Friday, August 25, 2006

Let it Rise 

Official Rising Tide Conference web site
Friday Night: mixer from 5-8pm at the New Orleans Yacht Club

Saturday: Conference starts at 8:45 (come early to register). Featured speakers will be Chris Cooper and Bobby Block, authors of "Disaster". There will be panels talking about interesting topics as well as a catered lunch from Dunbar's Creole Cooking.

Sunday: We will gut a house for a family whose musical roots run very deep in this town.

Please join us!!
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Can we get a reaction from Rob "unbelievable!" Couhig and other Nagin "swing-vote conservatives" to da mayor's latest idiotic comment?

Mitch Landrieu would never have done that, but you see, Landrieu "doesn't understand business" like Nagin.

Insulting NYC and Ground Zero... now there's an innovative business model for a devastated city that needs help. You know what? Here's a little tip about business: nothing happens until you sell something! And Nagin can't sell the city to save his life. He can only sell himself.... right before an election.

I'm sure the rest of the country will feel all kinds of sympathy for us if Ernesto decides to become a hurricane and flood the Crescent City next week.
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Why do I have to be Crouere's "fact-checkin cuz"? 

Conservative political analyst Jeff Crouere reviews "When the Levees Broke". He states:

Incredibly, [Spike] Lee found no time to investigate the damage in Old Metairie or Lakeview, two primarily white areas that were decimated. Was that just an oversight or an example of racial discrimination?

Not so incredibly, Crouere's claim that "Lee found no time to investigate the damage in ...Lakeview" is false. False, false, false. In an extended interview segment, Lakeview resident and UNO student Paris Ervin talked about his mother (who stayed in her Lakeview house during the storm) and how he eventually found her corpse under a fallen refrigerator in her flooded house. There were several shots of her "decimated" house.

(Also, Joseph Bruno talked about his childhood experiences on the lakeshore, and going to the levees during storms and watching the water lap at the tops of the barriers.)

Once again, let me remind critics that Lee didn't focus on the damage in Broadmoor (a racially mixed neighborhood), either. As a former resident of that neighborhood, am I outraged? Do I feel left out and "discriminated" against? No, because I could relate to the stories from other neighborhoods, including the Ninth Ward (whose white population Lee overrepresented, if anything). I could even relate to stories if-- yikes!-- a black New Orleanian was telling it.

How could Lee possibly do justice to the damage in all neighborhoods? If I were a director, I'd probably leave out the victims in Old Metry as well. Not because I hate rich white people, but because I'd choose to focus on other neighbohoods, and other stories.

Another Crouere claim:

Lee also completely bypassed the devastated Mississippi Gulf Coast, another primarily white region, which bore the brunt of the high winds and the storm surge of Katrina.

This is also false. There were shots of Misssissippi coastal devastation narrated by young men who told Cheney to [cheney] himself.

But all we hear are white reviewers complaining that Lee's film is "incomplete" because, apparently, too many black New Orleanians are telling stories of loss and frustration that ALL Katrina victims/survivors should be able to identify with.

I mean, boil it down, and you get: How dare he exclude the white victims in Old Metairie! What is Lee, a racist?

Laughable. I'm sure, quite sure, that reviewers like Crouere would be similarly up in arms if a white director made a Katrina documentary that excluded Gentilly and Broadmoor. They'd be the first to call it "incomplete", right?

Lee made the mistake of interviewing a black Lakeview resident and several White 9th Ward residents. That just doesn't seem to make any impact on white critics of the movie, apparently, because they keep writing reviews saying Lee's documentary was "racially" incomplete. Lee made the mistake of presenting those neighborhoods as more racially "mixed" than they really are. Shame on him.

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Great Caesar's Ghost, da Mayor's talking off the cuff again! 

And the results are true to form.

(Nagin is "Our Political Father"?... WTF, O.T.? Was their a divorce?-- because it feels like we see him, at most, every other weekend.)
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Appropriate this 

When you review the numbers breakdown in this important Da Po Blog post, there's a few other little factoids worth keeping in mind. I excerpted the below quote from Chris Cooper and Robert Block's excellent book "Disaster". They will speak at the Rising Tide conference on Sunday.

The background is that the President has once again reminded us that "our government has committed over $110 billion to help" Gulf Coast states recover from Katrina.

Concerning the much bally-hooed appropriations, Cooper and Block observe (p289):

[Much] of the federal reconstruction money came with strings attached. A large portion was in the form of loans that would eventually have to be repaid. FEMA also reckoned that the state of Louisiana owed Washington about $1 billion as its share of the overall costs... When the state requested an itemization [for the first installment], FEMA balked.
In a report it submitted to Congress in February, FEMA said that a whopping $7.7 billion of the $29.7 billion spent to date had gone toward ["administration"] expenses-- an overhead rate of 26 percent.

Louisiana received a pittance thus far for coastal wetlands restoration.

The idea of Cat 5 Flood protection for S. Louisiana has been relegated to long term "study".

FEMA, apparently, has an overhead rate worse than Baghdadi subcontractors. And FEMA continues to shaft local companies by giving 87% of the rebuilding contracts to favored out-of- state companies like Fluor and Ch2M Hill.

And then the President wants to remind us bout the government's generous appropriations, which include payment of federally guaranteed insurance claims.

How nice of them to choose to do that.
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Rising Tide starts tomorrow 

Visit the site to register in advance or get a ticket ($20) at the door.

Rising Tide will commence with a casual, social mixer at the New Orleans Yacht Club on Friday (5-8pm).

Saturday is the big event, and it's also at the NOYC. Registeration 8-8:45. Program begins at 8:45, and the keynote with WSJ reporters Chris Cooper and Robert Block will start at 9am. Cooper and Block are the authors of Disaster-- a very impressive book you will hear a lot about in the coming days and weeks.

Dress casual and bring extra cash for t shirts, posters, books and beverages afterwards. Feel free to bring a laptop as well. The building (though in the midst of renovations) will have wifi access for you real time "conference bloggers". Consult the map at the RT website for directions to the venue. We should have some signs up along the way to make it easier, too.

Did I forget to mention that all this includes a lunch catered by Dunbar's Creole Cooking?


Then, on Sunday, Rising Tide volunteers will help gut a house and participate in other productive events around town.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Breaking News! 

Talking Points Memo guest blogger Paul Kiel asks: "who knew that DHS relied on CNN Headline News for its vital intelligence?"

I don't know. Perhaps last month's readers of TPM Cafe's "After the Levees" blog?
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When the Levees Broke 

I've enjoyed Spike Lee's films over the years. (For example, I think Do the Right Thing is a masterpiece). And, like Judy, I was impressed and captivated by his new HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke: A requiem in four acts". Unfortunately, I had read local T-P columnist Dave Walker's pernicious review of the film prior to watching it. Walker said:

["Levees"] tells only half the story. Or, rather, 67.3 percent of it.

Frequently brilliantly, but still.

The tragic story of black New Orleans trapped in Katrina's path has found a supreme chronicler, but the flooded-out residents of Lakeview... will... wonder: Where am I in this?
Those who were here know that, in virtually every way, Katrina was an indiscriminate storm that killed and destroyed without regard to ethnicity or economic condition. That is not the impression that the nation received watching coverage of the immediate aftermath of the storm, nor the one viewers will take away from Lee's documentary.

In one of his future installments, perhaps, will be the stories of Lakeview families whose losses were every bit as tragic as the stories told so movingly in this film.

To quote a white Mississippian who was interviewed in "Levees": Dave Walker, go [cheney] yourself!

First off, the film DID have interviews with residents of Lakeview who discussed their tragic stories.

Second: why is it that when Lee shows African-Americans touring their destroyed homes, and feuding with insurance companies, and complaining about the design of the levees and losing loved ones in a flood... why is that viewed as a separate, "black New Orleans" story? What about those experiences makes them count for only 67.3% of "the story"? Precisely why does Walker think white residents of Lakeview can't identify with those universal aspects of the Katrina aftermath? Is it because they are being recounted by a black face?

Seriously: when the African-American Engineering Professor from Tulane was talking about poorly designed floodwalls, was that a "black New Orleans" issue? When watching that, did Lakeview residents honestly ask themselves, "'where am I' in this discussion"?

Certainly the devastation in the ninth was the visual centerpiece of the film. However, there were clips of devastated Lakeview mansions as well. As a former Broadmoor resident, I didn't see many pictures from my old neighborhood, but I was too engrossed in the film to keep score. When a black Lower Ninth Warder was shown standing in the street by a pile of moldy debris... you know what? I was able to identify with that! Months ago, my belongings were also in a big pile in an empty, dusty street, and I had an uncertain, fatigued look in my eyes! That's not a "white" story or a "black" story-- it's a Katrina story. And shame on anyone who can't see that!

Again: those interviewed in Lee's documentary were identified by neighborhood, not race. If Walker wants to whine about Lakeview and Old Metairie (his code for "white New Orleans") getting short shrift, he might've also mentioned heavily-flooded Broadmoor. Oh, but "Whoops!" Broadmoor is a racially diverse neighborhood, and doesn't fit Walker's discrete view of the city. When I saw an African-American Broadmoor resident being interviewed in Lee's film, I felt like I was listening to a neighbor tell his story. It didn't occur to me that perhaps my neighbors pigmentation caused the flood to affect his house differently than mine.

Third: for those Dave Walkers out there who are keeping score, Lee's "unfinished" documentary contains 61 interviews with "black" people and 56 with white folk. (That's my unofficial count, derived from the credits.) I didn't pull out the stopwatch to see who spoke for how long. I do know that, if anything, Lee made the Ninth Ward seem more racially diverse than it is.

Fourth: And as far as the "bombing the levees" conspiracy goes... I think the documentary's refutations were solid and explanatory, as were the extended follow-up shots showing the barge that caused the sounds which were interpreted as explosions. Perhaps this could've been refuted more decisively, but Lee presented a persistent myth: there are many who wrongly believe the levees were bombed during Katrina and Betsy. Obviously Lee doesn't subscribe to this view, because he named the film "When the Levees Broke", not "When the Levees were bombed".

Fifth: Sure, if I were Lee I might've done things differently. For example: less Al Sharpton and Belafonte, and more John Barry.

Sixth: I must respectfully disagree with Mark Folse, who sort of defended Lee from Walker's criticism by saying that:

Spike Lee is a Black film maker. He's not a Black man who makes films; he makes films about the Black experience.

Not so fast my friend! Lee has made a number of films that are not about the "Black experience". "25th hour", "Summer of Sam", and "Inside Man" would not be considered "films about the Black experience" if they were directed by someone else. Would we say that Scorsese makes films about the "Italian-American experience"? Not without selling him short. See "Age of Innocence" and "Kundun", among many others.

Why must we say anything more limiting than "Spike Lee is a film-maker"?

Seventh: Another friend, Schroeder, contends "[Spike Lee] chose to only present the experience of a few thousand black residents of the Lower Ninth Ward". And Gulfsails says: "To hear it from Spike, Katrina walloped only poor black people while all the whites sat on their porches playing cribbage." These are simply false claims. One of many counterexamples that leap to mind are the two impassioned ladies from "da Parish" who are interviewed standing on their house slab. Or you could watch any 15 minute segment from "Levees" and find more counterexamples.
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Intersection of New Orleans and Humanity 

Photos by Mark Moseley
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Clearly this was too controversial to merit overwhelming support from our legislators in Washington D.C.:

[The] U.S. House of Representatives has declined to endorse a bipartisan resolution commemorating the anniversary of the disaster. House Republicans objected to a line in the resolution that "reaffirms... the commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast region and improving the quality of life for all of its residents."

Can you imagine if these House Republicans were as committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast as they are to "defending" the institution of marriage from homosexual attacks?
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Monday, August 21, 2006

Fighting insurgents 

Retired military intelligence officer and counterinsurgency specialist Terence Daly writes an editorial suggesting we assemble a special police force to carry out counterinsurgent campaigns. I think it's too late for that to work in Iraq, but he does make a number of good points. Below, I imagine how some conservative bloggers would respond to Daly's analysis.

Three years into the Sunni insurgency in Iraq everyone... still believes that eliminating insurgents will eliminate the insurgency.

Damn straight!

They are wrong.


There is a difference between killing insurgents and fighting an insurgency.

This man deserves a gibbeting!

[In the past 3 years], we have fought insurgents with airstrikes, artillery, the courage and tactical excellence of our forces, and new technology worth billions of dollars. We are further from our goal than we were when we started.

That's because liberals and the MSM have tied our hands behind our back with their objections to torture and God's gift of universal freedom.

Counterinsurgency is about gaining control of the population, not killing or detaining enemy fighters.

Dead populations are the easiest to control.

A properly planned counterinsurgency campaign moves the population, by stages, from reluctant acceptance of the counterinsurgent force to, ideally, full support.... The counterinsurgent must be ready and able to kill insurgents-- lots of them-- but as a means, not an end.

Huh? If they can't accept democracy at gunpoint, I say we just pull the trigger.

Counterinsurgency is work better suited to a police force than a military one. Military forces-- by tradition, organization, equipment and training-- are best at killing people and breaking things.

Damn straight!

Police organizations, on the other hand, operate with minimum force.... They are accustomed to face-to-face contact with their adversaries, and they know how to draw street-level information and support from the populace.
What is the suggestion here?

The United States needs a professional police organization specifically for creating and keeping public order in cooperation with American or foreign troops during international peacekeeping operations.

We are not the world's policeman! Do not tie our hand behind our backs. We must have both hands free to kill enough evildoers to win this war. It's a matter of WILL!

Crucial to the success of this force is that the American people thoroughly discuss and understand the organization and its mission.
I already know all I need to know. You're trying to sell weakness to the American people, and weakness only emboldens the enemy.

Forcing the round peg of our military, which has no equal in speed, firepower, maneuver and shock action, into the square hole of international law enforcement and population control isn't working. We need a peacekeeping force to complement our war-fighters, and we need to start building it now.
International Law? I knew it. This guy's on Kofi Anan's payroll. Right, Rick? Rick?

To deny... reality... is too much of a stretch, even for a Bush partisan like myself. Facts are facts and if the Administration had confronted many of the problems-- insurgency, militias, disenchanted populace, the extent of foreign assistance to the insurgents, and sectarian factionalism to name a few-- it may be that a different outcome to the war could have been salvaged.
Et tu, Right Wing Nuthouse? Et tu?

For if there is a victory to be had in Iraq...

[We] need more troops-- a lot more at least temporarily. Order must be brought to Baghdad and its environs and to do that we would need... 50,000 more Americans to both police the area and ferret out insurgents and the death squads.

For that to happen, the President would have to admit he and Donald Rumsfeld have been wrong all along...
I love the residual naivete behind those "if... then" statements. "Well, it coulda worked if... (begin long list of things that this administration is incapable of doing)."

And if you believe that winning in Iraq is still merely a matter of "will", then you should rest assured: this President has said that "we're not leaving Iraq so long as [he's] President".
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Only a Squirrel would miss this! 

Important programming note. Saturday, the Rising Tide Conference is in the morning and afternoon. The Saints preseason game against the Colts (in Jackson, MS) starts at 7pm. There is no overlap, you can see both. So register today! And if you can't attend, please donate!

Graphic taken from the Black and Gold Patrol site.
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I'm here to talk about my previous talks about working together 

(I'm waiting on the transcript from Bush's press conference from this morning. He discussed Katrina and debris removal and reminded everyone that it was "a big storm". He had nothing to say about the levees, of course.

Update: Scout Prime has the video of the Katrina portion. In it, the Decider reminds us: "I also want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. It was a huge storm.")

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from Bush's address at the annual NAACP convention (7/20/06). Observe how substance-free this is. Just marvelously inert. I've highlited certain recurring words:

I congratulate [NAACP Pres.] Bruce Gordon on his strong leadership. (Applause.) I've gotten to know him. See, shortly after he was elected, he came by the Oval Office. He doesn't mince words. (Laughter.) It's clear what's on his mind. He's also a results-oriented person. I'm pleased -- I'm pleased to say that I have -- I'm an admirer of Bruce Gordon, and we've got a good working relationship. (Applause.) I don't know if that helps you or hurts you. (Laughter.) But it's the truth. I admire the man.

We've had frank discussions, starting with Katrina. We talked about the challenges facing the African American community after that storm. We talked about the response of the federal government. And most importantly, we talked about the way forward. We talked about what we can do working together -- (applause) -- to move forward. As a result of that first meeting, we found areas where we share common purpose, and we have resolved to work together in paractical ways. I don't expect Bruce to become a Republican -- (laughter) -- and neither do you. (Laughter.) But I do want to work with him, and that's what I'm here to talk to you about. (Applause.)

So we've been working together in helping the citizens along the Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history. You know, when we met, I told Bruce that I would work with the Congress to make sure we dedicated enough money to help the folks. He kind of looked at me like, sure, he's heard these political promises before. It's not the first time that he had heard somebody say, well, we'll work together to see if we can't get enough money, and I suspect he might have thought, well, he's just trying to get me out of the Oval Office. (Laughter.)

But I meant what I said, and I want to thank the United States Congress for joining with the administration. We committed over $110 billion to help the people in the Gulf Coast. (Applause.) That's money to go to build new homes, good schools. Bruce and I talked a lot about how do we make sure the contracting that goes on down there in the Gulf Coast goes to minority-owned businesses. (Applause.)

Especially in light of recent reports of Katrina profiteering by big out-of-state companies pretending to be small, local, minority-owned firms, one might be interested in what Bush said about this topic. One might be expecting some detailed specifics. One might think "And what, Mr. President? FEMA promised to rebid the contracts but they didn't. And now you say you talked about ensuring that these rebuilding contracts go to local minority owned businesses... So, what were the fruits of this talk? What was the result of your conversation on this topic? What precisely did you agree to do?"

Here's what President Bush said next:

The road to recovery is long and difficult, but we will continue to work together to implement the strategy that Bruce and I worked on along with people -- other people like Donna Brazile and other leaders. We've got a plan, and we've got a commitment. And the commitment is not only to work together, but it's a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast of the United States, to see to it that their lives are better and brighter than before the storm. (Applause.)

We also worked together to ensure that African Americans can take advantage of the new Medicare drug benefit.

What pray tell is this "plan" you hammered out with the NAACP president and New Orleans native Donna Brazile? Specifically, how does it guarantee that rebuilding contracts are awarded to bona fide local and minority-owned companies?

Mr. President, you say you're results-oriented, and you're commited to making our lives "better and brighter" than before the storm (great metric, btw!). Only 13% of hurricane related contracts granted by FEMA have gone to local firms. And "local" is defined as the state of Louisiana or the state of Mississippi. (And some of that 13% includes "faux local" shell companies from other states.) The number of local companies getting contracts should be at least 50%. But the President would never commit to something solid like that. He'd rather just insult your intelligence by reporting that he has "talked" about these matters, and will "work together" with NAACP leaders to address them.
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