Thursday, September 29, 2005

"You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"

Bill Bennett audio on Media Matters.

Inhuman humans, abandonment.

"BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Locked in Their Cells, With No Food or Water

"As Hurricane Katrina began pounding New Orleans, the sheriff's department abandoned hundreds of inmates imprisoned in the city's jail, Human Rights Watch said today.

Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported that as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in ground-floor cells, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level.

"Of all the nightmares during Hurricane Katrina, this must be one of the worst," said Corinne Carey, researcher from Human Rights Watch. "Prisoners were abandoned in their cells without food or water for days as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling." Read more. Courtesy of alphonse van worden.

Inhuman, humans

What do "we" do with this knowledge? How do "we" make sense of "our" readiness to believe that thousands of stranded people, mostly black (an "undifferentiated difference" to quote Ruth gilmore) carried out acts reported to include the rape (of women, children, and babies), murder, intimidation, and in a few instances cannibalism.

My first reaction was to refuse this. Not to believe it was possible. And then, I wanted to acknowledge that no one inherently is above acts of desperation, acts of survival, acts of depravity, etc. To say that certain conditions produce unexpected and horrific as well as unexpected and generous behaviors. But then I couldn't, I couldn't really believe that these rapes of "babies" and children and women, and murders were happening with the tacit consent of thousands, THOUSANDS of people standing by and doing nothing. I couldn't believe that.

I know that people survived slavery and the death camps through all kinds of acts. And I couldn't, wouldn't, believe.

It's the standing by and watching. It's five days. It's fear and empathy. A few people, yes. But thousands? Who do you think these people are? To quote Gilmore again, they are the "inhuman human." Those to whom anything can be done, about whom anything can be said -- the abandoned.

Published: September 29, 2005
NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 - After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city's economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.
The mass misery in the city's two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public. Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy

"I don't think you can overstate how big of a disaster New Orleans is," said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida school for professional journalists. "But you can imprecisely state the nature of the disaster. … Then you draw attention away from the real story, the magnitude of the destruction, and you kind of undermine the media's credibility."

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."

Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts." Read more.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mike Davis on Katrina’s aftermath: The struggle over the future of New Orleans

From Socialist Worker. Davis writes, "HURRICANE KATRINA occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act--the culmination of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

It provides a kind of tragic measure of the degree to which the civil rights revolution has been turned back. Not only in exposing the degree of criminal neglect and social Darwinism on the part of the Bush administration, but if you look at the event in detail, it will also tell you about the appalling contradictions of power and inequality in U.S. cities." Read more.