Thursday, September 08, 2005

Democracy Now: Judd Legum, Farhad Manjoo, Phyllis Bennis; Margaret Kimberley, Bruce Dixon, Salim Muwakkil, James L. Walker, Grace Lee Boggs ...


25,000 Body Bags Ready In Louisiana
In Louisiana 25,000 body bags are now on hold for victims of Hurricane Katrina and last week's devastating flood. The actual death toll remains unknown but officials saying they are preparing for the worst. A temporary warehouse morgue in rural St. Gabriel that had been prepared to take 1,000 bodies is being readied to handle 5,000. Earlier this week New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin predicted up to 10,000 people died in New Orleans alone. A website set up by the Red Cross lists more than 117,000 names of people who have not been located. The majority of the people on the list are presumed to be alive and displaced to other cities.

Federal Government Attempts to Block Press Access To New Orleans
In New Orleans the federal government is being accused of trying to censor the images coming out of the devastated city. The Reuters news agency is reporting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now rejecting requests by journalists to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims. In addition journalists are being asked not to photograph any dead bodies in the region. Critics of FEMA's request compared the policy to the Pentagon's policy that bars reporters from taking photographs of the caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq. NBC News Anchor Brian Williams is reporting that police officers have been seen aiming their weapons at members of the media. And a blogger named Bob Brigham has written a widely read dispatch that the National Guard in Jefferson County are under orders to turn all journalists away. Brigham writes QUIOTE "Bush is now censoring all reporting from New Orleans Louisiana. The First Amendment sank with the city."

Rep. Pelosi Calls On Bush to Fire FEMA Head
In other news on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi assailed the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, who she described as having "absolutely no credentials." Before joining FEMA Brown spent 11 years as the head of the International Arabian Horse Association. Pelosi said she recently saw President Bush and urged him to fire Brown. She said the president responded to her request by saying "Why would I do that?" When Pelosi said because of all that went wrong last week, she said he replied "What didn't go right?"

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Jimarcus, Micia and HeathDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for September 8, 2005

- 25,000 Body Bags Ready In Louisiana
- Federal Government Attempts to Block Press Access To New Orleans
- Rep. Pelosi Calls On Bush to Fire FEMA Head
- FEMA Filled With Political Appointees, Not Disaster Experts
- Five Die From Bacteria in Contaminated Flood Water
- Schwarzenegger to Veto Same Sex Marriage Bill
- 16 Die in Car Bombing in Basra
FEMA Chief Brown: Former head of the Arabian Horse Association Qualified to Manage Agency?

We speak with Judd Legum from the Center of American Progress about FEMA's role in handling the catastrophe in the wake of hurricane Katrina. [includes rush transcript]
Why FEMA Failed: The Bush Administration and Disaster Relief

As Republican leaders announced a joint House-Senate inquiry into failures surrounding the response to Hurricane Katrina, we take a look at why FEMA failed with staff writer Farhad Manjoo who writes, "Ideologically opposed to a strong federal role in disaster relief and obsessed with terrorism, the Bush administration let a once-admired agency fall apart."
Politicizing Disaster Relief: How FEMA Overcompensated Florida Citizens in the Run-Up to the Presidential Election

We look at FEMA's disaster response in Florida in the fall of 2004, and how the presidential election played a role in the distribution of hurricane aid there.
Toxic Soup: The Deadly Floodwaters of New Orleans

As the toxicity of the New Orleans' floodwaters grows worse, we look at the environmental and public health dangers looming in the city. We speak with a chemical toxicologist and independent water-consultant about the problems brewing in the water of New Orleans.
Depleted Disaster Aid: Rejecting International Donations and the Using Resources in Iraq

While international donations have been pouring in for victims of hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration has been somewhat reluctant to accept offers from countries like Cuba and Venezuela. We speak with Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies about international donations and how essential resources have been stretched thin by the war in Iraq.
We'll start with two announcements (the first is an event in NYC):


Tonight, Rory O’Connor of MediaChannel will moderate a panel on press freedom developments in Nepal, produced in association with the South Asian Journalists Association. It's part of a series called Himalayan Hotspots: 7 PM at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street in Chelsea, the neighborhood I call home.


Imagine: After a year of struggling to get my film on TV, I will be missing the U.S. premiere on the Independent Film Channel on September 11th at 10 PM. I will miss it, but you don’t have to. Actually, please spread the word. Also, good news from the other coast: WMD has been nominated for an International Documentary Association Award.

Both are from Danny Schechter's News Dissector site and Martha e-mailed to note both.
KeShawn e-mails to note Margaret Kimberley's latest Freedom Rider, "New Orleans and the Demise of the Democrats" (The Black Commentator):

"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so." -- Kathleen Blanco, Democratic Louisiana Governor

"But I want to thank the president." -- Mary Landrieu, Democratic Louisiana Senator

"…you and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there." -- Bill Clinton, former Democratic President

Democrats made these mean spirited and ignorant statements. The entire country is facing the plight of the people of New Orleans, coping with the dangers of Republican hell and Democratic high water. One party is proud of its viciousness while the other claims not to be vicious but proudly proclaims its willingness to shoot desperate refugees.

The degree of Democratic callousness in the New Orleans tragedy may be shocking at first, but it is actually consistent with the direction the party has taken for the past two decades. The Democrats are dying a slow political death. Their inaction and acquiescence in New Orleans is just the latest symptom presented by a terminal patient.

In the summer of 2005 President Bush's approval ratings took a dive. The plunge was not the result of any shrewd political moves by the Democrats. Iraq is dragging Bush down. His approval ratings are akin to Richard Nixon's at the time of his resignation during the Watergate scandal. The issue that could have catapulted John Kerry into the White House is rearing its head yet again, but Democrats refuse to take up the challenge.

The Black Commentator is back from the summer vacation with an all new edition.  There is a lot to read and we'll note one more for this entry, Bruce Dixon's "The Lowdown on the Downlow: Looking for HIV/AIDS in All the Wrong Places:"
The date was April 16, 2004.  The words were those of Oprah Winfrey leading off that Friday’s version of her long running syndicated daily TV show.  But instead of information on the promised "many ways you can get AIDS," what Oprah's audience got was an hour of disinformation, stereotyping and hucksterism.  They got just one way to avoid the deadly infection, from one source: secretive and predatory bisexual black men, "Living on the Down Low."

During that hour, Oprah and her guest, J.L. King, the author of what became, thanks to exposure on Oprah' TV show and web site, a best selling book, did incalculable and lasting damage to the battle for HIV-AIDS prevention, treatment, and understanding of the epidemic in the African American community.

Huckster J.L. King portrayed himself as a typical example of a "down low brutha," supposedly reformed just enough to want to sell his book and services as a speaker, passing on tidbits of useful information such as where he and other "down low bruthas" go to meet each other:

Mr. KING: He could be available and he could be part of the society, this invisible fraternity. I'm going to go into a church. I can go anywhere in the country and find out where churches--where most of the guys are or where I can make that connection and that's where I'm going to go. You're not going to find me in no gay club because I have nothing to do with the gay culture.


Mr. KING: That's them. That's their thing.

WINFREY: OK. So you would go to a church.

Mr. KING: I would go to a church. There's be one--I--I can go to the church, a gym or a grocery store.

WINFREY: Or a grocery store.

Mr. KING: Anywhere. Anywhere, 'cause we''e everywhere. [2]

[. . .]

 We at BC are not the first to note that the Oprah Winfrey show and Down-Low author J.L. King are in deep disagreement with the Center for Disease Control, and with the known facts of the AIDS epidemic. Of the eight medical doctors, public health professionals, HIV-AIDS treatment and testing providers and advocates on the case level and the policy level whom BC interviewed for this article, not one could be found to co-sign the notion that "down low bruthas" are chiefly responsible for the epidemic of HIV-AIDS among black women. 

We humbly suggest that Oprah owes her audience a sincere and profound apology for popularizing this damaging myth, and a follow-up show that features real doctors, real HIV researchers, real public health professionals who minister to the epidemic on a daily basis, along with real advocates of testing, treatment, healing and prevention. A great place to start might be someone from the Black AIDS Foundation, who only got a handful of words in edgewise in the final moments of the infamous "down low" show.

Maria e-mails to note Salim Muwakkil's latest, "Katrina's Racial Wake" (In These Times):
Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous aftermath have stripped away the Mardi Gras veneer and casino gloss of the Gulf Coast region, and disclosed the stark disparities of class and race that persist in 21st century America.

The growing gap between the rich and the poor in this country is old but underreported news --perhaps in part because so many of the poor also are black. Accordingly, many Americans were surprised that most of the victims of the New Orleans flood were black: Their image of the Crescent City had been one of jazz, tasty cuisine and the good-natured excesses of its lively festivals. 

Where did all those black people come from, they wondered; and where were the white victims?

African Americans make up about 67 percent of the population of New Orleans, but clearly they were disproportionately victimized by the hurricane and its aftermath. And while blacks make up just about 20 percent of those living along the Gulf coast of Mississippi, their images dominated media representations of the victims there as well. In addition to race, the common denominator between blacks in both states is poverty. The "Big Easy," has a poverty rate of 30 percent, one of the highest of any large city. The state of Mississippi has the highest percentage of people living in poverty of any state and the second-lowest median income. The state's Gulf Coast experienced an economic boom when casinos were legalized in the early '90s, but that new affluence did little to ameliorate the race/class divide that has deep roots in the region.

We'll note James L. Walker's "BET must stop business as usual" (The Chicago Defender):
It is with great regret and deep sadness that I write this letter and open public plea to our number one network for African-Americans that being Black Entertainment Television, i.e., BET, recently purchased by media giant Viacom.

During the last six days, since the crisis of Hurricane Katrina, the BET
Network has operated under business as usual and a slight reference to a benefit concert nearly 10 days after the storm?

Folks, we need media coverage from BET now, today, hour-to-hour, 24-7, day-in-and-day-out!

[. . .]

I love BET, but given this catastrophe and the aftermath affecting people that look like me, I had to make this last minute desperate and urgent plea to BET and out-going Chairman/owner Mr. Bob Johnson, BET Program Executive Stephen Hill and the new Viacom leadership (which owns BET) and/or anyone else in charge at the network.

Gina e-mails to note Grace Lee Bogg's latest Fresh Ideas, "Building a movement around the dropout challenge" (The Michigan Citizen):
It can take years, even decades, to discover the issue around which a great transformative movement can be built.  And even when you think you've found the issue, it can take more years before (1) the situation reaches a crisis level and (2) the counter-cultural vision necessary for movement-buidling begins to emerge.
For many years I have felt that the next great social movement, after the identity movements of the 20th century, will be a movement to transofrm our public schools from the topdown factory model, created over a hundred years ao, to a community-building model that provides children and young people with ongoing opportunities to engage their hearts, heads and hands in solving the real problems of their communities.
Thirteen years ago when we founded Detroit Summer to involve young people in "rebuilding, redefining and respiriting Detroit from the ground up", I was delighted to learn that in the last three years of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, seeking a way to overcome the despair that exploded in the urban rebellions, decided that what young people "in our dying cities" need are not "middle class careers" but "direct action programs" that change themselves and their environment at the same time. 
From CODEPINK's home page, we'll note:

ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG: Tell Bush to Get Out of Iraq
Polls show that we now represent the majority -- 6 out of 10 Americans would like the US troops to come home -- people feel isolated from each other and feel their voices are not being heard. So we have created an exciting new campaign called ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG, where you can post on-line YOUR reason why the US should get out of Iraq, and read what other people all over the world have to say. On September 26 we will hand deliver the signatures and messages directly to the White House.

Join us for the mass mobilization in Washington DC, September 23 - 26
The tide is turning and now more than ever we have to force those behind the gates of the White House to see the writing on the wall. We must get out of Iraq NOW. Join with tens of thousands of other activists who know the time for us is NOW. Be with us in this historic moment as we march on the White House and deliver onemillionreasons to BUSH. Mark your calendars, reserve your tickets, and get your pink gear ready!

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