Friday, September 02, 2005

Democracy Now: Hurricane Katrina; Norman Solomon, Christine Cupaiuolo, Lenora (Musings & Migraines), Roland S. Martin ...

Top City Official Blasts FEMA: "This Is A National Disgrace"
The head of New Orleans' emergency operations blasted the federal government and FEMA for its slow response. The official Terry Ebbert said "This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace." Ebbert went on to say "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." Ebbert said "It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane."
Bush Officials Criticized For Staying On Vacation
Criticism is also mounting over the Bush administration's handling of the crisis. President Bush didn't return from his vacation until Wednesday and several other top officials remain on summer breaks. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had been vacationing in New York City but returned to Washington on Thursday. Meanwhile Vice President Dick Cheney has been in Wyoming and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has been in Maine.
The two items above are from today's Democracy Now!'s Headlines and were selected by Kendrick, Denise and Marci (Kendrick and Marci both selected the second item).  Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for September 2, 2005

- New Orleans Mayor Sends "Desperate SOS" To Nation
- Federal Aid Arrives Days Late In Biloxi, MS
- Nightmarish Conditions Reported at City Convention Center
- Top City Official Blasts FEMA: "This Is A National Disgrace"
- Governor Gives Troops Shoot-to-Kill Orders
- White House: National Guard Won't Return From Iraq
- FEMA Suggests Donor Gives To Pat Robertson's Charity
Nightmarish Scenes at New Orleans Convention Center

We begin our special coverage of Hurricane Katrina by going to New Orleans to hear the voices of refugees stranded outside the city's Convention Center. As camera crews passed by on Thursday hundreds of stranded people started chanting for help.
Daily News Reporter in New Orleans: Scope of Destruction Much Worse Than 9/11

We go to New Orleans to speak with New York Daily News reporter Tamer El-Ghobashy. He reports from outside one of the main refugee centers in New Orleans - the Super Dome, where as many as 30,000 people sought shelter.
White House Response to Gulf Coast Disaster Sparks Criticism

President Bush is coming under increasing criticism for his slow response to what is now being described as one of the worst natural disasters in the country's history. We play some of the president's remarks as well as excerpts from a White House news conference.
Race in New Orleans: Shaping the Response to Katrina?

Race and class loom large in the critical discussion of the federal response to the impact of hurricane Katrina. We speak with two African-American activists about the poor communities that have been hit hardest by the hurricane.
Desperately Seeking Loved Ones Missing in New Orleans

With communication lines down in the areas hit by the hurricane, there are thousands of people with no word about their loved ones in the area. We hear the voices of worried family and friends broadcasting their messages to those missing. [includes rush transcript]
Historian: Government Relief Efforts to 1927 Mississippi Flood Faster Than Katrina

We go back to the spring of 1927 when the Mississippi River flooded after weeks of incessant rains. While the federal government response was well-coordinated, African Americans were rounded into work camps by land owners and prevented from leaving as the waters rose.
Tim e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "Ending the Impunity of the Bush White House" (CounterPunch):
The man in the Oval Office is fond of condemning "killers." But his administration continues to kill with impunity.

"They can go into Iraq and do this and do that," Martha Madden, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said Thursday, "but they can't drop some food on Canal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, right now? It's just mind-boggling."

The policies are matters of priorities. And the priorities of the Bush White House are clear. For killing in Iraq, they spare no expense. For protecting and sustaining life, the cupboards go bare.

The problem is not incompetence. It's inhumanity, cruelty and greed.

Media outlets have popularized some tactical critiques of U.S. military operations in Iraq. But the administration is competent enough to keep the military-industrial complex humming. It's good at generating huge profits for "defense" contractors, oil companies and the like. First things first, and first things last.

Why shore up levees when the precious money it would take can be better used for war in Iraq? Why allow National Guard units to remain home when they can be useful, killing and being killed, in a faraway war based on lies?

And when catastrophe hits people close to home, why should the president respond with urgency or adequacy if their lives don't figure as truly important in his political calculus?

It's time to end the impunity of President George W. Bush.

Susan e-mails to note Christine's "Class, Race and Katrina: A Perfect Storm" (Ms. Musing):
Frustrated at the news coverage of Katrina on Monday night, Bernie at PopPolitics wrote about the two things missing most: "The context that no one dares report is that this is about race and class." It's something that's been bothering a lot of us who are trying to make sense of the images we're seeing and the narratives that are constructed.

Over at Slate, Jack Schaefer asks the same questions and responds with some apparently provocative ideas (see reader reaction) as to why the majority of the media isn't discussing what is obvious to anyone watching.

Race remains largely untouchable for TV because broadcasters sense that they can't make an error without destroying careers. That's a true pity. If the subject were a little less taboo, one of last night's anchors could have asked a reporter, "Can you explain to our viewers, who by now have surely noticed, why 99 percent of the New Orleans evacuees we're seeing are African-American? I suppose our viewers have noticed, too, that the provocative looting footage we're airing and re-airing seems to depict mostly African-Americans."

If the reporter on the ground couldn't answer the questions, a researcher could have Nexised the New Orleans Times-Picayune five-parter from 2002, "Washing Away," which reported that the city's 100,000 residents without private transportation were likely to be stranded by a big storm. In other words, what's happening is what was expected to happen: The poor didn't get out in time.

Even the mention of class and race is enough to throw some readers into a flurry. On the Slate message boards, the piece has been dismissed as "race-obsessed liberal commentary" and one poster suggests that Schaefer thinks Katrina itself was racist. What they refuse to acknowledge is they are participating in a long conservative history of denying race -- which is of course intertwined with class -- as a determining factor in American life. But Katrina exposed that perspective for what it is: a lie. Race matters. Often tragically so.

Over at The Daily Howler . . .  Bob Somerby writes:
We've spent a lot of time watching the coverage--and observing the commentary on the web. No, one photo caption which used the word "finding" doesn't tell you how news orgs have handled the topic of looting. But it feels very good to make the claim, and as our liberal intelligence continued to be breached, this silly (but pleasing) claim spread all through the provinces.
We didn't note what he's talking about here largely because everyone was talking about so I assume everyone knows of it.  But to recap, Associated Press ran two photos.  In fact, Danny Schechter has an e-mail about that today at News Dissector, so let's go there:
Dahni-El Giles writes to his "friends in the news:"

" I hope this is brief message is worth your time. If possible, I am hoping to get attention of someone who has ready access to news outlets.

"There are two pictures being spun of people ravaging for food in theaftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the attached document are pictures from Associated Press at the Yahoo News. In the document, a picture of a 'white' couple is shown wading in the water having foraged forfood and supplies in a grocery store. There is also a picture of a 'black' couple shown wading in the water after having 'looted' a store.

"Fact: I am unaware of the basis of either party's venture to the store. Within the captions, there is no discernible difference between the two trips except for the word 'loot.' With no other information provided about the pictures, how are they different? In my opinion, the connotations of the captions under are serious. In a time of extreme emergency, a story should not be spun in this manner.

"If this struggle for survival is being depicted falsely, we cannot allow this to occur. Global and local sympathy should not be curtailed by misrepresenting the intentions of people fighting for their lives. Obviously, if the situation was depicted accurately, we would hope that sympathy of the audience would not wain for the many people in need due to the actions of a few."

These captions have been widely discussed and apparently changed -- after the fact.

To give credit, I first heard of the issue Wednesday via a letter to Jim Romenesko sent by Christine Pazzanese.  That's Pazzanese of The Boston Globe.
Pazzanese meet the "liberal intelligence" which is, apparently, you.  All hail Pazzanese, presumably.  And all hail Dahni-El Giles as well. 
I'm sorry that this the photo captions are an example that Somerby apparently feels is minor (albiet "pleasing").  It's interesting because this issue does have racial factors (as well as economic ones and .. .)  Having heard coverage on the radio (Pacifica and NPR -- on the latter, especially Tavis Smiley's program) for the last few days, I'm surprised that Somerby's dismissive of the race issue. 
But I'm not in the mood to bite my tongue and suffer through countless e-mails over something I strongly disagree with. I feel that the captions are  an example of media portrayals that the topic is worth anyone exploring if they have the time or desire.  (Not because it's "pleasing" but because it's a serious issue.)  That said, media portrayals aren't the focus of The Daily Howler.
Oh wait, that is the focus of The Daily Howler
Take that comment however and wherever you want to.  Or just see Somerby as Lindsey Buckingham, tearing into the guitar and hollering,  "You can go your own way . . ."  ("Go Your Own Way" -- one of the few Mac songs Buckingham wrote that ended up a hit -- can be found originally on Fleetwood Mac's Rumors.) Shred those chords, Lindsey, while we look for a Stevie to please the crowds.  (Somerby appears to be entering his punk phase, Buckingham circa 1978-1979.  Which should make for interesting reading; however, I strongly disagree with him re: the photos.)
In the brief Howler today, Somerby notes that he's on a break until Tuesday which is too bad because there are e-mails to this site complaining about wall to wall coverage of the topic all over the net.  (Many citing wall to wall argue that the last thing we need to do is to note the Times' coverage of the hurricane and the aftermath on Saturday.  I am factoring that in and unless there's a swell of e-mails in the other direction, we'll probably skip it.)
There are other issues (we're on the second day of September and the fatality count for the month thus far of US troops in Iraq is . . . two).  So I'm honestly surprised by Somerby's decision to put the series on hold.  If he stops blogging, the hurricane has won!  That must be how Condi Rice feels -- that she needs just to carry on with life as usual.
For instance, while disaster and injustice continue in parts of the United States, Condi goes
. . .  Wait, let's Lenora (Musings & Migraines) tell it:
 ..Condi was doing WHAT?
Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

There's got to be a special corner in hell where this kind of callousness is punished. I hope when Condi gets there, she's wearing those shoes so Satan can shove them down her throat.
(To check out Isaiah's earlier take on the "fashionable" Condi Rice, click here.)
We'll note "Tom Joyner announces Relief Fund" (The Chicago Defender; article credited to "Chicago Defender Staff Report"): 

Nationally syndicated radio show host Tom Joyner announced Thursday the creation of the Relief Fund, which will assist those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"Hurricane Katrina hit the heart and soul of Black America," Joyner said in a news statement. "This is our Tsunami and we want to take care of those people who now may have family or friends who are going to be in their homes for an extended period of time. We know its hard and we want to make it a little easier on everybody."

[. . .]

Joyner Morning Show commentator, Tavis Smiley, and personalities Sybil Wilkes and J Anthony Brown, have each pledged $1,000.

For more information about how the Relief Fund will provide relief to families helping families, visit

The Relief Fund will accept donations at and by mail at: Relief Fund
P.O. Box 803209
Dallas, Texas 75240

All relief requests must be submitted by the church or partner organization administrator. Companies, sponsors and potential partners interested in providing matching funds or resources are encouraged to contact Katrina Witherspoon, president and CEO of the Relief Fund, at (972) 371-5850. You can also call toll free at (888) 866-1741 to get the information on how to make a donation and how to receive relief assistance.

We'll also note Roland S. Martin's "Tragedy affects us all" (The Chicago Defender):

President George W. Bush has stated that the devastation along the Gulf Coast wreaked by Hurricane Katrina is a national tragedy, yet in many ways, it is being played out as a southern coastal problem that doesn't require the attention of the rest of the nation.

As CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, devoted hours upon hours of coverage to the unfolding events, my heart grew angry by the minute at the lack of perspective or coverage offered by ABC, NBC, CBS and yes, Fox's national network.

When terrorists attacked our nation on Sept. 11, 2001, our sense of collective outrage was furthered by the images being shown on every major network and multiple cable stations. Yet when we all should be witnessing the worst natural disaster in our nation's history, we can count on the usual fare - soap operas, game shows and infomercials - taking up our time.

Should this have just been a cable story? Absolutely not. Had the networks taken the time to adequately jump on this story - remember how they were all over the blackout in New York and along the East Coast? - maybe the people in Wyoming, the state of Washington, California, Indiana, Maine and other non-affected states would have responded in a much more concerted way than what we have seen up until this point.

Our thoughts are with the victims of Hurricane Katrina -- and with those who suffered needlessly because of the incompetence of the Bush Administration. Not one FEMA or National Guard or Military shipment came to the rescue of thousands of people at the New Orleans Convention Center for four days, where some died of thirst and lack of medical attention. Not one helicopter, not one truckload of food, not one medic.

The head of FEMA also said that he didn't know there were people stranded at the Superdome until Thursday, even though this was broadcast widely and covered in the newspapers all week.

What does this say about Bush's wasteful use of billions of our tax dollars allegedly on "homeland security." This could have been a terrorist attack. The Busheviks weren't prepared at all, even after days of warning about the storm. With a terrorist attack, they wouldn't have even seen it coming, so their incompetence would have been even worse in not responding, which is hard to imagine.

This is inexcusable. If Bush is a man of God, God must have his head in his hands today, cursing his doltish, feckless self-anointed follower. People have been dying in American streets because the American government can't get water or food to them, even though reporters could get into the city.

Brandon e-mails to note Greg Palast's "Bush Strafes New Orleans, Where is our Huey Long?" (
There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927, a Republican President had his photo taken as the Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin Coolidge, "a little fat man
with a notebook in his hand," promised to rebuild the state. He didn't. Instead, he left to play golf with Ken Lay or the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.

In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was awaiting burial. As depression approached, the coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called for balancing the budget.
Then, as the waters rose, one politician finally said, roughly, "Screw this! They're lying! The President's lying! The rich fat cats that are drowning you will do it again and again and again. They lead you into imperialist wars for profit, they take away your schools and your hope and when you complain, they blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then they push your kids under. I say, Kick'm in the ass and take your rightful share!"
Huey Long laid out a plan: a progressive income tax, real money for education, public works to rebuild Louisiana and America, an end to wars for empire, and an end to financial oligarchy. The waters receded, the anger did not, and Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928.

At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not the textbooks. Governor Long taxed Big Oil to pay for the books. Rockefeller's oil companies refused pay the textbook tax, so Long ordered the National Guard to seize Standard Oil's fields in the Delta.

Huey Long was called a "demagogue" and a "dictator." Of course. Because it was Huey Long who established the concept that a government of the people must protect the people, school, house, and feed them and give every man or woman a job who needs one.

Government, he said, "We The People," not plutocrats nor Halliburtons, must build bridges and levies to keep the waters from rising over our heads. All we had to do was share the nation's wealth we created as a nation. But that meant facing down what he called the "concentrations of monopoly power" to finance the needs of the public.

Brenda had a question and it's a good one.  In this morning's New York Times, Carlo Rotella has a review entitled "Answering Call of America's Weirdness."  There's a huge photo (we're talking a TV show and we're talking the Times, it's a huge photo in the print version).  Brenda wondered if it was okay for the Times to push a show with one of their reporters anchoring/hosting it (Charlie LeDuff)? 
It's a good question.  Here's something to add to the question : The Discovery Times.  The show airs on that network which is a partnership between the New York Times and Discovery Communications.  I e-mailed Brenda to ask her if she was aware of that and she wasn't.  I don't think it's obvious from Rotella's article.  No other TV show is reviewed.  Movies reviewed don't get photos this large in today's paper (we're excluding advertising and perhaps that's wrong because the Times is advertising their own wares).
Rotella notes LeDuff's connection to the New York Times, he doesn't note the paper's connection to Discovery Times.  Perhaps he considered the connection (partnership) well known and not anything requiring a mention? 
Ruth asks to note that CounterSpin's latest radio show is playing today (and you can hear it online here) and to note you can hear this month's comedy program from WBAI's Christmas Coup Players by clicking here.  (Ruth's Morning Edition Report is running on Saturday.  Due to members' e-mails from this week, tomorrow's will be reposted in full on Monday.)
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