Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another "lifeless" citizen from this black and bookless town 

From today's Times-Picayune obit:

Margaret Ada "Peg" Samson-Tipson Murison Wright, an artist and activist who volunteered to drive a student past phalanxes of raging racists when New Orleans' public schools were being desegregated, died Thursday of respiratory failure at her New Orleans home. She was 90.

While federal marshals protected black children who were integrating what had been all-white schools, no guards accompanied Mrs. Wright when she drove the last white student to William Frantz Elementary School, which had been made all-black in an attempt to thwart integration, said her son Scott Murison.

"Protesters threw rocks at the car, the windows were broken, and people tried to run her down," Murison said. "She got threatening calls at night, but because my father was a doctor, he couldn't turn off the phone."

In addition to hate mail and phone and bomb threats, a cross was burned in the family's yard, Murison said.

Despite such intimidation, she kept driving the young girl, Yolanda Gabrielle, to school until her family gave up and left town, Murison said.
A tireless supporter of Democratic candidates, she was active in the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International.
In addition to her activism, she had art. She had studied piano, but that pursuit came to an end during World War II, when she was a chemist. While she was grinding the components for pharmaceuticals in an electric mortar and pestle, she lost two fingers on her right hand when she turned away for a split-second, her son said.

"I really wasn't going to be a pianist anyway," she said in the 1993 interview.

She worked in clay, her son said, and she made collages, jewelry and fabric art. When Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial was mayor, he commissioned a three-part fabric representation of the skyline he saw from his City Hall office.

Besides producing art, she taught painting and sculpting at Orleans Parish Prison for seven years.
In the late 1980s, Mrs. Wright turned to acting, appearing in plays, monologues and a commercial for Popeyes fried chicken, "licking all eight of my fingers," she said.

The post title refers to recent comments about New Orleans made by self-proclaimed racist John Derbyshire at NRO. Why do I link to such a clown? Because he writes for the nation's leading conservative magazine.

I previously wrote about William Frantz Elementary's desegregation battle here. But I never knew that the white racist mobs later harrassed and violently attacked the few white students who refused to flee from the "desegregated" school. Unbelievable, but true.

(As a side note, I'm proud to say that I was one of the organizers of a protest to save the historic school 9th ward school in the May of 2005, where concerned parents were given a platform on the front steps of William Frantz to air their concerns about the school's future. Some curious W.F. teachers brought their classes outside during the protest, and held a mini-"teach out" regarding Ruby Bridges with full participation of their wonderful students. I don't know if that was appropriate or not, but I am personally grateful for that spontaneous pedagogic decision on their part.)

Murison's bravery and integrity is truly impressive. But let me provide some context on another angle which the T-P alludes to.

Consider this: according to the obit, Murison also attempted to stop "corruption and gambling in Jefferson Parish". So, she formed a women's group which would call news reporters and informed them in advance that the group was going to visit an illegal casino in order to expose the prevalent underground gambling in the area, and shut the place down (if only for one night). I don't know which illegal casinos Murison's group successfully "exposed", but two of the most well-known ones (the Beverly Club and the New Southport Club) were owned by New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello . In fact, back in the day, Marcello's Beverly Club was considered "the most lavish illegal casino in the nation" boasting "huge crystal chandeliers, fine china for diners, and name entertainers like Sophie Tucker and Tony Martin." No matter which particular casinos Murison's group exposed, it's a lead pipe cinch that Marcello owned the illegal slot machines operating in the establishment.

In short, after battling white racist mobs who tried to intimidate and kill her, Peg Murison decided to interfere with Carlos Marcello's business, when he was the most powerful mob boss in the United States. All that in addition to being a liberal activist, a feminist, a chemist, a mother and an artist.

Hell, it's amazing that she made 90 years with eight fingers intact. (Like Ms. Murison, President Kennedy would've made 90 this year, too, had his head not been blown off in 1963. JFK's brother, Robert, had interfered in Marcello's business, and he too was assassinated when running for president.)

God rest her soul.

Btw, Carlos Marcello knew Lee Harvey Oswald through Lee's uncle Charles "Dutz" Murret, who was a bookie in Marcello's illegal gambling empire (which extended to Dallas).
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Friday, February 09, 2007

Like Blake, I read the news today 

Oh boy.

Maybe a partial antidote to that depressor is, naturally, the latest Antigravity (.pdf), which features Quintron on the cover.

Fritz Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra:

I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance.

And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity-- through him all things fall.

Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!

Hat tip: Jeffrey
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Memo to my comrades in Left Blogistan: 

Juan Cole didn't accept Jonah Goldberg's bet, so stop breathlessly wondering where the dime will end up. There is no bet unless both sides agreed to a bet.

Instead, my fellow lefties should simply note how, over the years, so many conservative pundits willingly strapped themselves into a "Reality Removal Machine"-- it was almost like a cult.

Goldberg 2/7/05: "I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it."

Sometimes stupid hurts.

(And, regarding the inevitable question-- "Do your chickenhawks have large talons"?-- the answer appears to be no.)

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"The largest payout of U.S. currency in Fed history..." 

... went to Iraq, in planes, loaded with hundreds of tons of cash, stacked on pallets.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) asks "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?".

I'm sure everyone got their money's worth.

In other (related?) news:

1. "A man sentenced to death in Kuwait for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies now sits in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, according to U.S. military intelligence."

2. "At least one of the Iraqi generals under suspicion for involvement or having advance word of the attack is said to be an intelligence officer, according to U.S. officials. If that's proven to be the case, the involvement of Iraqi generals in an attack on American forces raises questions about the loyalty and trustworthiness of Iraqi military officers at the highest levels."

3. Fifth U.S. helicopter goes down in Iraq in last 18 days.

4. The "Troop Surge" continues... in Afghanistan!

While the country debates the Bush administration's "surge" of American troops into Baghdad, a similar American buildup has begun in Afghanistan. As in Iraq, it comes in response to rapidly escalating violence, and in Afghanistan, too, one question is whether the reinforcements are too little or too late.

By extending the deployment of a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division even as the 82nd Airborne begins to arrive, the Pentagon will bring the U.S. troop level to 24,000. That's 50 percent more than at this time last year and about six times the number of American soldiers who were in Afghanistan at the time of the battle for Tora Bora, in early 2002. The administration, led by Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, stoutly resisted calls for expanding either U.S. or allied forces then. Let the record show: They were terribly wrong. Successful wars begin with a large troop deployment that tapers off as objectives are accomplished and security is restored. In Afghanistan U.S. troop levels started at rock bottom and have steadily risen over the past five years, even as security has worsened.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In a fix 

Mechanical engineer and drainage activist Matt McBride is alarmed:

Earlier this week, after speaking with multiple extremely reliable sources, I learned the following jaw-dropping news...

During the December 30, 2006 rainstorm in New Orleans, one of the very large 1000 cubic feet per second (cfs) pumps was shut down at Drainage Pumping Station 3 on the London Avenue canal for approximately thirty minutes. This reduced the pumping capacity at the station by nearly 25%. The reason for this was that the depth in the London Avenue canal - specifically the depth at its weakest section just south of the Mirabeau Avenue bridge - was too close to the Safe Water Level of four feet. Therefore, a pump had to be turned off in Station 3 to keep the water from rising any further.
Incidentally, this marks the second time in a two week span that the 4 foot Safe Water Level in the London Avenue canal was approached or exceeded.

This is shocking. This is huge. It means that my concerns about permanent reductions in New Orleans' pumping capacity due to weakened canal levees and walls are legitimate, and that those worries have already been realized at least once already. The true rainy season in New Orleans (outside of hurricane season) doesn't start until April and lasts for over two months.

What it also means is that personnel in the Corps' New Orleans District have failed to report this information publicly, even when given the explicit opportunity to do so on at least two different occasions when they have been asked directly about the strength of the London Avenue canal walls in public forums.

Read the whole post, and the links therein.
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White House expected to oppose Dems affordable housing measure 

Times Picayune:

House Democrats are moving swiftly to target an estimated $500 million this year for affordable rental housing along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and put the brakes on the demolition of New Orleans' public housing until alternatives are identified.

Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said they also plan to investigate the slow pace of Louisiana's Road Home recovery grant program as part of an aggressive new focus by the Democratic majority on the post-Katrina housing shortage.

"Our challenge, being in the majority, is to make something happen, to get people back into their homes, to really do what everybody including the president promised would be done, whatever it takes," said Waters, who returned last week from her third trip to Louisiana.
Frank, chairman of the committee, said he will resuscitate legislation passed by the House last year to steer $500 million toward the construction of affordable rental properties from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the congressionally chartered housing finance companies.

"We're ready to pass a bill," Frank said in an interview last week. "That bill could be passed by June. We could have money flowing soon."

Standing in the way, however, is expected opposition from the White House, which was against the plan last year.

Among those on the hot seat at Tuesday's hearing will be Roy Bernardi, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing in New Orleans and plans to demolish four major developments -- C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, St. Bernard and Lafitte -- to make way for mixed-income communities.

But Frank said Congress can withhold demolition funds unless HUD provides guaranteed replacement housing for the low-income public housing residents displaced by the storm.

"Don't tear down public housing that low-income people can live in until you have a plan to replace them," Frank said. "We are prepared to provide funding, but not to shut down public housing so you can remove some people."
The two lawmakers won't limit their review to rental housing. They both voiced concerns about Gov. Kathleen Blanco's Road Home grant program for homeowners. More than 103,000 people have applied for grants, but fewer than 400 have had closings and the average grant amount is $79,693.

Waters said Congress "will literally have to rewrite the program" to get money in homeowners' hands quicker. She said the state and federal governments are so concerned about fraud that they have slowed the payment of recovery money to a trickle and hamstrung recovery.

"If you owned a house and it was on the rolls, they ought to have an expedited process where you qualify for $50,000 or $75,000 to get started," Waters said. "Then, if you jump through more hoops you can get more, but the problem is people need the money to get started."

I like everything Waters and Frank say here.

Among many other things, Rep. Maxine Waters D-CA was a supporter of Nagin's re-election. In fact, she introduced him during his second inauguration as a "hero". Rep. Barney Frank is one of the sharpest policy minds in Congress, and, now in the majority, he is a stern parliamentarian (hee hee).
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White House: Pro (storm) Surge? 

I wanted to excerpt and preserve this T-P story for future use:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials based in New Orleans on Monday defended a White House budget recommendation that would temporarily shift $1.3 billion to complete construction of West Bank levees and levee walls, instead of reserving that money for east bank hurricane-protection projects.

But during a briefing with reporters, the local corps officials also confirmed that the White House had turned down a third alternative, which would have allowed the corps to reshuffle its available money another way: to build a flood gate to block storm surge at the Industrial Canal and another structure at the intersection of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Instead, the budget from President Bush would remove $1.3 billion from money included in a fourth supplemental appropriations package, approved last year, that's now reserved for armoring parts of the levee system, building permanent pumping stations on the ends of three western New Orleans canals, and bringing nonfederal levees in Plaquemines Parish up to federal standards.
The corps would use the money to complete West Bank levees and flood walls that were approved as part of an earlier third supplemental appropriations package, but whose costs have gone well over initial estimates.

The alternative rejected by the White House would have allowed the corps to spend money from either supplemental appropriation in a way some corps officials felt would have provided the best protection to both banks of the river.

The article goes on to quote a USACE director who notes that dramatically increased labor costs as well as a post-storm study that urged "dramatic and comprehensive changes in the way individual levees and walls should be built" are reasons why the the initial federal flood protection appropriations and estimates are grossly inadequate.
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Today's Girls, TODAY'S Leaders 

A local student's perspective is included in the recent Newsweek story on celebrity "Girls Gone Wild":

One-day marriages aside, why wouldn't girls be fascinated by [Britney Spears] and her celebrity pals? These 21st-century "bad influences" are young, beautiful and rich, unencumbered by school, curfews or parents. "They've got great clothes and boyfriends. They seem to have a lot of fun," explains Emma Boyce, a 17-year-old junior at Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans. But fascination and admiration are two very different things. As they get arrested for driving drunk and feuding with their former BFFs, the Brit Pack makes it easy for young women like Boyce, a top student and accomplished equestrian, to feel superior to them. "My friends and I look at them to laugh at them," adds Boyce. "Our lives seem pretty good by comparison. We're not going to rehab like Lindsay."
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Monday, February 05, 2007


Treat these as rumors, although I did get them from a reliable insider.

Some knowledgable Saints fans who were at the Bears game said that Deuce was injured on the third or fourth play of the game. Supposedly, he twisted an ankle, and though Deuce wanted to keep playing, Coach Payton decided his effectiveness was diminished and did not to use him as much as he originally planned.

Sen. David Vitter's wife Wendy, a capable attorney, volunteered to donate her services for free to N.O. District Attorney Eddie Jordan's office to help with the backlogged caseload. She received no reply to her offer.
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Recently, various Democratic Party Presidential contenders got to pick their "theme songs" for a recent DNC event, which would be played as they strode to the podium to give a speech. Here's the details, plus my snarkasm.

AP reports the presidential candidates who addressed the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting Friday got to choose their tunes. Some candidates requested two songs, one that blared as they approached the stage and another that played as they left the podium. (Watch videos of the candidates' speeches here.) The selections:

John Edwards: "This Is Our Country" by John Mellencamp.

As one who watches mostly sports on TV rather than music video channels, I'm unfamiliar with this "little ditty".

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut: "Get Ready (Cause Here I Come)" by The Temptations and "Reach Out," also by The Temptations.

Smokey Robinson has a better chance of becoming President than Dodd.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: "Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones and "Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Couldn't possibly have selected two lamer songs.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio: "America the Beautiful"

I stand corrected. If Clinton had chosen "America the Beautiful" instead of Kucinich, the wingnuts would have had a field day once they inevitably discovered that it was written by a lesbian from Wellesley-- HRC's alma mater.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois decided against using any music in keeping with the somber tone he sought to convey.
He wants a somber tone at a DNC meeting? I don't see how that will be possible once everyone is revved up by the scintillating Jesus Jones chorus.

Wesley Clark, who hasn't indicated whether he will run, entered to Johnny Cash's "I Won't Back Down."
Good choice. This is Cash's version of Petty's song, which has an interesting political history according to Song Facts: "George W. Bush used this in his 2000 Presidential campaign. When Petty found out, he threatened to sue, as he did not support Bush. Bush stopped using the song but won the election anyway. Petty's home state of Florida decided the election when Bush won the state by a very slim margin. Petty performed this for Al Gore at his house an hour after he conceded the election (the second time) to George W. Bush."



I enjoyed Prince last night. He got the whole family up and dancing.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's in a name? 

In a splendid post, We Saw That dismantles the Ouachita Citizen's hypocrisy and (perhaps) its racism as well.

A couple months after the OC publisher labeled the Democratic Party as "racist" for using Bobby Jindal's real first name (Piyush) in a press release, the Citizen writes an editorial which makes a point of identifying Democratic Senator Barack Obama by his middle name (Hussein), which he never uses publicly.

The right wing's "little elves" began floating this non-story in December. But now that the Ouachita Citizen made a point of using Obama's middle name (but not Sen. Lieberman's) in an editorial, the question becomes: is the Ouachita Citizen editorial board racist by its own definition?
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