Naomi Klein’s new book

After reading No Logo for research of a paper on culture jamming back at university, I was always somewhat enthralled by the unique writing style of Naomi Klein. There’s an elegant grasp of seriousness and humor that would seem to keep everyone she meets buoyed for the struggles ahead. I had the privilege of hearing her speak at the Loyola Law Center in New Orleans on her new book, “The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism,” which I will likely be using as a resource for a future article on the various forms of reconstructions in this region’s history and their implications for this one.

For everyone’s benefit, I also recorded the talk, which is available on New Orleans Indymedia’s homepage or this permanent link.

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Published in: on August 28, 2007 at 2:15 am  Leave a Comment  

The Roots of Climate Change, or, Oh! the woe of Civilization!

Joseph Romm, a scientist and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, was on a panel about energy last night, which I watched on C-SPAN. This is my first encounter with Dr. Romm who apparently has a new book out on climate change and was very excited to mention his website/blog quite often, which is called Climate Progress. Though the event, created by the Independent Women’s Forum, was full of corporate think tank reps, leaving Romm in a room with a pack of wolves as a person who believes in the science of climate change, the panel debate was in one way a microcosm for the national political scene. The misinformation spread by one side kept pulling Romm to the center, keeping his statements as reactionary and defensive rather than pushing the debate beyond their assumptions. So I left a comment for Dr. Romm on his blog. Enjoy.

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I have been watching your C-SPAN debate. While I agree that you were unfairly faced off against several people who have co-opted the science community to their own ends, your statements of defense seem not to touch on the largest point. You said “you don’t have to give up your SUV, but replace it with a hybrid SUV.” The other debators picked up on this contradiction automatically and showed that this will not substantially reduce emissions over the long haul because we will still be relying on coal and oil processes and industries. Our savior is likely not be the use of replenishable natural energies such as wind and sun and other technologies (also produced from coal and oil industry) because our demand for goods continues to increase.

The panelists use of making this a “global effort” to focus reduction on China and India is thinly veiled way of removing this country’s responsibility to the world for creating the possibility of this catastrophe which has already disproportionately affected pacific islands and permafrost regions that had little to no involvement in the production of greenhouse gases.

The elite industry owners, those robber barons of the US and Europe from the middle 19th century until now, are historically responsible and must bear that responsibility because their wealth and power was generated from the destruction of this planet.

Meanwhile the cultures of the people in India and China, similar in ways to the Native Americans who came across the landbridge, maintained a different relationship with the land. And this part is ABSOLUTELY key: They took no more from the land than was necessary for survival.

Coal: not necessary for survival. Oil: not necessary for survival. Clearcutting: not necessary, in fact the opposite of, survival.

It was not the desperate wage working (wo)man, deprived of land and hence detached from this developed natural relationship, that is at fault. Working class people, who in modern times still face too many obstacles at birth, to rise up. For the elite in a capitalist system dictate the histories that are remembered and can afford to hire the violence necessary to divide and conquer (read: kill) resistance. Resistance not only against facism and the authoritarian fact of bosses and elites, but against sustainable practices in relation to the environment, animals and humans included.

It is civilization’s arrogance when arriving in the new world to create a manifest destiny and assume (read: steal) land. Many of the first European settler were working class folks trying to find new opportunities for survival under the control of these elite voyage companies. I only bring all this up to show the pattern of civilization’s abuse of nature and peoples outside the western (read: industrial) way of life.

Einstein once said, and I’m paraphrasing, “it will take thinking beyond that which created the problems to solve them.” We must think beyond the free market and capitalism to solve the ills that capitalism and industry have caused.

feel free to contact me as well. research these ideas for yourself, get to the root of these issues, not only that the industrial revolution created the greenhouse gases, but what kind of culture sees or allows or expands such an obviously destructive and unnatural type of behavior as placing lots of people in factories with unsafe machines.

Published in: on August 27, 2007 at 10:47 pm  Comments (2)  

The Gutting Law: One Year In

I wrote the article below a year ago when I was doing media advocacy work as a volunteer. Despite the best intentions of the city council to enact quality laws that address the needs of all residents, including ways for people to appeal, the law has only loosely been followed. There is an obvious lack of inspectors, as the Times-Picayune reports in its delays on inspections across the city the average for first inspections being nearly six months rather than the 30 days prescribed below.
Also, the Mayor’s Good Neighbor program, what many fair housing advocates call the “Bad Neighbor” program, designed for residents to report any neglected housing in the area for inspection, further complicated the matter politically and increased expectations for action to be taken by residents who reported properties.

What once was an optimistic gutting law to ensure a lengthy process to protect homeowners now has even some of the civic groups who raised hell to get appeal processes into the law wishing the state could at least stay on time.

Gutting Deadline Eased, Lower Ninth Exempt
NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 26 — In mid-August, representatives of community, housing and relief organizations pled with the New Orleans City Council to work with communities to assist homeowners’ rebuilding efforts and extend the August 29 gutting deadline enacted in April. The city council passed the law to urge residents to gut, clean or get on a waiting list to treat their flooded properties before the year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Mary Fontenot, President of All Congregations Together (ACT), led a press conference on August 17 before the city council meeting, the last regularly scheduled meeting before the deadline. “We would like to invite the city at this time to partner with us, to create a partnership to lift up solutions and ideas as to how we might support our people in returning,” she said.

But on Friday August 25, four days before the deadline, the city council voted 7-0 to keep their verbal assurances and not enforce demolitions in the days after August 29. The emergency ordinance passed with the support of Mayor Ray Nagin, who told Fontenot at an all-day mayoral retreat ten days prior to the deadline that “it’s not going to be enforced.” However, Nagin did have the chance to veto the ordinance back in April, but chose to abstain and let it pass into law unsigned.

Despite the assurances, Fontenot knew the language of the law didn’t prevent action. “To have it be revoked or amended would make us feel a lot better.”

Fortunately, the language of the new ordinance provides homeowners with detailed legal protections, such as a thirty-day notice after city inspections start on August 29. Upon re-inspection, if the property does not pass, then a second notice assigns the owner a date to have his or her case heard as a possible hardship exemption.

The former law stated that residents who bide by the August 29 deadline could have their homes seized by the city and demolished, but now a demolition can only occur if the judge at a hearing finds the homeowner in violation of the law. Even then, the homeowner has thirty days to appeal the decision and prove his or her intention to have the house gutted. Otherwise, the city will only have the legal authority to enter the premises to gut and do mold remediation at the homeowners expense.

The entire Lower Ninth Ward, including Holy Cross, is now exempt from inspections with no specified time-line for when the properties will be removed from the exemption. The immediate danger for many historic homes in Holy Cross has been averted for at least sixty days, which was the council’s estimate for hardship cases.

Once again, the council’s ordinance will use the thirty-day notice to refer residents to the 19 groups offering free or low-cost gutting instead of taking responsibility for its own citizens. Even though the deadline has been eased, many still would like the city to offer more services or assistance.

John Anderson, a displaced resident, has returned eleven times to rebuild, but is asking for partnership. “We are asking for equitable ownership in the rebuilding process, and that starts with you not giving us a deadline, you should give us an opportunity to work together so we can have hands on building for our community,” Anderson said at the press conference.

Though Louisiana has allocated money to go to New Orleans, residents themselves have not received adequate funds. “As of today, not one penny is in the hands of our citizens to rebuild,” Fontenot said at the August 17 press conference. A representative of the Lower 9th Ward Homeowners Association questioned how the council could consider demolishing houses when people have not been given the financial opportunities to rebuild. “We are here to ask the council to extend the deadline until the residents of the lower 9 get their LRA [Louisiana Recovery Authority] money,” she said.

Another impact goes beyond housing, for those people with high levels of stress and anxiety struggling to return home, said Alice Craft-Kerney, a lower ninth ward resident and registered nurse. “We have many people who are displaced, who are emotionally traumatized and this trauma is definitely magnified because they cannot return home,” she said at the press conference. “The suicide rate is directly related to the fact that they have no income, they can’t do the things they used to do and we want the city council to be aware that this is a health problem caused by the stress of the August 29 deadline.”

Noise Before the Deadline

Addressing the city council, Malcolm Suber, director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, introduced an ordinance to repeal the August 29 deadline, but the council never brought it up for a vote. With the prospect of the city demolishing its residents’ homes, Suber urged, “That’s not the role of government.” Only an injunction by the mayor or a City Council Special Meeting could address the deadline a week before the anniversary, council members said.
Assuming that no such action would be taken, Suber called on the council to put aside funds to assist non-profit organizations that already gut houses, such as Hands On or Habitat for Humanity, if the council could not help homeowners directly. Since non-profit organizations and churches are overwhelmed by gutting requests and waiting lists in the thousands, community leaders have asked for the National Guard to reconsider its role in New Orleans. “We are asking the city to consider, to just imagine if we were to, for a change, to have the National Guard here not just in a policing fashion, but in a partnership fashion, assisting our homeowners as they do all around the world to clean and to gut their homes,” Fontenot recommended in front of city hall.

In response to similar sentiments by speakers in its chamber, the city council passed a verbal resolution proposed by Willard-Lewis to ask the Louisiana National Guard to expand their role to assist in gutting and securing properties. The resolution cannot force the guard to assist residents in rebuilding efforts.

However, not all groups believe the National Guard should have an increased role in New Orleans. “I’m anti-National Guard. I don’t want them doing anything. I don’t want them in the city,” Suber said.

The council voted in May to set aside the deadline for much of the Lower 9th Ward. It passed an ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis–who represents that area–declaring that all owner-occupied homes, plus all “residential rental property” owned by people 65 or older, in about two-thirds of the Lower 9th Ward “shall be deemed to be hardship cases” and thus “eligible for exceptions to the remediation requirements” imposed by the April law. Since the lower 9th was the last area to be opened for rebuilding, most of the area’s residents did not return until March or April at the earliest.

Since the re-population of New Orleans was staggered by zip code, that alone should exempt certain neighborhoods at this time and allow for a staggered deadline, community members said. Not applying the same exemption to New Orleans East, which was similarly devastated by Hurricane Katrina and in Willard-Lewis’ district, is somewhat surprising, said Fontenot, a lower 9th ward resident.
Vanessa Gueringer called the deadline “Draconian.”

Gueringer, a resident of the Lower Ninth Ward and a member of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), told the council that “the lack of notice to homeowners is evident.” One homeowner from the lower 9 affiliated with ACORN claimed that her neighbor had to inform her that her home was being torn down despite the council reiterating that no houses have been or will be demolished before August 29. There was no notification from the city even though she was a state employee and life-long New Orleanian, she said.

Assurances had been repeatedly made by both the city council and the mayor that the gutting law chronicling a year after Katrina would not be strictly enforced. Amending the law on August 25 provides a compromise to “move forward” and clarity, but some community activists still say that setting a deadline is an improper role for the government in relation to its citizens.

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take action to prevent demolitions on erroneously listed properties in New Orleans!

Karen Gadbois, a neighborhood association leader, updates the blog Squandered Heritage and has this recent post that provides links and instructions to get your property off the demolition list.

Published in: on August 27, 2007 at 10:05 am  Comments (1)  

Red Cross Funds for Survivors Hardly Publicized

August 20–In front of Red Cross offices in both Houston and New Orleans, picket lines were formed by survivors of the federal flood during Hurricane Katrina. They demonstrated to emphasize the necessity and speediness with which the local Red Cross agencies should disperse the remaining donations earmarked for Katrina relief. The Red Cross, in an unfamiliar role, is engaging in “long-term” recovery because of its excess donations in a little-publicized program known as “Means-to-Recovery.”

Thirty people arrived on Monday morning, August 20, at the Red Cross offices in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Red Cross guards falsely warned that the picketers on the sidewalk were on private property, but picketers maintained their ground even after guards called local police. The picketers then marched to Veterans Boulevard, a thoroughfare of strip mall-suburbia, and back to the Red Cross office to announce their demands. One woman held a sign stating: “RED CROSS, Why do we have to jump through HOOPS for OUR money?” Though the Red Cross, in the face of Peoples’ Hurricane’s resistance, reduced the application from twenty to eight pages, many feel that they have already succumbed to enough discrimination and paternalism by bureaucracies like FEMA and Road Home.

As it currently is instituted, the Red Cross Means-to-Recovery program gives up to $20,000 to each family or individual that applies, but each applicant must go through a case manager who determines and vouches for their needs. The money never goes to the family to decide their needs for themselves, but instead the Red Cross deals directly with vendors such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. The average applicant receives around $10,000.

Malcolm Suber, national outreach coordinator of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund, told the New York Times that “What we want people to understand is that these are hard-working, poor working people, and they don’t want to be treated like children in this insulting process in which they have to sit down with a counselor.”

PHRF and the Red Cross convened a closed door meeting shortly after PHRF held a press conference on July 23 to discuss the shortcomings of the Means-to-Recovery program. In that meeting, Red Cross allegedly offered PHRF funds to hire case managers if they were unsatisfied with the Red Cross’ performance. After PHRF met to discuss this offer, the board rejected it, reasoning that it was too large of a project for them to take on and would only make the public hold them responsible for Red Cross’ mistakes.

A more startling practice of the Red Cross, which has no more than two case managers, is the allocation of monies to organizations with case workers, such as the Lutheran Relief Services. In effect, the Red Cross has outsourced the application process of the “Means-to-Recovery” program to other organizations, which are not accountable to the Red Cross.

Amber McZeal, a federal flood survivor now in San Francisco who was a volunteer case manager, attests that several organizations, including Lutheran Social Services under the United Methodists Committee on Relief, received funds from the Red Cross in agreement that they would push through a certain amount of applications, but never completed them. McZeal worked with the Northern California branch of Lutheran Social Services as a volunteer case worker. Despite the organization receiving funds to hire case workers, she “did not receive a dime.”

In her experience, case managers and their organizations receive $2,500 for managing eight cases. “Organizations are receiving this funding, this case work funding and not doing the work or not hiring case workers because there’s only one in the city.”

“Unnecessary, redundant information,” she says of the lengthy application. “If they put your social [security number] into any one of their databases, they know exactly how much you’ve received from the Red Cross, from anybody. ”

The Red Cross counters that case management is considered a “best practice” for accountability to its donors and to prevent fraud. It also defended the publicity of the program by claiming it was available on its website and that Red Cross employees went door-to-door soliciting New Orleanians for the program. Approaching the situation only technologically leaves out most of the “needy” survivors that the Red Cross claim to want to help, while it was only when Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund told community leaders of the program in July that news spread from door-to-door and ear-to-ear among neighbors. Shortly thereafter, PHRF estimates more than 10,000 people showed up at their offices on the third weekend in July. Long lines bended off of Claiborne Avenue under the interstate where PHRF’s office is located. People waited in excess of an hour for a copy of the application.

Begun in October 2006, the Red Cross initially did not publicize “Means-to-Recovery” and chose to train case managers across the country to handle the applications. Even after it became public, applications rarely came in and only $12 million was allocated to vendors after 10 months. Red Cross estimates that only 4,000 more families can be helped in their program, which they budget at $38 million, though it was initially $71 million. Red Cross officials state that it was reduced as other previous hurricane expenditures were totaled.

McZeal and others often see the government’s response to poor black victims in New Orleans as unduly hesitant and suspicious rather than generous. “As opposed to a disaster like 9-11 where people were just issued checks,” McZeal compared. Good intentions and donations are often subverted and diverted into the salaries of bureaucracies and people looking for economic opportunities in the federal flood disaster. “We’re dealing with money that’s floating around in the hands of so many people in this country in the names of Katrina victims. We’re purposefully being victimized over and over again.”

See the Means-to-Recovery application here.

Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund Demands on Red Cross:

 

  1. Immediate disbursal of all funds received for Katrina-Rita Survivors with a target date set for completion.
  2. Elimination of the Case Manager process and implementation of a swift, simple process for getting funds into the hands of needy survivors.
  3. Total Accountability for all funds received and disbursed. A ‘dollars-to-demographics’ accounting of funds received for survivors.
  4. Immediate identification and release of any funds that were directed to other agencies for Katrina-Rita relief.
  5. Congressional and local investigations into the use of Katrina-related funds by all government and non-profit agencies.
Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 2:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Mychal Bell’s Upcoming Court Hearings

The latest out of Jena, Louisiana is that Mychal Bell, who was convicted of second-degree battery on thin and contradictory evidence but has new legal counsel, will have a bond reduction hearing on August 24. His bail currently stands at $90,000, which means he or his family must put up $9,000 to the court to ensure he shows up at his court dates. The Jena 6 Defense Committee has been accepting donations for legal defense, but I hope getting Bell out from behind bars is priority number one. He has already served 9 months since being charged in mid-December 2006.

A motion hearing will be held at LaSalle Parish Courthouse on September 4 to determine whether Bell’s case should have been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts when his charges were reduced from second-degree attempted murder to second-degree battery just before his trial. This would effectively void his conviction in adult court. Other motions, including change of venue and a direct appeal of the conviction based on inadequate defense counsel, are still pending.

All hearings will be held in District Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr.’s court, the same judge who presided over Bell’s trial.

Published in: on August 17, 2007 at 8:24 pm  Comments (17)  

Jena 6: Voices from the July 31 Protest Rally

The voiced were recorded from what Caseptla Bailey, mother of the accused Robert Bailey and president of the La Salle Parish NAACP Chapter, called a “United Coalition Peace Rally” held on July 31 in Jena, Louisiana. Following the rally at the courthouse, where the excerpts below were spoken, approximately 200 folks marched down to Jena’s main street and back in a rectangular route. People from La Salle Parish participated as well as the largest gathering of folks from across the country, including San Francisco, D.C., Atlanta, Jackson, Houston and Dallas. There was also a strong contingent–perhaps 50-60–from New Orleans alone. This was nearly the twentieth rally, but only the second march in Jena.

 

“We want to stress, very importantly, that this is a peace rally. We want to do this in peace, we want to do this in order. I want to keep stressing that. This is a peaceful rally. We can be loud, we can make some noise, but we also want to do this in a positive manner.”

“Robert had to learn a lesson from this misfortune. And I also let my son know while he was incarcerated: ‘you don’t just lay down here all day. You got to educate yourself while you’re incarcerated…you got to read, you got to learn, you got to understand why you are in this place. It’s not a good place right now, but you got to make the best of where you are. Educate your mind and keep your mind free—from any negativity. I’m proud of those young men and those young women who stood under that tree in protest.”

“The tree was a beautiful sight. The tree is not the problem. Cutting down the tree. The issue is still at hand. The issue still needs to be solved.”

–Caseptla Bailey

 

 

“If you go back to the nooses, there’s the problem. Those kids were told hey these nooses were hung, that it was a prank.”

“for them to say it was a prank, left those kids to do only one thing: defend themselves…they don’t want to talk about the tree inside La Salle Parish Courthouse, but that’s where it started. They slapped those three kids on the wrist and said, ‘Job well done.’”

–Catrina Wallace, step-sister of Robert Bailey and secretary of La Salle NAACP Chapter

“It began under a tree where three ninth graders just coming into high school, we call them the ‘Rosa Parks of Jena’, stepped forward and said we’re not gonna take it anymore. What were you doing in ninth graders? The rest is history, the nooses hung from the tree. All around this area, we may find a tree somewhere here who was black was hung already. And that’s the reason that there was the reaction that there was. Because for us, hanging a noose—I don’t care if it’s in school colors or what—is no joke. Brings back memories that go back generations.”

–King Downing, National Coordinator for the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling

 

“People in a lot of places think oh this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore. I have some people say, wait maybe I’m missing something because this sounds like something from the jim crow era, this doesn’t sound like something that could happen in 2007. But people are waking up and realizing everything isn’t always as it seems.
It’s not a black-white problem. It’s a justice problem. That’s a beautiful thing to see when people of all different backgrounds, all different belief systems coming together and saying this isn’t right, I’ll do whatever I can to help to make a difference
.”

–James Rucker, Color of Change

 

“We have seen, some of us experienced, the same things going on in New Orleans since Katrina. It’s the same sort of injustice that’s going on here. Please turn around and look at these individuals up here [police and sheriff deputies on courthouse steps]. You need to look them in the eye. Their faces are some of the same faces that some of us have seen in photographs from the 60s and 50s. They got patches, they got uniforms but we should all know, especially our young people. Please look at them and understand that with all the badges and all the uniforms, they stand for absolutely…NOTHING. Which means if there’s a body that stands for nothing then it’s on us to stand up for one another.”

–Dasaw Flood, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

“Genocide is the systematic annihilation of a people. Every system that is, in this state, came against our young men, from the school Superintendent to the District Attorney to the judge to the people in this town, to the US Dept of Justice, who had the nerve to come and tell these families that nooses don’t represent a hate crime, they said that it was a potential hate. When’s it a hate crime? When one of our brothers is swinging from the tree?”

–Krystal Muhammed, New Black Panther Party

“We didn’t ask for this fight but we most definitely will accept this challenge…Forget what you heard about the Millions More Movement and the Nation of Islam, We don’t come here to fight for black justice, we come here to fight for justice…What’s important is that the job is not done. Mychal Bell is still incarcerated. The Jena Six are still on trial so that means that we are still incarcerated that means that we are still on trial…We need for them to be on the twentieth of September when they seek to publicly lynch Mychal Bell. We need to bring a city to this city. We gonna take Jena, Louisiana over. We gonna turn it upside down, grab it by its ankles, and shake it and shake it until the coins of justice fall out of its pockets…The very noose that they hung our people from for hundreds of years in this state, and many others, is the same noose that brought the tree down and the same noose that our youngsters protested against. But our message to them has to be: You’ve already made history.”

–Deric Muhammed, Minister of Nation of Islam in Houston

 

After the march, we heard from a couple of the parents:

“This is the first time I’ve ever been in a march in my life.”

–Tina Jones, mother of Bryant Purvis

 

“It feels good! to get out and march. I’m sure there’s others here who are ex-military: I might be 56 and old, but I can still struggle! Y’all can struggle…I’d like to give an honor to the memorial that we’re standing [in front of] here today, says World War two. And I’d also like to give honor to my uncle who’s listed here on this memorial…And we’re still fightin’, Cleo. We’re still standing.”

–Caseptla Bailey

Published in: on August 10, 2007 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment