Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Orleans, One Year After Katrina

I was thinking about what to post on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Instead, I started reading what I posted back then, and I think I'm going to repost it here.

9/1/05 Karmic Payback, For Fallujah?

I am truly appalled by what I have seen over the last four days on the television and in print concerning this administration’s response to the victims of Katrina. The boys over at AMERICAblog have been all over this, so for the most part, I direct you to check out their blog for serious updates and commentary about the government’s lack of response.

I note over at DailyKos they have a piece up about Canada offering aid and support, and having planes ready. Unfortunately, our government has refused to allow them into our airspace for any aid deliveries. That’s right. Refused to allow them to assist and aid the victims of Katrina. Way to go, George. I also read that our dear friend south of us, Hugo Chavez, has offered aid, including valuable petroleum, which has, of course, been rebuffed by this administration.

Now I read that Pelosi has requested that congress convene early to help with the victims of Katrina by getting a jump start on authorizing funds. Pelosi was rebuffed by house leaders that indicated showing up for work as usual on Tuesday, September 6, after the Labor Day holiday would suffice.

I don’t know where these people’s heads are, but I am convinced it’s mostly up their butts. The lack of response by anyone in authority has gone beyond amazing. The local leaders are freaking out, and Bush stays on vacation, plays guitar, and talks about working hard and democracy on the rise in Iraq, etc., etc., etc. I cannot believe how many references were made comparing Bush to Nero fiddling while Rome burned, which is an apt analogy.

Now we have a full blown refugee crisis on American soil. Go figure. There are inadequate National Guard to assist because a great many are stationed in Iraq, of all places. There is a lack of machinery available because, many of them are located in Iraq, with their National Guard units. There’s no real money available to assist the victims of Katrina because, for one, FEMA is under Homeland Security and is no longer an autonomous entity able to use its resources immediately. Now, FEMA has to get approval, and as was noted in one of the posts on AMERICAblog, FEMA only recently got approval for spending money on a hurricane that passed through the area SEVEN FUCKING WEEKS AGO. So, if anyone is counting on immediate financial assistance, of any kind, from FEMA, they are going to have to wait. Of course, the money coming in seven weeks later from an early hurricane, most assuredly will be editorialized as current funds being immediately disbursed. Yeah, right.

I believe this will end up surpassing 9/11 in the number of deaths, and it will go down as the worst natural disaster in the United States, if not in history (probably have a plague or two that wiped out more, but I’m not in a fact checking mood this morning), at least within the last 100 years. While this administration has been scaring the shit out of ordinary Americans, making them believe that they need to send all their hard earned government money to private contractors and businesses profiteering over in Iraq, the failure to shore up our own soil against natural disasters is beyond pathetic. Making FEMA part of Homeland Security and subordinating its budget to them, reducing the federal dollars yearly to Louisiana earmarked for work in New Orleans, siphoning precious dollars from our homeland and spending it on Iraq projects that primarily line the pockets of a handful of Bush Boys, giving tax breaks in a time of "war" to Bush Boys, all of this just came to a head like a giant pimple on the face of America, located in New Orleans.

I also believe this is the beginning of the end of Bush’s love affair with what he considers his loyal supporters, mainstream America. Judging from what I have read over the past four days, America is steamed and pissed at this administration’s dragging of its feet in getting the aid ball rolling. This was a predicted category 5 hurricane, that ended up coming ashore at a category 3 rating, pretty damned bad no matter how you call it. There was not one fucking national administrative procedure in place prior to Katrina hitting Monday, to assist what would be obvious victims. And it took Bush three whole more days before he got off his ass and made it look like he gave a shit.

His ratings have been tanking. Let’s see how much America loves this president a month down the line when the extent of the death toll is realized, when the 250,000 American refugees crisis is realized, when the actual dollar amount is tallied for relief and it becomes obvious there IS NO REAL MONEY AVAILABLE for this relief, and when it finally becomes painfully obvious that we needed our National Guard troops here on American soil for such disasters, which is what they are prepared to handle in the first place.

I cannot help but feel that the New Orleans predicament is eerily similar to Falluja, which was fully destroyed, almost as if by a natural disaster, albiet, named U.S. Armed Forces. What happened is that the residents of Falluja ended up refugees on their own soil, displaced for months on end, without adequate food, water, electricity, sanitation, etc. Now we have a full blown refugee crisis on American soil, similar in scope and numbers as that in Falluja.

Karmic payback for Falluja, eh?

Cross-posted at MyDD.

9/3/05 Is Our Government Forcing New Orleans Victims To Stay Put? You Betcha!

NEW ORLEANS — Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

It gets worse, as you read on.

I can see the Rove handprints all over this. The smear campaign to make those people of New Orleans stuck in this quagmire out to somehow be low life murdering scum bags. With all the talk about roving armed gangs terrorizing people, there has not been one eye-witness report to confirm any of this. All reports have been "I've been told" this is happening. I even saw one reporter on TV talking on the phone to a doctor, and she asked the doctor how he felt listening to the sniper fire. The doctor started out to state how he felt about it, but then backtracked and actually stated he only heard about the sniper fire. He, himself, did not hear it. Everytime I've watched a reporter ask someone about their feelings concerning the sniper fire and armed gangs, not a one has indicated they actually saw any of this.

It's a Rove thing. Crap all over the messenger, and in this case, the messenger is collectively those stranded in New Orleans. They are the noose in place over Dubya's neck. They have to portray the people we are watching on TV, not as victims, but as perpetrators of mass violence and lawlessness. It's the racist black boogey man, circa 2005 Republican correctness. And it disgusts me.

Then, last night, locking the people up into the convention center, and refusing to let anyone leave the city, just blows my mind. There are check points armed by National Guardsmen, and they are turning BACK anyone that tries to individually and voluntarily leave the city! Well, I am sure if you are white, and you somehow had your SUV packed with other white people, you could get past the check point, if you know what I mean.

To top it off, reading about how Homeland Security has REFUSED to allow the Red Cross to enter the city, is beyond any rational thought. Their excuse -- if the Red Cross was allowed in, and the victims allowed to have food and water, it would encourage people to come to the city and not leave. Yeah, you read that right.

We've seen the Rove smear campaign effectively work, every single time. Will they be successful in making their base believe it?

9/26/05 Just Some Silly Exaggerations, Ooops!

Well, now the truth comes out, about the Superdome and the Convention Center in New Orleans. It seems that all those reports of roving gangs, murders and rapes of children were simply rumors. Wow, how could that be? Oh, I know, it was a town full of black people, and we all know that black people, in that type of situation, just can't control themselves.

I was sickened by all the allegations of rapes and murders and such, especially when it became obvious to THIS astute viewer that the reporters could find NO ONE to corroborate these findings from personal experience. And now, when the workers finally come in to clean up the mess at the Superdome and the Convention Center, what do they find? Six dead bodies at the Superdome, but no dead babies and no rape victims. And how many bodies at the Convention Center? Just four.

That the nation's frontline emergency-management officials believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the news media and even some of the city's top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent.

No Shit, Sherlock! The media just tried like the dickens to portray New Orleans as an angry, uncontrollable black peoples mob, where every white person should fear for their lives. And they say race had nothing to do with the slow response in New Orleans. My ass.

The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees —— mass murders, rapes and beatings —— have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

Surprise, Surprise.

"I think 99 percent of it is [expletive]," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong —— bad things happened. But I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything ... 99 percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

EXTREMELY well-behaved for a group of American citizens to be abandoned in such a fashion by the white folks afraid of the black boogeyman.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities have only confirmed four murders in the entire city in the aftermath of Katrina —— making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year.

"I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they [national media outlets] have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases; they just accepted what people [on the street] told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."

NOT consistent with the highest standards of journalsim. There it is, in a nutshell. There ARE NO higest standards of jounalism anymore. Just bullshit reporters who outright lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie. AND, who get away with the lies, without any retribution or any punishment. Well, unless you consider NOT watching television any sort of punishment of the establishment.

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members killing and raping people" inside the Dome. Other unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, overwhelmingly African-American masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. The mayor told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of murdered bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines assert that, while anarchy reigned at times and people suffered indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.

But, did Oprah do anything to help clear up the misinformation? Hell no. She's about as black as Condi, but richer. So, guess whose base Oprah protected...her white ass base, that's for sure. She did zero to combat the viscious rumours, and played hostess to the perpetuation of the fucking lies.

The 400 to 500 soldiers in the Dome could have been easily overrun by increasingly agitated crowds in the Dome, but that never happened, said Col. James Knotts, a midlevel commander there. While the Convention Center saw plenty of mischief, including massive looting and isolated gunfire, and many inside cowered in fear, the hordes of evacuees for the most part did not resort to violence.

"Everything was embellished, everything was exaggerated," said Deputy Police Superintendent Warren Riley. "If one guy said he saw six bodies, then another guy the same six, and another guy saw them —— then that became 18."

Yeah, that's the truth, baby. Lies and exaggerations. Um, could it be because there were black people all holed up together in two untenable confined spaces? Yeah, that's the ticket.

Inside the Superdome, where National Guardsmen performed rigorous security checks before allowing anyone inside, only one shooting has been verified —— and even that shooting, injuring Louisiana Guardsman Chris Watt of the 527th Engineer Battalion, has been widely misreported, said Maj. David Baldwin, who led the team of soldiers who arrested the alleged assailant.

Watt had indeed been attacked inside one of the Dome's locker rooms, where he entered with another soldier. In the darkness, as they walked through about six inches of water, Watt's attacker hit him with a metal rod, a piece of a cot. But the bullet that penetrated Watt's leg came from his own gun —— he accidentally shot himself during the commotion. The attacker was sent to jail, Baldwin said.

Wow, and mainstream media reported this as ....? See, that's what I mean.

This is what got me so pissed off in the first place, and which resulted in my sabatical from blogging. This country is so fucking racist, and to watch what happened in New Orleans just sickened me to the core. And, on top of that, to watch mainstream media gloss over the race issue as if it just doesn't exist, or if it did, it was not in play with respect to New Orleans, just made me sick to my stomach.

Images of hundreds and thousands of people calmly evacuating New York city, crossing the bridges on foot, is a memory I have of 9/11. Images of hundreds of New Orleans residents attempting to leave on foot, only to be met by white men with guns, forcing them back into the city, is a memory I have of Hurrican Katrina.

And now, to complete the circle, this Administration wants to "round up the black people and put them in confined communities with trailers," which trailers, of course, will be supplied by one of the many subsidiaries of Haliburton. God forbid we actually give these displaced persons the Section 8 vouchers for real residential homes. That's not the ticket, no way! Let's keep track of them AND make money! Yeah, that's the white man's ticket. Always has been.

Anyone that thinks race did not play a role in this bad incident is just a fool, and stupid to boot.

10/4/05 Where Are The Huey Newtons, And Why Aren't They Acting?

WASHINGTON - Minority-owned businesses say they're paying the price for the decision by Congress and the Bush administration to waive certain rules for Hurricane Katrina recovery contracts.

About 1.5 percent of the $1.6 billion awarded by the Federal Emergency Management has gone to minority businesses, less than a third of the 5 percent normally required.

On Tuesday, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Donald A. Manzullo, R-Ill., asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether small and minority-owned businesses have been given a fair opportunity to compete for Katrina contracts.

Andrew Jenkins doesn't think so.

Once Katrina's destructive waters receded, he began making calls in hopes of a winning a government contract for his Mississippi construction company.

Jenkins, who is black, says he watched in frustration as the contracts went to others, many of them larger, white-owned companies with political ties to Washington.

"That just doesn't smell right," said Jenkins, president of AJA Management and Technical Services Inc. of Jackson, Miss., noting the region has a higher percentage of blacks and minority-owned businesses that other areas of the country.

To speed aid, many requirements normally attached to government contracting were waived by Congress and the administration. The result has been far more no-bid contracts going to businesses that have an existing relationship with the

There also was an easing of affirmative action rules for contractors and a suspension of a "prevailing wage" law that black lawmakers and business people believe will hurt the disproportionately large number of black hourly workers in the region.

"It sends a bad message," said Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. "What they're basically saying to the minority in New Orleans is, 'We'll make it harder for you to find a job. And if you do, we'll make sure you get paid less.'"

Read more here.

When are you going to wake up? BushBoy and his administration could give a shit about minorities or their small businesses. This is a government free give-away to the rich, and richer. It's all about their money. Get used to it. Or do something about it.

Where are the Huey Newtons and why aren't they acting?

10/13/05 "Camp Amtrak" - Gitmo, New Orleans Style

For those that still deny the racial overtones (and undertones) associated with Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans, I bring you the latest chapter and verse. The story starts out about Robert Davis, the black man that was beat up by several white police officers in New Orleans, and which beating was caught on tape. The officers' official report claims the man was intoxicated in public, but the facts are that Robert Davis was alcohol free for more than 25 years.

So, what is up with the phoney baloney arrests? Read on:

But what did not make it into the tape or national attention was that Davis is just one of more than nearly a thousand people who have suffered in a horrific place the police call "Camp Amtrak," an improvised jail in what used to be the New Orleans bus terminal.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans authorities are arresting hundreds on minor charges such as breaking curfew or public intoxication, housing them in brutal conditions and then pushing them through a court process that forces most into working on clean-up projects at police facilities, according to numerous interviews and documents obtained by TNS.

At the converted Greyhound terminal, which now serves as a different kind of way station, no passengers arrive with luggage. Instead, police bring people in and book them at what used to be a ticket counter. In the back, where travelers used to board buses, police now push detainees into wire pens where they sleep on the concrete in the open air.

In interviews both inside and outside of Camp Amtrak, people who had been through the process told harrowing accounts of police brutality and harsh conditions. Some of them, like Davis, had visible injuries. Many said police had attacked them or others in their cells with pepper spray. All recounted trying to sleep on the concrete floor of the bus parking lot with just one blanket – or in some cases no blanket – to protect them from the cold and the mosquitoes which swoop in on randomly alternating nights here. None was given a phone call or access to an attorney.

"They treat us like shit," said one inmate through the wire cage. Others chimed in. One said he had not been given a blanket the night before because there were not enough to go around. Many worried that their family members did not know where they were because they had not been allowed to contact them.

Michael Resovsky was one of several men outside the jail yesterday waiting to be picked up for a shift of what the sheriff’s department calls "community service." He recalled the night he spent inside: "They threw you a blanket and they gave you those MREs – you know, those meals in a bag – and they take the heater part out of it and the little bottle of hot sauce so you have to eat it cold. And you sleep on the concrete with a blanket, and the smell is not too nice."

"They were coming in there and macing people, and people were hollering and I couldn’t get no sleep, and you know, it was pretty bad," said Resovsky, who is white.

Anthony Jack, another former detainee, added: "It was cold[inside]; I couldn’t sleep." Jack, a black immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, said police had arrested him on his own property and charged him with violating curfew, which in most neighborhoods here is still in affect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"I was in my yard, and a young white guy came by the gate and I was talking to him and the police came and arrested both of us," he recounted. "He was outside breaking curfew; I was inside… behind the gate. The police broke my gate down with a pick-ax. They broke it completely off the fence."

Jack continued: "It makes me really angry, man. It made me realize that the law isn’t working the way it is supposed to."

Sandy Freelander, a relief volunteer from Wisconsin, was also one of the hundreds arrested. He said that he and two friends –one a New Orleanian widely known here for having helped rescue hundreds of people in the Seventh Ward during the flooding – were detained by police in a parking lot last Thursday. He said that they were on their knees with their hands behind their heads when a police officer attacked his friend.

"This middle-aged white [police officer] got real excited about kicking Reggae, Freelander said. "He came running across the parking lot and kicked [Reggae] in the hip while [Reggae] was down on his knees with his hands behind his head. [The officer] pushed [Reggae] on the ground and put his foot to the back of his neck and pointed his gun at him and said he was going to blow his fucking brains out if he moved again. This guy was really excited about beating up the first black guy he saw or something."

Even though Freelander said the three had permission from the owner to be in the parking lot, the police arrested them on charges of criminal trespassing.

Inside, Freelander said his friend was denied medical attention and that they witnessed police pepper-spraying other detainees police handcuffing a woman to a pole and leaving here for hours and other abuse. He, like all others interviewed by TNS said he was not permitted a phone call or legal counsel, even after repeated requests.

Major Troy Poret, part of a team that runs Camp Amtrak, was unapologetic about the treatment of inmates there. He stressed that the police have been working under extraordinary conditions since Hurricane Katrina and that many of the prisoners were from out of state.

"These poor police officers are stretched out as far as they can be and yet you’ve got to mess with a bunch of gourd heads like we have down here and we have to make a jail for these kind of people," he said. "That’s what’s really bad about this whole [situation]."

Poret, like many of the people working at Camp Amtrak, used to work at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a notorious jail among prisoners’ rights activists for its cruel conditions.

Asked whether police were pepper-spraying prisoners, Poret was again unapologetic. "I have randomly had to use it," he said. "We have to use it if they are endangering other people in the pen or endangering their [own] lives.

"Look up at the setup that we have," he said. "It’s an old bus terminal. It’s keeping the bad guys off the streets from harassing the poor people of the New Orleans district from worrying about their houses being broken into or worrying about some drunk laying on their porch…"

When asked why police were denying detainees phone calls, Poret said the station did not have any phones for them to use.

"I have a fax phone and I have one local line [here] and that’s it," he said, "I have a cell phone, but I can’t afford a cell phone bill for a thousand people."

But Freelander stressed how important access to the outside world was during incarceration. "The phone call was the biggest thing," he said. "I mean, how are you supposed to even find out what your options are talking to a lawyer? They’re steamrolling the whole process without giving you any legal representation."

Freelander, Resovsky and Jack all said that in the mornings after their arrest, they were taken to a courtroom upstairs where most prisoners were pressured into pleading guilty and accepting between 40 and 80 hours of unpaid labor.

A visit to the courtroom yesterday confirmed their accounts. In a stark, second-floor room of the Greyhound station, police brought in about 20 inmates who had spent the night in the cages. When they entered the room, public defender Clyde Merritt briefly explained the options while the defendants strained to hear him. In most cases, he told them, they could plead guilty and they would be sentenced to about 40 hours of "community service." If they wished the maintain their innocence, he said, they would be sent to Hunts Correctional Facility where they could wait as long as 21 days to be processed, no matter how minor or unsupported their charges.

Many of the defendants were obviously confused. They swarmed him with questions, but he held them off, telling them that he could not give them individual advice. For that, he said, they would have to retain their own attorneys.

Off to the side, the lone female defendant stood shyly in her pajamas and flip-flops. She later told the judge she had been arrested right in front of her house.

In the end, given the choice between unpaid work and continued incarceration, nearly all chose to plead guilty.

According to documents obtained by The NewStandard, most who pass through Camp Amtrak are brought in on charges of possession of stolen property, looting or violating curfew. But the vast majority of those interviewed or observed in court this week were arrested for alleged curfew violations or public intoxication.

"The situation down there is really bad," said Don Antenen, a prisoner support activist from Cincinnati, Ohio who has been monitoring Camp Amtrak and working to secure legal support for people whose rights have been violated. "It’s not isolated from the rest of the prison system in the United States," Antenen said, "but we’re seeing all of the worst elements of the United States prison system coming all to the forefront and being very concentrated in one location."

He continued: "The police are basically arresting people for curfew violations and public intoxication and just using it as a way to get free labor to clean up the prisons and court houses and the police stations. They’re just using it as a way to get people to do their dirty work for free."

Brandon Toussaint, a black 18-year-old who spoke to TNS as he was waiting to be picked up and taken to perform a day of punishment, said he was arrested going from the downstairs of is apartment complex to another apartment upstairs. Police charged him with violating curfew and public intoxication, and Toussaint accepted forced labor rather than a transfer to Hunts, even though he said he had been wrongly arrested. He said he was worried that he would now have a criminal record, this being his first "offense."

Toussaint said he had already done a few days of work for the police, cleaning up and painting their facilities.

"If they needed someone to clean up their city, they could have just asked," he said.

This is just one example of the abusive behavior going on in New Orleans. Round up the locals on trumped up public intoxication or curfew violations, confine them to a pen with no outside legal assitance to advise them of their basic rights, and then force them to work for a few days instead of being locked up another 21 while awaiting a trial. What's so sad is that many of them, if they did wait, would probably have the case dismissed, but would have spent that time in a pitiful jail. So they choose to plead out and work a few days in the toxic environment of New Orleans.

Ain't our government just grand?

Mother fuckers.

There, I feel better now that I've posted that.

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