Saturday, September 03, 2005

Other items

Members of Congress from both parties acknowledged on Friday that the federal response to Hurricane Katrina had fallen far short and promised hearings into what had gone wrong.
[. . .]
Before the House action, members of the Congressional Black Caucus strongly criticized the federal response to the hurricane, saying the government had abandoned many poor and frail victims, most of them members of minorities.
"Shame, shame on America," said Representative Diane Watson, Democrat of
California. "We were put to the test, and we have failed."
Republican lawmakers were also critical, with Representative Jim McCrery of
Louisiana choking up during a news conference.

The above is from Carl Hulse's "Lawmakers of Both Parties Criticize U.S. Response" in this morning's New York Times and since Pat Roberts isn't cited as one of the Congressional members promising hearings, there's a good chance that they may happen. (A jab at the hearings on Iraq intell that we're all still waiting on.)

Eli e-mails to note Steven Greenhouse's "Wal-Mart Workers Are Finding a Voice Without a Union:"

Having failed to unionize any Wal-Marts, American labor unions have helped form a new and unusual type of workers' association to press Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to improve its wages and working conditions.
With its first beachhead in Central Florida, the two-month-old group is already battling Wal-Mart, the nation's largest corporation, over what it says is the company's practice of reducing the hours that many employees work, often from 40 a week to 34, 30 or even fewer, jeopardizing some workers' health benefits.

[. . .]
The association says it has nearly 200 current and former Wal-Mart workers and is growing by 30 workers a week. Members pay dues of $5 a month. In Florida, its membership includes workers from 30 stores in the Tampa, Orlando and St. Petersburg areas, and it is also seeking to enlist Wal-Mart employees in Texas.

Patrick e-mails to note Raymond Hernandez's "In Contrast to Rival, Clinton Has Her Man Stand by Her:"

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton brought her husband along to the New York State Fair on Friday, drawing a sharp contrast with her likeliest Republican rival in next year's Senate race, who has mostly kept her scandal-plagued husband out of public view since announcing her candidacy.
"I'm basically here because the senator told me to be here, and I do what I am told," the former president playfully told a luncheon crowd gathered in a banquet hall on the fairgrounds.
The carefully staged visit by the Clintons - which drew huge and enthusiastic crowds - was more than just another photo opportunity. It foreshadowed the active role that her advisers say Mr. Clinton will almost certainly play in his wife's re-election campaign, at a time when many Democrats are expressing a measure of nostalgia about his presidency in this period of Republican dominance in Washington.

Lily e-mails to note the Associated Press article entitled "Judge Allows Suits Against Bank for Paying Bombers' Relatives:"

A federal judge in Brooklyn yesterday upheld the validity of three lawsuits accusing Arab Bank, a Jordan-based bank with a branch in Manhattan, of promoting Palestinian suicide bombers by funneling Saudi money to bombers' families.
The judge, Nina Gershon of United States District Court, denied almost all of Arab Bank's motion to dismiss the litigation, allowing survivors of the bombings and victims' families to pursue suits seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
The suits claim Arab Bank aided terrorism by acting as the administrator of an "insurance plan" by the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada Al Quds, which paid $5,300 to the families of Palestinian bombers.
The plaintiffs are United States citizens.

Moving outside the Times, Karen e-mails to note Michael Tisserand's "Living Like a Refugee" (The Nation):

Being a middle-class, white New Orleanian meant being constantly reminded of poverty. Unlike some other cities, New Orleans had no major geographical boundaries between wealth and ghetto; the city was an economic, racial and cultural patchwork. I never imagined those distinctions would someday dictate who would live and who would die.
A French Quarter bar manager named Bigfoot rode out Hurricane Katrina in the Iberville Project, the substandard public housing development that many of the French Quarter's waiters and busboys, dishwashers and maids called home.

He writes on his blog ( that attempts by Iberville residents to flag down police resulted in guns being aimed. Here's what else he says: "The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single-file lines with the elderly in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians. The buses never stop."

And let's note Joel Bleifuss and Brian Cook's "Unnatural Disaster: How policy decisions doomed New Orleans" (In These Times):

White House Press Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters in response to questions about the devastating havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, "This is not a time for politics."
But with New Orleans now underwater, hundreds--if not thousands--dead and tens of thousands in desperate need of food, shelter and water, the natural question is: What could the federal government have done to lessen this catastrophe? The answer is all about politics.
The Bush administration, having done its best to realize Grover Norquist's dream of cutting government "to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," for days watched impotently as citizens of New Orleans were drowned. It is a disaster that is largely the consequence of the policy decisions that the White House has made over the past five years.

Think of it as the article the New York Times should have run on Thursday.

Brady e-mails to note Danny Schechter's Friday News Dissector:

DAY 5: No more water; the fire this time. Explosions rock and illuminate the darkness of New Orleans -- some from exploding gas lines and some from gunfire. Another night in a wet and dangerous town that is quickly coming to resemble a war zone in the Third World. It is a place filled with angry and hungry people, people who have felt abandoned and been abandoned for a long time-- even as help is said to be finally on the way.
Was it global warming or a global warning or both? As a great poet once put it, when the center will not hold, things fall apart. And fall apart they have. Suddenly, the people thought to be sympathetic victims are being rebranded as predators. Protecting property and rescue workers seems to have become more of a priority than saving the beleagured in a town that is drowning -- literally.
And, yes, some of those people are in revolt, or acting out, or getting what they can, fighting back, sometimes in violent ways. The Washington Post speaks of a "city of despair and lawlessness." And what was it before the hurricane? Answer: a city of despair and lawlessness, one of the poorest and most violent cities in America, with a high unemployment, crime and murder rate, all "diseases" of poverty. One can acknowledge realities without endorsing them. Only now, these problems are out in the open as a new "insurgency" comes home.
Is not the chaos and fury in the streets in some way a reflection of the chaos in the suites of the agencies that have been so slow to respond? Of course, security is important. By all means. So is food.So is a government that cares.
Traumatized people can become savage in a savage situation so outside their control. What would you do when desperation amidst a sense of Armageddon strikes in an environment suffocating in all that heat and with all that fear?
The Bush people keep referencing the Bible -- and so, poof! We now have a Biblical moment to behold. It ain't pretty.

And Sharon e-mails to note, from Christine's Ms. Musing, Crystal Lander's "A Response and a Challenge to Leaders:"

I also cannot watch the news or read the papers without noticing the blatant racism in the portrayal of the people in New Orleans. White people walking out of stores with items are categorized as "searching for food," while Black people were "looting everything in sight."
Those lucky enough to get out the horrid conditions at the Superdome and Convention Center were only transferred to another disaster waiting to happen, the Houston Astrodome. Why were these people taken to just another large dome facility? Families cannot stay in a place like this very long. Toilets will back up and older people cannot sleep on cots. Many survivors are sick and distraught, and they need privacy. This is inhuman, and like one of the survivors said, "they are being treated like animals."
Houston has hundreds of motels and hotels. Why can't the richest government in the world pay for displaced Americans to stay in hotels, motel, or real temporary housing with showers and beds? The so-called refugees are displaced Americans with a government who should help.
I challenge the hotel chains to offer their empty rooms to Katrina's survivors and the owners of the apartment complexes to offer up their empty apartments and the government and non-profits should subsidize the cost with all the money they have raised. It will take months for the water to drain from New Orleans and even longer for residents to be able to return. Katrina's survivors need long-term solutions to their living conditions, not short-term stays at an old athletic stadium that has primarily served as an arena for rodeos and circuses in recent years (in fact my cousin and her church group helped to clean up the horse manure left behind to prepare for the survivors). Is this what the federal government thinks of the people of New Orleans, that only a place like this is good enough for them?

We've got Ruth's Morning Edition Report and Maria's Democracy Now! news summary that will be going up shortly. There have been problems with the Blogger program all morning. (The previous post was lost three times so if reads more disjointed than usual, that's why.) Before those go up, I'm going to take a shower and do some cross posting to the mirror site which is about six entries behind.

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