Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006

Photo compliments of Firedoglake.

Mrs. King devoted her life to the fight for human rights. She carried out that mission with grace and dignity. We are all indebted to her for her extraordinary contribution.

There are some great King family photos over at Michael Moore's website. Here is the link.

The State of New Orleans...

Many will be focused on the "State of the Nation" tonight. In the meantime here is a brief update on the "State of New Orleans." It will only take a minute to read...and it has all the key facts.

Something to cheer about...

Compliments of www.truthout.org

Peter "Chuck" Badie joined the ranks of displaced New Orleans musicians when his house flooded during Hurricane Katrina, but he still plays his bass at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe in the French Quarter. (Photo: Chris Graythen / The Washington Post).

Everyday I read stories that remind me of the resilience of the people of New Orleans. Artists like Peter Badie are leading the way in expressing faith in the future of the Big Easy.

This is the true American spirit!!!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Louisiana in Limbo

This editorial is from todays New York Times. A good overview of the situation in New Orleans.


New Orleans waits. While some heroic efforts at rebuilding are taking place, hundreds of thousands of residents have put their lives on hold until they know what the government's next steps will be, leaving the shells of their houses as placeholders. But the Bush administration has now rejected the most broadly supported plan for rebuilding communities while offering nothing to take its place.

It has been five months since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and for many the norm is still the claustrophobic new reality of tiny trailers and multiple families crammed into single apartments. Louisiana is trying. You can hear jackhammers pounding and buzz saws whirring on Canal Street in New Orleans. Dedicated workers endure a grinding daily commute from points north, like Baton Rouge, as they try to make the city and the region whole again. But the mission is far from complete and the challenge is beyond the scope of a broken city and a poor state.

New Orleans's crisis has little relation to anything the nation has faced in modern memory, and traditional solutions will simply not help. Homeowners — many very poor people whose houses had been in their families for generations — had varying degrees of insurance before the disaster. When entire neighborhoods are devastated, their mildewed furniture and drywall piled on the roadsides, it's impossible to tell the people who are well insured to rebuild and hope that the houses all around them will somehow be reclaimed somewhere down the line.

But the Bush administration refuses to support the plan of Representative Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, which would give everyone the capacity to rebuild and which had the backing of the mayor, the governor and the state's Congressional delegation. (To add insult to injury, two days after the White House shot down Mr. Baker's proposal, President Bush suggested at a news conference that Louisiana's problem was the lack of a plan.)

Instead of an alternate solution, the president's Katrina czar, Donald Powell, has offered sleight of hand, touting $6.2 billion in development money for Louisiana passed last year by Congress as if it were somehow a substitute. And in an attempt to narrow the scope of the problem, Mr. Powell says the government first needs to care for the roughly 20,000 homeowners without flood insurance who lived outside the federally designated flood plain. The real tally of destroyed or damaged homes in the region is well over 200,000. And the real need is housing for residents, whether they were renters or owners, insured or uninsured, living above the flood plain or trusting the federal government's levees to protect them from storms.

Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the wreckage of poor, low-lying New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. That has sparked the unproductive, blame-the-victim debate revolving around whether people should have lived there in the first place. The Ninth Ward provides a misleading picture of the city, as do the relatively unscathed tourist areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. Huge swaths of the city have the empty quality of a ghost town. Stores wait for residents to reopen; residents wait to see if neighbors will return. The city and surrounding parishes will not meet Mr. Powell's neat categories, when renters lived beside owners, insured next to uninsured. He is talking like an actuary when a leader is needed to rescue this region.

Now, Congress has a responsibility to follow its own lead rather than the president's. We were outraged once, shocked at the images on our television sets, at the poverty in our collective backyard and at the devastation of a great city. As the disaster threatens to become permanent, we have every reason to remain so.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Broken Promises and Failure

According to this story in the Washington Post post-Katrina promises go unfulfilled. On the Gulf Coast Federal recovery efforts are making only halting progress.

The life and death of an Iraq veteran who could take no more...

The costs of the Iraq war are mostly hidden from the American people. Media coverage is sanitized. No photos of funerals. Very little coverage of the innocent civilians who are part of what we call collateral damage.

What we hear very little about is the price paid by our troops. Many returning veterans will be mentally damaged for life. We are beginning to hear about the suicides. Read this story from the Independent (UK) about one veteran who could take it no more. He took a shotgun and shot himself in the head. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

St Bernard residents living in tents in lieu of trailers...

Judith Morgan and Cheryl Livaudais are living in tents on the slab of Morgan's former home awaiting FEMA trailers. (Photo: Rusty Constanza/Times-Picayune).

The story, as reported in the Times-Picayune, provides an idea of what life is like in devastated St. Bernard Parish.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The real victims of the Iraq war...

A man weeps after learning that his coffee shop was destroyed by near simultaneous bomb blasts on a crowded street in Baghdad. (Photo:Thaier Sudani/Reuters)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Michael Moore strikes back!

Matthews and Osama casing Madison Square Garden. "Hey, we were just trying to find a winning team in New York."

You can find more photos of Matthews and Osama here.


In surfing around the Internet this morning I came accross this interesting article by Molly Ivins.

Update 2:

Still no news about Jill Carroll. One positive sign: there has been an outpouring of support for her release from Muslim clerics worldwide. There also seems to be a lot of grassroots support for her release in Iraq. Of course we have no way of knowing the motivations of the people holding her. She's in my thoughts and prayers. Here's hoping she will be returned to her family soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Give Mayor Nagin a break!

Mayor Nagin of New Orleans has been under fierce attack for his "Chocolate City" remarks during his MLK speech on Monday. As I explained in a previous post, I saw his speech as an attempt to reassure African Americans that they would be welcome back in the reconstructed city.

My advice to the media: let go of the issue. Nagin is not a racist. Time to focus on the real issues of reconstruction. (Photo compliments of Times-Picayune).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thinking of Jill Carroll

The news about Jill Carroll is a matter of grave concern. After reading this post by Jane at Firedoglake I had a greater appreciation of the dangers that journalists face in Iraq. Anyway, this morning our thoughts are with Jill and her family.

I don't know Jill but I understand she is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This is the university where I did graduate work in the late 1970's.


I did some venting yesterday about CNN's obsession regarding remarks by New Orleans mayor Nagin. After watching Anderson Cooper last night I was feeling even more pissed-off with those guys.

Essentially, what Nagin did was assure some members of the diaspora that New Orleans would continue to be a predominately African American city. He was responding to the deep suspicion that many African Americans will not be able to return...and will not be welcome.

There is no doubt that the city is whiter than it was before Hurricane Katrina. The city has gone from an African American population of 65% before Katrina to a current population estimated at 35% to 40% African American.

In a media environment where CNN has just hired a pundit best known for referring to Katrina survivors as "scumbags" it is easy to understand the paranoia.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More Nonsense from CNN...

The self-righteous folks at CNN are bent out of shape today over remarks made by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans yesterday. They have even managed to find some African Americans willing to condemn Nagin as a racist.

I know a little about racism. I worked in the Deep South in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Racists are people who HATE. When I met David Duke in Baton Rouge back in 1971 or 1972 I know immediately that he was a racist. Michele Malkin is a racist. People who are racists radiate hatred.

This brings me to Mayor Nagin. He may joke about New Orleans as a "chocolate" city but there is no malice intended. I think the folks at CNN have a cultural problem --- they don't understand that black folks in the Deep South have their own way of communicating with each other.

Comparing Mayor Nagin with Pat Robertson ...that's nonsense!!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The day the music died...

This dispatch from New Orleans published in the Guardian (UK) is worth reading. Brought back memories of my own visit to the Big Easy in late November.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Give them a Pulitzer!

The Times Picayune deserves a Pulitzer for stories like this one revealing that independent investigators are critical of Corps of Engineers work on rebuilding of failed floodwalls. This article will give those considering rebuilding their homes reasons to reconsider.

The people of New Orleans can be proud of their hometown newspaper.

Friday, January 13, 2006

In New Orleans, Bush Has Upbeat Message But Sees Little of Ruin

In New Orleans there is a small sliver of the city along the river crescent that was untouched by the floods that followed Katrina. It's that area that extends from the downtown business district towards the Garden District. This is the area that President Bush visited yesterday.

During the visit Bush declared that New Orleans was "a heck of a place to bring your family" and that it had "some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun."

What Bush didn't see was the 80% of the city that is still a deserted wasteland. It would have been good for the nation to see Bush touring Lakeview or the Lower Ninth Ward. It would again bring home the message that this was the worst natural disaster in American history.

No wonder so many homeless residents of New Orleans are now feeling forgotten and abandoned. And of course the national media has now moved on to such important issues as Angelina's baby.

Does anyone give a shit about our fellow citizens who lost everything as a result of Hurricane Katrina?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Orleans back in the news...

President Bush is heading south this morning to revisit New Orleans. It has been two months since his last visit.

The issue of rebuilding the City is back in the news. The "Bring Back New Orleans Commission" has issued its report. According to the Times-Picayune, the Commission's rebuilding proposal is getting a mixed reception. Many who lost their homes are not happy about the idea of a four-month moratorium on building permits. Nothing is finalized at this point.

I expect the President will have some specific ideas to present in his State of the Union speech. Let's hope he'll present the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as a major national priority.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bring Back New Orleans Commission to issue report...

According to this article in today's New York Times we can expect to hear from the Bring Back New Orleans Commission later this week. This is the group established by Mayor Nagin to develop a blueprint for the rebuilding of the city.

Indications are that the group will come up with some bold plans. Some recommendations will involve redesigning a school system that had the reputation as one of the worst in the country. There will also be recommendations involving transit, including the development of a light rail system. They will propose the closing of a major canal involved in the flooding.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Rebuilding New Orleans on hold...

New Orleans is a city in limbo. Four months after Hurricane Katrina you have neighborhood after neighborhood that are lifeless and deserted. There is a lot of uncertainty. Owners are waiting to see what options are available.

U.S. Representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge is promoting the idea of the Louisiana Recovery Corporation. This idea, described in this editorial in today's Times-Picayune, will be considered when Congress reconvenes.

Baker's plan would go a long way to convincing many home owners to return and commit themselves to rebuilding their neighborhoods. My view is that if we can rebuild Iraq we can surely help rebuild one of our most beloved American cities.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Rude Pundit Goes Home to Louisiana

Three months after Katrina I went to New Orleans to get an idea of the challenges facing the city. It was depressing to discover that not much had changed since the city was flooded.

Now, four months after the devastation comes reports that there has been little movement towards reconstruction. In a series of posts this past week the Rude Pundit describes what he saw on a recent visit to his native Louisiana. His vivid descriptions will give you a good idea of what things are like on the ground.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Robertson Links Sharon's Stroke to Wrath of God...

Pat Robertson is nuts!

When I first arrived in the Deep South from Ireland in the early Sixties I was surprised to discover that white Christian preachers used the Bible to "prove" that God was opposed to racial integration. These so-called "men of God" provided a convenient rationale for an oppressive racism that degraded African Americans.

These same preachers today are able to find Biblical justification for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Robertson and some of his fellow hate-mongering preachers have as much contempt for Palestinians as they had for African Americans back in the Fifties and Sixties.

Pat Robertson's biblical interpretations are pure bullshit! His comment about Sharon's stroke is so stupid as to be unworthy of comment. Christianity is supposed to be about promoting brotherhood and understanding...not about promoting racism, bigotry and oppression.


If you want to be reminded about what authentic AMERICAN VALUES are all about read this post by ReddHedd in Firedoglake. Needs no commentary. You'll be inspired!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It was the worst of times...

This op ed in the New Orleans Times Picayune is worth a read. Some ask should a city that is below sea level be rebuilt...or abandoned. In this very personal piece Chris Rose indirectly answers the question.
Hat tip to ReddHedd at Firedoglake for the link.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, those of us keenly interested in the rebuilding of New Orleans are always on the look-out for positive news. This article in this morning's Times-Picayune is encouraging.

According to the Times-Picayune article people are returning to New Orleans in greater numbers than had been predicted. That is not to say that the city has turned the corner. Most of the residential areas are totally unhabitable...and it will take a very long time to rebuild some neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the news that people are choosing to return is a hopeful sign.