Friday, September 02, 2005

Odd Timing

Call me nuts, but I find it odd that between 5pm and 6pm today CNN and MSNBC (can't watch em all) both started pointing a finger of blame at the Mayor and City Government of New Orleans and both emphasized that the local government was run by Blacks. Hmmmm...

I'm not here to say that the local power structure in the Big Easy is sparkling, but it just seemed strange to me that white commentators suddenly came up with this proposition at the same time.

I'll be curious if this spreads.

By The Way

The regular old OD will be back after Labor remind us all
that those million who were starving in Niger a few weeks ago still
are, the genocide in Dhofar is still going on, the disaster called
Iraq continues, etc. etc. etc.

What The African American Press Has To Say

Here are some reports on what is happening in New Orleans and beyond from African-American commentators and media.

From the San Francisco Bay View

'This is criminal': Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans

by Malik Rahim
Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans, for decades an organizer of public housing tenants both there and in San Francisco and a recent Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council, lives in the Algiers neighborhood, the only part of New Orleans that is not flooded. They have no power, but the water is still good and the phones work. Their neighborhood could be sheltering and feeding at least 40,000 refugees, he says, but they are allowed to help no one. What he describes is nothing less than deliberate genocide against Black and poor people. - Ed.

New Orleans, Sept. 1, 2005 - It's criminal. From what you're hearing, the people trapped in New Orleans are nothing but looters. We're told we should be more "neighborly." But nobody talked about being neighborly until after the people who could afford to leave … left.

If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.

I can understand the chaos that happened after the tsunami, because they had no warning, but here there was plenty of warning. In the three days before the hurricane hit, we knew it was coming and everyone could have been evacuated.

We have Amtrak here that could have carried everybody out of town. There were enough school buses that could have evacuated 20,000 people easily, but they just let them be flooded. My son watched 40 buses go underwater - they just wouldn't move them, afraid they'd be stolen.

People who could afford to leave were so afraid someone would steal what they own that they just let it all be flooded. They could have let a family without a vehicle borrow their extra car, but instead they left it behind to be destroyed.

There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young Black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, "Stop! You're going to start a riot."

When you see all the poor people with no place to go, feeling alone and helpless and angry, I say this is a consequence of HOPE VI. New Orleans took all the HUD money it could get to tear down public housing, and families and neighbors who'd relied on each other for generations were uprooted and torn apart.

Most of the people who are going through this now had already lost touch with the only community they'd ever known. Their community was torn down and they were scattered. They'd already lost their real homes, the only place where they knew everybody, and now the places they've been staying are destroyed.

But nobody cares. They're just lawless looters ... dangerous.

The hurricane hit at the end of the month, the time when poor people are most vulnerable. Food stamps don't buy enough but for about three weeks of the month, and by the end of the month everyone runs out. Now they have no way to get their food stamps or any money, so they just have to take what they can to survive.

Many people are getting sick and very weak. From the toxic water that people are walking through, little scratches and sores are turning into major wounds.
People whose homes and families were not destroyed went into the city right away with boats to bring the survivors out, but law enforcement told them they weren't needed. They are willing and able to rescue thousands, but they're not allowed to.

Every day countless volunteers are trying to help, but they're turned back. Almost all the rescue that's been done has been done by volunteers anyway.

My son and his family - his wife and kids, ages 1, 5 and 8 - were flooded out of their home when the levee broke. They had to swim out until they found an abandoned building with two rooms above water level.

There were 21 people in those two rooms for a day and a half. A guy in a boat who just said "I'm going to help regardless" rescued them and took them to Highway I-10 and dropped them there.

They sat on the freeway for about three hours, because someone said they'd be rescued and taken to the Superdome. Finally they just started walking, had to walk six and a half miles.

When they got to the Superdome, my son wasn't allowed in - I don't know why - so his wife and kids wouldn't go in. They kept walking, and they happened to run across a guy with a tow truck that they knew, and he gave them his own personal truck.

When they got here, they had no gas, so I had to punch a hole in my gas tank to give them some gas, and now I'm trapped. I'm getting around by bicycle.

People from Placquemine Parish were rescued on a ferry and dropped off on a dock near here. All day they were sitting on the dock in the hot sun with no food, no water. Many were in a daze; they've lost everything.

They were all sitting there surrounded by armed guards. We asked the guards could we bring them water and food. My mother and all the other church ladies were cooking for them, and we have plenty of good water.

But the guards said, "No. If you don't have enough water and food for everybody, you can't give anything." Finally the people were hauled off on school buses from other parishes.

You know Robert King Wilkerson (the only one of the Angola 3 political prisoners who's been released). He's been back in New Orleans working hard, organizing, helping people. Now nobody knows where he is. His house was destroyed. Knowing him, I think he's out trying to save lives, but I'm worried.

The people who could help are being shipped out. People who want to stay, who have the skills to save lives and rebuild are being forced to go to Houston.

It's not like New Orleans was caught off guard. This could have been prevented.
There's military right here in New Orleans, but for three days they weren't even mobilized. You'd think this was a Third World country.

I'm in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the only part that isn't flooded. The water is good. Our parks and schools could easily hold 40,000 people, and they're not using any of it.

This is criminal. These people are dying for no other reason than the lack of organization.

Everything is needed, but we're still too disorganized. I'm asking people to go ahead and gather donations and relief supplies but to hold on to them for a few days until we have a way to put them to good use.

I'm challenging my party, the Green Party, to come down here and help us just as soon as things are a little more organized. The Republicans and Democrats didn't do anything to prevent this or plan for it and don't seem to care if everyone dies.
Malik's phone is working. He welcomes calls from old friends and anyone with questions or ideas for saving lives. To reach him, call the Bay View at (415) 671-0789.

From Black

Black Looters, White Finders - Is The Media Racially-Biased About Hurricane Katrina?
Long Beach, CA ( - It's no question that there is massive looting going on in the gulf coast area by white and black Americans. People of all colors are doing what they can to survive.

But why is the mainstream media saying that the Black people are looting supplies, and that the white people are finding supplies?

A recent report from found one picture by an AFP/Getty Images photographer and another by The Associated Press (AP) - and each had a different caption when published.

The AFP/Getty photo shows two white people with food, with the caption that they were "finding" bread and soda from a grocery store. However, the AP photo shows a black person with some food, with the caption saying he had just finished "looting" a grocery store.

[Click Here To See]

Dante Lee of, comments, "I've seen this variation several times, and it certainly reveals that the mainstream media is indeed racially-biased."

Pat Means of Turning Point Magazine, says, "The media must be careful in its labeling of people who are simply trying to survive. The media can not practice racism, when everyone is doing the same thing."

Others agree that the media is definitely targeting African-Americans to make them look worse than they already do.

From Black Press

New Orleans: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
by George E. Curry
NNPA columnist

I am angry. I am angry at the mayor of New Orleans. I am angry at the governor of Louisiana. I am angry at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I am angry at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), now part of the Department of Homeland Security. I am angry at George W. Bush. I am angry because they were warned last November that New Orleans was one of the “Disasters Waiting to Happen” – and did nothing about it. Consequently, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are dead. Needlessly.

In an eerie prediction of what happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina, an article titled, “What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?” was published in the Natural Hazards Observer, a major journal headquartered at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It was written by Shirley Laska of the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans. In other words, this was an article written by a reputable author in a reputable national publication that should have been read by people involved in disaster relief. If they had taken heed, many of the dead in New Orleans would be alive today.

Under the headline, “What if Ivan Had Hit New Orleans?” the author wrote, “New Orleans was spared this time, but had it not been, Hurricane Ivan would have:

- Pushed a 17-foot storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain;

- Caused the levees between the lake and the city to overtop and fill the city ‘bowl’ with water from lake levee to river levee, in some places as deep as 20 feet;

- Flooded the north shore suburbs as much as seven miles inland; and

- Inundated inhabited areas south of the Mississippi River.

“Up to 80 percent of the structures in these flooded areas would have been severely damaged from wind and water. The potential for such extensive flooding and the resulting damage is the result of a levee system that is unable to keep up with the increasing flood threats from a rapidly eroding coastline and thus unable to protect the ever-subsiding landscape.”

Until I read this article, I had said one of the positive things that I hoped would come out of this disaster is that relief experts would realize that they need to make special provisions for the poor, elderly and homeless. In essence, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Now, however, I realize that there is no benefit in doubt.

The warning was there in black and white:

“For those without means, the medically challenged, residents without personal transportation, and the homeless, evacuation requires significant assistance.”

Laska spelled it out in even more detail.

During Hurricane Ivan in 2004, she continues, ‘Residents who did not have personal transportation were unable to evacuate even if they wanted to.
Approximately 120,000 residents (51,000 housing units x 2.4 persons/unit) do not have cars.

“A proposal made after the evacuation from Hurricane Georges to use public transit buses to assist in their evacuation out of the city was not implemented for Ivan. If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished.”

The additional problem of people having the means to leave, but refusing to do so was addressed in the article.

“Researchers have estimated that prior to a ‘big one,’ approximately 700,000 residents of the greater New Orleans area (out of 1.2 million) would evacuate,” Laska wrote. “In the case of Hurricane Ivan, officials estimate that up to 600,000 evacuated from metropolitan New Orleans between daybreak on Monday, September 13 and noon on Wednesday, September 13, when the storm turned and major roads started to clear…

“The fact that 600,000 residents evacuated means an equal number did not. Recent evacuation surveys show that two thirds of nonevacuees with the means to evacuate chose not to leave because they felt safe in their homes. Other nonevacuees with means relied on a cultural tradition of not leaving or were discouraged by negative experiences with past evacuations.”

Those that dismiss environmentalists as kooks, should pay special attention to the observations about marshes.

“Loss of the coastal marshes that dampened earlier storm surges puts the city at increasing risk to hurricanes,” the article noted. “Eighty years of substantial river leveeing has prevented spring flood deposition of new layers of sediment into the marshes, and a similarly lengthy period of marsh excavation activities related to oil and gas exploration and transportation canals for the petrochemical industry have threatened marsh integrity.”

Using the Hurricane Ivan model to predict what would happen if a major hurricane struck New Orleans, Laska wrote: “Should this disaster become a reality, it would undoubtedly be one of the greatest disasters, if not the greatest, to hit the United States, with estimated costs exceeding 100 billion dollars. According to the Red Cross, such an event could be even more devastating than a major earthquake in California. Survivors would have to endure conditions never before experienced in a North American disaster.”

It ended, “The hurricane scenario for New Orleans that these conveying risks portend is almost unimaginable. Hurricane Ivan had the potential to make the unthinkable a reality. Next time New Orleans may not be so fortunate.”

George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and He appears on National Public Radio (NPR) three times a week as part of “News and Notes with Ed Gordon.” In addition, his radio commentary is syndicated each week by Capitol Radio News Service (301/588-1993). To contact Curry or to book him for a speaking engagement, go to his Web site,

From Black Commentator Radio
Text of Radio BC audio commentary
September 2 2005
Will the ‘New’ New Orleans be Black?

One of the premiere Black cities in the nation faces catastrophe. There is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans will one day rise again from its below sea level foundations. The question is, will the new New Orleans remain the two-thirds Black city it was before the levees crumbled?

Some would say it is unseemly to speak of politics and race in the presence of a massive calamity that has destroyed the lives and prospects of so many people from all backgrounds. But I beg to differ. As we have witnessed, over and over again, the rich and powerful are very quick to reward themselves as soon as disaster presents the opportunity. Remember that within days of 9/11, the Bush regime executed a multi-billion dollar bailout for the airline industry. By the time you hear this commentary, they may have already used the New Orleans disaster to bail out the insurance industry – one of the richest businesses on the planet. But what of the people of New Orleans, 67 percent of whom are Black?

New Orleans is a poor city. Twenty-eight percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Well over half are renters, and the median value of homes occupied by owners is only $87,000. From the early days of the flood, it was clear that much of the city’s housing stock would be irredeemably damaged. The insurance industry may get a windfall of federal relief, but the minority of New Orleans home owners will get very little – even if they are insured. The renting majority may get nothing.

If the catastrophe in New Orleans reaches the apocalyptic dimensions towards which it appears to be headed, there will be massive displacement of the Black and poor. Poor people cannot afford to hang around on the fringes of a city until the powers-that-be come up with a plan to accommodate them back to the jurisdiction. And we all know that the prevailing model for urban development is to get rid of poor people.
The disaster provides an opportunity to deploy this model in New Orleans on a citywide scale, under the guise of rebuilding the city and its infrastructure.

In place of the jobs that have been washed away, there could be alternative employment through a huge, federally funded rebuilding effort. But this is George Bush’s federal government. Does anyone believe that the Bush men would mandate that priority employment go to the pre-flood, mostly Black population of the city. And the Black mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat in name only, a rich businessman, no friend of the poor. What we may see in the coming months is a massive displacement of Black New Orleans, to the four corners of the nation. The question that we must pose, repeatedly and in the strongest terms, is: Through whose vision, and in whose interest, will New Orleans rise again. For Radio BC, I’m Glen Ford.

You can visit the Radio BC page to listen to any of our audio commentaries voiced by Co-Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Glen Ford. We publish the text of the radio commentary each week along with the audio program.

From BET
Gulf 's Toxic Stew Adds to Crisis for Black Residents
BET, News Report, Mary M. Chapman, Sep 02, 2005

Weary, anxious and in shock, Thomas Reed is doing the only thing he can do – wait. He's sitting in a hotel room 400 miles from his drowned hometown, fielding calls from worried loved ones, one eye on the TV set.

He can barely believe what he's seeing.

"I have never, ever seen anything like this," says Reed, a Black group insurance salesman who fled New Orleans with his two kids Sunday for Greenville, Miss. "I even see some faces I recognize."

Most of them Black faces.

TV cameras reminded America just how Black New Orleans is, as they showed thousands of African Americans pouring into the Superdome arena for shelter.

Reed lives in the heart of New Orleans, overwhelmingly Black and poor. At least he did. Right now, he doesn't know whether he has a house at all. He has no relatives in New Orleans, but he hates to see what's happening to those left behind.

Jennifer Burns does too. A Tuskegee, Ala., resident, who lived in New Orleans for 30 years, wonders aloud whether friends she knew have survived. But as it turns out, besting the hurricane is just the start. Those who lived face another adversary: floodwaters poisoned by several agents, including raw sewage and toxins from the floating dead.

The toxic soup likely has other ingredients too, nasty by-products of petrochemical plants, industrial sites, oil refineries, storage tank farms, underground gas stations and sewage treatment plants, facilities common throughout the Gulf. Even before Katrina, such by-products had already seriously compromised the soil, air and water in areas heavily populated by impoverished African Americans, says an internationally renowned environmental expert.

"Even when there's no natural disaster Blacks have lived the closest (to these facilities)," says Robert Bullard, founder and director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. "These issues have been exacerbated by the hurricane. So now you have a combination of things coming together, flooding and the mix of pollutants. A hurricane releases all that stuff.

"Then when you talk about a group of people who lack health insurance and homeowner's insurance, when something like this happens, you know just who is going to be the most vulnerable," says Bullard, who wrote "Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality" (2000, Westview Press).

Going beyond a widely circulated 2002 United Methodist Church report on the increasingly contaminated state of groundwater in rural America, Bullard has called the recurring proximity of hazardous materials plants to impoverished, mostly Black neighborhoods environmental racism.

"Then when something happens like this, most aren't able to pack up and drive 300 miles and buy gas and check into a hotel with no credit card," says the Ware professor of sociology at Clark. "This is a race and class issue."

The southern United States is characterized by “look-the-other-way” environmental policies and giveaway tax breaks, Bullard said in a report presented last year to the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

"Lax enforcement of environmental regulations has left the region’s air, water and land the most industry-befouled in the United States. The Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor has over 125 companies that manufacture a range of products including fertilizers, gasoline, paints and plastics," the report said.

Bullard advises watching to see how rebuilding unfolds in Katrina's aftermath. "It would be great if everything were equal and fair, but we know who gets the royal treatment. If you live across the tracks, you are going to get treated like you live across the tracks. Let's see who gets the levees put back in first. It's downtown, the French Quarter. It's sure not going to be the neighborhoods," he says.

"If their houses are standing – there's also a lot of public housing – there's going to be mold when they get back. And they have no nest egg, no savings accounts to do anything about it."

Indeed, the 2000 U.S. Census shows that in New Orleans, 11.5 percent of Whites lived below the poverty line, compared with 35 percent of Blacks. In Mobile, Ala., another hard hit area, 8.2 percent of Whites were impoverished, compared with 34.7 percent of African Americans. Some 27.3 percent of Blacks in Biloxi, Miss., lived beneath the poverty line, compared with 10.5 percent of White residents. For Gulfport, Miss., it was 11.2 percent for Whites, 29.2 percent for African Americans.

"These are people who mostly work service jobs and who just couldn't get out. But New Orleans is important ... , so it'll get fixed back up," Reed says.

About the latter, Marc Morial agrees. President of the National Urban League, Morial was the mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002. "It has to be rebuilt, it just must be saved," says Morial. "It's important to the nation, important to the world.

"But the most immediate thing is to save people's lives; this is catastrophic. Then some people only have enough money for a hotel room for two or three days. From what I'm seeing, it's nearly brought me to tears. There's story after story of pain in all three states.

"This is like Noah's flood."

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) spoke to from his home near Jackson, Miss., his phone hooked up to a generator. He arrived in town about a day after Katrina struck. "The one thing that people miss is that a lot of Blacks here don't have their own means of transportation," he says. "So when you say 'evacuate' to a person who doesn't even have a car, what are you saying? Most of these people were not able to go."

And those left behind, he says, may have to deal with toxic stew. "There is no question that if you look at where all these sites are located, irregardless of this occurrence, they tend to be located in low-income, minority communities. Anytime a situation like this is upon us, it exacerbates the dilemma."

As for Reed, he's doing the best that he can.

"I'm just playin' it by ear, basically. Stay here a few more days, see what's goin' on.

"There's not much more I can do."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Personal Plea

My wife Karen was very involved in getting kids and their families
tansported out of Children's Hospital of New Orleans...many were
brought up here to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City (where she works), others were taken to Houston and Little Rock. You can go to the site listed below if you'd like to help out.


These are just some random thoughts I’ve had while watching the disaster along the gulf coast.

Even before the hurricane arrived as I watched the lines forming outside the Super Dome, I thought how American’s racial and class divide had seldom been made more obvious. At least 95% of those in line were African Americans who simply lacked the resources to get the hell out of town. The whites sprinkled throughout the line were obviously poor, elderly, and/or ill.

The fact that nearly 30% of New Orleans lives below the official poverty level (which itself is affixed at an absurdly high level) is astounding.

Look at the pictures of the poor people on roofs and what did you see? Again mostly African American and virtually entirely poor.

Who did you see in the pictures of people wondering through the flood waters? Who did you see sitting on highway overpasses?

Where the hell was the army? We can get them off for Iraq on a moments notice, but it took days to just get em started to Gulf. We drop food and water from the air all over the damn place, but no body could figure out how to do it along the Gulf.

Who were the people we saw shell shocked on the coast of Mississippi. Again, poor whites and poor African Americans.

Why was Tulane University Hospital evacuated Tuesday morning, while across the street Charity Hospital begged for help Wednesday night?

Why is the media shocked that desperate people do desperate things?

Why is that old picture of people desperately trying to get on a helicopter on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon on the end of the Vietnam War interpreted so differently than the the same picture of people desperately trying to get on rescue helicopters in New Orleans? And no, I don’t excuse people assaulting other people, stealing from other victims, shooting at recuers. However, when you allow a city to drown with no organized response, can anything be a surprise. And are looters worse then those high government officials who allowed all this to happen?

Why did I just hear a CNN correspondent report that the only busses he saw leaving downtown were filled with hotel guests. Those busses drove by poor displaced citizens sitting on highways and others surrounding the chaos of the Super Dome or the Convention Center where people are being forced to live like animals and where people are literally dying for lack of supplies. Where are the giant choppers filled with supplies already? Oh, and once again, who are those dying people? You know who they are.

Why can our local Children’s Hospital get patients out of New Orleans Children’s Hospital but the all mighty federal government and its Pentagon seems only able to issue proclamations that help is coming - hour after hour?

What happened to all that money that was pumped into the Homeland Security Department anyway?

What was Bush doing playing the guitar in San Diego on Monday? What did he mean when he said “America would be stronger” for all this? Is he crazy?

I know this is a huge natural disaster, but it wasn’t unimaginable. It had been imagined time and again. (Hell, there was a TV movie about it on just a few months ago). Homeland Security picked just this scenario when it looked into what a huge catastrophy would look like. They had to know that there would be tens of thousands of poor mostly African American citizens and their white poverty stricken neighbors who simply lacked the resources to evacuate (New Orleans, Biloxi, or the many small towns scattered along the Mississippi delta and the Gulf coast) and yet they had no plan to evacuate them and apparently no plan or no will to worry about them. There can be no excuse for the chaotic, slow, and haphazard response by what is not, after all, a third world country.

Others put it like this:

Lost in the Flood
Why no mention of race or class in TV's Katrina coverage?
By Jack Shafer
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005, at 4:22 PM PT

I can't say I saw everything that the TV newscasters pumped out about Katrina, but I viewed enough repeated segments to say with 90 percent confidence that broadcasters covering the New Orleans end of the disaster demurred from mentioning two topics that must have occurred to every sentient viewer: race and class.

Nearly every rescued person, temporary resident of the Superdome, looter, or loiterer on the high ground of the freeway I saw on TV was African-American. And from the look of it, they weren't wealthy residents of the Garden District. This storm appears to have hurt blacks more directly than whites, but the broadcasters scarcely mentioned that fact.

Now, don't get me wrong. Just because 67 percent of New Orleans residents are black, I don't expect CNN to rename the storm "Hurricane" Carter in honor of the black boxer. Just because Katrina's next stop after destroying coastal Mississippi was counties that are 25 percent to 86 percent African-American (according to this U.S. Census map), and 27.9 percent of New Orleans residents are below the poverty line, I don't expect the Rev. Jesse Jackson to call the news channels to give a comment. But in the their frenzy to beat freshness into the endless loops of disaster footage that have been running all day, broadcasters might have mentioned that nearly all the visible people left behind in New Orleans are of the black persuasion, and mostly poor.

To be sure, some reporters sidled up to the race and class issue. I heard them ask the storm's New Orleans victims why they hadn't left town when the evacuation call came. Many said they were broke—"I live from paycheck to paycheck," explained one woman. Others said they didn't own a car with which to escape and that they hadn't understood the importance of evacuation.

But I don't recall any reporter exploring the class issue directly by getting a paycheck-to-paycheck victim to explain that he couldn't risk leaving because if he lost his furniture and appliances, his pots and pans, his bedding and clothes, to Katrina or looters, he'd have no way to replace them. No insurance, no stable, large extended family that could lend him cash to get back on his feet, no middle-class job to return to after the storm.

What accounts for the broadcasters' timidity? I saw only a couple of black faces anchoring or co-anchoring but didn't see any black faces reporting from New Orleans. So, it's safe to assume that the reluctance to talk about race on the air was a mostly white thing. That would tend to imply that white people don't enjoy discussing the subject. But they do, as long as they get to call another white person racist.

My guess is that Caucasian broadcasters refrain from extemporizing about race on the air mostly because they fear having an Al Campanis moment. Campanis, you may recall, was the Los Angeles Dodgers vice president who brought his career to an end when he appeared on Nightline in 1987 and explained to Ted Koppel that blacks might not have "some of the necessities" it takes to manage a major league team or run it as a general manager for the same reason black people aren't "good swimmers." They lack "buoyancy," he said.

Not to excuse Campanis, but as racists go he was an underachiever. While playing in the minor leagues, he threw down his mitt and challenged another player who was bullying Jackie Robinson. As Dodger GM, he aggressively signed black and Latino players, treated them well, and earned their admiration. Although his Nightline statement was transparently racist, in the furor that followed, nobody could cite another racist remark he had ever made. His racism, which surely blocked blacks from potential front-office Dodger careers, was the racism of overwhelming ignorance—a trait he shared (shares?) with many other baseball executives.

This sort of latent racism (or something more potent) may lurk in the hearts of many white people who end up on TV, as it does in the hearts of many who watch. Or, even if they're completely clean of racism's taint, anchors and reporters fear that they'll suffer a career-stopping Campanis moment by blurting something poorly thought out or something that gets misconstrued. Better, most think, to avoid discussing race at all unless someone with impeccable race credentials appears to supervise—and indemnify—everybody from potentially damaging charges of racism.

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.

To the question of looting, an informed reporter or anchor might have pointed out that anybody—even one of the 500 Nordic blondes working in broadcast news—would loot food from a shuttered shop if they found themselves trapped by a flood and had no idea when help would come. However sympathetic I might be to people liberating necessities during a disaster in order to survive, I can't muster the same tolerance for those caught on camera helping themselves in a leisurely fashion to dry goods at Wal-Mart. Those people weren't looting as much as they were shopping for good stuff to steal. MSNBC's anchor Rita Cosby, who blurted an outraged if inarticulate harrumph when she aired the Wal-Mart heist footage, deserves more respect than the broadcasters who gave the tape the sort of nonjudgmental commentary they might deliver if they were watching the perps vacuum the carpets at home.

When disaster strikes, Americans—especially journalists—like to pretend that no matter who gets hit, no matter what race, color, creed, or socioeconomic level they hail from, we're all in it together. This spirit informs the 1997 disaster flick Volcano, in which a "can't we all just get along" moment arrives at the film's end: Volcanic ash covers every face in the big crowd scene, and everybody realizes that we're all members of one united race.

But we aren't one united race, we aren't one united class, and Katrina didn't hit all folks equally. By failing to acknowledge upfront that black New Orleanians—and perhaps black Mississippians—suffered more from Katrina than whites, the TV talkers may escape potential accusations that they're racist. But by ignoring race and class, they boot the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population. What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"

Or how about this tid bit from Spiegel

"No One Can Say they Didn't See it Coming"

By Sidney Blumenthal

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.
Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope, Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war.

In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and whose presses are now underwater, reported online: "No one can say they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."

"My administration's climate change policy will be science based," President Bush declared in June 2001. But in 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a study on global warming to the United Nations reflecting its expert research, Bush derided it as "a report put out by a bureaucracy," and excised the climate change assessment from the agency's annual report. The next year, when the EPA issued its first comprehensive "Report on the Environment," stating, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment," the White House simply demanded removal of the line and all similar conclusions. At the G-8 meeting in Scotland this year, Bush successfully stymied any common action on global warming. Scientists, meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressive data on the rising temperature of the oceans, which has produced more severe hurricanes.

In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease." Bush completely ignored this statement.

In the two weeks preceding the storm in the Gulf, the trumping of science by ideology and expertise by special interests accelerated. The Federal Drug Administration announced that it was postponing sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and its approval by the FDA's scientific advisory board. The United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa accused the Bush administration of responsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda -- the result of the administration's evangelical Christian agenda of "abstinence." When the chief of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the Justice Department was ordered by the White House to delete its study that African-Americans and other minorities are subject to racial profiling in police traffic stops and he refused to buckle under, he was forced out of his job. When the Army Corps of Engineers' chief contracting oversight analyst objected to a $7 billion no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq to Halliburton (the firm at which Vice President Cheney was formerly CEO), she was demoted despite her superior professional ratings. At the National Park Service, a former Cheney aide, a political appointee lacking professional background, drew up a plan to overturn past environmental practices and prohibit any mention of evolution while allowing sale of religious materials through the Park Service.

On the day the levees burst in New Orleans, Bush delivered a speech in Colorado comparing the Iraq war to World War II and himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt: "And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan." Bush had boarded his very own "Streetcar Named Desire."

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of "The Clinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

Or this:

Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 by the Editor & Publisher

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?
'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues

By Will Bunch

PHILADELPHIA - Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans late on Tuesday. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

Will Bunch ( is senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News. Much of this article also appears on his blog at that newspaper, Attytood.

© 2005 VNU eMedia Inc. / Editor and Publisher

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PSNI failing to tackle unionists attacks

WITH ANY LUCK THE REGULAR OREAD DAILY SHOULD RETURN the meantime here is another one from Northern Ireland from Sinn Fein News...

The PSNI have abjectly failed to tackle the ongoing unionist paramilitary campaign against Catholics and nationalists, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said today.

Over the past number of weeks, the sectarian campaign being waged against Catholics and nationalists in areas like North Antrim has intensified. It has not met with a robust response from the PSNI. In fact the contrary would appear to be the position.

It is a widely accepted fact that the PSNI control agents at every level within these loyalist gangs. There is a suspicion that it is this relationship which is dictating the softly softly approach being adopted by the PSNI on the ground to these attacks.

Mr Kelly said:

"Instead of confronting those organisations responsible too often the PSNI have publicly failed to even acknowledge that the motivation behind this campaign is sectarian. In doing so they are providing cover for those behind the nightly attacks. It sends out a message that there is a toleration of loyalist violence and an acceptance that these attacks will continue without hindrance.

"People feel that unionist paramilitaries are being allowed to set the agenda. Vulnerable and isolated nationalist communities are being exposed to a completely unacceptable level of violence and intimidation.

"In recent weeks we have had 5 murders directly linked to the UVF. We have had scores of attacks on nationalists, these attacks continued again last night, yet people are not appearing before the courts. It is simply not believable to suggest that the PSNI are doing their level best to address this situation."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Northern Ireland Report: Campaign against Ballymena Catholics continues as Primary School is bombed

I'll be running these briefs from Northern Ireland as I receive them from Daithi McKay while I continue the Oread Daily's time out until Sept. 1. After that I will simply include them in the regular Oread Daily. Daithí is the Sinn Féin councilor on Ballymoney Borough Council - Bann Valley elected in 2005.

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that nobody could sink any lower than to attack primary schools in the Ballymena area. His comments follow the multiple petrol-bombing of a Catholic Primary School in the Harryville area of the town.

Mr McGuigan said:

"This attack is just the latest episode of a concerted campaign against Catholics in the Ballymena area. It is just down the road from the most attacked chapel in the North and just a few miles away from Ahoghill where a Catholic Primary School and Chapel have also been targeted.

"The building was attacked with 4-5 petrol bombs and it seems like they were intent on burning down both the canteen and library.

"What took place this morning was another act of pure sectarianism against the Catholic community. Once again I would appeal to the DUP to use their leadership and undoubted influence over the unionist paramilitaries to bring these attacks to an end."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Two More Reports from Northern Ireland

I'll be running these briefs from Northern Ireland as I receive them from Daithi McKay while I continue the Oread Daily's time out until Sept. 1. After that I will simply include them in the regular Oread Daily. Daithí is the Sinn Féin councilor on Ballymoney Borough Council - Bann Valley elected in 2005.

1. North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that those who carried out attacks on peoples' houses and cars on Warden Street should think long and hard about the consequences of their actions.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The senseless attacks on people's property on Warden Street have left a lot of the residents here badly shaken up. Many elderly people live along this street and for so many young people to subject them to this kind of behaviour is both senseless and sickening.

"The young people who did this should reflect long and hard on the consequences of their actions."

North Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay was speaking to some of the residents of Warden Street the next morning:

"The residents who witnessed this attack last night were petrified of what one resident called the 'maniacs' who wrecked cars and houses along this street.

"We have been to see the management of the Social Club who also suffered damage to their property and they are extremely shocked at what has happened. The club carries out a lot of good (mainly voluntary) work in the community and what has happened here last night is clearly a one-off occurance.

"We are greatly concerned at this random episode of violence and would urge anyone with influence over these young people to use it to stop any repeat of such attacks."

2. Sinn Féin are to report 3 PSNI members to the Police Ombudsman for harassment after their behaviour at a contentious Black Saturday parade on Saturday night. North Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor, Daithí McKay, said:

“Three members of the DMSU unit deployed outside All Saints Chapel on Saturday night approached a Catholic gentleman on Saturday night before the parade started and told him that he was being searched under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act. The man in question was doing nothing untoward and was there to make sure the ‘blood and thunder’ bands behaved themselves when passing the chapel during Mass time. The gentleman in question wanted me to observe the search to make sure that his rights were not impinged on and I had every right to do this. The PSNI members tried to move me away from the search and told me that I was not allowed to do this even though I have acted in this capacity before. Eventually they let the man go as he was entirely innocent in the first place and started harassing myself.

“When I went to record the PSNI officers numbers for the Police Ombudsman they then insisted on taking my details under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act!! When I gave my name the PSNI member responded with the comment ‘Is that a foreign name?’ which just summed up the PSNI’s attitude on the night.

“It is also worth noting that the PSNI did not act on various sectarian comments shouted by band members, some referring to the Pope, during the parade, as well as band supporters who were drinking and some of whom were obviously intoxicated in the vicinity. It is just another clear example of the PSNI’s ‘kid-gloves’ approach to loyalists in North Antrim.

“We have drawn up a two-page report which has now been forwarded to the Police Ombudsman as proof that the PSNI’s bullying approach to Nationalists and Republicans has not changed one iota.”

Ballymena Sinn Féin representative, Padraig McShane, was also present to observe proceedings on Saturday night and said that:

“The behaviour of some of those present at the Black Saturday parade was disgraceful and the Parades Commission’s Code Of Conduct was breached numerous times. I would like to ask the Royal Black Preceptory why they feel it is necessary to have bands play ‘The Sash’ and have parade followers shout sectarian obscenities outside a chapel when Mass is on?

“This kind of behaviour seems to becoming routine for Pride of the Maine band. Fresh from playing sectarian songs outside a chapel on Derry Day in Rasharkin when Mass is on, they are at it again in Ballymena. I would urge the RBP, if they have any decency, to at least change the time of this parade so that mass-goers can worship in peace. All those practising their faith in this town, whether its Protestant or Catholic, Muslim or Jew, should be allowed to do so without this unwarranted behaviour.

“We will now be drawing up a report on this parade for the Parades Commission and all evidence of breaches that we have gathered tonight will be passed on to them immediately.”