Saturday, September 24, 2005

"'It Was Like the End of the World,' One Texan Says"

From the Washington Post: "Seventeen hours later, they had traveled just 60 miles and were stuck in traffic. They had driven most of that time -- in daytime temperatures of about 100 degrees -- without air conditioning to save fuel. All public services along the evacuation route -- for gasoline, food, water, bathrooms -- were closed.

Ruben, 50, a juvenile-detention officer in Galveston County, said he saw three ambulances carry away elderly people who had collapsed in the heat of their unmoving cars." Read more.

3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine

NYTimes: "WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - Three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

The new allegations, the first involving members of the elite 82nd Airborne, are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch."

Read more.


You can read the article at ZNET U.S. Bars Robert Fisk. "The internationally renowned correspodent for The Independent -- the great British journalist Robert Fisk -- has been banned from entering the United States. Fisk has been covering war zones for decades, but is above all known for his incisive reporting from the Middle East for more than 20 years." [...] "The daily New Mexican reports that "U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday to allow Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation 's readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night." ...

You will be able to listen to the interview conducted by Amy Goodman at the Lannan Foundation site Audio Archives.

"This is turning into the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans"

The title of Naomi Klein's piece in the Guardian UK. She writes, "There is empty housing for the tens of thousands made homeless by Katrina - but the white elite have other plans." (This is a slightly different version than the piece in the Nation.)

In many ways Klein is right on mark with her assessment but/and she must know that this it's not only the white elite who have other plans. This investment in the raced classed cleansing of New Orleans cuts across race. "A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.

He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city. [...] The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." Read more.

Nagin reopens New Orleans to businesses despite the environmental hazards that we seem not to be hearing much about.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

NAOMI KLEIN: Purging the Poor

From The Nation "Outside the 2,000-bed temporary shelter in Baton Rouge's River Center, a Church of Scientology band is performing a version of Bill Withers's classic "Use Me"--a refreshingly honest choice. "If it feels this good getting used," the Scientology singer belts out, "just keep on using me until you use me up." [...]

Listening to Drennen enthuse about the opportunities opened up by the storm, I was struck by his reference to African-Americans in New Orleans as "the minority community." At 67 percent of the population, they are in fact the clear majority, while whites like Drennen make up just 27 percent. It was no doubt a simple verbal slip, but I couldn't help feeling that it was also a glimpse into the desired demographics of the new-and-improved city being imagined by its white elite, one that won't have much room for Nyler or her neighbors who know how to fix houses. "I honestly don't know and I don't think anyone knows how they are going to fit in," Drennen said of the city's unemployed" Read more.


From Salon

"Segregation is not something that happens by chance, like weather conditions," says Jonathan Kozol. "It is the work of men." So it is not without irony that it has taken a hurricane -- and the excruciating images of stranded black faces, beamed across cable airwaves -- for Americans to confront the reality that vast numbers of their fellow citizens live in segregated ghettos and suffer from abject poverty. But for Kozol, who has built his career on exposing the race- and class-based injustices endemic to the United States' educational system, the knowledge that we live in a deeply divided society has long been a foregone -- if heartbreaking -- conclusion." [...]

"The America Kozol describes in "Shame" is in essence an apartheid state. White suburban districts receive disproportionate funding and praise, while inner-city schools that serve minorities are denied equitable federal aid, threatened by repressive testing mandates, and drained of creativity and joy. The book is also something of a polemic. Kozol accuses the Bush administration of implementing sinister educational policies in which rote memorization is valued more than imagination and children are treated as capitalist commodities to be molded into an army of obedient entry-level workers. Using the voices of dissatisfied students and teachers as a rallying cry, Kozol calls upon "decent citizens" of all political stripes to rise up against social and educational segregation -- and reclaim the ideals of the civil rights movement." Read more.

This month's Harpers also has an article by Kozol "Still Separare, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid" and a roundtable called "Affirmative Reaction" with Lani Guinier, Stanley Fish, David Gelenter, and Elizabeth Hoffman.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina's Window Into Slavery's Past — and Present

From the Village Voice "In addition to destroying lives and property, Hurricane Katrina may accomplish something worthwhile: washing away the illusion that the Civil War resolved the injustice of slavery in the United States.

Many people, including those living in Louisiana, are under no such illusions, of course. But Katrina's swirling rage exposed to the world the sight of thousands of black people trapped by a storm because they were trapped anyway by the vestiges of a slave-based economy." Read more.


Also from the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Paper Survivor Stories.

"Denise Moore, one of the 20,000 who went to the New Orleans Convention Center: Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. Lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding off. National Guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. And yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all." ...

The Diaspora, Blowing Down the Road

Steve Perry writes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Paper:

"What became of the 1927 refugees during and after the flood constitutes one of the more sordid and little-known episodes in the history of post-slavery America. It's recounted in John M. Barry's riveting book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, and everyone who is even remotely interested in the fate of the present-day diaspora should read it.

The Delta cotton bosses of 1927, notes Barry, had been watching the ranks of sharecroppers and tenant farmers shrink for nearly two decades as the Great Migration of southern blacks to the industrial cities of the North proceeded. The labor shortage had grown critical before the flood, and as the river rose that spring, the main preoccupation of plantation owners was keeping their serfs from fleeing the premises for good. To minimize that risk, many planters during and after the flood employed armed thugs to keep blacks herded up in the makeshift levee encampments where they'd fled to escape the water. So great were the fears of cotton growers that on one occasion, federal flood czar Herbert Hoover got a consortium of them to pony up $200,000 in just three hours by telling them that if he didn't receive their guarantees by 5:00 that day, "I'll start sending your niggers north, starting tonight." Hoover got his money." Read more Katrina and the lessons of the 1927 flood.


COURTESY OF CROOKS AND LIARS Fema Failures. The doctor being interviewed talks about the patients he was not allowed to treat, the living patients placed in the morgue to die (some of whom only needed water to live), etc.

And what has happened to the body count?


PAUL KRUGMAN WRITES: "By three to one, African-Americans believe that federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black. By an equally large margin, whites disagree.

The truth is that there's no way to know. Maybe President Bush would have been mugging with a guitar the day after the levees broke even if New Orleans had been a mostly white city. Maybe Palm Beach would also have had to wait five days after a hurricane hit before key military units received orders to join rescue operations.

But in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.

Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.

And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.

By all accounts Ronald Reagan, who declared in his Inaugural Address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," wasn't personally racist. But he repeatedly used a bogus tale about a Cadillac-driving Chicago "welfare queen" to bash big government. And he launched his 1980 campaign with a pro-states'-rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., a small town whose only claim to fame was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers.

Under George W. Bush - who, like Mr. Reagan, isn't personally racist but relies on the support of racists - the anti-government right has reached a new pinnacle of power. And the incompetent response to Katrina was the direct result of his political philosophy. When an administration doesn't believe in an agency's mission, the agency quickly loses its ability to perform that mission.

By now everyone knows that the Bush administration treated the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a dumping ground for cronies and political hacks, leaving the agency incapable of dealing with disasters. But FEMA's degradation isn't unique. It reflects a more general decline in the competence of government agencies whose job is to help people in need.

For example, housing for Katrina refugees is one of the most urgent problems now facing the nation. The FEMAvilles springing up across the gulf region could all too easily turn into squalid symbols of national failure. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which should be a source of expertise in tackling this problem, has been reduced to a hollow shell, with eight of its principal staff positions vacant.

But let me not blame the Bush administration for everything. The sad truth is that the only exceptional thing about the neglect of our fellow citizens we saw after Katrina struck is that for once the consequences of that neglect were visible on national TV.

Consider this: in the United States, unlike any other advanced country, many people fail to receive basic health care because they can't afford it. Lack of health insurance kills many more Americans each year than Katrina and 9/11 combined.

But the health care crisis hasn't had much effect on politics. And one reason is that it isn't yet a crisis among middle-class, white Americans (although it's getting there). Instead, the worst effects are falling on the poor and black, who have third-world levels of infant mortality and life expectancy.

I'd like to believe that Katrina will change everything - that we'll all now realize how important it is to have a government committed to helping those in need, whatever the color of their skin. But I wouldn't bet on it. New York Times.


An example of hysterical whiteness; the beginning of an answer to my question. A response to an earlier post "Words Matter: Refugee vs Evacuee": "They got help..shut up you spooks". In the US I think that racism and the structures of white supremacy appear, in addition to other forms, as hysterical symptoms of a violent disavowal of kinship (the impossibility of seeing oneself as black, of seeing oneself in blackness) that announces a traumatic relation to slavery that was neither recognized as a traumatic experience in the first instance nor perceived as traumatic in the proceeding generations. Racism, buttressing white supremacy, appears as a screen to block what might have been (white) recognition of a traumatically forged kinship. Hence, the beginning of an answer to my question: why is the face of shame a black face? Why, thinking of the comment to an earlier post, is this just about "spooks"? Either talking too much or expecting too much or both. The erasure of whiteness and power and the erasure of the erasure of whiteness (as distinct from white people) and power. Those poor and middle class whites who were dispossessed. And also, let's not forget, those whites who decided that it was more important to protect their property from "those people" -- an always hystericized blackness (as distinct from black people)-- knowing that they might die, were dying on those bridges as they are denied the right to walk across into a different county, to clean air, food, water, etc.––who construct themselves through an erasure to this knowledge. Who are protected (through law, custom, etc.) from seeing themselves as affected either by those deaths or the means by which they secure(d) their lives. See Hurricane Katrina-–Our Experiences.