know ... HARD ... HARD WORK ... waitin' fur pra-POH-sals ... and readin' DOC-YOO-MENTS ... and tryin' ta understand POWER-POINT presen-TAY-SHUNS.

Well -- and you know you can't believe anywhere from 5 to 95 percent of what you read here -- but I was talking to someone who was going to cover some dull Laura Bush visit to New Orleans today, and the conversation revealed that it would be more interesting if, for example, they caught her smoking -- because it turns out Laura's a bathroom smoker. Now, I always suspected it. Just look at those wrinkles around her lips. That's not something you get just from being a pursed-lips, frigid apologist for a lazy son of a jackass.

(Hat tip to whichever New Orleans radio station I scanned to yesterday morning that aired a drunk Bush speech. Today's actual press conference can be viewed at normal speed at the White House Web site, or go directly to the file here if you're worried that the NSA is watching which sites you visit).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just one question ...

How did Alberto Gonzalez get to be the AG? Not because he wasn't going to have to change the monogrammed towels.

Hint: I don't think Benjamin Franklin would be proud.

Photo.

Snap! Oooh ... my bad!

I goofed when I suggested in a previous post that President Bush shirked his responsibility to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina after he learned about the dire predictions of the disaster to come.

I forgot! He couldn't have known that a Powerpoint briefing was emailed to the White House Situation Room. He wasn't even there! He was on vacation! He was nowhere near the White House Situation Room.

Whew! Boy, am I glad. I was starting to worry that he didn't care. It turns out that he was simply enjoying his vacation and didn't want to be bothered by one of the biggest mutha falutin hurricanes to bear down on the Gulf Coast in history. That's a lot to have to deal with. He's just a guy trying to be the President of the United States. It's hard ... you know ... hard work.

I can imagine that all that hard work -- reading documents and watching Powerpoint presentations -- can wear the guy down to the point that he needs a nice month-long vacation from being King of the World.

Turning back the clock to last summer -- what seems like another time in another universe -- let's review President Bush's vacation. In the month of August 2005, I wrote four posts to PGR about Bush's vacation to break all vacation records. Recall that was the month that Cindy Sheehan was making news by camping out in front of the Crawford Ranch to get a meeting with Bush to talk about her son's death in Iraq.

This chart shows that monkey boy was then well on his way to setting a new record as the most-vacationing president ever. With another three and a half years to go in office, he was on target to beating his daddy's previous record as the most-vacationing president ever.



Newsday observed that "prior to his August slumber, Bush had spent 40 percent of his time away from the White House," and the Guardian noted that Bush's August trip to Crawford was his 50th visit to the ranch.

Recall as well that it was after a previous month-long August vacation George W. Bush was caught off-guard when -- despite dire warnings -- terrorists struck the United States.

Here's David Letterman on Bush's 2003 vacation:

How many of you get a month vacation? Well President Bush will be getting his month-long vacation. The White House is calling it a 'working vacation.' And I am thinking, well that pretty much describes the entire presidency, doesn't it? ... Bush says he is going to be very active, he plans to exercise every day. And he says he exercise every day because it clears his head. Hey, mission accomplished.

Hey, do any of you see room for a projector on the presidential pontoon boat? Of course not. Get real! Give the guy a break!


Photo: AP/Susan Walsh, published on Yahoo.

Do you know what it means?

Mark from Wet Bank Guide knows ...

I said, “I want to move back to New Orleans.” I expected her to spit wine all over herself in convulsive laughter. Instead, she gave me a long look, and calmly said, “Yes”. Only last week, when she had been offered and accepted a job, did she tell me why.

In September, a New Orleans jazz group--the Troy Davis Quartet--came to Fargo for a Red Cross fundraiser for Katrina relief. Late in the show, the band played "Do You Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans”, and trumpeter Mark Braud quietly wept between verses.

That was something in that moment, she tells me, when she understood.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bush is the doom of New Orleans

If anyone had any doubts that Bush wasn't the worst failure of a president in United States history, if anyone had any doubts that he is simply out of touch with reality, now comes this new evidence to make the case:

Donald Powell, President Bush’s choice to oversee the Gulf Coast recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said that grant money already appropriated by Congress — as much as $6.2 billion for Louisiana — would be “sufficient” to take care of homeowners who suffered the most in the storm.

$6.2 billion? What the fuck? Is he out of his friggin' mind?


The worst disaster in American history

On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court effectively appointed a man to be president of the United States who had no business whatsoever being president -- a man who a majority of American voters determined was least qualified to lead the nation -- a date that should be forever remembered as the worst disaster in American history.

It should be profoundly disturbing to every American, living anywhere, of whichever party affiliation or political leaning, that President Bush not only failed to heed the warnings of a hurricane strike on New Orleans, but today continues to cower in the shadows just as he has always done when called to serve his nation.

Air National Guard? Bush was such a chickenshit chickenhawk, he couldn't even bother himself to suit up for that sweet arrangement -- which his daddy worked out for him -- to play soldier boy defending the United States from a Mexican invasion during the Vietnam War.

After ignoring repeated warnings of an imminent strike inside the United States by Al Qaeda, and after President Bush spent the month of August 2001 on the longest presidential vacation since Richard Nixon, Bush whined:

"Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."
Hurricane Katrina? Bush knew about that impending disaster as well. The outgoing Clinton administration alerted Bush to the three most worrisome disaster possibilities: an earthquake in California, a hurricane striking New Orleans, and a terrorist attack on New York City. Furthermore, a hurricane exercise just a year before identified the threat. What did Bush do?
"As a dry run for the real thing, Pam should have been a wake-up call that could not be ignored," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate committee's examination of Pam's findings at a Tuesday hearing. "Instead, it is apparent that a more appropriate name for Pam should have been 'Cassandra' -- the mythical prophet who warned of disasters but whom no one believed."
Let's review President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina as Newsday reported it.

The White House:
Responsibilities:
  • Delegates responsibility for disaster response to government agencies.
  • Declares federal emergency to allow for federal aid in hurricane relief efforts.
Response:
  • President and many top White House staff remain on vacation during initial stages of crisis.
  • White House blames state and local officials for inadequate response.
  • President relies on FEMA's optimistic and can-do assessments.
  • President doesn't expect the levee breaches, despite explicit warnings.

Department of Homeland Security:
Responsibilities:
  • Supervises relief and rescue operations.
  • Support state and local emregency management preparation and response.
Response:
  • Ground teams without working televisions or radios. Planes laden with communications equipment arrive late.
  • Due to communication breakdown, department chief unaware of broken levees in New Orleans for 24 hours, announces highest emergency declaration two days after first levee breach. Government unable to respond swiftly to levee damage.
  • Chief initially unaware of city's convention center evacuees without supplies.

Federal Emergency Management Administration ... well, I shouldn't need to go into that, but feel free to read the rest of the Newsday review "Anatomy of a Disaster."

On this day of revelations that President Bush ignored the grave warnings prior to Hurricane Katrina, this was his familiar excuse for his miserable failure:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
We know President Bush doesn't like to read much, so what excuse could he possibly have when the dire warnings of disaster in New Orleans were in a Powerpoint slide presentation. He didn't even have to read the warnings! All he had to do was watch a slide presentation.

Among the predictions:
  • 60,000 deaths.
  • New Orleans submerged "for weeks or months."
  • A communications blackout that would hamper rescue efforts.
  • At least 100,000 poverty-stricken people stranded in the city.
I'm just summarizing. I'd be surprised if you hadn't read the story already, but if you haven't, start with The Times-Picayune.

I could go on and on, but I'll just close with a few choice quotes from the very timely airing of Frontline's "The Storm", which was re-broadcast tonight on WYES. I just want to say, I'm glad I missed it the first time around (I was either still evacuated, didn't have electricity, or WYES was still off the air). If I had seen it, I think I would have had an aneurism.

What should be the number one priority of George W. Bush? What did he campaign on in 2004? His tenacity in keeping Americans safe from terrorism? At the rate Bush is going, we'll all need a lot of tenacity.

George W. Bush bent the facts about WMD to start a war with a country that was no threat whatsoever to Americans, but has he actually done anything in over 4 years since September 11th to prepare us for another disaster?

On George W. Bush's number one priority, how should he be graded?
MARTIN SMITH: If we believe this president was focused on any one thing, it was certainly preparedness and the war on terrorism. But yet four years after 9/11, we have no results on communications.

WARREN RUDMAN, U.S. Commission on Natl. Security: Yeah. Oh, I think that's a failure. I think it's a failure on the part of the Congress. It's a failure on the part of the administration, specifically, a failure on the part of DHS. People should've paid more attention to that.

I mean, if we ever learned anything, we learned on 9/11 in New York that those valiant people who lost their lives, many of them might not have lost their lives had they been able to talk to each other. They just weren't able to. ...

You've got to get interoperability of communications, or else you're going to have disaster no matter what goes on. ...

If I were in a position to make a decision, the first thing I would do is to start funding interoperability for every major metropolitan area in this country. And I'd get it done this year.

(Full transcript here).

Why do we Hurricane Katrina victims care? For the same reason that Americans everywhere should care. There is a direct lineage of failure from George W. Bush's earliest years through September 11th, the Iraq quagmire, and now Hurricane Katrina. What comes next?

Former White House National Security Council member Richard Clarke:
We have cities that bought air-conditioned garbage trucks with homeland security money without ever solving their communications problems.

And now, as we approach 5 months since Hurricane Katrina, with absolutely no commitment from the Bush administration to do anything significant to get New Orleans the Category 5 storm protection we need immediately for any private investment to take place, with no commitment to help people move back into New Orleans to temporary housing, with no commitment to help getting people back to work, with no commitment to help rebuild people's homes, given George W. Bush's previous failures, should anyone really be surprised?

Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri:
Is anyone out there watching this. Is anyone paying attention? Does anyone care?

There's more strident commentary at Realitique.

Polling places changed for upcoming elections

The Times-Picayune:

Two state legislative committees voted Monday to approve Secretary of State Al Ater's plan for holding and publicizing New Orleans' postponed municipal elections, opening the way for Gov. Kathleen Blanco to call the primary election for April 22, with a May 20 runoff.

She is expected to issue the call today, setting the elections on the dates Ater has recommended. Qualifying would be March 1-3.

The T-P also published a listing of polling location changes

I didn't see my precinct there (14-16) so I have to assume that it's still in the Allen School, 5625 Loyola Ave.

If you don't know your precinct, go the the Louisiana Secretary of State Web site to look it up (ugh, excruciating to navigate the site -- use my hyperlink).

Since Nagin's chocolate city comments last week, the buzz about who might run against Nagin is getting louder, with Mitch again on record saying he's been thinking about it.

I have to say I was disappointed that the Times-Picayune printed a front-page story on the merchandising of Nagin's blunder, but offered nothing about what the attitudes are of people buying the merchandise, nor any comment from anyone who's concerned (as I am) that the merchandising is tasteless profiteering and that the continued image of racial division in New Orleans that the merchandise promotes might hurt the city's prospects of recovering from Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Make levees, not war

It was something I've been thinking about doing for months. Everytime I saw some another car with a "W" sticker on it, though, I felt like I had to demonstrate my continued pride in the way I voted in 2004.

My thinking was, I'll take my bumper sticker off when everyone else admits the mistake they made, and removes theirs. It does raise an interesting question that a friend Nick once suggested: When should one remove their Bush/Cheney, or Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers, and what's the point of leaving them on.

Well, it just happened this past weekend. I saw Kerry on one of the Sunday talking head shows, and I decided he was no longer my candidate. I'd moved on, and other issues have now eclipsed the election (like impeaching Bush, and getting resources to New Orleans).





Yes, that thing in the pickup bed is a little Noah's ark I picked up in the street in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Living in tents

Should anyone question the indomitable spirit of local residents, and their will to stay and rebuild, many are enduring the most primitive conditions imaginable.

The Times-Picayune:

Longtime friends Judy Morgan and Cheryl "Cricket" Livaudais kept in touch by phone as Hurricane Katrina's storm surge covered the streets of St. Bernard Parish ....

Both were able to swim to safety as floodwaters topped rooftops and, after days of very unsettling conditions, were able to make it out of the parish. ...

In October both women moved into a pair of tents pitched on the slab of what used to be Morgan's home, and they remain there now, almost five months after Katrina. When it rains, they get wet; when it's cold, the fireplace next to their tent struggles to keep them warm.

The two are awaiting FEMA trailers. Although parish officials have tried to move quickly to get trailers in place, many residents of the devastated community continue to bide their time in tents, garages and gutted homes, said Parish Councilman Craig Taffaro. ...

"I'd rather live in this tent than live somewhere where they feel sorry for me or are letting me stay out of obligation," Morgan said. "It would be nice if FEMA would give me a hand.

"This is all that I have. This is all I have ever owned," she said by the light of a lantern, huddled inside her tent on a recent cold night. "If I get assistance, I probably would rebuild where I sit."

Photos here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Fewer mudbugs this season

Times-Picayune:

Farmers, fishers and buyers say only about 20 percent of the state’s crawfish crop survived the salty water brought inland by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and a drought in the Atchafalaya basin.

Let's remember, when people complain about government regulation

The next time you hear someone complain about too much regulation, remember who's helped and who's hurt.

Is there any actual rebuilding being done?

Since a question in a comment section is one that other people might want answered, I'll put my response up top so everyone can read it.

Mixter asked:

Is there any actual rebuilding being done? I mean, I know the tourist areas and the affluent neighborhoods are probably just about finished, but is anything even happening in the ninth ward?
I'm curious, because I can't imagine it's going to happen there any time soon.

Almost nothing is happening in the Lower Ninth Ward. People are going back to salvage what they can, but they're still forbidden from living there. I don't completely agree with their politics, but Common Ground is doing a fantastic job to help out that community, having created an organization with hundreds of committed volunteers from around the country. They say they've gutted 300 homes and made them marginally liveable. There's more about Common Ground in a recent podcast I produced, and on the Common Ground Web site.

New Orleans East, Mid City, Broadmoor, the Lakeview and other lakefront areas west of the Industrial Canal, Gentilly, St. Roch, Treme, and other areas that took a lot of flooding -- those areas are all in different stages of rebuilding, mostly depending upon the commitment and resources of the homeowners who live(d) there, and the amount of flooding there -- the flooding varied much more widely from block to block, and lot to lot, than one might imagine, with subsidence affecting some neighborhoods more than others depending upon what the land was like before it was developed, and some houses being built more raised than others, or sitting on lots that had more fill than others. Some areas, north of Claiborne and Napoleon for example, were literally ponds before they were drained. I am not, by the way, suggesting that the people who lived in those areas shouldn't be allowed, or helped, to return (as some planners in the Urban Land Institute, among others, are suggesting) -- it's simply a money and engineering question, and I believe the answers to both of those issues could be found if people put their heads and backs into it (leaving their backsides out of it).

There are certainly people living in those areas I mentioned, but it wouldn't be more than a handful of people -- maybe one or two residents on any given block right now. Many of those areas have electricity and water, but probably don't have gas.

Here's the critical issue: Safety.

People in those areas need to know that their investment in rebuilding won't be washed away in another flood. Our public servants -- especially King Bush -- need to state unequivocally that New Orleans will never flood again. They need to say that New Orleans will be ringed with Category 5 storm protection which includes comprehensive coastal restoration. Again, this is not an issue of money or engineering. We have the money. We have the know how. We need the courage and the leadership to make it happen.

I welcome any additional remarks locals might like to add to my overview.

A model multi-colored 21st century American city

Were there any question that people selling T-Shirts poking fun at Nagin's chocolate city remarks are profiteers who are creating a market that caters to racists, take a look at the following searches that led to People Get Ready:

asshole nigger new orleans chocolate milk statement&ei=UTF-8&fr=FP-tab-web-t&fl=0&x=wrt

search.yahoo.com/search?p=NAGIN CHOCOLATE CITY NIGGER&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fr=sbc-web&fl=0&x=wrt

Thanks to help from El Buzzard, we're trapping some of those people with a search engine bomb, but it appears to be working better in Yahoo than Google. Maybe those people will have recognized that not only are they missing the point about New Orleans' comparatively harmonious multi-colored society, but that if they care about New Orleans, their continuing to promote divisiveness by marketing products with images and slogans that play to an attitude of "us versus them" reinforces that divisiveness and is morally repugnant.

New Orleans has its problems, to be sure, but it also has a longer tradition of racial integration and harmony than any other U.S. city. Consider, for example, the comments made by Janene Baham, heard in the Maple Leaf podcast I did in October. She was gushing in her expression of love for racial diversity in New Orleans:
This is love. All cultures, all races. You can't get it like this anywhere else.

As other local bloggers have noted (I'm thinking of polimom and Your Right Hand Thief off of the top of my head), there are so many shades in between that it really isn't even possible to make a distinction between white and black in New Orleans. New Orleans is filled with beautiful cafe-con-leche-colored people, and its culture is representative of that alloy of races and cultures blended over hundreds of years.

Again, in a story on WWL Friday, the owner of one graphics company selling chocolate city T-Shirts boasted that he'd sold 3000 of them at $20 a piece in little more than four days. The owner of that business admitted that the racial division produced by Nagin's comments was an overnight business opportunity.

There are lots of other T-Shirts that promote a more positive spirit of return, of renewal, of rebuilding. I have photos of a multitude of them, but I'm particularly fond of the "Save Nola" shirts, part of whose proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, and the "ReNew Orleans" shirts, part of whose proceeds benefit a musicians fund. Again, I'd refer you to the previous PGR post which explains where to find those. I bought a bunch of those shirts as Christmas gifts. I'm also a proud owner of a "Make levees, not war" shirt, and have distributed those to friends and family.

I think we should make a distinction between justifying mocking Ray Nagin's ridiculous and possibly racist comments (as I have done in a spirit of promoting racial inclusion), and base profiteering from those comments. Look at this way: Who are the people buying those T-Shirts? Whites or blacks? And if the merchandise appeals to one group more than another, isn't that proof that the message is divisive?

The people selling those T-Shirts are benefiting nobody but themselves, and are passing a debt of social division on to the community. At a minimum, to demonstrate a spirit of racial magnanimity, they should donate some of the proceeds to efforts to build racial harmony, like ERACE, or they contribute proceeds to helping residents from predominantly poor black New Orleans communities rebuild their homes, such as Common Ground. A few other places they could send proceeds are listed in the Justice for New Orleans Web site.

Finally, I still haven't heard Nagin make a solid retraction of his remarks, in particular, his dismissal of people from Uptown (presumably white people, even though a large percentage of the population Uptown isn't just white), and I still think he should resign -- most importantly because he isn't providing the leadership we need right now. I still hope someone else will run for mayor -- someone like Mitch Landrieu.

We should be promoting the rebuilding of a city that is more progressive and harmonious, a multi-colored city of the future, a model 21st century American city.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Trailer trash no more

Who's in charge here?

The feds can spend $59,800 on trailers, but can't help people rebuild their homes???!!!

Are those things pimped out or what? This could usher in a new term for living a life of luxury in a FEMA trailer -- "trailer trash" no more.

The Times-Picayune:


That's the cost to taxpayers for the trailer's 18-month "life cycle," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If FEMA offered the cash instead to hurricane victims, they might be able to spend the $3,322 per month in New Orleans on some housing more enticing than a box on wheels.

I've been anticipating for some time now that this would come out. Just a couple of days ago, I was talking to someone living in a trailer off of Airline Highway. She quoted the government's cost for a trailer of about $40,000 (if I remember correctly) -- not enough to cover her repairs, she said, but if given the opportunity, she might have tried to find a living arrangement that left her some part of that sum to invest in home repairs. She said her damn trailer still doesn't have working plumbing, and has to wait for a different contractor than the one who set up the trailer to schedule a repair. Sounds like a great way for cheap contractors to pass the buck on to other contractors ... which brings me in a rambling way to a related issue I heard the other day about contractors not doing their jobs. At that 2nd District Nonpac meeting, I heard a couple of residents complain about flooded cars showing up in the street and in the driveways of vacant houses. It seems that towing companies are getting contracts to remove cars from the city, but aren't taking them where they're supposed to go.

Heart of Darkness: Common Ground Relief in the Lower Ninth Ward

The Lower Ninth Ward is the heart of darkness -- the most-devastated neighborhood in New Orleans. But is the true heart of darkness found in the power center of a society that continues to deny residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, and the rest of the Gulf Coast, the hope of returning to rebuild their homes and their lives? This 1/09/2006 interview with organizer Brandon Darby explores the efforts undertaken by Common Ground volunteers to provide relief to Lower Ninth Ward residents, and to help them gut and rehab their homes.

Listen to the Indymedia podcast. This aired today on 91.5 FM, WTUL New Orleans. Each segment is about 28 minutes long.


The view of downtown beyond the Claiborne Avenue drawbridge, from the canal side of the Industrial Canal levee breach.



Looking into the Lower Ninth Ward from the Industrial Canal, the barge which rested on top of the levee is just behind sheetpiling that was ripped open by storm surge.



The devastation in front of the Industrial Canal breach is nearly total. Little more than hulking piles of debris, upturned cars, and shredded trees remain.



At night, the only sign of life are tugboats drifting down the canal, and stray dogs.



Brandon Darby (seated) and other Common Ground volunteers, inside the house they're rehabbing not more than a couple hundred yards from the Industrial Canal breach.


More photos and podcasts can be found in these earlier PGR posts, here and here.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

1/21/06 update: The part 1 file is a higher bit rate, and therefore larger in size (37 MB) than intended. The problem might be fixed by editing the Indymedia submission -- waiting to hear from them. If the submission can't be edited, an additional submission will be made to Indymedia with a smaller file.

1/23/06 update: A resubmitted, smaller part 1 file can be heard in this Indymedia podcast.

Get your Ray Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts right'cheer

This is about New Orleans. This is about a more promising future. This is about closing the racial divide. You're either with the program to rebuild a better New Orleans, or you're for the bad old New Orleans. "You're either for Cat 5 levees, or you're for the terrorists." You're either for racial harmony, or you're for racial conflict. Where do you stand? Read this before you buy one of those Ray Nagin Willy Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts. Hurricane Katrina victims deserve better. New Orleans deserves better. Those who seek financial rewards by disseminating language and imagery which promotes social division are passing a heavy debt onto society. Become a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Imnotchocolate.com boasts that they've sold 3000 T-Shirts in just a few days. At $20 a pop, that's $60,000 -- and they're not finished selling them yet. Is it just good fun, or is it exploiting an extremely unfortunate and divisive remark, playing into the hands of racists? My question to them, if I were a consumer of hate merchandise, would be, "what good are you going to do with those proceeds?" I think they ought to be asked to justify their actions.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chocolate City profiteering

Read this before you buy one of those Ray Nagin Willy Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts. Hurricane Katrina victims deserve better. New Orleans deserves better. Those who seek financial rewards by disseminating language and imagery which promotes social division are passing a heavy debt onto society. Become a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Weekend post-Katrina activities

Levees.org has organized a rally "to raise public awareness, both locally and nationally, that the flooding of Greater New Orleans was caused by the engineering incompetence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - a federal agency." The rally will be held starting at 11 AM Saturday, January 21st, on the levee next to the Corps of Engineers building on River Road.

Katrina Krewe has organized another of many scheduled cleanups around the city, for Saturday, January 21st, 9am to noon, on Louisiana Avenue, between St. Charles Ave. and Claiborne.

Louisiana Recovery Planning Day:

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today proclaimed Saturday, January 21, 2006 as Louisiana Recovery Planning Day, a day for Louisianans to provide input on rebuilding their communities. The day will be marked by open house meetings throughout Louisiana and the nation to allow people to express local needs and define a community-based vision for recovery.

Orleans Parish
Dryades YMCA
2220 O.C. Haley Blvd. (at the corner of Jackson Avenue)

Plaquemines Parish
Community Storefront
8495 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, LA

Jefferson Parish
Community Storefront
4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 18
Metairie, LA

St. Bernard Parish
Community Storefront
8103 F W Judge Perez Drive
Chalmette, LA

More meeting locations around Louisiana and out of state can be found in this Microsoft Word document available for download from the LRA Web site.

Making it Happen, all weekend, Jan. 20-22:
MAKING IT HAPPEN is a hybrid of resource networking and cultural festivals. The event is designed to provide an opportunity for successful local and national programs and organizations to contribute to and reinforce our educational, cultural, social and faith-based organizations in their efforts to rebuild a better New Orleans.

Names of the missing

The Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services Web site still lists more than 3,200 people missing from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Just by posting a link to the list, polimom helped identify one of the missing as a survivor.

The latest list of the missing was posted on 1/17/2006.

The telephone number for the Find Family National Call Center is 1-866-326-9393.

In fact, we're not well-enough connected

If Mississippi can help homeowners who didn't have insurance, why can't Louisiana?

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour that he would direct the lion's share of his state's allocation to homeowners struggling to rebuild their damaged property. Barbour is targeting the money to what he sees as the hardest-luck cases: an estimated 35,000 homeowners who lacked insurance and whose property lies outside the federally designated flood plain.

The Mississippi program will direct an average of $115,000 to homeowners with hurricane damage.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority estimates that more than twice as many Louisiana homeowners -- about 77,000 -- also lacked flood insurance and lived outside the flood zone. To give Louisiana homeowners the same level of benefit as those in Mississippi, the authority estimates it would take more than $9 billion.

"Even if we wanted to do what Mississippi plans to do, we don't have enough money to execute that policy," said Sean Reilly, an LRA board member.

I guess we're just not well-enough connected

Times-Picayune:

The chairman of a House committee investigating issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina expressed skepticism Thursday that Congress should bail out residents whose homes flooded but who lacked flood insurance to cover the costs of the damage.

"It's a lot for government to take on for people who didn't buy insurance," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said during a tour of New Orleans. "I think we can drive the private sector to do what it is supposed to do."

I might have more to say if I had the time, but I'll just point out that the $157 billion federal bailout of Savings and Loans that went bankrupt in the 1980's thanks to the mismanagement of depositors' money by people like George W. Bush's brother Neil, for purchases of luxury yachts, beach houses, and glamerous cars, is still costing taxpayers about $30 billion a year, and may exceed a trillion dollars.

MLK, on poverty

Martin Luther King Day remembrances all play the familiar "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and the images of the nonviolent preacher advocating against desegregation.

Forgotten are the last three years of King's life, noted Todd Huffman recently in The Free Press:

What will be missing is any reference to the final three years of his too short life. After gaining passage of federal civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King spent his last years fighting his most uphill battle, against the nation's indifference to poverty. That today such indifference persists undeterred by decades of soaring affluence is proof, if any were needed, that King went home to God many years too soon. ...

For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were useless.

King decried a society and a government that would allow huge and growing gaps between the income of its richest and its poorest citizens, a majority of whom in America were white, as he was quick to point out. "True compassion," he declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." ...

“There is nothing new about poverty”, King said in his Nobel acceptance speech. “What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

Huffman included the following recommendations or those who wish to contribute in the effort to end poverty:
*Sign on to the ONE campaign to Make Poverty History, at www.one.org.
*Donate to Care USA, "Where The End Of Poverty Begins", at www.careusa.org.
*Learn more about poverty in America, at www.povertyusa.org
*Read Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's hauntingly personal look into the everyday lives of the working poor
*Read The End Of Poverty, by Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs, with Forward by Bono
*Read I Have A Dream: Writings & Speeches That Changed The World, with Forward by Coretta Scott King

Connecting Sago to Katrina

In light of the search for two additional miners trapped after a fire in the Aracoma Coal company's Alma No. 1 Mine in West Virginia, I thought I'd link to the following post (part 4 of 4 posts) by Edie in
Annotated Life which connects the Sago and Katrina disasters to the prevalence in the United States of a political economy which does a great job of promoting individual responsibility for personal safety and fortunes, but which doesn't do such a great job of promoting individual responsibility to society, or society's responsibility to individuals.

I've taken the liberty of inserting my own wording where I disagree with the author's adherence to what I believe is a naive ideological doctrine:

In non-union mines such as the one in Sago, dangers and accidents are passed off by the owners as just another part of the job, a matter of personal responsibility.

So much was also said by fascistic elements [right-wing ideologues] of destitute victims abandoned by their government to the flood waters in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The hundreds of thousands of dispossessed are to this day being persecuted for the destruction of their homes and lack of insurance, never mind the government's refusal to reinforce the levee system in the years before Katrina despite repeated warnings from engineers and meteorologists.

Like Hurricane Katrina, the mine disaster revealed the precarious economic situation with which millions of working class families must contend.

After Katrina politicians of both big business parties, including Bush himself, vapidly declared that the lessons of the catastrophe would usher in a new era of social reconstruction. Four and a half months later, the working class neighborhoods of New Orleans are still in ruins, tens of thousands remain homeless, and all but the upscale neighborhoods are without basic utilities. Billions of dollars in reconstruction funding have meanwhile been pocketed by a handful of corporations with close ties to the Bush administration. Wielding their lesson of Katrina, politicians have gone about eradicating poverty by way of eradicating the presence of poor people, enriching themselves in the process.

Personal responsibility is a rampant form of victim-blaming by defenders [freeloaders of] the capitalist system.

Edie observes that "violations of safety standards often directly contribute to the deaths," providing a link to the federal Mine Health and Safety Administration "fatalgrams." There are a number of interesting tools on the MHSA site, including a search tool and crosstab tables, but nowhere could I find a tool that facilitated a search for companies that are the worst violators of mining standards. I couldn't, for example, find any mines operated by "International Coal Group" which operates the Sago mine. Indeed, the general thrust of the Web site's message, as Edie observed, is that mine safety is an issue of personal responsibility, not company responsibility.

Blaming the victim has also been the sport of people who seem to prefer abdicating from their obligation to help rebuild New Orleans.

Sherman Copelin, on the right to return

Sherman Copelin, a former State Representative, now a New Orleans East businessman, at last week's Bring New Orleans Back Urban Planning Committee final report to Mayor Nagin (BizNewOrleans):

“On behalf of businesses and property owners, we want to accept your challenge to come up with a plan, but we want a commitment that you’re going to work with us on the plan,” he said.

Noting that the panel had emphasized that some existing parks could become centers for sparking redevelopment, with City Park being of particular interest, he said: “I think you ought to rethink that … Joe Brown Park (in eastern New Orleans) is the largest park in city, and I didn’t hear anything about that.”

Copelin said he appreciates that the committee has attempted to draw a visionary, long-range plan for the city, but added: “This is about short-term relief.” He criticized the proposal for a moratorium on rebuilding, saying, “We don’t need permission to come back … We (in eastern New Orleans) generate 40 percent of the tax base and somebody pops up a map and says put it on hold?”

I heard Copelin's remarks on a live WWL broadcast in which he said "We're back. We don't need permission to come back. ... If you throw us under the bus, we're going to be your worst enemy."

Impeach the president

Prometheus 6:

"After months of lies, the president has given millions of people around the world reason to doubt that he has sent Americans into battle for the right reasons...The fact that Americans are expressing these doubts shows that the president is losing his ability to lead. If the president refuses to resign for the sake of the nation, I believe he should be impeached and face Senate trial."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey - 12/1998

The true cost of war in Iraq

Remember when the Bush administration was saying that the war in Iraq would be a short affair that would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues? I wonder how Americans would have responded if they were told that the true cost would be over a trillion dollars.

This post is a little delayed, but I want to make sure LA Times opinion by Joseph Stiglitz and and Linda Bilmes is seen:

LAST WEEK, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Assn., we presented a new estimate for the likely cost of the war in Iraq. We suggested that the final bill will be much higher than previously reckoned — between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending primarily on how much longer our troops stay. Putting that into perspective, the highest-grossing movie of all time, "Titanic," earned $1.8 billion worldwide — about half the cost the U.S. incurs in Iraq every week.

Like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, the full costs of the war are still largely hidden below the surface. Our calculations include not just the money for combat operations but also the costs the government will have to pay for years to come. These include lifetime healthcare and disability benefits for returning veterans and special round-the-clock medical attention for many of the 16,300 Americans who already have been seriously wounded. We also count the increased cost of replacing military hardware because the war is using up equipment at three to five times the peacetime rate. In addition, the military must pay large reenlistment bonuses and offer higher benefits to reenlist reluctant soldiers. On top of this, because we finance the war by borrowing more money (mostly from abroad), there is a rising interest cost on the extra debt.

Our study also goes beyond the budget of the federal government to estimate the war's cost to the economy and our society. It includes, for instance, the true economic costs of injury and death. For example, if an individual is killed in an auto or work-related accident, his family will typically receive compensation for lost earnings. Standard government estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death are about $6 million. But the military pays out far less — about $500,000. Another cost to the economy comes from the fact that 40% of our troops are taken from the National Guard and Reserve units. These troops often earn lower wages than in their civilian jobs. Finally, there are macro-economic costs such as the effect of higher oil prices — partly a result of the instability in Iraq.

We conclude that the economy would have been much stronger if we had invested the money in the United States instead of in Iraq.

Spending up to $2 trillion should make us ask some questions. First, these figures are far higher than what the administration predicted before the war. At that time, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey was effectively fired for suggesting that the war might cost up to $200 billion, rather than the $60 billion claimed by the president's budget office. Why were the costs so vastly underestimated? Elsewhere in the government, it is standard practice to engage in an elaborate cost-benefit analysis for major projects. The war in Iraq was a war of choice, an immense "project," and yet it now appears that there was virtually no analysis of the likely costs of a prolonged occupation.

Could we have fought the war in ways that would have protected our troops better and cost the country less? A Pentagon study apparently concludes that better body armor would have prevented many deaths and injuries. Penny-pinching in such matters during the rush to war has led to steep long-run costs for the nation and, tragically, for the individuals involved.

Even more fundamentally, there is the question of whether we needed to spend the money at all. Thinking back to the months before the war, there were few reasons to invade quickly, and many to go slow. The Bush policy of threatened force had pressured Iraq into allowing the U.N. inspectors back into the country. The inspectors said they required a few months to complete their work. Several of our closest allies, including France and Germany, were urging the U.S. to await the outcome of the inspections. There were, as we now know, conflicting intelligence reports.

Had we waited, the value of the information we would have learned from the inspectors would arguably have saved the nation at least $1 trillion — enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years twice over.

LINDA BILMES, a former assistant secretary of Commerce, teaches public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. JOSEPH STIGLITZ is a professor at Columbia University. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt

If these guys (here and here) profiting from the racial animosity created by Nagin's "chocolate city" remark don't contribute something to promote greater racial harmony (e.g., ERACE), or to help rebuild the city, then shame on them, and shame on everyone who buys from them.


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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

1/21/06 update: The part 1 file is a higher bit rate, and therefore larger in size (37 MB) than intended. The problem might be fixed by editing the Indymedia submission -- waiting to hear from them. If the submission can't be edited, an additional submission will be made to Indymedia with a smaller file.

1/23/06 update: A resubmitted, smaller part 1 file can be heard in this Indymedia podcast.

|W|P|113780493143556721|W|P|Heart of Darkness: Common Ground Relief in the Lower Ninth Ward|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com4:56 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|This is about New Orleans. This is about a more promising future. This is about closing the racial divide. You're either with the program to rebuild a better New Orleans, or you're for the bad old New Orleans. "You're either for Cat 5 levees, or you're for the terrorists." You're either for racial harmony, or you're for racial conflict. Where do you stand? Read this before you buy one of those Ray Nagin Willy Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts. Hurricane Katrina victims deserve better. New Orleans deserves better. Those who seek financial rewards by disseminating language and imagery which promotes social division are passing a heavy debt onto society. Become a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Imnotchocolate.com boasts that they've sold 3000 T-Shirts in just a few days. At $20 a pop, that's $60,000 -- and they're not finished selling them yet. Is it just good fun, or is it exploiting an extremely unfortunate and divisive remark, playing into the hands of racists? My question to them, if I were a consumer of hate merchandise, would be, "what good are you going to do with those proceeds?" I think they ought to be asked to justify their actions.

|W|P|113784964299445216|W|P|Get your Ray Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts right'cheer|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/21/2006 07:30:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Mixter|W|P|I think “We’re not trying to make a political statement, we’re a t-shirt shop. We are having fun, the Mayor gave a controversial statement and it was an opportunity for us.” pretty much says it all.

Mixter7:41 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Read this before you buy one of those Ray Nagin Willy Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts. Hurricane Katrina victims deserve better. New Orleans deserves better. Those who seek financial rewards by disseminating language and imagery which promotes social division are passing a heavy debt onto society. Become a part of the solution, not part of the problem.|W|P|113781501089787578|W|P|Chocolate City profiteering|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 09:36:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Maverick|W|P|What's with all those links?? You're a funny man :-)

Your Mama1/20/2006 09:45:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|It's a Google bomb -- do a search for "Willy Wonka Chocolate City T-Shirts" and you'll end up here -- my way of throwing a wrench in the works.1/20/2006 09:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|Well, it was working for a while. It seems that the search engines have ways of foiling the Google bombs.

I know a lot of people looking for chocolate city t-shirts found their way here and stayed for long enough to read something, so maybe I persuaded some people to think differently about the issue, and to care about New Orleans.1/20/2006 10:27:00 PM|W|P|Anonymous ashley|W|P|Yep, what Schroeder said. TIme to googlebomb.1/20/2006 10:35:00 PM|W|P|Anonymous ashley|W|P|OK, my typepad is choking so no googlebomb.

Here's what I think: the photoshopped image obviously came from a copyrighted image of Nagin, and a copyrighted image from the Willy Wonka movie.

Sue the bastards, and the money goes to rebuild NOLA.3:34 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Levees.org has organized a rally "to raise public awareness, both locally and nationally, that the flooding of Greater New Orleans was caused by the engineering incompetence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - a federal agency." The rally will be held starting at 11 AM Saturday, January 21st, on the levee next to the Corps of Engineers building on River Road.

Katrina Krewe has organized another of many scheduled cleanups around the city, for Saturday, January 21st, 9am to noon, on Louisiana Avenue, between St. Charles Ave. and Claiborne.

Louisiana Recovery Planning Day:

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today proclaimed Saturday, January 21, 2006 as Louisiana Recovery Planning Day, a day for Louisianans to provide input on rebuilding their communities. The day will be marked by open house meetings throughout Louisiana and the nation to allow people to express local needs and define a community-based vision for recovery.

Orleans Parish
Dryades YMCA
2220 O.C. Haley Blvd. (at the corner of Jackson Avenue)

Plaquemines Parish
Community Storefront
8495 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, LA

Jefferson Parish
Community Storefront
4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 18
Metairie, LA

St. Bernard Parish
Community Storefront
8103 F W Judge Perez Drive
Chalmette, LA

More meeting locations around Louisiana and out of state can be found in this Microsoft Word document available for download from the LRA Web site.

Making it Happen, all weekend, Jan. 20-22:
MAKING IT HAPPEN is a hybrid of resource networking and cultural festivals. The event is designed to provide an opportunity for successful local and national programs and organizations to contribute to and reinforce our educational, cultural, social and faith-based organizations in their efforts to rebuild a better New Orleans.
|W|P|113780049821308877|W|P|Weekend post-Katrina activities|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com3:30 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|The Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services Web site still lists more than 3,200 people missing from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Just by posting a link to the list, polimom helped identify one of the missing as a survivor.

The latest list of the missing was posted on 1/17/2006.

The telephone number for the Find Family National Call Center is 1-866-326-9393.|W|P|113773291020450900|W|P|Names of the missing|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 06:18:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Steve|W|P|Schroeder, I'm cut and pasting this entry to my site. If it in any way, shape or form helps people find people I'm all about it.1/20/2006 07:27:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|Cool -- thanks for spreading the word. Polimon put me up to it.1/21/2006 07:43:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Polimom|W|P|Thanks, Schroeder!3:19 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|If Mississippi can help homeowners who didn't have insurance, why can't Louisiana?
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour that he would direct the lion's share of his state's allocation to homeowners struggling to rebuild their damaged property. Barbour is targeting the money to what he sees as the hardest-luck cases: an estimated 35,000 homeowners who lacked insurance and whose property lies outside the federally designated flood plain.

The Mississippi program will direct an average of $115,000 to homeowners with hurricane damage.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority estimates that more than twice as many Louisiana homeowners -- about 77,000 -- also lacked flood insurance and lived outside the flood zone. To give Louisiana homeowners the same level of benefit as those in Mississippi, the authority estimates it would take more than $9 billion.

"Even if we wanted to do what Mississippi plans to do, we don't have enough money to execute that policy," said Sean Reilly, an LRA board member.
|W|P|113779929799839452|W|P|In fact, we're not well-enough connected|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 09:49:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Maverick|W|P|Too many people with too many claims?

Shriekback2:33 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Times-Picayune:
The chairman of a House committee investigating issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina expressed skepticism Thursday that Congress should bail out residents whose homes flooded but who lacked flood insurance to cover the costs of the damage.

"It's a lot for government to take on for people who didn't buy insurance," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said during a tour of New Orleans. "I think we can drive the private sector to do what it is supposed to do."

I might have more to say if I had the time, but I'll just point out that the $157 billion federal bailout of Savings and Loans that went bankrupt in the 1980's thanks to the mismanagement of depositors' money by people like George W. Bush's brother Neil, for purchases of luxury yachts, beach houses, and glamerous cars, is still costing taxpayers about $30 billion a year, and may exceed a trillion dollars.

|W|P|113779820216837507|W|P|I guess we're just not well-enough connected|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com10:56 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Martin Luther King Day remembrances all play the familiar "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and the images of the nonviolent preacher advocating against desegregation.

Forgotten are the last three years of King's life, noted Todd Huffman recently in The Free Press:
What will be missing is any reference to the final three years of his too short life. After gaining passage of federal civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King spent his last years fighting his most uphill battle, against the nation's indifference to poverty. That today such indifference persists undeterred by decades of soaring affluence is proof, if any were needed, that King went home to God many years too soon. ...

For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were useless.

King decried a society and a government that would allow huge and growing gaps between the income of its richest and its poorest citizens, a majority of whom in America were white, as he was quick to point out. "True compassion," he declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." ...

“There is nothing new about poverty”, King said in his Nobel acceptance speech. “What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

Huffman included the following recommendations or those who wish to contribute in the effort to end poverty:
*Sign on to the ONE campaign to Make Poverty History, at www.one.org.
*Donate to Care USA, "Where The End Of Poverty Begins", at www.careusa.org.
*Learn more about poverty in America, at www.povertyusa.org
*Read Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's hauntingly personal look into the everyday lives of the working poor
*Read The End Of Poverty, by Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs, with Forward by Bono
*Read I Have A Dream: Writings & Speeches That Changed The World, with Forward by Coretta Scott King
|W|P|113778424582624203|W|P|MLK, on poverty|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com9:24 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|In light of the search for two additional miners trapped after a fire in the Aracoma Coal company's Alma No. 1 Mine in West Virginia, I thought I'd link to the following post (part 4 of 4 posts) by Edie in
Annotated Life which connects the Sago and Katrina disasters to the prevalence in the United States of a political economy which does a great job of promoting individual responsibility for personal safety and fortunes, but which doesn't do such a great job of promoting individual responsibility to society, or society's responsibility to individuals.

I've taken the liberty of inserting my own wording where I disagree with the author's adherence to what I believe is a naive ideological doctrine:
In non-union mines such as the one in Sago, dangers and accidents are passed off by the owners as just another part of the job, a matter of personal responsibility.

So much was also said by fascistic elements [right-wing ideologues] of destitute victims abandoned by their government to the flood waters in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The hundreds of thousands of dispossessed are to this day being persecuted for the destruction of their homes and lack of insurance, never mind the government's refusal to reinforce the levee system in the years before Katrina despite repeated warnings from engineers and meteorologists.

Like Hurricane Katrina, the mine disaster revealed the precarious economic situation with which millions of working class families must contend.

After Katrina politicians of both big business parties, including Bush himself, vapidly declared that the lessons of the catastrophe would usher in a new era of social reconstruction. Four and a half months later, the working class neighborhoods of New Orleans are still in ruins, tens of thousands remain homeless, and all but the upscale neighborhoods are without basic utilities. Billions of dollars in reconstruction funding have meanwhile been pocketed by a handful of corporations with close ties to the Bush administration. Wielding their lesson of Katrina, politicians have gone about eradicating poverty by way of eradicating the presence of poor people, enriching themselves in the process.

Personal responsibility is a rampant form of victim-blaming by defenders [freeloaders of] the capitalist system.

Edie observes that "violations of safety standards often directly contribute to the deaths," providing a link to the federal Mine Health and Safety Administration "fatalgrams." There are a number of interesting tools on the MHSA site, including a search tool and crosstab tables, but nowhere could I find a tool that facilitated a search for companies that are the worst violators of mining standards. I couldn't, for example, find any mines operated by "International Coal Group" which operates the Sago mine. Indeed, the general thrust of the Web site's message, as Edie observed, is that mine safety is an issue of personal responsibility, not company responsibility.

Blaming the victim has also been the sport of people who seem to prefer abdicating from their obligation to help rebuild New Orleans.

|W|P|113778091917722610|W|P|Connecting Sago to Katrina|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 10:58:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann|W|P|Personal responsibility is usually where a system will be most effective, for example take into consideration the many lives saved in New Orleans by folks who had boats and just wanted to do something to help their fellow man.

Even so we are certainly not completely lacking in social responsibility in this country. We have most of the tools in place, such as the first ammendment, that should allow for what David Brin refers to as human T-Cells, effectively reports, to find situations of injustices and bring them to light. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it's working more and more with the advent of more easily accessible information sources such as through the internet.

In all the biggest tool in a capatilist society is, quite simply, money. Hit a big corporation in the pocketbook and they stand up and listen. Often their social consciousness must come from the outside. "Bad press" might lead to a loss of revenue and to a company scrambling to fix whatever the precieved problems are. Lawsuits also directly affect corporate finances, as I would expect each of the families affected by the tragedies in these mining accidents to follow up with, most especially in a case where the company was already shown negligent through failing standard safety inspections.

In all I'm not convinced that government intervention is the right answer. A true comparison would show government inability to act in the capacty of inspecting it's own levees here in New Orleans and is, therefore, no better, IMHO, than any coporation putting it's employees in danger. When all is said and done it really does end up in the hands of individuals to do the best they can to rectify these egregious wrongs. In that respect I think we must work to ensure that our government ensures that the individual is left with the power to achieve those kinds of laudable goals.1/20/2006 10:00:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Maverick|W|P|*sigh* I have no idea why the Sago mine incident has been such a big news item, getting so much coverage. Lack of news?

Lemme Go Crazy On You1/21/2006 03:48:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Richard Myers|W|P|They've just found two more coal miners dead.

Ever get really, really fed up? The business article below did it for me.

It says-- even after continuing mining disasters-- that once again, nothing of significance will change.

Why? Apparently because coal is more important than the women and men who dig it.

The miners are safe enough, and we can't have "an undue financial burden on the operators at coal mines."

So i've just created a new email list, Sago Outrage:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sago_outrage/

If you're concerned that there's no justice for coal miners, please join.

-----
Safety not seen costing coal co.'s after deaths [excerpt]
Fri Jan 20, 2006 5:03 PM ET
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Coal companies may not have to pay much for additional safety measures following two accidents this month in West Virginia -- one fatal and the other in which two miners are missing -- according to experts.

Rescue teams searched smoky tunnels on Friday for two miners after a conveyor belt fire broke out a day earlier at a mine owned by Aracoma Coal Co., a subsidiary of Virginia-based Massey Energy Co.

The fire came weeks after a blast killed 12 miners at the Sago mine owned by International Coal Group Inc.

While the two accidents are reminders that mining can be dangerous, U.S. regulators are limited in the safety changes they can require companies to make.

Under the framework set up by Congress, federal regulators [at] the Mine Safety and Health Administration can propose new safety rules, but none that would create an undue financial burden on the operators at coal mines.

"We can't just say willy nilly you have to do this or that," said an MSHA official who did not want to be named.

-----

Here's the first message, an overview of the Sago disaster:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sago_outrage/message/1

Please join Sago Outrage:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sago_outrage/


best wishes,
richard myers
Denver, Colorado



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Business article: http://today.reuters.com/investing/financeArticle.aspx?type=governmentFilingsNews&storyID=URI:urn:newsml:reuters.com:20060120:MTFH20334_2006-01-20_22-04-19_N20398:16:01 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Sherman Copelin, a former State Representative, now a New Orleans East businessman, at last week's Bring New Orleans Back Urban Planning Committee final report to Mayor Nagin (BizNewOrleans):

“On behalf of businesses and property owners, we want to accept your challenge to come up with a plan, but we want a commitment that you’re going to work with us on the plan,” he said.

Noting that the panel had emphasized that some existing parks could become centers for sparking redevelopment, with City Park being of particular interest, he said: “I think you ought to rethink that … Joe Brown Park (in eastern New Orleans) is the largest park in city, and I didn’t hear anything about that.”

Copelin said he appreciates that the committee has attempted to draw a visionary, long-range plan for the city, but added: “This is about short-term relief.” He criticized the proposal for a moratorium on rebuilding, saying, “We don’t need permission to come back … We (in eastern New Orleans) generate 40 percent of the tax base and somebody pops up a map and says put it on hold?”

I heard Copelin's remarks on a live WWL broadcast in which he said "We're back. We don't need permission to come back. ... If you throw us under the bus, we're going to be your worst enemy."|W|P|113777725687514482|W|P|Sherman Copelin, on the right to return|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com5:07 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Prometheus 6:
"After months of lies, the president has given millions of people around the world reason to doubt that he has sent Americans into battle for the right reasons...The fact that Americans are expressing these doubts shows that the president is losing his ability to lead. If the president refuses to resign for the sake of the nation, I believe he should be impeached and face Senate trial."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey - 12/1998
|W|P|113777644937761878|W|P|Impeach the president|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 10:23:00 AM|W|P|Blogger oyster|W|P|Oh, that's a corker.1/22/2006 09:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Maverick|W|P|WORST PRESIDENT EVER!!

Potato Soup


With Chives
4:28 AM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|Remember when the Bush administration was saying that the war in Iraq would be a short affair that would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues? I wonder how Americans would have responded if they were told that the true cost would be over a trillion dollars.

This post is a little delayed, but I want to make sure LA Times opinion by Joseph Stiglitz and and Linda Bilmes is seen:
LAST WEEK, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Assn., we presented a new estimate for the likely cost of the war in Iraq. We suggested that the final bill will be much higher than previously reckoned — between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending primarily on how much longer our troops stay. Putting that into perspective, the highest-grossing movie of all time, "Titanic," earned $1.8 billion worldwide — about half the cost the U.S. incurs in Iraq every week.

Like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, the full costs of the war are still largely hidden below the surface. Our calculations include not just the money for combat operations but also the costs the government will have to pay for years to come. These include lifetime healthcare and disability benefits for returning veterans and special round-the-clock medical attention for many of the 16,300 Americans who already have been seriously wounded. We also count the increased cost of replacing military hardware because the war is using up equipment at three to five times the peacetime rate. In addition, the military must pay large reenlistment bonuses and offer higher benefits to reenlist reluctant soldiers. On top of this, because we finance the war by borrowing more money (mostly from abroad), there is a rising interest cost on the extra debt.

Our study also goes beyond the budget of the federal government to estimate the war's cost to the economy and our society. It includes, for instance, the true economic costs of injury and death. For example, if an individual is killed in an auto or work-related accident, his family will typically receive compensation for lost earnings. Standard government estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death are about $6 million. But the military pays out far less — about $500,000. Another cost to the economy comes from the fact that 40% of our troops are taken from the National Guard and Reserve units. These troops often earn lower wages than in their civilian jobs. Finally, there are macro-economic costs such as the effect of higher oil prices — partly a result of the instability in Iraq.

We conclude that the economy would have been much stronger if we had invested the money in the United States instead of in Iraq.

Spending up to $2 trillion should make us ask some questions. First, these figures are far higher than what the administration predicted before the war. At that time, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey was effectively fired for suggesting that the war might cost up to $200 billion, rather than the $60 billion claimed by the president's budget office. Why were the costs so vastly underestimated? Elsewhere in the government, it is standard practice to engage in an elaborate cost-benefit analysis for major projects. The war in Iraq was a war of choice, an immense "project," and yet it now appears that there was virtually no analysis of the likely costs of a prolonged occupation.

Could we have fought the war in ways that would have protected our troops better and cost the country less? A Pentagon study apparently concludes that better body armor would have prevented many deaths and injuries. Penny-pinching in such matters during the rush to war has led to steep long-run costs for the nation and, tragically, for the individuals involved.

Even more fundamentally, there is the question of whether we needed to spend the money at all. Thinking back to the months before the war, there were few reasons to invade quickly, and many to go slow. The Bush policy of threatened force had pressured Iraq into allowing the U.N. inspectors back into the country. The inspectors said they required a few months to complete their work. Several of our closest allies, including France and Germany, were urging the U.S. to await the outcome of the inspections. There were, as we now know, conflicting intelligence reports.

Had we waited, the value of the information we would have learned from the inspectors would arguably have saved the nation at least $1 trillion — enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years twice over.

LINDA BILMES, a former assistant secretary of Commerce, teaches public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. JOSEPH STIGLITZ is a professor at Columbia University. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001.
|W|P|113754413948766822|W|P|The true cost of war in Iraq|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com8:14 PM|W|P|Schroeder|W|P|If these guys (here and here) profiting from the racial animosity created by Nagin's "chocolate city" remark don't contribute something to promote greater racial harmony (e.g., ERACE), or to help rebuild the city, then shame on them, and shame on everyone who buys from them.


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Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt |W|P|113773171434819001|W|P|Willie Wonka Ray Nagin Chocolate City T-Shirt|W|P|schroeder915@gmail.com1/20/2006 07:03:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann|W|P|C'mon. Since when have New Orelanians notbeen able to laugh at some of the most absurd satire around. That's what we do!

If anything things like this DO show the absurdity of the remarks, it is only the reader of the message that will determine if such an outward show of satire is divisive by supporting the absurdities, or inclusive by pointing out the ludicrousness of the whole thing. Maybe it's shame on whomever reads the logo in the first way?1/20/2006 07:55:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|Yeah, those guys are laughing all the way to the bank.

Was Nagin's statement laughable? Sure. Did he intend it to be? No. It wasn't intended as "satire." That's the problem. It was indicative of a deep undercurrent of racial problems in New Orleans which are being honed to a very sharp edge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Is there a danger of further dividing the community by disseminating the "chocolate city" language without encouraging an intelligent dialog about race? Is it morally defensible to profit from the dissemination of Nagin's blunderously divisive language? What will it cost the city and residents in recovery dollars?

Make no mistake about it -- there are a lot of depraved individuals around the country who are not just mocking Nagin's comments (like myself), but who are using his comments to justify and promote white supremacist views. To profit from that is indefensible.1/20/2006 08:27:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann|W|P|Indefensible by what measuring stick? By my way of thinking it is completely defensible because of one overriding right... Free Speech.

Now I may not agree with white supremecist, or any otherracial supremecist, views in the least. But I don't see that profiting from those views, or freely associating with others with those views, will in any way prevent the "dialog" about racial views in New Orleans, or anywhere else, from occuring. Indeed to want to supress those views only makes them less open, more entrenched and even less likely to be a part of that dialog, a part that obvioulsy needs ot be seen an heard in order to be properly addressed with the light of reason shone upon it.

You may see those who profit form these kinds of things as reprehensible in some way, because you feel they are somehow supporting a position that you oppose, but my argument is that while it is possible these profiteers might be those who would agree with a racist position, I feel that it is more likely they are doing something very, very New Orlenian in nature. They bring forth satire.

To me these logos make people laugh and think at the same time, something I think so many New Orleans satarists have done so very well, particularly in the political arena. It's more than a pastime, it's a downright regional hobby! It's an exercise of free speech that might make some think of racial division and others think it shows a need for racial harony. Either way, though, it makes you think about it and isn;t that what this "dialog" is supposed to be about?1/20/2006 08:31:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mr. Clio|W|P|What pisses me off is that Nagin saying that has shifted attention from the real racism issues. There really ARE people in metro NOLA who want New Orleans to be ethnically cleansed.

Also, the nature of your post reminds me that Ashley told me that THE TERRORISTS BLEW UP THE LEVEES!1/20/2006 08:51:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|I'm not completely opposed to your position lenny, but consider the following: What would you think of people profiting from the sale of white hoods, or the degrading cartoons of Jews that were prevalent in Nazi Germany, or the sales of books containing Polish jokes. There are just some things which, although they may be found to exist, I find terribly disheartening in our society, and as such, I will continue to express my right to free speech to combat. I'm not just going to relinquish my moral position and chalk it up to harmless laughs.1/20/2006 10:04:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann|W|P|I wouldn't expect you to not express your sentiments, especially since it's your blog. (And I pretty decent one, now that I've found it at that, mind you. :)) Of course I don't think these t-shirts really compare to being a degrading cartoon of any particular race. Then again I wouldn't begrudge someone their right to present hateful images as I expect them ot to begrudge my right to express disgust at them. Personally I just don't this particular image really compares and, if anything, does the opposite by suggesting there are issues on both sides of the racial divide.

Then again I also think, as mentioned previously, we're mostly talking about a socio-economic position far more than a really racial one in the case of New Orleans anyway. Even some of the more bigoted folks I know tend to be far more bigoted towards the lower-calss white folks in Chalmette, for example.

Then again at the end of the day I'm a fairly left-libertarian kinda guy. Live and let live and all.1/20/2006 10:44:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|"We're mostly talking about a socio-economic position far more than a really racial one." I agree, but I wonder if poor blacks would so easily concede that they're discriminated against because of their class, not their race.

I hope you don't get the impression that I don't appreciate your contribution to the discussion lenny. It's very good to air out these ideas, and I might even be persuaded to change my mind. ;-)1/20/2006 11:16:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann|W|P|Well, since the debate is often framed in the concept of race I certainly don't doubt that a poor African-American family will see any injustices brought upon them as being caused by someone who is white. Conversely a white person in a better socio-econimic position is more likely to "color" thier views of those few hoodlums on the lower classes as being particularly respresentative of that which is "black" for them.

Being color-blind is something we should really all attain to work towards, IMHO. Each individual should be considered individually for thier deeds regardless of other affiliations which might bias opinion towards them. In this light the Mayor's remarks were offensive precisely because they try to place a racial bias, and these t-shirts seems to want to blatantly point out that bias. It's hard for me to assign a specific connotation to them, however, that points to a definitively anti-African-American bias, although "ImNotChocolate.com" does come pretty darned close I'll admit. Instead I see a pointing out of the fallacy of racially segmenting out the repopulation of the city, as opposed to trying to encourage all citizens to return.

In other words I'm having a hard time considering these t-shirts as being particularly hateful speech. Especially some of the cafe-press ones. Heck while some of them are blatant about "Fire Nagin" there are also "Nagin for Pres" designs there. And the "New Orleans is Like a Box of Chocolates" one speaks to me of the more true integration of racial make-up in the city. In all I'm just not too willing to claim shame on those folks or those who buy them.

Now if they want to buy a pointed white hat... well that's a pretty blatant statement there and I'd be happy to say shame on them for it, but then again thsoe folks could care less about my statements and certainly wouldn't feel any shame over it, I would think.

(And, no, I don't at all feel unwelcome. I'm all for rational discourse wherever I can get it! :))1/20/2006 12:59:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|I'll point out that the guys behind imnotchocolate.com don't appear to be concerned about any possible impact from what they're doing -- to them it's just $20 a shirt.

http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl011906jbshirts.1d7fc2a5.html

I'll admit that I'm not bothered by people profiting from "New Orleans is Like a Box of Chocolates" T-Shirts because, as you said, that's a slogan which promotes a spirit of racial harmony.1/20/2006 06:35:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Steve|W|P|I can see where Lenny is coming from, but I have to agree with Schroeder. Having worked in punk rock clubs for a 7 year period of my life, I've met my fair share of Nazis, and this is exactly the kind of thing they use to defend their tactics methods and their ideology/idiotology.

Just because Nagin was crass enough to say something so ignorant doent make it fair game to profit off of. I mean, they can, sure, but it's neither ethically nor morally sound.

Especially the second of the two vendors, he really was below the limbo line for poor taste with some of those shirts.

But honestly, do you really think these yay-hoos are going to make THAT much money off of this? In all honesty, I cant see this being a viable, profit making scheme for more than a few weeks, unless Ray makes it a point to keep proving to everyone he's three cans short of a six pack.

I'm more concerned about his remarks than some doofus trying to turn a quick buck.1/20/2006 07:27:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Schroeder|W|P|imnotchocolate.com:

3000 shirts * $20 = $60,000

For one week? I'd say that's a pretty nice gross.

http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl011906jbshirts.1d7fc2a5.html1/20/2006 10:32:00 PM|W|P|Anonymous ashley|W|P|To me, this is just like the profiteers who tried to steal Tulane athletes and profs; the people who hiked up the gasoline prices, the fwads on Airline hwy that charged me $70 for a fleabag hotel.

They better pour that money into rebuilding NOLA, or they better not let me find out who they are.1/21/2006 07:43:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Steve|W|P|I didnt think of it that way Scroeder. Do you really think that many people would want those shirts though? It seems like a really stupid idea, but then again, Rimbaud did say "the Mind of the populace is an abominable itch of idiocy".

Nice idea with the google bomb btw, it still pops you up as the #1 choice.2/03/2006 09:30:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Anonymous|W|P|ERACISM is the way to go but don't forget your sense of humor :)

Humor helps me cope with stress. Chocolate City shirts don't offend me.-->