Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Scenes of destruction in New Orleans...

During my weekend visit to "devastated" New Orleans I saw block after block of scenes like this. Photo shows "For Sale By Owner" sign in front of debris of a flooded Chalmette home.


This story in today's Times-Picayune is trully depressing...

Scenes of destruction in New Orleans...

Late on Sunday evening I visited the completely deserted Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. This photo shows the police barrier fencing off I the most devastated area. Tomorrow, after three months, the former residents will be able to return and inspect whatever remains of their former homes.


Today's Times-Picayune has this piece of positive news...

Update #2:

I just heard a CNN reporter express concern about the cost of reconstruction in New Orleans. "How much of our tax-payer money is going to be spent?" she asked. Maybe a better question would be "When are we going to stop spending truck-loads of our tax-payer money on the recontruction of Iraq?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In the midst of terrible destruction, small signs of the beginning of recovery...

Cafe Du Monde in the historic French Quarter

New Orleans, LA - The destruction of large sections of New Orleans is beyond description. The city is still in a state of shock. However, there are a few small positive signs. The French Quarter is back in business but the visitors are scarce. Yesterday morning I was able to enjoy a cup of chicory flavored coffee at the reopened Cafe Du Monde.

Today I'm en route back to Massachusetts. I'll be reporting on my Louisiana trip in future postings.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A day in storm devastated New Orleans...

Photo courtesy of The Advocate (Baton Rouge). Taken after Hurricane Katrina and published in yesterday's edition.

New Orleans, LA - Yesterday I traveled around New Orleans viewing the damage of Hurricane Katrina. What an emotionally draining experience! Unbelieveable destruction. Later this week I'll share my observations.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Baton Rouge has changed...

Baton Rouge, LA - Arrived here in the Louisiana capital early yesterday afternoon. Baton Rouge has doubled in size as a result of Katrina.

This is the city where I had worked with the anti-poverty program in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Back in those days this was an extremely racist city.

In talking to friends last night I got a sense that Baton Rouge has changed. And the city has done an outstanding job of reaching out to Hurricane Katrina survivors. The Times-Picuyane recently did a "thank you Baton Rouge" editorial.

This morning I am heading down to New Orleans. I'll provide reflections in a future post...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The New Deep South...

Monroe, LA - This city 300 miles north of New Orleans is the heart of redneck Bible Belt country. When I spent two years here in the early sixties this was as segregated a city as you could find in the Deep South. The "colored only" signs were still to be seen in public facilities.

Monroe now has a black Mayor...and that's progress. A tribute to Rosa Parks and others who fought in the struggle for racial equality.

Last evening I had the opportunity to visit two old friends that I had first gotten to know when I first arrived in Louisiana. We talked about race relations. We talked about Katrina. We talked politics.

This morning I am traveling south to Baton Rouge. After an overnight visit I'll be on my way to New Orleans.

I'll be reporting on this journey of discovery in future posts after I return to Massachusetts.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Goin' home to Louisiana...

This morning I'm taking an early flight out of Boston with Monroe, Louisiana as my destination. After a night in Monroe I'll move on to Baton Rouge and then to New Orleans.

It will be a rather hectic trip but I hope to get some sense of the challenges confronting Hurricane Katrina victims.

The major purpose of the trip is revisit the places I lived and worked during an eleven-year stay in the Sixties and early Seventies. I have written a draft of a memoir describing my "journey of discovery" during those extraordinary years. My post-Katrina visit to Louisiana will help put the earlier experiences in some kind of historical context.

I'll post some reflections on my trip during the coming days.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Thanksgiving message from Donna Brazile...

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite political pundits is Donna Brazile, the CNN contributor and Democratic strategist. She is one of those rare commentators who can make her case for Democratic values without demonizing people who do not share her views.

Donna Brazile is also a wonderful ambassador for her home town of New Orleans. She has been up to her eyeballs for the past couple of months taking care of her extended family who were so devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

These comments lead me to draw attention to this piece written by Donna Brazile in the current issue of Time magazine. Titled, Don't Give In to Katrina Fatigue, it is an impassioned plea for the American people to support the rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast "now that the cameras have moved on."

Read her article. It will provide food for reflection as we again celebrate Thanksgiving.


This story in today's Independent (UK) will also provide food for reflection. It's about Catherine Green --- the "Cindy Sheehan" of the UK.

Update #2:

This article in today's New York Times provides an update on the Katrina housing debacle. And here is a Thanksgiving message from the editors of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Goin' home to Louisiana...

On Friday morning I'll be traveling from Boston to Louisiana for a brief four-day visit. I'll be reporting on the trip here on this blog.

The reasons for the trip are two-fold.

I'm working on a memoir of years spent in Louisiana in the Sixties. The "homecoming" trip this coming weekend will allow me to re-live an extraordinary personal transformation resulting from involvement in the civil rights movement.

It was out of my work as supervisor of a VISTA project in Baton Rouge that I discovered "the other America."

My second reason for traveling to Louisiana has to do with post-Katrina efforts to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I hope to talk to some locals about what they see as the big challenges that need to be addressed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Go away, Joe Biden...

Seems has if the MSM has appointed Joe Biden as the spokesperson for the pro-war wing of the Democratic Party. Biden is everywhere on television.

This morning the Senator from Delaware was on CNN with his usual "stay the course and win" mantra. He said he disagreed with Congressman Murtha but understood his "frustration."

I suspect Biden is still trying to play to his neo-con friends. Unfortunately, what he's saying is not registering with ordinary Americans. As Murtha has repeatedly pointed out, the American people have moved on.

This "photo" compliments of AMERICAblog.

Why do I blog?

Yesterday I read a post by Jane Hamsher titled "Why I blog" in firedoglake. Thought-provoking. Left little doubt as to what Jane is all about. Her passion for justice also comes clearly through in all her writing.

I'm also deeply concerned about some things that are happening in our society. The growing gap between the have's and the have-not's is of particular concern. I'm concerned about the way major corporations now control our media and our political representatives.

I blog because blogging provides me with the opportunity to be part of something hopeful. To lend support to efforts to create a more equitable and fair society.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Another view of Haverhill, Massachusetts ...

This photo of the Merrimack River, taken from my downtown apartment, gives a different view of Haverhill from the previously posted photo.

Haverhill, my home town...

What you are seeing is part of downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts. My very first photo with a digital camera...and it shows!! It was taken yesterday from my 10th floor apartment.

Haverhill is a blue-collar city about 30 miles northeast of Boston. The large old redbrick buildings are a reminder of the days when the city had a flourishing leather manufacturing business.

Bob Woodward on Larry King show tonight...

John and his co-contributors at AMERICAblog are challenging the mighty Washington Post to come straight on the Bob Woodward story. They will be live blogging the Larry King show tonight - monitoring to count how many lies Woodward will tell in the course of the one-hour "interview."

Of course, Woodward may think of the chat with Larry as more of a gossip session than a journalistic interview.

Speaking of "gossip," my mind runs wild with fantasies about the kind of gossip that's exchanged inside-the-beltway in conversations between journalists and senior government officials. You are having lunch at the St. Regis with one of those government officials and he leans over and says, "Did you know that people are now raising questions about John Murtha's military awards?"

Where did I ever get the idea that people like Bob Woodward are interested in exposing government corruption and in looking out for the interests of the American citizen?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Top of the Morning...

Another beautiful brisk sunny morning here in eastern New England. At dawn I took the 20 minute ride from Haverhill to Salisbury (North Shore) for a walk on the beach.

On top of my mind during my walk was an upcoming trip to Louisiana next Friday. Since I'll be reporting here I thought it would be helpful to explain the purpose of the trip.

As I watched Hurricane Katrina I had flashbacks to the many experiences I had working with the anti-poverty program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the late Sixties and early Seventies. These experiences may explain why I considered those hurricane victims at the Superdome and the Convention Center as "my people."

I've been working on a memoir of my Louisiana years.

The post-Katrina trip "home" to Louisiana will help provide some kind of context for the memoir.

Of course I'm also making the trip South because I want to see for myself some of the damage and also talk to people about the future challenges. I've a few old friends that I'll be counting on for local insights. And, of course, I'll be reporting each day here on this blog. I might even upload a few photos!


Let me know if you have a particular question regarding the post-Katrina recovery efforts that you would like me to check out while I'm in New Orleans. Send your question to

Saturday, November 19, 2005


This past week I launched the WORST PERSON OF THE YEAR poll. The poll will be open until December 15. Simply post a comment and name the person or persons that you wish to nominate. You can nominate as many individuals as many times as you want.

After December 15 we'll identify the top ten and have a vote for "Worst Person of the Year."

One name I want to add to the existing nominations is that of Representative Jean Schmidt from Ohio. When I saw her call distinguished Vietnam Veteran John Murtha a "coward" I realized she was the real thing - a crazy hate-mongering wingnut. This mean-talking woman is somewhere to the right of hate-mongers Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.

This morning I went surfing in the Progressive Blogosphere hoping to find a photo of Ms. Schmidt that I could "borrow." No luck. If you have a tip send the URL. ( ). She's looks a bit least that's the way she came accross on TV last night.

I did find a photo of Congressman Murtha. (bottom photo). He'll be one of my nominations for BEST PERSON OF THE YEAR. More about this poll later.


Thanks to Crooks and Liars I am able to post a photo of Jean Schmidt (top photo)...

Friday, November 18, 2005

This image via Crooks and Liars

Three Cheers for this Vietnam Veteran...

Congressman John Murpha Calls for Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq

What a bombshell! One of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress DEMANDED IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF ALL US TROOPS FROM IRAQ. That's right, Congressman John Murpha, a distinguished Vietnam Veteran, passionately made the case for getting out of Iraq IMMEDIATELY.

We've reached some kind of tipping point. This afternoon I sent an email to a friend suggesting we might have come to the beginning of the end.

I contrast the bold statement of Murpha with the hair-splitting performance by John Kerry in his interview this afternoon with Wolf Blitzer. Kerry was spinning his speech about "the blunders" in the execution of the war. My question: Senator Kerry do you support the idea of a preemptive war of choice ...even when "the enemy" poses no treat to the safety and security of the American people?


"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home."

JOHN P. MURTHA, a Democratic representative from Pennsylvania.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Still finding decomposed bodies in New Orleans...

...on October 3 the search for bodies was called off in New Orleans. There was still many unsearched houses. On October 12, part of the Lower Ninth Ward, the most devastated area, was opened to residents for "look and leave." More than a few returned to find a body in the wreckage.

Residents of the Lower Ninth Ward will be able to return to what's left of their homes on December 1st.

CNN did a follow-up on this story on Tuesday night. Rusty Dornin reported that ten bodies have been found in the remains of the Ninth Ward since November 1. It's clear that more badly decomposed bodies will be recovered.

Growing up in a religious home I learned how important it is to honor our dead. What does it say about us a society that the search for bodies in the Lower Ninth Ward was abandoned? Does it have something to do with the fact that this community was mostly made up of low income African Americans?

I'll be flying to Louisiana on the day after Thanksgiving and will be able to report back on the reaction of residents.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bob Woodward is just another media whore...'s a guy that is supposed to represent what's best about American journalism. Now we find out Bob Woodward is just another media whore.

We've learned he was part of the Administration effort to discredit Ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife. And there he is, the hypocrite, on Larry King Live and Hardball dismissing the whole CIA-leak investigation as a waste of time and money.

Many around the Progressive Blogosphere have already concluded that Woodward is the Washington Posts' answer to Judy Miller at the New York Times.

This view is reflected in the "Judy Woodward" photo at the top of this page. (Photo compliments of Billmon).


Yesterday we launched the "WORST PERSON OF THE YEAR" poll and the response has been very positive. This is still just a two-month old blog and we are just beginning to build traffic.

Several visitors want to know what "rules" govern this attempt guage sentiment in Left Blogostgan.

Here's how it works. From now until December 15 we will have open balloting. That means that you can vote as often as you wish...and for as many candidates as you wish. You vote by posting a "comment." After we close the poll on December 15 we'll identify the ten most often mentioned "Worst Persons." At that time the top ten list will be published and visitors can vote again to identify the "Worst Person of the Year."

Come visit this site and vote as often as you wish. I will provide occasional reminders ...and updated lists on those who get nominated.

Who knows...we might get noticed by Bill O'Reilly and get listed on his "smear list." Remember the possibilities are endless! We already have about a dozen nominations and we are just getting started!

We will publish our "Worst Person of the Year" about the same time as Time magazine announces its "Person of the Year."

Coming up: information on a new poll that will identify "Best Person of the Year." It will be another opportunity for inhabitants of Left Blogostan to express their sentiments.


Lately, I've seen Bob Woodward all over television whoring for the Bush Administration. I was not surprised to learn last night that he was one of the original media gang involved with the Administration in smearing Ambassador Wilson and his wife. Atrios has posted some very good material. I'll have more to say in a post tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Dems Foolishly Followed the Leader

This image via atrios.


Hat tip to Atrios for pointing towards this "must read" column by E.J.Dionne in today's Washington Post.

Update #2:

You will notice I've added the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch to the list of "Resources" in the right column on this page. A good source of information on what's happening in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Worst Person of the Year" -- Vote Your Preference!

On Sunday morning I'm watching Russert interview Ken Mehlman on Meet the Press. Mehlman is delivering his "talking points" with the passion of a Pentecostal Preacher. Same old shit. Iraq was about our national security. The Dems voted for the war and they had the same intel as Bush. Those who question pre-war intel are "unpatriotic." And then he says the Katrina disaster was part of the legacy of 30 years of welfare dependency.

Listening to Mehlman is making me sick. I'm wondering what it is about this guy that I dislike so much. At some level he reminds me of Ann Coulter. Maybe it's the perceived meanness. There's clearly something about his smug arrogant personality that's a turn-off.

And then I came up with the idea of having a competition for the "Worst Person of the Year." Obviously, in my opinion, Ken Melhman would deserve to be a nominee for this award...but so would a lot of other people.

I'll have more information on the "Worst Person of the Year Competition" in blog postings over the next couple of days. What I'll be asking is for visitors to this blog to post the name of your nominee by clicking on "comments" below.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Stonewalling the Katrina Victims

Word coming out of New Orleans is that progress towards recovery is very slow. One of the major reasons is that those who evacuated can't come back to help with recovery because of the lack of temporary housing.

According to this story in today's New York Times, the effort to provide temporary housing has become a victim of government mismanagement.

With its lackluster recovery effort, the Bush Administration is apparently hoping the people who need housing will simply give up and go away.

I'll be able to see for myself when I visit Louisiana later this month.


I just heard Cookie Roberts on NPR talk about her visit to her hometown of New Orleans. She paints a picture of a city with a landscape that is mostly brown because of the toxic water... and a population that's mostly white because many black people are now part of the diaspora. Ms. Roberts says our government needs to help in a big way to get this city back on its feet.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

George Bush on the offensive...

ReddHedd writes:

"There are soldiers risking their lives and limbs every single day as a result of the decisions made by this Administration and this Congress. Every citizen in this nation, regardless of political affiliation, deserves to know how the decisions were made to send them to war."


In his Friday speech George Bush went after his critics. He insinuated that those opposed to the war were UNPATRIOTIC. He asserted that the Dems should share responsibility for the decision to go to war.

Bush didn't mention that the Dems were given a sanitized version of the so-called "intelligence."

Now I'm not defending the "dumb Dems" that gave their blessing to Bush's "war of choice." It seems obvious they should have known that this war was primarily driven by special interest groups who wanted to settle the score with Saddam Hussein.

The important thing is that those "liberal" war-supporting Dems are in a position to "repent." John Edwards has already acknowledged his "mistake." I predict that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will see the light in the very near future.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bush Says partisan Critics Hurt War Effort

Members of the Marine National Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns for Veteran's Day at Arlington National cemetery.


"These baseless attacks send a wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning American's will."

- President Bush

This quote is from a speech given yesterday by President Bush. More on this speech can be found in this article in today's New York Times. Our President implied that those of us who criticize the war are unpatriotic. Now that's something us old greybeards remember hearing during the Vietnam War.


This morning AMERICAblog is drawing attention to this MUST READ article in the Washington Post. The article puts to bed the notion that the Dems had the same intel supporting the war as Bush and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG).

Friday, November 11, 2005

Some Reasons To Be Grateful This Veterans Day

Just heard some stupid-ass military guy on CNN mouthing the same old crap about what we've accomplished in Iraq. The good news is that an increasing number of Americans are willing to question what the TV propagandists have to say.

There is other good news this Friday morning.
  • According to an article today's NYT, United Airlines is getting ready to hire 2000 new flight attendants
  • Without Tom DeLay to bully them the Republicans in Congress are loosing steam
  • The Democratic Party is showing signs that they might finally accept the truth about "the war of choice" against Iraq. This week John Edwards said his vote for the war was a "mistake." Hillary is still a hold-out.
  • Judy Miller has finally taken her leave from the New York Times. Did she jump or was the pushed? Saw her on Larry King Live last night. I think this woman might be delusional.
  • The Mid-Term election provided a symbolic victory for the Dems. I predict that the momentum will pick-up when the indictment of Karl Rove comes down. Just a prediction!
  • This past week both Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson made statements reinforcing the notion that each of them is an idiot.
  • Tony Blair is finally experiencing the wrath of the British people for ignoring their opposition to the war. His downfall is a disappointment... Considering how excited some of us were when he first became Prime Minister.
  • The New England Patriots are still in play-off contention!!

Have a good Friday!


This cover story in today's USAToday is about the travails of one family as a result of Hurricane Katrina. A reminder of the heroism demonstrated by many.

Update #2:

President Bush is on cable tv reminding all Americans about how much they have to fear from Muslim extremists. He is again reminding us that it's better to "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." That may not be very comforting for those brave soldiers who are expected to fight them "over there." Earlier this week I heard a "terrorism expert" describe the occupation forces in Iraq as "The Coalition Against Terrorism." These forces used to be known as "The Coalition of the Willing."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

John McCain's Simplistic Theory About the Amman Bombing

Last night I caught part of Hardball after coming home from a day in the office. The discussion was about the bombings in Amman, Jordan.

Chris Matthews asked his guest, Senator John McCain, what would motivate people to carry out this kind of attack. McCain responded: "They're trying to kill everyone who is not a Muslim extremist." He suggested that "extinction" was the desired solution. Does he mean getting rid of a few billion people?

McCain's statement is about as simplistic as Bush's mantra that they "hate democracy." I believe that his response revealed him to be just another neo-con.

It's time for McCain to start planning his retirement -- we certainly don't need a war-monger as President.

My research led me to the conclusion that the 9/11 attack was motivated by anger with American foreign policy towards the Middle East. I'm inclined to believe the attacks in Madrid, London and today in Amman have to do with our occupation of Iraq.

My question is this: why are American politicians, both Republican and Democratic, so unwilling to honestly answer the question asked by Chris Matthews last night. What do you think?

Post your comment.


Wolf Blitzer, a leading proponent of the Iraq war at CNN, has been questioning guests about the possible role of Syria in the Amman bombings. Wonder if he's trying to make the case for another war.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Inside French Housing Projects, Feelings of Being the Outsiders

Back in the 1960's many cities in Europe built large high-rise projects as housing for low-income people. Dublin had one such project called Ballymun. I got to know something about life in this community as my sister was a social activist in the area.

One thing that struck me about Ballymun every time I visited was the sight of burnt-out cars. Cars were burnt almost every night. There was other evidence of mindless destruction of property, including grafiti in hallways and on elevators.

I learned that the anti-social behavior in Ballymun had to do with feelings of alientation by the young unemployed residents.

My guess is that what is happening now in France has to do with feelings of social exclusion - and not with some kind of Muslim wrath. This article in today's New York Times provides some insight into what is motivating those young people burning the cars and fighting with the police.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


"We need to know what the city is going to do, so we can start planning our lives."

OLIVER THOMAS, president of the New Orleans City Council, on rebuilding the city.

Quote from this article in today's New York Times. The article documents some of the key challenges confronting New Orleans as it faces the daunting task of rebuilding. The critical issue involves what to do about the levees.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fox News Contributors (hate-mongers)

Michele Malkin, is rapidly establishing herself as one of America's leading racist hate-mongers. She is a frequent contributor to Fox Cable News. A fake journalist, she is right up there with Ann Coulter in spewing out vicious right-wing trash. Coulter is also a Fox News contributor. Bill "sex pervert" O'Reilly keeps interesting company!

Photo compliments of TBogg.

President Bush: Prime Minister Tony Blair has "cojones" (balls)

Prime Minister Tony Blair became known as Bush's poodle as a result of his unquestioned support for the preemptive war against Iraq. I have often wonderd why the PM could be such an enthusiastic supporter for a war that was opposed by a majority in his own Labour Party.

This article in today's Guardian provides some insights into Blair's behavior during the months leading up to the war. The article is based on a book by Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to Washington at the time. He was in a unique position to observe the Bush/Blair relationship.

Sir Christopher says the PM and his team were "seduced" by the proximity and glamour of US power and reluctant to negotiate conditions with George Bush for Britian's support of the war.

Sir Christopher recalls a conversation with Scooter Libby who told him "we were the only ally that counted." He recalls how Bush told the inner circle at a US-British summit at Camp David in 2002 that the Prime Minister had "cojones" (balls).

George Bush had balls. Tony Blair had balls. As a result we got a war that caused world-wide resentment towards the United States and resulted in the deaths to thousands of our young man and women. So much for "cojones."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Favorite Progressive News Blogs

Lots of traffic at the progressive news sites with all that has been happening. I'm predicting the Progressive Blogosphere will have a major impact on the election next year. People are turning to blogs because information that you'll get at Eschaton or AMERICAblog or Crooksandliars is often more credible than what you'll read in the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Now there is one blog that I've been visiting every day that I consider MUST READING. If you want to know what's happening with TreasonGate you have to be reading Firedoglake. Hat tip to the contributors to this blog for the great service they are providing to the American people.

Just read the stuff they have posted this past week and you'll agree this is a blog that requires a daily visit. And don't forget to check out what Billmon has to say.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Top of the Morning!

It's a foggy morning here in Massachusetts. At least it's foggy on the North Shore. I'm listening to CNN in the background as I attend to some household chores.

Just heard an update on the forged Niger documents. According to CNN, the FBI announced yesterday that the documents were produced as part of some financial scam. That's bullshit! Think about what happened. The Neo-Cons, led by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), were waging a full-scale propaganda campaign in support of the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. And then documents show up proving that Iraq was actively seeking materials to use in developing nuclear weapons.

It's fair to assume that whoever produced the documents were aiding and abetting those agitating for a war. The fact that the documents were later discovered to be forgeries is a secondary consideration.

Who was responsible for the production of the Niger documents? I have suspicions but they are only suspicions. What do you think?


Another story on CNN about the terrorist threat against Washington, DC. Even the reporter sounded cynical about this threat. Maybe we're beginning to suffer from Terrorist Threat Fatigue Syndrome.

Friday, November 04, 2005


"People from other states, we appreciate their help. But everybody else is getting work, not us."

- AUBREY D. CHEATHAM, a union electrician from New Orleans who believes he lost ajob to lower-paid workers from outside Louisiana.

(Quote from this article in today's New York Times)

The Poor Get Screwed by the Republicans...Again

Sometimes I think that the Republicans in Congress don't give a shit about anyone but their rich corporate patrons. My concerns were reinforced when I read this post at AMERICAblog. Based on this article in the Washington Post, the AMERICAblog post describes a plan to cut 40,000 kids from school lunch programs to pay for another tax cut in the near future.

I have been trying not to publish too many depressing stories...but we need to know what is going on. At a time when millions of Americans are in dire economic straits our Congress keeps passing legislation that works against the best interests of the poor.

There is one piece of good news. Senator Reid and his Democratic colleagues provided some evidence yesterday that they are willing to act as an opposition party. They might even decide to take up the cause of the poor and the disadvantaged in our society.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Did the Levees in New Orleans Fail Because of Faulty Construction?

Over the past week we have seen several articles suggesting that the levees in New Orleans failed because of flaws in design and construction. This article in today's New York Times suggests that malfeasance may have been involved.

The failure of the levees resulted in a disaster which killed 1,000 people and left 100,000 without homes. The dozens of levee breaches and failures caused by Hurricane Katrina flooded 75 percent of the city. A group of engineering experts told a Senate Committee yesterday that had the levees held only about half that area would have been inundated.

The Army Corps of engineers designed the flood-protection system and managed its construction. We can only hope they will come up with a fix that guarantees safety for the people of New Orleans. Of course we are already hearing complaints about the expense involved. My bias is that protecting one of our most unique American cities should be a higher priority than bringing "democracy" to the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Benign Neglect of Katrina Survivors

I just saw Jack Stephens, Sherriff of St Bernard Parish, interviewed on CNN. As you may know, his Parish was devasted by Hurricane Katrina.

Stephens blasted Congress for their "benign neglect" of the people who have lost everything. He said they had no idea of the extent of the devastation...and he personally offered to pay the airfare of Congressman who might be willing to take him up on an invitation to visit.

We need to keep this issue in the forefront of national consciousness. I'm planning to visit New Orleans and surrounding communities later this month. I'll be reporting back on what I find.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How the Mainstream Media Reinforced Racist Stereotypes After Hurricane Katrina

During the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina I was glued to the television as I watched those horrific scenes from downtown New Orleans. My response: grief and anger.

There was a reason I felt a special bond with the people who were suffering. In the early 1960s I arrived in Louisiana as a young man who had come directly from Ireland. Louisiana would be my home for more than a decade. After seven years in the ministry I joined the anti-poverty program in Baton Rouge. That was when I discovered "the other America." The group of VISTA volunteers I supervised worked in low-income black neighborhoods not unlike the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

There was something about the portrait of poor black people presented on television in the aftermath of Katrina that I found unsettling. The coverage reinforced racist stereotypes that I had first encountered more than 30 years ago.

For weeks I've been trying to clarify the distortions and misrepresentations that I saw on my television screen. Some clarification was provided by an article in Counterpunch by Tim Wise.
According to Wise, one of the myths that was reinforced by mainstream media coverage during the days after Hurricane Katrina was that poor blacks are bad people and they got what they deserved. And he provides data to support his contention.

Remember the constant repetition of the same five or six video clips of so-called looters. It reminded me of the way cable television replayed numerous times that clip of Howard Dean's scream. The fact that most people caught on camera were in desperate straits and were taking water, food and medicine was not mentioned. You were left to conclude that poor black people in New Orleans were just a bunch of looters.

All kinds of racist rumors were reported as facts. Remember those stories about tugs shooting at helicopters attempting to bring aid. Not one witness was produced to support the claim that they saw criminals shoot at helicopters. We now know these shots were fired by desperate people trying to attract attention.

And of course there was the story about the drug addicts raiding Children's Hospital. There were stories about gang rapes in the Superdome and the Convention Center. We heard about babies that were molested and then had their throats slit. There were stories of crime victims stuffed into refrigerators.

We now know that all of these stories were false. Not one first hand witness was produced who had actually seen the supposed carnage taking place.

Which brings me to the other big lie told about the poor in New Orleans. I am referring to the argument that the reason 130,000 poor black folks were unable to escape the flooding was because they had grown dependent on the government to save them, thanks to the "welfare state," and that was why they lacked the money and cars to get out before disaster struck.

Tim Wise, in his article, provides data to demolish the myth that the victims of Hurricane Katrina were somehow responsible for their own misfortune. Here are a few statistics that he provides.

As of 2004, according to the Census Bureau, there were only 4600 households in all of New Orleans receiving cash welfare from the nation's principal aid program, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). That's 4600 out of a total of 130,000 households in the black community. About four percent of black households in the city. Wise points out that the number of individuals receiving welfare in New Orleans by the time of Katrina would have been about 16,000.

What we were not told in the national television coverage is that most poor blacks in New Orleans look out for themselves. For example, in the ninety-eight percent black and forty percent poor Lower Ninth Ward seventy-one percent of families prior to the flooding reported income from paid employment, while only eight percent received income from cash welfare.

As for public housing, far from being the location of residence for most poor blacks in New Orleans - let alone those in the streets in the wake of Katrina - fewer than 20,000 people lived in such units at the time of the flooding. In the Lower Ninth Ward, for example, few lived in public housing and nearly six in ten families owned their own homes.

It will be clear to the reader that the facts on the ground in New Orleans were different than the stereotypes that were presented in the media.

This brings me to the main point I want to make. The huddled masses of homeless people that you saw on your television screen during the days after Katrina inhabit what Michael Harrington years ago referred to as "the other America." It continues to be a world not very well understood by outsiders. Consider the post-Katrina suggestion by Bill Bennett that the problem of crime in the black community could be resolvod by reducing the birthrate. Or the advice by George Will that black girls not have babies until they are twenty.

We heard a lot of gibberish from the pundits during the days following Katrina.

The people I encountered in the poor black neighborhoods in Baton Rouge more than 30 years ago were hard-working people trying to do the best for themselves and their families. Most aspired to a better life. I believe the same can be said today about poor blacks in New Orleans. Of course there is crime in these neighborhoods but that goes with the turf.

One thing that has not changed over the past three decades. Those who live outside "the other America" are still blaming the victims. This may be one of the most salutary lessons of Hurricane Katrina.


I'll be reporting on a planned visit to New Orleans later this month. The visit is in connection with a personal memoir on the years spent in Louisiana.


Have you wondered what has happened to all of those people left homeless by Katrina? According to this article in USA Today, thousands of evacuees face eviction. Other Katrina victims are homeless because of aid problems.